1:1. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus. The word apostle is used in three senses in the New Testament:
1. In its primary sense of 'messenger': John 13:16 (the messenger).
2. In the sense of missionaries, men sent by the church to preach the Gospel. In this sense Paul and Barnabas are called apostles, Acts 14:4, 14; and probably Andronicus and Junias, Romans 16:7.
3. In the sense of plenipotentiaries of Christ; men whom he personally selected and sent out invested with full authority to teach and rule in his name. In this sense it is always used when 'the apostles,' 'the twelve,' or 'the apostles of the Lord' are spoken of as a well-known, definite category of people. They were appointed as witnesses of Christ's miracles, doctrines, resurrection; and therefore it was necessary that they should not only have seen him after his resurrection, but that their knowledge of the Gospel should be immediately from Christ, John 15:26; Acts 1:22, 2:32, 3:15, 13:31, 26:16; 1 Corinthians 9:1; Galatians 1:12. They were not confined to any one territory, but had a general jurisdiction over the churches, as is manifest from their letters. To qualify for this office of authoritative teaching, organizing, and governing the church, they were made infallible by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and their divine mission was confirmed by miraculous powers. Their authority, therefore, rested, first, on their commission, and secondly on their inspiration. Hence, it is evident that no one can have the authority of an apostle who does not have apostolic gifts.
To the saints who are in Ephesus. The Israelites, under the old dispensation, were called saints, because they were separated from other nations and consecrated to God. In the New Testament the word is applied to believers, not merely as externally consecrated, but as reconciled to God and inwardly purified. The Greek word from which the word 'saint' is derived signifies 'to cleanse,' either from guilt by a propitiatory sacrifice, as in Hebrews 2:11 and 9:10, 14, or from inward pollution, and also to consecrate. Hence, saints are those who are cleansed by the blood of Christ, and by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, and thus separated from the world and consecrated to God.
Are faithful in Christ Jesus. The faithful are believers.
1:2. This verse contains the usual apostolic blessing. Paul prays that grace and peace may be granted to his readers. Grace is unmerited favour; and the grace or favour of God is the source of all good. Peace, according to how the corresponding Hebrew word is used, means well-being in general. It includes all blessings flowing from the goodness of God.
The apostle blesses God for the spiritual gifts bestowed on his people (Ephesians 1:3). Of these the first in order and the source of all the others is election (Ephesians 1:4). This election is; 1. Of individuals. 2. In Christ. 3. It is from eternity. 4. It is to holiness, and to the dignity of sons of God. 5. It is founded on the sovereign pleasure of God (verses 4–5). 6. Its final object is the glory of God, or the manifestation of his grace (Ephesians 1:6).
The second blessing mentioned here is actual redemption through the blood of Christ; the free remission of sins according to the riches of his grace (verses 7–8).
The third blessing is the revelation of the divine purpose in relation to the system of redemption; which has for its object the reduction of all things to a harmonious whole under Jesus Christ (verses 9–10).
Through this Redeemer, the Jewish Christians, who had long looked for the Messiah, are made heirs of God, in accordance with the divine purpose (verses 11–12).
The Gentile converts are partakers of the same inheritance, because, having believed in Christ, they are assured of their redemption by the possession of the Holy Spirit, the pledge of the inheritance until its actual and complete enjoyment (verses 13–14).
1:3. The Greek word used here, like its English equivalent, 'to bless,' signifies to praise, as when we bless God; to pray for blessings, as when we bless others; and to bestow blessings, as when God blesses us. 'Praise to the God who has blessed us' is then the expression of thanksgiving and praise to God on account of those special benefits which we receive from him through Christ.
In the heavenly places. The meaning is that these blessings pertain to that heavenly state into which the believer is introduced. Here on earth he is, as the apostle says in Ephesians 3:6, 'in the heavenly realms.' He is a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20). The word 'heaven,' in Scripture, is not confined to the place or state of future blessedness, but is sometimes nearly equivalent to 'kingdom of heaven.'
