The below meditations on Ephesians 1 marks the first in a series that will walk linearly through larger chunks of Scripture.
After last week’s topical devotional—a critical examination of the Christian worship industry—I wanted to spend some time focusing on God’s grace.
The first half of Ephesians (ch 1-3) is, in my opinion, one of the most epic dissertations of all time on God’s grace and power.
It’s so dense that I don’t have space here for more than just the first chapter. (I know, whenever I hear pastors say that, I instantly want to wander the halls looking for the water cooler—but I promise it’s going to be good!)
The plan is to continue this series until we finish the book together. Does that sound good? Let me know in the comments below, because I’m open to throwing more topical devotionals between.
Because of copyright issues, I can’t quote every verse in the book. In lieu of that, I’ll be giving verse references throughout the text for you to follow along in your Bible, along with quoting occasional keystone verses.
If you don’t have your Bible, tap or click here to read Ch 1 of Ephesians on Bible Gateway.
Let’s dive in.
After greeting the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul (the author of Ephesians) launches into a dissertation on God’s grace (v. 3-10) that is extremely meaningful, yet a little hard for my brain to absorb. So, let’s break it down piece by piece.
First, Paul begins with stating that Christ is the source/object/vector of every spiritual blessing the people in Ephesus received (v. 3).
He then says that God chose them before the world was formed, to purify and justify them (v. 4). That God predestined them to be adopted as sons and daughters in his love, purely because he wanted to (v. 5).
God did this so that his “glorious grace” would be praised (v. 6).
They received redemption and forgiveness through Jesus’ blood, according to God’s grace (v. 7). God lavished this on them through revealing his wisdom and insight, and through revealing his will, as he had planned to do before the beginning of everything, through Jesus (v. 8-9).
And he did all of this when the timing was right in order to unify all things through Jesus (v. 10).
After finishing, he sums everything up by saying that we receive the inheritance that belongs to Jesus (full life/redemption/intimate love with God as our Father/etc.) because it is God’s will that we receive it by faith, even though it’s not ours and we don’t deserve it (v. 11).
That is his “glorious grace.” That he wants to save us by our faith through his grace.
I’m fascinated that he begins by saying that Christ is the source of everything, and ends by showing that Christ accomplished everything in order to unify all things in himself.
So, our loving, intimate relationship with him is shown as the source of every spiritual blessing.
Wow. I don’t know about you, but that mile-long paragraph (v. 3-10) just begs me to read it pretty much every day.
You’re telling me that God was smiling when he planned to save me, even before the world was formed?
That’s mind blowing. Yet true!
God loved you and me before we were born, and planned to reveal his personhood to us and to convince us to love him. To convict our hearts of our evil, by his Holy Spirit, and to forgive and give us a new life by his death and resurrection (these are real events in our lives, not just symbols).
He wanted to reconcile us to him, so that we would worship him and do good works. So he did!
When we love Jesus, heaven pours into us.
When we live by his Spirit, we are living like citizens of heaven. We’re living a different life by a different set of rules, with different motivations and desires. We are changed so profoundly that we’re no longer the same type of person.
We literally go from being spiritually dead – and destined for physical and spiritual death forever – to being spiritually and physically alive in the sense that we’re no longer like robotic slaves to our evil desires.
The free gift of his love and forgiveness actually sets us free to make real choices. And it gives us a taste of the complete freedom we will have in the next life!
Yet every choice we make after he saves us is “pre-ordained” for us. This can be confusing.
What he means is that we are not the source of our ability to make choices.
Yet we walk around acting like we are so in control, don’t we?
“I’m a self-made success!”
That’s bologna. You’re standing on the shoulders of everyone who came before you, everyone who supports you, everyone who built the structure of the society around you. And they’re all standing on the grace of God for the next breath, the ability to speak, to do anything.
Remember: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. . . .” (v. 3)
Jesus is the source of everything that is good. After all, he made everything in the universe. John chapter 1 shows this clearly. But let’s not get too sidetracked.
In v. 11-14, Paul explains that the Ephesians are examples of God’s grace to everyone who comes after (that’s you and me!), and that the Holy Spirit seals all the promises we’ve talked about, and that the Spirit is proof that the promises belong to us and will be completely ours at death.
A seal is a physical sign placed on a document (like an inheritance document—which is the implied symbolism here) that shows who it belongs to. The seal prevents changes to the promises or tampering before the appointed time.
So, the seal is a sign that gives the receiver confidence that the message is true.
In the same way, the Holy Spirit functions that way inside of us.
But what exactly are the signs? How do we know the Holy Spirit is sealing the promises in Ephesians 1 for us? How do we know the fake seal from the real deal?
Remember the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control.
And the spiritual gifts, which are plentiful, yet doled out according to his will, which he reveals by his Spirit and Word, in Christ.
We need to ask ourselves, “Do we walk by his Spirit and love him truly, in heart and in action?”
If we do, this is our confidence.
We don’t ask, “Are we perfect?” We know that we won’t be perfect until we’re dead.
Yet everyone who walks by the Spirit hates their own evil, and longs for God’s purity! That longing needs to be real enough that it changes our lifestyles.
In v. 15, Paul switches to addressing the Ephesians directly.
He says that after hearing about their faith and love (for Jesus and for each other), he has continued thanking God for them and praying that they’d be given the Spirit of wisdom and greater experiential knowledge of him (v. 16-17). That the “eyes of their hearts” would be enlightened, so that they’d know the hope he has called us to, the riches of his “glorious grace” – that term again! – and the inheritance of the saints (v. 18).
What he’s saying there is that he hopes they meditate on the Gospel, on what Christ has done for them, until his Word makes them love Christ, and see him clearly with their heart in a way that deeply moves their affections and let’s them experience him.
He also calls attention to the Spirit as being an endless source of power that works inside of us to accomplish these promises (v. 19). And he gives us confidence that this is true by showing that the Spirit’s power was what resurrected Jesus from the dead, and seated Jesus on the throne in heaven, high above everything in the universe (v. 20-21).
The Spirit is also progressively putting everything under Christ’s feet. It made him the head of the church (you and me), which is his body, and the “fullness of him who fills all in all.” (v. 22-23)
Wow. So, really, if we’re feeling weak and weary, or incapable of living out the Christian life, Paul is saying to us, “It’s not about you! Trust that God is greater than your problems. That he is faithful when you are not. Trust that he predestined you to receive these gracious offers, and to accept them, and to walk faithfully in them, to worship him and to do good things rather than evil things. And that the source of all of this is Jesus, not you. So, trust him and walk by his Spirit, doing good works in his name and not your own.”
Awesome, wonderful, beautiful Jesus! Our loving friend and true Savior! Thank you for giving us new life. For loving and forgiving us, and offering us a different way of life with different motives. We worship you and thank you for who you are. We long to know you intimately, and to walk by your Spirit. Open up the eyes of our heart with your Word! Thank you for giving us confidence that our faith in you is real. And forgive us for the times we have failed to walk faithfully! Empower us right now to live out our faith today with integrity, so that we can be an example to others of how powerful you are, powerful enough even to fix our intensely broken hearts! Change us by your Spirit, and when everything is over, take us home to be with you. Because YOU are all we want.
Read slowly through Ephesians Ch. 1, meditating on each weighty verse before moving on to the next. Throughout the text, take time to pause and thank God for each concept that he reveals to us through this amazing chapter on his grace and power.