The letter was written from prison in Rome to the church at Ephesus. The was before Paul's letters to Timothy, who ministered there, but after Paul's own ministry there;
- Acts 18.19-21; Paul's initial brief visit, including ministry in the synagogue. Aquila and Priscilla were left there. They met Apollos there, and strengthened his ministry.
- Acts 19.1-20.1; Paul spent three years there, his ministry being accompanied by special miracles, and victory over demonic forces.
- Acts 20.17-38; at Miletus, Paul met with the elders from Ephesus.
Later John wrote to the church at Ephesus (Rev 2.1-7); by this time they had left their first love. Doctrinal correctness had been divorced from devotion and commitment. Perhaps as Paul warned, they had a form of godliness without power, see 2 Tim 2.5.
The letter is similar to that to the Colossians, and were probably written at the same time, and possibly to a group of churches in the area; compare 6.21-22 with Col 4.7-8.
v1: Paul had been commissioned by God (3.7), given the authority of an apostle (2.20); this was by the will of God, not his choice.
Christians are firstly saints, set apart; they are faithful, believers, saved by faith, and living by faith; they are in Christ Jesus, in union with the Lord and Saviour. Paul emphasizes the sharing of faith, he does not address Christians individually.
v2: Paul brings his usual greeting and prayer.
The themes of grace and peace are found in Ephesians.
Grace infers man's sinfulness, in actions, words, and character, and man's inability to save himself, to improve himself, and to deserve good from God. God speaks of God's bounty, for He has much to give, and is willing to give. God's grace is found totally and exclusively in Jesus Christ, Rom 5.15; 2 Cor 8.9; Gal 1.6.
Peace with God is a contrast to our experience in this world. The disharmony and separation of this life is reversed by the blood of Jesus (Col 1.20; John 14.27). As a consequence we enjoy peace with others, and we are commanded to maintain that peace, Rom 12.18; Heb 12.14. We also have peace in the world, although we are not part of it, John 16.33; James 4.4; Matt 6.24.
v3: Paul introduces the plan of salvation, the work of the Father.
"Spiritual blessings", the key phrase for ch 1-3. Such blessings are in Christ, and only in Him. We cannot know God's blessings except through Christ.
Praise be to God, for there is much here to motivate us to praise God. We are spiritual 'millionaires' in Christ, for in Christ is all we need. We may not of course fully enjoy all that we have received. We can imagine Paul sharing his prison cell with others, who share his joy in Christ.
v4: Chosen in Him (Gk: EKLEGO), lit. to choose for oneself, chosen for holiness and blamelessness, sanctified and justified (Jude 24-25). We are called away from compromise and worldly standards.
The choosing is before the foundation of the world, and was God's eternal plan.
We are chosen as 'Church', to be holy and without blame together (5.27). God chose the Church to reflect His glorious character.
v5: Predestined to adoption (Gk: PRO-ORIZO), lit. to limit in advance; the calling of the Christian is at the initiative of God in Christ, who is the Author and Perfector of salvation.
Here is security for the true Christian, for the gift and calling of God are irrevocable. This doctrine is to encourage us, not to promote speculation and argument. Here too is the high calling for the Christian, to bear the name and image and character of Jesus Christ.
In accordance with His good pleasure and will; the unchanging plan of God. He delights to fulfil His own will in Christ.
v6: In all these things, God's grace is manifest, and His Name is glorified. These truths are not cold and theoretical, but bring grace and joy into our lives.
v7: Paul explains the Depth of our Salvation, the work of the Son.
The cost of His blood; God gave His Son to suffer and die, 1 Cor 6.19-20, the great price of redemption.
There is forgiveness, as punishment is cancelled, and the condemnation of the law removed, illustrated by the story of Boaz and Ruth.
