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Paul's epistle to the Ephesians is, in some ways, a continuation of his epistle to the Romans. It enlarges upon Romans 1-8 in regard to the believer's position and right standing with God. We are "seated" with Christ, so we must "walk" according to our calling, and "stand" in the full armor of God against those who would oppose us.
Category - Bible Commentaries
God not only blessed us by His own will, but He also chose us by His will. Paul writes in Eph. 1:4-6,
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestinated us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
He chose us before we were even born. The fact that “He predestinated us” shows that this was done long before we were even born. No one predestinates himself. The pattern can be seen in the fact that He chose Jacob before he was born and before he had done anything—good or evil—that might have influenced God’s decision (Rom. 9:11). In the big picture, God chose us before the birth of creation, long before any man had done anything good or evil.
Paul’s main thesis was to show the sovereignty of God and especially the fact that God’s choices had nothing to do with the will of man or his works. The only reason that men often find this idea objectionable is because they think it is unjust for God to choose a few for salvation and burn the rest in hell.
But God’s choices condemn no one to an eternal separation from God. God’s choice simply means that in the present age He has chosen to work with the few to bless the many. Salvation comes to a few now—prior to the Great White Throne judgment—and the rest will be saved at a later time through the ministry of His chosen ones.
Everyone recoils at the idea that God might lock up the majority of mankind in unbelief and then torture them for eternity. They cannot bring themselves to believe in such a God—and rightly so. But the solution is not to reject the sovereignty of God. The solution is to reject the idea that God will lose most of His creation eternally.
John Calvin understood the sovereignty of God in Romans 9 but not the love of God in Romans 5. One must grasp both of these chapters to know the divine plan and purpose for creation. In fact, I believe that is why Paul set forth the justification of all men in Rom. 5:17, 18 long before setting forth the sovereignty of God in Rom. 9:15-19.
Nonetheless, in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reverses the order. First he sets forth the sovereign will of God in his opening salutation, and then presents the reconciliation of all things in Eph. 1:10, 22. This reconciliation, of course, is the outworking of His love for all.
Eph. 1:4, 5 tells us in the NASB,
4 In love 5 He predestinated us to adoption as sons… according to the kind intention of His will.
Men usually reject the idea of predestination, because they think it is devoid of love. Hence, they redefine it as foreknowledge. In other words, they say that God knew ahead of time how man would exercise his own will. They redefine predestination in this way in order to remove responsibility from God for supposedly choosing most people for ultimate destruction.
But this is a misunderstanding of God’s “kind intention of His will.” Predestination is based “in love” and is something that the God of love determined “before the foundation of the world.”
As with all of God’s acts, predestination is an outworking of His love, not merely of His power. This includes all of His judgments. His judgments are corrective in nature. They are designed to cast down all vain imaginations that misunderstand God’s nature.
His judgments are designed to bring justice to the world. Justice is not done until all the victims of injustice have been paid restitution. Justice is not mere punishment to be inflicted upon the guilty. Justice is about righting the wrongs perpetrated upon victims of injustice.
An eternal torture pit could inflict punishment, but it can never restore the lawful order by righting the wrongs that have caused untold suffering in the earth. Justice is done only when all the victims of injustice have been compensated for their losses. Mere punishment fails to do this.
Therefore, predestination is not to be abhorred but embraced as an expression of God’s love and kindness. Because “He has predestined us to adoption as sons,” He opened our ears to hear the call of the Spirit, so that faith could be born, and so that we could become sons of God, called to minister the word of reconciliation to those who are not yet chosen (2 Cor. 5:18-20).
Eph. 1:6 speaks of “the praise of the glory of His grace.” When we understand that grace itself is rooted in the sovereignty of God, we can only praise His grace if we know that it is praiseworthy. Grace is something God grants to those He has chosen. So Rom. 11:4-6 says,
4 But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
The “remnant of grace” (KJV) consists of those few whom God has chosen by His own will, just as He chose Jacob in Rom. 9:11-13. Without it, Jacob would never have come to the point where he could receive the name Israel. Such grace is hardly praiseworthy if the result is the glorification of only the chosen few. It is praiseworthy because we know that the remnant of grace is given the calling of Abraham to bless all families of the earth (Gen. 12:3). We are chosen as ambassadors to tell the world that God is “not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19). That is based on the love of God.
Eph. 1:7, 8 says,
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 on us…
Redemption has to do with debts being paid or debt notes being sold to a redeemer. All sin is reckoned as a debt. When Adam sinned, he incurred a debt that he could not pay. So Jesus paid the debt “through His blood.” His blood was the full payment on the debt that the entire world owed through sin. Jesus did not pay for the sin of the entire world only to claim a few of them for Himself. No, He paid for everything, and therefore He has the lawful right to claim everything that He redeemed. So 1 John 2:2 says,
2 and He Himself is the propitiation [hilasmos, “expiation”] for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
To propitiate is “to appease with an offering.” To expiate is “to make amends, to pay the price of an offense.” Jesus did not appease God with an offering; He expiated the debt of the whole world, thereby purchasing it as His own, according to the laws of redemption (Lev. 25:23-34; 47-55).
In the law of redemption, a redeemer may be a near kinsman or a friend or stranger looking to buy a slave that has been “sold for his theft” (Exodus 22:3). The difference is that a near kinsman has the right of redemption, while others do not. In other words, a slave owner cannot refuse to sell his slave (at a fair price) to his near kinsman.
Jesus was our Redeemer, our near kinsman, for “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11) and “He had to be made like His brethren… to make propitiation [hilaskomai, “expiation”] for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). Being a near kinsman means that our former slave master, personified as Sin in Rom. 6:22, has no right to refuse His offer (Lev. 25:48). As our brother, Jesus has redemption rights.
Neither sin nor the devil has the right to retain slaves that Jesus purchased. Furthermore, this negotiation (if we can call it that) was done apart from the will of the slave himself. As a slave, he had no legal standing in the matter, for it was done “above his head.” Our great Redeemer purchased all slaves in the world by grace alone—that is, by His sovereign will.
The only other important factor is whether or not Jesus had sufficient wealth to purchase a world full of debtor-slaves. In my view, Jesus overpaid for these slaves, because His blood was priceless, having infinite value, while all sin-debt is finite.
Hence, on the cross Jesus purchased the entire world of sinners, although He has chosen to lay claim to them at different intervals of time. The fact of universal salvation has been settled; the timing of each one’s salvation is another matter.
Paul writes in Eph. 1:8-10,
8 … In all wisdom and insight, 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to the kind intention which He purposed in Him. 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth…
We have the revelation of “the mystery (secret) of His will.” We know the divine plan to reconcile all of creation in the end, when He sums up all things in Christ. When the great Accountant does the final audit of creation in “the fullness of the times,” everything will be reconciled, and all things will be in subjection under His feet (Eph. 1:22).
In other words, the divine plan is not complete until He is the King of Creation and God is “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). The Father has subjected all things to Christ, the only exception being the Father Himself (1 Cor. 15:27).
No wonder that Paul was able to marvel at the divine plan and give God glory and praise for “the kind intention of His will” (Eph. 1:5). God’s intentions will not be thwarted, because His will is stronger than the will of man. He is sovereign enough to accomplish His good plan to subject all things, thus fulfilling the original Adamic mandate in Gen. 1:28.