Eternal ages shall declare
The riches of Thy grace,
To those who with Thy Son shall share
A son’s eternal place.
Ephesians 1 – 3. In the first part of Ephesians, we have God bringing us into His thoughts concerning Christ and the Church. In ch.1 we have God’s eternal purpose to glorify Christ, and to give Him a companion to share everything with. In ch.2 we have the formation of that companion, considering first the unconverted state of those He has blessed. Then in ch.3 we have an explanation of how the truth of the Church fits with the rest of scripture; i.e. that it is a mystery hid in God, but now revealed through the special ministry of the apostle Paul.
The Big Picture. In the early chapters of Ephesians we get a view of the “big picture”. It is like going up in the sky and looking down on the landscape from above. Other portions of God’s Word give us the details of how we are to walk, both individually and collectively as the assembly of God. But it is necessary for us to get a view of the big picture. We have probably all experienced the sense of confusion that comes with acting without a clear vision. Maybe you joined a game of football without really understanding the rules. Everyone is running this way and that, and they seem to know what is going on, but you feel lost and confused. This is because you do not see the big picture. Ephesians 1 – 3 are like seeing God’s playbook! We get a view of what His purpose is, and how He is going to accomplish it. Then we can come back down into our daily walk with a different viewpoint.
Ephesians 1. We get the three great points of the epistle in the first chapter: (1) as individuals we have the place of sons, vv.4-7; (2) God has revealed to us His over-arching purpose, to glorify His Son, vv.8-10; and (3) God has purposed that His Son should have a companion to share His inheritance with, vv.11-14, which is His body (vv.22-23). The details of that companion and it’s formation are developed in ch.2-3! The apostle goes on to pray for the saints, pouring out his heart that they would understand God’s purpose and His power to bring it all to pass, vv.15-end. The proof that God will accomplish all this is in the resurrection and glorification of His Son. A good way to remember this chapter is by three great blessings: sonship with the Father, heirship with Christ, and membership in the Body of Christ by the Spirit.
Individual → Collective. The truth in this chapter is developed beginning with the individual perspective down to the collective side. Paul first establishes the soul in our Christian blessings (vv.4-7), then he unfolds God’s eternal purpose (vv.8-14). Why this order? God must first put us into a place where we have perfect peace before we can be in a state to learn the higher truths as to His purpose.
¶ Paul, apostle of Jesus Christ by God’s will, to the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus who are at Ephesus. v.1 In this epistle, Paul doesn’t include other brothers’ names in the greeting. Whenever Paul wrote to an assembly, he always associated one or two other brothers with him in writing (2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1). This is because “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established” (Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19). Even today, when one assembly communicates with another assembly it ought to be signed by two or three. Here the epistle isn’t addressed to an assembly, but more generally “to the saints which are at Ephesus”. It was a circular letter, to be passed from one house to another in the city of Ephesus. The recipients were both saints (sanctified ones) and faithful. The word “faithful” here refers to those who by grace faithfully maintained the faith they had received. The expression “in Christ Jesus” describes the saints’ position, as in Christ’s place before God. Paul identifies himself as an “apostle of Jesus Christ by God’s will”. The first part of this epistle takes up God’s sovereignty (e.g. v.5, v.9, v.11), and therefore even Paul’s apostleship is viewed as by God’s will.
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. v.2 If we are to profit from this epistle we will need “grace” or enabling power to understand and walk in Ephesian truth, and “peace” which refers to settled peace with God (Rom. 5:1) from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Mercy is only added when an epistle is addressed to an individual, because the saints collectively are never looked at as an object of mercy, but of grace.
Our Spiritual Blessings in Heavenly Places in Christ (1:3-7)
Heavenly and Spiritual blessings
. These blessings are distinct from Israel and the nations. The blessing of Israel and the nations is “from
” the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34), but the Church’s blessing is from “before
” the foundation of the world. Also, Israel’s blessings were material
only, while ours are said to be “spiritual”
. The list of spiritual blessings
in this chapter is not exhaustive but it includes seven of the highest ones:
- Sovereign Election (v.4)
- Predestination to Sonship (v.5)
- Acceptance into a Place of Favor (v.6)
- Redemption through His Blood (v.7a)
- Forgiveness of Sins (v.7b)
- Divine Intelligence of God’s Eternal Purpose (v.8)
- The Sealing of the Spirit (v.13)
These blessings make up our spiritual inheritance, which is different from our material inheritance (v.11).
¶ 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ; v.3 This is a burst of praise for the Father. He is addressed as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. This is a most unusual expression. It sets the tone for the epistle; i.e. that we share all that the Son is and has, even His relationship with God (John 20:17). It is important to see that God is not merely our Father in the sense of creation (Acts 17:29), or even as a Heavenly Guardian (Matt. 6:14). No, we share the Son’s place! We are blessed with the Son as common objects of the Father’s love. The word “blessed” is used twice here in different ways. The first is an expression of thanks, the second is a positive gift or endowment. An expression of thanks like v.3 will be our response when we realize that every spiritual blessing in heavenly places is ours in Christ. “The heavenlies” refer to the spiritual realm. Our blessings are “spiritual”, neither natural nor material. As a result of being spiritual in character, these blessings are also eternal. We will never lose forgiveness of sins or acceptance before God. Israel’s blessings could be forfeited through unbelief, but ours never can. However, our state of soul will impact how much we enjoy our blessings. All these blessings are ours “in Christ”, i.e. we have them because of the position we stand in before God. God has been so glorified with the work of Calvary that He has gifted His Son with every honor that heaven has to bestow, just as all the blessings of Jacob came to rest on the head of Joseph (Gen. 49:26), and we are associated with Christ, as in His place!
Blessing #1: Sovereign Election (v.4)
4 according as he has chosen us in him before the world’s foundation, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love; v.4
We were elected, or chosen, by God for blessing. Election is the choice of one out of many. Why did God choose me and not someone else? There was nothing good in me… the only reason is His sovereign grace. There is not a word here about man choosing God, but only God choosing man. The outcome of our election is that we will be before God perfectly suitable
to His character: of light “holy and blameless
”, and we will be there “in love
”. Election is a truth that we do not proclaim with the Gospel. It is a family secret. We do not want to cast our pearls before swine. Rather we emphasize man’s responsibility and the sinner’s need. A sinner comes through a doorway into blessing; on one side it reads, “Whosoever will may come” and when he gets in, the other side reads, “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world”. An expression that comes up over and over in these verses is “His will”. Sovereign grace is the source of all our blessing. Election and predestination are not the same. Election (v.4) has to do with the person, and predestination (v.5) has to do with the final position. Read more…
Before the Foundation of the World.
It is striking that the blessing of the earthly saints is "from the foundation of the world” (Matt.25:34). But the Christian's blessing is "before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4). This is because the Church and her union with Christ is the deepest secret in the heart of God (1 Cor. 2:7, 10)... we were there in God's eternal counsels! But Israel's blessing is connected with creation and time. God has purposed to put the creation under the feet of a glorified man (Psa. 8:6; 1 Cor. 15:25-28). But when that purpose with respect to this creation is accomplished, there will be a new heavens and earth, and no more Jew and Gentile (Rev. 21:1-8). Yet for all eternity, the Church will remain distinct (Eph. 3:21), and Christians will never relinquish their status as sons of God!
Corporate Election. A clever denial of sovereign election has emerged and recently grown in popularity. The argument is intended to deny individual election by twisting the scriptures to support a different kind of election. Supporters of corporate election have found a convenient way to dispose of Eph. 1:4 and other verses that are crystal clear on the subject of election. They hold that God made the choice "in him" (that is, "in Christ"). In other words, they believe Christ is the principal elected one, and the Church is elect because it is in Christ and He is elect. They believe God has chosen a corporate body to be included "in Him". They deny the individuality of "us". However, this runs contrary to the plain use of the word "us" in the context of this chapter. For instance, if "us" is corporate only, then our standing in grace (v.6) is conditional also on our believing. Furthermore, it comes from failing to see that our standing "in Christ" is as individuals; the Church as a corporate body is never said to be "in Christ". See note on 1 Peter 5:13.
Blessing #2: Predestination to Sonship (v.5)
5 having marked us out beforehand for adoption through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, v.5
It was decided in a past eternity that we should be given the place and status of God’s own Son!
In Greek, the word 'huiothesian' means 'the place of a son'. It is translated into English as "sonship" or "adoption". Sonship is a privilege that Christians are given because they are justified and stand in Christ's place before God. Sonship is not the same thing as coming into God's family. Due to the modern use of word 'adoption', the original sense of sonship has been lost for many believers. As we see in Galatians 4:1-7, the child becomes a son, showing that sonship has to do with a special status or relationship in the family. We enter God's family by new birth, and this makes us children of God. But adoption gives us a new status within the family. For an example of Jewish adoption, see Gen. 48:5 where Jacob took the sons of Joseph as his own. Ephraim and Manasseh were Jacob's grandsons, but he elevated them to the status of their uncles; "as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine". Sonship is the greatest blessing we have as individuals in relation to the Father… there is no higher place than the place of God's Son, and He has given us "the Son's place"! Read more…
The expression “the good pleasure of his will”
shows us that these blessings have satisfied the heart of God as well as our hearts. We are not immature children who differ not at all from a servant (Gal. 4:1-11), but we are full grown sons. What does the Father want to talk to His grown-up sons about? The merits of His only-begotten Son, His eternal purpose centered in the Son, how we’ve been brought into that purpose through His Son. These are the lofty themes that we can enjoy in communion with the Father!
Blessing #3: Acceptance into a Place of Favor (v.6)
6 to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has taken us into favour in the Beloved: v.6 We have been brought into a place of favor with God. The Spirit changes from “in Christ” to “in the Beloved”, which speaks of the Father’s delight in His Son. We are told that our standing is “in the Beloved“ because God loves us as much as he loves His own Son (John 17:23)! The first part of the verse contains an expression connected primarily with v.5; “to the praise of the glory of his grace”. Our being given the adoption of sons will redound to God getting more praise on account of His glory; praise from both men and angels. What glory is God displaying in bringing us into such blessing? The “glory of His grace” (see Exodus 33:18-23). The full glory of God could not be revealed in judgment only. It required the display of His goodness (or grace) to reflect the excellence of His character. Compare with the “riches of His grace” in v.7.
Blessing #4: Redemption through His Blood (v.7a)
7a in whom we have redemption through his blood, v.7a
We have been purchased and set free from all our enemies. Redemption
has more to do with our condition or state than with our standing. Redemption means to be “bought and set free” from (1) sin, (2) the world, and (3) Satan for the purpose of doing the will of God in worship and in service. “Let My people go, that they may serve Me”
(Ex. 8:1). There are four aspects of redemption given in scripture, all found in Ephesians:
- The past redemption of our souls (Eph. 1:7)
- The present redemption of our time (Eph. 5:15-16)
- The future redemption of our bodies (Eph. 4:30)
- The future redemption of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14)
Blessing #5: The Forgiveness of Sins (v.7b)
7b the forgiveness of offences, according to the riches of his grace; v.7b
God has lifted every charge of sin against us. There are many aspects of forgiveness
, but this is eternal forgiveness. You never get the truth of justification mentioned in Ephesians, because we are seen “in Christ”. It is justification that puts us “in Christ”… it is a foregone conclusion in this epistle, and therefore never mentioned by name. However, forgiveness is mentioned in Ephesians. Forgiveness is the negative aspect of justification; it is non-imputation of sins. While the subject of being “declared righteous” is not addressed here, it is made clear that the forgiveness we have is on account of our standing “in Christ”, in keeping with the “riches of His grace”
. The two expressions, while very similar, have slightly different meanings. The “riches of His grace” is how far God has reached down
to make us His own, and the “glory of his grace” (v.6) is how far God has reached up
to place us “in Christ”! We have an example of the “glory of grace” in that Boaz was willing to marry Ruth the Moabitess, and we have an example of “the riches of his grace” in that Boaz, as a mighty man of wealth, was able to redeem the inheritance of Elimelech!
God’s Purpose to Glorify Christ in the Millennium (1:8-14)
The Mystery of God’s will.
In the following verse, we have the highest truth in all of scripture unfolded. It is the unifying theme of scripture, and the great secret of God’s purpose from a past eternity. In Col. 2:2 this vast plan is called “the Mystery of God”
and we are told that it is the key to all wisdom and spiritual knowledge. It is elsewhere called “the purpose of the ages”
(Eph. 3:11). See notes on “the mystery
- Why has God chosen to do this? It is for the good pleasure of God’s will.
- Whom does God’s purpose center around? Christ, the Man of God’s counsels.
- What is God’s purpose? To glorify His Son!
- When will it be accomplished? In the Millennium, an administration of the fullness of times.
- Where will it be accomplished? In two spheres: in heaven, and on earth.
- How will it be accomplished? God will “gather together in one all things” under Christ’s headship.
A key element of dispensational truth is the fact that God’s ultimate purpose is the glorification of His Son. Men have come up with other schemes, like covenant theology, which put salvation or the covenants as the unifying theme of scripture. The problem with these schemes is that the put man at the center. God always puts Christ
at the center! Read more…
Blessing #6: Divine Intelligence Concerning God’s Great Purpose (vv.8-13a)
8 which he has caused to abound towards us in all wisdom and intelligence, v.8 God has given us blessings that affect our hearts (vv.4-7) and now our minds (vv.8-14). It says “wherein” because the same “riches of his grace” (v.7) that secured for us the forgiveness of sins has also given to us the knowledge and understanding of God’s purpose and counsels in Christ. “All wisdom and intelligence” have abounded toward us in the revelation of God’s great purpose. That purpose, which follows in vv.9-10 is the key to all spiritual knowledge (see Col. 2:3). It has often been said, v.10 is a key to the whole bible. It is not just “intelligence”, but also “wisdom”. God has no only given us the knowledge that all this will come to pass, but He has also given us to understand why He has purposed it, and the fitting perfection of it with His own character! “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33).
9 having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself v.9 The mystery (or secret) of God’s will is a mystery because it was not previously revealed, and the world is ignorant of it. It has two parts. First, all things will be put under the headship of Christ in the Millennium (v.10), not only things on earth (prophesied about), but also things in heaven (not prophesied about). Second, believers will obtain an inheritance; a share in all that Christ possesses (vv.11-14). Jewish believers will have a part in the inheritance (vv.11-12), and Gentile believers will have a part also (vv.13-14). This mystery is “according to His good pleasure” because God has purposed all these things for His own satisfaction. Also, He purposed it “in Himself” because He alone will bring it to pass.
10 for the administration of the fulness of times; to head up all things in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth; in him, v.10 The Great Purpose of God.
