New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary



1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God- Paul often begins his letters by saying this. But "the will of God" should not be understood by us as it is by Islam, where the will of God is understood as fulfilling anyway in a deterministic sense. The word carries the idea of the intention, the wish or pleasure of God. Paul could have turned down the call to be an apostle. He was not forced into obedience by an omnipotent Divine manipulator. All things were created for God's "pleasure" or will [s.w. Rev. 4:11], but clearly enough "all things" do not all perform God's wish. We pray for the Kingdom age when God's will shall be done on earth- for it is now generally not done. We are best therefore to understood the idea of God's wish, His desire, which of course He labours to see fulfilled. But He does not force or impose; He too deeply respects the freewill of His creatures. The art of Christian life is to willingly align ourselves with His will.

To the saints that are at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus- "At Ephesus" is omitted by some manuscripts, supporting the idea that this is more of a circular letter. But we can also detect specific references to the situation at Ephesus. So it may be that the letter was indeed written specifically to Ephesus, but also used as a circular letter of a more general nature- hence the additional address to "the faithful in Christ Jesus". That term may however be some technical term which referred to the eldership; in which case we can note that the letter was firstly addressed to the whole church, and only secondarily to the leadership.

1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ- How could Paul wish grace to them, seeing it is an abstract concept and not a feeling or experience like "peace"? So often charis refers to the gift of the Spirit, which is given at baptism and yet is poured out repeatedly throughout the life of a believer. The rest of the letter has so much to say about this that we could conclude that he is wishing them to be filled with the gift of the Spirit; for charis means both 'gift' and 'grace'.

1:3 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- He wishes us to be like Him, to have His Spirit. In this sense, through having the spirit of Jesus, He comes and lives in the hearts of those who accept Him (Rom. 8:1-26; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20). There is a resultant joy in the heart of the convert after baptism, as a result of the Lord's work (1 Thess. 1:6). To this end, He blesses us with all the varied blessings of His Spirit (Eph. 1:3 Gk.). Paul opens 1 Corinthians with similar statements, but goes on to say that the Corinthians were not "spiritual" (1 Cor. 3:1); the blessing of the Spirit must be made use of. We are by status in Heaven with the Lord Jesus, in the heavenlies- but we must live according to that status, thinking of Heavenly things and not earthly preoccupations.

1:4 In that He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love- "In that..." connects our having been chosen from the beginning with the blessing of the Spirit (:2). And in fact we were chosen not just from the beginning but from before that. At some point in infinity in the 'past', we were known and chosen. This is even more awesome. Romans 8 makes the same connection; our being foreknown and called was by grace, the gift of the Spirit. The very idea of our calling, predestination and choosing is the parade example of grace; for no works could be done by us which affect those things. And yet Romans 8 goes on to reason that the Spirit has been given to transform us into what we are counted as by status in Christ; His righteousness has been imputed to us, but we are to be transformed by the Spirit into that righteousness in reality. "Without blemish" is of course the language of the unblemished Passover lamb, the Lord Jesus. We were chosen so that the work of the Spirit might transform us into His personality and character, which is counted to us by imputed righteousness.

Pre-eminently, our love of the brotherhood will be the basis upon which we find acceptance, and in this lies the reason why the life of love is a living out of an acceptance before the Lord now. If we live in love, we are right now holy and blameless before Him (Eph. 1:4). "Before Him" is the language of judgment day (Mt. 25:32; Lk. 21:36; Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 2:14; 1 Jn. 2:28; Jude 24; Rev. 14:5); and being holy and blameless before Him is exactly how we will be at the judgment seat (Jude 24). Yet right now, he who lives in love, a love unpretended and unfeigned, lives in the blamelessness and holiness of his Lord, whose righteousness is imputed to him. Paul so loved his Thessalonian brethren that he joyed "for your sakes before our God" (1 Thess. 3:9). "Before our God" is very much the language of judgment day; and he had earlier reflected: "what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are [right now] our glory and joy" (1 Thess. 2:19,20). They were in this life his joy, as he lived out his life "before our God" and they would be again in the day of judgment.

