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Ephesians 1

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Verses 1-2


The letter to the believers in Ephesus is a special one. There is a huge difference between this letter and the previous one, the letter to the Galatians, really the difference between heaven and earth. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul had to point out to the Galatian believers in an almost cool and sober manner, their deviation from the truth of the gospel. Although, you can certainly read between the lines his great compassion and emotional involvement with them.

Considering what was at stake, Paul warned them how much they were risking to be robbed from every blessing and even fall from grace (Galatians 5:4). By accepting the law again in their life, the believers in Galatia gave room again to the ‘elemental things of the world’ (Galatians 4:3; Galatians 4:9).

How totally different is the content of the letter to the Ephesians. This letter shows you as a Christian:
1. what your real blessings are,
2. where to find them and
3. where they come from.

By reading this letter you discover that the blessings of the Christian
1. are spiritual,
2. are found in heaven and
3. originally come from the heart of God.

However, in this letter you will not only find the blessing for the individual Christian. All believers together are the church and also the church as a whole has received tremendous blessings. Paul also writes a lot about the height and the depth of these blessings in this letter. It is because of her connection with her glorified Head in heaven, Jesus Christ, that the church receives these blessings. In Ephesians 3 the apostle calls this connection a “mystery”.

A comparison with the letter to the Romans clarifies still more what the issue is of this letter to the Ephesians. In the last mentioned letter, written around the year 62 when Paul was a prisoner in Rome, he writes about how he defines it in Romans 16 “the revelation of the mystery” (Romans 16:23).

In the letter to the Romans Paul could not expand further on this, but he indeed wanted to mention that there was more than righteousness by faith, about which he wrote in detail to the Roman believers. That’s why he lightly touched on the mystery before he ended his letter to them. But in his letter to the Ephesians he writes in detail about the mystery.

To point at a subject briefly in one letter and circumstantiate it in another has to do with the special purpose each of these letters has. The letter to the Romans teaches us what God has done to meet us in our misery in which we were living due to sin and because of our sins. In that letter man in his need is centered. The letter to the Ephesians shows us the heart of God. In that letter God is centered with His plan and His desire to bless us without any motive that has to do with man or man in his need.

If you read and reread this letter you will be more and more impressed by the greatness of God’s heart. Nobody else than God alone could think of blessing sinners – who were spiritually dead, living at the same time rebellious against Him (Ephesians 2:1-Exodus :) – with enormous riches, instead of devouring them by His righteousness and holiness. One of those riches is that we have put on the new man “which according to God is created in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24 Darby translation). That is totally different than being devoured by His righteousness and holiness!

The following example might be helpful to illustrate what this letter tells us about God. A rich man could do a favor to a poor street-boy if he paid the fine for the crime he has committed. That would be very kind of that man. Due to this kindness the boy also escapes the punishment for not paying the fine. The kindness of this man would go further if he would give this boy the opportunity to an education in order to liberate him from ignorance. If the man would also provide his livelihood the boy would no longer be poor. That all would be kindness in view of the misery the boy lived in.

But, if the man would adopt the boy as a son and therefore have him close to him and provide the boy with wealth and influence, it would have nothing to do at all with the misery the boy lived in. That would only show the nature and the mind of the rich man, and what he enjoys himself.

That is indeed how God is presented in the letter to the Ephesians. Everything in this letter comes from God, from His thoughts and counsels. What man needs or would like to have is entirely not the issue. There is one more picture that illustrates what the letter to the Ephesians teaches us. You can find this picture in the Old Testament, in the journey of Israel from Egypt through the desert to the promised land, Canaan. In the book of Exodus you see the ‘picture’ of what the letter to the Romans teaches us. In Egypt the people of God are in bondage and are being delivered from that after keeping the Passover. That deliverance you find back in the letter to the Romans. There a man is presented to us who is living in the bondage of sin and is being saved from that through the blood and the cross of Jesus Christ.

After the Passover the people depart from Egypt and arrive in the desert through the Red Sea. There the people get the tabernacle, wherein God lives amongst His people. They can also get sacrifice services by which they are able to approach God and remain connected to Him. This is being described in the book of Leviticus. After Leviticus comes Numbers where the journey through the desert is being described and the means God provides for that journey. The pictures of Leviticus you can find in the New Testament, in the teachings of the letter to the Hebrews and the pictures of Numbers you find back in the two letters to the Corinthians.

Before the people enter the promised land, they camped for a certain time in the plains of Moab. That is where Moses held his big speech. You find that in the book of Deuteronomy. In the first chapters of that book he gives a review, but after that he looks forward, to everything that was awaiting the people in the promised land. In the New Testament you then arrive at the letter to the Philippians. That letter is about the Christian who is still yet on earth, but his whole heart focused on heaven.

After the book of Deuteronomy comes the book of Joshua. The people have passed over the Jordan and entered Canaan. In the New Testament you find this in the letter to the Ephesians. Just like Israel had to take possession of the land that God gave, you are being taught through the letter to the Ephesians to take possession of what your spiritual property is in the heavenly places.

All the blessings that are presented in this letter have been given to you in Christ. However, only when you have taken them in possession by yourself spiritually, with your heart, will you be able to say that they have really become your spiritual property. We can only say that a truth has become our spiritual property when not only have we given that truth a place in our heart, but when we have worshipped God for that truth. That is just what God desires according to the truths in the letter you now have before you.

Sender, Recipients, Blessing

Ephesians 1:1. Just as in the four previous letters, Paul presents himself here as “an apostle”. And just as in the second letter to the Corinthians he adds “of Christ Jesus by the will of God”. In some of the letters he also mentions a co-sender. He doesn’t do that in this one. God had announced to Paul, and to him alone, the mystery of the unity between Christ and the church. Considering the purpose of this letter, it must be plain and clear from which position Paul is speaking. That’s why he presents himself as an apostle, which means ‘sent one’. It means that he comes on behalf of Somebody else, a Superior, and he comes with a message of that Superior.

He is an apostle of Christ Jesus, Who is his Sender. To practice his apostleship, his eyes are continuously focused on Jesus Christ. By Him, Who is the glorified Man in heaven, he is also called to be an apostle (Acts 9:1-Job :). The origin of his apostleship lies in “the will of God” and not in his own will or the will of whosoever. Any human appointment was excluded. God was going to use Paul as an apostle. And what God wants, will be done. The authorization of Paul as an apostle is, as it were, marked by the signatures of Christ Jesus and of God. What Paul writes is therefore clothed with the authority of two Divine Persons.

Just one more detail of the apostleship of Paul. There is a difference between his apostleship and that of the twelve. The distinction lies in both the calling and the practice. The twelve are called by the Lord Jesus when He was on earth (Luke 6:13). Paul is called by the glorified Lord in heaven (Acts 26:16-Job :). To him the apostleship toward the Gentiles was committed and to the twelve the apostleship to the people of Israel (Galatians 2:8). The calling of Paul by the glorified Lord in heaven also clarifies the nature of his service. That is aimed at telling the church what her connection is with Christ in heaven. As it has already been noticed, that is the issue of this letter.

After the sender, we read about the addressees. It is not just ‘to the church in Ephesus’. There is a lot more. The believers there are addressed as “saints” and “faithful”. This tells a lot about their life as believers and about the spiritual condition of the church in Ephesus. That spiritual condition is significant in regard to what Paul writes in this letter. Could Paul, if he had to address them as ‘fleshly’ (1 Corinthians 3:1), have spoken to them about such elevated blessings? If he had written the profound truths to the Corinthians, which he writes to the Ephesians, then there could have been two possible responses:
1. either they would simply not have understood what Paul was talking about and would have dismissed it as a speech of someone who hides his head in the clouds;
2. or if they would have understood Paul intellectually, they would have surely become more proud. They already rejoiced in the many gifts they had received and these blessings came on top of that.

This makes clear that every church receives a letter which is related to the spiritual condition in which she is. That condition is determined by the behavior, attitude and mind of the individual members of the church. That’s why this is also applicable to you and me as individual Christians. In order to fully enjoy the wonderful things Paul unfolds in this letter, you and I must be in a spiritual condition that justifies the qualification of ‘saints’ and ‘faithful’.

In the situation of the Ephesians these marks give a striking reflection of the condition which is necessary, not only to receive the message in this letter, but to understand it, to enjoy it and finally to praise God for it. The teaching in this letter will also shape further the practice of their faith life.

The qualification of “saints” indicates that the believers in Ephesus were set apart for God. Basically that counts for every child of God that he or she is sanctified, which means that he or she is set apart for God from the unbelieving world. For the Ephesians it was not only a position, but it was also obvious that in their daily life they were set apart for God. They did not join the world, but they were obviously distinct from them.

The qualification of “faithful” shows they were faithful to God and to the Lord Jesus. They did not deviate from the way God wanted them to go. The Greek word ‘faithful’ can also be translated as ‘believers’. The believers in Ephesus were faithful and that’s why Paul could write them this letter.

Also the addition “in Christ Jesus” is very significant. This indicates that their sanctified and faithful life is anchored in the position they had in Christ Jesus. It was not about them, but about Him. Many times the term “in” Him appears in the letter. In this chapter you find it eight times. It is well worth the effort to check it yourself.

The letter is written to the church “at Ephesus”. In Acts 18-20 you can read a lot about this city. Paul proclaimed the gospel there. He stayed there for three years (Acts 20:31) and met with great resistance (Acts 19). When he departed from there he did not leave them to their fate. He gave them after-care through Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3) and when Timothy could not stay longer there he sent Tychicus (2 Timothy 4:12).

He also experienced how at last the church in Ephesus deviated from the life that was in accordance with the special privileges she possessed. He personally felt the pain, because among those who were in Asia and who turned away from him, there were also believers from Ephesus that was in the province of Asia (2 Timothy 1:15).

The last remark of the church of Ephesus we find in the letter of the apostle John in Revelation 2 (Revelation 2:1-Judges :). What John writes there, shows how the corruption started, the corruption that through the ages would penetrate the Christian church, a penetration which almost is complete know. It connects to what Paul predicted and against which he warned the church in Ephesus in Acts 20:29-Amos :.

He must have kept that in mind when he wished the saints and faithful “grace … and peace”. Not just grace and peace, but “grace … and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. In Acts 20:32 he also had entrusted them to “God and the word of His grace”. He knew that when it comes to holding onto the wonderful blessings which are reflected in this letter, the future did not look good. But what an encouragement for you and for me, that grace will always be abundantly present.

When you live in an active connection with God as Father and with Jesus as Lord and Christ, you can be sure that you are surrounded by that grace. The result is that you will experience peace in your heart that will give you light in your darkest days. The letter begins and also ends with grace and peace (Ephesians 6:23-Jeremiah :). Isn’t it beautiful to see that this letter is, as it were, stuck in between ‘grace and peace’?

Now read Ephesians 1:1-2 again.

Reflection: What do ‘grace’ and ‘peace’ mean to you?

Verse 3

Spiritual Blessing

Ephesians 1:3. This verse is the beginning of a long sentence that ends with Ephesians 1:14. From Ephesians 1:3 there comes one continuous flood of blessings running over you. It is as if Paul only stops after Ephesians 1:14 to breathe. In this section you find the source, the center, the area, the nature, the origin and the purpose of all these blessings.

This section can be divided into three parts. Every part closes with a praise on God’s glory (Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 1:12Ephesians 1:14):
1. Ephesians 1:6 closes the part that tells about the will of God (Ephesians 1:3-Joshua :);
2. Ephesians 1:12 closes the part in which the work of the Son is centered (Ephesians 1:7-2 Kings :);
3. Ephesians 1:14 finally closes the part that tells about the work of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-2 Chronicles :).

You see that all three Persons of the Godhead are involved with the blessings of the Christian.

When after the introductory words (Ephesians 1:1-Exodus :) Paul wants to write about the blessings of the Christian, first of all a praise to God arises in his heart. He is intensely impressed by all that he – and every Christian – has received from God. He praises and honors God for that. What a wonderful beginning! Through “blessed” he wants to express that there are only good things to say about God. To bless means ‘to speak well of’.

He calls God here “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. That means God is seen here as God and as Father. These are the two ways in which He is related to His Son. In these two ways He is also related to the believer. He is also the God and Father of each of His children. The Son is “our Lord Jesus Christ”. Paul mentions Him with His full name.

1. He is “Lord”, He has all authority.
2. He is “Jesus”, that is the name He received when he was born (Matthew 1:21) and which expresses His humiliation and lowliness.
3. He is “Christ”, and that is ‘Anointed’. That name expresses that God will accomplish all His counsels in Him, where Christ Himself will have the central place.

Both names that are used for God show His relationship with the Lord Jesus. To the Lord Jesus as Man He is God. The Lord Jesus called Him on earth ‘My God’. To the Lord Jesus as the eternal Son He is Father. In John 20 the Lord used both names and He brings the disciples in connection with Him when He says: “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (John 20:17). By using these names He points at the quintessence of the specific Christian blessings that result there from.

These names of God, related with His Son, are the basic principle of the letter we have before us. Our blessings are connected with these two names. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the absolute source of all our blessings.

The believers from the Old Testament were not familiar with this name of God. That is because at that time there was neither a risen and glorified Lord to Whom this letter is connected. The Lord, risen and glorified by God, is the center of this letter. And we have also become partakers through our connection both with God and the Lord Jesus Christ. We have become partakers not only because these blessings have been promised to us, but they are our property. It is not written that God will bless us with them, but that He has blessed us with them.

We now can take a look at the nature of those blessings. We read that it refers to “spiritual blessing”. The meaning of that becomes clear if we compare it with the blessings of Israel. If Israel was obedient, it could have counted on the blessings that it could take from the land and from the ground. You can read that for example in Deuteronomy 8 (Deuteronomy 8:7-2 Samuel :). Their blessings were promised on condition and they were material. You could grasp them with your hands.

The blessing of the Christian is spiritual. That blessing you cannot grasp with your hands, you can ‘grasp’ it only spiritually, namely with your heart (Ephesians 1:17-Job :). Also there are no conditions for receiving them. The ‘spiritual blessing’ is the unconditional portion of every Christian. (Just a reminder: The condition indeed is that they are only enjoyed by ‘saints and faithful’ (Ephesians 1:1).)

The comparison to Israel is also clarified when it refers to the area where you can find the blessing. The blessing of Israel was on the earth, where they stood with their feet (Joshua 1:3). That of the Christian is “in heavenly places”, with further specifics “in Christ”. That addition is the essence of all blessings that are received. No blessing has been given to us apart from Christ.

For God and the Father everything is connected with Him, the Man of His pleasure Who has accomplished His whole will. All that an Almighty God could think of to reward the Lord Jesus for what He did, God has given to Him (Matthew 11:27; John 3:35; John 13:3). The great miracle of grace is that everyone who believes (Ephesians 1:13), shares in what He has received (John 17:22; John 17:26).

