In verse 1a we have
- the identity of the author – Paul
- the nature of his office – apostle
- the source of his authority – Jesus Christ
- the instrumental cause of his apostleship – the will (purpose and choice) of God
What does it mean to be an apostle?
One who was an eyewitness of the resurrection Act_1:22 (or the risen Christ) personally (directly and independently, apart from any mediation; F . F. Bruce) commissioned by Christ Gal_1:1 and given authority to govern the early church 1Th_4:8 2Th_3:14 and to write and teach authoritatively 1Co_14:36-37
2Co_10:8-11 Paul claims authority from God for both writing and speaking ministry
Wm. Hendriksen in his commentary on Ephesians says: “What he writes is in very fact the product of his own meditation and reflection. It is both a spontaneous utterance of his heart and a careful composition of his mind. The gold that pours forth from his heart has been molded into definite and (one may even say) artistic shape by his mind. But this heart and this mind are so thoroughly Spirit-controlled that the ideas expressed and the very words by means of which they are conveyed are also (in a sense, were first of all) the ideas and the words of the Holy Spirit. Hence, the word of Paul is the Word of God. Ephesians, as well as the rest of Scripture, is God-breathed.”
How could Paul make these outrageous claims?
Luk_10:16 Basis of apostolic authority as stated by Christ himself
His only claim on the church at Ephesus, their attention and obedience to his instruction, had nothing to do with his personal qualifications. It had everything to do with the authority of the one who had commissioned Paul by his own volition Eph_1:1
He did not call himself to ministry, not a “Lone Ranger”, acting rather on the call of Christ he had received and affirmed by the apostles (James, Peter and John) at the church in Jerusalem Gal_2:9 just as other men are called/affirmed in ministry. It is Christ who gave men to the church Eph_4:11 to carry out various ministry tasks within the local assembly.
Next, we are informed of who the intended original readers were of this letter – saints and faithful in Christ Jesus
Saints – holy ones, set apart or consecrated for sacred use; which begs the question, who set them apart? Who decided they were holy? And on what basis? It was God who did so on the basis of the righteousness of Christ imputed to them. Thus it is God who makes us holy by freely and graciously giving something we could never acquire or achieve by our own efforts.
Faithful – those who were firm in their faith in Christ, those who had a profession of faith that was corroborated by a life of holiness. As we make our way through Ephesians we will see that although this is the evidence of “sainthood” that men can observe, it, too, is something which we can only achieve because of the gifts of God’s grace, strength and Spirit.
in Christ Jesus – Rom_8:1 those who are united with Christ, joined to him, traveling with him or as Paul says in Rom_8:4 walking according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh, one whose life is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit – “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Having been made to understand the sender of the letter and its intended recipients, we come next to the salutation:
Grace and peace to you – Barnes on Romans 1:7 – “an ardent wish that all the mercies and favors of God for time and eternity, blended under the general name grace, may be conferred on them. It is to be understood as connected with a word implying invocation. I pray, or I desire, that grace, etc. may be conferred on you. ” Also – “A prayer for peace, therefore, in the epistles, is not a mere formal salutation, but has a special reference to those “spiritual” blessings which result from reconciliation with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Gill on Romans 1:7 – “by “peace” is meant, peace with God through Christ; peace in their own consciences, and with one another; all manner of prosperity inward and outward here, and eternal happiness hereafter.”
Matthew Henry on Ephesians 1:2 – “By grace we are to understand the free and undeserved love and favour of God, and those graces of the Spirit which proceed from it; by peace all other blessings, spiritual and temporal, the fruits and product of the former. No peace without grace. No peace, nor grace, but from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. These peculiar blessings proceed from God, not as a Creator, but as a Father by special relation: and they come from our Lord Jesus Christ, who, having purchased them for his people, has a right to bestow them upon them. ”
John MacArthur says, “Grace is the fountain of which peace is the stream. Because we have grace from God we have peace with God and the peace of God, ‘which surpasses all comprehension'”.
Paul here expresses his prayer that his readers would experience specific blessings from God – blessings reserved for a specific class of people, saints, and showered on them in the context of a specific relationship, that of a Father to his children. What follows is an exposition of those blessings and how they come to be ours.
Eph 1:3-14 (YLT) Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did bless us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, according as He did choose us in him before the foundation of the world, for our being holy and unblemished before Him, in love, having foreordained us to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He did make us accepted in the beloved, in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the remission of the trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, in which He did abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the secret of His will, according to His good pleasure, that He purposed in Himself, in regard to the dispensation of the fullness of the times, to bring into one the whole in the Christ, both the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth–in him; in whom also we did obtain an inheritance, being foreordained according to the purpose of Him who is working all things according to the counsel of His will, for our being to the praise of His glory, even those who did first hope in the Christ, in whom you also, having heard the word of the truth–the good news of your salvation–in whom also having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of the promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, to the redemption of the acquired possession, to the praise of His glory.
Hendriksen says: “The sentence begun by “Blessed (be)” rolls on like a snowball tumbling down a hill, picking up volume as it descends. Its 202 words, and the many modifiers which they form, arranged like shingles on a roof or like steps on a stairway, are like prancing steeds pouring forward with impetuous speed. Says John Calvin, “The lofty terms in which he [Paul] extols the grace of God toward the Ephesians, are intended to rouse their hearts to gratitude, to set them all on flame, to fill them even to overflowing with this disposition.” Paul’s “heart aflame” is bent on setting other hearts aflame also, with sincere, humble, overflowing praise to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Here we have in one sentence the grace of God in salvation built up like layers on a snowball. It naturally divides into three sections: v. 3-6a, v. 6b-12, v.13-14, each one ending with the phrase “to the praise of His glorious grace” or “to the praise of his glory”. The first section describes the past aspect of our salvation and our election by God the Father; the second addresses the present aspect and our redemption by God the Son; the last foretells the future aspect of our inheritance guaranteed by the downpayment of the Holy Spirit.
Eph 1:3 blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ
Eph 1:4 He chose us in Him [Christ]
Eph 1:5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ
Eph 1:6 He made us accepted in the Beloved.
Eph 1:7 we have redemption through His blood
Eph 1:10 that He might gather together in one all things in Christ – in Him.
Eph 1:12 that we who first trusted in Christ
Eph 1:13 In Him you also trusted, …in whom also you were sealed
It’s plain that God’s plan as described here by Paul has somewhat to do with Christ. In fact, Paul plainly declares at the pinnacle of his thought in verses 10 & 11 that “God has allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in him.” J. B. Phillips
When a column of figures was added up, the total was placed at the top. At the end of the age everything will be seen to add up to Christ. This recognition of his preeminence will ensure that the original harmony of the universe is restored (Rom 8:18-21). The mission of Christ extends beyond the human race and assumes cosmic dimensions. Expositor’s Commentary
“While in the universe at large there are still unreconciled powers affronting the sovereignty of God, the ultimate issue is certain – God has determined to “sum up all things in Christ”. …History and experience witness to the reconciling power of Christ in the creation of that supernatural society in which warring sections of the human race are perfectly reconciled into a whole of harmoniously functioning parts – the church. He [Paul] saw that the reconciliation was not accomplished by any kind of compromise between the diverse parties, but by a divine act creating out of both one new humanity.” C. H. Dodd
This process of “bring[ing] all things together under one head in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth”. Hendriksen began in earnest with the enthronement of Christ following his Ascension. It will reach its conclusion at the consummation, when this age comes to an end and Christ returns for his Bride and to judge the world.
“The corporate life of the church is a perpetual manifestation of Christ as the Fulfiller of the purpose of God. Christ’s work will not be done until the whole universe is one in him, to the glory of God.” Dodd
As Paul begins his exposition in verse 3, he begins with God who remains the moving force behind every action described in the sentence which concludes in verse 14. God who is the Father of our elder brother, and by virtue of our union with Christ is our Father as well, is the object of our attention, our praise, and our thanksgiving. Paul makes no mention here of man’s desirability or worth as beneficiaries of God’s blessing, nor does he make a case for man’s efforts earning some sort of reward from God. Rather, it is “to the praise of His glory, His glorious grace” – when we consider the incredible awesome blessings God has poured out on us we should be totally blown away by the splendor, the majesty, the magnificence, the excellence of God and the unearned favor he has lavished on us.
How often do we consider the goodness of God? We sing the little chorus, God Is So Good, we know the tune and all the verses, but do we have a real handle on God’s goodness and how abundantly we experience that every hour of every day? Clean, fresh water; fresh air; freedom to worship; bees to pollinate flowers to produce fruits and vegetables; funny little caterpillars that turn into beautiful butterflies; jobs, homes, eternal life, one another – the list, the details of God’s goodness to us are endless.
Paul said, Look up, consider the spiritual blessings, those things we can’t see or taste or touch or smell, blessings without limit, every spiritual blessing in Christ; some are bestowed on us now, in this life; others are held in reserve or in trust for us to experience later in heaven. Remember what John Calvin said about the proper response to grace? Coming face-to-face with the abundant richness of our Heavenly Father’s grace and our absolute dependence on it should stir us to praise, to give God the glory for what we have and what we are.