X Close Menu

Ephesians 1:7-14

I.               God's Church: Its Theological Foundations (the Indicative) 1:1-3:21

A.             Prologue 1:1-2

1.              author 1:1a

2.              addressees 1:1b

3.              greetings 1:2

B.             Praise 1:3-14

1.              the extent of our spiritual blessings 1:3

2.              the essence of our spiritual blessings 1:4-14

a.              election by the Father 1:4-6

b.              redemption by the Son 1:7-12

c.              sealing by the Spirit 1:13-14

C.             Prayer 1:15-23

Having examined the first stanza of Paul's hymn of praise, one that pertained to God the Father, we now turn to stanzas two and three, the former focusing on the Son and the latter on the Spirit.

b.              redemption by the Son 1:7-12

1)             the character of our redemption 1:7

a)             its meaning v. 7a

The term translated 'redemption (apolutrosis) occurs 10x in the NT and means release or deliverance from a state of slavery by the payment of a ransom. See Mt. 20:28. The OT background for this concept is found in God's 'redemption or 'deliverance of Israel from Egypt (see Ex. 21:8; Lev. 25:48; Dt. 7:8; 9:26; 13:5; 15:15). Redemption is actually three-fold: past (at the time of Christ's death; Heb. 9:12,15); present (in the sense that it is a possession we now have; this is the emphasis of Eph. 1:7; see also Rom. 3:24; 1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:14); and future (final deliverance = glorification of the body; Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:14; 4:30).

Note again that redemption is inextricably bound up with and inseparable from Jesus ('in whom we have redemption). Thus, apart from Jesus there is no redemption. Period.

b)             its means v. 7b

The means by which we are redeemed from the slavery of sin is 'the blood of Christ. Redemption is not the product of divine fiat. God cannot simply 'will redemption into being. It is possible only via a substitutionary sacrifice, an atoning ransom that propitiates the righteous wrath of God. See esp. 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23 for emphasis on the purchase 'price.

c)             its substance v. 7c

Here 'the forgiveness of sins stands in apposition to redemption, i.e., redemption = forgiveness of sins. The latter concept is rare in Paul but frequent in Acts (Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18). To be forgiven means to be released from legal liability to endure the punishment that sin and its guilt require.

d)             its source v. 7d

Note well: the 'blood of Christ and 'the riches of God's grace are not antithetical! The former is indeed the manifestation of the latter. Christ's shed blood is grace! The term translated 'wealth or 'riches in v. 7 and the verb 'lavished in v. 8 speak of incalculable abundance and extravagance in God's kindness toward sinners.

2)             the consequences of our redemption 1:8-12

a)             the grace of God by which we were and are and shall be redeemed in Christ has brought to us yet further blessing, namely, the revelation of the mystery of God's will vv. 8-10

1.              accompanying the bestowal of this grace are the gifts of wisdom and understanding whereby we are enabled to perceive and appreciate the revelation of God's will v. 8

There are three possible interpretations:

(1)          'wisdom and understanding are descriptive of the manner in which God has caused grace to abound to us; in other words, they are connected with the preceding verb in v. 8 ('he lavished upon us [NASB]);

(2)          'wisdom and understanding are connected with the following participle ('having made known) in v. 9; hence, 'the qualities referred to are therefore indispensable requisites to the publication of a mystery (Eadie, 46); i.e., the words define the method in which the mystery is disclosed (hence, 'God wisely and in an understandable way made known to us the mystery of his will, or some such paraphrase);

(3)          'wisdom and understanding are gifts which accompany the bestowal of grace, gifts which make possible the perception of his will which the following verses proceed to define. See 1:17; Col. 1:9. If the latter is correct, Paul's point is that God's lavish grace not only provides redemption but also the necessary wisdom and spiritual insight to understand and live in the light of what he has done for us in Christ.

2.              this bestowal of God's grace consists in a revelation or making known to us of the mystery of God's will v. 9a

The participle translated 'having made known describes an action that takes place simultaneously with the pouring out of grace. The verb used here is regularly used in connection with divine revelation (Rom. 16:26; Eph. 3:3,5,10; Col. 1:27).

As for mystery, 'it is not something unknowable, but something unknown till fitting disclosure has been made of it; something long hid, but at length discovered to us by God, and therefore a matter of pure revelation (Eadie, 49).

3.              this revelation of God's will was according to or on the basis of his sovereign good pleasure v. 9b

That we know anything at all is itself an act of sovereign grace. In this instance, there is no such thing as 'the public's right to know!

