Winger, Thomas M. "Proem: Berakah Prayer: Election and Unity in Christ: 1:3-14." Ephesians. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014, 182-233.
After providing a translation of Ephesians 1:3-14, Winger moves immediately into notes about the words and phrases used in the passage (Winger 2014, 182). The term used for "blessed" is generally used to describe the blessed state of God as opposed to that of humans. The identification of "the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ" is commonly enough in use that Winger takes it as a liturgical formula (Winger 2014, 183). Winger notes particularly that the Father is Jesus' God and ours as well. The saving action, God's blessing in verse three, is a typical feature of the Berakah prayer. Winger notes that God is the subject of almost all verbs in 1:3-14 (Winger 2014, 183). He is the one on display. The reference to God being "in the heavenlies" suggests to Winger that Paul wants the Ephesians to view God as the one who exercises dominion over all (Winger 2014, 184). This rule of God extends to the Ephesian Christians. Winger observes it is not deferred until later, but in Ephesians 2:6 is the possession of the Ephesians already (Winger 2014, 185). Further, central to the argument of Ephesians, it is "in Christ," a phrase which appears nine times in Ephesians, plus four more times with a definite article. This emphasizes that our identity is wrapped up in the person of Jesus, the one who exercises God's dominion (Winger 2014, 186).
Ephesians 1:4 moves on to describe the way God has blessed his people in Christ (Winger 2014, 187). God's act of choosing his people speaks to his merciful initiative. Winger sees the language of choosing as really God's words at the Transfiguration, which may recall Jesus' baptism. At that time, Jesus is called the "beloved," a term Paul uses in Ephesians 1:6 (Winger 2014, 187). This leads Winger to understand Paul's emphasis to be on the choice of God revealed as we receive baptism. This is the means by which the Church as a whole, and individual Christians, are presented as "holy and blameless." Christ, the holy and blameless one, chose us to be like himself (Winger 2014, 189). It is important that we understand this holiness "before him," a position used in the NewTestament and early Christian literature only of standing before God. It is in His sight we are declared holy. Our appearance to others does not actually matter.
Ephesians 1:4 specifies "in love." Winger questions whether it modifies what precedes or follows it (Winger 2014, 190). He also questions whether the phrase refers to God's love or our love. Though it is a bit unusual to begin a thought with a prepositional phrase, Winger notes it is done twice before aorist participles in verse 13. Here, he thinks it forms an inclusio of verses 4c-6, and that it refers to God's love, not ours.
Ephesians 1:5 then goes on to speak of the way God has chosen us. We have been selected for adoption as a son. Winger understands this adoption to be foreshadowed in Israel's adoption by God. Through baptism we are made sons of God (Winger 2014, 191). This, again, is only through Christ.
Ephesians 1:6 makes the first of three statements in the prayer, "to the praise of (His) glory." Winger notes this as a typical element in the Berakah prayer, but that Paul, using it three times, makes the prayer specifically Trinitarian in nature (Winger 2014, 192-193). Winger notes the similar threefold doxologies in the eucharistic prayers of the Didache.
Winger makes a further stylistic observation at this point. In Ephesians Paul tends to make what may best be described as piles of genitives. The antecedent subject is not always clear, nor the specific genitive function. They seem to be used for emphasis, as is Paul's use of multiple cognate words (blessing with which He blesses us…) (Winger 2014, 193) This is peculiar to Ephesians.
Ephesians 1:7 introduces what we have - redemption as the blessing of God (Winger 2014, 195). Winger observes that this Christological center of the prayer consists of verses 7-12. All of it points explicitly to Christ. The emphasis here, with the present tense "we have" is on Christ's redemption now, rather than at some indefinite time in the future. The blood of Christ, and thus redemption, is present here and now. It works forgiveness. Winger observes the connection between Christ's blood, forgiveness, and the Lord's Supper (Winger 2014, 196).
Winger notes that in Ephesians 1:8 the magnitude of the gift of God's grace is limited not by the receiver, but by the giver who pours it out like a "thundering waterfall" which we may try to catch in a pitcher (Winger 2014, 197). Again, baptismal imagery is present with the idea of pouring. Here' the wisdom and understanding given by God make Him known to us (Winger 2014, 198).
Winger questions whether Ephesians 1:9-10 might be Paul's overall thesis statement. He hesitates in this because it is in a prayer so would not be expected as a logical thesis statement (Winger 2014, 198). The thrust is that the Ephesians should know the mystery of Christ in them. Winger observes the use of "mystery" and its Latin translation, "sacramentum" here, but considers it anachronistic to say Paul is referring to baptism and communion as the "mystery" (Winger 2014, 199). Regardless, it is by God's good pleasure that he has redeemed his people, that they believe, and have been baptized into Christ (Winger 2014, 200). The grand plan of God, in verse 10, has to do with his administration of a planned time, a fulfillment. Winger finds the focus in the summing up of all things in Christ (Winger 2014, 201). Again, Winger emphasizes that the summation is possible because of reconciliation in Christ.
