Ephesians 1:4-6 For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.
The pronouns in verse 4 might be a little confusing. I’m going to rewrite it using the proper nouns instead. “For God chose us in Christ…to be holy and blameless before God.” God chose us in Christ before the world even began! John Stott, in his commentary on Ephesians states that Ephesians 1 describes blessings that God has bestowed on us in the past, present and future. These verses 4 through 6 describe the past blessing. God elected us to be his, in Christ, before he even created the world.
Election is a tricky topic. Verses from Ephesians are often used to support Calvinism, and I will do a separate post later explaining the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism (to the best of my ability)! Election is clearly a biblical principle. God chose Abraham. He chose Israel to be his special people. He chose Paul. But how much free will verses predestination is involved in our choices is a mystery. I like this quote from John Stott’s book. “Scripture nowhere dispels the mystery of election, and we should beware of any who try to work it out too precisely or rigidly. It is not likely that we shall discover a simple solution to a problem which has baffled the best brains in Christendom for centuries.”
We were chosen to be holy and blameless. When we accept Christ, we don’t automatically become sinless. We are justified before God. Christ’s death was the sacrifice that cleansed us. We are declared righteous before God because of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross. Then becomes the process of sanctification. That is something that will be ongoing until our lives on earth are done. Sanctification is the ongoing process of setting apart our lives and living holy, blameless lives. There are many, many verses about this. One that stands out to me is Romans 12:1 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.”
The book of I Peter also addresses our living holy lives. In fact, that will be the next book I study! I Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the one who called you out of the darkness into his marvelous light.”
The next part of the verse says we are adopted as sons through Jesus Christ himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. Pastor Terry Morrow from Hillside Church has a book on Ephesians called Walking in Grace. It is his PH.D. dissertation on Paul’s letter to the people at Ephesus. He writes that adoption in this time meant several things. The adoption was permanent. The adopted child held all of the rights of the biological child. The adopted child lost all rights to his old family. All of the old debts and obligations were cancelled as if they never existed. When we are adopted as God’s children, we are new creations.
John 1:10-13 says “He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.”
Romans 8:15 states, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back in fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’”
Abba is used as a close, familial title. It is the privileged title that a son or daughter would use to address a parent. We have been adopted into God’s family when we accept the sacrifice made by Christ on the cross. Our sins have been washed clean and we can now approach God and call him Abba, Father!
All of this was done to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One. There is that word grace again! Grace is the very center and core of the Bible. God’s unmerited grace to an undeserving people. Yet before the world was even created, he knew we were going to choose sin and he had a plan. A plan that involved sacrificing his son. The word lavished is such a wonderful description here. It means produced with extravagance. He loves us that much. He spared no expense. He loved us so much that he sent his son.
John 3:16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
It’s the first verse that most of us memorize for good reason. It describes exactly his plan. So before the world was created, he knew what was going to happen and he had a plan for us. It was for his good pleasure that he chose us. It is nothing that we have done or can do, as we will get into later.
That’s it for this post! I’ll be working on the Calvinism and Arminianism post next before I move on to the next verses. We got through three verses on this one, so that’s some progress!
Grace be with you!