Bible Book: Ephesus 1

Christ and the faithful in Him. The church in Ephesus  (Chapter 1)

Among the churches that are mentioned in the Holy Scriptures the church in Ephesus has a very special place. Not without reason and it is worth while to pay attention to what has been written about Ephesus, before commenting on the epistle to the saints in that town. We have to consider: 1 what has been written in the Acts about Ephesus; that relates to the beginning of that church. 2 what Paul wrote to Timothy about Ephesus and the other churches in Asia; that has to do with the development there. 3 what we find in the Revelation about Ephesus. It relates to the decline and the final judgment of that church. 4 the epistle Paul has written to the saints in Ephesus.  
1 A remarkable beginning.  
In Acts 18:19-21 we read about Paul: 19 And he came to Ephesus and left them there, but he himself entered into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they desired him to tarry a longer time with them, he consented not, 21 but bade them farewell, saying, "I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem, but I will return again unto you, if God wills." And he sailed from Ephesus. A strange thing. Paul reasoned with the Jews and they obviously were not averse to his words, for they asked him to tarry a longer time. It would have been understandable, if the apostle eagerly had agreed. Was the Lord not opening a door for him and for the gospel there? And why was it necessary for him to be in time in Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost? He had a special calling for the gentiles, but not for Israel. We do not know the motives of the apostle, can only guess, but obviously the Lord did not want that Paul would lay the foundation of the church in Ephesus. He used another person, a Jew from Alexandria in Egypt, who knew no more than the baptism of John: 24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man was instructed in the Way of the Lord; and being fervent in the Spirit, he spoke and taught diligently the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. (Acts 18:24-26). With that he seems to have done what the Lord wanted him to do there, for verse 27 says, that he went to Achaia. This man, Apollos, a disciple of John the Baptist, obviously had to preach in Ephesus and by doing so to lay the foundation of the church there. The rest of the work in Ephesus had to be done by Paul. That work of Paul began remarkably as well: 1 And it came to pass that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus; and finding certain disciples, 2 he said unto them, "Have ye received the Holy Spirit, having believed?" And they said unto him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is any Holy Spirit." 3 And he said unto them, "Unto what then were ye baptized?" And they said, "Unto John’s baptism." 4 Then said Paul, "John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe in Him who should come after him, that is, in Christ Jesus." 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 And there were about twelve men in all. (Acts 19:1-7). The first disciples in Ephesus that Paul met and believed in Jesus Christ by his words were disciples of John the Baptist. Something like that we read of no other city where Paul has preached.  
The first one who preached Jesus Christ in Ephesus has been Apollos, a disciple of John the Baptist; the first twelve who believed in Jesus Christ, have been baptized in his name there and received the Holy Spirit, were disciples of John the Baptist too That cannot be by chance. The believers who are mentioned in Acts 2 and were the first who formed the young church by the baptism with the Holy Spirit, had been disciples of John as well, and of them we read that they spoke in tongues too. God obviously wanted that the church in Ephesus would be formed in the same way as on the day of Pentecost the church began. Can it be that for that reason Apollos had to start the work there and not Paul? It is moreover remarkable that of the church in Ephesus not only the beginning, but also the continuation and the end have been mentioned. It seems that Ephesus in its blessed beginning, in its development and decline and in its end had to be a kind of blueprint showing the course and end of the worldwide church, the body of Christ. That beginning has been very blessed, but soon bad influences and wrong teaching caused decline and the end will be, that the Lord will spue it out of his mouth. So we could say that the church in Ephesus is a kind of pattern church. The disciples of John the Baptist Paul met in Ephesus were in a remarkable position. Though Christ had come, had been crucified, had died, had been resurrected and had ascended, those disciples had no part in it, did not know those things and had not been added to the church, the body of Christ by faith in Him. They needed to hear about Christ, to believe in Him and to be baptized in his name, after which Paul let know that he accepted and recognized them as fellow Christians by laying his hands upon them. Then God gave them his Holy Spirit, which was the proof that God had accepted them and it was clear to all by the fact that they spoke in new tongues, just like the disciples on the day of Pentecost. They did not receive the Spirit by the laying on of hands, but after that. It was an exceptional case and it is no indication that laying on of hands is necessary in order to receive the Spirit. God gives the Spirit to anyone believing in his Son, Jesus Christ, the Saviour. We then read in Acts 19:8-12 how things went on in Ephesus: 8 And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading about the things concerning the Kingdom of God. 9 But when divers ones were hardened and believed not, but spoke evil of that Way before the multitude, he departed from them and took away the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. 