Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
‘Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus.’
As usual Paul begins by stating his credentials. He is an Apostle of Christ Jesus. When Jesus was preparing for the future ministry of His followers He selected from among them twelve whom He called Apostles (Luke 6:13; see also Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19). The word means ‘those sent forth’ and can mean simply duly appointed messengers, but here it had the technical sense of those especially selected by Christ Himself to be eye-witnesses to His life and teaching, and to His resurrection. It was in this latter sense that Paul also claimed Apostleship, on the same level as the twelve, as the Apostle to the Gentiles, a status accepted by Peter and the other Apostles (Galatians 2:7-9; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 9:5; 2 Corinthians 12:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:6).
‘Through the will of God.’ Paul stresses that his Apostleship was not man made, nor even by his own choice, but directly within the will of God. It was He Who had chosen Him and set him apart from his birth to be an Apostle (Galatians 1:15) as He had with the Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 49:1; Isaiah 49:5) and Jeremiah before him (Jeremiah 1:5).
‘To the saints’ (hagioi). This describes all those who belong to Christ and are members of His church. They are ‘sanctified (hegiasmenoi) in Christ’ (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Hebrews 2:11; Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:14) and therefore ‘saints’ (sanctified ones). They are specifically ‘set apart’ (part of the significance of the word ‘sanctify’) as His, sealed and indwelt by His Holy Spirit, and separated to His use.
‘And the faithful in Christ Jesus.’ This is probably meant to expand his greeting beyond the Ephesians to a wider circle. (There is evidence to suggest that this letter was intended to be more than just a local letter). It indicates that while entry into the blessing of Christ is by faith, evidence of it is found in faithfulness. The words that follow are spoken to those who faithfully follow Him. Note the final ‘in Christ Jesus’. It is in Him, and only in Him, that all blessing is found, and He alone can keep us faithful.
The Panorama of the Gospel (1:3-14)
‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ.’
As Paul considers the words he is about to say, the blessings he is about to reveal, he can only call down blessing on the name of the One from Whom they will all come.
‘Blessed.’ Worshipped, honoured, held in esteem, given the glory due.
‘Be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Paul is about to inform us of the blessings that are ours in Jesus Christ, bought with His blood and supplied to us in ‘grace’, that is through God’s infinite, active, undeserved favour. And he wants us to know of its source in His God and Father, Who planned, and through the ages brought into reality, the glorious fulfilment of what the Gospel is all about. That He is God and Father of such a One as our Lord Jesus Christ exalts Him beyond measure.
The title ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ contains three elements. Firstly He is ‘the Lord’ (kurios), the One Whose Name is above every name, Yahweh the God of Creation and history, God Himself (Philippians 2:9). To the Jew and to Paul the Name above every name was Yahweh, the God of Israel, and in the Greek Old Testament Yahweh is represented by kurios. He is also elsewhere the great ‘I am’ (John 8:58, compare Exodus 3:14), another name for Yahweh, and thus ‘the Word’, Who existed in the beginning, through Whom God created the worlds (John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:1-3; Psalms 33:6; Psalms 33:9), the Lord of all.
Secondly He is ‘Jesus’. He became flesh and dwelt among us (Ephesians 1:14). He was truly man and yet in His manhood epitomised all that man was meant to be. He hungered as a man (Matthew 4:2). He grew thirsty as a man (John 4:7; John 19:28). He suffered as a man. And His death was the death of a man, and yet it was of more than a man, for He was ‘the Lord’. He was ‘the Christ (Messiah)’. And the name Jesus means ‘Yahweh is salvation’. He is called Jesus because He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
Thirdly He is ‘the Christ.’ By His death and resurrection He is declared to be ‘both Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:36). He is the expected King Messiah, the One appointed to eternal Rule (2 Peter 1:11; compare Psalms 145:13; Daniel 4:3; Daniel 4:34; Daniel 7:14), the One Who both sits on His own throne and also uniquely shares His Father’s throne (Revelation 3:21), the One before Whom every knee shall bow (Philippians 2:10).
But because of this He is the powerful One (Romans 1:4). He is the One worthy of worship and honour (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:11; Revelation 5:13). He is the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8; James 2:1).
‘Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.’ How great and good is God the Father. He has blessed us by providing for us in Christ every possible spiritual blessing, and these will now be outlined in depth. He has chosen us to be holy and without blemish before Him, foreordained us to be adopted as sons, redeemed us through the blood of His Son, forgiven us all our trespasses, and granted us a glorious future inheritance when all things are summed up in Christ. We are blessed from start to finish.
‘Spiritual blessing.’ That which is not of this mundane world, that which is dispensed by His Spirit, that which works within our spirits making us one with Him (1 Corinthians 12:13) and true children of God (Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 4:5-6), that which makes the truth known within us (1 Corinthians 2:12-15) that which is ‘of the Spirit’, resulting in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25), that which lifts us into another plane of existence (Colossians 3:1-3), that which is our final inheritance when we shall be with Him on His throne (Revelation 3:21), and will be like Him and see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). This is the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:12).
‘In the heavenlies.’ This is a theme of the epistle. In Christ we have been ‘raised’ into the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6), into a spiritual realm where we know Him, and walk with Him, and draw continually on His life and power. And even as we live out our lives on this earth we do so as those whose citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20), as those whose spirits are continually in communion with Him there (Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 10:19), as those whose potential is heavenly and who are watched over by Heaven.
