Some say that all of chapters 1-3 is a prayer of Paul (see 3.14; 1.15). So this section (2.1-10) is a recitation of the spiritual history of the Ephesians and all who come to obedient faith in Christ. This text can be seen to track with Genesis 1: We have the chaos (v.1-3) out of which God brings order (v.4-9) and a new creation (v.10).
Access to His Grace (1-10)
God made us alive in Christ when He saved us by grace through faith unto good works.
1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
And you were dead: And indicates this section is connected with the previous verses in ch.1. You is emphatic. Paul is using a historical present tense (lit. you being dead) to remind these Christians of the filth from which they have come, that is spiritual death.
All people outside of and away from Christ are the walking dead. They are spiritual zombies, “dead even while [they] live.” Isa 25.7, they wear casket clothes. Those we walk by every day, who we work with, eat, with, commute with, perhaps even live with – they are dead! Just like you used to be. But God…even as God worked a work in your life, so He is able to work a work in theirs!
In the trespasses and sins: Two terms for offenses against God. 1) Trespasses—a term which points to boundaries set by God which we are not go beyond or barriers set up to keep us from harm (esp. the Law and conscience). 2) Sin—”missing the mark” by failing to do what God said to do or doing something which God said not to do. Both trespasses and sins have the same killing effect.
2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
In which you once walked: Or how they lived, going about with their dead lives. Walking is a figure used later in this epistle (v.10, 4.1; 5.2, 8, 15) and elsewhere in the NT (Col 4.5; 1 Jn 1.7).
Following the course of the this world: Here is the 1st antithesis to life with God. This is “earthbound motives” which are typical of the world. It is an ethic which stands juxtaposed with “the coming ages” (v.7). This system does not consider God and is opposed to God (cf. 1 John 2.15-17).
Following…of the air: Here is the 2nd antithesis to life with God. “Satan is here pictured as the ruler of the demons and other agencies of evil” (Robertson). Formerly, these Christians had their lives shaped by the master of evil as they followed his bidding. That these beings are of the air indicates that they are immaterial, spiritual beings, not necessarily that they “haunt” the atmosphere.
The spirit…the sons of disobedience: present tense, the devil is still working in the world, namely in “children in whom is no faithfulness” (Dt 32.20). He fans into flame their dislike for the will of God. Though he fell like lightning from heaven (Luke 10.18), is judged (John 16.11), and will soon be crushed under our feet (Romans 16.20), Satan energizes those not surrendered to God.
Those who are not surrendered to God are subject to Satan. There are only two energizing forces in this cosmic battle for the souls of men: God and Satan. And if a person is not surrendered to God, he is surrendered to the forces of darkness of whom Satan is the head. “And if people are surrendered to the power of evil, they become those whose habit of life is contrary to the living God, and so they are rightly called the sons of disobedience.
3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Among whom…our flesh: We all once lived points to Paul including himself with the Ephesian readers as among the sons of disobedience. Lived (or “conducted ourselves,” NKJV) stresses daily behavior. So the daily behavior of the unregenerate person is the gratification of “the longings and impulses of the self-centered life” (Foulkes 79). This is the pattern of life which emerges when left to our own natural desires and proclivities. Neither Jew nor Gentile are exempt.
We “all” did this before Christ. If you say you did not, there is no hope for you. We all gave into the base, carnal, earthy, selfish desires and appetites. That’s sin in its basic definition – gratify the selfish desires.
Carrying out…the mind: our habitual practice was to fulfill the will of the flesh and mind. “Lusts lead to acts” (Lenski). So not only self-centered passions, but the actual doing of those desires, both in the flesh and in our thoughts. Indeed, from our thoughts issue forth our fleshly practices.
Were by nature…the rest of mankind: Before becoming the children of God or light (see 5.8), we were by nature children of wrath. There was a Jewish thought that the Gentiles were ignorant of God “by nature” (see Wisdom 13.1). Paul affirms that all men—Jew or Gentile—are subject to divine wrath due to disobedience. Because of what they did, they were under the judgment of God. Like the rest of mankind could speak of Gentiles, but it seems best to understand it as the former state of these Christians before coming to obedient faith in Christ. All men, if left to themselves, develop the habitual practice (i.e. nature) of self-gratification (i.e. sin).
We see here three (3) fatal guides: 1) The world (v.2, “the course of this world”), 2) The devil (v.2, “the prince of the power of the air”), & 3) The flesh (v.3, “the passions of the flesh”). When one follows these guides, heeding their voice to “trespass” and “sin” against God, it leads to a very dark condition for man: 1) Morally dead (v.1, 5, “dead in trespasses and sins”), 2) Practically worldly (v.2, “following the course of this world”), 3) Satanically ruled (v.2, “following the prince of the power of the air”), 4) Wickedly associated (v.3, “the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived”), 5) Carnally debased (v.3, “the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind”), & 6) Perilously situated (v.3, “children of wrath”). Here is the bleak picture of life outside of and away from God and Christ.
4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
But God: When the night was darkest, in broke the light! God entered the fray.
Being rich in mercy: Mercy is not getting what we deserve (wrath, v.3). No doubt God’s mercy is immeasurable like His grace (v.7). It is our in abundance and overflowing.
Because…He loved us: It is God’s infinite love which is the ground of our salvation.
“Mercy takes away misery; love confers salvation” (Bengal). God sees our deadness and offers us life in Christ. There is longing in the heart of God for us to be restored to life and vitality. You cannot have verse 4 without verse 1-3.
5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
Even when we…our trespasses: Repeat of the reality of verse 1; spiritual death by trespassing. There were “No Trespassing” signs up and we crossed the line, climbed the fence and we paid the penalty for trespassing – spiritual death.
Made us alive together with Christ: As Christ was raised bodily by the power of God, so we are raised spiritually by God’s power. So we have new life with Christ, even eternal life (cf. Rom 6.4).
By grace you have been saved: At the heart of spiritual resurrection is God’s grace., i.e. His unmerited favor. The construction of this phrase (also in v.8) reaches forward & backward in time while also touching the present. We have been saved, are in a saved state, and are being saved—all by God’s grace. This is ubiquitous in the New Testament: Acts 15.11; Romans 3.24; Titus 2.11.
6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
And raised us up with Him: Having been revitalized (v.5) with new life we have also been resurrected with Christ. As Christ walked out of the tomb, so we vacate our spiritual sepulchers. As Christ ascended after His resurrection, so the Christian ascends out of the “domain of darkness” and into “the reign of the Beloved Son” (Col 1.13).
And seated us…in Christ Jesus: Or enthroned us. What happened to Christ (1.20) has happened to the Christian also. “We are joined to him so that we are where he is” (Snodgrass 102). The heavenly places refers the spiritual realm where we “reign with Christ” (Revelation 20.4, 6).
Salvation is presented as an event which has occurred in the past (i.e. baptism) and a present possession and reality experienced by those in Christ. To enjoy salvation requires being joined to the Savior. The gift cannot be separated from the Giver.
7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
So that in the coming ages: that is, those periods and times from apostolic days until the second coming of Christ or the church age. Indeed, God’s grace has flowed freely and fully in history.
