Ephesians 1:12

Here is my commentary on Ephesians 1:12. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site.

Ephesians 1:12

… we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of His glory.

The “we” in this verse is widely believed to be the Jewish believers in Christ as opposed to the “you” in the next verse which refers to the Gentile believers in Ephesus. Some translations actually add the word “Jews” in this verse, even though it is not explicitly given in the original.

The first believers were Jewish, and it took some major revelations for Peter, Paul and the other apostles to realise that the gospel was for all people, and not just for the Jews.

These first believers put their hope in Christ. They realised that He was the Messiah long foretold by the prophets.

Their hope in Christ was firstly for salvation. They knew that they were sinners needing forgiveness because they could not keep the Law.

The Law as it was written was exacting enough, but Jesus made the heart of men the heart of the Law. Jesus said that an angry insult was like murder and a lascivious look was like adultery. Sin starts in the heart long before it comes out in an action.

They recognised that Jesus is the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

The Jewish believers were also looking for the salvation of Israel. Every Jew at that time longed for God’s Messiah to come and redeem Israel, setting them free from Roman occupation. There were countless attempted insurrections, but they were all put down with ruthless efficiency.

Jesus talked often about the Kingdom of God. It wasn’t until the Day of Pentecost, when the disciples received the Holy Spirit, that they realised that God’s Kingdom was not about a country on earth but something much bigger.

These first Jewish christians, according to Paul, were destined and appointed.

To be destined suggests that they were in a path or trajectory which they had no way of choosing. Before they were born, before the beginning of the world even, God set events in place that meant these people were on a particular path determined by Him. They were living in a kairos moment, and God had plans for them.

To be appointed suggests that they were chosen for a task and given authority to do it. Of all the christians and of all the Jews in history, these particular men and women have been chosen for a task and given authority by God Himself.

Their destiny, then, was not a blind force propelling them along the current of history. This is not “fate” or “karma” or “The Force” or any other term used by people to suggest an implacable, impersonal process that runs the universe. They were appointed by God the Father for this role.

That role is to live for God’s praise and glory. The phrase “to live for the praise of his glory” can be equally translated as “to live for his glory and praise.”

These Jewish believers, the first generation of believers, were assigned a task that is common to all believers in all time periods. We have been set apart to live for God’s glory.

In the Old Testament, the priests and Levites were set apart (or “appointed”) to live for God’s glory. They didn’t stop being priests when they left the Temple. Their whole life was appointed for God’s glory.

All christians are set apart- appointed- to give praise and glory to God. Our lives are meant to be a witness or a testimony of what God has done in our lives through Jesus Christ.

When I walk in humble obedience to God, I am living for His praise and glory. My every word and action should show people “This is what God looks like.” Jesus said, “Let your light shine before people that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). When we live for God, we bring glory and praise to Him.

These Jews who first hoped in Christ had a particular role. They were the first generation of disciples. They represented the redemption of Israel to the world and the redemption of the world to Israel.

Israel was established as a beach head for heaven’s invasion of earth. It was intended to be a light shining in a world corrupted by sin. It would show the world what it is like to live in holiness and in fellowship with God.

Israel failed in its purpose. Rather than being light in the darkness it became corrupted by sin. The Jewish christians were a sign to the world that in Christ the purpose of Israel was fulfilled.

Likewise, these same Jewish christians were a sign to Israel that its redemption had arrived and the salvation of the world, including Israel, was at hand.

Key points from this verse:

  • The first Jewish christians were chosen by God
  • Their role was to live for the praise and glory of God
  • Our role is exactly the same- to live for the praise and glory of God.

Ephesians 1:11

Here is my commentary on Ephesians 1:11. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site.

Ephesians 1:11

In him we are chosen, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.

It is hard to know who the “him” and the “his” refer to in this verse. Right through the chapter the subject is God the Father.

In God we were chosen (“Predestined” in the NIV) according to God’s purpose.

We were chosen. At first glance this would suggest the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. According to this doctrine, only some are chosen out of the whole of humanity, and it was only for those chosen ones that Christ died. Those chosen ones were “predestined” – that is qualified for heaven- before time began.

