Ephesians 1:1-14 Riches In Christ
We will study one of Paul's great epistles, his letter to the Ephesians. This is one of Paul's best-loved epistles. Read what some of the commentators have to say about this epistle to the Ephesians. One Commentary calls it the queen of the epistles, another, the sublimest communication ever made to man. A third calls it the crown and climax of Paul's theology and a fourth one says that this epistle is the most comprehensive statement of the Christian religion.
What is so special about this epistle that we should spend the next twelve studies going through this book in detail? First of all, this is Paul's prison epistle. He is writing to believers who were discouraged because of his imprisonment and here he gives them in the first part of his epistle, the wonderful truth as it is in Christ. Then, he speaks, in the second half, in terms of Christian living and the fruits of our salvation in Christ. In this introduction study, we will look at the first fourteen verses of Ephesians, chapter one.
It would be helpful if you would turn to your Bibles and follow with me what Paul is saying to us in this wonderful epistle recorded for our benefit. In the first two verses of this letter, Paul introduces himself to the ones to whom he is writing this letter. In verse 1, he says, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God." What is Paul saying here? First of all, "Paul" was not his original name. His parents gave him the name "Saul" very likely after the first king of Israel since Paul was of the same tribe as King Saul, a Benjamimite. That is found in Philippians 3:5. But Paul himself, after his conversion, chose the name Paul. Why? The word Paul in Latin means small or little. This is how he thought of himself after he discovered the wonderful gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 15:9, Paul refers to himself as the least of the apostles and yet he was a mighty instrument of God. He says, "Paul, that means little, but an apostle of God." The word "apostle" simply means "one who is sent out as an ambassador" or "one who is given a special task" and Paul was called to proclaim the gospel in a very special way to the Gentile world. But please notice he is not an apostle by self-appointment. He says he is an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God. There were some who opposed his message of grace alone who accused him of being a self-appointed apostle in order to undermine his message of grace alone. But Paul makes it clear here; he is an apostle chosen by God Himself. Then the second half of verse 1 is: "To the saints who are in Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus." The word "saints" simply means holy ones. It is used nine times in this epistle and we shall see in our study that those who are in Christ are saints, not because of their performance, but what is true of them in Jesus Christ. Now that last phrase or that statement "in Ephesus" in the second half of verse one is not found in some of the older manuscripts. So it is believed that the is epistle was addressed really as a general letter to the people of Asia Minor. But whatever it is, this is an inspired letter written by Paul to Christians living in his day and which has special significance even to us today.
Now having said this, in verses 3 to 14 Paul expounds to us the riches in Christ and that, of course, is the title I have chosen for this first study, verses 1 to 14, Riches in Christ.
To appreciate what Paul is saying, We need to understand what that phrase "in Christ" means. There is a key phrase that runs through Paul's epistles. If we were to take this phrase out of these writings, there would be very little left of Paul's exposition of the gospel. This recurring phrase, which is the central theme of Paul's theology, is the expression, "in Christ" or "in Christ Jesus." Now this phrase is sometimes expressed by other similar phrases, that is, "in Him" or "by Him" or "through Him" or "in the Beloved" or "together with Him" or "in whom." These are all synonymous terms applying to the "in Christ" motif or idea.
The truth behind this phrase was first introduced by Christ Himself when He told His disciples, "Abide in Me." These are the undergirding words of the gospel and if we do not understand what the New Testament means by this expression, "in Christ" we will never be able to fully understand and appreciate the unconditional good news of salvation, which the New Testament defines by the word "gospel." There is nothing we have as Christians except that we have it in Christ. Everything we enjoy and everything that we hope for as believers, whether you talk of the peace in justification or the holy living in sanctification or the redemption from this corrupt body which will take place at glorification, all of that is ours always in Christ. Outside of Him we have nothing but sin, condemnation and death.
This expression, "in Christ" however, is rather a difficult phrase to understand. Just as you must be born again was mindboggling to Nicodemus, so likewise the concept of "in Christ" is very difficult for us to understand. This is true especially of the Western mind, which puts so much emphasis on the individual. The question that is often raised in our minds is "How can I, as an individual, be in somebody else? And worse still, how can I, born in the twentieth century, be in Christ who was born and lived almost two thousand years ago?" This makes no sense to our Western way of thinking. But what does Scripture mean when it tells us that we were together with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection and now are sitting in heavenly places? We will find this in Ephesians 2:5 and 6. What does Scripture mean by that? Because we cannot fathom these facts, we tend to ignore or skim over that phrase, "in Christ." Yet the whole understanding of the gospel hinges on our understanding the significance of these two vital words, "in Christ."
This "in Christ" idea or motif is based on what is known as Biblical solidarity or corporate oneness. Therefore, if we are to come to grips with this phrase, we must first understand what the Bible means by solidarity. If we look at our Bibles carefully we will discover three facts, three fundamental truths that the Bible reveals.
Fact number one is that God created all men in one man. We were not created as individuals. We were created corporately in one man and that is, Adam. So when we look at the phrase, "in Adam" it means the corporate man in one man. In fact, the word "Adam" in Hebrew has a collective significance. It is a corporate word; it means mankind. We will look at two statements from Scripture, one in the Old and one in the New Testament about this first fact. In Genesis 2:7, we have recorded for us the creation of Adam. In our English Bibles it says, after God had formed Adam from the dust of the ground, He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life but in the original Hebrew text the word "life" is not in the singular like it is in your English Bibles. It is in the plural. God breathed into Adam the breath of "lives." The lives of the whole human race were created in one man. In fact, going to the second text in the New Testament, Acts 17:26, we are told that God, created out of one, the whole human race that was upon this earth.
So number one fact is that all men were created in one man. In Romans 5, remember when Adam sinned, all sinned in him and all stand condemned in him. Why? Because we were implicated in his act of sin. We were in him. Then this brings us to fact number two. Satan ruined all men in one man. Let me remind you of Romans 5:12. Sin entered the world, the human race, by one man. Verse 18: "By one man's disobedience condemnation came unto all men, the judgment of condemnation came unto all men." In 1 Corinthians 15:21,22, we are told that in Adam all die. Why? Because, when Satan touched Adam before he had any children, he touched the human race in Adam.
But fact number three is the wonderful good news of the gospel. God redeemed all men in one man, Jesus Christ. To accomplish this God joined two natures together, the divine and the human in one person in the womb of Mary. The corporate life of the human race, which we all receive from Adam and the divinity of Christ and (He joined these two natures together, the divine and the human, in one person in the womb of Mary) thus at the incarnation, the whole of the human race, you and I and every human being from Adam to the last person were put into Christ. Christ became the second or the last Adam, or the second or the last mankind. Just as we were in Adam, God by His act of incarnation through the Holy Spirit put us into Christ so that we were corporately in Christ at the incarnation.
This did not save us but it qualified Christ to be our substitute and our representative. Now by God's act, we are in Him and what He did, we did in Him. In a nutshell, this is the good news of salvation. We are laying the foundation to our study which is the "in Christ" motif. In 1 Corinthians 1:30, "But of him you are in Christ Jesus." The "him" refers to God the Father, the "you" which is in the plural form refers to us and of course, Christ refers to the Son of God, the second Person of the Godhead. Paul is saying here is "God took us and put us into Christ Jesus." This took place at the incarnation. By doing this through His life and death, Christ became for us, wisdom, which means special knowledge from God. Christ became for us our righteousness, our sanctification and our redemption. Salvation full and complete was obtained for us in Jesus Christ, beginning with the incarnation, through His life and at the cross. At the incarnation, we were joined to Christ. By His life and by His death, Christ gave us a new history, a history in which we stand perfect before God and His holy law.
With this background let us now look at chapter one of Ephesians we read the first six verses and see the wonderful truth that Paul is revealing to us. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us." Please notice the past tense. In the original, it is in the past historical tense, something that took place once and for all in the past. "with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places." Then in verse 4: "Just as he chose us in him." There you have the "in Christ" motif. "before the foundation of the world." So your performance and my performance had nothing to do with this. It has to do with God's choice and He chose you, He chose me, He chose all mankind to be in Christ before the foundation of the world. "That we should be holy and without blame before him in love." Do you know that while you and I are one hundred percent sinners by nature and terrible sinners by performance, in Christ, we are holy and without blame because in His history we have not sinned even once, in His death we have met the justice of the law which is upon us. Verse 5: "having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to himself."
We were God's children by creation but when Adam sinned, he not only brought the sentence of condemnation upon us but he sold us to Satan. We became Satan's property when Adam sinned. This is what Satan claimed in one of Jesus temptations in the wilderness. You will find this in Luke chapter 4, verses 5 and 6. Because of the redemption that we have in Christ, we are now joint heirs with Christ. We have become His adopted children. By this joining with Christ, we become one with Christ. Since Christ is the Son of God, we become by this union with Christ, sons and daughters of God.
Now please remember, this passage is addressed to believers who have accepted the truth as it is in Christ. You see, God redeemed all men in Christ. This is His gift to mankind. But unless you accept this gift, the privileges of the in Christ motif is not yours subjectively. But here Paul is addressing believers who have accepted Christ and he is saying to them that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ; we have been chosen to be spotless and blameless in Christ even before Adam was created and of course, we were predestined in Christ to become the adopted children of God. In the Bible days as it is in our country, an adopted child has all the legal rights of a natural child. Then in verse 7, we have this wonderful statement, In Him, that is, in Christ, we have redemption through His blood the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace. These are sublime words. In Christ, not in ourselves, not in our performance, not even what God does in us, but in Him, in His holy history we have redemption through His blood, that is, through His sacrifice, the forgiveness of sins because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin and when Jesus died on the cross, that cup is able to forgive us of all our sins. That was what Jesus introduced in the Lord's supper. This cup represents My blood which is shed for the remission of sins and in Jesus Christ we have not only positive righteousness but we have forgiveness of all sins, not because we deserve it but because of the tremendous riches of His grace.
Well, what else does Paul say? Let us go to verse 8: "Which he made to abound towards us in all wisdom and prudence." Here is Paul telling us that this knowledge, that is what the word "wisdom" means, the Greek word means "special knowledge;" remember what Jesus said to the Jews in John 8:32: "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." This special knowledge is the knowledge, the truth as it is in Christ for this truth is our only hope, our only salvation. And in this knowledge we have the love and the redemption abounding from God towards us.
"Having been made known to us." I want to pause here because you see there are three main pronouns that you will find in this epistle to the Ephesians. First of all, there is the "you." When Paul uses the word "you" in this epistle, he is referring to the Gentile world. When he uses the word "we," the pronoun "we" he is referring to his fellow Jews including himself. But here in verse 9, verse 1, he is using the third pronoun "us" and the word "us" refers to Jews and Gentiles. So what Paul is saying in verse 9: "having made known to us, Jews and Gentiles, the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself." You see the gospel was presented to the Jews and to the world through the Jews, in a type form through a promise and there were many hidden facts that were not fully revealed, were not understood by God's people before the Christ event. But since the cross, the mysteries of salvation have no longer been hidden from us. It is now brought out into the open. And that mystery of course, is the in Christ motif, the new history that God has given you and me and every man in the holy history of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What is this wonderful truth? The truth is that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that nobody should perish, that whoever believes should not perish but God's desire is that nobody should perish, that all should come to repentance, that whoseoever believeth should not perish but have eternal life. This was God's purpose right from the foundation of the world. You see, Adam's Fall did not take God by surprise but God has something wonderful for you and me and as we see in Romans 5 what God has done for us, what God has obtained for us in His Son Jesus Christ, is something far greater than what we ever had in Adam even before the Fall. Oh, I tell you, in Christ we are not third class citizens like we were in Adam. You see, in Adam we were number three; God is, of course, always number one; the angels are number two and we were created a little lower than the angels but through the redemption of our Lord Jesus Christ which God obtained in Him, we have been raised, not back to the position that we lost in Adam but we have been raised to sit with Jesus Christ in heavenly places which means that we are above the angels; we are joint heirs with Christ. We shall rule with Him; we shall reign with Him. That is the wonderful privilege that the New Testament brings to us, the mystery that was hidden in the past but now has been made manifest. Look at verse 10 of Ephesians 1: "That in the dispensation of the fullness of the time he might gather together in one all things in Christ both which are in heaven and which are on earth in him." Oh, it is only in Christ that we have the blessed hope. Those who are in heaven like Moses and Elijah, those of us who are waiting for Him and for His second coming will all be joined together and rejoice in salvation which God obtained for us in Christ.
Listen to verse 11: "In whom we have obtained an inheritance being predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will." Salvation from beginning to end is all of God. We are simply the recipients of His love, His mercy, His grace and all we can say with Paul is, "Thank you, God, for Your unspeakable gift, Jesus Christ." Now in verse 12 he goes on that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. Paul is writing to first century Christians and he is saying, "We were the first ones who trusted in Christ beginning with the disciples, then with the Gentiles after Pentecost and of course, the Jews too, all us, Paul says, praise God for His glory. Look at verse 13: "In him, that is in Christ, you also trusted after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation in whom also we have believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise."
Now keep in mind this is a prison letter. Paul is not concerned about himself. He is writing to people who were discouraged, people as we shall see when we get to chapter three, who began to think like this, "If God cannot protect the great apostle Paul who is now languishing in a Roman prison, what hope is there for us?" And Paul says, "Look, I am in prison because God wants me there." You will discover in this epistle Paul never refers to himself as a prisoner of Rome but as a prisoner of Jesus Christ. But above all Paul is saying here in this first part of Ephesians 1 that our security, our anchor is in Christ and this security has been sealed by the Holy Spirit who was given to us to keep in mind the hope of our salvation in Christ who is the guarantee. Paul says in Ephesians 1:14, "The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession to the praise of his glory when Christ comes the second time. Salvation will become reality. It is a hope but it is a hope that is guaranteed. It is not a hope that is bothered by the "maybe" problem. There is no "maybe" in Christ. Our salvation is guaranteed in Christ for in Him we have a history that fully satisfied the law of God in terms of its positive demands as well as in terms of justice. In Christ you and I have salvation full and complete and it does not matter what our situation is. Let us hold on to this truth. It is the most glorious truth in Scripture. It is the central theme of Paul's theology and it is my prayer that you shall know this truth and this truth will set you free, free from guilt and condemnation, free from distress, free from anxiety, free to live a happy, glorious Christian life. This is my prayer for you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Riches in Christ