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Summarizing Ephesians 1:3-10

Posted by on Aug 14, 2012 in scripture | 16 comments

Summarizing Ephesians 1:3-10

Do remember back in English or Grammar class when you were taught to divide your papers and essays into paragraphs? Do you know why you did that? It wasn’t just to separate the paper into sections marked by indented lines. Paragraphs actually play an important part in writing and reading.

To begin, here is one definition of a paragraph: “A distinct section of a piece of writing, usually dealing with a single theme and indicated by a new line, indentation, or numbering.”

Now, while most modern languages delineate paragraphs with “a new line, indentation, or numbering,” this has not always been the case. However, the first part of that definition is extremely important: “a distinct section of a piece of writing, usually dealing with a single theme.”

You see, meaning is not primarily found at the word, clause, or even sentence level. Meaning is primarily found at the paragraph level. In paragraphs, authors present a single theme or topic or statement, which is then backed up, illustrated, or explained within the paragraph using words, clauses, and sentences. (So, you see, words, clauses, and sentences are important because they are the building blocks of paragraphs.)

One of the things that I like to do when I begin to study a section of Scripture is to divide that section into paragraphs and try to summarize each paragraph. It’s kinda like when your English or Grammar teacher told you to make sure that you have a topic sentence for each of your paragraphs when writing an essay.

Once I summarize the paragraph, it then becomes much easier to understand what the author is communicating through the various words, clauses, and sentences within that paragraph. It also helps me not to translate or interpret out of the author’s context.

I thought I would present this exercise to my readers and see what you come up with as a summary / topic sentence for a very important section of Ephesians. Consider this passage:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even 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 for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:3-10 ESV)

This is usually marked in most translations as a single paragraph. In fact, it’s probably one long sentence as well.

Thinking about the passage above as a whole, how would you summarize that paragraph / sentence? What topic sentence would you write to convey what Paul was communicating in that passage?


16 Comments

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  1. 8-14-2012

    In this paragraph, Paul is speaking of the blessings God has chosen for his people: holiness, adoption as sons, redemption, forgiveness.

  2. 8-14-2012

    Before time began God, for His own purpose and His own glory, chose a specific people to redeem and adopt into His family.

  3. 8-14-2012

    Hmm. Well, okay, to put it bluntly, He chose us before time began to be His redeemed sons. We didn’t choose Him. Simple.

  4. 8-14-2012

    Chuck,

    I think it’s important to include the phrase “in Christ” in the summary. It seems pretty important in this paragraph. What do you think?

    Arthur and Donald,

    Is the “choosing” a summary of the entire paragraph? I agree that’s part of the passage (vs. 5-6,11). What do y’all think about the phrase “in Christ”… is that important enough to include in the summary?

    -Alan

  5. 8-14-2012

    Indeed, Alan! Allow me to amend.

    In this paragraph, Paul is speaking of the blessings in Christ God has chosen for his people: holiness, adoption as sons, redemption, forgiveness.

  6. 8-14-2012

    Alan, God’s sovereign purpose is referred to several times in this passage: “he chose us”, “he predestined us” and a number of references to His purposes and His will. How and why we are “in Christ” is crucial to understand the extent of His grace toward us. Certainly with my theological framework I tend to gravitate toward those areas just as some people seem to gloss over them.

  7. 8-14-2012

    Arthur, it must be noted what those verbs refer to. It does not say that we are chosen or predestined for salvation. Rather, the saved are chosen to be holy and blameless. Likewise, the saved are predestined for adoption as sons.

  8. 8-14-2012

    Alan,

    Ours is a relational and generational faith. It has always been on the Father’s heart that His Word would be made flesh (starting with Jesus), and we would be called as sons, and the only way this is possible is indeed, “in Christ”. Not even claiming sonship through Abraham as our father matters. Only when we are brought into the true Sonship in Christ, ala The New Covenant, does it matter. So if we were to be more specific, yes, only in Christ is there Salvation, Adoption, Empowerment, and Eternity. Agreed.

  9. 8-14-2012

    Chuck,

    Sorry, I disagree. Consider:

    “Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of The World…” The key word here, chose, is defined below from the Greek. (I firmly believe He chose us, as in predestined us, for Salvation. According to His pleasure and His Will, by the way, for reasons only known to Him.)

    http://biblos.com/ephesians/1-4.htm
    1586 eklégomai (from 1537 /ek, “out of” and 3004 /légō, “speaking to a conclusion”) – properly, to select (choose) out of, by a highly deliberate choice (i.e. real heart-preference) with a definite outcome (as with the destination of divine selection for salvation).

    However, as I am sure you are well aware, this issue has been debated to near death through the years. Chosen, free will, selected, elected, lucky, blessed, etc, etc, whatever. The truth is, we are as sons and that is more than enough for me. Besides, if He didn’t select you, and you chose Him, then The New Covenant rests on your efforts and not on His. Yikes.

