Rosary2007's Weblog

Words from GOD – Words to GOD

Ephesians, Commentary 2, via Uwe Rosenkranz

Ephesians 1:1–2
The epistle begins by identifying the sender and the recipients. This is the common way that Hellenistic letters begin. The use of grace and peace in the greeting is common among NT Letters (cf. 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:2; Phlm 3). The greeting here is identical to Philippians and the same as Colossians except for the addition of “and the Lord Jesus Christ.” As with most beginnings, the terms, allusions, and ideas first appearing here will help shape how one might read the whole text.

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the holy ones who are in Ephesusb and are faithful in Christ Jesus. 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[1–2] Paul begins by identifying himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus. Paul identifies himself this way at the beginning of Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus. To designate oneself as an apostle indicates that one is on a mission. An apostle is one who has been sent. The phrase “apostle of Christ” declares that Paul is sent by Christ and on Christ’s behalf to pursue a mission given him by Christ (Heil, Ephesians 47). This becomes much clearer in 3:1–13. In addition, Paul uses this designation to indicate his office and authority—authority that is sometimes questioned (as in 1-2 Corinthians). Yet calling himself an apostle of Christ “by the will of God” locates Paul’s authority outside himself. Paul’s mission is not one he would have chosen for himself. Although being an apostle puts Paul in a position of power, this position is not one that Paul seeks. Rather, it is “the will of God” that makes Paul an apostle. This is part of a pattern found elsewhere in Paul’s writings, where he both claims and exercises great authority, while also displacing himself as the source of that authority. Paul is able to do this in Ephesians and elsewhere because he understands himself to be a character within a larger drama driven by the will of God. This will become clearer in Eph 3.
Paul’s use of the term “apostle” in 2:20; 3:5; and 4:11 also provides a fuller account of what being an apostle might mean. In 2:20 the “apostles and prophets” are the foundation upon which the church, “the household of God,” is built, with Christ as the cornerstone. In 3:5 we again find “apostles and prophets” paired. These are the ones to whom the Spirit has revealed God’s plan for including the Gentiles with the Jews into one body in Christ. In 4:11 “the apostles” are mentioned as the first gift given by the resurrected and ascended Christ for the building up of the church. Thus, by identifying himself as an apostle at the beginning of Ephesians, Paul situates himself within the group that serves as the locus for God’s work of founding, directing, and maintaining the one body of Christ.
The recipients are located in Ephesus and identified as “holy” and “faithful in Christ Jesus.” This designation “saints” or “holy ones” occurs also in the greeting of Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Philippians, and Colossians as a way of identifying those to whom these Epistles are addressed. What does this way of identifying Christian congregations indicate?
It is clear from Paul’s unhesitating application of this word to the Corinthians that “holy ones” is not primarily a reference to their moral achievements. Rather, Paul has taken over a word used to describe Israel in the LXX and applied it to these congregations. The allusions here go back to Exod 19:6 and 23:22 LXX, where the Lord speaks of setting Israel apart as a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (not in 23:22 MT). Further, in Leviticus the Lord repeatedly calls Israel to a divine holiness (11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7, 26). In part, this call is based on God’s gracious activity of setting the people of Israel apart and delivering them up out of Egypt (Lev 11:45). Deuteronomy 7:6–8 again designates Israel as a holy people chosen and redeemed by God (see also 14:2, 21). Moreover, the LXX of Pss 15:3 [15:2 Eng.]; 33:10 [34:9]; 73:3 [74:3]; and 1 Macc 10:39 also uses “holy ones” to designate all or a part of the people of God in much the same way Paul seems to use the term.
Thus we can say that for the LXX and for Paul, the term “holy ones” appears to designate a body of people chosen by God. The term bespeaks God’s formation of a particular body of people and God’s desires for them to be holy. By applying this language to the Ephesians, Paul seeks to connect them to God’s activity of forming, redeeming, and sanctifying a people (cf. Eph 1:4; 2:19). “To us, the early Christian self-designation as ‘the saints’ is almost embarrassing.… But the word once expressed much of what was meant by ‘contrast society.’ The church understood itself to be the sacred people of God’s possession, a people with a pattern of life which differed from that of the world” (Lohfink 131). In designating the congregations he addresses as “saints” or “holy ones,” Paul is indicating that they are a people set apart, not because of their moral perfection, but by the work of God. At the same time, this phrase indicates the end for which God sets people apart: holiness.
In addition to being called holy ones, the Ephesians are “faithful in Christ Jesus.” Grammatically, this clause is unusual. The absence of a definite article before “faithful” seems to indicate that “the saints” or “the holy ones” and “faithful” are to be taken together as a common designation of a single group, as in the very similar usage in Col 1:2.
It is important to remember, however, that the Ephesians’ status as “holy” and “faithful” is tied to being “in Christ Jesus” (cf. 2:19–22). On numerous occasions Paul uses “in Christ” to speak of a distinct group or community composed of believers. In addition, recall that the use of “holy” is tied to the formation of a particular people. This indicates that identifying the Ephesians as “holy” and “faithful in Christ Jesus” defines both the parameters of a community and the character of that community. Being in Christ locates one within the community founded by Christ and thereby within the realm governed by Christ. It is easy to forget, however, that when Paul uses such language, he is speaking in political terms—not of partisan politics but of a community whose character and polity is defined by the lordship of Christ.
Paul’s language here presumes a viewpoint that contemporary Christians must work hard to remember. If Christ’s lordship is to have any material reality in the present, then there must also be a community of people whose faith and practice, whose hopes and desires, whose very life and death—all are shaped by their allegiance to their Lord. Apart from this, language about being in Christ and attempts to call Christ “Lord” begin to lose their coherence. As Gerhard Lohfink (127) states, “Being in Christ means living within the realm of Christ’s rule—and that realm is the church.” Clearly Christians are divided over questions about exactly how the church should be ordered and what all of its constitutive practices are. This very divisiveness is a profound wound in the body of Christ. Nevertheless, to follow Paul and speak of the church as the body of Christ demands the real material presence of a community of Christians, not simply individual Christians enjoying discrete inner transactions with God. The central Christian confession “Jesus Christ is Lord” calls forth and requires that community known as the church.
In the next section Paul begins to articulate in greater detail what God has done for this community in and through Christ.

Ephesians 1:3–14
Introductory Blessing
This section calls on believers to bless God for the saving work God has accomplished and is accomplishing in the world. One can find similar passages in 2 Cor 1:3–4; 1 Pet 1:3–12; and Luke 1:68–76. This text formally resembles the blessings found in Tob 13:1–17; 1 Kgs 8:15, 56, where the phrase “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel” introduces a narrative of God’s saving acts (cf. also LXX of Pss 65:20 [66:20 Eng.]; 67:36 [68:35]).
Although many scholars have proposed that this passage, as a whole or in part, replicates an early Christian hymn or liturgical formula, these suggestions are highly speculative. Moreover, the present context of the epistle has to be determinative for interpreting these verses, not some reconstructed context for which we have limited, if any, evidence.
This passage begins with an expression of praise to God in v. 3. Verses 4–6 locate the reason for praising God in God’s gracious choice of believers. The next verses go on to locate believers’ redemption in Christ. In vv. 9–10 Paul speaks specifically about the results of redemption. Finally, vv. 11–14 refocus the dimensions of God’s drama of salvation in Christ from the cosmos onto the lives of believers in Ephesus.

1:3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realmsb in Christ, 4 just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we might be holy and blameless before him in love, 5 having predestined us for adoption as sons and daughters through Christ Jesus for himself according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 for the praise of the glory of his grace,d which he has graciously bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he has lavished on us in all wisdom and prudence. 9 He has made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ 10 for the administration of the fullness of times, to bring together all things in Christ, things both in heaven and on earth. 11 In Christ we have an allotment, having been destined for this according to the purpose of the one who causes all things to work according to the counsel of his will 12 so that we who have already hoped in Christ might live to the praise of his glory. 13 You also are in him, having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. In him also you have been sealed by the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the down payment on our allotment, standing also as the promise of God’s redemption of his own possession for his praise and glory.