Ephesians 1:11 speaks of God's selection of his people, using terminology of casting lots. Winger is clear that, though we would consider the process a matter of random chance, the opinion in antiquity, and certainly in Paul's world, was that by casting lots, God would take our preference out of the decision and choose according to his will (Winger 2014, 202). Of significance is the fact that God chose the Ephesians. It is important to Paul's argument that God's choice was a matter of foreordination (Winger 2014, 203). The Ephesian Christians were recognized in baptism, but had been chosen by God according to His purpose from all eternity. In verse 12, the goal is that the Ephesians would be to the praise of God's glory.
The concept of some "who hoped before in Christ" appears in Ephesians 1:12. Winger asks what the "before" could refer to (Winger 2014, 204). He concludes that, though it is not entirely clear from a grammatical standpoint, the verb probably refers to Jews hearing of a Christ before the Gentiles did. Verse 13 continues the thought, by bringing in "you," i.e., the Ephesian Gentiles (Winger 2014, 205). They have also been sealed, set apart, as God's people.
How does this salvation happen? Winger notes that in verse 13 the Gospel brings salvation, and it is received by hearing, which, biblically speaking, is accompanied by faith (Winger 2014, 206). Hearing the Gospe=l, then, results not only in baptism and a giving of the Holy Spirit, but also an identifying seal for an eternal inheritance. This is the enormous good news received by the Ephesians (Winger 2014, 207). In response to the news of inheritance, the third doxology is present, but with a slight change in rhythm, signaling the end of the series (Winger 2014, 209).
Having discussed vocabulary and grammar, Winger turns to the structure and rhetoric of Ephesians 1:3-14 (Winger 2014, 210ff). Winger considers the very long (204 word) sentence of Ephesians 1:3-14 to be not only evidence of an interest in rhetoric among Ephesians, but also as evidence of a particular, elevated liturgical style (Winger 2014, 210). The periodic formation interferes with haste and utility.
The prayer of Ephesians 1:3-14 is typical of Paul's letters, and fits the pattern of a Jewish Berakah prayer (Winger 2014, 211). It speaks of God and his mighty acts in the third person, then makes no petitions. The focus is on God rather than any human audience. Winger gives numerous examples of Berakoth. In particular, Winger adduces the eucharistic prayer of Didache 9, which is clearly a Berakah (Winger 2014, 213-214).
Winger is hesitant to assign a clear and definitive structure to the Berakah in Ephesians 1 (Winger 2014, 216). It is clearly rhythmic in nature, but not clearly conforming to a known meter. It may be divided into three portions, though most schemes don't divide it very evenly. However, Winger, following John Coutts, finds a Trinitarian pattern to be plausible (Winger 2014, 217). Verses 4-6 refer to the Father, 7-12 focus on the Son, and 13-14 refer to the Spirit. The refrain "to the praise of his (gracious) glory" serves both as praise to God and also to mark the segments of the prayer (Winger 2014, 219).
Rhetorically, theBerakah prayer of Ephesians 1:3-14 serves as a prologue. Winger notes the proem would normally provide "a narratio of the history thus far and perhaps a thesis statement" (Winger 2014, 220)/ The themes of being "in Christ" and of baptism are fairly clear. However, Winger finds a mention of no less than 13 additional concepts in these 12 verses, all of which are developed later in Ephesians (Winger 2014, 221).
Winger hesitates to say the baptism of Christ is strongly present in Ephesians 1:3-14. However, there are several verbal similarities to the Gospel accounts and to other baptismal themes (Winger 2014, 222). These strongly suggest that Paul is thinking of Christ's baptism. Winger discusses in some detail the allusive nature of liturgical statements about baptism, and especially Christ's baptism to "fulfill righteousness" (Winger 2014, 223-226). However we interpret it, though, Winger is clear that in Ephesians 1:13 baptism is what unites Christians in one body (Winger 2014, 226).
Predestination and Election are prominent features in Ephesians 1:3-14. Winger notes its use in the Formula of Concord, article 11 (Winger 2014, 227). God does not predestine evil, but the choosing of people to His kingdom. The emphasis in Ephesians 1 is that God called and you who believe came and saw you were chosen. This is an act of God's love.
Finally, the Ephesians have been sealed with the Holy Spirit (Winger 2014, 228ff). Winger sees the sealing as a mark of God's ownership and, therefore, of his protection (Winger 2014, 229). Winger provides a number of biblical examples of people being identified by a seal of some sort. Again, Winger sees baptism as the seal the Ephesians received (Winger 2014, 232).