As a long time Christian , I recently found astounding inspiration in this passage in Ephesians I wish I had learned about sooner. I want to share it with you. The passage begins appropriately for the situation facing the biblical audience. It’s a theological statement as well as a message to encourage the saints in Ephesus. Paul opens verse 3 with a praise, which is to be “to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He continues in verse 3 suggesting a reason for this praise—“who has blessed us…” The word “blessed” is a Greek word (eulogeō) which means “to impart a benefit to someone being blessed.” The benefits imparted are not from the physical world but are spiritual blessings proceeding from “the heavenly realm,” where God resides and where believers have a share (Snodgrass, 1996). The blessings here are not indicative of the future, but are blessings we now partake of on earth because of the work Christ did for us on the cross.
The verse opens with a greeting by its author, the Apostle Paul, “to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1). Ephesus was a prominent city in Rome that housed one of the Seven Wonders of the World–the divine temple entity devoted to Diana (Artemis)—whom they worship and from which they made a lot of money. People travelled great distances to worship Artemis. The goddess was responsible for Ephesus’ prominence in business and also for the city’s immorality and wickedness. Sexual promiscuity, prostitution, sorcery and other sins were running rampant. However, saints were in Ephesus, who, with Paul, were proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ, uniting in church fellowship and the teaching of God’s word. Included were new convert Gentiles and Greeks who were turning from their gods to the Lord. As a result, believers were facing persecution, suffering, imprisonment, and involved in rioting.
Paul goes on in verses 4-13, it seems, letting us know what these imparted spiritual benefits are. These blessings have changed their life position. They are now united with God through Christ and must think and act this way, and not as they used to. These blessings are inclusive of all saints and the faithful in Christ Jesus, including converted Jews, Gentiles and Greeks who have put their faith in Christ. We will take a look at these blessings and the implications they had for the church of Ephesus as well as for believers today.
The first blessing bestowed on us by God is that“… He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (1:4). This thought of being chosen is confirmed in John 6:44, where Jesus lets us know, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him….” God is the initiator in bringing us to Himself. He elected us as members of His family to be holy and blameless in His sight. This is a phenomenal blessing indeed! Many times in our lives, because of our actions, personality, past mistakes, or present predicament, we do not equate ourselves as being holy. This verse encourages us that God sees us as holy and blameless in His sight. This is based solely on our identification and faith in Christ.
The next benefit bestowed upon us is that God, in love, “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (1:5-6). The idea of predestination, again, has to do with the idea that God decided beforehand to bring us into the family of God. To think, the God of the universe had you in mind to specially select you as His child! This should exhilarate us with much excitement! It is important to note here, God decided this in love! In our relationships with significant others, we express our dying love for each other. However, the God of heaven and earth first fell in love with us by deciding to bring us to Himself. He freely delighted in and wanted to do this for us, because He is a gracious and kind God who loves to show favor.
Our next benefit also “in Him” (in Christ that is)—“we have redemption through his blood”(1:7-8). The payment for sin required a sacrifice, which Christ paid when he shed His blood by dying on the cross. By putting our faith in His substitutionary death, He bought us back into right standing with God. This payment also blessed us with, “the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding”(1:7-8). God, in his wisdom, understood that mankind could never fulfill his righteous requirements, so Christ’s death, again, stood in our place, took the penalty we deserved in order to bring us to God. When we sin, we receive forgiveness when we ask. Christ, the great High Priest, intercedes to the Father on our behalf, asking God to remember the sacrifice He made for our sins. As such, God’s gracious nature forgives us on Christ’s behalf, all because we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior!
God has also blessed us because He, “made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put in effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ” (1:9-10). We are now no longer strangers, but heirs with God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17 NIV). As such, God has shared classified information with us, that once was hidden. As His children, we are now trustworthy to receive it. This mystery includes, I believe, God’s enlightenment about His plan of salvation which is through Christ. This plan was being worked on before the foundations of the world, since the creation and throughout the Old Testament—God bringing people to Himself in relationship. As we trusted Him, He has revealed to us that, at the proper time of fulfillment, everything on heaven and earth will come together under His rule. And everything will be back in order and under God’s authority. As believers, we understand and hope for this as we continue in our spiritual journey.
Another blessing we received is stated as,“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, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory” (1:11-12). Believers were not just haphazardly chosen to live life aimlessly. God had a predetermined plan for our lives that He would work all things, within us and throughout lives, according to His will. This includes our good, our bad, and our ugly. God wants to show forth His glory through our life testimony. When we share it, the world will follow suit and give God praise. We cannot always fathom this in our painful earthly moments, but there is a larger picture God has in the heavenly realm which is oftentimes incomprehensible to us until God reveals it. This too is indicative of such a great blessing we have as dwellers on earth living with a heavenly mindset–God chose us with a plan in mind! We surely are not “nothings.”
The final blessing addressed in this passage, and possibly the best of them all, states, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.”(1:13-14). “You also were included” mentioned here could be Paul’s specific address to the Gentile believers at that time who were not originally God’s chosen people. He is encouraging them that they are now included (Snodgrass, 1996). I believe we can safely assume also that this blessing would include all persons throughout all ages who would come to Christ. Upon conversion, believers in Christ receive a “seal” and a “deposit”—the promised Holy Spirit. This mark identifies us as God’s possession. The Holy Spirit’s mark also serves as our down payment, so to speak, to guarantee our place in heaven. To think, God has put a stamp of approval on us to walk through the pearly gates! This is comforting to know because this puts the forces of darkness–who roam throughout the spiritual realm–on notice that we belong to God; therefore they cannot harm us. It also comforts us that our place in heaven is secured. When we die and when the “times have reached their fulfillment,” our place in heaven is guaranteed through Jesus Christ. Nothing can alter this fact.
How blessed we are, ‘eh! Paul graciously addresses the significance of this perspective. Announcing these blessings to us shows us what God had in mind in times past, what they have afforded us in our present life here on earth, and the glorious hope of our future. This reality was needed for the biblical audience in Ephesus as well as for us today. While the extent of suffering, pain and persecution for Christ is not as prevalent today as it was in Ephesus, believers today do suffer for bearing Christ’s name. This letter’s message to the Ephesians saints, I’m sure, encouraged and provided them hope in their corrupt surroundings, during imprisonments, persecutions and rioting. Believers today can gain encouragement and hope as we live our daily lives in an increasingly ungodly world.
Paul’s challenge for the believers in Ephesus was to train their mindset to think like God, according to these spiritual blessings they had received. As we fellowship together in church, visit one another’s homes, work with one another, teach, and talk with one another, let’s also remind and encourage each other with these words.
I close with Paul’s most fitting opening acknowledgement, “Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us.” The Apostle Paul got his own message first. He shows us in verse 17 where he prays, “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.”
I too hope and pray that you will know that you are blessed! Embed these blessings in your hearts and minds. Speak them out of your mouth! They come with divine authority from a graceful God. They will enable you to think and act according to God’s will. They will remove doubt and fear as you face persecution and temptation. They will cause you not to shrink back. You will sense a closeness to God who loves and cares for you and will never leave you. Your assessment of yourself will change, and you will know, “I belong to God and within His family!”
Be inspired my friends, until next time!!!
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (3:20).
Snodgrass, K. (1996). The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan.