Paul's 2nd Letter to the Corinthians and Paul's Letter to the Ephesians


Commentary on the Book of Ephesians

By: Tom Lowe                                            Date: 12/21/16

 

 

                                                                           

         Lesson 3: The Son Redeemed Believers in the Historical Past (1:7-12)

 

 

Ephesians 1:7-12 (NIV)

 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 

that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 

he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 

10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 

12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

 

 

Introduction

Ephesians chapter 1 contains one of the most amazing sentences ever penned in any language.  It is like a waterfall pouring from the lips of Paul as he tries to express the wonderful privileges of being a Christian.  Its great theme is God’s grace.  The riches of this grace have been lavished on us in Christ.  They lead us, at last, to live “for the praise of His Glory” (1:12).

But here Paul takes us to the epicenter of God’s plan and sets everything else He said in its ultimate context.  God has lavished His grace on us in all wisdom and understanding (1:8).  Why should that be needed?  The answer is breathtaking: in Jesus Christ, God has made known “the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment” (9-10).

God plans to bring this fallen world, governed by apparently random and sometimes, chaotic events and disruptions in nature and human life, into a unified cosmos over which Jesus Christ will be King.  In fact Christ’s reign has already begun.  He has already ushered in the kingdom of God.

For the moment that kingdom seems small and undistinguished—like a mustard seed (Mark 4:31).  But it will expand to fill the whole earth.  The day will come, Paul believes, when every knee will bow before Christ and every tongue confess that He is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11), either because they love Him or because they fear His power.  On that day “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fatted calf together, and a little child shall lead them . . . the weaning child shall put his hand on the adders den . . . for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9).

 

Commentary

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 

“Redemption” and “the forgiveness of sins (trespasses)” are joined together in such a way as to suggest the closest possible relation, but they are not identical concepts.  “Redemption” denotes a release brought about by the payment of a price. In every case, the conception is the delivering or the setting free of a man from a situation from which he himself was powerless to liberate himself, or from a penalty which he himself could never have paid. Men knew the wrongness of the life they were living; and also that they were powerless to do anything about it. They needed liberation. It was just that liberation that Jesus Christ brought. It is still true that He can liberate men from helpless slavery to the things that attract and disgust them at one and the same time. In simple terms, Jesus can still make bad men good.

But does this mean, then, that Christ has persuaded his Father to do something for us, contrary to the Father’s will, or perhaps His better judgment?  Are we to envision the Son persuading the Father to give us a break?  No!  Paul is speaking all along about the plan of the Father!  He has blessed us; he has chosen us, and in love he predestined us to be adopted sons; He has redeemed us; He has made known the mystery to us.  This, says Paul, amounts to “the riches of His grace,” which He lavished upon us (1:8).

 In Christ we have been delivered from the shackles of sin, from enslavement to Satan, and from all the misery associated with such enslavement. The ransom price, the means by which this release has been accomplished, is “his (i.e., Christ’s) blood”.  This sacrificial term calls to mind the blood of animals offered to God in the Old Testament.  Here the word represents the death of Christ in its character as a sacrifice for sin and is a reminder to us of the infinite price God paid for our redemption.  Our deliverance was effected through the blood of Christ; that is, through Christ’s atoning death, which was “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished upon us (1:8).”

If there was one thing which men knew it was the sense of sin and the dread of God. Jesus changed all that. He taught men, not to hate, but to love God. Because Jesus came into the world, men, even in their sin, discovered God’s love.

“Redemption” is through His blood.  Jesus said, “The son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).  In the book of Leviticus, we read, “The life is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11).  Therefore, Jesus came to give His blood a ransom for many.  The blood of Jesus was pure, holy, sinless, guileless, stainless—the blood that ran through the veins of Jesus was the blood of Jehovah God (Acts 20:28).  The blood is the price Jesus paid for our redemption.  The blood of Christ is more valuable than silver and gold. For one thing, there is not much of it. A limited supply increases the price of a substance, but that really is not the reason for its value. One drop of the blood of the holy Son of God can save every sinner on the topside of this earth, if that sinner will put his trust in the Savior

To the idea of “redemption” Paul adds that of “the forgiveness of sins.” The image in the Greek word rendered by “sins” is that of a falling by the way, an offense, a trespass.  Here the plural signifies the accumulation of sinful acts which were chargeable to us.  “Forgiveness” means literally “a sending away (Psalm 103:11-12).  By putting the phrase “forgiveness of sins” in grammatical opposition with the word “redemption,” Paul implies that forgiveness is the central feature of our redemption.