Not only are paragraph and chapter breaks sometimes misleading, verse breaks can be too. Inserting punctuation into translation of Hebrew and Greek texts is very difficult. Thus Eph. 1:4,5 in the AV reads: “...that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us”. Shift the colon and another emphasis is apparent: “...that we should be holy and without blame before him: in love having predestinated us”. When stuck with a ‘difficult’ verse (and they all are in some ways!), don’t be afraid to try re-jigging the punctuation a bit. The love and grace of God is shown so clearly in the way we were "foreordained" or predestinated to be His children, when others were not. This was and is all of grace, for no works had been done by us to warrant this calling. The initiative was His.


1:5 Having foreordained us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will- The idea of adoption is also used in Romans 8, and is in the context of the gift of the Spirit. By being "in Christ", we have His righteousness imputed to us; but the Spirit works within us to make us in reality how and what we are counted as by status. Hence Rom. 8:15 speaks of the Spirit of Christ as "the spirit of adoption". Those who receive the adoption of sons therefore have the Spirit of God's Son sent forth into their hearts, by which they relate to God as Jesus did: "Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:5,6). And here in Eph. 1 the context is the same; for 1:3 has spoken of the blessings of the Spirit received by believers, and the whole process of adoption results in the praise of His grace, His charis or "gift"- that of the Spirit (:6). All this was according to His "will", which might seem axiomatic until we allow Romans 8 to fill out the idea. Our choosing to be given the Spirit was His choice, His will- and not our own. This therefore is the parade example of His grace.

An understanding of predestination helps us towards true humility and appreciation of grace; see on :4. This is the very context in which Paul introduces the idea in Romans; he wished his readers to appreciate grace by reflecting upon how predestination involves something far over and above anything we could ‘do’ or ‘be’ in our own rights. Paul speaks here of predestination as a sign of God’s grace- and thus we are “predestinated… to the praise of the glory of His grace”. Predestination brings with it an appreciation of grace, and real praise for it. Predestination by grace doesn’t motivate to lethargy and fatalism- if it’s properly understood. When the Lord speaks of how we have been chosen, above and beyond any effort on our part, He goes on to teach that exactly because of this, we have a responsibility to produce fruit, to pray, to love one another (Jn. 15:16,17). Despite predestination, there are countless thousands of freewill decisions for us to make each day. Try to bear that in mind some mornings as you wake up. Whatever situation we’re in, life takes on an excitement and meaning and challenge. The simple fact of predestination, of having been chosen by grace, should radically inspire us in every one of those freewill decisions. The true Biblical idea of predestination mustn’t be confused with non-Biblical ones. The Romans, Greeks, Egyptians etc. all believed that they had been elected by the gods, predestined to be the special race that alone had true connection with the divine… but they assumed this predestination was because of their natural superiority. Biblical predestination is radically different- that the weak are chosen and the strong rejected, not because they are smart, beautiful, hard working, successful, lucky… but exactly because they are weak and just who they are. This is the grace of true predestination. And it’s so wonderful that nobody can be passive to it. On this very basis, Paul urges Euodia and Syntyche to resolve their differences because their names were written in the book of life (Phil. 4:2,3). That book was written from the foundation of the world, and the fact our names are written in it is a reference to the concept of predestination. This reality means that in practice we simply shouldn't be at loggerheads with others who share in that same grace of predestination!

1:6- see on Lk. 1:28.

To the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the beloved- As noted on :5, our calling was by God's will, not ours. The grace or gift of the Spirit is available to transform us into the image of the Christ in whom we are by faith and baptism. We are counted as Him, with His righteousness imputed to us. Our predestination to this state is again His grace. The issues of 'And what about all the others who weren't called?' remain with us, but we are invited to focus instead on praising Him for His grace toward us. We thankfully receive the lifebelt thrown to us, rather than wondering why others weren't thrown one. We are "made accepted", or literally, 'graced', by being in Christ [NEV "bestowed on us"]. All who wish to enter into Him are clothed with Him, and so the operation of grace through the Spirit is enabled.

