To the Ephesians 2:1-22

2  Furthermore, God made you alive, though you were dead in your trespasses and sins,+  in which you at one time walked according to the system of things* of this world,+ according to the ruler of the authority of the air,+ the spirit+ that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.  Yes, among them we all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh,+ carrying out the will of the flesh and of our thoughts,+ and we were naturally children of wrath+ just as the rest.  But God, being rich in mercy,+ because of his great love with which he loved us,+  made us alive together with the Christ, even when we were dead in trespasses+—by undeserved kindness you have been saved.  Moreover, he raised us up together and seated us together in the heavenly places in union with Christ Jesus,+  so that in the coming systems of things he might demonstrate the surpassing riches of his undeserved kindness in his graciousness toward us in union with Christ Jesus.  By this undeserved kindness you have been saved through faith,+ and this is not of your own doing; rather, it is God’s gift.+  No, it is not a result of works,+ so that no one should have grounds for boasting. 10  We are God’s handiwork and were created+ in union with Christ Jesus+ for good works, which God determined in advance for us to walk in them. 11  Therefore, remember that at one time you, people of the nations by fleshly descent, were the ones called “uncircumcision” by those called “circumcision,” which is made in the flesh by human hands. 12  At that time you were without Christ, alienated from the state of Israel, strangers to the covenants of the promise;+ you had no hope and were without God in the world.+ 13  But now in union with Christ Jesus, you who were once far off have come to be near by the blood of the Christ. 14  For he is our peace,+ the one who made the two groups one+ and destroyed the wall in between that fenced them off.+ 15  By means of his flesh he abolished the enmity, the Law of commandments consisting in decrees, in order to make the two groups in union with himself into one new man+ and to make peace, 16  and to reconcile fully both peoples in one body to God through the torture stake,+ because he had killed off the enmity+ by means of himself. 17  And he came and declared the good news of peace+ to you who were far off, and peace to those near, 18  because through him we, both peoples, have free access to the Father by one spirit.+ 19  So you are no longer strangers and foreigners,+ but you are fellow citizens+ of the holy ones and are members of the household of God,+ 20  and you have been built up on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,+ while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone.+ 21  In union with him the whole building, being harmoniously joined together,+ is growing into a holy temple for Jehovah.+ 22  In union with him you too are being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit.+

Footnotes

Or “the course; the ways; the customs.”

Study Notes

Let the dead bury their dead: As shown in the study note on Lu 9:59, the father of the man to whom Jesus is talking was likely ailing or elderly, not dead. Therefore, Jesus is evidently saying: ‘Let those who are spiritually dead bury their dead,’ that is, the man should not wait to make his decision to follow Jesus, since other relatives could apparently care for the father until his death. By following Jesus, the man put himself on the way to eternal life, not among those who were spiritually dead before God. In his reply, Jesus shows that putting the Kingdom of God first in one’s life and declaring it far and wide are essential to remaining spiritually alive.

has passed over from death to life: Jesus is apparently speaking about those who were once spiritually dead but who upon hearing his words put faith in him and discontinue walking in their sinful course. (Eph 2:1, 2, 4-6) They pass over “from death to life” in that the condemnation of death is lifted from them, and they are given the hope of everlasting life because of their faith in God. In a similar way, Jesus apparently referred to spiritually dead ones when he said to the Jewish son who wanted to go home to bury his father: “Let the dead bury their dead.”​—Lu 9:60; see study notes on Lu 9:60; Joh 5:25.

the dead: Jesus said that the hour, or time, for the dead to “hear [his] voice” is now, so he could only mean living humans who inherited sin from Adam and were therefore condemned to death. (Ro 5:12) From God’s standpoint, mankind in general has no right to life because “the wages” that sin pays to them is death. (Ro 6:23) By hearing and heeding Jesus’ “word,” individuals could figuratively ‘pass over from death to life.’ (See study note on Joh 5:24.) The terms “hear” and “listen” are frequently used in the Bible with the meaning of “pay heed to” or “obey.”

dead in your trespasses and sins: In the Bible, death and life can be used in a figurative, or a spiritual, sense. Paul says that the former course of the Ephesian Christians made them “dead in [their] trespasses and sins.” One lexicon describes the figurative use of the Greek word for “dead” in this verse as a person’s “being so morally or spiritually deficient as to be in effect dead.” However, Paul shows that Jehovah could now view those spirit-anointed Christians as being alive, since they had repented of their sinful way of life on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice.​—Eph 2:5; Col 2:13; see study notes on Lu 9:60; Joh 5:24, 25.

