Ephesians 1:1-23 - Outline of Ephesians (Book Notes menu page)
The letter to the Ephesians is one of the four "prison epistles," which Paul wrote while in prison in Rome. These include: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. The first three epistles present a thorough picture of God's design for the NT church. The fourth is a personal letter to Philemon, which provides a wonderful illustration of reconciliation which rests upon imputed righteousness.

The three church epistles each have a specific emphasis:

All of these letters were apparently sent out at about the same time (c.64 AD). The letter to the Philippians was carried by Epaphroditus (Php 2:25; 4:18). The other three letters were carried by Tychicus, who was accompanied by other brothers, including Onesimus, who is the subject of the letter to Philemon (Eph 6:21; Col 4:7-9; Phm 1:10).

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.
Paul introduces himself, as an apostle of {a messenger sent by} Jesus Christ,
and commissioned by the will of God. He did not take this office to himself, but was obedient to the call of God.
He writes "to the saints," ie., those who are 'set apart' unto God
through faith in Christ Jesus. The word 'faithful' can also be translated 'believing.'
...in Christ Jesus.- This is the key phrase in Ephesians.
Through faith in Christ, believers are identified with Him, and placed in Him. All of the blessings which we have, including Grace (ie., unmerited favor) and Peace (ie., both the Peace with God, Rom 5:1, and the Peace of God, Php 4:6,7), come to us from God, because we are 'in Christ.' This is the theme of this letter, as can be readily seen as the text continues. (Note the underlined words.)
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:
Even before the foundation of the world, God had determined to give His beloved Son, for you and me.
"Before the foundation {GK=katabole, throwing down, depositing of seed} of the world {GK=kosmos, arrangement, order}" may refer to 'prior to the creation' or 'prior to the establishment of the world system.' God knew, beforehand, that the world of men would be corrupted by sin. Therefore, in great mercy, He established His plan of salvation, prior to man's fall.
...chosen in Him... that we should be holy and without blame before Him...
Jesus was set apart as "the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world" (Joh 1:29). By His sacrificial death and resurrection, He redeemed His own (those who are 'in Christ') out of this sinful world, and from our own sinfulness. If you are among the redeemed, you no longer bow to the evil one, for you belong to "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev 13:8, where the unsaved world worships the Antichrist).
     God's purpose in sending the Savior was "that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love" (v.4). It is only through Christ's sacrifice, that sinners can be transformed into "saints" {holy ones, set apart for God}. For when He takes away your sin, your guilt is displaced by His righteousness and you are set apart as a child of the heavenly Father, to serve Him. cp. 1Joh 3:5-9
5 Having predestinated us unto
the adoption of children
{ie., sons} 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.
He hath chosen {elected} us (v.4)... having predestinated us (v.5)...-
   What is the difference between election and predestination?
  • Election - relates to how a sinner becomes a child of God.
    In v.4, we saw that God 'chose' or 'elected' those who would become His children, long before they recognized their need for the Savior. Yet, the offer of salvation and sonship is to "whosoever believeth in Him" (Joh 3:15,16), and "to as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on His name" (Joh 1:12,13).
       The apparent conflict, between God's sovereign choice and man's free will, has caused great debates among theologians. However, according to the scriptures, both are true. The 'saved' are those who willingly believe in Christ, in response to the Gospel message, which is freely proclaimed to all (Acts 16:31; Rom 10:8-13). Yet, those who believe are "elect {ie., chosen} according to the foreknowledge of God" (1Pet 1:2).
       One aspect of God's foreknowledge is that He knows the end from the beginning. Therefore, He has always known who would receive Christ as Savior, even before they made that decision. But that explanation of foreknowledge is not completely satisfactory, because that which God foreknows will certainly come to pass (cp. Acts 2:23). Thus, we read that only those whom the Father gives to the Son, will come to Him (Joh 6:37,44), and even the ability to believe is a gift from God (Eph 2:8,9).
       No man can claim that he has been excluded, because the Lord Jesus Christ personally extends an invitation to everyone (Mat 11:28; Joh 7:37; Rev 22:17). Neither can any man boast in being included among the chosen, for all are condemned in sin, and all who believe are saved, apart from any merit of their own (Rom 3:20-28).
       The 'elect' are those who trust in Christ. Those who trust in Christ are the elect. Which ever way you prefer to state it, such believers have become children of God, through being born again of God's Spirit, through faith in God's Beloved Son. God's children are 'sealed' as His purchased possessions, by the Holy Spirit. Note that this sealing occurs after they believe (v.13,14). Yet, God's children possess eternal life (which by definition, has no beginning or end)... eternal life which is 'in Christ' (1Joh 5:10-12). Here is another aspect of God's foreknowledge. Since, from eternity past, God the Father knew His Son, He also foreknew those who were 'in Him.' (eg., Long before his birth, Levi was present 'in Abraham.' Heb 7:9,10)
       Thus, we see that 'election' pertains to all who have (or will) become God's children, by simple faith in the One who drew them and purchased them, by and for Himself. While God has extended His Grace to all, the 'elect' respond in faith, and He births them into eternal life (Joh 1:11-13).
  • Predestination - relates to how God's newborn child becomes a mature son.
    In v.5, we see that God has predestinated {GK=proorizo, predestined, predetermined, fore-ordained, previously appointed} each of His children, to grow up to be mature sons. The phrase "adoption of children" is translated from one word {GK=huiothesia, establishment as a son}. This does not refer to adoption into God's family. (God has no adopted children.) Entrance into God's family requires new birth, through faith in Christ (Joh 3:3; 1:12,13). Rather, "adoption" refers to a maturing child being "placed as a son," into a position of privilege and responsibility in the Father's business.
       God's purpose, for each of His children, is that they will reach that place of maturity that He intends for them. It is "the good pleasure of His will" (v.5c), that we should be like His Beloved Son (Rom 8:28-30).
       Predestination does not pre-determine whether a man is destined for heaven or hell. But all who are God's children (the chosen ones, who have freely received the freely offered gift of salvation) are predestined to be fit for the Father's Presence.
He hath made us accepted in the beloved...-
God gave His Beloved Son for us. Did God love us more than Him? No, He loves us because we are "in Him." We were the enemies of God, dead in our trespasses and sins. But God sent His Son, to purchase us for Himself with His own blood. Because He came, and because we believed, "He (God) has made us accepted in the Beloved." (v.6)
     Think about that. We are not acceptable before God because we are nice, or because we belong to a good church, or have good friends, or a good pastor. We are not acceptable because we hold right doctrine (although that is important), or because we read the right Bible version, or because of how hard we labor, or how much we give to further the Gospel. The thing that makes us acceptable before God is that we are "in Christ."
     Now, if you are "in Christ," God loves you with the same love that He has for His Beloved Son. Not more, not less, but the same love.
     Some time ago, a sister, who was suffering with terminal cancer, told me that Matthew is one of her favorite Bible books, and that Matthew chapter 6 is one of her favorite chapters, and that the word "is" is her favorite word in that chapter: "Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. Amen" (Mat 6:13). While we are in the world, waiting for the King to return, to establish His Kingdom, and to make all things new, we endure many troubles. Jesus warned us "in the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (Joh 16:33). You see, the King is on His throne. His children are secure "though Satan should buffet, though trials should come..."
     But here, in Ephesians ch. 1, the operative word is not "is" but "in." All, that God's children have and are... their comfort, their blessed assurance, their hope, their life... is in Christ Jesus. We see this in the very first verse (v.1)...
     The letter is addressed to "the faithful in Christ Jesus." As we noted earlier, that does not mean those who are especially loyal to the work. The word "faithful" is the word for "believing." Paul is writing to those whose confidence is in Christ Jesus. He is eternally the Christ, the anointed One, who came into the world as the God-man, Jesus, to save His people from their sins.
     When a person puts his or her faith in the Savior, the Holy Spirit baptizes that person into the body of Christ (1Cor 12:12,13), and he or she becomes a born again child of God. "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, and behold all things are become new." (2Cor 5:17)
     Verses 2,3 tell us that God's children have been blessed with "all spiritual blessings." These are not earthly gifts, but blessings belonging to the heavenly realm of the King. In fact, these blessings are "in Christ."
     These blessings belong to...
  • those whom God "hath chosen in Him"(v.4)
  • those who are accepted in the Beloved (v.6).
    The word "accepted" is the same word which the angel used in addressing Mary as "highly favored" (Luk 1:28).
God has graced us beyond measure, because we are in His Beloved Son.
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:
In whom we have...
  • redemption {GK=apolutrosis} through His blood - 1Pet 1:18,19; 2:24; 3:18; 1John 2:2; 4:10
    The price of redemption was the blood of Christ, by which He redeemed {purchased} all who belong to Him.
    In the NT, several GK words are translated 'redeem' or 'redemption':
    • agorizo - to purchase from the market {ie., the slave market}: Rev 5:9
    • exagorizo - to buy out of the market as a permanent possession, never to be sold again: Gal 3:13; 4:5
    • apolutrosis (lit., a loosing from) - to deliver, to set free: v.7; Rom 3:24-26
  • the forgiveness {GK=aphesis, pardon, release} of sins - Acts 10:43; 13:38,39; Col 2:13; 1Joh 1:7-9
  • the abundant riches of His grace, which God has bestowed on us through His wisdom and prudence.
    "O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable are his jugments and his ways past finding out" (Rom 11:33).
These riches are "in Christ."
They have been made known to us, (v.9c) according to God's good pleasure, which He purposed "in Himself." Apart from Him, we would be hopelessly lost and undone, forever excluded from the blessedness which is found only 'in Him.'
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:
All of God's purposes, in heaven and in earth, will reach their culmination,
when they are summed up "in Christ... even in Him."
When the closing season of earthly time reaches completion, the final dispensation {administrative arrangement} will be the eternal Kingdom of God and of the Lamb. cp. 2Cor 1:20; Rev 22:1-5
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.
in whom we have... an inheritance...
(which Peter tells us is "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God..." 1Pet 1:4,5).
     Notice again, in v.12, the purpose to which God has predestined His children: "that we should be to the praise of His glory" upon reaching maturity as His sons (cp. v.5,6).
We who? We who "first trusted" {or, we who "did previously place our hope"} "in Christ."
In v.12, 'we who first trusted in Christ' probably refers to the apostles, to Paul and his missionary associates, or perhaps to the early Jewish Christians. 'We,' who had previously come to faith, proclaimed Christ to 'you' Gentiles, in Ephesus (with the result, shown in v.13)...
"in whom" ye also trusted after that ye heard...
"in whom"... after ye believed, ye were sealed...- Observe the order:
  1. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Rom 10:17
  2. Following faith in Christ, the believer is sealed with the Spirit of God. 1Cor 12:12,13; 2Cor 1:21,22
'ye' were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise... the earnest of 'our' inheritance.-
Having been permanently identified with Christ, by the Holy Spirit's baptism and indwelling, the new believers became heirs of the promises which pertain to 'we' who are 'in Christ' (as described in v.3-12).
     However, as new-born children of God, we who have placed our faith "in the Lord Jesus," need to grow up into maturity as Sons of God. To that end, Paul prays...
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;
[Note: In some MSS the word 'understanding' {GK=dianoia, mind, ie., your full contemplation} is 'heart' {GK=kardia, ie., your whole being}.]
that ye may know what is the hope of his calling,
and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
Paul prays, first, expressing joyful gratitude to the Lord (v.15,16),
who had begun working in the new believers, by bringing them into the faith (v.12-14)...
Paul prays, next, requesting the Lord to further His work of maturing His children...
so that believers (we) would be able to deeply comprehend (v.17,18)...
  1. a true and full knowledge of our Savior and Lord.
    Paul prays that the Spirit would give us wisdom {GK=sophia, clarity} and revelation {GK=apokalupsis, unveiled insight}, that we would know Him, thoroughly and without distortion. cp. 1Cor 2:9,10; Php 3:10
  2. the hope {expectation} of His calling.-
    ie., What God has planned for we, whom He has called to be His sons (eg., Rom 8:28-30).
  3. the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.-
    Paul previously mentioned the immeasurable wealth of wonderful spiritual blessings which belong to us, because we are in Christ, and therefore belong to Him. eg. v.11; cp. Eph 3:16
       But here, he prays that we would comprehend "the glory of His inheritance in the saints." Because of who Christ is and what He has done for us, in obedience to the Father's will, God has exalted Him to the highest possible position (v.21,22; Php 2:9-11). His grace, in saving lost sinners and joining them to Himself, demonstrates His matchless glory (v.6,12; Eph 3:10,11). While our inheritance is in Him, His glory is revealed in those whom He redeemed to be His own.
  4. that we might understand the greatness of God's power in behalf of we who believe:
    the same power which He exercised "in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead" (v.19,20).
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.
The power of God the Father is inconceivably great.
  1. Its description: Paul multiplies words as he struggles to describe this power.
    It is of surpassing magnitude, a power {GK=dunamis, inexplicable force}, which is working {GK=energeia, effectually operating} according to the strength of God's power {GK=kratos, manifested dominion}.
  2. Its demonstration: By His incomparable power, God the Father
    raised His Beloved Son, Jesus, from the dead and exalted Him far above all others (v.20-23).
    • God has placed His Son in a position of absolute dominion over every entity and every form of authority, whether of men or spirit beings. cp. Php 2:9-11
    • God has set Him to be the head of His body, the church, the assembly of all who are "in Him."
      Do you understand that the Head and the Body are inseparably one?
      The power, which exalted the Head, also enables His Body... for it is "to usward who believe" (v.19).
      The body is "the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (v.23).
      The body fulfills and complements the Head. He fills every member of His body.
      • "...I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." (Joh 14:20)
      • "...He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (Joh 15:5)
      • "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." (Col 3:1-4)
With these things in mind, read again v.3-12.

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