Modern man can have some faint conception of this in that it is now possible for a man in some far off place to enter into his computer room and there soon ‘see’ and be in close touch with family, friends and neighbours, sharing in the benefits of the home country, and be almost for a time as though he was at home. Furthermore even when he leaves his computer he can carry his mobile phone around for instant communication. Thus can the Christian live His life in this world, seemingly far off from his real home in Heaven and yet be in full communion and contact with Heaven, enjoying something of the blessing of Heaven, and bring Heaven with him to earth, and take Heaven with him wherever he goes. He can live in heavenly places.
‘Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love, having foreordained us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.’
‘He chose us in Him.’ This does not just mean that He chose Him before the foundation of the world, and that when we are in Him we are included in that choice, for elsewhere Paul will tell us that we ourselves are ‘foreknown’ (proginosko) (Romans 8:29), a word which means God has, as it were, entered into a relationship with us beforehand. He ‘knew’ us in eternity and thus chose us (see Genesis 18:19). The wondrous truth is that in His infinite goodness, and eternal awareness and knowledge, He chose us out from the beginning, before the world was, because of what Christ Jesus is and would be, with the purpose of purifying and perfecting us and presenting us to Himself as His sons.
Thus are we who believe in Christ ‘the elect’, the chosen ones (2 Thessalonians 2:13; Matthew 24:22; Matthew 24:24; Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:20; Luke 18:7; Romans 8:33; Romans 9:11; 1 Corinthians 1:27-28; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 2:4; 1 Peter 5:13), like a woman chosen for her husband (Ephesians 5:25-27). But we are not to be complacent about this but to make our calling and election sure by our good, fruitful and holy lives (2 Peter 1:10) wrought in us by the Spirit, thus proving that we are the true children of God.
‘Before the foundation of the world.’ The choice was made even before that time when He first spoke and it was done, and creation came into being. He chose us, then, before Genesis 1:1. The choice was made in eternity. ‘God chose you from the beginning unto salvation, in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth’ (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
‘That we should be holy and without blemish before him in love.’ His purpose in so calling us was to make us Christlike, to make us ‘holy’, set apart totally to Him, sharing that ‘otherness’ which marks Him off in His supreme goodness and splendour, as we are made ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4) through His Spirit. It is to make us ‘without blemish’ so that no spot or stain or any such thing might mar our beings. We will need no mirror to search for blemishes then, no make-up to hide the truth, for it will be genuine through and through.
We are set apart to a holy purpose, to manifest and to glorify Him, and only in so far as we are fulfilling that purpose are we being what we should be. But it is a process which will take time, for although the inward change takes place on our rebirth, the effecting of that change in our sinful bodies will go on and on until we are presented perfect before Him.
This blessing initially becomes ours when we first believe and are cleansed, reckoned as righteous and sanctified once for all through His sacrifice on the cross so that all stain is removed and we are made without blemish and acceptable to Him (Ephesians 5:26; Isaiah 1:18; Romans 3:24; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:14). It continues as the Holy Spirit works in us His sanctifying work so that we are more and more without blemish among men who see us as lights in the world (‘it is God Who works in you -- that you may be -- children of God without blemish’ - Philippians 2:13-15; ‘are transformed -- from glory to glory’ - 2 Corinthians 3:18; ‘those who are being sanctified’ - Hebrews 10:14; ‘you have your fruit to sanctification’ - Romans 6:19; Romans 6:22). And finally reaches its completion when in receiving us into His eternal presence He finally perfects that work which He has begun, presenting us as a spotless wife, holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 15:42-44) making us like Him (1 John 1:2).
‘In love.’ And all this is not the hard, cold choice of some artisan choosing to make one piece of work rather than another, but a work of incomparable love, the love that God revealed in the giving of His Son (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10) that sweeps us up into His arms and into His heart (Deuteronomy 33:27; John 14:21; John 14:23; John 16:27), so that all that comes to us comes in love, for God is love (1 John 4:8).
(It matters little whether we attach ‘in love’ to the earlier words or those that follow. The passage is all of a piece and the thread of His love flows through the whole).
‘Having foreordained us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.’
He has not only chosen us but ‘decided on us beforehand’, ‘marked us out beforehand’ (pro-orizo) for a special purpose, that we might be adopted as His sons. Yet this is not because of our deserving but ‘through Jesus Christ’ and in accordance with His own pleasure and will. It was by His own will that He chose us, and of His own will that He begat us by the word of truth (James 1:18). Thus our being saved is not of our own merit but in accordance with the gracious will of God.
When God marked us out it was not because of anything special that He saw in us, but because in His eternal purpose He loved us (Jeremiah 31:3; Deuteronomy 7:6-7; Isaiah 43:4; Malachi 1:2; Romans 9:11-13; Romans 9:23-24). And He thus purposed beforehand to adopt us as sons, putting the Spirit of His Son into our hearts so that we cry ‘Abba, Father’ (Galatians 4:5-6; Romans 8:15-17), which will result in the final adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). It is not just as servants that He purposed to bless us but as those who were to be His sons.
‘According to the good pleasure of His will.’ And all this is in accordance with the good pleasure of His will. Compare Romans 8:4 ‘in love’, Romans 8:7 ‘according to the riches of His grace’, Romans 8:9 ‘according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Him’, Romans 8:11 ‘according to the purpose of Him Who works all things after the counsel of His own will’. All that comes to us was and is in His good purpose, in accordance with His good pleasure and wisdom, because of the greatness of His love for His ‘intended’. God cannot be thwarted, nor is He coerced. He carries out His purpose and will throughout the ages without fear or favour.