He might show…in Christ Jesus: throughout church history God has made known His grace in the example of the Ephesians and Paul (“us”). The riches of his grace must be immeasurable if He can show kindness (or love in action) toward such sinners! Grace is only found in Christ Jesus.
If God can show mercy, grace, and love toward the Ephesians and Paul, then couldn’t He show us the same? Haven’t we tasted the immeasurable riches of God’s grace in our own lives? God in kindness has freely and fully given us miserable, wretched sinners His grace.
8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
For by grace…through faith: Here Paul expands upon what he mentioned parenthetically in v.5. Here divine sovereignty and human responsibility meet in the rugged realm of redemption. Grace is God’s part; faith is ours. God’s grace appeared and brought salvation and teaches us the appropriate and right response to all that God has done on our behalf (cf. Titus 2.11ff).
This is…the gift of God: That is, salvation by grace conditioned upon faith is a gift from God. Man is unable to save himself. Further, man neither initiated nor accomplished salvation. God did and He offers the gracious gift of salvation to man who receives it unto himself by obedient faith. We were saved, are in a saved state, and are being saved by God’s continued favor upon us as we continue to trust Him for all things.
9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Not a result…no one may boast: If salvation were by works grace would no longer be grace (see Romans 11.6). Whether the works of the Law of Moses or any works man might attempt to perform to placate the divine fury—it does not matter. All man’s righteous works are filthy rags before holy God (see Isaiah 64.6). It is the law of faith by which boasting is excluded (Rom 3.27).
There are a lot of people today who believe that “if you’re just a good person, God will overlook all the bad you do and take you to heaven.” This heresy is straight from the pit of hell! Salvation by grace through faith is not of works. No amount of good deeds can atone for even one sin. “I’m basically a good person” is the statement of someone who does not know that Jesus says “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10.18). Further, the Bible says, “None is righteous, no not one…no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3.10, 12). So, according to God’s word, no one is “basically a good person” and no amount of good works will save us because our good works are really polluted garments.
10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
For we are His workmanship: Or His masterpiece. Lit. We are that which God has made. This is language which harkens to God’s creative power. But though the creation of the world was grand, the new creation is grander! To bring a world out of nothing is great; to restore that world from chaos is greater! We have been made anew by God (cf 2 Cor 5.17). So we are His people, possession, prize, (see Psalm 100.3).
Created…for good works: Good works will not save us. But in Christ Jesus we are made to engage in good works. Having been spiritually renewed we can fulfill God’s purpose in our lives.
Which God prepared beforehand: From eternity, God purposed that those whom He would create new in Christ would engage in good works (as opposed to evil works). “Before the foundation of the world it was ordained that whoever should be saved by grace [thru faith] should walk in good works” (PC 64).
That we should walk in them: In time, God has a blueprint for our lives which we are to live by. This walk is the habitual practice, the career of those saved by grace. “He who is not holy in his life is not saved by the grace of Christ” (Adam Clarke). “If we are not living a life of good works, we have no reason to believe that we have been saved by grace” (PC 64). “Boast not of Christ’s work for you, unless you can show the Spirit’s work in you” (Ryle 47). One cannot claim to be saved but refuse to serve.
If we would become the masterpiece of God (“His workmanship”), we must be “in Christ Jesus” and “saved by grace through faith.” Further, to truly be God’s masterpiece, we must engage in the works He has prepared beforehand for us to walk in.
Following the opening doxology (3-14), Paul launches into a prayer for his readers (15ff). Like the doxology, this text is theocentric and Trinitarian, i.e. it is all about the Godhead.
Know His Purpose (15-18)
Paul prays for Christians to realize to what God has called them.
15For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,
For this reason: The ground upon which Paul predicates his prayer (v.16) is the wealth of the spiritual blessings lavished upon these Christians by the Father (3-6), the Son (7-11), and the Holy Spirit (12-14). Based on what God has done through, for, and in Christ he lifts his heart in prayer.
Because I have heard…all the saints: cf. Colossians 1.4. The language seems to indicate that Paul had never met these saints (unlike the Ephesians with whom he lived for three years). Perhaps a larger audience than the Ephesians was the intended target. Nevertheless, Paul had heard of the fruit of the faith. Perhaps someone like Epaphras or Tychicus brought him a report of the progress of their faith and love toward all the saints. Or their “love toward God’s people as an outgrowth of their faith in Christ” (Patzia 165). The triad of faith, hope, and love appear here (v.12, 15, 18).
16I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
I do not cease…for you: Paul was constant in his praise and thanksgiving for these brethren. Paul was frequently and regularly giving thanks for these Christians “love with faith” (6.23).
Remembering you in my prayers: Imagine the apostle Paul praying for you! He regularly made petition (Gk proseuchon) for these Christians to God. Specifically…
17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,
That the God…Father of glory: Two theological principles are found here in Paul’s prayer for these Christians. First, he addresses the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His human nature God is God of Jesus (see v.3). To us Jesus Christ is Lord. Further, Jesus reveals God as Father (see John 14-17). Second, he describes God as the Father of glory. That is, He is the Author or Source of glory. Following the Incarnation, the Father glorifies the Son (John 17.5).
Concerning God…Father Lenski says: “Both terms of this double designation pertain to the blessings which Paul requests for the Ephesians. Since God is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, we may freely ask of him, as Paul does, all that God has provided for us in our Lord Jesus Christ; and since he is the Father of the glory, we may freely ask him to help us to see and to realize this glory of his as it manifests itself in our exalted Lord for our salvation.”
 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians (Columbus, O.: Lutheran Book Concern, 1937). 392-93.
May give you a spirit of wisdom: Like “a spirit of holiness” (Rom 1.4) or “a spirit of gentleness” (Gal 6.1), this is a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit of wisdom. Apart from the Holy Spirit, there can be no distribution of wisdom and understanding. God…the Father will through the Holy Spirit give them spiritual wisdom…
And of revelation…of Him: some writers explain this as the capacity to apprehend the wisdom given by the Spirit (e.g. Blaikie 6). Most connect this verse with Colossians 1.9. What is revealed is the [full] knowledge of Him (i.e. God). These Christians are to be marked by wisdom derived from God’s revelation of Himself.
Burton Coffman says, “There is still a need for Christians to pray that God will help them to understand the revelation of the sacred Scripture, because most of its marvelous teachings require more than a little application and serious study to be clearly understood.” We come to know God and are made wise unto salvation. We should pray that God continue to make known to us Himself by His word to us and through the Holy Spirit living in us.
18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
Having the eyes…enlightened: This stand in contrast with being “darkened in their understanding” (4.18). God does the enlightening (passive voice) and illumination occurred at the baptistery (perfect tense; cf. 1 Peter 2.9). We are the illuminated and God desires to illuminate all men (cf. 3.9, “making known”). “The eye is the instrument by which we see; and in like manner the understanding is that by which we perceive truth” (Barnes). Since this is the “heart” (sing.) of the body, we are talking about something spiritual, in the “inner being” (3.16). This enlightenment leads to knowledge of three (3) things…
That you may know…He has called you: Here is the first illuminated truth Paul desires for his readers to know: The Christian’s hope. These Christians possess the Holy Spirit as a guarantee(v.14) and are aware of God’s faithfulness. Thus, when He calls people to something, hope can be said to be “confident expectation.” Paul wants these Christians to know the glorious enjoyment awaiting us in heaven.
