“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To God’s holy people in Ephesus,[a] the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he[d] 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,[e] 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. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesian 1:1-14)
Let’s look briefly at the background of the book. It is generally accepted that the Apostle Paul wrote this letter in the early 60s AD most likely while under house arrest in Rome. The letter to the Ephesians differs from some of Paul’s other letters in that there are no intimate or personal references to specific churches or people. Because of this lack of focus on local issues it is likely that this letter was intended as a circular letter to be passed through many churches in Asia, of which Ephesus was the capital city. In Ephesians Paul gives a mountain top view of God’s sovereign plan rather than dealing with specific issues. By way of organization, as is Paul’s general pattern, the first half of the letter is dedicated primarily to doctrinal matters and the second half to practical issues.
After the traditional greeting Paul goes into an exclamation of praise. The key phrase in this passage is “in Christ.” Paul’s praise revolves around the blessings people have in Christ. Amazingly, people were known by God and chosen in him even before the beginning of the world. Through Jesus all people are invited into this relationship. In his amazing love people are adopted as children of God through Christ.
In a world that struggles with identity, just let this sink in: you are loved, chosen and adopted by the God. Someone who is adopted is fully accepted into the family and has all the rights of a biologically born child. It all comes back to our key phrase “in Christ.” In Christ we can find our identity. In Christ we are known. In Christ we are chosen, In Christ we are loved. In Christ we find redemption for sins. In Christ we can find the mystery of God’s will revealed. The ultimate purpose of God’s sovereign plan is to bring all things in unity together under Christ.
Paul moves on to address 3 different groups in the next few verses (11-13): the church, the Jews, and the Gentiles. Just as the Israelite nation was chosen as God’s people, so now the church are God’s people – the church is the ‘new Israel.’ The first Christians were Jews who hoped in Christ while the Gentiles have now also been joined to Christ.
This introduces another central theme of the book: unity in the church.
For both the Jewish and Gentile Christians this was a big deal. Jews were of the heritage of God’s people – for thousands of years they had seen themselves as the exclusive family of God. Now however, in Christ, the Gentiles have been adopted as children of God, no different in status than the Jews.
This speaks a powerful word to our socially and racially divided world. In Christ there are no distinctions between people on any level. “In the Christian community there are no second-class citizens.” All Christians are united through Christ, together making up the church, the body of Christ.
Finally, this unity is brought home through the Holy Spirit. All Christians are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit. In Roman times letters or goods in shipment were marked with a seal. This ensured that the owner of the document or goods was identified, and the recipient could be sure the item had not be tampered with. The seal of the Holy Spirit is God’s mark of protection and ownership on the follower of Jesus. Likewise the gift of the Spirit is identified with a deposit guaranteeing one’s inheritance. Just as you make a deposit on goods to ensure that full payment will be made, so God gives the Holy Spirit as a promise of the full inheritance to come for those who are in Christ.
Here we have been introduced to two of the main themes in Ephesians.
- In Christ
- Unity in the church – one body
- You are chosen, adopted and wanted. You have value in Christ. He loves you and wants a relationship with you
- In a world torn by racial and social struggles, unity is possible through Christ
- God’s ultimate plan involves the reconciliation and unity of all things under Christ. Jesus has things under control. We can relax and trust him
- Not only does Jesus provide redemption, but he reveals the meaning and purpose of life
- How do we know this is all real? We have the evidence of the Holy Spirit. Reach out to him and you can be aware of his presence.
In this crazy world, God is up to something good.
Until next week,
 Arrington and Stronstad eds, Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary, 1999 pg 1019
 Barker and Kohlenberger III eds, Expositors Bible Commentary Abridged Edition: New Testament, 1994, pg 751
 Arrington and Stronstad eds, Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary, 1999 pg 1023
 Foulkes, F. (1989). Ephesians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 10, p. 60). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Arrington and Stronstad eds, Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary, 1999 pg 1032
 Barker and Kohlenberger III eds, Expositors Bible Commentary Abridged Edition: New Testament, 1994, pg 754