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Counting Our Blessings

I am teaching through the book of Ephesians at my local church, and I wanted to make my notes available for the Unsealed community as well. The study is broken down into 12-week portions that cover all six chapters. The aim of the study is to gain a better understanding of the author's intent and how each section fits into the overall message of the letter.

It's not an exhaustive commentary, by any means, because my desire is to provide a biblically-sound guideline of what the Spirit-inspired author is communicating to the believer in Christ. This is something that would be ideal for new believers, one-on-one discipleship, or anyone who wants to teach through this book in a small group setting.

I'm still expecting the Lord to return at any moment, so I may not even get through this whole thing! Nevertheless, teaching this class is one of the ways that I am occupying 'til it's time to go (Lk. 19:13).


Bible Study of Ephesians
The Reconciliation and Consummation of All Things through Christ 

Introduction and Purpose:

Paul, the author of Ephesians, has been appointed by God to publicize a previously hidden plan [Grk. mysterion, “mystery”] to adopt Gentiles [Grk. ethnos, i.e. individuals from all nations] and designate them for assignment. The Church, the newly-created body of Christ, is a unique merger of both Jews and Gentiles and plays a major role in God’s glorious plan for this current age. Believers in Christ are given an amazing opportunity to contribute toward the eventual end-goal in God’s plan: the complete and full harmonization of everything that is currently disordered and divided in the entire creation, both seen and unseen (i.e. the separate realms of earth and heaven)—all under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

On the awe-inspiring purpose and scope of this letter, here is an excellent introductory quote from Dr. Abraham Kuruvilla, a professor in the Pastoral Ministries department at Dallas Theological Seminary:

Cosmic reconciliation of all things is the theme of this letter, established early on in 1:9–10—the goal is clearly stated there: the consummation of all things in Christ—the things in the heavens and the things on the earth in him...Human history, particularly of the people of God, is the arena for vast battle—one that has already been won...but not yet. If the children of God ever felt their lives were insignificant, they need to take note of Ephesians: their lives are the vehicles for the manifestation of divine victory in the cosmos; indeed, in some ways, their own victories in spiritual battles redound to God’s own victory and his glory (Kuruvilla, "Ephesians: A Theological Commentary for Preachers", 14–15).

Focus of this Particular Study:

In this Bible study series, I will aim to keep the focus on the original author’s words and overall intent. Loosely adapted from Dr. Kuruvilla’s published work on Ephesians (see citation above), my goal is to draw out from the text the Holy Spirit-inspired message that is intended to transform and conform us into the image of Christ (see Romans 8:29).

While historical facts and figures are crucial and have their place in any study of the Bible, I will not be covering background information—there are plenty of books and commentaries available to research dates, audience profiles, and ancient customs. Instead, I desire to provide a big picture perspective that will aid the serious disciple in accurately handling the details of text, such as individual verses and how to interpret them in light of the whole.

Frequently, we encounter a verse or brief quotation from a book like Ephesians (e.g. in calendar devotionals, Christian books, topical sermons, etc.) that is removed from its original context and, as a consequence, the words can take on different meanings to different audiences. So, in order to faithfully interpret Paul’s letter, or any book of the Bible for that matter, we must stick to the script and keep it in context. Finally, the bridge to modern-day application (the “so what?”) will be crossed once we have gleaned and discerned the “heart” and “spirit” of the inspired text of Scripture (with the assistance of the Helper, of course! see John 14:26).
The book of Ephesians is a great launch pad for new believers or anyone who has ever asked questions like these:
1. What is God doing in the world today?

2. What is my purpose and how do I fit into God’s overall plan?

3. Why is it so difficult to consistently follow Jesus, engage in regular prayer, and share the gospel with others?

To answer these questions and more, we’ll cover the six chapters of Ephesians over the span of 12 weeks, and this will also give us opportunity to dig in and digest the Word of God, piece-by-piece, until we work our way through each of the 12 sections. So, without any further introduction, let’s dive in to the text and discover more about God’s gracious and loving plan for us.

Week One: Counting Our Blessings (Ephesians 1:1-14)

Typical of Paul’s style and structure found in other New Testament writings, he begins this letter with a short preview of what he will develop and explain in further detail later on. Therefore, we should keep in mind a few themes introduced at the start and echoed throughout the letter:

1. Blessings and conflict in heavenly places (1:3; 1:20; 2:2, 6; 3:10; 6:12)

2. God’s grace and love toward the redeemed in Christ (1:4, 6; 2:4; 3:17, 19; 4:15; 5:1, 25; 6:23-24)

3. Reconciliation and consummation of the disordered realms of heaven and earth under the supreme rule of Jesus Christ, God’s Beloved Son (1:910, 20-23; 2:1314; 3:6, 9-11; 4:36, 13; 5:32)

Verses 3 through 14 are actually a single sentence in the Greek—the longest found in the NT. It’s as if Paul was overwhelmed with praise and gratitude, and with a burst of the Spirit, he got carried away dwelling on the Father’s many blessings for everyone who has been redeemed by Jesus.
We would do well to pay attention to not only what Paul says [content], but also why he says it in the manner that he does [intent]. Both aspects—intent and content—play an important role in applying Scripture to our own lives as we grow and mature in the faith. We’ll divide Week One’s section (1:1-14) into four parts, discuss the theology, and then tie it all together as we ponder the relevance and application for believers today.

