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As an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul writes this epistle as an authoritative communication from God. Indeed, his apostleship is "by the will of God." Nothing of his own or of any other person's activity is involved in this at all. God gave Paul this place: he must simply accept it and act for God in it. No other could possibly substitute for him here.
The epistle is not addressed to the Ephesian assembly as such, but to the saints at Ephesus, for assembly order is not the subject. They are "saints (sanctified ones) and faithful in Christ Jesus." This is the proper character of all believers: it is not the measure of their faithfulness of which he speaks, but of the fact, true of all.
Paul assures them of grace (v.2), not mercy, for -- considers one in circumstances of need, sorrow or misery, as used in some personal epistles, but grace lifts one above all circumstances. Grace presents the saints as "in Christ Jesus," the divine title that speaks of the glorified Christ. Peace is added, that which is calm tranquility, again above an earthly level. The source of this peace is God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
BELIEVERS INFINITELY BLESSED
The apostle's heart expands with fervent rejoicing at the mention of the name of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Our God and Father has revealed Himself in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In doing so He has blessed every saint of this dispensation with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ (v.3). A dispensation is the special mode of God's dealings at any particular time, while an age refers to the time period of the dispensation. This statement of verse 3 is so amazing and sweeping that many suppose it cannot mean what it says. But it is as plain as language can make it, and absolutely true. It is not a promise, as was given to Abraham (Genesis 12:2-1.12.3) and certainly not a conditional promise on the ground of obedience to law, as was given to Moses (Exodus 19:5), but a present fact absolutely and eternally established. What are these blessings? Two elementary and basic ones are found in verse 7 - redemption and forgiveness of sins. Added to these are a host of others elsewhere mentioned -- justification, sanctification, new birth, eternal life, peace, nearness, reconciliation, the gift of the Spirit, etc. Not one of these is lacking to any child of God of the age. He may not understand this, nor enjoy his proper blessings, but this in no way affects the fact that God has blessed him with them all.
Israel was promised temporal blessings in earthly places on condition of obedience to law. But all of their attempted works have gained them nothing. But God has given, on the ground of His grace alone and by virtue of the infinitely valuable sacrifice of His Son, every spiritual blessing in heavenly places to all who receive His Son in this day of His grace. This verse entitles us to claim every spiritual blessing we find in either the Old or New Testament. We cannot claim the temporal blessings promised to Israel, but what is spiritual is ours.
Verse 4 shows these great blessings to be in accordance with God's choosing (electing) believers "in Christ before the foundation of the world." The earthly kingdom is said to be prepared from the foundation of the earth (Matthew 25:34), but here the heavenly inheritance is prepared and each individual saint is said to be chosen in Him before the earth's foundation. This emphasizes how totally of heaven is the calling, the inheritance and the blessing of the saints of God today. Indeed, all of these are connected with the eternal purpose of God, who has chosen us altogether apart from the question of our human responsibility, in absolute sovereign grace. For He is God, and all glory belongs to Him: our eternal blessing is not to our credit at all, but to His. If this fact is not understood and accepted, much of Scripture will seem out of place and unnecessary by those who are anxious to get people saved by any means possible, as if it were by human effort that people are born again! God's work is infinitely more vital and real than all that man may accomplish.
God's object in so greatly blessing us is that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love (v.4). It is God also who makes us holy and without blemish, for this would be impossible for us by fleshly human effort. These things are God's workmanship, though certainly we should so appreciate such grace that it draws a true response from us, but the response is not the subject in this verse. In God's sight the believer is holy and without blemish as the fruit of the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus, and is established in perfect love before the Father's face.
While verse 4 shows that God's choosing (or election) has in mind, verse 5 shows that predestination has in mind the blessing for which they were marked out beforehand. This blessing is "adoption by Jesus Christ to Himself." Let us not miss the great blessing of this. Adoption was unknown in the Old Testament. Though Old Testament believers were children of God by new birth (Galatians 4:1-48.4.3), yet adoption did not take place until the cross of Christ, and those who before the cross "differed nothing from servants," have now received the adoption of sons. Adoption is not simply the child's place of being born again into family relationship, but the son's place of dignity and liberty of knowing the Father's will, and as "joint heirs with Christ," being entrusted with the Father's goods as one mature enough to be brought into partnership. The liberty and dignity of Christian position in contrast to legal bondage is emphasized in so marvelous a position being given us, which was in God's thoughts for us long before we existed, according to the good pleasure of His will. Precious resting place for faith!
Even now the wonder of these blessings is "to the praise of the glory of His grace," and will be so for eternity, It is not simply the glory of His greatness, but of His grace towards those whom He delights to accept "in the Beloved" (v.6). This expression is used to insist that just as Christ -- the Beloved -- is loved by the Father, so is the believer loved for Christ's sake; and just as it is impossible for Him to lose this place in the Father's affections, so it is equally impossible for every person who is accepted in Him.
