Ephesians: The Family Of God. Ephesians 1:1-6 Predestined To Adoption.
Paul was a sent one, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God. Everything is by God’s will. This is also a confession of dependency on God for one’s work. This apostolic letter is written to the saints, which includes all who are faithful in Christ Jesus. These are all those who not only confess Jesus, but who live faithfully (v. 1). It is a life which is only possible through grace, and it is grace which makes peace possible. Without grace there is no peace, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (v. 2, 6-7 Cf. Rom. 3:23). Through Christ we are also blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (v. 4a) This all stems from undeserved election, according to the sovereign will of God. Again, it is an election to belief and practice, “that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” (v. 4b Cf. I Pet. 1:2) We are predestined to adoption (Cf. Rom. 8:14-17, 29; Gal. 3:26-7; 4:5). The ultimate goal of electing grace is membership in the family with Jesus as our brother, through whom this is all possible (v. 5 Cf. Rom. 8:29). Through the Beloved we are accepted (v. 6 Cf. Rom. 3:24).
Ephesians 1:7-14 The Inheritance Of Redemption.
Forgiveness comes through the blood bought redemption of Jesus Christ (v. 7 Cf. Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:24-25; Heb. 7:12). There is no such thing as generic redemption-blood sacrifice is necessary for forgiveness to happen. It is payment for a just penalty which only Christ could pay. Therefore it is all according to the riches of His grace. It is a redemption born out of His wisdom and prudence (v. 8). It is also a redemption we would know nothing of if God had not revealed it, according to His own good pleasure. It was by His own will and purpose alone that redemption was secured and that we know about it (v. 9 Cf. Rom. 16:25-27). The history of redemption came to fulfillment in Christ at the proper time and in the only way possible (Cf. II Tim. 1:9). It is also a redemption which ultimately includes the whole of the created order (v. 10).
Since we have been predestined to this adoption (v. 5), we have also been predestined to the inheritance. Salvation is also not one event only. The whole scope of salvation flows from this one act of redemption which all together makes up our inheritance. Again, it is a state we are predestined to according to the purpose and will of God alone (v. 11). The ultimate goal of this inheritance of salvation is the glory of God and enjoyment of Him forever (v. 12 Cf. WSC Q & A 1). It is also a life of trusting in Christ alone, according to the word alone (vv. 12-13a Cf. Jn. 1:17). Furthermore, trusting is believing that word (v. 13b). We know that the full inheritance is coming by the presence of the Holy Spirit of promise in the present, as a seal of the full inheritance to come, including the redemption of the body (vv. 13-14 Cf. Rom. 8:23; II Cor. 1:22; 5:5).
Ephesians 1:15-23 A Prayer Of Thanksgiving And Increase.
Paul gives thanks for the report of the belief and practice of the saints in Ephesus (v. 15 Cf. Col. 1:4). Because of their faith and love he did not cease to give thanks in prayer, showing that it is also a good thing to begin one’s prayers with thanksgiving. Having given thanks he continues to pray on their behalf, no doubt that they would continue in the very things Paul gave thanks for (v. 16 Cf. Rom. 1:9). However, he also prays that the Father would increase their knowledge of the very redemption he has been writing about (Cf. Col. 1:9). It is prayer to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory.” (v. 17 Cf. Jn. 20:17) There is no other. It is a knowledge that will take the saints to the very end of “the riches of the glory of His inheritance.” (v. 18 Cf. Acts 26:18)
He also prays that the saints would know “the exceeding greatness of His power.” (v. 19) It is the same power which rose Christ from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of the Father-a position of rule and power which began when He ascended (vv. 20-21 Cf. Ps. 110:1ff; Acts 2:24-35; Rom. 8:38-39; Phil. 2:9-10; Col. 2:12). Paul regarded Christ’s present reign as an obvious given, but then adds that it is a reign which would continue into the coming age. In effect the present reign was evidence of what would continue into the future. What basis then do those have, who deny His present reign, for any hope of the future? To deny His present reign is to deny the resurrection. He also exercises this reign as the head of His church, and does so on her behalf (vv. 22-23 Cf. Ps. 8:6; Heb. 2:6-8).
Ephesians 2:1-10 By Grace Through Faith.
