The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
May 6, 2012
1) Ephesians 1:1-6 (Tom Edwards)
by Tom Edwards
In Ephesians 1:1-3, Paul writes: "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus
by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are
faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of
our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual
blessing in the heavenly places in Christ[.]"
Paul's salutation reminds us of many of his other letters, but
notice here in verse 3, the Lord has "...blessed us with every
spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." The phrase
"heavenly places" is used 5 times in the Bible -- and all in the
book of Ephesians. But is it always referring to the same
thing? We need to remember that the Greek word for heaven is
used to stand for three different things: 1) that eternal place
where God dwells, 2) the realm where the stars are, and 3) our
atmosphere, the realm where birds fly and clouds are. The
adjective 'heavenly" also refers to these things; and, in addition,
is used to refer to something that is "of [a] heavenly origin or
nature." So with these definitions in mind, consider how the
phrase "heavenly places" is used in the following verses:
Jesus is shown to be seated at God's right hand "in the heavenly
places" (Eph. 1:20). Obviously, we know that to be heaven
itself (cf. Heb. 9:24).
Paul told the Ephesians that they were seated "in the heavenly
places in Christ Jesus" (2:6). In what heavenly place can it
be said that Christians are? For one thing, how about the
church? As we saw, the term heavenly can also mean "of a
heavenly origin or nature"; and can that not be said about the
church? It was built by Jesus who dwells in heaven: "And I
also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build
My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it" (Matt.
16:18). In building the church, Christ not only gives the law
of admission, but also laws that are to govern the church in its
work and worship. Therefore, when we meet together in order to
worship the Lord, and use His word to do so, are we not then
developing a spiritual or heavenly atmosphere for our
services? So being part of the church is one sense in which we
are in a heavenly place. As J. W. Shepherd writes, "The church
of God is the reign of heaven on earth. The truth, services,
and hopes are all heavenly. The temper to be cultivated is
It is God's plan that the "manifold wisdom of God might now be made
known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the
heavenly places" (Eph. 3:10). Who are these "rulers and
authorities"? As the passage shows, they are those who dwell
in heavenly places. Though there are some differing views on
this, it appears that this is referring to the angels, who are also
spoken of as "dignities" (KJV) or "angelic majesties" (NASB) in 2
Peter 2:10 and Jude 1:8. Thayer also shows that though this
Greek word for "rulers" (Eph. 3:10) means primarily "beginning" or
"origin," and then "the person or thing that commences, the first
person or thing in a series, the leader," it can also mean "5) the
first place, principality, rule, magistracy 5a) of angels and
demons." And concerning the Greek word for "authorities," in
the same passage, Thayer also gives as one of its fourth meanings,
"the leading and more powerful among created beings superior to man,
spiritual potentates." From Ephesians 3:10, it implies that
these heavenly beings, though angels, didn't know about all of God's
manifold wisdom, but were now seeing that through the Lord's design
and plan for the church. This corresponds with 1 Peter 1:12:
"It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but
you, in these things which now have been announced to you through
those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from
heaven--things into which angels long to look."
In Ephesians 6:12, we are shown that our struggle is not merely
against flesh and blood, "but against the rulers, against the
powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the
spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." We
noted that one of the definitions of the Greek word for "heavenly"
pertains to the region "of the clouds." Notice also in
Ephesians 2:2 how Paul portrays evil as being in the "air":
"in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world,
according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that
is now working in the sons of disobedience." Thayer defines
the Greek word for "air" as, secondly, "the atmospheric region."
And, lastly, in our verse under consideration, God has "blessed us
with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ"
(Eph. 1:3). In all five of these passages where the phrase
"heavenly places" is found, "places" is not in the original Greek
and is probably italicized in your Bible version to indicate
that. E.M. Zerr, therefore, views the term "heavenly" in
Ephesians 1:3 as describing these spiritual blessings -- because
they are from heaven. And, as this verse shows, one must be in
Christ in order to have these blessings.
Paul then states in Ephesians 1:4-6 the following: "just as He chose
us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy
and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as
sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind
intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace,
which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved."
"...He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world...."
It is verses like this that many Calvinists interpret to mean that
God arbitrarily chose, before the beginning of time, certain persons
to be saved. And that this choosing was not based on whether
the person would have faith or wouldn't have faith -- or even if he
wanted to be saved or not -- but, rather, it would be totally up to
God. For the Calvinist views man's election as being
unconditional. In other words, there is nothing that man needs
to do to be saved; and one reason for that is because if man were
born totally depraved, as the Calvinist claims, then he would never
have the ability nor even the desire to be saved. So if that
be the case, salvation would have to be completely up to the Lord.
But man is not born totally depraved; and he does have the ability
to obey God, if desires to do so, which is another
possibility. So the choice is up to man (cf. Eccl. 7:29; Luke
8:15; Luke 18:16,17; 1 Cor. 14:20; Josh. 24:15).
What the Bible shows is that before time began, God knew that
mankind would come to have need of a Savior; so the Lord had a plan
of salvation already in mind before the world was even
created. Anyone who will believe and obey that plan will then
meet the conditions of those whom God has chosen in Christ.
And some of that includes being "holy and blameless." As the
Bible shows in Hebrews 12:14, without "holiness" or
"sanctification," "no one will see the Lord." It is amazing
that even though God knew that man would eventually sin, and it
would require Jesus to atone for those sins by an agonizing death,
the Lord went ahead and made man anyway! Does this not
indicate that man must be very special to God? The Lord truly
does love us and wants none to perish (2 Pet. 3:9), but we have to
be willing to accept His way.
To help us better see that being of God's elect also involves are
choice and submission to His will, think about the apostles.
They were chosen by God. Paul shows that he was chosen by God
even before birth (Gal. 1:15,16); yet Paul also realized he could
still be lost if he didn't live according to the gospel of Jesus
Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27) -- just as Judas was. Also, God's
choice of Mary to conceive Jesus did not eternally secure her a home
in heaven. Rather, her making it there would be based on her
faithfulness to the Lord and God's grace and mercy. And
think, too, of the nation of Israel. They had been a people
out of all the nations of the world that the Lord had chosen to be
His special people during the Old Testament times (cf. Deut. 7:6-8);
but even though they had been His "chosen," that did not mean they
could never be lost -- for many of them were (cf. 1 Cor.
10:5-12). The fact that these -- as well as any Christian --
can be lost, indicates that our salvation is not totally up to
God. Rather, if we want to be part of His chosen people who
will be saved in the judgment day, we then have a need to maintain a
right relationship with God (which the Bible indicates and
explicitly teaches in many passages).
To see more of man's responsibility in becoming one of the chosen,
consider also 2 Thessalonians 2:13,14: "But we should always give
thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has
chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification
by the Spirit and faith in the truth. And it was for this He
called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our
Lord Jesus Christ." Being sanctified by the Spirit and having
faith in the truth involves our hearing God's word and submitting to
it. So there are some things that we must do, and which the
Lord does not do for us. As Paul goes on to show, our calling
is "through our gospel." So our being "chosen" is also based
on the choice we make by our own freewill to submit to God's
plan. In addition, we can also say that because the Lord knows
the hearts of all men, He already knows who is of the disposition to
accept the gospel and who is not. For that reason, notice what
He says in these following verses:
"And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring
them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one
flock with one shepherd" (Jn. 10:16).
"And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, 'Do not be
afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am
with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I
have many people in this city" (Acts 18:9,10).
God can know not only who will accept Him, but also who will reject
Him, as in the case of Judas in Matthew 26:21, where Jesus states,
"Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me." And the
Lord knew specifically that it would be Judas (v. 25).
