The spiritual blessings Paul has been describing belong equally to Jewish and Gentile believers. The structure of the paragraph makes this plain: “In him we [Jews], who were the first to put our hope in Christ. . . . When you [Gentiles] believed you were marked in him with a seal” (vv. 12-13). Paul is anticipating his theme of the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles, which will come in chapter 2. Christ is the reconciler. Through union with Christ the people of God are one.
Paul is alluding to the church as God’s inheritance and possession. These words used to be applied exclusively to the nation of Israel but are now reapplied to an international people whose common factor is that they are all in Christ. How did this happen? We became God’s people or possession neither by chance nor by choice (that is, by our choice). Rather it was by God’s own sovereign will and pleasure.
Why then did God make us his people? “For the praise of his glory.” This beautiful phrase needs to be unpacked. The glory of God is the revelation of God, and the glory of his grace is his self-disclosure as a gracious God. To live to the praise of the glory of his grace is both to worship him ourselves by our words and deeds as the gracious God he is, and to cause others to see and to praise him too. This was God’s will for Israel in the Old Testament days, and it is also his purpose for his people today.
Such a perspective comes into violent collision with the human-centeredness and self-centeredness of the world. Fallen humanity, imprisoned in its own little ego, has an almost boundless confidence in the power of its own will, and an almost insatiable appetite for the praise of its own glory. But the people of God have at least begun to be turned inside out. The new society has new values and new ideals. For God’s people are God’s possession who live by God’s will and for God’s glory.
From Reading Ephesians with John Stott by John Stott with Andrew T. Le Peau.