Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:
(a) Paul, an apostle; see entry for Gal. 1:1.
(b) To the saints. You are not merely forgiven; you are a sanctified saint in the eyes of the Lord. You are “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2). The moment you were put in Christ, you became just as holy as he is. Throughout scripture, Christians are consistently referred to as holy or sanctified. See entry for Acts 26:18.
(c) At Ephesus. The church in Ephesus had a special place in Paul’s heart because he planted it (Acts 18:19, 20:31). After Paul departed, it was possibly led by Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:19), or Timothy (1 Tim. 1:3), then Tychicus (Eph. 6:21, 2 Tim. 4:12). According to the early church fathers, the apostle John may have led the church for a while. This was a church with a great heritage.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
As is his habit, Paul begins his letter with this gracious salutation (see Rom. 1:7).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
(a) Has blessed us. The God who saves us by grace, blesses us by grace and all his blessings come to us through Jesus Christ. Just as you don’t need to work for salvation, you don’t need to work for forgiveness, holiness, righteousness, peace, authority, or any blessing. God who freely gave us his Son—will he not also freely give us all things (Rom. 8:32)?
Note the use of past tense: “Has blessed us.” God has already provided all these blessings. Asking God to provide salvation, healing, or deliverance is like asking Jesus to come and die again. Everything we need for life and godliness has been provided (2 Pet. 1:3).
Where are these blessings found? In Christ. The Good News Bible translates it this way: “For in our union with Christ he has blessed us by giving us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly world.” How is it that we are saved? Because we are in Christ and his future is our future. How is it that we call ourselves holy and righteous? Because Jesus is holy and righteous and we are in him. On what grounds can we cast out demons and heal the sick? Because we are one with the One who has been given all authority. Our bodies are on earth, but we are seated with him in heavenly places (see entry for Eph. 2:6).
You need to understand that your heavenly Father is for you. He has tilted the universe in your favor and set you up for success because of his great love (Eph. 2:4). With a Father like this, how can you fail?
(b) With every spiritual blessing. God does not bless us because we are good, but because he is good. Our heavenly Father withholds no good thing from us. He does not withdraw his favor if we’re bad, and he doesn’t dispense bonus blessings if we’re good. Every blessing is available to you now. So why isn’t everyone blessed? Perhaps it’s because we’re trying to earn what God freely provides.
God does not bless us because of things we do or money we give. Whatever your need, your abundant supply is found in Christ Jesus. How do we receive these blessings? By seeing ourselves in Christ. “In union with Christ you have become rich in all things” (1 Cor. 1:5, GNB). When you pray, don’t beg God to do what he’s already done, but thank him that he’s done it. “And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Php. 4:19). Have faith that whatever your need, God has already met it in Christ.
Further reading: “The many benefits of union”
(c) In Christ. All of God’s blessings are experienced in union with Jesus.
We are alive to God and have eternal life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11, 23). The grace and kindness of God are found in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:4, Eph. 2:7) and his forgiveness is found in Christ Jesus (Eph. 4:32). There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1), we are justified in Christ (Gal. 2:17), and our salvation is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:10). Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:39). We have freedom and are sanctified in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:2, Gal. 2:4). We are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6). The peace, faith and love of God are found in Christ Jesus (Php. 4:7, 1 Tim. 1:14). In Christ we are brand new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17), and we are complete in Christ (Col. 1:28). All the glory goes to God because it is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30). See entry for Union.
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love
(a) He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. When combined with the word predestined in the next verse, this statement can give rise to the misguided notion that God chooses some people for salvation but rejects others. He doesn’t. God loves the whole world (John 3:16). He doesn’t want anyone to perish but all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).
From the very beginning, even before Adam sinned, God made a choice. The choice was to give us our freedom knowing full well what it would cost him to clean up the mess. God was not surprised when Adam fell and he was not caught off-guard when sin wreaked havoc on his beautiful creation. He knew what was going to happen and he had a plan in place to fix it before it did.
(b) We would be holy and blameless. Sin made you unholy and broken, but God had a better idea. For no greater reason than he loves you dearly, he decided he would take care of your sins and clothe you in his Son the Holy One. Out of the extravagant goodness of his heart, he planned to do everything that needed to be done to lift you out of the miry muck and sit you with him on his throne (Eph. 2:6).
