by Mike Ratliff
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints and believers in Christ Jesus who are in Ephesus. 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-2 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
We are in the throes of an election year and political motives are lurking behind so much of what the “powers that be” say and do right now. I have the luxury of being quite free to simply exegete God’s Word and use the discernment and wisdom he has given me plus the spiritual gift of teaching to explain what it says while the Holy Spirit takes these truths and applies them to reader’s hearts in ways that I could never imagine. I never have to worry about compromising anything in order not to offend some group or emphasize something else beyond what is necessary in order to please another. No, I am free to simply teach the Word and so should any Pastor or church leader. Why is it that so much of the visible church is so shallow and so much like the world? Those like that long ago abandoned adherence to God’s Word as authoritative as His Word and absolute truth, which is inerrant and infallible and complete, et cetera. Instead, they took on the “wisdom” of the world and so became “liberal” and spiritually dead. They are outside of God’s purpose for his Church. Their motives for doing so may vary, but mostly it boils down to them becoming man-pleasing instead of God-fearing.
This short series will be on Ephesians 1:3-3:13 and can be roughly broken down into 6 main parts. Part 1, this lesson, will be based on Ephesians 1:3-6 and could best be titled as “Predestination in Christ.”
In some theological discussions labels are used derisively. I have been called a Calvinist while I have restated that I am Reformed in my Theology. I referred to those who called me that as either Arminians or Semi-Pelagians or even as Pelagians. However, to use those terms puts too much of the emphasis on man. The real terms, I believe, that we should be using is Monergism vs. Synergism. Monergists, like me, believe that our salvation is 100% God’s work from beginning to end and it is all his plan. On the other hand, Synergists come in all sorts of flavors and insist on limiting God’s sovereignty in certain areas while Monergists understand that God is totally Sovereign. In any case, let us simply look at God’s Word and let the Spirit speak the truth to our hearts from it, not our traditions.
3 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, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world for us to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, 5 having predestined us to sonship through Jesus Christ to himself according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of the glory of his grace by which he favored us in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
In v3, “Blessed” translates εὐλογητὸς (eulogētos), “blessed,” which is derived from the same Greek word as “eulogy,” which means to praise or commend. This is the supreme duty of all creatures, especially those who are of Christ’s seed. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is called to be blessed, praised, commended, honored, worshiped because he has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing…” This is referring to God’s providential grace. He has already given believers total blessing (Romans 8:28; Colossians 2:10; James 1:17; 2 Peter 1:3). The word “spiritual” here does not refer to immaterial blessings as opposed to material ones as I used to believe, but rather to the work of God, who is the divine and spiritual source of all blessings. I had difficulty translating the part that came out “in the heavenly places.” The Greek simply says, “in the heavenlies.” This refers to the realm of God’s complete heavenly domain, from which all his blessings come. Notice that Paul tells us that we are blessed in the heavenlies “in Christ.” What does that mean? God’s superabundant blessings belong only to believers who are his children, by faith in Christ, so that what he has is theirs. This includes his righteousness, resources, privilege, position, and power (Romans 8:16, 17).
Paul clearly states in v4 that God chose us in him before the foundation of the world. The doctrine of election is emphasized throughout Scripture (Deuteronomy 7:6; Isaiah 454; John 6:44; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:29; 9:11; 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:10). The verb “chose” translates ἐξελέξατο (exelexato), “choose,” the Aorist, Middle case of ἐκλέγομαι (eklegomai). This verb form indicates that God not only chose by himself but for himself to the praise for his own glory. God’s election or predestination does not operate apart from or nullify man’s responsibility to believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour (Mathew 3:1, 2; 4:17; John 5:40). When did God choose all those who are the elect? It was before the foundation of the world. Through God’s sovereign will before the creation of the world those who are saved have become eternally united with Christ Jesus (1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; 17:8). Since this election took place before the foundation of the world it is obvious that the elect’s salvation is independent of human influence and apart from any human merit (Ephesians 2:8,9). The next part is what so many miss. To what end were the elect chosen? It is for us to be holy and blameless in his sight. This describes both a purpose and a result of God choosing those who are to be saved. The unrighteous are declared righteous, unworthy sinners are declared worthy of salvation. Why? It is all because they are chosen “in him” (Christ). Of course this is talking about the doctrine of imputation, which certain synergists like, Rick Warren have hard time with because he insists that this doctrine makes for lazy Christians. What do you think? I think I would rather go with what God’s Word says than what Rick Warren says.
Notice that God predestined the elect “in love.” This is God’s divine motive for his elective purpose. Through that love he predestined us to sonship through Jesus Christ. This is our adoption into God’s family through the redemptive work of Christ on our behalf. I have children and they have some of my characteristics and some of my wife’s. However, if we had adopted a child, we would have loved that child as our own, but we could not have bestowed upon him or her our characteristics. However, in our adoption into God’s family, we are born again. We are made new creations. In this new birth God miraculously gives his own nature to those whom he has elected and who have trusted in Christ. He makes them his children in the image of his divine Son, giving them not just his riches and blessings, but also his very nature (John 15:15; Romans 8:15).
In v6 Paul completes the thought. God predestined us and did everything necessary to save us and adopt us as sons through Jesus Christ to himself according to the kind intention of his will, “to the praise of the glory of his grace by which he favored us in the Beloved.” Yes, we are saved by grace not by anything we did or ever could do. It was because he favored us in the Beloved, who is Christ, to the praise of the glory of his grace. My brethren, is it obvious to you now that Paul was no synergist? He was totally monergistic. We will continue in the next post.
Soli Deo Gloria!