In the administration of the fullness of times (the Millennium
) God will head up all things in Christ. What things? “All things”
. By comparing Colossians chapter 1, v.16 and v.20, we find that “by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”
And all those things being His by creatorial right, but having fallen into the hands of Satan through man’s sin, Christ will restore them to God; “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
That is how Christ will inherit; not merely as the Son (heirship title), or as the Creator (creatorial title), but as the Restorer of all things (redemption title). J.N. Darby once said; “Were there, for example, a blade of grass that was not subjected to His power in blessing, Satan would have got an advantage over Christ, over His rights, and over His inheritance”. The glorification of His Son is God’s supreme purpose, and by association with Him, the Church is blessed (vv.11-14). This “heading up”
of all things in Christ will be accomplished in two spheres. The word is peculiar; “the things in/on” is repeated twice. Two spheres are emphasized:
- “In heaven“ – The center of this sphere will be Christ and the Church, reigning together, the Church sharing in everything that Christ is and that Christ has, except His Deity… and even then, we are partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). Old Testament prophecies spoke of the Messiah’s dominion over the earthly sphere (Hab. 2:14) but His dominion over the entire universe (heaven included) was unknown.
- “On earth“ – The center of this sphere will be Christ with the purged and restored Nation of Israel, now a fruitful vineyard under the leadership of Messiah, taking their rightful places at the head of all other nations. It wouldn’t be enough for Christ to have His rightful place in heaven only. No, God will see to it that Christ is glorified in the very earth where He is now rejected.
We get a picture of Christ’s exaltation in these two spheres in the two dreams of Joseph (Genesis 37:5-11). One dream had to do with sheaves, the other with heavenly bodies. (Note that this is only an application; the interpretation of both the sheaves and the stars is of Joseph’s natural brethren, the children of Israel.) We can apply the dream of the sheaves to Christ’s exaltation on earth, and the dream of the heavenly bodies to Christ’s exaltation in the heavenlies. Not seeing these two distinct spheres is characteristic of Covenant Theology. Those who hold Covenant or Reform doctrine do not see the distinction between the heavenly and earthly peoples of God. They make the Church the spiritual continuator of Israel, and therefore insist that the Church existed in the Old Testament. This does two things: (1) it denies the fulfillment of the literal promises made to Israel, and (2) it denies the heavenly calling and hopes of the Church. God has one purpose, and it will be accomplished in two spheres. But there will be a united system of glory that pervades heaven and earth!
“The Fullness of the Time” vs. “The Fullness of Times”. A question might arise: “how do we know that the dispensation of the fullness of times refers to the Millennium? Could it be the time of Jesus’ birth as in ‘the fullness of the time’ (Gal. 4:4)?” Sometime this argument is put forward in ignorance, and other times with willful intention to deny a future kingdom of Christ. The answer to this is clear from the context of Eph. 1 and Gal. 4. In Galatians, the “time” in question is the time of the incarnation, and it is spoken of in the past tense. It is the time of the fulfillment of God’s promise to the woman, and to Abraham. In Ephesians it is the fullness of times (plural), and it is spoken of as distinctly future. It is the period to which all the previous dispensations looked forward. It is the time of creation’s restoration, the time of Israel’s restoration, the time of the Church’s glory with Christ, the time of the heading of all things under the Second Man.
11 in whom we [Jews] have also obtained an inheritance, being marked out beforehand according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his own will, v.11 The “inheritance” spoken of here is the material universe; all that Christ possesses. We read of it in Psa. 2:8; “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” In v.10 we learn that Christ’s inheritance encompasses “all things”. This verse explains that Jewish believers in Christ were marked out in a past eternity to enjoy this inheritance! The inclusion of co-heirs with Christ is in keeping with God’s purpose to glorify Christ. This verse mentions the purpose of God and the counsel of God. God’s purpose is the intention of His will, but His counsels are His wisdom to carry out His will in time. In other words, God’s counsels will bring about His purpose at length.
Yet it must be: Thy love had not its rest
Were Thy redeemed not with Thee fully blest;
That love that gives not as the world, but shares
All it possesses with its loved co-heirs.
Our Inheritance. In wilderness epistles, our inheritance is a present, spiritual inheritance (“over our heads”); composed of spiritual blessings in the heavenlies (See Col. 3:24, 1 Pet. 1:4, Phil. 3:12). In Ephesians we still have those blessings, not as an inheritance, but as “in Christ” (vv.3-7). Instead, our inheritance is a future, material inheritance, and is “under our feet”; composed of the material universe, every created thing. God has appointed Christ “heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2), and we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ,” (Rom. 8:17). We inherit, not by creatorial right or redemptive right, but by association with the Son of God.
12 that we [Jews] should be to the praise of his glory who have pre-trusted in the Christ: v.12 There will be a remnant of Israel that will trust the Lord and be brought into blessing in the Millennium, but the Jewish believers in the present time have “pre-trusted” ahead of the Nation. They are those of whom Jesus said, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). They have believed the gospel of the grace of God (not the kingdom gospel), and have received a greater blessing, and have been brought into “the Christ”! The Jewish remnant today with be part of the Church who will reflect the glory of Christ to the Millennial earth (Rev. 21:9 – 22:5). The sight of the glorified Church will produce praise from the nations (Rev. 21:24, Eph. 3:21), and in this way those who pre-trust during the present time will “be to the praise of his glory”.
