Was the Epistle to the Ephesians written to the saints in Ephesus? In many of the original Greek manuscripts there is a blank where the King James translation has the words “at Ephesus;” just a line where the names of other recipients were apparently to be filled in. That is why the Revised Standard Version does not say, “To the saints at Ephesus,” but simply “To the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus…”
It is important to bear in mind the addressees of this epistle: the faithful in Christ Jesus, because the subject matter treated herein are not for spiritual babes but for those who have been longer in the faith.
Are you a faithful saint in the Lord? If you are, then this epistle is for you.
This epistle is loaded with doctrine, more than all the other epistles written by Paul even the epistle to the Romans. The danger related with doctrine is that when presented in a lop-sided manner – stressing one aspect more than another – it would result in erroneous theology. But, of course, this could not happen with Paul, a seasoned and Spirit-filled apostle.
In this epistle, he presents a number of doctrines in a well-balanced manner. It is so well-balanced that his epistle could be practically divided into two halves, each made up of three chapters: 1-3 and 4-6. The subject matter that are addressed in this epistle are also balanced. Here are some examples:
|Chapters 1-3||Chapters 4-6|
|Spiritual Wealth||Spiritual Walk|
|Position of the Believer||Practice of the Believer|
|Salvation: Doctrine||Salvation: Duty|
|Relationship with God||Relationship with others|
|God’s Power & Purpose||Our Walk & Warfare|
In the words of Albert Martin, “the grand doctrinal themes of Ephesians, chapters 1, 2 and 3 are followed by the application of those doctrines to practical life and experience in Ephesians, chapters 4, 5 and 6. The end for which God gave his truth was not so much the instruction of our minds as the transformation of our lives. He (God) does not illuminate the mind simply that the file drawers of the mental study may be crammed full of information. The end for which God instructs the mind is that he might transform the life. (Practical Implications of Calvinism. Albert N. Martin, Senior Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, Essex Fells, New Jersey)
In this epistle, Paul does not use the term “doctrine” as he freely does in his other epistles. Instead, he chooses to refer to them as “blessing”. These blessings are intended for those who are in Christ. They are spiritual in nature; not intended to make anyone rich according to this world but rich with heavenly treasures. Those who are blessed are rich indeed, the richest perhaps.
So, let us waste no time in unpacking them one by one, like little children ripping the wrapping from their Christmas presents … starting with the blessing of Election.
Right off the bat, Paul states that we have been chosen. Being chosen is a great privilege.
Have you observed children in a playground. Once in a while they will form teams, and the de facto leader among them will choose who will be on his side. A smile would immediately come upon the faces of those chosen. What joy it is to be chosen.
If your dream is to be star footballer, you know you are one step away from your dream when you are chosen to play for a big club like Manchester United, for example. You would be ecstatic, wouldn’t you?
But both these analogies are nothing compared to what it means to be chosen by God. The choosing in the two analogies are meritocratic: a system where advancement is based on individual ability or achievement (The Free Online Dictionary). God did not choose someone because of his/her ability or achievement. He chose sovereignly, purely according to His Will and good pleasure.
Some say that God chose based on His foreknowledge of how that person will respond in the future. This cannot be, otherwise that person would have reason to boast that he was chosen based on his work. Salvation, Paul insists, is by grace…not of works, lest any man would boast.
Being chosen is a spiritual blessing, a gift of God.
It is not uncommon to hear Christians say, “I was saved on such and such a day.” But the fact of the matter is that their salvation was the culmination of event were chosen “before the foundation of the world”. While it might be true that we responded to God on a particular day, but the invitation had been sent out long before that. While it might be true that we had only just heard of Christ for the first time, He foreknew us already.
Being chosen is a privilege indeed. And, just like being chosen to play for a big club, being chosen entails great responsibility. Paul reminds his readers (and us) that we were chosen “to be holy and blameless before Him”. By this, I believe, he meant both in this life and in the next. Pitied are those who think that they have been chosen only for heaven. They will not have any reward in heaven.
Here’s an additional thought: the fact that God had “chosen” some implies that there are others who were “not chosen”. This is hard to accept, I know. Imagine this: if everyone who turned up for a soccer selection ends up in the final team, wouldn’t it make the selection process be a mockery? Why have it in the first place?
Having chosen us, God then predestines us for a specific end. In this epistle, Paul states “adoption as sons” as the end of God’s predestination. To the Romans, it is to be conformed to the image of His Son. They are not contradictory. As a matter of fact, they compliment one another because one expands on the other. In order to be adopted as sons, one has to be totally like God’s Son Jesus.
There are some confusion among Christians about Predestination. They have the impression that whatever God predestines is set in concrete. Not true. God’s predestination is merely His desire and will for the individual. While God might have a Will for you, He does not force that Will on you. Rather, He will love you, nudge you, woo you till you embrace it willingly and gladly. There is the reason Paul does not say we were adoption, but simply we were predestined for adoption.
My own father had always wanted me to follow in his footsteps to become a banker. But very early in life, I heard the call of God to serve Him full-time. There was nothing my dad could do to change my mind. His predestination, his dream or goal for me did not come true.
Those who embrace God’s goal for them are blessed with the “glorious grace” of God. This grace is what empowers and enables a believer to grow and become like Christ … a mature son of God. And when the goal is reached and the believer is fully conformed into the image of the Son, all praise will go to that glorious grace that accomplished it.
REDEMPTION AND FORGIVENESS
The grace of God is not only glorious, it is also rich. The riches of God’s grace is demonstrated in the redemption and forgiving of sinners such as us.
Grace, as commonly understood, is unmerited favor. And the fact that God “lavished” us with His grace indicates to us how undeserving we are of what we have received from Him.
God’s grace is not only glorious and rich, it is also purposeful.
God did not do what He did out of pity for us. He foreknew, called, predestined and justified us for a purpose. This purpose is found in “the mystery of His Will” which He made known to us “in all wisdom and prudence”. Knowing the Will of God is one of the immediate and tangible benefits a believer has. Almost without having to ask, God readily reveals “the mystery hidden for ages” (3:9) to regenerated mortal beings. This begets the question: “Why do so many Christians still do not know the Will of God?”
The mystery is God’s plan for the “fullness of time”, or the End-time, when He will “unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth”. What does this entail? How will He do it? The answers are in the second chapter of this epistle. Be patient for we will eventually get there.
The next spiritual blessing is the Inheritance.
According to Paul, we have obtained the inheritance. It is with us. In fact, it is “in the saints”. And the Holy Spirit is its “guarantee … until we acquire possession of it”.
What is something that we have but also will possess in the future, here and not yet? It could not be anything other than the kingdom of God. Christ Himself declared that it “is within you” (Luk 17:21).
For now, the kingdom of God is a spiritual one, making our beings its domain. But one day, when things in heaven and things on earth will be joined together, Christ will possess the nations as His inheritance (Psa 2:8) and establish His rule over them … and we will reign with Him.
On that day, all nations will praise His glory.