I want to remind you as we study this book that it is my opinion that Ephesians and all of the New Testament were originally written in Hebrew. This is a view that was quite controversial. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church stated in its first edition in 1958, "Hebrew ceased to be a spoken language around the fourth century B.C." Many bought into this and believed that Hebrew was a dead language at the time of Christ. However, upon new linguistic and archaeological evidence, the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church now says in its third edition in 1997, "Hebrew continued to be used as a spoken and written language in the New Testament period." The more archaeological evidence that is discovered in Jerusalem, the more the view I hold is catching on. This is important because the more we understand the Hebrew mind-set the more we will understand the Scriptures.
Rabbi Sha'ul, after a brief salutation, launches into a lengthy sentence of twelve verses in praise of the redemptive purpose of Yahweh. I think it is best to see that 1:3-14 are in the form of a Jewish b'rakhah. A b'rakhah was a common Hebrew form of blessing or praise to Yahweh:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, Ephesians 1:3 NASB
"Bless" is used three times in verse 3, followed by a seemingly Trinitarian outline describing the roles of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in the plan of God and the work of redemption.
In verses 4-6, which we are going to look at this morning, Paul identifies the first two of the many blessings which God has poured out upon His children. These blessings are "election" ("chose," verse 4) and "predestination" (verses 5, 11). To most Christians these doctrines are a cause for protest, rather than praise. But for Paul, they are blessings for which Yahweh should be praised:
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love Ephesians 1:4 NASB
"Just as"—Paul is justifying his previous statement that God is to be praised because He gave us every spiritual blessing in Christ. He begins this justification or proof with what many of your translations will translate: "just as" or "even as"—it is the Greek kathos. Many see Paul comparing the greatness of these things. But when this conjunction, kathos, is used at the beginning of a sentence, it is not used as a comparison, but as a cause. I hate to say this, but the NIV has it right here. They translate it: "For He chose us in Him." It designates the cause of our praising God. Paul is saying, "Praise be to God because He chose us in Him."That is a cause of great praise!
"He chose us"—this is an aorist middle of eklego (ek-lego), which means: "to choose out, to pick." And the middle voice is reflexive, which means that God is picking for Himself, and nobody else is involved in this. Chose is the Hebrew verb ba-hhar, which means: "Choose—to select freely and after consideration." The He who chose us is Yahweh.
Within Evangelical Churches there is on going debate on the issue of salvation. Is it by a choice of man's free will or of God's sovereign choice? Paul seems absolutely clear that it is by God's choice, "He chose us."
The Gospel is the Good News about what God has done for His people. It is the good news about Yeshua the Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. Salvation is a gift of God to His people from beginning to end. The new birth roots is the resolute will of God as the motivating force which gives new life. Salvation is a work of God. Man has no part in the miracle of the new birth and cannot have. This is what we call the Doctrine of Sovereign Election.
What does election mean? Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology [Zondervan], 1994, p. 670, italics his) defines it as: "Election is an act of God before creation in which He chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of His sovereign good pleasure."
A.W. Pink called this one of the most hated doctrines in the Bible. He writes:
God's sovereign election is the truth most loathed and reviled by the majority of those claiming to be believers. Let it be plainly announced that salvation originated, not in the will of man, but in the will of God, that were it not so none would or could be saved. For as a result of the fall, man has lost all desire and will unto that which is good, and that even the elect themselves have to be made willing, and loud will be the cries of indignation against such teaching. Most mongers will not allow the supremacy of the divine will and the impedance of the human will. Consequently, they who are the most bitter in denouncing election by the sovereign pleasure of God are the warmest in crying up the free will of fallen man.
The Doctrine of Election is hard for man to accept. It's hard for man to acknowledge that his salvation is an act of God. Man wants to assume some responsibility, even if it's a small responsibility, for having believed. He wants some credit for having made the right choice. The Doctrine of Election is repulsive to many because, by our standards, it seems unfair that God should, out of all the human beings, choose some at His own discretion to be saved and not the rest.
Paul does not debate the matter or apologize for it or tiptoe around it. He states it as plainly as language could put it: "He chose us." That is one of the greatest spiritual blessings that God has given to us because it guarantees our salvation and our holiness.
Is this why he blesses God in verse 3? He blesses God because he's absolutely just overwhelmed that God has chosen him before the foundation of the world.