And fore-ordination guarantees fulfilment. Those whom the Father gives to Him will come to Him (John 6:37; John 6:39; John 6:44; John 10:28-29) and of all who are given to Jesus Christ in the purpose and will of God not one will be lost, for they are guarded and kept by Him (John 17:12). (The exception proves the rule!)
‘To the praise of the glory of His grace with which He freely engraced us in the Beloved.’
This activity of God will result in the praise of His glorious grace. All universes, if such there be, will wonder at His gracious condescension to those who had proved themselves totally unworthy. For when the whole plan of salvation has been carried through, and the redeemed finally share the new Heaven and the new earth with Him in the glory of Christ, and all that mars creation has been done away, then will the fullness of His grace, His active, unbounded, undeserved love and favour shown to the totally unworthy, have been fully revealed and be the focus of the worship of Heaven, as to some extent it is indeed already (Revelation 5:12-13).
For it is through His grace, active and undeserved, that all this will come about. Thus will the universe know and appreciate the grace and graciousness of God, a grace which is beyond all measure and beyond all comprehension, for they will have seen it enacted before their eyes. And yet amazingly it is that grace that we experience, and, yes, if we are His, experience daily.
‘He freely engraced us.’ His grace, His undeserved love and favour, is freely bestowed on us (’echaritosen - ‘He engraced, He fully and abundantly revealed grace’. Compare its use in Luke 1:28. As Mary was ‘engraced’ in bearing Jesus, so we also are ‘engraced’, surrounded by divine mercy and active love. Thus we can say, ‘Hail, believer, full of grace, the Lord is with you’). It is bestowed in Christ, in all He is and has done for us, and in all His activity on our behalf. There was not one jot of worthiness in us, not one jot of deserving. But in Christ He has surrounded us with His active love, enveloped us in His merciful and unrestrained goodness, and poured out on us His unsparing favour, for He has given us all things ‘in Christ’.
He is the beginning (Colossians 1:18) before ever the world was. He is the Source of all things (Colossians 1:16). He is the One Who is over all (Ephesians 1:22). All that has marred creation is the sin of men and of angels, our sin and theirs, but by His amazing grace, His active, undeserved love and favour, He is acting to remove that stain and blemish by the redemption of His chosen ones and the final destruction of all that offends. So all that is will in the end be ‘to the praise of His glorious grace’.
‘In the Beloved.’ All that He has done for us is ‘in (Christ) the Beloved’ . Every spiritual blessing is in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), our being chosen was in Him (Ephesians 1:4), our adoption as sons is through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5), through His blood we have our redemption and forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7), everything will finally be summed up in Him (Ephesians 1:10), and in Him we have been made God’s inheritance (Ephesians 1:11). But here He is called, not by name, but as ‘the Beloved’. For the title ‘the Beloved’ compare (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 12:18; Matthew 17:5; Mark 12:6; Luke 20:13; 2 Peter 1:17; Colossians 1:13). The idea behind ‘the Beloved’ is the only beloved Son of the Father, the One beloved before all worlds, the One specially sent by the Father as His only Son. Who else could have ‘freely engraced’ us in this mighty way apart from Him?
‘In whom we have our redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses. According to the riches of His grace which he made to abound towards us in all wisdom and prudence.’
And it has all been made possible by His redeeming work and resulting forgiveness. He has stepped in, borne the punishment for our sin, paid the price for our deliverance, and pours out His forgiveness on us. (This latter is in response to repentance and faith (Ephesians 1:13), but in this catalogue of God’s gracious working only God’s side is being described. For all is His effective working).
‘Redemption through His blood.’ Now we come down to the means by which this was carried out. It was carried out by the Redeemer, Who redeemed us with His own precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19). He gave Himself a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:6). He bought us ‘with a price’ (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23). In these verses in 1 Corinthians there may be a deliberate contrast with Isaiah where His people were redeemed ‘without money’ (Isaiah 52:3 compare Isaiah 55:1). It was not, however, without cost, indeed the cost was the greatest that could be. He ‘gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity’ (Titus 2:14).
Redemption always results from special costly effort or the payment of a ransom. In this case Christ has done both. He has given Himself as a ransom instead of us (Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6), redeeming us through His blood (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:15; 1 Peter 1:18-19), and He has exercised His power at great cost in defeating the forces that are against us, triumphing over them in the cross (Colossians 2:15) and bearing our sin as a sacrifice for sin. He has taken what is on record against us and has nailed it to His cross, like a list of debts that have been crossed out as evidence that they have been paid, with ‘it is finished’ written across them. Indeed He has blotted out the Law (the handwriting of ordinances) which condemned us (Colossians 2:14). The stress in redemption is on the price that had to be paid and the power that was involved and the deliverance that was accomplished.
‘The forgiveness of our trespasses.’ The word for forgiveness here is ’aphesis which means ‘cancellation’ and is used to mean the cancellation of the guilt of sin. It is common in the New Testament, see Matthew 26:28; Mark 1:4; Luke 1:77; Luke 3:3; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 13:38 (by Paul); Acts 26:18 (by Paul); Hebrews 9:22; Hebrews 10:18. But it is rarely used by Paul in his epistles (only here, in Colossians 1:14, a parallel passage and in a quotation in Romans 4:7) who tends to think more in terms of ‘reckoning righteous’. Elsewhere he speaks of ‘pardon’ (charizomai) for sin (Colossians 2:13) and the ‘passing over’ of sin in the light of Christ’s future redemptive work (Romans 3:25). Thus its use here together with ‘trespasses’, ‘deviations from what is right’ (paraptoma), suggests that the main thought is of the cancelling of our particular failures to do what is right, restoring our personal relationship with God, and removing all that was against us. Usually it is used with ‘sins’ (hamartia), a more general word for sin. For such forgiveness see Psalms 51:1; Psalms 51:9; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:22. See also James 5:15; 1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:12.
‘According to the riches of His grace.’ Again Paul emphasises that it is the richness of the grace of God that has brought about this redemption and forgiveness, and that it is full and complete in accordance with those riches. There is no stinting in His forgiveness. It is rich and overflowing. Redemption involves our deliverance, forgiveness involves the restoration of our relationship with God and the putting right of the heart in its relationship with God, although the distinctions must not be over-pressed for they are all closely entwined.
‘Which He made to abound towards us in all wisdom and prudence.’ Some may have felt that God’s goodness to such sinners as we are is misplaced. But Paul assures us that God’s actions reveal the wisdom and prudence of God. He does nothing rashly. His actions have been carefully considered by the eternal will, and therefore are effective in the bringing about of His final purposes, and His wisdom is revealed in what will be accomplished. For what will result will prove once and for all His great glory.
Notice again the stress on the abounding nature of what He does for us and of what He offers to us. God withholds nothing from those who are His own. We may feel jaded and under attack by sin, and that God is not near, but if we are His through faith, all His grace and love is abounding towards us at every moment, and especially so in times of chastening.
Some see the ‘wisdom and prudence’ as that given by God to His own (Colossians 1:9), given along with His other spiritual blessings. But later (Colossians 1:11) we are told that God works everything ‘after the counsel of His own will’, which ties in with it being His wisdom and prudence here.
‘Having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him, unto a stewardship (regulation of an estate) of the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.’
In carrying out these purposes God has made known to us the mystery of His will. This ‘mystery’, the hidden wisdom from before time began that God foreordained to our glory (1 Corinthians 2:7), was kept in God’s counsel through eternal ages (Romans 16:25) but is now revealed to us. And this mystery is ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:26-27).
So the eternal mystery, which was fully purposed in the will of God from before the beginning of creation, and was kept secret until His coming, was that ‘in Christ’ those chosen in Him would be taken from their sinful and dreadful state, be delivered, and be transformed into His image, enjoying in themselves the indwelling of Christ, and finally sharing with Him His glory throughout eternity, when all things are summed up in Christ.
‘According to His good pleasure which He purposed in Him unto a stewardship (regulation, management of an estate) of the fullness of times.’ And this is all of God’s good pleasure, His settled purpose ‘in Christ’. And His purpose is that He will act as Divine Estate Manager in the fullness of times, (all time from now until the glorious finalisation) carrying out His stewardship and regulating everything so as to bring about the summing up of all things in Christ, whether in Heaven or on earth.
‘Stewardship, dispensation’. The word oikonomia meant household management, stewardship, estate management, the dispensing (and thus dispensation) of what one controls, and the word developed to mean ‘arrangement, regulation, administration’. Here it refers to His continual management of all things through time.
‘Mystery.’ (Musterion). In the New Testament this means a mystery once hidden but now revealed to His own.
‘To sum up all things in Christ.’ The word means ‘to summarise, to sum up’, usually in a piece of literature. So in the end the whole of history will be summed up and find its meaning in Christ, reaching its ultimate end as planned by God. As Paul tells us in Colossians 1:16-17, ‘in Him were all things created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and invisible -- all things have been created through Him and unto Him, and He is before all things and in Him all things hold together’, and here we are told that they will all come to their final satisfactory conclusion in Him, when everything is brought together in the final summation, and when the creation itself is delivered from the bondage of corruption to the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:21) and there is a new Heaven and a new earth in which dwells righteousness, the old having been finally destroyed (1 Peter 3:12-13).
‘In him, I say, in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will, to the end that we should be to the praise of His glory who had beforehand hoped in Christ.’
The glorious sweep of what has been said is now applied directly to us. It is we who have been made His special heritage, chosen and appointed to enjoy all that He has provided for us and all the blessings that He will give us. Through His grace we are what it is all about.
‘In Him, I say, in Whom also we were made a heritage --.’ ‘In Him’. This refers back to the Christ in Whom all things are to be summed up. In carrying out all these purposes it is in Him that we have been made God’s special heritage. Compare Ephesians 1:18 where he speaks of ‘the richness of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.’ So we are God’s glorious heritage, having been made glorious by Him, and presented to Christ as His inheritance, an inheritance made rich in glory. We are His treasured possession (Ephesians 1:14). And this was done ‘according to the purpose of Him Who works all things after the counsel of His will’. All was first done within the mind of God, and is worked out by the hand of God. And its aim is that we should be to the praise of His glory who ‘beforehand hoped in Christ’, that is who before the final fulfilment enjoyed a certain, assured ‘hope’, the hope of His coming to sum up all things because we trust in Him. After which His purposes, as far as this universe is concerned, will draw to an end.
