AN EXEGETICAL EXPLANTATION ON THE EPISTLE OF EPHESIANS 1:1-14, DETAILING THE THREE DOXOLOGICAL STANZAS. Ephesians 1:1-14 acts as a doxology by covering a series of spiritual blessings in the redemption of Christ which was purposed by God’s will, in order to inform the early disciples of their purpose as they were with in a spiritually hostile world. The first three chapters of Ephesians reveals the purpose of Christ’s disciples and the establishment of the universal church by explaining the Gospel in a new depth. In the following, the author will cover the authorship and greeting of Ephesians, and how disciples have been chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sealed by the Holy Spirit...
The beginning of the passage identifies whom the author was and the destination of the Ephesian letter. Traditionally, Paul is thought to be the author; however, there is evidence that verse one was not original to the text. Although there is much dispute among scholars over the letter’s authorship, there is a solid agreement that Ephesians contains both the style and form, words and phrases, that are characteristic of the Apostle Paul. Paul was very familiar with the church at Ephesus due to him taught there for at least two years, as written in Acts 19, before he sent Timothy there.
“Ephesus” is thought to be the destination for the letter; however, there is evidence that the title “Ephesians” was added by Sinaitic and Vatican codices. According to Mark W. Wilson, the founder and director of the Asia Minor Research Center, Ephesians was written as a general letter, perhaps to be addressed to all the gathering house churches of the area of Asia Minor. Wilson continues to explain that the letter was most likely not written directly to Ephesus, but to Laodicea and then to Colossae. It is easy for one to conclude this, because Ephesians was most likely written around the same time as Colossians, Philippians and the yet undiscovered Laodicean letter. The concept of “sharing” letters, however, is not found historically or culturally. It is thought by some that Ephesians was directly written to Ephesus, but more importantly to disciples of the universal Church. Dr. Barth, a noted Protestant theologian, logically concludes that the letter was written around A.D. 62 as he alludes to the letter being written by the Apostle Paul while in prison.
Ephesus was a sea port which acted as a gateway into Asia Minor. As Ephesus was a prominent city in Asia Minor, religion there was very diverse, which caused high religious tension. In fact, Ephesus was the center of spiritual activity for pagans, as there were at least seventeen deities who were worshiped there. The city housed the Artemison Temple where the goddess Artemis would be worshiped by thousands of gathered followers. Ephesus was known for it’s black magic; this had influence on the church as it affected how the church thought. According to Acts 2, there were disciples of John the Baptist living there during the time of Paul. Although religion was mixed, religious tension did not keep Ephesians from gathering. Religions, false doctrines and their practices finally influenced the Ephesian church negatively as we read a record (Rev. 2) of the false doctrine within the church and how Paul and Timothy had to “cleanse” the church (1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 4:3; Acts 20:29).
The second verse is formulated and adapted from both a Greek and Hebrew greeting. When Paul uses the word “grace” (Gk. “charis”), it’s root is very close to the regular Greek greeting “rejoice” (Gk. “chair”) which denotes “favor” with “gracious disposition.” It is probable that Paul is Christianizing the Greek greeting by using a similar word, “grace” (Gk.“charis”). The word “Peace” (Gk.“charie") is known to be a Jewish greeting. A Jewish synagogue was present for Ephesus’s 10,000 Jews that lived there in the Greco-Roman city during Paul’s ministry. One can assume that Paul used a mixed greeting to unite the Jews and Gentiles in Christ under God’s eternal purpose. It is appropriate for Paul to attach “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” as it introduces the concept of the Godhead, which Paul uses, to ascribe and describe the blessings, found in the following verses, that disciples receive.
Verse three starts off the first stanza of Paul’s doxology (v3-6); it focuses on the past as it describes how disciples have been chosen by the Father. The phrase “Blessed be the God, and Father…” represents the Jewish tradition of proclaiming a blessing while in synagogues, as well as at festivals and meals. Carey Newman, the director of Baylor University Press, gives us insight as how the passage (v 1-14) acts as a benediction as it was a tradition for “Judaism to string together a series of blessings.” When Paul writes “every spiritual blessing” he is showing us the spiritual nature of the blessings which he is about the write on. Spiritual blessings are emphasized in the New Testament, unlike the Old Testament when blessings where physical. The word “every” denotes that all spiritual blessings have been acquired by a believer, as there is no blessing that has been held back from being given. The phrase “heavenly places” gives us insight as it shows the origin of the these spiritual blessings. Although “in heavenly places” are thought to be the place that disciples receive blessings, a critical inquiry into the text will render such thoughts untrue. F.F. Bruce, a noted scholar of the Bible’s historical reliability, alludes to the phrase “heavenly places” as a bad translation as it’s true Greek form is“ta epourania,” denoting regions that are in or above the heavens. Proper translation from the original Greek is the “heavenlies.” This translation fits the context of 1:20 (as where Christ is enthroned), 2:6 (where believers have been lifted in fellowship with Christ), 3:10 (where the spiritual principalities and powers are), and 6:2 (where the spiritual battleground is). From using proper context and translation, it is easy to conclude that “heavenlies” does not denote a locality but where spiritual activities are being accomplished. The “heavenlies” must represent the atmosphere that a disciples now abides in as they have a new position in Christ. There is a New Covenant which has been established in and by Christ, in which we are looking for a spiritual inheritance instead of an earthy one (which Jews had hoped for).
Verse four accounts for the time when God had “chosen” or “selected” his people in advance in Christ. This was a purposeful choice in which God wanted all men to be reconciled to Himself by the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. The phrase “In Him” is very important to the whole passage. God’s choice was and is for those who would believe and would be found in Christ; because apart from Christ they have no salvation (2 Peter 3:9). It is God’s desire for all men to be chosen and found in His Son (2 Corinthians 5:19); however, it is their choice to be in His Son. This theological principle is upheld by the following phrase “that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” It was indeed the intended purpose in the Garden of Eden for all of humanity to be holy or separate unto Him for His praise. The term “blameless” (without blame) is a sacrificial one for the sacrifice of an animal that was without defect. His ultimate purpose was for humanity to be found in Christ as “blameless” in His sight; it is the disciples’ purpose today to have inner consecration. According to Hebrews 12:14, no one will see God unless they are holy. Being holy is the condition of being chosen, but it is not the requirement for it. Holiness is not why they where chosen, but what they were chosen for. Both “predestined” (v.5) and “chosen” are closely related, which I will explain later. Disciples have been “chosen” in the purpose which God planned before creation. “Foundations” denotes the beginning of eternity in which the choice for humanity to have access to God was made. Disciples’ election is made in sight of God’s eternal purpose (1 Peter 1:19, 20).
The pronoun “us” in it’s context is a pronoun referring to Saints and Believers that Paul is addressing. If all men were elected, there would be none that were not elected. This shows exclusivism, which denotes exclusive blessings. William Hendrikson writes, “election is the root of all subsequent blessings.” The elected are the ones who will or have entered into the Father’s love (see John 17:24) by Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6:4) who have believed and repent (Philippines 2:12, 13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).
Verse five introduces the concept of being predestined as sons. “Predestined” in it’s Greek form is “proorizō.” The suffix “pro” means “in front of, before” (see Jude 25). Geoffrey W. Bromiley, a noted church historian and historical theologian, translates Kittle’s comments on the work of K.L. Schmidt as he describes the word “predestined” as a “rare and late word (which) has in the NT the sense ‘to foreordain.’ It is parallel to (the phrase) ‘to foreknow’ in Romans 8:29.” Disciples have been appointed before the creation of the world to have the “adoption as sons.” When compared to Jewish customs, adoption is only a legal custom of the Romans. In the ancient world, if someone was adopted, that person would not only receive their master’s name and inheritance, but also his full rights and responsibilities. People have access to receive adoption, but it is only the believing and obedient who have been appointed to receive adoption “through Jesus Christ to Himself.” The word “through” is showing us the condition of being being chosen and adopted to sonship. “Predestination” has been wrongly interpreted as an irrevocable deliverance from hell that stands apart from obedience. God has not “chosen” His people “in themselves” but “in Christ;” it is only when we are obedient and are clothed with Christ (through baptism [Gal. 3:27]) are we “in Christ.” Disciples have been “predestined” as a class of people, not as individuals (John 3:16; Rev. 22:17). God purposed them to be chosen “according to the kind intention of His will.” Disciples have not been chosen because of merit, but simply because God loved and continues to love His creation. Love is found in His own goodness, there is nothing that makes God love us! He has foreordained to adopt His people as sons; his “kind purpose” was for all to be found in Christ, as it was “His will” for all to be reconciled “to Himself.”
The phrase “to the praise of the glory” marks the ending of the of stanzas one. It concludes that, the Father appointed believers to be chosen according to His own glory and His grace towards humanity. This is the grace which has been “freely bestowed.” The word “bestowed” in it’s Greek form is “charitoō” denoting, in it’s context (although the word is complicated), being gifted with favor graciously. The “Beloved” is a name referring to Christ. The name “Beloved” is only used twice before this verse; once at the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:17) and once at His transfiguration (Matt. 17:5 [NASB]). Verse six serves as a transition from the Father’s work to the Son’s work in verse seven.
Verse seven explains what we have been predestined for in the Son. Dr. Hendrikson, a noted and educated commentator, explains that, “Redemption implies emancipation from the curse, that is, from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin (John 8:34; Romans 7:14) and restoration to true liberty (John 8:36; Gal. 5:1).” “Redemption” implies the freeing from slavery as it is written in the Greek verb “apolytrōsis” meaning to “release.” Disciples have been delivered from slavery of sin by the payment of a ransom. The means of release is “His blood” which was of a sacrificial nature (1 Peter 1:19; Isa. 53:10; 2 Cornth. 5:21). It is Christ’s sacrifice which gives us opportunity for deliverance, but it is by faith that we may receive it (Eph. 2:8). “Forgiveness” is the remission of sin or the “removal of sins.” The word “forgiveness” (remission) is not only written closely to the word “redemption,” but it is close in theology as well. Disciples have not only been brought back to God, but have also been cleansed from all sin. Jeremiah 31:34 is a prime example of forgiveness as the removal of sins. This removal of sins is “according to the riches of His grace.”
Verse eight tells us the measure of the “riches of His grace” as it was “lavished on us.” Dr. Hendrikson writes that “The standard established by God’s grace determines the measure of His forgiveness.” To “lavish” (Gk. “perisseuō”) on something means to abundantly cover to a point that there are left overs. Verses 8-10 explain the view and depth of redemption. In the second half of verse eight, we read the phrase “In all wisdom and insight He made known…” This is denoting that all intelligence has been given to understand the mystery, which was hidden from human comprehension, which has been revealed. Wisdom and insight have been given as spiritual blessings so we can “grasp” His purpose (1 Cornth. 2:7).
Verse nine continues the “revealing" theme as it points to the Father’s work. The pronoun “He” is referring to the Father, as He is the one revealing the “Mystery” (Eph. 3:2-9). The Father’s redemption plan is the “mystery” which was concealed but is now revealed by and in Christ. The phrase “made known” in it’s Greek form is “Gnōrizō” which can mean "to gain a knowledge of” (according to it’s early use). The Father not only revealed His plan, but He gave understanding of it by the wisdom and insight in verse eight. The redemption plan was conceived, before the creation of time (as mentioned above), by the Father with the determination that “in Him,” the Son, people are to be gathered to Father by their faith and repentance in the sacrificial Son. This revealing of the “mystery” was “according” to the Father’s “kind intention.” The phrase “kind intention” in Greek is “eudokia,” which more or less means it was by the Father’s “desirable choice.”
Verse ten continues the thought from all pervious verses. The revealing, in all wisdom and insight, of the redemption plan was done “with a view to” the administration. This phrase most likely means, in it’s context, “towards” and/or “concerning” (Eph 6:18; Phl. 2:8; Act 24:16;1Co 7:26, etc.) to the “administration.” The term “dministration” (Gk. “oikonomia”) means to manage, as in the management of a household. In other words, as Lewis Chafter, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, writes, “carrying out (administration) of the purpose…” This was a management “suitable to the,” or proper to the, “fullness of the times.” The “fullness of the time” (Jesus’ birth, Gal.4:4) was the “appropriate time” for the mystery to be revealed. This phrase parallels the phrase “the ends of the age” found in 1 Corinthians 10:11, and “these last days” in Hebrews 1:2. Hendrickson explains that this is denoting the “climax” of time for the “consummation of God’s plan.” This phrase is denoting the consummation of the availability of redemption, through the Son’s sacrifice, but more importantly it may be pointing towards the complete consummation of redemption for creation. This concept is supported by the preposition “that is,” as it points to the “summing up of all things in Christ.” The “summing up” means in the Greek to “gather together in one” in order to “to head up” something together. In this context it is the gathering together of “the things of the heavens and things on earth” which are placed not only under the head of Christ but “in Christ.” This is implying the ultimate redemption of “all” (totality) the created, to create a new order and harmony once again. This is not talking about all being saved, but all being under Christ’s command (1 Peter 3:22).
