Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Analysis and Annotations
I. THE MASTERWORK OF GOD (1-3)
1. The Godhead at Work
1. The introduction (Ephesians 1:1-2)
2. The great doxology (Ephesians 1:3)
3. The work of the Father (Ephesians 1:4-6)
4. The work of the Son (Ephesians 1:7-12)
5. The work of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14)
6. The parenthetical prayer to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory (Ephesians 1:15-23)
In the brief introductory words to this Epistle, Paul speaks of himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God. It is to be noticed that the will of God is repeatedly mentioned in this first chapter. All blessings mentioned in this Epistle flow from the will of God. What God hath done for us in Christ is “according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:5). Then we read also of “having made known unto us the mystery of His will” (Ephesians 1:9) and “who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11). This will of God goes back to eternity, before the foundation of the world. This will made the erstwhile persecutor of the Church, the apostle of Jesus Christ, the instrument through whom that blessed will of God is now fully revealed. The Epistle is addressed “to the saints and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” This does not mean two classes of believers. All believers are saints--separated ones. Yet a saint may not be faithful. Many who are saved by grace and are constituted saints in Christ are unfaithful in their walk and testimony. The words “to the saints and to the faithful in Christ Jesus” correspond to the two divisions of the Epistle. in the first three chapters we learn that God has made us His saints in Christ; in the last three chapters we are exhorted to walk in obedience and be faithful.
The doxology (Ephesians 1:3) marks the beginning of the epistle. When we reach the end of this first section we find another doxology (Ephesians 3:20-21). Between these two doxologies are found the unsearchable riches of God’s grace in Christ. The third verse is in itself the key to the great and deep revelation which follows in this chapter. It is the bud which the Holy Spirit gradually unfolds. The Godhead in blessing believers is revealed in the doxology. First we find the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the author of all blessings. In the second place we learn that the blessings are in the Son of God, in Christ. Then thirdly, we read what kind of blessings we receive in Christ, “every spiritual blessing,” that is, blessings communicated by the third person of the Godhead, God the Holy Spirit. The phrase “in the heavenly places” (or heavenlies) is peculiar to this Epistle. We find it five times: Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10 and Ephesians 6:12. It means both the nature of the blessings which we have in a risen and glorified Christ, and the locality, where our Lord is in glory. The three persons of the Godhead are mentioned in the third verse. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed us; these blessings are in the Son and are communicated by the Holy Spirit. What follows is very interesting. In Ephesians 1:4-14 we have the three persons of the Godhead revealed and their work in the redemption of sinners. Read Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 1:12; Ephesians 1:14. Each is an utterance of praise--”to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:6); “that we should be to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:12); “unto the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:14). Each of these verses marks the close of what is said about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 1:4-6 we read what the Father has done; Ephesians 1:7-12 reveal what we have and are in the Son, in Christ; Ephesians 1:13-14 reveal the work of God, the Holy Spirit.
Three great facts are mentioned of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. He hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world.
2. He hath predestinated us unto the Son-place in Christ.
3. He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.
What wonderful statements these are! We are in them face to face with the deepest revelation. To deny this would stamp these words as the imaginations of a deceiver. Only revelation can make known that which happened before the foundation of the world. Whatever is in God’s eternity, that unfathomable existence without beginning, is beyond man’s ability to grasp and therefore unrevealed. But here the great truth is made known that God, before there was a world, planned His masterwork. With Him in His bosom was His blessed Son, the Son of His love. In Him, by Him and for Him all things were called into existence. Yet before this creation was effected, God knew the outcome. Surprise is an impossibility with God. He knows the end from the beginning. The whole story of man’s fall and its results were not hidden from Him. And before it ever came to pass God made provision. And those who would accept Christ, as their Savior, He willed should be before Him holy and without blame, become partakers of His own divine nature. This God willed before the foundation of the world, and this is now, through grace, the portion of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. And, furthermore, He predestinated all who believe in Christ to the Son-place.
A brief word on “predestination.” This word, which means “marked out” is nowhere found in connection with the Gospel, nor does it say anywhere in the Word, what some have said, that God has predestinated human beings to be lost. But while we do not read that He ever predestinated any one to be lost we read “God would have all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). God has nothing to say to a lost world about predestination. His grace, bringing salvation has appeared unto all men. God’s offer of salvation is therefore to all.
The Authorized Version speaks of “adoption of children.” This hardly expresses it correctly. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are not adopted into the family of God; they are born into the family. The Greek has only one word “Son-place.” We are placed into the position of Sons. Not alone hath God given to us His own nature, but He gives us, because we have that nature in and through His Son, the place as Sons. Think of what God might have done for those, who by wicked works are His enemies. He might have given us the place of unfallen angels, the wonderful ministers of heaven. What mercy that would have been! Or He might have lifted us to the dignity of an archangel, full of beauty and power. But even that would not have been the very best He could have done in the riches of His grace and love. He has made us Sons, like the Son, whom He raised from the dead and seated at His own right hand.
And then He hath accepted us in the Beloved One. All this God planned and willed before the foundation of the world. The Beloved One having been mentioned, we read at once of His work. Three facts are given of the work of the Son of God:
1. He redeemed us by His blood.
2. In Him we received the revelation of the mystery of His will.
3. In Him we obtain an inheritance (Ephesians 1:7-12).
He came from the bosom of the Father to this earth to redeem us, so that God’s eternal will might be accomplished. Redemption, the taking out of the condition in which we are by nature, is a necessity, and has been accomplished by the blood of the Son of God, which was shed on the cross. He paid the price and has set us free. The riches of His grace by the redemption through His blood includes all our needs as sinners; the forgiveness of sins, mentioned here, is, so to speak, the foundation.