Son of: In Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, the phrase “son(s) of” can be used to indicate a prominent quality or characteristic that distinguishes a person or to describe a group of people. For example, at De 3:18, “valiant men,” or courageous warriors, are literally called “sons of ability.” At Job 1:3, the expression rendered “people of the East” is literally “sons of the East.” The expression “a worthless man” at 1Sa 25:17 renders the literal expression “a son of belial,” that is, “a son of worthlessness.” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, those who pursue a certain course of conduct or who manifest a certain characteristic are designated by such expressions as “sons of the Most High,” “sons of light and sons of day,” and “sons of disobedience.”​—Lu 6:35; 1Th 5:5; Eph 2:2.

the system of things of this world: The Greek word here rendered “system of things” basically means “age.” It often denotes the current state of affairs or features that distinguish a certain period of time. The Greek word for “world” (koʹsmos) here refers to the unrighteous human society alienated from God. In this verse, where these two terms are combined, the whole expression could be rendered “the course [or, “customs; ways”] of this world,” referring to the behavior and standards of people alienated from God. Paul makes the point that the Christians in Ephesus had once led, or walked according to, an unrighteous way of life.

the ruler of the authority of the air: Satan the Devil is the “ruler” referred to here. Paul uses the literal air, or atmosphere, to illustrate how the spirit, or dominant attitude, of selfishness and disobedience permeates the world today. Paul uses similar language at 1Co 2:12 in referring to “the spirit of the world.” Just as literal air is everywhere, ready to be breathed in, so “the spirit of the world” is always present. It exerts “authority,” or power, over most of mankind. The power of this dominant mental attitude lies in its appeal to the sinful flesh, its subtlety, its relentlessness and, like air, its pervasiveness. Those who are alienated from God and who pursue a course contrary to God’s will are here called “the sons of disobedience.”

the sons of disobedience: See study note on Ac 4:36.

we were naturally children of wrath: Adam willfully disobeyed God, bringing sin and death to all his descendants. (Ro 5:12, 19) This inherited imperfection made them “naturally,” or by nature, “children of wrath,” who merit God’s disfavor and who deserve death. (De 32:5; Ro 2:5; 3:10; Eph 5:6; Col 1:21; 3:6) However, they are no longer “children of wrath” because they resist their inherent, sinful inclination and accept the merciful provision of becoming reconciled to him. (Joh 3:36) “Because of his great love,” God provided “the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.”​—Eph 2:4, 5; Ro 3:23, 24.

in the heavenly places: Here Paul speaks of anointed Christians as having already received “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” though they were still on earth. The context shows that God “assigned [them] as heirs” with his Son in the heavenly inheritance and gave them a token of that inheritance. (Eph 1:11, 13, 14) While yet on earth, they will be raised up, or exalted, by having received such an assignment.​—Eph 1:18-20; 2:4-7.

in the heavenly places: Though Paul uses this expression at Eph 1:20 to refer to God’s dwelling place in heaven, here he speaks of spirit-anointed Christians as already raised up and seated “together in the heavenly places” while they are still on earth. As at Eph 1:3, that is because God “assigned [them] as heirs” with his Son in the heavenly inheritance and gave them a token of that inheritance. (Eph 1:11, 13, 14) They were thereby brought forth, or born again, and became Jehovah’s spirit-anointed sons (Joh 1:12, 13; 3:5-7), which also made them Jesus’ brothers (Ro 8:15; Eph 1:5) and “joint heirs with Christ.”​—Ro 8:17; Eph 1:11; see study note on Eph 1:3.

