Paul began this epistle with praise (1.3-14) and prayer to God (1.15-23) before discussing what God has done in the church (2.1-22). He will continue to pray for his readers (3.14-21). But first he explains 1) the mystery of God, 2) his role with the mystery, & 3) the church’s cosmic mission.
The Revelation of the Mystery (1-6)
Paul had the mystery revealed to him & he delivered it in this epistle, viz., the union of Jews & Gentiles into one body. The Father (ch.1), the Son (ch.2), & now the Holy Spirit (ch.3).
1For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—
For this reason: This phrase is in reference to the foregoing theological ideas just emphasized. As in 1.15, Paul starts a thought but is diverted (v.2-13) by mention, here, of the Gentiles.
I, Paul, a prisoner…you Gentiles: Not just “a prisoner” but literally “the prisoner,” as if there is no other. Paul is in Roman custody, yet he says in truth he is Christ’s prisoner. His imprisonment for (or possibly by) Christ is for the sake of the Gentiles; in fact, it was his preaching to the Gentiles which landed him in prison. He will refer to himself as a prisoner later also (4.1).
It is all in how you look at you circumstances. “One man will regard his prison as a penance; another man will regard it as a privilege. When we are undergoing hardship, unpopularity, material loss for the sake of Christian principles we can either regard ourselves as the victims of men, or as the champions of Christ. Our point of view will make all the difference” (Barclay 142).
2assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,
Assuming that you have heard: Seems to indicate that the readers were unfamiliar with Paul personally, indicating that this was a circular letter among the churches in the Lycus River Valley. Several scholars do not see doubt, but certainty (i.e. “since…”); they heard from Paul himself.
The stewardship…for you: Stewardship (Gk oikonomian) was used in 1.10 for Christ. Paul had been entrusted with God’s grace which was a gift given to him (see v.7). He served to dispense that grace to the Gentiles through his role as apostle for you, that is, the “nations.”
In a similar fashion, we, brethren, have been entrusted with the grace of God. We have the gospel of grace. We must be faithful stewards of God’s grace by “dispensing” it to those around us (i.e. evangelism).
3how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.
How the mystery: The musterion is the eternal counsel of God kept hidden from man for generations until the times had reached their fulfillment (see p.5). Here especially in this context it is closely related to the gospel being for Gentiles as well as the Jews.
Was made known to me by revelation: The mystery was made known to Paul at some point in his past (aorist tense). Perhaps Paul is thinking of when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and Jesus revealed to him “I am sending you” to the Gentiles (Acts 26.17-18). Cf. Galatians 1.12. The nature of revelation is some truth is uncovered or disclosed by special communication.
As I have written briefly: see 1.9-10. He now expounds upon his brief comments earlier.
None of us had a bright light from heaven blinding us and disclosing some saving secret like Paul did, but we possess the saving secret of God. As the initiated and illuminated of God, we know the mystery of God and can make it known not merely to men but also to spiritual powers in the heavenly places (see verse 10).
4When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,
When you read [this]: This is supplied in English for clarity but is lacking in the Greek. When you read what Paul has written briefly (v.3)…
You can…the mystery of Christ: The word musterion is found 21 times in Paul’s literature with 6 of those in Ephesians (1.9; 3.3, 4, 9; 5.32; 6.19). He will explain it fully in verse 6. So Paul is safe in writing that his readers can understand the mystery just as he understands it.
5which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.
Which we not…in other generations: The purpose of God has always been the same though man’s knowledge of His purpose has been limited. The revelation of that grand purpose has been gradual; while the mystery may have been revealed in part in the past, now through the apostles and prophets it has been made fully known.
There were glimpses of God’s grand scheme of redemption, but the full glory of His marvelous plan had yet to be made known fully.
As it has now been revealed: What was once concealed has now been revealed by God. Again, God’s purpose to include Gentiles was not unknown entirely in the Old Testament (cf. Gen 12.3; Isa 49.6); but the full measure of God’s toward the Gentiles was not fully known until now.
To His holy apostles and prophets: Like Paul, these New Testament messengers have been entrusted with the sacred secret of the Savior. That the apostles and prophets are holy speaks to the dedication of their lives to and by the will of God (see 1.1).
