3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Read the passage several times and note anything that stands out to you or questions that come to mind. THEN, ponder the following questions as a way to help you ponder these verses:
What is significant about the way Paul begins this passage, “Blessed be the God and Father…”
Make a list of ways that God has blessed us according to this passage.
What are the implications of “he chose us”? (v.4)
Why did he choose us?
What questions does the word “predestined” bring to mind? (v.5)
How would you explain the tension that exists between “he chose us” (v.5) and “having believed” (v.13)?
Ponder the phrase “to the praise of his glorious grace” (v.6) What is it about grace that is glorious?
Define and explain what “redemption “is. Ponder the phrase, “through his blood”. Why is this such an outrageous statement? (v.7)
What picture comes to your mind when you think about the word “lavished”. (v.8)
Check out verse 11. What incredible truths do you notice in this verse?
What does Paul have in mind when he mentions “our inheritance”?
Explain what Paul is talking about in v.13 when he refers to the “word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.
Why is this passage so crucial for disciples to ponder and grasp?
Read the following excerpt from the book Exalting Jesus in Ephesians by Tony Merida. Make note of anything that captures your attention or of questions that are provoked by the reading. Then ponder the questions at the end.
Let me make a few more observations about the nature of election in this text.
First, we must admit great mystery in the doctrine of election. This passage speaks about what God was doing “before the foundation of the world” (v. 4). It speaks of His eternal, secret purposes (vv. 5,10), and recognizes that He works all things according to “the decision of His will” (v. 11). We must admit mystery here. God is God and we are not. Deuteronomy reminds us, “the secret things belong to . . . God” ( Deut 29:29 ESV). So we might disagree about the finer points of this mystery, but we can still fellowship and serve together. It is difficult for finite creatures with three-pound, fallen brains to comprehend how this doctrine relates to God’s love for all people and His impartiality, as well as how it relates to human choices. We should be OK with mystery. Encountering mystery should be a cue to start worshiping.
Second, while we want to affirm mystery, we should also affirm the other attributes clearly affirmed in this text. In this text we see that God is perfectly loving (vv. 4-5), eternally sovereign (v. 5), gloriously gracious (vv. 6-8), and infinitely wise (v. 8). God can do whatever He pleases ( Ps 115:3), and whatever He does is always consistent with who He is.
God is loving . Election is an expression of God’s love for His children. Paul says, “in love He predestined us” (vv. 4-5).
God is sovereign . God’s choosing is simply one expression of His eternal control over all things. Notice the language of God’s sovereignty, as Paul mentions predestination (vv. 5,11), God’s “favor” or “good pleasure” (vv. 5,9), God’s “will” (vv. 5,9,11), God’s “administration” (v. 10), and God’s “purpose” (v. 11).
God is gracious . God’s choosing is an expression of His grace to sinners (cf. Rom 11:6; 2 Tim 1:9). God did not choose us because of anything good in us.
God is wise . God’s choosing is an expression of His infinite wisdom.
Third, the passage itself shows the necessity of personal belief in the gospel. This is true even if all of our questions about human responsibility (or will) are not answered in this passage. Look at verse 13: one must believe. Remember, this is the same sentence! Election and faith belong in the same sentence, and it is a sentence only God could write. We may not understand this, but we should fully embrace it. We embrace other truths that are mysteriously woven together like the deity and humanity of Christ and the divine-human authorship of Scripture. Someone once asked Charles Spurgeon how he reconciled God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, and he responded, “I never reconcile two friends” (“Jacob and Esau”). Someone asked another pastor about this “problem,” and he replied, “That’s not my problem. That’s God’s problem. And for God, it’s not a problem.” Just believe both truths and let God harmonize them.
Some get the wrong idea about election. It should not cast doubt on whether or not all are welcome to come to Jesus. All may come. That is the invitation. Russell Moore says,
God is not some metaphysical airport security screener, waving through the secretly pre-approved and sending the rest into a holding tank for questioning. God is not treating us like puppets made of meat, forcing us along by his capricious whim. Instead the doctrine of election tells us that all of us who have come to know Christ are here on purpose. ( Adopted for Life , 34)
Our invitation should be, “Come to Jesus! When you come, thank Him for drawing you!”
Another question that is often raised concerns the need for evangelism. Election does not lessen the need to tell people about Jesus. Election gives hope to evangelism. When Paul was discouraged in Corinth, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent . . . because I have many people in this city” ( Acts 18:9-10). Some people will believe when you speak the gospel! The hardest of hearts can be converted because evangelism is not about the quality of our presentation but the power of God. We should fear no one because of this truth, and because God is sovereign, we should assume that God has placed us where we are for the purpose of seeing others come to Christ through our faithful evangelism.
Further, there are numerous examples of missionaries and pastors who affirmed the doctrine of election (William Carey, Andrew Fuller, John G. Paton, David Brainard, and more). The Lord, who is the Judge of all the earth, orders us to go make disciples of all nations. Maybe the most famous example of this is the apostle Paul. Interestingly, in Romans 9–11, Paul speaks about election in detail, but the chapter in the middle (chapter 10) is about the necessity of evangelism for people to come to saving faith in Christ (see Rom 10:14-17). In that section he is burdened for lost people ( Rom 9:1-3; 10:1), and love compelled him to proclaim the gospel to everyone.
Again, this passage in Ephesians is primarily focused on God’s activity in salvation. Some texts we will expound will more heavily emphasize human responsibility, but we do not have the space necessary to harmonize all of these passages. And that is not Paul’s purpose either. His purpose is to praise the God who saves sinners.
Fourth, our election is in Christ. We are chosen in the “Chosen One” ( Luke 9:35; 23:35). F. F. Bruce says, “He is the foundation, origin, and executor: all that is involved in election and its fruits depends on him” ( Ephesians , 254–55). O’Brien summarizes, “Election is always and only in Christ” ( Ephesians , 100). We were not chosen for anything good in us. God accepts us because He chose to put us in union with Christ.
Finally, in light of these things, election should humble us (cf. 1 Cor 1:27-30). The proper response to God’s having chosen us for salvation is awe, worship, and obedience to God. Election should not anger anyone or inflate anyone’s pride. It should humble everyone. No one should be arrogant when talking about the doctrine of election.
For those who want to argue against this truth, Paul says, “But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God?” ( Rom 9:20). We should not be arrogant; we pots do not talk back to the Potter. Those who embrace this doctrine but walk in pride have not applied it properly. This doctrine should put us on our faces in worship to the sovereign, wise, loving, gracious, and mysterious God, who has chosen us in Christ.
- How do you respond to the statement, “Encountering mystery should be a cue to start worshiping”?
- Why is it important to think deeply about difficult themes such as election and predestination?
What personal and practical applications can you make from this passage?