CHRIST'S PEOPLE RAISED AND EXALTED WITH HIM (2: 1-10)
Paul's desire was that the Ephesians (and all other saints) might know the power of God which was exercised towards them, as illustrated in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ. God had raised the Lord Jesus from death: he had been quickened or made alive. And there is a parallel in the believers' life spiritually, at the present time. They, too, were dead, and had been made to live and to share in the blessings Christ had made available for men. "And you", begins Paul (2: 1) € and before he finishes his sentence he breaks off to describe what they had been in the past, concluding the sentence in a changed construction ("we" instead of "you") at verse 5. The translators have simplified the construction by inserting in verse 1 the words "hath he quickened" from verse 5. They had been made to live; how then were they dead? In trespasses and sins. Ignorance alienates from the life of God (Eph. 4: 18). But a change comes with the hearing of the Word of God. Jesus said: "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death into life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5 : 24, 25). While Jesus here speaks of a spiritual death, his statement is followed by another in which he speaks of death literally: "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of condemnation" (verses 28, 29). It will be observed that in the latter statement the words "and now is" are absent. Those in the graves will hear his voice at his coming. But men spiritually dead heard his voice then with quickening effect, and in the message of salvation through him, made known in the pages of God's word, the process has been repeated to our day. This new life is God-like and its existence is shown by actions. "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death" (1 John 3: 13, 14). Death, then, is a figure of the state of alienation from God, in which men live in trespasses and sins € in all evil ways. Such formerly had been the position of the Ephesians. In these evil ways they had "walked". The gospel makes known a way of life, and, in fact, was sometimes designated "The Way". Thus Paul went to Damascus with letters authorizing him to bring bound to Jerusalem any "that were of the Way" (Acts 9: 2, R.V.). But Paul's course was changed, and he entered the Way, confessing to Felix that "after the Way which they called heresy" he worshipped God (24: 14). Appollos was instructed in the Way of God by Priscilla and Aquila (18: 26). There are two ways, as Jesus said; the broad way, along which the majority walk: and the narrow way along which the saints "walk in newness of life". Seven times in this letter the apostle compares life to a walk, the figure occurring upwards of forty times in the New Testament. The former walk of the Ephesians was According to the course of this world, "According to the Prince of the power of the air € , "Of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience" (verse 2). These three phrases are practically identical in meaning. The first indicates the temporariness and the evil of the present order. The fashion of the world passeth away. Christ gave himself for our sins "that he might deliver us from this present evil world" (Gal. 1:4). Well indeed might Paul exhort, "Be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind'' (Rom. 12: 2). The Prince of the power of the air is Sin € the spirit that animates those who are disobedient. On this there could be nothing better than the following from Elpis Israel, pages 95-99- "THE PRINCE OF THIS WORLD" "Sin made flesh, whose character is revealed in the works of the flesh, is the Wicked One of the world. He is styled by Jesus the Prince of this world. Kosmos, rendered world in this phrase, signifies that order of things constituted upon the basis of sin in the flesh, and styled the kingdom of Satan, as opposed to the Kingdom of God: which is to be established upon the foundation of 'the word made flesh' obedient unto death. Incarnated sin, and incarnated obedience, are the bases of the two hostile kingdoms, of God and of the adversary. The world is Satan's kingdom; therefore it is that 'the saints' or people of God, both Israelites outwardly and 'Israelites indeed', are a dispersed and persecuted community. Satan's kingdom is the kingdom of sin. It is a kingdom in which 'sin reigns in the mortal body', and thus has dominion over men. € To walk being dead in trespasses and sins, is to live according to the course of this world. So says the apostle. The course of this world is according to the thinking of sinful flesh, in whatever way it may be manifested or expressed. If a man embrace one of the religions of Satan's kingdom, he is still 'dead in trespasses and sins', and walks according to the course of the world. In brief, anything short of faith of the gospel of the kingdom, and obedience to the law of faith, is walking according to the course of the world. To walk in sin is to walk in this course. Hence, the apostle terms walking according to the course of this world, walking according to the Prince of the Power of the Air; which he explains as the 'Spirit now working in the children of disobedience'. The 'power of the air', or aerial power, is the political power of the world, which is animated and pervaded by the spirit of disobedience, which is sin in the flesh; and styled above, the Prince of the Power of the Air. This is that prince of whom Jesus spoke, saying, 'Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the Prince of this world be cast out', that is, 'judged'. The key to this is suggested in what follows: 'And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die' (John 12: 31)."
