Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

The readers of this letter in Paul’s day would have received a rolled up scroll that required unrolling before reading. It was important to quickly see who the writer was and what the letter was about. For this reason, there was usually a greeting at the beginning. Here, Paul greets the saints in Ephesus but it would have been distributed to many churches.

What’s A Saint?

The title of saint is an interesting concept. When we hear that we typically think of the early church leaders (Peter, Paul, etc.) However, the Bible is not exclusive with the term. In Scripture, the word saint refers to someone on Earth (not in heaven) who has received Jesus Christ by faith (not canonized by a man) and who worships God (instead of receiving worship from others). All of us who are saved through Jesus are saints. That’s why Paul addresses those in Ephesus with this title.

Paul’s Prayers

Paul breaks out into prayer twice in this letter. When you think about all Paul’s missionary life, it’s no wonder he put such an emphasis on prayer. He prayed continually for all of his churches. Not surprisingly, in Ephesians, the structure consistently highlights faith, hope, and love just like many of his other prayers. What would happen if we spent extra time asking for faith, love and hope to increase in others lives?

The prayer at the end of this chapter is beautiful. In fact, I have always admired the depth of Paul’s words in this prayer. Notice what the prayer does not say. It doesn’t speak to anything material. It’s not focused on personal comfort or the glorification of self. Furthermore, it’s not centered around anything that’s able to be earned or understood by our own efforts.

It’s about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit gifting His people with intangible characteristics. It’s focused on spiritual principles. The prayer speaks of wisdom, knowledge, hope, the will of God, the riches of His glory, His power, His rule, His strength… and I could go on. What if we sincerely committed to praying for these things? What would happen in our lives and the lives around us? Above all, what if we made an effort to ask for spiritual truth in the face of adversity? This is what Paul modeled for us.

The Will Of God

It’s the million-dollar question. What is God’s will for my life? Often, Christians will ask this question when they are faced with a specific decision in an immediate context. For example, does God want me to marry this person? Does God want me to take this job? Does God want me to buy this house? These questions often lead to a mystical component of God’s will where we look for specific signs that will push us one way or another. God certainly has spoken this way, but it is not the only way He speaks. Paul outlines God’s will in another way.

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him  10  for the administration of the days of fulfillment—to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.  11  We have also received an inheritance in Him, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will,  12  so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.

Ephesians 1:9-12 HCSB

What does this mean? The purposes of God have been planned ahead of time, and now that plan has been revealed to us. God’s will was to reconcile the nations which were scattered and corrupted at the tower of Babel. Though they were foreign/pagan nations to Israel, God’s ultimate plan was to send Jesus to ransom all nations from the burden of sin and call us forward to a life of purpose. Though it seemed the rebellion of the heavenly host and the rebellion of humanity had ruined God’s creation, His plan to redeem was predestined from the beginning.

Paul’s description of the will of God calls us to grow in our understanding of how our decisions fit into His overall plan. So, returning to the questions above, a more useful inquiry might be, will marrying this person produce a marriage that will bring glory to God? Will taking this job provide me the opportunity to use my platform and income to make eternal investments? Will buying this house increase my ability to minister to my family, my neighbors, and the lost?

These questions fit God’s will because they are directed at the long-term goals God created us to achieve through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. God’s primary will is not that we would be happy, but that we would be obedient. This is precisely why Paul goes on to describe the spiritual powers we wrestle with in the following chapters of Ephesians. As believers, we have been enlisted in a battle and God’s will for us has been outlined in His Word.

We are living in what Paul would call the “days of fulfillment” when all things (in heaven and on earth and under the earth) have been placed under Christ’s rule. We can either choose to live a life of self-indulgence or a life of self-sacrifice. But in order to know God’s will, we must study His Word so that we operate daily on that spiritual foundation!

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