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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Ephesians 1

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Verse 1

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Paul: Paul is first introduced in Acts 7:58 where he, at the time called Saul, guarded the robes of those who stoned Stephen (Acts 22:20). The scriptures do not indicate exactly when Saul changed his name to Paul, but the change is noted in Acts 13:9 : "Saul, who was also known as Paul." From this point on, he is known only as Paul. The only time the name "Saul" appears later is when Luke records what took place at Paul’s conversion (Acts 22:7; Acts 22:13; Acts 26:14). (For more on the life of Paul, see Acts 8:1-3; Acts 9:1-30; Acts chapters 13 through 28.)

an apostle of Jesus Christ: The word "apostle" (Strong 652) means "a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders" (Thayer 68). From this word, we get our word "missionary," meaning one who is sent forth with a message. However, an apostle was much more than just a simple messenger. In the New Testament, the word carries the meaning of a representative with the commission and authority to act in the name of and on behalf of the One Who had sent him (Bratcher & Nida 3). Although the Greek word for "apostle" is used generically (Romans 16:7; 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25), there were only a few select men with the designation, "apostle of Jesus Christ," that is, apostles picked by Christ himself (Acts 1:2). Paul was just such an apostle (Acts 9:15-16).

by the will of God: Paul uses "by the will of God" to preface his writings in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Colossians, and 2 Timothy. Paul is aware that his credibility as an apostle is hampered by his previous life since he had been a high profile, relentless opponent of Christianity (Acts 9:13; Acts 9:21). Paul says of himself, "For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Corinthians 15:9 NASB). And there were those who agreed with him. Paul addresses the obstacle of his notorious past with the Galatians:

For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it...And I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only they kept hearing, "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy" (1:13, 22-23 NASB).

Paul continuously had to deal with the hostile reputation he had developed.

In the book of Galatians, Paul makes a thorough defense of his apostleship, writing that he is "...an apostle (not sent from men, nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father..." (1:1 NASB). Paul here emphatically main­tains the authority he has as an apostle was not given to him by any man (such as Ananias, Acts 9:12; Acts 9:17), or group of men (such as the other apostles), but by Jesus Christ. He is "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God" (1:1).

to the saints: "Saints" are those who have been separated from their sins through forgiveness. The concept of what it means to be a saint is described when Jesus prays:

I have given them Thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth. As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth (John 17:14-19 NASB).

Saints are all those who have been "sanctified" or "made holy" (1 Peter 1:13-16) through obedience to the word of God (John 17:17). The Greek word, here translated "saints" (1:1), is found in its adjective form, "holy," in verse 4. Saints are not a unique or special class of Christian (2 Thessalonians 1:10); they are simply believers who have been forgiven of sin (Hebrews 3:1; 1 Peter 2:9-10).

In manuscripts that leave out the words "in Ephesus" (see below), the text reads, "to the saints, the ones being also faithful in Christ Jesus." If this is the proper textual reading, it would seem to support that the writer has no special class of Christians in mind by separating the terms "saints" and "faithful." Paul often uses the terms "saints" and "faithful" when addressing brethren (Colossians 1:2; Colossians 1, 2 Corinth­ians 1:1; Philippians 1:1).

which are at Ephesus: Some of the oldest texts of this letter omit the phrase "which are at Ephesus"; p46 (third century), Sinaiticus and Vaticanus (fourth century), 424c and 1739 (Metzger 601). Nevertheless:

All of the ancient translations of the Bible (Latin, Syriac, etc.) have the words at Ephesus, and these translations must have been made from manuscripts older than any we now have. Furthermore, many of the Christian scholars of the first four centuries quoted from Ephesians, indicating that that was the title by which they were familiar with the epistle. Different people had simply seen different copies (Fields 21).

With these observations I concur.

Notwithstanding, many commentators submit that this letter was probably a general letter for the faithful everywhere. They theorize that since it went to the Ephesians first, brethren chose to assign it the name of that congregation.

Although this is a textual variation, it does not change the relevance or authenticity of the letter in any way. An inspired letter may be general rather than addressed to a specific congregation, for example Hebrews. Also note that Paul, being the writer (1:1; 3:1), is an inspired apostle (2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 2:4; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13), and there the debate over relevance ends.

and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: "Faithful" is to be understood in the active sense of having faith or exercising belief, rather than being passively trustworthy or reliable (Lincoln 6). The letter, then, is addressed to those who have put their faith in Christ and who live out that faith in obedience to the Lord.

Verse 2

Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace be to you, and peace: This wonderful yet simple greeting is used frequently in scripture (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Philemon 1:3). "Grace" and "peace" are two of the greatest, most meaningful spiritual blessings we can receive from God. Through grace we have peace with God. It is such a simple affirmation, yet it encompasses all the expanse of Christianity. "Grace" is God’s undeserved favor. "Peace" is a tranquillity of spirit and life that unfolds from being right with God. This peace is independent of external circumstances. Someone once astutely said, "Mercy is not receiving something bad. Grace is receiving something good."

from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ: The source of the spiritual blessings of grace and peace are found only through knowing Jesus who "is our peace" (2:14) and being reconciled through Christ to God the Father (2:15-17).

Verse 3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

Blessed be: This phrase begins the longest sentence in the Greek New Testament, starting here in verse 3 and culminating in verse 14. E. Norden is often cited calling this passage "the most monstrous sentence conglomeration...that I have encountered in Greek" (Lincoln 11). The difficulty in punctuating this sentence becomes obvious by comparing different translations, almost all of which differ. (Note: For a full discussion of this sentence see Word Biblical Commentary, Andrew T. Lincoln 10-19).

"Blessed be" is better translated "praise be" (NIV). We cannot bless God in the same sense that he blesses us. When we "bless" God (James 3:9) for something He has done, we are saying that praise should be ascribed to God for what He has done. We "bless" or "speak well of" God by sharing the knowledge of His glorious grace, pointing out His wonderful character, and worshiping Him. God deserves all our praise because He is magnificent and superior in all of His ways. This expression is commonly called the berakhah (the Hebrew word for "blessing") and was common in Jewish synagogue worship (see 2 Corinthians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3). "Through Him (Christ) then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name" (Hebrews 13:15 NASB).

the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: There is an emphasis throughout the book of Ephesians on the position of God as Father of Jesus Christ. This fact is mentioned at least once in every chapter (1:2, 3, 17; 2:18; 3:14; 4:6; 5:20; 6:23). This "fatherhood" may have been given emphasis in order to contrast the "motherhood" image of the goddess Artemis or "Diana of the Ephesians" (Acts 19:28; Acts 19:34 KJV). The worship of Artemis may have contributed to the start of the worship of the Virgin Mary, "mother of God (Jesus)." It is an extraordinary coincidence that one of the earliest churches in honor of Mary was built at Ephesus on the site of the famous temple to Artemis; and in that same city, a synod was held in 431 A.D., the first council to designate Mary as "Mother of God" (Fields 16).

who hath blessed us: Being "blessed" (Strong 2127) and experiencing a blessing (Strong 2129) both speak of enjoying something good God has given, or done, pleasing us greatly and making us happy. We are thankful and praise God when we experience God-given happiness for it is an affirmation of God’s good will toward us.

with all spiritual blessings: We praise God for all "spiritual" blessings. Spiritual blessings are those that are appreciated by our spiritual nature (1 Corinthians 2:14) because of their spiritual value.

