An in-depth study of its beauty and significance
Part 1. Eph.1:1-14
The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians whilst staying in his “own hired house” in Rome, during the two years in which he was under duress by Caesar.
Some have suggested that he had to wait for two years before his case was heard, but it is more in keeping with the text to assume that he was heard quite soon after arriving in Rome, and that he was required to remain under house arrest for “two whole years” before being released.
The resurrection of Jesus was in AD 33. The early church, formed at Pentecost, was soon under the tyranny of men like Saul of Tarsus, and as historical records show that Joseph of Arimathea landed in England in AD 36, resulting from the persecution, we can say with some degree of certainty that Saul met the Lord on the Damascus road at about that time. It was therefore 20 years later, in AD 56 that he stood before Nero in Rome. Those 20 years were full to the brim with apostolic activity. The conditions of house arrest now gave him opportunity to sit back and listen to the Lord’s further leading. Ephesians and Colossians were written during those years, and revealed amazing new truths.
The Text (From the New King James Version)
1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul always starts by giving his credentials, and we do not find it offensive. But if someone today wrote in similar vein, there might well be an outcry. We do not doubt that God could call someone to apostolic standing, but in order for him to be authenticated, his lifestyle would have to pass the apostolic tests.
“In Ephesus”. In the original Greek texts these words are left out, but a space was found, indicating that this letter was meant to be read by all the churches of Asia, and not just by those at Ephesus.
“Faithful in Christ Jesus.” It would be more correct to say “Trustworthy in Christ Jesus.” It is one thing to be a convert, but quite another to have shown subsequent trustworthiness of life. This should be kept in mind as we read on.
Verses 3 – 14 are all one sentence in the Greek. It is the longest sentence in the Bible, and contains 202 words. This is significant, because 202 seems to be Paul’s “numerical signature.” So much of Paul’s writing is focused on the Body of Christ. The adult human body has 202 bones. (206 when first born, but some bones knit together in the first year.) Another aspect of Paul’s writing is the nature of our suffering for Christ, and the ministry of suffering in the life of believers. It is interesting therefore to find that the sum of Paul’s own stated sufferings (in 2 Cor.11:24-25) amounts to 202.
|Five times beaten with forty lashes save one
|Three times beaten with rods
|Once I was stoned
|Three times I suffered shipwreck
One further reflection on this number comes from Paul’s preaching that by grace we become “sons of God.” The ancient number for “sons of God” in Hebrew is 153. If we add 49 to 153 we obtain 202, and 49 is 7 X 7, the fullness of spiritual perfection.
1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.
“Blessed . . . blesses . . . blessing.” The Greek word for blessed is EULOGEETOS, a compound word of EU (well) and LEGO (speak). Hence to bless means to speak well of someone. We speak well of God, because He has spoken well of us. This is the intolerable compliment, to use a phrase coined by C.S.Lewis. This verse gave rise to the Latin saying “Benedictus benedicat” (May the Blesser be blessed) so frequently used as grace before meals.
“Every spiritual blessing.” These words cannot be detached from those that follow.
“In the heavenly places in Christ.” We shall have to stop for a moment here, because this is a case of bad translation. The Greek text reads EN TOIS EPOURANIOIS. En tois (In the) followed by a compound adjective in the Dative Plural Masculine. It can only mean “heavenly (ones)”, and because the prefix EPI is added, it takes on the meaning of “senior heavenly (ones)”. Furthermore, the word EN, usually translated IN, is often used to mean AMONG. See 1 Cor.2:6 for example. “We speak wisdom AMONG those who are mature.” (EN TOIS TELEIOIS)
Hence the expression should now read “Every spiritual blessing among those senior heavenly ones in Christ.”
This expression is found five times in Ephesians and nowhere else in Paul’s writings. Before going further, let’s have a look at the other four.
1:19 . . . the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand among the senior heavenly ones, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
2:5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together among the senior heavenly ones in Christ Jesus.
3:10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers among the senior heavenly ones.
6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness among the senior heavenly ones.
One could stop at this point and diversify liberally on all this information. But to be brief, without missing out on the importance of what is said, we can say that the trustworthy ones in Christ are said to be raised (spiritually) into that high realm where the most senior members of the hierarchy are to be found. The purpose of this is to display and testify God’s great wisdom to these heavenly beings, not all of whom are beneficent, as the last reference shows. So we learn that not only is there a work for the believers to perform, but also a battle to be fought.
1:4 According as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.
“He chose us”. Greek verbs are designed to show a much greater exactitude of meaning than in modern English, where we have to employ additional words to fix the meaning. Take this verb, to choose. As well as Active and Passive Voices, Greek employs the Middle Voice, and this always has a reflexive connotation, in other words, theaction of the verb always has to do with the person. In this instance we may say that God’s choice was made for His own purpose, desire, and pleasure.
“Before the foundation of the world.” This expression is found in the N.T., along with the other expression, “Since the F of the W.” To summarise the information, we have the following –
Matt.13:35 Kingdom truth kept secret FROM the F.of W.
Matt.25:34 The “sheep” inherit the Kingdom prepared for them FROM the F.of W.
Luke 11:50 All the blood shed FROM the F.of W.
Heb.4:3 The works came into being FROM the F.of W.
Heb.9:26 Since then He would have had to suffer often FROM the F. of W.
Rev. 13:8 Those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life FROM the F. of W. (Also in Rev.17:8)
John 17:24. You loved me BEFORE the F. of W.
Eph.1:4. Chosen in Christ BEFORE the F.of W.
1 Peter 1:19 Christ . .a lamb without blemish . . foreordained BEFORE the F.of W. but manifest in these last times.
A careful comparison of these two groups shows that the expression “Foundation of the world” needs some modification. The Greek word “Foundation” is KATABOLEE, having a literal meaning of “Throwing down” See how the Verb KATABALLO is used –
2 Cor.4:9 cast down but not destroyed.
Rev.12:10 the accuser of our brethren is cast down.
It is in this destructive sense that we should look at the various references. Literally translated we have “Before the throwing down of the Cosmos, (i.e. world-order)” In other words the event that distinguishes the “Before” class from the “Since” class is the Fall of man and Satan. Looking at the lists once again will show a further enlightenment of meaning of each reference. Hence our full translation now becomes as follows – “According as He chose us (for His own pleasure and purpose) in Him (that is, in Christ) before the throwing down of cosmic order.”
The “throwing down of cosmic order” is spoken of in this wise by Paul in Romans 8:20-21. “The creation was made subject to vanity (emptiness, lack of purpose), not willingly, but by reason of Him who subjected the same in hope, because the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
“Holy and without blame before Him in love.” The two items here may be understood as follows. “Holy” is a word meaning “separated (unto God)”. This is why believers are called “Saints” in the N.T., (the same word in Greek), because they have with deliberation and purpose separated themselves from all that is worldly. “Without blame” is one word in Greek, and may be explained by turning again to 1 Peter 1:19 “(Christ) as a lamb without blemish.” In other words, the expression relates to sacrificial purity. It crops up in the context of Romans 12:1 “I beseech you . . . to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.”
The verse in Eph.1:4 speaks of God’s purpose for His saints, but in Romans 12:1 the onus of responsibility rests on us. When these two work together, God achieves His goal in our lives. And lest we should think that in our own strength, determination, and will power we can achieve this end, we must emphasise the word Paul uses, to present our bodies.
“In love.” This is the only acceptable sphere in which God’s purpose can be achieved in our lives. It is God’s love that draws us unto Himself. It is the recognition of that great love that causes us to turn away from worldly pleasures. It is the reflection of His love that should generate all our thinking and doing.
1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
“Predestinated”. This word has caused a great deal of trouble through the ages, between Calvinists and Arminians. Neither school of thought has the correct understanding of the concept, which has to be linked to the previous verse. The choice was made “Before the fall.” Something of importance occurred before the fall to cause God’s choice to be made. What could it have been? How strange that God should choose from amongst those who would not exist until perhaps thousands of years later.
