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EXPLORING EPHESIANSA Devotional Commentary
By Ashley Day
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Ashley Day
All right reserved.
The opening verses of this chapter simply pinpoint who is writing and to whom he is addressing the letter.
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
There is some mystery concerning the recipients of this letter. Some manuscripts do not include the words "who are in Ephesus", and no specific commands are given to the Ephesian church in the body of the letter. This has led some to conjecture that Paul was writing a general epistle to area churches, rather than to one specific congregation. Colossians 4:16 refers to a "letter to Laodicea", which has never been found. Some scholars surmise that "Ephesians" might have been the missing epistle and was intended to be read in both communities. However, in the absence of specific evidence, it is safer to take the traditional view and assume that the epistle was addressed specifically to the Ephesians.
Paul was an apostle, which means "One sent". He had been sent to preach the message of salvation to the Gentiles. This brought him much opposition from his Jewish countrymen because they considered Gentiles to be outside the blessing of God. In addition, the message Paul preached was contrary to their beliefs. They had been taught from infancy that God was approached by keeping the Law of Moses, whereas Paul preached that the Law had been fulfilled and that salvation was a free gift of grace, through a personal faith in Jesus Christ.
However, Paul was not an apostle as the result of personal ambition. He was "an apostle ... by the will of God". The story of his conversion from a lethal persecutor of Christians to a staunch believer in Jesus Christ is recorded for us in Acts 9:1-18. It was as if he were dragged into the faith by the scruff of his neck and summarily appointed by God to carry the message of salvation by grace far and wide. "Freewill" was nowhere to be found in Paul's story.
His letter was addressed to "The saints who are in Ephesus". A saint is not someone who has been canonized by men. A true saint is one who has been sanctified, or made holy by God. The New Testament makes it clear that no man or woman could ever attain holiness in their own strength, but are made holy by their position in Christ. Christ is holy, and because believers are placed in Him at the moment of salvation, they are considered to be holy also. Thus, they are "saints". Paul was writing to Christians and they understood his greeting. At the outset he wished them the grace and peace which flow only from a direct relationship with the Godhead.
Verses 3 through 6 introduce us to the main part of the letter and deal with a subject which, although well-known on the surface, often causes Christians difficulty.
Blessed In Christ
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."
A blessing (in this sense of the word) is the benefit, favor or gift bestowed by God upon His children. What we think of as "blessings" today are the evidence, rather than the substance, of God's grace toward us. By that I mean that God's blessing is the divine motive which results in the benefit we receive. Here we see that there are blessings in Heaven as well as on earth, and that these blessings are not future but current. They are an established fact - right now. They already exist, have already been given, and they are personal in character. In the words of this verse, "He has blessed us. . "Provided you have trusted Jesus Christ for salvation, these blessings in Heaven are already yours. They have already been assigned to you, paid into your account, and are waiting for you to claim them.
This verse also tells us the scope of this blessing:
"He has blessed us with EVERY spiritual blessing in the Heavenly places".
"Every" is a superlative. It leaves nothing out. Heaven is a place of indescribable joy and peace, yet every blessing that ever emerged from the mind of God has already been given to us. They are ours, right now, and nothing could take them away.
The final truth this verse gives us is where these blessings reside.
"He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the Heavenly places IN CHRIST."
In other words, if a man or woman has Christ, he or she has everything Christ can give and everything for which He stands. We may not feel very happy about our walk. Maybe we are not as diligent as we know we should be, but if we have Christ, we have all that He is. He doesn't hand Himself out in stages, so that one person may have more of Him than another. It is all or nothing, and although we may well cheat ourselves out of blessing in the here and now, in Christ, we are eternally complete.
We are told in Colossians 2:3 that "in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." We are told in 1 Corinthians 1:30 that "But of Him you are in Christ Jesus" (the NASB has, "But BECAUSE of Him you are in Christ Jesus) who by God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Then we are told in Colossians 2:9-10 that "In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and we are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power." All these things were done, not as the result of any goodness in us, but by the decisive action of Almighty God. He gave His Only Begotten Son, He drew us to Himself and He placed us in Christ that we might be complete, not in our own estimation but in His.
That brings us to a subject which many would rather avoid. However, avoiding things never makes them go away. For instance, you could avoid a pothole in the road, but your avoidance would not fill it up. It would remain there for the next car to hit. And all truth is like that. God has recorded it in His Word and we are intended to read it, accept it and grasp it as far as our finite minds are able to comprehend.
God said in Isaiah 55:
"My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
The heavens are a lot higher than the earth, and God's thoughts are just as high above ours. "High", of course, is a relative term. If I were to ask you to point "up" (where "high" is) you would point directly above your head. But if I were to ask someone in Australia to do the same he would point in the opposite direction. In other words, God's thoughts are wider and deeper than all of space surrounding this entire planet but that is no excuse for avoiding them or reinterpreting them. To settle for what we think instead of what the Bible says would be fatal to good Bible study.
Peter agreed that some of Paul's writings are difficult to understand and that consequently some have been guilty of twisting them to make them agree with their own ideas. In doing so, they reap hurt to themselves (2 Peter 3:16).
So then, what is the subject that these next verses introduce? It is the subject of God's sovereign selection in the matter of salvation, which conflicts sharply with man's natural desire to control his own affairs. It raises questions about justice, fairness and freewill, all of which are generated by man's human intellect, which is severely limited. We are told in 1 Corinthians that "the foolishness of God is wiser than men." There are many things which man is incapable of understanding and God's sovereign selection in salvation is one of these.