The result of the giving of the blood is “the forgiveness of sins.” In the Old Testament God thundered out (and He has not changed His mind), “The soul that sinneth, it shall die!” Again, through the prophet, God has said, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” Through the New Testament writer, the Holy Ghost declares, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Through the beloved John, the Holy Spirit has given to us the definition of sin: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresses the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).  Therefore, according to the standard of Jehovah God we are all supposed to be in hell; but God in His grace provided a way of escape.  However, “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).  “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us . . .” (1 John 1:7).

“Forgiveness” was given in Old Testament times on the basis of the shedding of animal’s blood (Leviticus 17:11). Yet this could not take away sins—only Christ could execute that. The blood of animals covered sins, but forgiveness of sins and salvation had to wait for Christ’s death on the Cross. Now we are forgiven on the basis of the shedding of Jesus’ blood, because He died and was the perfect and final sacrifice (Romans 5:9; Ephesians 2:13; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:22; 1 Peter 1:19). The writer to the Hebrews says it this way: “With burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.’” First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool” (Hebrews 10:6-13).

In the book of Leviticus, 10 times the Holy Spirit connects the atonement of the blood with the “forgiveness” of the sinner’s sins.  Jehovah God knows no other way except the blood-way.  It has been God’s way since the Garden of Eden.  Adam was covered with the skins produced by a blood sacrifice . . . innocent animals gave their blood to provide coats of skins for Adam and Eve.  Later, the son of Adam thought he would get away with a bloodless offering—but he did not.  Abel “by faith” brought a blood offering and God accepted it.  Cain, in his own wisdom, brought fruit . . . bloodless.  God rejected Cain’s offering.  Since that hour God has demanded blood—and without blood there is no remission—by every animal, innocent and without blemish, slain in sacrifice according to the direction of Jehovah God, God was saying through the death of that animal, “My Lamb, My Son, is going to die!”

Then one day, John the Baptist pointed to a Man and cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

A little later, on a cruel cross planted on Mount Calvary, the Lamb of God poured out His blood.  The eternal purpose of Jehovah God was achieved.  Jesus said before he died, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).  What a marvelous statement—in our language only three words, but in those three words He was saying, “I have accomplished what I came to accomplish!  My Fathers plan for remission of sins is complete.  My blood has been shed.  I have laid my life down.  It is accomplished!”

Through the blood we have forgiveness of sins; and the forgiveness of our sins is “according to the riches of his grace.” I am sure you who are saved will agree with me that there are not enough adjectives in all the languages of all the world to describe the riches of God’s grace.  Thank God, I am forgiven through “the riches of His grace” . . . not the meager labor of my hands! 

The measure of “redemption” is expressed in the phrase, “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” God’s endowments are in proportion to the abundance of his riches.  He does not give in small portions but with unbounded liberality.  If redemption were according to the measure of man’s merit, there would be no redemption.  But who can measure the riches of God’s grace?  “Grace” is God’s voluntary and loving favor given to those He saves. We can’t earn it, nor do we deserve it. No religious or moral effort can gain it, for it comes only from God’s mercy and love. Without grace, no person can be saved.

We need to pause to meditate on the grace Paul is describing here.  If we grasp the nature of the love God has demonstrated on the cross (Romans 5:8) we will realize that it is not a reluctant but a lavish love!

8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, [I believe the King James is better here—“Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.”]

