To whom was Ephesians written? It is very easy to see from its context that the primary target audience was believing Gentiles. "Remember that once you, the nations in flesh—who are termed 'Uncircumcision' by those termed 'Circumcision,' in flesh made by hands" (2:11). And 3:1 says: "I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you, the nations..." (etc., etc.). But we can't overlook the fact that Paul addressed the letter to "all the saints who are also believers in Christ Jesus" (1:1). And he also said, "To me, less than the least of all saints, was granted this grace: to bring the evangel of the untraceable riches of Christ to the nations, and to enlighten all as to what is the administration of the secret, which has been concealed from the eons in God" (3:8, 9). So there is a secondary target audience: believing Jews. And these Jews are also dependent upon Paul for a revelation of this administration which had been kept secret.
One thing that makes the book of Ephesians difficult to understand, is that Paul continually volleys back and forth between first and second person pronouns. "We this," and "you that!" On and on it goes. The common response to this issue is that when Paul speaks of we and us in verses 3-12 he is just including himself with those to whom he wrote. But this response must be rejected because it would fail to explain why he switches to you in verse 13 and speaks of things that are true of himself also. And the switching back and forth continues in dramatic fashion through the first two chapters.
What we wish to show is that Paul's literary structure, by bouncing back and forth between we and you actually illustrates a theme of the book. The purpose of the changing pronouns is to show in a literary format the union of the we Jewish believers and the you Gentile believers into one body. And they must become one body, because they are destined to become the personal administration of Christ that will bring all the universe under His headship.
In some contexts the you is clearly believers of the nations and the we is believers, like Paul, from among the Jews. But it is difficult to apply this in every case. For example, in 1:4 Paul said that God chooses us—first person pronoun we, referring to Jewish believers—before the disruption of the world. Does this mean that He chose Jewish believers before the disruption but not Gentile believers? Were Gentile believers chosen at a different time? Or, were Jewish believers chosen and Gentile believers came to faith by free will? We will answer these questions in due time.
This is the kind of confusion that comes from trying to follow these pronouns in the way they are presented. And this is complicated because as soon as Paul gives the introduction to the letter and invokes God's grace and peace on the Ephesians, he seems to be dropping the Gentile believers and starting to praise God for calling the Jewish believers. If he is praising God for calling Jewish believers, then why isn't this letter addressed primarily to Jewish believers?
Now let's add another element of question or confusion. Can we prove from the O. T. that Jewish believers knew they were chosen before the disruption of the world? When did this fact become a part of biblical revelation? We pointed out Paul's responsibility in Ephesians 3:8, 9, to make some things known to the Jews also. So we are stating that at least part of Paul's message is new good news to both Jews and Gentiles. And we can expect that his explanation will reveal new things about God's plan of redemption that affect the Jews as well as the Gentiles.
Since Paul's message is going to explain a new relationship between believing Jews and Gentiles, it becomes quite natural for Paul to use first and second person pronoun contrasts - we and you contrasts - to lead us along to the point where the separate we's and you's are joined into a universal us.
At this point, to help clear away some of the confusion, we would like to take a broad look at the openings of Paul's letters. When it came to writing letters, Paul was a creature of habit. That is good news for us, because his habits will help us see that something is special and different about the way he wrote the letter of Ephesians.
All the N. T. books written by Paul were letters that he sent to various churches or individuals. All of these letters begin with a very definite format. Only in a few cases is there any variation in form. But, despite a small amount of variation, they all contain three basic elements that occur in the same order.
(1) First is Paul's greeting in which he introduces himself and sometimes a coworker such as Timothy. He mentions his relationship of service to Christ and that he came into this position through God's will or purpose. Finally Paul mentions the recipients of the letter. Following are the verses in each letter that are occupied by the first element of Paul's greeting:
Rom. 1:1-7a; 1 Cor. 1:1-2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1-2; Eph. 1:1;
Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:1, 2a; 1 Thess. 1:1a 2 Thess. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1-2;
2 Tim. 1:1-2a; Tit. 1:1-4; Phlm. 1:1-2
We call attention briefly to two references: Romans 1:1-7a and Titus 1:1-4. These passages are longer than Paul's norm. The Roman's introduction contains the gospel in a nutshell. When Paul speaks of his relationship to Christ he adds a number of phrases that are descriptive of Christ's work. By doing this he gives a mini-introduction to the gospel, which is the basic theme of the whole letter. Titus is very similar. There Paul adds some extra words about devoutness and our expectation—ideas relevant to the message of that letter.
(2) The second element of Paul's greeting is a statement that is repeated nearly verbatim in all his letters: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ." As a literary structure, this invocation of God's blessings on the readers almost takes the nature of a line drawn between the first and third elements of his letters. The references for the second element are:
Rom. 1:7b; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3-5; Eph. 1:2;
Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2b; 1 Thess. 1:1b; 2 Thess. 1:2; 1Tim. 1:2b;
2 Tim. 1:1:2b; Tit. 1:4b; Phlm. 1:3
The only variation of any significance is that in Galatians Paul attaches a statement about the purpose and fullness of deliverance that comes to us in Christ's sacrifice. Clearly this relates to the problems the Galatians had with Jews who wanted the Galatian believers to become circumcised. It is a brief precursor of a major theme of the letter.
(3) We are going to call the third element of Paul's greetings an I - you statement. In the I - you statement Paul expresses his concern for the situation of the recipient(s) of the letter. This third element is the launching pad that takes us into the body of the letter. This third element links back to the first two, because it tells the reason Paul writes to the recipients, and it shows his motives for invoking God's grace and peace upon them.
The third element will have more variation in content because it is directly related to the circumstances of the recipients. Everyone's situation is different, and everyone's circumstances change with time. The purpose of every letter was unique. We will give some examples of the I - you statements:
Romans 1:8 "First, indeed, I am thanking my God through Jesus concerning all of you, that your faith is being announced..."
1 Corinthians 1:4 "I am thanking my God always concerning you...
2 Corinthians 1:23 "I am invoking God as a witness on my soul, that to spare you, I came no longer to Corinth."
Galatians 1:6 "I am marveling that thus, swiftly, you are transferred from that which calls you in the grace of Christ"
Ephesians 1:15 "Therefore, I also, on hearing of this faith of yours in the Lord Jesus...do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention in my prayers..."
Philippians 1:3 "I am thanking my God at every remembrance of you...
see also: Col. 1:3ff; 1 Thess. 1:2ff; 2 Thess. 1:3ff; 1 Tim. 1:3ff;
2 Tim. 1:3ff; Tit. 1:5ff; Phlm. 1:4ff;
If we look at the verse numbers for all of these I - you statements, it is easily seen that two stand out from the rest. In every letter of Paul except two, the I - you statement immediately follows his invocation of grace and peace.
In 2 Corinthians there is about a 20 verse jump from the invocation of grace and peace to the I - you statement. The reason for the jump is so Paul can insert a passage concerning his own personal experience. He begins the insertion by pronouncing a blessing on the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for using the trial he underwent to accomplish a work of blessing and consolation in him. Paul had endured some hardship that caused him to delay his return visit to Corinth. Meanwhile this delay gave time for speculation among the Corinthians to grow a variety of rumors and even accusations about the reason for Paul's absence. Previously Paul had given strong rebuke to the ecclesia for allowing indecent conduct among its members. Some in the church criticized Paul and challenged his authority. In this opening paragraph Paul explained that God was using the experience of his hardship to enable him to identify with and better console those to whom he ministered. The theme of this opening paragraph surfaces repeatedly in the letter.
The other book with an insertion after the invocation of grace and peace is Ephesians. Verses 3-14 are an insert into Paul's normal form, and they lay a foundation for much of what Paul will say in the letter. Like the insertion in 2 Corinthians, it begins with a blessing on God. Unlike 2 Corinthians, this insertion does not detail a personal experience of Paul. In Ephesians the insertion actually forms the basis for part of the I - you statement because it gives explanation for part of his prayer which the I-you statement introduces.
Realizing that Ephesians has this modification from Paul's normal form will enable us to better understand Paul's use of pronouns in the letter. It shows us why the first person plural pronouns (we, us and our) beginning in verse 3 do not apply to the primary recipients of the letter until we reach verse 14. At that point the target recipients of the letter are brought into the blessings of verses 3-12, though Paul will continue to address them separately. And Paul's I - you statement in verse 15 initiates the prayer for the Gentile recipients of the letter to understand verses 3-14 and all that's implied in them.
Even though believing Gentiles are the primary audience for this letter, Paul begins immediately by speaking about God's blessings upon us believers of the Jews. Why does he do this? The reason seems to be that there are so many changes that had taken place with the coming of Christ, and there were so many incorrect ideas among the Jews about Messiah and the kingdom, that Paul needs to begin by setting a new baseline. He will first establish where the Jewish believers are, and then join the Gentile believers to them. This is like an echo of Paul's phrase in Romans: "...to the Jew first, and to the Greek as well" (Rom. 1:16; 2:9, 10).
We come to this conclusion because the opening verses are so packed with New Testament revelation about Christ, the kingdom and the believer's position in Christ, that Paul must be laying a new foundation of understanding. We will consider some of these issues briefly first, so that we can see how the opening section of the letter relates to Paul's prayer for the Ephesians. Some of this new revelation is spread throughout the N. T. Some was given especially to Paul, particularly that which concerns the setting aside of Israel nationally and the coming in of the nations. Our first background consideration will deal with the disruption (katabole) of the world.
Christ was foreknown by God as an unspotted Lamb before the disruption of the world, and His death is seen as effective from the disruption (1 Pet. 1:18-21; Rev. 13:8; 17:8). These verses make it clear that the disruption of the world was an event that created enmity toward God and called for the sacrifice of His Son to make reconciliation. The cleansing that required the sacrifice of Christ was not limited to planet earth and the human race, but the heavenly precincts of the spiritual realm needed this cleansing from the disruption of the cosmos also (Heb. 9:23-26). These verses show us that the term disruption of the world applies to a wider range of beings than humanity alone. The cross of Christ reconciles those of the heavens as well as those of earth (Col. 1:20). The writer of Hebrews tells us that the works of the days of creation, leading up to the original Sabbath, occurred from the disruption, dating the disruption at the time of Genesis 1:2 (Heb. 4:1-4). The disruption was an event that called for rule or reigning to restore order. Christ spoke in parables uttering things kept secret from the time of the disruption when he gave the parables of the kingdom. The allotment of tenancy in the kingdom was prepared for believers from the disruption (Matt. 13:35; 25:34). God has been sending out prophets since that time of whom Abel was the first (Lk. 11:50). And Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:4 that believers were chosen before the disruption of the world.
This brief summary on the disruption of the world shows that it has everything to do with the Messiah - the suffering Messiah - the kingdom, the spiritual realm, and the salvation of believers. This revelation was as important to Jews as it was to Gentiles, because the Jewish concepts of the Messiah and the kingdom were varied and inaccurate.
The Lord Jesus was the promised Son of David, but He did not come to reinstall the Davidic dynasty. He and the Baptist proclaimed the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven - a reign of God on earth. Only once do we read of the coming of the kingdom of our father David (Mk. 11:10), and that was on the lips of the Jerusalem crowd at the triumphal entry. It did not come from Jesus, the Baptist or the apostles. Messiah will, indeed take the position that had belonged to David (Lk. 1:32), but the kingdom will be of a superior nature.
The first time God mentioned a kingdom to His people was at Mt. Sinai after the exodus. "As for you, you shall become Mine, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. 19:6). Can you imagine a kingdom of priests? - a kingdom in which all the citizens functioned to create the right relationship of people to God? A realm where all the citizens ministered to God? Later, in the days of Samuel, the Israelites asked for a king like the other nations around them. God responded through Samuel saying that they had rejected Him from reigning over them. Saul was made king but mishandled his responsibilities. And when David was selected to replace him, Saul tried to kill David. That kingdom was definitely very much like Israel's neighbors.
Daniel saw visions that represented the kingdoms of the world, and they were all represented by savage beasts. These kingdoms ruled by consuming other nations like a predator consumes its prey. Then Daniel had a vision of one like the Son of man coming from heaven, and a kingdom was given to Him. The difference between God's kingdom and man's kingdoms is like the difference between a heavenly man and wild animals. Yet even in the days of Jesus and John the Baptist, the people wanted a kingdom like other kingdoms on earth. But Peter echoes the book of Exodus when he called believers "'a royal priesthood,' a 'holy nation,' a procured people" (1 Pet. 2:9). The coming of the Messiah brings us back to square one of what the kingdom is really about, and it required new revelation.
For God's kingdom to come, several things had to happen. God's reign cannot be carried out in the flesh, so humanity had to have a new beginning. The Lord Jesus had to replace Adam as the Head of humanity. For Christ to take this position - the position of the Son of Man, it had to be verified that He was the Son of God. This may sound like a contradiction because of the two titles, but that is not the case. Remember in Luke's genealogy that Adam was called son of God.
There were two steps in Adam becoming a son of God: first he was formed from the dust of the earth; second, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Similarly there were two steps in verifying that Jesus was the Son of God: first, He was made flesh - He was born of the virgin Mary; second, He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. Paul says that the resurrection is the proof that Jesus is the Son of God. How is this? First, His death verified His complete faith in the Father; His death proved He was human; His death completed His sacrifice. Next, His resurrection to immortality fulfilled Psalm 2:7: "My Son are You; I, today, have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I shall give the nations as Your allotment, and as Your holding, the limits of the earth" (CV see also Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5). Paul wrote to the Romans of Jesus Christ: "...Who is designated Son of God with power...by the resurrection of the dead" (Rom. 1:4). It is true that God spoke of Christ as His beloved and well-pleasing Son at baptism. But when we remember that baptism is symbolic of death and resurrection (Rom. 6), then we see how prophetic that event was.
After Christ was verified to be both the new Head of humanity and the Son of God, there had to be a means for people to become members of the new humanity under His headship. This is where the New Testament, and especially the book of Ephesians come in. People today speak of being saved or having faith. They could, as well, speak of becoming part of the new humanity under Christ.
In verses 17-19 of the first chapter, Paul gives his prayer for the Ephesians. His prayer is a petition that believers would come to a realization of God, the Father of glory. In order to realize God as the Father of glory, the Ephesians must realize three glorious things: (1) the expectation of God's calling; (2) the enjoyment of God's allotment among the saints; (3) and the transcendent greatness of God's power for believers. This reminds us of Jesus' words in John 17:3: "Now it is eonian life that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Him Whom Thou dost commission, Jesus Christ."
Paul's insertion, verses 3-14, contains an explanation of the first two things he prays for. Verses 3-6 provide an explanation of Paul's first petition, the expectation of our calling. Verses 7-12 provide an explanation of God's allotment among the saints, the second petition. The third request in Paul's prayer was for a realization of the transcendent power of God for believers. That power is illustrated and explained in 1:20 through 2:10. So, except for verses 1 and 2 of chapter 1, the first chapter and a half are the opening petals of the blossom of God's blessings which Paul prays we will come to realize, and thereby realize God as our glorious Father.
A1 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, in Christ,"
B1 "according as He chooses us in Him before the disruption of the world,"
C1 "we to be holy and flawless in His sight,"
C2 "in love designating us beforehand for the place of a son for Him through Christ Jesus;"
B2 "in accord with the delight of His will,"
A2 "for the laud of the glory of His grace, which graces us in the Beloved:"
Under the law, Israel had been promised temporal and physical blessings for obedience. But now Christ has gone beyond the limits of the Levitical priesthood. He did not enter into an earthly holy place with an annual sacrifice. He entered heaven itself and the presence of God to present Himself as a once for all sacrifice for our sakes. He has entered the spiritual realm to open the bounty of spiritual blessings for us. In the accounts of the life of Jesus, there are many examples of Jesus and His disciples exercising power over evil spirits. These miracles illustrate the expanding realm of authority for man in God's kingdom. Christ exaltation in the spiritual realm also gives reason for the calling of the Gentiles. In 2:2, 3 we see that the Gentiles were in the realm of Satan's control. Some being freed into life in Christ shows Christ's authority breaking into that realm.
These spiritual blessings come to believers because they were chosen by God, in the Messiah, before the disruption of the world. The Father loved the Son before the disruption of the world (Jn.17:24), and chose those who would participate with Him in the kingdom. To be "holy and flawless in His sight" is a spiritual blessing that is required and enables believers to participate in the administration of the kingdom and to enter the celestial, spiritual realm.
This condition of "holy and flawless" is amplified in the next line which says, "...in love designating us beforehand for the place of a son for Him through Christ Jesus." We would like to ask the question, Where does the teaching of the believer's sonship to God originate? Was it clearly presented in the O. T.? No, it comes through the channel and means of Christ. Notice that in the pre-disruption love of God believers were designated for the place of a son for God (1:4). This is the same word family that is used of Christ's designation. Christ was designated Son of God by His resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4). His was not a designation beforehand, but designation in the course of human history and witnessed by man. The believer's designation was beforehand and in Christ. Paul explains this when he speaks of dying and being raised with Christ. Our sonship is inseparably tied to Christ and His work. Since this work of Christ was, to some degree, hidden (1 Cor. 2:6-8), the teaching of the believer's sonship was also hidden.
Paul's letter to the Romans ties many of these thoughts together for us. Believers are called according to God's purpose, and those who are called were "designated beforehand...to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be the Firstborn among many brethren" (Rom.8:28-30). As His brethren, believers will work with Him, under His headship, in the administration of the kingdom. We noted that it was the resurrection that designated or specified that Christ was God's Son. This will also be true of believers. Currently we enjoy the earnest, or firstfruit, of these spiritual blessings. But in our own quickening to immortality we will also be verified as sons of God as Paul said earlier: "For the premonition of the creation is awaiting the unveiling of the sons of God .. we ourselves .. who have the firstfruit of the spirit, we ourselves also, are groaning in ourselves, awaiting the sonship, the deliverance of our body. For to expectation were we saved" (Rom. 8:19-24). So the promise of Yahweh to Christ, "My Son are You; I, today, have begotten You" (Ps. 2:7), comes to believers also through Christ.
Ephesians 1:6 closes the opening stanza of Paul's praise to God with the thoughts of God's purpose and grace being the source of these wonderful blessings. To summarize these blessings, the calling of God to believers is for them to become His sons, and enjoy the privileges that come with being sons of God. This is precisely Paul's first petition in his prayer for the Ephesians: to realize what is the expectation of the calling of the Father of glory. God is the originator of these events, and they all come to us through the channel of Christ.
The phrase we have just used for a title was the second petition in Paul's prayer, and it carries an allusion to Deuteronomy 32:9: "For the portion of Yahweh is His people; Jacob is the line of His allotment." The fact that Paul uses the term His (God's) allotment, shows that he is indeed addressing Jewish believers. Twenty-first century believers seem mostly concerned with what their allotment in heaven, or the kingdom, will be. They miss the point of what Paul says here. The purpose of delivering Israel from Egyptian slavery was to set up a nation which had God as its King, and for that nation to be an ensign before the nations of the world. That nation was to establish a place for God's Name. This is a major theme of the Pentateuch. The thing that would make Israel different from every other nation is that God would be dwelling among them. They were meant to be a nation that could be called Emmanuel — God with us. The book of Matthew, which presents Christ as the new Israel, is the only N. T. book to record this name. Listen to what we read when the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven in Revelation 21:3: "And I hear a loud voice out of the throne saying, 'Lo! The tabernacle of God is with mankind, and He will be tabernacling with them, and they will be His peoples, and God Himself will be with them." This great point of climax in the Bible rests on the idea of God and people dwelling together. That is a point Paul wants to be made clear.
In his prayer for the Ephesians Paul stacks up the superlatives in describing this condition that he wants his readers to grasp. "...for you to perceive...the riches of the glory of the enjoyment of His allotment among the saints" (1:18). To be a son of God, and to participate in God's plan of redemption, is to enjoy a tenancy - a place of life and service - where you are living with God and those He has perfected. This tenancy is glorious. The glory of this tenancy is rich. So let us look at Paul's description of God's allotment among the saints.
A1 "in Whom [Christ] we are having the deliverance through His blood, the forgiveness of offenses in accord with the riches of His grace, which He lavishes on us;"
B1 "in all wisdom and prudence making known to us the secret of His will (in accord with His delight, which He purposed in Him)"
C1 "to have an administration of the complement of the eras, to head up all in the Christ - both that in the heavens and that on the earth -
B2 "in Him in Whom our lot was cast also, being designated beforehand according to the
purpose of the of the One Who is operating all in accord with the counsel of His will,"
A2 "that we should be for the laud of His glory, who are pre-expectant in the Christ."
To enter into God's allotment believers must first be delivered from their sins and offenses against Him. This can happen only in grace and in Christ. Mankind is universally unfaithful, except for Christ, Who was faithful, even to death, even to death on a cross. God is so pleased with the faithfulness of Christ that He delights to honor Him. And, as if honoring Christ was not enough, God has chosen others to be with Him and accompany and serve Him in His glorious work. That is where believers come into the picture.
Christ has completed the portion of His work that required humiliation, and He did that alone. Now He is beginning His work in glory, and God will have Him come forth to that work with many behind Him. His complement will assist Him. Christ's work in glory will be to complete the kingdom that the Father planned from the disruption of the world. That kingdom is one in which God dwells among His people.
Before the disruption God planned a kingdom administration that would honor His Son by bringing the whole universe under His headship. Believers, being called to be sons of God with Christ, are privileged to be part of the administration which will accomplish this great work of reconciliation. In doing so they will live in the kingdom in which God dwells among His people. And as they function in that kingdom to bring all under the headship of Christ, they will also be bringing honor to the God Who gave His Son. If these first two chiasms are looked at together, it will be noticed that the first B speaks of being chosen by God, and the next 3 B's mention God's will being performed.
We have been focusing on the relationship of Paul's petitions to these opening words of the letter, and we may have neglected, to a degree, the pronouns that have been used. In verses 3-12 Paul has used first person pronouns, referring to himself and Jewish believers. By taking note of references and allusions to the kingdom and God's purpose with the nation of Israel, we have tried to complement Paul's use of pronouns. This thought now comes to a climax in verse 12 when he mentions that the ones he has been speaking of are "pre-expectant in the Christ." They had a prior expectation, a previous looking forward to the Messiah. In chapter 2:11, 12 the nations who were not involved in the circumcision covenant with God had "no expectation" and were "without God in the world!" So 1:12 makes it clear that we are correct in applying the first person pronouns to believing Israelites. But the reason Paul creates this emphasis in verse 12 is to highlight the abrupt change that is coming in verse 13.
A1 "In Whom you also-on hearing the word of truth, the evangel of your salvation"
B1 "in Whom on believing also, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (which is an earnest of the enjoyment or our allotment"
A2 "to the deliverance of that which has been procured) for the laud of His glory!"
These two verses (13-14) may seem too short to be given separate attention, but Paul makes them a separate stanza in his blessing upon God. After addressing God in verse 3, it is easily seen that all the things for which we bless God are in Christ. And so all the blessings of the first stanza come to us in Christ, and the first stanza ends with the laud of God's glory in Christ. The second stanza in verse 7 begins in Whom [Christ], and ends like the first with of the laud of God's glory in verse 12. This stanza also begins with in Whom [Christ], and ends with the laud of His [God's] glory. In addition to being a separate stanza, it is an important and pivotal point in the letter.
The salient feature of the third stanza is the change from first person to second person pronouns. In Christ, you of the nations also are hearing the word of truth - the evangel of your salvation. In Christ, you of the nations also are sealed with the Holy Spirit that was promised to be poured out upon Israel! In Christ, you of the nations have the Holy Spirit, Who is the earnest or title deed to the enjoyment of the allotment that was promised to us Israelites!
In Exodus 19:6, where God spoke of Israel becoming a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, the first thing He said was "you shall become Mine." When Peter repeated that verse he expressed the idea of Jewish believers becoming God's people with the term, "a procured people" (1 Pet. 2:9). Paul uses the same terminology here in v. 14 when he says, "you [believing Gentiles] are sealed with the holy spirit of promise (which is an earnest of the enjoyment of our allotment, to the deliverance of that which has been procured)." By receiving the Holy Spirit upon believing, the Gentile believers have become God's people, just as truly as the believing Israelites had.
Here is the answer to the question why the primary target audience of Ephesians was the Gentile believers, but Paul began by addressing the secondary target, the Jewish believers. The calling of believers to be sons of God was always in Christ, but it came to Israel first. The allotment of being God's people with God dwelling among them came to the Israelites first. The pouring out of God's Spirit on His people was revealed first to be a benefit to be enjoyed by Israel (see John's gospel, Ezek. 37, etc.), but they barely received it before it came on the nations also. So Paul prefixes his prayer with these descriptions of his first two petitions. But then he says that Gentile believers have become co-owners of these benefits in Christ by believing the evangel and receiving the earnest of God's Spirit.
It is fascinating that Paul reveals these things in a manner that reflects the historical progression of events. The power of God for believers, the third petition in Paul's prayer for realization, came to Israel and the nations at about the same time. Paul saves it for last, after the transition, and reveals it differently. Here in verses 13 and 14 he identifies who the believing ones are - the believing ones are both Jewish and Gentile. It is after he has joined Jew and Gentile together as members of a believing body that he will give the description of his final petition. This is a literary, structural illustration of a theme of the letter. He uses the structure of the letter to show the joining of Jew and Gentile into one body. To the writer, it is a proof of the continually amazing doctrine of divine inspiration in the Scriptures.
There is also another interesting detail that confirms our proposition on understanding the pronouns. We have shown that verses 3-6 describe the calling of the Father of glory to be His sons. And we have shown that verses 7-12 describe the Father of glory's allotment among the saints. When Paul described these things he applied them to us believing Jews. But when he makes these issues the petitions of his prayer, he prays for you believers of the nations to realize them! Notice the words: "...making mention in my prayers that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may be giving you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the realization of Him, the eyes of your heart having been enlightened, for you to perceive what is the expectation of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of the enjoyment of His allotment among the saints" (1:16-18).
And then, on the third petition, he restates the aspect of pronouns to include all. "...to perceive...what the transcendent greatness of His power for us who are believing" (v. 19). This first person pronoun must include both the believing Jews and those of the nations, because he noted in verse 13 that you the nations were believing also.
Paul's description of his third petition in the prayer follows the prayer (vv.17-19) rather than precedes it. And there is more than one description of this petition. First he gives an example of God's power for believers by showing how God's power operated with Christ. Later, following that description he will give similar illustrations by applying God's power to the joined body of Jewish and Gentile believers.
A1 In accord with the operation of the might of His strength, which is operative in the Christ,
B1 Rousing Him from among the dead
C1 And seating Him at His right hand among the celestials, up over every sovereignty
and authority and power and lordship, and every name that is named,
C2 Not only [seating Him up over every name that is named] in this eon, but also [up
over every name named] in that [eon] which is impending:
B2 And subjects all under His feet
A2 And gives Him, as Head over all to the ecclesia which is His body, the complement of the One
Completing the all in all.
This is the description of God's power for believers as it was illustrated in Christ. In order to give his readers the full impact, and also to bring them to grips with their new position, Paul will back up historically to describe them before the time of their belief in Christ. In doing so he will place Jews and Gentiles on a level playing field, showing that neither is in a superior station. Paul also drops back to the differentiating pronouns to help emphasize the change.
A1 And you
B1 being dead to your offenses and sins
C1 in which once you walked
D1 in accord with the eon of this world
E1 in accord with the chief of the jurisdiction of the air,
F1 The spirit now operating in the sons of stubbornness
C2 (among whom we also all behaved ourselves once
D2 in the lusts or our flesh
E2 doing the will of the flesh and of the comprehension
F2 and were, in our nature, children of indignation, even as
B2 being dead to the offenses and lusts
A2 We also
A3 Yet God
B3 being rich in mercy, because of His vast love with which He loves us
C3 vivifies us together in Christ (in grace are you saved!)
D3 and rouses us together
E3 and seats us together among the celestials in Christ Jesus,
F3 That, in the oncoming eons, He should be displaying the
transcendent riches of His grace in His kindness to us in
C4 For in grace, through faith, are you saved
D4 and this is not out of you; it is God's approach present, not of works lest
anyone should be boasting
E4 For His achievement are we
B4 being created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God makes ready beforehand, that we should be walking in them.
The first segment of the outline, A1 through F1, describes the former behavior of you Gentile believers. Paul speaks of their condition as being under the influence of evil spiritual powers. At other times he had said of them that, "...God...Who, in bygone generations, leaves all the nations to go their ways..." though they were not left without the divine revelation in nature (Acts 14:16; cf. 17:26-30). The end result was a condition described as "sons of stubbornness." Then he switches to we believers of the Israelite nation, saying that they were no better than the Gentiles and labels them with the parallel term "children of indignation." But his description of the Jewish believers, though it exhibits the same stubbornness toward God, is different. Because of their covenant with the true God, he does not speak of them as under the sway of evil spirits, but describes them as subject to the lusts of the flesh. This emphasizes their failure to keep the law. The comparison of A1 through F1 with A2 through F2 will bear out this difference. Paul endears himself to the Gentile believers in all this and promotes the unity of the two groups, because his conclusion is clear that neither group has earned or possessed any position of superiority. And both groups have been graced to enter the condition of being dead to their offenses and sins/lusts.
The A2 statement is out of position from its place in the text. It seems that Paul rushes ahead to the "Yet God..." statement out of joy and gratitude for God's blessed intervention in human affairs. Then, to balance the descriptions and show the equality of the two groups, he inserts it late.
The second chiasm shows what God is doing with the two groups - Jewish and Gentile believers. In A1, 2, 3 God is in contrast with the pronouns you and we. Notice also that all 4 of the B statements have the word being. You Gentile believers and we Jewish believers have come into a condition of being dead to our offenses, lusts and sins, because God, being rich in mercy and love, saved and blessed us all. And not only did He save and bless, but the outline shows also that He has unified the you and the we into an us. This unification is part of the fourth being - "being created in Christ Jesus."
Notice now the threefold repetition of "us together." This unification of we and you is part of God's work. It shows the equality in blessing to both parties, and it points to Paul's teaching of the new creation. One reason the evangel of grace is tied to the new creation is because it transforms humanity into a unit, as humanity was at the beginning, before the creation of the Israelite nation and before the division of languages and nations at Babel. There is a new beginning in Christ, instead of in Adam. The nation Israel was to be a type of Christ, and thus was given the commission of being a blessing to all nations. Ultimately, under the headship of Christ, a renewed Israel will work in that ministry of unification. God is one, and humanity, His image, must also be one. This requires re-creation. And just as Adam had a complement through whom he brought about humanity, so also God fathers a new humanity through Christ and His complement, the church, or, ecclesia.
In the final segment of the chiasm, the C4 and D4 are designated to you believing Gentiles. Paul notes that their salvation is of grace and did not originate in them. He then insinuates that such is the case with believing Israelites also, with the phrase: "lest anyone should boast. The word anyone brings Jews and Gentiles together. On the unity of the word anyone he finishes with a we that includes both Jew and Gentile. We are God's achievement, and we should be walking in the good works He has prepared. So Paul first describes the work of the God Who is rich in mercy and love with 5 unifying us's, 3 of which are given as us together. These 5 are balanced by 2 you's, 1 anyone, and 2 we's. The second chiasm also shows unity by having a single F member (F3) instead of two F members (F1, F2) like the first chiasm.
As this outline of 2:1-10 progresses, the same three elements of the chapter 1 section can be seen. The calling of God is seen in the change that comes to Jews and Gentiles, changing them from sons of stubbornness and indignation to those who are dead to their offenses and sins and become sons of God through Jesus Christ. The naming of three kinds of sons and children make this clear. God's allotment is behind the thoughts of their being vivified and seated among the celestials in a place of authority and honor. And, finally, God's transcendent power will be displayed through their service.
We have looked at two sections and seen them both move from division to unity. Though they overlap, they each have a separate message. The first section viewed everything as originating in God and issuing through the channel of Christ. The second views the actions of the two groups and showed how God acted to bring them together through Christ.
After Paul illustrated God's power for believers in the experience of Christ, he showed how it would also find application or fulfillment in their lives. We wish we could present this comparison in a smooth flowing chiasm like those used for showing the structure of the text, but such an outline escapes the writer. Instead we will place a chart before the reader, and let the repetition of words, phrases and ideas speak for themselves.
God's power operating in Christ
God's power for believers
|Rousing Him (Christ) from among the dead 1:20
||Though we were once in sin, He vivifies us and rouses us together in Christ 2:1-5 |
|Seating Him at His right among celestials, up over every sovereignty, authority .. every name named 1:21
||Seats us together among the celestials in Christ Jesus 2:6 |
|Not only in this eon, but also in that which is impending 1:21
||That in the oncoming eons He should be displaying the transcendent riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus 2:7 |
|The transcendent greatness of His power for us ... which is operative in Christ 1:19, 20
||The transcendent riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus 2:7|
|God's power in The Headship of Christ:Ecclesia:
God gives Him, as Head over all to the ecclesia, the complement of the One completing the all in all 1:23
|God's power in believers under Christ's Headship: Personal:
Saved in grace through faith, not of ourselves, but God's approach present so no one can boast 2:8, 9
|God's power in the Headship of Christ: Universal
And subjects all under His feet, the One completing the all in all. 1:23
|God's power in believers under Christ's Headship: Outward:
For His achievement are we, being created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God makes ready beforehand, that we should be walking in them. 2:10
If we do nothing more than notice the repeated words and phrases, we can begin to perceive the transcendent power of God for believers. Christ and believers are roused; Christ and believers are seated among the celestials; Christ and believers will give their greatest display of power in the coming eons; while Christ displays the transcendent greatness of God's power in operation, we will display the transcendent riches of His grace; Christ's headship is spoken of with relationship to two realms—His body (the ecclesia) and all creation, and believer's service under the headship of Christ is spoken of in two realms—the inward and the outward.
This section continues the theme of unity in Christ, taking time elements and spatial orientations for its point of departure. These elements will be found mostly in the left margin. Please note the balance shown in the repetition of words and ideas in lines with the same indentation.
A1 Wherefore, remember that once you,
B1 the nations in flesh
C1 who are termed "Uncircumcision"
C2 by those termed "Circumcision,"
B2 in flesh, made by hands
A3 that you were in that era,
B3 apart from Christ,
C3 being alienated from the citizenship of Israel,
C4 And [being] guests of the promise covenants, having no expectation,
B4 and without God in the world.
A5 Yet now, in Christ Jesus, you, who once are far off,
B5 are become near by the blood of Christ.
C5 For He is our Peace, Who makes both one,
D5 and razes the central wall of the barrier
E5 (the enmity in His flesh),
D6 nullifying the law of precepts in decrees,
C6 that He should be creating the two, in Himself, into one new humanity, making peace;
D7 and should be reconciling both in one body to God through the cross,
E7 killing the enmity in it.
D8 And, coming, He brings the evangel of peace to you, those afar,
C8 and peace to those near.
B8 For through Him we both have had the access, in one spirit, to the Father.
A9 Consequently, then, no longer are you guests and sojourners,
B9 but are fellow-citizens of the saints and belong to God's family,
C9 being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
D9 the capstone of the corner being Christ Jesus Himself,
C10 in Whom the entire building, being connected together,
B10 is growing into a holy temple in the Lord:
A10 in Whom you also are being built together for God's dwelling place, in spirit.
Notice first the time progression that accompanies these thoughts: "Wherefore, remember that once you...you were in that era...Yet now, in Christ Jesus, you, who once ... no longer are you...you also are being built." Then notice the spatial references: "...apart from Christ...alienated from citizenship...guests...without God in the world...far off...become near...made one...central wall of the barrier...reconciling both...afar...near...access...guests and sojourners...fellow-citizens...family...built together." The nations were apart from the covenant (circumcision), apart from the lineage of the promised Seed, and to sum it up, "without God in the world." There are divisions of the flesh, and they are nullified in the death of Christ by the destruction of His flesh which also destroyed the enmity and distance between parties. The focal points of the outline tell the story of a change from division to unity.
In the first chiasm, A1 through B2, Paul deftly levels the ground again between Jew and Gentile. He speaks of the nations in flesh, and compares that to circumcision in flesh made by hands. This places both groups outside the realm of the spiritual blessings mentioned in chapter 1.
