Epistle to the Ephesians
Who is the stated author of the letter?
What do we learn about Paul (see also Ephesians Study 1)?
He is an apostle (apostolos from apo = from + stello = send <> One sent forth from another who is in authority. He is sent with a commission, the necessary credentials, the sender's authority and the implicit responsibility to accomplish a mission or assignment). He is sent out by Christ Jesus (see Acts 9:15). He did not chose to be an apostle but he became one by the will (thelema = God’s gracious disposition. His choosing Paul as an apostle was not due to any good or merit in Paul, but is the result of His own pure goodness, originating wholly in the freedom of His own thoughts and loving counsel = His "will") of God.
Who is his target audience?
Ray Stedman in his usual pragmatic expositional style writes that…
Where is he writing from?
I love what Pastor Stedman's introductory remarks to his series on Ephesians…
How does Paul begin this letter?
He begins with by giving them a greeting that includes in a sense a prayer for them, a prayer for grace and peace. Note that "grace" is like a bookend in this great epistle the last verse reading…
Observe the order, grace before peace. Know grace, know peace but no grace, no peace!
Grace (charis - see word study) is often defined as unmerited favor, which it surely is, but it is far more than that. Think about the recipients. They had received "unmerited favor" when God saved them ("by grace you have been saved through faith" - note Ephesians 2:8). So as ones who have already been saved by grace, it is quite likely that Paul intends an additional meaning to this grace he speaks to them. Like all "saints", they were still in the world (see Acts 19 for what their world was like - idolatry, magic, demon possession, focus on materialism, etc) and so they needed grace to make it daily. And so grace (still unmerited of course) takes on a different hue or shade of meaning, and speaks of that strength God provides to assist saints to live a supernatural life in a natural world. It is transforming grace, grace that gives strength when the circumstances overwhelm us, when unexpected interruptions jump on us, when God gives us one of those little "pop tests" of life, etc, etc. Paul describes this aspect of grace in his last known letter to Timothy (also written from prison)…
Do you see it? What is inherent in grace? Is it not that unmerited favor from God which is present in Christ Jesus and which gives needed strength to our inner man. This is the "shade" of grace we all need for daily living.
Peace (eirene - see word study) is from the verb eiro which means to join together what has been divided and so to set at one again. It is that attribute given by God to us in Christ so that our spirit might be at rest in all the changing circumstances of life
Here's one of the best illustrations of peace I've ever read and interestingly enough it's from the perspective of a primitive (Gentile) tribesman…
What does Paul do in verse 2?
He stops for a moment of praise - a blessing to God. Some would call this a "doxology".
He offers a blessing (blessed = eulogetos from eu = well, good + logos = word <> means well spoken of, one worthy of praise and honor. <> English = "eulogy") to God the Father and Son.
Why? What has God done?
The One Paul blesses has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.
Where is that blessing?
In heavenly places.
What is the source of the blessing?
Being in Christ Jesus.
Where is Christ in Ephesians 1:20? Where are we as saints according to Ephesians 2:6? Christ is in the heavenlies (and it is not figurative language but a reality) and we are seated with Him there (not physically of course but still very much a reality, albeit unseen and surely also a bit poorly understood). Where are all spiritual blessings? Are they not where He is and where we are seated with Him? Interesting truths to ponder. Remember God wants us to experience in everyday life the reality of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. That experience begins with a proper understanding of what Paul described as sound (literally "healthy") doctrine. So although the first 3 chapters of Ephesians are primarily doctrine, they are far from dry, dreary and disinteresting discourse! They are the very foundation stones on which the Spirit of God will build and enable us to partake in a real, albeit supernatural way, "every spiritual blessing"… so that we might possess in our experience what we already possess by virtue of our position (of being "in Christ" and "seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus").
What is the theme of Ephesians 1?
Every Spiritual Blessing in Christ
As Ray Stedman says of the spiritual blessings Paul begins to unveil that they…
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Ephesians 1:4 What is the first spiritual blessing Paul describes?
What is meaning of the Greek word for "chose"?
The verb eklego means literally to select out, single out or choose out of. Eklego in it's original Classic Greek use expresses in every case the idea that a part has been claimed from a greater quantity, by an independent act of decision for a particular purpose, and that the remainder has been passed over, but not necessarily rejected. Eklego means to choose out for oneself, but not implying rejection of those not chosen.
Who chose us?
God the Father
In Him (Jesus Christ)
Before the foundation of the world (you may want to stop and ponder this time phrase)
Why did God the Father chose us?
That we would be holy (same word for saint = hagios) and blameless (literally without spot - same word describes Jesus the Lamb as spotless in 1 Peter 1:19) before (literally directly in front of His face or eyes!) Him (Coram Deo = Before the Face of God!)
What do you learn about divine choice from John 15:16?
Jesus chose the 12 disciples, not vice versa. The common practice in Jesus' day was for the disciples to chose which rabbi they would sit under. We did not chose God. He chose us (think about this as a manifestation of God's grace - unmerited favor).
What was His purpose?
That the disciples (and we) should bear fruit (e.g., spiritual fruit such as godly attitudes in Gal 5:22, 23, righteous behavior as in Php 1:11, praise Heb 13:15, and especially leading others to faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God Ro1:13-16). Their fruit would remain.
What is the privilege of those chosen?
Free access to God in prayer
What is the context (especially Jesus' following statements about what they would experience in the world - and that their Lord would soon be crucified) and how does that help you understand Jesus' telling them they are chosen?
The following verses predict hatred and persecution from the world. Jesus counters what He knows will cause them to suffer and doubt and reminds them that they are chosen for accomplishing an eternal purpose.
Think about it - if God chose me, then I am His responsibility!
What does Peter explain about God's choice of believers?
The choice was according to the foreknowledge of God - not just that He knew it would happen but that He set about a plan to make it happen.
How was God's choice accomplished?
It involves the sanctifying (setting apart) work of the Spirit.
What is the purpose of God's choice?
(1) It's purpose is that we would obey (literally means to "hear under" picture of listening and submitting to that which is heard) and
(2) that we might be sprinkled with His blood (difficult to be dogmatic - Three times in OT blood was sprinkled on men:  Cleaning of lepers Lev 14:1-7,  Consecration family of Aaron to priesthood, Ex 29:20-21 and  Covenant ratification - Mosaic covenant between God and Israel - using Scripture to interpret Scripture this could allude to an element of all three - NT believers are cleansed from sin, consecrated priests to God all upon entering the New Covenant in Christ's blood). (Comment: 1Peter repeatedly emphasizes suffering and persecution of believers as a result of fact that they were Christians and Peter is writing to encourage them. He begins his "encouragement" with the truth that they are chosen. It follows that God's means for this doctrine to be one that encourages and not that divides believers!)
How many times does Paul state God has chosen?
According to 1Corinthians 1:26-31 what is God's purpose for choosing?
To shame the wise and strong ultimately so that no man can boast about salvation.
The choosing is not something that man can boast in
What is the basis for His choosing us in Christ Jesus?
It is by His doing that we are "in Christ Jesus"
What is the ultimate purpose of God's choice in the plan of salvation?
That we would boast in God. Or as Paul phrases it in Ephesians that it would be to the praise of His glory.
What is the spiritual blessing described in this verse?
Predestined to adoption as sons
What does the Greek word for "predestined" mean?
Predestined (proorizo from pró = before + horízo = to determine, as by setting a boundary or limit <> from horos = boundary, limit) literally means to mark out beforehand or set the the limits or boundaries in advance of any place or thing. Though proorizo meant simply to plan in advance, in the New Testament it attracted a special meaning. Here the idea is a divine decree of God, whereby He determined in advance that something should happen.
Wuest commenting on proorizo adds that…
Who predestined us?
God the Father
When did this happen (from the context)?
Before the foundation of the world
What was the purpose?
How did He accomplish this adoption according to this verse?
Through Christ Jesus (we were chosen in Him, we were predestined to adoption through Him). Our "adoption papers" won't be revoked because of some legal snafu. Beloved, you are FOREVER adopted into the family as one of God's sons or daughters. This should give you security in regard to the assurance of your salvation in Christ.
Where were Gentiles spiritually before being adopted? (see Ephesians 2:12 )
"separated from Christ… having no hope, without God in the world" -- and yet now the Father has "adopted [us] as sons… to Himself"! Glory! (See notes Ro 11:33-36).
Colossians says we "were formerly alienated and hostile in mind engaged in evil deeds." (see notes Colossians 1:21)
Understanding who we once WERE helps us appreciate who we now ARE in Christ! It presents such a striking contrast to what we are now that it overwhelms our hearts with gratitude and a deep desire to walk in a manner worthy of our high calling as sons of God who desire to be pleasing to our Father Who choose us even before the foundation of the world!
What motivated the Father to adopt us as His own sons even before the earth came into existence?
The kind intention (eudokia from eu = good, well + dokeo = think <> literally "good pleasure". The delight which God has in blessing His children is found in the fact that what He does for them is dictated by what is good for them) of His will (Comment: Note that Paul says it was "according to" His kind intention. It was proportionate to His kind intention. It was in conformity with His kind intention.)
What is the result of sinners now being God's sons? How does the phrase "to the praise of the glory of His grace" relate to those who are predestined to adoption?
It brings praise to Him and gives a proper opinion (glory) of His grace.
The point is that God's purpose for predestining to adoption as sons is to result in praise of the glory of His grace. Predestining us to adoption is not just for us (which it is), but it is also and ultimately for Him, for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
What is the practical application of this truth? What should our lives do to others around us?
When we walk worthy of the calling to which we have been called, others can see God's glory and His grace. And this should in turn cause them (and us) to praise God just as Paul did in these passages.
What is a "short definition" of grace from this verse?
That which the Father freely bestows on His sons and daughters who are in the Beloved (Christ Jesus).
How much of this grace did we deserve?
None. It is freely bestowed independent of our merit or our works.
What does this verse teach about the trial and crucifixion of Jesus? Was it an "accident", something that should never have occurred?
God's hand (authority) and His purpose predetermined that it would occur. (Comment: This indicates that Christ's mission, especially His death and resurrection, was not ultimately the result of human will but originated in the eternal counsel of God which decreed the event determining all its primary and secondary causes, instruments, agents, and contingencies.)
Although this verse does not use the same verb "predestine", what is the truth that parallels that in Acts 4:27-28?
God knew crucifixion would occur. Jesus Christ was delivered to death because God planned and ordained it
What is God's purpose for predestining those He called and foreknew?
To become conformed to the image of His Son - God has previously set boundaries around us that assure that this end will be accomplished! Far from being divisive, this truth about predestination is encouraging.
What does Paul emphasize is the source of the next "spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and what is it?
In Him - Redemption
How did He accomplish redemption for us?
Through His blood
What does Peter explain about Jesus' blood?
We were redeemed not with worldly wealth like silver and gold which perish
We were redeemed from our futile (empty, vain, worthless) way of life (inherited from our forefathers - from whom we received "Adam's virus" = see note Romans 5:12)
We were redeemed with Christ's precious (costly, of great value, indescribable worth) blood which was like a sacrificial lamb's blood in the Old Testament, such animals having to be unblemished (without blame) and spotless in order to be acceptable sacrifices.
From the preceding verses (context) in chapter 1 of First Peter we can see that this amazing truth about the preciousness of our redemption is given to motivate us to diligently pursue personal holiness.
What is the meaning of redemption?
Redemption (see word study on apolutrosis) means to pay a price to set a person free and was used to describe the payment made to free prisoners of war or to liberate slaves from their masters. Before redemption we were held captive by Satan (our "father", cf John 8:44) to do his will and were enslaved to our old sin nature inherited from Adam. In Christ we have been ransomed by His blood (1Cor 6:20; Rev 5:9), are no longer under the curse of the law (Gal 3:13; 4:5) and have been released from the bondage of sin into the freedom of grace.
Christ was lifted up on the horrible Cross
Forgiveness (see word study on aphesis from apo = from + hiemi = send) pictures sending away from and in Greek secular writings was a technical legal term for repaying a debt or canceling a debt.
Deliverance and transfer
According to the riches of His grace
How did God provide His grace to believers?
He lavished it on us
Romans 3:24 What else did redemption achieve for believers?
Justification as a gift by His grace
Reminds us that redemption is in Christ Jesus
What does Paul teach about redemption in Romans 8:23?
Redemption has a future aspect = glorification of our bodies, when Jesus returns and resurrects all believers changing them in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Yes, believers have redemption through His blood as our present possession but we eagerly await the final culmination of this redemption.
Every believer has the first fruit (The first portion of the harvest was regarded both as a first installment and as a pledge of the final delivery of the greater harvest!) which is the indwelling Holy Spirit (compare to the Spirit as our "pledge" - see note Ephesians 1:14)
When was the price of redemption paid?
On the Cross - Jesus declared "It is finished" (John 19:30) which is the Greek verb "Tetelestai" which translated means "Paid in Full!"
2 Timothy 1:8-9 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,
What is the spiritual blessing Paul describes in these verses?
The mystery of God's Will - it's a sneak preview. He doesn't tell us here what it is in these verses.
How was it revealed and what motivated God to do so?
In all wisdom and insight = what God gave Paul to help understand
It was made known
God was motivated by His kind intention which He purposed in Christ
What is the mystery?
Believing Jews and Gentiles in one body, the Church, with Christ as the head of the body.
Why did God make known the mystery?
With a view to an administration (management or stewardship) of the fulness of times
In short that time when all things (including things in heaven and earth) would be summed up in Christ
How else is this word "administration" used in Ephesians 3:2?
Paul explains God gave him a stewardship of grace for the Gentiles
In essence it was the revelation of the mystery of the church
By implication, Paul was called to be a good "manager" or "administrator" of this mystery
Whey do you think this "summing up" begins?
Most likely began at the Cross - this is when the mystery began to be unfolded
What was the spiritual blessing in these verses?
Where was it made available?
In Him = in Christ
When was it originated? By Whom? Realized?
Predestined by God (implies before the foundation of the world from the context)
Realized when they believed on Christ
What was God's motivation?
According to His purpose
How certain was it to happen?
God works all things after the counsel of His will
What was His purpose?
That those who the first to hope in Christ would bring praise to God's glory
Paul says "we" so he is included.
What is Paul according to Phil 3:4-6?
Jew (Hebrew of Hebrews)
What did he explain about the gospel in Romans 1:16?
Power of God for salvation
To everyone who believes
Everyone = Jew first and also Greek
Mark 7:26-29 What did Jesus teach about who He was sent to?
The Gentile woman's question prompted Jesus to declare that the children (Jews) were to be satisfied first. He is speaking figuratively of those who would here the good news, but even His statement of "first" implies a "second" which in context of the NT writings would be the Gentiles. In fact He did acknowledge the Gentile, casting the demon out of her daughter.
Wuest has an interesting comment on Mark 7:27 "children… first" writing…
Mt 1:1 How is Jesus identified?
the son of David (so Jesus is a Jew), the son of Abraham.
John 1:11 Who are His own?
How did the Jews respond to Jesus?
Did not receive Him (for the most part)
Remember we are looking for the answer of the question who are "the first to hope".
What is the promise Jesus gave to His Jewish disciples (and of which John the Baptist had prophesied)? When did He say it would be fulfilled?
Promise = Baptized with the Holy Spirit
Not many days from when He spoke (Jesus was taken up after 40 days and Pentecost is 50 days after feast of first fruits = "Easter Sunday" = resurrection of Christ. Jesus is saying that in 10 days they would receive the promise of the Spirit.)
What happened? Who was there? What did this fulfill?
Spirit came, filled them and the spoke in tongues (as Spirit gave them the words)
Recipients of this first baptism of the Spirit = Jews from every nation
It fulfilled John the Baptist's and Jesus' prophecies of the promised Holy Spirit
ACTS 2:14, 36-41
Acts 2:14, 36-41 Who is Peter's audience?
Men of Judea (Acts 2:14) - House of Israel (Acts 2:36)
What was their response to Peter's message and how did Peter answer?
Pierced to the heart - what shall we do?
Peter declares repent - they will receive the promise = the gift of the Holy Spirit
Acts 2:39 How does Peter explain the gift of the Holy Spirit?
He reiterates it was a promise
He states the Spirit was for you (Jews) and your children + for all far off (Gentiles)
ACTS 10:1, 44-48
Acts 10:1, 44-48: (Time Context = these events transpired some 8 years after the Spirit came on the day of Pentecost and the church was born) Who is Cornelius and what happens to him (and others with him)?
Listened to message (implied that they believed - which Peter testifies in Acts 11:17 below) > gift of the Spirit upon the Gentiles
How did the Jews with Peter know the Gentiles had received the gift?
They heard them speaking with tongues and exalting God
What transpired at the "Jerusalem Council" where believing Jews me to deal with the question of Gentile believers?
Peter reiterates his story (and of the 6 Jews who were with him) that the Gentiles received the Word, believed in the Lord Jesus Christ (v17) and the Spirit fell on them just as He did on the Jews at the beginning (Pentecost) = same way indicates they Gentiles spoke in tongues.
In addition Peter recalls his Lord's words that John baptized with water but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit (As happened to the Jews gathered in Jerusalem at Pentecost and then to the Gentiles in Caesarea)
Their conclusion in Acts 11:18: "God has granted the Gentiles also (cf Ephesians 1:13
Paul's phrase in "you also" referring clearly to the Gentiles) the repentance that lead to life"
Eph 1:12 "we who were the first to hope in Christ" = believing Jews
Eph 1:13 "you also after listening to the message of the truth" = believing Gentiles
What is the blessing?
Salvation and sealing
Who is saved and sealed (in context)?
You also (Gentiles) imply you plus we believing Jews
Who seals and where is the sealing carried out?
Holy Spirit of promise seals believers in Christ
Why is He called the Holy Spirit of promise?
He was promised by Jesus, came at Pentecost on Jews and then 8 years later on Jews, just as had been promised.
What does sealed mean?