By the Spirit: The Spirit alone is able to search “even the depths of God” and only He “comprehends the thoughts of God.” But the Spirit is also able to teach in words so that man might understand the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2.10-16).
Why don’t we have modern-day prophets? Barnes explains, “They were persons endowed in this manner [i.e. inspired of the Holy Spirit] for the purpose of imparting to the newly formed churches the doctrines of the Christian system. There is no evidence that this was designed to be a permanent order of people in the church. They were necessary for settling the church on a permanent basis, in the absence of a full written revelation, and when the apostles were away. When the volume of revelation was finished, and the doctrines of the gospel were fully understood, the functions of the office ceased.”
6This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
This mystery is: These words are provided for clarity. Paul states the substance of the mystery.
Gentiles are fellow heirs: with the Jews, that is. The emphasis here is upon receiving an unearned gift, especially the blessings God has for His people (1.3) and the same inheritance (1.11-14). Note the present tense—Gentile are the following. This is present reality.
Members of the same body: This is a single word in the Greek (susoma) and is unique to Paul later church writers. Literally it is co-body. There is but “one body” (4.4) and both Jews & Gentiles are part of it.
Partakers…through the gospel: The promise most scholars point to is that made to Abraham (Genesis 12.3) and is confirmed in Galatians 3.7-14. “They do not get this blessing indirectly through the Jews, or by becoming Jews, but directly, as Gentiles” (PC 105). Only in Christ Jesus can Jews and Gentiles partake of this blessing; only through the gospel are they invited and admitted.
It is still “through the gospel” that we gain access to the promise, body, and inheritance today. We must believe, accept, and obey “the gospel of your salvation” (1.13) to be incorporated into Christ Jesus. As Christians, we need to value the gospel. “If we do not value the gospel as revelation from God, it will not impact our lives.” Think of the parable Jesus told about the pearl of great price (Mt 13.44-46). We have that which is of ultimate value; it was all Paul and all we have. “We must give attention to the gospel, be defined by the gospel, and solve our problems by applying the gospel.” And the gospel is not merely about getting to heaven; it is about life here and now as well as over yonder. It captures our initial conversion and our daily walk as disciples. It touches on our forgiveness and how we ought to forgive others. It speaks to God’s unfathomable love for us and how we ought to love one another. With so many implications upon life right now, it is no wonder Paul calls it “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (v.8). And then we gather with the saints once or twice a week and think we’ve got it. No, we only start unwrapping the gift here; you take it home and finish the job the rest of the week.
 Snodgrass 169.
 Ibid 170.
From the believers union with Christ (2.1-10) Paul points his readers toward their unity in the church (2.11ff). Paul’s emphasis is that in the body there is not Jewish and Gentile believers but “one new man in place of two” (v.15).
Access to His Blood (11-13)
Though previously far away from God by the blood of Jesus God has brought us near.
11Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—
Therefore: On the ground of your former, fallen state and in light of your current, exalted state…
Remember: present imperative. Remember what you were by nature (v.3) and what you have become by grace (v.5, 8). Some even contend this therefore reaches back to 1.3; so Paul calls upon the Gentiles to consider all they have experienced from God through Christ.
That at one time…in the flesh: Though dead and made alive by Christ like the Jews, the Gentiles were distinct in the flesh, i.e. in regards to physical circumcision. That is, since they did not bear the mark of covenant (i.e. circumcision), they were excluded from the promises and blessings of covenant with the true and living God (hence, v.12). The present tense indicates this kind of behavior was habitual and ongoing.
Called…by hands: The phrase ‘the uncircumcision’ was a term of derision by the Jews to speak of everybody who was not a Jew in the flesh. The Israelites were supposed to be a light for the nations (Isaiah 42.6; 49.6), but instead they treated uncovenanted people with contempt.
Who are “the uncircumcised” of our day and time? An updated version might talk about “the unbaptized.” I would hope, though, we would not speak of those unbaptized ones in a derogatory fashion, but rather with a broken heart speak of those who are excluded from the blessings and benefits of being an immersed one.
12remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Remember that you were: “Remember” is supplied to continue the thought. You were is the imperfect tense, indicating this was the ongoing situation in their former life before Christ.
