As we return to Ephesians, I want to change our approach for a time. When someone receives a letter, especially an important letter, they don’t read it like we are reading this letter. Would you receive a letter from the apostle Paul and in six months only have read the first few sentences? You would read it through and through, and then later, over time, slowly digest its full meaning, and that’s what I’ve decided to do.
Ephesians overview: Chapter 1:3-14
However, it would be pointless for me to simply read the letter to you. We will take a few classes and absorb the letter as a whole, pointing out the places where Paul changes course, or emphasizes something, and to have a grasp of the entire letter.
“to the praise of His glory” (vv. 6, 12, 14). This would divide the grand sentence into three strophes.
Vs. 6: the past.
Vs. 12: the present.
Vs. 14: the future.
The glory of redeeming love in its past designs, its present bestowments, and its future fruition.
EPH 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:
EPH 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In passing from Galatians to Ephesians we become conscious that we are entering a different atmosphere. We leave the region of controversy to that of meditation on the gifts from God and the wonderful peace and unity they bring.
Vv. 3-14 constitute one perfect act of praise to God for what He has done.
1:3-6 - the first strophe. Eternity past.
EPH 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
Rather than the blessed land of the OT we have the blessed life of the saint, whether he be poor or rich, persecuted or at leisure.
EPH 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love
EPH 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
EPH 1:6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
This is the praised of the glory of God for the past before the foundation of the world.
There is nothing unprepared, nothing unforeseen in God’s dealings with mankind. His wisdom and knowledge are as deep as His grace is wide.
Before there was one light in the universe, His people were in His mind. When laying His plans for the world, the Creator had the plans of redeeming grace in view.
Salvation is deeper than all creation.
Many have rightly perceived the war of Nature and the spiritual life. Man seeks God’s love, deliverance, peace, and prosperity through his religion. He is seen by some as simply making religion up so as to only comfort his soul that Nature fills with evil dreams.
He gets hurt, sick, and poor. He suffers injustice at the hands of the law of survival of the fittest.
Evolution is often described by a line in a Tennyson poem:
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed - [Tennyson]
Yet then this section of the long poem ends with:
Who loved, who suffer'd countless ills,
Who battled for the True, the Just,
Be blown about the desert dust,
Or seal'd within the iron hills?
No more? A monster then, a dream,
A discord. Dragons of the prime,
That tare each other in their slime,
Were mellow music match'd with him.
O life as futile, then, as frail!
O for thy voice to soothe and bless!
What hope of answer, or redress?
Behind the veil, behind the veil." [Tennyson]
We might say that there is an answer and a hope behind the veil of time, when in eternity past, God elected and predestined His many sons of glory.
The universal deliverance of the earth, the universe, and all the evil, brutal, and murderous passions, depends upon our own revealing as the sons of God, ROM 8:19.
Yet, behind the veil we have gone, or rather through it by means of the flesh of Jesus Christ and into the mysteries of God.
The praise of the glory for the plans of God in eternity past, is for the kind intension of His will that He freely bestowed (graced us out with) in the Beloved.
This is the Beloved One, promised from long ages past, the Ancient of Days, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. We are in Him.
In the next strophe we turn to our present reality. We find that there are two aspects to predestination; the heritage of the saints in God and also His heritage in us. God counts Himself rich in us as we are His crop, His wheat, His production; Christ being the first-fruits and we being the first-fruits of the Spirit.
Strophe 2, 1:7-12. Our present reality.
The new man in Christ, whose sins were slain, who shares His risen life, presents himself at all times as God’s new man seen in all circumstances as a man whose life is hid with Christ.
EPH 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace,
EPH 1:8 which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight
EPH 1:9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him
EPH 1:10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him
EPH 1:11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,
EPH 1:12 to the end that we [Jews] who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
Of grace bestowed, the first mention is the forgiveness of sins. This is revealed to be a redemption, which was required, which is a release by ransom paid.
The ransom price was the blood of Christ.
Paul sets the remission of sins first amongst the bestowments of God’s grace, and makes it the foundation of the rest.
