Ephesians 2 Commentary

v. 2, “’World’ has a broad semantic range in the New Testament, covering creation, people, and a world system that either leaves God out of the picture or is openly hostile to him. Clearly Paul’s intent here is to focus on this world system, a way of life shaped by a system that does not consider God (similar to the expression “living according to the flesh”). […] Although Paul does not name this ruler, he is clearly talking about a life that follows the evil one (6:16) or the devil (4:27; 6:11).”[1]

v.3, “His concern is not that Christians merely lived among the disobedient, but that they also lived like them, determined by the old order. The blame is not placed on the ruler of the old realm, even though he is at work. Rather, it is placed on the “sinful nature” […] It usually refers to that which leaves God out of the picture, that which is merely human and left to its own devices. Implicit is the thought that without God, desires are the lord in control. They must be gratified and followed. In the former life we lived by our sinful desires, doing whatever they told us. “Cravings” and “desires” refer to legitimate human needs that are distorted, subverted, and heightened to produce an irrational self-centeredness […] The picture the text paints is bleak. Because of sins, humans are the living dead. They live in keeping with a world order that ignores God and in keeping with a tyrant who works to cause disobedience. In their enslavement they follow desires and distorted reasonings that leave God out of the picture and, therefore, they are under God’s wrath. But, the main point of Ephesians — and especially of 2:1 – 10 — is that God will not stay out of the picture.”[2]

“The meaning of ‘flesh’ will vary from person to person.  One person’s weakness may be physical desire and the risk may be sexual sin; another’s may be in spiritual things and the risk in pride; another’s may be in earthy things and the risk unworthy ambition; another’s sin may be loss of temper and the risk in envyings and conflict.  All these are sins of the flesh.  […] The flesh is anything in us which give sin its chance; it is human nature without God.  To live according to the dictates of the flesh is simply to live in such a way  that our lower nature, the worse part of us, dominates our lives.”[3]

v.4, “The picture was bleak, but God acted because of his love and mercy. That salvation is a gift and does not come as a result of anything in the receiver is made explicit in 2:8 – 9, but it is already implicit in 2:4. Mercy and love are revelations of God’s being, not a response to something that merits love in the individual. God acts in mercy because he is that kind of God.”[4]

v.6, ” Not only have Christians been raised with Christ, they have also been seated with him in the heavenly realms. What is true of him (1:20) is true of us. If he is exalted to God’s right hand, so are we. We are joined to him so that we are where he is.[…] The intent here is to underscore the life believers now have with Christ, and with that life come privilege, honor, security, and responsibility. This is not, however, the same as saying we are actually seated in heaven. As we saw in connection with 1:3, 33 “in the heavenly realms” is not merely a synonym for “heaven.” […] The phrase points to the heavenly- i. e., the spiritual — reality of God and his work in Christ.[5]

v.8  “Christians are saved by God’s grace, not by their faith. Faith is the only means by which this grace is received. […] Faith cannot be limited to mental assent or to believing certain ideas. […]  Paul assumes this two-sided nature of faith in his discussions of salvation. Faith is relational, describing reliance on a reliable God. Faith is a covenant word, expressing the commitment and trust that bind two parties together. Throughout Scripture, God by his grace makes promises and commits himself to his people. They in turn are to trust those promises and live in light of them. God shows himself faithful and people are to respond in faithfulness.[…]  People who believe do not merely assent to certain ideas; they are bound to God and live in response to him. […] Salvation does not come from believing ideas or an emotional decision, but from being bound to Christ.[6]

v.9   “Works” refers to any human condition or accomplishment by which one thinks to gain status or privilege before God. In reality, however, nothing we do grants standing before God. Humans in and of themselves have no claim on God.   Boasting is actually a determinative part of Paul’s theology. Much of his concern is to make sure that praise goes only to God. He seeks to destroy any conceivable ground for human beings boasting in themselves. Humanity is left with every mouth silenced and no claim or defense before God. The only legitimate boasting is in what God has done (1 Cor. 1:31).”[7]

v.10 “The purpose of God’s creative activity is not merely to have a people, as if he were constructing a work of art. Rather, this new creation is to be active and productive like the Creator. Christians are “to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.[8]

“Good works can never earn salvation; but there is something radically wrong if salvation does not produce good actions.  It is not that our good deeds put God in our debt; rather that God’s love lays on us the obligation to try throughout our lives to be worthy of it.”[9]

v.11  “The labels “the uncircumcision” and “the circumcision” were common Jewish ways of referring to Gentiles and Jews respectively. 10 The former expressed disdain for the nonelect and disobedient, while the latter was a title of honor and privilege for those belonging to God’s covenant. […] Although the Jews were bad-mouthing the Gentiles as “the uncircumcision,” in Paul’s mind Jews were no better off, for the circumcision in which they boasted was a mere human circumcision. They too were “in the flesh.” They lived in the same realm as the Gentiles, even with their circumcision.”[10]

v.16 “In New Testament texts, God is always the one who does the reconciling. Human beings are reconciled; God (or Christ) reconciles. The initiative always lies with God. The cross is God’s act to reconcile people to himself, not an act by which he is reconciled. Even when people are hostile to God and God is angry, he loves and works to restore relations.  The result of reconciliation is “access” (2:18), the privilege of entering into God’s presence.   The term was used of an audience with a king, but the more likely nuance derives from temple ideas of access to God.”[11]

vv.21-22, “In the treatment of 2:1 – 10 we saw that Christians can no longer view themselves merely as individuals. They are part of Christ and of each other. In 2:11 – 22 this theme is emphasized once again, with “one new being” and with the “body” and “building” imagery. The problem is that modern Christians — especially in the Western world — seem to know only individualism. We must change our outlook. This passage confronts our individualism and asserts our involvement with Christ and with those in him. We cannot separate our relation with God from our relation with other people. The two are so interwoven that they do not exist in isolation, even if we rightly argue the relationship with God is primary. The horizontal and vertical dimensions interact with and define each other. Even in approaching God in confession and repentance, we have already acted on the horizontal plane.”[12]


[1] Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 96-97.

[2] Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 98-99.

[3] William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975) 116.

[4] Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 99-100.

[5] Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 102.

[6] Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 104.

[7] Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 106.

[8] Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 107.

[9] William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians Daily Study Bible Series, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia:  Westminster Press, 1975) 121.

[10] Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 126-27.

[11] Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 135.

[12] Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 146.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response