Salutation

1:1 From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints [in Ephesus], the faithful in Christ Jesus. 1:2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

An apostle – ‘The primary meaning of the term “apostolos” is that of “a sent one.” An apostle is “a messenger.” (cf Jn 13:16; Php 2:25; 2 Cor 8:23) The term came to be used of missionaries sent by the church; thus are Paul and Barnabas so called (Ac 14:14; cf. 1 Thess 2:6). Later the designation “apostle” took on a more restricted application to refer to the original disciples as eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection, and exponents of the truth of the gospel. As apostles they were, therefore, persons specifically commissioned and inspired; and it is these facts which gave them their authority.’ (McDonald)

By the will of God

‘The strong word for “will” which Paul employs is characteristic of his theology (cf. vv5,9,11). Paul was sure of the Divine will as the root and origin of all that as a Christian he was and did; of all his righteousness and blessedness. Here is to be found the secret of his strong and effective Christian life and witness. All he was as an apostle had its source and flow in the will of God; it was not the result of anything he had earned or something he had learned.’ (McDonald)

‘He attributed nothing to the vigour of his faith, to the passion of his gratitude for the Divine goodness, to the completeness of his selfconsecration to Christ’s service; he was living and acting under the control of forces which had their origin above and beyond himself; his apostolic work was the effect and expression of a Divine volition. He believed that the Divine will is the root and origin of all Christian righteousness and blessedness. And this is the secret of a strong and effective Christian life.’ (R.W. Dale, in Biblical Illustrator)

To the saints – ‘The title of all Christians – not attributing any personal merit to them, but simply recalling their prerogatives and obligations. It reminded them that God had made them his own; that they were “holy” because they belonged to him. The temple had once been “holy,” not because of its magnitude, its stateliness, and the costly materials of which it was built, but because it was the house of God; and the tabernacle, which was erected in the wilderness, though a much meaner structure, was just as “holy” as the temple of Solomon, with its marble courts and its profusion of cedar and brass and silver and gold. The altars were “holy,” because they were erected for the service of God. The sacrifices were “holy,” because they were offered to him. The priests were “holy” because they were divinely chosen to discharge the functions of the temple service. The Sabbath was “holy,” because God had placed his hand upon it, and separated its hours from common use. The whole Jewish people were “holy,” because they were organized into a nation, not for the common purposes which have been the ends of the national existence of other races, but to receive in trust for all mankind exceptional revelations of the character and will of God. And now, according to Paul’s conception, every Christian man was a temple, a sacrifice, a priest; his whole life was a sabbath; he belonged to an elect race; he was the subject of an invisible and Divine kingdom; he was a “saint,” i.e., one whom God has set apart for himself. The act of consecration is God’s act, not ours. Our part, is subordinate and secondary. We have only to submit to the authority of the Divine claim, and to receive the dignity conferred by the Divine love.’ (R.W. Dale, in Biblical Illustrator)

We are called saints, not sinners

‘Though we still have sins, yet the better part gives the name. Corn fields, we see, have many weeds, yet we call them corn fields, not fields of weeds; so grace, though it seems little in comparison with sin, yet will in time overcome the evil within us; for the Spirit that is in us from Christ is stronger than the spirit of the world.’ (Paul Baynes, in Biblical Illustrator)

In Ephesus – These words are absent from some of the earliest and best manuscripts. This fact, together with the observation that the letter contains no personal greetings, have led many scholars to suppose that is was originally intended as a circular letter. And yet the words are contained in other manuscripts. It could be that two versions of the letter were written: one to the Ephesians and the other as a circular.

The Christian’s two addresses

‘Paul goes on to address his letter to the people who live in Ephesus and who are faithful in Jesus Christ. The Christian is a man who always lives a double life. Paul’s friends were people who lived in Ephesus and in Christ. Every Christian has a human address and a divine address; and that is precisely the secret of the Christian life. Alister Maclean tells of a lady in the West Highlands who lived a hard life, yet one of perpetual serenity. When asked the secret of it, she answered: “My secret is to sail the seas, and always to keep my heart in port.” Wherever the Christian is, he is still in Christ.’ (DSB)

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ – The linking together of the Father and the Son under a single preposition (‘from’) evidently assumes their complete equality.’ (Wilson)

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

1:3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.

‘In Christ’ we are:-

  1. Blessed (Eph 1:3)
  2. Chosen (Eph 1:4)
  3. Predestined (Eph 1:5)
  4. Adopted (Eph 1:5)
  5. Accepted (Eph 1:6)
  6. Redeemed (Eph 1:7)
  7. Forgiven (Eph 1:7)
  8. Enlightened (Eph 1:8,9)
  9. Given an Inheritance (Eph 1:11)
  10. Sealed (Eph 1:13)
  11. Assured (Eph 1:14)

Verses 3-14 form a single sentence in the Greek. They celebrate (a) the Father who elects, vv4-6; (b) the Son who redeems, vv7-12′ (c) The Spirit who seals, v13f.

In the heavenly realms – It is the consistent teaching of Paul that the Christian lives in two worlds. We experience a combination of the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’. Cf. Col 3:1-4; Php 3:20. Nowhere does Paul emphasise the heavenly, spiritual dimension more than here in Ephesians, cf. Eph 3:10; 6:12. Our blessing ‘in the heavenly realms’ is not merely a pleasant devotional thought, but a powerful motive in spiritual warfare. Ephesians teaches that heaven above and the age to come intrude powerfully into our own experience.

‘Today we distinguish between “the heavens” in a scientific sense (i.e., the outer atmosphere and the rest of the universe except the earth) and the spiritual place God lives. But in Paul’s day he did not need to make this distinction to communicate to his readers; they divided “the heavenly realms” differently from the way we do. Almost everyone in the ancient world believed that the heavens had numerous levels (often three or seven), that different spiritual beings (various kinds of angels, demons, stars, etc.) lived in different levels and that God or the purest spiritual beings lived in the highest heaven. In much Jewish teaching, the spirits of the righteous would live with God there after death. “Heavenly realms” (NIV) can thus mean both “where God is” (as here) and “where the angelic powers live” (as often in Ephesians).’ (NT Background Commentary)

In Christ – As the root is in the soil, the bird is in the air, the fish is in the sea. This important phrase occurs 14 times in Ephesians, and indicates the intimate union between Christ and his people.

‘In describing the new life of the believer, no phrase is more prominent in Paul’s writings than the term “in Christ.” In all, he uses it no less than 240 times. Often its use is instrumental and means “through Christ’s agency,” but at times it has a local sense in which Christ is the “place” in whom believers are, in which salvation is, and in which all God’s gracious purposes come to fruition.’ (Peter Lewis, The Glory of Christ, 209)

‘Whole books have been written about this enigmatic phrase which Paul habitually to describe the relationship of believers to Christ. Briefly we may say that it indicates that the believer stands in the closest possible relationship to his Lord. Christ is the very atmosphere in which he lives. Yet we must not interpret this mechanically. Christ is a Person. The phrase describes personal attachment to a personal Saviour…The expression also has a corporate aspect. To be “in Christ” is to be closely related to those others who are also “in Christ.” It is to be part of the body of Christ.’ (Leon Morris)

‘It is not a union of persons in one essence, as in the Trinity. It is not a union of natures in one person, as is the case with the incarnation of Jesus Christ. It is not a physical bonding, as in the welding of two pieces of metal. It is in some way a union of two spirits which does not extinguish either of them.’ (Millard Erickson)

‘There are many locks in my house and all with different keys, but I have one master-key which opens them all. The Lord has many treasures and secrets all shut up from carnal minds with locks which they cannot open. But he who walks in fellowship with Jesus possesses the master-key which will open to him all the blessings of the covenant and even the very heart of God. Through Jesus, the well beloved we have access to God, to heaven, and to every secret of the Lord.’ (Spurgeon)

In Ephesians ‘that phrase “in Christ” strikes the keynote of the entire Epistle; from that prolific germ ramifies the branching oak of the forest.’ (Simpson)

Note also the variations on the theme of ‘in Christ’: ‘through Jesus Christ’ (Eph 1:5), ‘in the one he loves’ (Eph 1:6), ‘in him’ (Eph 1:4, 7, 11) and ‘through his blood’ (Eph 1:7).