"The judgment of the Prince of the World by God was exhibited in the contest between Jesus and the civil and spiritual power in Judaea . . . Thus was sin, the Prince of the World, condemned, and the world with him, according to the existing course of it. But Jesus rose again, leading captivity captive; and so giving to the world an earnest, that the time would come when death would be abolished, and sin, the power of death, destroyed. Sinful flesh was laid upon him, 'that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil', or sin in the flesh, for, 'for this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil ' (1 John 3 : 8)."
The verse reads, "Among whom (the sons of disobedience) we also all once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest". First, it may be observed that the word conversation" in the A.V. must not be limited to speech; it denotes the activities of life, and the original word is translated life, manner of life, living, and behaviour, in the R.V. Then, lusts of the flesh are not limited to fleshly passions. The phrase covers "desires of the flesh and the mind". But the principal difficulty arises from the words "by nature". Paul did not write that we are children of wrath "because of our nature", neither do his words mean that because we are born with a mortal sin-producing nature, God's wrath rests upon us at birth. It has been remarked that "the Greek word for 'nature' is a neutral word. It simply means the natural constitution of a thing, or the thing in itself apart from anything that may come to it from outside". Paul is describing the actual state of sin in which all lived. All had sinned. It is an indisputable fact, as Paul proves in Romans, chapters 1-3, that all members of the human race are sinners before God. Gentile and Jew alike were guilty before God, and as the apostle says "they are all under sin". It is a revealed fact that the "wrath of God" is against "all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Rom. 1: 18). All, then, are "children of wrath ".
The letter to the Colossians presents many parallels to the letter to the Ephesians. The counterpart to Eph. 2: 3 is Col. 2:13: "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses". The physical uncircumcision in this passage denotes their former course of Gentile life undirected by the Word of God. The quickening is explained as the forgiveness of sins. If God had waited till there was a fitness in man for the reception of His love, He would never have exercised His mercy. But while we were yet sinners the love of God was displayed, amazing in its greatness. Well might it be said that "God commendeth his Love toward us": for although men were as Paul here describes, yet God has provided a Saviour, and made known the conditions of salvation, inviting men to share His friendship in Christ. So Paul; continues: "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great; love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved); and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together (with Christ) in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (verses 4-7). We are made to sit with Christ in heavenly places, to share the fellowship with God, but it is Christ's alone to "sit at God's right hand". These words, applied to Christ in 1: 20, are not included in the description of the exaltation of the saints in their present experience of God's grace.
Paul finds the source of everything in God. He is rich in grace (1: 7) and in mercy (2: 4). The predestination, the forgiveness (1: 7), the inheritance, and the quickening, are all of Him. The salvation is ours through faith € not of works. These words recall the conflict in Galatia and the theme of the letter to the Romans. That conflict is past now, but the established truth must not be forgotten. And since salvation is provided by God, the glory is His; no man can glory (verse 9). If men could buy or earn or win salvation by their own effort or power or wealth, what pride and boastfulness would be seen! "Humble and contrite in heart, and that trembleth at my word" is the attitude that God requires. That God has so arranged it is wise as well as right. When the Psalmist would have us serve and praise God, he calls upon us to "know that the Lord is God. It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves" (Psa. 100). These words, describing the creation of man, are recalled by Paul when speaking of the new creation in Christ. The quickening is making to live. Life has its origin in God. "For we are his workmanship € his making € created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (verse 8). "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him" (Gen. 1: 27). The image was soon marred: there was mental and moral decline and man came under the sentence of God. Man had degenerated, and had no power of regeneration in himself. Hence the necessity for a new creation. But the new was not to be a repetition of the old, for the old creation has to supply the material for the new. God indicated the means to be employed when He promised that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. He dramatically foreshadowed how the Seed would come into being when Isaac was begotten, a child of promise, and not as Ishmael, wholly of the flesh. When at last Christ was born God "created a new thing in the earth". And therefore Paul speaks of Jesus as "the image of the invisible God" (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1: 15). He exhibited the character of God, and was raised from the dead to partake of the divine nature. The risen Lord was "the beginning, the firstborn from the dead". "In Christ" others will be "made alive" also at his coming. The first step to that end is a creative work by God. At the beginning God said: "Let there be light". And the light of the gospel of the glory of God is also due to the divine fiat. It is God, that said, € Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). This illumination creates a right spirit in man. By the word of truth God "begets" those who are to be associates of His "only begotten Son ". The word of God is renewing in its action, its operation resulting in a "new man". "Ye have put off the old man with his deeds", Paul reminded the Colossians, "and have put on the new man, which is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him 3: 9, 10). Again, "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Cor. 5: 17). The surpassing value of this was fully recognized by Paul. He told the Galatians that "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumicsion, but a new creature " (6: 15). The distinction between Jew and Gentile does not exist in the new creation. Both are united; the two divisions of the human family are brought together. Christ has "made both one" "that he might create in himself of the twain one new man, so making peace" (Eph. 2: 14, 15). Jew and Gentile alike ("we also", he says, verse 3) are sinners. Only a new creation can bring both to God, and at the same time bring both together. And so God, "whose making we are, created (us) in Christ Jesus unto good works". It is not "of works" but "unto works". Good works are not the cause of the creative work, but the goal. For good works are like God's works; the new creature resembles its Creator. This God "foreordained" € there is the divine will: "that we should walk in them" € here is the human will directing the walk. The new creation brings the human will into harmony with the divine. The Firstborn said: "I come to do thy will".