A certain Bible teacher used to say to his classes that Paul puts emphasis on intelligence in religion.  Paul teaches here that not only has God’s grace brought redemption and forgiveness; it has OVERFLOWED—this is the literal meaning of the word “abounded”—in the additional gifts of “wisdom and prudence.” Wisdom may be defined as “the knowledge that sees into the heart of things, which knows them as they really are.  Prudence is the understanding which leads to right action.” The one is intellectual knowledge; the other is practical understanding.  One satisfies the mind; the other leads to right conduct.

How suspicious of God many Christians seem to be.  We do not trust Him; we doubt His goodness; we taste little of the sweetness of His grace.  Here is what will dissolve paralyzing fears, cringing doubt, suspicious unbelief: “the riches of his grace . . .  Lavished upon us” (1:7-8).  And we have these riches already in Christ!

9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 

In giving these gifts (1:8) Christ bestows upon believers a capacity for comprehending something of God’s purpose for the universe“the mystery of His will . . . which he purposed in Christ.”  The word “mystery” denotes the thoughts and plans of God, which are hidden from human reason and comprehension and must be divinely revealed, if they are to be known at all.  It refers to a secret, but one which has been made an open secret in the gospel.  Here it has to do with the secret of God’s dealing with the world.

The New Testament uses the word mystery in a special sense. It is not something mysterious in the sense that it is hard to understand. It is something which has long been kept secret and has now been revealed, but is still incomprehensible to the person who has not been initiated into its meaning. So, in the New Testament sense a mystery is something which is hidden to the heathen but clear to the Christian.

What for Paul was “the mystery of his (God’s) will?” It was that the Gospel was open to Gentiles too. In Jesus God has revealed that His love and care, His grace and mercy, are meant, not only for the Jews, but for all the world; and always at the back of his mind is the one great mystery revealed in Christ—illustrated in a variety of different ways.  At the heart of this mystery is that God plans to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth. 

This mystery, which God has made known to us “according to His good pleasure,” is defined as follows; “he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (9-10). These words give Paul’s description of the scope and content of God’s purpose for the universe.  In short, it is “the establishment of a new order, a new creation, of which Christ shall be the acknowledged head.” Christ already is “head over all things to the church” (1:22)[2]; this passage declares it is God’s intent that he shall be head of a regathered, reunited universe.

It is the good pleasure of God to reveal unto us the deep things of the Word, and of the world to come.  He has abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.  James invites: “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” The wise man, Solomon, declared: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

The Scofield Reference Bible (p. 1014) lists eleven mysteries in the New Testament. Yet, even with all these, did you know that God hasn’t told us everything? There are a lot of things God hasn’t told us. And there are a lot of questions I would like to ask God myself, because I don’t think anyone down here knows the answers. Someday He will reveal them to us.

10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

This verse pertains to the carrying out of God’s purpose, in Christ, and it suggests a particular point in time that completes a long prior period; or you could say it pertains to the carrying out (administration) of the purpose of God when the time is ripe. Paul says, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Galatians 4:4).  The phrase “the fullness of the time” means that God has acted at the time when He saw that all things were ready.  And now the full range, the cosmic scope, of His saving design is made clear.  God plans to unite—to gather up, bring into focus—everything He has made, in Christ.  Christ is to be the principle of the unity.  Where disorder had reigned, there is to be order; where conflict, harmony—God’s order, Gods harmony.

 “When the times reach their fulfillment” is the third and last of the dispensational[1] ages. It will be the time when King Jesus will set on the throne in Jerusalem and rein over the house of Israel in the millennial kingdom here on this earth. You will find the description of this kingdom in II Samuel 7:8-17, Zechariah 12:8, Isaiah 11.

“To bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” translates a Greek word which literally means “to head up” or “to sum up.” This word was sometimes used in military affairs to describe the heading up again of scattered troops under the leadership of their commander. Paul seems to picture all of God’s possessions as having been scattered in the conflict with the forces of evil.  It was His purpose that He would gather up all these scattered holdings and put them under one supreme captain, Jesus Christ.

