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God's free grace in Christ
In order to help us in our study of the first part of chapter 1, I will divide it into five parts.
vv. l, 2. The salutation or greeting. The writer is ‘Paul.’ His office is ‘an apostle of Jesus Christ.’ His call to that office is ‘by the will of God.’ The people to whom he writes are ‘the saints at Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.’ His prayer for them is for ‘grace and peace from the Father and the Lord Jesus.’
Ephesians 1:3 . The ground and cause of the salvation of sinners is the free grace of God in Christ. God is the God of Christ, as Christ is man and Mediator, and God is the Father of Christ, as Christ is God by an eternal and unspeakable generation (Psalms 2:7). ‘Blessed be God, that is, we congratulate his greatness and goodness; we ascribe glory and honour to him and give thanks for all ‘spiritual blessings.’ These spiritual blessings are more than common or temporal blessings. They are ‘special’ blessings. They are mercy and grace through the eternal covenant, all things pertaining to justification, peace, pardon, adoption, sanctification and eternal life! ‘In Christ’ God has purposed, decreed and given every spiritual blessing which heaven can bestow, which heaven can require and which is needed to enter and enjoy heaven's realm. Praise God for all that I am, have and ever shall be! It is his gift through my Head and Representative, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:4-49.1.6 . Paul deals with the means of salvation as they were purposed, decreed and prepared by the Father in his eternal counsel.
1. The Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, not because we were holy, but that we should be holy. God, in eternity past, determined to have a holy people to populate a new heaven and a new earth; therefore, he chose them in Christ out of Adam's fallen race (John 15:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Corinthians 1:26-46.1.29).
2. The Father predestinated us to be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ (Acts 13:48; Romans 8:29-45.8.30). God foreordained the persons, the means and the end, or goal, of redemption according to the good pleasure of his own will.
3. The Father accepted us in Christ, which is understood of our persons as righteous, redeemed and sanctified in Christ. He looks upon us in Christ and is well pleased. We are already seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). All of this, God the Father has done for the eternal praise of his glorious grace (Ephesians 2:7).
Ephesians 1:7-49.1.12 . Paul deals with the means of salvation, as they were purchased and accomplished by Christ in the work of redemption.
1. Christ redeemed us by his blood. We were in bondage to sin, the law and justice (Galatians 3:10). The law of God is honored by his obedience and the justice of God is satisfied by his death, and we have full and complete forgiveness (Romans 3:19-45.3.26).
2. Christ enlightened us as to the mystery of his gospel of redemption. The gospel is a hidden mystery to the natural man, Jew and Gentile (Colossians 1:26; Romans 16:25-45.16.26; 1 Corinthians 2:7-46.2.10). In Christ we see both the wisdom and the power of God in redemption. This he reveals when he pleases and to whom he pleases, that in his own time, elect angels and elect men will be brought together under one Head (Colossians 1:16-51.1.18).
3. Christ enriched us. In Christ we were made God's children and we obtained that glorious inheritance of all things (Romans 8:16-45.8.17).
4. All of this Christ, our Redeemer, has done for the eternal praise of his glorious grace (1 Corinthians 1:30-46.1.31).
Ephesians 1:13-49.1.14 . Paul deals in these verses with the means of salvation as they are applied to the elect by the Holy Spirit.
1. We heard the gospel. This is hearing with the heart, the understanding and faith (Matthew 13:16-40.13.17; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-52.1.5). All men hear words, but the Holy Spirit quickens, regenerates and gives spiritual life to God's elect. They hear not just words, but truth the good news of salvation.
2. We believed the gospel (Romans 10:9-45.10.10; Romans 10:13-45.10.15; Ephesians 2:8-49.2.9). Faith is the gift and work of God in the soul.
3. We were sealed with the Holy Spirit. The seal or stamp of the eternal covenant is not circumcision, baptism, nor even our outward graces, but the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9; Romans 8:14-45.8.16; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:13).
4. The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance. He is the first-fruits, the pledge and foretaste, the down payment on our inheritance. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit in anticipation of the full possession of our inheritance in God's good time. And all this he does to the praise of his glory.
