In Ephesians 1:13-16, the apostle Paul says this:
“. . . in whom [Christ] ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation,—in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God’s own possession, unto the praise of his glory.
For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which ye show toward all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers . . .”
If you’ve been following this series in Ephesians, you’ve seen that Paul has been describing the glorious riches of salvation that all Christians have in Christ, and you’ll also notice that I’ve skipped some verses. Why? Because it’s Thanksgiving in the U.S., and I want to capitalize on that by focusing in on Paul’s thanksgiving in this first chapter of Ephesians.
In the above verses, Paul first explains why he doesn’t cease to give thanks for the Ephesians. We can see this by reading “For this cause I also . . . cease not to give thanks for you . . .” What is the cause he’s referring to? The whole sentence that comes before this. He has about 8 causes, or reasons, for his thanksgiving:
- Their Participation with the first Christians
- The Preaching that they heard
- Their Persuasion that the gospel is true
- Their Promised Helper
- The Pledge of their inheritance
- The Perfection of their souls
- The Purpose of their redemption
- His Positiveness about their spiritual condition
The first reason Paul gives us for his thanksgiving for the Ephesians is their participation with the first Christians. Why do I say that? Look at what Paul says before this passage, along with this first reason:
“. . . in whom [Christ] also WE were [given an inheritance], having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will; to the end that we should be unto the praise of his glory, we WHO HAD BEFORE HOPED IN CHRIST: in whom ye ALSO, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation,—in whom, having also believed . . .”
Notice that Paul begins by saying that “we” were given an inheritance, then describes who these people are — those who had before, or first, hoped in Christ. Then, he says you also, obviously referring to a different group of people. Now, the question is, “you also” what? You also having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation? Paul doesn’t say anything about that in the preceding clause. You also believed? If that was what Paul meant, then Paul would be saying: “. . . in whom ye also believed, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation — in whom, having also believed . . .” Notice that Paul is unnecessarily repeating himself?
No, what Paul is saying that the Ephesians have in common with those who first hoped in Christ was that they “were given an inheritance”. And what is this inheritance? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:22:
“. . . whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; ALL are yours . . .”
And why does this inheritance belong to all believers? Because they are in Christ, or spiritually united to Him — what is His in His humanity is theirs. In fact, Paul says, “in whom [Christ] ye also [were given an inheritance]”.
The second reason that Paul gives for his thanksgiving for the Ephesians is the preaching that they heard: “having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation”.
What does Paul mean by “the word of the truth”? In contemporary English, he would be saying “the message of the truth”. But what is the truth? It is God’s Word; as the Lord Jesus Christ said, “sanctify them in thy truth, thy word is truth” (John 17:3). And what is the truth about? The Lord Jesus Christ, of course, just as He said: “I am the way, the truth . . .” So, Paul is saying that the Ephesians heard the message of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But what does Paul mean by “the gospel of your salvation”? The word “gospel” is translated from the Greek word, euangellion, which literally means “good (eu-) news (-angellion)”. So, this is the good news of the Ephesians’ salvation. But what does Paul mean by salvation? He means rescue or deliverance from the wrath of God, from the eternal punishment of sinners, from enslavement to sin, and from the power of sin.
And what exactly is this gospel? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8:
“Now I make known unto you brethren, the GOSPEL which I PREACHED UNTO YOU, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, BY WHICH ALSO YE ARE SAVED, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. FOR I DELIVERED UNTO YOU first of all that which also I received: that CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES; AND THAT HE WAS BURIED; AND THAT HE HATH BEEN RAISED ON THE THIRD DAY ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES; and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also.”
The third reason that Paul gives for his thanksgiving for the Ephesians is their persuasion that the gospel is true: “. . . in whom [Christ], having also believed . . .”
Notice that Paul says they “believed”. What did they believe? The word of the truth, the gospel of their salvation. And who did they believe? The apostle Paul, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who was speaking through him.
Paul gives next gives a fourth reason that he unceasingly gives thanks for the Ephesians: “. . . in whom [Christ]. . . ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise . . .” This is the promised Holy Spirit.
Now, first of all, what does Paul mean that they were sealed in Christ? It means that this sealing only happened because they were in Christ, or spiritually united to Him, and they were sealed so as to mark them as people being in Christ.
But what does Paul mean by “ye were sealed“? The word “sealed” could also be translated “stamped”, and refers to a mark of ownership. So, in other words, God stamped the Ephesians with the Holy Spirit to show that He owned them as adopted sons, and that they would be His for eternity.
And who is the Holy Spirit of promise? He is one of the three Persons of the Trinity, who is the Holy Spirit of both God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. More than that, He was promised to the church in the Old Testament and the New, and was given on the day of Pentecost, when the Lord Jesus Christ shed forth of His Spirit on His people, and He indwelt them.
The fifth reason that Paul gives for his thanksgiving for the Ephesians is the pledge of their inheritance: “. . . the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance . . .”