The whole passage has redounded with the fact of God working out His own eternal will and purpose. In the great panorama of time and eternity man is the object of God’s gracious working as God works out His will in accordance with His own counsel, and His own wisdom and prudence. But having seen the sweep of salvation history from God’s viewpoint man now comes into the foreground for the first time.
Some see the continual ‘we’ and ‘us’ as referring firstly to believing Jews prior to the time when Paul spoke, including the believing Jews through the ages, so that ‘we who had beforehand hoped’ is referred primarily to Old Testament believers, and this as then being applied to believing Gentiles in Ephesians 1:13 (note the change there to ‘you’). But this is too narrow an interpretation. It is far more likely that by ‘we’ Paul means all believers in Christ and the change to ‘you’ is simply a change to refer to his specific readers, for his readers would not naturally apply his former words only to Jews, unless it had been spelt out by him, and Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, was hardly likely to be so restrictive without indicating it.
‘In whom you also, (having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation), in whom you also, having believed, were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is an earnest of our inheritance unto the redemption of His own possession to the praise of His glory.’
The human side of this great activity of God is now laid out. We heard the word of truth, the good news of what God had done in arranging for our deliverance, and we believed in Christ, and were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, the guarantee of our inheritance until we receive it.
‘In Whom.’ Emphasised twice. All that we receive is in Christ.
‘The word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation.’ We heard the proclamation of truth, ‘the word of the cross’ (1 Corinthians 1:18) with its content revealing the truth of God, the good news about Christ and of the deliverance He has wrought in which we have our part.
‘Having believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.’ The reception of the promised Spirit through believing is central to the Christian message. It is His coming to a man when he believes that makes him a Christian (Romans 8:9; John 3:5-6), is the evidence that he is a Christian and marks him off as belonging to God (compare Psalms 4:3, ‘Yahweh has set apart for Himself he who is godly’). He is the seal that authenticates and guarantees once for all the status of a man in Christ and his future hope (Ephesians 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22).
We should note here that belief is not something that we have to do. It is a response worked within us as He works within us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). It is the openness of heart of a person whose heart has been opened by God. It is the automatic response of our lives as the Sun of righteousness shines on us, in the same way as a flower responds to the rising of the sun. He put the inclination within us so that He might feed that inclination, and believing is the inclination flowering into bloom.
‘Who is an earnest of our inheritance.’ The Holy Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance. An earnest is something given to guarantee the fulfilment of the whole (compare 2 Corinthians 1:22). Today we might speak of a deposit being given. But the idea behind the earnest was that it was more than a deposit, it was also a sample of what was to come. The trader would provide a sample which demonstrated the quality and type of what was being sold, and this could then be compared with the goods that finally arrived. It could also be produced as proof of the contract. Thus the Holy Spirit within us and upon us is the sample of what our future inheritance will be in a spiritual life to come, and is the proof that we are His. Indeed it is by this sample that we will be tested. ‘If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His’ (Romans 8:9). There cannot be a true Christian who is not indwelt by the Spirit of God.
‘Until the redemption of God’s own possession to the praise of His glory.’ The Spirit is also the guarantee of what the future holds in store, when those who are God’s own treasured possession, are finally and ultimately delivered by Him, because of the payment of the price (Ephesians 1:7), and brought for ever into His presence. Then will all redound to His glory. Again we have the thought of redemption but this time related to the buying back of ‘property’. Thus the redemption includes the thought of a purchase price, but also clearly includes an act of power by which all is brought to completion.
‘His own possession.’ Compare 1 Peter 2:9, ‘a people for God’s own possession’. His special treasure. This was originally God’s purpose for His people Israel (Exodus 19:5), that they would be ‘a peculiar treasure to me from among all peoples. For all the earth is Mine.’ And this included being a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. This is now the privilege of His new people. They are ‘a people which I formed for myself that they might set forth my praise’ (Isaiah 43:21), for ‘they shall be mine in the day that I act, even a peculiar treasure’ (Malachi 3:17).
Paul Prays That Their Eyes May Be Opened to the Richness of What Christ Has Brought Them and Has Done For Them (1:15-2:10).
Having declared what God has done for us in the overall plan of redemption Paul now reveals in more depth the work He has done within us and for us through His activity in Christ. He begins by praying that we may be given understanding so that we may grasp it, then he outlines the full glory of the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ, and then he shows how those who are true Christians, saved by grace, partake with Christ in His resurrection and exaltation and, being so transformed, enter into a new spiritual sphere
‘For this reason I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus that is among you, and which you show towards all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.’
What a wonderful testimony is this. Paul says, ‘I have heard of you, of how great your faith is in the Lord Jesus, and of how it is revealed towards all God’s people.’ If only that could be said of us and of our church, known to everybody for the right reasons! And because of what he has heard he gives thanks and prays that they might enjoy even greater blessing.
‘For this reason - .’ Looking back over the whole of Ephesians 1:3-14, and applying it to them, he is confident that they will receive the promised activity precisely because he has heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus, and the fact that it is revealed also by their lives.
‘Having heard.’ This need not mean he had not known them personally. It describes the fact that he has since had news of them, news that they continue to walk in the faith, something which has rejoiced his heart.
‘The faith in the Lord Jesus that is among you.’ They are a church well witnessed to as a church which believes fully in Jesus the Lord. All around know that to these Christians there in only One Lord, and He is Jesus.