‘The New Testament definition of a Christian is a person ‘in Christ’. It is necessary to insist, therefore, that according to Jesus and his apostles to be a Christian is not just to have been baptized, to belong to the church, to receive holy communion, to believe in the doctrines of the creed or to try to follow the standards of the Sermon on the Mount. Baptism and holy communion, church membership, creed and conduct are all part and parcel of living as a Christian, but they can form and have sometimes formed an empty casket from which the jewel has disappeared. The jewel is Jesus Christ himself. To be a Christian is primarily to live in union with Jesus Christ, as a result of which baptism, belief and behaviour slot naturally into place.’ (John Stott, Life in Christ)

Who has blessed us – or, rather, ‘who blessed us’: the verb is in aorist tense, referring to the specific time when God called us to faith in Christ, which itself is traced back in v4 to our election in him. The diea ‘is that in calling us to Christian faith God blessed us, and that the great deed of blessing which thus took effect in time had its foundation in an eternal election.’ (S.D.F. Salmond, Q by Wilson)

Every spiritual blessing – ‘a comprehensive expression to designate the whole of God’s saving work in Christ’ (DPL) ‘Spiritual’ ‘received through the Spirit’; but also spiritual, as opposed to material, blessing. ‘We do receive material blessings and are thankful for them, and ancient Israel received many material blessings, especially as a reward for obedience. (see Deut 28:1-6) God’s spiritual blessings, however, reach and touch our inner being, bringing God’s loving forgiveness and many associated benefits that infinitely exceed that which is only material. These are recounted in the verses that follow.’ (IVP Commentary)

‘As God is a Spirit, so the rewards that he gives are spiritual. As the chief blessings he gives us in this life are spiritual blessings, Eph 1:3, not gold and silver; as he gives Christ, his love; he fills us with grace; so the main rewards he gives us after this life are spiritual, ‘a crown of glory that fadeth not away.’ 1 Pet 5:4. Earthly crowns fade, but the believer’s crown being spiritual is immortal, a never-fading crown. ‘It is impossible,’ says Joseph Scaliger, ‘for that which is spiritual to be subject to change or corruption.’ This may comfort a Christian in all his labours and sufferings; he lays out himself for God, and has little or no reward here; but remember, God, who is a Spirit, will give spiritual rewards, a sight of his face in heaven, white robes, a weight of glory. Be not then weary of God’s service; think of the spiritual reward, a crown of glory which fadeth not away.’ (Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity)

‘J. Paul Getty, one of the richest men in the world, was worth an estimated 1.3 billion. The weekly income of some of the “oil sheiks” runs into the millions. Yet all of this wealth is but “pennies” when compared with the spiritual wealth we have in Christ. In this letter, Paul explains to us what these riches are and how we may draw on them for effective Christian living.’ (Wiersbe)

‘The Gospel mentions not riches, honours, beauty, pleasures; it passes these over in silence, which yet the Old Testament everywhere makes promise of. They were then children, and God pleased them with the promise of these toys and rattles, as taking with them. But in the Gospel he has shown us he has provided some better things for us; things spiritual and heavenly.’ (Thomas Goodwin)

God and Father…Lord Jesus Christ…spiritual blessing – The three members of the Trinity will be mentioned in order in vv3-14: the Father’s election; the Son’s redemption; and the Spirit’s protection.

‘A benevolent person gave Mr. Rowland Hill a hundred pounds to dispense to a poor minister a bit at a time, thinking it was too much too send him all at once. Mr. Hill forwarded five pounds in a letter, with only these words within the envelope, “More to follow.” In a few days’ time, the good man received another letter; this second messenger contained another five pounds, with the same motto, “And more to follow.” A day or two after came a third and a fourth, and still the same promise, “And more to follow.” Till the whole sum had been received, the astonished minister was made familiar with the cheering words, “And more to follow.”

Every blessing that comes from God is sent with the same message, “And more to follow.” “I forgive you your sins, but there’s more to follow.” “I justify you in the righteousness of Christ, but there’s more to follow.” “I adopt you into my family, but there’s more to follow.” “I educated you for heaven, but there’s more to follow.” “I give you grace upon grace, but there’s more to follow.” “I have helped you even to old age, but there’s still more to follow.” “I will uphold you in the hour of death, and as you are passing into the world of spirits, my mercy shall still continue with you, and when you land in the world to come there shall still be more to follow.”‘ (Spurgeon)

When you think about the blessings of God, remember one child’s description of a lift: “I got into this little room and the upstairs came down.”

“My brethren, when God first began to love you, he gave you all that he ever meant to give you in the lump, and eternity of time is that in which he is retailing of it out.” (Thomas Goodwin)

The entire Trinity is engaged in our salvation

‘The plan of salvation required the active engagement of every person of the Trinity: Father, Son and Spirit…Salvation is administered by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and applied by the Spirit…The salvation which was planned by the Father has been procured by the Son, and is now presented by the Spirit.’ (Ryken)

1:4 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love.

He chose us – ‘The biblical doctrine of election is that before Creation God selected out of the human race, foreseen as fallen, those whom he would redeem, bring to faith, justify, and glorify in and through Jesus Christ.’ (Rom 8:28-39; Eph 1:3-14; 2 Thess 2:13-14; 2 Tim 1:9-10) (Packer, Concise Theology)

Paul is thinking in these verses of:-

  1. The fact of election – that God should choose such as us
  2. The blessing of election – that God has chosen to bless us with ‘every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places’
  3. The purpose of election – that God has chosen us to be ‘holy and blameless in his sight.’

In the present passage ‘the idea of election is qualified in four ways. It is described as being (1) “in Christ,” (2) supratemporal (“before the foundation of the world”), (3) redemptive and moral (“to make us holy and blameless before him”) and (4) an act of love.’ (DPL)

Election calls me home

‘Election having once pitched upon a man, it will find him out and call him home, wherever he be. It called Zaccheus out of accursed Jericho; Abraham out of idolatrous Ur of the Chaldees; Nicodemus and Paul, from the College of the Pharisees, Christ’s sworn enemies; Dionysius and Damaris, out of superstitious Athens. In whatsoever dunghills God’s elect are hid, election will find them out and bring them home.’  (John Arrowsmith)

‘Divine election proves beyond all question or doubt that salvation is by grace alone. Salvation cannot depend on anything we do because we were predestined to it before we ever did anything, even before we existed. The salvation we possess in the present, which gives us certain hope for the future, depends on a decision God made in the eternal past.’ (Ryken)

How can a person know if he is elect or not? Not by climbing up to heaven to have a peek in the Book of Life. Rather, since election is in order to holiness, we should ask if we are holy or not. Since election is ‘in Christ’, we should ask whether we are in Christ or not.

The doctrine of election has been referred to as a ‘family secret’, since it is best understood by God’s children. If salvation is entered by a door, then above the door, on the outside is written the words, ‘Whosoever will may come’. (Rev 22:17) Having entered, anyone glancing back reads these words from Ephesians written above the door: ‘Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.’ (Ryken, drawing on an illustration of D.G. Barnhouse)

In him – ‘Some suggest “in him” means God foresaw who would have faith in Christ and elected them. Not only does this add a thought that is not in the text, but elsewhere Paul teaches that the very state of being “in Christ” is something to which one is chosen. (1 Cor 1:26-31) Paul says explicitly that the ground of God’s predestinating love is his own good pleasure (Eph 1:5,10; cf. Deut 7:7,8), not anything we have done or will do. (Rom 9:11,16) “In him” means that God’s choice always had in view a fallen people in union with their Redeemer. (2 Tim 1:9) See also 1 Pet 1:18-21; Rev 13:8.’ (New Geneva)

Past

He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. (Eph 1:4–5)

Present

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose. (Eph 1:7–9)

Future

A plan has been set forth in Jesus Christ, a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him you, when you believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (from Eph 1:9–14)

Before the creation of the world – Therefore, a settled purpose and not a whim or an after-thought. Equally, unconditional and not based on any desert on our part.

‘Before you were born – before anyone was born, for that matter before God made the heavens and the earth, even before the angels first praised their Maker, God was planning to save his people from their sins. We were destined to salvation long ages before the world was ever created.’ (Ryken)

‘It is becoming increasingly popular for theologians (including some who call themselves evangelicals) to think of God as performing without a script. They say that God is in process. Like the rest of us, he is working things out as he goes along, suffering the vicissitudes of life in this universe and changing his plans to fit the circumstances. There is a creative interchange between earth and heaven which allows human beings to influence God, even to change his mind altogether. God is not sovereign; he is a finite being who does not even know the future, but he is open to the possibilities. That is not at all the biblical picture of God. It is true, of course, that God is actively at work in human history. He blesses the righteous and curses the wicked. He answers prayers, converts sinners and plants churches. He rules over nature and over nations. But God does all these things strictly according to the plan he established before he created the world. God’s participation in history depends on his purpose in eternity. He is working everything out according to his eternal plan, a plan that pre-dates the creation of the universe.’ (Ryken)

‘God knew the solution even before we caused the problem.’ (Ryken)

‘We had a Saviour before we were born.’ (Sibbes)

To be holy and blameless in his sight – he has chosen us, not merely so that we might enter heaven (though that is included), but so that we might be ‘holy and blameless’. The biblical doctrine of election leaves no room for antinomianism. Election is inseparably joined to sanctification, a point also made in Rom 8:29.

