Whole Counsel Theology

Thursday, February 02, 2006

An Exegesis of Ephesians 1:1-6

I have decided to begin my book exegesis posts with Ephesians. I'll work through it in its entirety, though I'll post other things as well. Don't expect this do be done any time soon. :)

I have selected to start with the first six verses. The truth of the matter is, the first main unit is probably Ephesians 1:1-14, with the first two verses as an introduction and the remaining 12 verses as one sentence. Paul, though a brilliant individual and godly man, didn't seem to like punctuation. :) However, stopping at verse six is the end of the first "glory" mini-section, so for the sake of brevity in the posts and the fact that the text has a SMALL break here, I'm limiting the first post to these six verses. With that said, we must also keep in mind all 14 verses for the immediate context.

I'm grabbing one verse at a time and explaining it in light of the other verses around it for one main reason: it will be easier to follow, and people won't have to scroll back up to get to the verse I'm addressing. With that said, I proceed to the text itself! May God bless the reading and study of His precious Word, through which He has revealed Himself, His purposes, and His ways!

All Scripture is taken from the HCSB version of the Bible, unless otherwise noted.

Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God's will: To the saints and believers in Christ Jesus at Ephesus.

This is Paul's introduction to the letter where he identifies himself and his audience. Paul is an apostle (one sent), and he is not an apostle because he came up with the idea one day and decided to be one. No, Paul is an apostle of Christ Jesus by God's will. The word will is significant; it has the idea of "a choice, a determination, a decree" (Strong's). This was no accident or the contrivance of any man; God is the one who made Paul an apostle. Paul makes that very clear at the outset.

His audience is the saints and believers in Christ Jesus at Ephesus. Some texts omit at Ephesus, so we might not know for sure the recipients of the letter, but there seems to be no good reason to doubt it. Let this be known however: Paul writes to the saints (literally, holy ones) and believers (or, as some translations render it, the "faithful" -- Greek is pistos). Paul was addressing Christians, people who had put their faith in Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul continues his address to these faithful saints by wishing them grace and peace from God. Paul is likely wishing them favor (which is a connotation of the word grace) from God, and that His peace would work powerfully in them. It is unlikely that Paul means physical peace, as in peace from any and all harm, given that he himself had God's peace and had experienced in his life many sufferings. Rather, it is more likely Paul is talking about this kind of peace.
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ;

Ah, now we begin the theological discourse, and what a wonderful discourse it is! Paul starts out saying that God is blessed, that is, that He is to be praised! God is to be praised for all of these things He has done and is doing -- what things?

You might remember before (if not, scroll up) that verses 3--14 are one sentence in the Greek. Everything included in here is reason for praise to God. I would encourage you when you read this passage to look carefully and ask yourself as you read each verse, "What do I need to praise God about here?" It will be a wonderful time of worship for you, I would expect.

In this verse, Paul starts out his reasons why God should be blessed/praised (not to mention that he praises Him in the process!). What has God done for us here? He has blessed us! Not only that, but He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ. What is this in the heavens? If we check verse 20, we'll see something of what Paul was talking about perhaps. Christ is seated in the heavens -- Heaven itself! Note this too -- the comma allows us to bring out this description too, just by breaking the sentence down (and the division is apparent in other translations too):

God has blessed us with every Spiritual blessing in the heavens!
God has blessed us with every Spiritual blessing in Christ!

That is truely awesome -- we have every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ; God blesses us beyond what we could ever ask for, more than we probably ever will realize in this life. Have a look at this passage over in Romans:
Romans 8:31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
Romans 8:32 He did not even spare His own Son, but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything?

There is nothing that we lack that we need. Mediatate on that and worship God Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing! Now we will see WHY God has blessed in this way.
Ephesians 1:4 for He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love
Ephesians 1:5 He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will,

These verses follow the preceding one and provide a sort of purpose clause. The reason God blesses us is because He has chosen us before the foundation of the world to be holy; that He predestined us to be adopted.

