Ephesians Chapter 1: The Mystery of God

Dec 10th, 2009 | By | Category: Ephesians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Ephesians Chapter 1: The Mystery of God

Eph. 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:

This epistle, written to the church at Ephesus in Asia Minor, was addressed in an authoritative manner from the Apostle Paul, appointed not by the will of man but “by the will of God.” The Greek word kai, translated “and,” can mean “even,” and does so in this context. “To the saints which are at Ephesus, even to the faithful in Christ Jesus”; that is, the Epistle to the Ephesians was addressed to one, and the same, class. Paul’s manner of address becomes clear when the entire epistle is read, and we get a feel for the reason it was written. It takes a while to get to the point because Paul gave an introduction, told how he was thinking of the Ephesians, said he was concerned for their welfare, etc.

Paul was in prison under house arrest in Rome when he wrote this epistle, the date being about AD 64. This first imprisonment lasted for two years. Since he was executed in AD 66-68 under Nero, following his second imprisonment, the epistle was written near the close of his ministry, a ministry that lasted about 33 years. Evidently, he had inherited a lot of money and was a Roman citizen. While under house arrest, he had visitors and was able to witness, even converting some of Nero’s household.

Paul originally visited Ephesus on his second missionary journey, which was relatively early in his ministry. Therefore, this letter was written many years later. In the letter, Paul gave overall advice that was carefully considered. Not emotional or contemporary, the advice was meant for posterity.

Paul’s second visit to Ephesus, which was during his third missionary journey, lasted for three years. Hence he was well acquainted with the brethren in that city. When he was returning to Jerusalem on this last missionary journey, the elders of Ephesus met him by the seashore. An emotional farewell followed. Paul remained in Jerusalem for a while and then was taken to Rome by boat and put under house arrest, from which he wrote this Epistle to the Ephesians. Chapters 18 and 19 in the Book of Acts provide helpful background information. Parts of these chapters will be considered in the commentary of the next chapter.

Eph. 1:2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul gave his customary address.

Eph. 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:

The theme of the Epistle to the Ephesians was to give primacy to the Heavenly Father. Other epistles may emphasize Jesus’ role but not this one. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The term “heavenly places in Christ” reminds us of the Tabernacle.

Eph. 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:

Eph. 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

Verse 4 shows the time period in which the Church was premeditated by God: “before the foundation of the world [Greek kosmos].” In God’s plan, the Lamb was slain before Adam was created, and the Church was premeditated at the same time. This epistle contains such noble and sublime thoughts that it is easy to forget the main reason Paul wrote it.

Verses 4 and 5 are a reminder of Romans 8:29,30, “For whom he [God] did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he [the Son] might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he [God] did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” God premeditated a class to be like Jesus that would have the same motivation and character and be holy and blameless in love. “He hath chosen us … that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us.”

God predestinated a class, not individuals, yet He foreknows which individuals will ultimately be of the 144,000 (Rev. 7:4; 14:3). However, God does not tamper with free moral agency. The individual has to make the decision to consecrate and try to make his calling and election sure.

And in fact, God would not call an individual who could not make the grade by divine grace and power, but whether he or she will be a more than conqueror is up to each individual (Rom. 8:37). Nevertheless, God knows in advance who will be faithful. This foreknowledge helps Him to know when to call someone else. If He had to wait until each one failed before calling another, it would take much longer than 2,000 years to get the 144,000.

The distinction with regard to the predestination of a class versus the foreknowledge of who will become members of the Little Flock is difficult for many to grasp. It is hard to make a persuasive argument with those who confuse class predestination with individual predestination. Not only does God know the end from the beginning, but He knows the end before the beginning.

If God did not have this prerogative and ability, He could not know in advance the day and the hour that the Church will be complete. Also, He would not have known in advance that 11 apostles would prove faithful, Judas would fail, and Paul, the replacement, would be faithful.

God had to have the chess game, so to speak, so perfectly organized and planned in advance that all of the pieces would fall into place. There is a very high concept of thought in the Epistle to the Ephesians.

Verse 5 states that God “predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to  himself.” In one sense, then, all of the consecrated are “adopted” children. We were once the children of Adam, the children of disobedience—sons of fallen humanity. But when we were accepted in Jesus, we gained a new relationship as adopted sons of God. By the will of God, we were adopted.

Eph. 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

By His grace, God has accepted us in Jesus.

Eph. 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

According to God’s grace, we have redemption through Jesus’ blood and the forgiveness of sins. The Father continues to be given the primacy. God is the Author of the plan; it is His Son, His children, His will, and His predestination.

Eph. 1:8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

“Prudence” means “insight.” God “hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and insight.”

Eph. 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

God’s plan is completely His. The sole originator, He did not incorporate thoughts from someone else. The J. B. Phillips translation has “the secret of his plan” instead of “the mystery of his will.”

Eph. 1:10 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:

Eph. 1:11 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:

“In the dispensation of the fulness of times” will be at the end of the Kingdom, that is, in the ages of ages. At that time, all of the holy angels, the reclaimed angels, and the willing and restored of humanity will be gathered together. God will gather them together in, or through, Christ.

Consider the order before some of the holy angels sinned. In other words, if it is God’s purpose, in the future, to gather together “all things in Christ,” what was the condition in heaven prior to the fall? Under God were two archangels, who were followed in rank by the angels. Jesus was an archangel at that time, not a divine spirit being. As God’s spokesperson, he was the Word, the Logos. He had a very honored and exalted position, but the rest of the holy angels were not “in him.” To use a modern term, there was no organization chart. “In the dispensation of the fulness of times,” all intelligent beings will realize that Christ is underneath the Father, and all who worship Jesus will be, as it were, worshipping the Father.

It is one thing to have an organization chart and another thing to have the heart in sympathy with that organization plan. There must be a chain of command for an organization to function with any degree of efficiency. Today many are dissatisfied with the chain of command at their respective places of employment. The future gathering of all things into one in Christ will be more than just an organization chart, for the Son will be seen unanimously as that worthy Lamb! The hearts of all, both in heaven and in earth, will be in full sympathy with the Father’s selection of His Son, through whom all are gathered. This gathering would not be possible if, first, the depth of Jesus’ love had not been revealed—the depth of his dedication, character, humiliation, etc. Moreover, all will see The Christ, Head and body, as worthy.

All who are worthy of life will be gathered together into one family. They will all, including the world of mankind, be “sons” of God. With heart, as well as with voice of assent, all beings will agree with the future arrangement in Christ under God. “In the dispensation of the fulness of times,” God will be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). Incidentally, in the present life, no one is indispensable in God’s arrangement. However, once one makes his calling and election sure, he is indispensable.

Eph. 1:12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

The Church has no inherent merit to attain to the divine nature, but God places a high priority on the exercise of faith. God is so appreciative of those who, in the present life, forsake the world and dedicate their lives to Him through Christ that if they remain faithful, they will attain to the highest possible position in the universe under Christ. This is a wonderful thought to keep in mind. Those who are faithful will be unto “the praise of his [God’s] glory.”

It is encouraging to realize that the great Heavenly Father recognizes our little devotion to Him. His very name should fill us with awe and reverence.

God had a purpose in mind in having Paul address this letter to the Ephesians, which starts with the high and exalted theme of pointing out the Father as the Author of the plan, grace, etc. The purpose for the letter will come out as we proceed. Usually these grand, exalted thoughts in the beginning cause us to overlook the purpose when it is revealed later.

Eph. 1:13 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,

Eph. 1:14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

A sequence is shown: (1) hearing the Word, (2) trusting in Christ, (3) believing into Christ (consecration), and (4) being sealed with the Holy Spirit (Spirit begettal). Since trust is a form of faith, “trusting in Christ” can be described as “having faith in Christ.” The expression “the gospel of your salvation” indicates that the letter was particularly addressed to the Ephesians.

Being “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” is receiving the “earnest of our inheritance,” or the down payment, the balance being the future payment beyond the veil to the faithful. Paul was saying that the initial sealing of the Holy Spirit, plus the progress of the Ephesians up to the point of the address of this letter, was like a down payment or a precursor of added blessings to come to the faithful.

The term “holy Spirit of promise” indicates that receiving more of the Holy Spirit is conditional based upon obedience. The Father is faithful to His end of the contract, but we must fulfill our part in order for the contract to come to fruition.

There is still another aspect of the “sealing.” A seal is a mark showing ownership. Just as a seal is gradually imprinted in wax, so the Father’s character is to be imprinted in us. Since paraffin is hard like a rock, heat must be applied to soften it. Therefore, both heat and pressure are necessary, and that statement is true for the Christian as well. Just as the wax must be soft for the seal to make an impression, so we must be humble and submissive for Jesus’ character to be impressed on us. As the wax cools, it hardens like a rock. Accordingly, the hardening represents crystallization of character. We must be sure the right seal—that of Jesus’ character—is making the impression in our “wax.” We must understand his character in order to have it impressed on our hearts.

With regard to the term “the purchased possession,” the Holy Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the entire Church unto the praise of God’s glory.

Eph. 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,

Paul went to Ephesus twice, he went nearby, he went to Jerusalem, and then he went to Rome and house arrest. While in Rome, he apparently heard from visitors about the love and faith of the Ephesians. Enough time would have elapsed for him to hear proof of their faith in Jesus and their love for all of the saints. Paul sent this letter back to the Ephesians by the hand of Tychicus, who was from Asia (Eph. 6:21; Acts 20:4). Tychicus was probably the one who brought him news of the faith and love of the Ephesians.

Eph. 1:16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

In testimony meetings, we often hear the statement “Please pray for me as I pray for you.”

The speaker may not even know half of the brethren in the room, so the words are vague and rather meaningless. If we are undergoing a real trial (or someone we know is), it is preferable to pray by name for the individual.

With Paul, the matter was different. He was responsible for the founding of these churches, and he knew the brethren in a more intimate sense. He had actually been there, suffered with them, and helped nurture them. As Paul prayed for the Ephesians as a church, he no doubt called to mind and mentioned various individuals by name. Hence his statement was meaningful. Elsewhere Paul said the weight of all the churches was upon him, showing that he took the responsibility very seriously. Sometimes his prayers were with tears, much crying, and supplication.

Eph. 1:17 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:

Verses 17-23 give the substance of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians as new creatures. He was concerned lest they slip back into the world. Since Paul had spent three years in Ephesus, he knew the brethren there quite well and felt a concern, for in his absence, many things could happen. For example, false teachers might arise with injurious views.

Wisdom, revelation, and knowledge all pertain to understanding. What is the difference?

“Wisdom” is the application of knowledge already received. “Revelation” is new knowledge and understanding appropriate for a situation that arises. Paul prayed not only that the Ephesians would grow in knowledge and understanding but that in emergencies which might occur, God would help them by opening up new thoughts. “In the knowledge of him” probably refers to knowledge of God. The Diaglott has “in the full knowledge of him.” Paul was praying for the Ephesians’ growth and greater understanding.

Eph. 1:18 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,

Eph. 1:19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,

Eph. 1:20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

Verses 17 and 18 have a similarity of emphasis on wisdom, revelation, understanding, and enlightenment. The Diaglott has “the eyes of your heart” instead of “the eyes of your understanding,” the significance being understanding in an appreciative sense—appreciative understanding. What was Paul’s purpose? He was praying for the Ephesians as new creatures and for their growth and development as such, but if they could really feel the power of such a grand hope, the growth would automatically take place. It is God’s calling, and the saints will inherit glorious riches.

The Apostle John gave a related thought in 1 John 3:3, “And every man that hath this hope [of the high calling] in him purifieth himself.” True hope is not just a belief but something we are deeply anchored into. Real hope is a furtherance of faith, an extension of faith. If we have real hope, we will automatically be energized into development. Hope is the second step: (1) faith, (2) hope, and (3) love. Hope is a development, not just a wish or wishful thinking. True hope is very real.

In order to truly appreciate the Epistle to the Ephesians, we must read it as a whole. After we study the epistle verse by verse, we will review it as a whole to get the Apostle Paul’s theme.

