Eph 1:1 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:
The letter is from Paul (though some dispute that1). This is a normal Pauline greeting and probably the custom of the day, at least in Paul’s culture. An apostle is one sent: ἀπόστολος, apostolos, “A delegate, messenger, or one sent forth with orders” (Thayer). Paul was sent forth to deliver the Gospel on the orders or command of Christ, Who is God (Matt 28:19-20). The recipients were the saved of the church at Ephesus as well as to all who are faithful in Christ. It was an encyclical, copied and delivered to most of the churches of the day. In some of the earlier manuscripts the words εν Εφεσῳ (in Ephesus) are not there indicating they may have been added later2. If that is so, then the original recipients were all the faithful in Christ Jesus. Thus the letter was intended for all the churches Paul had established. There is an early, but unreliable argument that the epistle was written to the Laodiceans. Marcion, who was a considered a second century heretic, called it that. That the letter circulated between churches is likely, and the copy sent to Ephesus may have been the one chosen for the Canon. The vast preponderance of texts suggest Ephesus was the intended recipient, but some manuscripts do not. In any case, whether it was originally written to the Laodiceans or to the Ephesians or some other local church is immaterial. The fact remains that the letter is in the canon and does have significance for all Christians. The letter possibly originated in Rome during the time of Paul’s first imprisonment, though there is not a consensus that such is the case.
Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia, and consisted of the western two thirds of modern Turkey, which is now a Muslim state. It is located 1.5 miles west of modern Selҫuk, Izmir, Turkey. It was located on an inland harbor connected by a channel to the Cayster River that flowed into the Aegean Sea. The channel is now a silted up wetland. The harbor is still there but has receded about 700 feet from the ancient city docks. The theater where the uproar over Paul’s teachings took place (Acts 19:29-41) is still in use today and seats around thirty thousand. Many roads crossed at Ephesus thus making it a large cosmopolitan city with wealth and vice. Artemis (Roman Diana) was the main Greek goddess of the city with a temple that many consider to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It lies in ruins having been destroyed by the Goths in the Third Century BC. Today the entire city is in ruins. It was abandoned in the Fifteenth Century apparently because its harbor no longer had access to the sea and because it had been conquered by the Ottoman Turks who built the nearby city of Ayasuluğ, which is modern Selҫuk.
Eph 1:2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
The grace wished by Paul is “the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues,” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions). The peace of God is that which passes all understanding (Phil 4:7). The Hebrew word for peace, שׁלום , (shalom, shah-lowm’) is an all encompassing word meaning peace, tranquility, ease, wellbeing, completeness, welfare, health, harmony, and others. This is how Paul, a Hebrew scholar would have understood the term. He is wishing all that peace encompasses to all Christians with the understanding that it originates from God. Similar qualities can be attributed to the Greek word for peace, εἰρήνη, (eirene, ay-ray’-nay). These emanate from God. Paul mentions both the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit, though not mentioned, is the instrument through which the will, or word, of God is spread abroad.
Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
The majority and minority texts as well as the Textus Receptus all use the word ευλογητος, eulogetos, which means blessed or worthy of adoration. Some translations use “blessed be the God;” some say “praise be to God,” or something similar. Both are correct. Either English term expresses the same connotation, which is, God is blessed and worthy of praise. The first definition of blessed in the American Heritage Dictionary is “worthy of worship.” This statement is a doxology (from the Greek word δόξα, doxa, meaning glory), or an expression of praise to God because 1) He allowed Paul to be able to write, 2) He called Paul to apostleship, 3) God’s people are faithful to Christ, and 4) God has provided us with every spiritual blessing that heaven offers to every believer. His greeting incorporates all that and more. He had great love for the brethren and he was expressing that love with this greeting and doxology.
All spiritual blessings entail, at a minimum, justification, redemption, adoption into the family of God, grace and peace (above) eternal life, name written in the book of life, plus many more blessings we receive from God daily. In heavenly places is literally “in the heavens” or “in the heavenlies,” for “places” is not in the original. The Concordant Literal Version has “among the celestials.” This basically is a euphemism for transcendent things, which are the things of God, for He transcends the physical world. God, the Father has placed all things in the Son’s hands (Mat 28:18; John 3:35). In other words, all spiritual blessings originate with Christ.
