Beginning in verse two Paul wrote, "Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ."
Since the Bible states in many places that God is one, nearly all Christians accept the idea that God is somehow three persons in one. Even though they say that God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Ghost are not the same being, yet, at the same time, they don't say there are three Gods. Instead, they contend that there is one God in three persons. The term they've coined for this kind of being is "the Trinity." As they put it, "We believe in the Trinity, not because we can understand it but because that's what God's word tells us."
With this concept in mind they understand verse 2 and 3 as simply saying "Grace and peace be to you from our triune God who has prepared a place in heaven for us because we belong to Christ."
Continuing in verse 4 we read, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will."
These two verses have created some disagreement among Protestant Christians as to its meaning. Some argue that if God has chosen us to be holy and blameless before He even created the earth then that suggests it is God who determines who is to be saved and who isn't and He does this based solely "according to the good pleasure of his will." As some newer versions render it: "Before the world was made God decided to make us holy in his eyes, adopting us as his children through Jesus Christ. And he did this simply because that's what pleased him." Since nearly all Protestant Christians believe that, in our sinful condition, we don't even have the desire to come to God unless God puts that desire in our heart, then it further strengthens the idea that it is God who decides who will go to heaven as His adoptive children and who is to be sent to hell with Satan and his angels. This doctrine is known as predestination.
However, at the same time, many Christians argue that such a doctrine is inconsistent with the gospel of salvation which says that God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son to die for our sins (John 3:16). Since the Bible also tells us that God is no respecter of person and that He loves all of us, that contradicts the idea that God would only save certain people based soely according to His capricious will. The other problem with predestination is that Christians believe God is the ultimate in fairness, justice, and mercy. To claim that God saves some but damns others for no reason than it pleases Him is extremely unfair, unjust, and unmerciful.
Therefore, while saying that sinful man cannot come to God unless God reaches out to save him, many Christians nonetheless say that man has the choice whether to accept God or reject Him. In this way they can say that man goes to heaven or hell based on their own decisions, thereby making God appear to be extremely fair in His judgment.
However, that is not what Paul has said in these verses. If we take his words from the traditional Christian point of view as they are written, it strongly suggests that it is God alone who decides who will go to heaven, not based on any standard or principle but only according to what pleases Him. If that is the case then our salvation is based on nothing more than pure luck. It's like winning a heavenly lottery. And, according to what Paul wrote, God made this decision long before the earth was ever created and Adam and Eve were ever tempted.
The oft asked question is: Why did God create man? Most Christians find the answer to this question in verse 6 which reads, "To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved." Nearly all Christians understand this verse to mean that God created man for the sole purpose of having him glorify God by singing praises to His holy name forever because He saved us by His grace by which He has accepted us (found us blameless and holy in His sight) through what His beloved Son has done.
Christians define the word "grace" as "God's unmerited favor." That is to say, God saves us, not because of anything good that we have done to merit His salvation but, instead, He saves us even though we have done nothing good that makes us deserving of being saved. However, this belief further reinforces and strengthens the idea of predestination, which is a doctrine most Christians reject.
In verse 6 Paul states that God has accepted us because of what His beloved Son has done. In Verse 7 he explains what the Son has done by saying "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence."
All Christians believe that we are redeemed from the effects of the fall and are forgiven of our sins because of Christ's blood which He shed on the cross. As stated before, Protestant Christians believe that this redemption comes, not because of anything we've done to deserve it, but only because of the rich outpouring of God's unmerited and unjustified favor towards us. Yet, when reading this verse, most Christians tend to overlook or ignore the last part of the sentence about how God has done this "in all wisdom and prudence." That is to say, they tend to treat that comment as though it doesn't have any relevance to the subject.
Verse 9 and 10 reads, "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself, That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him."
Most Christians understand the "mystery" of the gospel to mean the atonement of Christ. Even though the Old Testament scriptures pointed to Christ's atoning death, it was not clearly spelled out. As one new version translates this verse, "God has told us His secret reason for sending Christ; a plan he decided on in mercy long ago."