The same power that raised Christ from the dead and has seated Him at the right hand of the Father to rule and reign, is the power which has made the saints alive from being “dead in trespasses and sins.” (v. 1 Cf. Eph. 4:18; Col. 2:13) This is a power greater than “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.” (v. 2 Cf. Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:21; 3:6) The power of the Son is greater in the world, including in the lives of the saints. We all were once “by nature children of wrath,” given over to lust in body and mind, serving the evil one’s purposes (v. 3). Therefore to deny Christ’s dominion over all, is not only to deny His resurrection, but it is also to deny the gospel, which “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” (Rom. 1:16) In reality, the power at work in our salvation is a subset of the power which God exercises over all, and Christ in His messianic reign.
It is a salvation which flows from mercy, for it is entirely undeserved. Indeed, while we were dead in trespasses and sins, His love rescued us, and “made us alive together with Christ.” (v. 4) This is what it means to be saved by grace (v. 5). This salvation and the power thereof also extends to us sharing in Christ’s reign (v. 6). It is a salvation not confined to one event, such as sins forgiven, nor of one age only. It is a salvation which extends to include His sovereign will and purpose that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Cf. Mt. 6:10; 28:18-20). We are His workmanship to walk in the good works He has prepared for us (v. 10) “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (vv. 8-9) The entire package of salvation ‘by grace through faith’ is the gift of God. Those who were dead cannot even boast of the most important necessity on their part-that of faith. Those dead, are made alive.
Ephesians 2:11-18 Brought Near By The Blood Of Christ.
The outward physical act of circumcision is an example of what Paul meant by “the law of commandments contained in ordinances” which separated the nation of Israel from all others (v. 15 Cf. Gal. 6:15). True circumcision was always intended to go to the heart (Cf. Dt. 10:16; Jer. 4:4; Rom. 2:28-29; Col. 2:11). However, there was still this separation from other peoples and nations (Cf. vv. 11-12). It was this part of the law which Christ abolished in the sacrifice of Himself, breaking “down the middle wall of separation.” (v. 14) In establishing peace with God He has also established peace between peoples united together in Him, “brought near by the blood of Christ.” (v. 13 Cf. Col. 1:20-22)
Having been reconciled, Jew and Gentile both are now no longer “strangers from the covenants of promise.” (vv. 12, 16 Cf. II Cor. 5:18) This expression speaks to the reality that there have been many covenantal administrations, but they all were of the one promise. From Adam down to the new covenant there has always been only one covenant of grace. Interestingly, Paul says we all now have hope and God in the world. This is a hope we enjoy now, in this life. It is also a Trinitarian act. “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” (v. 18 Cf. I Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:4-6) The enmity is abolished and peace is now proclaimed (v. 17 Cf. Is. 57:19).
Ephesians 2:19-22 The Household Of God.
The path to covenantal citizenship is the blood of Christ (Cf. 2:12-13). Through the cross we go from being strangers and foreigners to being saints and members of “the household of God.” (v. 19) This also highlights the significance of what citizenship in the nation of Israel meant in the old covenant administration-the same as it means under the new. The idea that citizenship in the old was simply ethnic and political is a serious misreading of the text of scripture. Gentiles are grafted into what has already been. It is all one building, “a holy temple in the Lord.” (v. 21) The apostles and prophets are the scriptural foundation for this consummation of salvation history, “Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” (v. 20 Cf. Ps. 118:22; Mt. 16:18; I Cor. 3:10-11; 12:28; I Pet. 2:4; Rev. 21:14) It is also a Trinitarian household, as we are “being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (v. 22) God being a trinity of persons marks the image of God in humanity as a social image. It is also, and always has been, a spiritual reality, the “dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Cf. I Cor. 3:16-17; I Pet. 2:5)
Ephesians 3:1-7 The Mystery Revealed.
Paul became a prisoner as a result of the mission given to him of taking the gospel to the gentiles (v. 1 Cf. Acts 9:15-16; 28:16, 30). He was given a stewardship of grace for those who had not heard the gospel (vv. 2, 7 Cf. Rom. 1:5; 15:16-18). Under the old covenant administration it was a mystery how the gentiles would come into full citizenship with Israel, and full members in the house of God. However, it was only a mystery as far as it was dependent on God to reveal it (v. 3 Cf. Acts 22:17-21; 26:16; Rom. 11:25; 16:25). Once revealed it was then made clear. Faith grasps what is now understood (v. 4).
It is not as though nothing was known of a shared citizenship and spiritual house in the old testament-just not as fully revealed as it now is through the apostles and prophets of the new testament (v. 5). Isaiah prophesied of this new coming reality (19:25), and Paul made clear that the covenants of promise would include all who had faith as Abraham did (Cf. Rom. 4). He proclaimed that which Moses and the prophets had promised long ago (Cf. Acts 26:22-23). The promise was that the gentiles would become “fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.” (v. 6 Cf. Gal. 3:28-29)
Ephesians 3:8-13 The Purpose Of The Mystery.
