Jews and Gentiles in Ephesians

A friend of this blog, Seumas MacDonald, recently wrote a nice post on Jews and Gentiles in Galatians.  The thrust of the post is that in Galatians, “we” refers to Jews, and “you” refers gentile believers.  This leads to a more satisfactory reading of Galatians, and also has important implications: as gentiles, we were not saved from the curse of the law;  rather, we were already under judgment.  Christ redeems us from the judgment we were already in.  

This same distinction, I’d argue, is present in Ephesians.  Tracking exactly who “we” and “you” are in the letter is a bit tricky, and Paul only occasionally specifies.  Sometimes “we” seems to indicate Paul and his fellow apostles; sometimes it may be a general “we”; but the Jew/Gentile distinction is definitely present, and most strongly in chapter 2.

I’ve usually heard Eph 2 preached in a very general way: verses 1-3 describe life before salvation, and 4-10 life after.  This works to an extent, but it’s not where Paul starts.  Paul is not describing the individual, but instead Jews and Gentiles.  The Gentile nations were utterly dead in their sins, enslaved to the demonic “spirit of the air.” Even the Jews had gone astray.  But God, rich in mercy, sends Christ to those far (the Gentiles) and those near (the Jews).  The inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s people is utter grace; we did nothing to deserve, and weren’t seeking God at all.  Instead, while lost in our sin, Christ died for us.

Paul caries this through the rest of chapter 2 and into 3.  2:11-22 is all about God incorporating the gentiles into his covenant people, so that they become fellow citizens and heirs along with Israel.  3:6 expresses this along the lines that ancient peoples used to define themselves.  The gentiles were fellow heirs (that is, as if they had blood descent from the founder of the community), members of one body (members of one πόλις, one body politic), and fellow partakers in the promise of the Spirit through Christ (they share the same rites of worship).  Such a dramatic turn of events was hinted at in the OT, but its full revelation has only now come in Christ and his apostles.  

Salvation by Grace thus becomes not simply an abstraction, or something that happens only to individuals.  In origin it is a salvation-historical term: God’s gracious inclusion of the gentiles while we were utterly lost in sin.  He is indeed able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or expect.” Thanks be to God!

ἐν αὐτῷ,


ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom (Part 6)

This post is a part of a series: parts one, two, three, four, and five.

This post should round out my posts on πίστις Χριστοῦ, at least for now. This one should be rather brief. John’s comments on Eph 3:12, “In him, and through faith in him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence,” are very brief. He does have a few interesting things to say about faith when discussing the prayer around 3:17ish. Thus, let us begin.

The first place to start is 3:12. John quotes the verse and then offers a comment or two: “‘In whom’, he says, ‘we have the boldness to approach him with confidence, through faith in him.’ Not as captives, he says, do we approach him, nor as those worthy of pardon, nor as ones who have sinned. This boldness, he says, we have in confidence. That’s to say, we have it with courage. Where does it come from? It comes from faith in him. (Πόθεν; Διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὺτοῦ.).” The comments are sufficiently vague that they could be rendered as “through his faithfulness” if that could be established elsewhere. But since he usually means “through faith in him” where that comes up, it’s proper to read it as we have traditionally: “through faith in him.” Though I do wonder about the article. What’s the difference between Διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὺτοῦ. as we have here and διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ in Romans? Anything significant? Anything that we could actually know? I guess I’ll have to defer to the linguists for now. I don’t have a clue!

Next, we’ll look at a few things he has to say about the prayer in 3:14-21. “‘So that he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner beings, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts though faith.’ See how he prays good things for them, and with such great desire, so that they may not waver. But how does this happen? Through the Holy Spirit, in your inner beings, Christ lives through faith in your hearts. How? In love, being rooted and established, so that you may experience together with all the saints, how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Later on, after tying 3:14-21 to the prayer in chapter 1, he continues, “This power, he says, strengthens us to bear temptations, so that we may not lead astray. How does Christ dwell in hearts? Hear the words of Christ himself, “The father and I, we will come and make a dwelling place with him.” And he doesn’t just dwell, but he dwells in your faithful hearts, which rooted are rooted in his love, not being lead astray.”. Later he talks about “knowing that Christ lives in us through faith.” The cognitive element is fairly strong here, just like it is in Philippians. The last little bit shows that that Christ’s dwelling in us results in us having “faithful hearts,” (ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ταῖς πισταῖς) that are “rooted in his love,” and “not led astray.” Thus, this knowledge of Christ does impact us. It enables our own faithfulness. John thus sees our faithfulness as part of that prayer, perhaps even the reason Paul prays it. The faithfulness of God isn’t in sight, but ours is.