VV. 1:12:

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.*

*I will be quoting the New King James Version (NKJV), which is more of a word-for-word translation of the Greek text rather than a paraphrased version.

Paul uses a standard greeting that is common in all of the NT letters; however, there are a couple of unique phrases that relate to the rest of the introduction and bear further explanation: (1) “by the will of God” and (2) “to the saints/faithful...in Ephesus...in Christ Jesus.”
The first phrase indicates that Paul was chosen by God to be sent out and proclaim the message of this letter (hence, the term “apostle,” which means “sent one”). Moreover, this was not Paul’s choice, nor did it cross his mind before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus that he would be the foremost champion of the gospel in all the Gentile world (see Paul’s testimony in Acts 9 and Galatians 1:11–24)!
In the second phrase, the word “saints” is literally translated from the Greek as “holy ones.” To be a saint, or a holy one, means that you are set apart, consecrated, and designated for special use and service to God. Essentially, every believer in Christ is a “saint” (contrary to Roman Catholic teaching), and a saint should be distinct from his or her former corrupt value system and culture (i.e. what Scripture calls “the world” – Eph. 2:2). This is also why I have highlighted “in Ephesus” and “in Christ Jesus.” These two interrelated phrases speak of two realms (the physical and spiritual, earth and heaven). The saints of God live between two worlds, one seen and one unseen. They may be citizens of Ephesus, but at the same time, they are also a citizen of God’s city in heaven (c.f. Eph. 2:19; Php. 3:20; Heb. 12:2224).

The ruins of the Library of Celsus in Ephesus (a glimpse of the ornate Roman architecture of the time)

VV. 1:36:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

This section begins Paul’s praise of the Father: A blessed God blesses His chosen children with every spiritual blessing. The Greek term translated “blessed” (eulogetos) is where we derive our English word “eulogy”—the kind of speech given at funerals that celebrates a person’s life, values, and accomplishments. Thus, the apostle is, in essence, celebrating God the Father for His predetermined choice to redeem Paul and the rest of the believers who are “in Christ.”

Notice also that the Father’s decision from eternity past is to His delight, “the good pleasure of His will,” and there is no room for human error to thwart the Father’s will that the redeemed in Christ will ultimately be presented to Him as “holy and blameless” (cf. Eph. 5:27).

VV. 1:712:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence [understanding], having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on the earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

This section begins Paul’s praise of the Son: the source/location of every spiritual blessing is “in Christ” (and also Christ in the believer; see 2 Cor. 13:5; Col. 1:27). This grand inheritance for God’s chosen in Christ was made possible only after the accomplishment of the Son’s once-and-for-all sacrificial death on the cross—the shedding of the spotless Lamb’s own blood as the complete and final payment for man’s sin and transgression against God.
Here in this section we also find the heart and soul of the letter as Paul describes God’s gracious decision to make known to the apostle “the mystery of His will,” [Grk. mysterion]. In other words, the Father kept His cards close to the vest for a long time, and only after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection could the hidden plan be unveiled and publicly announced (cf. 1 Cor. 2:78; see also Rom. 16:2526).

One aspect of God’s mystery relates to the main theme of the letter: “that in the dispensation* of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on the earth...” Paul’s statement here is essentially synonymous with the apostle Peter’s proclamation in Acts 3:21, “the times of the restoration of all things.” Thus, the two apostles are talking about the same thing: the future Millennial Reign of Christ on earth (see Revelation 11:15; 20:46).

*The term translated “dispensation” is from the Greek word oikonomia, which literally means “house law” and refers to God’s management of humankind in different ages, or eras. At a very basic level, the rule of the Old Covenant (a.k.a. Mosaic Law) is one dispensation, and the rule of the New Covenant (post-death and resurrection of Christ) is another.

VV. 1:1314:

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

This final section centers on Paul’s praise of the Spirit: the third person of the Trinity responsible for indwelling, sealing, and securing the adopted children of God until the day of their ultimate redemption (cf. Eph. 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5).
Paul says the Holy Spirit is “the guarantee” of the believer’s future inheritance; the Greek word here is arrabon, which is translated in various ways: guarantee, deposit, down- payment, earnest, pledge, etc. Thus, Paul’s financial metaphor communicates a powerful message of security and assurance to every believer who is sealed by the Spirit. The sealing ministry of the Spirit also communicates God’s unending faithfulness toward His beloved children. Ultimately, what God has pledged in part, He intends to deliver in full and will not fail to gather up and bring home every single one of His redeemed children in order to be with Him forever.*

*When Paul says, “until the redemption of the purchased possession,” he is talking about the appointed time in the future when Jesus comes back to raise the dead, transform living believers, and take them back to His Father’s house (see John 14:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 4:1617). Believers in Christ, those chosen before the foundation of the world, are the Father’s very own possession, having been purchased by the blood of His Son, and kept secure by the Holy Spirit until the time of complete redemption for the entire body of Christ.

Application to the Body of Christ:

Summary of 1:114:

The God who abundantly blesses his people, graciously redeeming them as a part of his plan to consummate all things in the universe in Christ, is worthy of being blessed (Kuruvilla, "Ephesians," 36).

Believers today often fail to think and live like the abundantly blessed children described by Paul in his lofty praise of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In fact, the issue of discouragement appears to be one of the reasons the apostle penned this letter to his original readers (Eph. 3:13).
When we are discouraged by our present circumstances and our plans fail to materialize, we should return to this passage and then praise our God for His many blessings to us. We should also note that the Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. In this current dispensation, we must exercise caution and not read ourselves into the other parts of the Bible (OT), thinking that we are guaranteed material blessings. The false teaching of the “prosperity gospel” can leave a person disillusioned, bitter, and angry at God for allegedly failing to keep His promises.

In short, our blessed God is worthy of our highest praise, and it blesses and glorifies Him when we appreciate what He has done for us and live like His abundantly blessed children in the world.

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  1. Excellent Jeff! This is inspiring me on several fronts for articles. Btw, from my patio last night:

    [image width="320" height="266" src="http://storage.proboards.com/6260510/thumbnailer/grAPaBawzDrnRDETnqUk.png"/]

  2. Also, as the blood moon was happening Israel was striking Damascus: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-46941717

  3. Thank you Jeff -

    Thank you for leading the study (continue to dig, learn, and soak in the Lord's message to His followers) while we eagerly wait. Pastor Tim Henderson has been going through Ephesians (Chap 6), in addition to his upbeat rapture anytime vids.

    Volcano (in Vanautu) and Earthquake (in Chile) prior to the IAF strike on Damascus.

    Earthquake today, Monday 1/21, in Mexico.

    Blessings everyone, Bethlehem Star is on deck!

    1. Thank you, Charlie, for continuing to shine a light in the swampland.

  4. Also,

    As many of you are aware/awake, 4 of 10 Biblical Plagues Have Appeared in the past few days/weeks.

    Assume the others to follow.

    5min - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iihGSni8bqE

    1. Sad to see the church scoffing at the signs and only a few can see these signs. Even when shown they scoffed. They sleep as if they were in Gethsemane. I pray for the church to wake up and make herself ready.

    2. Unexpected darkness - now that one would definitely get my attention (:

    3. Unexpected darkness....like an EMP attack from N. Korea, China, Russia or Iran. That would wipe out our electric grid and send us back to the 1800s.

  5. Oh the apostle Paul and the revelation of the mystery*,....i'm speechless Jeff, thank you kindly; All of you! Amen* n Shalom!

  6. Thank you Jeff, for sharing your study in Ephesians with us; and reminding us through HIS Word of our position and privilege in Christ Jesus, our LORD. (inaweofhim)

  7. Jeff, you just got me triggered to read Ephesians and commentary again, thank you! MARANATHA! :-)

    1. That's great, sister! It's a good time to review this wonderful letter.

    2. Yes Jeff it is indeed! :-) Ephesians and Colossians ever were my favourites since Jesus found me.

      I have a good German commentary by a Suisse brother in Christ, will go through it again. Here's another one on bible.org but haven't checked it yet (Steve Cole 2007/08):


      Makes me awestruck every single day - WHY ME??! Thank you, LORD Jesus!!

    3. PS: The bible.org author mentions William Gurnall on the Christian armour of God, that was one of the first my husband studied (in English, took him 2 years!) to learn standing firm in spiritual battle. Was a hint from some internet forum the LORD had led me to and I told him about. His ways are so miraculous! MARANATHA!

    4. Dear Annabel, and anyone else who asks: of course, YOU! God is first and foremost our FATHER, Abba, our Creator, and He wants us saved. I never truly understood THAT until after having children of my own. Blessings, just had to comment.
      P.S. Anyone else unable to get through to GRACE THRU FAITH. I tried several browsers...

    5. Bible.org is highly recommended!

  8. Interesting! Brad spotted this (@ 8:40):

    [youtube width="320" height="266" src="s2JoOzOBjn4"/]

  9. it leaves you awestruck....esp if you see it in the last 2.5 mins. of,"Lighting Fires for Christ", 28 min. video from 1/19/19...the way she "delivers" it!

  10. If y'all haven't seen this, check it out! https://rev12daily.blogspot.com/2019/01/a-sign-in-sun.html

  11. Thank you so much!! Here is a link to my video. All glory to the Lord God Almighty!



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