“And you also were included in Christ after listening to the message of truth, the gospel, the Good News, the glad tidings and the Evangel of your salvation and saving health. Having also believed in the Messiah, you were afterwards marked in him with a seal, receiving a sign that you were identified and owned by Christ, – that long ago promised Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of holiness.” (Ephesians 1:13 My own translation – paraphrase cum expanded interpretation)
In the opening greeting Paul wishes grace and peace on the saints “in Christ” and “at Ephesus;” yet he fails to explain how the recipients became saints. In verse three he exults in the fact that God has blessed “us” with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ. So whatever a saint is they have become saints by the same means as Paul did, for he identifies himself as one of the saints, i.e. he states that God has “blessed us” not “blessed you.” So we have what is to us in a modern bible three verses written, and we know that whoever the saints are, and whatever they have done, or achieved in becoming a saint they have grasped all the blessings heaven can afford.
The next line (verse 4) is joyful simply because the saints have been chosen by God Almighty to be holy and blameless in God’s presence. Every statement it seems is a statement of blessing that is incredible in it’s magnitude and depth. But by verse 4 we still are not told how to become one of these saints that inherits this list of promised blessings.
Verse 5 tells us that every saint “in Christ,” according to God’s pleasure in choosing them, has been predestined to be an adopted son of God through Jesus Christ. Yet the apostle still has not written what we need to do to enter into these mammoth statements of God’s lavish love, heaped on these saints that are “in Christ” and “at Ephesus.” Verse 6 tells us what we instinctively understood from verses 3 to 5 that all this lavish outpouring of God’s goodness on these saints brings great praise to God and His glorious grace that has been freely given in Christ. We know it has been given, and that it has been given through the person and work of Christ, but not one single nuance is given to us explaining how anybody who reads this letter can also enter into this fellowship and family of God and His people.
He continues to explain the benefits of being “in Christ” as if the “how to partake” issue is not even on his agenda. Verse 7 continues that we “have” redemption through Christ’s blood, which is defined as the “forgiveness of sins,” and that it is all done through the riches of God’s grace. By the end of verse seven he has the readers mouth watering. One would be foolish not to want these blessings that he is talking about in the letter full of revelation concerning the blessings and realities of the cosmos that is to us invisible.
He has done these things with infinite forethought and planning, and in prudence and wisdom has effected this glorious plan of eternal blessing in His own pleasure and joyful will (verse 8). Verse 9 tells us that God the Father has happily made known to us the mystery of his plan and purpose for all of humanity that is “in Christ.” In fact God’s entire purpose is wrapped up in Christ. However, we have poured over the first nine verse and the author has still not told us what it is that we are supposed to do to take hold of these blessings that seem to be rolling off Paul’s tongue.
The apostle is establishing the fact that “saints” have these blessings as in personal ownership. It is a position, a status of being blessed. It is a platform that all saints stand on. It is not a plan for a few. It is quite plain that whoever the Saints are, and whatever they have done to qualify them as Saints, these blessings are theirs simply because they have been made saints. “But Paul!,” I ask, “I am salivating at the thought of this incredible concept of a heavenly outpouring of love. I want it! Tell me what I must do to own it in the same way as these “Saints in Christ who at at Ephesus.”
Even in verse 10 he continues. It is as if he has closed his eyes and has received a vision. Saul of Tarsus, now Paul of Christ, explains how all these tangible blessings poured out on the Saints from the invisible world where Christ is will lead, and are leading to the summation of the entire universe when it comes to consummation in Christ. Things on the earth, under the earth, things seen and unseen will all come together in glorious unified submission to Jesus Christ.
He still has not finished his description of what the “saints” have entered into. Verse 11 referring to himself and the Saints as part of the same group, he declares that in Christ “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.”
These people have, to put it bluntly, inherited God Himself. The person of Jesus Christ and all He is and has done, every blessing and every strain of power and authority is theirs. But still the reader is left with their tongue hanging out. “How do I also gain this inheritance?” is the cry of the first time reader. It is as if the apostle is tantalising the reader hanging before their nostrils the sweetest smelling gift ever conceived. He offers to the spiritual taste buds of his readers the most nourishing and delicious flavour of truth ever seen by man. The texture of the proffered gift is so lovely to the touch it almost has us in anguish waiting for the “How to…” of this status he refers to as “sainthood.”
Is that it? So we are to put our hope in Christ? But how do we initiate the dynamics of this future hope – for the word “hope” surely suggests a future expectation.
The hope and expectation Paul refers to must be the fulfilment and climax of all these things that he has just explained that every saint of God owns.
And then we arrive at verse 13. Oh how glorious is the answer to our long awaited question.
The only criteria here stated is that we listen to the message, believe the message he is telling us, and then being sealed by receiving the Holy Spirit as promised long ago by Joel. How much more simpler could the means to “sainthood” be achieved.
The word Gospel, or Evangel literally means “Good News.” I am not wanting to insult the intelligence of my readers when I say that ”News” is something that has happened – i.e. something that has historically taken place and is relevant to this current moment. The news is that Christ has paid the debt of man’s sin. There is nothing more for God to do in relationship to saving mankind. It is done! One of Christ’s dying cries was “Tetelestai!” In plain English the word means: “Finished! Complete!” The gospel message means that the work on God’s part is complete and all we need to do is pro-actively believe and receive. Once a person believes and receives the fullness of the message, they are the recipients of the mind boggling list of blessings that we read of from Ephesians 1:3 through to 1:12.
The message of truth is the word of our redemption. The word used for “redemption” in the Greek (Apolutrosis) literally means the liberation procured by payment of a ransom. It also refers to a “releasing effect” (Thayer). It is used ten times throughout the New Testament (Luke 21:28. Romans 3:24 & 8:23, 1 Corinthians 1:30. Ephesians 1:7. 1:14. & 4:30. Colossians 1:14. Hebrews 9:15 & 11:35.).
It is made totally clear from Matthew 20:28 as well as Mark 10:45 that the price paid for our redemption was the life of Jesus Christ, referred to in Colossians 1:14 as the blood of Christ. Hebrews 9:14 tells us how this redemption impacts eternity and is intended to purify the believer from all iniquity (1 Timothy 2:14) and bring us to a place where we serve completely the living God.
The message cannot be believed until it has been heard. And Paul says that people cannot hear it properly unless it is passed on by someone that God has sent in order to reap the harvest. After having heard and believed the message, the believer is sealed by the Holy Spirit. Non Pentecostal or Charismatic Christians tend to believe that the “sealing” of the Holy Spirit is the process of being born again by the Spirit of God. My Pentecostal teaching has taught me to believe from my heart that because the text says that “after you believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” it cannot possibly be referring to the conversion experience of new birth. Being born of the Spirit cannot, for that reason refer to entering the kingdom, but refers to something that takes place after conversion while one has already become a believer. Evangelicals that do not believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit have no concept of how to explain this phrase and so they teach and preach that it is referring to conversion. In holding cessationists beliefs (i.e. that tongues and the baptism of the Holy Spirit have ceased) they are forced to have to hold to that conclusion.
It is my conviction that this statement by Paul refers to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Baptism in the Spirit was the normal expectation after people had been converted to Christ. The word translated “sealed” (Sphragizo) means “to stamp” with a signet punch or ring, or some kind of personal mark. The apostle is obviously referring to the marking of a person’s spirit with the Holy Spirit baptism.
The being clothed upon by the Spirit of God was the outward proof that established not only the recipients faith, but facilitated the confidence that people were truly converted. The baptism was an outward show of the ownership by Christ. The receiving of the Holy Spirit in this manner was a phenomena promised long ago in the scriptures. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of the promise, because he is often promised in the Old Testament as in Isaiah 32:15. Ezekiel 36:27 and Joel 3:1.
One cannot be baptised in the Spirit unless one is already born again. The time between conversion and Holy Spirit baptism could be some kind of nano second, months or years later. Sadly some born again Christians die without even believing that there is such a divine promise as the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This writer is convinced that, even though millions are converted and make the Pentecostal experience a point of controversy, proper New Testament normalcy cannot be entered into outside of being immersed in the Spirit.