Welcome to the FIRST EVER Messy Coffee Table Bible Study! Over the next couple months, we will be journeying through the book of Ephesians together.
A number of things have kind of inspired the desire to do a Bible study on this blog. 1) The Bible is the unchanging, living, God-breathed Word. It’s where my faith is based and the place from which I long to encourage my readers. 2) Ephesians is a book I’ve always loved in different phases of my faith journey, but have never walked through in an exegetical fashion, so I’d love to do that in the context of a larger community. 3) Priscilla Shirer said at the Passion Conference this year, that if you hadn’t read through the book of Ephesians yet, that you just had to do it, and that was the last little push I think I needed.
Today we’re looking at Part 1 of Ephesians chapter 1, i.e. verses 1-14 (Part 2 will be covered in the next post). There’s a lot going on here…so to be clear from the get-go: I am not a pastor. I do not have a seminary degree. I am just a Jesus-lover exploring the Word of God the way any average girl could, sharing my thoughts and understandings with you, and opening up the conversation to hear from YOU what YOUR own revelations from this book may be.
Some insights may also be informed by my own further research, Bible footnotes, and sermons. If that’s the case, I will make note of that as we go. Without further ado, let’s dive into Ephesians 1:1-14. I recommend opening up your own physical Bible and reading through it for yourself first. Make some notes for yourself, including any questions you may have, and then we will pick up right here when you’re done.
Read Ephesians 1:1-14 here.
Let’s start with a little bit of context: Ephesus was a hot-spot in the Roman empire, multicultural, cosmopolitan, with a lot going on and a lot of world influence (The Jesus Bible, pg. 1826). Sounds kinda like Miami, actually. Paul, the author of Ephesians, witnessed the birth of the church in this city…that is, the first community of believers in the death and resurrection of Jesus in Ephesus (you can read about this in Acts 18 and 19). This letter comes to them years later as a means to encourage them in the faith they already have, all to the glory of God.
As we journey through scripture together, there are two questions I always want to be thinking about: 1) What does this tell us about who God is? and 2) What does this tell us about who we are? Let’s start with the first.
What Does Ephesians 1:1-14 Tell Us About God?
Everything is done “in accordance with His good pleasure and will” (Eph. 1:5, 9, 11). Paul is talking especially in the context of when a person becomes a believer…it’s because he or she was “predestined” or chosen “before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight” (v. 4-5). God can’t be moved or constrained by any outside force (ESV Study Bible, 2262). This means if you are a believer in the saving work of Jesus, it’s because God WILLED it in love, and has been planning it for all of eternity. For this to be good news, it requires us to trust another thing about God: that He is good, and that His will above all other things is to be desired. We’ll dig more into what this means for us as believers in the next section.
His will is a mystery made known to believers, to bring unity to all things under Christ, through Christ (Eph. 1:9-10). Paul refers to “mystery” here meaning “something previously hidden or known only vaguely, but now is made more fully known” (ESV Study Bible, pg. 2263). And it is made more fully known because of Jesus (vs.9). Through his death and resurrection, it is made possible that those who believe may understand God’s will a little bit more clearly (I think this has to do with the resources we are given as believers: both God’s Word as authority and the Holy Spirit. We’ll talk more about how we are equipped as believers in a little bit).
What was the purpose of revealing God’s will through Christ? “…to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (vs.10). Since the fall of man, God has been in the business of reconciling all creation to himself. And in reconciling all things to himself, he brings unity to all things, through the work of Jesus on the cross. This is the crux of this passage…that God’s desire, God’s will for heaven and earth, is unity, made possible through the death and ressurection of Jesus, for the purpose of his glory. Which leads us to the final point:
Everything is accomplished “to the praise of his glory” or “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). Notice that almost every time God’s will and good pleasure are mentioned, it’s followed up with a purpose: God’s glory. Even beneath the redemption of the world through Jesus lies the bigger purpose of glorifying His name. This should tell us a lot, not just about the purpose of creation, but about who we are in him…
What Does Ephesians 1:1-14 Tell Us About Who We Are?
We are chosen as believers (Eph. 1:4, 5, 11). This thought goes hand in hand with God’s good pleasure and will. Without getting too much into the “predestination debate” (a conversation worth getting into with people who know a little bit more about it…check out some good resources here), I want to talk about what this means in the moment we come to faith. We could spend a whole other post just on this, but I’ll try to be brief. This means that our coming to faith is not so much a decision as it is a miracle. God has to will it for it to happen. He has to open our eyes first to who He is and who we are in Him before we can even decide anything! (John Piper gave a great sermon on this at the Passion Conference in 2016; watch it here.) And he does this according to his good will and pleasure. When this is true for us, we can know that we are Christians not because of anything we’ve done, but because God desired for us to be reconciled to himself, because he loves us.
We are heirs to an inheritance (Eph. 1:5, 13-14). What images come to mind when you hear the phrase “heir to an inheritance”? Is it extravagant? Luxurious? Does it indicate the receiving of something that someone else earned and then gifted to you, simply because of your relationship to them? Does is sound excessive? It should. This is what Paul declares about believers: that we are heirs to a lavish inheritance, according to God’s will and good pleasure. He says we were chosen for “adoption to sonship” (v.5). This phrase actually refers to “full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture” (NIV Bible, 1066, footnotes). In the same way, when we come to faith, we receive the full rights and privileges as a biological son or daughter in Christ.
Let’s think about this concept of adoption for a second. What does this tell us about who we were before we came to faith? We were fatherless, motherless. In the Roman culture we would have been socially outcast. Probably poor. Probably homeless. Spiritually, we were dead (Colossians 2:13-14; Ephesians 2:1-2). But when we come alive in Christ — when we are adopted into His family — we receive a Father, a home, a new name, and a glorious inheritance that he “lavishes” on us, according to the glorious “riches of God’s grace”, “which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (the One being Jesus; v.5-8).
What is our inheritance? Paul says that as believers in Christ we have these things: redemption through his blood (v.7), the forgiveness of sins (v.7), revelation of his will(v.9), and the Holy Spirit (v.13-14). Through the blood of Jesus we inherit reconciliation to God himself. Through the forgiveness of sins, we truly can stand “holy and blameless” before God (v.4), no longer slaves to sin or guilt (Romans 6:22-23). The revelation of his will comes to us as believers, both through his Word and the Holy Spirit. In other words, we have direct access to learning more about God’s will and character in scripture and in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The latter Paul describes as “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” until the day we are fully reconciled to Him (v.14). The word “guarantee” is used in the same way as it would have been used to describe a wedding ring, marking us as belonging to God, an unbreakable relationship with Him (The Jesus Bible, pg. 1829). It’s the guarantee of an eternal promise…to the praise of His glory (v.14).
We exist to glorify God (Eph. 1:12). All creation exists to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7, Isaiah 48:9-11, Romans 11:36). As the crown of His creation, so do we. After all this talk about being chosen as believers to be reconciled to God through Jesus, we are given a purpose as well: “in order that we…might be for the praise of His glory” (v. 12). God doesn’t reconcile us to himself in order that we might be good people. He doesn’t do it in order that we might live happy lives. No…we are reconciled to him in order that we may glorify his name.
Let’s be clear…God doesn’t necessarily need us in order to be glorified. He is more than capable of being brought glory in a million other ways, and we could be left in the dust and he would still be glorified. But here’s the thing….God also loves us. He wanted us for His glory. SO instead of leaving us in the dust, like we deserve as sinners without Jesus (Romans 6:23), he chose to make a way for us to be reconciled and therefore glorify Him. There is nothing in all of humanity that could have ever warranted such a gift (Romans 3:9-20), and so that is what our salvation is: a gift freely given in Jesus, in accordance with his own good pleasure and will, to the praise of His glorious grace (v.4-6).
This is good news. Praise be to God.
Questions for Reflection
- What makes it hard to trust that God’s will is good? How can we understand that “mystery” a little bit better as believers?
- How does the notion of being “chosen” as a believer change the way you view God? How does it change our view of how God sees us?
- Do you view God’s grace and glory as things to be treasured? Think about what we inherit as God’s adopted sons and daughters…why should we desire these things? How are they provided to us?
- Knowing that reconciliation is a gift freely given through Jesus, how can you personally step forward with this as your identity and seek to glorify God in your own life?
Join me for Part 2 of Ephesians 1 in my next post. You can also subscribe here via e-mail to get all these studies sent directly to you! And as always, be sure to follow The Messy Coffee Table on Facebook, Twitter (@mcoffeetable), and Pinterest (links at the top right of the page).
To the praise of his glory,