Ephesians 1

1 Paul begins by clearly identifying himself as the author. He emphasizes that he is an apostle (missionary) appointed by Jesus with the approval of the entire Godhead. Paul generally introduces his companions in the greeting, but does not do so in this letter -- only Tychicus is mentioned at the end (Eph 6:21).

Paul indicates that the letter is addressed to Christians in general. The specific reference to Ephesus does not appear in the original manuscripts, but it appears that this letter was so strongly related to them that the reference was added later. Letters were often sent to one church and then circulated to others because paper and parchment were scarce commodities.

Christians are saints, and it is important to remember what that means. "Saint" is derived from the same word from which we get the word "holy." It means "set apart." Specifically, a saint is a person set apart for God's exclusive use. As we live our lives we must remember that all our thoughts, words, and actions are to be fore His ultimate use. To be constantly obedient to God in this way is what Paul refers to as "faithful." The reason we are set apart is that Christians are "in Christ," and are therefore no longer "in the world" in the spiritual sense.

2 Paul usually begins his letters with a blessing from God. These are true blessing from God because all believers have received grace (unmerited favor) and peace (through restoration of our relationships) from Him. Paul uses this same combination in several letters, but it is significant here because he combines greetings from both Greek and Jewish culture. "Grace" was a common Greek greeting and "peace" was a common Jewish greeting. Since a major theme of this letter is the unity that these two groups find in Christ, its use here is very appropriate. All Christians are welcomed into the body of Christ.

We should always acknowledge God as our true Father and Jesus as our Lord. This shows that God has authority over us because He gave us life. Jesus has authority over us because He gave us new life when we were born again by faith in Him. Thus, we should be careful to do everything God commands us -- both for our own good and for the good of His kingdom.

3 Christians have been promised all the blessings of heaven. However, those blessings are not only bestowed upon us after the resurrection. We can enjoy them now. First, and foremost, we can enjoy our relationship with God that was made possible through Jesus' sacrifice. We can enjoy the love shared in restored relationships with other people who have also come to believe in Christ. We can enjoy the spiritual fruit that God grows within us during this lifetime. Certainly, in heaven, our enjoyment of these things will be perfected, but we are blessed with these blessings here on earth. Because God blessed us first, we can bless Him for His goodness.
4 Before He even made the world, God knew that all people would turn away from Him and sin. He also knew that He could redeem people, and He knew who would respond to His message. He also knew how He could use each person, whether they responded positively to Him or not, to complete His plan for history. God desires that all people come to know Him, and everyone has the freedom to accept or reject God's call to them. When a person believes in Jesus, he is automatically chosen to go to heaven. When a person believes in Jesus, he automatically becomes holy and blameless before God because Jesus already paid the penalty for the Christian's sins.
5 An adopted child has all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of the natural child. In God's household, Jesus is the firstborn, and Christians are all equally children under Him (Rom 8:29). People must decide for themselves whether they become Christians or not -- God does not choose this for us. Once someone accepts Jesus' message and work, God predestines him to be adopted into His household.

Some people take this verse to mean that God determines ahead of time the few He wants to save and "makes" them believe whether they want to or not. If this were true, there would be no reason for Christians to be witnesses for Jesus, nor could we say that God would be just in condemning those who did not believe (some would object with Rom 9:18-20, but that issue will be dealt with there). The judgement of God hinges on a person's belief in Jesus (or the expectation of the Messiah for those before Jesus' time). It is God's preference that all people establish a loving and permanent relationship with Him, but love is a determination of the will. In order for people to be able to love, they must also be able to choose not to love. God gives us the ability to resist His desires, but He is still able to work out His will whether people are obedient or not.

6 People in their sins are not acceptable to God, but Jesus takes away our sins and makes us pleasing to God. We can not do anything that to make God accept us. Only when we believe that Jesus has done what is necessary for us to be acceptable and have placed ourselves under His authority that we become acceptable to God. The Christian responds with praise because God's grace to us makes His wonderful characteristics even more evident.
7 Outside of Christ we can not find redemption, forgiveness, adoption, or hope for eternal life with God. However, when we believe in Him, we have all these things and more. Jesus' work on the cross was both necessary and sufficient to pay the penalty for sin and restore our relationship with God. We can not attain these things by our own effort, but God freely gives us all these things for us when we submit our lives to His authority.