Verse 9 presents two theological problem for most Christians that they don't even realize exists. In verse 4 we learned that God decided to save us before the earth was ever created. Furthermore, He was going to do this "by Jesus Christ." In verse 6 Paul wrote, "he hath made us accepted in the beloved." In verse 7 Paul explained, "In whom we have redemption through his blood." In verse 9 we learn that God had purposely planned to send Christ to earth to save mankind from their sins. It is clear from everything that Paul wrote in this first chapter that God made the decision to have His Son save mankind from their sins by the shedding of His blood before the earth was ever created!
That means God knew Adam was going to disobey him and fall from grace and that a Savior would be needed to redeem all of mankind through the shedding of Christ's blood before He ever said, "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3). And the apostle Peter confirms this when speaking of Jesus he wrote, "Who verily was foreordained [to be the savior] before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:20),
The problem this presents to most Christians is they teach that God created a beautiful world and expected Adam to be obedient to every commandment. Therefore, when Adam deliberately chose to disobey his creator, Christians believe this act of defiance spoiled God's plan to have all of mankind be willfully faithful to Him. They further teach that after Adam deliberately turned his back on God and caused all of his posterity to be born in sin, God then came up with a plan to redeem as many people as would come unto His Son.
However, if we say that God had ordained Jesus to be the Savior of the world before the world was ever created, then that contradicts the idea that God didn't know Adam would transgress His law. At the same time, while claiming they don't believe in predestination, most Christians nevertheless interpret verse 9 as saying that God deliberately designed and purposefully decided to save man for no other reason than He felt like doing it, which is the definition of predestination.
The second problem this presents for many Christians is that before the earth was created God had planned to "gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him." But, if the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as the Trinity are all equal in power, glory, knowledge, and wisdom, as most Christians believe, then why did the Father plan to gather all things both in heaven and on earth in Christ? If Christ was already God and all things were made by Him, then all things were already under Him. And why aren't they also being gathered in the Father if the Father and Son are one? Why is the Son being singled out among the Trinity to have something that the other two members of the Godhead don't have if they are all equal in power and glory? From what Paul tells us, if all things in heaven and earth are gathered in Christ then He has something that the Father doesn't have, or Christ is going to be given something He didn't already possess.
This same problem is again brought up beginning in verse 20 which reads, "Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church."
Paul tells us that it was after Christ died on the cross and then was resurrected that He was not only set at the Father's right hand side in heaven but that he also was given preeminence far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion." More than that, it was after His resurrection that His name was then named above every other name, not only on this earth but in the world to come. In addition to that, God, the Father, put all things under His feet and gave him to be the head over all things in the church.
But if Christ was God before the earth was ever created then He was already on the Father's right hand side, that He already had preeminence far above all principalities, power, might, and dominion, that His name was already above every other name on earth and in heaven, that all things were already under His feet, and that He had always been the head of the church. Then why did God, the Father give Christ all of this glory after He was resurrected if He already had all these things before the earth was ever created? Most Protestant Christians either have no answer or resort to giving a tortured explanation in order to answer these questions.
Beginning in verse 11 we read, "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ."
In verse 3 we learned that God has prepared a place in heaven for us because we belong to Christ and now in verse 11 Paul says that we obtained that inheritance through Christ because God "predestinated" us according to His own purpose and that He didn't take counsel with anyone before making this decision. As most Christians understand this verse, the reason why God has given us an inheritance in heaven is so that we who have come to trust in Christ could sing praises to His glory throughout all eternity.
Verse 17 reads, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him." Nearly all Christians interpret this verse as saying, "That God, who is the Father of glory, may reveal His wisdom and knowledge of Him to you."
This is how traditional Christians understand what Paul said in the first chapter of Ephesians. However, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a very different understanding of these 24 verses.
