Word of the Cross Bible Study
January 18th, 2012

Purpose of the Epistle (letter) to the Ephesians

Unlike other epistles written to specific churches, this epistle dated around 60-61 A.D., does not deal with specific problems in a local congregation. Instead, Paul addresses themes that pertain to the Christian's position in Christ, as a member of the body of Christ, the church. He wrote it to strengthen the Christians in the church at Ephesus. As expressed in his prayer for his readers, it was his desire that they might know:

- What is the hope of God's calling (1:18)
- What are the glorious riches of God's inheritance in the saints (1:18)
- What is God's great power toward those who believe (1:19)

While Paul's companion letter to the Colossians emphasized the greatness of Christ, who is the head of the church, Paul's letter to the Ephesians emphasized the church itself, of which Christ is its head. With Ephesians exalted view of the church in God's plan of redemption, it is common to suggest the theme as "The Church, The Fullness of Christ".Another theme which does justice to the content of the epistle is that offered by Warren Wiersbe: "The Believer's Riches in Christ."

The first three chapters concentrate on the church being God's workmanship, which he made to be what it is according to his eternal plan of salvation. It was a plan that began in eternity, was implemented in time, and will be completed on the Day of Judgment when God receives his church of believers, the new Israel, into heavenly glory.

Read Ephesians 1:1-2 "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (ESV)

"are faithful in Christ Jesus" - The word "faithful" here is not used in the sense of "trustworthy," or in the sense of "fidelity," as it is often used, but in the sense of "believing," or "having faith" in the Lord Jesus. The apostle addresses those who were firm in the faith - another name for true Christians.

Read Ephesians 1:3-4 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him."

Paul is providing a Song Of Praise (Doxology) to the Triune God for his gracious plan for saving his church, verses 3-14. It starts with revering God's divine purpose for saving his church began with the Father's electing his believers in eternity--to the praise of his glory, verses 3-6.

"Before the foundation of the world" - This is a very important phrase in determining the time when the choice was made. It was not an "afterthought." It was not commenced in time. The purpose goes far back in the ages unto eternity. The word "foundation" means the beginning of anything; and that the phrase here means, "before the world began" There is scarcely any phrase in the New Testament which is more clear in its signification than this.

"That we should be holy" - Paul proceeds to state the "object" for which God had chosen his people. It is not merely that they should enter into heaven. It is not that they may live in sin. It is not that they may flatter themselves that they are safe, and then live as they please. The tendency among people has been to abuse the doctrine of predestination and election; to lead people to say that if all things are fixed there is no need of effort; that if God has an eternal plan, no matter how people live, they will be saved if he has elected them, and that at all events they cannot change that plan, and they may as well enjoy life by indulgence in sin. The apostle Paul held no such view of the doctrine of predestination. In his apprehension it is a doctrine suited to excite the gratitude of Christians, and the whole tendency and design of the teaching, according to him, is to make people holy, and without blame before God in love.

Read Ephesians 1:5-6 "...he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved."

"He predestinated us" - The word predestinated means "to set bounds before;" and then to "pre-determine." There is the essential idea of setting bounds or limits, and of doing this beforehand. It is not that God determined to do it when it was actually done, but that he intended to do it beforehand. Even by those who deny the doctrine of particular election, it is not denied that the word here used means to "pre-determine;" and they maintain that the sense is that God had pre-determined to admit the Gentiles to the calling and privileges of his people.

"adoption as sons" - Adopted as children by Jesus Christ unto himself; by which is meant, either the grace of adoption, which is an act of the Father's love, a blessing provided and secured in the covenant of grace; and is of persons to an inheritance, to which they have no legal right; and is entirely free. A slave is a servant; one adopted is equal to born seed.

"according to the good pleasure of his will" - The will of God is the purpose of all his actions, and of all his acts of grace and goodness.

"to the praise of his glorious grace" - This is a Hebraic phrase. The object was to excite thanksgiving for his wondrous grace manifested in electing love to love us despite our fallen condition. Paul introduced the statement by exalting God as to be regarded as "blessed" for forming and proving this plan of restoration. If humankind were left to nature, all humans would reject a genuine relationship with God, the offers of mercy and would perish. We alone have no desire to be Christians and to be saved. Nothing can induce us to forsake our sins and come to the Savior, except the Father's Spirit prompting us who are willing.

Read associated passage in Colossians 1:13-14 "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."