the coming system of things: Or “the coming age.” The Greek word ai·onʹ, having the basic meaning “age,” can refer to a state of affairs or to features that distinguish a certain period of time, epoch, or age. Jesus is here referring to the coming era under God’s Kingdom rule, in which everlasting life is promised.​—Lu 18:29, 30; see Glossary, “System(s) of things.”

upon whom the ends of the systems of things have come: The apostle Paul had related a number of events in Israel’s history (1Co 10:1-10) leading up to the ends of the systems of things, or the prevailing states of affairs, of his time. (See Glossary, “System[s] of things.”) Those “systems of things” were closely related to the Law covenant and included such elements as the following: a priesthood, a system of sacrifices and dietary regulations, a system of tabernacle and temple worship with festivals and sabbaths, and a national system that came to involve human kings. Many of the distinguishing features of the Israelite or Jewish age, or epoch, did not come to their complete end until 70 C.E. At that time, Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, permanently ending the Jewish priesthood, sacrifices, and temple worship as prescribed in the Law. Also, the Jewish people, once God’s chosen nation, were scattered among the nations, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy at Lu 21:24 as well as Paul’s words here about “the ends of the [Jewish] systems of things.”

the coming systems of things: Or “the coming ages.” Here the plural form of the Greek word ai·onʹ, often rendered “system of things,” is used. In this context, it refers to the future time when anointed Christians will reign with Christ Jesus and experience God’s undeserved kindness. (Compare Eph 1:18-23; Heb 6:4, 5.) The expression “the coming systems of things” is plural. This indicates that there will be systems of things, or ages with certain characteristics, within the overall “coming system of things.” (See study notes on Mr 10:30; 1Co 10:11.) It could be compared with the Jewish system of things under the Law covenant, which embraced several systems that were interrelated and contemporaneous.​—See Glossary, “System(s) of things.”

graciousness: Or “favor; generosity.” The Greek word used here is also rendered “kindness.”​—Ro 2:4; 11:22.

he is a new creation: Each anointed Christian is a new creation​—a spirit-begotten son of God with the prospect of sharing with Christ in the heavenly Kingdom. (Ga 4:6, 7) Though new material things have not been created since the end of the sixth creative day (Ge 2:2, 3), new spiritual things have been created.

but a new creation is: Each anointed Christian is a new creation​—a spirit-begotten son of God with the prospect of sharing with Christ in the heavenly Kingdom. (Ga 4:6, 7) Additionally, the anointed are part of the Christian congregation, “the Israel of God” (Ga 6:16 and study note), which is also a new spiritual creation. (See study note on 2Co 5:17.) Therefore, whether a Christian is circumcised or not does not matter to God.

We are God’s handiwork: Or “We are a product of His work.” God brought forth spirit-anointed Christians as “a new creation” in union with Christ Jesus. (See study notes on 2Co 5:17; Ga 6:15.) The Greek word here rendered “handiwork” is used of the physical creation at Ro 1:20, where it is translated “the things made.” The expression may convey the idea of the work of a skilled craftsman.

Circumcision: The Mosaic Law required that a male worshipper of Jehovah be circumcised. (Le 12:2, 3; see Glossary.) Even foreigners had to get circumcised before they were allowed to eat the Passover meal. (Ex 12:43-49) In the year 49 C.E., however, just seven years before Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, the governing body in Jerusalem concluded that non-Jews who accepted the good news did not need to get circumcised and submit to the regulations of the Jewish Law. (Ac 15:1, 2, 28, 29) When Paul wrote to the Romans, he supported that spirit-inspired decision, and under the guidance of holy spirit, he clarified the matter further here and in subsequent verses. Even under the Law covenant, circumcision had to be accompanied by obedience to the Law.​—Le 18:5; De 30:16; Jer 9:25; see study note on Ro 2:29.

the ones called “uncircumcision”: That is, non-Jews.

those called “circumcision”: That is, Jews.​—See study note on Ro 2:25.

