Introduction and greetings (1:1-2). It was customary for Paul to start his letters by stating from whom the letter (epistle) came. Paul was chosen by the Lord Jesus to be an apostle (one sent out, a messenger), proclaiming God’s will to many, including those who resided in Ephesus. Those to whom he addressed this letter were Christians, they were saints.
The significance of belonging to the body of Christ (1:3 – 3:21). The spiritual blessings (1:3-14). In this section we have the great encouragement of God. All spiritual blessing are in Christ (cf. Acts 4:12). The clear implication is that there are NO spiritual blessings outside of Christ. This was the plan of the Father. Consider, briefly, from verses 1 through 14 what spiritual blessings Paul identifies. First, in Christ we are to be holy and without blame (Hebrews 12:14). Second, we have been adopted as sons of the Father. Third, we have redemption, that is, the forgiveness of our sins. Fourth, we have an inheritance. Fifth, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (cf. 2 Timothy 2:19). On this last, Curtis Vaughan said the seal represent three uses: to authenticate as genuine, to render secure, and to denote ownership. These indeed are spiritual blessings (1:1-6).
Election and predestination (1:3-6). As mentioned there are no spiritual blessings outside of Christ; that is, with regard to heavenly rewards. God chose this to be that way for those that belong to Him, just as He had chosen those of Ephesus (and us) when they (we) became Christian. The idea of being chosen by God might be perplexing. After reflection, however, the perplexity can be set aside (hopefully). God chose, Abraham, He chose Jacob, and He chose Paul. Each one of these men could have refused God’s invitation (cf. Acts 26:19; Titus 2:11-14; Matthew 11:28). God also chose us to be of a certain quality, that is, to be holy and without blame in Christ (1:4). It is up to each of us to accept this invite or refuse it. Let me also say a word about “predestined” (1:5, NKJV). This English word is made of two words, “pre” meaning before and “destined” meaning to designate. The dictionary defines the word to designate, assign, or dedicate in advance. From the word we learn that God “predestined” us unto something. What was that something? He beforehand designated us unto adoption, as His sons. This is in accordance with His good pleasure. Now, the question that often results from a reading of chapter 1 is whether man had any role in his own salvation. In one respect, the answer is no; in another the answer is yes. Salvation is entirely of God; that is, without God’s offer of the free gift (salvation), man could not be saved. However, man has an obligation to hear and respond to that message of God in order that he would be saved, and in this respect, man has a role (cf. 1:13). God chose and predestined us to His glory, and His glory was (is) that we be saved (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4). He has made available to all men salvation; it is up to each to decide (cf. Joshua 24:15).
The Son’s redemption (1:7-12). Since all spiritual blessings are in Christ, note Paul’s identifying of them. We have forgiveness, we have spiritual wisdom and prudence (insight, NET), and we have been adopted as sons. The significance of this is really explained in 2:1-6. Our Lord redeemed (bought, purchased) our souls for His own good pleasure when we accepted (trusted) in the Lord after having heard the message of hope. Whereas we were at one time captives to Satan’s hold, because we trusted in the Lord we have been redeemed from the clutches of Satan’s bonds. This which we have is made known to us by the coming and dying of the Lord Jesus. Without that, Paul would have no message to preach.
The Spirit’s seal or down payment (1:13-14). So strong was Satan’s hold that there was nothing we could do to escape from it. However, with the coming of God’s Son (Galatians 4:4), the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) lost his grip (2 Timothy 1:8-10). In order that Satan could not reach in and grab us (if you will) God closed up that “ark of safety” and placed a seal on those that belonged to Him (the church), as a king would seal a document and no one could open but those authorized by the king, God placed a seal on us and only He is authorized to open it (cf. 2 Timothy 2:19).
Paul’s prayer (1:15-23). With such a lengthy expression of what it means to have all spiritual blessings in Christ, Paul is very grateful that those to whom he addressed this epistle are now among those saved by the blood of the Lamb. He is not only grateful for their response but he continues to pray that they would gain even more spiritual enlightenment in the knowledge of Him who saved us; that we would know the hope of His calling; and that we would know the greatness of His power toward us. “How do we receive a greater knowledge of God? In this context God supplies wisdom, in answer to prayer, to help His people understand and apply properly the truths in His revealed message” (Lockhart, p. 84). All this is found in the Lord Jesus, He who is seated above all that this earth presents and represents. In fact, all things of this earthly realm are in submission to Him, and He is the head of that holy institution called the church, which is His body, and only the church will be saved (1:22-23; 5:23).
Particular doctrines worth notice. We already mentioned something on election and predestination, but let us notice the word church in Ephesians. The church is the body, and only the body of Christ will be saved (5:23; cf. 2 Timothy 2:19). A number of facts pertaining to the church should not be forgotten: 1) the Lord built it and, thus, it belongs to Him (Matthew 16:13-19), 2) those who respond to the Lord’s invitation to be saved are placed in His church (Acts 2:47; cf. Colossians 1:13, 18), 3) those who are in the Lord’s church are called saints (1:1; there are no non-saints in the church), 4) there is only one body, thus there is only one church (4:4), 5) the plan for the church got its start in the Lord’s mind and even before time began (3:8-11), 6) only those in the Lord’s church will be saved (5:23). When we begin to think of the Lord’s church as a denomination we pollute the church with a man-made ideology. The church is an institution, but it is a divinely organized institution, and those who relegate it as something insignificant do so to their own peril. People make up the Lord’s church and whatever failings there might be in them, to leave the local church, to speak against the local church, to run down the leadership of the local church, to do anything that would cast a negative reflection on the Lord’s body—does that one thing he (she) will escape the Lord’s judgment!