Yesterday I preached from Ephesians 1:3-6. The topic of verses 3-14 is focused on our eternal salvation provided to us by our gracious and merciful God. In fact, verses 3-14 are one lengthy sentence in the Greek. In yesterday’s sermon, I took the first part of this lengthy sentence and focused on the work of God the Father in saving wretched sinners. As we continue to expound this lengthy doxology to God, we will look at the work of the Son and the Spirit in saving sinners as well.
God the Father — Giver of Eternal Blessings
Every blessing we enjoy in life comes from God. He has blessed us in Christ, and provided innumerable blessings in the heavenly places. In other words, as children of God we have received blessings from God that we enjoy presently and countless blessings that we will enjoy in eternity. They are reserved for us in Christ. Paul points out the πνευματικός – spiritual, blessings. This is why the hymn writer could write the following words:
Let all things their Creator bless,
and worship him in humbleness,
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
and praise the Spirit, Three in One:
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
God the Father — Chose Us
In Ephesians 1:4, we see the word “chose” used by Paul. It’s a word in the Greek (ἐκλέγομαι) that means – to pick out or choose for oneself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the doctrine of election and predestination explained incorrectly. Many people claim that God looks through a tunnel of time to see the actions of a sea of humanity in the distant future. Based upon their decisions to repent and believe the gospel, God then elects them and predestines them to be His children for all of eternity. There are countless problems with this view and I want to name a few of them.
- If God looked through a tunnel of time to see the distant decisions of a sea of humanity in the future, God would be bound by time and space. The God of Scripture is not bound by time and space.
- If God looked through a tunnel of time to see the decisions of all humanity in the distant future, there would have been a moment in time when God didn’t have all information and needed to “learn” or “gain” information. That would be a heretical view of God.
- If God looked through a tunnel of time to see the decisions of people in the distant future in order to make His decision regarding election and predestination – that would place the reigns of sovereignty in the hands of sinners rather than in the hands of the sovereign God of the universe.
- If God was merely waiting to see what sinners would do by looking through this tunnel of time, God would have watched every last person rebel against Him and then die and go to hell. Why? Because according to Scripture – not one person seeks after God on his own (Romans 3:10-11).
The proper view of the word “chose” in verse 4 is that God in eternity past acted out of divine love and mercy to save guilty sinners by choosing them in Christ to salvation. Any other view does violence to this word in the context of Scripture and it does violence to the doctrine of God.
God the Father’s Plan of Holiness
God has planned for His children to be holy. For Paul to press upon the church at Ephesus (and surrounding regions) to pursue God in holiness is not legalism. Holiness is the intended plan of God for all of His children. So many people struggle with their salvation because they’re living in a perpetual state of sin. According to Scripture, people who are not pursuing God in holiness should question their salvation. I like what Kent Hughes writes about this point in his commentary:
If your life is characterized by a pattern of conscious sin, you very likely are not a Christian. If some of your most cherished thoughts are hatreds, if you are determined not to forgive, you may not be a true believer. If you are a committed materialist who finds that your greatest joys are self-indulgence — clothing your body with lavish outfits, having all your waking thoughts devoted to house, cars, clothing, and comforts — you may not be a Christian. If you are a sensualist who is addicted to pornography, if your mind is a twenty-four-hour bordello — and you think it’s okay — you may very well not be a Christian, regardless of how many times you have “gone forward” and mouthed the evangelical shibboleths. Election ultimately results in holiness, but the process begins now. Are you concerned for holiness? Are you growing in holiness? 
God the Father’s Purpose in Predestination
First of all, we must note that the doctrine of predestination is taught in the Bible. Predestine (Προορίζω) means o decide upon beforehand, predetermine. It’s an unhelpful and unwise thing to use the biblical word as an expletive. In fact, Paul doesn’t use the subject of predestination as a means for an apologetic debate or to engage in a fight with his Arminian friends. He used the word to praise God for saving sinners who didn’t deserve an ounce of mercy.
Predestination is connected to adoption just as election is connected to holiness. God had a plan to adopt guilty sinners, Jews and Gentiles, and a people from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation on planet earth. As adopted children, we receive the full legal rights as the children of God. We are made joint heirs with Jesus Christ and enjoy all of the spiritual blessings that God has given to us in Christ.
Consider the heights and depths of our salvation as pre-planned by the Trinity before the foundation of the world. It should bring us to a point of humility and genuine praise!
- R. Kent Hughes, Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), 25–26.