The spiritual blessings are to be noted in contrast to the temporal things of life. God gives to man both types of blessings, spiritual and temporal. However, the blessings he should long for the most should be, and are, the spiritual blessings, not the temporal blessings. The spiritual blessings are those that transcend the bounds of earth (Helwig, 1991 Preachers’ Study Notes 57).

in heavenly places: God’s blessings are located "in heavenly places," literally "in the heavenlies." This phrase is found five times in Ephesians (1:3, 20; 2:6, 3:10; 6:12) and nowhere else in the New Testament. It is:

1. Where our blessings are located (1:3).

2. Where Christ sits at God’s right hand (1:20).

3. Where we now sit with Christ (2:6).

4. Where rulers and authorities observe God’s wisdom (3:10).

5. Where evil spiritual forces oppose us (6:12).

The "heavenlies" is a term signifying the unseen spiritual world of existence and activity (Patzia 151). "Heavenly places" are within the realm of reality, but reaching beyond that which is earthly in nature. It is within this spiritual realm that we struggle "against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (6:12 NASB).

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses (2 Corinthians 10:3-4 NASB). Usually the heavens were considered the place where the battles between good and evil were waged. An important aspect of the message to the Colossians is that these spiritual forces are inferior to Christ because Christ created them (Colossians 1:16) and are made subject to Christ through His victory on the cross, where Christ "disarmed the rulers and authorities,...(and) made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him" (Colossians 2:15 NASB). Because of Christ’s victory over these evil powers, He has been exalted to God’s "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 age, but also in the one to come" (1:20-21 NASB). By virtue of a believer’s union with Christ in baptism (Romans 6:3-9), he shares in Christ’s victory and thereby rules with Christ in the heavenly realm (2:6) (see 1 Corinthians 4:8; Revelation 1:6). Also note these evil powers are observing God’s wisdom manifested and demonstrated through the church (3:10) (see Fields 250).

The sphere within which the church exists is the heavenly realm (John 18:36; Philippians 3:20). The scriptures teach that God "...delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13 NASB). It was common in ancient times for the triumphing army to relocate a conquered people from their homeland to another country (this is the meaning of the word "triumph" in 2 Corinthians 2:14). In a similar way, Christ, having defeated Satan in our lives, has transferred us into His kingdom.

The kingdom of Christ is within the heavenly realm, but this "heavenly realm" is also where the "spiritual forces of wickedness" (6:12) dwell (3:10). Therefore, it does not seem that "the heavenlies" and the church are synonymous. Christ rules His church (1:20-22), and He is "above all rule and authority and power and dominion" (1:21). But there are evil powers and dominions that have not yet subjected themselves to Christ nor are they in His church; however, they are found "in the heavenly places" (6:12). Therefore, the term "in heavenly places" seems to signify the unseen spiritual world (or realm) of existence and activity (see notes on 6:12). Every spiritual blessing, whether in this life or the one to come, is found only in the spiritual realm in Christ.

in Christ: The phrase "in Christ" and similar expressions such as "in him," "in whom," and "in the beloved" occur eleven times in the first fourteen verses and at least nine more times in the rest of the letter. This phrase is also found more than fifty times in other books of the New Testament. It is an exceptionally meaningful term, signifying a Christian’s special relationship with God. It involves being incorporated into Christ’s church, Christ’s body (1:22-23).

How do we get "in" or into Christ where "all spiritual blessings" are found? Answer: "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (3:26-27 NASB). The scriptures teach baptism is "for the forgiveness" of our sins (Acts 2:38 NASB), and Ephesians records it is "in him" that we have the "forgiveness" of our sins (1:7). Therefore, we can correctly understand that when we through faith obey Christ in baptism, we are placed "in him." [These passages assume repentance (Acts 17:30) and confession of Christ (Matthew 10:32).]

Verse 4

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

According as he hath chosen us: Praise should be given to God, for it was God who desired to save us first (1 John 4:19). Before we could choose Him, He chose us.

The phrase "hath chosen" is from a word which originally carried the meaning "to lay out together." It has the idea of making a selection from among different objects or things. Therefore, those that were chosen by God were chosen from what consisted of many varied groups and persons (Helwig 58).

He chose to receive all those who are "in Christ." He chose a class of people: those who would obey Jesus (Hebrews 5:9).

in him: This relationship, called "in him," is where all spiritual blessings are found. This passage lists seven spiritual blessings found only "in him":

1. We are chosen (1:4).

2. We are predestined to be adopted (1:5).

3. We are given grace (1:6).

4. We are redeemed and forgiven (1:7).

5. We are allowed to know the mystery of His will (1:9).

6. We are to obtain an inheritance (1:11).

7. We are sealed with the Spirit (1:13).

before the foundation of the world: God’s decision or choice pertaining to whom He would save was made before the world was built, that is, before its "foundation" was laid. Because of God’s character, this choice was not of particular individuals but of the essentials in the plan of salvation.

that we should be holy and without blame before him: God’s choice of whom He would save had stipulations. Those He would save would have the quality of being "holy" and "blameless." This separation from sin and guilt is attained only "in Christ" and maintained by us (2 Corinthians 7:1; Colossians 1:22) (see notes 5:27).

in love: Noting the punctuation problem (1:3), translators have often placed this phrase at the beginning of the next sentence. "In love He predestined us...(NASB)," giving the meaning: "Because God loved us, He predestined us." If, however, the phrase "in love" is attached to what precedes, the meaning would be that God intends for His people to be distinctive in holiness and blamelessness, coupled with love (note 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13). All of our Christian service must be coupled with love, or it is nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Nevertheless, it seems best to take the phrase "in love" with what follows.

Verse 5

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

Having predestinated us: God’s plan of salvation called for all who would believe and obey Christ to be received as sons. God did not predestine which particular individuals would accept Christ as Lord, but He predestined that whoever did so would be adopted into the family. Before the world was created (1:4; 3:11), God predetermined that it would be those who would believe and accept the Lordship of Jesus who would be His chosen people.

The word "predestine" means literally "to set out boundaries in advance" (Boles 204; Bratcher & Nida 13). God staked out the boundaries for the group He would adopt. The concept of this word is described in John’s gospel:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers." This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them. Jesus therefore said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture (John 10:1-9 NASB).