What are the riches…in the saints: Here is the second illuminated truth: God’s rich inheritance. Paul prays that these Christians would have a deeper understanding of what it means to be God’s possession. As God’s heritage, walk in the wealth of His glory.
The church is a thinking community and should stand in stark contrast with our society which has largely stopped thinking. Failure to think breeds ignorance both in secular spheres and sacred. “The church should first of all be a community of thinkers – not thinking in distinction from action, but thinking as the basis for action. Ignorance is an ethical issue” (Snodgrass 88, emphasis original). We should have the reputation of people who think. Historically, this has been the case; presently, it should be. Further, we used to be known as “people of the Book.” We could give book, chapter, and verse for what we believe. Are we still known by the moniker and if not why not?
Barnes says: The idea here is, that Paul not only wished their “hearts” to be right, but he wished their “understanding” to be right also. Religion has much to do in enlightening the mind. Indeed, its effect there is not less striking and decisive than it is on the heart. The understanding has been blinded by sin. The views which people entertain of themselves and of God are narrow and wrong. The understanding is enfeebled and perverted by the practice of sin. It is limited in its operations by the necessity of the case, and by the impossibility of fully comprehending the great truths which pertain to the divine administration. One of the first effects of true religion is on the understanding. It enlarges its views of truth; gives it more exalted conceptions of God; corrects its errors; raises it up toward the great Fountain of love. And nowhere is the effect of the true religion more apparent than in shedding light on the intellect of the world, and restoring the weak and perverted mind to a just view of the proportion of things, and to the true knowledge of God.
Know His Power (19-22)
Paul prays for Christians to know God’s unknowable power in Christ Who is head of all things.
19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
What is the immeasurable…us who believe: Here is the third illuminated truth: God’s limitless and unknowable power. God is omnipotent, possessing all power (see Isa 45.7). It is by that power that He 1) secured the means of redemption, 2) safeguards the Christian’s future reward, & 3) secured His eternal inheritance. This power is available exclusively to the Christian community (“us who believe”), i.e. the Church.
According to…His great might: lit. according to the energy of the power of His strength. Paul uses four (4) words to express God’s power. The emphasis here is that nothing is impossible for God, specifically in conjunction with the resurrection and exaltation of Christ…
“LITTLE do men imagine what power is necessary to effect the salvation of their souls.” Paul prays these Ephesian Christians would know that power; it might as well be our prayer today. Oh that we could come to know the unknowable power of God – to save, sanctify, and glorify us! Teach us, Father!
The power Christians have is not intrinsic power, something they have in themselves, but a power that comes from God.  The resurrection of Jesus as well as His consequent exaltation to the right hand of God are demonstrations of that fantastic power. God’s power is manifested in the various parts of a Christian’s life:
- In the Beginning – at conversion. Remember, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation
- In progress – our sanctification. See 1 Peter 1.5
- In Glorification – Phil 3.21
When we know the excessive greatness of this power, nothing will ever disturb our hope. Other men also hope; alas, their hopes are built on air, there is no power to fulfill their hopes, to bestow that for which they hope.
 Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae Vol. 17: Galatians-Ephesians (London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1833). 283.
 Snodgrass 91.
 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians (Columbus, O.: Lutheran Book Concern, 1937). 397.
20that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
That He worked…from the dead: In the historical event of the resurrection of Christ God put His infinite might on display. The miraculous event included not merely the reanimation of the dead body, but the transforming of that body. That same power works in the Church.
Seated Him…the heavenly places: Paul continues by explaining that God’s “mighty strength” is on display not only in the resurrection of Christ, but in His exaltation to the right hand of God in the heavenly places. Cf. Psalm 110.1. “The right hand is the place of friendship, honor, confidence, and authority” (Clarke). Christ is exalted to a position of authority—from the tomb to the throne; from “a worm and not a man” to King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Psa 22.6; Rev 19.16).
21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
Far above all…dominion: Jesus declared He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28.18). The general sense of this phrase is that Jesus has been exalted to the highest conceivable authority. While there is debate about whether Paul has earthly or ethereal governments here, since Jesus’ ascension was into the heavenly realms and thereby into the spiritual realms, it seems best to understand these generally as spiritual forces (cf. 2.2; 3.10; 6.12). Specifically, rule is one order of spiritual beings, authority is another, power another, and dominion still another. While some scholars attempt to make a distinction between each of these classes, New Testament usage does not lend itself to noting significant distinctions between these forces and powers. What is heightened and deepened is the universal lordship of Christ.
Above every name that is named: Scholars believe this is directly connected to the Ephesian cult practices. “This particular phrase is loaded with significance for exorcism and magical incantation both in Judaism and the pagan world…Supernatural ‘powers’ were called upon by name through these means [amulets, charms, or gems] by one who desired access to their power and assistance” (Arnold 54). Paul is emphatic—no conceivable spiritual force is beyond the sovereign domain of Christ. After all, He created them (Col 1.16).
Not only…the one to come: Jesus’ Name is above all names in this world and the one to come.
Special Study – Ghosts, Ghouls, & Other Ethereal Beings
I’ve been asked by several people – young and old – about ghosts and demons. I once took a call where for an hour this man explained that he was having demons run around his house. Young people are usually asking about ghosts. I once spent the afternoon with a member’s sister who was a medium – she could contact the dead and had been used by local law enforcement to track down dead bodies.
My initial advice to everybody: stay away from that stuff. There really are spiritual forces of darkness and last time I checked we’re at war with them (Eph 6.10ff). So stay away from Ouija boards, witchcraft, spells, dark arts, etc. Indeed, Isaiah 8.19. They are consulting something, but it isn’t a dead loved one. When a person dies, their soul goes to the hadean realm, i.e. the unseen realm of disembodied spirits. But if you knock on the devil’s door long enough, do be surprised at who answers!
Here’s the point: if Jesus is greater than the whole horde of the spirit realm, why would we pursue the lesser thing? Further, if Jesus has triumphed over these spiritual forces and we are in Christ, then what have we too fear? Spiritists, mediums, witches, and the like cannot lay a finger on the redeemed of God because we have Him who has been seated “far above” all the spiritual forces of darkness.
22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,
He put all things under His feet: cf. Psalm 110.1. Christ is the victor in His conquest of all spiritual forces. He is rule is sovereign over everything—visible and invisible, material and immaterial, animate and inanimate, hostile and friendly.
Gave Him…[to] the church: Note: this verse does not explicitly say Jesus is head of the church; it says Jesus is head over all things and He assumes this role as Head over everything for His Bride. Lenski calls this “a gift of grace to the church” for it speaks of Christ being in control of everything for the benefit of His body.
23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Which is His body: lit. she is His body. Implied is that Christ is the head (see 5.23).
The fullness of Him who fills all in all: The church is the Filler’s fullness. He is the Onw who fills all things, everything. Yet, even as He fills everything in every way, Christ is filled (lit. complete) with His body. Physically, the head needs the body. In a similar fashion, the spiritual Head needs His body. As it was not good for Adam to be alone, so it is not good for the 2nd Adam not to have His body & bride—the Church.