THE UNITY OF ALL MANKIND IN CHRIST (2: 11-22)
The distinction between Jew and Gentile played a more important part in the ancient world than it generally does today. The Jews were exclusive; they did not mix. They were greatly disliked. They manifested a racial pride, considering themselves superior to the Gentiles. For they were God's people € Gentiles were not; and it was unthinkable that Gentiles should be accepted by God and receive the same favour shown to the Jews. A hard battle was fought before Jewish Christians acknowledged Gentile Christians as fellow-heirs of the promises of God. The Palestinian Jews did not approve of Peter's action in accepting Cornelius; and Peter himself had to be prepared for such a step by vision. A council at Jerusalem considered the matter, and decided that there was no difference between Jew and Greek, God purifying the hearts of all alike by faith. Despite this decision emissaries of the Jewish extremists dogged the footsteps of Paul, subverting the believers. The fight for Galatia, of which the letter written to the Galatian ecclesias is the memorial, decided the issue among the Gentile ecclesias, and Gentiles as well as Jews were received on the condition of faith. It was a great change for the Gentiles. Before, they were despised and hopeless. Some few had turned wistfully to Judaism, but in many cases these did not submit to the rite of circumcision and remained "Proselytes of the Gate". The advantages of the Jew had indeed been many. "The adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises" € all were theirs. "The fathers" were theirs, and of them, as concerning the flesh Christ came (Rom. 9: 4, 5). The Gentile believer did well in estimating aright his present position by remembering his former lot. Paul, therefore, having shown how they had been "quickened together with Christ", and how they were "God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works", calls upon them to bear in mind their former position. "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision, in the flesh, made by hands; that at that time ye 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". They were by birth Gentiles in the flesh; the fact being witnessed by the absence of the sign of the covenant upon their flesh. Therefore, the Jew despisingly called the Gentile "The Uncircumcision". The contempt was mutual, and the Gentile retorted by calling the Jew "The Circumcision". Paul adds "in the flesh, made with hands"; as much as to say, There is a difference, truly, but it is only external. They had been the innocent subjects of it, and of itself it did not commend them to God. As Paul had before pointed out, "he is not a (true) Jew which is one outwardly € .
After stating what had been the position of the Ephesians, Paul gives the opposite picture. "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ'' (verse 13). The language of this verse is suggested by Isaiah 57, which reads: "I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace, to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord". In the verse or the context the four words "create", "peace", "far off", and "nigh" are all taken up. The Jew was "nigh" (Deut. 4: 7). Through the priest the Israelite could come to the Tabernacle, the dwelling-place of God in their midst. Although thus nigh, not many were true worshippers; only a remnant according to the election of grace, as Paul demonstrates elsewhere. But the Gentiles were, as a whole, far off. But now, they, too, were being brought nigh through the sacrificial work of Christ. Thus sharing the one hope of the gospel, they found peace one with another. The rivalries and disputes and strifes arising from racial antipathies ceased in Christ. The unity of mankind, destroyed at Babel with the confusion of tongues, is restored in Christ. It is being done individually at the present time while God is taking out of the Gentiles a people for His name. This will be evident when redeemed men and women "out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" are gathered together to join in the song of praise, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing". It will be done nationally when many nations are joined to the Lord, when God "will turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent" (Zech. 2: 11; Zeph. 3: 9). Christ is the peace, making of Jew and Gentile, the two parts of the human race, one whole.
Paul says that Christ, in establishing this unity, "brake down the middle wall of partition" (verse 14). This was the balustrade in the temple courts dividing off the portion into which the Gentile might enter; beyond it he might not go. The riot which ended in Paul's arrest arose out of the mistaken impression that Paul had taken an Ephesian beyond the dividing wall (Acts 21: 29). On columns on this wall inscriptions were placed which read: "NO ALIEN TO PASS WITHIN THE BALUSTRADE ROUND THE TEMPLE AND THE INCLOSURE. WHOEVER SHALL BE CAUGHT (SO DOING) MUST BLAME HIMSELF FOR THE DEATH THAT WILL ENSUE." One of these inscriptions was discovered in 1871, a facsimile being given in Lewin's Paul. Lewin has the following comments: "This stone is unquestionably one of the most remarkable discoveries made at Jerusalem; it presents to us the very letters which must have been often read by our Lord and his apostles as day after day they frequented the Temple". He also compares the terms of the inscription and the words used by Josephus in his description of the Temple, showing "the extreme accuracy of the Jewish historian".
The middle wall was still standing when Paul wrote, just as the veil in the Temple still hung; but it was not effective to separate Jew and Gentile in their worship in Christ. The sign had ceased to signify, the death of Christ having provided the one way in which all could come to God. Paul explains in greater fulness the import of the sign of the dividing partition. The first half of verse 15 is an amplification of verse 14. This is clear when the parallel is set out.
Verse 14: "He / is our peace / having broken down the partition."
Verse 15: "In his flesh / having abolished the enmity / even the law of commandments. €
"In his flesh" tells us when and under what conditions he performed the work: "in the body of his flesh through death" is how it is expressed in the Colossian letter. It indicates the obedient life during the days of his flesh, which culminated in the death on the cross (Col. 1: 21, 22 ; 2: 14). The abolished enmity is parallel to our peace. The middle wall of partition corresponds to the law of commandments. The wall which divided was an expression of the law given to Israel which separated them from the nations. "To touch" some things, or "to taste" others, according to the law defiled an Israelite. The law which thus cut off the Jew from the rest of mankind was the cause of the enmity between them, and so metonymically, Paul calls it the enmity. The law was abolished and another way of approach was established. Christ's work is twofold, as Paul presents it in this connection: "That he might create in himself of the twain one new man, so making peace" (verse 15). The two are united in one new man. The privileged and the unprivileged are now alike. The curse of Babel is removed, but there is not a mere restoration to what existed before that time. Something greater is achieved. A new man is formed out of the fragments of the human race. "And might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (verse 16). Here we see why the remedy goes beyond the differences between Jew and Gentile. Both need reconciliation with God. The new man is the "one body" of which Christ is the head. In that body there is peace because the one body has found peace with God. By the cross the reconciliation was effected. When Christ was put to death, "blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us", he slew the enmity. It is a wonderful paradox. Christ slain is the slayer. Annas, Caiaphas, and the Jewish people joined hand in hand with Pilate and the Roman soldiers to put Christ to death; and thus working together in evil, united in the slaying of the Son of God, they thereby established the foundation for the real union.
But of what value would this sacrificial work of Christ be, unless the salvation therein provided was made known? It was requisite that it should be proclaimed. So Christ "came (in the apostolic ministry, and in the carrying on of the work by those who heard) and preached peace to you that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh ".
This proclamation concerned the new way to which Jesus referred when talking to the Samaritan woman. "Is Jerusalem, or this mountain, the place where men ought to worship?" she asked. And Jesus answered, "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth'' (John 4: 21-24). No longer in the external form, in sacrifice, in type; but in the reality thus typified. In this worship all can join € no temple or sacrificing priesthood is needed. And therefore Paul continues: "For through him we both have our access in one Spirit (the "spirit and truth", in Christ's remark) unto the Father" (verse 18). "Access" is "a technical word for presentation to royalty". Christ introduces us to the Father, who is pleased with the worship of those thus brought nigh.
Paul has just before spoken of the "one body" € the Christ-body composed of Christ and all "in him". This body is animated by "one spirit", for all manifest the spirit of Christ, and Paul even describes this as "Christ in you". The spiritual life which was set before us in Christ is one that must permeate all the members of the "body". If any have not this spirit of Christ "they are none of his" € this spirit qualifies for access through Christ to the Father.