‘And which you show towards all the saints.’ Their faith is also shown by their behaviour towards all God’s people. If we have true faith it will always be reflected in the way we live, and especially in how we behave towards ‘all saints’, all God’s people. (Some manuscripts have ‘the love which you show’ in various forms, but on the whole these are not the better manuscripts).
‘Do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.’ Paul did not forget to be grateful to God for what He had done, indeed he was unceasing in his gratitude. We too would do well to spend more time in gratitude and praise to God. Notice also that his prayers were for their spiritual welfare, not for their material well-being, as our Lord Himself mainly commanded in Matthew 6:7-15.
‘That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened.’
He prays to ‘the God of our Lord Jesus Christ’ to grant to His people a full depth of understanding of spiritual truth, by the enlightenment of the Spirit. Indeed he desires that they might have ‘a full understanding and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’, a knowledge that will include all that He is, which will come about by the enlightening of our hearts by the Father of glory, as He Who is the light of the world shines in us through His Spirit.
For ‘Lord Jesus Christ’ see on Ephesians 1:2.
‘The Father of glory.’ The One Who lives in splendour and glory (see Revelation 21:23), Who is worthy of glory and has glory at His disposal to dispense as He will (Romans 8:17; Revelation 21:11). He is the focal point of all glory. ‘Glory’ speaks of that which is most wonderful in every way. He is called ‘the God of glory’ by Stephen (Acts 7:2; compare Psalms 29:3), and ‘the King of glory’ by the Psalmist (Psalms 24). Jesus also is ‘the Lord of glory’ (1 Corinthians 2:8; James 2:1; compare 2 Corinthians 3:18). The One Who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ must be glorious, for He is glorious.
Reference to God as the Father of glory relates Him back to the God Who revealed Himself in glory at the Exodus in the pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21 and often), in glory on Mount Sinai at the giving of the covenant (Exodus 24:16-17), and in glory in the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34; Numbers 14:10) and the Temple (1 Kings 8:11), where His glory was revealed visibly. He is thus the God of power, grace and splendour of the Old Testament. His glory is revealed by the heavens which reveal His handywork (Psalms 19:1) and by His many mighty works and wonders (Psalms 96:3; Psalms 104:31). His glory is above the heavens (Psalms 113:4) and the whole earth is full of His glory (Isaiah 6:3), which is revealed in His delivering power (Isaiah 40:5).
He is also the One Who is worthy of being glorified, and His glory is revealed in His unchanging purity (Romans 3:23), and in that He is eternally God, unchanging and beyond physical corruption (Romans 1:19-23). The riches of His glory are revealed in His mercy (Romans 9:23), and the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is revealed in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). Indeed Jesus is the outshining of His glory (Hebrews 1:2), and the means by which His glory is made known to us.
‘May give to you a spirit (Spirit) of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened.’ Paul prays that as a result of the activity of the Father of glory their ‘spirits’, the spiritual side of their natures, may be made wise in the true wisdom (see 1 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 2:3) and that they might have revealed within them the full knowledge of Christ and what He has done, and is doing, for them. Thus he prays that their ‘hearts’, their inner beings, will be enlightened by the Holy Spirit, Who is Himself the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (1 Corinthians 2:10-16), so that they may know Him Who is the Wisdom from God revealed in saving activity (1 Corinthians 1:30). The prior reference to the Father of glory connects with what is being revealed. It is all glorious in His glory and Paul wants them to behold that glory.
‘That you may know what is the hope of his calling, what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of his power towards us who believe.’
The first thing that he longs is that they may have full understanding about ‘the hope of His calling’. God has called them to a glorious future, to be fully revealed and experienced at the second coming of Christ in the glory of the resurrection and what follows in the new Heaven and the new earth, when He is gloriously revealed and they are to be presented perfect before Him and are to enjoy His continual presence (Ephesians 4:13; Ephesians 5:27; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Philippians 3:21; Jude 1:24; Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 21:22-25; Revelation 22:3-5). In that day God is to be made all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28) and everything will be summed up in Christ (Ephesians 1:10). That is their ‘hope’, the hope that results from the fact that He has called them.It is because of ‘His calling’ that they have this hope that is laid up for them in the heavens (Colossians 1:5). And in the New Testament such hope is always a sure and certain hope.
The second thing that he longs for them is that they may know ‘the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints’. They, His ‘sanctified ones’, the whole people of God, have been made a heritage to Him (Colossians 1:11). And they, although they may not see themselves in that way, are in God’s eyes a ‘glorious’ heritage. For God will make them glorious in holiness and righteousness, and it is Christ in them Who is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). He wants them to appreciate and understand that coming glory that is to be theirs (John 17:22; Romans 8:18; Romans 8:30; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Hebrews 2:10) as they are prepared and fashioned by the Spirit so as to be presented to Him holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27).
And thirdly he longs that they may be made fully aware of the ‘exceeding greatness of His power (dunamis)’, the stupendous power of God, the ‘dynamite’ of God, which is being exercised on their behalf as ‘those who believe’. He Whose power put the Universe in place and maintains all by that power, is now active in that same power on behalf of those who believe, and especially as manifested in the power of the resurrection of Christ and in our being combined with Him in His resurrection power. It is ours because Christ is in us (Galatians 2:20) and we in Him.