Verse 7 shows how all that might have hindered our acceptance has been totally removed since every believer possesses redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Redemption involves both a purchase price and the setting at liberty of those in bondage. Wonderful indeed is the value of the blood of Christ! Forgiveness is the discharging of offenses by the One against whom the offense has been. Christ's blood has made possible and accomplished this forgiveness according to the riches of His grace.
God has abounded in this grace: there is no limiting, no reserve, but the full, free flow of His love expressed in favor to His saints. And this grace is not simply moved by a burst of ardent affection, but by pure wisdom and prudence, with the calm deliberation of eternal intelligence (v.8). How perfectly His grace and wisdom are intermingled in these marvelous things!
Our knowledge of these divine counsels (v.9) can be only by revelation, and here Paul declares the mystery of God's will. That will was a mystery because it was unknown before the present age. According to His good pleasure God has purposed in Himself (with no consulting of any other) that "in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ" (v.10). This refers to the completion of God's dispensational ways in administering the affairs of both heavenly and earthly spheres in marvelous unity, all things being headed up in Christ for His righteous reign of one thousand years (the Millennium).
In the world today there is no recognition of any uniting bond between heaven and earth, and therefore no practical experiencing of the wise and gracious rule of the heavens in the affairs of earth. The millennium will totally reverse this. Because of man's alienation from God, man has determined to manage earth's affairs independently of heaven, and God has given him the opportunity to prove what he can do. Therefore the present time is called "man's day" (1 Corinthians 4:3 - margin). But "the day of the Lord" will coming. That will be the time when He intervenes to take control back into His own capable hands by means of the solemn judgments of the Great Tribulation. These judgments which will follow the Lord's coming to rapture believers Home to heaven, and are spoken of as "great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:21).
Verse 10 then indicates that Christ is appointed heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2), and verse 11 declares that in Him we have already obtained an inheritance, for though verse 10 speaks of the future, verse 11 speaks of the present. Compare Romans 8:17. In Revelation 21:7 John speaks of our inheritance as being future: "He who overcomes shall inherit all things," but the viewpoint of Ephesians is that "in Christ" the inheritance is ours now. As we know and appreciate Christ, so we will know and appreciate our inheritance.
Note the contrasts between verses 5 and 11. In verse 5 predestination had in view the blessing of adoption. Verse 11 describes the blessing of the inheritance (not a question of chosen). Also, when adoption (or sonship) is spoken of, it is "unto Himself" and therefore "according to the good pleasure of His will," a term that involves His tender affections. When the inheritance is spoken of, His great power and wisdom are emphasized, "according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His own will."
Grace toward us as Gentiles is involved in verse 5. Our adoption as sons is "to the praise of the glory of His grace." But in verse 11 God's majestic power and wisdom is predominant, so Jewish believers are said in verse 12 to be "to the praise of His glory," with no mention of grace. Grace is specially emphasized where Gentiles are concerned, since they were never the subjects of God's original promises.
Since the gospel was to the Jew first, Jews are spoken of as first trusting Christ. In verse 13 the "you" distinguishes Gentiles, who also, having heard the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation, have trusted in Christ. Notice the importance of the words "in whom," twice found in this verse. Their trust was not simply in the gospel, but in the person of Christ, of whom the gospel speaks. This trust in Christ is emphasized the second time in reference to their being sealed with the Spirit. "Having believed," they were sealed. It is not a matter of having entered more into the truth of the work of Christ in redemption, but simply of believing in Him personally. The simplest believer therefore shares in the sealing of the Spirit. As the seal, the Spirit of God is the mark of God's ownership upon the believer. Therefore that ownership is absolute and eternal.
The expression in verse 13, "the Holy Spirit of promise," reminds us ofJohn 7:37-43.7.39; John 7:37-43.7.39 where the Lord Jesus, when on earth, promised the Holy Spirit to those who believed on Him. This promise was fulfilled after He was glorified, as is recorded inActs 2:1-44.2.47; Acts 2:1-44.2.47. Notice again that verse 13 twice emphasizes that the Ephesians believed in Christ personally. It is not a matter here of what He has accomplished nor is it dependent on our understanding of what He has accomplished. It is for every believer in Him. As well as being the seal, the Spirit of God is also "the earnest of our inheritance." That is, His presence within us is the pledge and foretaste of what is yet to come, the inheritance which, though purchased for us, has not yet been redeemed (v.14). Though all believers are now redeemed (v.7) and our blessings are rightly in heavenly places, Satan still has access there (ch.6:6-12). Therefore, our proper possession will not be redeemed, or liberated from Satan's cruel influence until he is cast down from heaven (Revelation 12:7-66.12.9). One may have paid the full purchase price for some property and yet be hindered from taking possession because of the determination of a former occupant to remain there, of course illegally. Thus, while every believer has been redeemed, his purchased possession has not yet been redeemed, that is, liberated from the presence of the enemy.
