INTRODUCTION TO THE PASSAGE:
Paul is so full of God’s grace and the Spirit that when he begins writing to the Ephesians his joy and praise to God just gushes out of him. Verses 3-14 are one long sentence in the original Greek text. I have to say I just love that! The Holy Spirit inspires Paul in such a way that he writes a huge run on sentence!
Paul starts by using an interesting word, eulogētos. The word refers to a statement of praise of the character of someone. Here Paul is pouring out a eulogy to God, his words nearly tumbling over each other in his attempt to show the greatness and goodness of the Triune God.
STRUCTURE OF THE PASSAGE:
It may be a run on sentence, but it’s a well organized one! When you read this section carefully you’ll find that it’s constructed on the basis of God’s Triune nature. Most commentators have noted this.
- Verses 3-6 – The Father Electing
- Verses 7-12 – The Son Redeeming
- Verses 13-14 – The Spirit Sealing
You can see where one section of the pattern ends and another begins by the phrase (rendered differently by various translations) found in verses 6, 12, 14; “To the praise of His Glory” (or glorious grace).
John Stott (one of my favorite commentators, read his book The Message of Ephesians if you are looking for a good commentary, shorturl.at/dgv45) says about this, “Although this is rather too neat to be probable, yet the Trinitarian content of the paragraph remains obvious.” (Pg. 33)
I hate to disagree – but I in fact I do. It’s not that neat really; I missed it until I had it pointed out to me. I think it’s probable that Paul intended it that way. If he didn’t that’s still okay because that doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit didn’t design it that way as He inspired Paul to write it.
Don’t miss this because if you do you’ll completely misunderstand what this passage is teaching. I love it that Paul’s praise of God is built upon the foundation of Who God is.
This shows us why the Trinity is such a vital truth. It’s not just a dry doctrine that isn’t relevant to our lives. Far from it! It’s the very foundation of understanding God, Christ, salvation, the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, etc.
If you watch for it you’ll see this Trinitarian structure all over the New Testament. It’s woven into the very fabric of the New Covenant Scriptures and is neglected or overlooked at your own spiritual peril.
We constantly see the Father, Son and Spirit moving together in time, eternity, the church and our lives as well. It’s a sacred dance that we can just make out and don’t understand. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It is true, and it’s critical not just to our knowledge, but to our walk in the Spirit of Grace as well.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Ephesians 1:3 (NIV)
“…has blessed us…” please note that’s past tense. It’s an aorist active participle which means it’s pointing to a specific point in time when these blessings become ours in Christ.
You already have these blessings – you don’t have to work for them! In fact you can’t work for them – you already own them in Christ!
It must also be pointed out here that these are spiritual blessings! In today’s spiritual environment it’s all to easy to lose sight of that fact as the Prosperity Preachers constantly rail at us about using our faith to get rich, “prospered,” etc.
Paul is saying that all spiritual blessings are ours once we are Christ’s. When you are saved you are given every possible kind of spiritual blessing you could ever need or imagine, and even beyond that!
“So where are they?” You might ask, “I sure don’t see them in my life!” Honestly I don’t see nearly as many of them as I’d like to see in my life either! The text tells us where they are located.
“…in the heavenly realms…” You can also translate that “heavenly places.” Either way it’s an interesting phrase because it’s used five time in Ephesians and no where else in the New Testament.
So what are the heavenly realms? Context is king when you try and determine what a word or phrase means, so let’s look at the context of the 5 usages of this term.
1:3 – Blessed in heavenly realms
1:20 – The Father seated the resurrected Christ at His right hand in the heavenly realms
2:6 – We are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms
3:10 – God makes things known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms
6:12 – Standing against evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realms.
Some commentators try and say Paul is referring to the sky, or other primitive beliefs about the heavens. I completely reject that idea. It’s clear from the context that he’s referring to something completely different than anything human kind can see or completely understand.
Stott defines “heavenly realms” as “the unseen world of spiritual reality” (Pg. 35). I totally agree.
What else could it be? Both God and Satan are said to be active there. Our blessings and our status with God somehow reside there, and it’s the battlefield where we meet and take our stand against Satan.
It is true that all around us is a dimension of spiritual reality and activity we normally know nothing of. That does not make it any less real however.
“I Still Don’t Have My Blessings!” Well be patient, they are yours in Christ, but you have to grow into them. You own them the same way a minor owns his inheritance, but you don’t get it till you are ready.
In the Roman world the minor didn’t receive his inheritance until either his father or the slave that was assigned to his care said he was ready. (See Galatians 4:1-7)
Our heavenly Father will decide when the time is right and when to let those blessings flow. Our task is to boldly follow Him in Faith, let the Spirit fill and move us, and live like Christ as much as we can. Then you’ll see some blessings!!
“..in Christ.” That’s the second time Paul has used the phrase in just three verses!
I want you to notice how Christ-centered Paul is in this passage. In the first fourteen verses of chapter one Paul mentions Christ, Jesus, Lord, Beloved, him or his etc, fourteen or fifteen times!
Authentic Spirituality is all about Christ! Never forget or over look that!
Secondly note the phrase In Christ. Not only is the entire Christian life (and a real Christian life is Authentic Spirituality) all about Christ, it’s lived entirely in Christ! He is the sphere in which we live and move and have our being. Everything is in Him, about Him, for Him, of Him, by Him, through Him and because of Him!
He is the reason we are saved, He is the reason we live. It’s all in Christ.
That’s the simple way to know if you are doing God’s will and pleasing Him. Are you in Christ; is what you are doing and how you are doing it and the motivations for doing it in Christ? Then it is certainly God’s will!
Authentic Spirituality can only be found in Christ! That may not be popular, but it is true and we must take our stand on and in this truth forever!
“He chose us…He predestined us…”
Every time I come to this topic I can hear Michael Buffer in my mind intoning, “Uhhhhh Let’s Get Ready To Rumble!” Because nothing gets Christians fighting quite like the topic of Election and Predestination. So let’s start by understanding the terms Paul used here.
Chose = (kathōs exelexato hēmās en autōi). First aorist middle indicative of eklegō, to pick out, to choose—Word Pictures in the New Testament.
Predestined = (Proorisas hēmās). First aorist active participle of proorizō, late and rare compound to define or decide beforehand.—Word Pictures in the New Testament
Both of these words refer to an event in the past that took place at a specific point in time (that’s the aorist tense).
The questions are why did God do this, and how or on what basis did He make this choice?
Let’s look at why first. Paul says he chose us for Himself, that’s what the middle voice means. But why would God do this? Because, as Paul says in verse four both election and predestination are “in accordance with His pleasure and will.”
This pleases God because of His very nature. We know that God is love, Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8 (NIV)
Because He is love, He is always pleased with what is good and true. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 1 Corinthians 13:6 (NIV)
Therefore we know that His choice of us is something perfectly good! It’s an expression of His goodness, not an arbitrary act of the will.
Which brings us to how He makes this choice. Peter explains this to us in very simple and concise terms.
who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. 1 Peter 1:2 (NIV)
God chooses us on the basis of His infallible knowledge that we will choose Him! Sounds strange but it’s true! God lives outside of time, and so can see all of time from beginning to end at one glance.
He sees what choices we will make, good and bad, and knowing that constructs His perfect plan for our lives. That’s what predestination really is, His Purpose and Plan for our lives, drawn up in advance, based on His perfect knowledge of what we’ll do.
That’s why down in verse 11 when Paul is talking about how God has chosen himself and the rest of the Apostolic company he says, In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, Ephesians 1:11 (NIV)
Notice that Paul says God works out everything according to His will! If God is God and all powerful why does He have to “work out” anything? Shouldn’t it just automatically happen as He decrees it too?
Yes, if not for free will. Because God has created us free moral agents, and that freedom is authentic and real, not just a sham, He has to let us make whatever choices we will. Good or bad, foolish or wise, holy or evil, it’s our call.
But once made then it becomes His turn to choose. So, before the universe began God knew everything that would ever happen. And through this maze of human choice and folly, He wove His will and Plan – which includes His Plan for your life by the way – and brought it to its perfect conclusion.
We do get completely free will – but so does God! And no created being’s choice is able to deflect His Will from being done! Think about all that the next time you pray the Lord’s Prayer and say, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus draws us right into His Father’s perfect plan, and makes that a matter of prayer.
These two verses are wonderful windows into the Grace and forgiveness that only comes through Christ.
Note that Paul points us back to the cross of Christ when he tells us that Redemption – being bought out of slavery – only comes through the blood. Then he points us to “the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us…”
Wow – can you feel the power of Paul’s heart here? It’s full of praise and wonder – and we ought to be filled with those feelings too. We aren’t just forgiven, as if God somewhat grudgingly says, “Okay, I’ll let it go this time – but watch it!”
NO – instead He lavishes forgiveness and being part of God’s family upon us – in a wise way at that! Oh how little we truly understand and appreciate our forgiveness in Christ! This is something to meditate on.
Please note that God’s mysterious plan for everything can be summed up in one word – a word that is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine – integration. God wants all things to come together under Christ. The entire universe and all the creatures living in it will end up under the leadership and care of Christ!
How wonderful – but as I’m pointing out in the message, that also means that all of my divided heart, must be integrated into one life under the one Savior and the One God – Jesus Christ!
Note too how Christ-centered Paul stays – God’s eternal plan is summed up in Christ.
Paul makes a sudden shift here for a moment and talks about himself and the Apostolic Company. How do we know this when he continues to use “we?” Because the context makes it clear that’s what he’s talking about.
He says, “we were chosen, to be first fruits to the praise of His glory. And YOU were also”
Clearly he’s using himself and his companions as an example of how God works, and then hastens to include his readers – and that includes you and me – into the mix.
He only mentions it in passing, but note how Paul remains the Apostle of Faith by saying we were included when we believed.
This amazing passage ends by focusing on the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
Two slightly different aspects of His ministry are highlighted – being sealed with the Spirit and marked by the Spirit.
As Paul uses the terms here they are essentially the same thing, with slight differences. Being seal with the Spirit refers of course to the ancient custom that merchants used of marking their merchandise with a seal. That seal served as a way to identify their goods when they arrived at a port after being shipped.
In the heavenly realms we are recognized as belonging to God because the Spirit is on us – He is the one who shows all the other powers that we are God’s child, kept by Him!
We all know what a deposit is of course, it’s a way to say I’m serious about buying this house, car, land etc, and prove it by giving you this amount of money. God proves to us He’s serious about eternity and heaven by giving us a foretaste of it all – the Spirit in our lives.
As I said in the beginning of this Exegetical Note – the Father Chooses and Plans, the Son Rescues and Redeems, the Spirit Seals and Empowers (as we’ll see later in Ephesians).
I hope you’ve found this helpful – and not too long! There’s a lot more I could say about this passage but in view of time and as an act of mercy to the few who’ve read this far, I won’t!
God bless, and see you next week with another Exegetical Note on Ephesians 1:15-23.
John Stott’s book on Ephesians: The Message of Ephesians