1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful[a] in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Spiritual Blessings in Christ
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us[b] for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
As we begin our study of Ephesians, I would like to explain how this study will differ from our past studies:
- We will be taking a slower route through the text.
- In the past, we predominately kept to a more general view of the text involved only swooping in for a closer look at those items which looked most important; however, in Ephesians, we will be marching on the ground, if I may use that analogy, and will be inspecting every rock, twig, and shrub that we encounter. We will be looking for the footprints of God, and endeavoring to rightly understand what the Spirit inspired.
- I will be expecting a sincere commitment from each of you in reading and critically evaluating the text as we encounter it.
- 2 Timothy 3:16 is our rally-cry. That all Scripture is directly inspired by God, and is useful for our sanctification and enlightenment in the knowledge of our Heavenly Father, and our King Jesus Christ.
- I will expect each member to come prepared to discuss what they have encountered in the text, and I will do my best to equip each of you to become more astute at critically reading the text.
- We will be focusing on harmonizing the principles revealed in Ephesians with the whole of Scripture.
- Be prepared for me to ask you probing questions about your interpretations, applications, and opinions about these topics. This is to help you to better understand why you believe what you believe so you can be better equipped to share that belief with others.
- Be open to what Scripture says, and if you disagree, be prepared to cite Scripture to back up your position!
- Pray for wisdom and understanding, trusting the Holy Spirit to empower you to understand God’s Word- He wants you to!
I want to start our session today with a question, “Why did Paul write this letter to the church of Ephesus?”
If you cannot answer the question, do not feel bad, we have not discovered the reason yet! I ask this question up front, because answering this question will go a long way toward helping us understand the theological truths that the author intended to convey in his message. I am going to ask similar questions each week, and I do not want for us to disregard them, but to recognize that questions drive discovery- only the fool thinks they already know it all.
This study is not going to focus on intellectual knowledge only, but rather, we are going to gain knowledge in order to exercise wisdom- wisdom being the correct application of knowledge. As the Spirit reveals the message of Ephesians to us, we are going to be like the wise man who built his house upon the Rock. So put your thinking and applying caps on, as we begin the Letter to the Church at Ephesus.
Paul introduces himself at the beginning of the letter, and calls himself an ‘apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.’
Q2. For what purpose(s) did Paul include his apostolic call?
A2. Paul was no stranger to controversy, and his apostleship had been questioned before by some members of the church at Corinth. Paul was in essence reminding his audience that he was an apostle, ordained by God, and therefore had authority over them.
v.3 The Father has blessed us (in Christ) with every spiritual blessing in heavenly realm.
Focus on the tenses of the verbs in this passage- they are past tense, meaning that the action has already been perfected (i.e. taken place).
Q3. But, what does it mean that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places?
In order to understand what the apostle is conveying, we need to understand the words that he used, and what their common meaning would have been to the original audience. The word that is translated ‘has blessed’ is eulogeo (yoo-log-eh’-o) which means to ‘speak well of, to prosper’. So we could say that, in Christ, the Father has spoken well of us, and prospered us.
Q4. Why does Paul include ‘in heavenly places’?
Paul is clearly focused throughout this letter on the spiritual realities that exist outside of our carnal experience. This particular usage is limited to Ephesians, and as we come across them, we should note the context in which the word (phrase in English) is used. Spurgeon commented on this passage as having multiple meanings depending on how one viewed it. It could either mean that one possesses no spiritual blessing which did not come from Christ, or that we have possession of every blessing that exists in Heaven.
I say yes to both!
Notice the pronoun usage throughout this passage. It is helpful to print out the text and to physically mark the object of the pronoun for clarity. Let us read verse 4 together and tie the pronouns back to their objects.
v.4 ‘He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world’
Q5. In your opinion, what idea is Paul conveying through this phrase?
Q6. What is the purpose of our being chosen in Christ?
v.5 ‘He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ…’
Here Paul uses the word proorisas pro-or-id’sas which means to predetermine / foreordain, and the object of the verb is adoption to son-ship. Paul was writing to a people who would have been familiar with the Roman custom of adoption, but before I explain that custom to you, I want to hear your thoughts on this passage.
Q7. What idea is Paul conveying by using the word, predestined?
Q8. When you think of being adopted by God, what does that mean to you?
Roman custom of adoption: (Valnes, 2011)
Adoption was a serious matter
- Roman patria potestas – the father had absolute power and control over his family.
- Adoption was not usually children (as in our society) but typically adult males. The practice allowed poor-classed males to advance in society.
- Two steps (conducted in the presence of 7 witnesses)
- Mancipatio – symbolic ritual that released male from paternal father to adopting father.
- Vidicatio – legal proceeding in which the court was persuaded of adoption by evidence and witnesses.
- Consequences of Adoption
- Adoptee lost the rights of their paternal family, and were given full rights in adoptive family.
- Became full heir to their father’s estate (full share if other heirs existed)
- Old life was completely wiped out, they were regarded as a new person with a new life- nothing to do with old life.
- In the eyes of the law an adoptee was considered a new person, any debts they had in their old life were wiped out as though they never existed.
- The adoptee was seen as an absolute child of the adoptive father.
Paul concludes verse 5 by pointing us back to God’s love for us as being the motivation, through His grace, by which we have been blessed with adoption.
Q9. What are the implications of your adoption to son-ship by God through Christ now that you have a better understanding of the meaning that Paul was conveying?
v.7 ‘to unite all things in Him, things on heaven and things on earth.’
Paul tells us that the above phrase is the mystery of God’s will, which fulfils the eternal plan, and was revealed to us through Christ. (John 1:1-7)
I intended to make it through verse 13 this week, but I fear that we will not be able to do so. We will continue next week with verse 11, and try to make it to verse 23 (the end of the first chapter); however, as I stated at the outset, I want to examine every detail that God has given us in this letter, and the only way to do so is to take our time.
In light of what we have examined today, I want the each of you to ponder the following questions, and to be prepared to share your answers next week.
- Now that I understand what was meant by adoption, how has my perception of my relationship to God changed?
- Having been blessed (spoken well of, prospered) by God, what else do I lack in order to be fulfilled?
- How will I bless God this week in light of His having blessed me?