When I was a child, we did not have a lot of money. We had enough, because my parents sacrificed and limited spending. As a child, I thought it would be great if a rich estranged relative came to me and said, "I am leaving everything to you when I die. You will never have any money issues. As a mark of this coming windfall, here is a token of promise that you can have until the time comes." That thought would come and go over periods of daydreaming. It never happened.
Paul, in this part of the letter, moves from promised inheritance to praise for God's glory. The course he sets between these two ideas assures the Ephesians and modern believers of an eternity of hope and recognition of God's good works for us. We live in a world that is devoid of recognition of God's promises or glory. God knew this world would not provide reminders for our soul, so He gave us the Holy Spirit to remind us of the promises in eternity.
When looking at this passage, I see four distinct colors (using the Lloyd-Jones illustration) that make this painting. The first color, is our inheritance "in Him." The second is our redemption/salvation. The third color is the pledge of the Holy Spirit as a marker for our inheritance. Finally, these things should lead us to "praise His glory," the last color. Each of these colors come together to create our third work of art in the Ephesians gallery.
I am referring to colors moving through this text simply to give illustration as to how some things occur in the Bible. The ideas, like salvation and praise, occur on almost every page of the Scripture. Sometimes like colors that highlight and build visual presence they exist in the picture without being a primary color. So I use this metaphor to think through these theological ideas. In this case the "colors" are formed by words, "in Him," "salvation," "pledge," and "praise." The painting's overarching theme is promised inheritance - the inheritance we receive for being part of the blood-bought family of God.
Paul frequently talks about being "in Him" in this first chapter. He wants Ephesian Christians to know that they are not alone and that they are actually part of Christ. They are in or protected by Christ. Believers exist with the Creator of the universe as part of His family. They are in Christ. When God sees us, He sees us in Christ. Paul talks about being clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27). We wear Christ because we are in Him.
Let us look deeper at the idea of "in Him." Paul continues the exaltation of Christ. He continues to point the Ephesians toward the One in whom they have all the promises. He connects our inheritance with our being predestined. These choices were made entirely through God's counsel. There is no mistake in regard to who has been selected, nor is there any questions about who has done the selecting. God took counsel from Himself and chose who would receive the inheritance (Ephesians 1:11-12).
The end result of this selection, according to the text, is that "we" should be worshiping God. Our understanding of our hope in Christ relates to being adopted into His family. We have to be grateful for what He has done to provide, not just for our forgiveness and life now, but also for our eternal future. This future is sealed with His very presence; His Holy Spirit in us as we are in Christ. His counsel informed His choosing us. This act of God imparts spiritual blessings, redemption, hope, inheritance, and a glorious future on us.
Peter will also echo this truth as he writes, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5, NASU). This inheritance is eternal in its nature. We can rely on enjoying this "living hope" eternally.
Paul moves on to describe the salvation received through Christ. I find great encouragement that some things do not change. Even though these people had an apostle (Paul) share the gospel with them, they still needed to be reminded of what happened. Paul is giving them a memory boost, so they can be reaffirmed in their walk with Christ. I also need continual reminders about the foundational doctrines of faith and the impact those doctrines have on my future. Reminding me of these foundational things provides me with encouragement and hope for now and the future.
Salvation from eternity past has a view to Christ's coming in the future and our salvation in a still further future and our ultimate redemption at the end of time followed by our gaining the inheritance promised by God in eternity. The guarantor of this transaction is the Holy Spirit who seals the believer until final redemption.
With this section's recounting of salvation, Paul reminds them of what has happened in their conversion to Christ. He lays out three things that occurred to the Ephesians. First, they listened to "the message of truth, the gospel." Primary to any conversion to Christ is listening to the message. The impact of the message is changed hearts because the Word of God driven by the Spirit of God. As Hodge states in his commentary, "As it was by hearing this gospel the Gentiles in the days of the apostle were brought to be partakers of the inheritance of God, so it is by the same means men are to be saved now and in all coming ages until the consummation. It is by the word of truth, and not truth in general, but by that truth which constitutes the glad news of salvation" (Hodge, Charles. Commentary on Ephesians. 2013, Kindle Edition). The truth contained in the gospel saves those who hear and believe, even today.
Second, the Ephesians believed. They heard the message that would change their lives and they believed it. The result of their belief; they entrusted their life and future to the power of God. They were so convinced by the message, they had confidence that they were secured by God through Christ. This belief comes from a generating of the Spirit deep within the heart of a person. The ability to maintain this kind of belief comes from God alone.
Third, was the act of God by which that future was sealed by the Holy Spirit of God. He moves in the lives of people in such a way that they are changed and He sealed that change by His Spirit. The act that was determined from eternity past came to an apex in eternity present, with a view toward eternity future, when the redemption will finally be realized. Paul calls Him the "Holy Spirit of promise." The promise is a securing of the soul until the final judgment, when the final part of redemption will be applied to our lives.
These things make a difference in our lives. We are not responsible for maintaining our salvation. We are responsible to "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord" (Col 1:10), which is simply the outgrowth of lives already submitted to Christ. We also need to understand that the Ephesians heard, because a message was proclaimed. However this does not mean we need to all be street preachers. Paul was very deliberate in where and when he shared the gospel. It was not with crowds meandering along, it was in places where conversations happened or religious things were discussed. We need to be ready for giving an answer when we have or can create the opportunity.
We now come to the Holy Spirit, who is the giver of power, teaching, declaration, and comfort, just to list a few things. Here we see Him acting as the agent of security. He is the One who holds a person in Christ. He is the One who guards the life in Christ. The Spirit is in the believer's life as a promise of what is to come in their final redemption.
The Spirit is given as a pledge, a bond held eternally for redemption that has been started in the past, activated in the present, and will be completed in the future. The Spirit's presence in our lives makes certain that we will be secure forever. This is why Paul writes here that He is the Holy Spirit of promise, God's bond through Christ for your salvation and inheritance!
The last "color" is praise, which should be part of who we are every day. We should think so much of Christ that the desire to exalt Him is pervasive at every part of our being. We are doxology to the Godhead. As the Father, Son, and Spirit move in our salvation, we should move toward worship. Our view should be ever of the redemption that was purchased for us, to the glory of God. As John Calvin wrote, "The frequent mention of the glory of God ought not to be regarded as superfluous, for what is infinite cannot be too strongly expressed. This is particularly true in commendations of the Divine mercy, for which every godly person will always feel himself unable to find adequate language" (Ephesians Commentary, 210-see the resource post for source information). Calvin hits it on the head about the 'frequent mention," of the glory of God. We should be discussing it with our family and friends. Giving God glory should happen in everyday conversations. I sometimes catch myself thinking that everyone around me knows how great God is, but they actually don't have any idea. Even Christians tend to forget the glory of God. If I am honest, I forget as well. Paul knew that we must have constant reminders and this need for reminding is a reason we live in fellowship with other believers. This is why he reminds the believing Ephesians that the God they serve is glorious.
It is important to recognize that God saved us for two reasons: because He loves us and He wants to bring glory to His name. In verse 12, the words "should be..." are instructive. He is reminding believers to praise God for their salvation! Praise is what they "should be" doing.
Remember as you finish reading this post, we are "in Him," we are redeemed, we are sealed, and we should respond with praise. Being in Christ means that God has placed us in the fortress of Christ. He has sealed us into His protection and promise until all is complete (1.8-10). We should live as those who are protected and are promised the inheritance in Christ. We must take seriously our need to declare the glory of God. The benefits of this declaration aid us in growing in our walk with God. Declaring helps our brothers and sisters in Christ be encouraged to do the same.
Remember the words of Martin Luther's hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God.
A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.