Welcome to Expositing Ephesians

THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED to one of the chief passions of my life and ministry, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. I believe this epistle is at the very core of the Christian life. I spent years in the study of it and then three and one half years expositing it from my pulpit. I hope this blog will be a blessing to you as I share that exposition. I also hope you will tell others about this blog. Please check for new posts each Monday .

Monday, June 27, 2011

Paul’s “Psalm” of Praise

Before looking at specific verses, one should first look at Ephesians 1:3-14 as a whole. How truly enthralling this passage is!

First, the most amazing feature of this passage is that in the Greek it is one sentence. In one long, flowing sentence, Paul pours out his heart in praise to God for what He has done. He just goes on and on, moving from one topic to another. After some thirty years of knowing and serving Christ, Paul was truly carried away with these thoughts. Commentator William Hendrickson writes: “The sentence . . . rolls on like a snowball tumbling down a hill, picking up volume as it descends. Its . . . words, and the many modifiers which they form, arranged like shingles on a roof or like steps on a stairway, are like prancing steeds pouring forward with impetuous speed.”

To use an Old Testament title, we might observe that if anything could be called “The Psalm of Paul,” it is this passage.

Tragically, most modern English translations destroy the primary point of this passage by dividing it up into several sentences. The popular NIV, for example, breaks the flow with eight sentences  (even worse, two others use eighteen!). The tragedy of this is that the passage is purposefully one sentence because it presents one main thought, which is stated in verse 3: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of the passage goes on to support that main idea. Dividing the passage into several sentences destroys this purpose by making all the separate sentences equal to each other. Verse 3 is no longer the main idea; it’s simply one among many and equal to all the others. As we’ll see in our next installment, the point of verse 3 is worship, and everything flows from that.

Second, this “psalm of praise” divides itself into three distinct parts. While Paul is captivated by what God has done, he has not lost control. As always, he still presents truth systematically. This great “psalm” (“doxology,” or “song of praise”) contains three “stanzas:”

·                    First Stanza (vs. 4‑6) – Focuses on God the Father and speaks of past ELECTION.
·                    Second Stanza (vs. 7‑12) – Focuses on God the Son and speaks of present REDEMPTION.
·                    Third Stanza (vs. 13‑14) ‑ Focuses on God the Holy Spirit and speaks of future INHERITANCE.

As we progress, we’ll see that each stanza can be separated into specific statements that express Paul’s thoughts.

Third, we also see that each “stanza” demonstrates that specific riches come from each specific member of the Godhead: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It is this truth that we shall examine as we progress.

Again, in one beautifully flowing sentence, Paul exalts God for what He has done for man in Christ. As one expositor writes: “The lofty terms in which he extols the grace of God toward the Ephesians, are intended to rouse their hearts to gratitude, to set them all on flame, to fill them even to overflowing with this thought.”

Friday, June 24, 2011

God’s Greatest Blessings

Ephesians 1:2a declares, Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. What a cordial and comprehensive salutation that is! This verse presents the two greatest, most comprehensive blessings believers possess. While God’s blessings are numerous, the greatest of all are grace and peace.

As noted in an earlier installment, grace is used 12 times in Ephesians and stands out as the key word. Ephesians details what grace really means: The unmerited favour of God toward man manifested primarily through the person and work of Jesus Christ apart from any merit or works of man (see 2:4-9). Grace cannot be earned or purchased; it can only be received.

But Paul adds another word—peace. The Greek word behind this (eirēnē) means “a state of tranquility; the opposite of rage and war; harmony.” It is important that we understand this word in light of the Hebrew word shalom. This is a common greeting which means not so much the opposite of war but rather the opposite of any disturbance in the tranquility of God’s people. Paul in essence “borrows” the depth of the Hebrew word and brings it into the Greek. So because we are “in Christ,” there is tranquility between God and man (compare I Tim. 2:5). There are at least two correlations to observe here.

First, the order in Paul’s writings is always grace then peace because peace is always the result of grace. In fact, we never find peace apart from grace in the doctrinal Epistles. The reason is that God does not give peace apart from grace; neither can we know true peace without accepting God’s grace through the person and work of Christ. Picture it this way: Peace is the stream that flows from the fountain of grace. Why has there always been war and why will there always be wars until Jesus returns to the Earth? Because there can never be peace until man accepts God’s grace.

Second, Paul here couples greetings from the Greek and Hebrew cultures. Again, the Greek word is rooted in Hebrew thought. This is truly amazing. Grace is distinctly Greek in origin and peace is distinctly Jewish. But Paul brings them together in perfect balance. Could a more meaningful Christian greeting ever be found?

But ponder something else: From whom do these blessings come? First, God our Father is the Source of these blessings. God is, indeed, sovereign, holy, and absolutely pure. But praise be to Him, He is also a Father; He comes to us as a loving Father and gives us these blessings. Second, the Lord Jesus Christ is the Means of blessing. God had to have a medium through whom He could bestow His blessings, and it is through Christ alone that we receive grace and peace. May we truly grasp this thought: Without Christ we cannot receive grace and peace. John 1:17 declares: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” And Jesus Himself said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” It is, indeed, only through Jesus Christ that man can be saved from sin. This is not a popular view in our day, but it is still true.