But God is bigger and more gracious than that. Jesus died for the whole of the human race. “God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son.” (John 3:16) In that sense every person is “chosen”, but only those who receive Christ are in the Kingdom and share in eternal life.

We are chosen according to God’s purposes. He has a course for every person’s life, a path that He wants us to follow. That includes the saved and the unsaved alike.

We have all been created for the purpose of praising God and glorifying Him. The highest expression of that purpose is when we willingly and thankfully follow Christ, walking in the path of redemption and the process of becoming holy as God is holy.

Even those who are opposed to God’s purposes fulfil His purposes. Those who reject the way of Christ are still made in the image of God. Though reluctantly, they show the glory of God in the same way that the rocks and the stars sing praise to the Almighty.

At a deeper level, those of us who are saved and rejoice in Christ are a part of God’s purposes in redeeming creation. As we bear witness or testify to the power and glory of the gospel, more and more people are saved. The time will come when all people will be transformed by the Good News, and the mission work of the church will be completed.

It is hard to imagine what it would be like for the whole world to be under the Kingly reign of Christ, but that is God’s purpose for us.

God accomplishes all things in conformity to His will. God has purpose and will achieve it. He accomplishes all things. Nothing slips past Him as if it takes Him by surprise. “I never saw that coming” is not in His vocabulary.

He accomplishes all things. He always gets everything done that He intended. In that sense the broken world in which we live, with all its violence and sinfulness, is designed to achieve His purposes. Not that God is responsible for sin, but that He uses it.

We have to conclude that His purposes include raising a Kingdom of people who, though born in sin, raised in an environment of sin and constantly surrounded by sin, nevertheless still choose to follow Him and prefer righteousness.

Only humans, a breed of creatures who are both physical and spiritual, could achieve this. Only men and women can apprehend the glory of a God able to redeem them from sin. We are the chosen ones.

God accomplishes all things in conformity to His will. He has plan and purpose, and His deeds are directed by His purpose. This is Good News. It means that nothing is random or meaningless. God’s purpose is always present.

Evolutionists and cosmologists talk of random events- galaxies, mutations, big bangs and so on. Ascribing phenomena to randomness only indicates that we cannot see the whole picture. Our minds are too small to contain God’s purpose. This is especially true in science which consciously excludes God and is forced to insert randomness instead.

This is true of our lives. We see the idea of a random event and a random person as a way to explain this event and that person. Even the deepest tragedy is not random. It is not sent by God but it may be used by God in His purpose.

Key points in this verse:

  • We are chosen by God
  • We have a purpose- God’s purpose
  • Nothing is random

Ephesians 1:10

Here is my commentary on Ephesians 1:10. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site.

Ephesians 1:10

… as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

The fulfilment of God’s plan is a unity of heaven and earth. In the previous verse we read of God’s will and God’s purpose. Now we read of God’s plan.

This world is not blindly evolving by chance and random mutation. The events of history are not meaningless. Our lives are not driven by fortune and misfortune.

God is behind all of these things. It does not matter whether you believe the world was made 6 thousand years ago or 6 billion years ago. It is God who made it and continues to shape it all for His purposes.

Political leaders may manipulate nations for their own aggrandisement, but they are on a leash that is held by the hand of the Lord.

If we feel that our personal life is out of control, we should remember that God is in control of all things.

He is working on a plan that began before time and involves a Kingdom of people who will worship God and serve Him to His glory.

It is not that we are like pawns pushed around on a chessboard. No, we have agency and will. We are accountable for what we do, but God weaves the will of countless millions of people into His plan.

This plan is a plan for the fullness of time. The word for time is kairos which means the appointed time. There is a time for planting and a time for reaping. These are appointed times.

Jesus was born at a kairos time and died at a kairos time

There is a time appointed by God for things to happen. The kairos times are the critical times, the moments of destiny.

And God has a time for the most appointed of all times, the fullness of kairos, the time of the end of this present age.

