Paul was about 65 years old when he wrote this epistle, during his first imprisonment at Rome. The letter was sent to the "saints which are at Ephesus" (1:1), with the knowledge that it would be circulated ("and to the faithful in Christ Jesus"), as were all apostolic writings.
The average member of the Church at Ephesus was a "young" Christian who needed to grow spiritually in the Lord by increasing his awareness of his relationship to Him, and His ministry to him through the Holy Spirit. Though saved, secure, and doctrinally sound, he needed the day-to-day experience of "walking in the light." He was in the process of growing and maturing.
How the Ephesians were first saved, and how the local church came to be organized:
There had been Ephesian converts at Pentecost (A.D. 30), for Acts 2:9 states that there were dwellers of Asia (the Roman province) present. Paul stopped there, briefly, toward the end of his second missionary journey (A.D. 52) and preached in the synagogue, promising to return. Between Paul's visits to Ephesus, Appolos came preaching the baptism of John, and was up-dated in regard to the Gospel of Christ by Priscilla and Aquila. So, it is safe to assume that Aquila and Priscilla were continuing Paul's work there during his absence.
Paul returned during his third missionary journey and began a far reaching ministry in Ephesus. For two years he taught at Tyrannus' school, and the gospel penetrated into every center of the Province of Asia. There were undoubtedly many, many converts joining the local church there, and that church was pastored by such luminaries as the apostle John and Timothy.
The people of Ephesus heard more Bible teaching than did any other people.
The church at Ephesus was kind of a "mother church" to the churches in the surrounding cities (e.g., Colossae).
Some of Paul's reasons for writing this letter to the churches in Asia:
1. No church is ever immune to doctrinal defilement, so it could be that the apostle's positive teachings in the epistle to Ephesus on the pure knowledge of Christ were directed at the same kinds of problems that were vexing the Colossian church.
2. No doubt there were individual problems in the Ephesian church and, though not specifically mentioned in the letter, were covered in it.
3. To help the young converts grow in their relationship to the Lord and their daily walk.
Some of the main doctrines taught in Ephesians:
1. Salvation by grace with no admixture of works: as a deliverance from, and deliverance into.
2. Union with Christ: an inscrutable, yet real relationship.
3. The church universal: as the Body of Christ who is its Head.
4. Holy Spirit: the source of every blessing and power in the Christian life.
5. The will and work of God: for man's benefit and God's glory.
The Book of Ephesians is a deeply spiritual book, full of superlatives, and gives us a glimpse of the heavenly realms. The letter contains forty-two words not found in any other New Testament book, and forty-three not used by Paul in his other writings. The letter contains long sentences that flow powerfully, suggesting Paul's excitement and inspiration.
The book gives practical instruction in church unity, daily walk, domestic duty, and spiritual warfare.
Grace and Peace From God
1:1 ¶ Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Grace be to you" was the form of greeting of the Gentile world in Paul's day. The Greek word was "charis." Two men met on the street and one would say to the other, "Charis."
"And peace." The greeting in the religious world was, "Peace." That is the word one hears in Jerusalem: "Shalom."
Paul takes these two words which were the common greeting of the day and gives both of them a wonderful meaning and lifts them to the heights. The grace of God is the means by which He saves us. We must know the grace of God before we can experience the peace of God.
Before a man is saved by grace through faith (Eph.2:8-9), he is the enemy of God (Rom.5:10). The atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ made reconciliation possible (Rom.5:10), and therefore, "peace with God" (Rom.5:1) to those who avail themselves of God's gift, so freely offered (Rom.3:24).
Paul uses this greeting thirteen times in his letters, and he always puts the word "grace" before the word "peace." "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom.5:1).
The believers at Ephesus already had "peace with God," so the word "grace" as used in Ephesians 1:2 refers to grace dispensed from day to day, as used in Hebrews 4:16: "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
It is not a "state of grace" out of which a believer may fall, but grace given from day to day to match the trials of the believer. Paul asked for relief from his "thorn in the flesh" three times, and God told him that His grace was sufficient (2 Cor.12:4-10). That is the kind of "grace" spoken of, here.
God the Father gives the grace (1 Cor.1:4.; 3:10) and the "peace" is Christ's (John 14:1-4). It is up to us to let the "peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Phil.4:7) rule in our hearts (Col.3:15). Those of us who have "grace and peace" have God for our Father (1 Cor.8:6) and Jesus Christ for our Lord (Eph.4:5).