Eph 1:4 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:
How do we know God chose to love us even before the creation of the universe? (The Greek word used here, κοσμος, kosmos, in this context actually refers to all of creation). We know that from several Scriptures:
Mat 13:35 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
Joh 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
Heb 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
1Pe 1:20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
(Be sure to read these verses in context by reading the verses surrounding the ones printed here.)
Since we know of His love for us (John 3:16), we also know that He chose us to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Rom 3:21-22, Rom 4:24; Phil 3:9) so that we will be set apart in that righteousness, that is, without fault, when we stand before a Holy God. In fact, we stand before Him daily for He knows or very hearts better than we know ourselves (Acts 1:24; Heb 4:13). Woe unto those who do not have the righteousness of Christ.
Before creation, He knew those who would become believers in Christ; He predestinated them to be conformed to the image of Christ; He justified them; and He glorified them (Rom 8:28-30). God knew beforehand how all things would turn out. He is omniscient or all-knowing, so how could He not know how things would happen? Yet this does not mean that he sat down and went through the lives of all humans throughout the course of history and decided which would be saved and which would not. No, knowing the outcome of a series of things does not imply manipulation of the outcome. God did not manipulate the outcome of people’s lives, yet he knew beforehand what would happen. To say that God chose some to eternal life and others to eternal damnation is not in tune with the whole Scripture. God says, in 2 Pet 3:9, that He “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (See also John 3:16 & 1 Tim 2:3-4)
Eph 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
The question arises, “Who has He predestinated and what are they predestined for?” God has predestined us, that is, the recipients of this Epistle, which are Christians—He has predestined we who are Christians. We Christians are predestined by God to be His adopted Children. We Christians have been determined from before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4) to become God’s children when we are saved (see also Rom 8:14, 29 & Gal 4:4-6). Why? Because it gives God great pleasure to do so. God delights in adopting us as His children. This was the plan long ago. Hosea 1:10 states, “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.” According to Romans 9:24,25, the phrase, “Ye are not my people” refers to the Gentiles. Gentiles will be called the sons of the living God. That could only happen after the advent of Christ when all people, both Jews and Gentiles, who believe on Christ will be God’s children (Rom 9:24,25,26 & Rom 9:30).
Eph 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
God did this for His glory. We have become the children of the living God so that we can glorify Him. For His own glory, and not for anything we have done, He has accepted us as His children because we have trusted Christ “the Beloved” as our Savior, Whose shed blood redeemed us from our sin (next verse). God has accepted us in His agape love.
Eph 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
God, in His grace, which can be understood as His unmerited favor, has forgiven our sins because of the shed blood of Christ. That is because there is no remission of our sins without the shedding of blood, (Heb 9:22; Lev 17:11). We need to understand the depth of His grace. Grace is favor without merit. That means we do nothing to gain his favor. It is freely given to us because God, in his deep care, wants to give it to us. We did not earn it, nor can we earn it. His grace is free and it is limitless, thus Paul refers to his grace as abundant grace (“riches of His grace”).
Redemption can be understood as paying a ransom. Here is a Hollywood example. A group of people kidnap a prominent person’s spouse. The prominent person agrees to pay a sum for the release of the spouse. The kidnappers receive the money and then release the spouse. Humans are under bondage to sin. This is like saying their sins have kidnapped them and hold them in bondage. God says that He only forgives sin when blood is shed. The shed blood is like the ransom money in the example. Christ shed his perfect blood for us in payment for our sins. Thus His shed blood is the ransom paid for our sin. When we trust Christ as our Savior, the ransom is paid and we are freed from the bondage of our sins. We are redeemed.
What does it mean to forgive? Here is the secular dictionary definition from dictionary.com :
1. to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.
2. to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.)
