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Ephesians 1



Salutation Greetings Salutation Salutation Address & Greeting
1:1-2 1:1-2 1:1-2 1:1a 1:1-2
Spiritual Blessings in Christ Redemption in Christ Thanksgiving and Blessing Spiritual Blessings in Christ God's Plan of Salvation
1:3-14 1:3-14 1:3-14 1:3-6 1:3-14
Paul's Prayer Prayer for Spiritual Wisdom   Paul's Prayer The Triumph and the Supremacy of Christ
1:15-23 1:15-23 1:15-23 1:15-23 1:15-23

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired-readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical StructureTextual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. The phrase "in Ephesus" is omitted in the RSV, NJB and Williams translations because it is missing in some of the earliest Greek manuscripts (P46, א, and B). There apparently was a blank space where a place name should have been inserted. It was a circular letter for all of the churches of Asia Minor. The letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 show an ancient Roman postal route.


B. The Trinity is praised in Ephesians 1:3-14 (and also 1:17; 2:18; 3:14-17; 4:4-6)

1. the Father in eternity, vv. 3-6 (the Father's love and purpose in Himself)

2. the Son in time, vv. 7-12 (the Father's love and purpose in Christ)

3. the Spirit in the future, vv. 13-14 (the Father's love and purpose in the Spirit)

Verses 3-14 form one beautiful prayer of praise to the Triune God! Each section closes with the phrase "to the praise of His glory" (cf. vv. 6, 12, 14). Even though all three persons of the Trinity are mentioned, it is God the Father who is emphasized (as in vv. 15-23)! See Special Topic: The Trinity at 1:3.


C. Election is a wonderful doctrine. However, it is not a call to favoritism, but a call to be a channel, a tool or means of others' redemption! In the Old Testament the term was used primarily for service; in the New Testament it is used primarily for salvation which issues in service. The Bible never reconciles the seeming contradiction between God's sovereignty and mankind's free will, but affirms them both! A good example of the biblical tension would be Romans 9 on God's sovereign choice and Romans 10 on mankind's necessary response (cf. 10:9,11-13).

The key to this theological tension may be found in Eph. 1:4. Jesus is God's elect man and all are potentially elect in Him (Karl Barth). Jesus is God's "yes" to fallen mankind's need (Karl Barth). Ephesians 1:4 also helps clarify the issue by asserting that the goal of predestination is not heaven, but holiness (Christlikeness). We are often attracted to the benefits of the gospel and ignore the responsibilities! God's call (election) is for time as well as eternity!

Doctrines come in relation to other truths, not as single, unrelated truths. A good analogy would be a constellation versus a single star. God presents truth in eastern, not western, genres. We must not remove the tension caused by dialectical (paradoxical) pairs of doctrinal truths (Ex.: God as transcendent versus God as immanent; security vs. perseverance; Jesus as equal with the Father vs. Jesus as subservient to the Father; Christian freedom vs. Christian responsibility to a covenant partner; etc.).

The theological concept of "covenant" unites the sovereignty of God (who always takes the initiative and sets the agenda) with a mandatory initial and continuing repentant, faith response from an individual. Be careful of proof-texting one side of the paradox and depreciating the other! Be careful of advocating only your favorite doctrine or system of theology!


 1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1:1 "Paul" The Greek name "Paul" meant "little." There have been several theories about the origin of his name.

1. A nick name describing his physical height, the second century tradition that Paul was short, fat, bald, bowlegged, bushy eyebrowed and had protruding eyes is a possible physical description of Paul. This came from a second century non-canonical book from Thessalonica called Paul and Thekla.

2. Paul's personal spiritual evaluation, passages like I Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; I Tim. 1:15, where he calls himself "the least of the saints" (probably because he persecuted the Church, Acts 9:1-2). Some have seen this sense of "leastness" as the origin of this self-chosen title. However, in a book like Galatians, where he makes a major emphasis on his independence and equality with the Jerusalem Twelve, this option is unlikely (cf. I Cor. 15:10; II Cor. 11:5; 12:11).

3. Parental, most Jews of the diaspora (Jews living outside Palestine) were given two names at birth. Paul's Hebrew name was Saul and his Greek name was Paul.


▣ "an apostle" The term "apostle" comes from the Greek verb "to send" (apostellō). See Special Topic at Col. 1:11. Jesus chose twelve of His disciples to be with Him in a special sense and called them "Apostles" (cf. Luke 6:13). This term was often used of Jesus being sent from the Father (cf. Matt. 10:40; 15:24; Mark 9:37; Luke 9:48; John 4:34; 5:24,30,36,37,38; 7:29; 8:42; 10:36; 11:42; 17:3,8,18,21, 23,25; 20:21). In Jewish sources it was used of someone sent as an official representative of another, similar to "ambassador" (cf. II Cor. 5:20).

▣ "Christ" This is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew term "messiah" (see Special Topic at Col. 1:1; cf. Dan. 9:25-26; John 1:41; 4:25), which meant "an anointed one" (cf. Matt. 1:16). This is a rare title in the OT, but the concept of a special coming savior, called and equipped by YHWH, is recurrent. The royal and priestly aspects can be seen in Ps. 110:1,4 and Zech. 4:11-14. It implies "one called and equipped by God for a specific task." In the OT three groups of leaders: priests, kings, and prophets were anointed. Jesus fulfills all three of these anointed offices (cf. Heb. 1:2-3).


▣ "Jesus" This Hebrew/Aramaic name meant "YHWH saves" or "YHWH brings salvation." It was revealed to his parents by an angel (cf. Matt. 1:21). "Jesus" is derived from the Hebrew word for salvation, hosea, combined with an initial abbreviation of the covenant name for God, "YHWH." It is the same as the Hebrew name Joshua. See Special Topic: Names for Deity at Col. 1:3.

▣ "by the will of God" This same introductory phrase is used in Col. 1:1; I Cor. 1:1; II Cor. 1:1; and II Tim. 1:1. Paul was convinced that God had chosen him to be an Apostle. This special sense of calling began at his Damascus road conversion (cf. Acts 9; 22; 26). This was also a theological way of asserting his apostolic authority. See Special Topic at 1:9.

▣ "to the saints" "Saints" (hagioi) is theologically related to the OT term "holy" (kadosh), which meant "set apart for God's service" (cf. I Cor. 1:2; II Cor. 1:1; Rom. 1:7; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2). It is Plural in the NT except for one time in Philippians (4:21), but even there, it is used corporately. The Bible is a corporate book. To be saved is to be part of the covenant community of faith, the family of believers. See Special Topic: Saints at Col. 1:2.

God's people are holy because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus (cf. Romans 4; II Cor. 5:21). It is God's will that they live holy lives (cf. 1:4; 2:10; 4:1; 5:27; Col. 1:22; 3:12; Matt. 5:48). Believers are both declared holy (positional sanctification) and called to lifestyle holiness (progressive sanctification). Justification and sanctification must be affirmed together!


NASB"who are at Ephesus"
NKJV, NRSV "who are in Ephesus"
TEV "who live in Ephesus"
NJB   ---(omitted)---

There is a manuscript problem at this point. Some ancient Greek texts (P46, א* , B*, as well as the Greek text used by Origen and Tertullain) omit "in Ephesus." The early heretic Marcion called Ephesians "the Letter to the Laodiceans." The phrase does appear in the uncial manuscripts א2, A, B2, D, F, and G. It also appears in the Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic and Armenian translations.

The Greek grammar of v. 1 can accommodate a place name. Therefore, the place name was probably omitted on purpose because the letter functioned as a circular letter, each church inserting its own name when read aloud in public worship. Very early a scribe at Ephesus (the largest church in the area) filled in the blank.

▣ "who are faithful" The words "faith," "trust," and "believe" used in English translations all have the same Greek root (pistis). The word's primary OT emphasis is on the trustworthiness of God, not the enthusiasm or sincerity of a human response. Believers must respond, receive, and trust in His trustworthy character and eternal promises. The key is the object of our faith, not its intensity. Christianity is faith in Christ, not faith in faith. Christianity is an initial repentant and faith response followed by a lifestyle of faithfulness. Biblical faith is a series of human choices-repentance, faith, obedience, and perseverance.

See Special Topic: Faith, Believe, Trust at Col. 1:2.

1:2 "Grace to you and peace" The normal Greek salutation was the word greeting (charein), "to be of good cheer." Paul characteristically changed this to a very similar sounding, but Christian, term, charis, or grace. Many have assumed that Paul was somehow combining the Greek greeting and the Hebrew greeting with the term "peace," which would equal the Hebrew term shalom. Although this is an attractive theory, it may be reading too much into this typically Pauline introductory phrase (cf. Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:3; II Cor. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; and Philemon 3). Theologically, God's grace always precedes human peace!

▣ "Father" This term is not used in the sense of sexual generation, or chronological sequence, but of intimate family relationship. God chose family terms to reveal Himself to mankind (Example: Hosea 2-3 as passionate, faithful lover, Hosea 11 as loving father and mother). See Special Topic: Father at Col. 1:2.

▣ "Lord" The Greek term "Lord" (kurios) can be used in a general sense or in a developed theological sense. It can mean "mister," "sir," "master," "owner," "husband" (e.g., John 4:11,15 and 9:36) or "the full God-man" (e.g., John 4:19 and 9:38). The OT (Hebrew, adon) usage of this term came from the Jews' reluctance to pronounce the covenant name for God, YHWH (cf. Exod. 3:14, see Special Topic: Names for Deity at Col. 1:3). They were afraid of breaking the Commandment which said, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (cf. Exod. 20:7; Deut. 5:11). Therefore, they thought if they did not pronounce it, they could not take it in vain. So, they substituted the Hebrew word adon, which had a similar meaning to the Greek word kurios (Lord). The NT authors used this term to describe the full deity of Christ. The phrase "Jesus is Lord" was the public confession of faith and a baptismal formula of the early church (cf. Rom. 10:9-13; I Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11).

 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which 8He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

1:3 Verses 3-14 are one long Greek sentence, which is so characteristic of this book (cf. 1:3-14,15-23; 2:1-10,14-18,19-22; 3:1-12,14-19; 4:11-16; 6:13-20).

▣ "Blessed be the God" This Greek term "eulogy" (eulogō) was always used of praising God. It is a different term from the "blessed" (makarios) of the beatitudes (cf. Matt. 5:1-9, 10-11). The Father sent the Son and the Spirit to bring believers into fellowship with Himself and fellowship with one another.

Paul typically opens his letters with a prayer of thanksgiving for the recipients (cf. 1:15-23), but here in a circular letter, uniquely, he pens an extensive doxology to the Triune God.

