"To The Praise of His Glorious Grace!": A Brief Study on Predestination from Ephesians 1:3-14 by C. R. Biggs
Question: Why are we ultimately saved?
To escape the torments of hell?
To be like Christ?
To be with God eternally and to be His people!
All of these are correct answers! However, Ephesians 1:1-14 fixes the focus of our salvation ultimately on the God who saves us!
The ultimate reason for our salvation is God's Glory!
In our study of Ephesians, and particularly the biblical doctrine of our salvation in Christ, let us always have the correct God-centered perspective as we begin.
If we begin with merely focusing on ourselves, our understanding of our salvation might be blurred and become out of focus for us. In fact, we might completely misunderstand the reason for which we are saved as his people.
We might be tempted to think that the gospel is somehow something we do for God rather than something he graciously does for those who cannot do!
Ephesians 1 teaches the predestination and electing love of Our Sovereign God in our salvation. Our Sovereign God desires to glorify Himself in redeeming a people for himself. God desires to redeem a people who cannot earn, merit, desire or will their salvation, but those who will trust in Christ alone for help (John 1:9-11).
In this study on Ephesians 1:1-14 we will focus on this aspect of God's work in our lives, what it means to us today, and we will glimpse the reality of our Sovereign and Trinitarian God in the salvation of our souls for His glory!
Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
By way of introduction, allow me to say a few things about Godâ€™s sovereign predestination and electing love of his people in Christ (that I will attempt to show from our biblical passage):
1) Predestination is Biblical; 2) All Christians who believe the Word of God, believe in predestination; 3) Predestination should humble all sinners to the dust and develop in the redeemed an attitude of grateful obedience in their lives; 4) Man has free will, but God's free will is â€œfree-erâ€; and 5) Predestination should promote evangelism as we reach out with the gospel to those whom the LORD already knows are his (but those whom we do not know are his)!
Predestination is biblical (Ephesians 1:3-11; Romans 9:7-22; Romans 8:28-32; John 10:28-30; 17:5-14; Matthew 11:25-30).
Simply stated: There are some chosen and some who are not and this is â€œaccording to the purpose of his willâ€ and â€œto the praise of his glorious graceâ€.
Ephesians 1:4b-6â€¦even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved
Why are some chosen and some are not? For God's glory alone (Eph. 1:6)! We must be satisfied that there are some things God does not reveal to his people in Scripture (Deut. 29:29). But we should teach what Scripture teaches even if we do not understand it; this will keep us humble, ever relying on Godâ€™s Holy Spirit to teach and guide us (1 Corinthians 2:11-16; 1 John 2:20-29).
Humility in Our Understanding of Godâ€™s Revelation
Predestination should humble all of us to the dust; it should never cause some to be proud or puffed up of their election (if they are, then they might not be elect!).
We should not only be overwhelmed by the fact that God chooses some to be saved and redeemed when all deserve death, but some people God chooses to adopt in Christ (Eph. 1:5) and have complete mercy upon (Romans 9:7-23). Why?
Because it is for his glory alone, according to the purpose of Godâ€™s will!
Or as Ephesians 1:6 says: â€œTo the praise of His glorious grace!â€ Our salvation is indeed all of grace!
Grace humbles the sinner, because the more one hears about the atoning death of Jesus Christ and the mercy God has displayed in oneâ€™s salvation, the more one is humbled by the reality of what he or she truly deserves in wrath and punishment from God and the fact that he/she graciously gets forgiveness and adoption because of Christ!
It is important to remember the gospel of good news that changes us: â€œJesus became sin for us so that we might be the righteousness of God in Christ.â€ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The doctrine calls for humilityâ€”not pride for being elect- -but gratitude toward God and patience and confidence toward others.
Be careful with this doctrine- you can know all about this doctrine and look down upon your â€œspiritual nosesâ€ at others who do not know it.
Be Scriptural concerning this doctrine: Speak only where Scripture speaksâ€¦
John Calvin on Two Kinds of Men concerning Predestination: Human curiosity renders the discussion of election/predestination, already somewhat difficult of itself, very confusing and even dangerous. No restraints can hold it back from wandering into forbidden bypaths and thrusting upward to the heights.
If allowed, it will leave no secret to God that it will not search out and unravelâ€¦Let this, therefore, first of all be before your eyes: to seek any other knowledge of predestination than what the Word of God discloses is not less insane than if one should purpose to walk in a pathless waste (cf. Job 12:24), or to see in darkness. And let us not be ashamed to be ignorant of something in this matter, wherein there is a certain learned ignoranceâ€¦
There are others who, wishing to cure this evil, all but require that every mention of predestination be buried; indeed, they teach us to avoid any question of it as we would a reef (in a ship)â€¦.Therefore, to hold to a proper limit in this regard also, we shall have to turn back to the Word of the Lord, in which we have a sure rule for the understanding.â€
Godâ€™s Sovereign Grace and the Goal for the Elect in Christ
Predestination is a Biblical Doctrine- whether we can fully understand it or not, the teaching of predestination and election in Christ is Godâ€™s revelation in Scripture and because of that we must submit to it if we say we are Christians.
It is important to remember this: ALL CHRISTIANS WHO BELIEVE THE WORD OF GOD BELIEVE IN PREDESTINATION.
We are not predestined or elected based on some supposed foreknown or foreseen faith- -the only thing God would have known or seen would have been our unbelief.
We are not elected because of our faith, but we have faith and believe upon Jesus in real time because we have been elected.
Read carefully Romans 9:6-16 where the Apostle Paul is explaining how Godâ€™s electing purposes in Israel (Deut. 7:7) have not failed. In fact, the Apostle Paul is one of the elect believers who make up the Israel of faith and is writing this often misunderstood letter to the Roman church (cf. Galatians 6:16).
Romans 9:6-16: But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son." 10 And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,
11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad- in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call-
12 she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13 As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
It is clear that this passage teaches predestination and election before oneâ€™s birth (Rom. 9:10), in order that Godâ€™s purpose in election might continue, not because of works but because of Godâ€™s call (Romans 9:11), because of Godâ€™s mercy and compassion (Rom. 9:15)!
â€œWhat About Manâ€™s Free Will?â€
Some say: â€œWhat about manâ€™s free will?â€ Doesnâ€™t man have free will? Modern man has truly made an idol out of his free will. Free will is so important to some, that they are willing to discount clear Biblical revelation of Holy Scripture in order to uphold their own doctrine of free will.
Jonathan Edwards said it best with regards to manâ€™s free will after the fall:
Man does as he pleases, but he cannot please as he pleases!
What this means is man has free will to do what he wants to do, but he cannot please God with willing what he wants to do, for he will not will to please God, because he cannot (cf. Romans 7:17ff and the conflict of Christians even after they are redeemed).
We should be reminded that prior to the Fall man truly had â€œfree willâ€. However, since the Fall recorded in Genesis 3, manâ€™s will has been in bondage to sin. Adam freely chose, or used his free will to do what he wanted to truly do and sin against God.
Only in Christ can one be set free truly to choose what one should choose or will: the glory of God in Christ.
Christ himself said: â€œYou shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free!â€
â€œThatâ€™s Not Fair!â€
Some say in response to this teaching or predestination: â€œThatâ€™s not fair of God!â€ (Read Romans 9 â€“ that was how the Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit knew the people would respond!).
If you ever say "that seems unfair" then you are beginning to understand the Biblical teaching. How can I say that?
Read Romans 9:18-25 very carefully. The Apostle Paul teaches the truth of predestination very clearly, then he says implicitly: "Then you will say to me 'That's not fair'" (these are not his exact words, but his gist)! Read below:
Romans 9:18-25: So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory- 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea, "Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved.'"
Prayerfully notice a few things: In v. 18, he establishes that God has mercy on some because he wants to simply out of his good pleasure (Matt. 11:25-29), but hardens others.
In v. 19, he says in essence "That's not fair" as many would say when first hearing this teaching. In v. 20, he reminds us that God is God and we shouldn't question him, and then in verses 21-25 he explains that all deserve God's wrath and justice, but he gives to some (who do not in any way deserve it)- -mercy and grace! That's predestination!
Carefully read again: For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" (translated â€œThatâ€™s not fair!â€)
20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?"
