By Sandy Simpson
History of Ephesus. The city of Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia, and the greatest city. The temple of the demon god Artemis was located there and it was home to many magic arts and mystery cults. As a great center, it was visited by the Apostle Paul, who founded the church and labored there more than three years (Ac 18:19 19:1). Afterwards he addressed the Epistle to the Ephesians to them. Aquila and Priscilla and Apollos also labored there. At a later period Paul placed Timothy there and addressed two epistles to him. All early church tradition declares that John, from about A.D. 70, made this city his home until his death. Today not one single house is standing on the site of the ancient city, though there are many ruins there. The Turkish village of Agasalouk, upon the Smyrna and Aidan R. R., is about two miles away.
Those who remember our study of the letters to the seven churches will recall that five out of the seven churches were told of their good points and bad points, blessings and warnings of judgment. The other two were only given their good points and rewards. It appears from history that all five churches that were rebuked ended up no longer existing past the first few centuries. This is evidently because they did not heed the rebuke of the Lord indicating that He would remove their candlestick if they did not repent and obey the Lord. History shows that this happened to the church at Ephesus.
One other note…the letter to the Ephesians may have possibly been written to the church at Laodicea because the words “in Ephesus” are not found in three of the earliest manuscripts, as some church historians note. There is a lost letter of Paul mentioned by the early church fathers that was supposed to be written to the Laodiceans. This letter to the Ephesians may be that letter. In any case, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians or Laodiceans has a lot for Christians and the Church to learn and all the letters of Paul were passed from city to city and Christian gathering to gathering in the early church.
Eph. 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
The word “Paul, an apostle” is Paul’s standard opening from his other letters. But notice a few important things we are taught in this short opening.
First of all Paul says that he is an apostle of Christ Jesus. Paul was not one of the original twelve disciples, but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, on the road to Damascus, added him to the list of the foundational apostles. In Acts 26:12-18 we read that Jesus appeared to Paul from heaven. Paul saw a bright light, which blinded him, and heard a voice from heaven. Jesus told him that He was the One Paul had been persecuting. Paul believed on the Lord Jesus Christ that day on the road and later went out to tell the good news to the Gentiles. Paul stated that he was the last of the foundational apostles.
1 Cor. 15: 7-8 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
The word for “last” means last in a sequence, such as if you were counting from one to 10, 10 being the last number. So this passage, among others, shows clearly that Paul, being one of those who saw Jesus Christ in his resurrection body, was the last to see him. Paul was the last person to see Christ in the flesh, and he saw him in heaven, because that is where He is at the right hand of the Father in his glorified body till He returns to earth. Paul was the last to see the REAL Jesus, not a vision, but in his glorified body in heaven. Jesus had also appeared earlier to Stephen when he was stoned.
Acts 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus at the right hand of God.
Remember that Stephen also saw Jesus bodily in heaven, but that was before Paul saw Him bodily for the last time. Please notice that Stephen then Paul saw Jesus Christ. They did not see Him in a bedroom like where Benny Hinn claims he sees Jesus every night, but where He actually is, at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Jesus Christ is not roaming around the earth. He does not appear to people like Paul Yonggi Cho in a fireman’s helmet. When He returns He will then be back on earth and only then. Till then claims of "Christ" being here or there are false according to the Lord Himself.
This opening also shows that, to become an apostle, one must be called by God, by the will of God. Paul was an apostle by direct authority from Jesus Christ. No one alive today can claim that apostolic authority. But God does call those who believe in Him both to believe, then to do what he wants them to do in the way of serving Him. As we will see, this calling is the theme of the first part of this letter. Paul first tells about his call then confirms that the Christians in Ephesus were also called.
The opening to this chapter also defines who the saints are. Saints are those who are faithful in Christ Jesus. It is not enough to simply say you are a Christian. Those who are truly born again have committed themselves to Jesus Christ and are faithful to that commitment. We have studied many passages about being faithful, persevering, remaining in the Vine, keeping the Faith, holding firm till the end, overcoming by faith. Today many seem to think that all you need to do is name the name of Jesus and claim to be a Christian to be considered one. But God is looking for faithfulness.