[3] There are formal affinities between this verse and numerous OT verses that bless or praise God by using some form of the Hebrew word (bārak). Nevertheless, the language here is decidedly Christian in its praise of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The point here is not to identify two gods, but to identify the one God and God’s particular relationship as Father of the Son (Thomas Aq. [Aquinas] 45).
The following clause explains why believers are to bless or praise God: God has blessed us. One should avoid thinking of this as a straightforward exchange of blessing between equals where we bless God in exchange for God’s blessing us. God does not need human praise; we humans desperately need God’s blessing. This verse concludes with three phrases each introduced by the Greek preposition (en). Each of those phrases serves to elucidate the nature of God’s blessing.
Some interpreters take the first phrase “every spiritual blessing” to refer to spiritual as opposed to material blessings. Rather, “spiritual” here refers to the fact that God’s blessing is related to and sustained by the work of the Spirit. This is made explicit in 1:13–14. It is also the way the adjective “spiritual” is used in 5:19.
These spiritual blessings are located “in the heavenly realms.” The Hebrew term for “heaven” is also a plural noun, and that usage seems to be reflected here. Hence Paul is probably not referring to a multilayered heaven such as one sees later in, for example, Irenaeus’s account of Valentinian Gnosticism.3 It is very clear from the five times the phrase “in the heavenly realms” occurs in Ephesians that this is a way of talking about a location (cf. 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). “The heavenly realms” refers both to a place where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (1:20) and a place where hostile principalities and powers seek to exercise authority (3:10; 6:12). It is also a place where believers have been raised with Christ and seated with him. It would appear, then, that the heavenly realms is a place that has been decisively marked by Christ’s redemptive work, a foreshadowing of the final end of believers (Thomas Aq. 46). It is also a place whose final transformation into a place fully under Christ’s rule has yet to be accomplished (Lincoln, Ephesians 21; Carr 94–96).
What does it mean, however, to say that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms? What does the juxtaposition of divine blessing with this location convey? Although “the heavenly realms” have yet to be fully subjected to Christ’s rule, it appears that this is “the place” where matters of the utmost significance happen. The one in control of the heavenly places is the one who ultimately exercises dominion over the earth (cf. Dan 7:1–14; Job 1:6–12). By declaring that God has blessed the Ephesians in the heavenly realms, Paul may be making a point about either the immutability of these blessings or their ultimate significance.
This is not to say that locating these blessings in the heavenly places means that God’s blessings are not also material. Nevertheless, just as Paul indicates in Phil 4:10–13, such blessings are not tied to the material goods that may or may not come one’s way. At the same time, in Eph 2:6 Paul asserts that believers have been raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms. Thus, in some sense, believers are already located in that place where God has blessed them. In some real though unspecified way, they are united with Christ in that place where God’s blessings have been bestowed and where the most important things are. In addition, though, 3:10 and 6:12 make it clear that in some significant sense the heavenly realms are not yet fully under Christ’s rule. As the heavenly realms are not yet under Christ’s full control, so believers are clearly not yet fully resident there. The fact that Paul himself is in prison when he writes to the Ephesians makes this clear.
This line of thinking is not all that different from Paul’s discussion in 2 Cor 5. There he uses the image of believers’ having an eternal dwelling from God. The beginning of the chapter reminds the Corinthians, however, that there is a very real sense in which they have yet to inhabit this dwelling: they still remain clothed in mortality. Nevertheless, as in Eph 1:13–14, the presence of the Spirit in the lives of believers is God’s guarantee that they will not be found naked but will come to their true home (2 Cor 5:4–5). Even as he recognizes that believers are not yet in their heavenly dwelling, Paul boldly asserts a few verses later that having abandoned an earthly point of view, one can see that in Christ the new creation is a reality: “everything has become new!” (2 Cor 5:16–17).
Finally, in Eph 1:3 Paul says that these spiritual blessings, in the heavenly places, are also “in Christ.” They are in, through, and by Christ, the one who sits at God’s right hand in the heavenly places (1:20) and who will ultimately have all things subjected to him. “All that God resolved and performed for our salvation took place ‘in Christ’ and every blessing which comes upon us is bestowed ‘in Christ.’ ” In addition to asserting Christ’s agency in making God’s blessing available to the world, the phrase “in Christ” also includes the fact that believers’ incorporation into Christ’s body in baptism joins them to God’s blessing (so Lincoln, Ephesians 22; MacDonald, Ephesians 191).
[4–6] It seems best to take the conjunction “just as” (kathōs) to indicate the cause of believers’ praise of God for God’s blessings. This causal interpretation fits the formal structure where a blessing is offered or called for followed by the reasons for that blessing. as in Pss 67; 103; 113; or in the more familiar passage Luke 1:68–79.
The primary reason that God is blessed and believers are called to bless God is because God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless before God (in love). The language here is redolent of Deut 7:6–8:

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession. It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors …

In the light of this text, it appears that Paul is telling or reminding the Ephesians that through Christ they have become participants in God’s election of Israel, when God chose Abraham from among all people and graciously made a covenant with him. One of the reasons for God’s call of Abraham and the establishment of an everlasting covenant with him is to bring a blessing to the nations (cf. Gen 12:1–3). Because of what God does with Israel, all the nations are to be drawn to God. As Isaiah, among others, declares, this will happen when Israel is redeemed (Isa 2:1–4; Amos 9:11–12). In Acts 15:15–17 James reads Amos as announcing the incorporation of Gentiles into the people of God.
Further, in Gal 3:6–18 Paul takes great pains to point out that Christ fulfills this promise to Abraham, as Gentiles are drawn to the renewed and redeemed people of God. In Eph 1:4 Paul simply indicates that God’s election is in Christ. It will become clear in Eph 3, however, that this is part of the great “mystery,” which has been revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
Further, just as God’s election of Israel is a call to holiness (Deut 7:6; also Exod 19:6; Lev 11:44; 19:2; 20:26), so also all those brought into this elect group through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are called to be “holy and blameless.” As Thomas Aquinas (46) states, “He chose us, I say, not because we were holy—we had not yet come into existence—but that we should be holy in virtues and unspotted by vices.” In addition, although it is important to strive for personal holiness, the use of these same terms, “holy and blameless,” in 5:27 to describe the end of the church indicates that holiness is the communal end toward which God calls the church as a body.
More will be said about Israel’s election and the inclusion of the Gentiles in Eph 2:11–22. Yet here we observe two things about Paul’s understanding of the election of Israel and how the Gentiles have been incorporated into the people of God in Christ. First, Paul’s claims about the incorporation of the Gentiles into the people of God do not assume the abrogation of the covenant. If God’s everlasting covenant with Israel is either broken or superseded by some new covenant with Gentiles in Christ, then the character, fidelity, and righteousness of God would be called into question. A God who freely makes an everlasting covenant with Abraham and his heirs and then abandons that covenant in favor of a new one with Gentiles—such a God can hardly be called righteous, much less trustworthy.
Second, although Paul as a Jew is offering an account of how God fulfills the promise to Abraham by drawing Jews and Gentiles into one body in Christ, one should not assume that Paul’s account was immediately acceptable to his Jewish contemporaries or to subsequent Jews. Nevertheless, as Eph 1:13–14 asserts, the presence of the Spirit in the lives of both Jewish and Gentile believers in the church confirms that they have been accepted by God as full members of the covenant people.
It is also important for readers, both ancient and modern, to understand some of the ways in which God’s choosing is not like human choice. Paul does not offer such reflection himself. Presumably, however, when presented with such considerations, Paul would agree with them. These considerations reflect basic components of a Christian doctrine of God. This doctrine is the result of sustained and ordered reflection on Scripture, particularly the OT. Moreover, Christians (presumably including Paul) recognize that although our language about God can become ever more disciplined, clear, and beautiful, it can never fully comprehend God. Thus to claim that God chose us is not to say that God, having considered all the options and possibilities, selected us from among a variety of lesser options. God’s choice is gracious and not the result of our superior properties. Further, in choosing us, God is not filling up some lack that God has or feels. God’s choice is neither provoked nor coerced by any insufficiency in God. God does not need to elect anyone. Moreover, by claiming that this choosing took place before the foundation of the world, Paul declares that this election is not like our contingent choices, forced on us by opportunity or circumstance.
Moreover, we Americans are often so deeply shaped by our own notions of equality that we are offended by God’s selectivity in choosing Abraham and his people. For us, it may be valuable to remember that the calling of Abraham and the formation of a chosen people, Israel, is part of God’s plan to bring a blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen 12:3). God chooses Israel with the aim that the relationship between God and the people of Israel is to be so beautiful, fascinating, and compelling that it will draw all of the nations to God.
This verse ends with the phrase “in love.” Grammatically, the phrase can either serve to complete v. 4 (“to be holy and blameless before him in love”) or as the beginning of v. 5 (“In love he destined us for adoption as sons and daughters”). I am not sure there is any gain in limiting the ambiguity of the placement of this clause. One might take the phrase both as closing v. 4 and opening v. 5. As a closing to v. 4, one can read “in love” in the light of Phil 1:9 and 1 Thess 3:12–13, where a superabundance of agapē in the lives ofbelievers provides the wisdom and grace they will need to be holy and blameless before Christ. As the beginning of v. 5, “in love” reminds readers that as mysterious as God’s choosing and predestining is, the underlying motivation behind it is God’s unsurpassed love for us.
Verses 4–5 really belong together since they express a single complex assertion: Out of God’s love, God has predestined us through Christ to become sons and daughters of God. As with the notion of election, predestination presumes love (Thomas Aq. 48). This still raises the question of the relationship between the praise of God’s election in v. 4 and God’s predestining in v. 5. Grammatically, an aorist participle such as “he predestined” (proorisas) following a main verb such as “he chose” (exelexato) usually refers to contemporaneous actions (Porter 383–84). Moreover, in terms of God’s will, there can be no temporal distinction. Humans, due to our finitude, first make plans and then try to execute them. God is outside of time and not subject to such finitude. Although our thinking (including our thinking about God) is temporally constrained, God is not.
Rather than focus on a temporal distinction between election and predestination, it is probably better to think of the discussion of God’s predestining believers in v. 5 as a way of further explicating the nature of God’s choosing believers so that they might be holy and blameless. That is, predestining believers to be adopted through Christ is the way in which God brings about believers’ sanctity. There may be other ways to have done this, but this is how God acted.
Paul elaborates being adopted as children of the Father through Jesus Christ and uses that image to speak of the object or aim of God’s predestining. There are several points to note here. First, the word translated above as “adoption” (huiothesia) had been in use for a couple of centuries before the NT. Paul, however, is the only NT writer to use this word. Although the LXX does not use the word, there are a variety of occasions in the OT where someone might be thought of as adopting someone (levirate marriage in Deut 25:5–10; Abraham’s provisional ceding of his goods to Eliezer in Gen 15:2; Jacob’s adoption by Laban in Gen 29:14–30; and Moses’ adoption by Pharaoh’s daughter in Exod 2:5–10). Throughout the OT, relatives and others are expected to care and seek justice for orphans, yet the OT does not preserve clear evidence of a legal process for adopting a child (Walters 43).
Roman law allowed adoption. There were two aspects to this process: Initially, the son’s ties to his biological father were severed, and all of the father’s considerable control was relinquished. This then allowed the son to come under the full control of the adoptive father (Lyall 86–99; Walters 52–55; Hoehner 196). This Roman pattern fits well with points Paul will make later in Ephesians. In Eph 2:1–5, Paul speaks of the Ephesians as formerly “sons and daughters of disobedience” and children of wrath (by nature)—as part of a more comprehensive description of their alienation from God, a situation rectified and altered in Christ.
In the light of this description, it appears that Paul uses the image of adoption through Christ here with its Roman overtones of breaking all former bonds to a natural father and coming under the domain of a new father. In this respect, adoption is not simply God’s gracious act: it bespeaks the comprehensive and total transfer of one’s passions, love, and allegiance from the world to God. Finally, we only obtain our share in this adoption through the true son, Christ. Paul spells this out more clearly in Gal 4:4–5 where “God sent his Son, born of a woman, … that we might receive adoption assons and daughters” (AT).
The subsequent clause, “according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph 1:5), reflects Hebrew phraseology (Lincoln, Ephesians 26, citing CD 3.15). The phrase reiterates the point that God’s election of believers is not something wrested from the hand of an unwilling giver, but fully accords with God’s most heartfelt desires (Barth 81, making a similar point).
Verse 6 begins by noting that the upshot of God’s adoption of believers in Christ is praise. Praise is one of the ends toward which God’s predestining is directed. Thus God is both the free initiator of believers’ adoption, and praise of God is the end toward which such adoption is directed. The adoption of believers is God’s gracious act, which leads not simply to praise of God, but to praise of God for this specific act of grace. The rest of v. 6, “which he has graciously bestowed on us in the Beloved,” elaborates on this grace.
There are two ways of understanding this gracious gift that God has bestowed on believers in Christ. The first way is to recall that the aim of God’s adoption of sons and daughters in Christ is that these believers might be holy and blameless before him. In this light, believers can think of God’s bestowing grace on them as part of the process of their sanctification. Thus grace enables believers’ transformation from children of wrath (2:3) to holy and blameless sons and daughters of God through Christ. The second way of taking this passage is to read it in the light of the similar use of the verb “to bestow grace” (charitoō) in Gabriel’s pronouncement to Mary in Luke 1:28. Here the emphasis is on the graciousness of God’s choosing. It is an unmerited gift. The latter emphasizes the character of the giver; the former emphasizes the effects of the gift on believers. It is, however, the same grace. “Being highly favored with grace means, for the believing community, participation in that divine love with which the Father favored the Son, though the community’s participation in this relationship is through adoption” (Lincoln, Ephesians 27).
This grace is bestowed on believers in the “Beloved one.” This term is used of Israel in the LXX of Deut 32:15; 33:5, 26; and Isa 44:2. As Lincoln (Ephesians 21) notes, however, there is no evidence that the term was used with messianic overtones prior to Jesus (contra Schlier 56). In both Jesus’ baptism and his transfiguration the voice of God uses the term “beloved” in authenticating Jesus’ identity as the Son (Mark 1:11 par.; 9:7 par.). Moreover, Col 1:13 speaks of believers being “transferred into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (AT).
[7–8] These verses go on to explicate how God brings about the Ephesians’ adoption in the Beloved. First, they are told that in the Beloved, they have redemption. Redemption occurs in Christ, in the realm or sphere defined by Christ’s lordship. Paul uses the present tense of “have,” indicating that redemption is more like an ongoing state rather than a onetime achievement.
The word translated here as “redemption” (apolytrōsis) is not very common in the NT. Three of its ten occurrences are in Ephesians. In all of its NT uses, the word refers to God’s acting to release or deliver people from slavery (e.g., slavery to sin), danger (e.g., the danger of falling under God’s just judgment), or distress. In the case of v. 7, redemption is specifically spoken of as “the forgiveness of sins.” This shows that here God’s redemption is directly tied to God’s delivering believers from their slavery to sin. This slavery is further specified in Eph 2:1–10. It appears that, as in Rom 5–6, sin becomes a way of speaking both of the transgressions that individuals commit and of a power that captivates the world, bringing with it slavery and death. Redemption involves not only liberating believers from their slavery within the sphere ruled by Sin; it also includes transferring them into a new kingdom under the rule of the “son of his love” (cf. Col 1:13).
On this much, commentators largely agree. Modern commentators are divided, however, about whether the term always connotes the payment of some sort of ransom. Certainly this would be the case in more general Greek usage, where the term is often used to speak of the manumission of slaves (BDAG 117). In the NT the notion of some form of payment is clear in Rom 3:24 and Heb 9:15. In passages such as Luke 21:28 and Rom 8:23, which speak of some future redemption, it is not clear whether redemption presumes some form of prior payment. In Eph 1:14, however, the term is used to speak of future redemption in a context where financial images of exchange abound. Moreover, the vast majority of patristic authors are all relatively comfortable in recognizing the notion of payment entailed in speaking of redemption here.
In Eph 1:7 the reference to Christ’s blood makes it clear that the death of Christ is the means through which God brings about redemption (see also Rom 3:24; Heb 9:15). We should be wary, however, of simply transferring images from the realm of commercial exchange directly into the life of God as if Christ’s blood was a form of currency. Here are simply a few of the problems that would need careful attention: First, if we are slaves to Sin, then any ransom offered for our release must be paid to Sin or Satan. Christians should be clear here: God has defeated Satan; God owes Satan nothing. Second, if we think of Christ’s death as offering restitution to God for the damages incurred by our sin, we need to avoid two obvious corollary judgments one might also make. That is, we would need to avoid thinking that God is somehow damaged by our sin. Our sin damages us and our relationship with God. The incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ is both a sign of God’s continued desire for fellowship with us and an offering to God on our behalf to restore that relationship. Of course, the offering does not come from us; it is God’s self-offering on our behalf. In this light, we should also avoid the notion that the Father wills the death of the Son as opposed to the Father willing the Son’s perfect obedience. The Son’s death may be the consequence of being obedient in a world marked by sin, but obedience rather than death would be the Father’s desire.
Further, we should also be wary of thinking that somehow Jesus’ death on the cross releases God’s love for us. God loves us unconditionally, fully, and without reserve. The cross displays that love to the world. The cross manifests humanity’s utter inability to abide the perfectly loving and obedient Son. Paradoxically, the cross also declares our forgiveness. It does not unleash God’s love; the cross, rather, enables the sanctification for which we are created and for which this entire passage praises God. In this sense, if one thinks of restitution being made, it would be in the sense in which making restitution helps to transform the offender rather than to mollify the offended party.
The mention of our redemption at the beginning of v. 7 quite naturally leads to mention of redemption’s origin in the “riches of his grace.” Paul explicates this grace further in the relative clause in v. 8, “which he has lavished on us in all wisdom and prudence.” There is some ambiguity about whether “in all wisdom and prudence” refers to God’s wisdom or whether wisdom and understanding are some of the manifestations of the grace that God has lavished on us. The wider context of v. 9, which stresses believers’ apprehension of the mystery of God’s will, along with v. 17, where Paul prays that the Ephesians may have a spirit of wisdom and so forth, indicates that here in v. 8 believers are the recipients of wisdom and prudence from God. The word “prudence” here may sound old-fashioned to contemporary readers. Both the RSV and NRSV translate the Greek word phronēsis with “insight.” I think there are a couple of reasons to prefer “prudence.” The Greek word phronēsis was used widely in classical moral philosophy to refer to practical wisdom, the ability to know how to apply general moral rules to specific situations in the right ways. This requires both insight and a variety of habits that are born of practice. Paul clearly uses phronēsis in just this way throughout Philippians, where the vast majority of his uses of this term occur. Hence phronēsis means insight but also includes practice in life. When Christian theologians writing in Latin encounter phronēsis, they translate the term with prudentia. Thus prudence, while old-fashioned, may give readers pause to recall that Paul is not simply speaking of disembodied insight, but also of a way of life.
