A Study Of The Book Of Ephesians:
A verse by verse examination of God's eternal purpose in and through Jesus Christ.
by: Allan Turner
Greeting —1:1, 2
1. Paul. It was the custom at this time to place the name of the writer at the beginning of a letter. An apostle of Jesus Christ. This was not just someone who thought he had something to say. No, indeed, this Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ, and this is to be understood in the fullest meaning of the term apostle. He received his office directly from Christ. The marks of an apostle were abundantly evident in his life and work. He belongs to Christ, and represents Him. Therefore, Paul's message is Christ's own message. By the will of God. Paul is emphasizing the fact that his apostleship was not attained through aspiration, usurpation, nor nomination by other men. He was, instead, an apostle by divine preparation, having been set apart and qualified by the activity of God's sovereign will. To the saints at Ephesus. All Christians were called saints in the early church. The saints are those the Lord set apart to glorify Him. They are His chosen generation, His royal priesthood, His holy nation, His own special people, to proclaim His excellencies (I Peter 2:9). And faithful in Christ Jesus. This is not another group. The saints and faithful form one unit. This is shown in the original in that the definite article is not repeated before the second word. The faithful saints at Ephesus are “in Christ Jesus,” that is, they are what they are by virtue of their union with Christ. Without doubt, this expression is the most important one in this letter. It or its equivalent (“in Him,” “in whom,” “in the Beloved”) or near-equivalent (“in the Lord”) occurs in 1:1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9-13, 15, 20; 2:5-7, 10, 13, 21, 22; 3:6, 11, 12, 21; 4:1, 21, 32; 5:8; and 6:10. It is in connection with Christ that they receive “every spiritual blessing” (1:3); election before the foundation of the world (1:4-6), redemption through His blood (1:7-12), and certification (“sealing”) by the Holy Spirit as sons and therefore heirs (1:13,14).
2. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the standard New Testament salutation. It is a prayer that God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ may bestow favor and peace upon the Ephesian Christians. The Father is the source and the Lord is the mediator and procurer of these blessings. It should also be clear that the apostle Paul was not a Unitarian or “oneness” Pentecostal.
Redemption In Christ—1:3 – 14
3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word rendered “blessed” is eulogetos and gives us our modern word eulogize. It means to bestow high praises upon. Therefore, Paul is eulogizing (“Praise be...”) God for His marvelous blessings to the church. Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. God the Father has not held back a single blessing from the church. The heavenly places here is where God dwells. In other words, God blessed us in the heavens above; therefore, these blessings are infinitely superior to anything here on the earth below. All the blessings Paul will enumerate in this letter derives from these “heavenlies,” the most notable being the very next blessing—God's eternal choosing or election of the faithful saints in (i.e., in connection with) His Son Jesus Christ.
4. Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. Before the foundation of the world, that is, in eternity before God created the universe (i.e., while He was “in the heavenly places”), the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” elected, selected, picked out, or chose (for this is the meaning of the Greek word eklegomai) “us” in Christ Jesus. This, of course, does not rule out the activities of the Son and Holy Spirit, but it does show that it was the Father who took the lead in the scheme of redemption. The “us” here are the faithful saints of verse 1, including Paul, and, by extension, all who at one time or another are predestined to become faithful saints. Contrary to what some think, the teaching of predestination is a Biblical subject. We will have more to say about this when we look at verse 5, but before we do so, we must learn the purpose of election. That we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. In other words, God, in His infinite wisdom, chose or elected those who would, through Christ, be holy and without blame before Him. This wonderful relationship between Redeemer and the redeemed would be one of mutual love.
5. Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. In connection with His having chosen before the foundation of the world those who would, through their relationship with Christ, be holy and blameless before Him, He is said to have predestined or foreordained certain ones (“we”) who would be faithful saints to adoption as sons. But, how did He do this? He did it, the Scriptures tell us, by exercising His omniscience, particularly His foreknowledge (Romans 8:29,30; I Peter 1:2). Furthermore, the death of Jesus involved a similar combination of foreknowledge and predestination (Acts 2:23). Because God foreknew certain free will choices of men like Judas and Pilate, He could predestinate (arrange in advance) the death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. Thus, we conclude that God foreknows the future, even the contingent free will choices of human beings, and, therefore, can know not just the group of the saved generally (i.e., the corporate body or church), but the specific individuals who make up the church. This choosing and predestinating on God's behalf is not of individuals unconditionally. Instead, God's foreknowledge has permitted Him to select before the foundation of the world those who, of their own free will, would respond to God's grace in a positive way and allow themselves to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). In other words, these verses are speaking of the election and predestination of individuals conditioned upon God's foreknowledge of their obedience to the gospel (cf. II Thessalonians 2:13-17).
