In whom ye also are builded - The apostle now applies the metaphor to the purpose for which he produced it, retaining however some of the figurative expressions. As the stones in a temple are all properly placed so as to form a complete house, and be a habitation for the Deity that is worshipped there, so ye are all, both believing Jews and Gentiles, prepared by the doctrine of the prophets and apostles, under the influence of the Spirit of Christ, to become a habitation of God, a Church in which God shall be worthily worshipped, and in which he can continually dwell.
There is nothing, says one, so august as this Church, seeing it is the temple of God.
Nothing so worthy of reverence, seeing God dwells in it.
Nothing so ancient, since the patriarchs and prophets labored in building it.
Nothing so solid, since Jesus Christ is the foundation of it.
Nothing more closely united and indivisible, since he is the corner stone.
Nothing so lofty, since it reaches as high as heaven, and to the bosom of God himself.
Nothing so regular and well proportioned, since the Holy Spirit is the architect.
Nothing more beautiful, or adorned with greater variety, since it consists of Jews and Gentiles, of every age, country, sex, and condition: the mightiest potentates, the most renowned lawgivers, the most profound philosophers, the most eminent scholars, besides all those of whom the world was not worthy, have formed a part of this building.
Nothing more spacious, since it is spread over the whole earth, and takes in all who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Nothing so inviolable, since it is consecrated to Jehovah.
Nothing so Divine, since it is a living building, animated and inhabited by the Holy Ghost.
Nothing so beneficent, seeing it gives shelter to the poor, the wretched, and distressed, of every nation, and kindred, and tongue.
As we have one only God, and one only Savior and Mediator between God and man, and one only inspiring Spirit; so there is but one Church, in which this ineffable Jehovah performs his work of salvation. That Church, however scattered and divided throughout the world, is but one building, founded on the Old and New Testaments; having but one sacrifice, the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
In whom - In Christ, or on Christ, as the solid and precious foundation.
Ye also are builded together - You are built into that, or constitute a part of it. You are not merely “added” to it, but you constitute a part of the building.
For an habitation of God - For the indwelling, or the dwelling-place, of God. Formerly he dwelt in the temple. Now he dwells in the church, and in the hearts of his people; see the notes at 2 Corinthians 6:16.
Remarks On Ephesians 2:1. We had no spiritual life. We were insensible to the calls of God, to the beauty of religion, to the claims of the Creator. We were like corpses in the tomb in reference to the frivolous and busy and happy world around them. There we should have remained, had not the grace of God given us life, just as the dead will remain in their graves forever, unless God shall raise them up. How humble should we be at the remembrance of this fact! how grateful that God bas not left us to sleep that sleep of death forever!
2. Parents should feel deep solicitude for their children; Ephesians 2:3. They, in common with all others, are “children of wrath.” They have a nature prone to evil; and that nature will develope itself in evil for ever, unless it is changed - just as the young thornbush will be a thorn-bush, and will put forth thorns and not roses; and the Bohon Upas will be a Bohon Upas, and not an olive or an orange; and as the lion will be a lion, and the panther a panther, and not a lamb, a kid, or a gazelle. They will act out their nature, unless they are changed: and they will not be changed, but by the grace of God. I do not mean that their nature is in every sense like that of the lion or the asp; but I mean that they will be as certainly “wicked,” if unrenewed, as the lion will be ferocious, and the asp poisonous. And if so, what deep anxiety should parents feel for the salvation of their children! How solicitous should they be that, by the grace of God. the evil propensities of their nature may be eradicated, and that they become the adopted children of God!
3. The salvation of sinners involves all the exercise of power that is put forth in the resurrection of the dead; Ephesians 2:5. It is not a work to be performed by man; it is not a work of angelic might. None can impart spiritual life to the soul but he who gave it life at first. On that great Source of life we are dependent for our resurrection from spiritual death; and to God we must look for the grace by which we are to live. It is true that though we are by nature “dead in sins,” we are not in all respects like the dead. Let not this doctrine be abused to make us secure in sin, or to prevent effort. The dead in the grave are dead in all respects. We by nature are dead only in sin. We are active in other things; and indeed the powers of man are not less active than they would be if he were holy. But it is a tremendous activity for evil, and for evil only. The dead in their graves hear nothing, see nothing, and feel nothing.
Sinners hear, and see, and feel; but they hear not God, and they see not his glory, anymore than if they were dead. To the dead in the grave, no command could with propriety be addressed; on them, no entreaty could be urged to rise to life. But the sinner may be commanded and entreated; for he has power, though it is misdirected; and what is needful is, that he should put forth his power in a proper manner. While, therefore, we admit, with deep humiliation, that we, our children, and friends, are by nature dead in sin, let us not abuse this doctrine as though we could be required to do nothing. It is with us willful death. It is death because we do not choose to live. It is a voluntary closing our eyes, and stopping our ears, as if we were dead; and it is a voluntary remaining in this state, when we have all the requisite power to put forth the energies of life. Let a sinner be as active in the service of God as he is in the service of the devil and the world, and he would be an eminent Christian. Indeed, all that is required is, that the misdirected and abused energy of this world should be employed in the service of the Creator. Then all would be well.
(See the supplementary notes, Romans 8:7; Galatians 5:17, note. Whenever it is said the sinner has power, the kind of power should be defined. Certainly he has not moral power. This, indeed, the author allows, but for want of distinct definition of what he understands by “power,” both here and elsewhere, the reader is apt to misapprehend him.)
4. Let us remember our former course of life; Ephesians 2:11-12. Nothing is more profitable for a Christian than to sit down and reflect on his former life - on his childhood, with its numerous follies and vanities; on his youth, with its errors, and passions, and sins: and on the ingratitude and faults of riper years. Had God left us in that state, what would be now our condition? Had he cut us off, where had been our abode? Should he now treat us as we deserve, what would be our doom? When the Christian is in danger of becoming proud and self-confident, let him remember what he was. Let him take some period of his life - some year, some month, or even some one day - and think it all over, and he will find enough to humble him. These are the uses which should be made of the past:
(1) It should make us humble. If a man had before his mind a vivid sense of all the past in his own life, he would never be lifted up with pride.
(2) it should make us grateful. God cut off the companions of my childhood - why did he spare me? He cut down many of the associates of my youth in their sins - why did he preserve me? He has suffered many to live on in their sins, and they are in the “broad road” - why am I not with them, treading the path to death and hell?
(3) the recollection of the past should lead us to devote ourselves to God. Professing Christian, “remember” how much of thy life is gone to waste. “Remember” thy days of folly and vanity. “Remember” the injury thou hast done by an evil example. “Remember” how many have been corrupted by thy conversation; perverted by thy opinions; led into sin by thy example; perhaps ruined in body and soul forever by the errors and follies of thy past life. And then remember how much thou dost owe to God, and how solemnly thou art bound to endeavor to repair the evils of thy life, and to save “at least as many as” thou hast ruined.
5. Sinners are by nature without any well-founded hope of salvation; Ephesians 2:12, They are living without Christ, having no belief in him, and no hope of salvation through him. They are “aliens” from all the privileges of the friends of God. They have no “hope.” They have no wellfounded expectation of happiness beyond the grave. They have a dim and shadowy expectation that “possibly” they may be happy; but it is founded on no evidence of the divine favor, and no promise of God. “They could not tell on what it is founded, if they were asked;” and what is such a hope worth? These false and delusive hopes do not sustain the soul in trial; they flee away in death. And what a description is this! In a world like this, to be without hope! Subject to trial; exposed to death; and yet destitute of any well-founded prospect of happiness beyond the tomb! They are “without God” also. They worship no God: they confide in none.
They have no altar in their families; no place of secret prayer. They form their plans with no reference to the will of God; they desire not to please him. There are multitudes who are living just as if there were no God. Their plans, their lives, their conversation, would not be different if they had the assurance that there was no God. All that they have ever asked of God, or that they would now ask of him, is, “that he would let them alone.” There are multitudes whose plans would be in no respect different, if it were announced to them that there was no God in heaven. The only effect might be to produce a more hearty merriment, and a deeper plunge into sin. What a world! How strange that in God‘s own world it should thus be! How sad the view of a world of atheists - a race that is endeavoring to feel that the universe is without a Father and a God! How wicked the plans which can be accomplished only by laboring to forget that there is a God; and how melancholy that state of the soul in which happiness can be found only in proportion as it believes that the universe is without a Creator, and moves on without the superintending care of a God!
6. The gospel produces peace; Ephesians 2:14-17.
(1) it produces peace in the heart of the individual, reconciling him to God.
(2) it produces peace and harmony between different ranks and classes and complexions of people, causing them to love each other, and removing their alienations and antipathies. The best way of producing friendship between nations and tribes of people; between those of different complexions, pursuits, and laws, is, to preach to them the gospel. The best way to produce harmony between the oppressor and the oppressed, is to preach to both of them the gospel of peace, and make them feel that they have a common Saviour.
(3) it is suited to produce peace among the nations. Let it spread, and wars will cease; right and justice will universally prevail, and harmony and concord will spread over the world; see the notes at Isaiah 2:4.
7. Let us rejoice in the privileges which we now have as Christians. We have access to the Father; Ephesians 2:18. None are so poor, so ignorant, so down-trodden that they may not come to God. In all times of affliction, poverty, and oppression, we may approach the father of mercies. Chains may bind the body, but no chain can fetter the soul in its contact with God. We may be thrown into a dungeon, but communion with God may be maintained there. We may be cast out and despised by people, but we may come at once unto God, and he will not cast us away. Further. We are not now strangers and foreigners. We belong to the family of God. We are fellow-citizens with the saints; Ephesians 2:19. We are participants of the hope of the redeemed, and we share their honors and their joys. It is right that true Christians should rejoice, and their joy is of such a character that no man can take it from them.
8. Let us make our appeal on all doctrines and duties to the Bible - to the prophets and the apostles; Ephesians 2:20. On them and their doctrine we can build. On them the church is reared. It is not on the opinion of philosophers and lawgivers; not on creeds, symbols, traditions, and the decisions of councils; it is on the authority of the inspired book of God. The church is in its most healthy state when it appeals for its doctrines most directly to the Bible. Individual Christians grow most in grace when they appeal most to this “book of books.” The church is in great danger of error when it goes off from this pure “standard” and makes its appeal to other standards - to creeds and symbols of doctrine. “The Bible is the religion of Protestants;” and the church will be kept pure from error, and will advance in holiness, just as this is made the great principle which shall always govern and control it. If a doctrine is not found in the “apostles and prophets” - in some part of the Bible, it is not to be imposed on the conscience. It may, or may not be true; it may, or may not be suited to edify a people; but it is not to be an article of faith, or imposed on the consciences of men.
9. Let us evince always special regard for the Lord Jesus; Ephesians 2:20. He is the precious cornerstone on which the whole spiritual temple is reared. On him the church rests. How important, then, that the church should have correct views of the Redeemer! How important that the true doctrine respecting his divine nature; his atonement; his incarnation; his resurrection, should be maintained. It is not a matter of indifference whether he be God or man; whether he died as an atoning sacrifice or as a martyr; whether he be the equal of God, or whether he be an archangel. Everything depends on the view which is held of that Redeemer - and as people entertain different opinions about him, they go off into different systems as wide from each other as the poles: Everything in the welfare of the church, and in the individual peace of its members, depends on proper views of the Lord Jesus.
10. The church is designed as the place of the special residence of the Holy Spirit on earth; Ephesians 2:21-22. It is the beautiful temple where be dwells; the edifice which is reared for his abode. How truly should that church be; how pure should be each Christian to be an appropriate habitation for such a guest! Holy should be the heart where that Spirit dwells. With what anxious care should we cherish the presence of such a guest; with what solicitude should we guard our conduct that we may not grieve him away! How anxious we are so to live that we may not grieve away our friends from our dwellings! Should an illustrious guest become an inmate in our abode, how anxious should we be to do all that we can to please him, and to retain him with us! flow much more anxious should we be to secure the indwelling of the eternal Spirit! How desirous that be should make our hearts and the church his constant abode!
Suddenly the discourse was interrupted by the descent of the Holy Spirit. “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. AA 139.1
“Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” AA 139.2
Thus was the gospel brought to those who had been strangers and foreigners, making them fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God. The conversion of Cornelius and his household was but the first fruits of a harvest to be gathered in. From this household a wide-spread work of grace was carried on in that heathen city. AA 139.3Read in context »
The hearts of Paul and his associate workers were drawn out in behalf of those who were “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” Through the untiring ministrations of the apostles to the Gentiles, the “strangers and foreigners,” who “sometimes were far off,” learned that they had been “made nigh by the blood of Christ,” and that through faith in His atoning sacrifice they might become “fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” Ephesians 2:12, 13, 19. AA 175.1
Advancing in faith, Paul labored unceasingly for the upbuilding of God's kingdom among those who had been neglected by the teachers in Israel. Constantly he exalted Christ Jesus as “the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15), and exhorted the believers to be “rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith.” Colossians 2:7. AA 175.2
To those who believe, Christ is a sure foundation. Upon this living stone, Jews and Gentiles alike may build. It is broad enough for all and strong enough to sustain the weight and burden of the whole world. This is a fact plainly recognized by Paul himself. In the closing days of his ministry, when addressing a group of Gentile believers who had remained steadfast in their love of the gospel truth, the apostle wrote, “Ye ... are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” Ephesians 2:19, 20. AA 175.3Read in context »
Not in their own power did the apostles accomplish their mission, but in the power of the living God. Their work was not easy. The opening labors of the Christian church were attended by hardship and bitter grief. In their work the disciples constantly encountered privation, calumny, and persecution; but they counted not their lives dear unto themselves and rejoiced that they were called to suffer for Christ. Irresolution, indecision, weakness of purpose, found no place in their efforts. They were willing to spend and be spent. The consciousness of the responsibility resting on them purified and enriched their experience, and the grace of heaven was revealed in the conquests they achieved for Christ. With the might of omnipotence God worked through them to make the gospel triumphant. AA 595.1
Upon the foundation that Christ Himself had laid, the apostles built the church of God. In the Scriptures the figure of the erection of a temple is frequently used to illustrate the building of the church. Zechariah refers to Christ as the Branch that should build the temple of the Lord. He speaks of the Gentiles as helping in the work: “They that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord;” and Isaiah declares, “The sons of strangers shall build up thy walls.” Zechariah 6:12, 15; Isaiah 60:10. AA 595.2
Writing of the building of this temple, Peter says, “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:4, 5. AA 595.3Read in context »