Ephesians 1:3-7 Our common Grace
As stated earlier, verses 3 through 14 some have interpreted as one sentence, and broken it by commas and semi-colons. I like this interpretation, because it honors the "stream of consciousness" Paul was displaying with his use of relative pronouns and prepositional phrases.
For the sake of focus, I will break these 11 verses into three groups of thought: our common grace (3-7), our shared purposes and blessings (8-12), our common salvation experience (13-14).
ευλογητος ο θεος και πατηρ του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου ο ευλογησας ημας εν παση ευλογια πνευματικη εν τοις επουρανιοις εν χριστω
Paul begins this section with a call of corporate praise, drawing the believers of Ephesus into his own worship: "Blessed be God and (also) Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the One Who has blessed us (the readers are included here) in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms, in Christ."
How can we help but break out in praise, when we consider the intent of Paul's 'grace and peace' (see notes on verse 2), and Paul's own intimacy with the Ephesian believers compels him to draw them into his own private moment of worship. Paul reminds them Who it is that they (including himself) adore and worship: "God", and/also "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ". The first two persons of the Trinity are mentioned, and one superior to the other, or seemingly so. Had Paul stopped at that point, we might think that Christ was less than God, not equal to God.
Paul continues, "... the One Who has blessed us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms, in Christ." All the spiritual blessings of heaven is ours, because He has so desired it. The phrase, " the One Who has blessed" is the substantive use of a past tense prepositional phrase. This reminds the believng reader that "every spiitual blessing" is not something to come in the future (near or far), not something we must earn through penitential acts of deprivation, not something only a special "anointed" few experience, but that it is for all believers. These spiritual blessings are ALREADY given to those who belong to Him through Christ. And here is where the equality to God is established, by the simple phrase "...in Christ". God has not acted outside of Christ, as though Jesus was one of many ways to access these spiritual blessings. They are only to be experienced by those who are "in Christ", the only Redeemer. As one who is "in Christ", the believer (saint, one set apart), the realm in which we live and breathe is also populated with EVERY spiritual blessing, readily accessible, by His grace.
καθως εξελεξατο ημας εν αυτω προ καταβολης κοσμου ειναι ημας αγιους και αμωμους κατενωπιον αυτου εν αγαπη
"Also as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, us to be saints (set apart) and blameless in His presence, in love."
There are some interesting word playing happening here. The verb in Greek for "chose" in this case is using the middle voice. Whereas English has active and passive voices of verbs ("He throws the ball", "The ball is thrown"), the Koine Greek also has what is known as the middle voice ("He throws the ball for himself"). In its usage here, the verb "chose" indicates we were not chosen to be merely trophies on a shelve, as if to say, "Ah-ha, Satan! I have these as my prize!". No, rather, the choosing is more intimate, "He chose us for Himself". The Greek verb is in the past tense, indicating it is not an ongoing event, and this coincides perfectly with the statement "...before the foundation of the world". This is, believer, what real grace -- unmerited favor of God -- is: that He chose to redeem us before we appeared on the earth and fall to sin, He had already chosen us. Not because our parents brought us to church, not because of our socio-economic standing, not because of our nationality -- the God Who sees the end from the beginning chose us FOR HIMSELF.
To what end were we chosen? He chose us to be set apart from the world by our lives and that we would stand blameless before HIm (in Christ), and all of this in the envelope of love ("in love"). That last prepostional phrase in this verse, "in love", ties us back to the intimacy suggested by the use of the middle voice. "He chose us for Himself...in love". These are the bookends of verse four, and a reminder of not only grace, but love that God poured forth in our redemption.
προορισας ημας εις υιοθεσιαν δια ιησου χριστου εις αυτον κατα την ευδοκιαν του θεληματος αυτου
"He predestined us to sonship in Him through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of His will"
As we (Pam and I) will be building a house one day in the not too distant future, after we have drawn up the plans for the house itself, we will then be tasked with placing it on our property. We have determined that with driveway, garage, house, and yard, we will need about one-half acre for the house's 'compound'. Before we send the construction team to the site, we will have to outline the area where everything will be placed, and declare to the builder, "The house goes here, and nowhere else!"
The Greek for predestined is similiar. It means to surround or draw a line around, and with the prepositional prefix "pro" it draws emphasis to the action of 'selecting', 'drawing a line around', or 'choosing' was done in advance of the named act's fulfillment. In all of time and all of humanity, God has drawn a line around those whom HE has chosen by His grace and declared to all creation, including Satan and his angels, "These are appointed to be My sons and daughters, and and they shall be Mine forever!". God faciliated this adoption THROUGH Jesus Christ alone (God does not operate among us apart from Christ, as Christ is the equal second person of the Trinity). Why, how, to what end, did God do such a thing? He did it according to the pleasure of His will. It PLEASED God to choose His elect before all time. It PLEASED Him to declare and make us His sons and daughters. It PLEASED God to redeem us through Jesus Christ. He Who sees the end from the beginning acted with PLEASURE and according to HIS will.
εις επαινον δοξης της χαριτος αυτου ης εχαριτωσεν ημας εν τω ηγαπημενω
"in praise of the glory of His grace, which He bestowed us in The Beloved"
Here again, Paul returns to the theme of this section of the Ephesians preamble, God's grace. Paul is trying to help us all understand, not just the Ephesians, of the magnitude of God's grace, and what glory it is. We sometimes get caught up in blessings, provisions, mercies, and the rest, but Paul is driving home the point that regardless of anything else, it is God's grace toward us in Jesus Christ that should evoke our highest praise.
In this phrase here, the meaning of the word "bestowed", sometimes translated "gave" or "blessed", is the verb form of the Greek word for 'grace'. In light of the Christian meaning of the word "grace", we see the translations fail to capture the breadth, height, and depth of God's action toward us (the verb is in the active voice) when it comes to Him imparting His grace.
But this grace, by which we are saved, Paul writes, occurs in the realm of The Beloved, Jesus Christ, and can never occur apart from Him. Jesus is God's agent of grace to those whom He has chosen.
εν ω εχομεν την απολυτρωσιν δια του αιματος αυτου την αφεσιν των παραπτωματων κατα το πλουτος της χαριτος αυτου
"in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the wealth of His grace."
The phrase "in Whom", points back to "The Beloved" of verse 6, and Paul, with the positioning of this preposition at the beginning of what he is about to say, reinforces its primacy. Paul continues, "...we have redemption through His blood the forgiveness of sins..." The sentence structure suggests two objects: both "redemption" and "forgiveness" are in the accusative case, and their respective descriptive phrases are not separated by a conjunction. Rather than suggest one is the modifier of the other, I think Paul is presenting the "two sides of one coin", emphasizing that one does not get one without the other. We do not get forgiveness of sins, then later, if we pass the test, we obtain redemption; nor do we obtain redemption, then have to "work off" our sins in penitential labors. Perhaps a man-made plan would have suggested such things as a means of promoting fairness, but Paul states such a "plan" is an extension of, you guessed it, God's grace: "...according to the wealth (riches) of HIS grace".
God's grace shown to His elect in Jesus Christ is unfathomable in every way. We have nothing to offer but praise: praise to God for His grace, praise to Jesus Whose blood allowed such grace to be so richly and abundantly poured upon us.