Paul was given grace to preach the gospel to the gentiles, and in writing this he makes clear that grace is needed for any who would do the same (Cf. I Cor. 15:9; Col. 1:27; 2:2-3). Humility is necessary, as Paul considered himself as “less than the least of all the saints.” (v. 8) Humility and grace go hand in hand. From the very beginning of history, and before God “created all things through Jesus Christ (v. 9 Cf. Heb. 1:2), “the fellowship of the mystery was hidden.” So Paul affirms that through Christ the Father created all things, and before the creation of all things He planned and purposed redemption.
God also created history, and at a certain point in history He showed His manifold wisdom, by appointing to the church the task of declaring the gospel of the kingdom to “the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” (v. 10 Cf. I Pet. 1:12; I Tim. 3:16; Col. 1:16; 2:10) This was His eternal purpose-before time ever came into being (Cf. Eph. 1:4, 11). This is what “Christ Jesus our Lord” has accomplished (v. 11). Only through Him do we have boldness and access to the throne of grace (v. 12 Cf. Heb. 4:16; 10:19, 35). Paul had his tribulations in this work, but he asks his readers to not lose heart (v. 13).
Ephesians 3:14-21 A Family Rooted And Grounded In Love.
Given the spiritual battle Paul has just written about, and the attendant tribulations for the family of God, Paul prays that his readers might be strengthened (vv. 14-16). It is a Trinitarian prayer “to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” for strengthening by the Spirit. Paul prays that they would be Christians to the core, for this is what the bible typically means by ‘heart’. In other words, he prays that their faith would be genuine, not a superficial expression only, “being rooted and grounded in love.” (v. 17) Something that is rooted and grounded is something that is genuine and secure. Love only is what accomplishes this. It is not sentimentality, it is something for the saints to “comprehend.”
In Christ there is measureless love. That it surpasses our knowledge does not mean it escapes our comprehension. It surpasses our knowledge of what we know in our hearts what we deserve. The goal of this love is that we may be filled with His fullness. There is nothing more beautiful than to be truly filled with God’s presence. Furthermore, He promises to give us all that we need, “above all that we ask or think.” Again, we can comprehend it, it is just not something we would think we deserve, or that it were possible. The goal is God’s glory, “in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” The Christian faith is covenantal, and as such it is also generational. Praise God!
Ephesians 4:1-6 Unity In A Bond Of Love and Peace.
Paul had a few self-titles. He was happy to be a “prisoner of the Lord.” (v. 1) Likewise, he wanted to encourage his readers and fellow saints, to walk worthy of their calling (Cf. I Th. 2:12). It is a humble walk in love. Love is a bond (Cf. Col. 3:14). Lowly, gentle, and longsuffering speaks to the character of Christ Himself (v. 2). It is also life in the family, “bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (v. 3) Peace is a bond, and as a bond it speaks to the covenant nature of this status. It is also a spiritual and covenantal unity-one body, one Spirit, one hope, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.” (vv. 4-6 Cf. Mal. 2:10) “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Rom. 12:5 Cf. I Cor. 1:13) It is a unity and diversity that is found in the Trinity, and part of the image we bear.
Ephesians 4:7-16 Gifts From His Heavenly Throne.
There is a diversity in the unity of the body of Christ. Each of us is unique, and each of us are uniquely gifted (v. 7 Cf. I Cor. 12). These gifts have come as a result of His ascension to His heavenly throne, a prophetic fulfillment (v. 8 Cf. Ps. 68:18). It is a kingly reign that only came after a descent to incarnation, sacrifice, and resurrection (v. 9). He reigns as the prophet-priest-king (Cf. Ps. 110; John 3:13; 20:17; Heb. 1:1-4). The goal was that “He might fill all things.” (v. 10) As His prophetic office is the foundation of the other two, even so the apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church. The word comes before all else. With the close of the canon these gifts and roles have ceased, but the word remains as the first in order of priority.
The gifts and roles which follow serve the ministry of the word (v. 11). That ministry serves “for equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry.” (v. 12) These are two separate things which serve to edify the body and work toward the unity of which Paul has just written (v. 13 Cf. 4:1-6). It is the ministry of the word which guards the saints against being led astray by false doctrine and deceivers (v. 14). It is a matter not just of speaking the truth, but speaking the truth in love (v. 15). It is important to have the right motivation and approach. It is also a ministry which depends on the body working together to strengthen, compliment, and encourage each other to grow in the faith (v. 16).