1-2 I, Paul, am under God’s plan as an apostle, a special agent of Christ Jesus, writing to you faithful believers in Ephesus. I greet you with the grace and peace poured into our lives by God our Father and our Master, Jesus Christ. 3-6 How blessed is God! And what a blessing He is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him. Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved Son.
Paul begins with the One who is the Source of their blessing, the Father. Beginning with God sounds routine, but it is contrary to where most of us start, which is with ourselves—our experience, which is only a partial view of truth. In so doing, we immediately narrow the range of our vision to what we are going through and what is happening to us, and we don’t see this in relationship to the whole reality of life around us. This leads to twisted and deformed ideas of what is happening. The only way to view truth is to see it in relationship to all truth everywhere. And the only way to do that is to start with God.
*Natural thinking is always limited, always wrong to some degree, because it isn’t large enough and broad enough to handle all the facts. But spiritual thinking is always God-centered, and, therefore, true, and to the extent that it is spiritual, it is true in every way.
Paul then proceeds to the aim of the work of God—spiritual blessing. His goal is to bring about a world filled with blessing. God has done such remarkable deeds that, if we once understand them, it will produce and absolute awe and spontaneous amazement, which causes us to stop and give thanks to a great and glorious God who has given us every spiritual blessing.
*This sense of awe and amazement is not for God’s benefit, but for ours. Once we are made aware of the extent of God’s blessing in our lives, it should produce a release in us, because we acknowledge that God knows what is best for us. Therefore, our lives are better when we yield control to Him.
There is a tricky theological issue presented to us in these verses —election versus individual sovereignty. Paul refers here to having us in mind “before the foundation of the world.” This kind of language lends itself to the concept of predestination, the belief that the saved and unsaved have already been determined by God and, therefore, cannot be altered. Some Christian denominations teach this as foundational to their theology. According to that train of thought, eternal election to everlasting life is the first blessing of grace, upon which all the rest proceed—calling, justification, and glorification. The author of this choice is God the Father, who is distinguished from Christ, in whom this act is made.
Baptist Christians reject the concept of predestination on the basis that it removes from man the sovereignty that God has entrusted to us. From Genesis 3 forward, we are challenged by God to make a choice regarding our submission to Him. To now be told that we do not truly have a choice, but that the choice has already been made for us and we are merely going through the motions of an elaborate plot is to make God a deceiver and His call to us to choose Him hollow.
“To what is Paul referring?” We believe that Paul is referring to God’s foreknowledge. God is not linear; time is meaningless to God. While humanity deals with three dimensions of time—past, by memory and reflection; present by existentialism; future by hope and aspiration—God is transcendent, above time and space. God knows how things shall be because to Him, everything is. Thus, in what is, to us, God’s foreknowledge, He knows which of us will be saved, and it is of those that Paul calls “the elect.” But He still leaves the freedom of choosing to us.
More than foreknowledge, Paul highlights God’s mercy by inform-ing us of how a choice is to be made—through Jesus. In our sub-mission to Christ, we become the children of God. Apart from Christ, we are God’s possession because He created us. But as we submit to Christ that we become His children—heirs of the salvation that He has promised to all believers (Romans 8:14-17).
The result of this choice to submit to Christ is that we are seen by God in a different and much better light. God no longer looks on us in the raw. Instead, God chooses to look at us through the filter of Jesus, which blocks His vision of our sin and causes us to be seen as Jesus is—pure, perfect and holy.
7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, His blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans He took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in Him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
Paul goes on to say that we are not only seen differently by God, but that, indeed, we have been changed. We’ve been redeemed. Redemption is a restoration of value that has been lost or forfeited. It is a deliverance from captivity and slavery. Outside of Christ, we are in bondage to sin. Christ has redeemed us.
This redemption is absolute. All sin—past, present and future—has been accounted for. The price (eternal estrangement from God) has been paid and we have been pardoned. This is the wonderful product of God’s indescribable grace (unmerited favor).
Mysteries are secrets which only God understands, and about which we can never find out except through His disclosure. We can never uncover them by any human enterprise—no instruction, no scientific investigation. God must tell us the answers. Paul says this is what God has done for us, through Jesus Christ.
In I Corinthians 4, Paul reminds us that we Christians have been made stewards of the mysteries of God, dispensers of them. It is for us to grasp them, understand them, and speak out about them.
God is working to unite all things in Christ. The Greek word for, “unite,” means, “to head up,” to relate to Christ as a body relates to its head. Then He will be the Director, the supreme Operator, of all things, both in heaven and on earth.
11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had His eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.
Paul says that we have been made Christ’s inheritance. In fact, there is a double inheritance in the Christian life. We inherit Jesus; He is our resource from which we draw. He is our Power, our Strength, our Love, our Life, our Wisdom, our Truth.
But a wonderful truth is that we are also His inheritance. He draws on us. He takes us and uses us. He has prepared us. Our bodies and souls are to be His to use to manifest His will. That is His inheritance in the saints.
*Practically speaking, this means we should not complain about what life brings to us. It is the Father who has chosen to put us where we are, and into the situations where we find ourselves, in order that, in the hurt and the heartache and the suffering, and in the joy and the blessing and the riches, whatever they may be, the life of Jesus may be released in that situation.
13-14 It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.
The two things emphasized here are always found together in Scripture—the Word, and the Spirit. These are the instruments by which God performs His work. It is always a mistake to emphasize one to the exclusion of the other.
The Word is interpreted by the Spirit; it becomes fresh and vital as we look to the Holy Spirit to make Jesus Christ step out of the pages and stand in our presence in living flesh. It is the Word that identifies the Holy Spirit. And all false spirits are detected by the Word. We must have the Word and the Spirit together for balance in our Christian lives.
“What does Paul mean when he says we have been sealed with the Spirit?” This is a reference to the practice of sealing letters or other objects with sealing wax and impressing the wax with a seal worn on a ring and bearing an identifying image. The use of the seal involved two specific ideas—ownership and preservation.
We are possessed by the One who owns the seal. When God sent the Holy Spirit into our lives, it was the mark that we belong to Him (I Corinthians 6:19b-20a; Romans 8:16). Moreover, the joy, peace and love He gives to us are a witness to others. They are the characteristics of His ownership.
The use of the seal was also for preservation. When the tomb of Jesus was sealed with the seal of the Roman Emperor, it was intended to keep the tomb inviolate. It was to preserve the tomb intact, without intrusion or destruction. This is the idea of the Spirit's presence in our life. It means that God is going to keep us. He guarantees our inheritance, that something more is to come. The presence of the Spirit in our lives—the joy and the peace that He gives—is the guarantee that there is more yet to come.