John Calvin and Ephesians 1:3-14–Some Quick Thoughts

Posted: September 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

In our study of Ephesians at Bethlehem Baptist Church (north campus), we are moving into Ephesians 1:3-14. This is one sentence in the Greek New Testament and offers a wealth of information. This morning I spent a little time reading the thoughts of John Calvin on the passage and wanted to share a few insights from him. Although the sentence is long, and there is a lot to dig through, I will limit this post to a few thoughts from Calvin concerning the main idea of the sentence.

Paul starts this section of his letter off with Εὐλογητὸς. The ESV renders the word “blessed” and goes on to say, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The NIV reads, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Both versions seem to capture the essence of Εὐλογητὸς. The fact that this word is an adjective, and the following “the God” (ὁ θεὸς) being in the nominative case, would make for interesting grammatical study. Nonetheless, here we will survey what Calvin had to say about this verse and what follows (as we keep in mind that 1:3-14 is a single sentence in Greek).

Calvin describes the opening section as an attempt by Paul to “rouse” the hearts of the Ephesians. Paul wants to set the believers hearts aflame in light of the “Divine goodness” that God had bestowed. In Calvin’s mind, as hearts were set on “these riches of divine grace” they would be protected “against having their faith shaken by false apostles, as if their calling were doubtful, or salvation were to be sought in some other way.”

Calvin goes on to point out that the way Paul seeks to solidify the calling of the Ephesians in their own minds is to recount the doctrine of election. Paul begins his letter by blessing God for the salvation that the Ephesians had experienced. Calvin notes, “[t]heir salvation was accomplished, not by any accidental or unlooked-for occurrence, but by the eternal and unchangeable decree of God.” Thus, the believers in Ephesus should stand on solid ground as they are assaulted by false teachers, face persecution, or deal with other troublesome issues that may arise. And the solid ground they should stand on is the ground of election, or predestination. God has chosen them before the foundation of the world (1:4). He is working out his eternal and unchangeable plan (1:11). Regardless of what comes their way, they should find comfort in that biblical truth.

*See John Calvin, Epistle to the Ephesians, 197.

I am excited to dive into these opening verses. Paul blesses (or praises) God and this long sentence (1:3-14) unpacks why. God should be praised because of who he is and what he has done. He has blessed us “with every spiritual blessing” (1:3); he has “chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (1:4); he predestined us to be adopted as sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ (1:5); he has given us “glorious grace…freely…in the One he loves” (1:6); “God’s grace” has been “lavished on us” (1:8); and the list goes on.

In light of all these things, it is not surprising that Paul begins his letter by praising God. This should be the posture of all those who are alive in Jesus. God has blessed us, he has done wonderful things for us, and all of this through Jesus Christ. May our praises rise to him and may he receive the glory and honor due him.

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