Verse eleven starts the third and last stanza of this benediction. Paul continues writing about the blessings found in Christ; since believers have been chosen, we have “obtained an inheritance.” This inheritance is unlike the promised inheritance of the Old Testament, which was earthly, as Christians have inherited not only spiritual blessings but a heavenly home as sons (Colossians 1:12). Not only are Christians the ones of inheritance but they have been inherited by the Father as His “holy inheritance.” In Deuteronomy (9:29; 32:9) we see that the Father’s people where called His “inheritance.” Dr. Curtis W. Vaughan, a noted commentator, explains how this theology effects disciple’s perspective, “It is not that believers might take pride in their position and boast of their special privileges.” (Rom 8:17). Paul then reinforces that this was “after the counsel of His (own) will to the end.” The Greek words “counsel” and “will” mean almost the same in general meaning. According to Greek professor Dr. Kent Homer Jr., “counsel” means “deliberation” as “will” has a more general idea of deliberation. All of these blessings have not been randomly chosen by the Father, because He thoughtfully choose and pursued believers by and in the Son. Again, unity is being promoted as Paul has just alluded to Gentiles as God’s chosen people, along with the Jews of course, as he used the pronoun “we.” A disciple’s inheritance is both given to them now and then in heaven. The concept of union and inheritance in this way is explained in verses 12 and 13.
Verse twelve continues the theme of union as it expresses that God worked out His plan, through Christ, “to the end” (end of the plan as far as Christ is concern, and not the final satisfaction). His purpose, is that “we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His Glory.” The pronoun “we” is not referring to the entirety of the disciple audience of the letter, but to the Jewish disciples, including the author, Paul. Paul creates a distinction as he writes “first to hope” as it alludes to a “second, or last — to hope.” As the pronoun “we” shows, the Jews where the “first to hope” as the Gentiles where the last to hope. Verse thirteen’s pronoun “you also” is referring to the Gentile audience. The phrase “to be the praise of His Glory” is expressing that the uniting and redemption of all peoples to Christ is God’s glory as His sovereignty is His glory. This “salvation” work, as in redemptive and unifying, has been done after the disciples “also had believed” in the “gospel” “message” (Roman 10:17).
Verse thirteen continues to explain that since they “also had believed” they were “sealed.” This is when the third “person” of the Godhead comes in, the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit was and is the “promise(d).” He is the guide which was promised to the disciples (Acts 1:5; 2:33, 38). This “sealing” is mentioned two more times as it is written in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and then again in Ephesians 4:30. The word “sealing” (2 Timothy 2:19) means a “safekeeping (of), ownership, (as it is shown) authentication” as it is a “pledge”(v14). “Pledge” is a Greek monetary term for a money purchase that was a “deposit” made as a pledge that of total would be completely paid. 1 Corinthians 6:19 states “You where brought with a price,” the price being Christ’s blood. Although disciples have redemption, they are “pledged” with the Holy Spirit of their full, complete redemption to come. On the topic of “sealing,” Wilbur Fields, the noted biblical historian, explains that an “Official paper (in ancient times) (was) often stamped with a seal. This seal proves that the document is approved by the proper authorities.” Disciples have been marked as God’s possession as the Holy Spirit validates a disciple’s “inheritance”(v14) and “son(ship)” (2 Timothy 2:19). Disciples are given the Holy Spirit as a “token or proof that they…belong to God” as they were promised consummation of complete “redemption” (v14) and a “down payment” (which is the Holy Spirit and the Spiritual blessings) of the promised inheritance. This concept is found in the Jewish wedding tradition. On the topic of Jewish betrothals and bridal gifts, an associate member of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, Glenn Kay, writes that before a groom would go way to prepare a home “he would give his wife to be a Matan ntm - or bridal gift, a pledge of his love for her. It's purpose was to be a reminder to his bride during their days of separation of his love for her, that he was thinking of her - and that he would return to receive her as his wife.”
