Salutation, Praise for the Blessings of Eternal Election, and Prayer for Spiritual Enlightenment. Eph. 1, 1-23.

Address and salutation: V.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: v.2. Grace be to you and peace from God, our father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul opens this epistle in his usual manner. As an apostle of Christ Jesus, of the exalted Lord, whose Messiahship was prophesied and manifested, he did not choose the office himself, but he was called thereto by the express will of God; he received his apostleship without his own merit and worthiness. But having received it, he was fully conscious of the dignity with which he had been invested, and did not propose to have any one call this in question. He addresses himself to the saints and believers in Christ Jesus that were in Ephesus. The members of that congregation that were members in truth believed in Christ Jesus as the Redeemer that had atoned for all their sins, and by this faith they were consecrated and sanctified to God. They were thus connected with Christ in the most intimate fellowship and union. In his customary salutation Paul expresses a wish that this happy condition might continue. The grace and peace desired for the Ephesian Christians by the apostle are blessings which come only from God the Father and from Christ, the Lord. The Son has secured for all men the grace and mercy of His heavenly Father, the complete forgiveness of all sins, and thereby also peace with God, the enmity between sinful mankind and the holy God having been removed by the perfect satisfaction which His vicarious work has wrought. But Christ, the Mediator, is here incidentally represented, like the Father, as the Source and Originator of grace and peace; He is true God and Savior, with the Father, from eternity.

Doxology to God for the blessings of His love and grace: V.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; v.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; v.5. having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, v.6a. to the praise of the glory of His grace. Few passages in the Bible surpass these verses in lofty and sustained solemnity. The apostle’s words are arrayed in stately grandeur: Blessed the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. That is the attitude of the believers at all times, that God is to be praised, that He is worthy of all praise and honor for the manifold manifestations of His redeeming love in Jesus Christ. For it is of God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that we and all believers think. Cp. Rom. 15, 6; 2 Cor. 1, 3; 2, 31; 1 Pet. 1, 3. Through Jesus Christ, the God-man and Redeemer of mankind, God has entered into the relation of Father to us and to all believers: in Jesus, who was born from eternity out of the essence of the Father, who Himself is therefore true God, we have free access to the heart of the Father. We praise and bless God because He has blessed us, His blessings, however, not consisting in words of good, but in deeds of grace, not in a mere pious wish, but in a transmission of heavenly benefits. With every spiritual blessing God has remembered us, with blessing that agrees in kind with the Spirit of God, that is divine and heavenly. The spiritual blessings of the Christians are in the heavens, have their origin in heaven, as the dwelling-place of God. The blessings of the higher, of the perfect, of the future world are ours in Christ; Christ, as the Mediator between God and the lost world, has brought us the benefits and gifts which the Father intended for us in Him, through Him, on His account, by reason of His perfect merit. “In Him lay the cause that God blessed us with every spiritual blessing, since His act of redemption is the meritorious cause of this divine bestowal of blessing.” (Meyer.)

Of the wonderful blessings of God in Christ Jesus the apostle now enumerates those of the eternal election of grace: Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. God chose us, He picked us out, He selected us, He set us aside for Himself; it was a free act on His part. It was, however, not an act of God’s absolute power, but He chose us in Christ. The spiritual blessings have been appropriated to us on the basis of Christ’s work, but the election took place before the foundation of the world. 5) It was an act which was done before the beginning of time, before the world was called into existence. “Before we were in existence, even before the foundation of the world was laid, God thought of us in grace; in His thoughts, in His counsel and determination He took us out of the lost and condemned generation of men (out of the total mass of men for whom the redemption of Christ was made);... He firmly decided that we should be His own forever and live with Him in eternity.” For the object of his choosing was: That we should be holy and without reproach before Him in love. By virtue of our relation to God, into which we have entered in consequence of His call, we should he found in the state of sanctification before Him, pure and blameless, set aside from all impurity. Holiness, moral purity, and love are the fundamental characteristics of the Christian life. That is the interest which God has in us, that is the object for which He set us apart.

This aim of God includes still more: By determining us in advance for sonship through Jesus Christ toward Himself. The counsel and determination of God existed before the persons were created that were to become the recipients of His bounty. The counsel of election includes the predetermination to the relation of children to God by adoption, Rom. 8, 15. 16. This sonship was actually brought about by Jesus Christ, whose work of atonement changed us from children of wrath to children of grace and mercy. This is our new relation to God, by virtue of which we have something of the manner, of the mind of the heavenly Father in ourselves, God’s holiness and love being reflected in our lives. And God’s only motive in this predetermination unto the sonship was: According to the good pleasure of His will. It was a resolution of God’s gracious will. “God’s foreordination of us unto adoption is not due to any desert in us or anything outside God Himself, but is an act of His own pure goodness, originating only and wholly in the freedom of His own thoughts and loving counsel.” And its final end is: To the praise of the glory of His grace. Cp. Vv. 12 and 14. In the blessedness of His elect the blessedness of God is enhanced. As His wonderful design is manifested to the astonished eyes of the Christians, they recognize His grace with grateful adoration, and they laud and magnify His name because of this revelation of His grace.

The manifestation of God’s grace according to His counsel: V.6b. Wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved, v.7. in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; v.8. wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; v.9. having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He hath purposed in Himself; v.10. that in the dispensation of the fullness 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. The apostle here resumes the thought of v.3, concerning the blessings which have been given to us in Christ: With which He has graced us in the Beloved. That is the historic unfolding of the grace of God in time: He has freely bestowed upon us His grace. All merit and worthiness on our part is excluded: the bestowal of God’s grace and favor is a measure of His merciful goodness alone, in His Beloved, in and with Christ Himself, Col. 1, 13; Matt. 3, 17. Through the grace of God in Jesus, whose entire work is an expression of the love of God toward us, we become both the objects and the recipients of His love.

How the eternal decree was put into execution, Paul explains: in whom we have the redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. In Christ me have that redemption which had long been promised and expected. He paid the ransom for the sins of all men, and the believers have accepted His vicarious activity; they know that His blood paid the guilt of all men’s sins, that it has expiated the guilt, that it has borne the punishment. The result is a permanent possession of the Christians, the forgiveness of sins. In Christ, once and for always, there is complete redemption, perfect forgiveness of sins, for all men; in Him their trespasses are no longer charged to their account. In Christ all believers have forgiveness and therefore salvation, and that not in small measure, leaving a doubt as to the sufficiency of the substitute ransom, but according to the wealth of His grace. The entire fullness of His gracious riches has been poured down upon us. “Plenteous grace with Thee is found.”

Lest any one still have misgivings as to the limitless wealth of God’s loving favor, the apostle adds: Which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and discernment. When God dispenses spiritual gifts, He does not observe an anxious restriction, but furnishes them in such rich abundance that there is much more than enough. Upon us and into us His grace flows in a superabundant stream, teaching us the right wisdom and understanding, enabling us to find that path, to follow that course which is in accordance with the will of God. Such enlightened intelligence to know the will of God is found where the grace of God has been active in the heart of a man. The sequence of thought, therefore, is the following. The possession of the redemption through the blood of Christ is coincident with our adoption into the sonship of God. Our sins and trespasses, which separated between us and God, have been forgiven, the Lord will remember them no more. As children of God we cheerfully and confidently lift up our eyes to our heavenly Father and expect from Him all the spiritual gifts for a life according to His good pleasure. And the wisdom and discernment given to us by God make us ready and perfect for a holy, blameless conduct in love. All these gifts, everything that we are and possess in spiritual matters, we owe entirely and alone to the free grace of God, to the election of grace.

The apostle now takes up the thought of v.5. thus adding a new moment to the entire preceding section: In that He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He determined in Himself for the dispensation of the fullness of the times, to place everything under one head in Christ, that in the heavens and also that on the earth, in Him. God revealed to all Christians, all believers, the secret to show us why He bestowed on us the full riches of spiritual gifts. It is a secret concerning His will, His good pleasure, for in the matter of His choice God had in no manner been influenced by anything outside of Himself. God determined upon His course in and by Himself; His own free determination originated in His own gracious mind. And what He thus planned, His course of action, looked forward to the dispensation of the fullness of the times, all the periods of the earth's existence and history being taken together in the figure of a vessel which is filled. When God sent His Son, born of a woman, then the last period had begun, the period which is to perfect and fulfill the times of the world. The eternal counsel of God, therefore, although ever present in prophecy and type, is brought out in its glorious beauty in God's management in the time of the New Testament, the time in which we now live. It is now that the intention of God is being carried out to bring together under one heading, under one Head, all things in Christ, heavenly as well as earthly, to sum up the aggregate of heavenly and earthly things. The totality of the children of God, all those that hare been chosen unto the adoption of sons, God brings together in Christ, to form His body, with all its members and organs. That was God's eternal loving thought: a holy family of His children, united in Christ, the first-born Son, in whom He, the Father, might be well pleased - the one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. Cp. Col. 1, 18-20.

How the plan of God is carried out in the individual cases is nest shown by the apostle: V.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; v.12. that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. V.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, v.14. which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory. In Christ God has brought together the sum total of all believers, united them under the one Head. And now the apostle continues: In Him, in whom we have been allotted (chosen), having been foreordained according to the purpose of Him who effectively works all things after the counsel of His will. In Christ, according to the Greek word here used, an allotment was made by God, and since the special idea of determining by lot does not accord with the context, we may use “choose” or “elect” as a synonym. Incidentally, the thought that we were chosen for God’s inheritance, that we are heirs of eternal life, cannot be said to be foreign to the connection. We are chosen in being foreordained according to the purpose or previous determination of God; in God, in His design, in His will, our election unto faith and eternal life rests, not in any merit in ourselves. And God’s designs do not fail, His purpose is operative in all things after the counsel of His will. In all things, in the history of nations as well as in the life of individuals, His power directs and shapes all affairs, not according to arbitrary fancies, but according to a well-planned counsel; the determination to carry out the plan was preceded by mature deliberation.

The object of God in making this choice was: To the end that we should be unto the praise of His glory. The whole life of the Christians should serve for the praise of the glory of God. God wanted to be glorified in us, primarily through His grace and mercy, but then also through His might and power. Cp. Is. 43, 21. This purpose of God was realized first in the believing Jews, represented by Paul and the Jewish Christians in general: We who have aforetime (before this) put our hope in Christ. The true Israelites in the Jewish nation put their trust in the Messiah even before He appeared in the flesh, and many Jews accepted Him as their Savior before He gave the command to bring the Gospel-message to the Gentiles. In these people God actually carried out His eternal counsel, or election.

But God’s plan is not confined to the Jews: in whom also you, having heard the Word of Truth, the Gospel of your salvation, in whom also, having believed, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. In the case of the Gentiles also, as Paul here shows in addressing the Ephesian congregation, which consisted largely of Gentile Christians, God’s eternal purpose was realized. They have been brought to faith in Christ by accepting the Word of Truth, the message which testifies of the divine truth, the Gospel which tells them of the salvation gained by the Savior. In this way they have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. When working faith, the Holy Ghost comes into the heart of man, dwells in him, becomes a seal of his faith, gives him the divine certainty that he belongs to God and will remain His own in time and eternity. Preservation in the true faith is a work of the Holy Ghost, who, as Luther has it, called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, sanctified and kept us in the true faith.

The result therefore is: Who is the earnest of our inheritance for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory. In Christ we have the redemption in His blood, the forgiveness of sins. This fact the Holy Spirit has impressed upon us by faith. And therefore He Himself is our earnest-money, our guarantee and assurance, that our final redemption from all evils of body and soul, of property and honor, will come, that we, the redeemed of the Lord, His own peculiar people, shall enter upon the possession and enjoyment of our inheritance in heaven. And with this consummation of our hopes the praise of the glory of God will also reach the state of perfection; then we shall exalt Him and all that He has done for us, world without end. Note: The election of grace always refers to the entire plan of God with reference to the chosen. It is not an absolute decree, but was made in Christ and is founded in the divine promises. Its acceptance is done by the certainty of faith.

Paul’s exhortation and supplication for the Church as the body of Christ: V.15. Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love unto all the saints, v.16. cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, v.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, v.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, v.19. and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, v.20. which He wrought in Christ when he raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, v.21. 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; v.22. and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, v.23. which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. A long and remarkable sentence, presenting the loftiest conception, both of Christ’s own supremacy and of the grandeur of that Church of His, of which the Ephesians have been made members. The distinction between Jews and Gentiles is no longer mentioned; Paul addresses his readers as a body: For this reason I, too, having heard of the faith among you in the Lord Jesus and of the love toward all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. For this cause, by reason of all the wonderful blessings which he had enumerated in the preceding section, because all these benefits have come upon us Christians in such rich measure, the apostle is constrained to give thanks. For he knew that his readers were believers, having had abundant evidence to satisfy himself upon that point when he was present with them, and having received additional information to the same effect since. They were in a state of faith, of which fact they also gave proof by their love toward all the saints. That was the first and immediate manifestation of their faith: they were united with all the believers, both Jews and Gentiles, by the bond of true brotherly love. This encouraging circumstance caused Paul to continue his practice of making continual grateful mention of them in his prayers. On their behalf he sent up ceaseless prayers of thanksgiving to the throne of grace; he never failed to remember them in his prayers. The reports which were reaching Paul concerning the gratifying prosperity of the Ephesian congregation in spiritual matters were such a source of cheer to him that he was constrained to continue his intercession for them.

The content of Paul’s intercessory prayer was: That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full understanding of Him. With all the progress which Christians make in this world they do not reach the state of perfection which is held out before them as the desirable goal. It is God that must continue the work of sanctification and bring it to the point agreeable to His will. This God is the God of Jesus Christ, the singular state of Godhood and Fatherhood being combined in His essence. But Jesus Christ is our Lord, and so the God of Jesus Christ, through Christ, is also our Father, of whom we may confidently expect everything that pertains to our salvation and sanctification. He is the Father of glory, for glory is His essential attribute, Acts 7, 2; 1 Cor. 2, 8. Perfection, magnificence, divine majesty and excellence is found in Him. The God thus characterized can give to the believers of all times the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. The Holy Ghost, who comes into the hearts of men when they come to faith, teaches them to understand the heavenly, divine things, He reveals to them the mysteries which would otherwise be hidden from them, the chief part of His work in this respect consisting in this, that the Christians obtain an ever clearer and sharper understanding of God. They advance from truth to truth, from knowledge to knowledge.

The apostle continues in his description of his prayer: (That God may give you) the eyes of your heart as enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what is the wealth of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. The heart, in Biblical language, is the center, not only of feeling, but also of thinking, willing, and understanding. Through His Holy Spirit God must enlighten the understanding of the Christians; for then only will they know what the hope of God’s calling is. Not only faith and love are wrought in the heart by God in conversion, but also hope. This hope, planted into the heart of the Christian by the call of the Lord, grows and becomes more fervent with his increase in spiritual life. The believers always have before the eyes of their mind the wonderful blessing which has been promised to them, the riches of the glory of God’s inheritance among the saints. The apostle piles up the nouns in order to bring home to the Christians, in some measure at least, the glory which is awaiting them by the promise of God. The perfected blessedness which shall be ours in heaven is a rich and magnificent inheritance; it is heavenly joy, bliss, and salvation, the reflection of the divine majesty and glory. We Christians are all too apt, while sojourning in this world, to have our attention distracted by the fool’s gold of this world, and therefore it is necessary to be trained to think of the inheritance of the saints in light.

Christians must furthermore learn to understand, as Paul here prays: And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us, namely, to those that believe according to the operation of the strength of His might. Stronger expressions could hardly be found in human language to bring out the absolute inability of man to do anything toward his conversion and salvation. Our conversion was made possible by the surpassing greatness of God’s power alone, as it was manifested toward us, exerted itself in our hearts and minds. That we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior was made possible only by the operative power which expressed His almighty strength, by which the Lord overcame the resistance of natural man, made us obedient to the Gospel, and now keeps us in the state of faith.

There is only one adequate measure of the exceeding greatness of God’s power, namely, the resurrection of Christ, as Paul writes: Which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His right hand in the heavens. Christ, in His state of exaltation, is the Mediator of the effective power of God, as it is shown in our conversion. By His resurrection and subsequent ascension to the right hand of power Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power, of the same degree of might and honor with the Father. Our state of faith is a work of power, a miracle of the Triune God. Note: The same Christ who as a true human being died, and through His blood earned the forgiveness of sins for all men, has been raised from the dead by God and placed at His right hand in the heavenly places. We therefore confess that Christ, through His resurrection and ascension, entered into the full possession and use of the divine majesty also according to the human nature which He adopted, a majesty which, however, he possessed during the entire state of humiliation. 6)

This reference to Christ’s state of exaltation now causes the apostle to expand this thought, almost in doxological form: Far above all rule, and authority, and power, and lordship, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in the coming one, and has placed all things under His feet. So much the exaltation of the despised Son of Man comprises. By setting Christ at His right hand in the heavens, God has put all things under His feet, has given Him, also according to His human nature, the free and unbounded dominion, not only over all power and authority in the physical world, but also over all the spirits of heaven, over the angels with their superhuman strength and power. No matter what the name and importance of any created being in this world and in the world to come may be, the power and authority of Christ, being that of omnipotence, is greater. Christ is the supreme Lord, to whom all creatures must yield obedience, Ps. 8.

But far more important than this supreme position in the Kingdom of Power is Christ’s position in the Kingdom of Grace, of which Paul sags: And (God) gave Him the Head over all to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all. In His capacity as Head over all things God has given Christ as a present to the Church, which is His body. All the believers, whether of Jews or of Gentiles, are here expressly placed together and designated with the collective name “Church,” which is the fellowship of all saints, of the elect children of God on earth. God has now made this arrangement, that Christ is the Head of this Church, and the Church is His body. Not the entire creation, hut the Church, the communion of the believing, chosen children of God, is the body of Christ. Cp. Col. 1, 18. It is a wonderful and most intimate union which thus obtains between Christ and the believers, for it results in making the Church like a vessel which is filled to the top, brimful with blessings. “The conception is that, the plenitude of the divine powers and qualities in Christ having been imparted by Him to His Church, the latter is now pervaded by His presence, animated with His life, filled with His gifts and energies and graces-a true vessel of His mercy.” 7) All in all He fills, -the Head of the universe is also the Head of the Church.

Summary. After opening his letter with an inspiring doxology in praise of the eternal election of grace and its blessings, the apostle states the content of his prayer for the Ephesians to be that they might come to the knowledge of the glory of their future inheritance, of the power of God in working and preserving saving faith in their hearts, and of the position of the exalted Christ as the Head of the Church.