Grace Beyond Measure

Paul greets the Ephesians with a benediction of grace and peace (Eph. 1:1–2). An outburst of praise then follows (Eph. 1:3–14). What does the apostle want us to know? God has blessed us beyond conception! We have grace beyond measure. We who trust in Christ have been “seated in the heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6). We are thereby endowed with “every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3). This bold declaration immediately unfolds—one long sentence in the original Greek text follows. Paul stacks benefit upon benefit, one upon another. We quickly lose count in trying to number them (Eph. 1:3–14).

Chosen by God

Salvation is rooted in eternity. Even before creation, the Father chose a people unto holiness. He predestined them to become his sons by adoption (Eph. 1:3–5). Many were passed by, but many were also chosen. There was divine justice, but there was also mercy.

Who can explain this? Why has salvation come—even to us? It is “according to the kind intention of his will” (Eph. 1:5). “He has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires” (Rom. 9:18). The apostle had little patience with him who contends with God over his ways in grace. Many are puffed up—defending fair play, as they see it. They protest. They object. Paul puts the arrogant in his place. He drives home the question, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” (Rom. 9:20).

Redeemed by Christ

Ultimate blessings come from Christ. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph. 1:7). What startles our hearts? It is the word blood. It sobers our minds. It grips our attention. There has been a violent death. Jesus was an “offering and a sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). Wrath has been appeased. Justice is satisfied. Forgiveness may now be granted. His blood was the ransom. The payment has been made. Redemption has been purchased—a complete and definitive release from the bondage of Satan, “the domain of darkness.” Our chains have been broken. Freedom is our permanent possession (Col. 1:13–14).

Reconciled into One

What will happen in the future? We are not left in the dark. God has granted enlightenment: “He has made known to us the mystery of his will” (Eph. 1:9). Discord and animosity mark the present, but history will move onward into the age to come, “when the times will have reached their fulfillment” (Eph. 1:10a, NIV). Disharmony will cease; unity will come. God will “gather together in one all things in Christ” (Eph. 1:10b, NKJV). In the eschatological company, we will surround the Messiah Jesus. “We will live together with him” (1 Thess. 5:10).

The harmony and reconciliation of the eschaton1 is now foreshadowed. Look at the church! Believers—the Jew and the Gentile—live together in peace. We were from among the nations, “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel.” We stood outside “the barrier of the dividing wall” (Eph. 2:14). Great change has come. We have “been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:12–13). Jesus is “our peace, who made both groups into one” (Eph. 1:14).

Indwelt by the Spirit

Our blessings cluster around the Father and the Son, but there is even more to our salvation than that! There is the linkage of hearing, believing, and sealing. “After listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed in him, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13). The Spirit dwells within us to enable and to sanctify—he is the seal that marks us out as belonging to God. He is also the “pledge of our inheritance,” a down payment from the hand of God—the assurance that the rest of our salvation is certainly going to come. Christ will return. There will be the “redemption of God’s own possession,” a complete release from the effects of sin (Eph. 1:14). Our bodies will be set free. Our infirmities, weaknesses, and even death itself will pass away.

Richly Lavished Grace

Paul was impressed with grace. Everything that God has done redounds “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Eph. 1:6). God is not sparing. He is not stingy. Grace is “freely bestowed,” even “lavished on us” (Eph. 1:6, 8).
What can we say about grace? Let us remember two things.

We do not deserve it. Paul reminds us of what we were: “You were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). We were “by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Eph. 2:3).

Grace rules out works. “By grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:8). This is a significant declaration, but there is more. Paul adds a qualification. Salvation by grace means that it is “not as a result of works” (Eph. 2:9). Good works do not bring salvation; salvation brings good works. They are the fruit of grace.

Inquiries That Follow

We must ask ourselves some questions. First, do our hearts overflow with adoration to God? Do you and I praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3)? If we have grown cold and indifferent, our passage exhorts us unto a life of thanksgiving.

Second, spiritual blessings are for those who are seated in the heavenly places—for the person who is “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3), for them who are “in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). The Ephesians were united to Christ. Paul had no doubt about this. “I too having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you . . . do not cease giving thanks for you” (Eph. 1:15–16).

Where do you stand? Today is the day of opportunity, the day of salvation. Come to Christ. Put your trust in him. Partake of grace beyond measure.
            
1. End times

Dr. Mark J. Larson is a minister of the Word and sacraments in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

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