‘Mark, not because he foresaw that they would be of themselves ‘holy,’ but ‘that they should be holy;’ this was what God resolved he would make them to be. It was as if some curious workman, seeing a forest of trees growing upon his own ground-all alike, not one better than another-should mark some above all the rest, and set them apart in his thoughts, as resolving to make some rare pieces of workmanship out of them. Thus God chose some out of the lump of mankind, whom he set apart for this purpose-to carve his own image upon them, which consists in ‘righteousness and true holiness’-a piece of such rare workmanship, that when God hath finished it, and shall show it to men and angels, it will appear to exceed the fabric of heaven and earth itself.’ (Gurnall)

The word for ‘blameless’ ‘is a sacrificial word. Under Jewish law before an animal could be offered as a sacrifice it must be inspected, and if any blemish was found it must be rejected as unfit for an offering to God. Only the best was fit to offer to God. Amomos thinks of the whole man as an offering to God. It thinks of taking every part of our life, work, pleasure, sport, home life, personal relationships, and making them all such that they can be offered to God.’ (DSB)

1:5 He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will—1:6 to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son.

In love he predestined us (vv4f) – ‘The qualities of God that one finds related to election are his love, (Eph 1:4-5 1 Thess 1:4) mercy, (Rom 9:16) grace, (Rom 11:5) and wisdom and knowledge. (Rom 11:33) For Paul it is the God of love and mercy, acting graciously and wisely, who is the electing God.’ (DPL)

‘There is a love on God’s part for the whole of mankind. God loves all men. But there is also a love which is special, which secures for the elect not simply the blessings of common grace but something more. There are individuals who are precious to God, whose names are in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 21:27) and engraven on the palms of Jehovah’s hand. (Isa 49:16) It is selective love. It is particular. It is personal. He loved me, he gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20) I am poor and needy but the Lord thinks on me. (Ps 40:17) This really is the basic idea of election, that beyond the general love of God for the whole of mankind there is a special love for those who are his own choice people. Indeed, there are people with whom God is in love, and furthermore there has never been a time when he has not loved them. The love of God the Father for God the Son is essential to the very nature of God himself. It is part of the shape of God, part of his being. But God’s love for his people is optional and discretionary and gracious. It is contingent. How amazing, then, that it is eternal: there has never been a time when God has not loved his people! He has never been without knowing them, without caring for them. That has always been a factor in the consciousness of God. There was no point at which God fell in love with them or began to love them. The love was always there with an intense personalness and particularism.’ (McLeod, A Faith to Live By)

Although it is a Scriptural thought that God pre-ordains all that comes to pass, the New Testament uses the words predestination and election only of God’s choice of particular sinners for salvation and eternal life. (Rom 8:29; Eph 1:4-5,11) In addition, Scripture also ascribes to God an advance decision about those who are not finally saved, Rom 9:6-29; 1 Pet 2:8; Jude 4.

He predestined us – ‘A primordial purpose underlies creation and governs its labyrinthine folds, but in the case of moral agents one exempt from all trace of coercive necessitation. The Lord of all abides Monarch in the kingdom of the human will without the least violation of its innate properties. The lock is not forced but opened; we are made willing to do our Maker’s will.’ (Simpson)

‘God…according to his own counsel, ordains such persons as he wills to receive and partake of the mercy preached and offered. This will is not to be inquired into, but to be reverently adored, as by far the most awesome secret of the Divine Majesty.’ (Luther)

‘Election gives no occasion to licentiousness, as when wicked men blaspheme and say, “Let us live in any manner we please; for if we have been elected, it is impossible for us to perish.” Paul tells them plainly that it is wicked to separate holiness of life from the grace of election.

‘The first chapter of Ephesians is first and foremost about Jesus Christ. Christ contains, expresses, and effects God’s purpose. When people hear the gospel message and believe that message, (Eph 1:13,15) they live on earth under the leadership of Jesus Christ as Head of the body. Such believers are sealed by the Spirit; (Eph 1:13) therefore, the power of God working in us can enlarge us, open our eyes, increase our faith, and enable us to believe. Does God do this without our own willing and cooperation, or are we free participants in what God is doing through the believing community under the headship of Christ and in the power of the Spirit? It seems to me that the believers addressed are welcomed to faith and encouraged to believe and enlarge their lives in Christ’s church. The specific references in verses 5 and 11 fit in this context if we do not draw them out of place and ask first what it means that we were predestined before the foundation of the world according to God’s will. Jesus Christ is first and foremost God’s chosen. He is the agent of God’s redemptive plan from eternity. Jesus Christ embodies the way, the will, and the good pleasure of God. By Jesus we know the Father; in him God’s will is effected in history. We are included as we are included in Jesus. We are included, predestined, and elected as we believe in him by the power of the Spirit. God, working his way through us, determines us. Apparently, part of God’s determination is that the Ephesians and ourselves should be participants in our limited human way with God in doing God’s will. God’s will is that people should have a will to exercise toward God. The painful personal experience reflected in Romans 7 and the sinful corporate experiences of human divisions spoken of in the remainder of Ephesians lead us to believe that we can also exercise our wills in refusing to believe in God and in disobeying God. Predestination never eliminates human will.’ (Holman, art. ‘Predestination’)

The Bible reserves the word prohorizo (predestine) for the salvation of sinners unto eternal life, and never speaks of anyone being predestined to hell. Nevertheless, predestination of some to eternal life does imply that others will be left in their sins, and suffer eternal punishment for them. This is what is meant by ‘reprobation’. See (Rom 1:28; 1 Pet 2:8)

Adopted as his sons – ‘In the ancient world, where Roman law prevailed, this would be an even more meaningful picture than it is to us…The ritual of adoption must have been very impressive. It was carried out by a symbolic sale in which copper and scales were used. Twice the real father sold his son, and twice he symbolically bought him back; finally he sold him a third time, and at the third sale he did not buy him back. After this the adopting father had to go to the praetor, one of the principal Roman magistrates, and plead the case for the adoption. Only after all this had been gone through was the adoption complete. When the adoption was complete it was complete indeed. The person who had been adopted had all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family and completely lost all rights in his old family. In the eyes of the law he was a new person. So new was he that even all debts and obligations connected with his previous family were abolished as if they had never existed. That is what Paul says that God has done for us. We were absolutely in the power of sin and of the world; God, through Jesus, took us out of that power into his; and that adoption wipes out the past and makes us new.’ (DSB)

To the praise of his glorious grace – This is not some incidental doxology, but a summary of the ultimate purpose and goal of existence.

‘The Christian’s title to heaven as joint-heir with Christ is unchallengeable. It is not because his life has been free from marked wickedness. It is not because God is indulgent or because all sinners will sometime and somehow be brought home. It is because God for unfathomable reasons chose him and raised him from the grave wherein he lay bound and loosed him from sin and gave him a new heart and made him a son for ever. It is all of grace.’ (Herbert Lathe, Q by Simpson)

‘The manifestation of his glory, as Jonathan Edwards has shown, is the highest conceivable final cause of creation; and in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, pregnant with the never-ending bliss of a countless host of immortals whom he rescues from perdition singlehanded, the praise of the glory of God’s grace attains its floodmark and the cosmos its vindication from vanity.’ (Simpson)

1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 1:8 that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight.

Redemption through his blood – The word is apolutrosis. ‘It is the word used for ransoming a man who is a prisoner of war or a slave; for freeing a man from the penalty of death; for God’s deliverance of the children of Israel from their slavery in Egypt; for God’s continual rescuing of his people in the time of their trouble. In every case the conception is the delivering of a man from a situation from which he was powerless to liberate himself or from a penalty which he himself could never have paid.’ (DSB)

‘Three ideas are involved in the doctrine of redemption: (1) paying the ransom with the blood of Christ; 1 Cor 6:20; Rev 5:9 (2) removal from the curse of the law; Gal 3:13; 4:5 and (3) release from the bondage of sin into the freedom of grace (here and in 1 Pet 1:18). Redemption is always through his blood; i.e., through the death of Christ.’ Col 1:14 (Ryrie)

‘Had the universe been tendered for the sinner’s ransom, the indemnity would have been but finite; whereas in the unspeakable Gift high heaven comes to our aid and allocates to our bankrupt funds its own illimitable wealth…And the Lord’s forgiveness is as complete as its procurement was costly.’ (Simpson)

‘He alone has redeemed us and discharged the debt of our sin, weighing out the ransom price, not in silver or gold, but in crimson drops of precious blood. He nailed the receipted bill to his cross’ (J.O. Sanders).

