Ephesians 1:1–14. A Summary of God’s Plan.
Key Notes: A plan for the Ages. Uniting the broken. The Holy Spirit guarantees the Restoration. Our part and His.
Ephesians is such an exuberant book that it is hard to believe that it was written by a prisoner ( 3:1, 4:1). Paul was in chains (6:20), probably in Rome. He wrote four letters in prison: Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon, and they are referred to as the Prison Epistles. There are parallel passages in Ephesians and Colossians. It is surmised that Ephesians is a round-robin letter to be circulated among the churches in Asia Minor: not all manuscripts put Ephesians in the address. Tychicus (6:21) was to deliver this letter, as well as the letters to Colossians and Philemon.
Paul spent at least two years in Ephesus, teaching in the lecture-hall of Tyrannus. Aaccording to one Greek manuscript, he had from 11AM to 4PM (the siesta ) available to him. His time, and the relatively stability of the city enabled him to teach a prolonged and advanced program. This is probably reflected in the material of Ephesians which starts on a high theological level.
1:1–2 Paul is an apostle, a sent-one, by the will of God, to saints at Ephesus, who are also faithful in Christ Jesus. He prays God's grace and peace on them. We are as needy as they.
1:3–14 Paul launches into praise. It has been described as lyrical, kaleidoscopic, an operatic overture, a controlled ecstasy. The first word is “blessed” coming from the Greek word transliterated “eulogy” in English, saying good words about God. We are singing His praises, applauding what He has done for us.
The passage (3–14) is one continuous sentence in Greek, but it is divided into several English sentences for easier reading. The sentence says "Blessed be God...who has blessed us in Christ".
God the Father is the focus in 1:3–6, Christ the Son in 1:6–12, and the Holy Spirit 1:13–14. The three Persons of the Trinity are all involved in our salvation. You will find the Trinity represented several more times in Ephesians. The Persons of the Trinity participating in our salvation is seen also in Titus 3:5,6.
We will look first at a skeletal outline, then an analysis of key phrases, with attention to individual words. This is the opposite of the normal inductive method, but is useful to grasp this dense and rich passage.
He chose us to be holy, separated to God, and blameless, without blemish. 1:4
He destined us to be His children. 1:5
In Him we have redemption and forgiveness.( 1:7) [ Redemption is being bought back from slavery. Forgiveness is the remission of sin.]
He made known to us His plan to unite all things in Christ. 1:9–10
We are appointed to live for His glory. 1:12
We are sealed by the Holy Spirit as the guarantor of our inheritance. 1:13
Then we look at the supporting phrases.
1:2 “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies” or heavenly places. “The heavenlies” is a unique expression found six times in Ephesians (1:3,20; 2:6; 3:10; 4:10; 6:12). It does not mean God’s dwelling place. For example,
“…that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” (3:10)
“…against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”. (6:12)
From these references we interpret the expression “the heavenlies” to be the sphere of spiritual reality where God is, but also, where Satan has access. Job 1:6–12; 2:1–6 gives us more information,although in a different context. It is difficult for us to understand a “down here, up there” universe, but we are aware of having relationships and attachments to our political world and also with God in the spiritual world.
1:4 “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.”
The phrase “before the foundation of the world” is found three other times in the NT.
“…You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (Jn.17:24 KJV)
“…He was destined before the foundation of the world....” as the Lamb. (IPet.1:20)
“…the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world.” (Rev.13:8 KJV)
This expression teaches us that our salvation was settled before the creation of the world. Were we chosen as individuals or as a mass of humanity?
1:6 “…to the praise of His glorious grace.” This expression is repeated in 1:12,14—“to the praise of His glory”. One of the motives of God’s salvation is that we should live to praise His goodness toward us “according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us.” (1:7–8)
1:9 “…the mystery of His will….” The Greek word “mysterion” is transliterated into English, but its meaning is different from our common usage. It is not a detective story in which the solution is given on the last page.Nor is the “mystery” one of the occult and secret practices of the “mystery religions” of the Greeks. It is a truth that has been present all along, but not seen clearly. There are multiple dimensions of the mystery. Christ, Himself, is the core of the mystery.
“…the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col.1:27)
1:10 “…to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.” How can all things be united in Christ? Will everyone adopt Christianity? We think not.
1:10 God has a plan for the fullness of time.
“When the time had fully come, God sent forth His son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law….” (Gal.4:5)
“…until the fullness of the Gentiles has come”. (Rom.11:25;KJV)
We can see that God has more than one “fullness of time” or dead-line: Christ’s birth, the completion of the Gentile Church, and the end of This Age.
1:13–14 “In Him…you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it”. " Guarantee" is a familiar word. Almost every piece of hardware has some sort of promise of reliability attached. If we buy a car, the power train is garanteed for 50,000 miles. If we buy a house, we put down "earnest money" to assure the buyer that we mean business. An engagement ring is a guarantee that this man intends to marry this woman. The ring costs perhaps $2500. The Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee to us that someday we will own all that God has to give us. We would be inclined to think that the Holy Spirit is quite enough, but He is only given to us in a measure and the final gift is many, many times greater — beyond our imagination.
If we understand how the world became disintegrated, we can think of how to reunite it, to reintegrate it. Genesis 3 tells of Adam’s representative rebellion against one simple command of God, based on suspicion that God was not really good. From this event, the ground lost its efficient production of foods for man and the animals became food for each other. (Isa. 65:25). The man and woman became estranged from each other and separated from the fellowship of God.
*In the natural world, there is a food-chain, bigger animals eating smaller ones with a great deal of violence.
*Weeds and bugs, drought and flood, win out over domestic crops unless we work against them.
*At the personal level, rebellion is sin against God and leads to spiritual ignorance and unbelief, expanding outward in bad actions, anguish and self-destructiveness.
*At the family level, there is alienation and abuse with sex and money issues straining the marriage relationship; alienation between the partners is enhanced by drugs, difficulties of children and moral pollution.
*At the city level there is competition between families and businesses, with corruption and injustice, stealing and violence.
*At the national level there is civil unrest, upset economies, international struggle and endless wars.
The restoration, the reuniting of all things in Christ, is prophesied in Isa.11:1–10.
*The Spirit of God will rest upon Him to enact justice and destroy the wicked of the earth.
“…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil.2:10–11)
*The biologic order will be restored as in Eden. The carnivores will become herbivores once again. ”The lion shall eat straw like the ox.” (Isa.65:25)
*Christ will introduce a reign of peace and justice.Isa.9:6,7
*The whole earth shall be full of the knowledge of God as waters cover the sea. Isa.11:9
*"...and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword again nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isa.2:4)
*The godly will be resurrected and immortalized. ICor.15:53
*After Christ has destroyed every other rule and every authority and power, He will deliver the Kingdom back to God the Father and be in subjection to Him. ICor.15:24–28
The reuniting will then be complete.
Having looked at the supporting phrases, let us look at a group of words used a dozen times in this passage to emphasize God’s sovereignty:
chose, destined (2x), purpose (3x)
will (3x), appointed, plan, guarantee.
These words emphasize that salvation is God’s plan from beginning to end. The doctrine of predestination has always been controversial in the Church. It implies that we have no responsibility for the outcome, but that is certainly not the case, as Eph.4–6 will show. We are responsible, but He is sovereign. Whereas “free will” is everywhere assumed, we look for it in vain in Scripture. What Jesus said is that those who commit sin are slaves to sin. (Jn.8:34). Our role in becoming God’s children is small, we just do not know how small. This point will be amplified in our next lesson.
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him….” (Jn.6:44)
We come to Him when He calls.Matt.11:28.
We receive what He offers. Jn.1:12
Do we grumble? Of course.
Why doesn’t God save everybody?
What about my children and my poor relatives?
What about all the heathen who never heard?
I don’t believe in predestination.
I want to believe that I have a part in my salvation.
I like to think I am in control.
Salvation is mine to keep or lose.
Does God enjoy this work of carrying out a plan for the ages? Do we enjoy laying out a big project and carrying it out successfully? It is a great accomplishment to carry off a party wedding, to plan a 50th anniversary, to put on a big convention, write a book or build a house--and a great joy. God’s project is much greater and His joy proportionately greater.
A professional chef in our class enthusiastically volunteered to make an outside dinner-party for the class of 50–60 people. He began his inventory of meats a week in advance. As the time approached, he and his wife assembled large and small cook-ware, special graters and sharp knives. They bought gourmet cheeses and breads, and the finest vegetables. Two days before, they started food preparation, searing and pre-cooking. The next day they chopped garlic and onions, fried chicken livers, assembled lemons and limes, made salad dressings and marinades. Most of the cooking was done outside as people arrived. The knives flew. Potatoes were sautéed, and rice was boiled. Fruit was laid out on one tray, cheeses and grilled breads on another. Grilled vegetables were laid around a Caesar salad. Rice was mixed with chicken livers, onions and spices. Meat was grilled, then baked and served in batches. The potatoes were drizzled with garlic and butter. Everything was done quickly, neatly, and with an obvious love of cooking. Nothing fell on the ground.
Everyone who was invited to the party came—and a few more. And it was a delight. The chefs loved what they were doing. We enjoyed watching culinary artists at work, and applauded them generously.
Does not God love to carry out His projects? Let us praise and rejoice with Him.