13a in whom *ye* [Gentiles] also have trusted, having heard the word of the truth, the glad tidings of your salvation; v.13a The Gentile believers at the present time have also pre-trusted before the day of glory. In the Millennium the gospel of the kingdom will go out to Gentiles as well as Jews, and myriads will be saved. This time of Gentile blessing is foretold in Old Testament prophecy; see Isa. 2:3, Isa. 65:1, Zech. 2:11, Rom. 15:9-12, etc. But a special group from among the Gentiles have heard the Christian gospel, the “word of truth, the gospel of your salvation”, and received it (Acts 28:28), getting saved before the great Millennial day!
Pre-trusting (vv.12-13a) by the use of the prefix “pre” you can see that the day of manifestation is really what God has in view. At the present time He is gathering together a special company of co-heirs, but the day of glory is the destination toward which God is moving all things.
Blessing #7: The Sealing of the Spirit (vv.13b-14)
13b in whom also, having believed, ye [Gentiles] have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, v.13b This is the greatest of our spiritual blessings; a Divine Person dwelling within. It is by the Spirit that we enjoy our other blessings (e.g. we cry “Abba, Father” by the Spirit, Gal. 4:6). Without this seventh blessing, we would never enjoy the other six! This verse clearly teaches how and when a person is sealed with the Spirit. Once a soul has believed the gospel of their salvation and is trusting in the Person of Christ, the Spirit of God comes and indwells that person’s body (1 Cor. 6:19). This indwelling Spirit is referred to in a number of different ways (all three found in 2 Cor. 1:21-22):
Three Aspects of the Indwelling of the Spirit. Believers at the present time have the Spirit indwelling them in three aspects:
The Anointing (Unction) of the Spirit (1 John 2:20; 27; 2 Cor. 1:21). The anointing or unction of the Spirit is the ability of the Spirit of God in the believer to give power and intelligence. This is necessary for service, for worship, for direction, and for discernment. When the Spirit of God comes to indwell a person, no matter how young or inexperienced they are, they receive Divine help to discern between truth and error; "ye have not need that any one should teach you; but as the same unction teaches you as to all things" (1 John 2:27). This follows what Jesus taught about "the Comforter, the Holy Spirit... he shall teach you all things, and will bring to your remembrance all the things which I have said to you" (John 14:26). It is by one Spirit that we have access to the Father in prayer (Eph. 2:18). Furthermore, the Spirit is like a "fountain of living water" inside a believer, "springing up" in the enjoyment of eternal life (John 4:14), enabling us to worship the Father (Phil. 3:3). The Spirit is also like "rivers of living water" flowing out to this world with the refreshing testimony of Christ (John 7:38). In Romans we read that the believer has deliverance from sin through the power of the indwelling Spirit (Rom. 8:2). We also find that the sons of God "are led by the Spirit of God", who guides and direct our steps (Rom. 8:14). In 1 Corinthians we read that the indwelling Spirit is the power for ministry in every member of the body of Christ, enabling each one to do his or her service for the Lord (1 Cor. 12:7-11). It is the Spirit of God that strengthens us daily in the inner man (Eph. 3:16). We could summarize the anointing of the Spirit as that which enables the believer to live for God.
- The Seal of the Spirit (Eph 1:13; Eph. 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:22). The seal of the Spirit is the assurance and witness that we belong to Christ. The idea of a 'seal' is that of a mark or a brand. Often a person will put a mark on tools or animals that belong to them, to show everyone else whose property they are. That is what the seal is, except it is more for us than for others. The seal of the Spirit is given to the believer so that he or she can have the assurance of their salvation. "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God" (Rom 8:16). This is one of the first things the Spirit does upon indwelling a believer. In fact, the moment you believe "the glad tidings of your salvation", you are "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. 1:13). It is as if the Lord is anxious to assure you that you belong to Him! From the moment of salvation onward, the Holy Spirit begins to "shed abroad" the love of God in our hearts (Rom. 5:5). A believer will never lose this seal, and it is in view of the final salvation of our bodies; for we "have been sealed for the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). The seal of the Spirit is not given before salvation; i.e. a quickened soul is not immediately indwelt with the Spirit. The seal is the witness of a completed work of God in the soul. New birth is not the same as salvation. We could summarize the seal of the Spirit as that which: (1) signifies a completed work in the soul, and (2) assures and identifies us as belonging to Christ.
The Earnest of the Spirit (Eph 1:14; 2 Cor. 1:22; 2 Cor. 5:5; Rom. 8:11). The earnest of the Spirit is the guarantee and foretaste in advance of our full portion in Christ. This is evident from the very word "earnest", which refers to the down payment money a person might pay for something they intend to take possession of. For example, if you intend to buy a $300,000 home in a few months, you would pay a certain percentage down, perhaps 10% or $30,000, on the home, up front, to show the seller you are serious about your intention. Why is this necessary? The believer in Christ has two inheritances. First, we have a spiritual inheritance "reserved in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:4). Paul teaches in Ephesians that we are actually already "seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6), and therefore we already have access by faith to this heavenly, spiritual inheritance. It is the Spirit who allows us to enjoy those heavenly things right now, "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places" (Eph. 1:3). Secondly, we have a future, material inheritance that we will possess when Christ appears to possess what belongs to Him; "in whom also we have obtained an inheritance" (Eph. 1:11). There is coming a glorious day when the Spirit of God will be poured out on this world for blessing, when the redeeming or “setting free” will take place (Eph. 1:14), and the curse be lifted. That day is not here yet, but we have the very same Spirit within us, allowing us to share in the joy beforehand! The earnest works to keep us from settling for the things of this earth; we have something far better! The Spirit of God is the earnest in two ways: (1) to give us a foretaste of heaven before we get there, and (2) to guarantee that we will get there, then go on to reign with Christ and share all that He possesses! We could summarize the earnest of the Spirit as that which gives the believer the enjoyment of present blessings in Christ, and the guarantee of future blessings with Christ.
