Ephesians 1:7-10

Biblical Text

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ." (Ephesians 1:7-10, TNIV)

Commentary from the Early Church Fathers(1)

What Is Redemption. Jerome: The one who is yet to be redeemed is a captive. He has ceased to be free by coming under the power of the enemy. So we are captives in this world and bound by the yoke of slavery to the principalities and powers, unable to release our hands from our chains. So we raise our eyes upward until the Redeemer arrives. Epistle to the Ephesians 1.1.7

How the Fullness of Time Was Determined. Chrysostom: The “fullness of time” was the Son’s appearing. When, then, God had done all through angels, through prophets and through the law, yet nothing had improved, there was a danger that humanity had come into being for nothing. It was not going merely nowhere but to the bad. All were perishing together, just like in the days of the flood but more so. Just then he offered this gracious dispensation—to ensure that creation should not have come into being for nothing or in vain. The “fullness of time” is that divine wisdom by which, at the moment when all were most likely to perish, they were saved. Homily on Ephesians 1.1.10.

Uniting Heavenly and Earthly Things. Irenaeus: Thus Christ unites … in himself all that is earthly and all that is spiritual. He unites humanity to Spirit and places the Spirit in humanity. Being himself made the fountainhead of the Spirit, Christ gives the Spirit to be the head of humanity. Thus through the Son by the Spirit we ourselves now see and hear and speak. Against Heresies 5.20.2. 

Recapitulating Heaven and Earth. Theodoret: Only God’s nature needs nothing. The whole creation stood in need of his healing order of gifts. For, since the elements came into being to serve human needs, he made them subject to corruption, for he could foresee that transgression was going to make humanity mortal also. As for the unseen powers, they were naturally aggrieved when they saw human beings living in wickedness. … By recapitulation he means the complete transformation of things. For through the gift given through Christ the Lord the human nature is raised anew and puts on incorruptibility. Ultimately the visible creation, delivered from corruption, will receive incorruption. The hosts of unseen powers will rejoice continually, because sorrow and grief and sighing have fled away. This is what the divine apostle teaches through these words; for he said not simply “heaven and earth” but “those in heaven” and “those on earth.” Epistle to the Ephesians 1.10.

My Comments

It’s almost not worth writing today as the comments above are plenty good enough to stand alone without my help. But just a few thoughts on these verses from Ephesians…

A common theme in among the Fathers in this section was that Jesus’ death freed us from something greater than just personal sin. As Theodoret noted, Jesus’ action was one of cosmic significance that recapitulated and thus completely transformed all things. He makes the point that the work of Christ not only freed us from our own personal sins, but also freed us from the bondage in which we live (to our sinful nature – Jerome’s point) and set the whole of creation on a path by which someday it will receive incorruption.

Once again Chrysostom was helpful in offering an answer to the question “Why did Jesus come when he did? Why not earlier, why not later?” I think to add a bit to what Chysostom said, as Christians we believe that God has a plan for the world, and this is a plan that has been revealed to us through scripture. All things are headed to an end, namely the creating anew of all things (Rev. 21-22). The timing of Jesus’ incarnation was part of God’s plan for the creation, reconciliation, and redemption of the whole world.

Irenaeus’ comments I thought were helpful to understand this point well. The Word of God has always been the mediator between God and the creation (See John 1:1-4), but by becoming incarnate in the world God took creation unto himself and brought the two into union. This action thus allows us to be united to him through the power of the Holy Spirit (aka John Calvin’s doctrine of Union in Christ).

Notes(2)

Jerome (c. 347–420). Gifted exegete and exponent of a classical Latin style, now best known as the translator of the Latin Vulgate. He defended the perpetual virginity of Mary, attacked Origen and Pelagius and supported extreme ascetic practices.
John Chrysostom (344/354–407; fl. 386–407). Bishop of Constantinople who was noted for his orthodoxy, his eloquence and his attacks on Christian laxity in high places.
Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 135-c. 202). Bishop of Lyons who published the most famous and influential refutation of Gnostic thought.
Theodoret of Cyr (c. 393–466). Bishop of Cyr (Cyrrhus), he was an opponent of Cyril who commented extensively on Old Testament texts as a lucid exponent of Antiochene exegesis.

  1. All comments taken from: M. J. Edwards, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 8. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 115-116.
  2. Biographical information is from: ACCS Introduction and Bibliographic Information, Ancient Christian commentary on Scripture. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2005).
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