The expression “all things” is almost equivalent to the phrase “the totality of creation.”  This phrase is further defined by the inclusive phrase, “all things in heaven and on earth.” It would be wrong to see this expression as implying ultimate salvation for all people.  It rather points in a general way to the restoration of unity and harmony in God’s universe.  “Under Christ” points up the truth that the focal person in this restoration is Jesus Christ.  The ultimate destiny of the universe now rests in the hands which once were nailed to the cross.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 

Ephesians 1:11 may be the strongest and most comprehensive statement about God’s absolute sovereignty in all the Bible.  He is the One who works all things according to the counsel of His will.  This is not a user-friendly universe for Luke and everybody else.  But Paul is stressing that, whatever the native tendencies of people and things, God works with and through all that happens.  The events of history and even of our individual lives are never outside His will and purpose; there are no exceptions.

Jesus is the provider of all spiritual blessings. Verse 11 in the King James Version reads: “in whom also we have obtained an inheritance,” suggesting that God has not only imparted to us knowledge of His redemptive purpose but has actually made us heirs of its blessings. The Greek word for “inheritance” suggests that we have an allotment. In other words, in Jesus we are allotted an eternal inheritance. Paul is speaking here of us who were outcasts, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, stripped of all the promises and the covenants, deserving nothing, without God and without hope. “We in Christ are heirs of God, and Joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). In Jesus, “all things are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). What a boundless inheritance! The person who is born again has at his disposal all that heaven affords.  There is probably an allusion to the experience of Israel in obtaining an inheritance in the Promised Land.  Just as each Israelite had his share of that inheritance, so each believer becomes a partaker of the heavenly inheritance which Christ has secured for His people.  Understood in this manner, the thought of the passage is quite similar to that in Colossians 1:12: “The Father . . .  Hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”

However, nearly all recent interpreters favor the translation of verse 11 found in the American Standard Version: “in whom also we were made a heritage.” According to this reading, the teaching is not that believers obtain an inheritance (though this statement of course is true), but rather that they themselves become God’s heritage.  The allusion is to Israel’s peculiar relation to God.  Deuteronomy 32:9 declares that “the Lords portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” Paul sees the spiritual counterpart of this idea in the relation of Christians to God.  They are now God’s special possession; they are his chosen people. He accepts us with Joy because of what Christ did for us. When you feel that your life isn’t worth much to anyone, remember that you are a special gift in God’s eyes, a precious present that brings Him great Joy.

12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

God’s aim in making believers his possession is expressed by the words, “that we . . . might be for the praise of his glory.” It is not that believers might take pride in their position and boast of their special privileges.  (Israel had made this mistake in interpreting their relation to God and His purpose.) The aim is rather to the end that, through believers, God’s glory might come to be seen and adored.

God does not exist to satisfy the whim and wish of the believer.  The believer exists for the glory of God.  When the believer is in the center of the will of God, he is living a life of fullness and of satisfaction and of joy.  That will deliver you from the hands of psychologists, my friend.  But when you are not in the will of God, there is trouble brewing for you.  Living in God’s will and purpose adds meaning to life.  God will be able throughout the endless ages of eternity future to point to you and me and say, “Look at them, they weren’t worth saving but I loved them and I save them.” That is the thing which gives worth and standing and dignity and purpose and joy and glory to life.  We exist today to the praise of His Glory and that is enough.

Observe the words, “we, who . . . put our hope in Christ.” These words suggest that in verses 11-12 Paul had especially in mind Jewish believers whose hope was fixed on the Messiah before He came, and “who accepted Him when He appeared either immediately (like the original disciples) or after an interval (like Paul himself).” The conversion of Jews who before hoped in the Messiah was thus the first stage in the realization of God’s purpose to bring all the subjects of redemption into one harmonious body (1:10).  The second stage is implied in verses 13-14, where Paul shows that Gentile Christians (“ye also,” v.  13) are included in that same comprehensive purpose.

 

 

Special Notes:

[1]Despensation: The method or scheme according to which God carries out his purposes towards men is called a dispensation. There are usually reckoned three dispensations, the Patriarchal, the Mosaic or Jewish, and the Christian. These were so many stages in God’s unfolding of his purpose of grace toward men. (Easton’s Bible Dictionary)

 [2] “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:22)

 

 

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