SALVATION in EPHESIANS
"In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you 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" - Ephesians 1:14-15, NASB.
is one of the great themes of Ephesians. One could argue salvation is the main topic of the letter. When Paul writes in 4:1 "Therefore . . . walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called . . ." he changes from writing about the theology of soteriology to describing the practice of soteriology, or how to live out one's new (saved) life. This essay will focus on six aspects of salvation named in 1:14-15. Salvation is In Him; Salvation is the message of truth, or the gospel; salvation is a result of belief; salvation results in sealing with the Holy Spirit; salvation is incomplete; and the end of salvation is God's people for God's glory.
In Ephesians Paul goes out of his way to describe salvation as something found in Christ. Christians and their salvation are referred to as being in Christ over 25 times in this short epistle. The spiritual reality of being in Christ is central to the soteriology of Ephesians. In chapter one Paul says Christians were chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, and sealed in Christ. God does not save sinners on their own terms, as their own selves, by humanistic means, or for their own sake. He saves sinners by the mystery of spiritual union with Christ. To the ultimate question, who are God's people, Ephesians gives the ultimate answer, those who are in God's son.
Salvation is discovered in a message, the gospel. God has chosen to make salvation a coherent, reasonable, comprehensible thing. From a human perspective, people are saved when they hear, understand, and believe the gospel. The gospel can be described in Ephesians language, as in 1:7: "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses." This is the message of salvation. Jesus died to appease God's wrath against sin, resulting in the redemption of his people. This blessed state of redemption is entered into by faith (faith and belief are translations of the same word in New Testament Greek). Paul says as much in 2:8. This faith in Christ is the belief in the Gospel Paul refers to in 1:14, and it is the mechanism by which people enter into spiritual union with Christ.
At salvation the believer is sealed by the Holy Spirit In Christ. Ephesians makes much of the temple motif. Jesus is elsewhere shown to be the new and true temple. He fulfills what the Hebrew temple only foreshadowed; He is the dwelling place of God on earth. Throughout the New Testament, and particularly in Ephesians, there is another layer to the mystery of the temple theme. Not only is Jesus the new and true temple, but the church is in fact the temple of God in Christ. Ephesians 2:22 says: “in [Christ] you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” At salvation, a person enters into this mystery of God incarnate and God on earth.
The Holy Spirit's activity in the believer is a central part of an Ephesians soteriology. The Spirit seals believers, both offering them a down payment of their future inheritance, and effecting the miraculous union with Christ they need for salvation. 1:14 offers an aspect of salvation easy to miss – the future fulfillment. This world is no place for Christians. There is no shalom here, no peace, no order, no fulfillment of God's promises, no true and full righteousness, no rest. The Holy Spirit is given as a “pledge” or “seal.” Stott argues that this is best understood as a down payment of sorts. The Holy Spirit is a payment of the same nature as the future fulfillment. He is a foretaste of eternal life. This is an aspect of salvation, because, as John 17 tells us, the very nature of eternal life is a relationship with God. Ephesians says the indwelling Holy Spirit is the down payment, the guarantee, of this future fulfillment. If the down payment of salvation is such a personal relationship as an indwelling, imagine what the future fulfillment holds!
The last part of 1:14 provides the teleological and eschatological aspects of salvation. The church has been saved and sealed “with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.” These words remind Christians of their hope of future redemption. Salvation is, in some sense complete. However, in the sense Paul uses in Ephesians 1, it is not yet finished. One day Christ's church will be fully and truly saved. Saved from pain, sin, death, alienation, abandonment, and a host of other evils that plague the world today. The ultimate object from which the church is and shall be saved is separation from God. This is why the indwelling spirit is the down payment (of the same type) of “our inheritance.” “Our inheritance” is in fact full fellowship with God, because this is salvation at its completion – eternal life.
The eschatological aspect of salvation, the redemption of God's people, is but one part of 1:14b. Paul also speaks of the teleological aspect, or the end of salvation. He writes that Christians have been “sealed . . . with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory. This is the one great end for which God enacted his redemptive plan This is perhaps more clear in Ephesians chapter one than anywhere else in Scripture. It is repeated three times. The church has been redeemed, like Israel, for the sake of God's reputation, God's praise, God's namesake, etc. The church, the world, the universe, indeed the plan of redemption enacted before the foundation of the world, all of these are God-centered. Oh how easy it is to view each of these as revolving around humanity. Ephesians cries out to the contrary: it is for God's sake that you exist, were created, are saved, and will be saved.