The forgiveness of sins – ‘Paul rarely uses the term “forgiveness,” but in its place prefers justification. They are to his understanding practically synonymous (Stevens, Theology of the New Testament, 418). He preferred the latter, however, because it was better fitted to express the idea of secure, present and permanent acceptance in the sight of God. It connoted both a complete and a permanent state of grace. In popular thought forgiveness is not so comprehensive, but in the Biblical sense it means no less than this. It removes all of the guilt and cause of alienation from the past; it assures a state of grace for the present; and promises Divine mercy and aid for the future.’ (ISBE)

The NT does not frequently make a direct link between the cross and forgiveness. But see Mt 26:28.

‘Wisdom is the knowledge which sees into the heart of things, which knows them as they really are. Prudence (‘understanding’) is the understanding which leads to right action.’ (J. Armitage Robinson)

1:9 He did this when he revealed to us the secret of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 1:10 toward the administration of the fullness of the times, to head up all things in Christ—the things in heaven and the things on earth.

Mystery – It has been claimed that the use of this word in Eph is unPauline. However, its use here of the world-wide gospel (Eph 1:9; 3:3,4,9; 6:19) is paralleled in Rom 16:25-26; and its use of the indwelling of Christ (Eph 5:32) is paralleled in Col 1:27.

On the plan of God: ‘We believe in a God of purposes and plans, who has not left a blind fate to tyrannise over the world, much less an aimless chance to rock it to and fro.’ (Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry, 5)

According to his good pleasure – his plan originated in his own mind, without reliance on any external aid or counsel.

To be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment

The NIV’s ‘when the times will have reached their fulfillment’ puts a futuristic spin where not is required.  The phrase (τὸ πλήρωμα τῶν καιρῶν) should be simply translated ‘the fullness of time’. ‘This precise expression occurs no other time in biblical literature, but its closest counterpart occurs in Gal 4:4–5: “But when [lit.] the fullness of time (τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου) had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights as sons.” This passage highlights many of the same themes as here: the coming of Messiah, redemption, and adoption. The church still lives in the fullness of times, but they will not be completely fulfilled until the day of redemption (Eph 4:30).’ (Arnold)

The idea is of a plan to be put into effect ‘when the time was ripe’ (NEB).  It is God’s ‘programme of history’ (Simpson) which is administered by Christ.

‘In Eph. 1:10 Christ is said to have been sent forth by God “as a plan for the fulness of time” (cf. Gal. 4:4). The underlying concept here is of God’s predetermined plan unfolding in history. When according to God’s plan the time had become fully ripe, He sent His Son (see Ridderbos, p. 155). This act of God was “not just an end point, but the dawning of a new period in which God’s promise and law (that is, even all that is said in the Scriptures) are fulfilled” (M. Barth, p 88; cf pp. 200–210).’ (ISBE)

‘The NIV clause when the times will have reached their fulfillment includes the idea of an important Greek term without using a separate word to translate it. The term is oikonomia, which some versions translate as “dispensation.” It denoted the management of a household (which in Paul’s day could be large, including an extended family and slaves), but it also came to describe an administrative task or arrangement. When Paul wrote of the “administration” or “arrangement” of the “fullness of times,” he was not thinking merely of a chronological point in history but of a stage in God’s management of history. In this context it does not necessitate assuming that God predetermines every event individually, but that he manages the whole. (compare Rom 8:28) When this term, oikonomia, and others, such as mystery, will, good pleasure and purpose are amassed together, the careful reader is overwhelmed with the magnificence of God’s wise plan in history and of the place of Christ in that plan.’ (Liefield)

‘The expression “fulness of the times” (or: seasons) and the similar (though not exactly identical) one in Galatians 4:4 indicate the moment (Gal 4:4) or the period (Eph 1:10) when, as it were, the lower compartment of the hourglass of God’s eternal decree had become filled, that is, when all the preceding times and seasons which the Father had set within his own authority had been completed (Act 1:7; cf. Act 17:26). It is, in other words, “the appropriate time.” As is evident from Eph 1:20-23, in the present case the reference is to the entire New Testament era, particularly to the period which began with Christ’s resurrection and coronation. ‘ (Hendriksen)

‘This plan takes place when the messianic age is inaugurated. Salvation history is regarded as unfolding in a series of “times” that reach their climax in the advent of Christ (Gal 4:4). The Christian era has still to run its course, however, and not until its close will God’s eternal purpose come to full fruition (Ac 1:6).’ (EBC)

According to Hodge, the expressions, ‘“end of the ages,” 1 Corinthians 10:11; “end of days,” Hebrews 1:1; “fullness of the time,” Galatians 4:4; and here, “the fullness of times,” are all used to designate the time of Christ’s advent.’

For JFB, ‘the whole of the Gospel times (plural) is meant, with the benefits to the Church dispensed in them severally and successively. Compare “the ages to come” (Eph 2:7). “The ends of the ages” (Greek, 1 Cor 10:11); “the times (same Greek as here, ‘the seasons,’ or ‘fitly appointed times’) of the Gentiles” (Lk 21:24); “the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power” (Act 1:7); “the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the prophets since the world began” (Act 3:20f). The coming of Jesus at the first advent, “in the fullness of time,” was one of these “times.” The descent of the Holy Ghost, “when Pentecost was fully come” (Act 2:1), was another. The testimony given by the apostles to Him “in due time” (“in its own seasons,” Greek) (1 Tim 2:6) was another. The conversion of the Jews “when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled,” the second coming of Christ, the “restitution of all things,” the millennial kingdom, the new heaven and earth, shall be severally instances of “the dispensation of the fullness of the times,” that is, “the dispensation of” the Gospel events and benefits belonging to their respective “times,” when severally filled up or completed. God the Father, according to His own good pleasure and purpose, is the Dispenser both of the Gospel benefits and of their several fitting times (Act 1:7).’

‘It was his design in that dispensation which was to be accomplished by his sending Christ in the fulness of time, at the exact time that God had prefixed and settled.’ (MHC)

‘Man was left to his own inventions long enough to demonstrate the futility of his vaunted wisdom and the inadequacy of his cherished resources. The anticipations of modern science are pursuing the same track. They modify the externals of life, not always beneficently, but do not fill its aching void nor quench its raging thirsts. God waited till the impotence of the ancient world was patent before he sent his Son to be the Physician of souls…With all its aberrations the Christian church has shown itself to possess a sovereign panacea for all manner of social and ethical degradation. Wherever it has had due scope and secured fair trial the Lord’s antidote for the epidemic of moral evil has wrought signal marvels.’ (Simpson)

‘This does not refer simply to the future. Christ has already come to bring redemption and adoption. (Gal 4:4) By virtue of his death and resurrection, he has already assumed headship over the church, and, though behind the scenes, he already rules the universe. (Ac 2:32-36; Col 1:15-20) Still, a future emphasis dominates. The visible unity of the church is a foretaste of Christ’s eventual visible rule over all things. This is why Paul stresses the unity of Jew and Gentile in the church, (Eph 1:11-14; 2:11-22) and the practice of love among Christians. (Eph 4:2,15; 4:32-5:2,21-23) The theme introduced here in Eph 1:9-12 is expanded in Eph 3:2-12.’ (New Geneva)

All things in heaven and on earth – ‘It is a heresy of our times to divide life into sacred and secular. Christ is concerned in all things, and all will find their true place and unity in him. This Epistle, moreover, does not merely speak of a distant goal, but presents the task of the Church now in a world divided by barriers of race, colour, culture and political system, as that of bringing all things and all men into the captivity of obedience to Christ, (cf 2 Cor 10:5) and so back to find their true functions and unity in him.’ (Foulkes)

‘Paul seems to be referring again to that cosmic renewal, that regeneration of the universe, that liberation of the groaning creation, of which he has already written to the Romans. God’s plan is that ‘all things’ which were created through Christ and for Christ, and which hold together in Christ, will finally be united under Christ by being subjected to his headship. For the New Testament declares him to be ‘the heir of all things’.’ (Stott)

To bring all things…together under one head, even Christ – ‘We can perceive the process of renovation here and there at work, but its operation seems to us tardy and partial; for we do not see all things as yet unified under the regency of God’s anointed King. In fact, the cycle of this spiritual palingenesis, this cosmical revolution of a higher order, by which a perfect readjustment of the moral system shall finally be attained, is on too vast a scale for our mortal apprehension. The scaffolding must be removed before we can discern the edifice. To-day we know in part; we see through a glass obliquely. But when the perfect day dawns, our fractional judgement will be merged in comprehensive vision of a rounded whole. Of this much meantime we have assurance, that, in accordance with the divine programme of history, all things in heaven and earth shall be reconstituted “in Christ.” There is no expanse of empire that he cannot fill, no aspiration on which he cannot bestow heart’s content. He was the Alpha of time’s first pulsebeat, and he shall be the Omega of is parting gasp, and gather centripetally to himself all that survives the crash of worlds and the supercession of the seen and temporal. If we are his, he abides our central Sun and we shall find our orbit as his satellites, attendant on “the Light of Lights”.’ (Simpson)

