Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to walk our readers through the book of Ephesians in order to help them understand what it teaches and how to apply it to our lives. This series is part of our larger commitment to help Christians learn to read, interpret, reflect, and apply the Bible to their own lives. To read the rest of posts in this series click here.
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Ephesians 1:7-10 “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.”

The Reformation Study Bible labels Ephesians 1:3-14 as “Praise to God for the Blessings in Christ.” It is easy to see why they title it with this designation. These eleven verses are perhaps my favorite in the entire book. Paul praises God for the blessings that come to a believer through Christ. More importantly in these eleven verses, Paul references the Trinity. In Ephesians 1:3-6, Paul praises God the Father for his sovereign election of his children.

Paul continues praising God for the blessings of Christ in Ephesians 1:7-10, specifically the Son and his salvific work. Paul writes, “In him, we have redemption…” Paul makes a strong statement about how humanity is enslaved. Yes, the text does not specifically say that humanity is enslaved, but we can infer this from Paul’s use of the term “redemption.” It is not hard to make this conclusion based on other letters of Paul. In Romans 6:17, Paul writes, “you who were once slaves of sin.” Paul says that sin enslaves us, we cannot escape its enslavement by our work.

In the ancient world, one was a slave for life unless they pay for their own freedom or their debts are forgiven by their master. So, when Paul says, “we have redemption” he means that mankind must be redeemed from their current status as slaves. Paul gives the how of redemption, the why of redemption and the purpose of redemption.

The How of Redemption

How is mankind redeemed? We’ve established that Paul says it is through Christ humanity is redeemed. What is the means by which Christ redeems us? The means by which Christ redeems us is “through his blood.” Paul says through the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross one is redeemed.

The phrase “through his blood” also alludes to Christ being the Passover Lamb. Exodus 12 recounts when the people of Israel placed the blood of a young lamb on their doorposts and lentils so the judgment of the LORD will pass over them. This act redeems the Israelites from their slavery to the Egyptians.

Just like the shedding of blood led to the freedom of their Israelites slavery, Paul says now the blood of Christ frees us from a greater enslaver, sin, and death. Tom Schreiner writes, “The fundamental liberation needed by human beings, therefore, is the forgiveness of sins.”[1]

The Why of Redemption

Salvation is not due to us, lest Paul be guilty of preaching works based salvation. No, we are redeemed for a very specific purpose. First, we are redeemed “according to the riches of his grace.” We are redeemed because God in his sovereignty chose us to be redeemed. Not due to man’s work, but to his sovereign grace. And we are redeemed for the “forgiveness of our trespasses.”

Later, Paul writes we were dead according to our trespasses and sins, but God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ. Why does God redeem? Because he is rich in mercy. God who is rich in mercy lavishes mercy upon those whom he has redeemed.

Second, God redeems because in doing so he reveals the mystery of his will. When Paul talks about mystery, he is not saying that this is a conundrum that no human can understand, but a truth that was previously and partially hidden but now fully revealed in the coming of Christ.[2]

In the Old Testament, God foreshadowed the one who would come: The seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent, the Second Adam, the greater Moses, the greater David, the Suffering Servant, the greater Israel. These were all foreshadowed by God. The Israelites saw a partial truth revealed but its fullness was still hidden. Now here in Ephesians 1:9, Paul says Christ is the full unveiling of this mystery. Christ is the one who fully and finally redeems mankind from their sin.

The Purpose of Redemption

What’s the purpose of our redemption in Christ? What’s the purpose of this forgiveness of trespasses and the making known of this mystery? Paul lays it out plainly as “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” The purpose of Christ’s redemption is the justification of the elect and the redemption of all things. This was “according to the purpose,” “set forth in Christ,” and “as a plan for the fullness of time.”

The purpose for redemption was set forth in Christ which was God’s plan at the right time. Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Paul gives another by-product of Christ’s redemption: adoption. No longer are we rebels, but sons and daughters.

But there is even an eschatological purpose in Christ’s redemption. Paul alludes to this eschatological purpose in verse 10. When sin entered the world, it affected every part of creation. Paul in Romans 8:20 says all of the creation was subjected to futility. Why? “in hope, that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Paul again in Colossians 1:20, “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven…”

The term “to unite” refers to a household manager. I love what my study Bible notes say about this, “the household is the cosmos that has become fragmented and in disarray because the household managers allowed this to happen (Adam and his progeny). Christ is a faithful household manager who has come to put the fragmented household back together, especially the splintered relationships in the family of that household.”[3]

The purpose of redemption is to unite this shattered, broken, and sin-sick world back to wholeness through Christ. And he will bring all things back together. Peter O’Brien says “the summing up of all things is the goal to be achieved.”[4]

Practical Application

Believer, walk in the truth that you all your sin has been redeemed: past, present, and future. Matt Chandler communicated in a sermon that “God does not regret saving you!” And this truth is gloriously communicated in this passage. He redeems through his blood, for the forgiveness of your sins. He redeems you because he has loves you and is rich in mercy. Believer, because you have trusted in Christ, this is evidence that he has sovereignly elected you to be redeemed.

Believer, walk in the truth that one day, Christ will unite all things to himself. We live in a broken world. Everything has been affected by sin. We long for the day when Christ will return and finally restore all things. But the hope of this verse is that through the blood of Christ, this renewal has already started. Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee that all things “sad will come untrue.”[5]

[1] Tom Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.

[2] The Reformation Study Bible.

[3] The Reformation Study Bible, Study Notes.

[4] Peter O’Brien, “The Letter to the Ephesians,” in The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999. 114.

[5] J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Return of the King,” in The Lord of the Rings.