Brief Notes on Ephesians Chapter 1

Ephesians 1  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
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We must introduce our meditations on this epistle by returning a little to the ways of God from the beginning, because there is a wonderful unity in His counsels, and the whole volume sets its seal to the divine thought: “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning.” If I come to a moral scripture “Let him that stole steal no more” I may take it and use it at once and alone. But when it is doctrinal or prophetic scripture, I have to ask how it is introduced and what is to come after it, because we are to have divine intelligence: “We have the mind of Christ.”
Now the Epistle to the Hebrews opens and unfolds the heavens and speaks of heavenly calling, putting you in company with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but it does not open the mystery of the church. The Epistle to the Ephesians opens that mystery, but it does not keep you in company with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We are advancing, and we are called to distinguish between the heavenly calling and the calling of the church. So there is a fitness in considering the Epistle to the Hebrews before the Epistle to the Ephesians.
Hebrews, which opens the heavenly calling, associates you with Noah, Abraham and Moses. The earth at the beginning was given to the children of men. What did they do with it? They forfeited it. Then what did God do with them? He opened heaven to them! He gave them the earth to enjoy and they soiled it and lost it by sin. So in abounding grace, God opens heaven to them.
What infinite grace! What should I say of one who, when I had abused a gift which he put in my hand, put a better gift in my other hand! This is our God!
Adam was brought back to God, Enoch was taken to heaven and Abraham had the heavenly calling. They looked for a better country, “that is, an heavenly.” Moses bore witness of it from Pisgah. Elijah in a later dispensation did too. From the beginning there has been a heavenly calling, but not a church calling. So when the Apostle addresses the Hebrews, who were brought from a Jewish root, he talks of heavenly calling but does not go beyond it.
When he addresses the Ephesians, once a Gentile people, the worshippers of the goddess Diana, he unfolds the mystery of the church the richest thing in the counsels of God.
How did God unfold His purposes in the earth? He knew a family in the loins of Abraham. They flourished into a nation in Exodus and then under judges and prophets. He goes from step to step till the elect family flourished under Solomon into a kingdom.
So it is with His heavenly purposes. It is not till the apostleship of Paul is set up that they unfold in the bright culminating point of the church. In His heavenly purposes we follow on till we see the church at the highest point in creation, “the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.”
Now, with this preface, we stand before the Epistle to the Ephesians. Let me remind you of a passage in Colossians: “The dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God [or, to fill it out]” (Col. 1:2525Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; (Colossians 1:25)). This is a magnificent commentary on Paul’s ministry to fill out the revelation of God. As Solomon displayed the closing purpose of God in the earth with a throne, so Paul reveals the bright, magnificent point of the heavenly mysteries. He brings us up to the headship of Christ.
The Apostle addresses all the “faithful” in Christ Jesus. So we are called to learn these things. “Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” This could not be said of the patriarchs. “In heavenly places” they would have been associated with us, but these are blessings in company with Christ.
Having put you in this peculiar place, the Apostle unfolds the divine roll of blessings to you. The first blessing is that you were chosen in Him before the world was. Abraham was certainly chosen before the foundation of the world, but you are chosen “in him.”
Then, predestination always follows on election. Election touches the person; predestination, the place or the condition: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ... He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Adam was surely a son of God, but he was not “accepted in the beloved.” This adoption is of the highest order. We have the joy and liberty of the Beloved’s Sonship.
He goes on to say, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Who would think of asking a person up in heavenly places, “Are you forgiven?” Observe the parable of the prodigal; the father never says he forgives him. How could he frame his lips to say, “I forgive you”? You and I ought to walk in such a way as to assume forgiveness as a thing at the foot of the hill, while we are up at the heights. Let the music and dancing, the ring and the shoes tell me I am forgiven. So the Father treats the prodigal, and so the Spirit treats us in Ephesians 1.
He abounds towards us in all wisdom and knowledge, having opened to us the bosom secret all things gathered together in Christ. That is a secret never made known before. In the prophet Isaiah we get a beautiful picture of the millennial earth, but do we ever get the millennial heavens with Christ at their head? Did Isaiah ever say that all things in heaven and earth should be headed up in the glorified Man?
“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.” We are heirs with Him. And till the inheritance comes, we get the Holy Spirit. We get the Spirit here under two titles a seal and an earnest a seal of present salvation and an earnest of future inheritance. When I look at the place of the Holy Spirit, in the mystery of redemption, it is wonderful to see the official glories that attach to Him here on earth. In the Epistle to the Hebrews we have official glories of Christ. Here we are called to witness the official glories of the Holy Spirit in this dispensation. What a blessed, glorious thing to take the secrets of the divine bosom and make them known to us! To seal us by His presence as possessors of present salvation and to be the earnest of our inheritance!
“The purchased possession” here is the whole scene the whole creation. It is purchased, but not yet redeemed. The blood of Christ has purchased the creation as well as you, and while in that condition you have the Holy Spirit as an earnest. When it is redeemed you will be the heir of it. Are you redeemed yet? You are purchased, but you wait for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of your body, and that you will never get till God puts forth power as well as blood. The Apocalypse is the display of redemption; the gospel is the display of purchase, but the purchased thing is not redeemed (that is, fully redeemed) till God puts forth power to rescue it from the hands of the destroyer.
At verse 15 the Apostle ceases to be a teacher and becomes an intercessor and you will find that in prayer he never pulls down what, as a teacher, he had built up. Paul does not ask God to give them this and the other, but he asks Him that they may have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, that the eyes of their understanding may be enlightened. Oh for a better heart to know these things! If God has lit a candle, I will not ask Him to light it, but to take the film from my eyes that I may see what He has done, what this magnificent purpose is and the power that has brought us there. So he prays that you may have an eye to discern the brightness of the heavenly glory, and the resurrection power that has conducted you from such ruins to such glories.
J. G. Bellett (adapted)