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by John MacArthur

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These first four study guides in a 16-volume set from noted Bible scholar John MacArthur take readers on a journey through biblical texts to discover what lies beneath the surface, focusing on meaning and context, and then reflecting on the explored passage or concept. With probing questions that guide the reader toward application, as well as ample space for


These first four study guides in a 16-volume set from noted Bible scholar John MacArthur take readers on a journey through biblical texts to discover what lies beneath the surface, focusing on meaning and context, and then reflecting on the explored passage or concept. With probing questions that guide the reader toward application, as well as ample space for journaling, The MacArthur Bible Studies are an invaluable tool for Bible students of all ages.

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Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
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MacArthur Bible Studies Series
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The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Ephesians

By John MacArthur

Moody Press

Copyright © 1986 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8024-2358-0


The Salutation

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1:1-2)

In his salutation, Paul presents the dual source of his apostolic authority, a dual description of believers, a dual blessing for believers, and the dual source of those blessings.

The Dual Source of Authority

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, (1:1a)

Paul wrote with the authority of an apostle. Apostolos means "sent one" and in the New Testament is used as an official title of the men God uniquely chose to be the foundation layers of the church and the receivers, teachers, and writers of His final revelation—the New Testament. The apostolic duties were to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17), teach and pray (Acts 6:4), work miracles (2 Cor. 12:12), build up other leaders of the church (Acts 14:23), and write the Word of God (Eph. 1:1; etc.).

Besides the original twelve and Matthias (Acts 1:26), who replaced Judas, Paul was the only other apostle, "as it were ... one untimely born" (1 Cor. 15:8). Yet he was not inferior to the other apostles, having met all the requirements for that office (1 Cor. 9:1).

Paul's credentials were not his academic training or his rabbinical leadership but his being an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. Paul did not teach and write by his own authority but by the dual yet totally unified authority of the Son (Christ Jesus) and of the Father (God). In stating that truth Paul was not boasting of personal merit or elevating himself above other believers. He well remembered that he had been a blasphemer, a violent persecutor of the church, and an unworthy and ignorant unbeliever; and he still considered himself the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:13, 15). Like every Christian, he was first of all "a bond-servant of Christ Jesus" his Lord (Rom. 1:1). By mentioning his apostleship, Paul simply established his undeserved but divinely-bestowed authority to speak in God's behalf—which he states at the beginning of each of his epistles except Philippians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

The Dual Designation of Believers

to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: (1:1b)

From God's side believers are those whom He has made holy, which is the meaning of saints. From man's side believers are those who are faithful, those who have trusted in Christ Jesusas their Lord and Savior.

Every Christian is a saint, because every Christian has been set apart and made holy through the perfect righteousness of Christ that has been placed to his account (Rom. 3:21-22; 1 Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:9; etc.). When a person acts in faith to receive Christ, God acts in grace to give that person Christ's own righteousness. It is Christ's perfect righteousness—not a person's own character or accomplishments, no matter how great they may seem in men's eyes—that establishes every believer as one of God's saints through saving faith.

The Dual Blessings of Believers

Grace to you and peace(1:2a)

This was a common greeting among Christians in the early church. Charis (grace) is God's great kindness toward those who are undeserving of His favor but who have placed their faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. To greet a Christian brother or sister in this way is much more than a wish for their general well-being. It is also an acknowledgment of the divine grace in which we stand and which has made us mutual members of Christ's Body and of God's divine family.

Grace is the fountain of which peace (eirene) is the stream. Because we have grace from God we have peace with God and the peace o/God, "which surpasses all comprehension" (Phil. 4:7). Peace is the equivalent of the Hebrew shalôm, which, in its highest connotation, signifies spiritual prosperity and completeness.

The Dual Source of Blessing

from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1:2b)

The dual source of blessing is the same as the dual source of authority—God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Those are not separate and distinct sources but two manifestations of the same Source, as indicated by the connective kai (and), which can indicate equivalence, and here indicates that the Lord Jesus Christ is deity just like God our Father.

Paul's message throughout this epistle is that believers might understand and experience more fully all of the blessings granted by their heavenly Father and His Son and their Savior, Jesus Christ.