‘Paul teaches that in all of God’s dealings with the created order he works according to a predetermined plan, as eternal as himself (but not apart from himself or Christ-the elect one par excellence), in such a way that his own inner being and divine good will are satisfied. That plan has a definite goal: to sum up all things in Christ. (Eph 1:10) This encompasses objects, means and ends. The objects include angels, human beings and Israel; the means include the person and work of Christ, and the proclamation of the gospel; the ends are wholly redemptive whether for Israel or for believers (and presumably for the angels, whatever that may mean). The ultimate end is the praise of God’s glorious grace. (Eph 1:5,11) With respect to human beings, it is important to emphasize that Paul speaks of the election and salvation of sinners, (Rom 5:6,8) that is, he joins means and end. The good news of the gospel is that humans do not need to work their way into God’s favor (indeed, they cannot). Rather, God’s grace is given freely. (Rom 3:24) This excludes human boasting and results in the eternal praise of God’s goodness.’ (DPL)

‘Eph. 1:10 states that God’s plan is to unite in Christ all things in heaven and on earth. The context of the first chapter, especially vv 22f, is the work of subduing all things — not only earthly creatures but also heavenly powers — and placing them under the feet of Christ. Every principality and power that has dominion shall become subject to Him. Here is the picture of the final stage of the divine plan. From God’s point of view the mystery of subjection to Christ already exists, for Christ has come and evil is vanquished; from the temporal point of view, however, the forces of evil are now engaged in a mighty conflict against the headship of Christ (Brown, Bibl, 40 [1959], 77). Nonetheless, in the fulness of time all things shall become united under Him.’ (ISBE)

‘The Christian Church exists “between the times,” in the interval between the Resurrection and the Parousia. It trusts the Lord for redemption accomplished, looks to the Spirit for the redemption applied, and waits eagerly for redemption consummated (Phil. 3:20f; 1 Jn. 3:2). The call of the gospel is to heed the urgency of the hour (He. 3:7–9; 2 Cor. 6:2). The calling of the believer is to redeem the time (Eph. 5:15f) and press toward the prize (Phil. 3:14). God’s mighty act in Christ has opened new possibilities for this period of history (Col. 1:26). The fulness of time dawned at Bethlehem (Gal. 4:4), but the fulness of all the times awaits manifestation (Eph. 1:10).’ (ISBE, art. ‘Time’)

Is there a purpose in history?

DSB quotes a number of thinkers who say that there is not.  ‘G. N. Clark, in his inaugural lecture at Cambridge, said: “There is no secret and no plan in history to be discovered. I do not believe that any future consummation could make sense of all the irrationalities of preceding ages. If it could not explain them, still less could it justify them.” In the introduction to A History of Europe, H. A. L. Fisher writes: “One intellectual excitement, however, has been denied to me. Men wiser and more learned than I have discovered in history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern. These harmonies are concealed from me. I can see only one emergency following another, as wave follows upon wave, only one great fact with respect to which, since it is unique, there can be no generalizations, only one safe rule for the historian: that he should recognize in the development of human destinies the play of the contingent and the unforeseen.” Andre Maurois says: “The universe is indifferent. Who created it? Why are we here on this puny mud-heap spinning in infinite space? I have not the slightest idea, and I am quite convinced that no one has the least idea.”‘

1:11 In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will 1:12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, would be to the praise of his glory.

Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will – ‘…as was decreed in his design whose purpose is everywhere at work’ (NEB).  This passage is remarkable for the way in which it hammers home the wisdom, grace, and certainty of God’s plans. Cast on a long-term scale they surely are (they were formulated before the beginning of time, v4), and we will do well to remember this when we struggle to discern his hand in the particulars of our own lives.

Paul uses three different words to describe God’s plan: (a) thelema a general word for God’s will; (b) prothesis – his foreordained purpose; (c) boule – his deliberate counsel. Taken together, they emphasise that nothing lies outside of God’s definite purpose. (Ryken)

‘Neither fate nor human merit determines our destiny. The benevolent purpose – that we should be holy and faultless (v4), sons of God (v5), destined to glorify him forever (v6, cf v12,14) – is fixed, being part of a larger, universe-embracing plan. Not only did God make this plan that includes absolutely all things that ever take place in heaven, on earth, and in hell; past, present, and even the future, pertaining to both believers and unbelievers, to angels and devils, to physical as well as spiritual energies and uts of existence both large and small; he also wholly carries it out. His providence in time is as comprehensive as is his decree from eternity.’ (Hendriksen)

‘Calvin…emphasized that what we know about God is strictly limited to what God has revealed. He has revealed in Scripture only what is profitable for human beings to know for a covenant relationship with him. Consequently, Calvin taught that Christians should not engage primarily in theological speculation but in moral edification. Knowledge that does not lead to piety is off course. Calvin followed his own advice in explaining the biblical doctrine of predestination, giving no priority to the rules of logic or philosophic discourse. The “why” of God’s actions has not been revealed but remains a secret bound up in his inscrutable counsel. The Christian must simply affirm with the Bible that God is intimately connected with the universe and that he “accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will”.’ (Eph 1:11, RSV) (WWCH)

‘Paul nowhere develops the full extent of what he means by the purpose or plan of God, but no doubt it covered the whole of God’s dealings with the created order. Paul does, however, develop its redemptive aspect. God works everything according to the counsel of his own will, and his will or purpose is redemptive. Consequently, according to that purpose, he calls, (Rom 8:28) he works everything together for good for those whom he has called, (Rom 8:28) he predestinates those who are in Christ (Eph 1:11; see “In Christ”), he elects (Rom 9:11) and he makes known his manifold wisdom through the church. (Eph 3:11) This purpose of God is inscrutable, for “who has known the mind of the Lord?” (1 Cor 2:16; Rom 11:33-35, quoting Isa 40:13 (LXX), and, though God’s ways and doings are past finding out and embody an ultimate mystery, one is not left wholly in the dark. The Spirit (see Holy Spirit) has searched out the deep things of God, (1 Cor 2:10-11) just as God has searched out the hearts of all human beings (Rom 8:27) and God has revealed these things to believers by the Spirit. (1 Cor 2:10,12) Christ also knows the mind of God and believers have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:16) So, although the mind, will and purpose of God are eternal, divine mysteries, it was God’s purpose to make this known in all its manifold wisdom, to the extent that it can be known, through the church, which is the body of Christ.’ (Eph 3:11) (DPL)

‘If you hesitate to believe, or are too proud to acknowledge, that God foreknows and wills all things, not contingently, but necessarily and immutably, how can you believe, trust, and rely on his promises?  When he makes promises, you ought to be out of doubt that he knows, and can and will perform, what he promises; otherwise, you will be accounting him neither true nor faithful, which is unbelief, and the height of irreverence, and a denial of the most high God?’ (Luther, Bondage of the Will, 83f)

The purpose of his will – ‘means the counsel which has its origin in his will; neither suggested by others, nor determined by anything out of himself. It is therefore equivalent to his sovereign will.’ (Hodge)

This assertion (that God ‘works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will’) is understood by Calvinists to mean that everything that occurs does so as a result of God’s intention.  So the Westminster Shorter Catechism: God has ‘fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass.’

Donald MacLeod writes: ‘To this fore-ordination there is no exception whatsoever. There is nothing which is merely permitted without being fore-ordained. Every occurrence and every entity in the universe lies under the control of God’s fore-ordination. The fall of the sparrow, for example, is controlled by God’s eternal purpose. So, too, are contingent, accidental events such as the throw of the dice. And so, equally, are the free actions of men. In Philippians 2:13 Paul tells us that God works in us the willing and the doing according to His own purpose. Not only is the doing under God’s fore-ordination but also the very willing itself. Every free human decision lies under the working of the will and purpose of God. In fact, even the sinful actions of men lie under God’s fore-ordination. The most spectacular sin in the whole history of mankind, the betrayal of Jesus Christ, lay under God’s ‘determinate counsel and foreknowledge’ (Acts 2:23). ‘YOU, with the help of wicked men, put him to death,’ says Peter to the Jews; but this was done under God’s determinate counsel and foreknowledge. Even the minutiae of our own individual lives lie under this purpose of God: the very hairs of our heads are numbered (Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7).’ (A Faith To Live By)

The Arminian view is that God limits his control by granting freedom.  See the discussion in Boyd & Eddy, Across the Spectrum: Understanding the Issues in Evangelical Theology.

It may be doubted, however, whether the present verse should be used to adjudicate on the question.  It does not follow that the ‘everything’ in this verse encompasses everything that ever has or ever will come to pass.  In context, Paul is saying referring to ‘all this’ (everything that God has done to secure salvation) of ‘us’ (Paul and other Jewish Christians).  It might well be argued that everything Paul says of himself and his fellow-Jewish believers is true of all other believers, but that is not what the apostle is saying here.  Note the change to ‘we’ at v13.

‘It is more in keeping with the inclusive scope of the passage to regard the verse as giving expression to the common Christian hope in the Messiah. Those who do so are bound to maintain that the “you” of the following verse refers to Gentile believers, but such a division would limit “the praise of his glory” to Jews and apportion “the Holy Spirit of promise” to Gentiles! It is therefore preferable to accept the interpretation offered in Moule’s paraphrase: “That we should contribute to the glory of God, at the appearing of Christ; welcomed then as the once patient and expectant believers in his promise while still it tarried.”‘ (Wilson)

1:13 And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation)—when you believed in Christ—you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, 1:14 who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.

‘The switch from the first person plural (“we”) to the second person plural (“you”) in Eph 1:13 has occasioned much discussion, with some contending for an intentional contrast between Jewish Christians (“we”) and Gentile Christians (“you”) (Martin, Bruce, Robinson, Barth). Since the discussion of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles does not surface as a major theme until Eph 2:11, it is better to take “we” as a reference to all believers and “you” as referring to the readers in particular (Schnackenburg, Lincoln, Percy).’ (DPL)

You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation – It might be thought that divine election makes evangelism unnecessary. On the contrary, it is election that makes evangelism effective. God has not only chosen some to be saved, he has also chosen the means of their salvation. Preaching, then, is ‘the hand of God, who from all eternity has chosen a people in Christ, by which he reaches out and claims them for his own’ (J.C. Ryle, quoted by Ryken).

‘Since God’s best blessings are spiritual, we can receive them only by his Spirit. First, the Holy Spirit enables us to hear the gospel of truth, which is the message of salvation. Then, he changes us from the inside out, which is regeneration. With regeneration comes the gift of faith, the spiritual ability to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By doing this work in us, the Holy Spirit makes our salvation a present reality. He takes the salvation that the Son accomplished in the past and applies it to us in the present.’ (Ryken)

Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit – ‘In the ancient world the seal was the personal sign of the owner or the sender of something important, and thus, as in a letter, it distinguished what was true from what was spurious. It also was the guarantee that the thing sealed had been carried intact.’ (Foulkes)

The experience of the Holy Spirit in his life is the final proof to him, and indeed a demonstration to others, of the genuineness of what he has believed, and provides the inward assurance that he belongs to God as a son. (cf. Rom 8:15-16; Gal 4:6)

Spoiler title
Various answers have been suggested:

(a) at baptism: but there is no reference to water baptism either here or in the related passage in 2 Cor 1:21,22;

(b) at a time of ‘second blessing‘ during the Christian life. This has been argued by many Pentecostalists, and by D.M. Lloyd-Jones (following a number of Puritans): but this argument relies heavily on translating the present passage ‘after you believed’ (cf AV). Just as faith is logically, but not chronologically, prior to justification, so belief is logically, but not chronologically, prior to the sealing of the Spirit.  Moreover, this runs against Paul’s argument at this point, which is that these Gentiles in becoming Christians also received the promised Holy Spirit, thus showing that they belong to God too;

(c) therefore, this sealing takes place at conversion, for the reception of the Spirit is, above anything else, what marks Christians out as God’s people.  Paul has been stressing that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, and it would not be consistent with this for him so soon afterwards to imply that there is a class of believer who has not been so blessed.    Indeed, we are surely expected to include the sealing of the Spirit as one of those spiritual blessings with which we have been blessed.

However, though the experience to which Lloyd-Jones and others refers cannot be supported from this birth, and does not take the form of a separate and distinct ‘second blessing’, nevertheless the experience itself may well be authentic, and receives scriptural support from Eph 3:14–19 (cf. Rom 8:15–16; Jn 14:18–23).  (See the discussion in NDT, art. ‘Holy Spirit’, by J.I. Packer)

…who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance – ‘The Christian’s experience of the Spirit now is a foretaste and pledge of what will be his when he fully possesses his God-given inheritance.’ (Cf. 2 Cor 1:21-22; 5:5 Rom 8:23) (Foulkes)

‘A wax seal would have a mark of ownership or identification stamped in it, identifying who was attesting what was inside the container that had been sealed. Because it was commonly understood that the Spirit would be made especially available in the time of the end, Paul here speaks of the Spirit as a “deposit” (NIV)-a term used in ancient business documents to mean a “down payment.” Those who had tasted the Spirit had begun to taste the life of the future world that God had promised his people. After God “redeemed.” Israel from slavery in Egypt, he led them to their “inheritance” or “possession” in the Promised Land. Later Jewish literature viewed the world to come as Israel’s ultimate “inheritance,” and early Christian writers used this language the same way. (Mt 5:5; 25:34; Rom 8:17; 1 Cor 6:9; Jas 2:5) For Paul, Christians are God’s people, redeemed but waiting for the completion of their redemption; as with Israel of old, God’s presence among them is the assurance that he will take them into the land he has promised.’ (cf. Hag 2:5) (NT Background Commentary)

Deposit – ‘The Hebrew word “‘erabhon” seems to have found its way into Greek through Phoenician traders. It conveys the meaning of a token in kind, viewed as the harbinger of future possession. The Spirit’s agency affords a foretaste of bliss; for the life he implants in the saved soul partakes of the quality of heaven. In hours when the wings of faith bear him aloft, the saint enjoys a prelibation of glory. He knows he is still “in the making,” but rests assured of the perfect product in prospect, when the Lord’s people shall be finally redeemed from the hand of the enemy.’ (Simpson)

‘As a small boy my mother baked cake for the family and permitted me to “lick the pan” after she was through mixing the batter. At supper after we had finished the main course the family “felt” the cake was going to be a real treat. But I had something better than a feeling to go on. I had a sample. I already knew the cake was delicious. In the same way, I know a little about how its going to be when we get to heaven because by serving Jesus Christ on this earth I have already gotten a “taste of what heaven will be like.” Heaven will be “heavenly!”‘

‘I speak with the experience of many saints, and, I hope, according to Scripture, if I say there is a communication of the Spirit of God which is sometimes vouchsafed to some of his people that is somewhat besides, if not beyond, that witnessing of a sonship spoken of. (in Rom 8:16) It is a glorious divine manifestation of God unto the soul, shedding abroad God’s love in the heart; it is a thing better felt than spoken of: it is no audible voice, but it is a ray of glory filling the soul with God, as he is life, light, love, and liberty, corresponding to that audible voice, ‘O man, greatly beloved’; (Dan 9:23) putting a man in a transport with this on his heart, ‘It is good to be here.’ (Mt 17:4) It is that which went out from Christ to Mary, when he but mentioned her name- ‘Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master.’ (Jn 20:16) he had spoken some words to her before, and she understood not that it was he: but when he uttereth this one word “Mary,” there was some admirable divine conveyance and manifestation made out unto her heart, by which she was so satisfyingly filled, that there was no place for arguing and disputing whether or no that was Christ, and if she had any interest in him. That manifestation wrought faith to itself, and did purchase credit and trust to itself, and was equivalent with, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ This is such a glance of glory, that it may in the highest sense be called ‘the earnest,’ or first-fruits ‘of the inheritance’; (Eph 1:14) for it is a present, and, as it were, sensible discovery of the holy God, almost wholly conforming the man unto his likeness; so swallowing him up, that he forgetteth all things except the present manifestation. O how glorious is this manifestation of the Spirit! Faith here riseth to so full an assurance, that it resolveth wholly into the sensible presence of God. This is the thing which doth best deserve the title of sensible presence; and is not given unto all believers, some whereof ‘are all their days under bondage, and in fear’; (Heb 2:15) but here ‘love, almost perfect, casteth out fear.’ (1Jo 4:18) This is so absolutely let out upon the Master’s pleasure, and so transient or passing, or quickly gone when it is, that no man may bring his gracious state into debate for want of it.’ (Guthrie)

God’s possession – ‘The Old Testament teaches that God chose a people as his inheritance (Deut 32:9; Ps 33:12) and purchased them out of bondage to become a prized possession. (Ex 19:5; Deut 7:6) Peter agrees with Paul’s striking application of this idea to Gentiles as well as to Jews.’ (1 Pet 2:9) (New Geneva)