The imagery here suggests the "sheep" represent people. God set out a boundary in advance that those in the "fold of the sheep" were to be the "saved." The "fold of the sheep" represents the church where salvation is (1:22-23; 5:23). The way to get into that "fold" is through "the door," which is Christ Jesus. God predestined, or "set out boundaries in advance," that the "fold of the sheep" or the church would be where salvation is and that "anyone" who wanted to be must saved enter "through" Christ. Anyone? Yes, anyone: "If anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved" (John 10:9 NASB) (see also John 10:16; Ephesians 2:14-16).

By His sovereign decree, all those "in Christ" (1:3) are in that group called the church (1:22-23). Whether a person is or is not in God’s church is dependent on whether that person has chosen to obey Jesus (Hebrews 5:9; Romans 8:29-30). God’s call for all to come and be saved "in Christ" is offered through or by the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14). This is a general election (as opposed to the unconditional, particular election of the Calvinist). God predestined the plan, not the man.

unto the adoption of children: Adoption signifies that someone would be given all the privileges and blessings of being a son yet not have these rights naturally.

Adoption was not common in Hebrew society but familiar to the Romans and Greeks. "A well-to-do but childless adult who wanted an heir would adopt a male, usually at an age other than in infancy and frequently a slave, to be his son" (Lincoln 25). Being aware of this practice helps us understand a passage in Galatians:

...that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God (4:5-7 NASB).

That God would want those of us who have no legal claim to the estate to have such an intimate relationship with Him shows how loving and merciful He is. Remember the promise of Jesus:

In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3 NASB).

We get to go to God the Father’s house--to be accepted into the Father’s home, as His child, forever! How truly amazing (see also Romans 8:15-17; Romans 8:23; Romans 9:4).

by Jesus Christ to himself: A better translation would be "through Jesus Christ for himself." Jesus wants to receive us, as He says, "to Myself" (John 14:3). Jesus made a way for us to have a relationship not only with the Father, but with Himself as well.

according to the good pleasure of his will: God is "not willing that any should perish" (2 Peter 3:9). It is God’s will and desire to save us (1 Timothy 2:4), and, therefore, something He takes great "pleasure" in doing.

Verse 6

To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

To the praise of the glory of his grace: The words "of glory" are a Hebraic qualifying phrase emphasizing the excellence of God’s grace (Colossians 1:11; Colossians 1:27). We are not praising the glory; we are praising the grace itself. Therefore, the best translation of this phrase is, "to the praise of his glorious grace" (NIV).

The gospel is called "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). The gospel message is a message of grace. Meritorious salvation, or self-righteous justification, has no part in a salvation that has grace as its basis. Sometimes in our zeal to explain the conditions God requires to accept the gift of forgiveness, we leave the impression that salvation is founded upon those conditions. The obedience God requires of us when we "obey the gospel" (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17) are not acts of merit that indebt God to us (Romans 3:21 to Romans 4:4), resulting in the wages of salvation, but are merely conditions that must be met in order to receive the gift of grace. When we gain access to the forgiveness of God through obeying Christ (Hebrews 5:9), there is no boastful pride or self-glorification, but "praise of his glorious grace."

wherein he hath made us accepted: The word here translated as "accepted" (Strong 5487) is defined by Thayer as "to pursue with grace, compass with favor; to honor with blessings" (Thayer 667). Translators have worded this phrase "which He freely bestowed on us" (NASB), "with which he has generously blessed us" (Hendriksen 80), "grace with which he has highly favored us" or "grace with which he has graced us" (Lincoln 26) or "wherein he made us objects of grace" (Berry 682). The most faithful to the original is probably, "grace with which he has highly favored us."

Why would God pursue us or favor us with grace? If it were not for His great love toward us (Romans 5:6-8), we would be unworthy of existence (Isaiah 2:22). It is because of God’s love for us that He pursued us with grace, for grace was our greatest need. All blessings we now enjoy exist because of God’s glorious grace, and are appreciated only "in Christ."

in the beloved: God’s abundant grace and all of His spiritual blessings are found only "in the beloved," that is, "in Christ" (1:3). When Jesus was baptized, the Father spoke from heaven calling Christ "...my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11).

Verse 7

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

In whom we have redemption: In whom? In Christ we have redemption (6:29). At the time Ephesians was written, redeeming someone meant to pay the necessary ransom to set free a prisoner of war, a captive, or a debtor who was sold into slavery. Because the debtor had nothing with which to repay, he had to give the only thing he had left, the remainder of his life, to pay for his debt. Our self-incurred sin-debt results in our slavery to sin (Romans 6:16-17). The appropriate consequence or "wages" of sin is the wrath of God (5:6) and the death of the sinner (Romans 6:23). We cannot buy our way out of our sin problem. We nave nothing to offer to compensate for our debt (Matthew 16:26). Holiness is required for acceptance, and we lost that when we sinned. This is a debt that requires forgiveness. But justice demands a consequence, a "wage" for our deeds (Romans 2:4-11; Colossians 3:25; 1 Peter 1:17). Only because of Jesus can we experience "redemption" (Romans 3:22-26; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 1:13-14). The holy Christ Jesus is the only one who can pay the price to set us free from our self-inflicted slavery to sin (John 8:34-36). He gave His life, not for His sin but for ours (Hebrews 7:26-27; Hebrews 9:12-14; Hebrews 9:24-26; Hebrews 10:4; Hebrews 10:9-14; Hebrews 10:18).

through his blood: The price to rescue us was the blood of Jesus:

...You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-23 NASB).

In the very beginning, God began showing that blood was the graphic cost to set someone free from sin (Genesis 4:1-5; Hebrews 11:4; Hebrews 9:22), and later this idea was codified into the law of Moses (Leviticus 17:11).

It was to the Ephesian elders that Paul declares:

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28 NASB).

If Jesus’ blood was the price for our ransom, to whom was the price paid? Some of the early Fathers held that the ransom was paid to Satan; other writers held that the ransom was paid to God himself. The first view would erroneously give Satan the upper hand over God; the second view would have God paying himself off. It is better to see the price as paid to satisfy divine justice. When God "redeemed" his people from their oppressor in Egypt (Psalms 78:42-43), he did not "pay off" the pharaoh or anyone else. He simply did what was necessary to secure the release of his people (Boles 206).

We must contact the redeeming blood of Christ in order to receive the forgiveness of our sins.

the forgiveness of sins: "Forgiveness" is the wondrous result of acquiring access to the shed blood of Jesus. Jesus says, speaking of the fruit of the vine in the Lord’s Supper, "...this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28 NASB). Jesus’s blood is here called the "blood of the covenant," as also in Hebrews 10:29; Hebrews 13:20. When Jesus died, shedding His blood (John 19:34), He made effective a new covenant with mankind (Hebrews 9:15-18). Through this great new covenant, the benefits of the shed blood of Christ are now administered (Hebrews 8:6-13). While Jesus was alive, He could personally forgive sins (Matthew 9:6). After He died, access to the forgiveness He offered is found in the new covenant, which became effective after His death (Hebrews 9:16-17).

according to the riches of his grace: When we reflect on our unworthiness, we may wonder whether the depth of our sin may exhaust the supply of God’s grace and forgiveness. To this insecurity, God replies He has "riches...of grace" (also 2:7).