There is one more word I want to point to before we continue with the following verse and that is the word “all”. From what we saw, we can conclude that God did not hold back any blessing, but ‘all’ emphasizes that. A fullness of blessing is the portion of everyone who is ‘in Christ’. The word ‘blessing’, which is a singular form, indicates that it is about fullness.

The fullness of blessing we can also summarize as: eternal life. Everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus, has received eternal life (John 3:14-Nehemiah :). In 1 John 5 we read of Him: “This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). So everyone who has eternal life has the Son as his life. The conclusion is that all who believe have a portion in all that the Son has.

If you take a look at how John approaches the blessing and how Paul does, you notice a difference. John talks about life, the Son, in us. Paul says that we are in the Son, in Christ, and in that position we have received our blessings. These different approaches do not contradict, but complement each other.

Regarding this matter, I finally want to point out that many Christians are not aware of the riches they have in Christ. We can compare these Christians with the old woman who received from her son who lived abroad, a check which she could cash for a remarkable amount of money. But she did not know what to do with it. To her it was just a piece of paper. Because it came from her son she treasured it. Giving it a nice place on the wall was the only thing she could do with it. But that was not the reason her son sent the check. He wanted her to cash it in order to live without worries.

This example might not be good enough, but it clarifies how many Christians look at blessings given by God. I sincerely hope that you are not like that, but that you will enjoy all that God has given to you in Christ. And what God has given, is abundantly present in this letter.

Now read Ephesians 1:3 again.

Reflection: What do you think when you ponder over the name ‘God’ and the name ‘Father’?

Verse 4


Ephesians 1:4. After Paul has spoken in Ephesians 1:3 about the blessing in general phrasings, he starts in Ephesians 1:4 to unpack them. This verse begins with the eternity that lies behind us (“before the foundation of the world”) and ends with the eternity that lies before us, when we will be with God (“before Him”). But this verse applies also for the present. When it is said “that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love” it means that God already sees us like that. That is how He looks at us. That is how He wanted it, that is how His counsel is and how it happened.

But what is God’s motive to decide and act like that? He did not find that with us. The first verse of chapter 2 says that we were dead in our transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1). And with somebody who is dead you cannot start anything. Indeed He did not find the motive in something of man, in you or in me, but in Himself and in His Son. God has namely chosen us “in Him”, that is Christ. Christ has in eternity always been the joy of God. Now it has pleased God to involve others in the perfect fellowship that has always been between Him and His Son.

His plan has always been that He would also enjoy others as He enjoys His Son. That could not be without the Son. That is the reason that it had to be in the Son. Just as every man is ‘in Adam’ to his nature – which means that we are inseparably connected with this first man – just in that way God has ordained that every believer is inseparably connected with His Son.

He ordained that in eternity, before the creation of heaven and earth. Then there was nothing else than the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and the perfect love among Them. The Lord Jesus refers to that and because of that He asks: “Father, I desire that they also, whom You gave Me, may be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). Before the foundation of the world God chose people from the people that would be living on earth to have them with Him.

The reason for this action is His love for His Son. You could see that also at the beginning of this verse in the words ‘in Him’. When you think about the election, many questions may arise. You could ask yourself: Why am I chosen while a lot of other people are not? Are all of the other ones chosen to be lost?

Some remarks can be of help. The first one is that nobody is being chosen to be lost. Every man is lost indeed and is under judgment because of his own sins: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). When God saves people from that judgment in spite of this general judgment, it is not unfair of God, but that is His sovereign compassion.

Secondly, you should look at Israel. That nation was chosen by God from all nations to be His people. He did that only because of His own love for them (Deuteronomy 7:7-Ruth :). Does this mean that He did not want to have anything to do with the other nations? No, His only purpose was that Israel would be a testimony to the other nations. Through this testimony they could come to the knowledge of the one true God. Just take a look at the book of Jonah.

Therefore election is something that is absolutely from God, regardless of any situation in which man can be. You should belong to God to understand this. That is the reason why this truth can only be understood by believers. It should be said to unbelievers that they must be converted, otherwise they will perish.

The following example illustrates this. There is a sign above a door that says that everyone is invited to come inside to receive a big present. Many pass this door. A few go inside. When one turns inside he sees a sign above the door that says: ‘You are chosen.’ This clarifies that the truth of the ‘election’ counts only for those who are ‘inside’.

We return now to the expression ‘before the foundation of the world’. The fact that nothing was seen from the creation then, was and is not a problem for God. He is above time. To Him it is always present time. He knows exactly what will happen the next hour or the next century. When he looks at the future, this future is today. That is simply one of His greatness by which He is God. Listen to what He says in Isaiah: “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; [I am] God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done” (Isaiah 46:9-2 Samuel :). This is beyond your understanding and mine, but we can believe it and admire it.

It is already impressive to perceive the majesty of God. It becomes more impressive when you’re going to see that God in His sovereignty has even thought of you and me individually to have us before Himself. This is something that cannot be explained. You can only bow your knees and worship Him for it. How could you ever explain to somebody that He has chosen you out of all the billions of people for such an exalted position: “before Him”? This perfectly clarifies that this blessing only has its origin in the heart of God Himself.

That the blessing of the election was ordained before the foundation of the world, means that sin that came into the world, cannot affect this. God is not surprised that the people who He had chosen would be sinners. This problem is not mentioned here. Actually, in chapter 2 Paul will pay attention to this. Yet sin is certainly assumed here. We see that, when we realize that God wanted us “holy and without blame” before Him. He who comes into God’s presence, must totally correspond to Whom He is in His holiness and that is without any blemish of sin.

That is why He has ordained that all whom He would give this place to should be “holy and without blame”. ‘Holy’ means ‘to be set apart to be before God’. ‘Without blame’ means that there is no blemish of sin, totally fit to be in God’s presence, Who cannot see or tolerate sin. In this way the demand is fulfilled in regard to God’s holiness and righteousness. How that happened we shall see in Ephesians 1:7. You could say that regarding this part of God’s plan, “the message” is accomplished “which we [the apostles] have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

However, God cannot be satisfied by this alone. He doesn’t only want us to be without blame, He also wants us to feel at home in His love. He has brought us into an atmosphere that breathes pure, genuine – that is – Divine love. The only way God can be satisfied, is when it is also clearly expressed that His plan totally corresponds with the nature of His love. He who is in God’s presence, sees holiness and love wherever he looks.

Now read Ephesians 1:4 again.

Reflection: Just think about the reason why God has chosen you and thank Him because He did it.

Verses 5-6


Ephesians 1:4 is about the position we now have before God. We can stand before God without hesitation, because He has made us fit for this position. He does not see any contradiction in us against His nature, that is light and love.

Ephesians 1:5. Ephesians 1:5 goes a little further. This verse deals with how we relate to God. It is a relation of sonship. Also for this purpose God has “predestined” us, also from before the foundation of the world. You may speak of ‘predestination’.

While ‘pre’ looks back, “destined” makes us look forward. There we see the purpose of Gods plan: He wanted us as sons for Himself. The word “adoption” also appears in Romans 8 and 9 and Galatians 4; it means ‘to put as son’ (Romans 8:15; Romans 8:23Romans 9:4; Galatians 4:5). God has put you as son before Him. In that relation you stand now before Him. Incredible but true!

