Ephesians 1 以弗所书 第一章
I. Greetings (1:1-2)
A. Standard Style
The opening words of the letter to the Ephesians are in the standard form for letters in the New Testament times.
Paul introduced himself by name and calling. In his salutation, he offered greetings in the manner common to all his letters.
The author declared himself to be Paul, which scholars take as a reference to the Apostle Paul.
A unique feature of this greeting is the absence of any mention of Paul’s companions. Usually, Paul included the names of those who were accompanying him at the time of writing.
Paul referred to himself as an “apostle.” This term describes “one who is sent.” It is what we would call a missionary. His reference to his apostleship served two purposes:
It identified him as one on a mission from Christ.
It pointed to his authority to speak as a leader.
Because he was an apostle “by the will of God,” his apostleship came not through any human agent. The will of God is a major theme that Paul expands upon in his letter.
D. Paul’s Readers
Paul addressed his letter to the “saints” in Ephesus. Saints are those who are “set apart for God,” which designates them as God’s people. In the New Testament, it refers to all Christians.
As for the demographics of the church at Ephesus, we know relatively little.
E. The City of Ephesus
One of the largest and most impressive cities in the world, Ephesus was a political, religious, and commercial center in Asia Minor. In association with the ministries of Paul, Timothy and the apostle John played a significant role in the spread of early Christianity. Ephesus and its inhabitants are mentioned more than twenty times in the New Testament.
The ancient city of Ephesus was located in western Asia Minor at the mouth of the Cayster River and was an important seaport. Its location allowed Ephesus to flourish as a commercial center. Due to the accumulation of silt deposited by the river, the present site of the city is approximately five to six miles inland.
Alexander the Great took over the area in 334 B.C. His offer to finance the ongoing reconstruction of the temple was diplomatically declined. The rebuilt temple, completed about 250 B.C., became known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Ephesus remained under the control of the Greeks until their defeat by the Romans in 189 B.C. Rome gave the city to the king of Pergamum as a reward for his military assistance. In 133 B.C., at the death of the last Pergamum ruler, the city came under direct Roman rule.
Under the Romans, Ephesus thrived, reaching the pinnacle of its greatness during the first and second centuries of the Christian era. At the time of Paul, Ephesus was probably the fourth largest city in the world, with a population of about 250,000. During the reign of the emperor Hadrian, Ephesus was designated the capital of the Roman province of Asia. Today, the Turkish town of Seljuk occupies the site of ancient Ephesus.
II. Blessings In Christ (1:3-14)
A. God the Father’s Purpose (vv. 3-6)
Paul began his letter with a great statement of praise to God for His blessings in Christ. This section is one long sentence in the original text, made up of carefully balanced clauses. This extended benediction surveys the redemptive activity of the triune God.
The grand theme of this section is God’s eternal purpose in history (v. 9).
B. We are blessed with spiritual blessings “in Christ” (v. 3).
The expression “in Christ” occurs some 35 times in Ephesians.
The motive behind God’s plan is love. His loving purpose aims at personal relationship.
C. God has chosen us (vv. 3-4).
To “choose” means to “call out, select.” God has claimed those in Christ for Himself and His own purpose. It has been said that this passage is a definitive statement of God’s elective grace concerning believers in Christ.
Although this is difficult to comprehend, God has chosen us to be His own. The word Paul uses here – “chose” – is a compound word in the original text. It is made up of the preposition “out of” prefixed to the verb “to call, say, or tell.” It is translated “to pick out, select.”
D. God has adopted us (v. 5).
Here the use of adoption is a family concept.
It involves the placing of a family member into the privileges and blessings of adulthood.
E. God has graciously favored us (v. 6).
Although unacceptable to God by our own merits, God has accepted us through Christ.
Paul declared “to the praise of His glorious grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” God has generously favored us by giving many provisions of His grace.
F. God the Son’s Accomplishments (vv. 7-10)
1. Christ has redeemed us (v. 7a).
a. Redemption is a term that occurs throughout the Old Testament. The idea of redemption is vitally related to the themes of liberation, deliverance, and ransom.
b. Within this model we see a struggle between the kingdom of God and the hostile powers enslaving humankind. Redemption is the idea of bringing sinners out of hostile bondage into authentic freedom (Col. 2:15).
c. As Redeemer, Jesus breaks the power of sin and creates a new and obedient heart by delivering us from the powers of sin, guilt, death, and Satan. He brings about a people who have been bought with a price (1 Peter 1:18-19).
2. Christ has forgiven us (7b).
a. The word for forgiveness means “to send forth, to send away.” It refers to the removal of a person’s sins.
b. This word for “trespasses” is the term for false steps or a deviation from the right path.
3. Christ has revealed God’s will to us (vv. 8-10).
a. This passage reached its high point as Paul reveals what God has made known in Christ. It is the “mystery of His will.” Mystery was a word common to Paul’s readers. In the first century, cults known as mystery religions were built around secret spiritual teachings known only to a few people. Some of these religions advanced the idea that salvation was offered to a select few who shared in their special knowledge. Paul countered this teaching in this letter and in his letter to the Colossians.
b. The mystery Paul spoke of is not something hidden, but something “made known.” It was a mystery in the sense that it was previously unknown. It could only be known by a revelation from God. In Christ, such a revelation is available. The content of the mystery was the will and purpose of God. This purpose was set forth in Christ. Apart from Christ, the contents of the mystery could not be known. Only as people receive Christ and begin to see life in the light of His revelation do they realize what God is working to accomplish in human lives.
c. In describing the believer’s understanding of the mystery of God’s will, Paul used two terms that are synonymous. Although similar in meaning, these terms were distinguished by Paul’s Greek readers:
(1) Wisdom is the ability to see into the heart of things and understand them. It is the knowledge that satisfies the intellect.
(2) Understanding is insight that leads to wise action. It enables a person to handle the day-to-day problems of practical life and living.
d. Paul explained that God’s making known the mystery of His will is part of His pursuing a plan for “the fullness of times” (v. 10). God will accomplish His strategy when the time is right.
e. God plans to unite all things in Christ. When the time is right, God will “[sum] up all things in Christ” (v. 10). Paul declared that all of reality – physical and spiritual – will be included in the unity of Christ.
4. Christ has made us an inheritance (vv. 11-12).
a. Verse 11 in the New American Standard Version reads, “we have obtained an inheritance.” The word Paul used here literally means, “we were made an inheritance.”
b. Not only has God given us an inheritance in Christ (1 Peter 1:3-4), He also has given us as an inheritance for Christ! The church is His body and bride and will share in His glory.
F. God the Spirit’s Ministry (vv. 13-14)
1. The Spirit has sealed us (v. 13).
a. The sealing of the Spirit occurs at the time of believing: “having also believed” (v. 13). A seal was a mark, perhaps on wax, which showed that a letter or a delivery was authentic and had been delivered intact. Seals were used as a guarantee indicating not only ownership but also to guarantee the correctness of the contents.
b. The “you also” (v. 13) were the Gentiles. Paul’s change of the pronouns from “we” to “you” indicates that he was referring to second-generation coverts of the Christian message – the Gentiles.
2. The Spirit has given us a deposit (v. 14).
a. Deposit is a business term used for money given as a down payment for a purchase. Because we as believers have not entered into our final salvation, God has given us the Holy Spirit as a deposit, a down payment, to assure us that we truly will be granted our eternity in heaven.
b. Through the Spirit we have an advance experience of what we will have fully in heaven.
III. Paul’s Prayer for His Readers (1:15-23)
A. Paul’s Reason for Praying (vv. 15-16)
1. Although Paul may not have known his readers personally, he had heard of their faith and love, perhaps through Epaphras, as in Colossians 1:4-8.
2. Whatever Paul’s relationship with these Christians was, he prayed for them in this passage. His prayers were continuous and intense, characterized by thanksgiving.
B. Paul’s Prayer for His Readers’ Understanding (vv. 17-19)
1. Paul’s prayer was addressed to God in His relation to Jesus as in 1:3. He further described Him as “the Father of glory” (v. 17). This is in line with Paul’s emphasis in this chapter on the fullness and richness of God’s nature and blessings.
2. In his prayer, we see three objects of the knowledge Paul desired for his readers. Paul introduced the content of each request with the words “what is” or “what are.”
3. There are three indirect questions after “to know” (what is the hope, what are the riches, and what is the surpassing greatness). When the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the heart, one will be able to see all these great truths.
4. Paul made three requests for the Ephesian believers:
a. He wanted them to know that God had called them to a great hope (v. 18). Paul emphasized the origin of their calling and urged them to take part in it.
b. He wanted them to realize the quality and of the extent of the blessings they had in Christ (v. 18). Paul has already described these blessings as an inheritance (v. 14). That they are an inheritance emphasizes the fact that they are received as a gift and already guaranteed, even though they are not yet fully bestowed upon believers.
c. He wanted them to understand and experience the power of God (v. 19). God’s power is unlimited – a concept we cannot fully understand. What Paul wanted to convey to his readers is that God is at work in the life of a Christian in a powerful way.
C. What God Has Done for Us in Christ (vv. 20-23)
1. The mention of God’s great power in verse 19 led Paul to expound upon the greatest demonstration of that power – the resurrection. When Old Testament writers spoke of God’s power, they referred to the Exodus from Egypt and the creation of the world. New Testament writers, however, pointed to the resurrection. Paul referred to this in Philippians 3:10 as “the power of His resurrection.”
2. As a result of His resurrection, Jesus is now enthroned at the right hand of God, a position of greatest honor and authority. God has put all powers in existence at His feet. Christ is now the head of all things.
3. In verse 22, we have the first use of the word church in Ephesians. Paul declared that Christ is the head of the church. Not only is Christ the church’s guide and authority, but Paul explained that Christ and His church exist in an organic unity. Paul closed this chapter by describing the church as “His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Although interpreted variously, this statement seems to mean that Christ fills everything and that God wants the church to be the full expression of Christ.