10 And this continued for the space of two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the Word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. 11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons from his body were brought unto the sick, and the diseases departed from them and the evil spirits went out of them. We see that Paul has worked longer in Ephesus than in any other town, two years, with daily teaching in the school of Tyrannus. What a thorough education the Ephesians have had! One need not wonder that the whole of Asia heard the Word of God. There he too separated the believers from the synagogue, separation between Jews and Christians. And God sustained the work by extraordinary powers. What the result has been, we read in verses 18-20: 18 And many who believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds. 19 Many of those also who used occult arts brought their books together and burned them before all men; and they counted up the price of them, and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the Word of God grew mightily and prevailed. So there has been done a great work in Ephesus and the Lord blessed it abundantly. A favourable report like this we have of no other church. In Acts 20 has been mentioned with what words Paul in Milete took leave of the church in Ephesus. Verse 25 says: And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the Kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. On that occasion the apostle said: I kept back nothing that was profitable for you, but have shown you and have taught you publicly and from house to house, (verse 20) and: 26 Therefore I attest to you this day that I am pure from the blood of all men, 27 for I have not shrunk from declaring unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:26 and 27). All the counsel of God. Paul had kept back nothing, but had declared all to them. No part of the teaching of the Spirit had been concealed for them. In Corinth it had been different. To the believers there he had to write, that he had fed them with milk, because they were not able to bear meat. (1 Corinthians 3:1 and 2). That explains what he meant with the words: we speak wisdom among those who are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, who are coming to nought. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world for our glory (1 Corinthians 2:6 and 7). He meant to say that he had to tell them much more than the gospel, more Christian doctrine or teaching, particularly things hidden till then, things re Christ and the church, which he could preach to saints who were grown up spiritually, like the Ephesians, but not to babes in Christ like the Corinthians. In Ephesus however the apostle had had no need to keep back anything. He had been able to declare all the counsel of God to them.  
The mystery.  
The apostle pointed to the mystery or secret in 1 Corinthians 2:7 as follows: we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, he mentioned it in Romans 16:25, Ephesians 3:2-11 and 5:32, Colossians 1:25-27 and 2:2 and 3 as well.I am convinced however that Ephesians 1:8 and 9 relates to the same subject: “….wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence. 9 He hath made known unto us the mystery of His will”, What was that mystery? It consisted of the things relating to “Christ and the church of Jews and gentiles”, that had been revealed to Paul particularly. That had started when the Lord appeared to him on his way to Damascus: 3 And as he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly there shone round about him a light from heaven. 4 And he fell to the earth and heard a voice saying unto him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" 5 And he said, "Who art thou, Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest; it is hard for thee to kick against the goads." (Acts 9:3-5). In those words of the Lord the full unity of the church with Christ, with all things resulting from it, were included. With a view to the special commission for Paul and the teaching he had to spread concerning the church united with the glorified Lord, consisting of Jew and gentile, it was necessary that he learned to know the Lord in another character than the disciples who were apostles before him. They had known the Lord in humiliation upon earth in Israel. Paul learned to know Him glorified in heaven. The church is united to Him in that glorified character, and that is decisive for her position. It is possible that Paul has heard more about this subject when he was caught up in heaven: 1 It is doubtless not expedient for me to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2 I knew a man in Christ more than fourteen years ago (whether in the body I cannot tell, or whether out of the body I cannot tell—God knoweth). Such a one was caught up to the third Heaven. 3 And I knew such a man (whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell—God knoweth), 4 and how he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). At any rate he said, that it happened fourteen years before writing that epistle, that is before he started his work among the gentiles. It means that he has known those things re the mystery before he started his work in gentile countries. That he did not write about those things in his epistle to the Corinthians had a cause. They were carnal, babes in Christ who could not bear that spiritual food, but still needed milk. In Ephesus however, unlike in Corinth, he had declared the whole counsel of God, so that the church there had come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 that henceforth they were no longer children, (Ephesians 4:13,14) The same thing could be said of the other churches in Asia. They were an example of the full blessedness in which the Lord wanted his church to be. But it had not continued. 