At that time the fulfilment, the climax, the end point of all of God’s plans will occur. This is the end point or destiny of everything, the whole purpose of the created order.

On that day (or time), all things will be united in Christ. The whole of creation will find its purpose in Christ.

This is a reversal of the Fall. When Adam and Eve sinned, one result was that creation became opposed, or at least resistant to people’s attempts to harmonise it. Until then Adam and Eve had a garden to tend, but after their sin everything was held back by thorns and thistles.

So on that day, all thing will again be united in Christ. The world will no longer threaten human beings.

As I write this the world is enthralled by a drama of 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in a cave. The oncoming monsoon rains threaten to make their rescue more difficult. In Japan at the same time there are floods which have killed many people and destroyed whole towns. In Australia we are enduring a long drought.

In each of these situations, the natural order Is opposed to human well being. Even as we pray for relief, nature resists.

But in the fullness of time, this will no longer happen. People and the whole of the created order will be under the reign of Christ,

This raises the issue of judgement. It is Christ who will rule the re-created order. We will be united “in Christ.” Jesus assured us that even the rocks and stones will praise Him.

What of those who refuse to be “in Christ”? What of those who, because of their broken desires, have no wish to be united with “all things” in Christ?

They will not and cannot be a part of the unity of all things in Christ. There will be a Judgement where the sheep are separated from the goats and the weeds from the wheat. Those who exclude themselves from Christ in this age will be excluded from Him in the age to come.

Paul mentions two realms in particular that will once again be united- the heavens and the earth. The implications of this are hard to imagine

The heavenly realm is the place where God and His angels dwell. People are created to dwell in both the physical or earthly realm and the heavenly realm. We are body and spirit.

Sin blinds us to the reality of heaven. We know that God is there, even that He is in us after our conversion. We can conceive of the reality of heaven, but we can only see it through a very dark and distorted lens.

On the other hand, we see, feel, smell, hear and taste very clearly the physical environment- so much so that it often feels that it is the only part that matters.

At the moment, we perceive the spiritual reality by faith which is the confident trust in God. At the fulfilment of God’s plan, in the fullness of kairos time, all things in heaven and earth will be reunited. At last we will see God face to face and we will see all the spiritual realities as clearly as we now see the physical reality.

What a day that will be!

Key points in this verse:

  • God has a plan and a purpose
  • All things will be united n Christ
  • This will happen in the fullness of God’s appointed time

Ephesians 1:9

Here is my commentary on Ephesians 1:9. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site.

Ephesians 1:9

“For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will , according to His purpose which He set forth in Christ.”

God has given us knowledge of His will and purpose in Christ.

Knowledge was important to the Greeks and to many in that culture. People still say to this day, “Knowledge is power.”

This applies not just to the human realm but also to the spiritual realm.

The early church faced multiple threats to its theology from groups collectively called Gnostics to whom knowledge was eternal life. There were many Gnostic sects which blended elements of various religious systems, but they had a common thread. The basic belief was that the physical world is evil and the heavens are pure, and we can only be redeemed by secret knowledge (gnosis) which allows us to ascend by a series of intermediaries of which Christ is just one. This knowledge is hidden from ordinary people (mystery), but this teacher or this group will lead you to knowledge and enlightenment.

Paul cuts down that line of thinking by saying God has made known to us these hidden mysteries and His plan and purpose in the person of Christ. We don’t need any more knowledge, wisdom or insight because Christ Himself is the revelation.

The mystery of God’s will is something that Paul writes about quite often. The word mystery means there is something that was in the past secret and unknowable about salvation, but this has now been revealed. The Jewish people had some understanding, but the revelation they had was not complete.

Now in Christ we have the full revelation, the unveiling of the mystery, the explanation of God’s purpose that was hidden for so long.

In Christ we have knowledge; the explanation and description of who God is and how we can be put right with Him.

There is no need for other knowledge, the Gnostic “knowledge”, because we have Christ to show us. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Whoever sees Him sees the Father. Whoever follows Jesus as Lord is granted entry into God’s Kingdom.

In Christ we have full wisdom. The Greeks pursued philosophy which is literally the love of wisdom. Wisdom would give them mastery of themselves and their destiny.

