Ephesians 1:13-14

As we previously noted Ephesians 1:3-14 is one long sentence in Greek. Paul purposely combines all these profound theological truths to describe and amplify the work of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Verses 3-6 explain the sovereign election of the Father: the Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing, He chose us before the foundation of the world, and He predestined us to be his sons through Jesus Christ.

Verses 7-12 develops the redemptive work of the Son: He freely bestowed grace on us in his dearly loved Son, through Jesus have redemption through His blood, we have the forgiveness of our sins and have been gifted with wisdom and insight, He revealed the mystery of God’s will that He will bring all things together in heaven and on earth in Christ and He claimed us as His own possession according to God’s purpose to the praise of His glory.

The final two verses focus on the work of the Holy Spirit:
“And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation)–when you believed in Christ–you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.”

Paul’s letter is addressed specifically to the Gentile believers, assuring them of their share in God’s inheritance. We understand the truth that God’s promises are not limited to Jewish believers; the Gentile believers are also “God’s own possession” as His “Chosen People”. We also learn is that at the moment that we “believe in Christ” we are marked with the certification of genuineness, the seal of the Holy Spirit that indicates our security, authentication and approval in Christ. This “seal” is a deposit or a down payment with a guarantee of more to come. In essence this deposit “is a little bit of the heaven in our lives today with a guarantee of much more to come”.

“The Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee that we belong to him and that he will do what He has promised. The Holy Spirit is like a down payment, a deposit, a validating signature on the contract. The presence of the Holy Spirit in us demonstrates the genuineness of our faith, proves that we are God’s children, and secures eternal life for us. His power works in us to transform us now, and what we experience now is a taste of the total change we will experience in eternity”. (LIFE Application Bible commentary)

From Romans 10:17 we learn that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ”. Additionally, from 1 Peter 3:15 we understand that we should “always be prepared to give an answer (with gentleness and respect) to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”. The “Word of Truth”, also called the message is defined as the “Gospel of your Salvation”. From 1 Corinthians 15:2-4 we can summarize the gospel message as “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures”. With these few but precise words Paul clearly explains that we are all in need of forgiveness, not one of us measures up to what is required to reconcile us to the Holy God. That Jesus really died, it was not a hoax or fabrication of His disciples, Jesus was crucified, dead and buried then was raised to life on the third day all done according to God’s plans and recorded in the Bible for us to understand. When Christ conquered death He confirmed for us His promise of eternal life, confirming the plan and process of how each one of us can be reconciled to the Creator of the Universe forever.

This process that God set forth is that first we will hear the word of truth, the gospel message; then we believe, have faith in the work of Christ and are marked by the Holy Spirit and sealed as a “down payment of our inheritance until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory”.

The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is astounding; Jesus identifies the Holy Spirit as “another Advocate to be with you forever” and as the “Spirit of Truth” who resides with you and in you. The Holy Spirit will “prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment”, “He will guide you to all truth”, and He will receive from Jesus and “tell it to you and tell you what is to come”.
This depiction of an advocate that leads us into all truth, reminds me of the presence of the Spirit of God that was with the Israelites in the desert directing their path and teaching them how to become the people of God. This same power and insight is available to us and in us, when we believe and thus sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:7-12

Our last lesson ended with the revolutionary truth that we are not an afterthought in the plan of God; we are in fact chosen by the Father and selected to be members of His eternal family. We find this truth to be amazing, just think of how much more would these former slaves, oppressed women and downtrodden pagans respond to this glorious news.

This one long sentence continues with “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”. Redemption means to gain or regain a possession in exchange for payment. The Ephesians would be very familiar with the Greco-Roman practice of the redemption of slaves who could be freed by the payment of a ransom.

The redemption price to free us from the bondage of sin and death was the death of Christ; this is what “through his blood” means. In the OT sacrificial system, the forgiveness of sin was only accomplished through the shedding of the perfect, unblemished animal’s blood. Now we are forgiven of our sins and redeemed from our slavery to sin by the perfect unblemished Lamb of God’s death on the cross.

We should not attach a mystical quality to this phrase “through the blood”, it was not Jesus’ physical blood that saved anyone, but his real and total payment for the sins of man in His whole person and death on the cross. “Jesus does not redeem us by His sinless life or His moral example, but only by His death in our place – ‘through His blood’”.