Paul's prayer for the Ephesians
Ephesians 1:15 . Good reports had come to Paul of the Ephesians' ‘faith in the Lord Jesus.’ (They had seen the glory of his person and the fullness of his grace.) Paul also had heard of their love for all believers Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, lesser and greater. Their faith was the cause of their love, the evidence of their justification (Romans 5:1; John 13:35).
These two graces are inseparable. Faith and love go together and are found in the same persons. Where they exist, they cannot be hidden. Faith will confess and lean on Christ, and love will manifest itself in word and in deed (1 John 4:8).
Ephesians 1:16 . When we discover a work of God's grace in other people, it always leads us to two special responses:
1. We give thanks to God for them because this life and love in them is not a product of their merit but the gift of God.
2. We pray for them. We need to pray continually for one another as much after we are saved as before (1 Samuel 12:23).
In the next verses Paul gives us a summary of his prayers to God on their behalf.
Ephesians 1:17 . ‘That God may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.’
These people already knew the Lord, as was indicated by their faith in him; but this is a prayer for the increase of that knowledge (2 Peter 3:18; Philippians 3:10). This knowledge of Christ and its increase can only come by and through the Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of wisdom and revelation (John 16:13-43.16.15; 1 Corinthians 2:10-46.2.13).
Ephesians 1:18 . ‘That the eyes of your understanding may be flooded with light and understanding’ that you might see
1. the sinfulness of sin,
2. the insufficiency of your own righteousness, and
3. the beauty, glory and suitableness of Christ as Redeemer and Lord.
The natural man, being in darkness, neither sees nor understands these mysteries (2 Corinthians 4:3-47.4.6). We need a better view of them.
Ephesians 1:18 . ‘That you may know what is the hope of his calling.’
By which is meant either the hope of external happiness, Christ, who is our hope, the grace of hope, which is an exercise of faith, or all three!
For the hope of eternal glory is founded on Christ, and the grace of hope lives only in the heart where Christ dwells! As we know more of Christ, we know more of the hope of his calling.’
Ephesians 1:18 . ‘That ye may know the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.’
The elect are the Lord's portion and inheritance, in whom he is glorified and will be glorified (Ephesians 2:7). This seems to be speaking of the heavenly inheritance which the Lord is preparing for us (John 14:2-43.14.3). Paul said there are no words to describe it (2 Corinthians 12:2-47.12.4).
Ephesians 1:19 . ‘That you may know the exceeding greatness of his power to us who believe.’ This is the power of God in our conversion and faith, the power that regenerated us, raised us from the dead and formed Christ in us (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13).
Ephesians 1:20 . This power of God that quickened us and made us to live spiritually is compared with that power which raised Christ from the dead. Christ was raised for our justification as our Representative. We live because he lives, and we are free from sin because Our Surety, who bore our sins, is now free from them. But there is a likeness between his resurrection and our quickening.
1. His resurrection is called a begetting. He is the first-begotten from the dead. Our regeneration is termed a begetting (1 Peter 1:3).
2. His human body was lifeless, as natural men are without spiritual life.
3. His human body could not raise itself, as we cannot give ourselves life.
4. His resurrection was the pure, unaided work of God, as is our regeneration (Ephesians 2:1).
5. His resurrection led to his exaltation at the right hand of God and is where in our representative (Christ) we who are regenerated are already seated! (Ephesians 2:6.)
Ephesians 1:21 . Christ, our Lord, is exalted far above all rule or authority, above all power and dominion in heaven, earth, or hell, and above every name that is named or title that can be conferred in this world or the world to come (Colossians 1:16-51.1.18; Philippians 2:9-50.2.11). He has authority over all, especially his church!
Ephesians 1:22-49.1.23 . Christ has all authority (Matthew 28:18; John 17:2). Christ is the supreme Head of his church. This headship is an honorable, glorifying gift to him as Mediator. But it is also a grace gift to the church, for he rules for our good, he performs all offices for our salvation and he communicates all good things to us (Psalms 8:6).
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Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Ephesians 1". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany