Summary: An exposition, with full text and passage outline, on Ephesians 1:3-14.
The Rev’d Quintin Morrow
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
Fort Worth, Texas
The Text Outline:
I. Believers have been SELECTED (predestined) from all eternity (vv. 3-6).
A. We have been chosen:
1. Before the foundation of the world.
2. In Christ.
3. In love.
4. According to the good pleasure of His will.
B. We have been chosen for:
2. Adoption as His children.
3. Acceptance in Christ.
4. The praise of His grace.
II. Believers have been SAVED for all eternity (vv. 7-12).
A. We have:
1. Redemption (rescue from wrath).
2. Forgiveness of sins.
3. An everlasting inheritance in heaven.
4. The knowledge of the mystery of His will.
B. What we have been given we have been given:
1. Because of the riches of His grace.
2. Because of His good pleasure.
3. For the unity of all things in Jesus Christ.
4. For the praise of His glory.
III. Believers have been SEALED by the Holy Spirit in anticipation of eternity (vv. 13-14).
A. We received the Holy Spirit when we believed.
B. We received the Holy Spirit to authenticate our adoption (See Rev. 7:1-8).
St. Paul says that essential to the vocation of pastor/teacher is the task of correcting, reproving, persuading and instructing God’s people from the Word of life. And I shall certainly be earning my keep today as I instruct you in one of the most sublime, yet likewise profound, mysterious and possibly the most misunderstood teaching in all of Holy Scripture; namely, the doctrine of predestination. I have roughly 23 minutes to persuade you, with the tools of reason, experience, and theology, buttressed by the clear teaching of the Bible, that as a born again child of God your salvation was the work of God from beginning to end, that you played nothing but a passive role in your own redemption, and that God chose you from eternity past for salvation and wrote your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life before a single particle of matter was even spoken by God into existence. That’s a tall order indeed.
The Letter to the Ephesians is a prison epistle, as the Apostle Paul penned it while languishing in a Roman prison. The theme of the letter is the process and consequences of believers now being “in Christ” by virtue of their regeneration of the Holy Spirit and adoption into God’s family. Paul uses the two-letter Greek phrase en christo—“in Christ”—12 times in 6 short chapters.
The passage under consideration this morning—chapter 1:3-14—is about God’s selecting, electing, predestining believers from eternity past for everlasting life. As we shall see, God chose us without any regard to our own worthiness or merit, but simply because in His sovereign power and gracious will He decided to do so. Lest we think this teaching is some academic abstraction to Paul, you need to know that Ephesians 1:3-14 in the original Greek is one, long sentence, consisting of 202 words of unbroken thought and no period. It is as if the Apostle, once he begins discussing God’s unfathomable love, sovereign will, and predestining power, simply cannot stop until he reaches a suitable finish.
Firstly, in verses 3-6 we see that believers have been selected—that is, predestined—for everlasting life from all eternity.
Just as He chose us in Him (that is, Jesus Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the beloved.
few words of explanation are essential here. Firstly, Paul writes about “us.” He isn’t writing to the world at large. The “us” here are regenerate believers. Secondly, “He chose us” is a reflexive verb, meaning that it turns back upon the one doing the action. God chose you for Himself, for His own sake. His choosing you was personal. Thirdly, He “predestined us.” The word predestined means to pre-determine your end, or to establish your destiny beforehand.
Here is the teaching of Scripture in a nutshell. God, sovereignly, and for His own glory, our good, and by His good pleasure, selects—elects, chooses—those with whom He will enter into a covenant of blessing, without regard to their merit, worth, or intrinsic goodness. The Lord chose a pagan, Abram, in the city of Ur, and promised him land, innumerable descendants, and that his offspring would bless the world. Why Abram? Because God decided on Him. The Lord chose the people of Israel to rescue from bondage in Egypt, to give His law to, to bless, to give a blessed land to, and to be His own special people for all time. This selecting of Israel had nothing to do with their innate worthiness. “How odd of God to choose the Jews” the poem goes. They didn’t have Roman legal ability, Egyptian aesthetic, Assyrian military prowess, or Greek philosophical acumen. In fact, in the Psalms God says that He chose the Jews because they were weakest, most backward people just for the purpose of manifesting His power to the nations.