MAR 14:24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
Without forgiveness we would have no access to any of the gifts needed for life. Like fuel in an engine, life is dependent on the use of divinely good gifts. In this second strophe Paul lists two gifts, which contain within them, many gifts: a) wisdom/intelligence and b) inheritance. Without redemption, the possession of these gifts would remain in God’s hands only and an insurmountable barrier would stand between them and God’s fallen creatures.
The second bestowment of grace was wisdom and intelligence (insight).
The intellectual gift is two-fold:
Sophia - wisdom
Phronesis - understanding (moral sagacity, good sense, and thoughtfulness)
How the other graces (the total of his inheritance in Christ) flounder when the heart of the believer lacks wisdom and understanding.
Many false doctrines were invading the church at the time of this writing, and our safeguard against it is not ignorance, but more wisdom and understanding.
Verses 9 and 10 describe the object of this new knowledge. They state the mystery doctrine which gave this powerful mental impulse to the church and the highest, extraordinary moral character. This impulse lay in the revelation of God’s purpose to reconstitute the universe in Christ.
Unity, harmony, and peace in the universe means much more than the absence of war; it means the free acceptance by all creatures of God’s truth, righteousness, and goodness - God’s light fully received and openly shared.
We are given wisdom and insight into the mystery of God’s will. This mystery was not revealed in long ages past, that in this age, the Gentiles, as wild branches, would be fully grafted into the olive tree, becoming recipients of all the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant, though neither they nor the world would see the material fulfillment of that same covenant.
The third grace is our predestination to an inheritance.
A believer cannot be predestinated to sonship without an inheritance. ROM 8:17 “If children then heirs also.”
The heritage of the saints in Christ is theirs already, by actual investiture. The liberty of the sons of God, access to the Father, the treasures of Christ’s wisdom and knowledge, the sanctifying Spirit and the moral strength and joy that He imparts, these form a rich estate of which ancient saints had but foretastes and promises.
This was the purpose of Christ. The mystery is that the universe, including Gentiles, would be reunited under the headship of Christ. This design was hitherto kept secret, but now it is made known to us and performed upon us through regeneration.
The fullness of the times had arrived and we are living in it. All things will be summed up in Christ. Through Christ God has brought all things into their unity, their one fundamental principle, Christ Himself, COL 1:15-20.
What ages and epochs this age will continue onto, neither Paul nor we can know, but we do know it is the beginning of the end. When the church is over, the final ages will swiftly pass. The decisive epoch fell when God sent His son. His age would be the shortest of all, but it was the beginning of the fullness.
Strophe 3: the future hope. 1:13-14
EPH 1:13 In Him, you also [Gentiles], 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,
EPH 1:14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.
The seal of God is protecting, ratifying, and proprietary. It means that we are His possession, we are His purchased right in Christ, and that very fact guards us from evil and wrong, while it ratifies our divine sonship and guarantees our personal share in the promises of God.
We are God’s possession, acquired and secured.
The redemption of that possession is the salvation still to come, the consummation of our new life in heaven, resurrected.
We can imagine Paul, deep in thought and deep in prison, amazed at the plan of God now revealed to him. God would redeem His universe from the bondage of corruption, and the Gentiles, not recipients of the promise and alienated from God would be brought into the full enjoyment of all the promises fulfilled. The apostle stands precisely at the juncture where the wild shoot of nature is grafted into the good olive tree. A generation later, this would not amaze many people since the church would become predominantly Gentile, but at this time, when the church, having started with almost all Jews, and still mostly Jewish, the truth of the matter just floored Paul.
A great light had sprung up for them that sat in darkness; the good tidings of salvation came to the lost and despairing.
ACT 28:23 And when they had set a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.
ACT 28:24 And some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe.
ACT 28:25 And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, "The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers,
ACT 28:26 saying,
'Go to this people and say,
"You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;
And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;
ACT 28:27 For the heart of this people has become dull,
And with their ears they scarcely hear,
And they have closed their eyes;
Lest they should see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart and return,
And I should heal them. "'
ACT 28:28 "Let it be known to you therefore, that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen."
Such was Paul’s experience in Ephesus and all the Gentile cities. There were hearing ears and open hearts, souls longing for the word of truth and the message of hope. The trespass of Israel had become the riches of the world.
Both Jew and Gentile would be stamped or sealed with the Holy Spirit, indicating that they belonged to God, were sons of God, and heirs of God.