According to LDS theology we all lived in heaven as spirit children of God, our Father, long before the earth was ever created. At some point God, our Father gathered us, His children, and presented a plan whereby we could someday inherit all that He has. The plan called for the creation of a physical earth where we would come and experience evil as well as good, thereby coming to know the difference between the two as our Father already knows. However, if we sinned (which was expected as part of our learning process) He would provide a savior to redeem us, thereby making it possible for us to return to Him holy and blameless. The person He chose to be the savior was His beloved son, our eldest brother, Jehovah, whose name would someday become Jesus Christ.
Jehovah then worked in cooperation with His Father as part of the Godhead to help bring about the Father's plan of salvation for His children. Because of the overwhelming work that was expected of Him and because of His great faithfulness in bringing to pass all that the Father had designed, the Father gave Jehovah power and glory over every other name in heaven and on earth, placing all things under His authority, except that which belongs to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:27). Because Jehovah did only what the Father had commanded Him, the Father is not only our God whom we must obey but is also the God of Jesus.
With this understanding, let's now take another look at the first chapter of Ephesians, this time through LDS eyes.
Mormons read verse 2 as saying, "Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, as well as from our Lord Jesus Christ." This shows that grace is coming from two people, not one triune God. This would be like saying "Grace be to you from Peter and Paul." Anyone reading that would not immediately think that this was referring to the same person.
Verse 3 reads, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." When read as it is written this verse says that our Lord Jesus Christ not only has a Father but also has a God. In verse 17 Paul again makes this same declaration when he wrote, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him" Jesus Christ is the Lord but He has a God who is over Him, and that God is the Father of glory.
However, this statement is inconsistent with the Christian idea of the Trinity which says that all three members of the Godhead have equal power, authority, and glory. If that is true then it cannot be said that any one member of the Godhead is over the others. But, according to Paul, there is a God who is over Christ and to whom Christ gives obedience, reverence, and awe.
Jesus Himself verified this to Mary Magdalene after His resurrection when He told her, "Go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God" (John 20:17, emphasis added). According to Jesus, the same being we refer to as our Father in heaven is the same being Christ calls Father, and the same being we call our God is the same being that Jesus calls His God. Notice that Jesus calls us "my brethren" thereby making us His brothers, not His children. That would make sense if we both have the same Father and the same God.
Continuing, Paul says that the Being who is both Christ's God and Father "hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." What Paul is saying is that before God, the Father laid the foundations of the world He had already prepared blessings for us in heaven "in Christ" and has "chosen us in him (Christ)." In other words, before the world was created, Christ was already chosen to be the one who would bring us to those heavenly blessings that God had prepared for us. More than that, Christ would be responsible for bringing us there in a holy and blameless condition and that God, the Father, would choose or accept us because of what Christ has done for us. According to Paul, this was the plan of the Father prior to earth's existence, and this is confirmed by Matthew in his gospel when he says that those who keep the commandments will "inherit the kingdom [that has been] prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 24:34), which is exactly what LDS members believe happened in our pre-mortal existence.
Verse 5 reads, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will."
Before the earth was made, God had predetermined that we would become adopted children of His "by Jesus Christ to himself." Through Christ's blood that He shed on the cross and our faith in Him, Christ has brought us "to Himself" and we will become children of God because of Him. That was the plan "before the foundation of the world" and God did this "according to the good pleasure of his will."
It is interesting to note that most Christians leave off the word "good" when talking about this and similar verses. Instead, they say that God did this because it pleased Him, but that's not what Paul wrote. It did bring God pleasure to save His children but more than that He did it for a "good" reason. The saving of His children "by Christ," "in Christ," and "through Christ" was deliberately planned by God, the Father, before the foundation of the world to accomplish a good, worthwhile, and beneficial work.
Verse 6 reads, "To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved." To properly understand this verse we need to pay particular attention to its wording. God finds us acceptable because of what His beloved Son has done, but the reason why God did this was not so we could sing praises to His glory throughout all eternity. Instead, it brings Him praise to save His children through His grace.