The problem with philosophy is that every team comes up with different answers. One team would say that you must deny the fleshly desires and live a frugal life. Another team would say that the best life is one in which we enjoy every good thing. Yet another team would say that wisdom comes when we learn to patiently endure all things in life whether good or bad.

Jesus’ message is all wisdom. “The Kingdom of God is here. Turn away from your sins and follow me.” This wisdom not only orders our earthly life, but guarantees eternal life to all who will follow Him.

In Christ we have true insight- the word here actually means a frame of reference. Christ sets all of our thinking right. He is the centre of our world-view. Since this is actually God’s perspective, that means that all of our thoughts about ourselves, about God, and about other people now line up with those of the Creator. We have a true world-view, a correct frame of reference, a clear lens through which to view the world around us.

In the past everything was “mystery”, hidden from us and unable to be discerned except through a lens that was distorted and out of focus. Now, in Christ, we see all things clearly.

All of this is according to God’s purpose set forth in Christ. There is a Kingdom that is world-wide in scope, bringing every person under its reign. Jews and Gentiles are to be united in their worship of the Lord and in their work for Him. One race swearing allegiance to Christ.

Christ’s purpose was not just to save some individuals, important as that is, but to bring all things in unity under Him, and then at the end to present it all to the Father.

Key points in this verse:

  • God has given us all revelation in Christ.
  • There is no need for secret knowledge to gain salvation
  • Christ is all we need.
  • There is a huge plan that is coming to fruition in Christ,

Ephesians 1:8

Ephesians 1:8

Here is my commentary on Ephesians 1:8. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site.

“that he lavished on us in all wisdom and understanding”

God has “lavished” His grace upon us. The word “lavish” always makes me think of a child pouring outrageous amounts of topping on her ice cream. It is generous, abundant, and over-indulgent.

God does not give us just enough grace to live this life and then scrape into heaven by the skin of our teeth. His grace is lavished upon us – abundantly, pressed down and running over.

God pours out His grace, which is His love, mercy and provision of supernatural ability. With God there is always more than enough.

The feast in heaven is a wedding feast, a celebration with an abundance of food, drink and dancing. There is joy in God’s Kingdom because God lavishes His grace.

No holding back! It is all full on with God’s grace.

The awesome power of the world’s great waterfalls illustrate this. The water at Niagara Falls in America or Victoria Falls in Africa goes on for ever. It is limitless in its volume, and it falls with power over the edge of a mountain.

My local equivalent is called “Dripping Rock” where water flows after rain, and even in drought there is still a drip of water.

We often think of God’s grace as like Dripping Rock- a scarce quantity doled out to those who are good. But God’s grace is Niagara, where you get a good soaking even if you don’t deserve it because that is the nature of grace.

This grace is lavished in all wisdom and understanding. It is not a foolish act, although it may seem so.

God loves all people, even those who are set against Him. He wants them to be reconciled to Him so He pours Himself- His grace, love and mercy- into them. He knows that if we can only see His heart of love, some will turn to Him. That is not an expense it is an investment.

We were once alienated from God by our guilt and fear of judgement. He sent Jesus to pay the price of our sins and to declare an amnesty. Our sins are forgiven. Now we can come to Him not as Judge but as Father.

Who would have thought of such a plan but God who is Wisdom? He gave us a way back to Him, a plan for salvation, a way of reconciliation.

Wisdom is the ability to find the best way in life’s decisions. Whenever we make choices, we choose between options which either build us and others up or else pull others and ourselves down. Wisdom allows us to see consequences of choices, and to prefer the best for others as well as ourselves.

Understanding is the ability to take hold of information and see why. There is a difference between a child who memorises a series of movements and one who dances. There is a difference between a person who memorises a mathematical proof and one who sees why it is important.

The Lord lavishes grace upon us with wisdom and understanding. He sees the thirst in our souls for Him, and He gives Himself to us.

Key points from this verse:

  • There is no limit to God’s grace
  • God holds nothing back from us
  • God lavishes His grace with wisdom and understanding

Ephesians 1:7

Here is my commentary on Ephesians 1:7. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site.