The next chiasm, A3 through B4, focuses on the Gentiles. The focal point of that section states that the best the Gentiles could hope for was to be guests in kingdom blessings.
A5 through B8 gives the central thrust of the outline by doing several things: (1) It brings believing Jews and Gentiles together for the first time in the outline; (2) It brings in the figure of the temple by mentioning the central barrier wall which kept Gentiles out of the inner precincts of the Jewish temple; (3) It introduces a new term - a new creation - the new humanity.
E5 and E7 are twin focal points that repeat the keyword enmity. Whatever animosity there was between Jew and Gentile, or, for that matter, between any racial or social groupings of humanity - it is cancelled in Christ. C6 is centered between the two expressions of enmity, and it is the central focal point of the outline showing the enmity destroyed by the creation of the new humanity. The nature of the new temple is hinted at in B8 when it speaks of access to the Father.
The final chiasm, A9 through A10 sets before us a growing temple-family. D9 is the focal point, and it names Christ Jesus Himself as the capstone of the corner. The members of the entire living building are all connected together through Christ. A10 gives the final climax of all believers being built together for God's dwelling place in spirit.
While the general theme is unity, there are also new divisions. Christ not only made peace with God for those who were afar off, but He also made peace for those who were, according to the flesh, near. When He made peace for those near, the believing Jews, He separated them from other Jews, just as believing Gentiles are separated from other Gentiles. The great benefit is not to become part of God's chosen people, Israel, but it is to become part of the family of God. This again is the sonship of chapter one. The great benefit is not to be granted access to an authorized temple building, but to be built together and become the dwelling place of God. Here again is God's allotment among the saints. God built a woman out of an injury to a man, and He is building Christ's complement out of the crucified Savior. And those who believe receive the life that vibrates with the power of God.
In this chapter of Ephesians Paul is not beginning with two groups and bringing them together into one. That is what he did in various ways in the first two chapters. Rather, he is speaking, especially to the Gentile believers, and moving on into their future ministry. This is why we have Paul's statement in verses 2 and 3 about a brief previous mention of his knowledge of the secret. He mentioned it in 1:9, but did not give details. Now that he has shown the Gentile believers their place and participation in the administration of the secret with Jewish believers, he goes on to give further explanation. The term the sons of humanity in verse 5 shows a universal outlook different from chapter 2 where he named Gentiles as sons of stubbornness, and Jews as children of indignation.
The first two chiasms begin and end with reference to Paul and his ministry (A1, A3, A4: there is no A2 because it would be unnecessarily redundant for Paul to identify himself twice in a row). In the third chiasm (A5, A6) the identity of Paul is replaced with references to God the Father, since that portion of the outline forms a prayer.
The main theme in the first two sections is education concerning the ministry committed to Paul. Notice the phrases: "by revelation the secret is made known to me:" "you...are able to apprehend my understanding in the secret;" "in other generations is not made known;" "it was now revealed;" "through the evangel;" "to bring the untraceable riches of Christ;" "which has been concealed from the eons;" "that now may be made known." In addition to making known there are several mentions of the administration that was committed to Paul: "the grace of God that is given to me;" "the secret is made known to me;" "the gratuity of the grace of God, which is granted to me;" "To me...was granted this grace."
At first glance, this may appear to be redundant repetition without significant benefit. But the repetition is the means whereby the outline can be identified, and the outline then shows the focal points which bring home the main message of the section. Repetition may be the most frequently used structural method of biblical emphasis. It is certainly one which possesses a wide variety of forms. One point to be realized is that if the Scriptures say something in two different ways they more than double the information that they provide. Through comparison and contrast similarities can provide much additional insight.
We leave the outline of this section as a unit to facilitate comparisons of the lines and thoughts by the reader. We will comment on the first chiasm and then follow with comments on the others after the outline. Both B1 and B2 speak of God's grace being granted to Paul. This gift is described as both an administration and a gratuity. Both C1 and C2 give descriptions of the grace bestowed, one calling it a former secret now revealed and the other the evangel of which Paul became the dispenser. The focus of the chiasm (D1) is a statement that the nations are to be three things - the same three things which the petitions of Paul's prayer requested in the first chapter. The joint body is a reference to the calling as sons of God that they share with Jewish believers. The joint allotment they are to enjoy is a place in the administration of the complement of the eras. It is a place in the group which goes by the name of God's allotment. The joint partakers of the promise in Christ is referred to by Paul in a couple of ways. Sometimes it is the promise of life eonian (Tit. 1:2; 1 Tim. 4:8; 2 Tim. 1:1), and sometimes it is the promise of the Spirit (Gal. 3:14; Eph. 1:13). Ephesians 1:13 is the contextual reference. So Paul begins with a summary of what he expressed before and uses it as a launching pad to go much further.
A1 On this behalf I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you, the nations -
B1 since you surely hear of the administration of the grace of God that is given to me for you, for by revelation the secret is made known to me (according as I write before, in brief, by which you who are reading are able to apprehend my understanding in the secret of the Christ,
C1 secret of the Christ, which, in other generations, is not made known to the sons of humanity as it was now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets) in [by] Spirit (caps on Spirit mine)
D1 the nations are to be joint enjoyers of an allotment, and a joint body, and joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus,
C2 through the evangel of which I became the dispenser,
B2 in accord with the gratuity of the grace of God, which is granted to me in accord with His powerful operation.
A3 To me, less than the least of all saints, was granted this grace:
B3 to bring the untraceable riches of Christ to the nations, and to enlighten all as to what is the administration of the secret,
C3 which has been concealed from the eons in God, Who creates all,
D3 that now may be made known to the sovereignties and the authorities among the celestials, through the ecclesia, the multifarious wisdom of God
C4 in accord with the purpose of the eons, which He makes in Christ Jesus, our Lord;
B4 Christ Jesus, our Lord; in Whom we have boldness and access with confidence through His faith.
A4 Wherefore I am requesting you not to be despondent at those of my afflictions for your sake which are your glory.