That our redemption cost so great a price--the blood of Christ--is the supreme evidence of the riches of the divine grace. And the measure of what God does for us is nothing less than the limitless wealth of his loving favor (Lipscomb 21).

Verse 8

Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

Wherein he hath abounded toward us: God’s grace, which He lavishes upon us, leads to our understanding the mystery of His will (1:9). Our understanding the mystery in turn leads to our obedience to the gospel and, thereby, the receiving of God’s grace. It is by the grace of God that we know about His offer of grace.

in all wisdom and prudence: In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, there is a contrast between the apparent wisdom that comes from men (Colossians 2:23) and "all" genuine "wisdom and knowledge" found only in Christ (Colossians 2:3). We have this true "wisdom and insight" (NASB), or "wisdom and understanding" (NIV), only because of the grace of God. It is because of God’s willingness to reveal to us the mystery of His will that we know it. We cannot come to understand it any other way (1 Corinthians 1:21). (Note 1:17.)

Verse 9

Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

Having made known unto us the mystery of his will: God had kept the plan of salvation a secret, concealed and hidden (3:9) until now (3:10). God, in His grace, actively reveals or discloses the nature of His plan of salvation to us.

according to his good pleasure: This phrase reveals an aspect of the love of God. It gives God pleasure and joy to save us (Luke 15:4-7). It does not give God pleasure to condemn us (Ezekiel 33:11; Ezekiel 18:32). God does not want "any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Contextually, it is in accordance with His good pleasure or will to reveal to us the mystery. This is something that God wanted to do.

which he hath purposed in himself: The Father cherished in His own mind an intended plan that was to be carried out in Christ, that is by means of Christ.

Verse 10

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times: The word here translated "dispensation" (Strong 3622) can refer to (1) the act of administering, (2) the plan that is administered, or (3) the office or role of administering (Lincoln 31). The meaning here seems to be "a plan for administration in the fullness of the times," or as the New Century Version paraphrases this: "His goal was to carry out his plan when the right time came." This plan was to go into effect on God’s timetable, at the proper time; "...when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son..." (4:4 NASB).

he might gather together in one all things in Christ: God was "to head up all things in Christ" (Marshal 557). The best translation is, "to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ" (NIV). God desired to "put all things in subjection" to Christ (1:22 NASB) (note Colossians 1:20; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 2:5-10). When Jesus was made "Lord of lords and King of kings" (Revelation 17:14; Acts 2:36; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Romans 14:9), all things were put under His subjection (except the Father, 1 Corinthians 15:27-28). Luke proclaims, "...the word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)" (Acts 10:36 NASB).

Even though Jesus is now Lord of all, "we do not yet see all things subjected to him" (Hebrews 2:8 NASB). Even though Jesus possesses reigning authority over all, there are those who rebel and reject His position. Jesus:

...must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death...when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:25-28 NASB).

Those in Christ’s church (1:22-23) are those who, through obeying Christ (Luke 6:46), have chosen Jesus as their Lord; and, therefore, they have Jesus as their Savior (Hebrews 5:9). Even though Jesus is Lord of all, He is not Savior of all (Matthew 25:46; Revelation 20:14-15). He is "Savior of the body" (5:23), which is His church (1:22-23). He wants to be Savior of all (1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9), but many have rejected His sovereignty and His salvation (Hebrews 12:25; Romans 1:18-25; 2 Peter 2:9-10).

Just because there are those who will not allow Christ to rule them does not mean they are not under His authority and thus accountable to Him.

both which are in heaven: "For it was the Father’s good pleasure...through Him (Christ) to reconcile all things to Himself (Father), having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven" (Colossians 1:20 NASB).

and which are on earth: " (Jesus)...became obedient to the point of death...Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:8-11 NASB).

(Note also Romans 8:19-23.)

even in him: Because of the punctuation difficulties in this exceptionally long sentence, most translators place "in Him" at the beginning of the next sentence (see notes on 1:3).

Verse 11

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance: The phrase "we have obtained an inheritance" comes from but one Greek word, which is used only this once in the New Testament. This Greek word, eklerothemen (Strong 2820), when parsed out is found to be first person plural, first aorist passive indicative of kleroo (Wigram 126). The form of the verb is "passive," suggesting the best translation should be "we were made a heritage" (ASV) or that we were received or chosen as an inheritance. The writer is not speaking of something we have but something we are.

The sons of God not only receive an inheritance (cf. Galatians 3:18; Galatians 3:29; Acts 20:32; Colossians 1:12; 1 Peter 1:4), but we actually become the "heritage" of God. The saints are God’s heritage and his private possession. We are set aside to him as his allotment or portion. When all is done, what will God get of all that he has created? Will he keep the earth with all its trees and flowers? No, the earth will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10-11). Will he hold on to the puppies and kittens? None of these has an eternal spirit. Will he receive all mankind? He would like to have us all but most will not respond to his overtures of love. What, then, will God have as his portion of all that he has made? He will have those who are faithful in Christ (Caldwell 35)!

In Christ we are God’s chosen possession, just as Israel was: "For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance" (Deuteronomy 32:9 NASB).

being predestinated: The limits of God’s divine grace were "decided beforehand" (Thayer 541) before creation itself (1:4). God is not partial or arbitrary in who will receive grace (Titus 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:4; Hebrews 5:9; Ephesians 6:9; Deuteronomy 10:17; Romans 2:11; Colossians 3:25). God’s parameters have been clearly revealed. It is man who is unresponsive to God’s call (John 5:40).

By God’s sovereign decree, all those "in Christ" (1:3) are in that group called the church (1:22-23). Whether a person is or is not in the church is dependent on whether that person has resolved to obey Jesus (Hebrews 5:9; Romans 8:29-30). God’s call for all to come and be saved "in Christ" is offered through or by the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14) to everyone (1 John 2:1-2; Acts 10:34-35). This is a general election (as opposed to the unconditional, particular election of the Calvinist). God predestined the plan, not the man (note 1:5).

according to the purpose of him: These parameters were not imposed upon God or arrived at by consultation with man but were "in conformity with the purpose of his will" (NIV). Jesus, who expresses the will of His Father (John 4:34; John 5:30; John 6:38; John 8:19; John 12:45), came "to seek and to save" those who were lost (Luke 19:10). As we will see, it is God’s desire to save both Jews and Gentiles in one predetermined assembly or church.

who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: Contextually, "all things" encompasses those things that involve grace and salvation. The word "counsel" would be better translated "purpose." The New International Version translates this verse best: "according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will." One writer aptly puts it, "...God works all things in keeping with the laws he has established, and out of his own desires that spring from both his great mind (reason) and his great heart (love)" (Caldwell 37) (see also Isaiah 46:10-11; Ephesians 3:11).