Ephesians 1:7

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”

In Christ we have redemption. Paul could have written “through Christ”, but he uses the word “in”. We have to be “in Christ,” that is taken into His being, His person. We cannot stand back and let Christ do it at a distance, an agent, so to speak, of redemption. No, it is in Christ that we have redemption, in relationship with Him, close up and personal, sharing in His suffering and glory.

In Him we have redemption. The New Testament uses many words or analogies to illustrate or describe the atonement.

The word “redemption” in Greek means to be set free after payment. It was used to describe the setting free of slaves and the release of captives.

We were slaves to sin, but Christ redeemed us. We are no longer slaves to sin or to the devil. As Paul writes elsewhere, “you are no longer under obligation to sin.”

Before we came to Christ our entire existence was bound up in our sinful nature. We were born in sin, we lived in sin, and we would die in sin. People talk about free will as if doing good is an option. We were slaves to sin with no free will at all. Our programming always defaults to sin.

Because of our slavery to sin we were also slaves to satan. We could not please God through our own abilities, so were always serving satan. The brilliance of satan’s plan for humanity is that he has to do nothing, and we still do his bidding. He wins by default, or at least that was his plan.

But Jesus came and paid the ransom to set us free. We should not think that Jesus paid anything to satan or anyone else. This is only an analogy and it breaks down when we push the details too far.

So now those who are in Christ have been liberated, set free, released from captivity. Like the inmates of a concentration camp, the liberation army has come and set us free from a harsh regime whose only aim is to multiply suffering and death.

We were redeemed through Christ’s blood. That is the “ransom” or the slave price. The perfect blood of the sinless Son of God was poured out to redeem all who will receive His freedom.

In the Old Testament one blood sacrifice redeemed one sin for one sinner. Every sin had a price- a sheep, a calf, a dove. The price for sin was the blood of an animal.

The price for all sins is the blood, not of an animal, but of the Son of God Himself. God incarnate, in the flesh, is sacrificed as the perfect Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

There is no limit to the effectiveness of this blood, because it is of ultimate worth. This blood is worth the ransom of every sinner who has ever lived.

This redemption is the forgiveness of our sins. Our names have been taken from the Book of Death and transferred to the Book of Life. We have been reclassified as “not guilty” by God the Father. He sees that we are “in Christ”, that our sins have been covered over by the blood of Jesus, and He sees us as untainted by sin.

Forgiveness has two dimensions to it.

The first is a legal status. We have been found guilty of breaking the law. We are criminals in God’s eyes. But, on the basis of Christ’s death, the shedding of blood, we receive a full pardon. This is a declaration that we are not guilty. It is not that we have served our time and paid a price, and therefore earned our freedom. It is because the King sees fit to declare that we are not guilty and our sin is overlooked.

The second dimension of forgiveness is the relational side. God loves us so much that when we turn back to Him and receive His grace, He forgives us out of His love. The whole project of salvation is not a legal manoeuvre to get people out of trouble. Salvation is God’s love on display.

It pained God to see us so alienated, separated and distant from Him. He was determined to bridge the gap and bring us back into friendship with Him.

Forgiveness is about restoring a broken relationship. When we forgive someone, we choose to let go of the offence that we have suffered for the sake of a person we love. We might feel justified in feeling hurt, but we choose to release the offence and relieve the person of the burden of guilt.

Forgiveness is always an act of grace. It originates in the heart of the forgiver and demands no reparation or penalty.

We cannot force the person we have offended to forgive us. No plea, no payment, no promise is by itself sufficient. If the person we have offended is not willing to forgive then forgiveness will not happen.

Forgiveness is the price we are willing to pay to those who have hurt us. It is a reverse ransom in a way.

So God’s grace is shown by the fact that He is willing to forgive and has demonstrated that in giving up His own Son fir us.

Key points from this verse:

  • We have been redeemed in Christ
  • We were slaves to sin, but have been set free
  • Forgiveness is both a legal and a relational term
  • God’s longing for relationship with His people is so huge that He gave His one and only Son for our sake.