“Christ is the head; the Church is the body. A head by itself is no use; a mind, a brain by itself is of no use. The head must have a body which it can direct; the brain, the mind must have a body through which it can work. The church is quite literally hands to do Christ’s work, feet to run upon His errands, a voice to speak His words.” (Barclay 108).
There is sense in which the Savior is incomplete without somebody saved, the Redeemer is lacking without someone in distress to rescue. It was Augustine who said, ““Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”” But perhaps it can also be said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and your heart is restless until we find rest in Thee.” If we properly understand this verse, it is both humbling and dignifying – humbling that we complete the Filler’s fullness and dignifying as presenting us with the purpose of our existence.
Composed of one long run-on sentence in the Greek, Ephesians 1.3-14 presents the gospel of grace in which each person of the Godhead plays a vital role: the Father (3-6), Son (7-12), & the Holy Spirit (13-14).
Rich in Blessings (3)
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
Blessed be the God…Lord Jesus Christ: cf. 2 Cor 1.3. The Father, being the 1st person of the Godhead, is God of the man Jesus Christ (see John 20.17, “my God”) and Father of God the Son. As the fountain-head from whom springs forth the grand purposes of redemption and salvation God is worthy of praise (see Psalm 103.1-5, 20-22). In the NT, the word “blessed” is used only of God; He alone is worthy to be blessed. People are blessed when they receive His blessings.
Who has blessed us in Christ: The Blessed One blesses “us.” “Us” are Christians, i.e. those “in Christ” (cf. 1.1). Indeed, only “in Christ” is there any spiritual blessings. This is an aorist participle, which may refer to a particular occasion in the past when those blessings were first received, i.e baptism. When we entered the Family of God by the new birth, the Father lavished rich blessings. No less than 10 times does Paul use the phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” in this opening doxology. As Lenski says, “Christ is the golden string on which all the pearls of this doxology are strung.”
With every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places: the dominate theme of the epistle is introduced right away. Both Paul & his readers, being in Christ, have access to all spiritual blessings. They are “spiritual” as opposed to material. Several blessings will be named by Paul in the following verses: from the Father—election (4), predestination (5), grace (6); from the Son—redemption (7), wisdom (8), knowledge (9), inheritance (11); from the Holy Spirit—seal (13), guarantee (14). “Every blessing” is all that the Father can bestow, all that the Son can provide and all that the Spirit can apply. Thus, the resources of all three of the Godhead conspire to bless the church.
Rich in Love (4-5)
4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
Even as He chose us in Him: very theologically loaded word in the Greek. It simply means, God “selected, chose, picked some out.” Hence, Christians are “the chosen-out ones.” We are chosen out of the world. Paul sheds more light on this in 2 Thess 2.13: we were chosen to be saved “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” This election takes place the same time as the calling, for Paul continues in 2 Thess 2.14: “God called you to this (The selection) through our gospel.” However, in the mind of God, this moment of selection takes place in eternity with God simultaneously in time with us. Since God lives in the present tense, there is no time difference to Him: the moment I chose Him is the same moment He chose me.
Before the foundation of the world: The foundation is the kataboles, the “laying or throwing down,” the beginning. So before God “threw down” the universe, he had chosen us inasmuch as God is outside of time. This selection took place before the foundation of the world (i.e., not after creation or the fall of man). Even before the foundation of the kosmos, mankind presented himself to God as lost; the work of redemption was planned and its details arranged from all eternity.
That we…before Him: This selection does two things for us, one stated positively the other negatively: we are “holified” is the first thing. Literally, we are chosen in Him, that is Christ, that we be holy, set apart. No longer set apart for the works of darkness, we are now set apart for the work of God (Eph 2.10). Further, we are without blemish, or blameless. We are free from faults, just as the sacrificial animals of the OT were free from spot or blemish.
Predestination has more to do with the thing to which we are predestined to than the person(s) being predestined to something. Hence, we are predestined for/to a thing (adoption in v.5 or an inheritance in v.11) once we have been added to the body of Christ. It can also be said that God has predestined all men to be adopted as sons by providing sinful man with the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, predestination to “divine sonship” can be and is rejected by many. Thus, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, they reject God’s purpose for their life (Luke 7.30). In Ephesians, Paul is showing us the “manifold wisdom of God” by demonstrating that God predestined the marvelous “mystery,” that is the salvation of Jew and Gentile into one body .
5he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
In love He predestined us for adoption as sons: In love is to be taken with verse 5, i.e. God’s love for mankind. Out of His infinite love, He predestined us for (or unto) adoption. See “Special Study” for predestination, but see also Acts 4.28; 1 Corinthians 2.7; Romans 2.28. Suffice it to say, in eternity past God “marked out beforehand” His eternal plan to save man. It would be through Jesus Christ (and Him only) that we would be adopted as sons. This is an idea which is found elsewhere in Paul’s writings (cf. Romans 8.15, 23; Galatians 4.5) and denotes relationship and standing, highlighting privileges and responsibilities which accompany a change in household (se 1 Timothy 3.15). God loved us and adopted us as sons. Our obedience is the loving obedience of sons.
There is a weighty discussion to be had about predestination: does God predestine people for a certain destiny or did He predestine a person and a plan? In the movie A Knight’s Tale, Heath Ledger’s character as boy is confronted with a hard decision. He lives with his father, a poor beggar, when one day a knight offers to take young William to be his apprentice. Naturally, little William wants to stay with his dad. His father explains to him, “As long as you stay with me you will always be a poor beggar. Change your stars, William.” By going with the knight, he will change his stars, change his destiny.
We are poor (spiritual) beggars. All have sinned. No good thing lies within me. We all deserve hell because of sin. So with us the knight has come with an offer to change our destinies. Our Father bids us to go with Him and change our stars. He has predestined the man (Jesus Christ) and the plan (redemption) to change our destiny (heaven).
Through Jesus Christ: and only through Him according to the foreordained plan of God.
According to the purpose of His will: “The spring or motive to the selection is solely in God, not in man” (Pulpit Commentary 3). It pleased God to act to save man (hence, “good pleasure,” NKJV, NIV).
Rich in Grace (6-7)
Through the blessing of His glorious grace God has redeemed us by the blood of Jesus.
6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
To the praise of His glorious grace: The ultimate aim of election, predestination, adoption, etc. is the glory of God as revealed in His grace (unmerited favor). As Israel under the Old Covenant was a living, breathing declaration of God’s praise (see Isaiah 43.21; Jeremiah 33.9), so the New Testament Church is a living, breathing manifestation of God’s glory and grace.
With which…in the Beloved: He has blessed is a form of the word from which we get “grace” (Gk echaritosen). Hence, the NIV “freely given.” God has graced us with grace in the Beloved (perf. Participle). This is a phrase which denotes the love the Father has for the Son from eternity. It reaches into the past and extends into today and forever. When God demonstrates His grace to us in Jesus, the beloved Son, He is putting His glory on display in us.
