The first two verses contain three of the most important words in the foundation of the new life in Christ:
One of the great doctrinal words of this epistle, this word was commonly used in the pagan Greek religious terminology. Not only is it one of the great doctrinal words in the epistle to the Ephesians, it is also one of the great doctrinal words of Christianity, and one of the most misunderstood. In order to fully understand it’s "Theological" meaning today, we must first understand what it meant then, when it was first used in Holy Scripture.
In the Greek culture of A.D. 62 it meant "devoted to the gods."
In applying this word to believers, God takes it to a higher plane of existence.
The words saint, sanctify, sanctification, hallow, holy, holiness in the New Testament are all translations of this same Greek root, hagi. It describes both the initial act at salvation and the ongoing process as the believer grows in faith and practice:
We may not be perfect yet, but positionally, and because of Calvary, He has taken our imperfection and given us His perfection.
"saints," not because we are perfect, but because we are "set
apart for God."
However, we are not to be content in an imperfect state:
As Adam Clark wrote: "Saint properly signifies a ‘holy person,’ and such the Gospel of Christ requires every man to be, and such every true believer is, both in heart and life; but ‘saint’ appears to have been as ordinary a denomination of a believer in Christ in those primitive times, as the term Christian is now. Yet many had the name who had not the thing."
We can take a lesson from the study of Corinthians, where they were called "saints" (as to their standing), and yet they were not living lives "set apart" unto God (as to their state). We need to take heed lest we find ourselves "Christians (Christ’s ones) in name only, and not living lives truly set apart unto Christ.
Strong’s definition of "hagios": "sacred (physically, pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially, consecrated): (most) holy (one, thing), saint."
It is important to notice that this is coupled with faithfulness in verse one.
The Amplified Bible: "... to the saints (the consecrated, set-apart ones) ... faithful and loyal and steadfast in Christ Jesus"
The Greek scholar, Archbishop Trench, in his "Synonyms of the New Testament" says of this word, "It is hardly too much to say that the Greek mind has in no word uttered itself and all that was at its heart more distinctly than in this." This he said of the word "grace" as it was used by the Greeks in New Testament times.
Heart of God
Charis was also used
to describe an act that was beyond the ordinary course of what might be
expected, and was therefore admirable.
Once again, God takes the human word to a higher level of meaning. Romans 5:8 & 10 says: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us ... when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son" [NIV]
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines grace: "Favor or kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it and in spite of what that same person deserves."
This is another word rich in meaning. The
Greek verb means "to join."
Creamer defines peace: "... a state of untroubled, undisturbed well-being." It is used in contrast to strife, and to denote the absence or end of strife.
Jesus "made peace through the blood of His cross" (Col. 1:20) in that He by His death, satisfied the just demands of the law which we broke, thereby making it possible for a righteous and holy God to bestow mercy upon a believing sinner and do so without violating His justice. This bound together again the believing sinner and God, thus making peace. The law of God no longer has anything against him, and he can look up into the Father’s face unafraid and unashamed.
The letter to the Ephesians was written to those who were already experiencing "justifying peace." Here he is speaking of that state of untroubled, undisturbed tranquility and well-being produced in the heart of the yielded believer by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).
The amazing thing is that while we are still physically here on earth in this life, as believers are capable of enjoying the heavenly blessings.
Wuest says: "The phrase [in Christ] expresses the supreme idea that pervades the Epistle. Here it qualifies the whole statement of the blessing in its bestowal, its nature, and its seat. The divine blessing has its ground and reason in Christ, so that apart from Him it could have no relation to us. It is ours by reason of our being in Him as our Representative and Head."
Lightfoot: "... by virtue of our incorporation in, our union with, Christ."
Meyer: "In Him lay the cause that God blessed us with every spiritual blessing, since His act of redemption is the meritorious cause of this divine bestowal of blessing."
Throughout the letter to the Ephesians, we find over and over the pre-designed plan and purposes of God being fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He is the qualifier. It is in Him and Him alone that we have access to the heavenly promises, blessings, peace, justification, and all things God has designed for the redeemed. It by His blood and our faith in Him.
In the first chapter alone we find in Christ:
1:4 - According as He hath chosen us
Vincent says: "His blessing is in conformity with the fact that He chose." God's Long-range Purpose
Wuest quotes Expositors: "Here ‘Kathos’ designates the ground of the blessing and so is also the note of its grandeur. The blessing proceeded on the divine election, and took effect in accordance with that. It has its foundation, therefore, in eternity, and is neither an incidental thing nor an afterthought of God."
