Author: Ron Graham
We begin a series of lessons on Paul’s letter to the Christians at Ephesus. These are verse-by-verse studies.
The first two verses are the “salutation” or greeting. This follows the etiquette for beginning a letter in Paul’s world.
¶“1Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God... I write to you who are in Ephesus —saints and faithful in Christ Jesus. 2I wish you grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:1-2).
First the sender is identified (verse 1). Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) states briefly his credentials. He is an apostle of Christ, meaning that Christ has sent him on a special mission in life. The word “apostle” means one who is sent. Paul was sent to spread the gospel in the world. Paul wrote letters like this as one way to help fulfill his mission.
Paul adds that he became an apostle by the will of God. Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus was always on Paul’s mind. He had been intent on persecuting and exterminating Christianity. But God had other ideas.
Next, the recipients of the letter are identified. Paul writes to Christians in Ephesus. (Jesus himself later wrote a letter to this congregation.) Paul describes them as saints and faithful in Christ. A saint is a sanctified person —someone made "holy and blameless" by Christ (Ephesians 1:4) and living faithfully in that holiness.
Paul wishes the Christians in Ephesus grace and peace. The word grace means God’s goodness and mercy, his willingness to forgive us and reconcile us to himself. His grace is the source of all his blessings of which Paul writes in the following verses.
You will notice that Paul refers to our Lord as “Christ Jesus”. This is to show that Paul regards Christ and Jesus of Nazareth as one and the same. That makes a doctrine false that sees Christ and Jesus as separate entities.
In verses 3 to 6, Paul makes a beautiful statement about the amazing spiritual blessings that the love and grace of God makes possible.
¶“3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. 4Indeed he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. God wanted us to be holy and blameless in his presence. In love God predestined us for adoption as God’s sons through Jesus Christ. This fitted the good pleasure of his will, 6 and leads us into the praise of his glorious grace. God has freely given us this grace, making us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).
Paul is now starting to write about the blessings that come to us from God through Jesus Christ his Son. But his first sentence is the other way around. It is about God being the one who is blessed! This is no slip of the pen. When we become faithful in doing the good pleasure of his will, God in grace blesses us with forgiveness and reconciliation. And so God himself is blessed —blessed with sons!
Paul believed that no Christian is denied the full blessings from Heaven. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. In the physical realm, you can buy a “plain” hamburger with mince, lettuce, tomato, beetroot, and onion. Or you can buy “one with the lot”, the whole works. You get extras such as egg, cheese, ham, and maybe even pickles and pineapple. The plain burger is a blessing, but one with the lot is a greater blessing. In the heavenly realms, however, there are no “plain” blessings. Everybody gets the lot.
We are made blameless by the beloved Son, chosen and accepted in him to be adopted as God’s sons and heirs. "There is neither male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are... heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:26-29).
Paul says that God, before the foundation of the world, and by the good pleasure of his will, predestined people for sonship. God has never changed this plan of salvation, and never will. We must follow God’s love and grace. We must embrace his spiritual blessings. We must yield to his eternal purpose. Our destiny is then utterly assured.
In verses 7 to 10, Paul says more about God’s predetermined plan and purpose. Through the ages, since creation, this plan unfolded. It is brought to fruition, in the fullness of time, by the first and second comings of Christ.
¶“7In Christ we have redemption through his blood. We are forgiven of our trespasses, befitting the riches of God’s grace. 8God made grace abound toward us, in all wisdom and insight, 9after he made known to us the mystery of his will. This fitted his good pleasure and what he purposed in himself. 10It was his plan for the fullness of time, to bring all things to a head in Christ —things in heaven and on earth.” (Ephesians 1:7-10).
People were slaves to sin, so God required a price be paid for their release. Jesus paid the price with his blood. So the record of their sins could be blotted out and they could be welcomed into God’s household. They could be treated as God’s sons.
God has not been miserly with his grace. He has lavished it on all. His plan is accessible to all. Nothing can stop you from entering into it. All things are caught up in God’s purpose. His plan will unfold until the consummation. As part of his grace, he has left us in no doubt about his will. All we have to do is embrace and obey his will in faith. Then we will be beneficiaries of his grace.
We are the beneficiaries of a great and glorious inheritance. Paul now discusses this great blessing.
¶“11In him we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined thus. This befits the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. 12It results in our existing for the praise of his glory —we who were the first to trust in Christ. ” (Ephesians 1:).
All spiritual blessings, including our heavenly inheritance, come to us in Christ. There is no power, no price, no promise, no purpose, in any other. Outside of Christ there is no hope. It is not in ourselves to merit being sons and heirs. It is in Christ where the merit is found. We don't exist to praise ourselves. We exist for the praise of God’s glory.
It is in God’s purpose, his will, his counsel, and his choice, that people should have an eternal inheritance as his sons. One complies with this grace by trusting (having faith) in Christ.
You'll notice that Paul claims the blessings for, “we who were first to trust in Christ.” That means those who were among the first converts as the gospel began to spread out of Jerusalem. But in a moment Paul will say, “You also...” The blessings were promised also to the Ephesians, and indeed to everyone. As Peter said, "This promise is made to you, to your children, and to all who are far away; yes, as many as the Lord our God will call." (Acts 2:38-39).
We shall now see that a guarantee of inheritance is given to all who believe and obey the gospel...
Paul assures us that God has already given to all heirs a seal or guarantee of their inheritance. This is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
¶“13You also heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. You believed in Christ. Then, in him, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. 14The Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance toward its redemption as our acquired possession. All this is to the praise of Christ’s glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
Peter asserted the same thing on the day of Pentecost. He told those who believed the truth, "Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38-39).