2 Development in the church in Ephesus. 
 About that we find something in both epistles of Paul to Timothy. In 1Timothy 1:3-9 we read: As I besought thee when I went into Macedonia to abide still at Ephesus, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which promote questions rather than godly edifying in the faith, so do! 5 Now the aim of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, with a good conscience and with faith unfeigned, 6 from which some have swerved and have turned aside unto vain jangling. 7 They desire to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. 8 But we know that the law is good if a man use it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, No other doctrine than they had heard from the apostle and accepted. It sounds incredible that believers of a church so blessed as Ephesus would accept or spread another doctrine than what Paul had taught them for over two years. Yet it happened. Fables and endless genealogies. What can be the use of it? The interest for those things possibly has been the result of the work of Jewish teachers, who of old attached much value to their origin from Judah, Ephraim or any other tribe. For Christians however it is no longer a thing of any importance. Paul mentioned vain jangling as well, talk without sense or use. He said it of teachers of the law, who did not realize that the law is not intended for Christians, but for ungodly and unholy people, sinners, murderers, whoremongers etc.Jewish teachers had soon started with their zeal to bring gentile believers under the law. In Acts 15:10 Peter has said about it: Now therefore why tempt ye God to put a yoke upon the necks of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? It is to be feared that in our time as well some still try to influence Christians and to bring them to observing the law, a wrong zeal, not to be confused with zeal to do the will of God. Many have thereby been embarrassed and feel guilty because they cannot comply with Gods law. The Lord may open their eyes and make them see that Christians are not under the law, but under grace and that not the law, but Christ is our rule for life (Romans 6:14 and 7:6). In the second epistle to Timothy Paul had to write about a still more precarious development: This thou knowest, that all those who are in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes (2 Timothy 1:15). They are few words, but point to a fatal development. Asia has been the region where Ephesus was lying and by the work of Paul in Ephesus the whole of Asai had heard the word of God. The churches there had been exceedingly blessed. But meanwhile they had turned away from Paul, that is from his teaching. From some epistles we know that some tried to discredit the apostle and that those wrong attempts bore wrong fruit.
 Even in our days some do not fully accept the teaching of Paul, particularly re the order and the service in the church. It is damaging for the Christian testimony and dishonouring the Lord of the church. Usually the disobedience is defended with arguments about usefulness and the like. Those arguments and human preference prevail when female preachers are appointed and homosexuality is accepted, contrary to Scripture. 
 3 What the Lord said about Ephesus, its end.  
Before the book of the Revelation describes how the earth is slain with plagues and catastrophes, something different is given. The first thing that is seen, is the Son of man in the midst of the seven candlesticks, that is between the churches, after which He in seven epistles tells them what is the result of his investigation. That part, consisting of the vision and the epistles, ends with chapter 3. After that an open door into heaven is seen and the throne from which the judgments will come over the earth and its inhabitants. That subject we drop now. The first epistle the Lord has written in the revelation about a church and to that church, has been the epistle to the church in Ephesus, the most blessed church, knowing the whole counsel of God, raised to the spiritual level the Lord wanted for his church. The judgment of that church by the Lord is: 2 I know thy works and thy labor and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them that are evil; and how thou hast tried them that say they are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars; 3 and hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast labored and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless, I have something against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the works as at first; or else I will come unto thee quickly and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, unless thou repent. 6 But this thou hast: that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. The Lord had to say many good things about Ephesus. He only had to condemn that they had left their first love. In Ephesus seemingly hardly anything was wrong. But then we should pay attention to verse 5. There is said: “Remember from whence thou art fallen” and the judgment is pronounced that the Lord would remove their candlestick from its place, except they repented. Ephesus had come so high. Therefore its falling down would be so serious. No first love, the thing above all precious for the Lord and the only good motor for Christian activity. What is the worth of all we do for Him, if love is not its motive? Would it not be worthless? The judgment therefore was very severe. The candlestick has been removed indeed from Ephesus. For centuries there has not been a church in Ephesus. It is the end of what had a very promising beginning. The same thing will happen to the church worldwide. The day will come that the Lord will take the church away as his witness in the world. Than Israel will come to the foreground again. What has been the beginning of the