(c) In love. The great and measureless love of God is a theme that rings loud and clear in this epistle. God chose you because he loves you. Your heavenly Father had a dream and wrapped your body around it. He wants you to be established in his love (Eph. 3:17), to walk in his love (Eph. 5:2), and to know his love which surpasses knowledge (Eph. 5:19). See also the entry for Eph. 2:4.
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
(a) Predestined means predetermined. It does not mean that God chooses some and rejects others. It means God had a plan. The original word (proorizo) is made up of two words: pro, meaning fore, and horizo, meaning horizon or boundary. The God who sees the end from the beginning knows exactly who will respond to the gospel. Before time began he wrote their names in the Book of Life (Rev. 13:8).
(b) Adoption as sons. This is not adoption in the sense of God going to the orphanage; this is Roman adoption where a young man is elevated to a new family and given a new name with all the rights and privileges that entails. See entry for Rom. 8:15.
(c) The kind intention of His will means God took pleasure in doing this. Put it altogether, and Paul is saying, “Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!)” (MSG).
to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
(a) Grace, which He freely bestowed. A literal translation would be, “His grace, with which he has graced us.” Here we find grace as both a noun (charis) and a verb (charitoō). Out of the riches of the Father’s grace, God has graced you. The verb is the same one the angel uses when he says to Mary, “You are highly favored” (Luke 1:28). So are you.
In some Bibles this passage is translated as “He made us accepted”. God accepted you into his family not because of anything you have done but on account of his grace. Your Father’s acceptance is not something you ever need strive for; you already have it.
(b) In the Beloved. If you want to know how acceptable you are to God, you only have to look at his Beloved Son. What God thinks of Jesus is what he thinks of you. When Jesus was baptized, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17). When God looks at you, he says the same thing. “You are my dearly-loved child and I am well pleased with you.”
Further reading: “The end of the religious slave trade”
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
(a) In him is one of Paul’s favorite phrases, and it describes our union with Christ. When you believed the good news about Jesus, you were sealed in him (Eph. 1:13). All the blessings of heaven are found in him (Eph. 1:3), and in him we have redemption, forgiveness, and righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21, Eph. 1:7). All the promises of God are yes in him (2 Cor. 1:20), and in him you have been made complete (Col. 2:10). In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). See entry for Union.
(b) Redemption through his blood. Everything that needed to be done to save you, sanctify you, and set you free was accomplished at the cross. And since his sacrifice was perfect and never to be repeated, it wrought an eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12). In him you are completely and eternally forgiven.
(c) Forgiveness. The original word (aphesis) for forgiveness is a noun that is sometimes translated as remission and means a letting go or dismissal. Forgiveness is just one of the many blessings that we experience in our union with the Lord. See entry for Philemon 1:6.
(d) The forgiveness of our trespasses. On the night he rose from the dead, Jesus told the disciples to preach the remission of sins or the good news of unconditional forgiveness (see entry for Luke 24:47). Because of his great love, God chooses to remember your sins no more (Heb. 8:12, 10:17), and he is no longer holding your sins and trespasses against you (2 Cor. 5:19). After the cross, the apostles described forgiveness in the past tense and as a gift to receive (see entry for Acts 13:38).
You were not forgiven because you said or did the right things. You were forgiven and cleansed from all sin through his blood (1 John 1:7). This does not mean everyone enjoys God’s forgiveness or has received his forgiveness, because not everyone believes in Jesus. But in him, you are as forgiven as you ever will be (see entry for 1 John 2:12).
(e) The riches of his grace. Our God is a forgiving Father (Matt. 6:14, 18:27, Luke 7:47, 15:22, 23:34; Heb. 8:12, 10:17).
Just as the love of God is unconditional, so is his forgiveness. There is nothing in the new covenant to suggest you must examine yourself for sin or do things to merit his forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is not based on anything you have done, but is freely given in accordance with the riches his grace. Your part is to receive his forgiveness by faith saying, “Thank you, Jesus.”
During his time on earth, Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated unconditional forgiveness (see entry for Luke 23:34). On the night he rose from the dead, he instructed his disciples to preach good news of unconditional forgiveness (see entry for Luke 24:47) and they did (see entry for Acts 13:38).
The word for riches in this verse (ploutos) is the same word used to describe God’s wisdom and knowledge (Rom. 11:33). God is as rich in grace as he is in wisdom. See also the entry for Rom. 5:20.
He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him
The mystery of his will is that the Gentiles would be included in God’s rescue plan.
Paul is writing to a church that had Gentiles in it about being chosen by God from before the foundation of the world (verse 4). “This was God’s plan from the very beginning.” The Jews were looking for a Messiah who would rescue Israel, but the surprise announcement of the gospel is that “God so loved the world” and everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.
See entry for Mysteries of God.
also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.
(a) An inheritance is a word connected with family and sonship. When God adopted you into his family, he made you a co-heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17). From Adam, we inherited a broken planet and the sentence of death. It was not a good inheritance! But in Christ, we are heirs of eternal life and an unshakeable kingdom. Indeed, we are heirs of all things (Rev. 21:7).
(b) Predestined means God planned from the beginning to reveal the gospel to the Gentiles (see the entry for Eph. 1:5).
(c) Who works all things. God is not the cause of everything that happens (1 John 5:19), but he makes all things work together for his good purposes (Rom. 8:28). Truly, he is the Great Redeemer.
Not everything that happens is God’s will. God did not want Adam to eat the forbidden fruit and he is not willing that any perish (2 Pet. 3:9). But God rewrites our stories and redeems our messes (e.g., Gen 50:20). The Author of history has the last word.
(d) The counsel of his will. God’s good purposes always come to pass (Pro. 19:21).
In 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,
(a) In him. We mislead people when we sell salvation as a ticket to heaven. Salvation is not about being put into a lifeboat but being put into Jesus. See entry for Eph. 1:7.
(b) After listening to the message of truth. People won’t believe unless they first hear the message, and many of the Ephesians first heard it from Paul. For two years Paul proclaimed the gospel of salvation from a school in Ephesus. By the time he was done, every person in the province of Asia had heard the gospel (Acts 19:10).
(c) The gospel of your salvation is the gospel of grace because it is by grace you were saved (Eph. 2:8).
(d) Salvation. The original word for salvation means deliverance or rescue. Jesus is the great Deliverer who rescues us from our enemies (Luke 1:71). Your salvation is just one of many blessings that are experienced as a result of being in union with Christ. See entry for Salvation.
(e) Having also believed. Once upon a time, you were disobedient to God (Rom 11:30) and captive to the lusts of the flesh (Eph. 2:3). Then you heard and believed the good news of your salvation and everything changed.
(f) You were sealed in Him. The moment you said yes to Jesus, God stamped you with his seal of ownership and gave you his Spirit as a guarantee of your salvation (2 Cor. 1:22). You were sealed “in him” which means your life is now hidden in Christ (Col. 3:3). You are not merely standing on the Rock; you are in the Rock, as safe and secure as God himself.
I 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,
(a) Eyes of your heart. “I pray that you get this revelation.”
(b) The hope of His calling. Jesus was sent from heaven to save you in accordance with God’s will (John 6:38).
Jesus was called to rescue you from the prison of sin and elevate you to the high place of his Father’s favor. If we are saved it is because of his faith and his obedience to his calling.
(c) His inheritance in the saints. We are the Lord’s treasured inheritance. We are the reason Jesus did what he did.
When the Son of Man ascended into heaven he was given all authority in heaven and earth and a Name about all names (Matt. 28:18, Php. 2:9). But what he did not have, and what he is still waiting for, is his glorious inheritance in the church. At times, it may seem like the church is anything but glorious. It’s easy to get discouraged when the church is fractious, feeble, and persecuted. We need to see the glorious church from the perspective of eternity. We need to see the beautiful hope that led Jesus to come and rescue us.
which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
At his right hand. The Son shares his Father’s throne; see entry for Matt. 22:44.
The Grace Commentary is a work in progress with new content added regularly. Sign up for occasional updates below. Got something to say? Please use the Feedback page. To report typos or broken links on this page, please use the comment form below.
- Ephesians 1:1
- Ephesians 1:2
- Ephesians 1:3
- Ephesians 1:4
- Ephesians 1:5
- Ephesians 1:6
- Ephesians 1:7
- Ephesians 1:9
- Ephesians 1:11-12
- Ephesians 1:13
- Ephesians 1:18
- Ephesians 1:20
Ephesians 1:3 There is a typo in this sentence. “On what grounds can we cast our demons and heal the sick? Because we are one with the One who has been given all authority.”
Now fixed. Thanks Kathy.
Thank you Paul for writing this commentary. It will be a great help in understanding the scriptures from a grace point of view. wonderful