â€œWhy Does God Get All the Credit in Our Salvation?â€
We must remember that this teaching addresses and reveals the depravity of our nature. We donâ€™t like God getting all the credit in our salvation! But we must remember what the Apostle Paul says:
No one seeks after God (Romans 3:10ff)â€¦No one would ever choose for God.
As depraved people, we deserve Godâ€™s wrath: the soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18)! As depraved people, God sovereignly by his grace chooses some for his glory so that he might extend mercy!
No one in his right mind likes to say that he/she is depraved (especially as we understand the deep implications of this and the way our hearts so desperately deceive us and want to sin- Jeremiah 17:9; Hebrews 3:12ff), but the Bible declares depravity to be our condition.
If we do not realize and confess our true depravity and sinful plight then what good is the â€œgood newsâ€ or gospel of Jesus? Jesus came to save the sick; it is not the â€œwellâ€ who need a doctor. Jesus came to seek out the lost sheep, not the sheep who are â€œfoundâ€.
I remember my former mentor and pastor Grady Love used to say:
â€œYou cannot be found until you realize how desperately lost you are.â€
He would say this with reference to the gospel of Jesus. His point was that the more you realize your condition, the more you desire and long for God to graciously invade your heart, save you, redeem you, and continue to work in you what is good and pleasing to his will!
Manâ€™s depraved nature is the reason why the Apostle Paul says that we are â€œdead in trespasses and sins until God makes us alive in Christâ€
Ephesians 2:1-5: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved-
The Apostle Paulâ€™s point above in Ephesians is that the grace revealed in Ephesians 2:5b is the grace exegeted in Ephesians 2:1-4. What this means is that the declaration of Paul that â€œby grace you have been savedâ€ (also in Eph. 2:8-10) is defining or revealing what Paul says about while we were dead in trespasses in sins, following the prince of the power of the air, being disobedient, living in the passions of our flesh, and by nature children of wrath.
Paul is saying that while this described our lives, God who is rich in mercy because of his great love with which he loved us made us alive with Christ!
This is the grace by which we are saved! Grace that is revealed to us while going on in our sinful condition, dead, apathetic and carelessly unaware of the glorious revelation of God in Jesus Christ!
According to Ephesians 2:1-8 and Romans 9:7-18 and John 1:9-11 and John 6:37-44 (see 6:55-57 as well) man CANNOT COME TO GOD BECAUSE HE IS DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS.
Therefore, no one can (has the ability) to choose God if he doesn't first choose them. Remember that we love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:10).
Romans 3:10-23: as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." 13 "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." 14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." 15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known." 18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes." 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...
According to Romans 3:10-11: None is righteous...and no one understands, and no one seeks after God! Therefore God must seek after them, and who does he seek after? Those whom he knows to be his from the foundation of the world:
2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness."
Predestination is a Comforting Teaching of Scriptureâ€¦
Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
One of Godâ€™s glorious goals in predestination and election is so that his people might be conformed to the image of His Holy Son!
Predestination is a Teaching of Scripture that Promotes Evangelismâ€¦.
Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this [the gospel], they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, "Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people." 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
We can be confident in our evangelism, as we rightly teach and declare the Word of God, that God will save his people from their sins. We should be reminded of the Apostle Paulâ€™s confident pastoral claims in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21:
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Good Pleasure of Godâ€™s Will More than Our Free Will!
God predestined us who believeâ€¦
God elects, he chooses by his free will that he will extend some who he chooses in Christ to be given grace and mercy! Not what we so desperately have earned and deserved!
To adoption as sonsâ€¦
Because He wanted to!?
The ground, or foundation, or ultimate reason for our being chosen was not based on anything God foresaw in us (Deut. 7:7ff), but was because he wanted to do it (according to his good pleasure and will).
Remember: it is more about Godâ€™s free will than it is about our free will. The more men speak of the free will of man outside of the context of thinking of Godâ€™s free will, the more men will seek to be God!
MAN DOES INDEED CHOOSE GOD AFTER HIS REGENERATION.
Think of John 3. Jesus says to Nicodemus that no one can see or enter the Kingdom of God unless he be born again. Well, when a person is born again by the Sovereign act of the Holy Spirit, then that person will believe and see and enter the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus.
It is indeed by faith that one is saved. But until one is born again, regenerated or acted upon by God first- - then that person can do nothing but remain in unbelief. Remember Lazarus in John 11? Before Jesus called Lazarus (personally and by name as he does for those he loves and has chosen), Lazarus could not respond because he was dead!!
After Jesus called Lazarus he couldn't NOT respond (double negative for theological emphasis!).
Jesus helps us to understand man's faith from man's point of view in Matthew 11:25-30. Carefully read it below, then allow me some comments:
Matthew 11:25-30: At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
In the above passage, Jesus makes clear in verse 25 that the gospel is hidden from some and revealed to others. In v. 27 he says more clearly that no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Jesus has just taught us that he takes the initiative to reveal the Father to all people. No one can know the Father, unless Jesus chooses to reveal him.
But then notice in verse 28-30, Jesus calls all who can hear. What is so important about this? Well many who debate the issue of predestination think that those who believe it are saying man has no free will. But that is not what is being said or taught. What we find here clearly revealed in this passage is that Jesus calls all who can hear to come to him. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.
What does this teach us? Well, although man is free and is invited to come by the Savior to himself, only those whom the Son chooses to reveal himself to can actually come- -they are the one's with the abililty to respond and come. Yet all in the world are called to come and choose Christ!
What this teaches us then is that man has free will, but Godâ€™s will is free-er. Man has free will, but because of the fall his free will has been subjected to bondage to sin and therefore until the Holy Spirit comes and releases that person's will, they cannot come and choose Christ!
We want to focus on both aspects. From God's perspective he delivers those whom he loves from the bondage of the will in order that they might believe and come to Jesus to find rest. Others who he does not know, he calls, but they do not respond because they do not will to come. They do not want to.
No one can say God is unfair! He is God and we all deserve death and hell and judgment for our sins. Yet God in his grace, has mercy on some. In other words, he gives some what they do not deserve- - salvation, and he gives some what they do deserve- - justice and wrath. Some receive mercy, some receive justice. God is still the Sovereign God of the Universe and good that he would send his Son to die for any one of us!
Glory of Godâ€™s Grace
â€œTo the praise of the glory of His graceâ€. God elected and predestined us to glorify himself! The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever; the chief end of God is to glorify God and to enjoy Himself forever! He is the sovereign King!
Freely bestowed on us in the belovedâ€¦No merit or demerit of our own whatsoeverâ€¦nothing that we have done! Costly to Christ, freely bestowed upon those whom God shows his mercy and grace!
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" 35 "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
All of us must realize that predestination and election by God in our salvation is a wonderful biblical doctrine that must be handled humbly and carefully. We should be suspect of those who would in any way undermine or incorrectly teach what Scripture teaches concerning this!
However, as the Apostle Paul instructed his â€œson in the faithâ€ Timothy, we must be patient as we teach those who do not understand.
2 Timothy 2:24-26: And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
I believe many have been deceived and have abused and misused this important and biblical doctrine. We should be reminded that when men teach this doctrine carelessly or incorrectly, they are being â€œsnared by the devilâ€ (as our text warns above), even when they are doing so unintentionally (there is only one truth of God!). We should be prayerfully cautious in attempting to see and to teach the whole counsel of God in Scripture (Acts 20:27-28) â€“even when we might not fully understand it.
This teaching of Scripture is a beautiful display and revelation of Godâ€™s glorious salvation in Christ. Let us hold firmly to the truth of what Scripture teaches, and by Godâ€™s grace never fluctuating or changing with regard to the revelation of God. It is not ours to understand fully all teachings, but it is our responsibility and privilege to declare it and make it known to everyone!
One time when I preached from this text of Ephesians as a pastor, I had some people leave the congregation who I thought were friends and I havenâ€™t heard from them since. If you are a pastor and worry about what some might think about this teaching, then be reminded of the strong and precious words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy.
2 Timothy 4:1-5: I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
No matter how the people may react to biblical teaching, be faithful and run the race with perseverance, striving to tell the truth- - no matter what may come! Paul reminds Timothy that the time will come (not merely in his own ministry, but in yours as well) when people will not endure sound teaching!).
You are not called to preach in order to preach what you or your people like or fully understand, you are called to teach and preach the truth of Scripture by Godâ€™s grace and to the best of your ability! Be encouraged!