Paul’s combination of “wisdom” and “prudence” here connects wisdom, which involves knowing God, including one’s proper relation to God (e.g., Prov 1:2–7; Job 28:28; Ps 111:10; Isa 33:6), a wisdom that may stand in contrast to the wisdom of unbelievers (e.g., 1 Cor 1:21–25; 2:6–7; 3:19)—with prudence, which employs that right understanding of God and one’s relationship to God in order to live faithfully in concrete situations.
Recall that the prepositional phrase “in love” at the end of v. 4 can refer back to the discussion of our election and modify the participle “he predestined” in v. 5. Similarly here the prepositional phrase “in all wisdom and prudence” both reflects back to the grace that God has caused to abound in believers and points forward to the participle at the beginning of v. 9, referring to the means by which God has enabled us to comprehend the “mystery of his will.”
[9–10] When God lavishes wisdom and prudence on believers, one of the results is that they are able to apprehend the “mystery” of God’s will, which he has made known to them. Paul uses the term “mystery” numerous times and with some variety (Rom 11:25; 16:25; 1 Cor 2:1, 7; 4:1; 13:2; 15:51; 2 Thess 2:7; also 1 Tim 3:9, 16). Moreover, the word appears relatively widely in both Greco-Roman and Jewish religious contexts (Caragounis 119–35). In Ephesians, Paul repeatedly speaks of the mystery that has been made known to him and that he proclaims as his gospel (3:3, 4, 9; 5:32; 6:19). From these references we can see that the “mystery” here is a shorthand for a much larger account of God’s story of the redemption of the world (Caragounis 118). In Ephesians, Paul emphasizes two particular aspects of this larger story. First, redemption is accomplished in Christ. Second, redemption calls forth a unified body of Jews and Gentiles, which is Christ’s body, the church. What makes this a mystery, or a hidden truth requiring revelation, is that apart from the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the presence of the Spirit in the church, no one could have reasoned their way to such an account. Of course, once Christ has been revealed and believers have received “all wisdom and prudence,” this mystery becomes both evident and compelling. Moreover, it is a mystery that can be openly proclaimed. It is not a secret to be kept.
In v. 9 one finds a compilation of ways of asserting God’s absolute control over this mystery. It is the mystery of God’s “will,” made known “according to his good pleasure,” which God “purposed” or “resolved” in Christ. Although Paul is clear that this mystery has been hidden from humans, it has not been hidden from God. Rather, it is generated, executed, and sustained by God’s will.
Verse 10 begins to explicate the nature of the mystery of God’s will and good pleasure, which God has purposed in Christ. The focus of this mystery is on the “the administration of the fullness of times.” The nature of this focus is that all things will be summed up in Christ. The phrase “fullness of times” is similar to Paul’s usage in Gal 4:4 where in “the fullness of time … [Christ is] born of a woman.” The difference is that in Galatians the birth of Christ signals the climactic moment in the world’s history. In Ephesians the plural “of times” indicates the end point, or telos, of God’s will, that toward which everything is ultimately moving.
In its first-century context the Greek word oikonomia was used to refer either to an administrator or to the act of administration. In later patristic writings when the word is linked with God, it refers to God’s economy or plan of salvation (Lampe 940–44). Although “administration” is the best way of taking this word in Eph 1:10 (Reumann 156–57, 164), it also seems that for early Christian writers the word functions as a shorthand for Paul’s larger assertion in Ephesians that God has willed that the fullness of times will be marked by Christ’s rule over and ordering of all things. That is, the patristic usage of oikonomia seems to take all of this verse into account.
Paul continues the image of history being a succession of “times” by indicating that all things are to be summed up in Christ. The verb used here (anakephalaiōsasthai) is oftenused to indicate the drawing together of discrete points into a summative argument. Romans 13:9 uses the same term to sum up the law. Irenaeus (Haer. 1.10.1) uses the term to speak of that time when all things are brought together and subjected to the lordship of Christ, as in Phil 2:10–11, and thereby restored to their proper relationship to God and each other. Tertullian, Jerome, and Thomas Aquinas, among others, all use this term to speak of the renewal of all things.16 John Chrysostom says “the meaning of ‘to sum up’ is ‘to knit together.’ ” He also uses several images to explain this term, including repairing and improving a decayed house, and establishing a union under one ruler. What all of these early interpreters seem to be doing is explicating a term that normally applies to rhetoric—summing up the points of an argument—in the light of Paul’s use of that term to describe Christ’s role in all of history.
These patristic images point out that in this context the administration of the fullness of times is when God brings all things in heaven and earth to their proper end through and in relation to Christ. The array of various images for describing this point in time should remind Christians that this truly is a mystery. Nobody knows when this will happen, how it will happen, or exactly what it will look like. The result, however, will be in accord with God’s will, and the result will represent the fulfillment of God’s best intentions for creation. Thus it must require the renewal of all things rather than their destruction. Moreover, at this point humans will be brought into a new and ever-deepening union with God. All Christian discussion of these ends will need to operate at least within these parameters. Obviously, these parameters can comprehend a variety of other images; they also, however, exclude images suggesting that God’s intentions can ultimately be thwarted or that Christ’s lordship will be constrained in any way.
Although it is not spoken of in these verses, the summing up of all things in Christ presumes an account of prior brokenness and disorder. Based on the whole of Eph 1–2, it becomes clear that Paul presumes that the principalities and powers created by God for the good ordering of the world have been hijacked or taken over by satanic forces so that they no longer serve their providentially ordered purposes (cf. 1:20–22; 2:1–3). Further, the consequences for humans of this disorder are death (2:1) and alienation from God. Moreover, this alienation is specifically manifested in the alienation of Gentiles from the children of Israel (2:13). One need not speculate about whether there was one particular and formal account of the world’s disorder and alienation from God behind Paul’s assertions in Ephesians (contra Schnackenburg 60–61). He simply argues as if his audience recognizes this.
At the same time that Ephesians expresses the full confidence that all things will be brought to their proper end in Christ, the letter also speaks of those outside of Christ as under God’s wrath (2:1–4). In this respect Ephesians on a small scale manifests a phenomenon found in Paul and the rest of the NT. On the one hand, there are passages—such as Matt 5:25; all of Matt 25; Mark 3:29–30//Luke 12:10; John 12:48; Rom 3:9; 1 Cor 11:32; and others—that speak of a coming judgment in which some will be condemned. On the other hand, passages such as John 12:32; Rom 5:12–21; 2 Cor 5:19; Eph 1:10; 1 Tim 2:4–5; 4:10; 2 Pet 3:9, and others speak in various ways of God’s will for the salvation of all. The NT itself never synthesizes these two positions into one coherent whole. All subsequent attempts by theologians and other believers to offer such a synthesis risk the sin of presuming to know more than we actually do about these matters. As Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar observes, the deep problem with presuming to know whether or not all will be saved is not that one might be wrong about such an important matter. Rather, presuming to know God’s mind on this will naturally frustrate Christian hope for the salvation of all. In the face of a variety of attempts to build the NT’s witness into a systematic approach to this question, Balthasar (45) states, “Still, one ought to stay well away from so systematic a statement and limit oneself to that Christian hope that does not mask a concealed knowing but rests essentially content with the Church’s prayer, as called for in 1 Timothy 2:4, that God wills that all men be saved.” As Balthasar (72–78) goes on to argue, presuming that one knows about the ultimate salvation of all not only frustrates Christian hope but also makes it ever more difficult to love others in the way that Christ commands. This is because one cannot truly love any particular person as Christ commands if, for example, one is convinced that such a person is destined for hell. In this light I invite readers to extend such scripturally regulated hopeful agnosticism to their study of Ephesians.
[11–14] These verses refocus the dimensions of God’s drama of salvation in Christ from the cosmic to the lives of particular believers. Verse 11 reiterates many of the ideas surrounding God’s call of believers first articulated in v. 5. In Christ we have been assigned a portion in God’s salvation, preordained according to the purpose of the one who brings all things to pass according to his will.
The major interpretive question of this verse concerns the Greek term eklērōthēmen, “we have an allotment.” This word appears only here in the NT. When it appears elsewhere in Greek (including 1 Kgdms [1 Sam] 14:41), it refers to being chosen or appointed by lots. Both Chrysostom (Hom. Eph. 2) and Thomas Aquinas (61) are eager to distance this verse from any superstitious practice or random choosing on God’s part. The context of the verse, however, clearly rules out the idea that God chooses on such a random basis. Colossians 1:12 uses the noun related to this verb, klēros, along with the noun meris to speak about believers’ being allotted a portion with the holy ones. Similar language, which also has connections to choosing by lot (cf. Num 26:55–56), is often used in Deuteronomy to speak of God’s choosing Israel as God’s special possession (Deut 4:20; 9:26, 29; 32:9). If one uses this image to help explain Eph 1:11, then it appears that Paul employs images reflecting God’s providential and preordained election of Israel to speak of believers in Christ. Rather than being the result of some sort of a divine roll of the dice, believers are spoken of as being appointed as God’s possession. As will be clear in Eph 2, Paul does not think that Israel’s status has simply been transferred to a (nearly exclusively) Gentile church. Rather, through Christ, Gentiles have been brought within God’s purposes for all creation as manifested through the calling of Israel.
Verse 12 continues this thought by specifying the purpose and goal of that appointment, that believers who hope in Christ might now live to the praise of God’s glory. Here in 1:12 and also in 1:6, 14, Paul affirms that the purpose and goal of the people of God is to praise God’s glory (“the glory of his grace” [1:6] or “glorious grace,” as in NRSV). In their various ways, the Psalms (e.g., 95; 100; 145–50), the church’s catechesis, and its liturgy all remind Christians that the vocation and proper end of all creatures is the praise of God. For Paul, the striking, surprising, and mysterious element is that God has providentially ordered things so that believers are brought to their proper end through the crucified and resurrected Christ.
Should the Ephesians have any doubt about this, vv. 13–14 remind them that the presence of the Spirit in their midst is God’s confirmation and promise that, through Christ, they will be brought to their proper end. In these verses, Paul rehearses how the Ephesians came to be in Christ. They heard the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation. They believed and were sealed by the promised Holy Spirit.
“The gospel of your salvation” is “the word of truth” (cf. Jas 1:18). In the later chapters of Ephesians, Paul emphasizes the importance of truth (4:21, 24, 25; 5:9; 6:14). Indeed, in 4:21 Paul reminds the Ephesians that in their hearing about Jesus and learning of Jesus, they were taught that “truth is in Jesus.” The Ephesians (as well as most other believers) lived in an environment where numerous religious and philosophical movements made claims to truthfulness and sought their attention. Paul reminds the Ephesians that the gospel of their salvation is true. Moreover, they can be sure of this. This assurance does not, however, come by amassing more true propositions than any other alternative. Rather, assurance is found in the confirming presence of the Holy Spirit, which results from hearing the word of truth and believing.
At the end of v. 13 Paul identifies the Spirit as the “promised Holy Spirit.” Both Joel 2:28–29 (particularly as interpreted in Acts 2:17–21) and Jesus (in Luke 24:49; John 14:16–17; 15:26) speak of God’s promised outpouring of the Spirit. The presence of the Spirit in the lives of the Ephesian believers is the confirmation that the gospel of their salvation in Christ is true. As v. 14 begins, Paul elaborates on this notion by claiming that sealing the Ephesians with the Holy Spirit is God’s down payment on their allotment or heritage, first mentioned in v. 11. Such a “down payment” both promises full payment in the future and signifies the good faith of the purchaser/debtor. The only times Paul uses this term (arrabōn) outside Ephesians are 2 Cor 1:22 and 5:5. In each of these cases, as in Ephesians, Paul links this down payment to the pouring out of the Spirit in the lives of believers. It indicates God’s commitment to bring to completion the redemption achieved by Christ’s resurrection, which awaits completion at his second coming. For Christians living in that time between the accomplishment of our redemption in the cross and resurrection, and the consummation of that redemption at the day of Christ, the pouring out of the Spirit is God’s promise to bring this work of redemption to completion. This idea is similar to Paul’s confident claim in Phil 1:6 that the one who began a good work in the Philippians will bring it to completion at the day of Christ.
As it stands, however, this claim needs further elaboration. The image of the Spirit as God’s down payment on some yet-to-be-completed purchase indicates several things. First, it confirms the truth of the gospel and the Ephesians’ reception of the gospel in faith. Second, it implies God’s fidelity to the promise both to send the Spirit and to bring believers to their ultimate end in Christ. Finally, however, the metaphor of God’s sending the Spirit as down payment has the unfortunate and unacceptable implication of making God appear to be a debtor. Thus the image of down payment is supplemented by the claim that this down payment is really more a promise to redeem God’s own possession. God is not buying something that God does not already own. Rather, God is redeeming a people who already belong to God yet have been alienated from God.
Although the Greek word peripoiēsis, “possession,” is not common in the LXX or NT, it is used very significantly in 1 Pet 2:9. There believers are spoken of as “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own possession” (AT; cf. LXX: Hag 2:9; Mal 3:17). Allowing the usage in 1 Pet 2:9 to clarify this clause in Eph 1:14 makes it clear that sending the Spirit as a down payment of our redemption does not render God a debtor because believers are already God’s possession. Moreover, speaking of believers as God’s possession reintroduces language that ties the Ephesian believers to the people of Israel.
In Ephesians the pouring out of the Spirit confirms God’s commitment to bring the Ephesians into the heritage that has been granted to them in Christ, their portion among the people of God. As we have seen in 1:6 and 1:12, the ultimate end of God’s sealing and redeeming results in praise and glory for God.
Whatever one can say about the prehistory of this text (and we can say very little with confidence), in its current context this passage is in the form of praise to God (v. 3). In the light of the movement of the passage as a whole, however, it seems equally clear that this passage aims to reaffirm an account of the redemption of the world in Christ and the Ephesians’ place in that yet-to-be-completed story. Moreover, this passage uses language often associated with God’s calling of Israel to describe the calling of Ephesian Gentile Christians. For these Ephesian Christians, at the very least, this reminds or reaffirms their roots in God’s redeeming Israel. The overall tone of praise, however, is never abandoned. This is because at various points throughout this passage we are reminded that the first and ultimate purpose of God’s redemption of the world is that the world should fulfill its proper vocation of praising God.
In the next passage Paul connects this overview of the drama of redemption more concretely to the faith of the Ephesians. At the same time, he will also commend their attention to and love for the saints, both in Ephesus and elsewhere.