There is a lot of disagreement over the use of the word chose in this passage (Greek: eklegomai). The word means "to select: - make choice, choose (out)" (Strong's), and is a combination of the Greek preposition ek, which means "out of, from, by, away from" (Thayer) and the verb lego (though a different form).

So, the work eklegomai would mean, as Strong said above (again emphasizing the preposition), "to choose (out {of})" something. So then, there would have to be a group out of which to choose the object of this verb.

Some have argued that it is JESUS who is elected here, and not individuals, saying that since all election is in Christ, then it is really Christ who Paul is talking about here and not individuals.

There are a few problems with that. First of all, the object of the verb "chose" is "us" and not "Christ." Second, as I mentioned a moment ago, we are talking about picking something out of a group. The world is a group of people, but who is in the group with Christ? Christ stands alone; He's in a class all by Himself. :) Furthermore, Bethlehem Baptist Church's doctrinal statement on TULIP can help us:
Nor does the literal wording of verse 4 fit this interpretation. The ordinary meaning of the word for "choose" in verse 4 is to select or pick out of a group (cf. Luke 6:13; 14:7; John 13:18; 15:16,19). So the natural meaning of the verse is that God chooses his people from all humanity, before the foundation of the world by viewing them in relationship to Christ their redeemer.

So then, to deny that this verse is talking about individuals is to read something into the text that isn't there, also called eisegesis. The text is clear -- God chose individuals out of humanity before the foundation of the world to be in Christ, to be holy and blameless in His sight! Thanks be to God! We deserved nothing but His wrath, but instead He chose us to be holy, to be blameless in His sight. The word for blameless is the Greek amomos, which means "faultless; unblemished." Thayer mentions that the word is also used to refer to the state of a sacrifice; that is, a sacrifice without blemish. In the Old Testament, for an animal to be brought before God to be offered as a sacrifice for sin it had to be "unblemished." It could have no physical defect at all; God demanded the best.

Because of Christ (remember, the in Him refers to Christ) God views us as without fault, without blame, without defect. God looks at us through the righteousness of Christ, a righteousness we could never attain on our own. Thanks be to God! This is just AMAZING!

...but there is more! The end of verse four tells us that this, as well as what is going on in verse five, is done in love. This is the word agape, which means "affection" or "benevolence." God decided to show us His affection and benevolence! And what did He do? He predestined us to be adopted. This word predestined means to "predetermine" or "ordain" (Strongs). This is something that God determined would happen, just like in verse four, from before the foundation of the world. There are no accidents with God, and that also goes for how people are saved just like it does for everything else. Everyone that will be saved has been chosen and predetermined to be just that, and the word this verse (5) uses to describe that salvation, in some sense, is the word adopted.

Adopted is a very good word to use to translate the Greek uihothesia, which means "placing as a son" according to Strong. Just like when someone adopts a child and that child legally becomes one of his own, so it is with God. He adopts us; we become His children.

Just like being chosen is "in Him (Christ)," so being adopted is "through Christ." Because of what Christ has done for the elect, we are made His, being chosen and adopted.

So then, what was God's motivation for doing this, for choosing His elect and viewing them in relation to Christ, for loving them? Verse five gives us part of the answer, and verse six completes it.

The first reason we are given for God doing this is that it was according to His favor and will. Notice what this text does not say. It does NOT say is was because of some foreseen faith. It does NOT say it was because of some goodness that we were going to have. The text gives no indication that there anything about man considered at all with respect to God's motivation for doing this. No, He does it according to His favor and will. He has chosen and adopts because He chose to; there is no other reason. His favor is His "delight, kindness, wish, purpose" (Strong's). It's what God decided to take delight in doing, what He purposed to do; it was His will. (determination)

This is in line with another powerful passage Paul uses to talk about election over in Romans 9:
Romans 9:10 And not only that, but also when Rebekah became pregnant by Isaac our forefather
Romans 9:11 (for though they had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to election might stand,
Romans 9:12 not from works but from the One who calls) she was told: The older will serve the younger.

