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Ephesians 1-3 Listen
About the letter to the Ephesians
This epistle was probably written around 63 A.D. while Paul was in prison in Rome. Ephesus was far away from Jerusalem - 700 miles or so by boat over treacherous waters. Paul had previously visited there on his second missionary journey in Acts 18:19-21 (see notes), then again on his third missionary journey (Acts 19:8-10; 20:31, see notes), when he remained there for two years preaching in the synagogue (Acts 19:8,10), in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9) and in private houses (Acts 20:20). The Ephesian church consisted of Gentile Believers as seen in Ephesians 2:11 (see below) and Ephesians 3:1 (see below).
Your standard Pauline introduction (Ephesians 1:1-2)
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.
These are the typical points we see Paul emphasize at the beginning of his epistles:
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.
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.
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.
Paul kicks this letter off by establishing who we are and how we got here...and he does it in one looooong Greek sentence that starts in verse 3 and doesn't end until the completion of verse 14.
Let's look at the components of this long sentence that extends from verse 3 to 14:
That brings us to the close of a very long, twelve-verse Greek sentence.
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
Ephesians 1:4 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:
Ephesians 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Ephesians 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Some have used this passage of scripture along with others to declare that man has no say whatsoever in his own salvation experience - in his own spiritual birth. The fact is, God is omniscient; it's one of his attributes. He did know from the foundation of the world who would receive Jesus as personal Savior and who would not. This foreknowledge has been misunderstood by many in light of the fact that man is not capable of comprehending how one might have foreknowledge without misusing it. I once heard the late evangelist B. R. Lakin say as he was advancing in years, "If I could know where I was going to die, I would just never go there!" As I said, we can only imagine aggressively acting upon foreknowledge were we to have it - not so with God. He knows, but allows us to take our own course, nonetheless. However, the fact that he knows makes it appropriate for Paul to declare that those who are saved are "predestinated." So, the fact that God knows does not alter the fact that he has still given man the choice to receive Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. A fuller discussion of foreknowledge, election and predestination is to be found in the commentary on Romans 9; click here to read.
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.
These 9 verses are packed full as well. In verses 15-16, Paul tells the Ephesians that, after hearing of their faith, he is praying for them. Then...we see another big, long Greek sentence in verses 17-23 that outlines the specifics of Paul's prayer for them.
Let's take special notice of Paul's prayer for the Ephesians:
Paul's still talking about his prayer for them. If there's any question in anyone's mind about who Jesus Christ is, what he did and what he's doing now, Paul answers it in verses 20-23:
1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
So, what was your spiritual condition before you got saved? You were "dead in trespasses and sins." All of us were spiritually dead prior to salvation in Christ. We had no hope of Heaven - no way to redeem ourselves from Hell. You will notice in the KJV that "hath he quickened" is italicized. That's to indicate that these words are not placed here in the Greek text, they were added to complete a thought - a thought which is not really completed until verse 5.
And about lifestyle before salvation? Verse 2 says, "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." The "course of this world" (i.e. that which comes naturally to the unregenerate mind) is dictated by the "prince of the power of the air" aka Satan. Let's be careful not to see demon or devil possession here. Satan is seen in this verse as orchestrating the "course of this world." As a result, those who reject Christ are seen in verse 2 as those who embrace the "course" dictated by Satan. Paul says, in essence, the same thing to the Corinthians in II Corinthians 4:3-4 (see notes), "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not..." Verse 3 expands upon the godless lifestyle before salvation, calling it a lifestyle that fulfilled "the desires of the flesh and of the mind." He even refers to the unregenerate as "children of wrath" (i.e. the wrath of God's judgment).
That's the bad news of verses 1-5. We turn the corner in verse 4 with God's mercy and then the good news - that God "hath quickened us together with Christ" (verse 5). "Quickened" means "made alive;" in this case, the spiritually dead are made spiritually alive. Notice Paul sneaks a preview into verse 5 when he says, "by grace ye are saved." That's fully developed in verses 8-10. Through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, we are made alive to live with Christ in Heaven. And...it's all done by grace through a faith relationship with God through Christ.
Verses 6-7 give us the essence of our spiritual position in Christ:
Again, it should be emphasized that positionally, the resurrection and seat are ours right now. Think about it, when a king is not actually seated on his throne, he's still the king. That's the idea here. As Believers, we are resurrected, seated and to be recipients of blessings through Christ Jesus...because of our relationship with Christ.
Verses 8-9 are popular verses because they state the simplicity of the salvation experience - 100% grace and 0% works. As a matter of fact, the phrase "and that not of yourselves" in verse 8 means that we are unable to do anything to save ourselves whatsoever. Consider the words of Jesus in John 6:44 (see notes), "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." We are saved when we are drawn by the Holy Spirit to receive Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and subsequently accept the offer. Titus 3:5 (see notes) says, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" The Greek word for "renewing" there means "renovation." Lost people need a renovation that can only be done by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 2:10 adds the role of works, but not in the context of securing one's salvation. Works are what follow after salvation as Believers are indwelled (at salvation), filled and led by the Holy Spirit. For more information on the filling and leading of the Holy Spirit, see the notes on Galatians 5:16-26.
Just in case a reader may be confused about what is involved in salvation in Christ, let's look closely at Ephesians 2:8-9:
"What about the works then?" one might ask. Here they are in verse 10, but not for the purpose of acquiring salvation. The Holy-Spirit-led course of the new Believer is to live a life fruitful with "good works" (i.e. godly works). To avoid misunderstanding, it's a good idea to include verse 10 with each and every citation of verses 8-9.
The "middle wall of partition" of Ephesians 2:14
Ephesians 2:14 says, "For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us."
There was erected in Herod's Temple a "wall of partition" past which Gentiles were not permitted to go. The following information regarding this wall is taken from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:
11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
So what name did those first-century Jews call the Gentiles? Answer: The Uncircumcision. Ooooo! That hurts. However, in Christ Jesus, both Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ; it looks like the Gentiles catch a break. Previously, Gentiles had no interests in Israel, no citizenship within Israel, the covenants God had made with Israel excluded Gentiles and therefore they were without hope and without God (verse 12). But having been that far away in the past, now the blood of Christ has brought Gentiles near (verse 13). As a matter of fact, he broke down the division between us (Jews versus Gentiles) by his death and resurrection (verse 14). Yeah, but the Jews were very proud of their Law of Moses and took great pride in keeping that Law. But look at verse 15, "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;" What did Christ do with the Law of Moses when he died on the cross? He abolished it. Afterward, even Gentiles, having been raised from childhood without knowing anything about the Law of Moses, are equally as righteous before God as the Jews. Many Christians incorrectly adopt and hang onto the Law of Moses, and especially the Ten Commandments, as something they are to integrate into their Christian walk after salvation. NOT SO! The Law has been abolished by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. We find the same declaration clearly stated in II Corinthians 3:7-11 and Colossians 2:14. (Click here to see a fuller discussion on these verses regarding the New Testament Believers responsibilities regarding the Law of Moses.)
Verses 16-22 really drive home this point of the uniting of Jews and Gentiles together in Christ.
1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
In verse 1 Paul makes an interesting statement. He's in jail because of his insistence on taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. After all, his arrest in Acts 21 (see notes) came about because the Jews were infuriated with him; he had the audacity (in their minds) to take their sacred religion and mix it in with a Gentile offering. Paul made a considerable sacrifice to preach the Gospel to Gentiles. So, exactly what was this new revelation that Paul was willing to even die for? Look at verse 6, "That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs..." That's the revelation that makes our salvation possible, but it's also the revelation that threatened the special place with God the Jews were so proud of. The Jews and even many Jewish Christians in the first century disregarded the numerous Old Testament prophecies regarding entrance of Gentiles into complete and equal communion with Jews. See the notes on Isaiah 49 for a fuller discussion.
This brings us to the discussion of a theological term known as "dispensationalism." Bible students frequently ask one another, "Are you a dispensationalist?" The term has been severely misused and taken out of context by many. Without dealing with that misuse, let me just point out that Paul declares himself to be a dispensationalist in Ephesians 3:2, "If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:" In verse 3 Paul goes on to explain, "...by revelation he made known unto me the mystery." A "mystery" in this context is that which cannot be known by the natural mind - which was previously hidden (verse 5). But...this mystery was supernaturally revealed to Paul through "revelation" directly from God. And what was this mystery? Again, there it is in verse 6, "That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:"
So, to summarize, God committed to Paul the "dispensation of the grace of God" which was given him by revelation (direct word from God). This mystery (that which cannot be known by the natural mind) was revealed to Paul declaring salvation through the atonement of Christ on the cross to everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike. Paul categorizes this revelation as a dispensation. The word "dispensation" comes from the Greek word "oikonomia" and means "administration" or "management." So, the dispensation given to Paul was a new administration between God and man. That's not to say that favor with God was not always a matter of faith. It was, and we see that all the way back to the clear statement of Genesis 15:6 (see notes) in reference to Abraham's relationship with God, "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." However, the atonement of Jesus on the cross as our redeemer causes Paul to categorize the period after the cross as a distinct "dispensation." Incidentally, Paul indicates in verse 5 that he's not alone in this doctrinal coup when he says, "...it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." Although he had doctrinal allies, Paul was the one in jail for spreading his doctrine of Jew/Gentile equality as Believers in Jesus Christ.
Notice Paul's additional comments regarding this "dispensation" which had been committed to him:
14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Here's another prayer for the Ephesians which goes down through verse 21. In verses 14-15 Paul emphasizes that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world for all time - past and present.
Paul briefly deals here with a vital part of Christian living. Notice what he says in the following two verses:
Ephesians 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
Ephesians 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
The power of the Christian life is achieved by the Holy Spirit dwelling within each Believer. That's the key to victorious Christian living. (Click here to see the summary on Galatians 5:16-25 regarding the power of the Holy Spirit in Believers.)
With the power of the Holy Spirit working within, the Believer is able to experience the victory and confidence found in verses 18-21. Don't take too much time trying to break those verses down; it's one very strong statement intended to overwhelm the Ephesians with the sense of the power and authority of Jesus Christ. Notice the key in verse 19, "...that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Jesus Christ IS the fulness of God. Paul writes in Colossians 2:9-10 (see notes), "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power."
Paul is, in the strongest words possible, emphasizing how comprehensive God's power is within the Spirit-led Christian. That being the case, Paul concludes his prayer by expressing the greatness of Jesus Christ in verse 20 by acknowledging that Jesus Christ, "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." And then Paul's equivalent at the end of his prayer (verse 21) to our "Amen;" he extends his "amen" by saying, "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." That's just one more plug for the eternal sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.