In this verse, as well as in verses 9, 11, and 13, we encounter a repetitive use of the phrase, “in Him,” or “in Christ.” This alerts us to the fact that, for St.Paul, the little word “in” has big connotations. The Catholic Commentary helps us understand what this little word suggests: “Although there are subtle variations, we can discern two basic meanings of the Greek phrase en Christo in Ephesians. First, it can have an instrumental meaning: something happens by means of Christ, through his action or will, especially through his death and resurrection. Second, this expression can mean location in a metaphorical sense: someone or something exists in the sphere of Christ, in union with him.…The New Testament describes the Christian’s union with Christ as our living in him, as Christ’s living in us (Gal. 2:20, Col. 1:27), and as a mutual indwelling (John 15:1-7). This spiritual union with Christ is so real that all Christians together…are a visible, tangible manifestation of Christ’s presence.” (PSW p.32)
Something to ponder: How does “the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us” help you to understand “His kind intention,” (an expression which the New American Standard Bible correctly translates from the Greek) in verses 5 and 9? Also, what does this character trait and activity of God ask of you?
In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to the administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. (verses 9-12)
In verse 10 we hear about God’s plan to “unite all things” or, “sum up all things” in Christ. Something to ponder: Does this powerful prophetic promise seem to meet or fulfill a need in the people whom you encounter in the world and in your own milieu? Also, assuming in faith that this promise will be truly fulfilled, what is a specific desire or longing in your own heart that cries out for its fulfillment?
St. Paul is anxious to bring to light “the praise of God’s glory,” in verses 12 and 14. The Catholic Commentary explains, “Paul says that God’s ‘purpose’ and ‘intention’ for Jewish people like himself–we who first hoped in Christ–was that we might exist for the praise of his glory. God’s glory is the manifestation of his greatness and goodness now revealed in an unprecedented way. Praising God’s glory fulfilled Israel’s reason for existence, namely, to be a priestly people, a nation devoted to proclaiming the praises of God (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 43:21; I Peter 2:9)….Paul hastens to make clear that his readers, most of whom are Gentiles [non-Jews], have not been left out. Gentile readers, you also, who have heard…the gospel…and have believed in him, have received the gift of the Holy Spirit…This [gospel] message is the word of truth–a reliable message that corresponds to reality–and it brings salvation, a topic that will be explained in 2:1-10.” (PSW p.40)
In Him you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed, were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of [God’s own] possession, to the praise of His glory. (verses 13, 14)
“In the ancient world, when a letter or legal document was marked in wax with the seal (sphragis) of its author, the seal gave evidence of its authenticity. A seal was also used to indicate ownership: sheep and cattle were branded with their owner’s seal. When soldiers enlisted in the Roman army, they were often sealed by tatooing the name of their commanding general on their hand or forearm. Several places in Scripture speak of God placing seals on people to indicate that they belong to him (Exodus 39:30) and are under his protection (Ezekiel 9:4-6; Revelation 7:2-4). The gift of the Spirit that Christians have received functions as a seal. It marks us as belonging to God and under his protection; it is the proof of our adoption as sons and daughters (Galatians 4:6).” (PSW p.40-41)
Something to ponder: What comes immediately to mind in the Church’s liturgies and rites when you read about being “sealed with the Holy Spirit”? How would you answer someone who asks, “What does Paul mean by the Holy Spirit being a pledge or guarantee of our inheritance?”
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Here are some extra references you might want to read to enrich your understanding of this passage in Ephesians: Romans 3:23-26; I Corinthians 15:19-26; Colossians 1:13-20; Hebrews 2:8,9; Acts 10:34,35; Catechism(CCC) 257 and 1043.
The following are a few words of St. John Chrysostom (“John of the Golden Mouth,” c. A.D. 395) concerning verses 7-9 in Ephesians 1. Re, The riches of His grace which He lavished (made to abound) upon us: “….that is to say, (they) were poured forth in ineffable measure. It is not possible to represent in words what blessings we have in fact experienced…riches not of man but of God, so that on all hands it is impossible that they should be expressed. And to show us how He gave it to such abundance, he adds…’In all wisdom and prudence, having made known unto us the mystery of His will.’ That is to say, making us wise and prudent, in that which is true wisdom, and that which is true prudence. Strange! What friendship! For He tells us His secrets…He has made known to us the things that are in His heart.”