In Ephesians 1:1-6, the apostle Paul wrote this:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints that are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved . . .”
In this passage, the apostle Paul tells the Ephesian saints of the infinite and unimaginable blessings that they have received in Christ.
He begins with the introduction of his letter:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints that are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
First, he obviously tells his audience who he is — he is the man Paul, who was famous in Ephesus, as he had preached there for about 3 years, so that everyone in the province of Asia heard the Word of the Lord, and he did extraordinary miracles there as well. However, he doesn’t say that he was a preacher or a miracle worker, but an apostle of Christ Jesus. What was an apostle? The Greek word for apostle literally means “a sent one”, and has the idea of one who is sent with the authority of the one who sent him, and that is what Paul was. And who sent him? Christ Jesus, or, literally, the Anointed One Jesus. He was anointed with the Spirit of God to be the ultimate Prophet, High Priest, and King of His people.
And how did Paul become an apostle? Through the will of God. What does this mean? That it was God’s all-powerful will that made him an apostle. It wasn’t his will, it was God’s will. If it had been up to his will, he would have never have been an apostle.
Next, Paul tells us who he is writing the letter to: “to the saints that are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus”. This would be better translated: “to the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus that are at Ephesus” because both “saints” and “faithful” are connected to “in Christ Jesus”. So, what does it mean that they are “saints”? Literally, it means that they are “holy ones”. And what does it mean to be holy? To be set apart, or separate. They are set apart and separate from those who aren’t faithful and in Christ Jesus. And to whom are they set apart? To God and to Christ Jesus. But not only that, they are also faithful. This would be better translated “full of faith”, or believers. It doesn’t refer to their trustworthiness, as much as to their believing in Christ Jesus. However, the “in Christ Jesus” doesn’t connect to “faithful” in that way here.
What does it mean to be in Christ Jesus? It means to be spiritually united to Him, so that everything that is true of Him in His humanness is spiritually true of everyone who is in Him. All Christians are in Christ Jesus, and that is why they are holy ones and full of faith in Christ Jesus; it is ultimately because of their union with Christ Jesus that they are holy and have trust in Him.
Next, Paul greets the saints with a promise for them: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.
First, he tells them that they have grace from God their Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. What is grace? At its root, it means undeserved favor, but this manifests itself in a multitude of ways. What do I mean by that? The whole of salvation is by God’s grace. All of its parts are by God’s grace, and every single aspect of the believer’s life is only a result of God’s grace. Everything that happens to him, everything that he has, everything that he does, and everything that he is is a result of God’s grace. It is by grace that he was saved, by grace that he’s being sanctified, and by grace that he lives the Christian life. And from whom is this grace? God their Father, and the Lord, or Supreme Authority, Jesus Christ.
Secondly, he tells them that they have peace from their Father and the Lord. What is this peace? It is the peace that surpasses all comprehension. It is the peace that allows a believer to endure the worst of calamities, the worst of persecution, the worst of suffering, and have peace with it and be content. It is the peace that allows a believer to stand in front of a crowd of people who are ready to stone him to death, and to preach the gospel to them with power and with love for them. Furthermore, this peace manifests itself in the church, as there is peace and spiritual prosperity among the fellowship and community of the brethren, and they are able to be harmonious.
Next, in verses 3-6, Paul praises God for His election, or predestination:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ: 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: 5 having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved . . .”
He begins this praise of God by simply praising God: “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
What does Paul mean by saying “blessed be”? He means “may He be spoken well of” or “may He be praised”. But why does Paul call God “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”? Well, because the only way that saints can have God be their God and their Father is if they are related to the Lord Jesus Christ. God is first and foremost the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ because the only way we can know God is through Jesus Christ. But how can God be “the God of” Jesus Christ? Because Jesus Christ isn’t only divine, but He is also a man, and as such, the Father is His God as much as He is the God of every saint. It is only because God is the God and Father of Jesus Christ that He can be the Object of worship and the Father of anyone.
But why does Paul praise God? First of all, because He “hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing”. What does this mean? It means that every saint has every possible spiritual, or Holy Spirit-given, blessing. What is a blessing? It isn’t something that provides physical comfort, or physical ease, or physical pleasure necessarily, but only that which benefits the recipient spiritually. And all saints, without exception, have every spiritual blessing. But where are they? I don’t see them, nor recognize they’re all there, nor feel that I’m experiencing them all the time. Paul answers: they’re “in the heavenly places”. What are the heavenly places? They are the spiritual places, the places we can’t imagine, nor see. Specifically, they are the places in heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ is. Finally, Paul says that God has blessed saints with these blessings “in Christ”. What does this mean? That it is only because saints are united to Christ that they receive these blessings.
But how did God bless His saints with these blessings, besides because they are in Christ? Paul says that He did this “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world”. So why do saints have all these blessings? Because God chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world. How did He choose them again? In Christ. Why did He choose them? Because they were in Christ before the foundation of the world. If He chose them before the foundation of the world in Christ, then it logically follows that they were in Christ before the foundation of the world.