Separated from Christ: or “without Christ” indicating that they were totally destitute of the favor and fellowship, the blessings of God. Suggesting perhaps even no interest in Him.
Alienated from…Israel: very strong language; they were shut out from the presence, fellowship of God. They did not have a country nor citizenship in the divinely appointed kingdom.
Strangers to the covenants of promise: that is, they had no share in or knowledge of the covenants of Israel. It was foreign to the Gentiles.
Having no hope: as regards the future, they had nothing to look forward to in the afterlife. How could they? They had no hope of the forgiveness of sin or resurrection unto life.
Without God in the world: Gk. Atheoi, from which we get our word “atheist.” The Gentiles had many gods. But Paul says they were “atheists” for they did not know the true God.
Some of us may have been atheists before coming to Christ. Some may have been hopeless, caught in various vices and addictions. Some may have been Biblically illiterate and “covenant” was not in our vocabulary. But all of us were at one time separated from Christ because of sin.
13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
But now in Christ Jesus: But now is a complete reversal of the preceding portrait. Only in Christ Jesus can the picture be reversed. This is the gospel—Christ came to reverse our fortunes and rewrite our futures. He died so that the dead might live now.
You who…by the blood of Christ: There had been a wide, impassible chasm fixed between the Gentiles and God—the chasm of sin. But the blood of Jesus filled the chasm, spanning the gulf to bring them near. The aorist tense have been brought answers to the imperfect tense you were in verse 12; their lifestyle was an ongoing mess of sin until all-at-once they came in contact with Christ’s blood and everything changed. Cf. Isaiah 57.19
Our lives were unmanageable messes, just a constant stream of self-gratification and doing whatever we wanted. But then all-at-once and in an instant we came in contact with Christ’s blood at the baptistery and we came near God in Christ. Now our lives have become an ongoing transformation process.
Access to His Peace (14-17)
Jesus offers peace to all through His cross. Note: “One” is the language of peace.
14For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
For He Himself is our peace: Christ is not only a Peacemaker, but He is peace; He has removed the enmity, thereby producing an atmosphere free from war wherein Jew & Gentile unite.
Who has us both one: Lit. He has made both elements one element. Christ takes two hostile factions (Jews & Gentiles) and by His blood fashions one body, one people, one church.
And has…wall of hostility: In His flesh Christ offered Himself as a peace offering to God for mankind. It is in that moment on the cross (aorist) that the dividing wall is broken down, the symbol of which was at the temple (dividing the temple from the Court of the Gentiles). When a person is at peace with God, he/she is simultaneously at peace with every other person at peace with God.
15by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
By abolishing…in ordinances: This is strong language which is easily misunderstood. Christ “renders ineffective” the Law of commandments in dogmas by His death on the cross. He fulfilled the Law and rendered it ineffective to function as a set of regulations to make Gentiles Jewish. The Law still serves as a moral guide (see 6.2, Paul quotes the 5th commandment), but the enmity causing barriers of regulations and rituals “in the flesh” has been invalidated “in His flesh.”
That He might…in place of the two: Jesus came to unite all men (contextually, Jew & Gentile) into one new man. Not by Greeks conquering the Jews or Jews forcing Greeks to convert; this is a completely new creation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5.17). New in more than just a temporal sense (time), but also in a qualitative sense (kind). This is a creation which did not exist before.
So making peace: primarily between God and man; secondarily between Jew & Gentile. With the removal of the Law came peace.
Why was there hostility between men (Jew and Gentile)? Perhaps the Jew, with the oracles of God, gloried in his position while the Gentile despised the fantastic rites of the Jew, namely circumcision (which was brought up earlier).
“One new man” – New in kind: Christ produces a new kind of person out of both Jews and Gentiles although both remain Jews & Gentiles. Chrysostom says that it is as if one should melt down a statue of silver and a statue of lead and the two come out as gold (Barclay 136).
16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
And might reconcile us…through the cross: Reconcile is friendship language. Previously there was a rupture in the friendly relations (b/c of sin); we became the enemies of God because of the enmity present (cf. Rom 5.10). But Christ has removed the hostility, taking it upon Himself in the cross, and there is a complete restoration of the relationship. Both Jew and Gentile in the one body (church, the new Israel) are reconciled completely back to God. Harmony is restored.