The shedding of the blood of Christ has accomplished redemption for us in every moral respect, but it remains for redemption by His power to put the usurper out, liberating the possession from all satanic influence and giving it fully into the hands of those who are the true heirs. This again is "to praise of His glory." Grace is not mentioned because this is redemption by His power, so His majestic greatness is foremost.
PRAYER FOR SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING
It would seem from verse 15 that fresh news of Ephesus had stimulated Paul's prayers for them. He had been with them on a former occasion for three years (Acts 10:31). Now to hear of their faith in the Lord Jesus and love to all the saints, caused his constant thanksgiving for them, and prayers. Are we concerned about assemblies at a distance from us?
Paul's prayer is based on the truth declared in the first part of this chapter. Since God has decreed that all things are to be headed up in the Man Christ Jesus, the prayer is addressed to "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory" (v.17). Christ is viewed as Man when God is said to be His God. But His deity is foremost when God is called His Father, as in chapter 3:14. This prayer of Chapter 1 has in view our entering into and understanding the full truth of all that is given us in Christ as the Man of God's counsels. The Father is seen as the source of all this glory which the Lord Jesus shares with His saints.
That God should give His saints the spirit of wisdom and revelation is not referring to the gift of the Spirit of God personally, for verse 13 declared them already to be sealed with the Holy Spirit. But just as "the spirit of meekness" (Galatians 6:1) refers to an attitude characterized by meekness, so this is an attitude characterized by both wisdom and revelation. Wisdom is that which applies rightly whatever knowledge we may have learned. But the spirit of revelation is that attitude of soul that is ready to receive directly from the Lord whatever thoughts He may reveal to us. Thus, as we meditate or think about Christ and His Word, precious things may suddenly come to us which are not the result merely of learning and wisdom. Though having always been in His Word, they had not been formerly revealed to us by God. Wonderful are the gracious ways of our God and Father!
This wisdom and revelation is to be "in the knowledge of Him" (v.17), for in knowing Him personally we shall understand far better His counsels and His ways. Also in verse 18 it is not merely the intellect that is to be involved, but "being enlightened in the eyes of your heart" (Translation by J.N.Darby), for the heart symbolizes the very center of our being and implies the whole person from a spiritual viewpoint.
Paul prays for the Ephesians to have knowledge of three specific matters:
First, "the hope of His calling" (v.18). This hope involves the coming of the Lord Jesus to transfer all believers into His heavenly glory, and therefore to be identified with Him when He administers all things in His millennial reign. How much there is for us to learn in connection with this! For instance, "we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).
Secondly, "the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." Here it is not simply His displayed glory, but that glory given to Him in His inheriting the saints themselves as His own eternal possession, so precious to Himself. Then we shall understand more fully than ever before that we are the Father's love-gift to Christ (John 17:6).
Third, desire of Paul's prayer is that we might know the exceeding greatness of God's power toward us who believe (v.19). Here is power far exceeding all seen in the natural realm, and it is on behalf of believers. It is power already displayed in the resurrection of Christ, proving God's infinite capability to fulfill all His wonderful counsels in Christ. It is resurrection power accomplished in Christ -- God's own great work of power in raising Him from among the dead and seating Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies. It may be remarked here that the Lord Jesus personally said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up," speaking of the temple of His body (John 2:19-43.2.21). He raised His own body, for He is God. 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 3:18 speaks of His being "made alive by the Spirit," for the Spirit is God. Romans 6:4; Romans 6:4 tells us He "was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father," for the Father is God. Therefore, the Trinity was engaged in this mighty work of Christ's resurrection.
That power has elevated Him to the place of supremacy at God's right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality, authority, power and dominion, and every name named (v.21). Principalities and powers (or authorities) are seen in chapter 6:12 to refer to the spiritual realm, angelic beings -- in that case evil in nature -- but chapter 1:21 includes all spirit beings, good or evil. Such exaltation is true both in this age - and in the coming age of the millennial kingdom. As Man the Lord Jesus is exalted above all creation, and will be until at the end of the Millennium when He delivers up the kingdom to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24).
"And He put all things under His feet" (v.22) indicates His authority. All creation is subject to Him. To this is added His Headship which involves His vital interest in and directing of "all things." The entire universe is under His headship. This may not be seen by the world, but "to the Church" it is a plainly established fact. She sees now what will yet be manifest to the world, and she has a place of special nearness, as His body, "the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (v.23). He who fills all things in His divine glory and dignity, and in this way had need of nothing whatever, yet became Man. As Man He needs His body the Church to fill out the preciousness of His Manhood. Wonderful, matchless, precious grace!
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Ephesians 1". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent