Unveiling the Timeless Wisdom of Ephesians: A Reflection Two Centuries On

Ephesians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:”


When a 21st-century Christian reads and interprets the Bible, how does that compare to, let’s say, a 19th-century Bible scholar?

We regularly hear that certain historical papers should be updated. Everything from the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights to the Bible is out of date and should be revised for our modern society. But, is the rationale simply because time has passed? Or, has it to do with what was meant at that time and is understood differently now?

I thought it would be interesting to compare how a Bible scholar interpreted a chapter of the Bible two hundred years ago to how that chapter is understood now. Is it out of date? Does the meaning change because of the passage of time? Is the application somehow different? Or, is it the same?


Charles Spurgeon, was an English preacher and writer who lived from 1834 – 1892 and was widely regarded as one of the most significant figures in Christian history. At 15, he became a member of a local congregation and started giving impromptu sermons. Recognizing his potential, he was soon appointed as a pastor at the Waterbeach Baptist Chapel. However, his most significant contribution came when he was called to pastor the New Park Street Chapel in London, which later became the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Throughout his career, Spurgeon’s powerful and eloquent preaching style attracted massive crowds, often surpassing the 5,000-seat capacity of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. His sermons were known for their biblical depth, practicality, and ability to touch the hearts of his listeners. His genuine love for people and desire for their salvation led him to tirelessly preach the message of Jesus Christ. Despite numerous personal and health challenges, Spurgeon remained steadfast in his faith. His impact on Christianity goes beyond his time. His preaching and writings continue to inspire and shape generations of believers worldwide. His unwavering commitment to the truth of the gospel and his deep compassion for humanity earned him the title “The Prince of Preachers.”

In this post, I refer to two of Spurgeon’s writings, the first, a Commentary on Ephesians, is essentially a compilation from his sermon notes, and the second, Morning & Evening, is a daily devotional to which seven of the entries are dedicated to the first chapter of Ephesians. I use “Note:” below to signify my comments.


We begin…

1. Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.

He was not made an Apostle by man, neither did he take the office upon himself, but he was made an Apostle by the will of God.

The saints in Ephesus, the saints where they cried, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians,” had to bear an earnest witness against idolatry. And, dear Friends, today saints in London will not have a very easy time of it if they are faithful to their Lord, for there is much to protest against in this evil generation! But as there were holy ones in Ephesus, God grant that there may be many such in London! (from Commentary on Ephesians by Charles Spurgeon)

Note: Paul was not looking for salvation, or a position as an Apostle, it found him because of God’s sovereign will. The parable of the hidden treasure in Matthew 13:44 shows that sometimes salvation finds us. This is as opposed to Matthew 13:45-46, the parable of costly pearls, where it shows that others seek diligently for salvation.

Around 96, John pens Revelation where he quotes Christ in His letter to Ephesus stating in Revelation 2:4 “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Certainly, this is no different than today, where we live in an evil generation with faltering churches, however, there are still those who remain faithful to Christ Jesus.


2. Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul would have us peaceful, restful, and quiet. That peace must be based upon Divine grace—he does not pray that we may have peace apart from grace, but, “Grace be to you, and peace.” This is a benediction for you as well as for the saints at Ephesus! It is for all “the faithful in Christ Jesus.” May you all have grace without measure and may you all have “the peace of God, which passes all understanding,” to “keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”! Grace and peace are both to be had by believing in Jesus. (Commentary)


3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.

It is right that we should bless God as He has so richly blessed us. Blessed be the Heavenly Father who has so abundantly blessed His children. How has He blessed us? “With all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” (Commentary)

“All the goodness of the past, the present, and the future, Christ bestows upon His people…the Lord Jesus was His father’s first elect, and in His election He gave us an interest, for we were chosen in Him from the before the foundation of the world.” (from the Devotional, Day & Evening by Charles Spurgeon)


4. According as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world. That we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.

The high mystery of Election is taught in the Word of God, but some are afraid to speak of it. Not so our Apostle! He brings it out very clearly and distinctly, and so should we, only taking care to keep it in the proportion of other Doctrines. That is the commencement of all the blessings, God’s electing love. This is the Fountain from which the Living Waters flow. There would have been no stream of blessing to us at all if it had not been for this first primeval choice of us by God, even as Jesus said to His disciples, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.”

Here is the blessing of sanctification—we are chosen that we may be made holy. To what nobler end could we have been elected? Is not this the very highest of our heart’s desires—“that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”? (Commentary)

Note: See also 2 Timothy 1:9 and 1 Peter 1:20 – chosen before the foundation of the world.

God’s sovereign choice is without merit or works on our part. This is verified in 2 Timothy 1:9 which states, “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”


5. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.

You hear much about the free will of man. Hear a little about the free will of God! You would think, from the talk of some, that God was man’s debtor and must do according to the will of man. But it is not so. He is a Sovereign and gives His grace to whom He chooses, and He would have us know that it is according to the good pleasure of His will. (Commentary)

Note: A number of verses make clear that salvation is not initiated by the will of man. For example, Romans 9:16 states, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy.” Many however resist this truth demanding that they are responsible for their own salvation and for the salvation of others through their evangelistic efforts.

Adoption means “placed into the position of sons.”