3. to grant pardon to (a person)
4. to cease to feel resentment against
5. to cancel an indebtedness or liability of
Frankly, in the context of the family of God, forgiveness means each and every one of these things. This applies to God’s forgiveness, which is in view in this passage. We should also be willing to do these things for those that have sinned against us. Because of our faith in Christ, God pardons us from our sins, which are an offense and a debt to Him. Remission means to excuse or overlook those sins. To absolve means to free us from blame. Once forgiven, God relinquishes all claim to our sin debt. God casts our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and as into the unsearchable depths of the ocean (Micah 7:19); in other words, He gives up all claim to the debt and forgets it. The pardon He grants is to us individually. He no longer has any anger at us or resentment for our sins; He remembers them no more. He cancels the sin debt we owe thus we are no longer liable to judgment for our sins.
Eph 1:8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
Several translations take verses 7 through 9 and divide them thus: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace wherein he hath abounded toward us. [period—end of sentence] [Begin new sentence] In all wisdom and prudence having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself . . .” In other words the sentence that began in verse 7 ends after the phrase “abounded towards us” in verse 8, and a new sentence begins with “In all wisdom and prudence” in verse 8, continuing the sentence into verse 9. Here is another look at the two sentences:
Sentence 1: In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace wherein he hath abounded toward us.
Sentence 2: In all wisdom and prudence having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself
However, most versions and most commentaries agree with the way the King James divides the sentence: In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence. I prefer to take the direction of the traditional view, which is the way the KJV divides it.
He has abundantly given us His grace; this is not just giving us an average amount of His grace; it is unlimited and richly lavished on us. He has poured out so much of His grace on us that we can never fully understand the amount of grace we have received. We will understand when we see Him face to face. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now we know in part; but then shall we know even as also we are known (Cf. 1 Cor 13:12). The word rendered abundantly is a Greek word that means to overflow exceedingly to the benefit of the recipient, and to be extremely rich. We are therefore extremely rich in His grace. He has done so in His omnipotent wisdom and prudence. It was because of His own wisdom and prudence that He gracefully redeemed our sins through the blood of Christ. It was His plan and His execution of that plan.
Eph 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
Again, this mystery was made known to us because of His own wisdom and prudence; it was His plan or purpose to do so. He explains the mystery in the next verse:
Eph 1:10 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:
Another translation of “the dispensation of the fullness of times” is the “administration of the fullness of times.” In everyday common speech, it simply means “when the time was right.” At exactly God’s planned time, He gathered all things under the authority and power of His Son. That includes everything in the universe, without any loss, and even everything in Heaven itself. In Mat 28:18, Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” In another place the Apostle John said, in John 13:3, ” Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God. ” This includes everything in the universe and all things in the supernatural realm as well.
Eph 1:11 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:
Preface this verse with the words, “Even in Him:” from the last verse: “Even in Him 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:”
This verse follows the essence of the last, meaning that when the time was right, Christ, the authority over all things, has provided an inheritance for us, which of course, is eternal life and the riches of heaven. God is the One that works all things according to His plan, to wit that all who would believe on His only begotten Son would receive that inheritance. God predestinated all who would believe in Christ to receive the inheritance of His children for his own purpose, which was:
Eph 1:12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ
The Jews including Paul and his Jewish fellow laborers, who were the first to trust in Christ, brought praise and glory to God.
Eph 1:13 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,
We, too, have trusted in Christ after we heard the Gospel. At that point the Holy Spirit came into us, thus we are sealed, or secure in that promised inheritance. Note that Paul did not say that we are sealed after we speak in tongues, but that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit when [the very moment] we believe in Christ as Savior.
Eph 1:14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
When someone purchases a large item on credit, such as a car or a house, it is customary to leave a down payment. That down payment is also known as earnest money or just earnest. It is an assurance backed up with cash money that the purchaser will follow through on the terms of the contract. The purchased possession refers to that which Christ purchased at the cross. He bought us with a price, which was His work at Calvary and we are his purchased servants. The redemption of that possession or our redemption is at the end of the age when He returns. The Holy Spirit is our assurance that we will be redeemed. Because of this, we should praise and Glorify Him.
Eph 1:15-16 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;
In verse 13, Paul told the Ephesians that he knew of their trust in Christ. Here he tells them that because of their faith, he faithfully and regularly includes them in his prayers where he thanks God for their faithfulness. He mentions their love for the saints. That is a command given by Christ Himself in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Paul thanked God that they were living up to that commandment. Paul lists the things he mentioned of them in his prayers in the following verses through the end of the chapter.
Eph 1:17 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:
Paul prayed for wisdom and revelation from God, the glorious Father and God of Jesus the Christ about knowing Him personally, which means having a personal knowledge of the Lord and a personal relationship with Him. Paul explains further:
Eph 1:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
He prayed that their understanding of God and the things of God would be enlightened. In other words, Paul’s prayer was that God would open the eyes of their heart, that is, their spiritual eyes. As the eyes of our bodies give us sight, the eyes of the mind give us wisdom and knowledge. His prayer was that they would understand the certain hope God has given to His people, which he refers to as “His calling.” We, His people, are called or invited to salvation by Him. What is that hope? It is the riches of the glory of His inheritance, which is eternal life in heaven. What are those riches? Isaiah gave us a hint in Isa 64:4, ” For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. ” We cannot even fathom the depths of His riches in glory: Paul said that when he was taken up to the third Heaven, ” he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter ” (2 Cor 14:4). What he says in this verse is that he heard things so amazingly wonderful in Heaven that there are no words to express them in human terms. The phrase “it is not lawful for a man to utter,” could also be rendered it is not possible for a man to speak them. In fact, several modern translations render the expression in a similar way.
The word paradise is mentioned. That word makes one think of tropical isles with turquoise waters, green palms, white beaches, and a cooling breeze—or even of a painting or photograph of tropical paradises. Think of heaven as a quantum leap from that earthly paradise to a paradise for which there are no words to explain. Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be with Christ in Heaven that very day. For a more in-depth description of Heaven, read Revelation chapters 21 and 22. But even that description is fitted into words we humans can fathom. That looks great, but Heaven will be even better, much better than that description. Do a search of the King James Version for “riches” and you will find an abundance of ideas of the riches of God’s inheritance He will provide for His saints.
Eph 1:19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
Here Paul is trying to put into words the inheritance of God. That inheritance is available to believers because of the mighty words God has wrought for the saints, who are God’s children because of their belief in Christ. Paul wants to make sure that the Ephesian believers has the best picture he could paint of God’s power and of His plans for all that believe on Christ as Savior. His prayer was for the Ephesians, but this Epistle belongs to all Christians, therefore, we are included in this incredible inheritance thus we are also included in the prayers he uttered for our understanding of the richness of God’s grace.
Eph 1:20 which He wrought in the Christ, having raised him out of the dead, and did set him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
This is the same power, which is unlimited, by the way, that God used to raise Christ from the dead to the place of honor at God’s right hand for our benefit.
Eph 1:21-22 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,
Jesus is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. God the Father has put all things in Christ’s hands. Christ, who is God, has all power over all things. There is nothing that is not under the power and control of Christ. Not the vast emptiness of space, not the stars and worlds of the universe, not the universe itself, or whatever is out beyond the universe even unto eternity. All things, from the most infinitesimal, to the ends of eternity itself are under His power. This includes angels, demons, Satan, powerful people, and common folk.
Eph 1:23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
I really love the way The Message puts this: “The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” Since He is omnipresent then everything that ever was, is, or ever will be is all under His might power. The church has all the fullness of Christ, which is that which also fills everything to completion. The church has everything it needs; it is complete in Christ.
- In his commentary, Believer’s Bible Commentary, James MacDonald said “The German liberal Schleiermacher was probably the first to reject Pauline authorship. Many moderns have followed suit, such as Moffatt and Goodspeed. Vocabulary, style, “advanced” doctrine, and other subjective arguments are mustered to deny this book to the apostle. However, every one of these theories can be answered satisfactorily. In light of the overwhelming external evidence and the large number of scholarly commentators who see Ephesians as not merely in the spirit of Paul, but, as Coleridge expressed it, his very “divinest writing,” the letter should be accepted as genuine.” ↩
- For two examples of this let us use the well-known manuscripts. Vaticanus does not have the words in the main text, but they were added by an unknown scribe in the margin using smaller letters. Alexandrinus, on the other hand, does have the words in the main text. ↩