Clarke notes: "As he has decreed from the beginning of the world, and has kept in view from the commencement of the religious system of the Jews, ... to bring us Gentiles to the knowledge of this glorious state of salvation by Christ Jesus. The Jews considered themselves an elect or chosen people, and wished to monopolize the whole of the Divine love and beneficence. The apostle here shows that God had the Gentiles as much in the contemplation of his mercy and goodness as he had the Jews; and the blessings of the Gospel, now so freely dispensed to them, were the proof that God had thus chosen them, and that his end in giving them the Gospel was the same which he had in view by giving the law to the Jews ... that they might be holy and without blame before him. And as his object was the same in respect to them both, they should consider that, as he loved them, so they should love one another."
1:5 - He Predestined us (NIV)
The doctrine of predestination is probably one of the most hotly debated and controversial topics in the Christian world.
Here "predestination" is used to point out God’s fixed purpose which was to bestow on the believers, whether Jew or Gentile, the blessing of the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ.
As Clarke points out, the blessing of the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ was now offered to the Gentiles without circumcision or any of the other Mosaic rites. This was within God’s original design since, as verse 4 points out, God had formed this purpose before He had given the law - it was planned before the foundation of the earth.
From the same Greek word found in John 3:16, Romans 5:5, 8, Galatians 5:22 and I John 4:8 It speaks of the love that God is and with which He loves the lost, the love which is the product of the Holy spirit in the heart of the yielded believer. The perfect tense speaks of an action completed in past time having present, and in a context like this one, permanent results.
The English translation into 3 words "in the Beloved" are actually from one Greek word which is a participle in the perfect tense, and as Wuest says, is "... locative of sphere. God bestowed on us the grace which saved us, and did so in the sphere of the Lord Jesus, His Person and His work on the cross. His grace could not operate in our salvation apart from the atoning death of our Lord, for God is not only a loving God, but a righteous and just God who cannot pass by sin, but must require that it be paid for. Only thus can He manifest His grace."
REDEMPTION To ransom in full [Strong]
Thayer’s definition: "to redeem one by paying the price, to let one go free on receiving the price."
By Christ Our Kinsman (Purchased)
By Christ Our Scape-goat (Released)
1:8 Abounded MORE than enough
The word "abounded" is "perisseuo," = "to exceed a fixed number or measure, to be over and above a certain number or measure, to exist or be at hand in abundance" (Thayer). Moulton and Milligan give as the papyri usage, the meaning of the verb, "to remain over," and the meaning of the adjective, "over and above, superfluous," and quote extracts as follows: "more than enough has been written; if you find any purchasers of this surplus donkeys;" of the noun they say, "superfluity." Thus, the verb means "to exist in superfluity, to super-abound." The translation reads "which (grace) He super-abounded to (eis) us." That is, God’s grace was manifested to us in superabundance. It is an oversize grace. it is more than enough to save and keep saved for time and eternity, every sinner who comes to God in Christ Jesus. Paul uses this same verb in Rom 5:20 but prefixes the preposition "huper" which means "above," and the translation reads: "Where sin existed in abundance, grace existed in super-abundance, and then some on top of that."
1:9 Mystery of Redemption Fathomless Mystery
God’s grace is manifested in redemption is a mystery in virtue of its riches and depth - as the expression of God’s very nature. The mystery of the redemption in Christ, belonging to the eternal plan of God, could be known to men only through revelation - "making known." Expositors translates "the mystery touching or pertaining to His will." The word "will" is the translation, not of "boule" (a desire based upon the reason), but "thelama’ (a desire based upon the emotions). God’s will or desire here, comes from His heart of love.
This will or desire is "according to His good pleasure." This desire on God’s part is dominated by His good pleasure (eudokia).
This good pleasure is that "which He hath purposed in Himself." As Expositors so aptly puts it, "The purpose is god’s own free determination, originating in His own gracious mind."
1:10 All Things
"All things ... which are in heaven, and which are on earth." This clause is variously understood:
Some think, by "things in heaven" the Jewish state is meant; and by "things on earth" the Christian. The Jews had been long considered a divine or heavenly people; their doctrine, their government, their constitution, both civil and ecclesiastical, were all Divine or heavenly; as "the powers of the heavens," Mat 24:29, Luke 21:26, mean the Jewish rulers in Church and state, it is very possible that "the things which are in heaven" mean this same state; and as the Gentiles were considered to have nothing Divine or heavenly among them, they may be here intended by the earth, out of the corruption of which they are to be gathered by the preaching of the gospel.
But there are others who imagine that the "things in heaven" mean the angelical hosts; and "the things on earth" believers of all nations, who shall all be joined together at last in one assembly to worship God throughout eternity.