6. To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has made us accepted in the Beloved.

Are there four words in any language which contain choicer meaning than these, “Accepted in the Beloved”? Oh, if you can say that, if you can feel it to be true, you are among the happiest of men and women! “Accepted in the Beloved.” You can never be accepted apart from Christ, the Father’s best Beloved. But there is merit enough in Him to overflow and cover all our sins, and we are accepted in the Beloved. Oh, the joy of being Beloved, adopted, and accepted by God the Father because of His beloved Son! (Commentary)

Spurgeon refers to this as “a state of privilege!” (Devotional)


Note: “Beloved” in Greek conveys the idea of someone who is loved, cherished, or highly esteemed by another, and is used in scripture not only of Christ but of all believers.


7. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.

Redemption from destruction, the forgiveness of our sins—we have all this through “the riches of His grace.” Notice how the Apostle keeps on insisting that we have everything in Christ. He says, times out of number, “in Him,” “in Christ.” We have redemption. We are free. We are no longer under bonds. What is the price? “Through His blood.” What is the result? “Forgiveness of sins.” What is the measure of our liberty? “According to the riches of His grace.” (Commentary)

“I bow before the throne which absolves me, I clasp the cross which delivers me, I serve henceforth all my days the Incarnate God, through whom I am this night a pardoned soul.” (Devotional)


8. Wherein He has abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.

Not drowning us with floods of His grace, but handing it out to us as we are able to take it. The riches of His grace we have, but He uses wisdom and prudence, teaching us little by little as we are able to bear it, and raising us up by degrees from one stage of grace to another, according to our poor frames can endure the joy! (Commentary)


9. 10. Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He has purposed in Himself: That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him.

There are things in Christ in Heaven. There are things in Christ on earth. But all the things in Christ shall be gathered together. All the redeemed shall come as one great host to bow before the Throne of the Infinite Majesty. (Commentary)

Note: The phrase “having made known” refers to God’s wisdom in verse 8 which is available to all believers.


11. In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.

“When Jesus gave Himself for us, He gave us all the rights and provileges which went with Himself…He has no heritage apart from us.

“At the last it shall be clearly seen that in every chosen vessel of mercy, Jehovah did as He willed with His own; and that in every part of the work of grace He accomplished His purpose, and glorified His own name.” (Devotional)


Note: This is one of the key statements of God’s sovereignty in the Bible.


12. So that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

The first saints led the way in the front of the army, and they are to the praise of God’s Glory to this day. We thank God for the Apostles and martyrs who went before us. We will follow them as they followed Christ. (Devotional)


13. In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of our salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.

After faith, the Holy Spirit is given to dwell in the soul. That is the seal. It is not that the Holy Spirit brings a seal with Him. He is the Seal. Where He dwells, He is the seal of God’s love to that man. (Commentary)


14. Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.

The Holy Spirit is first, the seal, and next, the earnest. We all know what an earnest is. It is different from a pledge. A pledge is given and then it is taken back again when the stipulation is carried out. But an earnest is part of what is to be ultimately received. The man who receives an earnest of his wage gets a few shillings, say, on Thursday, instead of taking all on Saturday. He never returns that. It is a part of his wages. And so the Holy Spirit is a part of him. When we have got Him, we have got Christ. (Commentary)

The realization that we have in Christ’s preciousness is, in this life, imperfect at best. As an old writer says, Tis but a taste! (Devotional)


15, 16. Therefore I, also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:

Is that the way that we pray? Do we make mention of people in our prayers? It is well to do so! It is a good plan to keep a list of persons for whom we ought to pray and to put it before us when we draw near to God, and go over the names…God teach us how to pray! (Commentary)

Note: We can always pray for restored health or financial well-being or recovery from trials, the most important issue, however, is to pray for salvation.


17-21 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

You see he gave thanks to God for their faith and for their love. But there are three Divine sisters that must never be separated—faith, hope, and love, and so the Apostle prays, “that you may know what is the hope of His calling.”

See how high Christ is raised! The same power that brought Christ from the dead and set Him on high, works in the salvation of every believer! Nothing less than Omnipotence can save a soul—and Omnipotence at its very best in the glorification of Christ is none too great for the salvation of a sinner! (Commentary)

In the resurrection of Christ, as in our salvation, there was put forth nothing short of a divine power. What shall we say of those who think that conversion is wrought by the free will of man, and is due to his own betterness of disposition? When we shall see the dead rise from the grave by their own power, then may we expect to see ungodly sinners of their own free will turning to Christ…all quickening power proceeds from the Holy Spirit, this power was irresistible. (Devotional)


Note: In the OT, the standard of God’s power is often referred to as deliverance from Egypt, especially the crossing of the Red Sea. Here, a much greater standard of power is mentioned; the power of God that raised Christ from the dead – available to all believers.


22, 23. And has put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that fills all-in-all.

How Paul glows as he writes on this great theme! He waxes warm, and rises to an enthusiasm of eloquence. We could not stop to explain his words; which were to spoil their mystic poetry. Oh, to have a heart that can glorify Christ as Paul did! Truly, if we know ourselves to be one with Christ, and know the privileges which come to us through that blessed gate, we may indeed extol him with all our heart and soul. (Commentary)


In this short review of the first chapter of Ephesians, we see no difference with what is understood today. In fact, some positions are bolder; such as election and the sovereignty of God. Thank God that His word is everlasting.

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