If you studied Philippians with us, Paul should feel like a dear friend. Ephesians is the first of Paul’s Prison Epistles (his three other epistles were Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). Divided into six chapters, you can become (even more so) Paul’s housemate and fellow bondslave to Christ. Paul wasn’t in a dark and damp chamber, but was under house arrest. During this two-year period, Paul was under guard, yet was permitted to receive guests and to teach freely. This puts things into perspective for us. This world can seem like a prison at times, even though it’s not our forever home or place of rest. While we await our “promotion” into heaven, God commissions us to receive others and to teach them His word (Matthew 28:19-20). Let’s live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ by listening to what God speaks to us through the book of Ephesians:
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- I love how Paul establishes his position right out of the gate. Unlike the “titles” we read in this world’s signature lines, Paul made it a point to proclaim that he was on earth to do Christ’s business. Do you ever lie in bed at night and wonder what God’s will is for your life? 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.” The word sanctified is an elaborate word which means “to be set apart.” God’s unique plan for you is to be set apart for His special purpose (2 Timothy 2:20).
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
- Let’s carve out this third verse before we get into this next section. Note that it says “…who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” It doesn’t say most, or some, or few…it says every. God doesn’t hold back from you. He slathers on the blessings thick, covering you with grace as you work effectively for Him.
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
- Verses 4 and 5 tend to trip up believers (and probably some non-believers) because it speaks of predestination. Let’s walk through this. First, note that God chose you before the foundations of the world. Since you weren’t born yet, there was no basis or effort on your part because you didn’t exist. This is important to grasp because it underscores how we are not saved by our own efforts.
- Secondly, when we arrive at the word “predestined,” we need to remember the context of this letter. Who is Paul writing to? The saints (holy people) in Ephesus. This is a letter written to believers and it does not say certain people are predestined for hell and others aren’t. Don’t insert words where God has chosen to be silent. God gives man freewill and while He may knock on your door, He’s not going to bust it down (Revelation 3:20). Choose your path wisely!
- Verses 6-10 are a testament of the blessings lavished on us. He’s provided Jesus (the pathway of salvation), redemption, forgiveness, riches of grace, wisdom, understanding, and clarity of His will. I’d say that is a cup that runneth over! Speaking of the clarity of His will, here’s an explanation I liked: When Jesus wrote His last will and testament for His church, He made it possible for us to share in His riches. Jesus then died, so His will would be in force. He rose again that He could become the heavenly Advocate (lawyer) to make certain the terms of the will were correctly followed (Wiersbe). He took care of it all folks. And in the Greek, all means all. And you didn’t have to do a single thing. Praise Him for His glorious grace and enjoy drinking from your overflowing cup o’ love.
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
- There’s the word predestined again. But notice it isn’t directed toward the person, it is focused on the plan (purpose) of the person. He’s got a plan, folks. Let God work the plan.
- The Trinity is fully represented in this chapter – God’s grace lavished on us through Jesus’ sacrifice, which is then sealed through the Holy Spirit when we believe. I’m so thankful that I’m not in this equation, other than as a benefactor. I don’t need to concern myself with earning my salvation or maintaining it – that is God’s business. I simply know that His will is for me to be sanctified (holy) more and more!
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray 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, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
- This is a favorite scripture prayer of mine. I’ve prayed this specific Word over several people, and I have a dear friend I douse in these verses once or twice a week. I know God’s Word is living, effective, and sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). I want these truths to be real for you (and me!). An awesome “truth nugget” is offered to us in verse 17: we can keep asking. Maybe you need to hear this today: ask again. When we ask in accordance to His Word (like in these verses), we can never go amiss. God is bound to bless us with every spiritual blessing as we rest in His grace. He desires that we be effective followers, who know the hope Jesus Christ offers.
- Verse 22 brings such encouragement: “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church…” No matter the trial, situation, or affliction…it’s under His feet. He is in control and the only way it becomes out of control is if we attempt to wrestle it away. This approach only exhausts us and diminishes the work Christ can do. My son Liam loves to pick me flowers or buy them at the store. Funny enough, my husband knows I’m not into flowers, but coming from an adorable (curly headed) five-year-old, you just can’t help but melt like butter inside when he brings them to me. Liam loves colorful flowers – the bright pinks, sunshine yellows, and vivacious blue daisies. It wouldn’t be my first pick personally, but it totally makes me gush knowing he was thoughtful and chose his “personality colors” to brighten up that glass vase. God works in a similar way. We are simply to be the (empty) vase. He then picks and chooses – based on His love for us – what flowers He desires for us to put on display. Be an empty vessel for Him – you’ll be so bright those non-believers will need shades. Amen.