Before we can get into the beautiful and powerful description of who God is and what God is doing in us through Christ that we find in Ephesians 1, we first have to tackle the headings.
This is where the NIV committee that assigns headings has themselves all tied up. The heading for 1:3-14 is “Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ” but the section starts out, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” and goes on to extensively lay out many of Paul’s views about who God is and what God has done for us through Christ. So Christ is in there but the main person being discussed in these verses is God the Father.
They do this again with the heading for 2:1-10 which reads “Made Alive in Christ” but in that section you have:
- “because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ…” (2:4)
- “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…” (2:6)
- “in order that in the coming ages he might show…” (that is God again) (2:7)
Christ is in these verses but the heavier emphasis is put on God the Father, that he is the one pushing these things through. They finally get it right in 3:1 “God’s marvelous plan for the Gentiles”
I just had to get that out of my system
What Paul says about God’s work in us through Christ
Paul starts his description of what God has done by saying we have “every spiritual blessing in Christ” and goes on to list them. When we hear “spiritual” it is easy to jump to “non-material”. In the writings of Paul, “spiritual” has more to do with the work of the Holy Spirit (1:3, 13, 17) than it does with non-material things. Here are is what Paul says God has done for us in Ephesians 1:3-14:
- Blessed us – 1:3
- Choose us – 1:4
- Predestined us – 1:5
- Given us grace – 1:6
- Redeemed us – 1:7
- Forgave us – 1:7
- Lavished on us the riches of his grace – 1:7-8
- Made known to us the mystery of his will – 1:9
- Chose us – 1:11
- Predestined us – 1:11
- Included in Christ – 1:13
- Marked with the Holy Spirit – 1:13
These words were meant to have an effect on the readers of the letter and, as a result, an effect on us. First is what Paul said about God.
- God is powerful/able
- God is loving and merciful
- God has and gives blessings
- God’s provision is abundant
- God is revealing things among them that had been a mystery for ages past. This reveals to us something about the knowledge and power of God. God knows things we don’t and God is the powerful one who decides when and how He is going to reveal His plan to us. If he doesn’t reveal it, it remains a mystery. But praise God he has seen fit to reveal the mystery (1:8-10)to us through His Word. More on that mystery later.
What does this say about us?
- We have been blessed by God
- Chosen by God
- Forgiven by God and his abundant grace
- We have no fears, no worries…no trials that cannot be overcome with God doing all of this on our behalf.
- That all of this should result in us being the praise of the glory of God (1:12)
Mystery and wisdom (1:8-10)
The mystery that is being revealed in Ephesians is that God is bringing unity to all things in heaven and on earth through Christ (see also revelation 21:1 & Romans 8:18-25). When the time was right this unity/reconciliation was a mystery God planned on revealing. He did reveal it to us, ultimately by his wisdom (as he already understood the mystery) and through Christ. In a moment Paul is going to pray for them to have a “Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better…that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people…” (1:17-18). Paul wants them to know God and understand what God is doing in the world and in them.
Holy Spirit (1:13-14)
Last, is the Holy Spirit. Paul can say anything he wants to say but how do we know it’s true? The Holy Spirit is the guarantee that what he is saying really will work out. The Spirit is a deposit that gives us assurance that God really is going to do what He said he was going to do. What is more, both Jew and Gentile Christian alike have the same deposit of guarantee – the Holy Spirit
God is ultimately working in this world for our good. He is actively pursuing us, providing for us and re-creating us through the blood of his son to make us into a new creation. Now, the rest of Ephesians is going to lay out what that new creation looks like, particularly when it comes to unifying both Jewish and Gentile Christians (chapters 2-3) and how it is lived out pratically (chapters 4-6). You hear hints of that in 1:12-13 “in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth…” I have wondered if this distinction is a distinction of time over culture but I don’t think that is the case. What I mean by that is that the Ephesians weren’t the first converts to Christianity. Paul didn’t reach them until his second and third journeys. So there were those who heard the message first and now also the Ephesians. That is possible. But if you read 1:12-13 in light of Ephesians 1-3 you can’t help but think that he has already begun the language of the mystery of the Gospel of Christ…that God is unifying both Jews and Gentiles under Christ.
It all goes back to praise…
All of this is for God’s praise and glory. Why? Because he is the one who planned all of this, initiated all of this and had the power to carry it through to completion for us – we have no boast except to boast in Christ. It is such a joy to serve a God who has acted in these ways on our behalf. More on the mystery Paul is talking about as well as election and predestination in a later post.