We are halfway through our journey through the book of Ephesians as we revel in the riches of God’s grace in Christ. Paul’s prayer at the end of chapter 3 marks the end of the “indicative” section of Ephesians. Paul spends three chapters detailing the wonders of God’s grace, His matchless love, and the magnificent blessings that God pours out on the followers of Christ. Now we begin the “imperative” section in which Paul will tell us what should be our responses to all we have seen in chapters 1-3. So, it seems appropriate to take a few minutes and review these first three chapters.
In chapter 1 Paul enumerates the wonderful blessings that God lavishes on the person who puts their faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation.
- We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.
- He chose us to be holy and blameless before Him.
- He predestined us, in love, for adoption to Himself through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of His will.
- Our adoption is to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us.
- In Christ, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins.
- In Christ, He has lavished on us the riches of His grace, with all wisdom and insight.
- In Christ, He has made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He has set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of times, to unite all things in Him.
- In Christ, we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.
- In Christ we have hope, and those of us who hope in Christ do so to the praise of His glory.
- In Christ, we heard the gospel and believed.
- When we believed, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance until we obtain possession of it.
Whew! What a list! All of these blessings are ours by the grace of God–there is no way we could earn even a smidgen of one of these blessings. All of these blessings are ours through the working of the grace of God–God’s active power working in us to give us new life, to give us the faith that we need to believe, and to slowly transform us into the image of Christ–all of that is due to the active grace of God worked in us by the Holy Spirit. And all of these blessings are ours for the purpose of displaying for all eternity, the awesome grace of God so that He will get all of the praise and all of the glory.
Then Paul breaks out in thanksgiving and prayer for the Ephesians, as if talking about the marvelous grace of God so overwhelms his soul that he cannot hold it in. And he prays that God will open the eyes of their hearts so that they will be able to comprehend the magnitude of God’s grace and the magnitude of the power that is at work in them.
But Paul was an excellent teacher. Good teachers don’t assume that their students get it the first time they hear something. And they look for a variety of ways to demonstrate a concept because students learn in a different ways and at different paces. So to better demonstrate the amazing grace of God he reminds the Ephesians in chapter 2 what their condition was before they were converted. He says remember that you were dead in your trespasses and sin. You were enslaved to the worldview of those who don’t know God. You were enslaved to your own evil desires. And you were enslaved to Satan. You had no desire to know God and no ability to save yourselves. But God, because of His great mercy and great love, made you alive together with Christ Jesus. You were saved by grace–you were saved by the regenerating, resurrecting, recreating power of God. Not by your own works, so that all the glory belongs to God.
Then Paul turned his attention specifically to the Gentiles. The majority of the Ephesian church would have consisted of Gentile (non-Jewish) believers. And Paul tells them they were under a double-whammy. Not only were they separated from God, but they were also separated from the nation of Israel, who were the covenant people of God. Therefore, they were outside of the covenantal blessings of God and without hope. But God took Gentiles who were far away and brought them near through the blood of Jesus Christ. He united them with Christ, but he also united them with the true nation of Israel (those Jews who are saved by faith in Christ). In Romans, Paul uses the picture of an olive tree to represent Israel, while the Gentile believers are represented as wild olive branches that are grafted into the Israel olive tree. Paul tells the Gentiles that not only did Christ break down the barrier between them and God, but He also broke down the barrier separating them from Israel and He has formed a new people group–His church–consisting of followers of Christ, both Jews and Gentiles–to be His covenant people.
Paul continues to address the Gentiles in chapter 3 as he stresses that his message about the union of the Gentile and Jewish believers into one people in Christ is a mystery that was revealed to him by the grace of God. It was a mystery that was hidden from the Old Testament prophets and had only been revealed to the first century apostles and prophets. Paul was made a minister to preach the gospel to the Gentiles according to the riches of God’s grace–although he considered himself the least of all God’s saints. By God’s grace he preached the unsearchable riches of God’s grace to the Gentiles so that the manifold wisdom of God might be revealed in the Church. This revelation was made to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places–angels and demons.
In light of all these things, Paul asks the Ephesians to not lose heart due to his imprisonment for the gospel, because all of this was in accordance with the eternal purposes of God that we realized in Christ Jesus. In Christ, we have boldness and confident access to the throne of God through prayer.
At the end of chapter 3, we have one of the most beautiful and powerful prayers found in the Bible. Paul prays that by the grace of God the Ephesians (and us!) would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in their inner being, so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith. He prays that they will be rooted and grounded in love and may have the strength to comprehend the fullness of God’s love–a love that surpasses knowledge–and that they will be filled with the fullness of God.
He closes his prayer and this first section of Ephesians with a beautiful doxology to the God who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we can ask or think. He prays that God will be glorified in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout eternity.
Bring on the imperatives!