This week I'm preaching Eph. 1:1-14. What a glorious text filled with staggering promises and blessings of God in and through His Son!
Well, I'm not reading alone. I'm listening to some "friends" as well. Joining me are John Calvin, Charles Hodge, D. Martin Lloyd-Jones and John Stott. Here's a bit of what they've had to say....
Charles Hodge on v. 4 and the phrase "before the creation of the world":
There seems to be two things intended by this reference to the eternity of the divine purpose. One is to represent God as doing everything in time according to a preconceived plan, or as working all things according to his own will. From eternity, the whole scheme of redemption, with all its details and in all its results, lay matured in the divine mind. Hence everything is certain. there is no possibility either of failure or of any change of purpose. The eternity of God's purpose is, therefore, a strong ground of confidence and comfort. The grace was given to us before we existed, before the world began, and, of course, before we had done any good or evil. It was, therefore, not for works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us. If the one aspect of the truth that God chose us before the foundation of the world helps produce confidence, the other aspect helps produce humility.
John Stott had a thought he wished to share regarding verses 5-8:
God destined us in love to be his sons. This expression seems to be the key to our understanding of the present consequences of our election. Election is with a view to adoption. Indeed, when people ask us the speculative question why God went ahead with the creation when he knew that it would be followed by the fall, one answer we can tentatively give is that he destined us for a higher dignity then even creation would bestow on us. He intended to 'adopt' us, to make us the sons and daughters of his family.
On verses 9-10, Stott offered this concluding reflection:
At this point it may be wise to pause a moment and consider how much all of us need to develop Paul's broad perspective. Let me remind you that he was a prisoner in Rome. Not indeed in a cell or dungeon, but still under house arrest and handcuffed to a Roman soldier. Yet, though his wrist was chained and his body was confined, his heart and mind inhabited eternity. He peered back 'before the foundation of the world' (verse 4) and on to 'the fullness of time' (verse 10), and grasped hold of what 'we have' now (verse 7) and ought to 'be' now (verse 4) in the light of those two eternities. As for us, how blinkeered is our vision in comparison with his, how small is our mind, how narrow are our horizons! Easily and naturally we slip into a preoccupation wiht our own petty little affairs. But we need to see time in the light of eternity, and our present privileges and obligations in the light ouf our p ast election and future perfection, Then, if we shared the apostle's perspective, we would also share his praise. For doctrine leads to doxology as well as to duty. Life would become worship, and we would bless God constantly for having blessed us so richly in Christ.
This roused Lloyd-Jones, who opined on v. 3:
Here, clearly, we are face to face with a very important New Testament principle. Let me state it quite categorically; the Christian faith is frankly and openly other-worldly. I state the matter boldly because I know that this principle is not popular today when the emphasis is on the 'here and now.' This accounts for the present apostasy in teh Church as well as for the so-called social gospel that was preached so much in the early part of this centery (20th) and toward the end of the last century (19th). The teaching was the Christianity is something that puts social conditions right, and deals with political problems in the 'here and now.' The modern man, we were told, is not interested in an other-worldly view. But whether we like it or not, the fact is that the blessings we enjoy in Christ are 'in heavenly places.'
The Swiss theologian, John Calvin couldn't help but join the discussion on vv. 7-10:
Amen, amen, and amen!
...as often as the gospel is preached, so often is God's grace poured out upon us. If we acknowledge his goodness and generosity which he causes us to discern by his watering of the eath that it should yield us fruits for the nourishment of our bodies, much more may we understand that when God sends us the word of salvation, he not only waters us for the health of our souls, but also causes us to drink so deeply that we can be completely satisfied. For St. Paul does not think it enough to say that, being unfruitful, we have some refreshment by the gospel but he says that it is as if God should pour down abundance of water upon us, and that we might be so watered and refreshed with it that we might thereby gather sustenance and vigour to endure to the end. And so you see how much we ought to value God's goodness when he vouchsafes to draw us to himself by means of his gospel, and that also by this means we should entere into possession of the benefits purchased for us by our Lord Jesus Chrsit, as he offers them to us by his Word and will have us also receive them by faith.
Now, for a larger exposition of the matter, he immediately adds that God's so doing is 'because he has manifested the secret of his will to us, even according to his good pleasure which he purposed before in himself.' Here is another thing which ought to amplify the worth of the gospel even more, namely, that in it we have the secrets that were hidden previously in God. And it is not here only that St. Paul speaks after this manner, but we shall see an even fuller treatment of it in the second chapter. And not only in this Epistle, but also everywhere else, he shows how we ought to be, as it were, ravished when the gospel is preached, because God there opens the things that were incomprehensible to all men before, and which no man would ever have believed or conceived. For he seemed to have chosen only the line of Abraham in such a way as if he had rejected all the rest of the world. Therefore it was a wonderful thing when he poured out his grace upon all men in common. Yet we know tha twhen Jesus Christ came into the world these very same people were wholly degenerate, and God's doctrine was so corrupted that there was nothing but superstition among the Jews. It seemed then that all was past hope of recovery when suddenly, beyond the expectation of all men, salvation was offered to all nations. Behold, Christ who had before been hidden in deep obscurity, and even in such deep obscurity that there was no hope that he should ever come out of it, rose up as the sun of righteousness to give light to the world [Mal. 4:2].