Ephesians 2:4-10

Biblical Text
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:4-10, TNIV)

Commentary from the Early Church Fathers(1)
God Did Not Originally Desire That Any Should Perish. Ambrosiaster: These are the true riches of God’s mercy, that even when we did not seek it mercy was made known through his own initiative…. This is God’s love to us, that having made us he did not want us to perish. His reason for making us was that he might love what he had made, seeing that no one hates his own workmanship. Epistle to the Ephesians 2.4.

He Formed Us Anew as His Members. Ambrosiaster: God made us in Christ. So it is through Christ once again that he has formed us anew. We are his members; he our Head. Epistle to the Ephesians 2.5.

Already Exalted. Jerome: Above he said that God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand…. Some may ask how God who has saved us and raised us with him has also made us sit with Christ. A simple response would be indeed that, in the light of God’s foreknowledge, Paul is speaking of what is to come as though it had already been done. … One who understands the resurrection and the kingdom of Christ spiritually does not scruple to say that the saints already sit and reign with Christ! Just as a person may become truly holy even in the flesh, when he lives in the flesh and has his conversation in heaven, when he walks on earth and, ceasing to be flesh, is wholly converted into spirit, so he also is seated in heaven with Christ. For indeed “the kingdom of God is within us.” Epistle to the Ephesians 1.2.1 seq.

My Comments
These two comments from Ambrosiaster and Jerome stood out to me. In the past I've usually focused on the later part of this verse, especially Ephesians 2:8. Ephesians 2:8 is a verse that contradicts "faithism" – the idea that it is our decision for Jesus that saves us, thereby turning faith into a work that we do in order that God might have mercy.

Ambrosiaster clearly argues against this type of attitude toward salvation. God's love is shown that even when we did not seek his mercy he made it known through his own initiative. The act of God in, through, and as Jesus Christ was the embodiment of the mission of God to reconcile the whole world to himself. Ambosiaster continues that just as we were made through Christ (John 1:3 – all things were made through the Word of God) so too we are redeemed through Christ. The reconciliation and restoration of us is at God's initiatve. All that we can do is respond in faithful obedience, but this response is not the condition of salvation.

Finally, Jerome strikes an "eschatological" cord here. Paul writes this unusual line, "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." Taken literally, at the time of Jesus' ascension we too were taken into the heavenly realms. The interesting note here is that at the time of Jesus' ascension none of us were born. So what does Paul mean? I think Jerome gets at it well, "Paul is speaking of what is to come as though it had already been done." I agree with Jerome here but want to phrase it a little differently. Moltmann, in his introduction to Theology of Hope, talks about how Christians live in the tension of knowing that there is something more – the knowing anticipation of the full revelation of God's reign on earth. The telos, or end point, to which all of history is driving this will literally be true – those who are "In Christ" will be seated in the heavenly places with Christ. As for now, "in Christ" we too have been taken up into the heavenly places. What is a reality has not yet been revealed, but is real none the less. Christ, as our representative has taken us up into the heavenly places: we simply await the eschatological fulfillment of this.

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.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366–384). Name given by Erasmus to the author of a work once thought to have been composed by Ambrose.

  1. All comments taken from: M. J. Edwards, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 8. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 131.
  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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