▣ "who has blessed us. . .in Christ" The blessed God blesses believers! Believers receive everything through Christ. Verses 3-14 are one sentence in Greek, which shows the work of the Trinity, before time, in time, and beyond time. However, the Father's instigation is magnified in all three sections (cf. vv. 3-6, 7-12 and 13-14).


NRSV"in the heavenlyplaces"
TEV"in the heavenly world"
NJB"the spiritual blessings of heaven"

This locative (of sphere) neuter plural adjective "in the heavenly places" (epouranious) was only used in Ephesians (cf. 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). From the context of all of its usages, it must mean the spiritual realm in which believers live here and now, not heaven.

1:4 "He chose us" This is an aorist middle indicative which emphasized the subject's decisive choice. This focused on the Father's choice before time. God's choice must not be understood in the Islamic sense of determinism nor in the ultra Calvinistic sense of "God chooses some versus God did not choose others," but in a covenantal sense. God promised to redeem fallen mankind (cf. Gen. 3:15). God called and chose Abraham to choose all humans (cf. Gen. 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6). God Himself elected all persons who would exercise faith in Christ. God always takes the initiative in salvation (cf. John 6:44, 65). This text and Rom. 8:28-30; 9:1-33 are the main NT texts for the doctrine of predestination emphasized by Augustine and Calvin.

God chose believers not only to salvation (justification) but also to sanctification (cf. Col. 1:12)! This could relate to

1. our position in Christ (cf. II Cor. 5:21)

2. God's desire to reproduce His character in His children (cf. 2:10; Rom. 8:28-29; Gal. 4:19; I Thess. 4:3)

God's will for His children is both heaven one day and Christlikeness now!

The pronouns in this passage are ambiguous. Most refer to God the Father. This whole passage speaks of His love, purpose and plan to redeem fallen mankind. However, in context it is obvious that the pronouns in vv. 7, 9, 13 & 14 refer to Jesus.

▣ "in Him" This is a key concept. The Father's blessings, grace and salvation flow only through Christ (cf. John 10:7-18; 14:6). Notice the repetition of this grammatical form (locative of sphere) in v. 3, "in Christ"; v. 4, "in Him"; v. 7, "in Him"; v. 9, "in Him"; v. 10, "in Christ," "in Him"; v. 12, "in Christ" and v. 13, "in Him" (twice). These are parallel to "in the Beloved" of v. 6. Jesus is God's "yes" to fallen mankind (Karl Barth). Jesus is the elect man and all are potentially elect in Him (cf. John 3:16). All of God the Father's blessings flow through Christ.

▣ "before the foundation of the world" This phrase is also used in Matt. 25:34; John 17:24; I Pet. 1:19-20 and Rev. 13:8. It shows the Triune God's redemptive activity even before Gen. 1:1. See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Kosmos at Col. 1:6. Humans are limited by their sense of time; everything to us is past, present, or future, but not to God.

▣ "that we should be holy and blameless before Him" The goal of predestination is holiness, not privilege. God's call is not to a selected few of Adam's children, but to all! It is a call to be what God intended mankind to be, like Himself (cf. I Thess. 4:7; 5:23; II Thess. 2:13; Titus 2:14); in His image (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). To turn predestination into a theological tenet instead of a holy life is a tragedy. Often our a priori systematic theologies speak louder than biblical texts!

The term "blameless" (amōmos) or "free from blemish" is used of

1. Jesus, (cf. Heb. 9:14; I Pet. 1:19)

2. Zacharias and Elizabeth, (cf. Luke 1:6)

3. Paul (cf. Phil 3:6)

4. all true Christians (cf. Phil. 2:15; I Thess. 3:13; 5:23)

 See Special Topic at Col. 1:22.

God's unalterable will for every believer is not only heaven later, but Christlikeness now (cf. Rom. 8:29-30; II Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19; I Thess. 3:13; 4:3; I Pet. 1:15). Believers are to reflect God's characteristics to a lost world for the purpose of evangelism.


▣ "in love" Grammatically, this phrase could go with either verse 4 or verse 5. However, when this phrase is used in other places in Ephesians it always refers to human love for God (cf. 3:17; 4:2,15,16).


NASB"He predestined us"
NKJV"having predestined us"
NRSV"He destined us"
TEV"God had already chosen us"
NJB"marking us out for himself beforehand "

This is an aorist active participle. This Greek term is a compound of "before" (pro) and "mark off" (horizō). It refers to God's predetermined redemptive plan (cf. Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23, 4:28; 13:29; 17:31; Rom. 8:29-30). Notice God's plan is corporate (cf. Acts 13:48). American individualism has turned this inclusive, corporate emphasis into an exclusive, personalized, individual focus. God chose a people who would choose Him. Predestination is one of several truths related to mankind's salvation. It is part of a theological pattern or series of related truths. It was never meant to be emphasized in isolation! Biblical truth has been given in a series of tension-filled, paradoxical pairs. Denominationalism has tended to remove the biblical tension by emphasizing only one of the dialectical truths. (Examples: predestination vs. human free will; security of the believer vs. perseverance; original sin vs. volitional sin; sinlessness vs. sinning less; instantaneously declared sanctification vs. progressive sanctification; faith vs. works; Christian freedom vs. Christian responsibility; transcendence vs. immanence).

