For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
It is wonderful to be told, as Paul does tell us in the third verse of Ephesians 1, that God “has blessed us … with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” But as soon as that is said we immediately want to ask how such great blessing actually becomes ours. Paul describes it as “spiritual” blessing “in the heavenly realms.” But we are not in heaven; we are on earth. How can we possess the blessings God has for us?
We can imagine a number of wrong ways. The blessings of heaven might be thought to be possessed by force, which is what Satan tried to do. He tried to conquer heaven; he was conquered instead. We might try to earn these great blessings. But with what would we earn them? Heaven’s blessings must be bought by heaven’s coin. We possess no spiritual currency. Perhaps we can inherit them when the owner dies. Alas, the owner is the eternal God, who does not die. Perhaps God is gracious and is only waiting for us to ask him for these blessings. Even this will not work. For according to Scripture, we are not the kind of persons who, unaided by God, will even ask him for blessings. On the contrary, we despise God’s blessings. We want our will and our way and left to ourselves, we would never ask God for anything.
Then how is it that some people receive these blessings, as Paul says they do? The answer is in verses 4–6. It is the result of God’s own sovereign act, election. Paul says, “For [the Greek word is kathōs, meaning ‘just as’ or ‘because’; it links verses 4 and 3, as an explanation] he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
This teaches that the blessings of salvation come to some people because God has determined from before the creation of the world to give them to them—and for that reason only.
Election and Human Depravity
This doctrine is difficult for many persons, of course. But before we deal with their objections we would do well to consider the various views that people hold about election. There are three of them.
The first position is a denial of election outright. No one is saved because of some supreme hidden purpose of God, these objectors say. We can speak of grace, for God chose to reveal himself to fallen men and women and to provide a way of salvation through the death of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. That he did so proves him to be gracious. But having spoken of the grace of God in this sense, we must stop there and turn the entire situation over to human beings. God graciously offers salvation, but people must choose this salvation of their own free will. Election simply does not enter into it.
The strength of this view is that it conforms to what we all naturally like to think about our abilities. The difficulty is that, whether we like it or not, the Bible does teach this doctrine. John R. W. Stott calls election “a divine revelation, not a human speculation.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones refers to this teaching as “a statement, not an argument.”2 In his study of election J. C. Ryle begins by listing eleven texts (including Ephesians 1:4) that teach election in the simplest and most undeniable language and urges his readers to consider them well.
It is hard to imagine anyone doing this and then continuing to deny that election is the Bible’s teaching.
According to the second view, election is taught in Scripture but it is election based on foreknowledge. This is a mediating position, held by those who acknowledge that election is taught but who do not want to admit to a doctrine which they consider unjust and arbitrary. They would argue that God elects some to salvation and its blessings but that he does so on the basis of a choice, a response of faith, or some other good that he foresees in them.
This is patently impossible. One problem is that an election like that is not really election. In such a reconstruction God does not preordain an individual to anything; the individual actually ordains himself.
Another, greater problem is, if what the Bible tells us about the hopeless condition of man in sin is true, what good could God possibly see in anyone to cause him to elect that one to salvation? Goodness is from God. Faith is from God. If God is eliminated as a first cause of goodness or faith or a God-directed human choice (whatever it may be), how could there ever be any faith for God to foresee?
Calvin put it like this: “How should [God] foresee that which could not be? For we know that all Adam’s offspring is corrupted and that we do not have the skill to think one good thought of doing well, and much less therefore are we able to commence to do good. Although God should wait a hundred thousand years for us, if we could remain so long in the world, yet it is certain that we should never come to him nor do anything else but increase the mischief continually to our own condemnation. In short, the longer men live in the world, the deeper they lunge themselves into their own damnation. And therefore God could not foresee what was not in us before he himself put it into us.”
When people have trouble with election—and many do—their real problem is not with the doctrine of election, although they think it is, but with the doctrine of depravity that makes election necessary.
The question to settle is: How far did the human race fall when it fell? Did man fall upward? That is the view of secular evolutionists, that we are all getting better and better. Did man fall part way but not the whole way, so that he is damaged by sin but not ruined? That is the view of Pelagians or Arminians. It affirms that we are affected by sin but insists that we nevertheless possess the ability to turn from it and believe in Christ when the gospel is offered—by our own power. Or did man fall the whole way so that he is no longer capable of making even the smallest movement back toward God unless God first reaches down and performs the miracle of the new birth in him? That is the view of Scripture.