1:4. All these blessings have their source in the electing love of God. He blessed us – because he chose us. Election is the cause or source of all subsequent benefits.
If election is for holiness, as the apostle teachers here, it follows, first, that individuals, and not communities or nations, are the objects of election; secondly, that holiness cannot in any form be the ground of election. If men are chosen to be holy, they cannot be chosen because they are holy. And, thirdly, it follows that holiness is the only evidence of election. For one who lives in sin to claim to be elected for holiness is a contradiction.
1:5. The apostle says, God has chosen us for holiness, having predestinated us to sonship; that is, because he has thus predestinated us. Holiness, therefore, must be a necessary condition or prerequisite for the sonship here spoken of Sonship, in reference to God, includes:
1. Participation of his nature, or conformity to his image.
2. They enjoyment of his favour, or being the special objects of his love.
3. Heirship, or a participation of the glory and blessedness of God.
The ground of this predestination, and of the election founded on it, is expressed by the clause, according to the good pleasure of his will.
1:6. The final purpose of election is the glory of God. He has predestinated us to sonship, to the praise of his glorious grace. That is, in order that in the exaltation and blessedness of his people there might be abundant reason for celebrating his grace. It is worth noting that here, as in Ephesians 2:7, 1 Corinthians 1:27–29, and elsewhere, the specific purpose of redemption and of the way in which its blessings are dispensed, is declared to be the manifestation of the grace or unmerited favour of God. Nothing, therefore, can be more foreign to the nature of the Gospel than the doctrine of merit in any form. It is uncongenial with that great scheme of mercy whose principal purpose is to exhibit the grace of God.
1:7. In him we have redemption. In him, means not in ourselves. We are not self- redeemed. Christ is our Redeemer. The word 'redemption' sometimes means deliverance in the general, without reference to the way in which it is accomplished. When it refers to the work of Christ it is always to be understood in its strict sense, namely deliverance by ransom, because this particular way of redemption is always either expressed or implied. We are redeemed neither by power, nor truth, but by blood; that is, by the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus. A sacrifice is a ransom, as to its effect. It delivers those for whom it is offered and accepted. The words through his blood explain the words in him. In him, i.e., by means of his blood. They serve to explain the method by which Christ redeems.
The redemption which the apostle speaks about here is not the inner deliverance from sin, but it is an outer work, i.e., the forgiveness of our trespasses.
1:8. That he lavished on us. We are redeemed according to the riches of that grace which God has so freely exercised toward us.
1:9. God has caused this wisdom to abound, or has communicated it: he has made known to us the mystery of his will, in other words, by the revelation of the Gospel. The word mystery means a secret, something into which we must be initiated; something which we cannot discover ourselves and which can be known only as it is revealed. In this sense the Gospel is a mystery; and any fact or truth, however simple in itself, in the New Testament sense of the word, is a mystery, if it lies beyond the reach of our powers. Compare Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7–10; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:26. For the same reason, any doctrine imperfectly revealed is a mystery. It remains in a measure secret. Thus, in Ephesians 5:32, Paul calls the union of Christ and believers 'a great mystery'; and in 1 Timothy 3:16 he refers to the manifestation of God in the flesh, and writes, 'the mystery of religion is great.'
In the present case the mystery of his will means 'his secret purpose,' that purpose of redemption which was hidden for ages, but which he has now graciously revealed.
1:10. The general sense of this verse seems to be this. The purpose spoken of in the preceding verse had reference to the scheme of redemption, the design of which is to unite all the subjects of redemption, as one harmonious body, under Jesus Christ.
1:11. God having formed and revealed the purpose of gathering the redeemed as one body in Christ, it is in carrying out this purpose that, the apostle says, in Christ we have also obtained an inheritance. 'We,' in this clause, is not to be understood to refer either to the apostle individually, or believers indiscriminately, but we who first hoped in Christ; we as contrasted with 'you also' in verse 13; 'you' who were formerly Gentiles in the flesh (Ephesians 2:11). This clause, therefore, refers to the Jewish Christians.
According to his counsel and will means the purpose which has its origin in his will; neither suggested by others, nor determined by anything apart from him. It is therefore equivalent to his sovereign will.
1:12. So that we … might live for the praise of his glory, that is, that we should be the means of causing his divine majesty or excellence to be praised. Here, as in verse 6, the glory of God is declared to be the purpose of the plan of redemption, and of everything connected with its outworking. The people spoken about here are described as the first to set our hope on Christ. That is, who hoped in him of old, or before his coming; or, who hoped in him before others, mentioned in verse 13, had heard of him. In either case it designates not the first converts to Christianity, but the Jews who, before the Gentiles, had the Messiah as the object of their hopes. The expression hope used here does not mean simply 'to expect,' but to place one's hope or confidence in anyone. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:19. It is not, therefore, the Jews as such, but the believing Jews, who are spoken of here as those who are in Christ, the partakers of the inheritance which he has purchased.
1:13. The apostle having, in verse 10, declared that God's purpose is to bring all the subjects of redemption into one harmonious body, says in verse 11 that this purpose is realised in the conversion of the Jewish Christians; and here he adds that another group of people, namely the Gentile Christians, to whom his letter is specially addressed, are included in the same purpose.
Had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit. This is more than a translation – it is an exposition of the original. In Christ, the Gentile Christians had obtained an inheritance, and in him, also, they were sealed, after having believed. Whatever is meant by sealing, it is something which follows faith.
There are several uses for a seal:
1. To authenticate or confirm as genuine and true.
2. To mark as one's property.
3. To make secure.
In all these senses believers are sealed. They are authenticated as the true children of God; they have the witness within themselves (1 John 5:10; Romans 8:16 and 5:5). They are thus assured of their reconciliation and acceptance. They are, moreover, marked as belonging to God (Revelation 7:3); that is, they show other people, by the seal impressed on them, that they are God's chosen ones. And, thirdly, they are sealed for salvation; i.e., they are certain of being saved. The sealing of God secures their safety. Thus believers were 'marked with a seal for the day of redemption' (Ephesians 4:30). See 2 Corinthians 1:21–22. So the sealing which this passage speaks about answers all these ends. It assures us of God's favour; it indicates who belong to him; and it makes their salvation certain.
The promised Holy Spirit; that is, by the Spirit who was promised, or who comes in virtue of the promise. This promise was given frequently through the ancient prophets, who predicted that when the Messiah came, and in virtue of his mediation, God would pour his Spirit on all flesh. When on earth, Christ frequently repeated this promise, assuring his disciples that when he had gone to the Father, he would send them the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, to stay with them forever. After his resurrection he commanded the apostles to stay in Jerusalem until they had received 'the promise my Father promised' (Acts 1:4), meaning the gift of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 3:14 says it is the reason why Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, that we should receive the promise of the Spirit. This, then, is the great gift which Christ secures for his people – the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as the source of truth, holiness, consolation, and eternal life.
1:14. This Spirit is the pledge of our inheritance. It is both the foretaste and the pledge of all that is laid up for the believer in heaven. The word pledge is a Hebrew term, which passed into the Greek and then into the Latin vocabulary, retaining its original sense. It means, first, a part of the price of anything purchased, paid as a security for the full payment, and then more generally a pledge. Three times it refers to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 5:5, and in the passage before us. In the same sense the Scriptures speak of 'the first fruits of the Spirit' (Romans 8:23). Those influences of the Spirit which believers now enjoy are both a foretaste of future blessedness, the same in kind though immeasurably less in degree, and a pledge of the certain enjoyment of that blessedness; just as the first fruits were a part of the harvest, and a guarantee of its ingathering. It is because the Spirit is a guarantee of our inheritance that his indwelling is a seal. It assures those in whom he dwells of their salvation, and renders that salvation certain. Hence it is a most precious gift, to be most religiously cherished.
—Commentary on Ephesians, A