SPECIAL TOPIC: Predestination (Calvinism) Versus Human Free Will (Arminianism)

▣ "to adoption as sons" This is Paul's familial metaphor (cf. Rom. 8:15,23; 9:4; Gal. 4:5). It is one of several metaphors Paul uses to describe salvation with emphasis of security. It was difficult and expensive to adopt a child in the Roman legal system, but once it was done, it was very binding. A Roman father had the legal right to disinherit or even kill natural children, but not adopted children. This reflects the believer's security in Christ (cf. 2:5,9; John 6:37,39; 10:28).

NASB"according to the kind intention of His will"
NKJV, NRSV "according to the good pleasure of His will"
TEV"this was his pleasure and purpose"
NJB"Such was his purpose and good pleasure"

God's choice is not based on foreknowledge of human performance, but on His gracious character (cf. v.7, "according to the riches of His grace"; v. 9, "according to His kind intention"; v. 11, "according to His purpose"). He wishes that all (not just some special ones like the Gnostics or modern day ultra Calvinists) would be saved (cf. Ezek. 18:21-23, 32; John 3:16-17; I Tim. 2:4; 4:10; Titus 2:11; II Pet. 3:9). God's grace (God's character) is the theological key to this passage (cf. vv. 6a; 7c; 9b), as God's mercy is the key to the other passage on predestination, Romans 9-11.

Fallen mankind's only hope is the grace and mercy of God (cf. Acts 15:11; Rom. 3:24; 5:15; Eph. 2:5,8) and His unchanging character (cf. Ps. 102:27; Mal. 3:6; James 1:17; I John 1:5).

▣ "through Jesus Christ to Himself" This phrase describes the Father's love, as does John 3:16 (cf. II Cor. 13:14). Jesus is God the Father's plan for restoring all things (cf. 1:10; I Cor. 15:25-28; Col. 1:15-23). There is only one way and that way is a person (cf. John 14:6; Acts 4:12; I Tim. 2:5). The theme of Ephesians is the unity of all things in Christ.

1:6 "to the praise of the glory of His grace" God's initiating love in Christ reveals His very essence (cf. John 1:14,18). This phrase is repeated three times (cf. vv. 6,12,14) and accents the work of the three persons of the Trinity.

1. God the Father before time, vv. 3-6

2. God the Son in time, vv. 7-12

3. God the Spirit through time, vv. 13-14

However, in the Greek sentence from vv. 3-14, it is God the Father who is repeatedly praised.

▣ "glory" In the OT the most common Hebrew word for "glory" (kabod) was originally a commercial term (which related to a pair of scales), which meant "to be heavy." That which was heavy was valuable or had intrinsic worth. The concept of brightness was added to the word to express God's majesty (i.e., the Shekinah cloud of glory). He alone is worthy and honorable. He is too brilliant for fallen mankind to behold (cf. Gen. 16:13; 32:30; Exod. 20:19; 33:20; Judg. 6:22-23; 13:22). God can only be truly known through Christ (cf. John 1:1-14; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3).

The term "glory" is somewhat ambiguous.

1. It may be parallel to "the righteousness of God."

2. It may refer to the "holiness" or "perfection" of God.

3. It could refer to the image of God in which mankind was created (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6), but which was later marred through a rebellious desire for independence (cf. Gen. 3:1-22).


NASB"which He freely bestowed on us"
NKJV"by which He has made us accepted"
NRSV"that He freely bestowed on us"
TEV"for the free gift he gave us"
NJB"his free gift to us"

The Greek term is "favored" (charitoō) and has the same root as "grace" (charis). The Father's grace, mercy, and love flow (cf. 1:8) through a suffering Messiah to fallen humanity (cf. Gen. 3:15; Isaiah 53). God's love flows to fallen mankind because of who He is, not who we are! The key is God's character, not human performance!

▣ "in the Beloved" This is a perfect passive participle. Jesus was and is the Beloved Son and shall always be. This title was used in the Septuagint (LXX) for the Messiah. It was substituted for "Jeshurun" (Jerusalem) in Deut. 32:15; 33:5, 26; and Isa. 44:2. The Father used this descriptive title for Jesus in Matt. 3:17 (at Jesus' baptism); 12:18 (an OT quote); and 17:5 (at Jesus' transfiguration). Paul uses this same term for Jesus in Col. 1:13.

1:7 "we have" This verb is in the present tense, while the surrounding verbs are all aorist tense. We currently possess the benefits of all that God has accomplished in Christ. However, notice in the same Greek sentence (v. 14) that redemption is future. Salvation begins with the call of God, the wooing of the Spirit (cf. John 6:44,65). It issues in a repentant/faith decision followed by a life of trust, obedience, and perseverance that will one day be consummated into complete Christlikeness (cf. I John 3:2). Salvation is a relationship as well as a pronouncement, a person as well as a message.


▣ "redemption" This is literally "to be delivered from" (cf. Rom. 3:24; Col. 1:14). It is a synonym of an OT term (gaal) meaning "to buy back" sometimes with the agency of a near kin (go'el). This term was used in the OT to refer to buying back slaves and military prisoners. Paul uses the Greek equivalent four times in Ephesians and Colossians (cf. 1:7, 14 and 4:30; Col. 1:14). It reflects a personal agency by which God brings salvation. It does not focus on to whom or the amount of the payment. Mark 10:45 states clearly that Jesus came to pay the ransom for fallen mankind (cf. I Pet. 1:18-19). Humans were slaves to sin (cf. Isa. 53:6; several OT quotes in Rom. 3:9-18; I Pet. 2:24-25). See Special Topic: Ransom/Redeem at Col. 1:14.