The Bible says that we are “dead in … transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2:1).
It says, “There is no one … who seeks God” (Rom. 3:11).
Jesus declared, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).
It is written in Genesis: “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5).
What good could God possibly foresee in hearts that are dead in transgressions and sins and inclined only to evil all the time? What good could God anticipate in people who cannot come to him and do not even seek him unless he first draws them to himself? If that is the situation, as the Bible says it is, then the only way any man or woman can be saved is by the sovereign election of God by which he first chooses some for salvation and then leads them to faith.
The third position is election pure and simple. It teaches that we are too hopelessly lost in sin ever to partake of God’s great spiritual blessings on our own. Instead, God in his mercy chose us and then made his choice effectual. First he made our salvation possible by sending the Lord Jesus Christ to die for our sin. Then he made us capable of responding to him by sending the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to the truth and glory of the gospel. Thus, all the blessings we enjoy must be traced back to this sovereign electing purpose of God toward us in Jesus Christ. And Paul does exactly that in these opening verses of Ephesians.
Objections to the Bible’s teaching about election have been around for a long time, and there are many of them. Here I consider two: that election is arbitrary and that it is unjust.
When election is described as arbitrary we need to understand precisely what we are talking about. If we are basing the accusation on any supposed quality in man that is imagined to call forth election, then there is a sense in which election is arbitrary. From our perspective there is no reason why one individual rather than another should be elected. But generally that is not the way the charge is made. Generally the objector means that election is arbitrary, not from our perspective, but from God’s perspective. It amounts to saying that God has no reason for what he does. He is utterly arbitrary in picking one individual rather than another. It could as easily have been the other way around. Or God could have picked no one.
That last sentence indicates the way through this problem. For as soon as we think of the possibility of no one being saved we run against the very purpose Paul talks about in Ephesians 1:6, namely, that salvation is “to the praise of his [God’s] glorious grace.” That is, God purposed to glorify himself by saving some. Since that is so, election is not arbitrary. It has a purpose from God’s point of view.
But why one person rather than another? Why more than one? Or why not everyone? These are good questions, but it does not take a great deal of understanding to recognize that they are of another order entirely. Once we admit that God has a purpose in election, it is evident that the purpose must extend to the details of God’s choice. We do not know why he elects one rather than another, but that is quite a different thing from saying that he has no reasons. In fact, in so great an enterprise, an enterprise which forms the entire meaning of human history, it would be arrogant for us to suppose that we could ever understand the whole purpose. We can speculate. We can see portions of God’s purpose in specific instances of election. But on the whole we will have to do as Paul does and confess that predestination is simply “in accordance with [God’s] pleasure and will” (v. 5).
The second objection is that election is unjust. It is unjust for God to choose one rather than another, we are told. All must be given an equal chance. But is it possible that a person can still so misunderstand what is involved as to think in these categories? An equal chance! We have had a chance, but we have wasted it by rejecting the gospel. And it makes no difference how many “chances” are given, or to how many. Apart from God’s sovereign work no one follows Jesus. So far as justice is concerned, what would justice decree for us, if justice (and nothing but justice) should be done? Justice would decree our damnation! Justice would sentence us to hell!
It is not justice we want from God; it is grace. And grace cannot be commanded. It must flow to us from God’s sovereign purposes decreed before the foundation of the world, or it must not come at all.
Blessings of Election
Election is not the problem some have made it to be. In fact, it is actually a great blessing of the gospel. It is so in at least four areas.
- Election eliminates boasting. Critics of election talk as if the opposite were true. They think it is the height of arrogance, something hardly to be tolerated, for a person to claim that he or she has been chosen to salvation. They suppose it is a claim to be worth more or to have done something better than other people. But, of course, election does not imply that at all. Election means that salvation is utterly of God. As Paul says, “he chose,” “he predestined,” “he has freely given,” and this is “to the praise of his glorious grace” and not to our glory.
Only election eliminates all grounds for boasting. Suppose it were otherwise. Suppose that in the final analysis a person could get to heaven on the basis of something he or she had done. In that case, that individual could claim some part (small or large) of the glory. In fact, it would be the critical part, the part that distinguished him or her from those who were not saved. That is why salvation’s blessings have to be ours by election alone.
- Election gives assurance of salvation. Suppose it were otherwise. Suppose the ultimate grounds of salvation were in ourselves. In that case, salvation would be as unstable as we are. We might be saved one moment and lost the next. As Calvin says, “If … our faith were not grounded in God’s eternal election, it is certain that Satan might pluck it from us every minute.”
Calvin found security of salvation in the “adoption,” which verse 5 says God’s election provides for us. Adoption means that we are taken into God’s family so that we become his children and he becomes our heavenly Father. Calvin points out that when we pray to God we must call him Father, for that is what Jesus taught us to do (see Matt. 6:9). But how can we do that, he asks, unless we are sure that he really is our Father? If not, then our prayers are mere hypocrisy and the first words we utter in them (“Our Father …”) are a lie. “We must be thoroughly resolved and persuaded in ourselves that God counts us as his children. And how may that be but by embracing his mercy through faith, as he offers it to us in his gospel, and by assuring ourselves also that we are grounded in his eternal election?”
- Election leads to holiness. A person might say, “Well, if I am elect, I suppose I’ll be saved regardless of what I do; therefore, I’ll enjoy myself and sin all I please.” Those who say that either are not elect or else are elect but are not yet regenerate. Why? Because, as verse 3 says, election is to holiness. That is, election to salvation and election to holiness go together. They are never separated. So, as John Stott says, “Far from encouraging sin, the doctrine of election forbids it and lays upon us instead the necessity of holiness.” If we are not growing in holiness, we are not elect. We are still in our sins.
- Finally, election promotes evangelism. Some think that election makes evangelism unnecessary. “For if God is going to save certain individuals anyway,” the argument goes, “then he will save them, and there is no point in my having anything to do with it.” It does not work that way. The fact that God elects to salvation does not eliminate the means by which he calls those elect persons to faith. One of those means is the proclamation of the gospel to sinners by those who already believe (1 Cor. 1:21). The very Paul who wrote this letter was the first great missionary.
Moreover, it is only as we recognize the importance of election that we gain hope in evangelism. Think about it. If the hearts of men and women are as opposed to God and his ways as the Bible says they are, and if God does not elect people and then call them effectively by means of the Holy Spirit so that they respond in saving faith, what hope could you or I possibly have of winning them? If God cannot call effectively, it is certain that you and I cannot. On the other hand, if God is doing this work on the basis of his prior election of some, then we can speak the word of truth boldly, knowing that all whom God has previously determined to come to faith will come to him.
We do not know who God’s elect are. The only way we can find them out is by their response to the gospel and by their subsequent growth in holiness. Our task is to proclaim the Word boldly, knowing that all whom God has elected in Christ before the foundation of the world will surely come to Jesus.
5 In addition to God’s election of the church in Christ, he predestined us for adoption as his children, this time not “in” but “through” (dia) the work of Jesus Christ. Paul makes explicit the instrumental nature of Christ’s action. The verb “predestine” (proorizō, GK 4633) means “to decide on before-hand” or “to predetermine” (cf. BDAG, 873). By pre-destination in his various uses, Paul asserts that God determined ahead of time certain states of affairs: that he conform believers to Christ’s image (Ro 8:29–30), that wisdom achieve the glory of his people (1 Co 2:7), and that we be for the praise of his glory (Eph 1:11–12). The verb’s only other use in the NT, Acts 4:28, specifies God’s determination of details of Christ’s death. In keeping with these uses, then, Paul affirms that God determined to adopt us into his family through the redemptive work of Christ (1:7) as his own. Christ’s death was no “plan gone awry” but was a component of God’s determined plan to assemble a family of sons and daughters who praise him.
Because of heated debates surrounding “predestination,” I must observe that Paul never uses this verb to assert that God has determined the specific individuals to save, nor has he predetermined the means for a specific individual’s salvation. In other words, God does not predestine that some have faith. From Paul’s uses we see that predestination concerns God’s predetermination of certain goals for his people, here that they become members of his family through adoption.
Adoption signifies the great honor that it is for people who were once alienated from God and were his enemies, whether Jews or Gentiles (2:1–3, 11–13), to join his family with all the rights and privileges of those naturally born (cf. Gal 3:26; 4:5). No longer outsiders, strangers, or aliens, they are now sons and daughters.
Paul makes it clear that God did not perform this action grudgingly or reluctantly; rather, this determination to adopt a people expressed his good pleasure and his will (the same word used in v. 1). God was delighted to adopt a people who become the objects of his divine favor.
6 Paul appends another outcome of predestination: the beneficiaries of God’s “glorious grace” heap praise on him. That God has “graced” (recall v. 2) his people with grace (the redundancy is present in the Greek text) emphasizes his unmerited favor on them mediated in (or through) Christ (lit., “in the beloved one,” a unique title for Jesus). The One whom God loves (cf. Mt 3:17 par.; Col 1:13, “the Son he loves”) secures all of these undeserved benefits for his people such that they praise his glorious grace (see also 1:12, 14). Glory (doxa, GK 1518), a common term in the NT and for Paul, here denotes splendor and radiance. What can compare with God’s grace, for it reflects the glory of God himself?
5 If, on the other hand, the phrase “in love” is attached to what follows (as it is in the RSV and the NIV), it expresses God’s attitude to his people when he foreordained them for adoption into his family. “Those whom he foreknew,” according to Rom. 8:29, “he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” The fulfilment of this purpose is the “adoption” confidently expected by those “who have the first fruits of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:23). It is that “revealing of the sons of God” for which “the creation waits with eager longing” (Rom. 8:19), their public instatement, investiture, and manifestation as members of that family in which Christ is the firstborn. But, thanks to “the first fruits of the Spirit,” the enjoyment of the new relationship as children of God is theirs already. The Spirit is “the Spirit of adoption”; so, “when we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:15–16).
The legal process of adoption was apparently unknown in Hebrew society. The levirate marriage, by which a dead man might acquire by proxy a posthumous son who would perpetuate his name and inheritance in Israel, is nowhere referred to in terms of adoption. Adoption may have been practiced in patriarchal times, in a manner similar to that attested in the Nuzu texts—one might compare Eliezer’s potential relation to Abraham (Gen. 15:2–3) or Jacob’s to Laban (Gen. 29:14ff.)—but it left no trace in post-settlement legislation or custom. Yet something analogous to the NT doctrine of adoption appears in Yahweh’s relation to Israel: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hos. 11:1). Commenting on the prophet’s language G. A. Smith wrote: “God’s eyes, passing the princes of the world, fell upon this slave boy, and He loved him and gave him a career.” D. J. Theron’s conclusion, that “Paul’s metaphor of adoption … might even have been derived from Israel’s deliverance out of bondage in Egypt,”41 is rendered the more probable by Paul’s own reference to “Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption” (Rom. 9:4).
In some of his references to adoption Paul seems to trace an analogy between the divine act and current Roman legal procedure, with its requirement of seven witnesses to the transaction. There is little evidence of this here, unless a relation is discerned between the adoption and the inheritance of v. 14.
Since incorporation into the family of God comes about “through Christ,” that is, by union with the Son of God, God’s foreordaining his people to adoption is another aspect of his electing them for holiness. To be conformed to the image of Christ is to reflect his character (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18). To be chosen in Christ involves both wearing his image and sharing his holiness.
God’s election and foreordaining of his people are alike “according to the good pleasure of his will.” Since God is God, his purpose and activity have no ultimate cause outside his own being. “God’s will has no ‘Why,’ ” said Luther. But since God in his own person is “the love which moves the sun and the other stars,”44 his purpose and activity express the divine love. Whatever be the syntactical relation of the phrase “in love” between vv. 4 and 5, it was in love that God chose his people before the world’s foundation and foreordained them to be his sons and daughters through Christ.
6 There is little distinction between God’s love and his grace, except that the word “grace” emphasizes its free and sovereign character. God’s grace is his eternal and unconditioned good will which found decisive expression in time in the saving work of Christ. In this saving work, and in its becoming effective in the lives of believers, God is glorified: his grace is manifested as worthy of “glorious praise.”46 In Ps. 66:2 the whole earth is summoned to give God “glorious praise”; if this was the fitting response to his acts of deliverance in national and personal life which the psalmist celebrates, it is supremely fitting as a response to his delivering act in Christ. This note of glorious praise is repeatedly sounded throughout the eulogia of vv. 3–14.
God’s grace has extended to his people and enfolded them: he has “be-graced” them, says Paul (using a verb derived from the Greek word for “grace”). But, like every other phase of God’s dealings with them, this “be-gracing” is received by them not in their own right but in Christ: God’s grace is freely bestowed on them “in the Beloved One.” This designation marks Christ out as the supreme object of the Father’s love—“the Son of his love,” as he is called in Col. 1:13. A slightly different form is used in the report of the heavenly voice which addressed Jesus at his baptism and on the mount of transfiguration (Mark 1:11; 9:7 and parallels), but the sense is the same: God acclaims him as “my Son, the beloved,” or, as the words are regularly rendered in the Old Syriac version, “my Son and my Beloved” (indicating two distinct titles). J. A. Robinson, surveying the literary usage, concludes that “The Beloved (One)” may have been in use as a messianic title among Jews before it came to be used by Christians with reference to Jesus.51
1:5 / It is difficult to know what to do with the phrase in love. The niv (as rsv, gnb) takes it to go with verse 5, thereby indicating that God’s choosing was motivated by his love. On the basis of this love, God predestined us to be adopted as his sons and daughters through Jesus Christ. But the phrase could be taken with the action described in verse 4, as humanity’s love to God rather than God’s love for humanity. Thus the meaning would be that believers should be holy and without fault before him in love (en agapē). Agapē is used elsewhere in Ephesians for Christian love (3:17; 4:2, 15, 16; 5:2). Still, it is fitting to mention God’s love so early in the epistle, and that this is what motivated him to decide (lit., “foreordain”) to redeem humanity: adopted as his sons and daughters … in accordance with his pleasure and will.
Sonship—referring to being a child of God (i.e., eligible to inherit his promises)—is the second blessing listed in this passage, and this, too, is a gift mediated through Jesus Christ. Paul uses this term in Romans 8:15, 23, 29, and Galatians 4:5 to indicate the special relationship that believers have to God. Here sonship is tied in with God’s elective purpose for humanity.
The language of this passage is similar to that in the accounts of Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:13–17; Mark 1:9–11; Luke 3:21, 22) and transfiguration (Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35). In these Gospel accounts of Christ’s baptism, as in Ephesians 1:5 and 6, baptism and sonship are closely related and Christ is given the title “beloved” or the One he loves (1:6). This similarity of language and ideas (sonship, huiothesia; good pleasure, eudokia; and beloved, agapētos) leads one to infer that this reference to the election and sonship of the Christian may have some connection with the baptism of Jesus. Thus one could say that as Jesus was proclaimed Son at his baptism, baptism is the event whereby believers obtain their sonship. This thought is quite explicit in the baptismal passage in Galatians 3:26–27 that states that “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
1:6 / Theology is doxology! In other words, sonship (the indicative) is a summons to praise God for his glorious grace. Literally, from the Greek, the phrase reads, “to the praise of the glory of the grace of him of which he graced us in the beloved.” This reading helps one to see how much emphasis the writer puts upon grace (cf. 1:2). He seems so enraptured by the thought of God’s grace that he does not want to let it go. Also, it is a fitting way to end a section devoted to the work of the Father (1:3–6). That almost identical phrases are used in 1:12 and 1:14 (“the praise of his glory”) confirms the hymnic nature of this entire section.
THE PLAN OF GOD
He determined in his love before time began to adopt us to himself through Jesus Christ, in the good purpose of his will, so that all might praise the glory of the generous gift which he freely gave us in the Beloved.
In this passage, Paul speaks to us of the plan of God. One of the pictures that he uses more than once to illustrate what God does for us is that of adoption (cf. Romans 8:23; Galatians 4:5). God adopted us into his family as his children.
In the ancient world, where Roman law prevailed, this would be an even more meaningful picture than it is to us. For there, the family was based on what was called the patria potestas, the father’s power. A father had absolute power over his children as long as he and they lived. He could sell his children as slaves or even kill them. The Roman historian Dio Cassius tells us that ‘the law of the Romans gives a father absolute authority over his son, and that for the son’s whole life. It gives him authority, if he so chooses, to imprison him, to scourge him, to make him work on his estate as a slave in fetters, even to kill him. That right still continues to exist even if the son is old enough to play an active part in political affairs, even if he has been judged worthy to occupy the magistrate’s office, and even if he is held in honour by all men.’ It is quite true that, when a father was judging his son, he was supposed to call the adult male members of the family into consultation; but it was not necessary that he should do so.
There are actual instances of a father condemning a son to death. The Roman historian and politician Sallust (The Catiline Conspiracy, 39) tells how Aulus Fulvius joined the rebel Catiline. He was arrested on the journey and brought back. And his father ordered that he should be put to death. The father did this on his own private authority, giving as his reason that ‘he had begotten him, not for Catiline against his country, but for his country, against Catiline’.
Under Roman law, children could not possess anything; and any inheritance willed to them, or any gifts given to them, became the property of their father. It did not matter how old a son was, or to what honours and responsibility he had risen; he was absolutely in his father’s power.
In circumstances like that, it is obvious that adoption was a very serious step. It was, however, not uncommon, for children were often adopted to ensure that some family line should not die out. The ritual of adoption must have been very impressive. It was carried out by a symbolic sale in which copper and scales were used. Twice the biological father sold his son, and twice he symbolically bought him back; finally he sold him a third time, and at the third sale he did not buy him back. After this, the adopting father had to go to the praetor, one of the principal Roman magistrates, and plead the case for the adoption. Only after all this had been gone through was the adoption complete.
When the process had been completed, the adoption was indeed complete. The person who had been adopted had all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family and lost absolutely all rights in his old family. In the eyes of the law, he was a new person. So new was he that even all debts and obligations connected with his previous family were abolished as if they had never existed.
That is what Paul says that God has done for us. We were absolutely in the power of sin and of the world; God, through Jesus, took us out of that power into his; and that adoption wipes out the past and makes us new.
5. A further definition of election, showing the form it takes, is found in the words, having in love foreordained us to adoption as sons. This foreordination is not to be regarded as a divine activity prior to election. It is the latter’s synonym, a further elucidation of its purpose. The Father is described as having pre-horizoned or pre-encircled his chosen ones. In his boundless love, motivated by nothing outside of himself, he set them apart to be his own sons. “As the hills are round about Jerusalem, so Jehovah is round about his people” (Ps. 125:2). He destined them to be members of his own family (cf. Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5). It is rather useless to look for human analogies, for the adoption of which Paul speaks surpasses anything that takes place on earth. It bestows upon its recipients not only a new name, a new legal standing, and a new family-relationship, but also a new image, the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). Earthly parents may love an adopted child ever so much. Nevertheless, they are, to a large extent, unable to impart their spirit to the child. They have no control over hereditary factors. When God adopts, he imparts his Spirit! This adoption is through Jesus Christ for himself. It is through the work of Christ that this adoption becomes a reality. By his atonement the new standing and also the transformation into the spirit of sonship were merited for the chosen ones. Thus, they become God’s children who glorify him.
The modifier according to the good pleasure of his will not only fits the immediate context (“for himself”), but also harmonizes excellently with the words “having in love foreordained us.” When the Father chose a people for himself, deciding to adopt them as his own children, he was motivated by love alone. Hence, what he did was a result not of sheer determination but of supreme delight. A person may be fully determined to submit to a very serious operation. Again, he may be just as fully determined to plant a beautiful rose garden. Both are matters of the will. However, the latter alone is a matter of delight, that is, of his will’s good pleasure. Thus, God, who does not afflict from the heart (Lam. 3:33), delights in the salvation of sinners (Is. 5:4; Ezek. 18:23; 33:11; Hos. 11:8; Matt. 23:37; cf. Luke 2:14; Rom. 10:1).
6. This election, which was further described as a foreordination to adoption as sons, is to the praise of the glory of his [the Father’s] grace. That is its ultimate purpose. The immediate (or intermediate) design has already been designated, namely, “that we should be holy and faultless before him,” and along the same line, that we should receive “adoption as sons.” The final goal, to which everything else is contributory, is the adoring recognition (“praise”) of the manifested excellence (“glory”) of the favor to the undeserving (“grace”) of him who was called “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (The concept glory has been treated rather fully in N.T.C. on Philippians, p. 62 footnote 43. For the meaning of grace see also on 1:2; 2:5, 8.)
It is clear that it is especially that marvelous grace to which the emphasis now shifts. It was the rapturous contemplation of that freely bestowed love to those viewed as lost in sin and ruin which moved the soul of the apostle to cry out, “Blessed (be) the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That exclamation, moreover, was genuine. Heathen also at times ascribe praise and honor to their gods, but in their case the motivation is entirely different. They do it to appease them or to extract some favor from them. Actually, therefore, such praise ends in man, not in the god to whom honor is ascribed. It resembles Cain’s offering, which the Lord could not accept. Here in Ephesians, however, at the close of each paragraph (see verses 6, 12, 14) there is genuine adoration, such adoration as was not only God’s intention in saving man, but also the thanksgiving offering presented to God by his servant Paul, whose heart is in harmony with the purpose of his Maker-Redeemer.
It is but natural that the grace of “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” should center in the Beloved. Hence, Paul continues, which he graciously bestowed on us in the Beloved. One might translate as follows: “with which he has generously blessed us.” But the rendering, as given in bold type above, to some extent preserves the wordplay of the original.20 When the Father imparts a favor he does so with gladness of heart, without stint. Moreover, his gift reaches the very heart of the recipient and transforms it. It is, of course, as explained earlier, in connection with the Son that the Father so generously bestows his grace on us (see on verses 3 and 4 above). That Son is here called “the Beloved.” Cf. Col. 1:13, “the Son of his love.” Since Christ by means of his death earned every spiritual blessing for us, and therefore wants us to have these goods, and since the Father loves the Son, it stands to reason that, for the sake of this Beloved One, the Father would gladly grant us whatever we need. To this must be added the fact that the Father himself gave his Son for this very purpose. Hence, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also together with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).
It is said at times that Christ is the Father’s Beloved because he always obeyed the Father. This is true and scriptural (John 8:29). However, it is necessary in this connection to point out that it was especially the quality of this obedience that evoked the Father’s love. The Son, knowing what is pleasing to the Father and in harmony with his will, does not wait until the Father orders him to do this or that, but willingly offers himself. He volunteers to do the Father’s will. He is not passive even in his death, but lays down his life. “For this reason the Father loves me because I lay down my life in order that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from me; on the contrary, I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:17, 18; cf. Is. 53:10). It is this marvelous delight, on the part of the Son, in doing the Father’s will and thereby saving his people even at the cost of his own death, yes, death by means of a cross (Phil. 2:8), that causes the Father, again and again, to exclaim, “This is my beloved Son.” In substance the Father already made this exclamation “before the world began.” Even then he bestowed his infinite love upon his Son (John 17:24), moved, no doubt, among other things, by the latter’s glorious resolution, “Lo, I come” (Ps. 40:7; cf. Heb. 10:7). To be sure, this is a very human way of speaking about these realities, but how else can we speak about them? The Father’s exclamation was repeated in connection with the Son’s baptism (Matt. 3:17), when in a visible manner the Son took upon himself the sin of the world (John 1:29, 33); and once more in connection with the transfiguration (Matt. 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17, 18), when again, and most strikingly, the Son voluntarily chose the way of the cross.
1:5–6. He made us his full-fledged children by formally adopting us into his spiritual family. In adoption, a child is brought into a family and given the same rights as a child born into that family. God did this through Jesus, and it pleased him.
We have two spiritual blessings from God the Father: We have been chosen and adopted by him to be his spiritual children. He made this choice before the creation of the world with the result that we will someday stand before him holy and blameless. God the Father accomplished this through the work of his Son, Jesus, motivated by his desire to be kind to us and by his desire to receive praise for his grace.
 Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (pp. 14–19). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.
 Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 49–50). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (pp. 256–258). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (pp. 153–154). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Barclay, W. (2002). The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians (pp. 90–92). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, pp. 78–81). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, p. 92). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.