Human forgiveness occurs when a penalty is deserved, but not imposed. In God's justice system, every penalty must be assessed. However, He does allow substitutes; hence, the sacrificial system. The Old Testament system of sacrificing animals and food items were never intended to be a full payment for sin. They could not be since these things were also affected by sin, no matter how "pure" they seemed by earthly standards. Jesus, however, lived a sinless life and was qualified to be the final sacrifice. With His own blood, He paid the price for sin -- a price that could not be paid with money, goods, or services. The only thing required to complete this transaction of forgiveness is for a person to believe in Jesus, which involves repentance from those things that cause separation from God (sin), and obedience to (and dependence upon) Him out of love and gratitude.

8 There was no other way people could come to know God. If it were up to us, our efforts would be futile. However, God, in His wisdom and understanding, already knew the only possible solution to this problem and He worked out the primary factor through Jesus.

God is the source of all wisdom. Since the Christian has a spiritual connection to God, he should seek to gain and practice the wisdom that comes from Him.

9 A "mystery" (literally, "secret") in the New Testament refers to a part of God's plan that was not revealed clearly, if at all, beforehand. It is something that can not be discovered by human effort or reasoning, but only becomes known by revelation from God.

There are at least eleven mysteries that are revealed in the New Testament. For example, before Jesus appeared in the flesh, no one knew how God would work out the plan of salvation. We now know that Jesus' death on the cross and subsequent resurrection are the keys to salvation and eternal life. It is now a matter of people's willingness to come to God in faith and attain these keys from Him.

Jesus' death on the cross was very painful, but because He knew it would restore the relationship between God and people, He was happy to endure this pain Himself.

10 God has always had a single plan and purpose for His creation. As with most plans, there have been many phases, and God has orchestrated these to maximize the desired outcome. God designed us to relate to Him and follow His leadership. Presently, the Church acknowledges this as each Christian willingly submits his life to Christ. On Judgement Day, God will assert His sovereign authority and establish Jesus as the King of the Universe.
11 There are two ways to translate this verse from the Greek. The most common translation indicates that Christians gain an inheritance. Others say that the structure of the sentence would indicate that it is God who gains an inheritance. Despite this controversy, it is interesting that the Bible supports both ideas (1 Ki 8:51, 53, Rom 8:17).

The Christian will admit that he is not worthy to attain any blessings from God. Yet, we see that God adopts those who believe and gives them an inheritance -- a share of His goodness. On earth, an inheritance is left by those who have died. In the same sense, Jesus died for us and left us the inheritance of eternal life with God. The difference is that Jesus rose again from the dead, so He can enjoy our relationship even as we enjoy our inheritance.

At the same time, Christians become an inheritance to God. God specifically singled out Israel as His special inheritance, but all people still belong to Him (Psa 82:8). It is through the work of Jesus that Gentiles join Israel as God's inheritance (Eph 3:6).

12 God is honored when people accept Salvation and the eternal reward that He offers them.
13 In verse 12, Paul uses "we" to indicate that it was among the Jews that people first believed in Jesus, just as God intended. However, Paul now switches to "you," indicating the Gentiles, to assure them that they are also part of this inheritance.

A seal was used on letters to identify the sender and protect the contents until the recipient opened it. In the same way, the Holy Spirit identifies us as belonging to God. The Holy Spirit teaches us and guards our minds until we are delivered to Christ Jesus in His eternal kingdom.

The original Greek indicates that a person receives the Holy Spirit immediately when he believes in Jesus.

14 The Holy Spirit is a "down payment" that guarantees the believer's entrance into heaven. The joys we now share as believers are only a small amount compared to the joy we will have when we enter the kingdom of God.

This concludes the section where Paul has outlined the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is apparent that Paul recognized the Trinity -- God as one being, yet working as three distinct beings.