  10. 8-14-2012

    Chuck,

    I do think there is an emphasis on God’s choosing people in that passage. That’s not the only emphasis, but I think it’s there.

    Arthur,

    Like I said to Chuck, I agree with you that there is an emphasis in that passage on God choosing the Ephesians (and us). But, that’s not the only emphasis. I think a summary should bring out the other emphasis/emphases as well.

    Donald,

    Right. I was asking if you thought the phrase “in Christ” was important enough in Ephesians 1:3-10 to include in a summary.

    -Alan

  11. 8-14-2012

    Alan,

    Wow. *stunned silence* I realize now that I didn’t think it would be important. I mean, of course it is, of course. But here at your blog, being surrounded by believers, it totally slipped my mind to include ‘in Christ’, since I presumed it would be a given.

    I say this to mine own detriment and chagrin. I should have indeed stipulated ‘in Christ’, because how else is any of our Salvation possible? Yikes! Time for me to get re-focused, apparently. Thanks for the catch.

  12. 8-14-2012

    Just to clarify, Donald, I don’t disagree that God chose us for salvation; I believe he did. I just don’t think that is what is being spoken of in the passage at hand.

    However, while I do believe that God chose us, I also believe that we chose God. Both principles are taught in Scripture, and I don’t see why it has to be an either/or situation. Just as a marriage is the result of the groom choosing the bride AND the bride choosing the groom, so salvation is the result of God choosing us and us choosing God.

    The New Covenant rests entirely on the atoning work of Christ Jesus, regardless of who chooses.

  13. 8-14-2012

    Chuck,

    “Just to clarify, Donald, I don’t disagree that God chose us for salvation; I believe he did. I just don’t think that is what is being spoken of in the passage at hand.”

    You mentioned earlier that you see these passages from Ephesians referring more to the promised blessings of our Father, more than Salvation:

    “In this paragraph, Paul is speaking of the blessings in Christ God has chosen for his people: holiness, adoption as sons, redemption, forgiveness.”

    I see it both ways. I see a clear declaration and revelation that we are chosen in Christ as predestined by His Will, AND that we are also blessed as such. In other words, I’m easy on this one. And I can appreciate your approach, as well.

  14. 8-14-2012

    Fair enough. :)

  15. 8-14-2012

    It has been nearly 50 years, since I tackled Ephs.1:3-14. At that time, if my memory serves correctly, that whole passage was regarded as one long sentence. At the time I had been wrestling with a theological problem, the Fall of Man and its effect upon him. When I was ordained in 1962, my pastor asked me during the ordination, “Jim, what do you believe about original sin?” I answered, “Which theory do you want? There are six of them.”(I was thinking of the presentation of the subject in A.H. Strong’s Systematic Theology which I had outlined along with three or four other volumes on theology in order to prepare for the ordination. Within a year after that ordination and while pastoring a church of very unhappy church members (they had fired the pastor before me for a moral reason, pedophilia) who tried to fire me twice during that brief time, I came to the conclusion that the Bible really did teach original sin, the Fall of Man, his ruin, total depravity, and even more, spiritual inability. An old Puritan, David Clarkson, in a sermon on Original Sin (according to the editor of the work, he had his Hebrew wrong), convinced me by his listing of matters like man being dead in trespasses and sins, a slave of sin, a child of the Devil, etc. As a child I had learned in the first grade that can means ability and may means permission. So when Jesus said, “no man can,”(Jn.6:44,65) I knew he meant, “no one is able.” Upon realizing man’s problem, i went looking for the solution, Sovereign Grace, Grace that was irresistible. After all, it takes a supernatural act, an irresistible power to raise a man from the dead physically, and it follows that the same kind of power is required for a spiritual resurrection and for freeing one from slavery to sin, and for transforming a child of the Devil into a child of God. So I preached a sermon at the Dixon Baptist Association on the subject, Amazing Grace, using the passage mentioned, and doing my own translation. I had three points, Immeasurable, Irresistible, and Irreversible, Ephs.1:8 being the pivotal point, grace abounding. I didn’t buy all of the Sovereign Grace view point, but I had that part of it down tight. The rest came later. And it was a great help to read in Dr. Eusden’s Introduction to his translation of William Ames’ Marrow of Divinity, in 1972-73, “Predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage….” I later applied that to all of the so-called doctrines of grace and went looking for examples of their being used as invitations to salvation and found many instances of such. I also became acquainted with the idea of paradoxical interventions, therapeutic paradoxes, as when Jesus demanded the impossible of sinners (sell all you have, give to the poor, take up your cross and come and follow me.)(Mk.10)

  16. 8-15-2012

    Donald,

    My question about “in Christ” was not really related to your understanding of our life or salvation, but specifically related to that passage: Ephesians 1:3-10.

    Chuck and Donald,

    I appreciated the discussion. Thank you!

    James,

    So, what would be your summary of Ephesians 1:3-10?

    -Alan