In verse 3 we read that God has blessed those who have trusted Christ as their Savior with every spiritual blessing. That unimaginable grace is vested in Christ. The question arises, "Why should God give such blessing to the likes of you and me?" The answer comes in verse 4 which begins with the words, "according as ..." (The NASB substitutes, "just as. . "and the NIV has, "For..") They all translate the one word in the Greek that connects the two verses together. In other words, verse 4 (and those which follow) describes the motive for verse 3.
Chosen in Christ
God has blessed those who have trusted Christ with every spiritual blessing BECAUSE (verse 4):
"He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world."
As to why He chose us, there can be no reason other than sheer grace. Certainly God saw nothing in us to merit such a privilege. He did not search out the "good" people He knew would be born in the future and choose them. There would be no people good enough to qualify. Every one of us would be hopelessly lost in sin and heading for judgment. As Paul wrote in Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". Falling short of the glory of God is the definition of sin. Not only were we born incapable of meeting God's glory but at no time since we were born have we had the remotest hope of doing so. We are all therefore cut off from God and without hope, unless He takes action from His side. We could offer nothing to merit His favor, yet He gave it to us just the same. That is grace, and the Scriptures are consistent in saying that we are saved by grace.
Some people seek to get round the problem of election in this verse by claiming that God looked down the corridors of time, saw who would respond to Him and chose them for salvation. In other words, they place man in control of his own salvation. However, that reasoning has some deep flaws. The first is that if certain people were going to trust Christ of their own free will, God had no need to choose anybody. It would all happen automatically. God could simply sit back and wait to see how it all worked out! But the Scriptures teach that man, left to himself, does NOT choose God. Even the best men do not choose God of their own volition. Adam did not; Eve did not - and they knew God personally.
I do not believe Adam and Eve deliberately chose Satan rather than God (as some suggest). They simply chose self over God's wishes. Satan got what he wanted but they did not consciously choose him. At the prompting of the serpent, Eve saw that the fruit was "pleasant to the eyes". Whose eyes? Eve's eyes. She saw it was "good for food". For whom? For Eve! She saw it was "a tree to be desired to make one wise". Make who wise? Eve wise! She chose self. All sin boils down to selfishness in the end and man, left to himself, will always choose self over God.
The Bible says,
"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one." (Romans 3:10-12)
That is God's view of the human race. If God had not chosen some for salvation, none would ever have been saved! When He looked down the corridors of time He saw that NONE would choose Him - including you and me!
The second flaw in that argument is found in the verb translated "chose" or "has chosen" (According as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world"). The word has two parts: "ek", which means "out from among", and "lego", which is the verb "to choose" - "To choose out from among", "to select", or "to pick out". It speaks of a deliberate selection.
Let us look briefly at some other Bible passages where the same word is used:
First: Luke 6:13 - "And when it was day, he (Jesus) called unto him his disciples: and from them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles."
There were many disciples, but Jesus deliberately selected twelve from among them.
Second: John 15:16. Here the Lord Jesus is speaking to His disciples, and He says:
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain."
Third: Acts 6:3-5
"Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you (the NASB has "select from among you") seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word. 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip..... and so on."
They deliberately picked out seven from among the many.
Fourth: 1 Corinthians 1:27-28
"But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are."
The same word is used in all of these verses and the context in each case demonstrates that it is used to describe the deliberate selection of certain things or persons out from among a crowd. That is what God did with every believer. If you are a Christian today it is because God deliberately chose you before the foundation of the world. It is true that you received Christ by an act of your will. Certainly there was a time when you felt a compelling urge to reach out to Him for forgiveness and mercy and when you did, you found Him there, waiting for you. But you would not have done so had not God opened your eyes to your need and drawn you to Himself.
The man in the street sees no need of God. Neither did we until God opened our eyes. The Lord Jesus said, "No man can come to me unless my Father draws him" (John 6:44) But He also said, "All that the Father gives me will come to me and whosoever comes to me, I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). Acceptance is guaranteed! Anyone may come to Him and find acceptance, no matter who they are or what their life has been like. "Whosever will may come." and be received. That is what God's Word says. We could argue with it until the cows came home but it would not change a thing. If we come to Christ, we simply reveal the fact that God chose us before the creation of the universe.
Before we leave verse 4, there are two further words upon which we should ponder. "According as He chose us IN HIM before the foundation of the world." God did not just choose us without thought for the means of our salvation. He always knew He could not bring guilty and unforgiven sinners into His presence. He had to devise a way whereby we could be cleansed and redeemed. Thus, before man ever sinned, before he was even created, God planned the way of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ, and chose those who would eventually be saved through faith in His finished work on the cross.
This act of God's grace is a reason for rejoicing. It is a reason for profound gratitude that He should come to us in our blindness and open our eyes. It is humbling also. Why me? "Who am I, that for my sake my Lord should take frail flesh and die?" It is also a reason for security. If God chose me before the foundation of the world to receive salvation, knowing full well what I would be like and how I would act, why in the world would He take it away from me when His estimation of me turns out to be absolutely true? He is not taken by surprise by my failures. He knew all about them before the world was made - but He chose me just the same! What a marvelous foundation for security that knowledge supplies!
In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, Paul writes:
"But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ."
In other words, it was after these people heard the Gospel preached by Paul that they responded. But on the authority of Scripture, they had already been chosen by God or they would not have responded at all. The action they took would be the same as we all take, but the decree was already in the books, unknown centuries before they were born. That is a pretty marvelous thing. As the song goes: "I was in His mind before the world was made."
Excerpted from EXPLORING EPHESIANS by Ashley Day Copyright © 2012 by Ashley Day. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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