Verse 12

That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

That we should be: It is the Jews, specifically Jewish Christians, who are being spoken of here. Up to this point, the personal pronouns "we" and "us" have had reference to all Christians. But, contextually, a distinction is now being made between the Jewish "we" and Gentile "ye" (1:13) Christians.

to the praise of his glory: The Jews who obey the gospel are themselves the evidence of the fulfilled promises God had made to their fathers (Romans 15:8). The Jews who are saved become "praise" to God’s glory and faithfulness (see also 1:6, 14).

who first trusted in Christ: The great salvation is first offered through the gospel to the Jews, and they naturally then are the first to respond. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16 NASB).

Jesus is sent to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24). One reason for this commission is "...to confirm the promises given to the fathers" (Romans 15:8). Peter, preaching to the descendants of Abraham, says:

It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, "And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 22:18)." For you first, God raised up His Servant, and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways (Acts 3:25-26 NASB).

When Paul and Barnabas are preaching in Antioch, the Jews become jealous because of the crowds they are attracting (Acts 13:45). Paul and Barnabas then address the Jews saying:

It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For thus the Lord has commanded us, "I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles, that you should bring salvation to the end of the earth (Isaiah 49:6)" (Acts 13:46-47 NASB).

Verse 13

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

In whom ye also trusted: Contextually, "ye" are the Gentiles. After the gospel is offered "to the Jew first" (Romans 1:16), it is offered to all Gentiles. In chapter two (2:11-22), we are shown how the Jews and Gentiles are brought together in the "one body" (2:16) of Christ.

The word "trusted" here is often translated "believe" and means they accept as true the testimony concerning Jesus and devote themselves to Him.

after that ye heard the word of truth: Having heard the word, the Gentiles ("ye") believe. After hearing the word, they trust. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17 NASB). Our faith in Jesus comes after hearing the testimony about Jesus. The word of God is designed and constructed to produce our faith:

Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:30-31 NASB).

The written documentation recorded in the scriptures causes us to trust that Jesus is the Christ (note also 1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 5:20; John 17:20; Acts 15:7).

the gospel of your salvation: In the letter to the Romans, Paul declares he is "...not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16 NASB). To the Gentiles, the "word of truth" is the gospel of their salvation. The "gospel" (Strong 2098) means "glad tidings" (Thayer 257) or "good news." Specific­ally, the good news is that Jesus was resurrected from death after He died for our sins and was buried, all in accord with prophecies found in scripture (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). It must be noted, however, that to limit the gospel to these facts only is to do something that scripture does not do (Matthew 26:13; Mark 14:9; Luke 3:18; Romans 2:16; Colossians 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:11). (Note 3:6.)

The gospel must be believed and obeyed (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17) by Jew or Gentile in order for it to save (Galatians 3:26-29).

in whom also after that ye believed: First they (Gentiles) "heard," then they "believed," then, subsequently, they were "sealed."

Do the scriptures here teach that belief is the only thing required of sinners in order for them to be saved? A figure of speech, synecdoche, is being employed by the author in this passage. Synecdoche is identified in language when a part of something is put for the whole thing (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 1196). In this instance the figure of speech only names belief but implies all that someone would do who truly believes. Scripture teaches that faith "alone," by itself, will not save (James 2:17; James 2:24). The Bible contends that if faith does not manifest itself in works, it is not a saving faith (James 2:14; James 2:17; James 2:20; James 2:22; James 2:24; James 2:26; Galatians 5:6).

The Bible further testifies that through our sincere obedience to the word, we can "know that we have come to know Him" (1 John 2:3-6). When our conscience, properly educated by the word of God, affirms (Romans 2:15) that we have obeyed "from the heart" (Romans 7:17) the word of God, then "the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16 NASB). John puts it this way, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13 NASB). Those who read John’s message are not to trust in their subjective feelings for their confidence of salvation but on the objective testimony of the word of God working in conjunction with their conscience. The word of God "performs its work in you who believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:13 NASB) when we faithfully obey its instructions (note Hebrews 3:18-19 where "disobedient" is paralleled with "unbelief").

ye were sealed with that holy Spirit: Being "sealed" implies that a change of ownership has been transacted, and a seal, brand, or mark has now been applied, identifying the legal owner. Gentiles were familiar with the customs of slavery and pagan rituals in which emblems and tatoos were cut on the body as a "seal" of ownership (6:17 "the marks"). It is the seal of the Holy Spirit that identifies our legal owner as God (4:30; 2 Timothy 2:19; 2 Corinthians 1:22 "as a pledge"). (Note next verse, 1:14.)

The Bible teaches the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Christian (4:6; Romans 5:5; Romans 8:9-16; 1 Corinthians 6:19). The scriptures show that the Holy Spirit’s presence, however, cannot be felt, tasted, heard, seen, or smelled. The indwelling Spirit attendance is not corroborated by some type of sensory evidence. The only way we can know or perceive that the Holy Spirit indwells us is "by faith," for "we walk by faith" (2 Corinthians 5:7). We also believe in the omnipresence of God (Jeremiah 23:23-24; Psalms 139:7-12), yet we find no need to have our faith in the abiding presence of God confirmed by some sensory evidence. The Spirit indwells the Christian as an earnest of our inheritance (1:13-14), as certification of our divine kinship (Galatians 4:6), as a seal of divine ownership (1:13; 4:30), and as an incentive to keep our physical bodies clean and pure (1 Corinthians 6:13-20).

All that the Holy Spirit does for the spiritual side of our personal life on earth, however, He does in conjunction with the word. Otherwise, to whatever extent He would function, to that very extent the word of God would be less than sufficient (Warren 163). The Bible affirms for itself that it is all-sufficient for man’s spiritual needs (Judges 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3; John 14:26; John 16:13; Acts 20:32).

The scriptures show that the Holy Spirit operates in three realms today:

1. Conversion (John 16:7-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

2. Sancti­fication (Romans 15:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

3. Providence (Philippians 1:19; 1 Corinthians 10:13)

The Holy Spirit’s work of revealing and confirming "the word" has been completed (1 Corinthians 13:8-12; Ephesians 4:11-13; Hebrews 2:2-4; Mark 16:20). In all of these realms, the Holy Spirit acts only in conjunction with the revealed word of God.

The question as to how the Holy Spirit indwells is similar to some questions on the Lord’s Supper. Historically there was a question as to how the loaf and fruit of the vine became the body and blood of the Lord. The proponents answer: it was "transubstantiation" or "consubstantiation." History records there was a lot of death and suspicion because of the way people would answer. The truth is that Jesus was using a figure of speech called metaphor, and it was neither transubstantiation or consubstantiation. In a similar way, there is a lot of apprehension and mistrust on the issue of how the Holy Spirit indwells. The truth is the scriptures teach the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The question is not "Does the Holy Spirit indwell," but "How?" The answer: The only way we know the Spirit indwells us is "by faith" through the word of God.