Eph. 1:2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christians who are faithful to the Father and the Son have experienced and will continue to experience God’s grace. As they live out their lives in Christ, they will continue to depend on the grace of God.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
The forgiveness we have because of Jesus Christ paying the penalty of death on the cross for the wages of sin that we should pay, is the ultimate meaning of grace. There is no greater gift we have been given than the grace we have because Jesus laid down his life for us.
John 15:12-14 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
If we love the Lord Jesus Christ and live in His grace, we will do what He commands. When we do what He commands we will also experience the peace that passes all understanding that the world knows nothing about.
Phil. 4:7-9 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me— put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
We must put into practice what God has commanded of us because of His grace toward us. Then we will have the peace of the Father and the Son.
Eph. 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Praise is something that comes from the heart. It is not something that can be forced. It comes from a right understanding of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. When we understand that, praise to the Lord comes forth from our lips and from our lives. God has blessed us with everything we need: life, our daily needs, protection, the help and counsel of the Holy Spirit, and eternal life and rewards to come. God has blessed us from where He is, in the heavenly realms, in the third heaven, in Paradise. Notice what He has blessed us with … with every SPIRITUAL blessing in Christ. Word-Faith false teachers on TV like to quote verses like this out of context to mean we will get material wealth from God. But that is not what it is talking about. It is talking about spiritual blessings. What are they?
The most important spiritual blessing is that we as Gentile Christians share in the blessing of God’s people, Israel, by being made part of the covenant God made with Abraham.
Romans 15:27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.
Gentiles are no longer outside of salvation, but have salvation through Jesus Christ. God’s people are now those who put their faith and hope in Jesus Christ for salvation. Because we are now blessed as sons of God as Israel was blessed, we now share in the blessings of abundant life here and eternal life later. The spiritual blessings of abundant life come through the Holy Spirit molding us through the Word of God to be more and more like Christ each day. Instead of living in darkness and sin, we now live in the Light and are learning the blessings of righteousness.
Gal. 5: 19-25 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
To experience the spiritual blessings from God above we must keep in step with the Spirit below. That means we must listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches and to us individually through the Word of God, and must walk with the Lord daily in prayer. We must put into practice those things the Spirit teaches us. Then we will truly experience all the spiritual blessings God has prepared for those who love Him.
Eph. 1:4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
Did you know that God knew about you before the world was even created? What an amazing thought. Not only did He know about you, He planned to create you in your mother’s womb. If you are a Christian, He chose you. There is a false notion today that churches need to be “seeker friendly”. Carnal human beings do not naturally seek the Lord. Paul quotes from the Old Testament in writing a stinging indictment against the human race:
Rom. 3:10-18 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." "Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips." "Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
It is rather God who seeks those He foreknew and chooses them.
Romans 10:20 And Isaiah boldly says, "I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me."
Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
Why did God choose those He foreknew from before the foundation of the world? “To be holy and blameless in his sight in love”. The words “in love” can either be added to the beginning of the next verse or are part of the end of this verse. Either way it works. God chose us to be holy and blameless in His sight. How can we be holy and blameless in His sight? Not by works, lest any man should boast! There is only One Way to be holy and blameless in the sight of the Father and that is to be covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. There is a famous hymn that states:
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
To be covered by the blood of Jesus means to share in His death. We die to our sins in Him. We then take up our cross daily and die to sins in Christ. We claim His sacrifice as the only perfect blood offering that can wash away our sins.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Eph. 1:5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—
Because God foreknew us, He predestined us, called us, justified us, and glorified us. Paul does not mention foreknowledge here but that is the progression Paul gives the justification process in Rom. 8:29-30, Rom. 11:2 and Acts 2:23. Peter also mentions foreknowledge in 1 Peter 1:2. It is important to mention here that God did not just decide in eternity past to create some people for heaven and others for hell. He gave the angels a choice and Lucifer along with 1/3 of the angels sinned against God and were thrown to earth. God gives us a choice whether or not to believe in Him and follow Him. Because God foreknew all who would believe in Him or not believe, He predestined, called, justified and glorified. It is interesting that the first two, foreknowledge and predestination happened in eternity past, calling and justification happen in the present, and glorification is guaranteed to happen in eternity future when we are resurrected and live with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom then the new heaven and new earth. But God sees it all as one event. God is not bound by space and time. He is outside His creation. He is above all.
John 3:31 "The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all.
Eph. 1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
Again, why did He predestine us as His sons? To the praise of His glorious grace. Everything originates with God and everything goes back to God.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Job 1:21 and said: "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."
God will receive back that which belongs to Him. God has given every believer into the hands of Jesus Christ, His Son for the glory of the Father. The grace given to us through the Incarnation (the birth) of Christ, His death and His resurrection, is a free gift. We did nothing to deserve it, and we can do nothing to save ourselves. The only thing that is up to us is to respond when God calls. If we respond in faith, and continue in that faith, we return to God and will be with Him forever. If we do not respond in faith by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be cast out forever from the presence of God with the devil and his angels.
Col. 1:22-23 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
2 Thes. 1: 8-9 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power
God the Father loves the Son. Through a relationship with the Son, the Father loves us also.
John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Eph. 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
Only through Jesus Christ do we have salvation.
Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
Because Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, we can appropriate (take to ourselves, claim) that sacrifice by committing ourselves to Jesus Christ. He has, on the basis of the cross and His love for us, promised to forgive our sins if we confess them and repent of them.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Acts 3:19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,
Paul repeats again the basis upon which we may be saved. It is the grace of God. Paul has repeated the basis for salvation three times already. It is grace, His love, His care for his creatures, His desire that all will be given the opportunity to be saved.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But what God wants we must also want. We have a freedom to choose, free will. If we choose to disregard the grace and love of God, then we condemn ourselves.
1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world— the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does— comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
Eph. 1:8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
Why would God send His only Son to die in our place? What would prompt God to care about us that way? Aren’t we merely made from the dust of the earth? Aren’t we almost nothing compared to God? All that is true.
Ps. 8: 3-4 ¶ When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
David and all those who placed their faith in the Lord recognized that man is nothing compared to God. Who can even say that God must pay for our sins? God Himself said in Job:
Job 41:11 ¶ Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.
Yet God chose to pay the price when we could not. He gave us a free gift of salvation. Not only that but He lavished on us all wisdom and understanding. He went above and beyond salvation to make us His children, His bride, His friends, His Body. Lavished means: to give with extravagance and profusion (without limit) such as when someone gives a lavish feast. It means giving or bestowing without regard to the amount, to give or bestow in abundance, to shower down gifts like rain. God has given us everything we need beyond salvation including wisdom, understanding, our daily needs, abundant life, peace, and hope. We clearly have every spiritual gift in Christ Jesus as believers.
Eph. 1:9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,
There is a mystery that the Old Testament saints yearned for but did not fully understand. God had revealed bits and pieces through the prophets, but when Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was revealed, died for our sins, rose again, and ascended to the right hand of the Father, this mystery was finally revealed. We will look at this later, but while Jesus was in the tomb He went in His spirit to Hades, to the Bosom of Abraham, where the Old Testament saints were waiting and told them the mystery that we all know now. He then took them with Him to Paradise, to the Third Heaven, where all believers who are asleep are with Him now.
Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
The first heaven is our atmosphere. The second heaven is the universe. The Third Heaven is Paradise, where God dwells.
2 Cor. 12: 2-4a I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know— God knows. And I know that this man— whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise.
This mystery was never a mystery to God. He had purposed it in Christ from before the foundations of the universe in eternity past.
Eph. 1:10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment— to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
The mystery of Christ and His Atonement brought all things in heaven and on earth together under the Son. The Father gave the Son all authority and power and glory, which the Son always had as God, but had made that even greater by submitting to the Father, even to death on a cross. Because of His obedience the Father brought everything in line with the “center point” of all creation and the universe, that is Jesus Christ. Everything, all truth, everything that is created, is now summed up in Christ. The glory of the Lord God was made greater by what the Son did.
Revelation 4:11 "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."
Revelation 5:12 In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"
Eph. 1:11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
Paul repeats again what he stated in vs. 4-5. God chose us and predestined us according to His plan and foreknowledge. God’s plans cannot be stopped, thwarted. God will work out everything to line up with the purpose of His will. We need to remember this everyday. When you are going through tough times, remember: if you are a child of God by being born again, God has plans for you that are for your benefit.
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Remember that this is not talking about material blessing, though God sometimes does that for the purposes of building His Kingdom. It is talking about spiritual blessings as we learned in vs. 3. If you lean on the everlasting arms, rest in His will, leave the driving to Him, you will experience His peace. If you worry about tomorrow and fret about the things of this world, you show that you do not understand the character and plans of God.
Eph. 1:12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
The first to hope in Christ were the foundational Apostles. They saw firsthand what Christ accomplished. The Apostles became the praise of His glory by laying down their lives for others in order to spread the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The first century churches were also the first to hope in Christ. We would do well to follow their example and learn from their mistakes.
Eph. 1:13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,
Eph. 1:14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession— to the praise of his glory.
These two last verses are very important to memorize. This is because it gives us the progression of what happens when a person truly believes and commits to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. First, you must hear the word of truth. That means someone has to preach it.
Romans 10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
You cannot be saved without hearing. Hearing is good, but you cannot just hear, you must also understand.
Acts 28:27 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
The Holy Spirit is the One who opens our darkened, sinful minds to be able to understand the message of the Gospel. The Gospel message is that we are sinners, destined for hell, without hope, desperately wicked. Jesus Christ is our only hope of salvation because He was the perfect blood sacrifice for us, being that He was God. If we confess our sins, believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, believe that He rose from the dead, and commit our lives to Him, He has promised to save us. When a person truly believes in the Lord Jesus Christ what then happens is that the Holy Spirit marks him/her as a believer destined for heaven. The Holy Spirit immediately indwells the new believer as a “deposit”. When you make a deposit at a bank you put money in the bank. When God makes a deposit in us He puts the Holy Spirit in us. This is called the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body— whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free— and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Col 2: 11-15 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Water baptism is a sign of something that happens in the spiritual realm, the baptism of the Spirit. We symbolically (not actually) go into the water a sinner, are washed of our sins, come up clean and new. In the spiritual we go to the Lord Jesus Christ as sinners, He washes us in His own blood, and we then become clean in the sight of the Father. Water baptism is a symbolic sign of dying with Christ and rising to new life. In the spiritual realm we go to the cross and crucify our sins there with Christ, then He promises us new life here as well as eternal life.
A born again Christian is therefore sealed (Eph 1:13,4:30; 2 Cor 1:22) and baptized (1 Cor 12:13) by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is working (1 Cor 12:11; 2 Thes 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2) within us (John 7:38; 1 John 3:24,4:13; Jam 4:5; 2 Tim 1:14) convicting (1 Thes 1:5; John 16:7-8), empowering (Eph 3:16), sanctifying (2 Thes 2;13; 1 Pet 1:2), bestowing grace gifts (1 Cor 12:4-11), and producing fruit (Gal 5:22). The Holy Spirit, in this age, immediately indwells all who believe (Eph 1:13-14) which does not necessitate the laying on of hands.
Through the wonderful work of Christ we are guaranteed our inheritance. What do we inherit as children of the King of Kings? We will share in everything the Son has been given by the Father. Just as an earthly child inherits what the earthly father has, we also inherit the blessings of the Son from the Father. We inherit eternal life, a new heaven and new earth, treasures in heaven, crowns, and an eternity of love that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have shared from eternity past to eternity future.