“Whosoever will” and “whosoever believeth” are the glorious terms of God’s good news to all alike. But when we believe, we know that we are chosen and predestinated. Those who have believed on Christ are predestinated and they possess the Son-place. Then having believed, we know that we were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.
The words which follow put before us some blessed and deep truths. Redeemed through His blood, having redemption, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of grace, He hath made known unto us the mystery of His will. God wants His elect, His Church, to know the secret things of His will and what He hath purposed in Himself Therefore He hath made the riches of His grace abound towards us in all wisdom and intelligence. God has been pleased to make known in Christ the mystery of His will. It is the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began (Romans 16:25), so that we know in Christ and through Christ the fulness of His purpose. That mystery of God is Christ, in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).
Christ, who has redeemed us by His blood, was raised from the dead. God “set Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies”--”He hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:21-23). This is the mystery: that Christ risen from the dead, seated at the right hand of God, is the Head and those who believe on Him constitute the Church, His body. This body is destined, according to the eternal purpose of God, to share the glory of the Head. This purpose is still in the future. The administration (or dispensation) of the fulness of times has not yet come. When it comes all things, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, will be headed up in Christ.
And in Christ we have an inheritance. In Him we have obtained an inheritance; it is equally true, that we are redeemed by His blood, His inheritance. And our inheritance in Christ is that we shall be like Him; be joint-heirs with Him and be forever with the Lord.
The work of the Holy Spirit is revealed in Ephesians 1:13-14. Three things are also mentioned of Him and His work:
1. Hearing and believing resulting in the quickening by the Spirit. 2. The sealing by the Holy Spirit of Promise. 3. The Holy Spirit the earnest of our inheritance.
These words are of great importance. The Son of God came to this earth to redeem us and because He has finished the work the Father gave Him to do, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, has come to do His work.
Three words are prominent in the thirteenth verse, the words “heard,” “believed,” and sealed.” They go together. The Word of Truth, the gospel of salvation must be heard and believed; the hearing and believing results in the sealing with the Holy Spirit of promise. The Holy Spirit indwelling the believer is the earnest of the inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession takes place. (For a more complete exposition we refer the reader to our larger work The Masterpiece of God.)
A brief restatement of the work of the Godhead will be helpful:
1. We found God the Father has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. God the Son came down from Heaven’s glory and redeemed us by His blood. God the Holy Spirit quickens those who hear and believe. He is here because Christ finished His work on the cross.
2. God the Father has predestinated us unto the Son-place. God the Son reveals, to all who are sons with Him, the mystery of His will, concerning the future of the new creation. God the Holy Spirit because we are sons, possesses us and keeps those whom He possesses. He is the Spirit of Sonship.
3. God the Father has accepted us in the Beloved. God the Son has given us in Himself an inheritance. God the Holy Spirit is the earnest of that inheritance.
Surely this is revelation from God. So blessedly simple, so profound that all the eternal ages will not suffice to sound its depths. No man could have ever discovered or invented such a plan. Let us bow before it in worship and yield our lives “to the Praise of the glory of His grace.”
In Ephesians 1:15-23 we have the first prayer in this Epistle; the second prayer is found at the close of the third chapter. Let us notice that the greatest revelation of God as given in this Epistle has two prayers connected with it. The revelation is given to His people that they might know it and enjoy it. Prayer is needed for this. First, there is thanksgiving (Ephesians 1:15-16).
The prayer here is addressed to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory.” The prayer in the third chapter is made to “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This corresponds most beautifully to the blessed revelation in the first fourteen verses of this chapter. “God and Father” are the blessed words, which stand in the foreground of this Epistle. God is light and God is love. The first prayer is a prayer for light, that His redeemed people may know, be enlightened; therefore it is addressed to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. The second prayer in the third chapter is for love, and therefore addressed to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then we find three petitions: 1. “That ye may know what is the hope of His calling.” The hope of God’s calling is that we shall be one with Him, whom He raised from the dead and to whom He gave glory. 2. That we may know “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” The riches into which God, the Father of glory, has brought us through Him, who laid His glory by, is told out in this Epistle. It is the rich Epistle of our riches in Christ. “The riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7); “the riches of the glory of His inheritance” (Ephesians 1:18); “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4); “the exceeding riches of His grace” (Ephesians 2:7); “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8); “according to the riches of His glory” (Ephesians 3:16); these are the passages in which we read of His riches towards us and our riches in Him.
And what is the meaning “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”? We have an inheritance, and He has us for His inheritance. He is our inheritance, and we are His inheritance. The glory of Christ’s inheritance are the saints, for whom He died, the many sons He brings to glory. The Church is the fulness of Him, who filleth all in all.
3. And the third petition is that we may know the exceeding greatness of His power which is to us-ward who believe.” It is resurrection power, the power which raised Him from the dead and seated Him on God’s right hand, which is to us-ward who believe. We can count on it. Ultimately the same power which raised Him up and carried Him through the heavens, will bring all the redeemed into glory.
In the presence of the words of Ephesians 1:23 one feels more like worshipping than trying to expound their meaning. Marvelous words! They tell out the blessed masterpiece of God. Christ the Head; the Church, chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, the body. The Head is in glory; the body not yet joined to the Head. He waits in glory; the saints wait on earth. The body needs the Head, but the Head also needs the body. “The Christ” will be complete when the body is joined to the Head by the mighty power of God. The Church as His body is His fulness; it makes Him complete. And when that is reached, when Head and body, Christ and the Church, are united in glory, then will the hope of His calling be realized and He will have the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and we shall know the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward.
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017
the Third Week of Lent
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