Here we are talking about Jacob and Esau. God chose Jacob and not Esau to have His blessing, to be the one through whom He would work wonders and bring the Messiah. It was Jacob's descendants, the nation of Israel who would be God's chosen people in the Old Testament, and it was Jacob the man, and not Esau, who God spoke with and favored more, as is clear with a reading of the book of Genesis.

Now, back to the point for citing this passage. What was the reaosn God did this? Was it because of forseen merit in Jacob? Absolutely not! The man lived up to his name (which means, figuratively, "he deceives"). He was a trickster and a deceiver. Well then, why did God choose to set His love on him? Romans 9:12 tells us that it was "not from works but from the One who calls." It wasn't because of anything except the fact that God wanted to do it, just like the reason in Ephesians 1:5. God willed it, and therefore did it. He doesn't have to justify His decision to anyone, and the fact that He chose to save anyone at all should be reason for much thanks and praise. In fact, that is the second reason Paul gives us in our passage for God doing this:
Ephesians 1:6 to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.

Why has God done all of this? Why has He blessed us, chosen us, adopted us? It was His own decision, but why did He make that decision? The reason is given here: it was for His glory. It was so that we would praise His glorious grace. It was for Him (as verse five has already made clear, by saying we were adopted through Jesus "for Himself"), for the greatness of His Name. Yes, we benefit for sure! We are favored in the Beloved (Jesus). However, we are not the end of God's desire. All of this was done so He would receive glory. Praise be to God, Who is worthy of ALL glory and praise, and worship, and thanks!

To God Be the Glory Alone!



  • Sorry, I commented on another of your posts when I meant to comment on this one. In any case, very nice post.

    My experience with those in my SBC church is they recoil in horror with any hint that God's Sovereignty extends and overrules our own wills. However, your exegeis makes it clear that is the case

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    By Blogger Mike Ratliff, at Friday, February 03, 2006 9:35:00 AM  

  • Oh, I think I can find it in my heart to forgive you for posting twice. :)

    In any case, I don't know if I would say that God's soveriegnty "overrules" our wills, but rather, that it "controls" them. After all, we willingly either follow Christ or remain in our sin; it is just a matter of God either chosing to leave us in our sin (for which we are justly condemned) or chosing to change our wills and regenerate us so that we willingly follow Him.

    In any case, thank you for your comment and kind words. May God be honored by what we both do, for His glory only!


    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Friday, February 03, 2006 2:00:00 PM  

  • Before I say anything I will say this: if God predestined people for salvation that is fine. Everything God does is justified. But it is not only justified it is good and glorious. So I don't have a problem with believing that, so when I ask the following question, I am NOT arguing against predestination just the thing that was predestined.

    In verses 5 & 6, is: God predestining us TO (eis) the adoption of children by Jesus Christ TO Himself OR is God predestining us FOR the adoption of children by Jesus Christ FOR Himself?

    In light of that, and since this is a giant sentence which continues to build upon itself, is all of the aforementioned predestinating for our salvation or is it, as verse 6 suggests (being the final "hurrah!" of this particular subsection) TO/FOR (eis) "the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."?

    I know this is picky, but in my study of Greek, I find this makes a huge difference. Because either God is predestining us TO the following: adoption of children by Jesus Christ, (to) Himself, and (to) the praise of the glory of his grace OR He is predestinating us TO the praise of the glory of His grace (as verses 6 & 12 may suggest)through our adoption as children to Himself (this is a question not an argument...lol). If my understanding of the Greek is wrong, that's great! But in my study of the Greek this question popped into my head and I have neither the means nor the understanding to know the difference. Thanks!

    By Blogger Nathaniel Gardner, at Tuesday, July 28, 2009 1:54:00 PM  

  • Did you ever finish this series? I really appreciated the exegesis here... I think it was traced very well and was helpful in making connections throughout the verses. I would like to see the second half of this passage done the same way!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thursday, April 01, 2010 2:06:00 AM  

  • No, I never did finish the series. Perhaps I will sometime. :)
    I did preach through the entire first 14 verses though, and you can find the messages here. Look for the title "The Blessedness and Glory of God in Salvation" parts 1--3.


    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Thursday, April 01, 2010 7:35:00 AM  

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