God is surrounded by myriads of angels and they serve Him, but in them He can never find the joy He found and finds in the Son. That joy He only finds in the Son and in those who are connected with the Son and who stand in the same relationship to Him as the Son.

Take note that this time it is not written ‘in Jesus Christ’, but “through Jesus Christ”. When it comes to the relationship in which we stand as sons before God, we are not equal to the Son. There will always be a distinction between Him, Who was and is the eternal Son, and us who were made sons, because we were not. This distinction you also see in John 20 where the Lord Jesus says: “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God” (John 20:17) and not: ‘I am ascending to our Father and our God.’

By ‘adopting’ us as sons God does much more than saving us from the distress we lived in because of our sins. Regarding the latter, forgiveness would have been sufficient. But you know: here it is about the desire of God’s own heart and not about our distress. In order to fulfill that desire He ‘adopted’ sons. He accepted people into His family who were not entitled to anything, and made them sons before Him.

Apart from being son you are also a child of God. Childship and sonship are different indications which both suggest a specific relation to God. To be a ‘son’ you do not have to be mature; from your conversion you are a child as well as a son. To be a child of God indicates that you are born of God and have received His nature. In sonship we see the desire of God to have fellowship with His children. You can rejoice with your children, but with your son you also talk about certain matters. Sonship is about sharing the same interests. That is what God thought of when He adopted us as sons.

When He did that, He acted “according to the kind intention [or: good pleasure, Darby translation] of His will”. This is another beautiful expression that indicates how God came to this action. If He did that just because He wanted that, it would only have emphasized His sovereignty, but then His inner motive would have remained hidden. That’s why “the good pleasure” is being connected to His will. It shows the joy with which God accomplished His will.

A wonderful example of this you can find in the Gospels. There you hear more than once: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5). In this statement you hear how pleased the Father is about Him. The Father was pleased because the Lord Jesus, as the only Man on earth, perfectly did what He desired. Regarding this, the Lord Jesus said: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” (John 4:34). So the motive of the Father’s action was the pleasure that He had in the Lord Jesus.

Ephesians 1:6. His purpose was: “The praise of the glory of His grace.” Not just ‘His grace’, but “the glory of His grace”. His grace would already have become visible by forgiving us our sins. We deserved judgment and hell. Now that He does not allow that to happen, but saves us from that, we should therefore praise and honor Him forever and ever. But as you have seen, He had a much higher plan with us. We can be with Him as sons. Therefore it is no longer only ‘His grace’, but “the glory of His grace”.

As already said when we were at Ephesians 1:3, herewith closes the first part of the Ephesians 1:1-2 Chronicles :. The part that now follows shows what God did to give us this wonderful position before Him and what the consequences of this position are for the future. This part ends with Ephesians 1:12, again with “the praise of His glory”.

Until now you have heard about the plan of God. In the part that follows Paul shows which steps God took, so to speak, to implement this plan. The first step is "which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved”, which also can be translated with “He made us accepted in the Beloved”. This is just another wonderful expression. To ‘be accepted’ means to ‘be made pleasant’. It is about having favor in which we stand before God (Romans 5:1).

You and I are not pleasant in ourselves. We have become pleasant because God looks at us in His Son, to Whom is being referred here by the significant word ‘Beloved’. It is not said ‘in Christ’ or ‘in Him’ as in the previous verses. That would not be sufficient here. It is not about the position that the Lord Jesus has before God. No, it is about Who the Lord Jesus Himself is before God.

The word ‘Beloved’ shows how much the Lord Jesus is the precious object of God’s affection and pleasure. All love from the Father is focused on His Son. That has always been the case in eternity. The pleasure the Lord Jesus has given to the Father during His life on earth was one more reason for the Father to love Him. You can read that in John 10: “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again” (John 10:17). By this the Lord Jesus was referring to the work that He would accomplish on the cross. There He would glorify the Father magnificently. That was another reason of the Father to love Him. And in this One, the Beloved by the Father, we are blessed.

Regarding this, we find a beautiful picture in the Old Testament. You can read about the burnt offering in Leviticus 1 (Leviticus 1:1-Esther :). That is a picture of the Lord Jesus in His full devotion to God. In Leviticus 7 it is said: “Also the priest who presents any man’s burnt offering, that priest shall have for himself the skin of the burnt offering which he has presented” (Leviticus 7:8). Here you see in a picture about what we read in this letter. The priest receives the skin of the burnt offering with which he may clothe himself.

This is what happens with the believer. The priest is the picture of the believer who is telling God what the Lord Jesus has done for Him (that is how we define ‘offerings’ now). The believer who does this can be sure that he has been ‘made accepted in the Beloved’. So when the Father sees us, He sees the Lord Jesus.

Now read Ephesians 1:5-6 again.

Reflection: Why did God want you as son?

Verses 7-9

The Mystery of God’s Will

Ephesians 1:7. In these verses we see the following steps that God made to realize His plan. We have already seen that God has ‘made us accepted in the Beloved’. Now we are reading what more we have received in that Beloved. In Him we also have the “redemption” and “the forgiveness”. You could say that these are the means by which the will of God could be accomplished, regarding us. Forgiveness as well as redemption have been accomplished through the work of Christ and were necessary because sin has come into the world.

‘Redemption’ was necessary because we were totally imprisoned by the power of sin. We could not liberate ourselves, but by the blood of Christ redemption has been achieved. This is illustrated beautifully in Exodus 12. The people of Israel are in bondage in Egypt and God is going to redeem them. The basis for this redemption is the blood of a lamb that had to be slaughtered. In Exodus 12 you can read what the Israelite had to do with that blood and what that meant to God (Exodus 12:2-1 Chronicles :). On the ground of the blood the judgment passes from the Israelite and their redemption from the power of Egypt takes place.

It must be clear to you that the lamb in Egypt is a picture of the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus. What you have deserved He underwent in your place. In Him you are redeemed, you have received redemption.

Apart from redemption also ‘forgiveness’ of your transgressions was necessary. You were not only under the power of sin, you also lived accordingly. Your deeds made that very clear. Whatever you were doing, it was in every way a transgression of what God had said. Transgressions always ask for punishment. But how amazing it is that God did not punish you for that, but punished His own Son in your stead. In Him you have received forgiveness.

Although redemption and forgiveness brought what was necessary for you, your need is not the main thing here. No, the Holy Spirit is emphasizing the redemption and the forgiveness “the riches of His (i.e. God’s) grace”. In this way God’s heart and mind are being exposed.

In this verse, where we are involved with our sins, ‘the riches of His grace’ is being exposed. In Ephesians 1:6, where God is centered, it is ‘the glory of His grace’. The riches of His grace is in contrast with the penury of our sins in which we found ourselves. Actually, it is not only grace that provides in our needs. God doesn’t measure His grace to our needs, but to a lot more than that. He provides to His riches.

Ephesians 1:8. Those riches are expressed in the Ephesians 1:8-1 Samuel :. There you see a dead, impotent sinner (you!) being uplifted to such a great height that he (you!) obtains insight in the mysteries of God’s heart so that he (you!) can share them with Him. This is also about the eternal plans in God’s heart that are yet to be achieved.

So this is quite different to what you have seen until now, namely what God’s plan was for you and what He has also realized. You share in it: you are blessed with all spiritual blessings; you are elected; you are holy and without blame before God; He has adopted you as a son; you are made accepted in the Beloved; He has redeemed and forgiven you. That is all said in Ephesians 1:3-Judges :. All really and totally true.

But, as if there is no end, besides that He has still more blessings ready for you to which we will give attention now. Also in those blessings He wants you to partake so that you already now may enjoy what is to come. In order to enable you to share what is in His heart, He has provided you in the abundance of the riches of His grace “all wisdom and understanding”. How would we be able to understand anything from God’s plans and deeds if He Himself doesn’t help and enable us to do that? Also here you find abundance: God doesn’t give a little bit of wisdom and understanding, but “all”.

He knows exactly what is necessary to lead us into the plans of His heart. That’s why He first made us sons. As you will remember, He did that in order to share His thoughts with us. As sons He has ‘uplifted’ us to a position where He can speak to us at His level. Besides He supplied us with ‘all wisdom and understanding’. You may want to proclaim something, but if your ‘target group’ doesn’t understand anything of what you are talking about, it’s no use. That is not what God did.

Ephesians 1:9. He gave us wisdom and understanding, because “He made known to us the mystery of His will”. This is what God wanted to share with us. It is about things that He has never told anyone, not even anyone of His people in the Old Testament. What this mystery involves is dealt with in Ephesians 1:10-1 Kings :. It is about the reign of the Lord Jesus over all things.

Now you might say: ‘But that was no mystery actually; that was also known in the Old Testament.’ And you could for example refer to Psalm 8 (Psalms 8:4-Judges :). That is true, but that is not the mystery that is the issue here. This mystery is about the reign of the Lord Jesus over all things together with the church. That has not been made known in the Old Testament. The apostle Paul is the one to whom this particular ministry was given to unfold this mystery. In chapter 3 he will clarify this.

The mystery of the unity between the Lord Jesus and the church is still a mystery to the world. In 1 John 3 you read the same thought: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). John means that the world doesn’t see a thing of the fact that we are children of God. The world will see that only when the Lord Jesus returns and we with Him (Colossians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-2 Samuel :).

The mystery has been only made known to them who belong to the church. Unfortunately, even to many members of the church this unity is still a mystery. All who think that the church is a continuation of Israel, do not realize that the origin and the purpose of the church are in heaven. Because their focus is on the earth, these Christians ignore the ‘pleasure’ of God.

God finds His pleasure in these things in this time to share with all His own. Just take a look at Ephesians 1:6 again where you have read about the pleasure of God. There it is His joy to have sons before Him, even now already. Here it is His joy to make known to those sons what He will do with Christ and the church.

God was not obligated at all to share this secret “which He purposed in Him” (Ephesians 1:9) with us, but He wanted that very much. Again the emphasis here is on the fact that all His plans find their origin in Him. He had no obligation to anyone whosoever to make them known. He could have kept them to Himself as well. Nevertheless He came out with His plans and made them known to a group of people selected by Himself. Isn’t it a great miracle that you and I may belong to that group?

Now read Ephesians 1:7-9 again.

Reflection: Consider once again the steps God has taken to achieve His plans and thank Him for every step.

Verses 10-12

Summing Up of All Things In Christ

Ephesians 1:10. In the verses we have now before us Paul is telling what the mystery of the previous verse means. Ephesians 1:10 clarifies that God will gather together in one all things in Christ, as the one Head. In Ephesians 1:11 we learn that we are destined to be heirs in Christ.

God will fulfill this plan in “the dispensation of the fullness of the times” (NKJV). The word ‘administration’ or ‘dispensation’ here means: the way God reigns and leads something in a particular period of time. You might have heard of the ‘doctrine of dispensation’. This is about the classification of the history of humanity in different ‘dispensations’ or periods.

So the first dispensation is ‘the dispensation of innocence’ in which the period of the creation till the fall of man in sin is designated. Then God ruled over the creation through Adam before the fall. A following dispensation is that without law. That is the period from Adam after the fall till Moses. Then the period of the law follows, that is from Moses to Christ (Romans 5:13-2 Chronicles :).

Every dispensation has its own characteristics. They all lasted a certain time. During that time God ruled over man and creation in a way that was adjusted to that time. In all dispensations man had become disobedient to God over and over again. In this way man also lost again and again the blessings that God promised if they would be obedient.

But here God is proposing a dispensation which is mentioned as ‘the fullness of the times’. That is the period in which all previous dispensations will find their fullness and fulfillment. By the way, this is not the same as what is mentioned in Galatians 4 “the fullness of the time” (Galatians 4:4). There ‘fullness’ means the passing (become full; ripen) of a particular time after which the big event, the birth of the Lord Jesus, happens. There it is just about the length or the duration of time.

Here in Ephesians 1:10 it is not about the duration of the time, but about the characteristics, the content of this dispensation that will dawn. It is about what is characterizing the coming period. In the previous dispensations man has spoiled everything again and again. That will not happen in the coming dispensation. This assurance lies in Him to Whom God has entrusted the government in that dispensation: Christ.

As said, the government of Christ was of itself not a mystery. But the mystery that will be revealed will show that the government is in the hands of Christ and the church. Then Christ and the church will rule over “all things … things in the heavens and things on the earth”. This will be seen in the Millennium; then Christ will be the Head.

In Genesis 1 and 2 you can already see in a description that it was God’s plan. There we see how God in the beginning entrusted Adam, as the head of creation, to reign and rule over creation. After that He gave Eve as his wife to support him. Together they form the man (Genesis 1:27). Adam became unfaithful, but Christ will remain faithful. He will reign in a way that will be fully to the glory and pleasure of God and a blessing to the creation.

The government of Christ will therefore embrace more than that of Adam. Adam ruled over the earth; Christ will rule over the heaven and the earth. In Hebrews 1 you read that God “appointed” the Lord Jesus as “heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2). He has received the right for the inheritance through His work on the cross at Calvary. In Revelation 5, where you see Him as the Lamb standing as slain (Revelation 5:6), the time has come that He will indeed demand the right to the inheritance. He is worthy!

Ephesians 1:11. But what do we see here to our surprise in Ephesians 1? That we “in Him we also have obtained an inheritance”! That exceeds our highest expectations! How amazing! We have not ‘become an inheritance’. That would mean that we are a part of the inheritance, but that doesn’t meet with God’s plan. What we have received is much more wonderful. We will not be objects of blessing, but givers of blessing, together with the Lord Jesus.

We have not become an inheritance; we have received an inheritance together with the Lord Jesus. We are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). We even read of “having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will”.

We have already come across the expression ‘being predestined’ in Ephesians 1:5. There it was about the adoption as sons. I think that this shows how much in God’s plan ‘heirs’ and ‘sonship’ belong together. This relation you also find in Hebrews 1 (Hebrews 1:2), where it is about the Son, and in Galatians 4 (Galatians 4:7), where it is about us. You can also read that in Luke 15 (Luke 15:11-2 Kings :).

In the ‘adoption as sons’ here you especially see the relation to God, just name it the private side. After all it was for Himself. In ‘heirs’ you especially see the relation to the inheritance, just name it the public side. After all, soon the world will be publicly ruled by the Lord Jesus, together with us. Then He will be come to be “glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

This is included in “the counsel of His will”. In Ephesians 1:5 Paul writes about ‘the pleasure of His will’ in relation to the ‘adoption as sons’, and in Ephesians 1:9 about ‘the mystery of His will’ in relation to the government of Christ and the church. Now you see that there is also ‘the counsel of His will’. These three expressions show together that God in His pleasure (Ephesians 1:5) works out the mystery (Ephesians 1:9) according to His counsel (Ephesians 1:11).