Paul was trying to get the individual convert to put his hand in the hand of God. Knowledge is necessary, but this is knowledge carried further. We should feel that God is personally involved in our making our calling and election sure. We will become members of the Little Flock if this hope is properly anchored in our soul. We are called to be part of God’s family.

In verses 18-20, Paul wanted the Ephesians to know (1) the hope of God’s calling, (2) the glorious riches of the inheritance, and (3) God’s exceeding great power to help them be faithful.

In short, God exercises hope, riches, and power to those who come to Him through Jesus.

In verses 17 and 18, Paul stressed wisdom, revelation, understanding, and enlightenment. Then he changed his emphasis to hope, riches, and power, and he concentrated on God’s POWER. If we could really grasp what is potentially ours in connection with the high calling, we would be energized. We would be driven to make our calling and election sure. God’s great power is individually available to help us.

The power that God exercised in raising Jesus from the dead to a position at His own right hand all began with consecration. That resurrection power was exercised not only at Jesus’ baptism, when he was begotten of the Holy Spirit, but also at his literal resurrection and then again when he ascended on high. The same is true with us. At consecration, we begin to walk in newness of life; we are raised in Christ Jesus; therefore, we should walk as children of the day.

There is a power now in our lives, in the present life, but if we allow that power to develop more and more, it will pull us right through death to the first resurrection. God’s power begins to work in us at consecration, it energizes us in our consecrated walk, and then it lifts us through death at the end of our course if we are faithful. Paul was talking about the power of mature Christian development.

At consecration, we are filled with the enthusiasm of “first love” (Rev. 2:4). We should not let this love cool off as discouragements and hard experiences come. The “first love” can develop beyond the initial spontaneity and mature to a consummation. We go beyond head knowledge to experimental (proven) knowledge. God’s power works in us from consecration “death” to actual physical death and being raised beyond the veil. It all starts with consecration.

Eph. 1:21 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:

Just as Jesus was given a name above all other names (except the Father’s), so his faithful followers will share his exaltation and honor. Examples of “every name that is named … in this world” are the most famous people in the present life such as Einstein, sports figures, and government rulers. The 144,000 will have known and publicized names and power far exceeding any others in this present evil world (or before the Flood). Those comprising the Little Flock will be known throughout eternity. Little nobodies in the present life will ultimately end up with names recognized by all. They will have reputations above all others except God, Jesus, and other members of the Little Flock. The Christ, Head and body members, will have names above the Ancient Worthies—above Moses, Abraham, Daniel, etc. Although seemingly unbelievable, this exaltation is attributable to God’s power. The names of the Little Flock will also exceed “every name that is named … in that [age] which is to come.”

Eph. 1:22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,

Eph. 1:23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Verses 22 and 23 are a reminder of 1 Corinthians 15:28, “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.” At the end of the Millennium, Jesus will turn the Kingdom over to God, who will then be all in all.

Antecedents for the pronouns in verse 23 are as follows: “Which is his [Jesus’] body, the fullness of him [God] that filleth all in all.” Jesus is the Head of the Church, and the Church is Jesus’ body. However, the combination of The Christ (Head and body) will be the fullness of God, who “filleth all in all.”

God placed Jesus in the exalted position, but at the end of the Kingdom, Jesus will give the Kingdom to the Father and become subservient so that God will then be all in all. The Epistle to the Ephesians emphasizes God and His dealing with the Church.

We are trying to get the fullness of God in us now—a crystallized Godlike character. (Jesus is a pattern of God, so a Christlike character is a Godlike character.) Knowledge is necessary for character development. In order to please God, we must know what He wants us to do. The Word of God instructs us, tells what the graces of the Spirit are, and so forth. Applying and obeying that knowledge lead to crystallization of character—a character fixed in Godlikeness.

The ultimate fullness of God’s being “all in all” is, in sequence, God, Jesus, the Church, the spirit strata, and human beings. God’s will will be done in heaven and on earth, from top to bottom. But here in Ephesians, Paul concentrated on the calling of the Church, those who “first trusted in Christ” (verse 12).


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