We have been redeemed from the stain of sin, the sins we have done and the eternal consequences of that sin, our separation from God. Christ who was sinless took on our sins; He became cursed in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would be made available to the Gentiles. Our redemption means that we have been adopted as sons with full rights; we are no longer a slave but a son and heir through Jesus. Additionally, Jesus’ sacrifice has delivered us from the power of sin and darkness; it sets us free from every kind of sin and purifies us to be His people. Therefore we should consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. What a glorious work Jesus did for us!

All this work was accomplished “according to the riches of His grace that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight”. “We’re a free people – free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need”. (The Message)

Grace is defined by God’s unmerited favor; in Hebrew “favor” means to bend or stoop in kindness to another, as a superior to and inferior. This grace, the favor that the Creator of the Universe has lavished on us, the superabundance of his grace is emphasized by Paul. “He did this when he revealed to us the secret of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ”.

The “secret of his will” is translated as “mystery” in the NIV and “letting us in on the plans” in the Message. “Mystery” is something which has formerly been kept secret in the purpose of God but has now been disclosed. The next verse reveals what this mystery is: to bring all things together, things in heaven and on earth under Christ Jesus as the head. Then it is revealed when this will happen, when the times reach their fulfillment – “the fullness of times”. When the time is ripe for the consummation of God’s purpose, God will make that happen at just the right time.

“In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of Him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will”. Just as the Jews have been known as God’s Chosen People, we now know that part of the mystery is that the Gentiles will also be “God’s own possession”; all this was predestined before the foundations of the world.

“God’s purpose is to offer salvation to the world, just as he planned to do long ago. God is sovereign; he is in charge. When your life seems chaotic, rest in this truth: Jesus is Lord, and God is in control. God’s purpose to save you cannot be thwarted, no matter what evil Satan may bring.” God in His great mercy has granted us who could not save ourselves, salvation through the sacrificial death of Jesus. We have been redeemed from slavery and given the honored position of firstborn son and heir to the blessings of God. What a blessing, our response should be unending praise of His glory!

Ephesians 1: 1-6

This letter to the church in Ephesus begins with an abbreviated address from the Apostle Paul; to the saints, the faithful, grace and peace to you. However we can understand many things from this brief greeting. First, that Paul was known to the recipients, he felt no need introduce himself or list his bonafides. And it follows that this is a letter to be passed around to all the believers in the sphere of influence of the church in Ephesus. It is a circular letter, carried from house church to house church to encourage the saints and proclaim the grace and peace that the Creator provides for us through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:2 gives us a good definition of what it means to be a saint. “To those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” This message of Ephesians is for the “faithful followers of Christ Jesus”; it is for the church today and just as important as it was to the church in Ephesus.

Sometimes the hardest part of being a faithful believer is living out our faith in the community (church) where God has placed us. We see today many believers who do not go to church or do not commit to a particular faith community because they find this life together too difficult. Or they hold themselves aloof, always ready to jump to the next trending worship center, constantly moving and not putting down deep roots in community. The Apostle Paul calls believers to life together, as one body, to present a living human witness, faithfully in community. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling… From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.” Ephesians 4:4, 16

Paul greets the church by saying, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!” “Grace is the love of God shown to the unlovely; the peace of God given to the restless; the unmerited favor of God… Grace is the opposite of karma, which is all about getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.” Christianity Today – what is Grace?

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

“Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

We have peace with God through Jesus Christ and we have the peace of God through the Holy Spirit working in our lives, to conform us to be like Jesus Christ. This grace and peace is for us individually and for our faith community, the local church.

Paul moves on to his opening statement, verses 3-14 which is one long sentence in Greek without punctuation. Many scholars consider these verses to be a prayer or a call to worship and because it is a run-on sentence we can understand the interconnectedness of the phrases. Paul begins with what could be considered a summary sentence. “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.”(3) Verses 4-6 offers up praise for the blessings God bestowed on us in the past; “For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love.” Verses 7-12 offers up praise that the Son has redeemed us; “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight.” Verses 13-14 offers up praise that the Holy Spirit has stamped us with a seal, sealed us as a down payment of our future inheritance. We understand that all of these actions are instigated by the LORD God Almighty; by the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit for our benefit; we are blessed with every spiritual blessing.