Quickening and Sealing
. You may wonder when reading this verse, ‘What about the journey a person takes before
they believe the gospel? If they didn’t have the Spirit indwelling them, where did those desires and instincts come from?’ This is a great question. The right desires certainly did not come from the flesh. It is important to see that a person who has been awakened to feel their need of a Savior but has not yet believed the gospel is quickened
, but not sealed
. A person may be born again (of water and of the Spirit, John 3:5) and have new desires toward God (Rom. 7:22) but not be saved. Once a person believes the gospel, and rests on the finished work of Christ by faith, the Spirit of God indwells that person and seals them. At that time the soul is brought into the full Christian position (Rom. 8:10), and into the Church (1 Cor. 12:13). But there may be a space of time between quickening and sealing. The Spirit of God will not dwell in an unclean place… He will not take up residence until a person is trusting in the finished work of Christ. Read more…
14 who is the earnest of our [Jews + Gentiles] inheritance to the redemption of the acquired possession to the praise of his glory. v.14 Here the Seal of the Spirit is linked with the “Earnest of the Spirit”, the down payment of what is to come; i.e. the future possession of the inheritance. The purchase (or acquisition) of the inheritance was complete at the cross (Col. 1:20), but the redeeming or “setting free” will take place at the appearing. The redemption of the acquired possession will be “to the praise of his glory”, in that it will result in praise. First, the assurance of the redemption produces praise in our hearts now. Secondly, the actual fact of redemption will produce praise from the entire creation (Rev. 5:13). The expression “of his grace” is left off because it is the redemption of the creation by power that is in view, not the redeeming of men by grace.
Down-payment. Why give us the Holy Spirit as the down-payment? Usually, a down-payment is of the same currency as the full payment. The Holy Ghost is the subject of all of God’s promises, as seen in the Old Testament prophecies (Gal. 3:14). The Spirit was promised to be poured out on “all flesh” in Joel 2:28. The “powers of the world to come” (referring to the Millennium) are connected with the Holy Spirit in Heb. 2:4-5, 6:4-5. That day hasn’t arrived yet, but because Jesus has been glorified (John 7:39) and been exalted by the right hand of God (Acts 2:33), He has now received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, and has poured it out ahead of the Millennial day. We are getting a taste of the Millennium now in a spiritual way! We are enjoying our coming portion before we get there! A Christian is not occupied with saving the planet, reforming governments, etc. because he has a down-payment guarantee that the acquired possession will one day be redeemed.
Illustration of Anointing, Seal & Earnest. One day, a man sees by the roadside some weak and sickly sheep for sale. Out of pity, he buys the sheep and brings them home to his farm. The first thing he does once the transaction is complete is put his mark on them by branding. That is like the Seal of the Spirit; it marks us out as belonging to God. The second thing he does is administer proper nutrition and veterinary care, and soon sense and strength return to the sheep! That is like the Anointing of the Spirit; it enables the believer to live for God. Finally, the man has a field of sweet clover that he plans to let them enjoy on the following day, but because it is evening time, they won't be put out to pasture until the morning. So he tells his farm hand to gather several armfuls of the clover from the field and bring it into the barn for the sheep to enjoy. They do not have the field itself yet, but they are enjoying its sweetness ahead of time. That is like the Earnest of the Spirit, which gives us a foretaste of heaven, and a guarantee of future glory with Christ!
1st Prayer: That We would Know Our Portion and God’s Power (1:15-23)
Two Prayers. Paul records two beautiful prayers in this epistles; the first in ch.1, the second in ch.3. Each prayer has a different emphasis. The chart below compares them:
||To the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, because Christ is viewed as man in relation to God, glorified, all things under his feet.
||To the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, because He is viewed as Son in relationship to the Father, as the object of the Father’s love, which has brought about this blessing.
|That we might know:
||That we might know the truth objectively: our blessings, the coming glory of the inheritance, and God’s power for us demonstrated in raising and glorifying Christ.
||That we might know the truth subjectively: the Mystery and the love of Christ, by a power (the Spirit) that works within us.
||The Glory of Christ
||The Love of Christ
|The prime mover:
||All has been accomplished by the power of God.
||All has been accomplished through the love of Christ.
|Concerning our blessings:
||That we might know our blessings, in association with a glorified Christ.
||That we might enjoy our blessings, as objects of Divine love.
||Abraham told to view the land (Gen. 13:14-15).
||Abraham told to walk the land (Gen. 13:17).