1:7- see on Acts 20:28.

In whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace- Salvation and all the wonderful processes which are a part of it are enabled by being "in Christ". This is a status we have to decide to enter, of our own freewill. Clearly baptism is "into Christ", and that surely is why the act of baptism by immersion of an adult is as it is- to provide an opportunity for us to wilfully demonstrate we of ourselves wish to consciously become in Him. We have "redemption" right now in that we have forgiveness of sins (Rom. 3:24; 1 Cor. 1:30 say likewise); but "redemption" comes to its final term in "the redemption of the body" at the last day (Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:14), "the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). This means that our experience of forgiveness of sins today is the foretaste and guarantee of the final redemption to be given at the last day. If we wonder about our eternal salvation, we need to ask ourselves whether we have known forgiveness now. We should be able to taste that forgiveness; Peter did, and on that basis insisted that he was a personal witness that the Lord Jesus was really in Heaven mediating forgiveness to us. These wondrous things are indeed according to the riches of His grace. To hear all this but turn away from it is indeed to despise the riches of His grace (Rom. 2:4). Paul therefore will pray the Ephesians will perceive these riches of grace (Eph. 1:18). Those riches can be tasted right now; but at the last day, He will lavish the riches of grace upon us in the redemption of our bodies into eternal life (Eph. 2:7). The present experience of the riches of grace is in the receipt of the gift of the Spirit in our minds (Eph. 3:8). To deny these riches is really to despise those riches, no matter how politely worded is our theology in doing so. These riches are described in Col. 1:27; 2:2 as being of Christ in us, the trust we have of our future glorification; and the riches of the full assurance of understanding- that by grace, we really will live eternally in His Kingdom. The experience of the Spirit, of forgiveness, of Christ in us, is the earnest of the possession (:14; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5), the full assurance of salvation (Col. 2:2).

1:8 Which He lavished on us in all wisdom and prudence- The Spirit gifts of wisdom and prudence are lavished upon us in that we have had the Gospel revealed to us (:9). There may be a reference to the miraculous gift of wisdom in the 1st century, but for us in our age we have wisdom lavished upon us in knowing the Christ who is the full wisdom of God.

God has been extravagant with His grace. And in dealing with those whom we consider to be hard, spiteful and unreasonable towards us in the brotherhood, we have the ideal opportunity to reflect such grace. It hurt God, to an extent we cannot fathom, to lavish that grace upon us in the death of the cross. And of course it must hurt us to show it to others. In the same way as we seem unable to focus our attention for very long on the ultimate issues of life, so we find it difficult to believe the extent of God's grace. He is extravagant with His grace- God “lavishes” grace upon us. The covenant God made with Abraham was similar in style to covenants made between men at that time; and yet there was a glaring difference. Abraham was not required to do anything or take upon himself any obligations. Circumcision [cp. baptism] was to remember that this covenant of grace had been made. It isn’t part of the covenant [thus we are under this same new, Abrahamic covenant, but don’t require circumcision]. Perhaps this was why Yahweh but not Abraham passed between the pieces, whereas usually both parties would do so. The promises to Abraham are pure, pure grace, a lavishing of grace.

1:9 Making known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He purposed in him- The Gospel is 'made known to us'; the emphasis is upon His action. It is not our Bible reading which revealed it to us, but rather His initiative in revealing it to us. This was part of His will; and we noted on :5 that the repeated references to God's will are another way of saying that we were called to the Gospel not by our works nor initiative, but by His will, His predestination. That revelation of the Gospel to us was planned "in Christ" in God's plan which was before time and continues to beyond time (:10). The moment or process through which we were called had therefore been waiting for infinite time to come about, and shall have eternal consequence, beyond time. Our preaching of the Gospel therefore has eternal moment for each person who hears the call from us; words fail to express the significance of that work. The alleviation of human suffering is never to be ignored nor devalued, but the preaching of the Gospel is of far greater moment when viewed in this perspective.