alienated from the state of Israel: Before coming to know God’s purposes, some Ephesian Christians had been uncircumcised “people of the nations.” (Eph 2:11) As such, they were alienated from the nation that had a special relationship with God. (Ex 19:5, 6; 1Ki 8:53) The non-Israelite nations had neither a knowledge of God’s dealings nor an approved standing with him.

you had no hope and were without God: The Gentile Christians, like the Jews, were sinners who descended from sinful Adam. However, Christ Jesus’ sacrifice opened the way for those of the non-Jewish nations to have a close relationship with God and the sure hope of everlasting life.​—Eph 1:7; 2:13.

the two groups: That is, Jews and non-Jews.​—Eph 2:11.

the wall in between: Lit., “the middle wall.” This is likely an allusion to the wall in the first-century temple in Jerusalem that “fenced . . . off,” or prevented, the Gentile worshippers from entering the inner courtyards. These courtyards were open only to Jews. According to the Mishnah, that wall was a latticed barrier called the Soreg. (See App. B11.) Josephus wrote that the wall was three cubits (1.3 m; 4.3 ft) high and that it carried signs in Greek and Latin warning non-Jews not to pass beyond it under penalty of death. When Paul wrote this letter, he was in prison because he was accused of taking a non-Jew from Ephesus beyond this wall. So the Ephesians may have been acquainted with it. (Ac 21:28-31; 28:30, 31; Eph 3:1) The literal wall in Jerusalem was still standing. So when Paul spoke of “the wall” being destroyed, he was referring, not to the literal wall, but to the Law covenant, which divided Jews from Gentiles. That symbolic wall was abolished some 30 years earlier on the basis of Christ’s death.

through the torture stake: Here the term “torture stake” (Greek, stau·rosʹ) is used to represent Jesus’ death on the execution stake. Jesus’ death was the basis for removing the Law, which was a barrier that separated the Jews from the non-Jews. Therefore, by accepting the reconciliation made possible by Jesus’ death, both peoples, Jews and non-Jews, could become “one body . . . through the torture stake.”​—See also Col 1:20 and Glossary, “Stake”; “Torture stake.”

himself: Or possibly, “it,” that is, the torture stake.​—Col 1:20; 2:13, 14.

by one spirit: That is, by means of God’s holy spirit.

our citizenship: The city of Philippi was a Roman colony, and its inhabitants were granted many privileges. (See study notes on Ac 16:12, 21.) Some members of the congregation in Philippi may have had a form of Roman citizenship, which was highly prized. The distinction between citizens and noncitizens was an important issue. However, Paul here refers to citizenship in heaven, which was far superior. (Eph 2:19) He urges anointed Christians to focus, not on earthly things (Php 3:19), but on their future life as “citizens” of heaven.​—See study note on Php 1:27.

the wall in between: Lit., “the middle wall.” This is likely an allusion to the wall in the first-century temple in Jerusalem that “fenced . . . off,” or prevented, the Gentile worshippers from entering the inner courtyards. These courtyards were open only to Jews. According to the Mishnah, that wall was a latticed barrier called the Soreg. (See App. B11.) Josephus wrote that the wall was three cubits (1.3 m; 4.3 ft) high and that it carried signs in Greek and Latin warning non-Jews not to pass beyond it under penalty of death. When Paul wrote this letter, he was in prison because he was accused of taking a non-Jew from Ephesus beyond this wall. So the Ephesians may have been acquainted with it. (Ac 21:28-31; 28:30, 31; Eph 3:1) The literal wall in Jerusalem was still standing. So when Paul spoke of “the wall” being destroyed, he was referring, not to the literal wall, but to the Law covenant, which divided Jews from Gentiles. That symbolic wall was abolished some 30 years earlier on the basis of Christ’s death.

those related to us in the faith: Or “those who belong to the household (family) of faith.” The Greek word rendered “those related to” refers to members of a literal family, or household. (1Ti 5:8) In the Greco-Roman world, a household could designate a close-knit group of people who shared the same beliefs, ideas, or purposes. This well describes the first-century congregations that usually met in private homes (Ro 16:3-5) and whose members felt a close spiritual kinship with one another.​—Eph 2:19.