The Body Formed in Eternity Past

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace. (l:3-6a)

In the Greek, verses 3-14 comprise one sentence and encompass the past, present, and future of God's eternal purpose for the church. It is Paul's outline of God's master plan for salvation. In 3-6a we are shown the past aspect, election; in 6b-ll we are shown the present aspect, redemption; and in 12-14 we are shown the future aspect, inheritance. Within God's master plan of salvation is every believer who has or will ever trust in God and be saved. As it is sometimes expressed, history is simply the outworking of "His story," which has already been planned and prewritten in eternity.

This passage can also be divided into three sections, each of which focuses on a different Person of the Trinity. Verses 3-6a center on the Father, verses 6b-12 center on the Son, and verses 13-14 center on the Holy Spirit. Paul takes us to the very throne room of the Godhead to show the greatness and the vastness of the blessings and treasures that belong to those who are in Jesus Christ.

People today are greatly concerned about identity, life purpose, self-worth, and self-acceptance. Consequently there is a plethora of books, articles, seminars, and schemes that attempt to fulfill those longings. But because God and His Word are not considered in most such attempts, the only source for finding the truth is eliminated, and men inevitably are led back to themselves for the answers. In spite of many variations and sometimes complex formulas, the end result is to tell men they are really all right after all and that what identity, worth, and meaning they find in life they must find in and for themselves.

We are told to think of ourselves first and are shown how to get on top by using and manipulating others, by intimidating before being intimidated. We are told how to be successful and how to be number one. We are counseled to find meaning in the heritage of our family and ethnic roots, with the expectation that finding out where we came from will help explain where we are and perhaps where we are headed. But such approaches give only a psychological gloss that helps cover, but does not help remove, the underlying problem of meaning in life.

Others set about trying to establish their worth by works righteousness, some even becoming heavily involved in church work and other Christian activities. They look for praise and commendation, and before long they are entrapped in the same kind of hypocritical religious games that characterized the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day. As their self-satisfaction grows their spiritual lives shrivel, because such effort feeds the flesh and cripples the soul.

But every human effort at self-improvement or self-satisfaction—no matter what its religious covering may be—is subject to the law of diminishing returns. Genuine and lasting satisfaction is never achieved, and increased achievement only brings increased desire. More importantly, the guilt and fear that cause the dissatisfaction are suppressed but not alleviated. The longer such superficial games are played, the deeper become the depression, anxiety, and feelings of guilt.

The only way a person can achieve a true sense of self-worth, meaning, and significance is to have a right relationship to his Creator. A person without Christ has no spiritual value, no standing before God, no purpose or meaning in the world. He is like "chaff which the wind drives away" (Ps. 1:4).

A Christian, however, is a child of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. If he has no comprehension of those blessings he needs to understand the position he already has in his Savior. To give such Christians the right understanding of their position and possessions is the foundational thrust of Paul's Ephesian letter.

If we belong to Christ, Paul says, we can be sure that God put our name down as part of His church even before the world began. Out of grace and in divine sovereignty, He chose each one of us to belong to Him. It was not because we were more worthy than anyone else or more deserving or meritorious—but simply because God willed to choose us.

Though this is an incomprehensible truth to finite thinking, it is one of the most repeated in Scripture. The record of God's redemptive history is that of His reaching down and drawing to Himself those whom He has chosen to save. In these opening verses of Ephesians Paul gives us a glimpse of eternity past. He lets us eavesdrop as God planned to save us—not only long before we were born but long before the earth was born.

The Aspects of Blessing

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (1:3)

Paul here presents six aspects of the divine blessing he is about to unfold: the blessed One, God; the Blesser, also God; the blessed ones, believers; the blessings, all things spiritual; the blessing location, the heavenly places; and the blessing Agent, Jesus Christ.


Such gracious truth is introduced appropriately by praise to the One who has made such provision: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. From eulogeo (blessed) we get eulogy, a message of praise and commendation, the declaration of a person's goodness. Because no one is truly good but God (Matt. 19:17), our supreme eulogy, our supreme praise, is for Him alone.

Goodness is God's nature. God the Fathernot only does good things, He is good in a way and to a degree that no human being except His own incarnate Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, can be. Consequently from Genesis to Revelation, godly men, recognizing the surpassing and humanly unattainable goodness of God, have proclaimed blessing upon Him. Melchizedek declared, "Blessed be God Most High" (Gen. 14:20). In the last days, "every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them" will be "heard saying, 'To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever'" (Rev. 5:13).