And the full blessing of all three hopes is revealed in the verses that follow (Ephesians 1:19 to Ephesians 2:10) as he depicts what has been accomplished by Christ’s powerful resurrection.
‘The exceeding greatness of his power towards us who believe, according to that working of the strength of His might which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.’
And what is this power that is at work? It is the power that broke the chains of death and overcame all the powers of evil. So Paul seeks to bring out the greatness of the power exercised by God and he does it by multiplying words, - exceeding greatness, power, working, strength, His might. For this is the power of His resurrection, when the powers of Hell were defeated (Colossians 2:15; Ephesians 4:8), the power of death was broken (Hebrews 2:14; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57), and man and the world were potentially released from their chains (Romans 8:21; Romans 8:23). Who can even begin to comprehend the power that was needed to this end? And that power is available to those who believe. It is outside the knowledge of the world who are totally unable to see what is happening, but it is known more and more by believers the nearer they grow to Christ.
‘The working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.’ As ‘God made Man’ Christ was crucified, and all the sin of the world, past, present and future, was laid on His shoulders. He was made a sacrifice for sin (1 Peter 1:19) and He Who knew no sin was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). And not only that but all the powers of Hell were there to ensure His demise. What a catastrophe this seemed! And what amazing power had to be exercised to reverse the situation so that Christ Jesus rose triumphant and victorious, the power of sin broken, the powers of Hell defeated, and took His rightful place again in Heaven, receiving all authority in Heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18).
‘And made Him sit at His right hand in the heavenly places.’ To sit at the right hand was to share the glory and the rule (Psalms 110:1; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69; Acts 7,55; Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22). This He had known from all eternity, but now as glorified Man He was made co-regent with His Father, sharing the throne of God (Revelation 3:21), and all power and authority in Heaven and on earth was given to Him (Matthew 28:18; John 3:35; Acts 2:36; Romans 14:9; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Philippians 2:9-10; Hebrews 2:8; Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 7:14). He was made Ruler over all.
‘The heavenly places.’ The spiritual world. This is not some world within the universe, or indeed outside the universe. He is not so far away. It is a world totally different from the physical, a spiritual world, a world of non-space which we can penetrate even while on earth (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 6:12), a world that exists alongside our world, but of totally different essence. When Elisha’s eyes were opened he became aware of that world (2 Kings 2:11; 2 Kings 6:17), a world of which we are constantly unaware and yet which is ever there. A world in which we can participate even now (Ephesians 2:6), and where we have to battle with powerful forces (Ephesians 6:12) because we are His. And He is Lord over it.
The Christian lives in two worlds simultaneously. He lives through his body in the physical world, and he lives through his spirit in a spiritual world, and it is in that latter world that Christ reigns, that Christ is King. There the Christian enters under the rule (the kingship, the kingdom) of God, acting as His ambassador in this mundane world (2 Corinthians 5:20) and carrying out the orders of the King. Indeed God mainly breaks through into this world through His people, and thus to an extent He depends on us.
‘Far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come.’ Here Paul gathers together all the words he can think of which relate to power and control. Christ is over them all. That includes all power and authority in this world, and all power and authority in the world that is yet, as regards full experience, future to us. It includes the powers of Heaven and the powers of Hell (compare Ephesians 6:12; Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:15; 1 Peter 3:22).
‘Rule, authority, power, dominion.’ All who exercise power, whether in Heaven, in the air, or on earth, are included under His jurisdiction. These words simply depict every type of Ruler. The ancients had many theories about heavenly forces and these words, among others, were used to describe them, but Paul is not following any particular view or particularising any special beings (compare a similar list in Ephesians 6:14). He is being all-inclusive.
‘Every name that is named.’ Whatever title is given, whether Emperor, King, Potentate, Majesty, President, Excellency, Prince or whatever, He is set above them all, both human and supernatural. For His is the name which is above every name, the name of ‘LORD’ (Yahweh) (Philippians 2:10).
‘And he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness (pleroma) of him who fills all in all.’
‘He put all things in subjection under His feet.’ Compare Psalms 8:6. The picture is of the great and victorious King and Overlord before whom all His subjects and His enemies humble themselves, prostrating themselves at His feet and acknowledging His lordship. The highest place that Heaven affords is His, and His by sovereign right. And 1 Corinthians 15:26 tells us that the last of His enemies is death, which will also have its power destroyed. This phrase is the climax of verses Ephesians 1:20-21, yet also leads in to Ephesians 1:22-23.
‘And gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body.’ As head (supreme ruler) over all things, which includes all heavenly powers and all earthly powers, He is given to His ‘church’, to those whom He has called out and redeemed so that He might uniquely be their Head. They are uniquely His, and while He is ‘Head over all things’, He is their Head in a unique way. Thus in the whole scenario of existence the people of God are depicted as unique and special. For while the remainder are seen as subjects, some even as rebellious subjects, the people of God are seen as in such close relation to Him that they are united with Him in His body.
We can compare here the words of Paul elsewhere in Ephesians where he likens Christ’s Headship over the church to man’s headship over his wife (Ephesians 5:23). Thus it depicts a position of loving authority and close unity without signifying total merger. They are united in one but do not actually become one. They are, as it were, along with Him, His body, sharing with Him in His bodily resurrection and exaltation, and in His rule, and responding to His direction and control. They are as His wife (Ephesians 5:25-27) to be presented to Him without blemish. Note how in the case of the church as the wife Paul can immediately link it with Christ’s relationship with the church in terms of their being members of His body, gliding from the one illustration to the other (Ephesians 5:29-30). This in the same way as the body of the husband and the body of the wife are united so that they become ‘one flesh’ (Ephesians 5:31). Thus have we become ‘one flesh’ with His body (Ephesians 5:30).