Without going off at a tangent here, but working on the basis of the previous studies we have made, it is clear that ALL human beings were created in the beginning, as spirit beings, and that in due time each one is sent down into this world, the “shadowlands” to be tested and tried under this world’s conditions. But before the fall, and in the heavenly environment, a great polarisation began to occur, as Satan grew progressively disenchanted with the ways of God, leading ultimately to his defection and sin in the Garden of Eden. During those days all spirits were subjected to the turmoil that ensued, and those who stood firmly by the Lord’s own ways and character were “marked out” by Him. For that is the true meaning of the Greek word PRO-ORIZO usually translated predestinate.
It was God’s promise to all such as stayed loyal to Him, that in this world they would be “called”. The Holy Spirit would, in one of innumerable ways, speak to the soul and draw him or her to the Lord. This is why Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father who sent me draw him.” (John 6:44) Of course, if only such as these were saved from amongst the whole world, it would make the Calvinist’s position secure, but later on in this chapter we shall learn that the choice was made as a selection, in order to meet the requirements of ALL THE REST.
“Unto the adoption of children.” The language of translations frequently dilutes the grandness of the original. “Adoption of children” is all one word in Greek. HUIOTHESIA. HUIOS is “son”, and THESIA means “placing.” We are “placed as sons”, rather than being adopted. Let us then use the word “sonship” to denote the Greek word. “Having marked us out beforehand for sonship” would be the best way of translating the expression.
“According to the good pleasure of His will.” Words such as these confound our minds, that fallen creatures such as we are, should be showered with such undeserved love. As parents we can look upon our children with much love and tenderness, and find that it is often our “good pleasure” to bestow on them some gift that will be received with joy. We can understand that from the human angle, but God does so to us as sinners, before we have been brought into His banqueting house as sons. Words cannot adequately convey the richness, and the utter uniqueness, of the heart of God towards His own creation.
1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.
This is how Paul wrestled with the concept. “To the praise of the glory of His grace”. Valuable N.T. words, “praise”, “glory” and “grace”. A little later he says that he bows his knees to the Father because of the amazing love shown in this revelation.
“Accepted in the Beloved.” Another poverty-stricken translation. Not “accepted” but rather “engraced.” God’s grace, His love to the loveless, should then be reflected in our lives as we show grace to others. Those who have had a revelation of their own depravity, will never again speak disparagingly of others, no matter how wicked they may be, for the one who has forgiven them, will equally forgive the other. When the time is right, the Spirit of God will speak into the heart of wickedness and bring about new birth. “He who has been forgiven much, loves much.” (Luke 7:47) Beloved is a title for the Lord that exudes such warmth to the heart of a believer. One is reminded that it was the constant title used by the Shulamite maiden of her shepherd lover in the Song of Songs. Indeed she uses that title some 33 times in the short book. Observe the tender call of the Bridegroom –
2:10 My beloved spoke, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
“Redemption”. A legal word meaning, “to let go free upon paying the price.” One is reminded of the Pawnbroker’s shop. Yes, our Lord shed His precious blood, gave His very life, that we may “go free”. One may conjure up the thoughts of one who, having stood condemned in the dock, is suddenly pronounced free. It is a heady feeling, the mind swimming in the sensation of release, cleanliness, and freedom.
“The forgiveness of sins.” It should read “the remission of offences”. It is an uncommon word for Paul. He only uses it here, and in Col.1:14, where it is almost identical to this verse. In Classical Greek the word APHESIS meansremission, acquittal, discharge. In fact the word contains a similar connotation to redemption.
“The riches of His grace.” That sums it up. Paul was so aware of his Lord’s grace and bounty to him, “the chief of sinners” (1 Tim.1:15), the “less than the least of all saints” (Eph.3:8) that he could not help but write in such glowing terms of his freedom, his discharge, his release from all condemnation.
1:8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will.
“Abound.” Literally, “overflow” as of a rushing torrent.
“Wisdom.” The word suggests a power imparted to man whereby he attains an insight into God’s purpose and plan.
“Prudence.” Or intelligence, a word that is constantly connected with the declaring of hidden truths.
“Having made known to us.” Just as the Lord revealed hidden truths concerning the Kingdom with the parables, so at this later stage the Holy Spirit revealed to Paul something beyond. It was the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise, that when the Holy Spirit came, there would be a revelation of “things to come” that could not be revealed just then.