Ephesians 1:6

Here is my commentary on Ephesians 1:6. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site.

Ephesians 1:6

“.. to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

God’s grace is praiseworthy.

We can praise God’s grace because it is part of His personality or nature. This grace has redeemed us and set us free from sin and death. This grace grants us eternal life, vanquishing the power of sin and raising a whole race of humanity to be sons and daughter of God.

We were once far off but God’s grace has overcome the chasm that separated us from Him. It is grace that adopts us into the divine family granting us an inheritance fay beyond our wildest dreams.

God’s grace is glorious.

Glory is one of those terms that is hard to pin down.

Sports teams and individuals are said to win glory when they achieve a great victory. The sporting prowess or athleticism causes spectators to stand in awe of their ability.

Glory can be won on a battle field when the extreme stresses of being under fire or in other imminent danger bring out super-human courage or gallantry. If the favoured side wins the victory then that helps, but it isn’t necessary to be the victor. We can be awed at the ability of people to sacrifice themselves to save others or to be seemingly oblivious of bombs and bullets.

The glory of a monarch may be seen in ceremonial occasions where wealth, grand institutions and traditions captivate the dreams and aspirations of a culture.

In all of these cases, glory is seen in the awe that human endeavours inspire in the hearts of other people.

God’s glory is of a different magnitude. The glorious grace of God is glorious regardless of our response. God’s grace is glorious even if nobody accepts it. His glory flows from His nature.

We are right to be awed by God’s grace. Our awe is not necessary for it to be considered to be glorious.

God’s grace is freely bestowed.

He pours it out on us freely. Grace would not be grace if it came at a price. God’s grace is free of cost, but He bestows it liberally, overwhelmingly, pressed down and running over.

God’s grace is like a mighty waterfall such as Niagara or Victoria Falls. Enormous quantities of water flow over these falls every second. You can’t see where the water comes from. You can’t imagine how much water is contained there.

God’s grace is like that. It is as liberal as the greatest waterfall. It is bestowed whether we receive it or not. God is not moved by our reaction; He will overflow us with grace regardless.

So the sun shines on the just and the unjust alike, and the rain waters the fields of the godly farmer as much as the ungodly farmer. To the atheist raging against Him or the artist who mocks Him, God gives air to breathe, food to eat and water to drink.

This unstoppable river of praiseworthy and glorious grace is poured out in us “in the Beloved.”

It is Christ who releases and bestows this grace into us. The sacrifice on the cross releases grace to the world. Because Christ is beloved by the Father, God is pleased to pour this liberal overflowing stream of grace to the planet.

Although the grace is bestowed to us “in the Beloved”, we don’t have to be in the Beloved to receive it. Jesus’ death is available to every person, but only some will receive the promise of eternity. He died for all so that some will receive life.

He doesn’t stop loving or bestowing grace on those who reject Him. He is determined to love even if we don’t recognise His love. His grace is greater than our rejection of it.

The grace that is bestowed on everyone will eventually stop for those who are not “in the Beloved.” Judgement awaits those who refuse His grace. The waterfall will turn off, the flow dry up, and those who reject Him will be asked “Why?”

Often we think of grace as pertaining to salvation. But it has a far wider application than that. It speaks of all blessings that God gives to people.

John Wimber used to speak of “gracelets,” the little blessings or signs of God’s presence and love which encourage us to keep on going, to persevere through trials, or just to give us joy in a surprising experience. It might be a dream or a vision, an unexpected gift, a rainbow, a rush of faith to trust Him.

Grace can also relate to supernatural ability to serve God’s purposes. This might be in the form of the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12. In fac the word of gift in Greek is derived from the word for grace. It might also be the ability to fulfil a spiritual commitment that would normally be impossible for us, yet we find though constant prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit that we find a grace for this task.

Key points from this verse:

  • God’s grace is worthy of our praise
  • God’s grace is glorious and inspires awe in our heart
  • God’s grace is freely bestowed
  • God’s grace brings limitless blessing