Ephesians 1:3-6

First, a few words on the whole blessing (Hebrew Berakah), which stretches from verse 3 all the way to verse 14 (one sentence in Greek). The blessing is one indivisible whole (Barth, pg. 78). Note the progression of time from eternity past (vs. 4) to past history (vs. 7) to present history (vv. 8ff.) to future blessings (vs. 14). Furthermore, there is also (corresponding to the historical progression) a Trinitarian progression. Each major section ends with the refrain “to the praise of His glory.” The refrain ends each of the Trinitarian sections. The work before creation began was the salvation-work of the Father (vv. 3-6). The work of the Son was accomplished in past history (vv. 7-12). The work of the Holy Spirit is accomplished now and in the future (vv. 13-14). There is some overlap, of course, since the work of no one Person of the Trinity occurs without the work of the other two Persons. However, it is something on which we can hang our hats through this long, complicated sentence.

Εὐλογητὸς θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Blessed is emphatic” (Lange, pg. 27). Eadie says, “His blessing of us is one of deed, our blessing of Him is only in word. He makes us blessed, we pronounce Him blessed” (pg. 13). Paul does not seem to have any problem calling the Father “the God of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The early church fathers solved the Trinitarian problem here by saying that God the Father was God to Jesus as Jesus was human; God was Father to Jesus as Jesus was God. The distinction between the divine and the human nature plays the crucial role in this difficulty.

εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ, “Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Notice that we sit with Christ in the heavenly realms now as members of His body (Best, pg. 117). The believer’s life is conditioned by transcendence (Hoehner, pp. 169-170). “This was a new concept for the Ephesians for they had been worshipers of Artemis who was the local deity on earth” (Hoehner, pg. 172). Notice the word-play: “God is blessed; God blesses us with every spiritual blessing.” Blessing on the brain, as one might say.  “In Christ”- “Herein (en Christo) is to be found the difference between the Christian and Jewish churches, the New Testament and Old Testament people of God” (Lange, pg. 29).

καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him.” “ ‘Kathos’ marks a relation, indeed a conformity of two facts” (Lange, pg. 29). The correspondence is that God is blessed as He has decreed (ibid). This verse also implies the pre-existence of Christ before the world began (Hoehner, pg. 178; cf. (a bit more cautiously) Lincoln, pg. 24). I don’t quite understand Lincoln’s caution. If we are chosen in Christ, then Christ must have been there to be a representative for us in whom God could choose us. Jerome says that “before the foundation” implies that God made all things out of nothing (ACCS, pg. 111). Jerome also says “Paul does not say he chose us before the foundation of the world on account of our being saintly and unblemished. He chose us that we might become saintly and unblemished (ACCS, pg. 111). Hodge says exactly the same thing: “If men are chosen to be holy, they cannot be chosen because they are holy” (pg. 12). Notice that Paul is teaching election to the very people he had himself evangelized! (Ferguson, pg. 10). This gives the lie to the tired Arminian objection that election vitiates evangelism. Paul taught election, and was himself an evangelist, and to the very people he evangelized he taught election!

ἐν ἀγάπῃ προορίσας ἡμᾶς εἰς υἱοθεσίαν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς αὐτόν, “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself.” “We are not children by nature, like Christ, but only by grace” (Lange, pg. 33). Hoehner has an excellent discussion of Roman adoption (pg. 196). See also DPL, pp. 15-18. The last prepositional phrase indicates God the Father, not the Son. This verse proves that election is not some dry, cold business. Rather, election is evidence of God’s great love for us. See my sermon on this whole passage here.

κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἧς ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ, “According to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace with which He has graced us in the Beloved.” Notice how many times already the phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” has appeared. All the blessings come to us “in Christ,” not outside of Christ. As Calvin says, Christ is of no benefit to us as long as we remain outside of Him, and He outside of us. This verse shows us the end purpose of God’s great redemptive acts: his own glory. In the somewhat literalistic translation I have given, I have attempted to show the word-play between “grace” and “graced.” The word-play emphasizes the place of God’s grace towards us.

Ephesians 1:1-2

I have already commented on Ephesians 1:1-2 here in reference to the Federal Vision, and here in reference to my full sermon on the text. I have decided, however, that I will, in addition, publish a full exegetical commentary on Ephesians here on my blog, doing it as I go along. This will be a conglomeration of insights I have gleaned from the commentaries, combined with a few thoughts of my own. I hope and pray that this might prove useful to others. All Greek will be immediately translated for the benefit of those who do not read Greek, although technical issues will be discussed. The translation of the text will be my own.

1. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the believers in Christ Jesus; 2. Grace be yours and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus.” What is an apostle? “The idea not only included the sending of the messenger but more importantly the authorization of the messenger” (Hoehner, pg. 134). The word is related to the Greek verb apostello, which means “I send.” However, an apostle is not merely an errand boy. Rather, he has the full authority of the sender behind him. The Hebrew “Shaliach” is close in the background here (“The shaliach was a surrogate commissioned and sent either by a private individual…or as an agent representing the religious authorities;” Barnett in DPL, pg. 45). Christou here has the force, not of a proper name, but of a title. Jesus as Messiah is the idea. Just as Jesus was sent from the Father, having the full authority of the Father, so also was Paul sent from Jesus, having the full authority of Jesus.

διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ “by the will of God.” The form of this contruction is a genitive of agent (BDF 223). That is, God’s will is the agent that brought about Paul’s calling to the apostleship. This letter to the Ephesians containes more references to the will of God than any other of Paul’s epistles (Barth, pg. 65). Paul’s authority as an apostle did not rest on his own desires, nor on the desires of his friends, nor on his claim to be equal with Peter, John, and James; but on God’s appointment (Best, pg. 97). It is the same will of God that appointed Paul as an apostle that appointed us to be the chosen of God from before the foundation of the world. Paul is here anticipating one of his major themes in 1:3-14. Notice that Paul does not defend his apostleship here in this letter as he does in Galatians, for instance. The Ephesian church knew Paul well, he having ministered there for three years. His focus is more directed to how he became an apostle than to the mere fact of his apostleship (Boice, pg. 4). 

τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν [ἐν Ἐφέσῳ] “to the saints in Ephesus.” A textual problem arises here. Several of the earliest manuscripts do not have the words “in Ephesus.” Metzger includes the words, but puts them in brackets, indicating the extreme level of doubt regarding their authenticity. P46, Aleph, B, 424corr, and 1739 omit the words. However, a corrector to Aleph and B later (re)inserted the words. This textual problem is by no means insignificant, since the destination of the letter is thrown into doubt if these words are not genuine (there are no other indicators of the destination in the entire letter save these words; the title of the letter does also give some indication, but it is not as certain as words in the text itself). Metzger’s textual commentary is woefully inadequate here. Most of his evidence and argumentation is clearly on the side of omitting the words. However, the inclusion of the words has equally ancient and geographically diverse attestation. See Hoehner’s excellent defense of the originality of the words in pp. 144-148 of his commentary. I believe the evidence favors the inclusion of the words.

That being said, what does the text mean? Obviously, the Roman Catholic understanding of “saints” is of no help here, since Paul does not address just a few people. As Boice says, all Christians are saints (Boice, pp. 4-5). This means that “all the high doctrine which we have in this Epistle is something that you and I are meant to receive…Ordinary members of the Church, of all churches, are meant to take hold of these doctrines, and understand and rejoice in them. They are not merely for certain special learned people; they are meant for each and every one of us” (Lloyd-Jones, pg. 24). “Every Christian is a saint; you cannot be a Christian without being a saint; and you cannot be a saint and a Christian without being separated in some radical sense from the world. You do not belong to it any longer, you are in it but you are not of it; there is a separation which has taken place in your mind, in your outlook, in your heart, in your conversation, in your behaviour” (LJ, pg. 27).

καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ: “to the believers in Christ Jesus:” This is an epexegetical kai. The sense is “the saints…that is, the believers.” Most commentators favor the subjective sense of pistois. That is, they favor the sense “people who trust,” as opposed to the objective sense “people who are trustworthy.” However, most translations follow the objective sense. I favor the subjective sense, since the following passage emphasizes not so much the believer’s faithfulness, but rather the content of what is to be believed. However, there is surely an overlap between the two. Even if one holds to one, the hint of the other cannot be far off. Those who believe will be faithful; and one cannot be faithful to Christ without having true faith. In any case, the saints are the believers, and the believers are the saints (Calvin, pg. 196). Lange, however, wants to make the two groups somewhat distinct (Lange, pg. 24). Barth rejects this hypothesis, insisting that the two groups are the same group of people (Barth, pg. 68).

If “believers” is the proper sense of pistois, then, as Boice and Phillips note, we must remember the three elements of faith: knowledge, assent, and trust. All three elements are essential to faith. One cannot abstract any of them from faith and still have faith.

Stott has a very useful observation on the last prepositional phrase “in Christ Jesus:” “they have two homes, for they reside equally ‘in Christ’ and ‘in Ephesus.’ Indeed all Christian people are saints and believers, and live both in Christ and inthe secular world, or ‘in the heavenlies’ and on earth” (Stott, pg. 23).

χάρις ὑμῖν “grace be yours.” The verb “to be” in some form has to be supplied here, since the text only has “Grace to you.” Usually it is interpreted as a wish “Grace be to you.” However, it could also be a statement of fact: “Grace is to you.” Either way, Paul is blessing the Ephesians. Paul here encapsulates the entire Gospel in one word: grace. He will expound on this theme much more in the first three chapters of the letter. Paul has transformed the usually more prosaic opening formula in most Greek letters into a benediction full of rich theological content (see my sermon for more on this). Grace is the cause of the next blessing “peace.”

καὶ εἰρήνη “and peace.” In some form, grace leading to peace is the theme of the letter (Ferguson, pg. 6). Grace in the first three chapters leads to the peace that should characterize the Christian in the last three chapters. That is a bit of an over-generalization. However, the basic idea is sound. That peace is the effect of grace is the opinion of Hoehner, pg. 150. Jerome has this to say: “The grace of the Father lies in hiw willingness to send the Son for our salvation, while the peace of the Son lies in the fact that we are reconciled to the Father through him” (ACCS, pg. 108). It is important to note that both grace and peace come from both the Father and the Son (so, Lange, pg. 23). This is an indirect testimony to the deity of Jesus Christ: like Father, like Son.

ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν “from God our Father.” Apo indicates source (Hoehner, pg. 150). “Grace and peace are not earth-born blessings; they descend from heaven, from God on His glorious throne, whose high prerogative it is to send down those special influences; and from Christ at His right hand, who has provided these blessed gifts by His sufferings and death-who died to secure, and is exalted to bestow them, and whose constant living sympathy with His people enables Him to appreciate their wants, and prompts Him out of His own fulness to supply them” (Eadie, pg. 8).

καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. “and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Lange (pg. 25) and Best (pg. 102) both say, as has already been noted, that since grace and peace come from Jesus as well as from God the Father, Christ must be very God.