▣ "through His blood" Blood is a metaphor for death (cf. Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:11, 14). This refers to Jesus' vicarious, substitutionary, sacrificial death. He died in our place for our sin (cf. Gen. 3:15; Isaiah 53; Rom. 3:25; 5:9; II Cor. 5:21; Eph. 2:13; Col. 1:20; Heb. 9:22).

Because of the presence of Greek false teachers (i.e., Gnostics) who denied the humanity of Jesus, this may have been a way to refer to Jesus as being truly human (blood, body, etc.).

▣ "the forgiveness" This is literally "sending away." On the Day of Atonement there were two scapegoats involved in the yearly ritual of Leviticus 16.

1. one was sent away, symbolically carrying away Israel's sins (i.e., when God forgives, God forgets, cf. Ps. 103:12; Isa. 1:18; 38:17; 44:22; and Micah 7:18)

2. the other was sacrificed, symbolizing the fact that sin costs a life

Jesus took fallen mankind's sin away by dying in their place (cf. II Cor. 5:21; Col. 1:14) thus combining the two meanings.

▣ "trespasses" This is the Greek term for sin, (paraptōma), literally "to fall to one side." It is related to the OT words for sin which meant a deviation from a standard. The term "reed" was a construction term used metaphorically of God's character. God is the only standard by which all humans are crooked and perverted (cf. Isa. 53:6; Rom. 3:9-23; 11:32; Gal. 3:22).

▣ "according to the riches of His grace" Our forgiveness in Christ cannot be earned (cf. Eph. 2:8-9; II Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5). The term "riches" is used often in Paul's prison letters: "riches of His grace," 1:7; 2:7; "riches of His glory," 1:18; 3:16; "rich in mercy," 2:4; "riches in Christ," 3:8. In Christ redeemed mankind has been granted the riches of God's character!

1:8 "lavished" Paul uses this term (perisseuō) over and over again (cf. Rom. 5:15; 15:13; I Cor. 15:58; II Cor. 1:5; 8:2,7; 9:8; Eph. 1:8; Phil. 1:9; 4:12,18; Col. 2:7; I Thess. 4:1). It expresses Paul's sense of the full measure and beyond of God's grace and provisions in Christ. God's love in Christ is like an overflowing fountain or an artesian well!


▣ "in all wisdom and insight" This refers to God's gift of understanding (not the Gnostic false teachers' secret knowledge), which He gave so that fallen mankind might grasp the implications of the gospel (cf. vv. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 18-23; Luke 1:17; Col. 1:9). The false teachers were emphasizing secret wisdom. God's wisdom is Christ. He is available to all!

1:9 "mystery" Paul often uses this term (cf. Romans 11:25; 16:25; I Cor. 2:7; 4:1; Eph. 1:9; 3:3,4,9; 6:19; Col. 1:26; 2:2; 4:3; II Tim. 1:9-10). It has several different connotations for different aspects of God's redemptive plan. In Eph. 2:11-3:13, it refers to the uniting of all people, Jew and Gentile, in Christ, to God. This had always been God's plan (cf. Gen. 3:15; 12:1-3; Exod. 19:4-6; Eph. 2:11-3:13). This had always been the implication of monotheism (one and only one God). This truth had been hidden in the past, but is now fully revealed in Christ. See Special Topic at Eph. 3:3.

▣ "of His will" See the following Special Topic: The Will of God



NRSV"a plan"
TEV"this plan"
NJB"for him to act upon"

This is literally "stewardship of a household" (oikonomia). Paul uses the term in several different senses.

1. an Apostolic commission to proclaim the gospel (cf. I Cor. 9:17; Eph. 3:2; Col. 1:25)

2. an eternal plan of redemption, "mystery" (cf. Eph. 1:9-10; 3:9, I Cor. 4:1)

3. training in the plan of redemption and its accompanying lifestyle (cf. I Tim. 1:4)

This verse is a foreshadowing of the central theme of the book (the unity of all things in Christ), which is fully developed in 4:1-6.

▣ "the fullness of the times" This phrase emphasizes (as does predictive prophecy) that God is in control of history. At just the right moment, God sent Christ and, at just the right moment, He will come again.

▣ "the summing up of all things in Christ" In Koine Greek (the language of commerce in the Mediterranean world from 200 b.c. to a.d. 200, it was the language of the common man) this compound term is literally "the uniting of several things under one head." This is a reference to the cosmic significance of the work of Christ (as is seen so clearly in I Cor. 15:24-28 and Col. 1:17-22). This is the central theme of Colossians. Christ is the "head" not only of His body, the church, but of creation (kosmos).


NRSV"we have obtained an inheritance"
TEV"God chose us to be his own people"
NJB"we have received our heritage"

This is literally "we were chosen as an inheritance," an aorist passive indicative. Originally in the OT this referred only to the Levites (the tribe of Levi became the priests, Temple servants, and local teachers of the Law), who did not inherit land in the Promised Land (cf. Num. 18:20; Deut. 10:9; 12:12; 14:27,29). It came to refer to the truth that God Himself is the inheritance of all believers and they are His (cf. Ps. 16:5; 73:26; 119:57; Lam. 3:24). It also came to be a metaphor for God's people (cf. Deut. 4:20; 7:6; 9:26,29; 14:2; II Sam. 21:3; I Kgs. 8:51,53; II Kgs. 21:14; Ps. 28:9; 33:12; 68:9; 78:62,71; 94:14; 106:5,40; Isa. 19:25; 47:6; 63:17; Jer. 10:16; 51:19). The NT replaces the promises of a land with the promise of being part of God's family. NT writers universalize the Jewish-Gentile distinction into the believer-unbeliever model. The same is true of the city of Jerusalem which becomes the New Jerusalem (cf. Rev. 3:12; 21:2,10), which is a metaphor of heaven, not a geographical location.

▣ "having been predestined according to His purpose" This aorist passive participle expresses the truth that election is according to the grace of God and not human merit (cf. Eph. 2:8-9, which has three disclaimers: "and that not of yourselves;" "it is the gift of God," and "not as a result of works, that no one should boast"). This same terminology is found in Rom. 8:28-29. The purpose there is Christlikeness. See fuller note on predestination at Contextual Insights to 1:1-23, #C and 1:4 and 1:5.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Election/Predestination and the Need for a Theological Balance

1:12 "we" This refers to believing Jews (cf. Rom. 1:16).

"glory" See note at 1:6

1:13 "you" This refers to believing Gentiles (cf. 2:12).

▣ "after listening to the message of truth, the gospel. . .having also believed" These are both aorist active participles. Salvation is both a message to believe and a person to trust. It involves both a mental acceptance of the truthfulness of the Bible (worldview) and a personal welcoming of Jesus! The gospel must be personally received (cf. John 1:12; 3:16,18,36; 6:40; 11:25-26; Rom. 10:9-13). The essence of the gospel can be summarized as

1. a person to welcome/receive (personal relationship

2. truths about that person to believe (worldview)

3. a life like that person to live (Christlikeness)



▣ "you were sealed in Him" In the Greco-Roman culture sealing was a sign of security, genuineness, and ownership (cf. 4:30; II Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Rev. 7:1-4). This sealing (aorist passive indicative) is theologically parallel to the Spirit's baptizing new believers in Christ (cf. I Cor. 12:13; possibly Eph. 4:4-5).


▣ "with the Holy Spirit of promise" The coming of the Spirit was the sign of the New Age (cf. Joel 2:28; John 14:26ff). He was the Father's promise (cf. John 14:16, 26; 15:26; Acts 1:4-5; 2:33). The Spirit indwelling believers is the assurance of their resurrection (cf. Rom. 8:9-11).

1:14 "who is given as a pledge" This concept of a pledge had an OT precedent.

1. a promise to pay a debt (cf. Gen. 38:17,18,20; Deut. 24:10-13)

2. a promise of providing sustenance (cf. I Sam. 17:18)

3. a personal promise (cf. II Kgs. 18:23; Isa. 36:8).

This Greek term refers to a "down-payment" or earnest money (cf. II Cor. 1:22; 5:5). In modern Greek it is used of an engagement ring, which is the promise of a marriage to come. The Spirit is the fulfilled promise of a new age of righteousness. This is part of the "already" and "not yet" tension of the NT, which is the overlapping of the two Jewish ages because of the two comings of Christ (see the excellent discussion in How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart, pp. 129-134). The Spirit is a pledge given now for a future consummation.


▣ "redemption" See note at 1:7 and Special Topic at Col. 1:14.

▣ "God's own possession" This may be an allusion to Exod. 19:5; Deut. 7:6; 14:2. The Jews were God's special treasure for the purpose of reaching the world (cf. Gen. 12:3; Exod. 19:6), now His agent is the church, Christ's body.

▣ "to the praise of His glory" See note at 1:6.

 15For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

1:15-23 This is Paul's prayer of thanksgiving and intercession for the recipients (i.e., churches of Asia Minor). It is one long sentence in Greek, as is vv. 3-14 (i.e., Paul's prayer of praise to God the Father for His gracious gift of Christ and the Spirit). These long sentences are characteristic of Paul's literary style only in Ephesians (cf. 1:3-14,15-23; 2:1-10,14-18,19-22; 3:1-12,14-19; 4:11-16; 6:13-20).

Also notice Paul's prayer for himself in 6:19-20! Paul was a man of prayer and praise (i.e., 3:20-21).


NASB"the faith. . .among you"
TEV, NJB"your faith"

Ephesians, being a circular letter, shows that Paul is referring to several churches, not just the church at Ephesus. He had heard of the problems of the churches in the Lycus Valley (Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colossae) through Epaphras (cf. Col. 1:6-8).

The term "faith" can refer to

1. initial, personal trust in Christ

2. ongoing faithful Christian living

3. Christian doctrine (cf. Acts 6:7; 13:8; 14:22; Gal. 1:23; 6:10; Jude 3, 20)

Here it has the article and probably option #3 is best.

▣ "your love" This is not in the ancient Greek manuscripts P46, א , A, or B, nor the Greek text used by Origen, Jerome, or Augustine, but it is present in the Colossians parallel (cf. 1:4) and Philemon v. 5. It is obviously a scribal addition here in Ephesians. They tended to standardize Paul's phrasing.

"saints" See Special Topic: Saints at Col. 1:2.

1:16 This verse reveals two aspects of Paul's prayer life: (1) thankfulness and (2) persistence. Paul continually prayed for all of Christ's churches (cf. Rom. 1:9; II Cor. 11:28; Phil. 1:3-4; Col. 1:3,9 ; I Thess. 1:2-3; II Tim. 1:3, Philemon 4).

This is a good theological balance between trusting in God and intercessory prayer. The proclamation of the gospel and the development of churches was God's will. Yet Paul sensed a need to continue to pray for them. Somehow believers' prayers unleash the power of God in fresh, new ways. The sovereign God has chosen to limit Himself to the prayers of His people (cf. James 4:2)! Intercessory prayer is a mystery of God's power linked to believers' volitional requests. See Special Topic on Thanksgiving at Col. 4:2. See Special Topic: Intercessory Prayer at Col. 4:3.


NJB"Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of"
NKJV"Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of "
TEV"Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, to give you the Spirit"

Notice the emphasis on the Trinity seen in TEV translation of (1) 1:3-14; (2) 1:17; (3) 2:18; (4) 3:14-17; and (5) 4:4-6. See Special Topic: The Trinity at 1:3.

▣ "the Father of glory" This was an OT title for God (cf. Ps. 24:7; 29:3; Acts 7:2). The genitive modifier (of glory) is also used of Jesus in I Cor. 2:8 and James 2:1. Paul's prayer is that YHWH will give these new believers a full and complete understanding of true wisdom which is Jesus Christ, not the intellectual false wisdom of the Gnostic teachers. There is no human secret wisdom. Jesus is the wisdom of God who fully reveals Him! See fuller note on "Glory" at 1:6.

"may give to you a spirit" The term " spirit" is anarthrous (no definite article), but really serves the double purpose of referring to the human spirit energized by the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 11:2 describes God's gifts of the Spirit as "a spirit of wisdom," and "understanding," "a spirit of counsel," and "strength," "a spirit of knowledge," and "fear of the Lord."

In the NT there is a series of passages which describe what the Spirit produces in the lives of believers.

1. "a spirit of holiness," Rom. 1:4

2. "a spirit of adoption as sons," Rom. 8:15

3. "a spirit of gentleness," I Cor. 4:21

4. "a spirit of faith," II Cor. 4:13

5. "a spirit of wisdom and revelation," Eph. 1:17

6. "the spirit of truth," I John 4:6


▣ "of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him" The pronouns in the paragraph refer to God the Father, as most do in vv. 3-14. This wisdom and revelation was not just for some, but for all believers (cf. 4:13). This was used to refute the intellectual and exclusivistic emphases of the false teachers. Gospel knowledge is God-given and Jesus-focused (cf. Col. 1:9). He is the truth (cf. John 8:32; 14:6)!

1:18-19 Knowledge of God the Father's provisions in Christ involves three aspects.

1. the believers' predestined hope

2. the believers' glorious inheritance

3. the believers' understanding of God's surpassingly great power, manifested in Christ


1:18 "the eyes of your heart may be enlightened" This is a metaphor of the gospel bringing understanding to fallen humanity (cf. Acts 26:18; II Cor. 4:4-6). This has always been God's will. See Special Topic: Heart at Col. 2:2.

▣ "hope of His calling" For a full note on "hope" see Special Topic at Col. 1:5.

The term "calling" (kaleō) is used in several theological senses in the NT.

1. sinners are called by God through Christ to salvation

2. sinners call on the name of the Lord to be saved

3. believers are called on to live Christlike lives

4. believers are called to ministry tasks

The thrust of this text is #1. For "calling" see Special Topic at 4:1.

▣ "the riches of the glory" Paul often speaks of gospel truths as "riches" (cf. 1:7,18; 2:4,7; 3:8,16). See note at 1:7.

"inheritance" See full note at 1:11.


NASB"surpassing greatness"
NKJV"exceeding greatness"
NRSV"immeasurable greatness"
TEV"how very great"
NJB"how extraordinarily great"

This term huperballō is used only by Paul in the NT. It expresses his overwhelming emotion of what God in Christ has done for rebellious mankind in redemption (cf. II Cor. 3:10; 9:14; Eph. 1:19; 2:7; 3:19).


▣ "toward us who believe" This phrase shows the falsehood of the doctrine of "universalism" which asserts that eventually all people will be saved. This universalism is usually based on proof-texting isolated passages like Rom. 5:18. God has chosen to allow humans to participate (conditional covenant) in their own spiritual salvation and pilgrimage. Christians must repent and believe (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16,19; 20:21). The gospel's inclusivism (cf. John 1:12; 3:16; I Tim. 2:4; Titus 2:11; I Pet. 3:9) was in contrast to the exclusivism of the false teachers. The gospel is universal in its invitation (cf. I Tim. 2:4; Titus 2:11; II Pet. 3:9) to all who will call on the name of the Lord (cf. Rom. 10:9-13).

▣ "the working of the strength of His might" This may be another allusion to Isa. 11:2 (cf. v. 17). This phrase is made up of three Greek words (energas, kratos, and ischus) which indicate God's power. A fourth term for power (dunamis) is used earlier in the verse. The focus of salvation is God's powerful actions through Christ, not individual human actions or intellectual concepts.

1:20 The next three phrases describe what God the Father's tremendous, mighty power has done for Jesus.

1. It "raised Him from the dead" v. 20. This was the sign of His accepted sacrifice (cf. I Corinthians 15).

2. It "seated Him on His right hand," v. 20. This was the place of exaltation and preeminence (cf. Col. 3:1). This represented Christ's ongoing intercessory ministry (cf. Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 9:24; I John 2:1 and was fulfillment of OT prophecy, cf. Ps. 110:1; Acts 7:56).

3. It "made Him supreme Head of the church," v. 22. This use of the term church refers to the unique new people of God, which includes all who believe, both Jew and Gentile (cf. 2:11-3:13; Gal. 3:27-29).

The things that the Father has done for Christ, Christ has done for His followers (cf. 2:5-6). All three terms in 2:5-6 are compounds with the preposition syn which means "joint participation with."

▣ "in the heavenly places" This locative (of sphere) neuter plural adjective (epouranious) is only used in Ephesians (cf. 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). From the context of all of its usages, it must mean the spiritual realm in which believers live here and now, not heaven by and by.

1:21 "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion" This phrase may refer to ranks or orders of spiritual powers or angelic levels that are hostile to humanity (cf. Eph. 2:2; 3:10; 6:12; Col. 1:16; 2:10,15; Rom. 8:38-39; I Cor. 15:24). Jesus is superior to all angelic ranks (cf. Hebrews 1-2). This refuted the Gnostic false teachers' emphasis on angelic levels (aeons). These ranks may also refer to impersonal structures in our world which allow humans to function apart from God. Examples are philosophy, education, government, medicine, religion, etc. (cf. Hendrik Berkhof's Christ and the Powers, Herald Press). See Special Topic: Angels in Paul's Writings at 6:12. Further, for "far above" see Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at 1:19.

For "authority" see Special Topic: Archē at Col. 1:16.

▣ "and every name that is named" This may refer to the false teachers' secret passwords or names used to pass through the angelic spheres. They were trusting in their secret knowledge of magical names to bring salvation. Paul asserts that salvation or union with God is found only in Jesus' name (cf. Phil. 2:9-11). In the OT a person's name represented his character. The Father's character is fully revealed in the Son (cf. John 14:8-14; 17:11).

▣ "not only in this age but also in the one to come" The Jews believed in two ages, the current evil age and the new righteous age which would come through the Messiah. This new righteous age of the Spirit came at Pentecost! (cf. Matt. 12:32, Mark 10:30; Luke 16:8; 18:30; 20:34; I Tim. 6:17; II Tim. 4:10; Titus 2:12, Heb. 6:5).


1:22 "He has put all things in subjection under His feet" "Subjection" is a military term for a chain of command (cf. Ps. 110:1; 8:6). The Father has given the Son first place in all things (cf. Col. 1:18-19). In the end, the Son will turn all things back to the Father (cf. I Cor. 15:27-28).

Jesus' submission to the Father does not imply, in any sense, inequality, but an administrative, functional division of labor within the Trinity. See fuller note on "submission" at 5:21.

▣ "gave Him as head over all things" The extended metaphor of Jesus as the Head of His body, the church, is only found in Ephesians and Colossians (cf. 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 1:18-19; 2:19). The people of the ancient Mediterranean world believed the head gave life to the body.

▣ "church" In secular Greek, this term meant an assembly (cf. Acts 19:32). Ekklesia was used in the Septuagint (LXX) to translate the Hebrew term "assembly (qahal) of Israel" (cf. Exod. 16:3, 12:6; Lev. 4:13; Num. 20:4). This is the first of several uses of this term in Ephesians (cf. 1:22; 3:10,21; 5:23,24,25,27,29,32). Both in Eph. (1:22-23) and in Col. (1:24) Paul calls the church the body of Christ. The early church saw themselves as the fulfilled people of God with Christ Jesus, the Messiah, as their Head.

One of the unusual literary relationships between Ephesians and Colossians is that in Ephesians this term refers to the church universal (cf. I Cor. 10:32; 12:28; 15:9; Gal. 1:13; Phil. 3:6), while in Colossians it usually refers to the local church. This points toward Ephesians as a circular letter.

See Special Topic at Col. 1:18.


NRSV"the fullness of Him who fills all in all"
TEV"The completion of Him who Himself completes all things everywhere"
(footnote ". . .who is Himself completely filled with God's fullness")
NJB"The fullness of Him who is filled, all in all"

Grammatically this is a present middle participle. Here are some possible interpretations of this phrase:

1. Christ is filling the church

2. the church is filling Christ (cf. Col. 1:24)

3. the church is being filled to the full number of believers (numerical aspect, cf. Rom. 11:25)

This terminology was meant to attack the incipient Gnostic false teachers' theological system of aeons, emanations or angelic ranks. The terms "fulness" and "filled" are forms of the Greek term plērōma, which later in the second century became the technical Gnostic term for the total number of angelic levels (cf. v. 21) between the high, holy, spiritual god and the lesser god who fashioned evil matter. See notes on Gnosticism in the Introduction to Ephesians.

This is a powerful definition of the church. She is meant to fully reflect her head, Jesus. As Jesus revealed the Father, so too, the church is to reveal the Father.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Who is being praised in vv. 3-14?

2. Define "Gnosticism."

3. How is election (vv. 4,5,11) related to human response (v. 13)?

4. List the things that occurred before creation (v. 4; Matt. 25:34; John 17:24; I Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8).

5. Are we God's inheritance or is He ours (v. 11)?

6. To whom does the recurrent phrase "to the praise of His glory" refer?

7. How is 1:20 related to 2:5-6?

8. Who is referred to in 1:21 (angels, demons, fallen world structures)?

9. Describe the two Jewish ages.


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