Chosen by the Father, 1:3-6
3 ¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Verse 3: We saved Christians are joined to a Body whose Head is in Heaven. We share this heavenly position as part of the Body. We are one Spirit with a Spirit who fills the universe, and we are only absent from the Lord (2 Cor.5:1-10) in regard to our physical bodies. Nothing physical is mentioned in regard to "blessings." Our physical blessing is future (1 Cor.15:49-55), but we have already "gone home to glory" in the Spirit. We are blessed with all spiritual blessings:
1. We are chosen (v.4).
2. We are adopted as children of God (v.5).
3. We are accepted in the beloved (v.6).
4. We have redemption through Christ's blood (v.7).
5. The mystery of God's will has been made known to us (v.9).
6. We should be to the praise of His glory (v.13).
7. We have the down payment of our inheritance until our redemption is complete (v.14).
Verse 4: Before the foundation of the world God decreed that He would chose no one in this age to become "holy and without blame" unless they were "in Christ." Jesus Christ was to be the medium through which all blessings would be dispensed (v.10), and we can only be accepted "in the beloved" (v.6).
We were not "in the beloved" before Genesis 1:1, nor was anyone else, for Christ had no "Body" which could be entered until Acts 2 (John 17:23).
Verse 5: God knows who will accept (Rom.8:29; 1 Pet.1:2) and who will reject Christ, and those who will accept are "elected" and "predestinated" to be "conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom.8:29) and "unto the adoption of children" (Eph.1:5).
Verse 6: It was God's grace that enabled any man to find Christ (Eph.2:8-9), and it is, therefore, God's grace that leads any man to accept Him. He (Christ) is the "beloved" (Matthew 3:17; 12:18) and we are not accepted until we are "in Him."
The spiritual application for today is that in light of God's mercy and grace outlined in the preceding, we are to be holy (separated to Him and from the world), we are to be blameless before Him in love, we are to praise His grace, and we are to give Him glory in all things.
Redeemed by the Son, 1:7-12
7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
Verse 7: Redemption is the means by which salvation is achieved, namely liberation by the payment of a ransom. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal.3:13; 4:5), and it is coupled with justification and propitiation (Rom.3:24; cf.1 Cor.1:30). Its present application is to the forgiveness of sins based on the ransom price of the shed blood of Christ (1 Pet.1:18-19), and its future application is to the deliverance of the body from its present debility and liability to corruption (Rom.8:23).
"The forgiveness of sins." Forgiveness is not the act of an indulgent Deity who is moved by sentiment to the exclusion of justice, righteousness, and holiness. Forgiveness depends on the shedding of blood: it demands and depends on the payment of the penalty for sin. Christ's death and the shedding of His blood is the foundation for forgiveness, and without that there could be no forgiveness.
Human forgiveness and Divine forgiveness are not the same. Human forgiveness is always based on the fact that a penalty is deserved, but not imposed. It simply means that one wipes out the account. Divine forgiveness is always based on the fact that there has been the execution of the penalty and the price has been paid. God, Himself, took on the form of a man (John
1:1; 1 Tim.3:16), and paid the penalty He had imposed, thus, making peace possible.
Many of the newer, so-called, Bibles omit "through his blood" in Colossians 1:14. When people are short of blood, they are called anemic. That describes the "new" Bibles exactly.
"According to the riches of His grace." It doesn't say "out of the riches of his grace," but according to the riches of his grace." God gave His best for our redemption.
Verses 8 & 9: "Wherein (the riches of His grace) he hath abounded (been plentiful) toward us (Christians) in all wisdom and prudence. Having made known unto us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure..." Then it not only pleased God (v.5) to predestinate us, it also pleased God to show us why He predestinated us. We are predestinated because we have been redeemed and forgiven (v.7), and this made us accepted "in the beloved" (v.6). Peter didn't know this in Acts 3:19, for he spoke of a future "blotting out of sins;" whereas Colossians speaks of a past "blotting out" (Col.2:14).
The mystery of God's will is explained in what follows in verse 10: "That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:".
"All things in Christ" is a general designation and matches the use of the word "all" in Mark 1:5, 1 Corinthians 9:22, and 1 Corinthians 15:27-28, especially.
1 Corinthians 15:27-28 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
It is obvious to the literate that "all" is used in a general, not an all inclusive sense. The "things" that are gathered together are gathered together "in Christ." "All things" is a reference to all of God's dealings, doings, designs, and dispensations. He has determined that the Lord Jesus Christ will be the capstone of these plans. When eternity begins (Rev.21-22) the Lamb will be the center of attraction (Rev.21:23); and those saved from the Old Testament, the Church Age, the Tribulation, and the Millennium will gather around Him.
The "dispensation of the fulness of times" lies yet in the future (Acts 3:21), and Christ's first advent was to begin a series of ages which will terminate in Revelation 21. The two heresies of "Post-millennialism" and "Universal Salvation" are derived from the passage; however, the subject is "things," not "people;" and one of those "things" is listed immediately - an inheritance.
"In whom also we have obtained an inheritance" (v.11). It is not my purpose to deal with false doctrine and faulty interpretation in this lesson, but since the Holy Spirit is leading, I must follow. A Post-millennialist or Universalist will lose his chance to make the "things" of verse 10 "people," if the things are truly "things." Hence, nearly every Bible since the Revised Version of 1881 alters "obtained an inheritance" to "were made a heritage" or "were made an inheritance." To justify this, the Post-millenialists quote Deuteronomy 4:20: "But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day."
This is an obvious error, for the Holy Spirit, in the English text of Ruth 4:6 is careful to tell us that an inheritance is marred if it is abandoned. God has never abandoned Israel (Rom.11), and they are still His inheritance.
Jeremiah 10:16 The portion of Jacob is not like them: for he is the former of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts is his name.
Matthew 21:38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
The reading of the Greek verb, "eklerothamen" (1 pers. pl. aor. 1, ind. pass.), correctly translated "have obtained," and the passive "were made" translation was first done by the Jesuit priests in 1852. Westcott and Hort reproduced this Catholic translation in 1881 in the Revised Version, and it has been diligently passed down by Jesuit sympathizers ever since.
We are a "purchased possession" (v.14), not an "inheritance," and we "have obtained" an "inheritance" because we are "adopted" (v.5). Any so-called scholar who fails to notice these two salient truths must be ignored by a "serious" Bible student.
Verse 12: "That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ."
Spiritual application: We are dealing with the work of God the Son on behalf of the church. That work is threefold: (1) Christ redeemed us through His blood, (2) He has revealed the mystery of His will, and (3) He rewards us through an inheritance.
We looked at the word "redemption" and saw that it involved the paying of a price which was the blood of Christ: we can have forgiveness because He paid that price. We know that God went in to the marketplace where we were sold on the slave-block of sin and He bought us, all of us Christians. He is going to use us for Himself - He establishes a personal relationship. We saw also that He bought us in order to set us free - set us free to serve Him on another basis, that of love. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "If you love me, keep my commandments." He didn't say: "Because I'm dying for you, keep my commandments," He said, "If you love me." If a man loves the Lord Jesus Christ, he wants to serve. If a man doesn't love Him, forget the business
of service. We hear so much about commitment to Christ, but we have very little to commit to Him. We are to respond to Him in love. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Sealed by the Spirit, 1:13-14
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Verse 13: A sinner hears the Word (John 5:24) and he believes the truth of the gospel (Gal.1:8-9) which causes him to trust Jesus Christ as his Saviour (Rom.10:3). Upon this act of the sinner's will, God circumcises the sinner (Col.2:11-12) and seals him just like you would seal up a bottle of preserves. He is preserved "until the redemption of the purchased possession" (v.14), and "sealed until the day of redemption (4:30). The believer's body is bought with a price (1 Cor.6:20), and his physical body becomes God's possession (1 Cor.6:19). The purchased possession will be redeemed at the Rapture (1 Cor.15:50-56), although the believer's soul was redeemed (Eph.1:7) the moment he trusted Christ.
Verse 14: The Holy Spirit was promised, and when He comes, He bears witness (Rom.8:16) of our adoption. Being adopted, we have the full assurance that when Christ appears (1 John 3:1-3), we shall receive the full inheritance to which a real son is entitled. Part of this inheritance is an incorruptible body like the Lord's. We are not the Lord's inheritance. Instead, we are a purchased possession which awaits physical redemption.
The spiritual application for today is that since we are bought and are purchased possessions, we are not our own. As adopted sons of God with a guaranteed inheritance, we are to endeavor to act like His children at all times, "to the praise of His glory."
