Notes for Ephesians Chapter One
Dear friends, as promised, here is the first installment of my notes on Ephesians chapter 1. It is my prayer that as you read and enter into this wonderful chapter that the Father would give you the “spirit of wisdom” and of “revelation.” (see explanation below)
I. Paul’s Song of Redemption (Hebrew Berakah) (1:1–14)
He sings because of the Heavenly Blessings. Ephesians 1 should make us sing too! Berakahs are songs of Redemption which celebrate what God has done. (The Song of Moses and Miriam in Exodus 15 is a “berarah.”) These songs not only glorify God, they bless the soul deeply because they inject the Glory of God deeply into the soul – this is the essence of worship.
1. These blessings are in Heavenly Realms.
Best way to understand this realm is from a Kingdom “already/but not yet” perspective. In the same way that the End of the Age has been inaugurated with the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry, but not consummated until the Second Coming, the Blessings in Heavenly Realms are in effect, and will come to “full effect” - that is, we will experience the complete outcome of these blessings at the time of the consummation of the Kingdom of God.
God’s Kingdom is His rule and reign over a particular realm. In Heaven, His rule is complete. On the Earth, His rule is expanding and gaining momentum until the time which is announced in Revelation 11:14 - when the Seventh Angels sounds his trumpet:
“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 11:15 NIV)
2. The blessings are in effect now – not merely future.
3. The blessings are real and accessible now – their location in “heavenly realms” does not place them out of our reach. "spiritual" or "heavenly" in a Jewish understanding and context doesn't mean that it is not concrete - this isn't ethereal or ghostly.
4. This is a Scriptural “Grand Canyon” moment – a sight so overwhelming, that Paul goes of on the longest sentence in the Bible. He is totally enraptured by what God has done – so much so, that the fact that he is in jail doesn’t even phase him. His extacy at the notion of what God has done is overwhelming his senses and transporting his soul to the very “heavenly realms” he speaks of.
5. The entire Trinity was involved in this blessing.
About the “blessings in the heavenlies” or “heavenly realms”
A. They were planned by the Father (1:1–6).
1. He blessed us (1:1–3).
2. He selected us (1:4).
a. When this occurred (1:4a): “Before he made the world.”
b. Why this occurred (1:4b): That we might be “holy and without fault in his eyes.”
3. He adopted us (1:5–6).
This adoption is amazing – like the Greco-Roman adoptions – an adopted son or daughter has all the rights of the adopting father. Adoption can also be translated as “sonship” – this is the way God makes non-Jews – the Gentiles – heirs of the same “Covenanted Salvation” that He had offered to His Covenant people Israel.
B. They were bought by the Son’s own blood (1:7–12).
1. What Jesus did (1:7–10)
a. He redeemed us by his blood (1:7–8).
b. He will someday gather us in his name (1:9–10).
2. Why Jesus did it (1:11–12): That we might give praise to God.
C. They are preserved and applied by the Spirit (1:13–14).1. What the Holy Spirit does (1:13): His presence serves as a special seal on our heart.
2. Why the Holy Spirit does it (1:14): His presence guarantees our eternal security.
II. Understanding and Appreciating the Blessing (1:15–23)
All of this is wonderful, but it will amount to something like a “Chevy Chase Moment” (National Lampoon Vacation) at the Grand Canyon. Spending a few distracted moments before the sublime beauty of God’s work, then going on to the mundaneness of life.
• Paul prays that God will allow his church to understand two things about God and the Blessing of God. The implication is that the full impact of God’s wonderful salvation requires that believers pray. There is much here for pastors and leaders. Paul is full of gratitude that the Ephesians have faith and love – but he knows that this is just the start – that love will grow and the faith will deepen as God gives a “spirit of wisdom and of revelation.”
• A further implication is that these two things – “spirit of wisdom and revelation” – spirit by the way implies power here – so this is the power to have wisdom – Gk. “Sophia” – which means skill in the affairs of life, practical wisdom, wise management – according to the Word Study Bible by Spiros Zodheites, “for forming plans and selecting the best means including the idea of sound judgment and good sense.”
