We continue in our two week series through Ephesians 1–3, with guest writer Dr. David Starling.
And you also | Eph. 1:11–14
As we saw yesterday, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians begins (after the initial greeting in verses 1–2) with a doxology—a psalm of praise that blesses God for all the gracious, saving things that he has done for Paul and the readers. At one level, as we saw, it is a kind of catalogue of blessings—a list of all the things that we have received in Christ, for which we can offer him our praise and thanks. At another level it is also a story, that stretches from eternity past (verse 3) to the day when “the times reach their fulfilment” (verse 10).
Verses 3–10 take us from the beginning of the story to its end, but they are not all that Paul wants to say about it; in verses 11–14 Paul takes us back to the middle of the sequence he has just narrated, to tell us about a crucial twist in the plot.
Paul writes: “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of his glory.”
Have you worked out who the “we” and the “you” are? There is a “we”, including Paul, who were “the first to put our hope in Christ” – the first to set their hope on the promised coming of the Messiah. And then there’s a “you”—which probably includes most of us reading this blog post—a “you” who also came to be included in Christ when we heard the gospel.
Who are the “we” and the “you”? For Paul, writing to the Christians in Ephesus, it’s “we” Jews and “you” Gentiles (cf. 2:11; 3:1). All of the blessings that Paul talks about in verses 3-10 were originally Jewish blessings. It was the Jews who were originally God’s chosen people. It was Israel that was originally called “God’s son”: God says to Pharaoh, back in Exodus: “Israel is my first born son: therefore let my people go.” It was Israel who were redeemed and set free out of slavery in Egypt—redeemed by blood that was smeared over the doors of the houses that they lived in. And it was Israel to whom God revealed himself—it was to Israel to whom God gave the law through Moses, and the promises of a Messiah. All of those blessings were originally Jewish blessings.
But in the Messiah, in Jesus, they have come to us Gentiles too. And so we are part of the chosen people of God; we are adopted as members of God’s family, to share in his inheritance; we are redeemed and forgiven through the blood of Jesus; we are let in on the secret—the secret that even Israel never really understood—that God’s plan was to bring all things and all people, Gentiles and Jews, from all nations, together under the head of the Jewish Messiah Jesus.
How did we come to be included? Verse 13: we heard the word of truth, the message of the gospel. And we believed it, and God gave us his holy Spirit as a seal, to say that we belonged to him too.
Viewed from the vantage point of heaven, the story is one of an eternal, predestined plan and purpose of God (v. 11). Viewed from the vantage point of earth, the story is one of a remarkable plot twist, in which people who would otherwise have gone on living their lives in estrangement from God and enmity toward him, were summoned in the word of the gospel, believed what it said, and were uprooted from their old life and claimed by God for a whole new calling (vv. 13–14). But whichever vantage point you view it from—as a story about the fulfilment of the predestined plans and purposes of God, or as a story of human agency in preaching the gospel and human decision in responding and believing—the outcome is still the same: God is to be praised and thanked; we are God’s possession, his treasured inheritance; we exist for the praise of God’s glory.
To think about
What was the process by which you came to be included in Christ? Who were the people who told the gospel to you? How did your life change as a result of believing the message? Spend some time recalling the story, and giving thanks to God.