‘Which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all.’ Here being His body means being that which makes His own body complete. Thus His people are the ‘fullness of Him Who fills all in all”. This is, of course, a paradox. He Who fills all in all surely needs no completion. Indeed all things ‘hold together’ in Him (Colossians 1:17). How then can His people be His fullness? The answer lies in the plan of redemption. Having become Man in order to redeem man He is incomplete until the redeemed are gathered in. As representative Man He must gather in those Whom He represented. They are the fullness which will make Him whole. He is their Head. He is also the Body, and they are united with His body, making His body full, and as such He ‘needs’ and requires them.
We should note here especially that the idea of the Head is only applied to Him as therisenChrist. In His body He suffered humiliation, but in His resurrection and exaltation He becomes both Head and Body. His Headship (divine rulership) was made patent over all, and especially over His people, and in His Body He was united with His people in one body. (We must not think of Him as the head and we as the body from the neck downwards. That is not the idea at all. He is both Head over all things and Body, and we united with Him in His body (see Appendix)). In His body He experienced resurrection and exaltation, and it is in His body, in which we accompany Him because He is both our representative and our substitute (Ephesians 2:1-10), that we are one with Him (see 1 Corinthians 6:17). Thus He Who is ‘the Firstborn of all creation’ (the source of all creation) is also ‘the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead’, so that He may have pre-eminence in all things (Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:18). He it was Who began and is the source of that new creation, His people. Thus He is ‘the Firstborn among many brothers’ (Romans 8:29). The word Firstborn means the One from Whom they had their new life, the One Who produced all that followed. They were the result of His life-giving activity.
The same idea of Christ as the Head over His people, and His people as His body united with Him in His body is found in Colossians 1:18 where we read that He is over all things and controls all things, and then that also ‘He is the Head of the body, the church.’ In both contexts the Headship of Christ over all things is emphasised first and then applied to His Headship over the church, and the church is then likened to His body, because they have been made one with His body. They are one in Him. This is to bring out the closer and more tender relationship there is between Christ and His people. But the idea is not amplified in Colossians. It is allowed to express their unique relationship with Him but not applied in detail. The main emphasis is on the Headship (divine rulership) and on our union with Him.
In Colossians the idea is expanded in Ephesians 2:19 where it speaks of those who do not ‘hold fast the Head, from Whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increases with the increase of God’. This adds the thought that the body receives from its Head, its Lord, all it needs for growth. It is given life by His indwelling within each Christian (Ephesians 3:17; Galatians 2:20) and by His presence in their midst (Matthew 28:20). This expansion also appears in Ephesians 4:15-16 (which see). Ephesians 2:15-16 will bring home that that body, whichis inclusive of Christ’s own body, consists of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles made one in Christ. But this provision of what is needed is in fact also stated in another way, for the thought of the oneness of He Who is the Head with the body, which includes Himself, leads on to Ephesians 2:1-10 where our oneness with Christ means that we participate in all in which He participates (see Appendix below).
In refinement of these ideas in Ephesians, however, we should note that he is more careful in his expressions. He is not just ‘the Head’ but ‘the Head over all things’ lest we make the mistake (that many make) that he is contrasting head with body. The church is the body of Christ because spiritually it is united with Christ’s own body, not because it alone is His body. ‘If we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection’ (Romans 6:5). Christ is the body with Whom we are united (1 Corinthians 12:12).
The fullness (pleroma).’ In the Gospels the word pleroma is used of the patch that fills up the hole in the old garment (Mark 2:21) and the sufficiency of fragments which filled several baskets after the feeding (Mark 8:20). The word denotes entirety of content and is applied by Philo to the animals housed in Noah’s ark. It is also used of a ship’s complement. It thus represents the full requirement, the whole body of Christians as chosen in Christ through redemption, so as to make complete ‘the crew’, the number of the redeemed, the filling full of the body.
‘Of Him Who fills all in all.’ ‘Pleroumenou’ could be either middle or passive. The middle means ‘fills for oneself’, the passive ‘is being fulfilled’. The latter does not really fit the context for it does not fulfil the grandeur of the previous verses, and it partially turns the eyes away from the main participator, rather than focusing on Him. And grandeur about Christ Himself is what is required to complete this section. The previous verses have built up to the fact that He is all in all. Now it is stated. The thought is an intentional paradox. Christ is the One Who fills all in all, and yet, His people fill up what is lacking simply because of the working out of God’s plan and purpose and His redeeming work, which while potentially fulfilled awaits actual fulfilment.
‘Fills all in all.’ He is the One Who is omnipresent, Who created all things, Who sums up within Himself all things (Ephesians 1:10), in Whom all things hold together, having the pre-eminence in all things (Colossians 1:17-18), Who is totally self-sufficing. In 1 Corinthians 15:28 we are told that in the consummation God will be all in all. The phrase means the totality of what is being spoken about (compare 1 Corinthians 12:6) and when used of God and our Lord Jesus the totality of all things.
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017
the Third Week of Lent
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