6. To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. Those who are adopted as sons are to manifest praise and honor to the wonderful and magnificent glory of God's amazing grace. They are, as a result of such grace, acceptable to the Father only in their connection with Christ, who is the Beloved of the Father (cf. Colossians 1:13). Since Christ, by means of His death, earned every spiritual blessing for us, and therefore wants us to have these things, and since the Father loves the Son, it is only reasonable to believe that, for the sake of this beloved One, the Father will gladly grant unto us everything we need. In fact, the Father Himself gave His Son for this very purpose. Hence, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
7. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. In Him, that is to say, the Beloved, we have redemption. This word, as in Colossians 1:14, indicates deliverance as a result of the payment of a ransom. We who were in bondage to sin have been set free by God's grace through our connection with the blood of Christ. Although the Beloved did many wonderful things while He was in this world, for example, he stilled the tempest, cast our demons, cleansed the lepers, opened the eyes of the blind, unstopped the ears of the deaf, fed the hungry, healed the sick, and even raised the dead, His ultimate mission was to seek and save the lost, to give Himself a ransom for many (Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10; I Timothy 1:15). As we contemplate this wonderful sacrifice, we join with the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders who are forever exclaiming, “You are worthy...for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood” (Revelation 5:9), and the ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of angels lifting up their voices in enthusiastic worship, shouting, “Worthy is the Lamb who has been slain...to receive honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).
8. Which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence. God's grace is still under discussion. He causes it to abound or overflow in our direction. In a similar passage, Paul wrote, “And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ” (I Timothy 1:14). Consequently, as God's wonderful grace abounds toward us, it not only provokes faith and love in Christ, but it also produces wisdom and prudence in the faithful saint. A parallel to this is found in Colossians 1:9, which reads, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” Wisdom, of course, is knowledge plus. It is the ability to apply knowledge to the best advantage. Prudence, or spiritual understanding, is penetrating insight into what is true from God's standpoint.
9. Having made known to us the mystery of His will. All this wisdom and spiritual insight comes from God's revealing to us the “mystery of His will,” which, according to verse 10, was God's eternal purpose to gather together in one all things in Christ. According to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself. In verse 5, we were told that we were predestined “according to the good pleasure” of the Father's will. Again, we learn that in eternity it was the Father's good pleasure to set forth His plan to redeem fallen mankind through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
10. That in the dispensation of the fullness of the times. In the Father's eternal plan, there was a specific period of time when He would send forth His Son, “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4,5). Here, and in verse 10, as in other places, the expression “fullness of times” or “last days” is often applied to the period of Christ's first coming (cf. Hebrews 1:2; I Peter 1:20). All the previous time periods reached their fullness when this dispensation (the Christian era) began. More specifically, ever since the death, burial, resurrection, and coronation of Jesus Christ, this dispensation of the fullness of times has been in effect. It will not end until the Lord returns and has executed judgment (I Corinthians 15:24,25). He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth. The plan was that all things would come under the authority of “the Christ of God.” Consequently, the resurrected Lord said all authority was given Him in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18). And in Philippians 2:9-11, we learn that Christ Jesus has been given a “name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” —Him. That is, Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords.
11. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance. Note the word also, meaning: not only did we, in connection with Christ, receive such blessings as redemption, forgiveness of sins, and spiritual understanding (wisdom and prudence), benefits which have already been mentioned (vv. 7-10), but, in addition to these (which, although they have lasting significance, focus attention on the past) we have graciously been made heirs, which in turn causes us to look forward to future glory. This “inheritance” is spelled out in its fullness in Romans 8:30, “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” It consists of two stages: certain blessings are bestowed upon us in the here and now, and others in the hereafter (cf. vv. 13 and 14 below). Being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will. Man's salvation in Christ originated with our Heavenly Father, and flows totally from His grace. Therefore, He predestined (determined beforehand) that He would adopt us as sons by Jesus Christ (v. 5).
12. That we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. The hope or trust that Christians have in Christ is to the praise of the Father's glory, specifically, His marvelous grace. There does not seem to be any reason to contrast the “we” in this verse with the “you” in the next verse, as if Paul were writing of two different groups. From verse 3, he has used “we” and “us” to refer to all the Ephesian Christians, plus himself, and by extension, any faithful saint. Consequently, in verse 13, he is addressing the Ephesians more directly, who had heard the gospel from him.
13. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. As was pointed out in our commentary on the previous verse, the Ephesians had heard “the word of truth, the gospel of [their] salvation” from Paul himself. It was, therefore, appropriate for him to switch to “you” as he directed his words to them. In whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. All faithful saints, by their connection with Jesus Christ, are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” which took place when they were baptized into Christ (cf. Acts 2:38 and 5:32; II Corinthians 1:22). The seal under consideration here does not refer to the sealing away of something in a container for the purpose of preservation; it refers, instead, to the seal or “stamp of ownership” used by the ancients to validate something. The Jew considered circumcision as God's stamp of ownership on him. Here Paul identifies the “gift of the Holy Spirit” received in baptism (Acts 2:38) with the “circumcision of Christ” (cf. Colossians 2:11-13).
14. Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit that each Christian receives (cf. John 7:37-39; Acts 2:38 and 5:32; II Corinthians 1:22 and 5:5) is the “pledge money” or “down payment” that assures us that we will receive the full payment of our completed redemption in due time. This redemption, which is described as an “adoption as sons” (v. 5), is, of course, “in Christ” (v. 3). Consequently, it is “through His blood” that we receive the “forgiveness of sins” (v. 7). But, and this is the point of this verse, this forgiveness of sins that we receive through the blood of Christ in baptism is only the beginning of a process (cf. Romans 8:29,30) that will eventually culminate in the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23; Philippians 3:20,21). To the praise of His glory. All this, which is the result of God's grace toward us, is to the praise of His glory.
Prayer For Spiritual Wisdom—1:15 – 23
15. Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. It has been four or five years since Paul has been with these brethren personally, but he continues to hear of their enduring faith in the Lord and its subsequent result—their love for all the saints. The fact that he starts this with the expression “I also” indicates there were others, probably those who were then with him, who were also thankful for the Ephesians' faith and love.
16. Do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. The blossoming of the gospel among the Ephesians gave the imprisoned Paul reason to thank God. It was he who had planted the gospel at Ephesus and he prayed for them on a regular basis. As for his prayers for others, see Romans 1:9; Philippians 1:4; Colossians 1:9; I Thessalonians 1:2; II Thessalonians 1:11; and Philemon 4.
17. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Paul's prayer of thanksgiving flows over into intercession. He prays to the glorious God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ that they would have a spirit that is rich in the wisdom that is derived from God's revelation, the gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Colossians 1:9). Paul wants the Ephesians to really know God, the Father of glory, as a result of the things He has done, is doing, and will do for them in connection with His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
18. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling. The KJV reads “eyes of your heart.” The heart, as it is here used, means the innermost center of man. It is the seat of the understanding and the source of thoughts, desires, emotions, words, and actions. Whatever is in the heart rules the conduct. Paul wants these Ephesians to understand in their hearts and minds the grandeur and wealth of their blessings in Christ. He wants them to understand all the wonderful significance of “hope” they have as a result of being “called” by the Father through the gospel of Christ (cf. II Thessalonians 2:14). The Father will deliver us from this present world and will richly supply us “an entrance...into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:11). This hope we have is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19). Of this hope Paul wrote: “But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8-14). What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. All faithful saints generally, and here the Ephesians specifically, are “His inheritance” (v. 11). How could this be other than rich in glory (cf. I Corinthians 2:9)?
19. And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power. All this derives from and continues to depend upon the Almighty God.
20. Which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places. This, too, is the result of the Father's almighty power, and, therefore, proof positive that He will one day complete the redemption we have in Christ when He will raise our bodies from the dead and glorify us as He did His Son.
21. Far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. Jesus is “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14). The only one excepted from His authority is the Father who gave it to Him (I Corinthians 15:27). Christ's lordship is universal and it shall never be eclipsed in this world or in eternity.
22. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church. “All things” (i.e., everything) is under the ultimate authority and control of Christ. Therefore, it should not surprise us that Christ is also head over all things to the church, the called out body of the redeemed, “which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). This body receives its instructions, its life, and its strength from Jesus Christ.
23. Which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. The church (i.e., the called out ones) is/are the body of Christ. See also Colossians 1:18, where this order is reversed. There is only one called out body and this is the church of (or in connection with) Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:4). Christ, “who is the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (cf. Colossians 2:9), is given to the church, which in other places is called His “bride,” by the Father. In fact, in chapter five of this book, the relationship between a husband and wife is related to the relationship between Christ and His church. Indeed, what marvelous and magnificent blessings are ours in Christ Jesus our Lord.