deviation in Ephesus? The attempts to bring the young church under the joke of the law. What has been the beginning of the deviation of Christianity? It has been the same zeal to bring the church under the law, owing to which she has been estranged from her heavenly position, her heavenly hope and her heavenly character. Rome added to it with her teaching about good works. The reformation, a great and blessed work of God, did not change all, partly because they judged it best to choose the psalms as hymns in the services. The psalms are precious to us. Often God consoled believers by a psalm. Yet they have not been written from the position of a Christian, but from the position of the Israelites. They do not, could not speak of the finished work of Christ, nor of the unity of the church with Christ or of the heavenly blessings of a Christian. We find no praise of the Lamb of God in them etc. The epistle to the Hebrews shows us, that compared with Israel the church has received better things, a better hope, better promises, we know a better sacrifice, in short God had provided better things for us. Those better things the poets of the psalms have not known and so the psalms do not sing about them. About those things Paul has written in the epistle to the Ephesians. We should be very grateful that the Spirit let him write that epistle, in order we would know our riches and blessing but our responsibility as well (As hymns for the church the psalms are not sufficient. And when the mind of a Christian for the greater part has been formed by the psalms, as with many is the case, that Christian in his mind has not attained the level of the blessings we know by Jesus Christ, but is more or less on the level of a pious Jew. Nevertheless we are very grateful that God has given us the psalms, for they have great value for us Christians and several of them we sing with whole our heart.))  
4 The epistle to the saints in Ephesus. Disputed apostleship.  
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:Why had the apostle to open his epistle with the remark that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God? We could answer that such an opening was very useful for the present readers of the epistle, for his apostolic authority now has been ascertained beforehand. That authority now is regarded as relative in a very broad circle. People neglect or reject what Paul has written about marriage, the order in the church and about many things more. He did not only write here that he was an apostle, but that he was that by the will of God. If that would not be correct, he has put himself on a pedestal, from which he tumbles down at the same time, for whoever wrongly presents himself as called by God and declares his word to be the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13), is a deceiver, consciously or not. In both cases his word is not reliable. If that was the case with Paul the consequence would be that the Bible cannot be seen as reliable any longer, the conviction of many indeed, by which they stamp themselves as unbelievers. We do not envy them and reject their opinions wholeheartedly. The above did not yet tell us why the apostle in the beginning of this epistle pointed so emphatically to his God willed apostleship. I think the attempts of Jewish teachers to discredit Paul can be the reason. In Acts 21 we read what the Jewish Christians said to Paul:19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord and said unto him, "Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who believe, and they are all zealous for the law. 21 And they are informed about thee, that thou teachest all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, nor walk according to the customs. 22 What is therefore to be done? The multitude must surely come together, for they will hear that thou art come. 23 Do therefore this which we say to thee: We have four men who have taken a vow upon themselves. 24 Take them and purify thyself with them, and bear their charges with them, that they may shave their heads; and all may know that those things of which they have been informed concerning thee are nothing, but that thou thyself also walkest orderly and keepest the law. We see that there existed objections to Paul and suspicions. He had moreover as adversaries the Jewish teachers who tried to bring the gentiles under the law. The following passages speak for themselves: 1 And certain men who came down from Judea were teaching the brethren and saying, "Unless ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. (Acts 15:1 and 2). 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). 20 For ye suffer if a man bring you into bondage, or if a man devour you, if a man take from you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. 21 I speak as reproached, as though we had been weak. However it be, whereinsoever anyone is bold (I speak foolishly), I am bold also. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more—in labors more abundant, in stripes beyond measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths often. (2 Corinthians 11:20-23). 16 Let no man therefore judge you in regard to meat or drink, or in respect to a holy day or the new moon or the sabbath days, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ. 20 Therefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to its ordinances 21 ("Touch not, taste not, handle not," (Colossians 2:16-17 and 20-21). 1 Timothy 1:6-9 has been mentioned before. And finally, the whole epistle to the Galatians has been written to annihilate the influence of the Jewish teachers of the law. So it is clear that the apostle Paul had to do with adversaries within Christianity. 2 Corinthians 13:3-6 shows, that even his apostleship was disputed by some in Corinth: 3since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which toward you is not weak, but is mighty in you. 4 For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you. Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith. Test your own selves. Know ye not yourselves how Jesus Christ is in you, unless ye be reprobates? 6 But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.The bold verse 5 is the answer to the critics that are meant in verse 3. They got the advice to check whether they were Christians, not because Paul doubted that, but in order they would realize, that they had become Christians after having heard the gospel that Paul had preached them, a proof of his apostleship. These things may convince us of the fact that the apostleship of Paul was disputed by some in those days, particularly by Jewish zealots. As said in the introduction the first epistle to Timothy makes clear that such zealots exerted their wrong influence in Ephesus too. To the Ephesians Paul had declared the whole counsel of God. What he has written in this epistle is part of that counsel of God. So he had preached them those things during his stay there. Why then had he to write them about those things? The beginning of the epistle is ground to suppose that the Spirit let him write this epistle with a view to the influence of those Jewish teachers of the law.Opposite that influence of the preachers of the law Paul had to draw the attention of the believers again to the riches of Christians, the richness of their position “in Christ”. Opposite the election of Israel in the father Abraham he pointed to their election “in Christ”, opposite the promises for Israel he pointed to “all spiritual blessings”, opposite earthly blessings “blessings in the heavenly places”, opposite blessings in Abraham their “blessings in Christ”, Opposite the calling as a people their calling as “children of God”, opposite the kingdom of Israel “Christ as Head over all  
things”, and opposite the heritage of Israel our “heavenly heritage” with Christ. (It is often called legalistic if is insisted on obedience to the will of God, particularly re the command for sisters to cover their head and to be silent in the gatherings of the church. That however is not legalistic at all. It has nothing whatever to do with the law, but everything with being subjected to the Lord and obedience to Him who bought us with his life and blood. 
Our riches in Christ, the glorified Lord.  
Opposite the legalistic influence which brought the believers back to the earthly position of Israel and darkened the sight upon the spiritual and heavenly calling, it was highly desirable to point to and open their eyes again for their riches in Christ.In Ephesus Paul had declared the whole counsel of God. He consequently did not write new things, but what he had taught them during his stay with them, the things resulting from the unity between Christ and the church that had become clear to him as soon as at his conversion and calling on the way to Damascus. It was necessary to recall those blessings to them, as it is necessary for the believers today to seek again the things which are above, where Christ is, and see our blessings in Him again. The epistle has been directed to the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus in Ephesus. All believers of course are believing in Christ Jesus. But the words in the salutation certainly want to convey something more: that they are “in Christ” by believing in Him. With that is expressed their being united with Him, what has so great consequences for our (heavenly) position and ought to have for our walk upon earth. 
Blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. 
 2 Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ. After the salutation in verse 2 the apostle opened the epistle with praise to God. The ground for that praise here is, that ”we”, Christians, have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. It is clear that Christ after his ascension not has been blessed by God with some or many blessings, but with all. And we have been blessed “in Him”, that is blessed because He has been blessed. We are “in Him” like the grain in the ear of the wheat. Whosoever is picking the ear, is picking the grain “in it” as well. 
 In Christ.  
It is a characteristic of Christians that they are “in Christ”, of which some aspects are brought to light in this epistle. Believers in the time before Christ did not have nor know that position. The church of Christ did not yet exist. In 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13 we read: 12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, whether we are bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. We know that the baptism with the Holy Spirit happened on the day of Pentecost. Before that day believers had not been united in one body with its Head Jesus Christ. The words in the gospel of John after the prophecy of Caiaphas about the death of the Lord point into the same direction: 51 And he spoke this not of himself, but, being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 and not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. (John 11:51 and 52). So that gathering together would be after the death of the Lord. Paul presents the believers in his epistles as members of the body of Christ. How could one deny that an arm or a feet are part of the body of which they are a member? That is the position of a Christian. It is clear that believers before Christ did not know that. The epistle to the Hebrews therefore says in chapter 11:40 that God had provided some better thing for us. How would the law, the former commandment that has been annulled because of the weakness and unprofitableness thereof, be able to add or to improve the position and blessing of them that are “in Christ”? Does something exist that is higher or more than being “in Christ”? No indeed.  
Blessed in Christ in the heavenly places.  
That position, that union with Christ in glory, is decisive for the blessings of the Christian. Christians are so really one with Christ, that all fruit of his work and all blessing with which God has blessed Him is their blessing as well. Those blessings are not earthly and transitory, but spiritual and they are to be found and enjoyed where Christ is, that is in heavenly places. They are the blessings of the heavenly land, which the powers of darkness begrudge us, as the Canaanites and the Philistines begrudged Israel the blessings of the holy land. Would it be possible to give a summary of those blessings? A full and well balanced summary certainly not. At the utmost we can mention some. We are heirs of God, we have been called to Gods glory, we ‘ll reign with Christ, God has loved us as He has loved his Son, we have been purified and sanctified, we have been made perfect, we have boldness to enter into the holiest, we shall live forever where He is. But that is totally insufficient as an enumeration of all Christian blessings. Someone could ask how we can be blessed in heavenly places, when still being on earth. The answer is, that we are blessed there “in Christ”. God has made us sit there together with Him and He being blessed, we who are “in Him” have been blessed there as well. even as 4 He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. There is equality in the being blessed and the being chosen. Both are “in Christ”.  
Chosen in Christ, the Chosen One of God.  
Like being blessed in Christ, God has chosen us in Him as well. Because we are united with Christ in a full unity, we are blessed in Him, being part of his body. On the same ground we have been chosen “in Him”, He being the chosen One of God. The following passages tell us that Christ is the chosen One of God: 16 And He charged them that they should not make Him known, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, 18 "Behold My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased: I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall show judgment to the Gentiles. (Matthew 12:16-18). 35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers who were also with them derided Him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he be Christ, the chosen of God." (Luke 23:35). 4 Coming to Him as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious (1 Peter 2:4). God not only has known Him as the Lamb without blemish before the foundation of the world: with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, 2 who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you(1Peter 1:19 and 20), but as the grain of wheat as well that would fall into the ground and die and bring forth much fruit (John 12:24). In the choice of Him, the grain that would fall into the ground, the grain in the ear, fruit of his death, the believers, have been chosen as well. How could God have chosen us before the foundation of the world? We all were guilty and enemies of God. But God saw the believers – according to his foreknowledge (Romans 8:29, 1Peter 1:2) – as grain in the Ear that would shoot up. In his choice of Christ, the grain of wheat, He inevitably and intentionally chose the many grains, fruit of the grain that died. The words “chosen in Him” do not say that God has chosen us to become Christians in due course, in contrast with others He did not choose to become Christians. Those words tell us how it has been possible that God has chosen us. The answer is that God has seen us before we had been born, as fruit of the death of Christ, his chosen One. The verse does not tell us to what purpose or blessing God has chosen us, but in what manner and on what ground He has chosen us. The above cited passages in Romans 8 and 1 Peter 1 confirm that the election of the Christian has to do with Gods foreknowledge. Do not think however that election is a recompense for our believing or faith. Faith is not a meritorious thing at all. It only connects us with Gods elect, Christ, and God has known that before the foundation of the world.  
What God had in view for us. 
 The word “that” in verse 4 with what follows, confirms our above given contemplation. It points to a purpose. What follows in verse 4 is not “that we might be in Christ”, but that we “should be holy and without blame before Him in love”. So chosen in Christ does not mention a destination, but the way and ground upon which Christians have been chosen. The purpose is to be holy and without blame before God. It is all the fruit of the work of Christ, both the election and being holy and without blame. Of any merit on our side cannot be spoken, there is none. Holy and without blame say what we are in Christ. In ourselves we are not without blame. 5 He hath predestined us to be His own adopted children by Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.From eternity it has been Gods will to have us as children for Himself. The expression “the good pleasure of his will” seems to give twice the same thought. It indicates that it is a pleasure for God that we have become his children and that it is not a pleasure for us only. It proofs the glory of his grace which fills our mouths with praise. It is the grace with which God has made us accepted in the Beloved. God did not only show us mercy, but has made us agreeable (a source of pleasure) for God. We then can ask in what measure we are acceptable or a pleasure for God. The answer is “in Christ” we are agreeable for Him. Then comes the question: how in Christ? In Him as sin offering, or in Him as the perfect Man? The answer is: in Him as the Beloved of God. Properly speaking that means “loved by God like He loves his only Son”. That is in accordance with what the Lord himself has said in John 17:23. If we wonder how that can be possible, we should realize that God sees us “in Christ”, planted together with Him in the likeness of his death and of his resurrection (Romans 6) We therefore are precious to God far above our consciousness and our most candid expectations. What an overwhelming love of God for us, unworthy sinners.  
Insight and involvement in Gods hidden purpose.
  7 In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, 8 wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence. 9 He hath made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself, 10 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 earth, even in Him. Redemption and forgiveness of our sins have brought us into quite another position. No slave of sin any more, no longer guilty before God. But the grace bestowed upon us has been combined with the gift of insight in Gods good pleasure (intention) regarding the fullness of times: God will gather together in one all things in Christ. There has been the dispensation of the law. We live in the dispensation of grace now. In future there will be the dispensation of the fullness of times, the last period for the earth before there will be a new heaven and a new earth. In that future dispensation Christ will be Head over all things. Scripture says in Hebrews But now as yet we see not all things put under him (2:8). He is waiting until His enemies be made His footstool.  
 (That purpose of God we find pictured as a type in Genesis in the first Adam God put in his creation as head over it with his bride. So Christ in Gods time will be Head over all and all things, with his bride, the church, united with Him. The last subject in Genesis, the history of Joseph, gives a more extensive picture of Gods purpose in Joseph as king in Egypt with his bride Asnath. That Genesis gives such a picture in its beginning and in its end is no accident.) 11 In Christ also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will,12 that we, who first trusted in Christ, should be to the praise of His glory. With “we” the apostle here means Jewish Christians. In verse 13 he involved gentile believers in the same position and blessings. That way of writing probably has as background, that in this epistle is argued that it has been a mystery that the gentiles are fellow heirs and partakers of his promise in Christ. About those things of course can be said much more, but we hope to do that when we have reached the passage in the epistle in which we read about them (chapter 3). In Romans 8:16 and 17 Paul has written: The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God; 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if so it be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together. Verse 11 in this chapter of Ephesus says us that “in Him” we have obtained an inheritance. It is because Christ is our life – what we read in Colossians 3:4 and 1 John 5:20 – and we are “in Him”, that we have become children and so heirs. God had that in mind for all who build their hope upon Christ, what Jewish believers had done first, compared with gentile believers, who were called after them. That destination of former hostile men will be to the praise of Gods glory, glory which radiates from Him who is light and love.Verse 11 cannot be cited as proof that all things happen according to Gods will and counsel. The meaning is that whatever God does, He does according to his counsel. It is wrong to ascribe sin and unrighteousness to Gods will. We know that king Manasseh burned his son for the moloch, of which thing God has said in Jeremiah 19:5 to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not nor spoke it, neither came it into My mind. Moreover Ephesians 2:3 says, that we all in times past had our manner of living in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others, so not according to Gods will. 13 In Christ ye also trusted after ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation. In Him also after ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, 14 which is the pledge of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession—unto the praise of His glory. Here the apostle is speaking of his readers, gentile believers, and tells them that they are “in Christ” with their Jewish brethren after having believed, and that God gave them his Spirit as pledge of his “yes” to them. They had received the Spirit, all of them, without exception. There are no Christians who have not received the Spirit, though in some circles it is a teaching. The Spirit is like a pledge that can be exchanged for the inheritance when that inheritance will have been redeemed. In all that God will be glorified as has been said with relation to Jewish believers (verse 12). That glory will not be like the splendour and lustre of a king on earth, consisting of gold, jewels, carriages and servants. It will be sooner the being visible of his righteousness, his love, his mercy and his holiness. So God has been glorified in the birth of his Son in Bethlehem, wherefore the angels exclaimed “Glory to God in the highest”. In the birth of his Son the greatness of his love for lost sinners became visible and the truth of his promises and prophecies (and probably much more). The verses 1-14 have more or less the character of an introduction, in which are laid down the big lines of what will be discussed in the epistle. 
