The Evangelical Universalist Forum

JRP's Exegetical Compilation: Ephesians 1:-9-23

This is part of my Exegetical Compilation series which I’m slllllooowwwwllly posting up, and which can be found here.

I recently referenced my extensive notes on Ephesians 1 in a couple of other entries, and then afterward realized I had never posted those notes, so here we go! (Or rather, I had for 1:18-23 in a couple of different threads on post-mortem salvation and the descent of Christ into hades, but I ought to collect and expand on them here.)

Buckle up, because this is going to take a while!

Ephesians 1:9-11: the secret of God’s will, in accord with God’s delight which He purposed in Him (the Father in the Son), is to “head up the all in the Christ”, i.e. to bring all things into the federal headship of Christ, “both that in the heavens and that on the earth” as the fulfillment of the ages. The all-things must refer to and include those which are not yet led by Christ (thus are ignorantly neutral or in rebellion), as Paul goes on to distinguish in verse 11 that this is the same Christ “in Whom our lot was also cast”. Paul also says in verse 11 that God operates ({energeô}, a present active participle) the all in accord with the counsel {boulê} of His will {thelmô}, the same secret will being, as Paul just said, to bring all things into the federal headship of Christ, including things in the heavens and on the earth which are not yet loyal to Christ.

Calvinists (and their Augustinian Catholic predecessors) like to appeal to the “secret will” of God as an explanation for why God supposedly chooses never to even try saving some sinners from sin, much less giving them any ability to do anything other than sin; Paul however explains that the secret will of God is to save all sinners from sin, which He is definitely going to accomplish sooner or later! – though sooner with some persons than with others.

Paul continues, 1:18-23, praying (in verse 18) that his Christian readers will be enlightened in the eyes of their heart so that they will know what is the hope of God’s calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These things (19b) are in accord with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ when He (the Father) raised Him from the dead – which would be more accurately translated from Greek “raised out of the dead ones” plural (verse 20) – to be seated in the right-hand of Him among the heavenly ones.

Even if the reference to the dead ones (plural) is discounted as mere style, or only as referring to dead bodies instead of actual dead persons (although then the parallel contrast reference to “heavenly ones” wouldn’t seem to refer to actual persons either!), this is still by any reckoning a reference to Christ descending not merely to Earth in the Incarnation but descending to lower parts of the earth where the dead are. (e.g. Ezekiel 26:20, “Then I [YHWH] will bring you [Tyre] down with those who go down to the pit, to the people of old, and I shall make you dwell in the lower parts of the earth, like the ancient waste places, with those who go down to the pit.”) This fits a translation of Christ descending “in(to) the lowers” or “into the lower parts” “of the earth” later at Eph 4:9.

Paul goes on to say in verses 1:22-23, that the Father under-sets all {panta hypetaxen} under the feet of Christ and gives Christ to the out-called (probably meaning the church here) as head over all {kephalên huper panta}. Headship always implies (later if not sooner!) a proper coherent relationship to those under the head, and the relationship in this case is not merely to the ecclesia but to {panta}, all. It is as the head of all that Christ, Who (very emphatically) fills complete the completion of the all in all (verse 23), is given to the Church (over which Christ is also head of course) by the Father.

And who is also included under this headship that shall complete the completion of the all in all? Every {archês} and {exousias} and {dunameôs} and {kuriotêtos} (every original leader and authority and power and lordship) and every name that is named not only in this age but in the age to come, using terms typically recognized in Pauline language as referring to rebel spirits (human or otherwise).

No doubt since they are still rebelling and so are not yet under the headship of Christ in proper subjection to Him, much less completed to the emphatic extent of completion by Christ, such promises would be an example of assurance by prophetic promise: the fulfillment is as certain as if it was already fulfilled. And not incidentally, Paul’s point here is to reassure Christians and teach them to understand (what they had apparently not understood yet but which would be revealed to them eventually) the total extent of the hope of God’s calling, the total extent of the glory of His inheritance to the saints, and the total extent of the surpassing greatness of His power into us {eis hêmas} the ones who believe in accord with the energy of the might of the strength of Him! Just as the Father had the strength to raise Christ out of the dead ones, so He shall have the strength to do all those other things, too. But those other things explicitly include bringing the rebel powers under the headship of the Son so that God may fully complete them, too.

Paul prays back in verse 1:17 that “the Father of the glory” may be giving Christians a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the realization of Him, enlightening the eyes of our hearts, into our perception of what we should expectantly hope about this calling. One way or another this would involve the Holy Spirit also leading Christians (sooner or later) to perceive both the utter extent of this evangelical expectation and its utter assurance of salvific victory! So far in Christian history, Christians tend to perceive one or the other assurance but not both; yet either side regularly recognizes that whichever assurance they perceive does come to them thanks to the operation of the Holy Spirit.

As always, forum members are free to add to and discuss these verses in the comments below, pro or con, and also to link to other discussions of them on or off site.

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