Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians is one of the four “prison epistles” that he wrote while imprisoned by the Romans (the other three being Philippians, Colossians and Philemon). Paul established the church there on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:18-21) and returned on his third missionary journey, staying for two years (Acts 19). and said a tearful farewell to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:17-38.
In chapter one, he begins with his signature greeting; and speaks in verses 4-12 of their (and his) “adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” This does not mean that certain people are selected by God to be saved, and certain others to be condemned, no matter what they do. The Lord predestined His chosen people – the ones who serve Him – to be saved. Whether we wish to be part of that blessing is our choice to make. Coffman’s commentary says it well:
“Inherent in this is the fact of God’s calling and electing people before the foundation of the world; and very few theological questions have demanded more attention and interest than this. Clearly revealed in this is the fact that the coming of Jesus Christ into the world for the purpose of taking out of it a people for himself and redeeming them unto eternal life was no afterthought on God’s part. Before the world was ever created, the divine plan of the Son of God’s visitation of the human family existed in the eternal purpose of God. That body that Christ would gather from the populations of earth is destined to receive eternal life; because what God purposes is certain of fulfillment. Such a calling and election of those “in Christ” to receive eternal glory, however, is not capricious. Every man may decide if he will or will not become a part of it and receive the intended blessing.”
Regarding verse 9’s use of the word mystery, there is more in Ephesians 3:3 and 1 Timothy 3:16. But Coffman’s comments on this as well are salient: “The New Testament use of the term ‘mystery’ is not very closely related to the modern use of the word, conveying instead the meaning of a secret once unknown, now revealed. Mackay called it ‘God’s unveiled secret.”
Paul commends them for their faith in Jesus, and declares the ultimate authority of Jesus Christ as the “head” of the church, speaking of it as a spiritual body (verses 15-32).
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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