To the praise of his glory – we have been listening to an overture of the hallelujahs of the blest, and it closes, as it began, on the note of the praise of God’s glory, the highest of all themes…False and true theology may be discriminated by a simply criterion. Do they magnify God or man? Why should the creature resent the controlling, encompassing hand of the Creator? Why in particular should any child of God exalt man’s will above the Father of spirits’ unerring ordinations, sovereignly wise and holy as they of necessity are?’ (Simpson)

‘The first half of Eph 1 gives a complete overview of the work of God in saving sinners. All the blessings of salvation come from God, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit. Our salvation jointly depends on the electing, predestining work of God the Father; the redeeming, atoning work of God the Son; and the sealing, guaranteeing work of God the Holy Spirit.’ (Ryken)

‘The glory of God! This is the beginning as well as the end of our salvation…The reason God made us in the first place is to glorify him for ever. The glory of God is also the reason our sin is such a disaster. We no longer glorify God because we are too busy seeking our own glory. But God will see to it that ultimately he gets the glory he deserves. Since he is glorified whenever he does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, one of the primary ways he glorifies himself is through the salvation of sinners. We are saved for God’s glory, and the glory of salvation begins with God’s electing grace.’ (Ryken)

‘The apostle wants us to do something more than believe the doctrine of predestination – wants us to experience the joy that it brings to Christian life ahd worship. Whether we speak of the origination of election with the Father, the location of election in the Son, or the presentation of election by the Spirit, it is all to the glory of God. If predestination is all to the glory of God, then to object to his electing grace – or even worse, to deny it – is to rob God of his glory. The only way to give God the glory he deserves is to praise him for saving us from sin by the electing grace of his eternal plan.’ (Ryken)

Prayer for Wisdom and Revelation

1:15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you when I remember you in my prayers.

I heard – Paul had ministered personally in Ephesus for over two years, but this letter must have been written up to five years after he left. If Ephesians is a circular letter, then Paul is referring to those whose faith and love he only knew of by report.

Your faith…and your love – ‘Studies of Paul’s prayers and thanksgivings have drawn attention to certain patterns. One of these is the combination of faith and love (sometimes accompanied by “hope”). Paul often mentions these qualities together, both in prayers and in other contexts (see 2 Cor 8:7; Gal 5:7; 1 Thess 3:6; 2 Thess 1:3; 1 Tim 1:5,14; 2:15; 4:12; 6:11; 2 Tim 1:13; 2:22; 3:10; Tit 2:2; Phm 5-7; as well as Eph 3:17; 6:23). The combination occurs also in Jas 2:5 and Rev 2:19. Faith and love are joined by hope in the familiar love passage, 1 Cor 13:13, and also in Col 1:4 and 1 Thess 1:3 and 5:8.’ (IVP Commentary)

I have not stopped giving thanks for you…I keep asking… – ‘For a healthy Christian life today it is of the utmost importance to follow Paul’s example and keep Christian praise and Christian prayer together. Yet many do not manage to preserve this balance. Some Christians seem to do little but pray for new spiritual blessings, apparently oblivious of the fact that God has already blessed them in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Others lay such emphasis on the undoubted truth that everything is already theirs in Christ, that they become complacent and appear to have no appetite to know or experience their Christian privileges more deeply. Both these groups must be declared unbalanced. They have created a polarization which Scripture will not tolerate. What Paul does in Ephesians 1, and therefore encourages us to copy, is both to keep praising God that in Christ all spiritual blessings are ours and to keep praying that we may know the fullness of what he has given us. If we keep together praise and prayer, benediction and petition, we are unlikely to lose our spiritual equilibrium.’ (Stott)

1:17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him, 1:18—since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened—so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 1:19 and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense strength.

The God of our Lord Jesus Christ – ‘His “God,” that is, the God whom he acknowledges and whom he reveals to us. There is nothing in the expression which is contrary to his own sharing of the Godhead; for he could speak of the Father as “my God”.’ (Mt 27:46; Jn 20:17) (Foulkes)

This (cf. v3) ‘must not be construed in detraction of the Deity of the Son, but in the light of his mediatorial subordination to the Father.’ (Simpson)

The Spirit of wisdom – we cannot be sure whether ‘Spirit’ should be capitalised (thus referring to the Holy Spirit) or not.

Hendriksen offers the follow arguments in favour of ‘Spirit’:-

(1) Paul writes “… of revelation.” We do not generally associate revelation with the purely human spirit or state of mind.

(2) As to “… of wisdom,” in Isa 11:2 this is mentioned as the first of several gifts imparted by the Spirit of Jehovah.

(3) Such expressions as “Spirit of truth” (Jn 15:26) and “Spirit of adoption” (Rom 8:15) also refer to the Holy Spirit.

(4) Ephesians abounds with references to the third Person of the Holy Trinity. Since the Comforter figured so prominently in this epistle, we may well believe that also in the present instance Paul has him in mind.

(5) It is rather characteristic of Paul that, having made mention of God the Father and of Christ the Son — and both have already been mentioned here in Eph 1:16 — he then also refers to the Spirit. Cf. Rom 8:15-17; 2 Cor 13:14; Eph 1:3-14; Eph 3:14-17; Eph 4:4-6; Eph 5:18-21.

(6) When the Father gives enlightened eyes, does he not do so through the Holy Spirit? See Jn 3:3, 5. Men cannot see the Kingdom of God, to enter it, except through the Spirit. Cf. Eph 5:8; 1Jn 1:7.

In any case, writes Barclay, certain things follow:-

(a) It is necessary that we should have a thinking people. Boswell tells us that Goldsmith once said: “As I take my shoes from the shoemaker, and my coat from the tailor, so I take my religion from the priest.” There are many who are like that; and yet religion is nothing unless it is a personal discovery. As Plato had it long ago: “The unexamined life is the life not worth living,” and the unexamined religion is the religion not worth having. It is an obligation for a thinking man to think his way to God.

(b) It is necessary that we should have a teaching ministry. William Chillingworth said: “The Bible, and the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants.” That is true; but so often we would not think so. The exposition of scripture from the pulpit is a first necessity of religious wakening.

(c) It is necessary that we should have a readjusted sense of proportion. It is one of the strange facts of Church life that in Church courts, such as sessions and presbyteries, and even General Assemblies, a score of hours might be given to the discussion of mundane problems of administration for every one given to the discussion of the eternal verities of God.  (DSB)

The eyes of your heart – ‘The beautiful metaphor…must have been quite novel when he used it. It reminds us that the illumination he desiderates is inward, not dependent on the senses or even the mental activities, so much as on the spiritual enlightenment that assimilates divine truth as its congenial aliment, and descries objects invisible to the worldling’s myopic vision; for the heart may have sounder perceptions than the head.’ (Simpson)

‘The apostle offers three signal petitions for these sheep of Christ ingathered from the heathen pale. The first is that they may recognise fully “the hope of the call” they have obeyed…Let them realise its mighty compass and entrancing vista. Heaven lies ahead of them and they are to be made meet for it, commingling in its holy joys and bearing the image of their chosen King. Secondly, he prays that they may appreciate “the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” Christ has taken his people to be his everlasting portion, and the cost of his purchase must endear it to him as well as to them…Thirdly, let them reflect upon the “exceeding greatness of the Lord’s power to usward who believe.” The dethronement of self and the enthronement of Christ in them has already yielded proof of that. What less than an almighty arm could thus reverse the bent and bias of a sinner’s character for good and all? They bear the impress of divine workmanship; but the pattern is still incomplete; they are in the making, yet not left to manufacture themselves into full-sized saints unaided; for the “working of the strength” of almightiness, put forth in bringing them from death unto life, is of the same wonder-working efficacy as that which raised Christ from the dead and has seated him on high.’ (Simpson)

The riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints – Some think that this refers to the inheritance that God has in his saints: they are his, and he delights in them.  F.F. Bruce, for example, says that the saints ‘are his own possession, in whom he will display to the universe the untold riches of his glory.  We can scarcely realise what is must mean to God to see his purpose complete, to see creatures of his hand, sinners redeemed by his grace, reflecting his own glory.’  This would be consistent with Eph 1:23, where the church is the ‘fulness’ of Christ, who ‘fills all in all’.

Foulkes, however,  argues that this does not really fit the context here, nor does it agree with the usual use of the word inheritance in the NT (see Eph 1:14; 5:5; Col 1:12).  He takes the preposition en to mean ‘among’, as in Acts 20:32; 26:18.

Verses 19-23 summarise what the NT teaches us about the resurrection and glorification of Jesus.