1:10- see on Col. 1:20.

In a plan which runs to the fullness of the times: To sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth- God's purpose with each of us existed before [and not just from] the foundation of the world (:4), and His purpose with us runs to the fullness of the kairos, time itself. This is the impression of absolute infinity, within the limitation of words to describe it. Our eternity, to infinity and beyond, is "in Christ"; the AV adds at the end of this sentence "even in Him". We become "in Christ" by faith and baptism into Him now; and we shall eternally exist in Him. The whole atmosphere of our lives must therefore be of Him; for in this sense we can live now the life which shall be eternally. "All things", quite literally, both persons and spiritual ideas, all of God's spirituality, believers and Angels, shall all be summed up in that one unique man, Christ- and shall eternally be so.

1:11- see on Mt. 25:34.

In whom also we were made His heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of Him who does all things after the counsel of His will- We are God's portion / inheritance (Dt. 4:20; 9:29; Eph. 1:18), and He is our inheritance (Ps. 16:5,6; 73:26; Lam. 3:22-24; Eph. 1:11 RV); we inherit each other. In infinite time and space, we are what He has as His very own, what He longs for and has planned for over infinite time. This helps us better understand the significance He places on our extension of His purpose to others by evangelism; and the deep anger He has at causing any to stumble out of that grand purpose He has for them. We are to constantly ask ourselves: 'Will this in any way cause anyone to stumble from this marvellous grace personally planned for them?'. This grand purpose is not simply according to God's will, which would be axiomatic, but "after the counsel of His will". That "counsel" is a reference to the Gospel and His word to man. Paul addressed the Ephesian elders with a reference to how he had entirely declared to them "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). This suggests that Ephesians may have been a follow up letter to those elders, and then it was adapted for more general usage to all the faithful (:1). This kind of thing would be typical of responsible missionary work; I have several times written letters to back up such face to face meetings in missionary contexts, and then reused the material in a more general form. Paul seems to have done the same, under Divine inspiration.

1:12 So that we who had first hoped in Christ should be for the praise of His glory- The next verse "In whom you also believed / hoped" could suggest that the "we" here refers to Paul and his missionary team. But "first hoped", proelpizo, carries the sense of "to hope in advance of other confirmation" (Strong). Having written and implied so much about God's predestination of us, and the outworking of His will in choosing us, Paul may be balancing that by saying that we have to also show initiative. Faith is in a sense a leap in the dark. No amount of clever apologetic arguments can ever take that away from what it means to believe / hope in Christ. Most of the apologetic arguments in any case refer to God, the Bible, the creation record etc.- and not to faith in Christ. Faith in Christ is spoken of here as hope, elpizo, a solid expectation and assurance- that He shall save us eternally. And no apologetic arguments can give you that. This is a leap which must be taken. But the idea of "to hope in advance of other confirmation" begs the question: 'What confirmation, then, comes after we have taken this leap of faith and hoped in Christ?'. The next verse answers this- "In whom you also believed, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, and were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise". Human belief / hope in Christ is indeed confirmed from God's side. The promised Holy Spirit confirms and seals that faith.

Thus we “have obtained an inheritance” through being “in Christ”. This is just another way of expressing the great truth of Gal. 3:27-29- that through baptism into Christ, we receive the promise of the inheritance promised to Abraham. But Paul continues in Eph. 1:12: “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in [Gk. ‘into’- through baptism] Christ”. The fact we are in Christ by baptism and thus have the Abrahamic promises leads to praise of God’s grace. Yet we will only achieve this if we firmly grasp the real, pointed relevance of the promises to us; that we who are baptized are each one truly and absolutely in Christ, and the promises apply to me personally.