His counsel is determined; nothing or nobody can stop Him to do that. You can firmly count on it that it will happen just as He wants it. We need to have this assurance because it is about something that is yet to come. You already share the adoption as son and the mystery has already been revealed to you, but the inheritance still has to come.

Ephesians 1:12. And if we have taken possession of the inheritance, together with Christ, we will be “to the praise of His glory”. In that time we will be one great song of praise on His glory. We will reflect God’s glory. God’s glory indicates all His excellent features. They will be exposed in us, in all that are sons and heirs. In every person from that countless group something will be visible of God’s glory and His superiorities. How great He must be to have such a glory! How great must be the praise to be given to Him.

Now there is yet the question who are being meant by “we who were the first to hope in Christ”. I think that Paul here means the Jews who believe in Christ and who trust in Him before He will appear publicly. In this ‘we’ Paul includes himself, because he was also a Jew from his birth. In the following part I will give more attention to this.

Now read Ephesians 1:10-12 again.

Reflection: So the mystery is made known. Put in your own words what this mystery means.

Verses 13-14

Sealed With the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 1:13. As I said at the end of the last chapter, I will clarify the change from “we” in Ephesians 1:12 to “you” in Ephesians 1:13. I have already said that in Ephesians 1:12 Paul speaks especially about the Jews who are now already related to the Lord Jesus by faith. They have already received what is meant for the people of Israel in the future. The people of Israel still have to repent and be converted. That will happen when the Lord Jesus returns to reign on earth. Then they shall look upon Him Whom they have pierced and they shall acknowledge their Christ under the confession of their sins (Zechariah 12:10-1 Chronicles :). Therefore the word “first” in Ephesians 1:12 means the present time: the time before the period that Christ will live perceptibly on earth. In the present time He is only seen by faith.

In Ephesians 1:13 the Gentiles are indicated with ‘you’. They are also in Christ, but the difference is that you cannot say of them that they have ‘first’ trusted in Christ. Just read that in chapter 2 (Ephesians 2:12). There you read that before their conversion they were outsiders in every way. Only after their conversion they have become partakers of the inheritance of Christ, together with the Jewish believers: together they have become heirs in Him (Ephesians 1:11).

So it is not true that the Gentile who has been converted is a partaker in the blessings that are promised to Israel. He is partaker, together with the Jewish believer, to much higher spiritual blessings that have to do with adoption as sons and being heirs. We have seen this before. In Ephesians 1:13 the sealing with the Holy Spirit is an additional blessing, with Whom the Jewish believer as well as the Gentile believer is sealed.

Before Paul speaks about this issue, he first clarifies in a very striking way how the Gentile has become partaker of the Holy Spirit. The sequence is very remarkable: first hear, then believe and finally the sealing with the Holy Spirit. First hear and then believe is in accordance with Romans 10: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?” (Romans 10:14). And Romans 10 also says: “So faith [comes] by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). That what is named “the word of Christ” in the letter to the Romans, here it is called “the message of truth”, with the addition “the gospel of your salvation”. The Bible is ‘the Word of truth’ in which God has revealed His truth, the truth about all things.

This Word of truth means ‘the gospel of your salvation’ to everyone who accepts this Word. Gospel means ‘good news’ and it surely is to a person who realizes that God should judge him as a sinner. The gospel offers him salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus. The content of the gospel is written in 1 Corinthians 15: “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, … For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-Numbers :). So the gospel is about the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

In Romans 4 is added “those who believe in Him [i.e. God] who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, [He] who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:24-Lamentations :). So a man is saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Who was delivered up in death by God and has also been raised from the dead.

God puts His seal on every man who believes that, as a proof that such a person is His property. This seal is the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in that person. The Lord Jesus says in John 14 of the Holy Spirit: “That He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). This makes clear that the seal of God’s ownership inviolable.

God’s Spirit is called here “the Holy Spirit of promise”. This is not so much about the fact that the Holy Spirit is promised, but it is more about what is related to the sealing with the Holy Spirit. To be sealed with Him includes a promise.

Ephesians 1:14. That promise is being expressed in what follows. The Holy Spirit is namely the “pledge of our inheritance”. The fact that He is the pledge or guarantee means that we do not own the inheritance yet. A pledge is a sort of assurance that you will receive something in the future that you do not have yet. In everyday language the pledge is always less than the issue. That is not the case here. That the Holy Spirit is called ‘pledge’ here has to do with the assurance that the rest is yet to come.

Because He has been given to us, we can already enjoy the inheritance now, although we cannot practically take possession of it yet. The inheritance lies in the future. Also the Lord Jesus Himself has not yet received the inheritance. You read in Hebrews 2 that the world to come will be subjected to Him (Hebrews 2:5-Ruth :). Only then He shall reign and we with Him.

Before that will happen, something else must happen first with that inheritance. We read namely about “the redemption of [God’s own] possession”. You understand that by ”possession” is meant the inheritance. This inheritance is already our possession now, but it still lies under the curse of sin. That curse must first be taken away. The Lord Jesus has achieved on the cross what was necessary for that. There He became ‘a curse’ and paid the price so He could take away the curse of the creation. Through the sin of the first man, Adam, a curse came upon the creation. Through the obedience of the second man, Christ, this curse will be taken away.

The purchased inheritance will be redeemed by Him Who has every right to that inheritance. Also Revelation 5 makes clear Who has the right to that inheritance (that right is described in the scroll): the Lord Jesus. He is at the same time the Lion from the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5) and the Lamb standing, as if slain (Revelation 5:6). The Lion has triumphed by giving Himself to be slaughtered as Lamb.

He will take possession of the inheritance when ‘the dispensation of the fullness of the times’ has dawned (Ephesians 1:10). That will happen in a way at the beginning of the millennial kingdom of peace. Then satan will be bound and sin restrained. But in the millennium there will still be sin and that’s why a perfect situation is not the case yet. However, at the end of the millennium, sin will be completely banned out of the creation. Then the word of John will entirely be fulfilled: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

When the purchased inheritance has been redeemed and when the church together with Christ has received the rule over it, then the counsel of God has been completed. Then God’s glory will glimmer with a radiance that will never fade. He then shall receive all praise of everything there is. The new creation will reflect His glory: all will breathe His praise. All people, in heaven as well as on earth, will reflect His glory and all will praise Him. To Him be all glory forever and ever!

Now read Ephesians 1:13-14 again.

Reflection: Thank God in your own words for what you have learnt in these verses about His plans with and for you.

Verses 15-17

Faith and Love, Wisdom and Revelation

Ephesians 1:15. With this verse the final part of chapter 1 starts. That part is a prayer. The apostle Paul prays here for the believers in Ephesus. The content of his prayer is very rich, very instructive and also very necessary. Because to know God’s counsels is one thing – Paul explained that in Ephesians 1:3-2 Chronicles :; but it is something else to honor and cherish that in your life. And for that Paul is going to pray.

He doesn’t ask God to give the believers something, but he asks if He would give them more insight into all that they already possess. The purpose of his prayer is to focus the hearts (“the eyes of your heart”, Ephesians 1:18) of the believers on the Source of the counsels. He wants us to look, beyond all the wonderful gifts, at the glory and riches of the Giver. The believer who lives in a conscious relationship with Him, will understand more and more of God’s (“His”) calling (Ephesians 1:18), God’s (“His”) inheritance (Ephesians 1:18) and God’s (“His”) power (Ephesians 1:19).

The apostle could pray this prayer for the Ephesians, because they had the right mind. He had heard about their faith in the Lord Jesus and that they loved all the saints. You might think: ‘What’s so special about their faith in the Lord Jesus? Isn’t that normal that believers do that?’ You are right, but it is important to notice that “faith in the Lord Jesus” characterized their whole attitude.

For them faith was not only a matter of being saved from hell. Recently somebody said to me: ‘Of course I believe, for who would choose to go to hell?’ That was somebody who was seriously deviated from the Lord and in whose daily life there was no contact anymore with the Lord. That was not the case with the Ephesians. Faith meant to them: confidently living from faith and putting it into effect in all aspects of their life. In our days ‘faith’ is too much secondary. It is treated as certainly important, but not the main thing and not all pervasive.

If, in your case, the Lord Jesus is the all determining Object of your faith, then you will also love your fellow believers. The one results from the other. There is no better proof of a vital faith in the Lord Jesus than love in actual practice given to the saints.

Ephesians 1:16. From the moment Paul heard that from the Ephesians, he started to thank God for them. Is that also familiar to you? To thank God for the believers in whom you see that the Lord Jesus means everything to them and that they also commit themselves for their fellow believers? Paul doesn’t stop at thanksgiving, he adds intercession.

Ephesians 1:17. The apostle’s address is to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ”. In chapter 3 his second prayer is written. There his address is to “the Father” of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:14). There it is about the Lord Jesus as the Son of the Father, about the love of the Lord Jesus and about the fact that He dwells in our hearts. Here it is about the counsels of God and how we received a place in these counsels.

In the explanation of Ephesians 1:3, where both names ‘God’ and ‘Father’ are being mentioned, I already pointed to the difference between them. When God is called ‘the God of the Lord Jesus’ we see the Lord Jesus as Man. Because He Himself is Man, the Lord Jesus can share the blessings that He has received from God, with man. You and I could only be related to Him if He became Man. In this prayer, the issue is about the Lord Jesus as Man, and you can also derive from this, the fact that we read about His resurrection from the dead (Ephesians 1:20). As Man He could die, but not as God the Son.

So Paul is praying to the God of the Lord Jesus, of the Man Jesus Christ Who is the center of all the counsels of God. God has never made any decision towards any man or any case, in heaven or on earth without the Lord Jesus being the center. We shall see that very clearly in the following verses.

If we want to understand how God has made us partakers of His calling and of His inheritance, we should especially look at His power as it has become visible in raising the Lord Jesus. It is namely that power that was put into effect in us. What God did to the Lord Jesus, He also did to us.

Paul also calls that God “the Father of glory”. That means that He is the source of glory and that it came from Him, He is the Distributer of it. To get a good perception of the glory of God’s counsels, Paul asks the Father of glory to “give the spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him”.

Imagine: God has unfolded the most profound thoughts in His Word. We could, for instance, learn them by heart. But what would be the use of it if He wouldn’t give us the ability, the capacity to understand those things? We then would not even be able to ever thank and glorify Him for that. And that is what God designed us for the praise of His glory.

That purpose will not be achieved by giving us an intellect to get to know God intellectually. To know and understand Him is only possible through “the spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him”. In general terms you may say that God has provided every believer with all wisdom and understanding (Ephesians 1:8). Yet, learning to know and enjoy God’s counsels consciously is quite different. To do that you not only need to possess wisdom, but you also need the ‘spirit of wisdom’; that makes you desire to spiritually intrude in getting to know Who God is. True wisdom is learning to know God in order to let this knowledge penetrate your whole life. He, who knows Him, also knows His plans.

Yet that is certainly not everything. We also shall have to be aware that to know God not only depends on our own efforts, but that it also depends on the revelation He gives of Himself. Here the desire of the believer and the work of God go hand in hand. If we desire to know much of God, it will not come naturally. And if we may know much of God, we can never boast on our own efforts.

When we get to learn to know more about the truth of God, there is a great risk that we forget that to understand that spiritually, we have to be and remain dependent on Him. The risk gets greater the more we have good intelligence and good memorizing skills. It is important to know: what we know, we know because He has revealed it to us.

Furthermore it is not insignificant to understand that Paul does not pray for the knowledge of truths or dogmas. It is not about getting to know the truths, doctrines and teachings, but about the ‘full knowledge’ (as it is written literally) of God. If we may get to know the hope, the riches and the power of what has been given to us, then we should always relate that to Him Who is the origin of it.

You may read this explanation and receive a good overview of what God shows us of His counsels, but it doesn’t make you to know God as He wants to be known. I would love to join Paul and pray that God will give you and me “the spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him”.

Now read Ephesians 1:15-17 again.

Reflection: Thank and pray for yourself and for the believers you know after the example of Paul here.

Verses 18-20

God’s Calling, Inheritance and Power

Ephesians 1:18. Paul also asks God to give the Ephesians “eyes of their understanding being enlightened”. So he doesn’t pray for ‘enlightened eyes of their intellect’. As remarked already, knowing the things of God and to bring them into practice is not merely about our intelligence, but about our mind, our desires.

The word ‘understanding’, or better ‘heart’, here means the inner man, the place where all the considerations take place. The ‘heart’ is about the emotions and desires: the motives that lead someone in his speaking and acting. As the heart is physically the center of a body, is how Paul is using the word ‘heart’ here as the center of the spiritual existence. He is now asking God to supply this center with ‘enlightened eyes’. Only then can you look further to what follows and also understand it.

If you desire to know what your blessings are, you will also receive spiritual insight for that. The Holy Spirit will meet your desire by instructing you in the things of God and present them in an understandable way for you. You will get to know, sense with your heart, and also enjoy what is meant by God’s calling, God’s inheritance and God’s power. Because that is finally the purpose of his prayer: “That you will know.”

Next he doesn’t ask that the believers would know which wonderful blessings they have received. Then it would be written ‘our calling’ and ‘our inheritance’. If we think of our blessings, we often only think of the great privileges that we have received by them and the great joy we experience with them. Of course that was also why God gave them to us, but this is not what is being presented to us in these verses. Here the issue is that we rise above all the benefits and joys that these blessings bring us.

Paul prays that the Ephesians (and we also) get around to it that it all came from God and that it is His purpose that He is being glorified thereby. If you think of it this way, you can better sense how necessary the prayer of Paul is. To look at our blessings in this way, so in relation to the Source, the Father of glory, demands from us that we forget about ourselves. That is quite difficult, but if Paul’s prayer has effect, that will be an enrichment of our spiritual life.

And now the essence of Paul’s prayer: he prays that they would know three things. First, “the hope of His calling”, that is actually the calling of God. God has called us. What for? What we have read about in the Ephesians 1:3-Joshua : of this chapter. There it is written that God has chosen us that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love; He has predestined us to adoption as sons to Himself. Because He has called us now, our election and destination have become a reality. Do you see how wonderful, how great, how overwhelming that calling of His is? From eternity it has been in God’s heart to give this to us, you and me. And when it was His time He called us and made us partakers of it.

We shall only know and enjoy the full result of His calling when we are with Him in His glory, in the Father’s house. That’s why it is named “the hope of His calling”. Don’t you also think that the only right response that we can have is to adore Him for that?

The second thing for them to know is “what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”. Paul wrote about that inheritance in the Ephesians 1:10-2 Chronicles : of this chapter. There you see that we, as heirs, together with Christ would take possession of this inheritance. But the issue here is to see that it is God’s inheritance. That means that God will own everything. He will be praised by the whole creation and every knee shall bow before Him.

