“Because of God’s abundant grace we have our sins forgiven through the blood of Jesus. His imparted wisdom and discernment has allowed us to understand His hitherto hidden plan. In His perfect timing all human history, including everything in heaven and in earth, will be consummated in Christ. According to His preordained plan we have been made joint heirs. We who first trusted in Christ are destined through His divine design to carry out His purposes in order to enhance His glory.
When you first heard the truth of the Gospel you also believed and were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. The Spirit is a down payment of our future inheritance sent to fully redeem those He has purchased in order to manifest His glory.” (1:7-14, paraphrased)
Paul now elaborates on the blessings made available through Christ. In this section, the attention shifts from the work of the Father to that of the Son.
<> Jesus shed His blood for us (v. 7).
<> The plan of His salvation is both wise and prudent (v. 8).
<> The mystery of redemption is revealed to Believers (v. 9).
<> All things in the universe will culminate in Christ (v. 10).
<> We are made heirs through the Son (v. 11).
<> In Christ all our hopes are centered (v. 12).
The definition of “redemption” (apolytrosis) is “to release from servitude by payment of a ransom.” This includes emancipation from the slavery of sin and impending judgment (Rom. 3:24-26). All members of the Trinity are involved in redemption. The Father formulated the plan, the Son provided the vicarious sacrifice, and the Spirit verifies the result. The Father thereby retains His honor and does not compromise His holiness. God’s scales of justice are always balanced and accurate. Paul concludes the vicarious work of Christ is essential, expiatory, and effective.
The basic meaning of “forgiveness” (aphesis) is “to loose from bondage.” “Sins” is paraptoma and pictures a deviation from the right path. Forgiveness thus frees a person to walk the correct path of life. The phrases “redemption by His blood” and “the forgiveness of sins” are inseparably linked, for the atonement is the foundation of forgiveness.
Although pardon is not the sole benefit of the cross, it is the most prominent one. Jesus purchased our salvation two millennia ago, but bestows the effects of His expiatory sacrifice daily. Remission of sins produces a complete transformation of one’s moral condition and character.
God freely bestows His forgiveness to repentant hearts according to His rich and abundant grace. The Father’s magnanimous grace flows to the world through the blood sacrifice of His Son. The greater one’s concept of human depravity, the greater should be one’s appreciation of the grace extended to procure redemption.
God’s plan will succeed for it is formulated and carried out with great wisdom (Eph. 3:10). “Wisdom” (sophia) is a term for intellectual insight allowing individuals to comprehend spiritual truth. “Prudence” (phronesis) is the comprehension and practical application of the truth which promotes holy living. God wisely and prudently enables us to perceive, accept, and implement His will. Through God’s Word, those who are redeemed are enlightened regarding His futuristic and universal plans. Only a tremendous intellect could have devised a plan so fair, impartial, and perfectly suited to the needs of human beings throughout the world.
The word “mystery” (musterion) is a reoccurring term in Ephesians (5:32 & 6:19). In classical Greek musterion often refers to a secretive sect into which one must be initiated before completely comprehending its values. In the first century, devotees of various cults took oaths under pain of death never to reveal their secrets. However, Paul uses the term musterion to describe that which was previously hidden but is now disclosed. God wants the world to know about salvation through Christ.
Paul also employs musterion when referring to the inclusion of the Gentiles in the plan of salvation (3:3-6). On the day of Pentecost the distinction between Jews and Gentiles was abolished. But many years would pass before this revelation became an accepted doctrine. God’s superabundant wisdom is neither concealed from any nation nor confined to a particular ethnic group.
The concept of redemption is difficult to comprehend by those who are lost, for they can only be understood experientially. God’s purposes regarding redemption were shrouded until He chose to reveal them (Eph. 2:13-16). The benefits of salvation are now deliberately and purposefully made known that men might be saved through faith in Jesus (v. 18).
God has placed the management of the universe in the hands of His Son, for the Father’s plans are carried out through Him. Furthermore, His plans are devised and executed without the counsel of man. God keeps His own calendar and timetable. The global success of the Father’s plan is a testimony to His omniscience. His “good pleasure” suggests He took great delight in planning global redemption.
The term “dispensation” (oikonomia) is “the management and arrangement of household affairs; the administration and stewardship of carefully-defined plans.” It is used here to describe God’s governance of the universe. The Father has designed and implemented His plan according to His own agenda. The “fullness of time” is the era of history when the Gospel age commenced. The incarnation of Christ took place on schedule. When the Messianic age was inaugurated, the far-reaching effects of the Gospel began to manifest in accordance with Bible prophecy. This dispensation will reach its consummation when Christ returns. The scope of this verse extends into the Millennium, for only then will divine purposes be completely revealed. God governs, regulates, and moves His universe toward a glorious climax. Christ and His Church are the centerpiece of these events.
The fall of man and his subsequent moral depravity has resulted in cosmic chaos. The plan of God anticipates a restoration to the former condition of perfect unity and harmony that existed prior to Eden. In a manner not yet fully revealed, the rejuvenation of the universe is tied to redemption through Christ (Rom. 8:19-23). In the final era of human affairs all things will be recapitulated in Him as the focal point of history.
