Posted: 21 Mar 2011 12:00 AM PDT
IN GREEK, EPHESIANS 1:3–14 is one long sentence. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why even the best English translations are a little condensed and not simple to unpack. Here I shall focus on the first part, Ephesians 1:3–10, and reflect on how three themes come together: God's predestining sovereignty, God's unqualified grace, and God's glorious purposes.
The passage is a doxology, a word of praise, "to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ"—and the following verses provide the reasons why we should praise this God and why his Son Jesus Christ is integral to his praiseworthy deeds. This God, Paul immediately says, is the One "who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). The "us" refers to Christians; the blessings we have received are "in Christ"; and the sphere of these spiritual blessings is "the heavenly realms." In Ephesians, "the heavenly realms" or "the heavenlies" refers to the heavenly dimension of our ultimate existence, experienced in some measure right now. So already we are being introduced to the third theme, God's glorious purpose.
If the description of God in Ephesians 1:3 already exposes the reader to at least some of the reason why God is to be praised, the "for" at the beginning of verse 4 introduces the formal reason: even before the world was created, God chose us in Christ (God's predestining sovereignty) "to be holy and blameless in his sight" (God's glorious purpose). Indeed, "In love he predestined us" (God's unqualified grace and his predestining sovereignty) "to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ" (God's glorious purpose), "in accordance with his pleasure and will" (God's predestining sovereignty)—all of this "to the praise of his glorious grace" (both God's glorious purpose and his unqualified grace), "which he has freely given us in the One he loves" (God's unqualified grace). "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins" (God's glorious purpose), "in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding" (God's unqualified grace) (Eph. 1:4–8).
Read through the rest of this passage and work out these themes (and there are others) for yourself.
The themes hang together in important ways. The more clearly one sees how sovereign is God's choice, the more clearly does his unmerited grace stand out. But sovereign "predestination" is irrational without a "destination": God's purposes in his sovereign sway are thus inescapably tied to his sovereignty and his grace. The more we glimpse God's wonderfully good purposes, the more we shall be grateful for his sovereign sway in bringing them to pass.
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