4.              the mystery of God's will consists in his purpose to reunite all things in Christ v. 10

As Best says, 'believers, foreordained and already possessing their deliverance, are now told about the secret of the ultimate destiny of the cosmos (133). The mystery 'which has been disclosed to believers in accordance with God's purpose for history is his summing up of all things in Christ (Lincoln, 32). The verb translated 'summing up means either 'to renew, arrange under one head, reduce to one sum, or 'to reunify, re-establish harmony where discord and chaos and division once existed (cf. Col. 1:19-20). The idea is that the discordant and disintegrating elements in the creative realm will be renewed and unified under the Lordship of Jesus. Everything will be brought into submission to his will and subservience to his glory.

a.              this reunification of all things in Christ is a plan or administration which takes effect at the appropriate time v. 10a

Note the word oikonomia = (1) the act of administering; or (2) that which is administered, an arrangement or plan; or (2) special duty or assigned task within a household; i.e., a person's stewardship. (1) is probably most accurate. That which is being administered by God is the fullness of the times. God will, in fact, orchestrate and administer the events and direction and course of history to bring about his ultimate purpose. What he wants to happen will happen when it is the right time for it to happen, culminating in the achievement of God's purpose. As F. F. Bruce put it, when the time is ripe for 'the consummation of his purpose, in his providential overruling of the course of the world, that consummation will be realized (262).

b.              the objects of this reunification in Christ are all things, whether in heaven or on earth v. 10b

The 'all things which require 'summing up in Christ include:

*          the inanimate creation (Rom. 8:18-23; 2 Pt. 3:13); consider the hostility between the animal world and humanity; also the terrors of natural phenomena such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, etc.

*          the elect (soteriological reconciliation)

*          the unfallen angelic host (their ministry to us brings them into contact with the sin and evil of this world)

*          the fallen demonic host and the unsaved, non-elect (Eph. 6:12; see esp. 1 Cor. 15:24-25).

So-called 'reconciliation and 'reunification of the fallen, unsaved world of sentient beings entails their non-salvific subjugation and conquest. Christ's work was to create peace and harmony, to restore what was lost and corrupted by Adam. He does so in one of two ways: (1) by removal of hostility and corruption through redemptive and forgiving grace; and (2) by pacification through power (i.e., conquest).

Herman Bavinck:

'Round about us we observe so many facts which seem to be unreasonable, so much undeserved suffering [such as child abuse], so many unaccountable calamities, such an uneven and inexplicable distribution of destiny, and such an enormous contrast between the extremes of joy and sorrow, that anyone reflecting on these things is forced to choose between viewing this universe as if it were governed by the blind will of an unbenign deity, as is done by pessimism, or, upon the basis of Scripture and by faith, to rest in the absolute and sovereign, yet however incomprehensible wise and holy will of him who will one day cause the full light of heaven to dawn upon these mysteries of life (quoted by Hendriksen, 87).

b)             yet another blessing by virtue of our redemption in Christ is the inheritance which either (1) we are, or (2) we have received vv. 11-12

1.              its character v. 11a

Again there are several interpretive possibilities: (1) it may be translated 'we have obtained an inheritance (see Col. 1:12; Eph. 1:14a); (2) it may be translated as a simple passive: 'we were chosen or appointed by lot; or (3) it may mean, 'we were made to be an inheritance, namely, God's inheritance. For the latter idea, quite common in the OT (where Israel is described as God's 'lot or 'chosen portion), see Ps. 33:12; Deut. 9:29; 32:8-9. In favor of (1) is the reference to 'adoption in v. 5. I incline toward view (3), namely, that we have been allotted to God as his inheritance.

2.              its cause v. 11b

This predestinating God works all things according to the counsel of his will. 'Will = sovereign volition. 'Counsel = divine plan springing therefrom. 'Purpose = the design or aim of the plan. Again (cf. v. 5) we see that our destiny as the Lord's personal possession is the product of his predestinating will.

3.              its goal v. 12

Once again we see that the ultimate end or aim of God's omnipotent oversight of all things is that his glory might be praised, extolled, adored, and enjoyed. But note well: it is not simply a plan or a purpose or an event but 'we who are to be to the praise of his glory. In the final analysis it is redeemed people who most honor God.

Note the switch from 'we in v. 12 to 'you in v. 13. Note also the verb translated 'first to hope. Some believe this suggests that Paul has in mind Jewish believers in v. 12 as over against Gentile believers. They were the 'first to hope in Jesus in the sense that prior to his advent and prior to Gentile inclusion in the saving purpose of God, OT saints had set their sight, their hope on the Messiah. Or perhaps the reference is to the historical priority of the Jews in terms of hearing the gospel message (Rom. 1:16; 2:10). If this view is correct, then vv. 13-14 should be interpreted as Paul's quick rejoinder that Gentiles, nonetheless, are equal in spiritual privilege to Jewish Christians, as evidence by their having been sealed with the Spirit when they believed. Others contend with equal force that 'we and 'us refers to all believers and not particularly to Jewish believers. If a change in subject were intended it seems that Paul would have made this clear, as he does in 2:11 where he introduces the theme of Jew-Gentile relationship in the church. Also, one could as easily translate the verb 'already hoped rather than 'first to hope.

c.              sealing by the Spirit 1:13-14

1)             All Christians (Jew and Gentile alike) have received an inheritance and were sealed with the Spirit when they believed 1:13

An ellipsis has occurred in v. 13 'in whom you also [have received an inheritance, or, were made to be an inheritance] . . .