Nothing is more appropriate for God's people than to bless Him for His great goodness. In all things—whether pain, struggle, trials, frustration, opposition, or adversity—we are to praise God, because He is good in the midst of it all. For that we praise and bless Him.


Consistent with His perfection and praiseworthiness, the One who is to be supremely blessed for His goodness is Himself the supreme Blesser who bestows goodness. It is He who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. "Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift," James reminds us, "is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17). Paul assures us "that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). God blesses because He is the source of all blessing, of every good thing. Goodness can only come from God because there is no source of goodness outside of God.


The uswhom God has blessed refers to believers, "the saints ... in Christ Jesus" Paul addresses in verse 1. In His wonderful grace, marvelous providence, and sovereign plan God has chosen to bless us. God has eternally ordained that "those who are of faith are blessed" (Gal. 3:9).

When we bless God we speak good of Him. When God blesses us, He communicates good to us. We bless Him with words; He blesses us with deeds. All we can do is to speak well of Him because in ourselves we have nothing good to give, and in Himself He lacks no goodness. But when He blesses us the situation is reversed. He cannot bless us for our goodness, because we have none. Rather, He blesses us with goodness. Our heavenly Father lavishes us with every goodness, every good gift, every blessing. That is His nature, and that is our need.


Our heavenly Father blesses us with every spiritual blessing. In the New Testament pneumatikos (spiritual) is always used in relation to the work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore it does not here refer to immaterial blessings as opposed to material ones but to the divine origin of the blessings—whether they help us in our spirits, our minds, our bodies, our daily living, or however else. Spiritualrefers to the source, not the extent, of blessing.

Many Christians continually ask God for what He has already given. They pray for Him to give them more love, although they should know that "the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Rom. 5:5). They pray for peace, although Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you" (John 14:27). They pray for happiness and joy, although Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full" (John 15:11). They ask God for strength, although His Word tells them that they "can do all things through Him who strengthens" them (Phil. 4:13).

God's "divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence" (2 Pet. 1:3). It is not that God will give us but that He has already given us "everything pertaining to life and godliness." He has blessed us already with every spiritual blessing. We are complete "in Him" (Col. 2:10).

Our resources in God are not simply promised; they are possessed. Every Christian has what Paul calls "the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:19). God cannot give us more than He has already given us in His Son. There is nothing more to receive. The believer's need, therefore, is not to receive something more but to do something more with what he has.

Our heavenly position and possession are so certain and secure that Paul speaks of God's having already "raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6).


These abundant, unlimited blessings from God are in the heavenly places. More than heaven itself is included. The heavenly places (cf. 1:20; 2:6; 3:10) encompass the entire supernatural realm of God, His complete domain, the full extent of His divine operation.

Christians have a paradoxical, two-level existence—a dual citizenship. While we remain on earth we are citizens of earth. But in Christ our primary and infinitely more important citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Christ is our Lord and King, and we are citizens of His realm, the heavenly places. That is why we are to pursue "things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1).

Because we are members of God's dominion, unlike the "sons of this age" (Luke 16:8), we are able to understand the supernatural things of God, things which the "natural man does not accept" and "cannot understand ... because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Cor. 2:14).

When an American citizen travels to another country, he is every bit as much an American citizen as when he is in the United States. Whether he is in Africa, the Near East, Europe, Antarctica, or anywhere else outside his homeland, he is still completely an American citizen, with all the rights and privileges that such citizenship holds.

As citizens of God's heavenly dominion, Christians hold all the rights and privileges that citizenship grants, even while they are living in the "foreign" and sometimes hostile land of earth. Our true life is in the supernatural, the heavenly places. Our Father is there, our Savior is there, our family and loved ones are there, our name is there, and our eternal dwelling place and throne are there.


Excerpted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Ephesians by John MacArthur. Copyright © 1986 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of Moody Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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JOHN MACARTHUR is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California; president of The Master¿s College and Seminary; and featured teacher for the Grace to You media ministry. Weekly telecasts and daily radio broadcasts of "Grace to You" are seen and heard by millions worldwide. John has also written several bestselling books, including The MacArthur Study Bible, The Gospel According to Jesus, The New Testament Commentary series, Twelve Ordinary Men, and The Truth War. He and his wife, Patricia, have four married children and fifteen grandchildren.

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