The book of Ephesians is the epistle that unfolds the great truth of ‘the mystery’, which, as we shall see, has been hid in God from ages and generations. It was given to the apostle Paul to reveal this truth to the saints, 3. 3-4, and that this mystery unfolds the present unity of all the redeemed, irrespective of nationality. They now form the body of Christ, of which He is the head. The six chapters manifest the exalted position believers presently enjoy, as we are now seen to be ‘in Christ’. In chapter 1, we have blessings that cannot be denied. In chapter 2, we have a body that cannot be dismembered. In chapter 3, it is a building that cannot be demolished. In chapter 4, it is a book that cannot be divided, and a bond that cannot be destroyed. In chapter 5, we have a bride that cannot be divorced, and this is followed in chapter 6 by a battle in which we cannot be defeated.
The letter divides itself into three sections, chapters 1-3, where we have our heavenly calling. Chapters 4-5 bring before us our earthly conduct, and chapter 6 our Satanic conflict. In chapters 1-3 we are sitting in heavenly places. This is followed by our walk, chapters 4-5, and, in chapter 6, we are bidden to stand on the ground that the Lord has won for us.
The opening chapter reveals in verses 1-9 the purpose of God; this is followed in verses 10-14 by the prospect for Christ, when He will take universal government in association with His own. Then, verses 15-23, we have the prayer of Paul when He is praying home the ministry he has given.
The purpose of God, vv. 1-9
The Epistle is not written to a church but to saints, that is, holy ones, for this truth is for all believers. Paul begins with blessing God as he appreciates all that has been done for us in Christ. If we bless God it is because He has blessed us. These blessings far surpass what was done for Israel in a former day. Their blessings were in Abraham; ours are in Christ. Nor are they earthly, as those belonging to the Israelites, for ours are in heavenly places. Israel’s blessings were also natural, whereas ours are seen to be spiritual blessings.
If God has blessed us, v. 3, we now find that these blessings are commensurate with the choice He made of us in verse 4. Here we have a truth that is not for the world, but a truth for saints to enjoy. This is not for believers to fight over, but something to cause the heart to rise in praise for the effective work of God with us. The statement is very clear that it was God who chose us, and the time of the divine choice was long before the worlds were framed.
How delightful to ponder the fact that there was never a time when we were not in the mind and heart of God! The purpose of the divine choice is also taught: it was that we should be ‘holy and without blame before Him in love’. Does this refer to our present place in divine purpose, and is it how the Lord now sees us? Or is it the fact that the eternal purpose of God is in view, and we will ever be before Him, that is, face to face, in such a state as is here seen? When we are in His presence it will be in love.
Not only so but such is the call of God that we shall also be in His presence as sons. This is the truth of predestination, that is, marking out beforehand the destiny which we are to enjoy. The word ‘adoption’ carries the thought of ‘son placing’, and all is ‘in Christ’ and according to the good pleasure of God’s will; no other reason is given for the kindness of God toward us. We have nothing without Christ, but in Christ we have all things!
If the actions of God are determined by His own will, the reaction by the saints is to raise an anthem of praise in verse 6, this is, ‘to the praise of the glory of His grace’, which is because of what we are now, sons. If grace is the means of blessing, such blessing will give eternal glory to the Lord. Not only so, but we have found acceptance in the Lord Jesus. What Christ is to the Father, as His beloved, is exactly what He has made us!
The previous verses relate to the eternal purpose of God who chose us, predestined us, and accepted us. Now, as we are in time, He had to redeem us. Redemption could only be through the precious blood of Christ, and alongside this is the forgiveness of sins. It is little wonder He speaks of the ‘riches of His grace’, v. 7. The glory of His grace makes us sons in the family, but the riches of His grace finds us as sinners, and brings in redemption and forgiveness. In these verses we have the praise that resounds, the placing He gives, the price that it cost, and the promise He made, even the forgiveness of sins!
A further aspect of the movements of God toward us is seen in verse 8, when He has ‘abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence’. The great truth the Lord reveals is that which will see the Lord Jesus glorified in this world, but not by Himself. It will be in association with His saints. This is why it is called ‘the mystery of his will’. That Christ is going to take up universal government is a well-known fact from the Old Testament; that believers of this present age are going to share in that rule was not revealed in the Old Testament, and this is why it is called ‘the mystery of his will’, for all New Testament mysteries bring before us something that was not known in any former dispensation. Again, this is just because God willed it so; He hath purposed it in Himself.
The prospect of glory, vv. 10-14
The mind of God is that ultimately the administration of this world should find its completion not only in the earthly sphere, but also in the uniting of the heavens with it. This recalls the words of the Lord to Nathaniel in John chapter 1 verse 51. When speaking of the coming millennium, He says, ‘hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man’. The original
purpose of God, to see a man ruling the world, will then be realized, and links with heaven will be restored. That this refers to the kingdom cannot be disputed, for all is in relation to Christ; in the eternal state the Son will be ‘subject unto him who put all things under him, that God may be all in all’, 1 Cor. 15. 28.
Verse 11 introduces the believers who will share with Christ in His coming glory. As 2 Timothy chapter 2 verse 12 teaches, we shall reign with the Lord during the day of His public honour, cp. Rev. 5. 10. This again has been marked out beforehand, as the Lord has predestined us, ‘according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will’. All will be for the divine pleasure, and to the praise of His glory. Those who ‘first trusted’ would be those of the early chapters in Acts who were looking for Messianic glory. Gentiles are set forth as also having a part in this honour. William Kelly writes, ‘He means that we should share the glory along with Christ. Thus there are two great parts in the mystery of His will. The first is Christ, the second is the Church’.1
These first fourteen verses bring before us:
- the sovereignty of God, v. 4;
- the sufferings of Christ, v. 7; and
- the sealing of the Spirit, v. 13.
How precious to see the movements of the Spirit of God toward us as the Father confirms the work of grace in us! The ground of salvation is clearly revealed as we have heard, believed, and were then sealed. To seal us indicates that at the moment of salvation the Lord immediately sets us apart for Himself, and the seal is the sign of ownership. The reading is ‘upon believing’, v. 13. The Spirit of God is given to the believer the moment he is saved, and it is this alone that enables us to call God ‘Father’, cp. Gal. 4. 6. That every believer receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion is confirmed in Romans chapter 8 verse 9 where we see that ‘if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his’.
The Holy Spirit of God is not only given to us as a seal, indicating that we are divine property, but He is also an ‘earnest’. This would manifest that we have property – that property is the place we shall share with Christ in the kingdom, seen in Romans chapter 8 verses 18-22, when ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us’, and when the worlds recovered at the manifestation of the sons of God become the inheritance unfolded here in Ephesians. The earnest is the guarantee that we will receive all that God has purposed and promised.
The final redemption of ‘the purchased possession’ will only be known when the Lord returns in great glory with His own. The coming kingdom will be unto the praise of His glory. These first fourteen verses manifest how that the whole of the Godhead is moving for the blessing of the saints. God chose us, and chose to have us in His presence as sons. They show how He has accepted us in the Son, and, finally, how we will share with the Lord Jesus in His future glory.
- William Kelly, Lectures on the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, Bible Truth Publishers, 1972, pg. 26.