¶ 15 Wherefore *I* also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is in you, and the love which ye have towards all the saints, v.15 Paul was imprisoned in Rome but had heard a good report of the Ephesians’ faith and love. Faith and love are the evidences of Divine life. But here is it “faith in the Lord Jesus”, referring to the gospel of the grace of God. Love is the natural response of faith in the Lord Jesus. Christ is the object of our faith, and so those “in Christ” are the object of our love. Our love ought never be confined to any circle smaller than “all the saints”. We must always be on guard against sectarianism and favoritism.
16 do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you at my prayers, v.16 Often we only pray for our brethren when they are going on poorly, but Satan makes special attacks on those who are going on well; i.e. in “faith” and “love”. Paul gives us a good example of bringing our brethren before God who are going on well; he gave thanks for them (v.16), and he prayed for continued spiritual growth (vv.17-23). Paul had visited Ephesus twice (Acts 18:19; 19:1) and taught them much truth. But it is always important to follow up teaching with prayer. Paul prayed for them at his regular prayer times; “at my prayers”. When Paul speaks of praying “without ceasing” (1 Thess. 4:17), he doesn’t mean praying every hour of every day, but rather to not give up those regular prayer times.
Three Things We Should Know: His Calling, His Inheritance, His Power (vv.17-23)
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of him, v.17 As we already mentioned, this prayer is addressed to the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ” (not Father, see Eph. 3:14), because Christ is viewed in this prayer as man in relation to God, glorified, all things under his feet. It isn’t so much the Son at His Father’s right hand, but the man Christ Jesus at God’s right hand. God is identified as “the Father of glory” because the unfolding of His purpose will bring ultimate glory to Christ. Paul’s first prayer request was that they would be given “the spirit of wisdom and revelation”, which is a spiritual state where we can enter into the purpose and counsels of God. With this attitude we will be ready to learn about Christ, not in a narrow, unbalanced way, but “the full knowledge of him.” Often when individuals don’t seem to be learning doctrine, the root issue is that they do not have a proper attitude. We need to have an attitude where we are prepared to learn. God can give this to us if we ask.
18 being enlightened in the eyes of your heart, so that ye should know (1) what is the hope of his [God’s] calling, and (2) what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 and (3) what the surpassing greatness of his power towards us who believe, according to the working of the might of his strength, vv.18-19 Being put in the proper attitude for learning, Paul prays that we would in fact learn what our portion is. It isn’t enough to understand these things in our minds, we need to have the “eyes of our heart” enlightened. In this state we can learn three things:
- His Calling. “The hope of his calling.” The first thing that we should know is “hope” that attends the call of God (Rom. 8:30). What is that hope? It is the eternal enjoyment of all our blessings when we are in the glorified state (Rom. 5:2; Gal. 5:5). We have the spiritual blessings to enjoy now, but we will enjoy them in their fullness when we get to heaven. Peter looks at this “hope” as “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:4). It is a spiritual inheritance, but not called an inheritance in Ephesians, because in this epistle the inheritance as material. Hope in this case does not refer to the rapture. This is a summary of vv.3-7.
- His Inheritance. “The riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” The second thing we are to know is richness of glory that attends the coming kingdom. God wants us to look forward to the day when we possess the inheritance, as the glorified co-heirs of Christ! It is the future enjoyment of the inheritance possessed with Christ reigning in the Millennium. “His inheritance” is the entire creation; see. v.10 for the expression “all things”. He will take His inheritance “in the saints“; not that we are His inheritance, but that “in the saints” is the mode by which He possesses it (Dan. 7:22). A scriptural illustration is the conquest of Canaan. Jehovah Himself took the inheritance, but it was through Israel taking it (see the expressions “the land is mine” and “the land of your possession” in Lev. 25:23-24). The bride is never looked at as the inheritance. Rather we are joint-heirs with Christ! A man should never speak of His wife as a possession, and Christ does not view His Church in those terms. This is a summary of vv.8-13.
- His Power. “The surpassing greatness of his power towards us who believe.” The third things God wants us to know is His power on our behalf. We might look at the state of the world today and wonder, “How is God going to accomplish it?” We need to understand that God has all power at His disposal to bring to pass His eternal purpose. It is exceeding great, and measured only in Christ’s resurrection. That same power that raised up Christ from the dead is “towards us who believe”. It is employed on our behalf! Not only available to quicken us when we were dead in sins and offenses (ch.2) but to strengthen us for the daily fight of faith (ch.6)! We have a similar thought in Col. 1:11; “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness”. How is the power of God infused into our lives? It is through the action of the Holy Spirit! This is a summary of summary of v.14.