His incomparably great power for us who believe – God’s effectual call is a powerful call. ‘Verba Dei sunt opera The words of God are works. Luther. God puts forth infinite power in calling home a sinner to himself; he not only puts forth his voice but his arm. The apostle speaks of the exceeding greatness of his power, which he exercises towards them that believe. Eph 1:19. God rides forth conquering in the chariot of his gospel; he conquers the pride of the heart, and makes the will, which stood out as a fort-royal, to yield and stoop to his grace; he makes the stony heart bleed. Oh, it is a mighty call! Why then do the Arminians seem to talk of a moral persuasion, that God in the conversion of a sinner only morally persuades and no more; sets his promises before men to allure them to good, and his threatenings to deter them from evil; and that is all he does? But surely moral persuasions alone are insufficient to the effectual call. How can the bare proposal of promises and threatenings convert a soul? This amounts not to a new creation, or that power which raised Christ from the dead. God not only persuades, but enables. Eze 36:27. If God, in conversion, should only morally persuade, that is, set good and evil before men, then he does not put forth so much power in saving men as the devil does in destroying them. Satan not only propounds tempting objects to men, but concurs with his temptations: therefore he is said to ‘work in the children of disobedience.’ Eph 2:2. The Greek word, to work, signifies imperil vim, Camerarius, the power Satan has in carrying men to sin. And shall not God’s power in converting be greater than Satan’s power in seducing? The effectual call is mighty and powerful. God puts forth a divine energy, nay, a kind of omnipotence; it is such a powerful call, that the will of man has no power effectually to resist.’ (Watson, A Body of Divinity)

‘In Ephesians, Paul uses the language of ‘power’, ‘strength’, ‘might’, ‘authority’, ‘dominion’ and so on far more than in any of his other epistles. This languages presents a uniquely ‘cosmic’ picture of Christ and the church. The background is that this language was widely used in magical spells and incantations and that Ephesus was an important centre of occult practices. We know that many of the Ephesian Christians had been converted from occultism, Acts 19:17-19. Some of them may have been tempted to combine their Christian faith with their old practices (note the behaviour of the Jewish exorcists in Acts 19:13-16). Not surprising, then, that Paul affirms the cosmic superiority of Christ against all rivals. Jesus is not just one ‘name’ among many that can be invoked, but is supreme over all.’ (Source unknown)

1:20 This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms 1:21 far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Raised him from the dead – ‘Just as the cross is the highest display of God’s love, so the Resurrection is the ultimate display of his power.’ (R. Kent Hughes) Taken with v19b, this verse teaches us that the same power which raised Christ from the dead is now at work in us, cf. Eph 2:4,5 3:16,1.

Seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms – See Col 3:1; Heb 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2.

‘The ascension may not often be described in the NT, (Mk 16:19; Lk 24:51; Acts 1:9) but it is constantly assumed, and its significance stressed.’ (eg Rom 8:34; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3; 1 Pet 3:22) (Foulkes)

‘Clearly the greatest theological emphasis of the New Testament regarding the ascension is that Christ now regains the glory he had with the Father before the world began, is now able to send his powerful Spirit into the world, and reigns from heaven over every authority and power in heaven and earth. Thus, in John, Jesus connects attaining his glory and the sending of the Spirit with ascending to the Father. (Jn 6:61-63; 7:39; 12:12-16; 16:5-11) Similarly, Acts 2:33-36 presents the ascended Jesus as the one who has been placed on the throne of David; the appearances of the ascended Christ are exclusively in Acts those of a powerful, enthroned Christ. (Ac 7:56; 9:3-9; and pars.) Paul writes that God put his “mighty strength” to work “in Christ when he. seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Eph 1:20-21) It is from this exalted position that he “gave gifts to men.” (Eph 4:8-10) Peter, too, emphasizes the power that is now Christ’s because of the ascension: “he has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand-with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him”.’ (1 Pet 3:21-22) (EDBT)

Rule…authority…power…dominion – Note the inclusive ‘all’.  The pairing of ‘rule’ and ‘authority’ occurs again in Eph 3:10; 6:12 (and also in Col 1:16; 2:10, 15) and clearly refers to spiritual forces or angels.  ‘Powers’ suggest angelic hosts (as in 1 Cor 15:24; Rom 8:38; 1 Pet 3:22, and also cf. the OT express ‘the Lord of hosts’).  ‘Dominion’ likewise denotes a class of angelic beings.

And every title that can be given – This suggests that the previous list was not exhaustive, and also that the list should not be taken as a strict categorisation of the angelic ranks.  What is clear is that ‘every conceivable power is encompassed within the mighty reign of the Lord Jesus Christ’ (O’Brien).  Cf. Phil 2:6-11.

‘Ephesians emphasizes the triumph and sovereignty of Christ over every power—known or unknown, real or imagined, present or future.’ (Reid, DPL)

‘Ephesians is often described as presenting a “cosmic christology.” This stems from Paul’s stress on the exaltation of Christ over all his enemies, especially the principalities and powers (Eph 1:21-22) and Christ’s role in bringing all of history to completion. (Eph 1:10) Nevertheless, the letter speaks of the suffering of Christ; it was through his blood that redemption was secured (Eph 1:7) and by the cross that reconciliation was achieved. (Eph 2:16) This letter builds on Paul’s previous thought about the relationship of Christ to his church by depicting him as the “head” of his body (Eph 1:23; 4:15-16) and a bridegroom that nourishes and cares for his bride.’ (Eph 5:29) (DPL)

Not only in the present age but also in the one to come – See Matt 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 16:8; 18:30; 1 Cor 2:6; Gal 1:4; Eph 2:7.

Inaugurated eschatology.  As O’Brien points out, Ephesians emphasises a ‘realised eschatology’, but not to the exclusion of a future hope, as this expression indicates (see also Eph 1:14; 2:7; 4:30; 5:5, 27; 6:8, 13).  But even the ‘age to come’ has been inaugurated with Christ’s exaltation to heaven and the saving benefits he has bestowed.

1:22 And God put all things under Christ’s feet, and he gave him to the church as head over all things. 1:23 Now the church is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
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God placed all things under his feet – There is a shift here from the thought-pattern of Psa 11 to that of Psa 8. ‘Jesus is hereby portrayed as a second Adam who is given the task of exercising dominion over the cosmos.’ (NBC)

Head over everything for the church Do we recognise Christ’s authority today?  ‘Jesus Christ has today almost no authority at all among the groups that call themselves by his name. The present position of Christ in the gospel churches may be likened to that of a king in a limited, constitutional monarchy. The king is in such a country no more than a traditional rallying point, a pleasant symbol of unity and loyalty much like a flag or a national anthem. He is lauded, feted and supported, but in every crisis someone else makes the decisions.’ (A.W. Tozer)

‘Not the mailed fist but the pierced hand holds the rod of empire.’ (Simpson)

‘Not only is Christ at the most exalted position in the universe, he is there representing believers (Eph 2:6; Col 3:3) and governing the universe for their sake. The principles of conduct in Ephesians emphasize that authority exists for the sake of service. Jesus’ majestic use of power and authority in the interest of his people is the Christian’s model. (Eph 4:1,2,7-13; 4:32-5:2,22-33) Paul reminds his Gentile readers of two specific ways Christ’s power has blessed them: he brought them from death to life, (Eph 2:1-10) and from alienation from God’s people to inclusion with them.’ (Eph 2:11-22) (New Geneva)

The fullness of him who fills everything in every way – (‘Fullness’ = Gk. pleroma.)  Glorious paradox!  This is a tremendous paradox; an oxymoron. For similar figures of speech, see Rom 9:6; 2 Cor 6:4-10; 12:10; 1 Thess 4:11; Eph 3:19. Paul’s bold teaching here is summarised by Calvin: ‘This is the highest honour of the church, that, until he is united to us, the Son of God reckons himself in some measure imperfect. What consolation it is for us to learn that, not until we are in his presence, does he possess all his parts, or does he wish to be regarded as complete.’ Hendriksen adds: ‘As to his divine essence Christ is in no sense whatever dependent on or capable of being complete by the church. But as bridegroom he is incomplete without the bride; as vine he cannot be thought of without the branches; as shepherd he is not seen without his sheep; and so aslo as head he finds his full expression in his body, the church.’

‘In his essential deity the Son of God cannot but be self-sufficing; but mediatorially he interlinks himself with his spiritual offspring, bereft of whom he would be dismembered.’ (Simpson)

Him who fills everything in every way – ‘This is added to guard against the supposition that any real defect would exist in Christ if her were separated from us. His desire to be filled and, in some respects, to be made perfect in us, arises from no want or necessity; for all that is good in ourselves, or in any of his creatures, is the gift of his hand.’ (Calvin)

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