Prayer for Revelation, 1:15-23
15 ¶ Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Here is Paul's first intercessory prayer for the saints at Ephesus.
1. That they might have "the spirit of wisdom and revelation" (v.17). A Christian should desire "the spirit of wisdom and revelation" in the knowledge of God. This knowledge should give the Christian an intimate knowledge of His Saviour as friend and companion as well as Lord and Saviour. Many times, even the "best" Christians are unable to get to know God in any way other than through their personal devotions, but this is not the "knowledge" of which Paul spoke. Here, Paul is speaking about knowledge "OF HIM." A Study of Isaiah 40-53 and Job 38-42 will yield more "KNOWLEDGE OF HIM" than a seminary education and hundreds of hours of private devotions. The God of Isaiah and Job is the God who was manifested in the flesh (1 Tim.3:16).
2. That the eyes of their understanding should be enlightened (v.18). These are plainly the "eyes" of 1 Samuel 14:27 and Luke 24:31.
1 Samuel 14:27 But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.
Luke 24:31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
3. That they might "know what is the hope" of their calling (v.18). The hope of our calling is Christ Himself (Heb.6:18), for He is the One who will meet us in the air (Tit.2:13) and fulfill the "hope" of Romans 8:20-24.
4. That they might know "the riches of the glory of his inheritance" (v.18). 1 Peter 1:4 states the matter clearly.
1 Peter 1:4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
5. That they might know "the exceeding greatness of his power" (v.19).
The power which raised Christ from the dead resides in the physical body of the believer (Rom.8:9-10).
The rest of the passage describes the One whose power is available to the Christian; the One who will supply the Christian with the petitions listed above.
The power that put the Lord Jesus in His present geographical location (v.20; Col.3:16) resides on earth in "earthen vessels" (1 Cor.3:16). The inference is clear: if Christ did it, you can do it. The prayer is that the child of God will see that truth and lay hold of it in such a way as to revolutionize his character and conduct.
Now, Jesus Christ is above all. The word "above" is used, here, in the sense of geographical location (cf.Eze.28:14) as well as spiritual Headship. He is "over the universe" geographically and directionally, and He is "over everything in the universe" in relation to power and authority. Demons, devils, angels, cherubim, seraphim, and archangels are subject to Him (Col.1:16-17). Thrones, dominions, principalities, powers, nations (Matt.28:19-20) men, beasts (Isa.11), plants, oceans, mountains (Psa.148), stars, galaxies, planets, atoms, protons, neutrons, and electrons (Heb.1:3) exist and subsist by His directive or permissive will. He has been exalted to a place above every name (Phil.2:9) in the Church Age, the Tribulation, the Millennium, and in Eternity. "All hail the power of Jesus' name, let angels prostrate fall!" Only His "word" (Psa.138:2) was ever exalted above His "Name," and anyone who attempts to correct His "word" indirectly places his authority above the Supreme Authority of heaven and earth (Eph.1:21).
"All things" are under His feet (in the geographical sense), and the earth is merely His "footstool" (Matt.5:35). All of His enemies have not yet been conquered (1 Cor.15:26), and all of them have not yet "kissed His feet" (Psa.2:12; 110:1-6), but they will (Phil.2:9-11).
He is the "head" of the church and the only "head" the church has ever had or ever will have. There is no "visible head" to this body, for this body is entered by the Spirit (Eph.4:4), and one is baptized into it by the Spirit (1 Cor.12:13). And since "God is a Spirit," (John 4:24), the Head must be a Spiritual Head. Our "Head" is in heaven, so we can no longer drown in perdition (1 Tim.6:9) after becoming a part of Christ than a man can drown standing in five feet of water with is head and shoulders sticking out of it from his shoulders up.
"...to the church, which is his body" (vv.22-23). Notice the definition: the church is not a political hierarchy, a reform society, a social club, a fraternity, a house of merchandise, or a place of amusement. The "church" is His Body.
"...the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (v.23). The Spiritual Body of Christ is the Church; His physical Body is seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Acts 2:34; Heb.12:2). His Spiritual Body is His "fulness" that "filleth all in all" (Eph.3:18). The One who fills the universe (Heb.1:10-13) lives in His Body, which is the Church; and He is the "fulness of the Godhead" bodily (Col.2:9).
The application, today, is the same for everyone "in Christ" as it was in the first century. Paul's "prayer for revelation" extended out over the centuries to us.