To some these two statements may seem to be saying the same thing but they don't. To understand why, it might be helpful to look at a few illustrations. Leonardo Da Vinci painted a picture entitled the Mona Lisa that has received world-wide praise from millions of people all over the world over hundreds of years. However, not one person has actually given that praise to Da Vinci himself. Instead, it is because of what Da Vinci did that has caused people to admire his greatness as an artist.
Donald Trump is a successful real estate builder but he doesn't need anyone to sing his praises. The magnificent buildings he has erected speaks louder praise for his abilities than any human voice can express. As a result of what he has done, millions of people who have never met Donald Trump "sing" his praise every time they visit one of his buildings.
In the same way, God does not need our praise in order to be glorified. Instead, God is glorified by what He does. The psalmist wrote, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). When we look at the heavens and see what God has done, it speaks of His greatness and causes us to stand in awe of His handiwork. It is what He has done that brings Him praise, whether anyone utters that praise to Him or not.
Verse 6 does not say that God created us so we can praise His glory. Instead, it specifically states that it is the act of saving us that is "the praise of the glory of his grace." As the Lord explained to Moses, "For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39, emphasis added). It is what He does that testifies and speaks of His greatness and brings Him glory. And the more of His children God can save, the greater His praise and glory becomes. That is why Paul in verse 17 refers to God as "the Father of glory."
This becomes clearer when we read verses 5 through 7 together as one sentence or thought, thereby putting verse 6 in its proper context. To paraphrase these three verses: "God, having predetermined to adopt us through the atonement of Jesus Christ, according to what He thought was good and what brings Him pleasure, has brought Him praise to the glory of the grace that He has extended to us, which was able to make us acceptable in His sight because of what His beloved Son did, in whom we have been redeemed from and forgiven of our sins through His blood according to the rich outpouring of His grace."
We see this same sentiment expressed in verses 11 and 12 which reads, "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ."
What Paul is saying is that we have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven because of what Christ did for us and that all of this was predetermined and planned by God before the world was ever formed. And God's purpose in doing this was made without seeking anyone's counsel or advice. It is after making this statement that Paul then says that we should be to the praise of His glory.
It's again important to notice the wording of this sentence and how it relates to the point Paul is trying to make. Paul is not saying that God has given us an inheritance so that we could sing praises to His glory. Instead it reads that God has given us an inheritance through Christ's redemption so that we become the praise of His glory. We don't need to sing praises to God because we are His praise. Just like God's handiwork in the heavens shows His glory, so likewise, His handiwork in saving His children brings God praise and glory in the same way that an earthly father receives praise and glory whenever a child is born to him.
Beginning in verse 20 we read, "when he (God, the Father) raised him (Jesus Christ) from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church."
The scriptures tell us "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works" (Matthew 16:27; Revelations 22:12). That is not only true of us but Paul told the Ephesians that it was also true of Christ. He had done a work that was far above all others and therefore He received a reward that was far above all principalities, powers, might, and dominion.
Paul also wrote, "Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:24). What Paul is saying is that our inheritance is our reward and we receive it by serving the Lord. However, Jesus also served His Father by being obedient to His will (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38) and therefore was rewarded with an inheritance in heaven by being set at the right hand of God.
The Lord revealed to the apostle John, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Revelation 3:21). According to this scripture, the reason why Jesus was set on the right hand of God, the Father is because He overcame all things. In the same way, if we overcome all things then Christ will grant us to sit with Him in His throne just as the Father has granted Him to sit with Him in His throne. That is our inheritance which the Father predestinated before the foundation of the world was created, and He determined that this inheritance would come to us by, through, and because of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
However, this interpretation of the first chapter of Ephesians is not consistent with what traditional Christians believe about God or about His salvation for mankind. The reason for this conflict of meaning is because of the way we interpret Paul's words. Yet, when we read the first chapter of Ephesians as it is actually written we find that it fits LDS theology much closer than it does Christian theology.