“The mystery of His will.” The Greek word MUSTERION always contained the idea of a “hidden sacred secret.” The word was well known in Classical Greek for celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries of Demeter or Ceres. In the N.T. the word is “cleansed” from ancient mythological usage, and made to refer to the hidden ways and works of God. This particular “mystery” is now to be spelled out.
1:9 according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—-in Him.
The grandeur of these words simply leaves one with a gasp. It was grand enough to know that the Lord’s death and resurrection had brought new life to mankind, to all who believed in the Son of God, but the vast extent of what Jesus accomplished at Calvary was never known until Paul received this revelation.
“The good pleasure.” The Father now revels in His delight to tell the world the full story of His Son’s accomplishment.
“Which He purposed in Himself.” The verb “purposed” is in the Middle Voice, and so once again we note the reflexive nature of the verb. The purpose was for His own good, His own pleasure, His own design. It had always been there, right from the time when He began to create the Universe, but the revelation had to wait until this particular time before it could be made known.
“The dispensation.” Words of this type can be passed over without conveying their underlying meaning. “Dispensation” is OIKONOMIA, derived from OIKOS, the word for “house”. Hence it means “the management of household or family affairs”, and on the broader front, “the management or administration of the State.”
“Of the fullness of the times.” Fullness indicates finality. The mystery therefore relates to that future time when the whole purpose of God is reaching its concluding stages. Times is a misnomer. There are two Greek words, KRONOS and KAIROS. The former speaks strictly of time, whereas the latter speaks of season. It is the latter word here in this verse, and we must be careful to use it in the proper sense. Time is a linear function, but season is that portion of time that allows certain things to happen. We speak of the season of harvest. It occurs each year, and cannot occur except at a particular time during the year. In the same way this final phase of God’s work cannot occur until the time is ripefor its outworking. Paul calls it the fullness of the seasons. There have been many seasons of God’s working throughout history, but this will be the final season, the winding up of all His works of redemption, until He declares, “Behold, I have made all things new.” (Rev.21:5)
“He might gather together in one.”
These six words translate just one word in Greek, which is admittedly a very long word – ANAKEPHALAIOSASTHAI. Liddell & Scott’s Lexicon gives the following meaning of this word, “To comprehend in a summary, to sum up.” This is to be preferred to the idea of “gathering”. The “summing up” is a term related to rhetoric, like the Latin collectio,describing the rapid repetition and summarising of an orator’s points prior to his final conclusion. See how Paul uses it in Romans 13:9. “For ‘you shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not covet,’ and if there be any other commandment IT IS SUMMED UP BRIEFLY IN ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself.’”
“All things in the Christ.” This “summarising” means that God will bring together each separate part of His ages-long mission in such a way that the expression “in the Christ” may be a fitting description of the whole. A well-planned city explains the point of the individual houses. It is an ordered whole. The post office will look at the address on the envelope and see the name of the person, the street, the district, but finally they must see the name of the city, “London”, “Manchester”, Glasgow”. The city name is that which includes all the “contents” of the metropolis. So also, in a well-written article, you come, not to a new theme, but to a summing up of all the points, showing how they tell. Paragraphs that perhaps had seemed disconnected are now seen to have been all bearing in one direction.
“Both which are in heaven and upon earth – in Him.” Literally, “those over the heavens and those upon the earth.”This peculiar expression “over the heavens” is not found elsewhere, and can only refer to what we said in verse 4, about the “senior heavenly ones”. But whatever Paul had in mind, one thing is certain. God’s summing up is not just for the benefit of the human race. It will include all those in the heavenly regions as well. No wonder that “the angels desire to look into” these things, as Peter said in his first letter. (1:12)
This mystery was vouchsafed to Paul alone, as he declared in chapter 3:8-9. “Unto me, the less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the nations the unsearchable riches of the Christ, to make all see what is the administration of the mystery hidden from the ages in God.” No wonder that Peter should comment about his “beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, has written to you, as in all his letters, in which are some things hard to understand.” (2 Peter 3:16)
1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
This is where Paul starts to make a distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles. In the Greek the word “we” is in an emphatic position, and should be seen as set against “in whom also you” in the next verse.