Essentially, these passages back up much of what we see in Philippians. Faith is knowing and experience Jesus through the Spirit. John’s comments on 3:12, though ambiguous, support a “faith in Christ” reading since he doesn’t offer any indication to the contrary. We know Christ through faith, and this knowing results in Christ dwelling in us through the Spirit. It creates faithfulness in our own hearts as we are strengthened in him, rooted in his love. Faith and faithfulness are intertwined, though distinct.

ἐν πίστει αὐτοῦ,

ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ and John Chrysostom (Part 4)

This post is a part of a series: parts one, two, and three.

This time, Ephesians is the object of our study. The first passage to look at is Ephesians 2:8-10, especially 2:8, which reads: “ Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον·” (By grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is God’s gift). The passage does not contain the whole phrase, “πἰστις Χριστοῦ,” but John devotes an entire paragraph to discussing faith here and makes some rather intriguing statements. In the next post, I’ll look at 3:12 and 3:17.

John’s preaching on 2:8 is probably the most difficult of the passages I’ve looked at in the series, since he seems have a rhetorical interlocutor opposing him, at least in the latter part of our passage. I’ll offer a translation and then place the Greek at the end. Here’s the excerpt from 2:8:

“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” “By grace you have been saved,” he says. So that you may not extol the greatness of good works, see how you he restrains you: “by grace you have been saved,” he says, “through faith.” Then, so as not to have free-will (τὸ αὑτεξούσιον) ruined, he writes these things about us (ἒθηκε καὶ τά ἠμῶν suggestions welcome). Again he takes up the subject and says, “This is not from us.” Neither is faith, he says, “from us.” If he had not come, if he had not called, how could we have believed? “How then,” he says, “will they believe unless they hear?” Thus, this is not our faith. (Ὥστε οὐδὲ τὸ τῆς πίστεως ἡμέτερον.)[1] For he says, “it is God’s gift, not from works.” “But is faith really enough to save?” ones says. Rather, [Paul] says that, so as not to save the vain or idle, God has sought (required?) faith. [Paul] says, “faith saves, but through God.” Since God has willed it, faith saved us. But how does faith save, tell me, apart from works? This is the gift of God himself, so that “none may boast,” so that you, being occupied with grace, may do acts of loving-kindness. (ἵνα εὐγνώμονας περὶ τὴν χάριν ποιήσῃ) “Why then,” one says, “does he prevent justification from works?” Of course he prevents it! Instead, he tells us that no one is justified by works, so that the grace and loving-kindness of God may be demonstrated. He has not rejected those having works. Rather, he saved by grace those who had abandoned works, so that no one would have room to boast.

He then begins a discussion of good works: “Then, that at hearing this, “that is not from works but by faith that all are set straight,” that idleness might not remain, see what follows….” (The sentence is every bit that difficult in Greek, at least for me).

Whew! Where even to start… John is concerned that free-will be upheld. He appears to ground it, though, in God’s gracious gift. He is also concerned that there should be no boasting on the basis of works, and stresses that Christ/God are the source of our salvation, not our works, or even our own faith. That brings us to interesting bit, “Neither is this faith, he says, from us. If he had not come, if he had not called, how could we have believed? … Thus, this faith is not ours.” Might this be God’s πίστις, or faithfulness? The next sentence begins, “Θεοῦ, φησὶ, τὄ δῶρον.” “The gift, he says, is God’s.” That τὸ δῶρον is readily available suggests that the reason “this faith is not ours” is because it is God’s gift to us. I don’t think he’s merely saying that God is the source of faith, because then he could have said “ἡ πίστις οὑκ ἐξ ἡμῶν again instead of “Ὥστε οὐδὲ τὸ τῆς πίστεως ἡμέτερον.” Because of the mention of Jesus’ coming it seems plausible to read πίστις here as referring to God’s faithfulness expressed through Jesus’ coming. Whatever the exact meaning of the phrase, it’s tied to Jesus’ coming, Jesus’ call, and “the gift.” (Jesus? Faith?)

