Epistle to the Ephesians Identity, Intimacy, and Influence
Introduction – In this Session, we will continue our study in Ephesians 1, and explore verses 4-10. We are exegeting Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians at slow pace because we will be looking at deep theological thoughts that reveal God’s deep love, grace and mercy towards His children. We want to take our time so that we will not miss the glories and goodness of God in Jesus Christ. It could be said that Ephesians chapter 1, contains some of the highest thoughts of God regarding His emotions, His intentions towards people, and the clearest presentations, that the will of God for us, flows intense goodness and loving-kindness.
In this Session, we will also look at one of the most difficult theological constructs in Christianity. The doctrine of predestination and election and how they relate to salvation and the freewill of humanity.
Since our introduction to the Epistle to the Ephesians was lengthy and detailed, we will jump right into the text and begin in verse 4.
a) Verse 4 introduces us to the theology of election and predestination. To properly understand the doctrine of predestination we need to consider the whole counsel of Scripture so that we would understand the doctrine of election/predestination in its proper understanding. Let’s look at the Greek word for “chose” so that we can understand the context. Greek – Chose – eklegomai – to pick out, choose, to pick or choose out for one’s self, choosing one out of many, i.e. Jesus choosing his disciples, choosing one for an office. 2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
b) When we consider predestination/election, we are deciding between 2 theological positions. 1 – Does God choose some to be saved, and some to go to eternal condemnation? 2 – Or does God choose everyone to be saved, i.e. make a provision for all to be saved by Christ through the Atonement, with God knowing through His Omniscience and Transcendence, all who would receive Christ, by their free will choice, and knowing through His Omniscience/Omnipresence all who would reject God’s offer of salvation, by their own free will decision? I believe the key to understanding this doctrine is found in verse 4, “before the foundation of the world”. The “before the foundation of the world” language points our attention to the Preexistence, Transcendence and Omniscience of God and helps us understand that God knows who receives Him and who rejects His offer of salvation to humanity, because of the very nature of His Person, being Preexistent, Transcendent and Omniscient.
c) Ephesians 1:4, tells us that our primary calling in God is to be holy and
blameless. When we consider what this means to the believer, we should not equate these words with perfection. The concept of being holy in God, means we are set apart for His purposes, and live accordingly. The concept of being blameless is taken from the Greek word in the text, which means “as a sacrifice without spot or blemish, morally: without blemish, faultless, unblameable. One can only become holy and blameless before God, because of the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross that paid for our “un-holiness and blame” for the offense of sin. This is explained in more fully Ephesians 1:7.
d) In love – Scripture teaches us that the primary motivation of God, in all He does is in love. This is the most dominant theme woven throughout the Scriptures, the theme of God being motivated by love in all His works. Greek – Agape
a) Our salvation is pre-determined because the Atonement was pre-determined within the Godhead. Revelation 13:8 says that Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. In this sense, the salvation of humanity in Jesus Christ was predetermined, and God’s love for humanity overshadowed the Fall, sin, death, and pain, so that He moved forward with creation with the full knowledge and agreement of the eternal Son, being slain on the cross.
b) He all have positionally been granted “sonship” to God through Jesus Christ. The footnote in the NIV translation is very good here because it brings our attention that the word in the original Greek text is the word that means “one who is adopted and has full legal rights as an heir in Roman culture.”
c) The rights of sons: inheritance, love, provision and care from the father, protection, honor of the family name, social status, identity, access to intimate knowledge and friendship, redemptive discipline, and many other parallels that communicate God as a loving Father. d) God is happy to give us adoption as His children, salvation from our sins, and access to His heart. God willed these things because they make Him happy. Greek – eudokia – good will, kindly intent, benevolence, delight, pleasure, satisfaction. God is a happy Being and always in a good mood (perfect emotions)!
a) Verse teaches us that the grace of God, the unmerited goodness of God towards us, is freely given to us by God. We can never earn His grace, otherwise it is no longer grace, but becomes the wages of works. Romans 4:3-4 – What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation.
b) The One He loves – Jesus is the object of the love described in Ephesians 1:6; With the same love, the Father has towards the Son, is the same love the Father has towards us, because we are “in Christ”. John 16:27 – No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
c) The love God has for us, should be a motivator for us to love Him back and relinquish every area of our lives to Him, so that He can Father us. It is sad to
say that many of us live as orphans not realizing our true identities in Christ, or that many of us live as spoiled children, taking the grace of God for granted, and producing no eternal fruit in our lives.
a) The blood of Jesus Christ is what makes us forgiven by God and accepted by Him. Verse 8 says that the Father lavished grace on us, and it was wisdom to Him and understanding by Him to redeem humanity by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. We are treading on some of the most holy and sacred thoughts about God, when we ponder the Atonement. God is so rich in grace that He withheld nothing from us, so that we might know Him, be loved by Him and love Him back.
a) To properly understand verses 9-10, we need to beware of the cultural significance of these verses. 1 – The mystery (something hidden) of Christ that Paul is referencing in the text, is the Incarnation of Jesus, the Atonement, and the New Covenant. We must keep in mind that the Temple in Jerusalem was still standing when Paul wrote this Epistle to the Ephesians, and Christianity was teaching that Jesus fulfilled all the Old Covenant requirements of the Law, fulfilled all the symbolism of the Old Testament Scriptures, and fulfilled all the prophecies that prophesied a Messiah, and therefore the “times” have reached their fulfillment because Jesus came, died on a cross, and resurrected. 2 – Because the fulfillment of the times has come, one no longer needs the Temple, because Christ fulfilled and accomplished the purposes of the Temple through His ministry, death, resurrection and ascension to heaven.
b) Paul is reminding the Ephesians and us, that the New Covenant age is the last age, and then all things will be “summed up” in Christ at the end of the New Covenant age. Ephesians 1:10 – NASB – with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.