Heaven and earth will eventually become one unified kingdom under the lordship of Christ (Rev. 22:17). The day is coming when those in heaven and the redeemed on earth will be harmoniously united. The universe will one day be cleansed for the horrific effects of sin. All will be brought under His control and a new order will be established in which righteousness prevails (II Pet. 3:13). The concept of “gathering everything together in Christ” affirms human events are steadily moving toward this final restoration. In the meantime, individuals must choose between viewing the universe through the hazy filter of humanism or accept the crystal-clear truth of the Gospel.
While the redeemed are heirs of heaven they are also God’s heritage. Paul uses the term “we” for the Jewish Christians were the first to accept Christ as the Messiah. Believers are predestined to receive an inheritance by reason of adoption into God’s family (Eph. 1:5).
God neither consults His creatures regarding His plans, nor does He conform to their ideals. The Lord needs no advice from those He has created. Eternal purposes are formed by God alone and progress regardless of human reason, time, or changing circumstances.
Paul includes himself with his co-workers by the use of the word “we.” These riches are lavished upon the Jewish Christians who “first trusted in Christ.” “We” also includes Old Testament Believers who anticipated the arrival of their Messiah. “Trusted” is better translated “hoped.” This hope was born first in the heart of Abraham and kept alive through the prophets.
God has ordained that praise celebrating His glory will be the crowning achievement of man’s redemption. The final fulfillment and accomplishment of God’s purposes will result in worship throughout eternity. God’s plan for ethnic inclusiveness is a lighthouse, allowing the world to view Christians as “living epistles, known and read by all men” (II Cor. 3:2).
Paul transitions from “we” (Jews) in the previous verse to “ye” (Gentiles) as he elaborates on the privileges enjoyed by all Believers. The Gentiles are not an afterthought but have always been a part of God’s redemptive plan. His Kingdom contains no second-class citizens.
The apostle lists three phases of the salvation process. One hears, believes, and is then indwelt by the Spirit of God. It is the Spirit which sparks faith and motivates the soul to accept Jesus. The Ephesians had not only heard the Word of God, they had acted upon it (Rom. 10:17). The Holy Spirit continues to affirm Christ in the heart of every Believer (Rom. 8:16).
On Paul’s third missionary journey, he passed through upper Asia Minor and arrived at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-6). There he found disciples of John the Baptist who had not yet received the fullness of the Holy Spirit. When asked if they had been baptized in the Spirit, they said they had never heard of Him. After explaining salvation to them they are baptized in water. Then the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. They received the initial evidence that the work of the Spirit had begun within them. It is noteworthy that the Ephesians had experiential knowledge of the Spirit three decades before Paul wrote them this letter.
A “seal” (sphragis) is a mark of authenticity or a stamp signifying ownership. It distinguishes between the genuine and the fraudulent. Letters are sometimes sealed with a special stamp to identify the sender. A corporate seal is unique to a particular organization. The act of sealing necessitates direct contact with that which is sealed. When one accepts Christ, he or she is “sealed” as His property. The Holy Spirit is our direct connection with Christ, constantly assuring us that we belong to Him. An unrepentant heart cannot receive this seal. Internally the Spirit affirms my salvation while externally my lifestyle verifies His life within me.
We are not sealed by circumcision, water baptism, or the Lord’s Supper. The Spirit of God seals us until the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30). God does not “stamp” the image of the Spirit on the soul of the Believer: the Spirit Himself is the seal. He is called the Spirit of Promise, for the Old Testament prophets predicted His arrival (Joel 2:28-29). The Spirit is pledged by Jesus to be the Believer’s Comforter after the ascension (Jn. 7:39; 14:16-18). This promise is fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4).
Paul’s only uses the term “earnest” (arrabon) in connection with the Holy Spirit (II Cor. 1:22 & Eph. 5:5). The Spirit actually seals our redemption. Arrabon is a term borrowed from the world of commerce. Earnest money is a deposit, a token payment, a pledge, a guarantee that a complete payment will later be made. The same term is used in reference to an engagement ring. He who gives the ring expects to receive the bride. The Spirit is “deposited” within us to help us understand and complete the work God has begun. He reveals Christ to us, convicts us of sin, provides constant assurance, and directs our steps in the path of obedience and holy living. The Spirit is God’s guarantee of future blessings, allowing us a foretaste of heaven before we get there (Rom. 8:23).
The redeemed Church and all creation are destined to be eternally liberated from the corruption sin has caused. The Church is the “purchased possession” of Christ, for He has bought us with His own blood. The Spirit will carry the Church on through the Millennium and into the realm of complete and universal redemption. The global exhibition of His redemptive plan is the highest tribute to His excellence and glory. Because our new position in Christ remains constant throughout eternity, the Spirit’s work within us will culminate in eternal praise to God.
Points to Ponder
1. Paraphrase I Peter 1:18-19. Describe the cost of your redemption.
2. Discuss the present day application of the following verses:
3. What does James declare to be the source of all wisdom (James 1:5)?
4. What phrase is repeated four times in Psalm 107: 8, 15, 21 & 31?
How does this verse correlate with Ephesians 1:7-8 and 3:10?
5. Compare and contrast Romans 11:33 with Ephesians 1:8. What similar concepts are expressed?
6. In Romans 11:34 and Ephesians 1:9, what concept is similar?
7. Paraphrase I Peter 2:24. What does this verse teach concerning the impact of redemption in the life of an individual?
8. What does Romans 8:17 tells us regarding our inheritance? What is necessary in order to partake of this inheritance?
9. Explain the part the Word of God plays in redemption (Jas. 1:21).
10. List those things that define the life of a Spirit-filled Believer (Gal. 5:22-24).