Sealing (sphragizo) in secular use referred to an official mark of identification that was placed on a letter, contract, or other important document. The seal usually was made from hot wax, which was placed on the document and then impressed with a signet ring. The document was thereby officially identified with and under the authority of the person to whom the signet belonged. Paul uses sealing figuratively to convey to believers the ideas of security, authenticity, and ownership. In the ancient world people would commonly brand or mark personal possessions just as they would seal a letter, and this seal would identify the sender. In this passage the seal conveys the idea that believers are marked as God's possession with the seal of the Holy Spirit.
How does this truth make you feel about the security of your salvation?
Ephesians 1:14 How else is the Holy Spirit described?
As a pledge of our inheritance
What is a pledge?
A pledge (arrhabon) in ancient Greece originally referred to a down payment or earnest money given to secure a purchase. Later it came to represent any sort of pledge or earnest. A form of this word even came to be used for engagement ring - this guarantees that a marriage will take place (In the future at the return of the Lord, what wedding are believers to participate in?) It was promissory first installment that guaranteed a full, final payment. Our modern terms "earnest money" or "down payment" give an accurate picture of the meaning of a pledge. Thus a pledge was part of the price paid beforehand to confirm a transaction and served as a down-payment in kind guaranteeing the full payment of the rest at some later time. It always implies an act which engages to something bigger. The idea is a part given in advance of what will be bestowed fully afterwards.
What is the spiritual significance of the pledge in this verse?
The Spirit is a pledge of our future inheritance - the Holy Spirit God has been given to believers in this present life so that we might have firm assurance of our future, eternal inheritance. He is like our "engagement ring"! He is the first installment, the guarantee and the foretaste of the full inheritance yet to come, culminating in the reception of our future glorified bodies.
Why does God give believers the Spirit as a pledge?
Paul says it is with a view to the redemption of God's Own Possession
Who is God's possession?
Believers -- the final redemption of His possession will come when we are glorified
What is God's ultimate purpose?
That it would be to the praise of His glory
What does Ephesians 4:30 reiterate?
Believers are sealed by the Spirit
It is for the day of redemption (future redemption of our bodies - see Romans 8:23 discussed above)
Speaks of security - even though we grieve the Spirit, we are are still sealed
Observe 4 spiritual blessings: God (1) establishes us (stabilizes believers and places them on a firm foundation spiritually) (2) anoints us (priests, prophets and kings were anointed for service in the OT and believers in the NT) (3) seals (4) gives the Holy Spirit as a pledge (what God has begun, He will complete for again this speaks of a down payment which obligates the payer to make further payments!). Note also the clear reference to the Trinity in these 2 verses.
What does Peter teach about our inheritance?
It is for those who have been born again
It is imperishable, undefiled and will not fade away
It is reserved in heaven
We are protected by the power of God
We look toward a future tense salvation (redemption of our bodies = glorification)
(v17) Heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ
(v18) Incomparable glory that will be revealed to us
What does Paul teach about the inheritance?
Part of our inheritance (3:5) now is our hope (absolute certainty of future good) of eternal life (3:7) = we can have confidence now that we will inherit eternal life. In a word, the believer's inheritance is a certainty of eternal life.
What does James teach about the believer's inheritance?
We are heirs of the kingdom of God - there is a present as well as future component (Millennium and then the new heaven and new earth that follows)
What does John teach about this final redemption?
Although we are children of God now, we don't appear now as we shall appear someday
When we see Jesus we will be made like Him
This hope (certainty) should in the meantime motivate us to purify ourselves, even as a prospective bride (engaged) keeps herself pure for her husband and their wedding day (think of the church as the bride of Christ).
1Cor 15:50-54: How does Paul describe the future redemption of our now decaying bodies?
All of our bodies will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye
Perishable puts on imperishable
Mortal puts on immortality
Death is no longer
What does Paul explain that relates to "God's own possession"?
Believers have the Holy Spirit in their bodies which are temples
We are not our own
We have been bought with a price (cf redeemed by the blood of Christ)
Our purpose now as believers waiting for our coming inheritance is to glorify God in our bodies, giving a proper opinion of Who he is by the way we use our bodies, taking care to avoid those things would profane that which is holy and set apart for God.
Ephesians 1:14 What is the ultimate purpose Paul of our mentions?
All that we are blessed with is to bring praise to His glory
In one magnificent sentence Paul paints a panoramic picture of God's incomprehensible, glorious, mysterious plan of salvation from eternity past to eternity future.
Several thousand years earlier Job aptly summed up the breadth and length and height and depth of one of the greatest single sentences ever penned when he declared…
And so we come to understand a little better why Paul fell to his knees in prayer…