“For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world”; the Apostle tells us when God’s work of election took place, in eternity past. This “chosen status” was always part of the plan, God’s plan to reconcile us to Him. We understand from this phrase that it is all about God’s work not our works; it is God’s Sovereign work; it is all about God not us.

“Paul says that God “chose us” to emphasize that salvation depends totally on God. We are not saved because we deserve it but because God is gracious and freely gives salvation. We did not influence God’s decision to save us; he saved us according to his plan. Thus, there is no way to take credit for our salvation or to allow room for pride. The mystery of salvation originated in the timeless mind of God long before we existed. It is hard to understand how God could accept us. But because of Christ, we are holy and blameless in his sight. God chose us, and when we belong to him through Jesus Christ, God looks at us as if we had never sinned. All we can do is express our thanks for his wonderful love.” From Life Application Bible

God chose us so that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. For any human being to be in the presence of the Holy God we need to be holy and blameless we cannot do this on our own, therefore God made a way. Under the OT sacrificial system only animals that were without blemish could be offered to God, we are reminded of our perfect Passover lamb, Jesus. In his sight, means that God views us who are horribly flawed, as holy and blameless, this is our position before God. The motivation of God’s choice is love; this is the focus of the entire paragraph. He chose us, He made us holy and blameless, He predestined us for adoption as His sons, we are His own possession and we are marked with the Holy Spirit kept by God, all according to his good pleasure, by His lavish gift of grace, to the praise of His Glory.

All believers are adopted as a first born son with all the rights of inheritance that provides. Through Jesus, we are brought into intimate family of the Creator of the universe. This was decided in advance, “before the foundation of the world”, it was always God’s plan and everything is accomplished by God’s initiative. “See what sort of love the Father has given to us: that we should be called God’s children—and indeed we are!” 1 John 3:1

“For all these things are for your sake, so that the grace that is including more and more people may cause thanksgiving to increase to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15

Ephesians – Introduction

The Apostle Paul identifies himself as the author of this letter, and then refers to himself repeatedly throughout the letter. The letter is addressed to “the Saints in Ephesus” then immediately launches right into the reason for the letter without the small talk. This suggests that Ephesians was a circular letter intended for all the churches in the Lycus valley. We can also conclude that Ephesians was written at the same time as Colossians because Ephesians carries on the same train of thought from Colossians. They both highlight the role of Christ as the Lord over the cosmos, the firstborn of overall creation; that we are chosen in love for adoption according to His glorious Grace. Then continues by laying out how we should live in light of this great gift.

The city of Ephesus was the most important city of Asia Minor at that time. It was a major harbor and the intersection of the major trade routes so it follows that it was a significant commercial center. Ephesus boasted of its pagan temple dedicated to Roman goddess Diana, Greek name Artemis. This temple was considered a “wonder of the ancient world” and was estimated to be four times larger than the Parthenon in Greece. Ephesus became the epicenter of worship of the Greek and Roman gods. Roman culture sponsored thousands of gods; the worship was pervasive and overwhelming; invading every aspect of community life.

The following are excerpts from Pagan & Christians in the City, by Steven D. Smith: “Pagan religion locates the sacred within the world. In that way, paganism can consecrate the world from within: its religiosity relative to an immanent sacred. Judaism and Christianity, by contrast, reflect transcendent religiosity; they place the sacred, ultimately, outside the world”.

“The crowds of gods had their own affairs to attend to, and they were for the most part not especially concerned about the mundane doings of mortals. And yet the gods did have the power either to bless or to blight, to help or to hinder, so it was essential to maintain good relations with them. The Romans thus devoted massive resources to honoring the gods and retaining their favor; it was in this sense that the Romans deemed themselves religiously superior to all other nations.”

“In sum, public or civic religion was pervasive in the Roman world. City and religion were thoroughly integrated, coextensive, inseparable. There was a religious aspect to every communal action, and a communal aspect to ever religious action.”

“Sexual fulfillment is not only natural and pleasurable and presumptively acceptable; it is also a kind of ecstatic religious performance….In antiquity, sexual arousal, activity and reproduction were in part immanent divine powers, not simply forms of energy… an ambitious vision of conjugal Eros, in which the most profound stirrings of the body not only connected man with the divine forces that replenished the earth but also offered personal transcendence. This sacralization of sexuality helps explain the ubiquity of erotic imagery – paintings, mosaics, statues – Roman culture. The gods manifested themselves as well, and were honored through sexuality – sexual ecstasy being understood as ‘the mysterious, indwelling presence of the gods’.”