1:13 In whom you also believed, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, and were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise- This sealing is the confirmation of our trust / solid hope that we really will be saved in Christ; see on :12. Our trust / belief / hope in "the word of the truth" doesn't refer to our having figured out a true set of theological propositions called "the truth". Our solid faith and hope in Christ is related to "the truth"- we consider the word of the Gospel as "the truth", we take it as truth. And the greatest personal truth for each believer is that we have heard "the gospel of salvation", we really shall be eternally saved. And we are "sealed", confirmed in our faith, by the gift of the Spirit (see on :12). The "promise" of the Spirit surely refers to the promise of the Comforter within us in Jn. 14-16, and this in turn is alluded to in Gal. 3:14, which speaks of our receipt of "the promise of the Spirit through faith". Thus the gift of the Spirit at baptism is a promise to all who shall believe at all times, and not just in the first century (Acts 2:39).

At our baptism we became "in Christ". Through that act we obeyed all the Lord's invitations to believe "in Him", or as the Greek means, to believe into Him. We believed into Him after we heard the Gospel, by baptism. We are now connected with the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ; we are treated by God as if we are His Son, and therefore the Spirit of His Son is given to us, to make us in reality as we are by status.

1:14 Which is a guarantee of our inheritance, of the final redemption of God's own possession, for the praise of His glory- This "guarantee" is the "earnest" spoken of in 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5- the gift of the Spirit in our hearts. As explained on :12, we take the step of faith in hoping in Christ, in believing that really this word of salvation is ultimate truth for us (:13; we "first hoped", proelpizo, "to hope in advance of other confirmation" (:12). And that confirmation that we shall really be saved, as we first believed we shall be, is in the gift of the Spirit. The New Testament promises "all joy and peace through believing" the good news of salvation in God's Kingdom; and this of itself implies that we have some confirmation of that future salvation. For otherwise we can hardly rejoice and feel peaceful in such a hope. And that confirmation is in the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit is the sign God owns us; He possesses us by and with the Spirit, and this thereby guarantees that we shall be finally redeemed by Him as His very own at the last day. But we must let that Spirit work and function; for the Corinthians were given the same Spirit, but were "not spiritual" and fell away (1 Cor. 3:1).

1:15 For this cause, I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you and the love which you show toward all the saints- Paul felt warmly towards all others who had really believed in Jesus as their Saviour and were rejoicing in sure hope of salvation because of the confirmation they had received from the Spirit (see on :12-14). This is indeed the 'basis of our fellowship' rather than some intellectual commonality on some theological issues. That faith and hope elicits love; hence faith, hope and love indeed go together in Paul's thinking. We take the step of faith in response to God's grace in calling us; we have a sure hope in salvation, confirmed by the gift of the Spirit; and the wonder and joy of it all has to be shown forth quite naturally in love. We are given fellow believers as a particular outlet for that love; hence the reference to "the love... toward all the saints".

Paul heard of the spiritual development of the Ephesians (1:15-19), therefore he prayed that God would grant them more knowledge and understanding (:16,17). The dynamic in this Divine confirmation of their freewill effort was God's Spirit power.   Paul repeats the prayer in Eph. 3:14-21: " strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that... (ye) may be able to   comprehend... to know... to be filled with all the fullness of God". It is thus by God's Spirit acting on our "inner man" that this greater comprehension of our glorious calling is achieved. He tells them later to be "renewed in the spirit of your mind" (Eph. 4:23), alluding to the Ezekiel passages which speak not only of Israel making themselves a new heart / spirit / mind, but of God giving this to them (Ez. 18:11; 36:26), in confirmation of their efforts. There are examples galore of God acting on the minds of men to give them a certain attitude which they would not otherwise have had (consider how He gave Saul another heart, or gave Israel favour in the eyes of the Egyptians so that they lent to them, Ex. 12:36).

1:16 Do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers- If all the wonderful things of :11-15 are true, then we can only constantly give thanks that those we have preached to shall really be eternally saved. Only if the wonder of that slips, will we find ourselves demotivated in our prayer life.

One practical caveat needs to be mentioned in the context of praying for others. It is all too easy to slip into the habit (and slipping into bad prayer habits surely dogs every prayerful man) of reeling off a list of names each night, something like "Dear Father, be with David, and please be with the children, and with Sister Smith, and with Karen, and with...". There's nothing in itself wrong with this. But over time, it can become a kind of incantation, with us fearful that this evening we let one of those names slip. Paul writes often that he "makes mention" or 'remembers' his brethren in regular prayer (Rom. 1:9; Eph. 1:16; 1 Thess. 1:2; Philemon 4). The Greek mneia is the word used in the LXX for the "memorial" of the incense or the meal offering (Lev. 2:2,16; 6:15; 24:7), or the constant fire on the altar (Lev. 6:12,13). That fire, that flour, that incense, had to be carefully and consciously prepared; it had to be the result of man's labour. And likewise, Paul seems to be saying, he first of all thought through the cases which he then presented to the Father. This is a high standard to keep up. It is through this constant prayer that we are in God's tabernacle presence and in sacrificial relationship with Him.

Compare the following passages:
“I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence,  And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Is. 62:6,7)
“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph. 1:15-17).

The ideas of praying without ceasing and making mention occur in both passages. Surely Paul had the Isaiah passage in mind. It seems that he saw the ecclesia as the spiritual Zion. In the same way as Zion’s watchmen were exhorted to pray for her without ceasing until the Kingdom is established there, so Paul prayed for the spiritual growth of his brethren. The implication is surely that once a certain level of spirituality had been achieved, then the Lord will return to establish His Kingdom. When the harvest is ripe, then the sickle is put in. Jn. 17:23 speaks of how the church will “be perfected into one” (RV), as if this process is ongoing and comes to a finality at the Lord’s return. This is an urgent imperative to unity amongst us- and yet as these [apparently] “last days” wear on, we become increasingly disunited. This ought to be a true worry to us.

1:17- see on Jn. 6:27.

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; so that you may have- Paul has explained in :12-15 that the believers are given the Spirit in confirmation of the hope they had in Christ for eternal salvation. But Paul wants them to perceive that Spirit, and to really feel and experience the guarantee of final salvation which it offers. The Corinthians likewise were given the gift of the Spirit on conversion, but were "not spiritual" (1 Cor. 3:1). They failed to let the Spirit transform them. So Paul prays that his converts would be given an appreciation of the solid hope of salvation which they had. "The Father of glory" refers to how God's glory will be revealed at the final salvation of His people (Mt. 16:27); and Paul therefore asks the Father of glory to open the eyes of the believers to the glory which awaits them (:18). The giving of the Spirit is incremental; for they had been given the Spirit (:13), but Paul prays that the Spirit will be given them to open their eyes further to the wonder of their future salvation. The prayers of third parties, therefore, can potentially influence the spirituality of those they pray for. We are not left to just work out our own salvation; the prayers of others can play a part in it. And seeing that is the case, we are to constantly be in prayer for each other.

1:18 The eyes of your mind enlightened, that you may appreciate what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints- See on :17. The Ephesians already had the Spirit, the guarantee of their future salvation; but Paul wanted them to perceive the utter wonder of it all. The Spirit therefore works on the human mind, opening our perceptions and appreciation. To limit it to miraculous manifestations in the first century is to seriously miss out on a major Biblical theme. And again we note that our prayer for others can potentially influence their perceptions and mental attitudes. The enlightening is by the gift of the Spirit (:17); proof enough that the promised Spirit gift is essentially an internal, mental operation rather than external miraculous gifts. "Enlightenment" is associated with being partakers in the Holy Spirit and tasting the Heavenly gift [i.e. the Spirit] in Heb. 6:4. And Heb. 10:32 speaks as if this "enlightenment" was a standard part of the Christian path ("... after you were enlightened..."). The same word for "enlightened" is found in Jn. 1:9- the Lord Jesus is the light of our world and enlightens every man who comes into that world. Once we take the step in faith of entering His world, then the gift of the Spirit enlightens us. He is therefore not passively sitting in Heaven awaiting the time of His return; He is busy enlightening believers, and He does this through the operation of His Spirit.

Our eyes have been enlightened, now we see (Eph. 1:18; 5:8; Col. 1:13; 1 Pet. 2:9). And yet in other ways we are blind spiritually. We see through a glass "darkly" (Gk. 'enigmatically'; 1 Cor. 13:12). The things of the Spirit are largely enigmas to us. Therefore Paul prays that his Ephesians would have "the eyes of their understanding" progressively enlightened, even though they had already been turned from darkness to light (Eph. 1:17,18). The disciples had been turned from darkness to light, but the Lord rebuked them for their blindness in not expecting His resurrection.

1:19 And what the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to that working of the strength of His might- The same Spirit power which resurrected the Lord Jesus (:20) is at work internally within us. Rom. 8:11 says the same about the Spirit gift that is now within us: "But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies- through His Spirit that dwells in you". Paul knows that they have heard the theory of the Spirit gift and that they have received it, but he wants them to perceive how hugely powerful is this gift. I find myself praying this same prayer, both for myself and for my brethren.

"His power toward us" uses eis, which can as well be rendered "in" or "within". The huge power, hyper and mega [NEV "exceeding greatness"], is working within us, which is exactly where we need empowerment. It is the energy [energeia, "working"] of His mighty force [ischus, "might"]. These are all powerful words. The energy of this force within us is only limited by our acceptance of it and actual desire to change.

1:20- see on Eph. 3:9,10.

Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised him from the dead and had him sit at His right hand in heaven- See on :19. The same force internally at work in transforming us was at work in the resurrection of the Lord (Rom. 8:11). The Lord's resurrection thus becomes a pattern for the breaking forth of new spiritual life within us. In spiritual terms, we too are raised from the dead and exalted to heavenly places in Christ. Verse 3 has used the same phrase, in stating that we are now in "heavenly places" through the work and blessing of the Spirit. And 2:6 will repeat this.

The Jews strongly believed that Satan had authority over the old / current age. Their writings speak of the rulers, powers, authorities, dominions etc. of this present age as all being within the supposed system of Satan and his various demons / Angels in Heaven. In Eph. 1:20–22 Paul says that Christ is now “above every ruler (archê), authority (exousia), power (dunamis) and dominion (kuriotês) and any name that can be named not only in this age but the age to come... All things have been put in subjection under his feet”. Paul’s teaching that no spiritual being can oppose the exalted Christ. He’s using the very terms used in the Jewish writings for the rulers, powers etc. of Satan’s supposed system. So when in 2 Cor. 4:4 Paul speaks of Satan as “the god of this age”, he’s not necessarily claiming that this is now the case – rather is he merely quoting from the well known Jewish belief about this.

1:21 Far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come- Just as the Lord Jesus is far above all human governments and dominions, so the persecuted believers in Ephesus should remember that whilst not 'above the law', they were spiritually in a sphere far above all the authorities who were persecuting them. "Far above" translates yet another superlative; huperano is literally 'above the upper things'. And Ephesians 1 is full of such hyper and mega words, mixed with powerful adjectives; all seeking to demonstrate the huge force available to us and operative within us. The terms for rule, authority, power, dominion and names could allude to the Judaist tendency to elevate the worship of Angels, and to consider some "names to be named" as greater even than Messiah. Recall how the Lord had to demonstrate that David considered Messiah to be his "lord" (Lk. 20:44), because the Jews considered the "son of David" to be less than David, and certainly inferior to Moses. This would explain why the name of the risen Lord Jesus is to be understood as greater than any name in the world which is to come, i.e. the Kingdom age.

1:22 And He put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to us to be head over all things in the church- The Lord's exaltation means that we are to be subject to Him. The Lord Jesus as the head of the body is going to as it were fill His body with His Spirit and direction. For the context here is of the transforming gift of the Spirit to those who are "in" the body of Christ.