When we follow the instructions of the inspired word of God, we are being led by the Spirit. When our conscience confirms that we have obeyed the teachings of the scriptures, we are receiving the witness of the Spirit. When we feel guilty for having disobeyed the will of God as revealed in His word, we are being chastised by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in conjunction with the word of God and within its parameters. The Bible is the result of the inspirational work of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). The Spirit-inspired gospel "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). This soul-saving message (1 Corinthians 1:21) has been entrusted (1 Thessalonians 2:4) to "earthen vessels" (2 Corinthians 4:7), that is, mankind. [Note the angel told Cornelius to "send for a man" (Acts 10:5), specifically Peter, so that he could "speak words to you by which you will be saved" (Acts 11:14).]

of promise: This expression could be speaking of the promises in the Old Testament, such as Ezekiel 36:27 : "And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances" (NASB). Or it could be speaking of the promise in Acts 2:38-39. And still another view is that "of promise" is speaking of "the promise of glory yet to come" (Bruce 265). "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (4:30). Whatever "promise" is being spoken of here, the writer wants us to know that the seal of the Holy Spirit is a fulfillment of God’s promises and an example of God’s faithfulness (2 Corinthians 1:18-22).

To refocus, the New American Standard translates this verse, "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise."

Verse 14

Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Which is the earnest: The word "earnest" (Strong 728) is a commercial term (Genesis 38:17) designating a partial payment, deposit, or pledge that obligates both a seller and purchaser to complete an agreement. Earnest money is given to show that a commitment has been made to give the full purchase amount for a property at a later date. In the Christian’s life, the Holy Spirit is given as a pledge that God will complete his promise to provide our inheritance. The one who "prepared us" for heaven is God, "who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge" (2 Corinthians 5:5 NASB) (see also 2 Corinthians 1:22).

of our inheritance: There was the Jewish "we" (1:12) and the Gentile "you" (1:13), but now it is the Christian inclusive "our." What is "our inheritance?" It is heaven and all its blessings.

Blessed be...God...who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again...to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4 NASB).

(Note also Acts 20:32; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 1:12; Colossians 3:24; Hebrews 9:15.)

until the redemption: The idea of "redemption" here is connected to the words "pledge" (1:13) and "earnest." There has been an exchange made, a seal put upon the object purchased, an earnest deposit given, and then there will be the actual taking possession of what has been purchased. The word redemption here means, "a releasing effected by payment of a ransom; redemption, deliverance, liberation procured by the payment of a ransom" (Thayer 65, 629). Jesus is our redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). Jesus paid the price of Himself for our release (2 Peter 2:1; Hebrews 9:12; Revelation 5:9). At the resurrection, Jesus will claim those who are His own (1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Peter 2:9).

Although we currently enjoy redemption because of the forgiveness of our sins (1:7; Colossians 1:14), a bodily redemption is the blessing for which we hope (1:14; 4:30). Contextually, it is this future, complete "redemption" being spoken of. Christians are spoken of as "having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of the body" (Romans 8:23 NASB). Even though we spiritually appreciate our forgiveness, we await, that is "wait eagerly for" (Romans 8:25), the redemption of the body at the resurrection. This present/future idea is similar to the way the verb "saved" is used in the New Testament (see notes on 2:5, 8).

of the purchased possession: The Lord has purchased our complete being (2 Peter 2:1). The totality of what we are, "spirit and soul and body" (1 Thessalonians 5:23), is the Lords’ (1 Corinthians 6:15-20). Paul tells the Corinthian brethren, "...you belong to Christ..." (1 Corinthians 3:23). We await the Lord’s redemption of his purchased possession. "For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:9 NASB) (see also 1 Corinthians 7:23; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 2:9).

unto the praise of his glory: Some commentators consider this phrase to be the culmination of a hymn of praise that starts in verse three because of the repetitive use of the words praise and glory. God’s election and adoption of us is "to the praise of his glorious grace" (1:6 NIV); God’s redemption and fulfilled promises are "to the praise of His glory" (1:12 NASB); and, lastly, the pledge of the Holy Spirit is "to the praise of his glory" (1:14 NASB). Whether this is a hymn or not, God tells us mankind was "created for my glory...the people whom I formed for Myself, will declare My praise" (Isaiah 43:7-21 NASB). When we reflect on the components of our salvation, it must inspire deep heartfelt praise to our God. "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57 NASB).

This verse concludes the longest sentence in the Greek text (see notes on 1:3).

Verse 15

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus: It has been about five years since Paul had been at Ephesus, and Paul makes no secret of his "concern for all the churches" (2 Corinthians 11:28). In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he shares these touching words that, I am sure, reflect his heart toward all those he had worked with:

For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor should be in vain. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love...for this reason...we were comforted about you through your faith...for what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account (1 Thessalonians 3:5-9 NASB).

It is encouraging news for Paul to hear the Ephesians have remained faithful in their service to the Lord. It moves Paul to prayer, a prayer of thankfulness.

and love unto all the saints: "Faith" and "love" are continually mentioned, often together (26 times--NASB), as indications of genuine spirituality. Notice, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love" (5:6 NASB). Paul gives "thanks to God always" for the Thessalonians’ "work of faith and labor of love" (1 Thessalonians 1:3 NASB). Also, in Paul’s letter to Philemon: "I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love, and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints" (Philemon 1:4-5 NASB). Paul repeatedly emphasizes the importance of these two Christian qualities (note also 3:17).

Love is an active good will that thinks of the needs of the ones being loved (Philippians 2:3-5). "Saints" refers to those who are "sanctified" and is a synonym for Christians (see notes on 1:1).

Verse 16

Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

Cease not to give thanks for you: The term "give thanks" is a phrase implying a prayer of thanksgiving (Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; 2 Thessalonians 1:3). "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2 NASB).

Finding out that those taught are growing in spiritual knowledge and practice is encouraging to any Bible teacher.

making mention of you in my prayers: Paul makes a habit of mentioning many churches in prayer (Romans 1:8-10; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Philippians 1:3-4; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; Philemon 1:2-4)). We, like Paul, are to "pray for one another" (James 5:16).

Verse 17

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ: This is the beginning of a prayer that continues through 1:23. The major body of the prayer is found in verses 17-19, with verses 20-23 modifying the phrase "the exceeding greatness of his power" (1:19).

Paul begins the prayer addressing his requests to God the Father. This is an example of the proper way to pray, that is, addressing God the Father in Christ’s name (5:20; Colossians 1:3; Colossians 3:17).

"The God of our Lord Jesus Christ" implies that Jesus subjects himself to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:27-28; 1 Corinthians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 11:3; John 14:28). This subordination is submitted to by Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11; John 10:17-18), for He is not in any way inferior to God the Father (John 1:1-2; John 12:45; John 14:7-10; Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 2:9).

the Father of glory: Without God, there is no glory. All glory that exists can be ascribed to God, for He is the "Father of glory." "Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen" (Philippians 4:20) (note Psalms 29:3; Acts 7:2; 1 Corinthians 2:8).

may give unto you the spirit of wisdom: Is the writer speaking of the Holy Spirit, calling Him the "spirit of wisdom"? Or is Paul desiring that they develop a receptive frame of mind, using a phrase similar to the phrase "spirit of your mind" (4:23)? The Greek text does not say "the" Spirit, which it normally does when referring to the Holy Spirit. Nowhere else in scripture is the Holy Spirit referred to as the "spirit of wisdom," although the Spirit gives the "word of wisdom" (1 Corinthians 12:8). We understand the word "spirit" here to refer to a disposition that guides, persuades, or dominates the individual. Paul often uses the word "spirit" in this way: "spirit of gentleness" (1 Corinthians 4:21; Galatians 6:1), "spirit of timidity" (2 Timothy 1:7), and "spirit of partiality" (1 Timothy 5:21). Paul is praying that the Ephesians would have a disposition that would promote the perception and discernment of spiritual truth.

and revelation: The word "revelation" suggests "an uncovering" (Thayer 62) or instruction that results in knowledge. Since the "spirit" (above) is a disposition of heart, context would suggest that "spirit of...revelation" has reference to a person’s insight or understanding. Paul, in a parallel passage, tells the church at Colossae, "...we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Colossians 1:9 NASB). Paul is praying that the Ephesians will have a disposition that will promote understanding.

in the knowledge of him: Here is the subject that God wants them to understand and grasp: God Himself (1 John 5:20). What does it take to know God in an intimate personal way? Listen, when He reveals His mind (Ezekiel 3:10-11). Hear, with your heart (Acts 28:27) when He speaks.

Verse 18

The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

The eyes of your understanding being enlightened: Paul is praying that their understanding will expand. How are the "eyes of their heart (lit.)," their understanding, to be "enlightened?" Later in this very letter Paul reveals how they were initially enlightened: "But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus" (4:20-21 NASB). They were taught, they heard, they learned. Now Paul is praying that their insight would mature (see also 1:8, 3:4; Philippians 1:9).

Paul, speaking of being a Spirit-inspired apostle, says, "For God, who said, ’Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6 NASB, read the context: verses 5-15). When we read what the apostle writes (1 Corinthians 2:12-13), we also are enlightened. Oh, that we were more familiar with the "word of righteousness" (Hebrews 5:13). Our spiritual insight could be greatly enhanced if we would develop the habit, like the Bereans, of "examining the scriptures daily" (Acts 17:11 NASB).

"The unfolding of Thy words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple" (Psalms 119:130 NASB).

that ye may know what is the hope of his calling: Paul prays they will "know" or be enlightened in three specific areas:

1. The hope of God’s calling;

2. The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints;

3. The exceeding greatness of His power toward us.

Remember, many of those who are hearing these words are Gentiles (1:13) who, before knowing Jesus, had "no hope" (2:12).

God calls us to the "one hope" (4:4) of heaven.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:3-4 NASB).

And also, as Paul reminds the Colossians, there is a "...hope laid up for you in heaven" (Colossians 1:5). Paul prays they will understand the nature of their hope.

and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints: This passage is speaking of "His," that is, God’s inheritance. This is not an inheritance that God has for his people, but what God has in his people. (Our inheritance is discussed in 1:14.) Remember, in Ephesians 1:11, that it is those in Christ, "the saints," that are God’s heritage or inheritance. Scriptures proclaim we are "a people for God’s own possession" (1 Peter 2:9). Paul prays they might understand what it means to be God’s possession and that the glory of the church is rich in God’s eyes. God is glorified in His people (Isaiah 60:21).

Verse 19

And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,

And what is the exceeding greatness of his power: The third thing Paul prays for them to understand is God’s unlimited, mighty power, extended to those who desire to follow Him (1:13-14). The word translated "exceeding" (Strong 5235) means "to transcend, surpass, exceed, excel..." (Thayer 640,) and carries the idea of being something immeasurable or limitless. The New International Version translates this phrase, "that you may know...his incomparably great power for us who believe." Later, Paul alludes to God’s "power" when concluding a short prayer, "Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us" (3:20 NASB). Our God is called "the great, the mighty, and the awesome God" in Nehemiah 9:32. Paul is praying they will realize, "The things impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27 NASB). Paul’s prayer for them is appropriate to apply to us. The children of Israel, "did not remember His power, the day when He redeemed them from the adversary" (Psalms 78:42 NASB). Let us never forget.

to us-ward who believe: Paul, addressing Gentile Christians (1:13, 15-16, 18; 2:1), now points out that God embraces all believers when dispensing His mighty power.

according to the working of his mighty power: We get the word "energy" from the Greek word translated "working." This word carries the idea of causing or providing the energy for some action to be performed. The word "mighty" refers to the strength or force of the energy. And "power" refers to the exercise of this strong energy or power. The New American Standard translates this phrase, "...in accordance with the working of the strength of His might." "Paul virtually exhausts the resources of the Greek language to describe something of the magnitude of divine might" (Boles 216).

Noting the punctuation problems in Ephesians (1:3), both the NIV and the NASB begin the next sentence with this phrase.

Verse 20

Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

Which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead: The demonstration of God’s awesome power was unprecedented in the resurrection of Christ. Death was the one force that men had been unable to defy, but death’s power submitted to God’s exalted power when it was unleashed in Christ’s resurrection.

and set him at his own right hand: "At his right hand" means to share in the authority that controls all things in heaven and earth (Psalms 110:1). This exaltation of Christ is evidence to us that God has the power to bless those who trust in Him. Jesus, in death, cries out "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit" (Luke 23:46). Jesus trusted in God’s power and then was resurrected and placed at God’s right hand. God has the power.

in the heavenly places: (See notes on 1:3.)

Verse 21

Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion: These are ranks named in the context of angels (Romans 8:38). "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created by Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:16 NASB). "When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him" (Colossians 2:15 NASB).

and every name that is named: It matters not whether the above titles belong to human rulers or spiritual creatures: Jesus is Lord! Jesus’ name is a name "which is above every name" (Philippians 2:9).

not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: The phrase "in this world" should be translated "in this age." This present age is always viewed negatively in scripture (Luke 16:8) because it sits in contrast to heaven, the age to come.