God will take His inheritance through us, His saints, the believers of the church. You can compare it with how God took possession of Canaan, which He mentions as His land (Leviticus 25:23). He used His people Israel for this. They took possession of it by expelling all enemies from there so His people could dwell there and He could dwell in their midst.

This is what will happen with the creation. Christ shall rule over it, together with the church. When the ‘saints’ are ruling, God has taken possession of the inheritance. And the saints will reign to all eternity (Revelation 22:5). Then the time will have come that God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

In the whole creation that will then be, there will be no more dissonance heard. There will be nothing that is in contradiction with God’s holy and righteous Being. God will fulfill everything with His glory. How great must be its riches, that wherever we look, we only see the glory of God. Don’t you desire to know more of that now already?

Ephesians 1:19. The third thing Paul is praying for is that we shall know is “what is the surpassing greatness is of His power toward us who believe”. Here a new section starts that continues till chapter 2:10. In this section we are told how God could and will give us the blessings in the Ephesians 1:3-2 Chronicles :.

How could God give us, who were dead in our transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1), such wonderful blessings? He could do that only because of the exceeding greatness of His power. And to know how great the power is “toward us who believe”, we should pay attention to what He did to Christ: “He raised Him from the dead” and then He gave Him a place above every imaginable power. There we may see what God did to us ‘who believe’.

The first thing we read in this letter about Christ, regarding His life on earth, is that He was dead. About His perfect life on earth we read nothing here. The reason He is presented in this way here, is because He took our place by doing so. Before God could give us His blessings, it was necessary that Christ would seek us and identify Himself with us in the situation we were living in. We were dead because of our transgressions and sins. But He voluntarily went into death and all that God then did to Christ, He also did to us. That is what chapter 2:1-10 shows us. God could do that because this Man glorified Him perfectly in everything on earth.

Ephesians 1:20. ‘The surpassing greatness of His power’ that God showed toward us, He first showed Christ “when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly [places]”. Here we see God’s power in action with a power that is also active in us. But first Christ is being presented. That is to make clear to us that we will never comprehend anything of our blessings if we do not learn to look upon the Lord and the place He now has as Man, the place at God’s right hand in the heavenly places.

Now read Ephesians 1:18-20 again.

Reflection: For which things is Paul praying that we should know them?

Verses 21-23

The Church, Christ’s Body

Ephesians 1:21. God gave the Lord Jesus a place that exceeds everything. He received that place as Man. He had always been above everything as Creator. But now as Man He is exalted above every imaginable power: in the human world as well as in the world of angels and demons – not only now, but also in the future.

In the future, powers will be revealed that will overshadow every former power. You find them amongst others in the book of Revelation, chapter 13: ‘the beast out of the sea’ and ‘the beast out of the earth’ (Revelation 13:1; Revelation 13:11). They will, with an almost unlimited power, rule through a reign of terror during a period the Lord Jesus calls “a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will”. But the Lord Jesus will see to it that the days of their reign of terror will be shortened (Matthew 24:21-Song of Solomon :). The power of our Savior is that great.

But not only then will He show a power that exceeds every comparison. We know that already now “all authority … in heaven and on earth” has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18), although that power is not publicly visible yet. It seems like all decisions, for what concerns life in this world, are being taken in Washington, Brussels or Moscow. But faith looks up, far beyond the most powerful people on earth and sees the Lord Jesus at the right hand of God.

And not to mention the deceiving demons, full of uncleanness, that are poisoning the minds of billions of people through television, internet and spiritual centers. But faith looks up, beyond the meanest and most influential satanic powers and sees the Lord Jesus at the right hand of God. In Hebrews 2 it is written this way: “But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him. But we see Him, who was made for a little while lower than the angels, [namely,] Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor” (Hebrews 2:8-1 Samuel :). Then all human and satanic power will be as nothing!

The distinction between the different names of the powers above which the Lord Jesus is exalted, is not easy to indicate. I looked them up in a dictionary where words of the New Testament are explained. On this basis, I will try:
1. "Rule" refers to a position above and over others.
2. "Authority" is the freedom and the right to exercise power.
3. "Power" is the ability and the possibility that a person owns to achieve something.
4. "Dominion" also refers to a place above others, but therein others are subject, while in ‘rule’ it is more about the position itself.
Above all these forms of power the Lord Jesus is exalted.

Ephesians 1:22. Apart from that He is exalted above everything; also all things are subjected under His feet. Although all unbelievers and all demons have not subjected themselves yet, God has established that in His counsel. And that will certainly happen, because God wants it that way. The Lord Jesus is now already exalted above all things and soon all things will be visibly subjected to Him too, because He has humiliated Himself on the cross to death: “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-1 Kings :). So everything will be subjected to Him.

But there are exceptions. The first one we find in 1 Corinthians 15 (1 Corinthians 15:27). There we read that God, Who has subjected everything under the feet of the Lord Jesus, is being excluded. That makes perfect sense. But now comes the incredible, what no man could have ever thought: the second exception is the church. How could God do this? He could do this by uniting the Lord Jesus and the church. God gave the Lord Jesus “as head over all things to the church, which is His body”. It is obvious that a body and a head form an indivisible unity. Here we find the revelation of the great mystery that is already highlighted in Ephesians 1:10. How could the church be able to reign together with Christ? It is by becoming one with Him.

And look at how God did that: He doesn’t give the church to Christ, but He gives Christ as a gift to the church. That is what is written here. When we give somebody a gift, then the person is always more valuable than the gift. That cannot be the thought here of course, but it rather indicates how God appreciates the church.

He appreciates the church that much that He had not only known her from all eternity in His counsel, but that He also gave her what was most precious of what He had, His own Son. God gave the Lord Jesus to the church, while He is “head over all things”. Due to that the church is also raised to that position. It is just like with Adam and Eve. When Adam was put as head of the creation in Eden, he received Eve in that position. She is allowed together with Adam to rule over creation.

Ephesians 1:23. And yet, not all is said about all glory, wherein the church partakes due to her unity with the Lord Jesus as Man. The final words of chapter 1 add something more that is far beyond our understanding. It can only be admired and be seen with ‘the eyes of understanding being enlightened’ (Ephesians 1:18). Of the church as His body it is also said that she is “the fullness of Him who fills all in all”. Here it is said that the church is the ‘fullness’ of the Lord Jesus, which means that she makes Him complete, complements Him as the perfect Man Jesus Christ. When the Man Jesus Christ will reign over all things, He will be, said with reverence, a complete Man: man and wife.

This we also recognize in Adam. When he woke up from his deep sleep and saw Eve, he said: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:21-Isaiah :). The fact that a group of people would become the body of Christ is nowhere to be found in the Old Testament. That was only possible after the Lord Jesus’ return to heaven and the Holy Spirit could come to form the believers into that body (1 Corinthians 12:13). The church is seen here as the whole of all believers from Pentecost till her rapture.

And then the words “who fills all in all”. Here we stand in front of a mystery that we will never be able to fathom: He, Who is being completed as Man by the church, is indeed perfect in Himself! By this perfection He fills the whole universe. He is always and everywhere present. We must never forget that He, with Whom we are united as Man, will always remain: the eternal Son of God.

Now read Ephesians 1:21-23 again.

Reflection: Which aspects of the greatness of the Lord Jesus have you found in these verses? Give Him praise for that.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Ephesians 1". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/ephesians-1.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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