The Gospel is the Good News, not of man's act of choosing Christ, but of God's act of choosing man. Election is an idea seen throughout Scripture:
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 NASB
They were "...beloved by the Lord..." and "...chosen...for salvation..." Why is it so hard for people to accept that God chooses people for salvation? Because realizing that God chooses people ultimately destroys the idea that an individual can get to heaven of his own volition; he has to be chosen. Some people use John 3:16 to argue that whosoever wants to can be saved; therefore, God cannot possibly choose people to be saved. What if a person wants to trust Yeshua the Christ, but he is not chosen? That is impossible, because apart from God's election, nobody would want to come to Christ according to:
"No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 NASB
Some have tried to interpret the word "draw" here as "call or invite." But this is not what the word "draw" means. The Greek word translated "draw" is helkuo, which means: "to drag by irresistible superiority." Helkuo is used in ancient pagan writings to speak of an irresistible force. For example, some pagan writers used the word to speak of a hungry man being drawn to food as if by a magnet. So no one comes unless God draws.
who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Yeshua from all eternity, 2 Timothy 1:9 NASB
Why did God choose certain people? Because of "...His own purpose..." We also see in this verse that God's foreknowing and election took place in eternity past, before the foundation of the world.
God chooses, He appoints. Notice carefully who is said to believe the Gospel:
And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 "For thus the Lord has commanded us, 'I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU SHOULD BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'" 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. Acts 13:46-48 NASB
Who is said to have believed? Those who were appointed! Notice why it is that Lydia believes the Gospel:
And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. 14 And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. Acts 16:13-14 NASB
This is the only place in the New Testament that uses the phrase "opened her heart," and the Bible gives the whole credit for this "opening" to God's power, and not to man's will. Arminianism insists that man's free will must furnish the willingness or power, and the Bible says that the Holy Spirit of God furnishes that power or ability in the new birth.
Look at the words carefully: "...whose heart the LORD OPENED...." If you try to deny that the one single reason that Lydia understood and believed the Gospel was because God deliberately opened her heart and enabled her to believe, you are fighting God's Word. If you try to get man's "free will" as the one determining factor into this text, you are consciously corrupting the Word of God.
God is not sitting up there saying, "Boy, I hope some of these people will respond to the Gospel and come along with Me, because I really have invested a lot in it." This is not the God of the Bible. What we see in Ephesians 1 is God master planning every single person into the church, who is to be in the church, before the world began. And history is simply the outworking of His story already written and planned in eternity.
Andrew Wommack writes, "In the strictest sense, we were not personally chosen; Christ was chosen, and all those who are "in Christ" partake of His being chosen by His Father... we're chosen because we chose God's chosen; i.e., Christ."
So he is saying that the only chosen one is Christ Himself, and God had determined that whoever would freely choose to be in Christ by faith would be included in the elect group. However, the passage makes no hint toward this direction, but explicitly contradicts it. Over and over again, Paul uses expressions like, "He chose us," "He predestined us," and "He lavished on us"—on "us," not Christ. The object of the verb "chose" is "us" and not Christ.
It should be evident that such teaching is only trying to dodge the plain meaning of the words of inspired Scripture. "He chose us" is not ambiguous! The "us" refers to persons or individuals who are saints. There is no hint of Paul meaning, "What I'm really saying is that God only chose Christ and then we chose Him, so God really didn't choose us."
Then there are some who say God chooses the ones He foresees will believe. But that is not God's election, that's man's election. If Yahweh looks down through the years and sees who will believe and then chooses them, He waits for them to make the choice. So He really didn't choose us at all. Rather, He only would have responded to our choosing Him by then choosing us. But this would make God's plan of salvation depend on the choices of fallen sinners, rather than on His purpose and glory. It would be puzzling as to why Paul plainly states, "He chose us," if in fact, it were the other way around.
And if that view were correct, how can we escape the criticism that God is learning things by this? He looks down through the years and sees a certain individual will believe, and thus He comes to new knowledge. And if He comes to new knowledge, then He was deficient in knowledge before He came to that new knowledge. And if He's deficient in knowledge, how can He be an omniscient God?
Paul clearly says, He chose "Us"—this is not a corporate election, such as some would have you believe. Paul does not say that God chose Israel as a corporate entity here. This is what some who have issues with the word "election" would have us think. They say that election is only referring to Israel. But Paul here, talking to first century saints, uses 1st person personal pronouns—"we" & "us"— when referring to the objects of God's election.
There is clearly a corporate dimension to God's election. It was God's intention to create for Himself a people perfectly conformed to the likeness of His Son. However, it is inappropriate to suggest that election in Christ is primarily corporate rather than personal and individual.
Paul tells us that He chose us "In Him"—thisisn't saying that God chose us because we were in Christ. "In Him" is instrumental, signifying "through Christ's agency." "In Christ," together with its variants "in Him" and "in Whom," refer to Christ as the agent by which God acts.
God's choosing of us took place "Before the foundation of the world..."—the word "foundation" is from the Greek word katabole; this is a compound of "down" and "throw." The verb is used of throwing seed in the ground, stones being thrown down for the foundation or the starting point of a building. It has the idea of an action that occurred before the foundation or creation of the world. Therefore, God chose the believer before the world was even created, that is, in eternity past.
John states this in two different passages in Revelation:
All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. Revelation 13:8 NASB
We see here that there are some people who are not written in the Book of Life. When was Christ slain? From the foundation of the world. The same idea is seen in:
"The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. Revelation 17:8 NASB
We can see from this verse and Revelation 13:8 that some are not in the Book of Life, and those who are have been there from eternity past. That old Baptist Hymn, "There's a New Name Written Down in Glory," is wrong! There are no NEW names written in the book. Those written have been there from the foundation of the world.
And, when man fell into sin, God didn't say, "Oh no, now I have to modify My plan!" God doesn't have a plan B, He doesn't need one. I'm a supralapsarian, I believe that God planned the fall, I believe He created evil. The infralapsarian position does not believe that God created evil. The primary difference in the lapsarian viewpoints is the order of the decrees; the order implies different origins of sin.
Edwin H. Palmer writes
"To emphasize the sovereignty of God even more, it is necessary to point out that everything is foreordained by God. It is even biblical to say that God has foreordained sin. If sin was outside the plan of God, then not a single important affair of life would be ruled by God. For what action of man is perfectly good? Thus, once again, we confess with full force the absolute sovereignty of God. He predestines, elects, and foreordains." (Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism, p.82-83).
So Yahweh chose us in Christ before He created the world. Why did God choose us? "That we would be holy and blameless before Him"—the purpose of God's election is holiness. Holiness has the fundamental idea of: "set apart." The holy person, in the biblical sense, is one who is set apart to God.
There is a very important interpretive question that we must answer here if we are going to understand this text: By the terms "holy and blameless" is Paul referring to their position or their practice? Is he talking about their standing before God, or is he referring to how they live? To answer this wrongly is to cause great confusion.
If the purpose of God's election is to make us practically holy, something is wrong. Notice that he says that we would be holy and blameless "before Him." Paul is talking about your position in Christ, not your practice.
In Romans chapter 8, the goal of election and predestination is that we might "become conformed to the image of His Son:
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; Romans 8:29 NASB
The word "conformed" is the Greek word summorphos, which means: "jointly formed." The prefix "sum" (soon) denotes: "union; with or together." This "sum" prefix tells us that this is a positional association.
In Old Covenant, these two adjectives, "holy and blameless," were used to describe the unblemished animal set apart for Yahweh as Old Covenant sacrifices. Also we see that unholy men could not approach God, but only stand at a distance. There was always a physical separation between sinful men and a holy God. Being made holy and blameless makes it possible for us to dwell in His presence, because our sins and uncleanness have been removed.
So Paul says, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him," and then he says, "In love." There is a lot of discussion as to whether "in love" goes with verse 4 or 5. If you look at the uses of "in love" through the Epistle to the Ephesians, you see that it occurs a number of other places in the Epistle, and in every case it's always to be taken with what precedes, not what follows. I think that "in love" goes back to "He chose" and reflects that God's choice is born in love. This is the goal of election, that we should ultimately be in the presence of the Lord, holy and without blame before Him in the possession of the love of God.
Remember that I said that these twelve verses are in the form of a Jewish b'rakhah. This is signaled by the first words, Praised be Adonai, Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, which echoes the initial phrases of the 'Amidah. This is the central prayer of the synagogue liturgy, which was recited three times daily.
Well, "He chose us in love..." resembles the close of the Ahavah benediction immediately preceding the recital of the 'Amidah, which stated, "Praised be You, Adonai, who has chosen Your people Israel in love." Ahavah means: "love." This also makes me think that "in love" goes with "He has chosen us."
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Yeshua the Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, Ephesians 1:5 NASB
"He predestined us"—the Greek word translated predestine is proorizo; it is the word from which we get our English word horizon. This Greek word could be literally translated: "pre-horizon." The horizon is the great boundary between the earth and the sky, and the Greek word horizo means to establish boundaries. And to set the boundaries, to draw the lines, to establish the limits, is to determine what will be. And to do that ahead of time, in eternity past, is predestination.
The predestination in our text means that in eternity past, God drew some lines. He established a horizon around each person He had foreknown—a set boundary marking him off—a circle of destiny. What predestined means in its most elementary form is that our final destination, heaven or damnation, is decided by God, not only before we get there, but before we are born. The active voice indicated that God did it.
A comment by theologian Millard Erickson is helpful. He writes, "'Predestination' refers to God's choice of individuals for eternal life or eternal death. 'Election' is the selection of some for eternal life, the positive side of predestination."
Does predestination make God unloving? No, Everyone deserves God's wrath; no one deserves to be in His presence. When people experience God's wrath, that is justice. When people go to heaven, that is loving grace. Therefore, predestination shows the love of God as God chooses to make His enemies His friends by grace.
We see an analogy of this in John 5:
Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; John 5:2-3 NASB
So there is a multitude of sick at this pool:
Yeshua said to him, "Get up, pick up your pallet and walk." Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day. John 5:8-9 NASB
Out of the multitude Yeshua healed one man at a pool. He could have healed everyone, but chose to heal only that man. He passed over the others who were present and wanted healing. Now, if you were a sick person at that pool who didn't get healed, what would have been your response? "That's not fair—you have to heal me too." It would have been just as easy for Christ to have healed the great multitude as it was for Him to heal the one man, but He didn't. Why? He chose not to.
Likewise, in the doctrine of predestination God heals some people spiritually while not doing the same for others. The truth is that God could save everyone, just as He could have healed everyone when He was on the earth. Yet, because God is obligated to no one, the fact that He heals or saves anyone is a gracious, loving gift.
So, in eternity past Yahweh determined to choose some, "To adoption as sons..."—most see this as referring to the practice of the Greek's or Roman's adoption. But I think that this reference to adoption must be understood against the background of Israel's relationship with the Lord as His "firstborn son":
"Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, "Israel is My son, My firstborn. Exodus 4:22 NASB
Speaking of Israel, Yahweh says,
Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; For the LORD speaks, "Sons I have reared and brought up, But they have revolted against Me. Isaiah 1:2 NASB
This relationship was established in the Exodus:
When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. Hosea 11:1 NASB
Paul asserts that adoption as sons was one of the particular privileges belonging to Israel:
who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, Romans 9:4 NASB
Do you remember what Paul said to the saints in Rome about adoption? He said in Romans 8:23 that they were, "waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." The Church was inheriting Israel's privileges in Christ. And now this privilege belongs to "us," all believers.
"And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:18 NASB
In eternity past Yahweh predestined us to be adopted into His family. "The Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ" (v 3) is now "our Father," as individuals. Each person who is adopted as a son now has the omnipotent creator of the universe as his or her Father.
This adoption is, "Through Yeshua the Christ to Himself"—this prepositional phrase indicates the agency of the believer's adoption. It is through, or by means of, the word of Christ that makes it possible for the sinner to be adopted into the family of God. Everything that we have from God is in Christ and comes to us because He was willing to go to the cross to secure our salvation. God blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ (1:3). He chose us in Christ (1:4). He predestined us to adoption through Yeshua the Christ (1:5). He freely bestowed His grace on us in Christ, "the Beloved" (1:6).
"According to the kind intention of His will"—"Kind intention" is a single Greek word that means: "good pleasure." It means that God's choice of us, His predestining of us to be His children, was apart from any cause in us, but was independent and unaffected. By sovereign will, by sovereign decree, He chose those who were to be the members of His family totally apart from the will of any man, totally apart from any human consideration and purely on the basis of His own will. Paul stresses this in this section. Verse 5 says, "...according to the kind intention of His will..." Verse 9 says, "According to His kind intention..." Verse 11 says, "According to His purpose who works all things after the council of His will." Salvation is all about His will, not ours. So He gets all the praise:
to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6 NASB
"To the praise of the glory of His grace..."—here is another b'rakhah. Barukh attah, Adonai, "blessed be the Lord." He concludes this first section by directing us back to praising God, the source of our blessings (1:6). Central to Paul's thinking is that God chose us (1:4) and predestined us (1:5) to these amazing blessings. Thus any teaching that subverts or diminishes God's sovereignty in our salvation also subverts or diminishes the praise that is due to His name.
This is the ultimate goal of God in choosing us for salvation—the praise of the glory of His grace. Why, then, is the subject of divine election a cause of consternation? Why do some individuals want to protest, rather than to praise God for divine election?
"Which He freely bestowed on us..."—the word "grace" is charis (khar-ace), and the word "freely" is charitoo (khar-e-ta-o). He is doubling the word for emphases. Remember what we said about the Hebrew word for grace, which is chen and has the idea of "providing continual protection." And Yahweh does this, "...In the Beloved"—again, we see that all that we have we have in Christ. He is the "beloved" of the Father.
In eternity past, Yahweh had conceived and chosen a number of specific individuals
for salvation, and had decided that He would adopt them to be His sons through Yeshua the Christ. According to His foreordained plan, all would fall into sin in Adam, including the elect, whom He had already chosen. Then, out of this mass of sinful humanity, He would call and draw out His chosen ones, removing them from the kingdom of darkness and placing them into the kingdom of His Son.
This is why we bless Yahweh. Remember what we said about the Hebrew word for "bless"? It is the word barakh, and in the intensive form of the verb means: "to drop to the knee in respect to another person as if to present them a gift." Understanding our election and predestination should cause us to drop to the knee in praise of Yahweh.
Again, I exhort us all to make the commitment that the psalmist made:
But as for us, we will bless the LORD From this time forth and forever. Praise the LORD! Psalms 115:18 NASB
This should be the heart of every believer. If this is not your attitude, you do not understand what has been done for you in Christ.
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