{1}         Life of Blessing (Eph 1:1-14)

Introduction

PART I. CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE. SECTION A. NEW LIFE.

Paul reminds the Christians in Ephesus about the spiritual blessings that were theirs because they belonged to Christ. But these blessings were not for them as individuals. Nor are they for us alone. They belong to the church. Our tendency is to proclaim individual salvation without moving on to the saved community. Christ died to “purify for Himself a people that are His very own” (Titus 2:14). Ephesians is the gospel of the church and to the church, God’s new society.

 

Question: How does being a part of a Christian community help you to see God at work?

 

Outline:

1:1-2                Greeting

1:3-14              Paul praises God for He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.

·         the past blessing of election (v.4-6)

·         the present blessing of adoption (v.7-8)

·         the future blessing of unification (v.9-10)

·         the scope of these blessings (v.11-14)

 

Explanation

1:1       Paul claims the same title “apostle” which Jesus had given to the Twelve. Apostle is designated both in OT and Rabbinic Judaism as somebody specially chosen, called and sent to teach with authority. For this ministry, Paul had not volunteered, nor had the church appointed him. On the contrary, his apostleship derived from the will of God and from the choice and commission of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must listen to the message of Ephesians with appropriate attention and humility.

Paul describes his readers as:

[1] “saints”: all God’s people, not just a minority of exceptionally holy Christians. They were called saints (i.e. “holy”) because they had been set apart to belong to Him.

[2] “faithful”: the adjective (Gr. pistos) can have either an active meaning (trusting, having faith) or a passive meaning (trustworthy, being faithful). It is possible that both meanings are applicable (belief and fidelity).

[3] “in Christ Jesus”: meaning to be personally and vitally united to Christ, as branches are to the vine and members to the body, and thereby also united to Christ’s people.

[4] “at Ephesus”: living in the secular world. Many of our spiritual troubles arise from our failure to remember that we are citizens of two kingdoms, residing equally in both. We tend either to pursue Christ and withdraw from the world, or to become preoccupied with the world and forget that we are also in Christ. We must avoid both errors.

1:2       This is a customary greeting, a Christianized form of the contemporary Hebrew and Greek greetings:

[1] “grace” (Gr. charis, a derivation from the Greek word for greeting chairein) is God’s free, saving initiative and undeserved mercy.

·         We are saved by “the immeasurable riches of His grace” (2:5,7,8); it is by grace that we gifted for service (4:7).

[2] “peace” (a common Hebrew greeting “shalom”) is what God has taken the initiative to do, namely to reconcile sinners to Himself and to each other in His new community.

·         The good news is termed “the gospel of peace” (6:15); Jesus Christ Himself “is our peace” (2:14) for first He “made peace” by His cross (2:15) and then He “came and preached peace” to Jews and Gentiles alike (2:17). His people are to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3).

Concise summary of the good news: peace through grace.

1:3       1:3-14 constitute a single complex sentence in Greek. It is an outburst of adoration. It has been described as “a golden chain” or “a kaleidoscope of dazzling lights”. It is a doxology praising the triune God: [1] Father electing (v.4-6), [2] Son redeeming (v.7-12), [3] the Holy Spirit sealing (v.13-14), each section ending with “to the praise of His glory”. The blessings relate to the past (“before the foundation of the world” in v.4), the present (what ‘we have” now in v.7), and the future (“the fullness of time” in v.10).

“every spiritual blessing”: every conceivable blessing

“in the heavenly realms”: appearing 5 times in Ephesians and nowhere else in Paul’s letters. It is neither sky or grace nor glory, nor any literal spatial abode, but rather the unseen world of spiritual reality. It is the sphere in which the “rulers and authorities” continue to operate (3:10; 6:12), in which Christ reigns supreme and His people reign with Him (1:20; 2:6), and in which therefore God blesses us with every spiritual blessing in Christ (1:3).

In the OT, God’s promised blessings were largely material: children, a good harvest, abundance of cattle and sheep, leadership among the nations (Dt 28:1-14). Now, the blessings of the new covenant are spiritual, not material: God’s new law written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, a personal knowledge of God, and the forgiveness of our sins.

1:4       [1]        God the Father is the source or origin of every blessing which we enjoy. It is His initiative and He is the subject of almost every main verb in this passage. He “has blessed us” (v.3), chose us (v.4), and “destined us…to be His sons” (v.5); He “freely bestowed on us” His grace (v.6); He lavished His grace upon us (v.8); He “made known to us” His will (v.9-10); He “accomplishes all things” (v.11). He has set His love and poured His grace upon us, and He is working out His eternal plan.

The verb “chose” is in aorist tense [completion in one instance]. It was a definite decision. He “chose us in Him”—God put us and Christ together in His mind.

Responsibility of God’s children: to be holy and blameless “in His sight” or “in His presence”.

1:5       Doctrine of predestination (election):

[a]   The doctrine is a divine revelation, not a human speculation. The OT says that God chose Israel out of all the nations to be His special people; the NT says that God is choosing an international community to be His saints, His holy or special people (v.1).

[b]   The doctrine is an incentive to holiness, not an excuse for sin. The doctrine gives us a strong assurance of eternal security which must not be used to condone sin. For holiness is the very purpose of our election. So ultimately the only evidence of election is a holy life.

[c]   The doctrine is a stimulus to humility, not a ground for boasting. There is no room at all for merit in election.

