First to Hope
“to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:12, NASB95)
These simple words about the first to hope in Christ are key to properly interpreting the first three chapters of the book of Ephesians. It is not a hard task to determine who was “the first to hope in Christ.” Paul says that the Gospel was “to the Jew first.” Clearly and undeniably the first believers were Jews. This was true for the Gospel overall, beginning in Jerusalem, but also true in Ephesus, where the first converts came from the Synagogue. The reason this is meaningful is because Ephesians 1 is filled with “we” and “us” references. Determining the identity of these first person plural pronouns makes a vast difference in the interpretation of this book. For example, consider these first person statements in Ephesians 1:2-12—
· God blessed us
· God chose us
· God predestined us
· God bestowed grace on us
· We have redemption through Christ
· God made known His mystery to us
These are unbelievably powerful statements of the work of God among “us.” But if we misinterpret “us” then we have done a huge disservice to ourselves and those who hear our teaching. Ephesians 1:12 because the key because we know the identity of “the first to hope in Christ.” Since the “we” of verse 12 is the same group of people as the “us” in verses 2-12, we can make a presupposition that Jewish believers are the identity of “us.” With this, it is not hard to find a wealth of scripture that verifies each of the bullet points above as belonging to the Jewish remnant.
While this approach “pulls the plug” on some pet-doctrines of the modern church, it is really the only way to interpret Scripture: by letting the text itself be the authority.
In His Grace;
Dr. Randy White
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