A5 On this behalf am I bowing my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, after Whom every kindred in the heavens and on earth is being named,
B5 that He may be giving you, in accord with the riches of His glory to be made staunch with power, through His Spirit [cap mine], in the man within,
C5 Christ to dwell in your hearts through faith, that you, having been rooted and grounded in love, should be strong to grasp, together with all the saints,
D5 what is the breadth and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ as well which transcends knowledge -
C6 that you may be completed for the entire complement of God.
B6 Now to Him Who is able to do superexcessively above all that we are requesting or apprehending, according to the power that is operating in us
A6 to Him be glory in the ecclesia and in Christ Jesus for all the generations of the eon of the eons! Amen!
The second chiasm opens and closes with descriptions of Paul and his ministry (A3, A4). The C members carry a double similarity. C3 speaks of the secret concealed from the eons in God Who creates all. C4 speaks of the purpose of the eons which God makes in Christ.
Both speak of the eons and of creating or making. Because the A and C members have such clearly discernable similarities, we can look with confidence for a relationship between the B members, though it may not be lying on the surface. B3 speaks of Paul's commission to enlighten all about the administration of the secret. So we look for the relationship of that to having boldness and access through Christ's faith. Our standing in the administration of the secret is a standing in Christ. The untraceable riches of Christ to the nations come to us through the faith of Jesus Christ. Salvation is appropriated through our faith in Him, but salvation is based on His faith in God. Both of these faiths are involved in our salvation. Since our place in the administration of the secret rests on the perfection of Christ's faith rather than on our own, we can have boldness, knowing that there can be no disqualifying fault in our standing before God.
The focal point of the second chiasm (D3) is that the multifarious wisdom of God may now be made known to the sovereignties and authorities among the celestials. This multifarious wisdom is revealed through the administration of the secret. The balance of the first and second chiasms is apparent here. In C1 and D1 the secret of Christ was unknown in previous generations of humanity, but was now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets. In C3 and D3 the administration of the secret was concealed from the eons, but now it may be made known through the ecclesia to the sovereignties and authorities among the celestials. It was hidden on earth and in heaven, and now it is revealed on earth and in heaven (cf. 1:10). In C1 and D1 it was the secret of Christ, and in C3 and D3 it was the administration of the secret. The administration of the secret includes the employment of those who were chosen and called; who were made members of the administration; and who are recipients of the life and Spirit that was promised in Christ. So D3, in speaking of the celestials is an enlargement on D1 which speaks of the planning and development stages of the administration of the secret.
A5 & A6: God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the beginning and closing identity of the third chiasm. It begins with the mention of every kindred (patria — a fatherhood) of beings in the heavens and on earth receiving a name from the divine Father. This speaks of their coming into relationship with Him, a process accomplished through the administration of the complement of the eras. The closing statement calls for Him to be glorified in the ecclesia and in Christ, unto all the generations of the eon of the eons. This is the final eon of the eonian times, the closing eon of the complement of the eras (1:10). This eon occurs after the great white throne judgment. That appears to be the final judgment of the eonian times, so we have no expectation that humanity will continue to procreate during that eon. (If more were born would they not need a final judgment also?) This reasoning leads us to understand that all the generations of the eon of the eons is a term describing those raised at the great white throne. During the final eon these generations will be reconciled to God. That will be the reason for them receiving a name, not from their patria — fatherhood of the old creation—but from the Father of the family of God (2:19). Glory will go to the Father through Christ and the ecclesia. This indicates their instrumentality in the reconciliation of all during the final eon. The mention of the eon of the eons also relates this third chiasm back to the second, which mentioned the eons and the purpose of the eons.
B5 & B6: The B members of this chiasm both refer to God's power strengthening us and operating in us. It is by His power that we will be instruments of the reconciliation of all to Him. God's power works wondrously in ways that we might not normally associate with power. Strengthened with His power within, we will be strong to grasp—to realize the breadth, length, depth and height of the administration of the secret. That power operating in us will bring us to see Him doing through us things superexcessively above all that we are requesting or apprehending. The eye has never seen, the ear has never heard, and the heart of man has never aspired to the things God has prepared for the ones loving Him (1 Cor. 2:9), yet He is even now revealing them to us. His power brings us to know the love of Christ, that we may be completed, with all the saints, for the entire complement of God (C5, C6, D5).
D5 is the focal point of the third chiasm. The dimensions might be taken as a way of saying that we will come to an unlimited grasp of God's purpose and its fulfillment in the administration of the secret.
But we will also venture another understanding of the dimensions taken from the context. In chapters 1 and 2 we have seen a great emphasis on the Gentiles being included with the Jews in God's purpose of the secret. This shows the breadth of the secret. There are no human limitations. It is broad enough to encompass all.
Later in chapter 2 we saw an emphasis on the expansion of God's purpose over time and through space. Then chapter 3 ends with mention of the final eon of God's purpose, the eon of the eons. From beginning to consummation it grows to encompass all. That is the length.
The depth could be representative of the resurrection to the great white throne, and the reconciliation of all that follows. It reaches to the lowest grave. None are missed below. This brings in all the generations of the eon of the eons.
Here in the third chapter Paul has given additional information on the celestial beings. None of them are above the blessings of the administration of the secret. They all come under the headship of Christ and are blest by Him. Chapter 1 told us that His seating was "up over every sovereignty and authority and power and lordship, and every name that is named" (v. 21). Similarly in 4:10 we read that the ascension of Christ was "up over all who are of the heavens." This is the height - it encompasses all, even the highest. In grasping the dimensions of this glorious outcome of the cross, we can come to know the love of Christ - the knowledge-transcending love of Christ.
Notice now the progression in the focal points of these three chiasms:
The first is the list of three things that we have followed from chapter 1: (1) the joint body - our calling; (2) enjoyment of a joint allotment- participation in the administration of the secret; (3) joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus—partakers in the life, power and indwelling of God's Spirit.
The second focal point was for the body of Christ to be a channel through which the celestials would come to know the multifarious wisdom of God. The three points of the first chiasm are the reason we can be that channel.
The third focal point was to grasp, with all the saints, the dimensions of the administration of the secret, and to grasp the knowledge-transcending love of Christ. I don't believe we will accomplish that grasping until we have lived out our participation in it. We can see much of it now, but experience will enhance our vision with depth and clarity, making it all wondrously new.
J. Philip Scranton