Paul begins his letter to the Ephesian church with a statement of praise to God. This declaration of praise runs from v3 through to v14.
v3. Paul opens by praising God for the wonderful blessings that were given to the saints (blessings which Gentiles similarly share as members of Christ). These blessings are every "spiritual" blessing and they are experienced in the "heavenly realms". Seeing we are in a relationship with Christ, we are in a sense, one with him in the heavenly realms.
v4-6. Paul identifies the first spiritual blessing: Set apart as a holy people, God like, Christ like. The people of Israel were chosen for this purpose, to be holy and blameless in the sight of God. Holiness involves: i) possessing personal existence, able to relate to others, to love; ii) being moral, righteous, good; iii) being free, powerful.
v7-8. The second spiritual blessing is redemption. Through identification with Christ a representative group of Israelites, namely, the apostles and other Jewish believers, were redeemed, purchased from their slavery of sin by the sacrificial death of Christ.
v9-10. Paul now identifies the third blessing: We have come to know and understand a mystery long hidden. The saints, Jewish believers, are privileged to share in a secret once hidden, but now revealed. This mystery concerns the fulfilment of God's gracious intention to gather a people to himself, both Jew and Gentile, and shower upon this new community life in all its fullness - "the unsearchable riches of Christ", 3:8.
v11-12. Paul finally identifies the fourth spiritual blessing, namely, assurance. The new Israel of God is destined for glory, for the living God has purposed it and for this, let his name be praised.
v13-14. Paul now includes his Gentile readers in the spiritual blessings which belong to the saints, but which are now extended to all - "you also were included in Christ." Being included in the family of God, being a child of God, once meant being part of the people of Israel. Yet, God's ultimate intentions, once hidden now revealed, have changed all that. Initially, God's sovereign will defined the family of Abraham as inheritors of the blessings, now all those who respond to the gospel are inheritors of the blessings. We Gentiles share in the blessings of the kingdom when we hear and believe the gospel.
From the introduction of Paul's letter to the Ephesians we are able to draw out quite a few truths that touch our Christian lives. Three of these truths are worth considering in detail. They are three blessings which are ours in the here and now, in Christ. We should note that up till verse 12, Paul applies the blessings to the apostles and other Jewish believers. None-the-less, his point in v13 is that we Gentiles also share the blessings along with Jewish believers.
First. We are told in v4-5 that God has determined to "adopt" us "as his sons through Christ" that we might be "holy and blameless in his sight"; we are set apart to be made a holy people. Everyone who accepts the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ automatically becomes a member of the chosen people of God - the set apart people of God, the children of God. As God's sons, the day is coming, and in a sense now is, when we will take upon ourselves the qualities of divinity. We certainly do not deserve to become as God, but out of his abundant grace we will be as Christ is. Jesus has gone before us and on the day of resurrection we will put on glory, the glory that he now possesses. That will be glory indeed!
Second. In v8 we are told that God has "made known to us the mystery of his will." We now possess the secrets of the universe. "What is truth?" asked Pilate. Since the beginning of time mankind has asked the same question. Ultimate truth is the possession of God's people in the here and now. The mystery, a secret we possess, is the wonderful truth of the gospel of God's sovereign grace. It is the truth that God in Christ is gathering a people to himself to share his divinity for eternity. God has determined that those who share this blessing are not limited to a special family (descendants of Abraham), or to a special religious group (people who keep the law), but rather to all who reach out to Jesus in faith. This community of faith will be the instrument to unite all things under Christ - an eternal united new creation.
Third. In v13-14, we are told that we are sealed with "the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance". Actually, this is where Paul says "you" to remind his Gentile readers of their equal possession of sonship. The gift of the Holy Spirit is a "deposit" - a down payment of the blessings to come. He is also a "seal" - a guarantee of the glory to come. It is the Spirit who expedites in our flesh the shape of holiness which is already eternally ours in Christ. He slowly moulds us into the image of Christ. Through the interplay of the circumstances of life and the renewing work of the Holy Spirit, we are adopting the character of our Creator. Becoming what we are is a work of grace appropriated through faith. It images something of the glory to come.
1. What does it mean to be blessed in the heavenly realms?
2. Note the strong terms used in v4, 5 and 11 concerning the sovereign will of God. Who has God chosen?
3. Define Holiness.
4. What is the mystery?
5. In v13, who was included "in Christ" and what actually does it mean to be included?