And some think that the "things in heaven" mean the saints who died before Christ’s advent, and who are not to be made perfect till the resurrection, when the full power and efficacy of Christ shall be seen in raising the bodies of believers and uniting them with their holy souls, to reign in his presence for ever.
And still others think that, as the Hebrew phrase "shamayim vehaarets," the "heavens and the earth," signifies all creatures, the words in the text are to be understood as kindreds, or tongues; Jews, Greeks, or barbarians. All that are saved of all nations (being saved in the same way, viz. by faith in Christ Jesus, without any distinction of nation or previous condition), and all gathered into one Church or assembly.
Clarke suggests that the forming one Church out of both Jews and Gentiles is that to which the apostle refers. This agrees with what is said in chapter 2:14-17. (Adam Clarke)
I submit that the Holy Ghost, which inspired the apostle, had all of the above in mind.
Sin has disarranged the creature’s relation of subordination to God. God means to gather up all together in Christ; or as Col 1:20 says, "By Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, whether things in earth or things in heaven." Alford well says, "The Church of which the apostle here mainly treats, is subordinated to Him in the highest degree of conscious and joyful union; those who are not His spiritually, in mere subjugation, yet consciously; the inferior tribes of creation unconsciously, but objectively, all are summed up in Him" (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown)
The purpose of God, therefore, is with a view to the administration that has to do with the completion of the seasons. At the close of the Messianic Kingdom, the Great White Throne judgment will take place at which all lost human beings, fallen angels, and demons will be judged. The material universe cursed by sin will be brought back to its pristine state, the saved of the human race will live on the new earth, and the endless eternal ages will begin. This is what is meant by an administration of the completion of the seasons. God will accomplish all this restoration work in and through the Lord Jesus and His atoning death on the Cross. He is the Head, the center around which God revolves everything He does in relation to sin and salvation. (Wuest)
1:11 An Inheritance
We are God's
The word "counsel" is ‘boule’ which has
in it the ideas of intelligence and deliberation.
God having determined to bring both Jews and Gentiles to salvation, not by works, nor by human means or schemes, but by Jesus Christ; that salvation being defined and determined before in the divine mind, and the means by which it should be brought about all being according to His purpose, who consults not His creatures, but operates according to the counsel of His own will, that being ever wise, gracious, and good.
The original reference is still kept up here in the word ‘prooristhentes,’ being predestinated, as in the word ‘proorisas’ ver. 5. And as the apostle speaks of obtaining the inheritance, he most evidently refers to that of which the promised land was the type and pledge. And as that land was assigned to the Israelites by limit and lot, both of which were appointed by God; so the salvation now sent to the Gentiles was as expressly their lot or portion, as the promised land was that of the people of Israel. All this shows that the Israelites were a typical people; their land, the manner of possessing it, their civil and religious code, &c., all typical, and that in, by, and through them, God had fore determined, fore described, and fore ascertained a greater and more glorious people, among whom the deepest counsels of His wisdom should be manifested, and the most powerful works of His eternal mercy, grace, holiness, goodness, and truth, be fully exhibited. Thus there was nothing fortuitous in the Christian scheme, all was the result of infinite counsel and design. (Clarke)
Both are to conquer evil. In each it was only those who believed that were able to appropriate the promise.
The word "sealed" is ‘sphragizo,’ = "to set a seal upon, mark with a seal." The papyri afford the following examples of its use:
The Scofield Bible footnote is helpful: "The Holy Spirit is Himself the seal. In the symbolism of Scripture a seal signifies:
It was customary among all nations, when a person purchased goods of any kind, to mark with his seal that which he had bought, in order that he might know it, and be able to claim it if mixed with the goods of others; to this custom the apostle may here allude but it was also customary to set a seal upon what was dedicated to God, or what was to be offered to Him in sacrifice. The Jews themselves speak of the seal of God, which they term ‘emeth,’ truth, and which they consider as a representation of the endless perfections of God. As the apostle is here speaking of the doctrine of truth, which came by the Holy Spirit, and is sealed on the souls of believers by this spirit, he may have in view the Jewish notion, which is at once both correct and elevated. (Clarke)
A seal impressed on a document gives undoubted validity to the contract in it (Jn. 3:33; 6:27). So the sense of "the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 5:5), and the sense of adoption given through the spirit of regeneration (Rom. 8:15, 16), assure believers of God’s good-will to them. The spirit, like a seal, impresses on the soul at regeneration the image of our Father. The "sealing" by the Holy Spirit is spoken of as past once for all. The witnessing to our hearts that we are the children of God, and heirs (v. 11), is the spirit’s present testimony, the "earnest of the (coming) inheritance" (Rom. 8:16-18). (Jamieson, Faussett & Brown)
We were created with His "seal" - in His likeness - but lost it spiritually through sin. It is restored through faith in the blood of His cross.