The Apostle Paul arrives in Ephesus on his third missionary journey in 54 AD. Paul will stay in Ephesus making it his home base for his mission to Asia Minor. For three months he taught in the local synagogue, but when the Jews began to oppose Paul he moves his teaching to the school of Tyrannus for another 2 years. During this time Paul is empowered by the Holy Spirit with effective teaching and numerous miracles. “Even Handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him (Paul) were taken to the sick and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” (Acts 19:11-20) The repeated confrontations with evil spirits caused “the Jews and Greeks in living in Ephesus to be seized with fear, and the name of Jesus was held in high honor”. Many former pagans who practiced sorcery and were now believers brought their scrolls and burned them publicly. Luke writing in Acts calculates the value of these scrolls as 50,000 drachmas; one drachma was equivalent to a day’s wage, thus very costly to the commerce in Ephesus. All this activity sets the stage for a riot in Ephesus among the silversmiths who made silver shrines for the Temple of Artemis.

Artemis was the fertility goddess of Ephesus and was the most worshiped deity in Asia Minor and the Roman world at that time. Hundreds of eunuch priests, virgin priestesses and religious prostitutes served in her temple. Their worship rituals were quite erotic, she was also known as the “Queen of Heaven”, “Savior” and “Mother Goddess”. The city of Ephesus was the center for Artemis worship and they considered themselves responsible for maintaining the cult’s purity of worship. This cultic worship brought great wealth to the citizens of Ephesus because the temple of Artemis was the world’s largest bank at that time. Devotees came from all over the world to worship and celebrate during her festivals. There were huge processions honoring her statues. Celebrations were held with music, dancing, singing, dramatic presentations and chanting of allegiance.

The silversmiths complained about Paul’s preaching and miracles because they were impacting their business of selling small offerings give to the goddess when visiting the temple. “Men, you know that we get our wealth from this business. You also see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost the whole of Asia this Paul has persuaded and drawn away a considerable number of people by saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her.” (Acts 19:25-27)

In the Greek and Roman worldview, it was common to add new gods to their vast collections of gods. A new “god” was no threat, but what was becoming known to the pagan worshipers is that when people became Christians, they stopped worshiping the pagan deities. This was the threat – not the “new” god, but the diminishing of their community, culture and economy by this new belief system.

Think about the Apostle Paul and his Jewish brothers in Christ interaction with this city where pagan worship was rampant. The courage it is must have taken to go into the very heart of evil to speak God’s truth to those who are hostile to the things of God. Additionally, think of the great, long and difficult task of making disciples of former pagans who were steeped in pagan worldview and practices that was entangled with the everyday culture and economy.

“Christians had to be taught how to live in ways that were appropriate for the kingdom of Christ. Many Christians had been converted from pagan religions. They had spent much of their lives following the ways of Satan before they came to faith in Christ. And they found it difficult to change the ways they thought, felt, and behaved. So, as the apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Ephesians, he directly addressed this challenge by painting a sweeping, cosmic portrait of life in the kingdom of God in Christ.” Third Millennium, Prison Epistles – Ephesians

Unlike Paul’s other letters this letter does not address any particular error or heresy which reinforces the perception that it was a circular letter. It was a prison letter Not a personal letter, Not a problem solving letter, Not a teaching letter, Not a need-meeting letter or a how to letter, it is a letter that seeks to change our orientation from a man-centered to a God-centered , as we study this letter our attention will continually be drawn to glory of God.

From the introduction to Ephesians in The Message:
“Paul’s letter to the Ephesians joins together what has been torn apart in our sin-wrecked world. He begins with an exuberant exploration of what Christians believe about God, and then, like a surgeon skillfully setting a compound fracture, “sets” this belief in God into our behavior before God so that the bones—belief and behavior—knit together and heal”……” And so Paul goes to work. He ranges widely, from heaven to earth and back again, showing how Jesus, the Messiah, is eternally and tirelessly bringing everything and everyone together. He also shows us that in addition to having this work done in and for us, we are participants in this most urgent work. Now that we know what is going on, that the energy of reconciliation is the dynamo at the heart of the universe, it is imperative that we join in vigorously and perseveringly, convinced that every detail in our lives contributes (or not) to what Paul describes as God’s plan worked out by Christ, “a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.”