In Ephesians 1:5, Paul states that "He predestined us to adoption as
sons through Jesus Christ...." And we are His children not in
name only, but it is also to be that way in how we live. As
verse 4 declares, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the
world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him." In
Romans 8:12-17, Paul shows that we are not to live "according to the
flesh," which results in death; but, rather, we are to be led by the
Spirit and put to death the sinful deeds of the flesh that we might
live. For then we are truly "children of God." Consider,
too, what Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are His
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God
prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
This "adoption" that Paul speaks of (Eph. 1:5) cost the price of
redemption, which was paid by Jesus' death on the cross: "But when
the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a
woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who
were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as
sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit
of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' Therefore you
are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through
God" (Gal. 4:4-7). Paul shows in Ephesians 1:5 that this
adoption is "according to the kind intention" of God's will.
God is not a cold, indifferent, or unconcerned being who doesn't
care about what happens to us. Rather, as John 3:16 shows,
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal
life." In Romans 2:4, Paul declares, "Or do you think lightly
of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not
knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?"
When Paul mentions to Titus of this wonderful unmerited salvation
that could never be earned, though we do have to meet certain
conditions for it, he says, "But when the kindness of God our Savior
and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of
deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His
mercy..." (Titus 3:4-8). So in view of the Lord's kindness
toward us, we need to reciprocate by submitting to His commands.
We also realize, however, that though there is this kindness of God
that leads to repentance, there is also a wrath-side of the Lord for
those who reject His kindness: "Behold then the kindness and
severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's
kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will
be cut off" (Rom. 11:22). Again we are made aware of the need
to abide in the Lord's kindness by our adherence to His word.
In Ephesians 1:6, Paul shows that God's grace has been "freely
bestowed on us in the Beloved." Here, "freely," of course,
doesn't mean "unconditionally." For the obtaining of God's
grace is a conditional thing. The Bible speaks of being saved
by grace, so with that we are in full agreement. For example,
Ephesians 2:5 states, "even when we were dead in our transgressions,
made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been
saved)." But as we read on, we learn that salvation is not by
mere grace alone; for notice what Paul goes on to say: "For by grace
you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is
the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). Now we are made aware of the fact
that grace is only part of the equation for salvation. For
faith is also another necessary factor. And when we turn to
James 2:24,26, we see what is to characterize saving faith: "You see
that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone." "For just
as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works
is dead." So from this, it doesn't come as a surprise that the
Bible shows that grace in one's life can be made void or
ineffectual, according to Galatians 2:21: "I do not nullify the
grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then
Christ died needlessly." This also shows that the false belief
of "once in grace always in grace" or "once saved always saved" is
not true to the Scriptures. For one who was once saved by
grace can depart from it, as we see in Galatians 5:4: "You have been
severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you
have fallen from grace."
In addition, in thinking of the conditional nature of salvation,
consider just a couple of these "if" passages from the
Scriptures. The very word "if" indicates that a condition
needs to be met: "but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in
the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of
Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 Jn. 1:7). "...`If
you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you
shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'"
Ephesians 1:6 also makes clear that God's grace can be received ONLY
through Jesus Christ. Therefore, people today in religions that
reject Jesus or that do not see Him as being the Son of God, the
Messiah, remain excluded from the grace of God. As Jesus
states in John 8:24, "...unless you believe that I am He, you shall
die in your sins." Salvation is a spiritual blessing, and as
we noted in Ephesians 1:3, God has blessed us with every spiritual
blessing in the heavenly places in Christ; so one must be in Christ
for this to be so. When the apostles were questioned as to
what power or in what name they made the lame man walk, Peter let
them know it was "...by the name of Jesus Christ..."; and that
"there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under
heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved"
Furthermore, those who do not accept and obey Jesus as their SAVIOR
-- and the only way to heaven -- will one day, ironically and
sadly, have to stand before Him as their JUDGE in that great
Judgment Day (John 5:22,23). So if you need Jesus in your
life, why not submit to His gospel plan of salvation this very
day! As the Bible makes amply clear, the Lord wants none to
perish, but all to come to repentance and be saved (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9;
1 Tim. 2:4). So why not make that your choice, too?
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the
deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in
Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water
for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet.
CHURCH OF CHRIST
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Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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