20 in which he wrought in the Christ in raising him from among the dead, and he set him down at his right hand in the heavenlies, 21 above every principality, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name named, not only in this age, but also in that to come; vv.20-21 The Demonstration of God’s Power. The power of God was demonstrated most in the resurrection and glorification of Jesus. It isn’t the cross, because “he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God” (2 Cor. 13:4). The man of God’s counsels lying dead in a tomb appeared to be ultimate defeat. It was the resurrection from among the dead, and the glorification of the risen Man that Paul considers. In Acts 17:31 we have the resurrection also presented, in a different connection, as proof to the world that Jesus will judge, but it is the same evidence. Here we find that the very same power demonstrated in the resurrection and ascension of Christ is employed on our behalf! The greatest demonstration of Divine love was Christ’s atoning work, the greatest demonstration of Divine power was His glorious resurrection and ascension to God’s right hand! (c.p. Rom. 9:22). God gives us the plan in vv.8-14, and now He gives us the proof. Very often politicians make promises without demonstrating the needed power to follow through. Not so with God and the Man of His counsels. God raised Him from the among the dead (the lowest possible place) and raised Him higher and higher, and did not stop raising Christ until He was seated “at his own right hand”. Today, Christ is seated on His Father’s throne. One day He will take His own throne (Rev. 3:21), but not until His Father gives the word. Note: saints are seated with Christ, but never said to be at the right hand of God. That place is reserved for Christ alone. The thought in this verse is drawn from Psa. 110, where Christ returned to heaven as the victor over the grave, and was saluted by the Father as a priest forever, and told “Sit at my right hand, until I put thine enemies as footstool of thy feet.” Christ’s resurrection and exaltation has revealed God’s power, that it is “above” [G5231, ‘greatly higher than’] every angel, every other power, and every name. The armies of men (Rev. 19) and the hosts of hell cannot stand against nor stop the progress of God’s purpose in Christ. There is no power in the universe that is not subject to the glorified Christ! Notice that it says “in the heavenlies” or “the heavenly places”. It refers to the spiritual realm. Christ is surely seated in the third heaven itself, but the focus here is on His exaltation in the sphere of spiritual power; i.e. the second heaven. This goes beyond what Old Testament saints knew of the Messiah. The prophets spoke of an exalted Christ on earth; but v.21 takes in the heavenly sphere as well!
Christ, a man in glory. On fact cannot be overemphasized in this portion; i.e. that the exaltation here is of a man. Take for instance, the statements of v.21. Christ always was above all these things listed in v.21, as the Son of God. But now He is there as a man! There is a man in heaven today. That is a stupendous reality. One who shares our humanity is in heaven, in a glorified condition! What vistas of blessing this opens to us! It is one thing for God to come down to where we are, and save us from our sins. It is quite another thing for God to bring a man into a glorified condition, at His own right hand! This fact opens to us the “glory of his grace” (v.6), how far God has brought us in spirit, and will yet bring us physically, even to His own right hand in a glorified state. It is the key to the Apostle Paul’s ministry, and to the proper Christian position, that we are associated with a glorified Christ, as a man, in heaven.
22 and has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the assembly, v.22 A Twofold Headship.
Here we find the twofold place into which Christ has come as a glorified Man. We see this same twofold headship in type in Genesis 2, where Adam was head of the created order, and also in his union with Eve. The thought in this verse is drawn from Psalm 8, where the glorified Son of man is placed as head over all things.
Note: Psalm 8 is quoted in 1 Corinthians 15, Ephesians 1, and Hebrews 2. Hebrews 2 informs us that Psalm 8 hasn’t been completely fulfilled yet. Half the psalm is fulfilled now because He is crowned with glory and honor, but the other half is still future, for we do not see everything put under His feet. Psalm 8 is the cornerstone of Paul's doctrine concerning the glory of Christ.
Here in Ephesians we get the added thought of the Church’s portion in the glory of Christ. This verse gives us what Christ is to the Church (c.p. v.23):
- Head over All Things (authority). As a glorified man, God has subjected all things under His feet (same fact given in Heb. 2:8, except here it is looked at as already done), and made Him head over all things. “Things under His feet” is the thought of Lordship or dominion. “Head over all things” is the more the thought of sustenance and direction. Note: we never read that Christ is Lord to the Church. He is Lord to individuals, but to the Church He is Head! The Church is not under His feet; but rather it is His body.
- Head to the Assembly (leadership). Christ is not only head of the Church (see Col. 1:18) but here He is head to the Church. It gives the thought that all He is and all He has is for His bride. He nourishes and cherishes His Assembly as the Head (Eph. 5:29).
23 which is his body, the fulness of him [Christ] who fills all in all: v.23 What the Church is to Christ. This verse gives us what the Church is to Christ (c.p. v.22):
- His body (expression). The body is an aspect of the Church where we give expression to the mind of Christ. This is the eternal aspect of the body, and it is the only place where the eternal aspect of the body is used, including all members, from Pentecost to the rapture. We are the Eve of the Last Adam! It shows that even in eternity, we the Church will never cease to be the perfect display of Christ.
- Complement of Christ (fulfillment). Just as a natural body complements the head, so the Church is the complement of Christ. Note: as God, He was complete; but as a man He was incomplete. We are “the fullness of him”! In Colossians we are incomplete without Him (Col. 2:10), but in Ephesians He is incomplete without us (Eph. 1:23)! Christ is the One “that filleth all in all”. The very one who will fill the universe with His glory has chosen to be incomplete without us! There are glories of Christ that could not be displayed without the Church! This is holy ground, and we need to take up these scriptures with reverence, with the attitude that we would never claim this place unless God had told us that it is ours.
What raised the wondrous thought,
Or who did it suggest,
That we the Church to glory brought
Should with the Son be blest?
Father, the thought was Thine,
And only Thine could be—
Fruit of the wisdom, love divine,
Peculiar unto Thee.