“We have obtained an inheritance.” As the verb is passive, it would have been better to say “we were inherited”. There is quite a lot of difference between man obtaining an inheritance, and God obtaining an inheritance. In this verse we are being told that the body of believers are God’s own inheritance. That is a sobering thought.
“Being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” This is a repeat of what had already been said in an earlier verse, and needs no further comment.
“Who first trusted in the Christ.” The word PRO-ELPIZO means “having formerly hoped in the Messiah.” The Jews had the advantage, being the chosen people, to whom the oracles of God were not only available, but also directed, and in the O.T. prophets there was much written about the coming of their Messiah. Hence they had a hope.But Paul goes on to say in the next chapter that the Gentiles were at that time “without hope, and without God in the world, but now . . made near by the blood of Christ.” (2:12-13)
1:13 In Him you also (trusted,) after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
Paul was instructed to take the Gospel message to the Gentiles, and many of those who heard were moved by the Holy Spirit unto belief, and having believed, Paul tells them that they were sealed. Paul referred to this when writing to the Corinthians. “God, who also sealed us and has given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (2 Cor.1:22)
“Sealed.” The Greek is SPHRAGIZO, and means “to seal, to mark with a stamp of approval.” The noun often refers to the “mark of a signet-ring.” Hence the believers who were sealed we given the stamp of God’s approval, and received the mark of His own signet-ring. In Revelation “the servants of God were sealed in their foreheads.” (Rev.7:3)
“The Holy Spirit of promise.” Just a Hebraism for “the promised Holy Spirit.”
1:14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
A little problem arises here, and has not been attended to by the translators. We are given to understand that the person of the Holy Spirit is our “guarantee.” But this is incorrect because the word “who” is masculine in Greek, and relates to the word “guarantee”, not to the Holy Spirit, which is neuter. Therefore we are obliged to change this, and see that the sealing is the guarantee. It should there read, “We are sealed by the promised Holy Spirit, which (sealing) is the guarantee . . .”
“Guarantee.” The older English word was “earnest,” as in the A.V. The Greek word ARRABON is of Hebrew origin, and a transliteration of the Hebrew word. It means a pledge. It is interesting to note that in modern Greek ARRABON is used for an engagement ring. This is a beautiful thought, because if we, as members of the Bride of Christ, are to be seen wearing His engagement ring, then all the world will know who our future Husband will be. But do our lives bear that out? Do they see us in that position, or do we hide our light under a bushel?
“Until the redemption of the purchased possession.”
This redemption, this “buying back” now relates, not to forgiveness of sin, but to the resurrection of the body. Paul makes it quite clear when writing to the Philippians. “We are looking for our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our humbled body and fashion it like unto the body of His glory.” (Phil.3:20-21)
“To the praise of His glory.”
Paul’s conclusion to this long paean of praise, this great sentence of 202 words. Is this not one of the grandest passages in all the N.T. writings? Shall not our hearts thrill at the immensity of God’s love, and the greatness of His plans for all His creation, in heaven and on earth?
Here is a paraphrase of verses 3 – 14, to include all the information learned in this study.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing among those senior heavenly ones in Christ, according as He chose us before the throwing down of cosmic order, that we should be separated unto Him, and unblemished before Him in love, having marked us out beforehand for sonship through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace in which He has engraced us in the Beloved, in Whom we have redemption through His blood, and the discharge from all offences according to the riches of His grace, which He made to overflow to us in all wisdom and spiritual intelligence, having made known to us the sacred secret of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself that in the administration of the fullness of the seasons, He might sum up all things (all His works) in “the Christ”, those over the heavens and those upon the earth, in Him, in Whom we were inherited, marked out beforehand according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who formerly hoped in the Messiah should be to the praise of His glory, in whom also you, having heard the word of truth, which is the good news of your salvation, having believed, you were sealed, given the mark of approval by the promised Holy Spirit, which sealing is the pledge, the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the acquired possession, to the praise of His glory.