John then moves on to a discussion of the sufficiency of faith. Things get a bit tricky with his interlocutor, but the point seems to be that, yes, faith is sufficient for our justification. Faith saves apart from works so that God may display his grace and loving-kindness. Interestingly, the tense of “saves” changes here. It goes back an forth between aorist and present (even in the indicative). I’m not sure if there’s significance there, but it did stick out. Finally, John proceeds to show how justification by faith is not opposed to good works, spending a lot of time in 2:10 exhorting his listeners to good works.

[1] The grammar here seems a bit strange, but I think Ignatius’ Smryneans 5:1 provides a similar construction (substantive ἡμέτερος plus genitive): οὒς οὐκ ἔπεισαν αἱ προφητεῖαι οὐδὲ ὁ νόμος Μωύσεως, ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ μέχρι νῦν τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, οὐδὲ τὰ ἡμέτερα τῶν κατ’ ἄνδρα παθήματα. Holmes translates as: Neither the prophecies nor the law of Moses have persuaded them, nor, thus far, the gospel nor our own individual suffering.

And here’s the Greek text of the excerpt, with a few parts bolded. It’s in PG 62.34.

Ὢ βάθος πλούτου καὶ σοφίας
καὶ γνώσεως Θεοῦ! Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσωσμένοι, φησίν. Ἵνα γὰρ μὴ τὸ μέγεθος
τῶν εὐεργεσιῶν ἐπάρῃ σε, ὅρα πῶς σε καταστέλλει· Τῇ χάριτί ἐστε σεσωσμένοι, φησί.
∆ιὰ πίστεως. Εἶτα ἵνα μὴ πάλιν τὸ αὐτεξούσιον λυμήνηται, ἔθηκε καὶ τὰ ἡμῶν· καὶ
πάλιν αὐτὸ ἀνεῖλε, καί φησι· Καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ἡμῶν. Οὐδὲ ἡ πίστις, φησὶν, ἐξ ἡμῶν·
εἰ γὰρ μὴ ἦλθεν, εἰ γὰρ μὴ ἐκάλεσε, πῶς ἠδυνάμεθα πιστεῦσαι; Πῶς γὰρ, φησὶ,
πιστεύσουσιν, ἐὰν μὴ ἀκούσωσιν; Ὥστε οὐδὲ τὸ τῆς πίστεως ἡμέτερον. Θεοῦ, φησὶ,
τὸ δῶρον· οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων. Μὴ γὰρ ἤρκει ἡ πίστις σῶσαι, φησίν; Ἀλλ’ ἵνα μὴ κενοὺς
μηδὲ ἀργοὺς σώσῃ, ταύτην ἐζήτησεν ὁ Θεὸς, φησίν· Εἶπεν, ὅτι ἡ πίστις σώζει, ἀλλὰ
διὰ Θεοῦ· ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ὁ Θεὸς ἠθέλησεν, ἡ πίστις ἔσωσεν. Ἐπεὶ πῶς σώζει ἡ πίστις, εἰπέ
μοι, ἄνευ ἔργων; Τοῦτο αὐτὸ Θεοῦ δῶρόν ἐστιν, Ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται, ἵνα
εὐγνώμονας περὶ τὴν χάριν ποιήσῃ. Τί οὖν, φησὶν, αὐτὸς ἐκώλυσεν ἐξ ἔργων
δικαιωθῆναι; Οὐδαμῶς· ἀλλ’, Οὐδεὶς, 62.34 φησὶν, ἐξ ἔργων ἐδικαιώθη, ἵνα δειχθῇ
τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ φιλανθρωπία. Οὐχὶ ἔχοντας ἔργα ἀπώσατο, ἀλλὰ
προδεδομένους ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων χάριτι ἔσωσεν, ὥστε μηδένα λοιπὸν ἔχειν καυχᾶσθαι.
γʹ. Εἶτα ἵνα μὴ ἀκούσας, ὅτι οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων ἀλλὰ πίστει τὸ πᾶν κατωρθώθη, ἀργὸς
μένῃ, ὅρα τί ἐπήγαγεν·