The body of Christ, the ecclesia, is one form of the personal self-revelation of the person of the Lord Jesus. We don’t only and solely receive His self-revelation through accepting dogma or doctrine. It comes to us also through the way He mediates His personality to us, His self-revelation, through His Spirit in His body. His fullness is to be found in the church, His body- He fills “all [believers / members of the church] in all” (Eph. 1:22,23). I take this to mean that the fullness of His personal character, person, spirit, truth… is to be found in His body on earth, i.e. the community of believers. Each of them manifest a different aspect of Him. This is the Biblical “unity of the spirit”- whereby the body of Jesus reveals Him consistently, as a unity, thus binding together all who share that same one spirit of Christ. This is the way to unity- not enforcing intellectual assent to dogmatic propositions.

All things were put under the Lord’s feet because of His exaltation (Eph. 1:22); but now we see not yet all things put under Him (Heb. 2:8; 1 Cor. 15:24-28). The “all things” matches with Col. 1:18 speaking of the Lord being placed over the church. We are the “all things”. The great commission has the same thought sequence- because of the Lord’s exaltation, therefore we must go and tell all men and bring them into subjection to the exalted Christ. In prospect His body is “all in all” (Eph. 1:23), but the “all in all” phase will only be realized in practice at the end of the Millennium (1 Cor. 15:28). It is for us to grasp the height of His exaltation and the fact that it means that potentially, all men, all of existence, is under Him. And then we respond to this by going out and seeking to bring all men under Him.

1:23 Which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all- See on :22. The 'filling' of the Lord's body is by His Spirit; the gift of His Spirit "in the inner man" is what enables Him to fill His body with all God's fullness (Eph. 3:16,19). We note the connection between the Spirit gift and being filled in Eph. 4:10; 5:18.

There is a clear connection between this idea of the fullness of God, and Ex. 34:6, where God proclaims His Name to be "Yahweh, a God full of compassion", grace and His other characteristics (see R.V.). So by bearing God's Name, we have His fullness counted to us; and the filling of the Spirit makes us in practice what we are by status. As Christ had the fullness of God dwelling in Him in a bodily form (Col. 2:9), so the church, as the body of Christ, "is (Christ's) body, the fullness of him (God) that fills all in all" (Eph. 1:22,23). So you see the intensity of our unity; we are the very body of Christ, He exists in and through us (although of course He still has a separate personality). Likewise, the fullness of God is in Christ and thereby in us. We are not just one part of God's interest, our salvation is not just one of His many hobbies, as it were. He only has one beloved Son; He was human and born on this earth for our salvation. The fullness of God, even though we scarcely begin to comprehend it, dwelt fully in Christ, and is counted to us. We really should have a sense of wonder, real wonder, at the greatness of our calling. See on Eph. 3:19.

The church is "His body, the fullness of Him (God) that fills all in all". Thus we are "the" fullness of God and Christ. "We beheld His glory... full of grace and truth (alluding to Ex. 34)... and of His fullness have all we received" (Jn. 1:14,16). The word "fills" in Eph. 1:23 is the same as 'complete' in Col. 2:9,10: "In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete ["filled"] in Him". Christ is filled with God's fullness of the righteous attributes of glory, and in Christ we are also filled by the Spirit of Christ. Seeing that we are the body of Christ it follows that the ecclesia in toto manifests the fulness of Christ's and therefore God's glory, through each of us manifesting a slightly different aspect of God's glorious character to perfection. Thus Peter reasons that the quicker the ecclesia spiritually develops, manifesting those attributes, the earlier Christ can return (2 Pet. 3:11-15). See on Phil. 1:11.

The body of Christ is His "fullness" through which He fills us all. I take this to mean that each member of the body of Christ manifests something unique about Jesus, so that between us, we show all of Christ to the world- e.g. one may reveal His patience, another His zeal, etc. By limiting our definition of the body of Christ, we limit our perception and experience of Him; and thus we limit the extent we are filled with His fullness, if we refuse to accept that which every member of the body supplies to us, in order that we might grow up in Him (Eph. 4:16). God will be "all in all" through the full expression of His Name. But Eph. 1:23 says that right now, all the fullness of God fills "all in all" in the church; in other words we should now be experiencing something of that total unity which will then be physically manifest throughout all creation.