Part 1: Applauding God’s Plan to Bless Believers in Christ (Eph. 1:1-14)

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from Ephesians: A Commentary for Biblical Preaching and Teaching
by Gregory S. Magee and Jeffrey D. Arthurs

1:14. For Paul, the Spirit functioned as a down payment or initial installment of the readers’ full inheritance to come (ὅ ἐστιν  ἀρραβὼν τῆς κληρονομίας ἡμῶν). A “down payment” (ἀρραβών) guaranteed the future delivery of a promised payment in full (2 Cor. 1:21–22; 5:5; BDAG, s.v. “ἀρραβών,” p. 134). If the Holy Spirit of promise opened the door to all spiritual blessings, then that included the eschatological blessings connected to Jesus’s future return as well. The Spirit’s presence in believers’ lives pro- vided assurance that God would one day fulfill all of his promises to his people.

Blessings That Are “Already” and “Not Yet”

In Ephesians 1:3–14, Paul moved from a strong affirmation of spiritual blessings already received in Christ (v. 3) to an acknowledgement that the fullness of those blessings was yet to come (v. 14). Paul’s readers had been chosen (v. 4), adopted (v. 5), redeemed and forgiven (v. 7), selected to belong to God (v. 11), and sealed with the Spirit (v. 13). The Spirit’s presence guaranteed that when Christ returned, Paul’s readers would receive their full inheritance from God and enjoy his presence forever as his dearly loved people (v. 14). God would deliver this full inheritance as part of his majestic work of restoring all things under Christ’s perfect reign (v. 10). Though Paul described both present and future blessings in this passage, he placed the emphasis on the fact that believers could already embrace and celebrate the spiritual blessings of their guaranteed eschatological inheritance.

Chief among these promises was the relational union God would enjoy with his people. Paul indicated the end result (εἰς, “for”) of the Spirit’s work, which was God’s final redemption of his people (see Rom. 8:23; Eph. 4:30; Bruce, 1977, 430), so that he could be with them. The phrase “for the redemption of the possession” (εἰς ἀπολύτρωσιν τῆς περιποιήσεως) more likely described God’s possession, namely, his people, (NIV, NASB, NRSV, NET, NLT) than it did the readers’ possession (ESV). Believers were the ones who were redeemed (Eph. 1:7; 4:30). The Spirit’s presence in Paul’s readers’ lives ensured that God would one day fully and visibly claim the people he had purchased for himself through Christ’s sacrifice (Eph. 1:7).

Paul closed this first section of the letter with the already familiar refrain: “to the praise of his glory” (εἰς ἔπαινον τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ). God’s final redemption of his people, his very own treasured possession, would bring to fruition the beautiful vision articulated in many of the covenant arrangements throughout the Bible: “You will be my people, and I will be your God” (Lev. 26:12; Jer. 24:7; 30:22; 31:33; 32:38; Ezek. 11:20; 14:11; 36:28; 37:23, 27; 2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 8:10; Rev. 21:3). This relational union had always been at the heart of God’s intentions for his people. God resolved to redeem a people for his very own, so that they could enjoy eternal fellowship with him in a new heavens and new earth. He gave his very own Spirit as his promise of this eventual communion. All of this reflected the magnificence of God and his plans, calling forth applause from his people.

THEOLOGICAL FOCUS

The exegetical idea (Paul gave accolades to God for having blessed Jews and Gentiles thoroughly in Christ by choosing and adopting them, redeeming them, and giving them his Spirit, as he prepared to restore all things in Christ) leads to this theological focus: God deserves our applause for his works in Christ and by the Spirit to bless believers and restore the world.

God deserves believers’ praise, as the passage makes clear near its beginning when it proclaims, “Blessed be God!” (v. 3). Three times the passage insists that God’s wonderful character and actions elicit enthusiastic accolades from his people (vv. 6, 10, 12). Praise is the most fitting response to God’s generous blessings.

The passages locates God’s blessings to believers within the panoramic sweep of his eternal plans for a new beginning for the entire created order (v. 10). Believers’ blessings fit within this greater story of God’s work in the world. While God has orchestrated this story since before the beginning of time, his blessings for believers are realized now through the believer’s union with Christ. Believers are blessed in Christ (v. 3), chosen in him (v. 4), given grace in the beloved, have redemption and forgiveness in him (v. 7), and are included in the eternal cosmic plans that are designed and carried out in him (vv. 10–11). Through the Holy Spirit believers receive the immediate blessings of belonging to God as well as the guarantee of future blessings on that day when God will reorder all things in heaven and on earth in and under Christ (vv. 13–14).


This post is adapted from the forthcoming Ephesians: A Commentary for Biblical Preaching, written by Gregory S. Magee and Jeffrey D. Arthurs. If you are interested in adopting this book for a college or seminary course, please request a faculty examination copy. We will also consider requests for your blog or media outlets.

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About Author

Gregory S. MaGee (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is associate professor of biblical studies and chair of the Biblical Studies, Christian Ministries, and Philosophy Department at Taylor University. His other publications include Studying Paul's Letters with the Mind and Heart.

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