Again, Paul stresses that this was done with a thoughtful and merciful “view to the redemption” as to “sealed” His “possession.” This redemptive plan was again “to the praise of His glory” as the Father’s own glory was His own sovereignty.
In just fourteen verses Paul quickly and beautifully summarizes the Gospel in three stanzas. Paul informs the Church of their purpose by pointing to the: past, when the Father choose them for greatness; the present, redeemed and sanctified by the Son; future, the Holy Spirit is a seal of their complete restoration to the Father. All three stanzas help the Church understand who God is, what God has done for them, and who they are because of Him. Establishing the purpose of a disciple, Paul is laying a theological foundation to build reasoning for proper doctrine in the latter half of his letter.
Since we now understand the meaning of this section, what should it mean to us as modern disciples in modern churches? More importantly, how should we apply this passage in to our daily lives? Ephesians was written to encourage and strengthen the church as they faced a spiritually hostile world. Today, disciples live in a spiritually hostile world, and it is easy to forget our purpose and mission. We have been “chosen for greatness,” as disciples, the Father sets eternal salvation into our hearts. Since the passage is in three stanzas, I will apply this passage in three different ways. (1) The Father has chosen us so we should chose to share that purpose with another. (2) The Son has redeemed us and has set us apart; we should seek holiness. (3) The Holy Spirit is the pledge our inheritance; we should save the promise.
Since we have been chosen and purposed by the Father, we should chose to share that purpose with others. Now being adopted sons, we have inherited holy responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is being ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) of the New Kingdom. This is a huge responsibility because we are the bearer of the Good News, which may be words of life for one or words of death for another (2 Cor. 2:14-17). Not only are we to share the Good News, which is God’s redemption plan for man, but we are to be ambassadors of unity. Since there is a “summing up” of all people, we are to promote unity (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). First of all, we are a “church without walls,” since we are people of all nations now worshiping in Spirit and in the truth (John 4:24). If we understand that the Father predestined His people to receive redemption and forgiveness, we must realize that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). There should be equality in the church, in respect to how we are all on the same “playing field” as we serve our Lord Jesus Christ. There should be unity within our hearts as we see each other as all parts of the body of Christ as we have been given one Spirit to drink (1 Corinthians 12:12-14). We, as the church, should pursue unity by devoting ourselves to fellowship, community prayer and the Lord’s Supper (Romans 2:42).
Since we have been redeemed and set apart by the Son, we should seek His holiness. Christ brought us with His very own blood, and we are to put off the old self which is corrupted (Ephesians 4:2:2; Hebrews 12:1; Romans 6:2). If Christ is the “head” of all creation, He should be the center of our lives as we allow Him shape our thoughts, actions and plans as we share in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:5). Romans 12:2 reads, “And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” If we are not pursuing God’s purpose in Christ for us by being transformed by the renewing of our minds, we will become stagnant in the faith. When we are stagnant, we are easily “conformed” into the mold of the world by the flesh’s lustful passions or life’s trails. Galatians 2:19-21 tells us that we are no longer under law! We are people of a new covenant; a covenant which God’s redemptive plan has been revealed. We no longer need priests to talk to God on our behalf, need sacrifices for sins (Hebrews 4:14-16), nor do we need prophets as God has given us wisdom and insight into His plan. The phrase at the end of every stanzas of this passage says, “to the praise of the glory.” This could imply that the Father should be praised for His redemption plan. We should be in a contestant state of worship, as we are before the throne (Ephesians 2:6).
Since we have been sealed and pledged by the Holy Spirit, we should save the promise. As I alluded to above, we, as disciples, are no longer looking for an earthy inheritance. We are looking towards a heavenly inheritance. We do this by devoting of ourselves to the reading of scripture, acts of service and fellowship with other believers. Prayer is important in this, as it helps us to gain a vertical view, a heavenly perspective, and avoid a horizontal focus which is on the temporary. As disciples, we stand in a shower of blessings of redemption as we stand inside of Christ as heirs. We must share (proclaim) the blessings as there are others who need their spiritual thirst to be quenched with the Living Water.
(THOMAS ALBERT KILIAN III - December, 17 2015 - Revision #2)
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Photo Credit: "Paul leaving Ephesus" by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld
Kilian is a well known preacher who has spoken at large while studying at Mid-Atlantic Christian University working towards BA. He currently holds an AA in Biblical Studies and is a Theta Alpha Kappa (a national honor society) member.