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Commentary on Eph. 1:3-6 [election and predestination of the Body of Christ]

"Blessed [is] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did bless us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (4) according as He did choose us in him before the foundation of the world, for our being holy and unblemished before Him, in love, (5) having foreordained us to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, (6) to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He did make us accepted in the beloved" (YLT)

Synopsis: although repentance is the universal duty of every man, God has elected some and predestined them to the glory of the divine nature as kings and priests with Jesus Christ. The Bible does not reveal why only some, why these and not others, or what criteria decided. Those who repent become recipients of the spirit of the divine love agape, through which they experience the new birth as children of God, born of His spirit and word. Faithful conduct in self-sacrifice will make them 'holy and unblemished', and thus capable of embracing the promised glory.

The passage of Eph. 1:3-6 is actually the continuation of the first words of the epistle, in which the apostle Paul defines the recipients of his words. In Ep. 1:1 we read that the letter is addressed to the saints and the faithful. These terms can describe all believers. Anyone who sticks to his calling can be called faithful. In turn, the concept of holiness or sacrifice (Greek hagios) in its basic sense means separation from sin, and can therefore describe all who believe and repent in the name of Jesus Christ. The pool of recipients of the letter would be broadly defined in this way were it not for the continuation we find in verses 3-6. Here, Paul speaks specifically about those who have been chosen and predestined, which obviously does not apply to everyone who believes.

And it does not apply to everyone who believes because all people, without exception, have duties towards God, namely to believe and repent of their sins (Acts 17:30, Rom. 1:18-23). These are actions that should be taken by everyone and everyone can take them, for they result first, from an obvious conclusion (as Paul points out in his letter to the Romans) that there is a Supreme Being, and second, from the obligatory love (piety) that man simply owes to this Being. However, even if everyone repented, not everyone would do this with the same result because God has elected some to offer them a special hope on the basis of repentance: the hope of obtaining the Divine nature and the glory of immortality (1 Pet 2:9). Since this hope is special, the requirements referred to by the letter to the Ephesians are also special: we are to be "holy and unblemished" (Eph. 1:4 YLT).

These two terms are not simply synonyms, but they seem to point to the perfection of character from two perspectives. The Greek amomos translated in Eph. 1:4 YLT as 'unblemished' really means no guilt, no imperfection. The behavior of one who is amomos is entirely consistent with the principles of God, which underlines the positive element - the complete development of character in good principles. Hagios means 'holy', but also consecrated - separated. Here a negative element appears, i.e. being free from all unrighteousness, our separation from sin. In this way, the character of the elect must be perfected and crystallized so that the purpose of our calling in glory can be achieved. This degree of development, however, is not something that can be achieved by the sense of duty alone.

In Phil. 2:13 we read that "God it is who is working in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (YLT). The tool that kindles such a desire in the elect is the divine love agape - the sacrificial love that makes the believer want to do more than just a duty; a love that makes us a sacrifice to God (Rom. 12:1). In 2 Cor. 5:14,15 Paul even writes that "the love of the Christ doth constrain us ... that those living, no more to themselves may live, but to him who died for them, and was raised again". The effect of agape is the reform of character to such standards as God requires - that is why in Eph. 1:4 we read literally that we are chosen to be holy and unblemished "in love". Not 'out of love', as it is rendered in many translations, but in love - through its influence on the elect.

Important from the point of view of God's election is the fact that agape is a gift, as evidenced by Rom. 5:5, among others. Therefore, it is not a product of our own zeal in faith, but rather its cause - the fact that we have become its recipients as God's elect. The second important element associated with agape is the birth of the spirit: the result of the influence of God's love on the elect is the rebirth of the mind and subsequent development of a completely new character shaped by learning and practicing the truth. In this sense, we become children of God. Not in the bodily sense - resurrection to glory at the present earthly stage of our calling is a promise, but not yet a fact. On the other hand, we are children of God through the spirit, through the heart and mind reborn in the love of God (Eph. 4:20-24, Rom. 8:9-13). That is why in Eph. 1:5 Paul writes about adoption - because birth of the spirit really makes us children of God born of the spirit of his love and his word (1 Pet. 1:23).

Therefore, in Eph. 1:3 one can read that the Father "did bless us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (YLT). Why in the heavenly places - because the area of the activity of God's love (through which the elect receive birth of the spirit) is not earthly matters, temporal goals and problems, but spiritual matters; not material reality here and now, but its universal archetypal structure. Therefore, in Col. 3:1-4 Paul admonishes the new creation that its goal is to think about what is up, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. And what is above is in turn what we call the truth. That is why agape is also called the love of the truth in the Bible (2 Thes. 2:10).

If in 2 Cor. 5:14,15 Paul writes that the love of Christ compels us not to live for ourselves, but for him, then we know that he lived to bear witness to the truth (Jn. 18:37). And this is also the task of new creatures - the truth in its exploration, observance and teaching. Because we are talking about metaphysical truth, we are also talking about heavenly places - because in the figurative sense there is the heart and mind of the elect. Getting to know and practicing the truth, in turn, will lead us to the stage of development in which we will actually be suited to the glory to which we aspire - to the positions of kings and priests with Jesus Christ. When Paul writes in Eph. 1:6 that God elected and predestined some "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (YLT), it seems that this glorious outcome of our calling is in mind above all.

If the stake of our calling is so high, do we know anything about the criteria on the basis of which God is choosing one and not the other? We know as much as the Apostle Paul informs us in Eph. 1:5 - "according to the good pleasure of His will" (YLT). No criteria or conditions can be found in the Scriptures. What is more, in Rom. 9:6-16 the apostle Paul argues that election is completely independent of the will of man and his actions. As if in confirmation, in Eph. 1:4 we read that God "did choose us in him before the foundation of the world" (YLT). Regardless of whether someone interprets these words literally or not, the basic message is clear: if God chooses before the foundation of the world, it means that in this matter we could not say a word or in any way ask Him to choose us.

It is true that the apostle uses one more expression that could bring something to the point - he speaks about predestination - but its criteria are identical. Predestination remains in direct relation to election; it deals with the same problem but describes it from a different perspective. If election means pointing to a person, predestination determines the purpose for which one is chosen. This is seen in the words of Paul in Eph. 1:5 - "having foreordained us to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ" (YLT). Adoption through Jesus Christ means one becomes God's child as a new creature - the new mind that is reborn through the word and spirit of the Lord. The goal (predestination) of election is, therefore, that the elect can become the image of the first-born Son of God and take positions with him in glory (Rom. 8:29,30; 1 Pet. 2:9).

The same thought regarding predestination is shown in Greek, where proorizo consists of two words: pro - before; horizo - define boundaries (the English horizon comes from this word). Therefore, while choosing some, God determines at the same time the horizon of their actions; the field of their spiritual aspirations and the position they can get in connection with their faithful service. Preestination does not mean, however, determining the result. We have an influence on whether we will undertake our destiny at all, and on how faithfully we will act in it. God is the one who opens the door; man is the one who must go through them and take his narrow path ().


Keywords: Eph. 1:3-6, Body of Christ, calling, predestination, election
 
Bible translations used in the commentary:
YLT - Young's Literal Translation
 
Published:
Last reviewed: 02-06-2019


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