Ephesians 1:15–23
Paul’s Prayer for the Ephesians
This is another very long sentence in Greek. As with 1:3–14, the translation breaks a single Greek sentence into several English sentences for ease of understanding. It is not very common for a Pauline letter to include two passages of blessing and/or thanksgiving in a single letter. In this respect, Phlm 4–5; 1 Thess 1:2–10; 2:13–17; 2 Thess 1:3–4; 2:13–15; as well as Col 1:3–4, 9–14 (cf. also Dan 2:20–23) provide the closest stylistic parallels to Ephesians. In other thanksgiving passages and in other passages where Paul expresses his prayers for a community, one can often learn a good deal about how Paul views the situation of the community. That is less obvious in Ephesians. Paul’s commendation of the Ephesians’ faith in Christ and love for the saints, as well as his prayer for their growth in wisdom, could apply to almost any Christian community.
It should become evident that 1:15–23 expands upon and presumes both the praise of God and the articulation of the drama of salvation that Paul presents in 1:3–14. The focus of 1:3–14 is clearly God, God’s redemptive activity in the world through Christ, and the Ephesians’ incorporation into the people of God. The prayer embedded in 1:15–23 shifts the focus from God to Paul’s desire to see the Ephesians grow in their wisdom and knowledge of God so that having been incorporated into the body of Christ, they can continue to move toward their ultimate end in Christ.
This passage begins with Paul’s recounting his knowledge of and concern for the Ephesians in vv. 15–16. From this, he offers a prayer for them in vv. 17–19. This leads to a more general discussion of God’s unsurpassed power as displayed in the resurrection of Jesus.

1:15 Therefore I also, having heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the love that you have for all the saints, 16 have not ceased to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in knowledge of him 18 so that, the eyes of your heart having been enlightened, you may come to know what is the hope of his calling; what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance among the saints; 19 and what is the limitless greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his mighty strength. 20 God demonstrated this power in raising Christ from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule, authority, power, dominion, and every name named in this age and in the age to come. 22 God has put all things under his feet and gave Christ as head of all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who is filled in every way.

[15–16] Paul begins to insert himself into the epistle here by reporting that he has heard of the Ephesians’ faith in Christ and their “love for all the saints.” According to some commentators, this way of writing reflects, at best, an indirect connection to the Ephesian community by a nonpauline author (see Best’s arguments, Ephesians 158–59; Lincoln, Ephesians 54). Others (e.g., Hoehner 248) note that it may have been six or seven years since Paul was with the Ephesians. His knowledge of their faith and love could not have been anything other than secondhand. If Ephesians is Pauline, then Hoehner’s explanation must be the best.
The authorship issue should not distract one from recognizing Paul’s presumption that Christianity entails a relationship both to Christ and to other Christians. Faith in Christ apart from love for the saints is dead or incomplete; love for the saints apart from faith in Christ reduces the church to just another social service provider.
Although Paul’s current connection to the Ephesians comes only through hearing, he thanks God for them and prays for them. On the one hand, for a writer to give thanks to the gods for the health of the recipients is quite conventional in Hellenistic letters. On the other hand, the extent and detail of Paul’s thanksgiving in Ephesians, and elsewhere, is not conventional. The language here goes well beyond conventional expressions of good wishes.
As in Rom 1:8–10; Col 1:3; 1 Thess 1:3; and Phlm 4, here also in Eph 1:15–16 Paul’s thanksgiving to God for a particular group of Christians is tied to praying for them. Paul’s claim never to cease thanking God for the Ephesians must be hyperbolic. It expresses the view that Paul’s concern for the Ephesians is not fleeting. Further, in these two verses Paul establishes the three-way relationship between God, the Ephesians, and Paul that governs the rest of the epistle. As one will see in the subsequent verses, Paul offers a prayer to God that conveys Paul’s longings for the Ephesians. At the same time, he also presents those longings to the Ephesians as a token of his affection.
[17–19] Having articulated a disposition to pray for the Ephesians, Paul begins here to describe the content of that prayer. In short, Paul prays that God will give the Ephesians the Spirit and the spiritual resources they need to grow in their knowledge of God. Thus Paul’s prayer begins by explaining the spiritual resources the Ephesians will need if they are to grow in their knowledge of God. In doing this, Paul further identifies the God whom the Ephesians and all Christians seek to know and love.
Paul’s request is that God will give the Ephesians “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” The Greek word translated as “Spirit” here could refer either to the Holy Spirit or to a general human spirit of wisdom. Although there is no definite article, which would identify the Spirit as opposed to a spirit, the context here makes it fairly clear that Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit. Nearby 1:13–14 has just mentioned the work of the Spirit in the lives of the Ephesians, sealing them and assuring them of their incorporation into the people of God. Moreover, while a “spirit of wisdom” might refer to a general human quality or disposition, the addition of “revelation” here could only be the work of God through the Spirit. Once this phrase is read as a reference to the Holy Spirit, the distinction between receiving the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation” and the formation within believers of a spirit of wisdom and revelation diminishes.
The combination of “wisdom and revelation” in 1:17 helps to explicate the notion of the “knowledge” of God, which Paul prays will be the result of the Spirit’s work. The wisdom of the world (cf. 1 Cor 2:11–12) or human intellectual power cannot independently produce knowledge of the true God. In many respects, 1:17 recapitulates ideas first broached in 1:7–8 (Macdonald, Ephesians 216). At the same time, Paul’s prayer indicates that the work of the Spirit is not a onetime event. Rather, through the Spirit’s work, the life of the believer is to be characterized by an ongoing desire for and growth in knowledge of God.
The mention of a Spirit of wisdom, and of revelation and understanding, may allude to Isa 11:2, where the shoot that springs from the stump of Jesse will have the Spirit of the Lord resting on him. This Spirit is further identified as the “spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” In this case, Paul is praying that the same Spirit that fell upon Christ, as anticipated by Isaiah, may also fall upon believers in Ephesus.
Paul identifies this God who gives the Spirit of wisdom and revelation as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory.” Several things can be said here. First, in using the term Lord with regard to Christ, Paul places Christ within the identity of the one God of Israel. This God is also the one who gives the Spirit. On the one hand, it seems right to say that Paul does not presume a doctrine of the Trinity here. On the other hand, Paul’s language here and elsewhere strikingly places Christ and the Spirit within the identity of the one God of Israel without any qualms and without any clear way of resolving the tension such language places on the singularity of Israel’s God. Rather than think of later Trinitarian doctrine as the imposition of an alien and rigid Greek metaphysical system on the biblical text, Christians should understand that later Trinitarian doctrine can be seen as providing a scripturally regulated way of ordering and resolving the tensions that the language of Scripture generates but does not directly resolve.
Second, Paul identifies God as the “Father of glory.” This is an unusual phrase. The phrases “God of glory” (Ps 29:3 [28:3 LXX]; Acts 7:2), “LORD of glory” (Num 24:11 LXX; 1 Cor 2:8), and “king of glory” (Pss 24:7, 8, 9, 10 [23:7, 8, 9, 10 LXX]) all occur in Scripture. In addition the phrase “glory of the LORD” occurs frequently. Moreover, God’s “glory” appears three times in the previous passage (1:6, 12, 14) as the object of human praise. Although one could translate this phrase as “glorious Father,” the phrase “Father of glory” allows several significant overtones to come through. The phrase correctly identifies the God and Father of Jesus Christ (1:3) as the source of glory. The OT certainly makes it abundantly clear that the glory of Israel’s God is unsurpassed and not shared with any other (Isa 42:8). Glory is also a way of referring to manifestations of the invisible God. Throughout the LXX the visible manifestation of God is associated with God’s glory (Exod 16:10; 24:16–17; 33:17–23; 40:34–38; 1 Kgs 8:11; Isa 6:3; Ezek 1:28; 43:2; 44:4; 1 Macc 15:9; 2 Macc 2:8; also 1 En. 14.21; T. Levi 3.4; Ascen. Isa. 10.16). Often this glory is manifested in God’s great works of power. Specifically in Eph 1:19–22, God’s glory is linked to the resurrection and enthronement of Christ. Finally, and more distantly, the phrase recalls that surprising Christian logic within which the glory of the one true God is revealed in Christ’s willed self-emptying and obedience to the point of death on the cross, an obedience that God vindicates in the resurrection (cf. Phil 2:6–11).
In 1:18 Paul anticipates that the gift of the Spirit will enlighten the eyes of the Ephesians’ heart. Such enlightenment comes from the gift of the Spirit and will enable the Ephesians to know the hope of God’s call, the riches of God’s inheritance among the saints, and the greatness of God’s power as demonstrated in the resurrection. The work of the Spirit enlightens the eyes of the heart. It is not simply the eyes that are enlightened, nor simply the heart. Rather, the metaphors are combined. The perfect participle in the phrase “having the eyes of your heart enlightened” invites commentators to try to find a distinct point in time when this enlightening occurred (e.g., conversion, baptism, etc.; cf. Lincoln, Ephesians 58; Macdonald, Ephesians 217). If Colossians is one’s guide in this matter, then Paul thinks that there is distinct movement from darkness into light when one becomes a believer (Col 1:12–13). In confirmation, Eph 2 speaks similarly, although without the specific images of movement from darkness to light. Moreover we remember that the object of this enlightenment is the knowledge of God. Although Paul looks forward to a time when he will know as fully as he has been known (1 Cor 13:12), there is also a strong element within the Christian tradition arguing that there can never really be a completion to this process of coming to know God.
Through the end of v. 18 and into v. 19, Paul adds several layers of precision or focus to his prayer. First, Paul prays that the Spirit may enlighten the Ephesians as to the hope of God’s calling. Presumably God’s call is directly tied to God’s choosing, first articulated in 1:4. On the one hand, then, God’s call is “before the foundation of the world” (1:4). On the other hand, following 1:10–14, God’s call to us to participate in the drama of redemption is a call that awaits its full realization in Christ. Hence believers are called to hope. Here hope is not primarily a reference to an evanescent emotion. Rather, it is a conviction founded on God’s fidelity. The God who calls us in Christ to live in a world that is not yet fully redeemed will ultimately put all things in subjection to Christ.
The next aspect of Paul’s prayer is that the Ephesians, enlightened by the Spirit, may come to know “the riches of the glory of his inheritance among the saints.” The language here seems to draw quite heavily on 1:14. Lincoln (Ephesians 59), however, is right to note that 1:14 speaks of believers’ inheritance while 1:18 is speaking of God’s inheritance. These are not vastly different notions for they are each speaking about the salvation of the people of God. Nevertheless, v. 18 approaches this from a different angle than does v. 14. In the OT the people of Israel are often spoken of as God’s inheritance (cf. Deut 4:20; 9:26, 29; 2 Sam 21:3; 1 Kgs 8:51, 53; 2 Kgs 21:14; Pss 28:9; 33:12; 68:9; 78:62, 71; 94:14; 106:5, 40; Isa 19:25; 47:6; 63:17; Jer 10:16; 51:19). In the vast majority of these cases the notion of the people of God as God’s inheritance indicates that there has been or is about to be some sort of separation between God and the people. Sometimes this refers to the separation caused by slavery in Egypt (e.g., Deut 4:20; 9:26, 29; 1 Kgs 8:51). Other times it is the separation related to Israel’s sin and subsequent exile (e.g., Ps 78:62; Isa 47:6). Whatever the cause, the image of the inheritance of God seems to convey the idea that God’s true possession has become alienated from God and awaits restoration. In Ephesians, Paul takes this image, which in the OT applies to the people of Israel, and now uses it to describe redeemed Israel, the body of Christ composed of Jews and Gentiles. As already noted in regard to 1:7–14, this redemption is both rich beyond our imagination, and the manifestation in the world of redeemed Israel redounds to God’s glory.
There is some interpretive dispute about whether “among the saints” here (1:18) refers to believers or to angels. Those preferring angels notice the use of the word translated here as “saints” (lit., “holy ones,” hagioi) to refer to angels in such texts as the LXX of Job 15:15; Ps 88:6, 8 [89:5, 7 Eng.]; Isa 57:15; Amos 4:2; and Dan 8:13. Moreover, they argue, Paul seems to use the word to refer to angels in Col 1:12. The majority of commentators, however, take this reference to holy ones as meaning believers, saints (cf. 1:15).
Although 1:19 is hard to translate into elegant English, it is not hard to understand. Paul piles a combination of words together to speak of God’s power. It is probably a mistake to try to read various nuances into these terms. They all work together to convey the sense of God’s unparalleled and unsurpassed power. The important thing for the Ephesians to understand, the eyes of their heart having been enlightened, is that this power has been deployed on their behalf and on behalf of all who believe. Paul prepares for the emphasis on Christ’s relationship to the created powers and principalities in v. 21 by asserting that God’s power is unsurpassed and cannot be challenged by created forces. Thus, although the powers and principalities are not yet fully subjected to Christ (1 Cor 15:24–28), they cannot ultimately resist his power.
[20–23] After offering an account of God’s unsurpassed power in 1:19, Paul offers the paradigmatic example of God’s power in his discussion of Christ’s resurrection and ascension in 1:20–23. In some ways Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in this passage corresponds to Paul’s own desire for himself in Phil 3:10. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is that they would grow in their knowledge of God and in particular their knowledge of God’s power as displayed in the resurrection. Although Paul often reflects on the cross and resurrection as a demonstration of God’s vindication of Christ’s self-emptying obedience and weakness, there are other passages that speak of the resurrection primarily in terms of God’s power (cf. Rom 1:4; 1 Cor 6:14; Phil 3:10; Col 2:12). In Eph 2:5–6 Paul will claim that this same resurrecting power will work in the lives of believers in Christ. Here in 1:20–23 the focus is on God’s power demonstrated in Christ’s resurrection.
God’s power both raised Christ from the dead and also works to seat him at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Although this is not a precise quotation from Ps 110:1 [109:1 LXX], Eph 1:20–23 certainly seems to reflect the very early use of this psalm to describe Christ’s exalted status at the right hand of God (cf. Rom 8:34; 1 Cor 15:24–25; Col 3:1; Matt 22:44). Clearly in Ps 110 to be seated at God’s right hand is to have a place of favor and to participate in God’s power, which will subdue all the enemies of God (cf. also Exod 15:6; Ps 89:13; Isa 41:10). Further, Christ is not only seated at God’s right hand but is also “in the heavenly realms.” From 1:3 we have already learned that the blessings with which God has blessed the Ephesians are “in the heavenly realms.” It would appear that this is the place where matters of the utmost significance are decided, where God’s rule is ultimately and fully exercised. It seems to be the most fitting place to locate the God who has unsurpassed power. The imagery here is all spatial, “at his right hand,” “in the heavenly realms,” “above all …” One of the aims of this spatial language seems to be to set up relationships of comparative power and status, which are articulated more fully in 1:21–23.
Verse 21 initiates this comparison by declaring that Christ’s location at the right hand of God in the heavenly realms situates him far above all powers, authorities, and so forth. Although the Greek word hyperanō usually signifies a location, it is also used metaphorically to speak of authority, power, or status relative to others (cf. Deut 28:1; Philo, Conf. 137; T. Levi 3.4). In the case of 1:21, locating Christ above all of these powers signifies his superiority to them.
Paul then lists a series of terms used to refer to a variety of spiritual forces (archē [rule], exousia [authority], dynamis [power], kyriotēs [dominion]). Similar lists appear in Eph 3:10; 6:12; Col 1:16; Rom 8:38; 1 Pet 3:22. As with this passage in Ephesians, these passages all assert Christ’s comprehensive superiority and power over all alternatives. These terms appear widely in Jewish texts (such as Dan 7:24; 10:10–21; 1 En. 61.10; 2 En. 20–22; 2 Macc 3:22–28; T. Levi 3.8; Philo, Spec. 2.45; Plant. 14). These texts indicate that within Judaism at this time, there are certain speculative views arguing that the nations, in particular, are overseen by angelic powers. These powers are in part responsible for the idolatrous practices of the nations. Moreover, these powers have an impact on all aspects of life (cf. Deut 32:8; Dan 10:10–21; Jub. 2.2). Such angelic forces would stand behind those practices, dispositions, and structures that alienate people from the God of Israel.
If Arnold is right about the context of Ephesians, then this language also fits within the context of first-century Ephesus, where both magical practices and the cult of Artemis were widely observed (Arnold 13–40; cf. Acts 19). Thus, in addressing converts from this milieu, Paul reminds them both of the superiority and sufficiency of God’s power in Christ and of their need to make a clean break from their past spiritual attachments (Arnold, esp. chs. 4–6).
One cannot decisively answer the question of the precise background to these terms regarding the powers. There is, however, a current consensus among scholars that Paul does not “demythologize” the powers by reducing them to concrete social and political forces, thereby eliminating or reducing the notion that these powers are spiritual, angelic, or demonic forces. Nevertheless, one should also recognize that in the ancient world there was no hard-and-fast boundary between spiritual forces and social and material forces. The NT recognizes that spiritual forces manifest themselves in a variety of concrete structures and events (cf. Rom 13; Rev 13), and in pagan worship (1 Cor 10:20). In these cases, the point of power, spiritual or political, was to influence or control people and events (Best, Ephesians 176).
Further, scholars now generally agree that in Ephesians, as well as in the NT more generally, the powers are either hostile to or alienated from God and God’s purposes in Christ. From a theological standpoint, however, this does not say enough. Christ’s superiority to all possible powers must in part depend on the fact that these powers, unlike the Son, are created (cf. Col 1:15–16). As such, they must have initially been part of God’s good creation, a claim a Jew, such as Paul, would probably accept. Moreover, it is certainly consistent with Eph 1:7–10 and 2:1–10 that these created powers had become hostile to or alienated from God. They will, ultimately, with all other things, be reconciled and brought to their proper end in Christ (cf. 1:10). Thus Ephesians indicates that Christ is both comprehensively superior to these powers and the means by which they will be restored to their proper place in God.
We should not think that this list of powers is comprehensive. Moreover, in case Paul’s list leaves any out, he concludes 1:21 by asserting that Christ is far above any and all names that might be named. The mention of two ages here, this one and the age to come, points to the fact that although Christ’s rule over all things is already determined and established, it has yet to be consummated.
As stated above, 1:20 includes an allusion to a christological interpretation of Ps 110:1. Here in 1:22 there is a quotation from Ps 8:6 [8:7 LXX] that is also applied to Christ (cf. 1 Cor 15:24–28; Heb 2:5–9, 14; and Heb 1:13 citing Ps 110:1). God has set all things under Christ’s feet. In Ps 8 the image of setting something under the feet of another is used to convey humans’ mastery over the rest of creation. Here Paul uses the image to invoke Christ’s comprehensive superiority to the powers and all other things. Thus Christ is not simply superior to them in rank, but all things are subjected to him and all things will recognize Christ’s superiority (Best, Ephesians 180).
The next clause of 1:22 runs into v. 23. God gave Christ to the church as head over all things. This leads to a further comment, identifying the church as the body of Christ. One might be tempted to treat these verses in the light of conventional Hellenistic use of the metaphor: the head’s relationship to the body as a relationship of authority; yet there are some reasons to be cautious about doing so. This verse does not directly identify Christ as the head of the church, his body, as in 5:23 or in Col 1:18. Rather, Christ, the head of all things, is given to the church, his body. Of course, being “head of all things” would certainly include the church. Nevertheless, the image of rule and authority, which comes from being “head of all things,” is not sufficient to account for the relationship between Christ as the head and the church as his body here in 1:22–23. Instead, one should view the relationship in the light of 4:15–16, where the head provides both the rationale (and telos) for the growth of the body and the unifying principle that holds together the various parts of the body. Thus the image of Christ as head in 1:22–23 seems to perform a dual function. First, it is an image of superiority and rule: Christ is head over all things. Second, Christ is head of his body, the church. This conveys the image of rule yet also of the integral and almost organic connection between Christ and the church (Benoit 73–75).
The use of the verb “give” enhances this image further. Christ has been given to the church. Thinking of Christ as a gift from God to the church reinforces the image that Christ’s role as head of the church is as the church’s graciously given end, or telos, and as the church’s unifying force.
Commentators are united in thinking that the final phrase of 1:23 is the most obscure in the epistle and one of the most obscure in the entire NT. There are no firmly fixed points on which to build an interpretation of the whole. Thus any interpretation must be somewhat provisional. Here is a list of some of the interpretive questions and ambiguities in this phrase: To whom or what does the phrase refer? Should the word plērōma (fullness) be understood passively (that which is filled) or actively (that which fills)? Does the participle tou plēroumenou have a passive voice (the one who is filled) or a middle voice with an active sense (the one who fills)? To whom or what does it refer? What is the sense of the words ta panta en pasin? Moreover, because of the interconnections between these terms, decisions about any one of these questions shape and limit the possibilities for the others.
In my judgment, one of the best and clearest discussions is offered by Gregory Dawes in an appendix to his book The Body in Question. He suggests that the participle be read as passive given that in the rest of the NT, LXX, Philo, and papyri the verb is never used in the middle voice (241). Thus the participle refers to the one who is filled.
This move pushes one to interpret the phrase ta panta en pasin adverbially to mean “in every way.” The referent of this participial phrase is Christ, the one who is filled in every way. The subject of this phrase, the one who fills Christ in every way, would be God. Alternatively, if it is the church that fills or completes the one who is filled in every way, then the whole phrase simply becomes redundant, repeating the force of plērōma. God is the one who puts all things under Christ; God gives Christ to the church as head over all things; God is the one whose power is decisively displayed in raising Christ. It therefore seems reasonable to take God as the one who fills Christ in every way. The primary objection to this interpretation comes from the fact that the present tense of the participle usually indicates that the action involved is ongoing, or yet to be completed (Lincoln, Ephesians 76; Hoehner 300). Dawes (244) notes, however, that 1 Thess 1:10; 2:12; 5:24 all use present participles to describe actions that appear to be onetime or completed actions.
If one accepts these interpretive moves, then one is drawn to read plērōma in a passive sense, that which is filled or “the fullness,” and as a reference to the church. The alternative would be to read plērōma as that which fills. This would be problematic since the idea that the church is that which fills Christ seems incompatible with the idea that all things are subject to Christ.
All of these moves yield the following sets of assertions: God has given Christ as head over all things to the church. The church is the body of Christ, “the fullness of the one who is filled in every way” by God. This is not the only plausible reading of this verse. Nevertheless, it has a sufficient level of plausibility to be taken as an acceptable reading; as such, it leads to several conclusions.
First, God’s gift of Christ to the church is the greatest possible gift. Christ is filled in every way by God, and that fullness is manifested in his body, the church. If believers in Ephesus or elsewhere were tempted to supplement their faith in Christ through taking on the law (as in Galatians), through ascetic practices designed to lead to visions (as in Colossians), through manifestations of certain spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians), in submission to or veneration of the powers, or through any other means—they are reminded here in 1:23 that the fullness found by becoming a member of Christ’s body is complete, absolute, and lacking in nothing. Indeed, to gloss Cyprian, there is no real fullness outside the church. At the same time, Eph 4:13 indicates that this fullness is yet to be consummated.
Second, this verse is an implicit claim about God’s character. The God who has blessed believers with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms (1:3) has given the church the greatest possible gift, the One whom God fills in every way. Christ is God’s ultimate gift to the church, a gift that reflects the goodness and grace of the Giver.
This section begins with Paul’s thankful remembrance of the Ephesians and his prayerful desires for them. These desires focus on God’s granting the Ephesians (through the Spirit’s work) a deeper knowledge of God’s comprehensive power, Christ’s full participation in that power, and the Ephesians’ own connection to that power through their membership in the body of Christ. As chapter 2 begins, Paul will turn to reflect on a larger and more explicit account of how the Ephesians came to be in Christ.