7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
In Him…through His blood: Behind the word redemption is the concept of slavery or bondage. In Christ (“Him”), and only in Christ, do we have (present tense) redemption for only His blood can rescue us by ransom or buy us back from slavery to sin. Christ’s cross takes care of our unpayable debt a frees us from slavery to sin, Satan, and death (cf. Romans 6.17-19). His blood, shed on the cross, purchased His church (Acts 20.28).
The forgiveness of our trespasses: Trespasses are those false steps and failures we make in relation to God’s law. All of these serious offenses are forgiven, that is, removed and taken away (Psalm 103.12). They are sent away, never to return or be remembered.
According to the riches of His grace: How is redemption from and forgiveness of all sin possible? Because God is rich is grace beyond human ability to comprehend! We neither deserved nor earned it, but God sent the Savior and accomplished His marvelous plan to save man and teach us to live by grace (see Titus 2.11-12).
Rich in Wisdom (8-10)
8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
Which He lavished upon us: or “which He made to abound toward us” (NKJV). Lavished denotes “the overflow as of a fountain from a deep and abundant source” (Foulkes 59). Out of the deep spring of God’s heart comes His grace to us.
In all wisdom and insight: There is little distinction between the two words (though some commentators see some distinction). Taken together they communicate not only the genius of God in devising the grand plan to redeem man, but also the execution of the scheme of redemption in history. As one commentator notes, “The height of wisdom is shown in God’s way of making his grace abound toward us” (Pulpit Commentary 4). Even from the darkness which is man’s earliest insights into God he knew that wisdom and understanding belonged to God (Job 12.13). Much more in the sunshine of the New Testament enlightened men know that “in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2.3). It is out of the depths of His wisdom and insight that He dispenses His grace upon His saints.
9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ
Making known…His will: cf. Colossians 1.26. The will of God which was kept secret for ages past has now been fully disclosed, revealed in the coming of Christ and the proclamation of the gospel (see 6.19). This goes hand-in-glove with God’s lavishing us with His grace (v.8). In the Old Testament, a mystery was something which was revealed by God (see Daniel 2.19). Extra-biblical writers believed mysteries prepared in heaven would be made known at the end of time. Perhaps Paul leans upon this rich Semitic history. Probably he has the mystery cults in mind when he snatches this term from them since they were so prevalent in Ephesus.
According to His purpose: or “good pleasure” (NIV). The whole reason for human history and the grand plan to redeem man is summed up here. It pleased God to save man in Christ. He is the driving impetus and force behind all things.
Which He set forth in Christ: set forth is aorist tense (snapshot in the past). When did God formulate His course of action? In eternity “before the foundation of the world.” Then He made it known in history (time). “God’s mystery would be made known on his own terms, as he in Christ had purposed and determined” (Lipscomb 23). Again, the prime mover is God.
10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
As a plan for the fullness of time: plan or “dispensation” (KJV, NKJV) is the word from which we get “economy” (Gk oikonomian). It has overtones of stewardship. So Christ is the steward though whom is working out His plan to save man. Time is plural (so “times”) indicating “a series of epochs” (Robertson). The reason for the seemingly long delay for the revealing of the mystery is that God’s investment in Christ was not mature for withdrawal. It was not the right season so the fruit was not ripe for harvesting.
To unite…on earth: To unite or “the summing up of all things” (NASB) was used in rhetoric at the end of a speech to sum up everything into a single principle. Coupled with plan in the preceeding phrase, another term used in rhetoric to indicate “the disposition of the parts of a speech” (Nichol 259), we might understand history as God speaking at different seasons for various purposes relative to His Christological purposes until the coming of Christ in which He sums up His speech in a single Principle or Person—Jesus Christ (cf. Hebrews 1.1-2). The summation and unification of all things under the headship of Christ is God’s ultimate plan for history (see also 1.22).
Ancient mystery religions had secrets which were exclusive to the initiated and were not to be communicated by cult members to ordinary mortals. In Scripture (especially the NT), the musterion is the eternal counsel of God kept hidden from man for generations until the times had reached their fulfillment. With the establishment of the church came the proclamation of the gospel message to all men worldwide (Matt 28.19; Mark 16.15). Jew and Gentile both gained access to God through the forgiveness of sins in Jesus name and united in one body, the Church. This is the “mystery” which Paul speaks of in Ephesians (see 3.6). It was not known for generations, but is now revealed for all to see and hear. It was God’s purpose from before the foundations of the world, carried along in human history through the seed line and finally made known in and by the first century church.
Rich in Inheritance (11-14)
Those sealed with the Holy Spirit are guaranteed an inheritance in accordance with God’s will.
11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
In Him…an inheritance: “in Him” means “in Christ.” When elected by God, adopted into the Family, forgiven our sins, and redeemed by His blood, we obtained (aorist, passive) an inheritance in Christ. God gives the inheritance to those who are in the Son. Further, we became His inheritance, Like Israel in the Old Testament (cf. Deut 4.20; 32.9). “All that God was to Israel of old he will be to his Church now” (Blaikie 4). Christ is the reason we are the inheritance of God.
There are two (2) popular views among scholars concerning how to understand the “inheritance.”
- We were made partakers of the inheritance.
- We were made an inheritance.
Both fit the context however most scholars lean toward the latter though most translations render the original as the former. Both concepts are Biblical, even in this same chapter (see v.18). The double or mutual inheritance (We inherit God & He inherits us) is found in the Old Testament in the relationship of Israel and YHWH – see Jeremiah 10.16; 51.19
Having been…the purpose of Him: God’s purpose from eternity was that all who would be “in Christ” would become His inheritance and gain an inheritance. This was determined in eternity.
One idea connected with “inheritance” is that of having a portion assigned by lot (casting). In back of the word is it usage of the distribution of the land of Israel by casting of lot (Josh 18.6). So the Christians in view are being described as appointed to their position as if by lot. However, the chance element of casting lots is taken out when we consider Proverbs 16.33 – every decision of the lot is from the Lord. When I think of that, I think of the scene in Star Wars Episode 1, when Qui-Gon Jinn is bargaining for the boy, Anakin Skywalker, from his owner, Watto. To decide if Qui-God will get the boy or his mother, Watto rolls a colored die. Using the Force, Qui-Gon makes sure he gets the boy by causing the die to roll to the appropriate color. So with God, our election to our inheritance is by “the purpose…[and] counsel of His will.”
Who works…the counsel of His will: God “energizes” everything (Gk root energeo) to accomplish His purposes. God planned a work in eternity(v.9) and then worked His plan in time. Everything went according to plan and that plan continues to unfold in history.
Nothing is left to chance as God “energizes” everything to accomplish His will in history. “The God of the chosen is the God of the universe; the purpose which is the ground of our being made God’s heritage is the purpose that embraces the whole plan of the world” (Nichol 264). He was at work in everything, either front and center or behind the scenes, overriding and conspiring to bring about the fulfillment of His grand scheme of redemption.
12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
So that we…to the praise of His glory: most commentators see Paul making a distinction in verse 12-13 between Jews and Gentiles (which he will do in extended form later in the epistle, ch.2). We refers to the Jews (Pual includes himself) and they were the people to whom the gospel was proclaimed first (cf. Romans 1.16). Since the gospel was first proclaimed to them, they would naturally have been the first to hope in Christ by their obedience to the gospel (cf. Acts 26.6-7). They had the promise of Messiah and when Christ appeared and they believed on Him, they became the praise of His glory. This is the purpose of their allotment (v.11), to show forth the nature, character, and glory of God. From Abraham and throughout their history, they declare God’s praise.
13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
In Him you also: Here is the pronoun shift. You are the Gentiles who also had the gospel preached to them and believed after the Jews (see Acts 13.46-48; Romans 1.16).
When you heard…your salvation: cf. Romans 10.14, 17. The word (Gk logos) of truth is the message of God’s ultimate reality in the Son. This is synonymous with the gospel of your salvation, that is the good news of salvation not only for the Jews but for everyone (universal).
And believed in Him: These Gentiles heard the word leading to faith in Christ which manifests in obedience to Him. Faith is always accompanied by action in the Bible (see Hebrews 11). Hearing and believing belong together and lead to the sealing.
Were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit: The coming of the Holy Spirit was promised in prophecy in the Old Testament (Isaiah 32.15; Ezekiel 36.27; et al) and the New Testament (John 7.37-38; 14.16-17).These Christians “heard the Word,” “believed” in Christ, and “were sealed.” This is the normative experience of every Christian. The sealing takes place at baptism (aorist tense). When a person hears and obeys the gospel, God gives him/her some of Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. This shows us He will give us our inheritance (v.14) – what a deal! “[The Holy Spirit] is the guarantee that some day we will enter into the full possession of the bliss and the blessedness of God” (Barclay 101).
In the ancient world, a “seal” was used when mailing things: the owner pressed his signet ring into melted wax to seal letter. The intention was to prevent tampering during transport – if the letter got to its destination with a broken seal, the recipient would know the letter had been tampered with. In NT times, certain religious cults would have their new initiates tattooed with the cult emblem indicating that they were sealed into that cult. Of course, the Jews had circumcision which was a seal of their covenant with God (cf. Romans 4.11).
The Holy Spirit is the Christian’s seal. By the Spirit we are kept “intact” until finally delivered into our heavenly abode. Unlike the mystery cults whose seal was physical, ours is a spiritual seal “in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1.22). Our experience of the Holy Spirit along with the demonstration of His presence in our lives to others verify and prove that we belong to God and He will deliver on His promise to us.
Inward Effects of the Spirit
- Contentment with Christ as Savior
- Drawing out of our hearts love, joy, etc.
- Conforming our will to God’s Will
Outward Effects of the Spirit
- Contrasted change from former life
- Demonstration of fruit of the Spirit
- Active interest in the Lord’s work
14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Who is the guarantee of our inheritance: Notice the switch back to the 1st person plural pronoun indicative that Paul, Jewish Christians, and Gentile Christians are all in view here. All who hear the gospel, put their faith in Christ, and through obedience have God the Holy Spirit living in them have the promise of a home with God. Guarantee was a commercial term used of money which would act as a down payment or “deposit” (NIV). “It always implies an act which engages to something bigger” (TDNT). So the Holy Spirit is for Christians 1) a foretaste of glory divine & 2) the promise of the full future bliss of salvation. God is faithful and will complete the transaction. Our inheritance is typically equated with heaven. So renewal and regeneration of the soul is the beginning of heaven. We have some of it now, but there is a whole lot more to come. The presence of the Holy Spirit is but the firstfruits of what is to come. More is in store for Christians.
In modern Greek, the word arrabon is used for engagement rings. For the Christian, 1) Assurance of future salvation: God is faithful. Look back and look forward. “I am baptized” – Martin Luther. 2) Nothing minor: we tend to think of a down payment as a small thing. But this is very significant – God lives in us! Note the power: 1.19; 3.16
Until we acquire possession of it: Literally “unto the redemption of the possession.” While Christ has redeemed by His blood (1.7). There is a “day of redemption” (4.30) yet future when is realized the full “redemption of the body” and soul (Romans 8.23). Again, God will complete the transaction when He comes in glory. He is the Great Redeemer who will accomplish the redemption of His possession in full someday. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit is our guarantee, our anticipatory sample whetting our appetite for more.
John Gill says the “day of redemption” “will be a redemption of them from the weakness, corruption, and mortality of the body; from their present state of absence and pilgrimage; from the body of sin and death; from all sorrows and afflictions, both inward and outward; from the reproaches and persecutions of men; from a tempting devil, and an unbelieving heart; from all doubts and fears; and from death and the grave.”
To the praise of His glory: One day we will enjoy the riches of our inheritance while the Father enjoys His inheritance in the saints (i.e. His possession). Until that time “we ourselves…groan inwardly” waiting for that day of redemption. Our very existence is to be for God’s glory (cf. John 17.4). When that day comes, “the consummation of redemption will be the highest tribute to God’s glory—his infinite excellence will be wonderfully manifested thereby” (Blaikie 6). “Giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints” (Colossians 1.12).
Ephesians 1:1–2 (ESV)
1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are [in Ephesus,] and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Paul: see Author. Paul is named as the author and so he is.
An apostle…by the will of God: Paul is writing in an official capacity so he uses the official title “apostle.” This epistle, then, carries apostolic weight. He is a representative, an ambassador of Christ, sent as His emissary in harmony with the will of God. This was not something that was conferred onto Paul by any man or which he took for himself; Paul was an apostle according to the desire, intent, and purpose of God.
To the saints…[in Ephesus]: or “to those who are saints and faithful in Christ Jesus.” The Ephesians are both saints and faithful. They have been set apart unto God and put their faith into action. This is true of all Christians—they are saints and they are faithful. For more on “in Ephesus” see Introductory Material.
And are faithful in Christ Jesus: This phrase indicates that Paul intended a larger audience than just those Christians in Ephesus. The phrase “in Christ Jesus” appears 176 times in Paul’s writings, 36 of which are in Ephesians. This is obviously the keystone to Paul’s theology.
2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace to you and peace: This is the Christian rendering of the greeting with which letters in antiquity generally began. It combines the Greek greeting (grace, Gk charis) with the Hebrew greeting (peace, or shalom). Grace is God’s unmerited favor. We don’t earn it or deserve it. Paul invokes God’s grace upon this community (pl. “you”). not merely the absence of war but the subtle understanding that God is in control of everything. Grace brings peace. Taken together they are Paul’s customary form of greeting (see Rom 1.7; 1 Cor 1.3; 2 Cor 1.2).
From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: God the Father & Son are the source of both grace and peace. So Paul equates (but does not conflate) the Father and Christ. The distinction is not one of nature but of relation to the recipients of the grace and peace: God is Father, having made them children by adoption; Christ is Lord as Head of the Church. Grace comes from the God who is rich in grace (cf. 1.7). Peace must come from the “God of peace” (4.9).
The Ephesian World
In the 1st century Ephesus was the capital city of the Roman province of Asia. Known as “the first and greatest metropolis of Asia,” the most celebrated feature of the city was the Temple of Diana, counted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This temple was apparently a rebuild of a previous shrine to an ancient fertility goddess which burned in 356 BC. It was also distinguished for its theater, the largest in the ancient world, capable of seating 20-25,000 spectators. Fights between beasts and men with beasts were staged here.
Ephesus was a port city in Western Asia Minor at the mouth of the Cayster River. Mountains surrounded the town on three sides and the sea was on the west. It was famous for its trade, art, and science. Ephesus enjoyed the height of its prosperity in the first and second centuries a.d. as the fourth largest city in the Empire.
Religion in Ephesus
Religion was of paramount significance to the city of Ephesus. Scholars agree that the primary god of this region was the mother goddess of the Anatolian people who originally peopled this territory. The area was first colonized by Ionian Greeks under the leadership of Androclus of Athens in the tenth century b.c. The Greeks identified the deity with their own Artemis, but the attributes remained those of the ancient fertility goddess. Over time the city became the cult center of the worship of the Ephesian Artemis. Artemis (or Diana, according to her Roman name) was known variously as the moon goddess, the goddess of hunting, and the patroness of young girls. She was the twin sister of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus. When called upon to do so, the city would vigorously defend the goddess against impious detractors [see Acts 19.28].
Artemis was not the only deity in Ephesus. Ephesus’ religious climate was similar to that of many other large cities in the Greek East. There is documentation—including literature, epigraphy, numismatics, sculpture, and architecture—of a plethora of Greco-Roman and, to a lesser extent, Anatolian deities. These include Aphrodite, Apollo, Egyptian gods, gods most high, Hercules, Pluton, & Zeus (among others). They also engaged in hero worship, with a cult devoted to Alexander the Great existing until the 2nd century AD.
Christ’s Church in Ephesus
Into this intensely pagan society the gospel is preached. The history of Christianity in Ephesus began about AD 50, perhaps as the result of Priscilla and Aquila (see Acts 18.18). However, on the day of Pentecost, there were residents from various parts of Asia minor who heard and no doubt were obedient to the gospel (Acts 2.9). Perhaps the earliest roots stretch back to the very beginning of the church. Nevertheless, most scholars point to Paul’s brief stay on his second missionary journey (Acts 18.19-21) as the nexus of the church.
During his third missionary journey Paul reached Ephesus from the “inland country” (Acts 19:1), i.e., from the highland parts of Asia Minor, and stayed there for about three years, Paul’s longest missionary tenure. So successful and abundant were his labors that “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (19:10). Influence from this resident ministry undoubtedly established congregations in the Lychus River Valley at Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colossae. Scholars also believe he wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus and perhaps Romans.
Ephesus continued to play an important role in early church history. “The consensus of 2nd century sources is in favor of placing John in Ephesus in latter years.” A long of bishops in the Eastern church lived there. Council of Ephesus in AD 431.
Author, Date, & Recipients
This is undoubted an epistle of Paul and those who would deny Pauline authorship stand on very thin ground. The writer identifies himself as “Paul” (1.1; 3.1) who is both an apostle and prisoner of Christ. Further, the similarities between this epistle and Colossians is striking—75 of 155 verses can be connected (in similar form) to Colossians. By the mid-second century, the epistle is in wide circulation and undisputedly considered of Paul. Early church writers (Clement, Ignatius) quote from this epistle. Early canons (Muratorian, Marcion) include this epistle as being of Paul. Scholars overwhelmingly affirm that this epistle was written by Paul during his Roman imprisonment between AD 62-64.
When it comes to the recipients, the case is not as cut-and-dry. For one, there are no terms of endearment (Beloved, friends, etc.) which is typical for Paul’s epistles to people he has met and known (i.e Philippians 2.12). Also, the language hints that Paul did not personally know (1.15, “I have heard of your faith”) and who do not seem to know Paul (3.2, “assuming you have heard”). This could not be a description of the Ephesian church. Paul had experienced their love while he had lived among them and he had declared to them his ministry from the Lord Jesus Christ (see Acts 20.24). The external evidence is mixed with some early church writers (Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian) citing this epistle as “to the Ephesians” while other early church writers (Origen, Jerome, Basil) had copies of this letter without the words “in Ephesus” in them. The majority of manuscripts contain the phrase en Epheso but the earliest (Beatty, Vaticanus, Sinaticus) do not (though Sinaticus has pasi en Epheso in the margin). This has led some scholars to conclude that this epistle is actually a circular letter to the various churches in Asia Minor. While addressed to “the saints who are faithful,” Ephesus would have been the first stop of this “book tour” since it was the port city, the gateway Asia Minor. Over time, this epistle was recognized as primarily belonging to Ephesus.
Paul writes to explain to his brethren that God has equipped Christ’s church with every spiritual blessing to grow.
Paul concludes this letter to his brethren with a final benediction and blessing (Philippians 4.20-23). It is similar to other farewells he gives in other books, but it does have some variations, especially not naming any saints either in the Philippian church or with him in Rome. It should be noted that he has named some among the Philippians earlier in the letter (4.2-4).
God, the Father, gets all the glory.
20To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
To our God and Father: This is doxology. Out of the sure provision of the Father for His children (v.19) flows praise and adoration.
Be [the] glory forever and ever: Lit. into the ages of the ages. Eternal glory which is particular to God and eludes human understanding (cf. Psalm 113.4). Glory typically has to do with the beauty and perfection of God which makes Him worthy of praise.
Amen: So be it. “Sure and unquestionable!” (Muller 153).
Say “Hello” to everyone there; everyone here says “Hello.”
21Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you.
Greet every saint in Christ Jesus: All saints are “in Christ Jesus” and if we are in Christ Jesus we are saints. Gk haion, holy one(s), a Christian set apart from the world unto God for service, worship, etc. The individual and therefore persona nature of this request is seen in the language—”every saint.” As with the rest of the epistle, Paul is careful not to leave any out. Unlike other epistles, Paul does not specifically name any brothers or sisters in his final greetings, perhaps due to the possible factious environment among the Philippians.
The brothers…greet you: Fellow-Christians who are with Paul, no doubt serving him in his captivity. No doubt Timothy is in view here and also “most of the brothers” who have been emboldened by Paul’s example (see 1.14).
22All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.
All the saints greet you: All those holy ones in the church in Rome where Paul is prisoner. None of these are named perhaps because neither the Roman Christians nor the Philippian Christians knew one another (Clarke). No doubt they did care and love one another (cf. Romans 12.10).
Especially those of Caesar’s household: Caesar, at the time of this writing, is Nero, a man described by some as “half beast and half devil.” He was a monster of iniquity, a sensual murderer who had turned the throne into a seat of filth. Yet even here people had heard and obeyed the gospel. No doubt there would have been moral (impure surroundings), spiritual (materialistic atmosphere), and physical (life was cheap in nihilistic culture) danger for them there. But they daily served as shining saints in the darkness (cf. 2.15). Caesar’s household refers not necessarily to the royal family, but the whole imperial establishment: palace officials, secretaries, treasurers, etc. though the family is certainly not excluded. Nevertheless, “Christianity penetrated right into the very centre (sic) of the Roman government…[and] had infiltrated even into the highest positions in the empire” (Barclay 107).
A final expression of the favor of Christ upon their spirits.
