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, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Over my years in Christian ministry I have fielded more questions on the theme of predestination than any other—from Christians, at least. Does God choose me? Does that mean I’m just a puppet, or a robot, or otherwise uninvolved or irrelevant in the whole process? Isn’t that unfair? And when we look at what the Bible has to say about God’s election, surprise is the most common reaction. We find it’s a reason to praise God, not to be embarrassed by or confused about what he’s said and done.
Paul’s astonishing start to his letter to the Ephesian church outlines in no uncertain terms that God, the creator of the universe, the Father of our Lord Jesus, is worthy of praise. That is, he’s due everything good we can say about him. Whether that praise is directed towards him or expressed in telling others about him—either way, blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, because of the magnificence of what he’s done for us. (Amongst other reasons, that is.)
For God has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ, having chosen us in Christ before the creation of the world. Just let that thought roll around in your head for a moment: God the Father chose us—each Christian, in Jesus, whether you’re reading this in Penrith or Jakarta or Memphis or Berlin—before he created anything. He determined that it would be so.
Whatever else we have to say on this, we can’t make the mistake of underestimating God. I don’t think we can properly appreciate the complexities, the scale, or the reach of that power and rule and authority over all of creation—to not only make everything from nothing, and bring us into being and into relationship with him, but also to choose and determine us as his people, chosen to be holy and blameless in his sight before time began. And yet he’s chosen us in a way that doesn’t diminish our responsibility to will and act and be accountable for our choices, while still being under his sovereign rule.
But our inability to properly appreciate God’s immensely powerful rule should never lead us to somehow limit God’s ability. Bringing God down to a level at which we can understand and carefully define him—well, that would be a mistake. Failure to fully understand how God’s sovereign election of his people and my experience as a rational and responsive creature can coexist does not mean I can refuse to hear God’s word: he chose us to be holy and blameless in his sight.
This is a fairly pressing question: how am I to be holy and blameless in his sight? Those two words don’t describe me very well, and I’m pretty sure the same is true of you. The answer is in verses 5-7: we were predestined to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ (which, again, is to the praise of his glorious grace), and we have redemption through his blood, and the forgiveness of our sins. We were chosen to be sons of the living God.1 God chose us to be his children, co-heirs with Jesus Christ himself, God’s only Son, our Lord.
According to the pleasure and will of the creator of the universe, we have been set aside to be holy and blameless in and through Jesus Christ. Paul keeps going in this section to talk more about the theme of God’s plan and its astounding culmination in Christ, but I hope you’re seeing the picture of why all of this is to God’s praise. Faced with God’s sovereign choice to include us in his family as pure and blameless co-heirs with Christ, to do what we are so totally and utterly unable to even begin to accomplish—how can we do anything other than give him thanks and honour and praise?
- This doesn’t mean, by the way, that only blokes are included, or that we’re all to be male. It’s referring not only to being included in the family but also to having the rights of inheritance. ↩