These things being established, Paul now enumerates the advantages of the present position of Gentile believers: "So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God'' (verse 19). The union of Jew and Gentile makes "a new man"; but this new man still has an Israelitish basis. "Salvation is of the Jews." The kingdom of Israel was the Kingdom of God; and the re-establishment of the Kingdom of God involves the restoration of Israel. The future phase will differ from the past in some respects.
During all the time the Kingdom has been overturned the work of God has proceeded, but not without reference to the Kingdom. The faithful of Israel of the past will be joined by faithful Gentiles of this present age, together forming the immortal rulers of the age to come. Some of the rulers of the past, such as David and Hezekiah, will share the rulership of the future. Hezekiah indeed had a lengthening of days, a witness to his contemporaries of God's ability to "prolong the days" of the "Arm of the Lord" concerning whom Isaiah bore witness, and of whom Hezekiah appears to be a type in the extension of his life. Yet the Kingdom to come will be the Kingdom of Israel restored. "Unto thee (O daughter of Zion) shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem" (Micah 4:8).
There is a further contrast. In the past the Kingdom isolated Israel from the rest of the nations. In the future, it will unite all, for all nations will be blessed in Abraham and his seed. Even the old rivalries of Assyria and Egypt, together with the latter-day counterpart, will pass, for Israel will unite them as nations even as her land connects theirs. "In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria: and the Egyptians shall worship with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth; for that the Lord of Hosts hath blessed them, saying, Blessed be Egypt, my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance" (Isa. 19: 23-25).
A "stranger" is an alien. In Christ he becomes a fellow-citizen. A "foreigner" or "sojourner" is a resident alien, with limited privileges, but not citizen rights. Contrasted with this is membership of God's household. The word "household" suggests the use of another figure € that of a house. The Jew left the Temple, the house of God, for the new way in Christ, and in so doing became himself a constituent of God's house. The Ephesian also left a temple € the temple of Diana € one of the wonders of the world. He, too, found something greater than he left, more wonderful. He found that there's a niche in God's own temple; it is thine; and the hand that shapes the marble is divine.
Changing his figure, Paul continues: "Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit " (verses 20-22).
The foundation of the apostles and prophets is the foundation which they have laid, that is, Christ; the prophets of this allusion being the New Testament prophets (compare 3:5). It is true that the Old Testament prophets spoke of Christ, and that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. But in relation to the Ephesians, the apostles and prophets had laid the foundation upon which they had been built. Christ is the corner stone, a word denoting, according to contemporary usage, "the primary foundation-stone at the angle of the structure by which the architect fixes a standard for the bearings of the walls and cross-walls throughout ".
Isaiah predicted the laying of this corner stone. "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation : he that believeth shall not make haste" (28: 16). In another place it is written, "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psa. 118: 22, 23). These latter verses are the subject of exposition in Matt. 21: 42; Acts 4:11; both passages are quoted in 1 Peter 2: 6-8.
This tried stone is also a trying stone. He was himself put to the proof, and the building is constructed in line with him, other stones being tested by him.The architect is God. The building is fitly framed and grows by the addition of living stones. A material temple is not the final dwelling place of God. "The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?" So God asks Israel through Isaiah (66). And Stephen reasoned from this passage that God does not dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 7: 47-50). In what kind of a temple then does God propose to dwell? The prophet answers: "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (verse 2). Of such men a habitation of God will be made. In the past the tabernacle, and later the temple, was God's dwelling place in the midst of Israel. They were part of the shadow institution, the substance being Christ, "in whom" this spiritual house is being prepared for God's habitation "in spirit". Not in flesh, mortal and corruptible; but in those whose bodies are changed at the coming of Christ, and made like the body of his glory, which is immortal spirit-nature.
At the beginning of this portion of his letter Paul had twice used the phrase "in the flesh". The distinction between Jew and Gentile was "in the flesh" by an imposed difference. Both were "in the flesh" in the full sense that the flesh was the domain of their lives with the impulses of flesh as the ruling force. The phrase "in spirit" contrasts with "in flesh", and in the words of Armitage Robinson, "no doubt the thought that the habitation of God is spiritual, in contrast to the material temple, is present to the apostle's mind, even if it does not exhaust the meaning of his words". They were a "spiritual house" in Peter's phrase (1 Peter 2: 5). Their union together was on the basis of the spiritual blessings of the gospel to which they had made a spiritual response. But beyond the present the spiritual life will be embodied in spiritual bodies, not in flesh, mortal and corruptible; but bodies which have been changed at the coming of Christ, and made like the body of his glory, which is immortal, spiritual nature. Then in fulness they will be a habitation of God "in spirit".