Excursus 1: An Alternative Reading of 1:23

Although I think there are good reasons to interpret 1:23 in the manner laid out above, the obscurity of the verse allows for at least one other plausible reading. This reading begins by taking the participial phrase as a middle with an active sense, yielding the translation “God has given Christ as head to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things” (vv. 22b–23). Such a reading is adopted by NRSV, NIV, and most other major English translations. As with the interpretation above, this way of taking the verse locates the fullness of Christ distinctively with his body, the church. This way of taking the verse does not focus so much on the character of God, who gives Christ to the church. Instead, it emphasizes Christ’s role in filling all things or bringing all things to their proper end or completion, and it emphasizes that the church is the unique locus of that filling. The first reading hearkens back to 1:3 and the God who blesses believers; this second interpretation seems to reflect the ideas of 1:9–10, that in Christ all things are brought to their proper end.
From a grammatical standpoint, there is no clear way to assert one of these readings over the other. Each has difficulties. Moreover, within the context of Ephesians each reading is consistent with themes found elsewhere in the epistle. And from a theological standpoint, there is no need to choose one over the other: each interpretation edifies. Although their emphases are different, each speaks truthfully about God, Christ, and the church: neither transgresses any theological dogma. From a Christian standpoint, there is simply a fruitful ambiguity in the verse.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians concludes with 1:23. As chapter 2 begins, Paul continues to reflect on the great and powerful works of God. In particular, he focuses on how the Ephesians have been caught up in this drama of God’s salvation of the world.
Fowl, S. E. (2012). Ephesians: A Commentary. (C. C. Black, M. E. Boring, & J. T. Carroll, Hrsg.) (First Edition., S. 31–65). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.


No comments yet»

Kommentar verfassen

Trage deine Daten unten ein oder klicke ein Icon um dich einzuloggen:

Du kommentierst mit Deinem Abmelden /  Ändern )

Google+ Foto

Du kommentierst mit Deinem Google+-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )


Du kommentierst mit Deinem Twitter-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )


Du kommentierst mit Deinem Facebook-Konto. Abmelden /  Ändern )


Verbinde mit %s

%d Bloggern gefällt das: