The Book of Ephesians is the first of Paul’s “prison epistles” and is considered by many scholars to be the most majestic of all the epistles. Ephesians teaches the doctrine of Ecclesiology. The epistle starts out:
According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.
Chosen in Him—the Greek word for “chosen” means once and for all. English has an active voice and passive voice, but Greek also has a middle voice which includes a sense of choosing. We are chosen out of the world once and for all for God’s peculiar treasure.
[H]aving predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ Himself according to the good pleasure of his will.
Adoption was a different concept in Greek culture than to-day. Then, when a son became of age, he was formally adopted and gained legal standing in the family. The adoption was a public attestation of adult sonship and confirming of his privileges. John 1 tells us we are already the sons of God, but He has also predestined us to be adopted by Jesus Christ to Him-self.
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
What do we mean by redemption? Redemption is a release by ransom. The ransom was paid on the cross in respect to eternal principals of righteousness which govern the universe, the holy law of God, which human predicament has outraged. We are sinning against the ruler and Creator of the universe. Our sins are evil because of the magnitude of the One we are sinning against. The concept of being sealed is also in Ephesians.
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise. Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Sealing is a key term signifying ownership and security. We are His. We are not our own. And we are safe in Him. This sealing is the earnest, or guarantee, of our inheritance.
We should memorize this fascinating portion of Chapter 2:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of your-selves; it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.
Even the faith you have is a gift of God. Why? Lest any man should boast.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
We are his workmanship. Many people ask, “Didn’t God know Adam was going to screw up?” Yes, He did. He created Adam with a free will, knowing he would rebel. Why did He bother? The answer is in Ephesians 2:7: “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus.”
It was a demonstration for ages yet to come. How does the God of the universe demonstrate infinite love? By allowing man to get in a predicament that only God’s death could solve. No greater love hath any man then he that lay down his life for his friends. And nothing less than the death of God Himself availed to satisfy His holiness and justice.
Paul goes on to reveal a mystery that was hidden before. Back in Matthew 11, Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist; notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” No man is greater than John the Baptist. But at the end of the sentence Jesus is talking about something John is not part of.
In verse 13 He says, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” John was the last prophet of the Old Testament. Most of us take for granted that all believers are in the same category, but there are Old Testament believers. You and I are part of what mystically is called the Church. The benefits you and I enjoy were mind-blowing to Paul’s Pharisaical mind.
The mystery Paul is going to reveal in Ephesians 3:1-12 is not the gospel. The gospel was revealed in the Old Testament. Paul is going to declare something not revealed in the Old Testament. What was not revealed?
An entirely new thing: to make of both the Jew and Gentile a new body of fellow heirs—the Church, the body of Christ.
How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery … Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as the Spirit now reveals it unto His holy apostles and prophets; That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel …
Paul had the joy of this unique revelation and disclosure. He then writes of our cosmic warfare in great detail.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, and powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places...
Those last phrases in Greek mean ranks of angels. We are not in battle with the leaders in our administration we dis-agree with, nor the promoters of paganism in our culture. Our real warfare is with not flesh and blood, but with ranks of an-gels, dark angels that serve the power of darkness. Paul gives us our imperative. This is not optional. “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” We are to be completely armed with all seven elements of the armor of God.
And when should we do this? Before the battle begins. But the battle has already started and we are on enemy turf!
It’s time we put on our armor. We should be girded with truth. We have the breastplate of righteousness. Our feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Our shield is faith. Our helmet is salvation. We have the sword of the Spirit. And the heavy artillery—prayer.
Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.
This is a command in the present tense: “To be continually strong.” Since it is in the passive voice, you receive the action. YOU be strong in the Lord, in the power of his might.
The Epistle to the Ephesians is the most mystical of Paul’s epistles. It is the crown and climax of Paul’s letters: it looks at our salvation from precreation election to the vantage point of “the heavenlies”—a panoramic view of the wondrous and glorious work of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Its uniqueness also includes its singular allusion to four-dimensional hyperspace. Ephesians is a high-altitude, spiritual flight with down-to-earth, practical consequences!
We have recently updated our commentary of the Epistle to the Ephesians and it is available this month on audio cassette, audio CD, MP3 CD-ROM, and download.