Thereby killing the hostility: When Christ is killed, the hostility is killed. “By His being slain, He slew it” (JFB, emphasis original). This is the hostility first, between God and man, and second, between Jew & Gentile (or among people generally).
Jesus is the answer to animosity among all races, ethnicities, factions, and peoples. The church is the single place on this planet where Jew & Gentile, slave & free, black & white, educated & illiterate, democrat & republican, the haves & the have-nots, American capitalists & Chinese communists are united and “one” (v.14, 15, 16, 18). Double reconciliation: all people to God in one body and all people to his fellow brother in Christ.
17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
And He came and preached peace: cf. Isaiah 57.19. Both verbs are aorist tense (snapshot). The Lord’s coming and preaching is somewhat debated: 1) Some say this is in reference His earthly ministry before the cross (Luke 2.14); 2) Others say what is in view is the event of the cross (mentioned in verse 16) as an act of proclaiming peace; 3) Some see the whole crucifixion-resurrection-exaltation as an act of proclaiming peace; 4) Still others see here the coming of the Holy Spirit since peace could not truly be proclaimed (esp. to Gentiles) until after the ascension. “Regardless of what view one may take, the important point is that in the Christ event (life-death-resurrection-exaltation), peace was achieved and access to God was made possible” (Patzia 197).
To you who were far off: i.e. Gentiles. Cf. v.13. They were far off because they did not have the patriarchs, the covenants, the Law, etc. whereas Jews did and were thus near (see Romans 9.4-5).
And peace to those who were near: i.e. Jews. It is interesting that the Gentiles are mentioned first and then the Jews (esp. cf. Romans 1.16). Chronologically, the Jews were the first to hear the gospel and hope in the Lord. But the emphasis here seems to be that the gospel is for Gentiles and they were as near as the Jews.
Christ was the best and most balanced preacher to ever live. Let us reserve the title “prince of preachers” solely for Him. Not only was He the one to speak most about hell, but He also preached a message of peace, peace with fellow man (Jew/Gentile) and peace with God.
Access to His Father (18-22)
Christians are part of the Family of God wherein the Father dwells by His Spirit.
18For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
For through Him we both have access: Access has to do with the right or opportunity to speak to someone. Formerly, only Jews had access and even that was limited (High Priest once a year into the veil). Now, in Christ and through Christ, all (“both” means Jew & Gentile) have the freedom to come to God.
In one Spirit to the Father: Christ has made it possible that we can address our Father in one Spirit, i.e. the Holy Spirit. So we have the Godhead presented in this single statement. Also, the Christian’s access to God is through or by one Spirit since we are united by one Spirit in baptism (see 1 Corinthians 12.13).
19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
So then…strangers and aliens: or “therefore.” Strangers is the same word as found in v.12. Aliens is a new concept which denotes a person who lives in a place without the right of citizenship. While the Gentiles were strangers and aliens (see v.12), there has been a complete reversal and they are no longer excluded from God’s purposes.
But you are fellow citizens with the saints: But (Gk alla) draws a sharp contrast. The Gentiles are now fellow citizens with all the rights and privileges that come with being residents of the holy nation of God. They have citizenship in the divine kingdom; they are residents of a “better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11.16). With the saints could be an allusion to the Old Testament saints, the historic people of God.
Members of the household of God: Earlier in the epistle Paul said that they were adopted as sons (1.5). “You are not guests or visitors, but permanent dwellers in the house and members of the family” (Pulpit Commentary 67). The idea of the church as family can be traced through the New Testament (1 Timothy 3.15; Hebrews 3.2, 5, 6; 10.21; 1 Peter 4.17).
The drive to identify with someone, some group, some important cause is powerful and strong in each of us. Why do you think people (men especially) are such ravenous sports fans, even getting in fights in the bleachers with fans of the opposing team? These identifications make us feel important. They cause us to feel like we belong. This text (with the following verses) communicate to us and tell us we belong! We have a country and a kingdom; we have a home and family. We belong with God and are involved in what He is doing. This should shape our worship: we do not come as spectators to watch; we come to participate in the family experience, uniting our voices in praise and prayer, addressing and being addressed. We belong and are involved.