you are fellow citizens of the holy ones: Paul assured Gentile Christians in Ephesus that their spiritual status had changed. They were no longer strangers and foreigners with limited rights. Rather, they had become “fellow citizens of the holy ones” with common aims, obligations, and identities. They were now part of a new spiritual nation and had the same citizenship as the other holy ones. (See Php 3:20 and study note.) Christ destroyed the wall, “the Law of commandments,” that had fenced off Gentiles from Jews, giving both peoples free access to the Father through Christ.​—Eph 2:14-18; see study note on Eph 2:14.

members of the household of God: Paul uses the expression “members of the household” to illustrate how the anointed members of the Christian congregation were organized as a close family unit. (1Ti 3:15) In a godly household, members of the family show respect for the family head as well as for the arrangements and standards that he sets for the household. Similarly, the members of the first-century congregations felt a close spiritual kinship with one another and respected Jehovah’s arrangements regarding the congregation.​—See study note on Ga 6:10.

the foundation cornerstone: This expression occurs only twice in the Christian Greek Scriptures, here and at 1Pe 2:6. Jesus is “the foundation cornerstone” of the Christian congregation, which Paul likens to a building. (Eph 2:21) The Greek term rendered “foundation cornerstone” occurs once in the Septuagint, in the Messianic prophecy at Isa 28:16. There Jehovah foretold that he would lay “as a foundation in Zion a tested stone, the precious cornerstone of a sure foundation.” Peter quotes from this prophecy and applies the expression to Jesus. (1Pe 2:4-6) The foundation cornerstone in public buildings and city walls was placed where two walls met. It bound together the other stones. For the building to be properly constructed, all the stones had to conform to the cornerstone.

you yourselves are God’s temple: This is one of several instances where the Bible likens people to a temple. Jesus used such a comparison about himself at Joh 2:19, and the Scriptures foretold that he would be “the chief cornerstone” of such a spiritual structure. (Ps 118:22; Isa 28:16, 17; Ac 4:10, 11) The Greek pronoun rendered “you yourselves” in this verse is plural, indicating that the entire congregation makes up “God’s temple” in which God’s spirit dwells. These anointed Christians serving as underpriests are “God’s building” (1Co 3:9; see study note), so verse 17 emphasizes the holiness of this spiritual temple and warns anyone who would attempt to defile it. At Eph 2:20-22 and 1Pe 2:6, 7, Paul and Peter use similar comparisons regarding Jesus and his followers.

your body is the temple: Spirit-anointed Christians as a group occupy a special place in Jehovah’s purpose. The Greek pronoun for “your” is in plural, so it is not the body of just one member of the congregation that constitutes the temple. (1Co 10:17) The Bible frequently makes figurative use of the word “temple,” sometimes applying it to people. Jesus used this expression about himself at Joh 2:19, and the Scriptures foretold that the Messiah would be “the chief cornerstone” of such a spiritual structure. (Ps 118:22; Isa 28:16, 17; Ac 4:10, 11) Paul and Peter used similar comparisons regarding Jesus and his followers at 1Co 3:16, 17; Eph 2:20-22; and 1Pe 2:6, 7.

being harmoniously joined together: This expression emphasizes the need for unity in the Christian congregation. (See “Introduction to Ephesians.”) Both Jewish and Gentile believers could unitedly approach Jehovah; all of them could have holy spirit; and together they were part of a spiritual temple, “a place for God to inhabit by spirit.”​—Eph 2:22; see Eph 4:16, where Paul uses the same expression (“harmoniously joined together”) when he likens the Christian congregation to a human body.

a holy temple for Jehovah: The Christian congregation is considered a house or a temple built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus as the foundation cornerstone. (Eph 2:20) At Eph 2:19, 22, this congregation is described as “the household of God” and “a place for God to inhabit by spirit.” Paul uses similar wording in his letters to the Corinthians.​—2Co 6:16; see study notes on 1Co 3:16; 6:19; for the use of the divine name in this verse, see App. C3 introduction; Eph 2:21.

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