15 Paul kept track of the progress of those he had ministered. He always made sure there was someone to continue building the Church when he moved on to another mission field. In many places, there are examples of these leaders sending progress reports to Paul or sending others to visit him. In a sense, this was a kind of accountability. Many of the reports that Paul received were good, and he was delighted to hear that Christians everywhere were growing in faith and their love for one another.
16 Sometimes the Christian's prayer life is marked by prayers for his own needs. When we do pray for others, we tend to focus on their problems. We need to remember to also praise God for their willingness to be used by Him.

It is also better that we pray for people by name. Prayers for a "congregation" are good, but it is the individuals who make the gathering of believers a blessing. If we are praying this way, we are more likely to accept them with these positive thoughts when we meet or communicate with them.

Paul was a man of prayer. With the number of people he prayed for, he undoubtedly prayed "without ceasing" (1 Th 5:17). When we love someone and are concerned for their well being, we will pray for them. All of us should learn from Paul's example what it means to love the Church.

17 Our prayer for all Christians should be that God would continue to give them wisdom and knowledge to encourage their faith and reach out to those who do not know Him yet. This wisdom is only attained through the counsel of the Holy Spirit. We can learn many things about Scripture from preachers and writers, but the best lessons will be taught by God. Only He can teach us exactly what we need to know at any given moment. He will often use people to deliver His message, but the message is still from Him. In addition, as we come to Him in prayer and Scripture reading, we must be prepared to hear Him speaking to our heart.
18 When the Holy Spirit reveals truths about God to us, we become enlightened to the very core (heart) of our beings. As we learn more about God, come to a fuller understanding of why He has called us into a relationship with Himself. We also, even in this lifetime, see the many great benefits He has promised us in His kingdom.
19 We will also appreciate more the awesome power that God wields. The whole world might be awestruck at God's ability to create the universe with only a few simple sentences, but the Christian sees a greater work in how God redeems believers to Himself through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus and His resurrection.

Paul uses several words here to emphasize God's power: "Exceeding" and "great" are used to describe God's power (from the same Greek word we get "dynamite" from). "Working" in the Greek is where we get the word "energy." "Mighty power" might also be thought of as "dominating strength." People who mock Jesus' death on the cross might see it as "weakness," but what God accomplished through Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection is the most powerful and profound event that the universe will ever see until Judgement Day.

20 While here, we have but a sample of God's power. God's power brought the universe into being. God's power transforms peoples' lives today. God has also demonstrated that He can raise a person from death and has promised to do so for all. God has demonstrated His power though miracles and fulfilled prophecies. We now wait in eager anticipation for the final promises to be fulfilled.

Christ is now in the spiritual realm at God's right hand, the place of highest honor and authority. God has already set a day for Jesus to return, and we all must wait until the right time arrives (Psa 110:1).

21 God gave Jesus ultimate authority over everything and everyone in the universe. It may not seem so clear that Jesus is in authority now, but it will certainly be clear on Judgement Day when all things will be accountable to Him. After that time, there will be no doubts because He will reign among us, we will be able see Him work, and we will be able to understand Him better without the interference of sin in our lives.
22 The head controls the body, and the body can only function properly if it has a head to coordinate its movements. A church body that is following Christ will be doing the things that please God because they will be following His commandments. A church that does not allow Christ to lead them will not be able to please God no matter how "effective" their ministry might seem to the world. Secular society does not submit to the headship of Christ, even if it claims to tolerate Him. Thus, not everything has been brought under His control as of yet (Heb 2:8), but it will be on Judgement Day. Those in the body of Christ will eternally enjoy His leadership in heaven, while those who rejected Him in this life will be subject to punishment. Thus, Christ will have sovereign authority over both groups of people.
23 The Church acts as Jesus' body as it continues His ministry of salvation to the world. However, the focus is on God, not on the Church. It is this great power that Paul has described that fills the Church and gives it power. The power of salvation brings individuals into a right relationship with Him. The power displayed by the resurrection gives us certainty that God will fulfill the rest of His promises. Thus, in all ways, God is the focal point of the universe.