So, in a nutshell, the spirit of wisdom empowers the blessed believer to live out the reality of what is his or hers in the “heavenly realms” – down here, on the earth. This is the essence of Kingdom Living!
• Paul also prays for the spirit of revelation – a second, vital ability necessary for full appreciation of the blessings mentioned in verses 1-14. The spirit or enabling power of revelation is not the same as the “spirit of wisdom.” The Greek word is “apokalupsis” – where “apocalypse” comes from. You might have seen some of the billboards announcing that May 21st will usher in the “apocalypse.” I really doubt that – but Paul’s intention is different.
Again, Zodheites analysis of the word here is helpful – he compares “apokalupsis” with other words which are sometimes translated revelation:
epipháneia (G2015), appearing (1Titus 6:14), and parousía (G3952), coming, presence (2Thess 2:1).
Apokálupsis, a grander and more comprehensive word, includes not merely the thing shown and seen but the interpretation, the unveiling of the same. The epipháneiai (pl.), appearances, are contained in the apokálupsis, revelation, being separate points or moments therein. Christ's first coming was an epipháneia (2Ti_1:10); the second, an apokálupsis, will be far more glorious.”
But in this context, in Ephesians 1 – the idea has to do with “manifestation” – in other words, that the “blessings” in Heavenly Realms would be manifest or experienced here in the “earthly realms.”
These two “spirits” or enabling forces are bestowed on the believer by the power prayer. It will not come automatically. Notice that Paul says “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.” Peterson’s translation in The Message brings out this out even clearer:
“I couldn't stop thanking God for you--every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask--ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory--to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally…” (Ephesians 1:16-17 MSG)
Thanksgiving is the starting point – but it cannot be then end game. This is thanksgiving followed by prayer – asking God. Without thanksgiving, there is ineffectiveness. Thanksgiving energizes our prayers and drives the asking because it leads to “effective” thinking. Notice in Romans 1:21 - Paul’s explanation of how the human race devolves as it forgets God.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21 NIV)
To give glory to God includes, primarily, the thanking of God. Giving Him credit for what He has created or done. Thanklessness leads to “futile” or ineffective thinking – and ineffective, empty, pointless thinking darkens the heart and leads to further spiritual and societal degeneration. This is the opposite of revelation. Revelation is in essence, God anointed thinking. Futile thinking is devoid of revelation.
The opposite is also true – thankfulness brings about fruitfulness because it centers our thinking around God and His glory. Paul knew that the love and faith of the Ephesians was a result of the work of the Father. So, he gave God the glory. Paul knew that it wasn’t about him – but about what God was doing. As our lives become focused on the glory of God, we grow in the knowledge of God. A love for His glory brings the “spirit of wisdom” and “revelation.” Why?
This is the very essence of what Jesus meant by “seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” in Matthew 6:33. The Kingdom is a Heavenly Realm. It basically, the Heavenly order which is revealed in Revelation 4. Everything centered around the throne – to seek His Kingdom is to seek the things of the “Heavenly Realm” – to want those things “first” – of first importance – above everything else. When we “seek” – Greek “zeteo” - which means to seek wholeheartedly.
You might have heard the old saying – “He (or she) is so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” Where do people get these things? I’m sure it sound really good when someone said this for the first time. I propose to you that heavenly minded people are the ones who are “in fact”, the most useful and prosperous on the earth. Case in point – Jesus. Case in point, Paul. The opposite is in fact true! As we become more “heavenly minded” we can be of more earthly good!
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:2-4 NIV)
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV)
Ephesians chapter one deserves a very long look. (Which is why I’ve spent now 4 weeks in it. And I am still not done!)
Not the sort of three second glance that Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) gave it in “National Lampoon Vacation.” Sometimes, we can be just like Clark. We come upon these scriptural “Grand Canyons” and we’re so distracted or unfocused that we miss the sublime because of the mundane. We know mentally that we are blessed, but we do not “know” spiritually and more profoundly that we are blessed – we are sometimes not experiencing it or applying it.
Don’t miss this Sunday – this Sunday morning – I am going to take you to the “Mountain Top” of Ephesians 1 before we pack up and head over to Chapter 2 – verses 9 and 10. Awesome stuff!
See you then.