20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
Built on…the apostles and prophets: Here is the third image Paul uses to show the Gentiles they are part of the eternal purpose of God: a holy temple (v.21). The Gentiles have been built (aorist tense indicates a completed action in the past) upon the firm foundation of the apostles and prophets. Here the OT prophets as well as NT prophets are those who are in view here (e.g. Agabus, Acts 21.10 for a NT prophet). However, word order coupled with 3.4-5 (the mystery now revealed) seems to emphasize NT prophets.
Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone: He is the cornerstone because “the whole edifice rests on Him” (Coffman). “The idea of chief corner-stone is that of regulation, pattern-hood, producing assimilation” (PC 67). If both Old & New Testament spokesmen (i.e. prophets) are in view, then Christ has been and continues to be the support for the saints of God, shaping and forming the community and her members.
Notice: the church is the people. We are the living stones. While our building is conducive to worship and other functions, we are the church. 1) Our assembly should not be viewed as a program in which a privileged few participate. In fact, we are all participate, worshipping our God who is present with us. 2) Ministry is for everyone, not merely the “clergy.” 3) We are all valuable & vital to the ministry and mission of the church.
21in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
In Whom…joined together: As the cornerstone of a building holds together two walls, so Christ has joined & holds together both Jews & Gentiles in one church. The word for being joined together (Gk sunarmoloumene) is a double compound that Paul invents; it is exclusive not only to the NT but also to Ephesians (see 4.16). In the present tense, it indicates that this is an ongoing process. An architectural term which points to fitting exactly together and even enhancing in compatibility.
Grows into a holy temple in the Lord: Paul presents the temple as a living being capable of growth. This is similar to Peter’s “living stones” in a “spiritual house” (1 Peter 2.5). The temple of God will continue to grow and increase until the day of judgment. The word used for temple here denotes the place in which God dwells, where His holy presence (i.e. glory) resides.
Albert Barnes on “being joined together”:
The word used here means “to joint together,” as a carpenter does the frame-work of a building. The materials are accurately and carefully united by mortises and tenons. so that the building shall be firm. Different materials may be used, and different kinds of timber may be employed, but one part shall be worked into another, so as to constitute a durable and beautiful edifice. So in the church. The different materials of the Jews and Gentiles; the people of various nations, though heretofore separated and discordant, become now united, and form an harmonious society. They believe the same doctrines; worship the same God; practice the same holiness; and look forward to the same heaven.
22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
In Him: That is, in the Lord Jesus Christ.
You also are being built together: present passive verb. This indicates that the process is continuous and the building is done by God. You indicates Paul is emphasizing the Gentiles; they along with the Jews as the church are being build together. Every part is of vital importance to the structural integrity of the building.
Into a dwelling place for God: connected with v.21 (a holy temple), these Christians are being continually fashioned into a fit residence for the divine presence. Formerly God dwelt in the temple in Jerusalem; now “the dwelling place of God is with man” (Revelation 21.3; cf. 2 Corinthians 6.16). Simultaneously, “what an awful thought, that the holy God dwells in our unholy hearts, watching us in our secret moments, and reading out very thoughts” (Pulpit Commentary 84).
By the Spirit: Verse 21 ended with in the Lord; now this verse ends by/in the Spirit. This reminds us that only in Christ, only in the Spirit are we said to be God’s place of residence. “None can have any true place in the eternal building of God, unless they have found life in Christ” (Foulkes 96). Also note that once again we find the Godhead all mentioned in a single verse: In the Son we are built into a residence for the Father by the Spirit.
When houses are built it is so that people may live in them. In similar fashion, God’s house (the church) is built so that He might dwell in it. When we abide in Christ, He abides in us (John 15.4). Further, the building is continual and progressive; it is ongoing. Construction never ceases. Consider our building. It started with just the auditorium. Soon classrooms were added. The west & east wings were built. The fellowship hall was renovated. The church offices have been relocated. New flooring was put into the fellowship just last year. Plus, there is general upkeep and projects to maintain it. So with the church, the construction is continual. There is always refining work to be done. New members are being added. The faith of some may need shoring up. When we gather together, we edify the structure.
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.