23The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
The grace…your spirit: This epistle begins (1.2) and ends with God’s grace. The difference here is it is Christ’s unmerited favor which Paul invokes upon these Christians. The Philippians had sent their gifts to Paul. Paul, in a Roman prison, has only one gift to send them—a blessing of Christ’s grace. This grace reaches into the inner being of the church itself (“your spirit,” sing.). The truth of divine unmerited favor flowing into the body of Christ would serve as a capstone of joy in Christ’s church in Philippi. This is a typical ending for an epistle of Paul (see Gal 6.18; 1 Thess 5.28; 2 Thess 3.18; 2 Tim 4.22 (variant); Philemon 25; see also Eph 6.24; Col 4.18b; 1 Tim 6.21; Titus 3.15).
Here in Philippians 4.10-19, scholars see some nuances here in the text as though Paul is embarrassed by the gift from the Philippians or is at least speaking somewhat reserved as he speaks of finances. There’s an uneasiness as Paul expresses thanks and presents his own contentedness.
Strength from Christ (10-13)
The secret to contentedness regardless of circumstances is realizing Christ’s strength is available to Christians.
10I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.
I rejoiced in the Lord…concern for me: The cause for Paul’s joy was the Philippians’ active interest in him is once more in blossom and the manifestation of this in their monetary gift sent by way of Epaphroditus. As always, the Lord is both Source and Sustainer of joy.
You were…had no opportunity: The Philippians had desired to show their interest in Paul but had not had favorable circumstances to show it. Connected with “revived” (a horticultural term), the season was not right for their concern to blossom, though they always had Paul in mind and wanted to do something for him.
11Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
Not that I am speaking of being in need: As he is writing Paul is not presently lacking in supplies or was suffering want. Paul is “well supplied” (v.18) and…
For I have learned…to be content: When did Paul learn this lesson? Aorist tense seems to indicate a specific point in his past. In fact, some suggest that it was when he became a Christian that Paul learned this. “It broke upon him at his conversion” and his life the outworking of that lesson learned (Morris 178). Robertson suggests that Paul is “looking at his long experience as a unit.” It was “in the school of life” that Paul came to “know” (v.12) contentedness. Either way, Paul learned sufficiency for every situation is possible only in Christ (cf. v.13). He is not self-sufficient but God-sufficient. This is true contentedness.
12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
I know…how to abound: Even as Christ “humbled himself” (2.8) so Paul has shared in humiliation, be it voluntary or forced upon him. Conversely, he has seen an overflow.
In any and every circumstance: Little, much, high, low, and everything in-between…
I have learned the secret: Gk memuemai, (perf. Pass), the root of which we get our English “mystery.” Paul came to eb instructed and is fully instructed (initiated) into the secret of facing life with contentedness, namely, that Christ’s strength is sufficient for every circumstance.
Facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need: cf. 2 Corinthians 6.4-10; 11.21-29
13I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me: Lit. I have strength for all things. In every conceivable circumstance (v.12) the Lord empowers “me” by His Spirit in the inner being to be adequate for the situation. Paul’s strength is wholly inadequate; he finds the strength for life and work in Him. Barnes says, “It was not in any native ability which he had; not in any vigor of body or of mind; not in any power which there was in his own resolutions; it was in the strength that he derived from the Redeemer.” See 1 Timothy 1.12
Supply from the Church (14-19)
Fellowship in Christ ensures that all brethren have their needs met by the riches of God’s glory.
14Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.
Yet it was kind of you to share in my trouble: Although in “all things” he is content and capable due to Christ, Paul does not want his brethren thinking their gift was not welcome or wanted. Indeed, they were joint fellowshipping (Gk sugkoinoneo, a compound of sun [with] and koinonia [fellowship]) with Paul in his affliction by means of the gift they sent. This, Paul says, was a good or beautiful thing.
15And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.
And you…beginning of the gospel: cf. 1.5, when the gospel was first preached in Philippi and the church was established these brethren have been willing to help support Paul’s work. Lenski says Paul is remembering back about a decade.
When I left Macedonia: see Acts 17.14, he ends up in Athens (17.16-34).
No church…except you only: Paul’s modus operandi was not to burden churches with monetary support (1 Thessalonians 2.9; 2 Thessalonians 3.7-8). That’s why he worked as a tentmaker (Acts 18.3). He had the right to earn his living by the gospel (1 Corinthians 9.14; 2 Thessalonians 3.9), but did not avail himself of that right. Later the churches in Macedonia (which might include Thessalonica and Berea) sent him support so he could work with the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11.8-9). However, at first it was only the Philippians who opened an account with Paul; other churches came along later.
16Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.
Even in Thessalonica: Paul went there immediately following the establishment of the congregation in Philippi (Acts 17.1ff). No sooner has Paul left the city than the church in Philippi is sending him support for his apostolic work.
You sent me…once and again: Lit. “both once and twice” the Philippians sent Paul what was needed, supplies necessary to maintain his work. They supplied his needs not greeds.
17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.
Not that I seek the gift: Paul does not want to be misunderstood as though he is prodding the Philippians to send him more support. He is not wishing for a monetary or material gift.
But I seek the fruit that increases to your credit: Gk alla (strong contrast). Paul does desire a spiritual increase of fruit in the account of the Philippians. Paul “desired that when they came to appear before God, they might reap the benefit of all the acts of kindness which they had shown him” (Barnes). See Proverbs 11.25
18I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.
I have received full payment and more: Or I have more than enough. The generosity of the Philippians had more than met his needs.
I am well supplied: This continues the thought of Paul having all his physical needs met. He has had all his needs met and at the time of his writing his needs are still met (perf. Tense).
Having received…the gifts you sent: Mentioned earlier in the epistle (2.25-30), Epaphroditus once more enters the scene as the gift-bearer. He delivered the Philippians contribution.
A fragrant offering: The phrase “fragrant offering” or “sweet-smelling aroma” (NKJV) occurs often in the Old Testament in connection with sacrifices (e.g. Gen. 8.21; Exo. 29.18, 25, 41; Lev. 1.9, 13, 17; et al). “The true sweetness of [the burnt sacrifices] consisted in the spiritual condition of the persons bringing the sacrifice” (Lenski 896). The Philippians contribution was an act of worship, the scent of which rose to God in heaven and in which he took pleasure.
A sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God: “Given to the servant of God, it is in truth offered to God himself” (Caffin 159). God received the gift through Paul (cf. Matthew 25.40). Through these allusions, Paul is essentially saying that what the Old Testament Jewish sacrifices performed at the temple were, the Philippians (New Testament church) gift is (cf. Hebrews 13.16). When Christ’s church gives to support ministry we engage in sacred sacrifice.
19And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
And my God will…in Christ Jesus: Even as Paul’s needs were met by them and with abundance so the Philippians’ “every need” would be met by God. In Paul’s case, God used the agency of the church to meet Paul’s need. How God would meet the needs of the Philippian Christians is not stated, though it makes no difference; Paul is emphatic that God will do it. Further, all (“every”) need would be met, indicating not only physical but also spiritual needs. And abundantly as well! It will be according to God’s “glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Christ is both head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1.22) as well as the supplier of every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1.3). “In Him there is full provision for all the needs of God’s people” (Muller (152).