What does Paul mean by “an earnest of our inheritance”? The word “earnest” would be better translated “pledge”, and refers to a “down payment”, or something given in advance of giving what is promised so as to secure the trust of the one who is receiving it. In this case, the pledge is the Holy Spirit Himself, and the promised gift is the inheritance of the new earth that God has promised His Son and His children in His Son. If God gave His own Holy Spirit to His children, Paul is implying, then He will certainly give the inheritance of all things that He has promised them.
The sixth reason Paul has for his thanksgiving for the Ephesians is their perfection: “. . . which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God’s own possession . . .”
Notice, first, the word “unto”. This means “with a view to”. So, what was in view when God gave the Ephesians the Holy Spirit as a pledge of their inheritance? The redemption of God’s own possession. So, what does the inheritance involve? This redemption.
But what does “redemption” mean here? Basically, the word means delivery from slavery by the payment of a ransom price. But this redemption is in the future, and the Ephesians have already been redeemed according to verse 7 of this chapter: “. . . in whom we HAVE redemption through his blood . . .”
Yes, that is true — those who are in Christ have been delivered from slavery to eternal punishment and sin by the bloody death of Christ in their place. But that redemption isn’t complete until they are completely delivered from their sins. And when will that happen? When God redeems His own possession, the church, by giving them perfect bodies that are without sin, and they become just like the Lord Jesus Christ in His humanness.
This is how Paul puts it in Romans 8:23:
“And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
The seventh reason Paul includes for his thanksgiving for the Ephesians is the purpose of their redemption: “. . . unto the redemption of God’s own possession, unto the praise of his glory”.
So, what is the purpose of the church’s final and perfect redemption as God’s own possession? The praise of His glory. And what is His glory? It is the total majesty and beauty and perfection of who He is. It is embodied in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 1:3:
“Who [God’s Son] being the brightness OF HIS GLORY, and the express image OF HIS PERSON . . .”
It is to His praise that the church will be perfectly redeemed.
Finally, Paul gives his final reasons for giving thanks for the Ephesians — his positiveness about their spiritual condition:
“. . . having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which ye show toward all the saints . . .”
Why does Paul say that he’s heard of their faith and love right before saying that he is unceasing in his thanksgiving for them? Because he’s sure that they are believers in the gospel, and are children of God. Why? Because he’s heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus, and the love that they have for all the saints.
These two characteristics are absolutely essential to be considered a Christian. A Christian is not just someone who believes in the Lord, or Supreme Authority, Jesus, but who also shows love for His saints, or holy ones. Anyone who is trusting in the Lord Jesus as his Lord and Savior will show love for other saints in his lifestyle, and anyone who shows this love for the saints has saving faith in the Lord Jesus. The apostle John says this exact thing in 1 John 5:1:
“Whosoever BELIEVETH that Jesus is THE CHRIST is begotten of God: and whosoever LOVETH him that begat LOVETH him also that is BEGOTTEN OF HIM.”
Finally, notice that Paul says that the Ephesians show love for all the saints, not just a special group of them.
Now, those are the reasons that Paul gives thanks for the Ephesians, but how does he give thanks for them?
First, he thanks God for them persistently: “. . . I also . . . cease not to give thanks for you . . .” In other words, every time he mentions them in his prayers, he thanks God for them for all the blessings that God has given them, by which they glorify His Son and Him.
Second, he thanks God for them prayerfully, while “making mention of [them] in [his] prayers”. The Greek for “mention” can also be translated “recollection”, so he’s not just mentioning them, but he’s remembering them in his prayers — again, because of all the blessings they have been given, and how they’re blessedness has blessed Paul as he’s heard of their faith and love.
So, if you believe the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have faith in the Lord Jesus, and love for all the saints, how does this passage apply to you?
- In Christ, you have heard spiritually the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.
- Because you believed the gospel, you were sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit of promise.
- The Spirit living inside of you is a pledge of your inheritance.
- God will eventually perfectly and completely redeem you, as His own possession.
- Your redemption exists for the praise of God’s glory.
- You ought to make mention of your brethren in Christ in your prayers.
- Any time you mention brethren in your prayers, and remember their faith in the gospel, in the Lord Jesus, and their love for all the saints, you ought to be thankful for them.
If you aren’t trusting only in the Lord Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and don’t have love for the saints, then you are rebelling against the Lord Jesus Christ. He was sent from heaven by the Father to become a man, to die for our sins against His Father, to rise from the dead, to prove it by appearing to many people, and to ascend into heaven as the Lord of the universe. God is now commanding all people everywhere to change their minds and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for their sins, and His resurrection from the dead as the only grounds of His forgiveness of their sins and the inheritance of the new earth and perfect redemption because He has determined to judge the world in righteousness through the Lord Jesus Christ, including you. He promises that if you change your mind and trust in Him and His message, He will give you complete forgiveness and eternal life.