Spiritual Sealing

*          Its meaning (1) to authenticate (John 3:33; 6:27; 1 Cor. 9:2) or confirm as genuine and true, including the idea that what is sealed is stamped with the character of its owner; (2) to designate or mark out as one's property; to declare and signify ownership (see Rev. 7:3-8; 9:4); (3) to render secure or to establish (i.e., protect; cf. Eph. 4:30; Mt. 27:66; Rev. 20:3)

*          Its instrument With what are we sealed? The HS. It isn't so much that the Spirit does the sealing as the Spirit is the seal. Hence, sealing = the reception and consequent indwelling of the HS.

*          Its sphere In regard to whom are we sealed? Christ ('in whom)

*          Its time When were we sealed? The Reformed Sealers (e.g., Richard Sibbes, Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, and in our day, Martyn Lloyd-Jones) sought to identify spirit-baptism with the 'sealing of the Holy Spirit described in Eph. 1:13. I have no major problem with that, but they believed it to be an experiential event subsequent to regeneration (and therefore to be sought) that brings a profound, inner, direct, assurance of salvation (as over against a syllogistic assurance which one deduces from the fact that one believes). It also produces power for ministry and witness, joy, and a sense of God's glorious presence. These men make no connection between baptism in the Spirit and the charismatic gifts. Indeed, aside from Lloyd-Jones, the Reformed Sealers were all cessationists (i.e., they believed that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit ceased when the original apostles died; see Martyn Lloyd-Jones' book Joy Unspeakable: Power & Renewal in the Holy Spirit [Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1984]).

The dispute, then, is over how we are to understand the relationship between "believing" (lit., 'having believed [an aorist participle]) and "sealing" (lit., 'you were sealed [the main verb]). Should we translate it, "after believing (or 'since you believed), you were sealed," in which case sealing is indeed separate from and subsequent to saving faith (conversion)? Or should we translate it, "when you believed, you were sealed," in which case sealing and believing are simultaneous? Grammatically speaking, one can find evidence for both usages in the NT (although "when you believed" is more probable; see esp. Acts 19:2). Fee is inclined to think that believing is indeed antecedent to sealing, but, he says, "the two verbs have nothing to do with separate and distinct experiences of faith. Rather, the one ('having believed [in Christ]' logically precedes the other ('you were sealed'); but from Paul's perspective these are two sides of the same coin" (670). So, whereas there may be a basis for equating the "sealing" of the Spirit with the "baptism" in the Spirit, there is no basis for making the latter a separate and subsequent event that brings an extraordinary anointing or experiential empowering.

2)             this same Holy Spirit is the down payment or pledge of our inheritance 1:14

The word 'pledge or 'earnest refers to a portion of the total purchase price paid in advance as a promise that the full payment will come in due course. According to Eadie,

'It is the token that the whole sum stipulated for will be given when the term of service expires. The earnest is not withdrawn, but is supplemented at the appointed period, . . . But the earnest, though it differ in degree, is the same in kind with the prospective inheritance. The earnest is not withdrawn, nor a totally new circle of possessions substituted. Heaven is but an addition to present enjoyments. Knowledge in heaven is but a development of what is enjoyed on earth; its holiness is but the purity of time elevated and perfected; and its happiness is no new fountain opened in the sanctified bosom, but only the expansion and refinement of those susceptibilities which were first awakened on earth by confidence in the Divine redeemer. The earnest, in short, is the 'inheritance' in miniature, and it is also a pledge that the inheritance shall be ultimately and fully enjoyed (Eadie, 67-8).

See 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5. In giving the Holy Spirit to us God is not simply promising us our final inheritance but actually providing us with a foretaste of it, even if it is only a small fraction of the future endowment' (O'Brien, 121).

This sealing extends until the final 'redemption of the possession. Does this refer to believers' possession of the promised blessings? Or does it refer to God's possession of believers? Probably the latter, as in v. 11. See Ex. 19:5; 23:22; Dt. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; Isa. 43:20-21; Mal. 3:17; 1 Pt. 2:9; Titus 2:14; Acts 20:28.

Note finally that the Spirit is called the Holy Spirit 'of promise. That is to say, the Spirit is himself that which the OT promised would be given in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. See Gal. 3:14 (and Acts 2:17).