Remember the overarching theme of Ephesians:
God’s eternal purpose is to gather into one the whole created universe by reconciling His creatures to Himself and to each other, a purpose He is working out through Christ in the church and ultimately to the praise of His glory.
In verse 3 our attention is first directed to the God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus – He is to be praised because of who he is, because of his unsurpassed goodness.
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.
1. Our blessings in Christ
Here we have the incredible truth presented to us that “God [has given] us through Christ every possible spiritual benefit as citizens of Heaven!” Phillips The blessings with which God has blessed us in Christ, although their fulness is reserved for heaven, begin for us experientially in this life. They are “spiritual”, that is, they come to us by the ministry of the Holy Spirit and are rooted in Christ. Matthew Poole (17th century English Non-Conformist) renders verse 3 this way: “Blessed be God, …who has blessed us with all blessings of the Spirit”.
The believer’s true sense of identity is all tied up in Christ; without Him there is no meaning, no purpose to life, no future. If we are not in Christ, we are no more than a large collection of cells whose only use is to provide (hopefully) biological material to form the basis for the next advancement in evolutionary progress. Apart from Christ we are nothing and we can do nothing. Remember what Jesus used for a visual aid with his disciples – Joh_15:5-8
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”
2. The work of the Father
In verse 4 Paul begins to enumerate the blessings which God the Father has given us in Christ:
- the Father’s election v.4
- a destiny v.5
- acceptance in Christ v.6
- redemption v.7
- wisdom v.8
- knowledge of his purpose v.9
- restoration and oneness in Christ v.10
- an inheritance v.11
- instruments of praise v.12
- faith v.13
Oh what wonder that God chose us, that is, selected us for himself, plucking us out of the mass of humanity condemned by sin to an eternity of alienation from him. Paul only makes the statement, he doesn’t try to explain the mechanics of God’s choosing, opting instead to fall in adoration at His feet.
- who chose: God
- whom he chose: us
- how he chose us: in Christ (on the basis of a relationship)
- when he chose us: before the foundations of the world were laid
- to what he chose us: a life of purity (the goal, not the basis of his choosing)
Regardless of which clause the “in love” is attached to, the principle is that what the Father has done on our behalf he has done in love; whether he chose us in love or predestinated us in love, his action toward us in regard to our eternal future was purposed and implemented in love. It is a love that graces those who don’t deserve grace, that is selective and yet all-encompassing – ho, everyone that is thisrty; come to me all who labor; whoever comes to me I will in no wise cast out. We must remember when we consider and converse about these majestic doctrines of grace that they are just that, doctrines of GRACE; we must be gracious in our thinking, our conversation, our explanation and our application of these truths.
Next we have the explanation of what it means to be chosen: to have our destiny determined or ordained for us, sovereignly appointed to adoption as children of God on the basis of the atoning work of Christ on our behalf. Before anything other than God and his thoughts existed, we were in those thoughts and our days and ends all orchestrated. Freely and lovingly chosen to be part of God’s family, children and not servants, having the same inheritance as his only son.
Paul tells us in Rom_8:16-17 that we are children of God, that means heirs of God, which also means joint-heirs with Christ. Christ receives the “double portion” as the eldest, but we still have an inheritance – His inheritance!
“Christ’s riches are our riches, His resources are our resources, His righteousness is our righteousness, and His power is our power. His position is our position: where He is, we are. His privilege is our privilege: what He is we are. His possession is our possession: what He has, we have. His practice is our practice: what He does, we do.” MacArthur
The ultimate cause of all this is the good pleasure of God, the kindness of his sovereignly independent and elective choice, and for the purpose that we would give praise to the glory of his grace.
“The ultimate aim throughout the divine plan of redemption is that the recognition of God’s merciful dealings with men, which are his glory, should evoke unlimited praise. The grace that evokes such praise finds its richest outlet in God’s love-gift to man–his Son.” Expositors Commentary
The idea of the richness, fullness, abundance, of God’s grace is prominent throughout the Epistle. God desires to draw attention, not only to this attribute, but to the boundlessness of it — thus to draw the love and confidence of his creatures to himself and inspire them with the desire to imitate him wherein he abounded toward us in the Beloved. Pulpit Commentary
3. The work of the Son
Although the emphasis shifts somewhat in 6b-7a from the work of the Father to that of the Son, it is not an exclusive focus. We must remember that it is God who is the Mover in this 202-word sentence; God has one purpose, God-in-three-persons has one purpose, one goal, one means of accomplishing His purpose. God is not divided against himself, God in and through each person is united in our salvation.
Our acceptance is in Christ, that is, on the basis of what Christ and he alone has accomplished, purchased, done, that we are graced with favor in God’s sight. It is because we have been redeemed and forgiven that God can view us as acceptable – in and of ourselves we are not acceptable but in Christ we are.
In redemption Jesus paid a ransom to deliver us from the curse of God’s judgment against sin. He did NOT buy us back from Satan; Satan owns nothing but is subject to his Creator just like the rest of us – see Job 1 &2. Jesus freed us by paying off the charge God the Father had against us because of our sin. Our forgiveness is not a “winking” by God at our shortcomings, it is God treating us as though we had not committed them: “their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Heb_8:12
What is the extent of our redemption and forgiveness? It is “according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.” NET The standard established by his grace determines the measure of his forgiveness. That grace has overflowed to us “in the form of” wisdom and insight, “God has graciously shared his plans and purposes with us. His desire is that we should have intelligence and insight into his plans for the church and for the universe. And so he has taken us into his confidence, as it were, and has revealed to us the great goal toward which all history is moving. Believers’ Bible Commentary
In the two terms, wisdom and insight, we can see the two principles of our Confession’s doctrine of Scripture – “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience” – wisdom to comprehend the things of God, insight to know how to apply the things of God to daily living. The first three chapters of Ephesians deal with the “things of God”, doctrine concerning the church and her place in God’s eternal purpose; the second three chapters deal with the application of those truths in the life of the church, corporately and individually.
God has made known to us his purpose which had been at least partially hidden up until the time of the apostles. This is a “purpose which he cherished for himself in him”, the “main thing” God has in his mind, to bring all things together in unity under the headship of Christ. This is a process begun with Christ’s coronation and will continue until its final consummation at the end of this age.
If we are to have any future at all, any inheritance, it is to be found in Christ and Him alone. Jesus is the natural heir, the first-born who inherits the blessing and the estate. If we are “in Christ” then we also inherit the same things – Rom_8:16-17 if we are children then we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. That has already been determined as part of our destiny by God, which destiny came about according solely to His purpose. This principle that our future is determined on the basis of God’s choice and not ours is further reinforced by the declaration that God is sovereign – working all things according to His plan. Don’t forget that this was a plan he “cherished”, it is a plan carried out in love for his people.
Our predestination and thus our salvation has as a major end God’s glory – the blessings lavished on us (that’s where Paul started the sentence) derive solely from God and it is only right and proper that he receive the exclusive glory and credit for those blessings. The credit for every aspect of our salvation belongs solely to God. True, God uses means, the preaching of the Gospel, to bring people to faith in Christ, but it is God using the means and not the means themselves that accomplish the outcome.
4. The work of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit is God’s stamp on us that we are the genuine article, that we are his possession. God doesn’t leave us wondering about our future, about our status “in Christ” – He immediately grants us that mark of ownership, making it obvious not only to us but also to all around us that we are no longer autonomous.
The seal Darius put on the lions’ den, the seal on Jesus’ tomb secured the contents of those places with all the authority of the one to whom the seal belonged. A seal placed on a product guarantees its authenticity, that it meets a particular standard. The Holy Spirit is the seal guaranteeing our security in Christ, is the evidence that declares our authenticity as citizens in the kingdom of God – it’s like the difference between a passport and a driver’s license.
If we wear the seal well, it will be an accurate evidence of our status as ambassadors for Christ, proclaiming his message to a watching world. When we faithfully declare the message of our Sovereign, it carries the weight of the Sovereign and not merely that of the messenger, especially when the message carries His seal.
Perhaps most wonderful, though, is the work of the Holy Spirit as the earnest or pledge or guarantee of our inheritance. He is “that pays a part of the purchase price in advance, and so secures a legal claim to the article in question” Arndt & Gingrich, the earnest money deposit guaranteeing full payment. Even more wonderful is to consider this work of the Holy Spirit as the engagement ring whereby the future bridegroom pledges his fidelity and intention to unite with the bride forever.
It is that event which will accomplish the full “redemption of the purchased possession”, when we are completely – body and soul – redeemed from sin and death. Again, it is all to the praise of God’s glory.