The Book of Ephesians is one of three great doctrinal Epistles written by the Apostle Paul. In Romans believers are taught that we are justified in Christ, seeing we have been crucified, buried and resurrected with Christ. In Ephesians believers are taught that we are sanctified in Christ, seeing we are now seated with Christ in the heavenlies. In 1 Thessalonians believers are taught that we are gforified, seeing that we shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. All of the Pauline Epistles, though they contain much doctrine, seem to have been written to remedy either doctrinal or practical failure.
As an aid to our study, it is helpful to recognize that the Book of Ephesians is divided into two parts: the first 3 chapters have to do with the believer’s wealth as found in the amazing grace of God, and the last 3 chapters have to do with the believer’s walk in the amazing grace of God.
Since this study deals only with the first 3 chapters of Ephesians, we need to title the first 3 chapters:
Chapter 1: “The Grace of God Planned”;
Chapter 2: “The Grace of God Applied” (God’s Grace Factory);
Chapter 3: “The Grace of God Revealed.”
The Book of Ephesians, on the horizon of the Bible, is the highest mountain and Ephesians 2:8-9 is the beautiful snowcapped peak of this majestic mountain of grace. The traveler will be impressed with some very beautiful, breathtaking, refreshing sights as he travels across “America the Beautiful.” And so it is, as we travel over the terrain of Scripture; our attention is arrested by this most beautiful mountain peak of grace. We find it to be breathtaking and refreshing to our soul and our hearts are compelled to applaud and sing “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”
WHY? WHY? WHY?
When first we beheld the beauty of this Grace mountain, and every time we have passed by since, our hearts are filled with wonder (Oh, may we never lose the wonder!), and a great rush of questions pass through our mind. Questions like Why? Why? Why dear God did you ever make such a beautiful plan as grace to deal with your creation? Why this plan and not some other plan? Or, why any plan at all?
It may be that we will never fully know the answer to that question this side of Heaven; however, the answer seems to lie in the essence or nature of God. One of God’s major attributes is love (1 Jn. 4:8, 16). It would be hard to imagine a God of love with no one to love and no way to love sinners. According to Ephesians 2:4, it seems clear that it is the love of God which gave birth to the plan of grace. By way of a further answer to our question, he replies, “It was done simply because I wanted to.” In the language of our text it says that it was “according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5); it was “according to His good pleasure” (Eph. 1:9) ; and it was “according to the purpose of His will” (Eph. 1:11; cf., 3:11).
The answer is found both in God’s omnipotence and His riches. In Ephesians 1:19 and 3:20, we are told that it was “according to the working of His mighty power.” Elsewhere, we are told that it was accomplished according to His riches, namely: the “riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7; 2:7); the “riches of His mercy” (Eph. 2:4); and the “riches of His glory” (Eph. 3:16; study Rom. 9:20-24 along with this phrase.) These riches are unmistakably identified as the “unsearchable [untraceable] riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8), meaning that these resources are not only inexhaustible but also not to be found in the preaching of the Old Testament prophets. This is not to say that the Old Testament saints did not enjoy or experience God’s grace and glory; but, rather, that they did not know it in all of its fullness as it is now known since the work of Christ on the Cross was completed and the far-reaching consequences of that work were revealed to and through the Apostle Paul.
WHO? WHO? WHO?
Now, we ask, “For whom then was this great plan of grace designed?” Is it really possible that we as members of Adam’s fallen race are the objects of such grace?” We lift up our voice with the songwriter and the Psalmist who have asked, “Who am I that He would pray…not My will but Thine for?” And, “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him and the son of man that Thou visitest him?” (Ps. 8:4)
The answering echo from this great mountain of grace is, Yes! Yes! It is for you dear sinner (1 Tim. 1:15) and especially for you who are in Christ (Eph. 1:1 and 15 more times in the first chapter and 27 times in the book.) Those who are in Christ are especially the recipients of grace. In Christ they are …
- alive (1 Cor. 15:22);
- hid (Col. 3:3);
- a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17);
- given a new destiny (Col. 3:3); and a
- new position (Eph. 2:6).
All of this grace is bestowed at the moment of salvation by a baptizing work of God the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-13). And there is much more! This seems to good to be true, for if this were all that came to us through the plan of grace, it would be enough to cause us to rejoice throughout all eternity.
WHAT? WHAT? WHAT?
If there were more benefits of grace, we now ask: “What? What are they?” The list of benefits is found in both Ephesians Chapters 1 and 2. For this study we will confine ourselves to our text. God has, by grace:
– Blessed us (vs. 3). Here the Apostle Paul declares that God the Father ought to be blessed because He has blessed us. The Greek word for “blessed” or “blessing” is eulogetos. It is the Greek word from which we get our English word eulogy; it means to “speak well of something or someone.” In other words, Paul is eulogizing God the Father because He has spoken well of us or rather done well for us. It is a reciprocative act in keeping with the principle, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).
The blessings which initiated this response are blessings given and produced by God the Holy Spirit. As such, they are “spiritual.” Furthermore, these blessings are found “in heavenly places” and are brought from there to us, so that while we are on earth we can enjoy some of the blessings we will enjoy in Heaven (Eph. 1:3; note also the phrase “in heavenly places” in 1:20, 2:6, 3:10 and 6:12).
– Elected us (vs. 4a). We both, individually and corporately, are God’s chosen people. Theologians have argued, without resolve, the mechanics of this election; however, all agree that this election begins and ends with God. This calling is not only a calling of the individual to the privilege of salvation, but more definitely is a calling of the corporate Body of Christ to the privilege, position, and function as an agency for the execution of the plan of God (cf., Eph. 3:10-11). Of course, election must be understood as being “only” in Him/Christ.
– Sanctifies us (vs. 4b). This is the result of God the Father having imputed to our account the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 3:21-22) at the point of salvation. It is for this reason alone, that we are ever legitimately called saints, as in verse 1. Even the worst of believers are now positionally “holy and without blame before Him.” It was for this reason that we were chosen (cf., 8:29).
– Adopts us (vs. 5). God has no children that are not born to Him (Jn. 3:3, 6-7; 1:12-13; Titus 3:5-6). Our appreciation for this adoption comes from understanding that the Greek word huiothesia is a compound word meaning “to place as an adult son.” And we must understand that the word and its meaning are born out of the ancient cultures where, during a private or religious festival, a son was publicly declared to be an adult son with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that grow with adulthood. The moment of our spiritual regeneration is also the time when we are placed into the family of God with all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges to worship Him, walk before Him, and to witness about Him.
– Accepts us (vs. 6). The believer is embraced in grace. Once we are saved, our reception into the family of God is not some cold, formal, legal recognition; but, rather, “in the beloved.” So closely are we embraced that according to Romans 8:15-17 we are considered to be “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” We will never be more accepted by God than we are right now.
– Redeems us (vs. 7a). The drama of the ancient slave market is our wonderful experience. As slaves to sin, we were in hopeless bondage unless the “bill of debt” (Rom. 6:23) could somehow be removed. The transaction by which this was possible is called redemption. Redemption is from the Greek word apolutrosis, and means, “To be set free from the slave market (never to go back into slavery again), as a result of a price paid.” Jesus Christ removed that bill of debt that was against us; not by paying silver or gold, but, rather, payment was made through “His Blood” (Eph. 1:7, 14; Col. 1:14; Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). Now, thank God, we are free from the slavery of sin, and free to serve God (Rom. 6:18; 7:6).
– Forgives us (vs. 7b). The immediate result of our redemption is our complete forgiveness (Rom. 8:1). The idea being that the consequences of our sin have been “carried away.” In the Old Testament this was symbolically pictured by the scapegoat, who carried away sin with him into the wilderness (Lev. 16:10). John the Baptist recognized the reality of this symbolism in Jesus Christ and declared Him to be “the Lamb of God which bears away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). Our sins are not simply forgotten, they are completely gone (Ps. 103:12; Heb. 10:17). All of this is “according to the riches of His grace.”
– Instructs us (vss. 8-10). Here is the information about the overall purpose of God. This is inside information that has been hidden from the saints in the past concerning what God is doing in this present day and how it relates to a yet future dispensation: the Dispensation of the Fulness of times.” Paul refers to this verse in Chapter 3:2, and then gives more details concerning this mysterious purpose of God. It is this information and other areas of “wisdom” (Bible Doctrine) that keeps us from thinking and acting like a slave now that we are free. How wonderful is the believer’s blessing to both be free and informed.
– Enriches us (vss. 11-12). The key word here is “inheritance.” This is not surprising since much has already been said about God’s riches and His desire to share that with those who are believers (Eph. 1:7, 18; 2:4, 7). We can only speculate as to what this future inheritance really is. We do know that we shall inherit jointly with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:17; Eph. 3:6) and that it will take God the Father all eternity to show us “the exceeding riches of His grace” towards us (Eph. 2:7). Verse 12 implies that this inheritance will be so great in us and towards us that believers will live to the “praise of His glory” throughout all eternity. We will be like a trophy case (Eph. 3:10) which will display the great glory and wisdom of God.
– Seals us (vss. 13-14). It is often said that something is “signed, sealed, and delivered.” The “sealing” of God the Holy Spirit closely parallels what we mean by this expression. A seal confirms ownership and authenticates the object to which it is attached as being genuine. Furthermore, it is a guarantee of safe arrival. How wonderful that all believers are given this pledge from God that we belong to Him and that both we and our inheritance are destined to safely arrive in eternity.
We have been allowed to look upon our wonderful “grace” treasures. God’s “grace” treasure vault has been opened to us! How very rich we believers are! In view of the greatness of God’s grace towards us, may we be quick to use these assets in our daily lives. May none be so foolish to live below His means.