The next verses of the first chapter give an impression of what the apostle wished for the readers, with a view to the blessing, the riches, the glorious future and high position about which he had written in the foregoing verses.  
The prayer of the apostle. 
 15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, The apostle had reason to thank the Lord, having heard of their faith and mutual love. But he also prayed for them because they obviously needed wisdom from above and revelation from God, not in order to know God, but to know Him rightly, not as the God of the Sinai, but as the God who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, full of truth and grace. 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, The believers in Ephesus needed to catch sight again of their Christian hope and the expectation of the heavenly inheritance, because they had been influenced not to look to heaven, but to earth. That indeed is the result for a Christian of turning to the law. How very needy for such Christians and for us all to see again how exceedingly great is Gods power with which He is working on and in us. In the light of that power all our work according to the law looses its significance and turns out to darken our view.20 which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places,The strength of the power with which God is working in us is according to the power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead. So it is the power that has the victory over death and moreover raises above the earthly and transitory to the place of unassailable glory. Would it be possible to surpass that power of God by human works of the law in order to reach a greater height? Is it possible for us to add something to what God works by his exceeding power? Surely not. Would that God will give in our time enlightened eyes to many to see what God has worked and still works in anyone who believes, in order they no more seek certainty and peace in own works and in their own hearts, but learn with thanks to trust in God and his power, not looking to their own feebleness, but to Gods love. Christ, the living Lord and Victor is sitting to Gods right hand, exalted above all and everything, as of old Mordechai, who had received the highest place of honour, being the safety and the trust of the Jews who were destined to be wiped out: And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold and with a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. 16 The Jews had light and gladness, and joy and honor. 1 And in every province and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews, for the fear of the Jews fell upon them. (Esther 8:15-17). Reader, it is my hope that you know gladness and joy by Him who received higher and more honour than Mordechai, but does what Mordechai has done:seeking the wellbeing of his people and speaking peace to all his seed (Esther 10:3). How much more does Jesus Christ that for the people He redeemed by his blood. 

21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. For now and the future God has given to Jesus the most high place. Being God He has always been above all. But now He, the Man who is God, has been glorified and received the name that is above all names. 22 And God hath put all things under His feet, and hath given Him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who filleth all in all. Hebrews 2:8 says: Now we see not yet all things put under Him. But presently it will be seen, that God has given Him that high place and nobody will oppose. What is so great for us, we find in the second half of verse 22: God has Him, Head over all things, given to the church. We must read carefully; it does not say that God has made Him head over the church. Of course He is that. But our text says something different, viz. that He in the character of Head over all has been given to the church, just like Adam, head over the earth, has been given to Eve. Then verse 23 says that the church, his body, is his fullness, just like Eve was the fullness of Adam. They together were “man”, what we read in the remarkable verse 27 of Genesis 1: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. Mark that is said “God created man”, “He created him”, and then “male and female He createdthem”. It indicates, that God saw man and wife together as one. So the church is the body of Christ, He the Head. Together it is the Christ, the glorified Man, the church being the fullness of Christ. What a thought! He, Head over all, has been given to the church, which as his body is meet for Him. In future the Lord will fill his position as Head over all in power and glory with the church next to Him as his bride. For what glorious height God has thus destined the church and so the believers. That miracle Christ has made possible, because He loved the church and gave himself for it, as has been written in chapter 5. The consciousness of those things is well suited to save us from every false doctrine that is trying to convince us of a possibility to reach more than we have in Jesus Christ.  There is no more than our Lord:and what He will give us. The glory He prepared and to live with Him for ever. God promised that He as Head will reign for evermore. His bride then is the fullness of the Bridegroom. Lord of lords. His love searched, his love bought and purified from sins, By the work of Jesus in his church no stain will be found . 

J. Ph. Buddingh