And why did God choose His saints? “That we should be holy and without blemish before him.” I’m omitting the words “in love” because they belong at the beginning of the next verse. So what was the purpose for God choosing His saints in Christ? So that they would be holy, or set apart, and without blemish, or blameless, before Him. What does this mean? Well, notice that Paul says that God did this so they would be holy and blameless before Him. Why add “before Him”? Because this holiness and blamelessness is holiness and blamelessness of the heart, which only God sees and knows. This is a separateness unto God and a blamelessness that is possessed by the saint in his heart. Does he sin? Yes, but his heart isn’t sinful — it’s holy and blameless.
But specifically how, or in what way, did God choose His saints? Paul tells us: “in love having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself”. So, God chose His saints in foreordaining them, or predestining them, to adoption as sons. What does this mean? Well, it’s pretty obvious if you just look at the word “predestined”. The word has two parts — pre- and -destined. Pre- means “before” and “destined” means “determined”. So, God determined that saints would be adopted as sons before they were adopted as sons. And why did He do this? In love. This was an act of love on God’s part, that He would adopt anyone as sons.
But what does it mean that God determined to adopt the saints as sons? Why did Paul say that they would be adopted as “sons” rather than “children”? Because the “sons” he is referring to are adult sons, or those in the Roman Empire who would have been considered the heirs of their father’s estate. So, what does it mean to be adopted as one of God’s sons? To be made a recipient of all physical things that belong to Him. And what belongs to Him? The universe.
And how did God determine to adopt the saints as sons? Through Jesus Christ. It is only through who He is as the Savior and the Supreme Prophet, High Priest, and King, that people can be adopted as God’s sons. First, the guilt and condemnation of people had to be dealt with, and Jesus Christ did it by dying on the cross for our sins, suffering the wrath of God in the place of His people. Second, reconciliation had to be made, and Jesus Christ is the Mediator between God and men, being the Go-between and Advocate for His people. Thirdly, there had to be some reason outside of people that God would adopt anyone as His sons, and the reason is Jesus Christ. God determined to adopt people as His sons to create a new people for His Son, that would worship, exalt, love, and serve Him for eternity.
But what ever moved God to determine to adopt His saints as sons through Jesus Christ? The good pleasure, or kind intention, of His will. He did it because it gave Him pleasure to do so. And what is the end, or ultimate goal of this adoption? The praise of the glory of His grace. He did this so that the glory, or full and awesome manifestation, of His grace, would be praised. By whom? By His people and His holy angels. And they will praise the glory of His grace — which is embodied by Jesus Christ — for eternity.
Finally, Paul says that this grace was freely bestowed on the saints in the Beloved. There is more to “freely bestowed” than meets the eye. It could properly be translated “highly favored” or “endued with special honor”. That is, God gave His saints His grace in the most special and lavish way imaginable. And how did He do it? In His beloved Son. That is, because they were in His beloved Son from all eternity. In other words, He highly favored them in the same way that He highly favored His beloved Son — since they are beloved sons in the Beloved.
So, if you’re a believer in gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, how does this apply to you?
- You are a holy one, separate from all unbelievers, and you belong to your Father and to your Lord.
- You are a believer, or full of faith, in the gospel because you are in Christ Jesus, not because of who you are, or anything you’ve done.
- You have undeserved favor from your God and Father and your Lord.
- You have the peace that surpasses all comprehension from your God and Father.
- You ought to regularly praise God for anything that He’s given you and done for you.
- You’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.
- God chose you in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him.
- God predestined you in love to adoption as a son through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.
- God predestined you to adoption to the praise of the glory of His grace.
- God freely bestowed and highly favored you with His grace in the Beloved.
What can you do in response to these blessings?
- Strive to be more set apart to Christ.
- Strive to trust God’s Word more.
- Be gracious toward others.
- Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart.
- Appreciate and use the spiritual blessings that you’ve been blessed with.
- Strive to be more blameless before God.
- Strive to be more like Jesus Christ.
If you’re not a saint, a believer, and you aren’t holy and blameless before God, then you can know that all of these blessings are yours if you will change your mind about God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and yourself, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for our sins, and His physical resurrection as the only grounds of God’s forgiveness of your sins. God sent His Son to earth to become a man, Jesus of Nazareth, to punish Him while He was on the cross because of our sins, and to raise Him from the dead, and He now commands everyone to change their minds and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for sins, and His resurrection as the only basis for His forgiveness of their sins. He is now commanding you to do that because He has fixed a day on which He will judge everyone in righteousness through the Lord Jesus Christ, including you, and if you aren’t trusting in Him, His death and resurrection for His forgiveness, He will cast you into eternal hell because of your rebellion against Him. He promises to forgive you of every single one of your sins and give you eternal life if you will change your mind and trust in Him alone for those things. Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved from His wrath.