In Roman law, adopted children enjoyed the same rights as natural children.

1:6       Because of our undeserving nature for God’s grace, our response is not one of boasting but of praising God for His glorious grace which is “freely” given because of Christ.

1:7       [2]        God the Son is the sphere which the divine blessing is bestowed and received.

·         It is “in Christ” that God has blessed us in time and chosen us in eternity (v.3-4);

·         it is “in Him” what we have redemption or forgiveness (v.6-7);

·         it is “in Him” that the first Jewish believers became God’s people (v.11-12);

·         it is “in Him” that Gentile believers were sealed as belonging to God (v.13-14);

·         it is “in Christ” that God has set forth His plan to unite all things “in Him” or under His headship (v.9-10);

·         it is “in Christ” that we have been overwhelmed with blessing.

Privilege for God’s children: redemption (deliverance by payment of a price, specially applied to the ransoming of slaves), forgiveness (rescue from the just judgment of God upon our sins).

1:8       “with all wisdom and understanding (insight)” describes how God uses His wisdom in lavishing His blessings on us. However, the term is sometimes attached to v.9 to how God made known to us His mystery.

1:9       Mystery is something that was unknown to the OT saints but is now a revealed secret. It is God’s “will” or “purpose” or “plan”. In ch.3, the mystery is the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s new society on equal terms with Jews. Here, God’s plan “for the fullness of the times” (when time merges into eternity again) is “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one headship of Christ”.

1:10     The phrase “bring together” or “unite” means “to sum up”, either in the sense of “summing up in reflection or speech” (Ro 13:9 summing up of the commandments) or in the sense of “the gathering together of things”. Already, Christ is head of His body, the church, but one day “all things” will acknowledge His headship. At present, there is still discord in the universe, but in the fullness of time the discord will cease.

“All things” must not be used as an argument for universalism because the unbelievers are described as “children of wrath” now and “the wrath of God” will come upon them on the last day (2:3; 5:6). It certainly will include Christians living and dead, and angels but also the universe. There will be a cosmic renewal and a regeneration of the universe (liberation of the groaning creation in Ro 8:18). The entire universe will be in harmony containing no alien and discordant elements. All parts shall find their centre and bond of union in Christ.

1:11     “We” means Paul himself and his fellow Jewish believers, contrast with “you” (v.13) referring to the Gentile believers; joined together in “our” inheritance (v.14); these verses emphasize that the blessings belong equally to Jewish and Gentile believers. This anticipates his theme of the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles in ch.2. The basis of the union is Christ as emphasized “in” Christ 4 times (only 2 times in Chinese).

1:12     Why did God make us His people? It was for His glory. God destined us to be his children to the praise of His glorious grace (v.6,12,14).

1:13     [3]        God the Holy Spirit is part of the work in the whole passage and His varied work is described in later chapters. He is described as a “seal”, a “promise”, and a “guarantee”.

·         “Promise”: as God promised through the OT prophets and through Jesus to send Him (on the Day of the Pentecost).

·         “Seal”: a mark of ownership and of authenticity that we belong to God.

·         “Guarantee”: a first instalment, deposit, down payment, pledge that pays a part of the purchase price in advance and so securing a legal claim to the article; we have a foretaste of the future endowment.

1:14     The church is God’s possession, similar to God’s saints (v.1) and God’s heritage (v.12). How did we become God’s people or possession? It was by God’s will (v.5,11) or His purpose (v.9) or His pleasure (v.5). The purpose is to praise His glory. To live a life to “the praise of His glory” is to woship God both by words and deeds which will cause others to see God and praise Him too.

 

Summary

        Paul peered backward “before the creation of the world” (v.4) and forward on to the fullness of time (v.10), and grasped hold of what “we have” now (v.7) and ought to be now (v.4) in the light of those two eternities.

        Easily and naturally we slip into a precoccupation with our own petty little affairs. But we need to see time in light of eternity, and see our present privileges and obligations in the light of our past election and future perfection. Then, if we shared Paul’s perspective, we would also share his praise. For doctrine leads to doxology as well as to duty. Life would become worship, and we would thank God constantly for having blessed us so richly in Christ.

        8 elements of the believer’s position:

[1]   holy and blameless (v.4);

[2]   sonship (v.5): likeness to the Father, our responsibility to obey, His caring of our needs;

[3]   accepted by God (v.6): “bestowing of grace” in NASB and RSV;

[4]   forgiven (v.7);

[5]   benefactor of the mystery of His will (v.9), as opposed to question of meaning of life of unbelievers,

[6]   obtaining inheritane (v.11): “have obtained”;

[7]   to praise God’s glory (v.12): our lives are His glory;

[8]   sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (v.13).

 

Application

        Everything that we have and are in Christ both comes from God and returns to God. It begins in His will and ends in His glory. Yet such Christian talk comes into violent collision with the human-centredness and self-centredness of the world. Fallen humanity, imprisoned in its own little ego, has an almost boundless confidence in the power of its own will and an almost insatiable appetite for the praise of its own glory. But the people of God have at least begun to be turned inside out. The new society has new values and new ideals. For God’s people are God’s possession who live by God’s will and for God’s glory.

 

Prayer

        Reflect on all that we have in Christ Jesus. Praise God for each and all of the spiritual blessings He has given to us, past, present and future. Ask the Holy Spirit to make them a reality in our lives.