1:14 The Guarantee
The Holy Spirit is described as "the earnest of our inheritance." Vincent defines it as "caution-money deposited by a purchaser in pledge of full payment." The papyri give us the following examples:
The Holy spirit is this guarantee until "the redemption
of the purchased possession." The words "purchased possession"
are ‘peripoiesis,’ which "expresses the general idea of
preserving, acquiring, gaining for one’s self, without specific reference to a
It is translated:
1:15-23 Prayer to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ
Translation by Wuest:
1:18-23 The Effect and Elements of the Prayer
1:18, 19 Eyes be Enlightened
As Philo expresses it: "What the eye is to the body, the understanding is to the soul; and that as the eye is not light in itself, and can discern nothing but by the means of light shining, not only on the objects to be viewed, but into the eye itself; so the understanding of man can discern no sacred thing of or by itself, but sees by the influence of the spirit of wisdom and revelation; for without the influence of God’s Holy spirit no man ever became wise unto salvation, no more than a man ever discerned an object (no matter how perfect soever his eye might have been), without the instrumentality of light." (Clarke)
The Greek is, "the eyes of your heart," the heart referring not only to the emotional nature, but also to the reason and to the faculty of intelligence. The words, "being enlightened," are a perfect participle in the Greek text, referring to a past complete act having present results. The translation reads, "the eyes of your heart having been enlightened with the present result that they are in a state of illumination." That is, Paul is praying that a permanent work of the Holy spirit be done in the human spirits of these saints, that their inner spiritual capacities for understanding the truth may be the recipients of a lasting benefit, and this with a view to their knowing three things:
Hope of His Calling
Riches of His Glory
The Greatness of
Paul uses four words here, all having the general meaning of power:
To put these together we have, "and what is the super abounding greatness of His inherent power (dunamis) to us who are believing ones as measured by the operative energy (energeia) of the manifested strength (kratos) of His might (ischuos) ." (Wuest)
Paul prays that they might KNOW = by experience
TRANSLATION, AMPLIFIED BIBLE:
1:21 We are "Far Above"
The word "world" is not ‘kosmon,’ "the created universe," but ‘aion,’ "age". It speaks of duration; it speaks of this present state of things, and in the words, "but also in that which is to come," of the future state of things. (Wuest)
The difficulty in this verse does not arise from the words themselves, the meaning of each being easily understood, but from the Sense in which the apostle uses them.
And he observes that Jesus Christ, after His resurrection, called fishermen, publicans, and men from the lowest orders of the people, to the work of the ministry; and made them instruments of confounding and overturning all the Jewish rulers, rabbins, and doctors.
Some philosophizing teachers of the school of Simon Magus (Acts chapter 8), in Western Asia Minor, had, according to Irenaeus and Epiphanius, taught their hearers these names of various ranks of angels. Paul shows that the truest wisdom is to know Christ as reigning above them all. (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown)
"Head" implies not only His dominion, but our union; therefore, while we look upon Him at the Right hand of God, we see ourselves in heaven (Rev. 3:21). For the Head and body are not severed by anything intervening, else the body would cease to be the body, and the Head cease to be the Head. (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown)
Neither the Head nor the body can exist independently without the other.
1:23 We are His Fullness
The word "fullness" is ‘pleroma.’ Thayer gives the following: "that which is or has been filled; used of a ship inasmuch as it is filled (i.e. manned) with sailors, rowers, and soldiers; in the New Testament, the body of believers, as that which is filled with the presence, power, agency, riches of God and of Christ." Alford says, "the meaning being, that the church, being the body of Christ, is dwelt in and filled with God: it is His ‘pleroma’ (fullness) in an especial manner - His fullness abides in it and is exemplified by it." Expositors comments: "The idea is that the church is not only Christ’s body but that which is filled by Him. In Co. 1:19; 2:9, the whole ‘pleroma’ or every plenitude of the Godhead, the very fullness of the Godhead, the totality of the divine powers and qualities, is said to be recognized as Framer and Governor of the world, and there is neither need nor place for any intermediate beings as agents in those works of creating, upholding and administering. Here the conception is that this plenitude of the divine powers and qualities which is in Christ is imparted by Him to His Church, so that the latter is pervaded by His presence, animated by His life, filled with His gifts and energies and graces.