No wonder we read of the riches of His grace that He has lavished upon us.
v8: God's wisdom (Gk: SOPHIA), and understanding (Gk: PHRONESIS), being the practical outworking of wisdom. God always and only acts in a perfectly wise way. This is full of grace and kindness.
v9: God has revealed His plan, the mystery of His will, see ch 3. It is through this mystery that salvation has been given and accomplished. And this salvation is brought into being through Christ.
v10: All things are to be gathered together in Christ (Col 1.16); in Him, subject to Him, at peace with Him. This will happen at the right time, just as God sent His Son at the right time (Gal 4.4). God's eternal plan is accomplished in Christ (3.11). This is part of the mystery, and God's plan goes beyond the salvation of sinners.
v11: In Christ we look forward to an inheritance, prepared for us in Christ before the foundation of the world. According to His purpose, which cannot be frustrated, we have a share in God's promises.
v12: The plan and purpose of God is fulfilled as we hope in Christ, and God is glorified in our lives.
v13-14: Our part is to trust in Christ. The gospel, the word of truth, is proclaimed. Our response is faith, which brings salvation.
Having believed in Christ we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, who guarantees our future inheritance (compare Jer 29.9-12). The Holy Spirit seals us, He gives us access to the Father (2.18), He reveals truth (3.5), and He gives inner strength (3.16).
We are God’s purchased possession; we are bought into His ownership forever.
v15-23: The knowledge of our salvation; through prayer we grow in our knowledge and understanding of our inheritance in Christ.
v15: 'I heard, therefore I pray', such is Paul's attitude to Christians everywhere. Our faith in Christ gives us a concern for Christians elsewhere, and this is expressed in prayer.
Paul begins with a commendation, of "your faith in the Lord Jesus", and of "your love for all the saints"; these are two essential marks of true Christians, since we belong to God, and we belong to each other.
We must love all the saints, not just those who are like us, or those who like us, or those who return our affection.
v16: As in most of Paul's letters there is thanksgiving; he is encouraged to see a real spiritual work going on in the lives of those he has ministered to. He prayed without ceasing, compare Col 1.3,9.
v17: God must teach us His truth, we are blind until He opens our eyes. We constantly need to know Him better. Knowing God and Christ is the key to spiritual growth; this is the work of the Holy Spirit, who brings wisdom and revelation. Through Him we learn things that cannot be known by human wisdom.
v18: Paul refers to the eyes of our understanding, another reference to spiritual knowledge of God. Such enlightenment is essential that we might experience more fully God's call and work in our lives. This is consistent with the goal for the whole church, in 4.13.
This phrase introduces a series of specific requests;
- "that you may know the hope to which He has called you"; this is an assurance of our future, a certainty of heaven, of citizenship and transformation (Phil 3.20-21); such security enables us to know Christ better.
- "that you may know...the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints"; God's inheritance is in us, His people; we are His workmanship, 2.10.
v19: "that you may know .. His incomparably great power for us who believe"; the power of the resurrection, which has worked in us to bring us to faith, which is at work in us, and which is available to us.
Indeed, the power of creation itself is eclipsed by the power of conversion. Whilst the creation of the world demanded only “the work of your fingers” (Ps 8.3) salvation is His “holy arm” stretched out (Is 52.10; Luke 1.51).
His mighty power and strength is a reminder that our salvation is secure in Him. The influence of the old way of life can be defeated. The gospel is a gospel of power, and has changed our lives, and we can continue to experience this power in our lives.
v20: The resurrection power if Jesus Christ, raising Him from the dead, and raising Him into Heaven. Our life in Christ today is a fore-taste of the life of Heaven.
Christ is now seated at the Father's right hand, the work of salvation completed. Paul speaks of the raising of Christ from the dead, to the heavenly realms. This is followed in 4.8-10 when he speaks of the ascended Christ equipping His church.
v21: Christ is seated in the place of authority, having totally supremacy, Phil 2.9; Col 1.16-18; Matt 6.10. God has insisted that all things be subject to Christ
v22-23: Christ's universal headship includes the church, but Christ, not the church, is the centre of God's plan for the universe. The church is "the fullness of Him", and therefore must display His character.