Ephesians 1:3 begins with “Praise be to God.” Following that introduction are 3 stanzas, each of which ends with “to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” or some similar phrase. (see 6, 12, 14) Verses 4-6 describe what God did for us in the past. Verses 7-12 present what God does for us today and verses 13 and 14 look ahead to the future when God wraps up history and brings all His people home to be with Him.
Read Ephesians 1:4-6. Paul takes us back to “before the creation of the world” to introduce us to the blessing we have because we have been adopted by God and are allowed to call ourselves children of God. Because we are God’s adopted children, Jesus can tell us to approach God in prayer and call Him, “My Father who is in heaven.”
With the phrase “before the creation of the world,” Paul described an event that happened before there was time. Paul noted that when God determined to create mankind with a freewill, He knew that freedom could be used to disobey Him. He determined immediately that should that happen He would redeem us from the consequences of that disobedience.
Paul noted all that happened because, “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship.” If you are a believer, you have been adopted by God. You can legitimately call yourself a son or daughter of God. Because we have been adopted, we can enjoy all the rights of being His family.
Paul went on to note in verse 4 that we have been adopted so we might be “holy and blameless.” To understand what Paul was saying we should understand that for Paul those words had a dual use.
In the Bible, the words “holy and blameless” are used to describe what a Christian is both “positionally” and “progressively”. By virtue of our faith in Jesus we are positionally holy and blameless while by virtue of our humanity we are to grow so “progressively” we become more holy and more blameless in practice.
The word “holy” is another translation for “saint”, which Paul used to describe the Ephesians in verse 1. It carried the idea of being different or set apart and carried the idea of being set apart unto God. As Christians we are positionally different when God looks upon us because He sees not our sinfulness but the holiness of Jesus. We are literally robed in Jesus’ holiness so in that sense we are already holy, that is our position in Jesus.
The other aspect of holiness is the progressive nature of it. Read Leviticus 19:2 and I Peter 1:13-16. Paul was telling the Christians in Ephesus that they were to be different as they cultivate those characteristics that clearly identify them as being like God. Read Galatians 5:22-23. The characteristics God wants to instill in us, as we progress in holiness, are His characteristics. The more of those characteristics that are evident in our lives, the more our lives will be different from the world.
Paul’s second challenge was to live as those who are without blemish. The concept of being without blemish comes from the Old Testament sacrificial system. God told the Israelites the animals they offered as sacrifices were to be “without defect.” Read Leviticus 1:3; Leviticus 3:1 and Malachi 1:6-14. The idea behind that was that God deserves the best. He is perfect and if we are going to present an offering to Him it should be perfect, not a leftover or that which no one else wanted.
There are two dimensions to being “without blemish.” The first dimension is self-examination. Read II Corinthians 13:5. Self-examination is important and a challenge to periodically take a look at our life to see it we detect areas that need change or improvement.
The second dimension is that every offering presented to God in the temple was also examined by the priests to be sure it was acceptable. As Christians we should be living in such a way that the world has no reason to legitimately question the genuineness of our faith. That is not perfection but consistency and growth.
Having detailed for us God’s determination to adopt us and what we should look like as His Children, Paul went on to explain what Jesus did about our sin problem, so adoption and transformation were possible. Read Ephesians 1:7-11.
At the end of verse 7 we read that redemption is rooted in the grace of God. Grace, of course, means undeserved goodness and that goodness flows from God’s great love for us. God’s grace is one of the themes of Ephesians. God’s grace was tremendously important to Paul and should be to us because, as Paul will point out in verse 8 of the next chapter, “it is bygrace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
Paul wrote that because of God’s grace we “have redemption.” Redemption was primarily used in the Old Testament to describe the rescued or redemption of God’s people from Egypt. For the Israelites, Egypt represented slavery and God using Moses to lead them out of Egypt was viewed as redeeming them out of that slavery. The idea of being redeemed from slavery carries over into the New Testament where redemption depicts being rescued from slavery to sin. Read Matthew 20:28. The idea of being a “ransom” was that of paying the price to buy our freedom from a slave owner.
There was a price to pay for our redemption and Paul shared what that price was. He wrote in verse 7 that the price was paid “through his blood.” Read Leviticus 17:11 and Hebrews 9:22. Shedding of blood is a picture of death. Since there was no way we could pay that price ourselves and live, Jesus took our place. Paul explained it in Ephesians 5:2. Read that verse. Read I Peter 1:18-19. On the Cross Jesus paid the debt for our sins, making redemption or salvation possible for all who will believe and invite Him to be their Savior.
Paul added in verse 7 that redemption includes “the forgiveness of sins.” The sins that Paul says we have been forgiven of includes the sins that separate us from a holy God. The forgiveness of them became possible when Jesus paid their penalty. “Forgiveness of sins” includes the sins we commit as Christians. Read I John 1:9. All our sins were covered by Jesus. Redemption bought us back from the penalty of past sins, provided for our present sins and will ultimately redeems us from very presence of sin as we spend eternity in heaven.
Paul described God’s gracious redemption and all it provides for us as being “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” God’s grace not only meets our needs, it lavishly meets them. Like every attribute of God from His love to His mercy to His power etc., it all abounds beyond imagination. God’s grace is boundless, being far beyond any sin we commit. Paul wrote in Romans 5:20, “where sin increased, grace increased all the more,” Obviously that is not justification for sinning, assuming that no matter what we do God will forgive it, but it is a reminder that all of our sins have been cared for. They have been removed as far as the east is from the west. We have been set free from penalty of past and present sin.
God lavished grace upon us and provided forgiveness of sins. Read Ephesians 1:9-10.
God has “made known to us the mystery of his will.” In the Bible the word “mystery” carried the idea making known what was once hidden or unknown but has now been revealed by God. The root word translated “mystery” is connected to the word “apocalyptic” as in the Greek title of the Apocalypse or the Book of Revelation.
Paul told the Ephesian Christians that because they have been redeemed they can know what Jesus intends to “put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment” or literally what Jesus intends to do when He wraps history up. Having even a limited picture of heaven is an encouragement to grow spiritually and live with the assurance that everything will work out for God’s glory and our good.
Praise God He provided redemption, so we no longer need to be slaves to sin. Praise God for His lavish grace and forgiveness. Praise Him that we can know where we will spend eternity. We don’t have to say, “I hope” but we can say “I know” where I will be because I have been redeemed for the penalty of sin and therefore declared holy and without blemish by God Himself.