Verse 22

And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,

And hath put all things under his feet: The idea of putting something under Christ’s feet shows He stands above them and rules over them (Psalms 110:1). All things have been put in subjection to Christ (see 1:10).

and gave him to be the head over all things: To make Jesus the "head" (Strong 2776) means to give Him the supreme position above "all things." It is God’s desire to "put all things in subjection" to Christ (1:22) (note Colossians 1:20; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 2:5-10). This authority is given when Jesus is made "Lord of lords and King of kings" (Revelation 17:14; Acts 2:36; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Romans 14:9). Acts 10:36 records: "...the word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)" (NASB).

Even though Jesus is now Lord of all, "we do not yet see all things subjected to him" (Hebrews 2:8 NASB). Jesus

...must reign until He has put all his enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death...when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:25-28 NASB).

to the church: The "church" is the spiritual assembly of all those called out of the domain of sin by the gospel and saved in Christ. This group will all be brought together or assembled at "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 2:1 NASB) (see also 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

We are more familiar, however, with the term "church" as it is used in a congregational sense. When reference is made to the church in a specific location (1 Corinthians 1:2; Romans 16:5; Philemon 1:2, etc.) or when the plural form, "churches," is found (Romans 16:16; Galatians 1:2; Galatians 1:22), it is using the word "church" in a local, congregational sense. Each local congregation is autonomous from other congregations and has the responsibility to function representatively of the universal church in its worship, teachings, mission, and fellowship. If each local congregation is faithful in its spiritual responsibilities, there will not be any essential doctrinal differences between one congregation and another.

We are not to forsake the assemblies of the local church (Hebrews 10:25) when it comes "together" "on the first day of the week" for the purpose of partaking of the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7) and obeying 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 concerning the collection. Whenever the local congregation, with which we are identified and with which we work (Colossians 4:9; Colossians 4:12), assembles, we should be there (James 4:17).

We might note that the scriptures never refer to a building or physical structure as a church, nor is an individual Christian ever referred to as a church. When the word "churches" is used in the scripture, it never has reference to differing denominations with their distinctive doctrines.

Verse 23

Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Which is his body: The church is Christ’s body. Christ is the "head of the body, the church" (Colossians 1:18). There is only "one body" (4:4; Colossians 3:15). This figure visually depicts the relationship Christ has with His church. As our physical body responds to the desires of our head, so Christ’s body, the church, ought to follow the desires of Christ. Our mind reveals its will to our body through our nervous system. In the spiritual body of Christ, it is the completely revealed New Testament scriptures (James 1:25; 2 Timothy 3:16-17) that convey Christ’s will to His body (John 12:48; John 14:23-24; John 15:20; 1 Corinthians 14:37-38). We know the mind of the Lord through knowing His word (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).

The use of the term "body" in describing the church is frequently employed in Ephesians (1:23; 2:16; 3:6; 4:4, 12, 16; 5:23, 30) and Colossians (1:18, 24; 2:19; 3:15) (see also Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; 1 Corinthians 10:17 "one bread").

Christ is head of the one universal body of believers (1 Corinthians 12:12) and, therefore, head of every local expression of that body of believers (1 Corinthians 12:27). As each local congregation organizes itself for work and worship independent of other congregations, it exhibits the consolidated nature of the one body of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13). The autonomous nature of each congregation enables it to depict the image of one universal church (1 Corinthians 12:27; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17). Each local congregation, then, illustrates the relationship Christ has with His entire church by insisting that Christ be honored as its head or authority. The body of Christ is obligated to demonstrate the will of its head. If it fails in this responsibility, it cannot honestly depict this critical truth (Romans 16:16). If Christ has His proper place of honor within congregations, then there will be no essential doctrinal difference between one congregation and another. There is but "one faith" (4:5; Judges 1:3).

There are many organizations called "churches" by men that cannot, because of their structure, behavior, or teachings, relate to this physical illustration of subjection to Christ. They may have earthly "heads," headquarters, "societies" or counsels that dispense so-called "truth" and/or "new revelations," or vote on new creeds or laws. Whatever they may be called, if they take the position of authority or headship away from Christ and His "once...delivered" (Judges 1:3) word, they are wrong and violate the imagery of the "body of Christ" (4:12). When it comes to accomplishing what we have decided to do, each part of our physical body does not go through the process of making up its own mind, does it? No, our head rules our body’s members. The church, likewise, must be subject to Christ, not the other way around. The church’s head is in heaven, not on the earth (Philippians 3:20). Those organizations or individuals who profess loyalty to Christ but are unwilling to submit to His word have "lost connection with the head" (Colossians 2:19 NIV).

The body of Christ (4:4; 1 Corinthians 12:13) is comprised of many members (1 Corinthians 12:20; Romans 12:4-5). The church has worship assemblies, but the church is not limited in existence to congregational assemblies. The "headship" of Christ permeates into every aspect of our lives (Colossians 3:4). Christ is the head of every Christian home (1 Corinthians 11:3); and, as with members of the body, we have Him as head of our very lives as well (Romans 12:4-8). However, one Christian does not a congrega­tion make (1 Corinthians 12:14; 1 Corinthians 12:19). God constrains Christians to identify and worship with an assembly of the faithful (Hebrews 10:24-25, Colossians 4:9; Colossians 4:12). God is the one who designed and implemented local congregations, which are the real or practical expression of the abstract imagery of His body (1 Corinthians 11:2; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; Hebrews 10:24-25; Titus 1:5).

the fulness of him: Many have found the last two phrases of this verse difficult to translate.

The word translated "fulness" is used in the New Testament to suggest that completeness or a full measure has been reached. The church expresses the total purpose and character of Christ (4:13). The church is to be filled with holiness, righteousness, worship, and service, and is filled with the presence of God (2:22). The church is the embodiment of Christ.

The body of Christ (the church) does the work of Christ by doing what He would do if He were physically here. Jesus came to "seek and save" the lost (Luke 19:10). Jesus desires, "all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). The church, then, must physically "go" and preach the saving word of God (Matthew 28:19-20; James 1:21) if we are to be the "body" of which Christ is head. The "body" must reflect the mind of Christ. Jesus designed and planned to accomplish His work through the church (2 Corinthians 4:7; Romans 1:16). The church expresses Christ.

that filleth all in all: The meaning seems to be that Christ who fills everything (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3; Acts 17:24-28) specifically saturates the church with Himself to such a point that the church contains a full measure of Him. The church is the full measure of Christ (4:13).

It seems that a progression is being built on the previously introduced imagery of a "body" for emphasis. A person could exist without some of the parts of their body, such as an arm that has been amputated, etc., but a body cannot continue to live without its head. But to emphasize the union of the body with the head, we are to understand that Christ’s presence is not just in the head: Christ permeates the entire body. He fills it. To put it another way:

In a sense, the head is not enough by himself. He must have a body. This is not to say that Christ cannot exist apart from his church, but his mind or will is activated by his body. Without the church his dominion would be incomplete (Caldwell 65) (see Hendriksen 103-106).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Ephesians 1". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/ephesians-1.html. 1993-2022.
 
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