Read the Passage: Ephesians 1:1-14
Authorship and Date: The book of Ephesians is one of the thirteen (or fourteen, if Hebrews is included) New Testament epistles written by the apostle Paul (cf. Eph. 1:1; 3:1). This letter was written from Rome during Paul’s first imprisonment there (cf. Acts 28:17–31), probably sometime between 60–63 AD. Since Ephesians was likely written from prison, or more accurately while Paul was under house arrest, it has historically been known as one of the prison epistles, along with Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. This letter was likely penned at the same time as Colossians and sent to Ephesus, being carried by Paul’s frequent messenger and ministry companion Tychicus (cf. Eph. 6:21–22; Col. 4:7). Note that since some early manuscripts of this letter lack the name “Ephesians” in the heading, some scholars believe that this was a circular letter written to all of the churches in Asia Minor (e.g., Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, etc.). Moreover, some identify Ephesians with the “epistle from Laodicea” that Paul references at Col. 4:16, which seems to be reasonable conclusion.
Theme and Purpose: Paul had started the church in Ephesus while on his third missionary journey, as is recorded in Acts 19. Paul spent three years serving as pastor of the church, which is longer than he spent in any other local congregation. After his release from prison, and re-visiting the church in Ephesus, Paul assigned his protégé Timothy to oversee this strategic church (cf. 1 Tim. 1:3–4) and to correct certain false teaching within the church, which was probably related to keeping the Jewish ceremonial law. Note that Ephesus was an important city in Asia Minor, as it was a central city and a cultural hub. Ephesus was also home of the Temple of Artemis (or Diana), which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The letter itself is written: (1) to encourage the church in the faith, (2) to remind the church of their identity “in Christ” (used 12x in this letter), and (3) to address certain areas of doctrine that were under attack. Some of the key concepts in this book include: the benefits of salvation, the mystery of the church, the importance of Christian unity, marriage and family issues, and spiritual warfare.
Structure and Outline: Like many of Paul’s epistles, the first part of the book of Ephesians is largely doctrinal in orientation (chs. 1–3), while the second part of this letter is practical in nature (chs. 4–6). The issues that Paul addresses in this short letter may seem somewhat scattered, but they all flow into or from one another. A brief thematic outline of this book is as follows;
- Introduction (1:1–2)
- Process of Salvation (1:3–2:22)
- Mystery of the Church (3:1–21)
- Christian Unity (4:1–5:21)
- Marriage and Family (5:22–6:9)
- Spiritual Warfare (6:10–20)
- Conclusion (6:21–24)
Chosen in Christ (1:1–6)
After a brief introduction and blessing in Eph. 1:1–2, Paul jumps right into one of the most important and comforting of all Christian doctrines—that is, the doctrine of election or predestination. Speaking of God the Father, Paul writes, “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world . . . having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:4–5). While this doctrine causes many to bristle (often on account of human pride), election is emphasized throughout Scripture (cf. Deut. 7:6–8; John 6:44, 65; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:29; 9:11; 1 Thess. 1:3¬–4; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:10). Indeed, the teaching that “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9) is the necessary corollary to the biblical teaching that man is desperately deceitful and wicked (cf. Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10–18). Regarding salvation, predestination addresses the question: Who is sovereign: God or man?
Redemption by Christ (1:7–10)
After writing about believers being chosen in Christ, Paul goes on to describe the benefits or state of being redeemed in Christ. In this passage Paul writes that believers have received redemption, forgiveness, grace, wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of God’s will. Then, at Eph. 1:10, Paul notes, “In the dispensation of the fullness of the times [God will] gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him” (Eph. 1:10). This important teaching about the scope and goal of redemption, as well as the end of history, is similar to what Paul had taught at 1 Cor. 15:24, 28, as he wrote, “Then comes the end, when Jesus Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power . . . . that God may be all in all.” Observe, too, that Peter preached at Pentecost that the scope of redemption entails “the restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21).
Inheritance from Christ (1:11–14)
Paul concludes this opening passage writing, “In Jesus Christ we have obtained an inheritance . . . . [the Holy Spirit] is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:11, 14). While Paul will soon teach that the church is Jesus’ “inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18), in the present passage Paul reminds his readers that Jesus Christ has provided believers with a lavish inheritance, which is guaranteed by the present indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is the seal who guarantees believers of their salvation. While the Holy Spirit can be quenched (cf. 1 Thess. 5:19) or grieved (cf. Eph. 4:30), the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer, which is what it means to be sealed by Christ (cf. John 14:16; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19–20; 2 Cor. 1:21–11). Indeed, the idea of being sealed communicates four important gospel truths: security, authenticity, ownership, and authority.
- Why is the doctrine of election rejected and despised by so many people?
- How has the teaching of election historically impacted missions and evangelism?
- Why do many modern Christians tend to overlook or to marginalize the Holy Spirit?
- Why do many believers overlook teachings about the cosmic scope of redemption?
- Is the idea that you are sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit comforting to you?