Ephesians 1:3-6

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

blessed (v.3) = to speak well of — from the Greek word from which we get “eulogize” — used only of God in the New Testament

has blessed (v.3) = lit. “the One who blessed” — does us good, confers benefit

us (v.3) — Paul and the Ephesian saints and all who trust Christ in this age

spiritual (v.3) = pneumatikos — produced and given by the Holy Spirit — not just “not physical” — the blessings of grace (i.e., the assurance of immortality, the promise of resurrection, the inheritance and privilege of adoption, etc.), the sphere of relations between God and believers

in heavenly places (v.3) — “places” isn’t in the Greek — so, in the heavenlies — found in heaven and brought to us from there — blessings that come from where God is — Believers now enjoy, while in the body on earth, some of the same blessings that they will enjoy in heaven. This is distinct from the blessings promised to Israel which were all earthy, connected to the land, Jerusalem, and the temple in Jerusalem.

in Christ (v.3) — ours because we are in Him

just as (v.4) = even as, in conformity with the fact — here “in conformity with the fact that He chose” — the ground of the blessing

He chose (v.4) = to pick or choose out for one’s self

The word is used of God choosing out Israel from amongst all nations to be the channel through which He will bring salvation to all those in these other nations who will receive it. This choosing out of Israel from among the nations does not imply that those nations not chosen are rejected or refused salvation. Indeed, the salvation of Israel was for the purpose of making salvation possible to the other nations. The same usage applies in the case of individual sinners selected out from amongst mankind. These are selected for the purpose of being channels through which the knowledge of salvation might be brought to the rest of mankind, so that those who put their trust in the Lord Jesus as Savior might be saved. This precludes the idea that those not selected are rejected or refused salvation; second, the middle voice of the verb gives it the meaning of taking or setting apart something for one’s self, to seek or choose out something for one’s self; however, it is unwarranted to give special prominence either to the element of selection from among others, or to that of preference above others. The main import is appointment for a certain object or goal; third, the word is used of the act of choosing some person or thing for a definite object or calling. The middle voice in Greek represents the subject of the verb acting in his own interest or for himself. thus, this selection of the saints in this age of grace is the act of God choosing out from among mankind, certain for Himself. These become His own, to be used for a certain purpose. — Wuest, pages 29-30.

foundation (v.4) = lit. “a laying down”

world (v.4) = a harmonious arrangement or constitution, order

that we should be (v.4) — not an obligation on our part but a statement of God’s purpose

holy and without blame (v.4) — our position in Christ

holy (v.4) = hagios, separated to God — the same word translated “saints” in v.1

without blame (v.4) = without blemish

before Him (v.4) = lit. “to see down in” — a penetrating gaze

in love (v.4) — should almost certainly belong at the beginning of v.5

having predestined (v.5) = to mark out the boundary or limits of a place or thing — to determine a destiny previously — foreordain (as in 1 Corinthians 2:7)

In the New Testament, it [predestined] is always used of God as determining from eternity, sometimes with the further definition “before the age” (1 Corinthians 2:7) — decreeing to do something (Acts 4:28); foreordaining things or persons (1 Corinthians 2:7, Romans 8:29); or as here, appointing one beforehand to something. — Wuest, pages 35-36.

to  (v.5, first usage) — sometimes translated “with a view to”

adoption as sons (v.5) = to place an adult son

The apostle here used as an illustration the Roman practice of legally adopting a child, and thus not only bequeathing to him the material possessions of the one adopting, but also giving him his civil status. Thus God takes a believing sinner, regenerates him, and by means of this makes him His child (teknon, a born one). Then He takes this child and places him in a legal position as an adult son (huios). We thus become joint-heirs with Christ, having been raised to a civil status as adult sons, in which we become heirs of God, inheriting jointly with Christ all that He possesses as an heir of God the Father by virtue of His Sonship and work on the Cross. This is one object of God’s predestination. The other is that the believer is to be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29). — Wuest, pages 36-37.

In biblical times adoption had to do with position — taking those who were already children and making them full-grown sons. Normally, there was a special gathering of friends and family at which time the father would declare his child to be his son, with all the rights and privileges that went along with this blessing. As the heir, he now held a position of esteem. — Sadler, page 50

by (v.5) — indicating the immediate agency — Christ, by His work on the cross, was God’s agent in adopting us as adult sons

Himself (v.5) — God the Father

good pleasure (v.5) = good will, delight, satisfaction, purpose, council

will (v.5) = a desire which proceeds from one’s heart or emotions

to the praise of the glory (v.6) — repeated in vs. 12 and 14

The end, God’s end, in our predestination to adoption is, that the glory, glorious nature, brightness and majesty, and kindliness and beauty, — of His grace might be the object of men and angel’s praise; both as it is in Him, ineffable and infinite — and exemplified in us, its objects. — Wuest, page 38

made us accepted (v.6) = the verb form of “grace” — “graced us”

beloved (v.6) = agapao — tense indicates a past act with continuing results

The words “election” and “predestination” are so loaded with baggage that it’s hard to study a passage of Scripture that uses them without bringing the baggage along with them. I don’t pretend to have the final answer, or even an answer at all. But I do think it is very important to make sure that each usage of those works is studied in the immediate context. In this case, Paul appears to be saying that God chose, or decided, before the world began that those He blessed would be holy and without blame in Christ.

We know Paul is referring to those already saved (“saints” in v.1). They are blessed with all spiritual blessings “just as” they were picked to be holy and without blame. So, it can be read that they are chosen because they are  saints, not that they are saints because they are chosen.

As for “predestined” here, it is clearly referring to our adoption, not our salvation. He decided before the world began that those who were separated to Him (saints) would be given the legal rights of adult sons.

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