3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Ephesians 1:3–6)
Who are you? Do you know?
Maybe you say, “I am a Christian.” Well good, that’s a great answer! So let me ask you this: Who are you as a Christian? Stumped? Let’s see what this passage in Ephesians has to tell us.
I. THE CHRISTIAN IS A POSSESSOR OF ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
3 Εὐλογητὸς ὁ Θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,
ὁ εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς
ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ
ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις
“Blessed be the God…” How can a human bless God? The word for “blessed” here means “to speak well of.” So what Paul means here is “God be praised! Thanks be to God!” Everything that we’re going to see in the next several verses is a praise to God. We’ll encounter some hard-to-understand theology…just remember, it’s first of all a praise to God.
First, Paul says, God is to be praised because he has “blessed us with all spiritual blessings.” What are these “spiritual blessings”?
They’re too many to list. The spiritual blessings are every good that comes from God to the believer in Christ. And notice that these blessings have already been given to the Christian. See, it says that he “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings,” not, “he will bless us…”
As Christians, we often ask God for what he’s already given us. We ask for more strength, for example, but what does the Bible say?
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13)
We pray for peace, and what does the Bible say?
27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
We pray for more love, yet what does the Bible say?
5 …the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:5)
You see, folks, it’s not just that God has promised us spiritual blessings; in Christ we actually already possess those spiritual blessings! There is nothing more to ask from God in terms of spiritual blessings, we already have them in abundance!
These spiritual blessings are found, Paul says, in “in heavenly places.” [The Greek phrase is found in Ephesians five times (1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12) and nowhere else in the New Testament.]
What does that mean? Suppose an American goes to another country for a long while. When she is there she has a baby. When it’s born, that baby will be a citizen of the country it’s in, but it will also be a citizen of the United States. It will have “dual citizenship.”
When someone is born physically, they become a citizen of this earth. When a person is saved by trusting in Jesus; they are born again. And when they are born again, they will have dual citizenship. They will be a citizen of Earth, but they will also be a citizen of Heaven…”in heavenly places in Christ.” (see Philippians 3:20).
What that means is that wherever we are on planet Earth, we have all the rights and privileges of a citizen of Heaven, just the same as how we as an American can travel anywhere on Earth and still be an American. Wherever we are on this Earth, we are “in Christ.” He is with us, helping, strengthening, protecting us.
So wherever we are on this Earth, the spiritual blessings from the Lord are still ours to possess. Now, we’ve said that these spiritual blessings are too great to number, and that they are things like strength, peace, and love. But what we find in the rest of our passage are the details of more spiritual blessings. The Christian is a possessor of all spiritual blessings, and…
II. THE CHRISTIAN IS CHOSEN BY GOD
Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
4 καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ
πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου,
εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους,
καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ,
A. THE TRUTH OF BEING CHOSEN BY GOD
The words “he hath chosen us” bothers many Christians because if God has already chosen us, then how can we of our own will chose God? What keeps us from just being mere robots? Some Christians are so bothered by that that they’ll search for a way to explain the problem away.
For example, some believe that God looked ahead in time and saw if we would believe and then chose us. That’s an idea based on a misunderstanding of a couple Bible verses (Romans 8:29, 1 Peter 1:2). I have a big problem with it because it puts humans in control of God. If we chose first, then God really didn’t choose us nor would he need to.
The simple fact is that God chose us out of all people, for reasons that we do not know. We know that he chose us “in him.” We know, from this verse, that he chose us “before the foundation of the world”, meaning before the world was created. We know that he chose us with the intention of making us to be “holy and without blame before him.”
Now, the fact that God chose us doesn’t mean that we don’t need to believe and choose Christ. The Bible is as clear on our need to choose Christ as it is about God choosing us before the foundation of the world. For example, Jesus says:
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)
So we got these two Bible truths that seem to contradict one another. My solution to this sticky situation has been to trust God with the issue, and to try not to diminish his sovereign power in any way. I know that I make choices for which I am responsible, but I also know that God, somehow, is sovereign over my choices. It’s a mystery and I am content to leave it that way.
Someone once explained the issue by picturing a door with “Whomsoever will may come” written over the top. But once you walk through, you will notice that the other side says, “Chosen…before the foundation of the world.” When you look at the door from the top down—from God’s perspective—it looks the same on both sides.
To us, it’s contradictory, but who are we compared to God? We are mere finite people, and God is all-wise, all-powerful, and infinite. Again, I say, just trust him with the issue, and love the truth that he is sovereign over all.
B. THE RESPONSE TO BEING CHOSEN BY GOD
When you look at these verses in Ephesians, it’s pretty clear that Paul, the human author moved by the Holy Spirit, wasn’t intending to debate God’s sovereignty and human will. The thought probably never crossed his mind.
In fact, as you read these first verses of Ephesians, how do you think Paul feels about God choosing us and predestinating us? He is exalting in it! He isn’t worried about how God can choose him and he can choose God without there being a conflict. He is overjoyed with being chosen by God!
He doesn’t even bother to put a disclaimer in there, like I often do, “God chose us before the foundation of the world, but, remember we also have to choose him.” He is content to just say, “he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.”
Never in the Bible is God’s choosing who will be saved, or predestination, ever wrestled with…it’s simply accepted as a fact. Instead of predestination being something to figure out and argue about, the Bible views it as a way to comfort believers that no matter what happens, God is in control of our lives (Romans 8:28-30).
The question we should be asking is not, “How do God choosing me and me choosing God fit together?” The question we should ask is, “How does God’s choosing of me bring me comfort; how does his choosing of me make me want to praise him even more?” Paul never worried about the technical details of predestination and human will, he just said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”
The Christian is a possessor of all spiritual blessings, including the spiritual blessing of being chosen by God and…
III. THE CHRISTIAN IS AN ADOPTED CHILD OF THE KING
I take the last two words of verse four to go more with verse five, so we read, “in love…”
Ephesians 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
5 προορίσας ἡμᾶς
διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς αὐτόν,
κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ,
“Having predestinated us” (προορίσας ἡμᾶς, Aorist, Active, Participle) means that God pre-determined something ahead of time. Is there a difference between God “having predestinated us” and verse four’s, “he hath chosen us”? The choosing has to do more with the persons who are chosen, while the predestination has to do more with the purpose what God determined for the person, the pre-destination.
Now, predestination is not just some dry, impersonal concept, because, as I mentioned a moment ago, it was done in love. Take the “in love” from verse four and it reads, “in love having predestinated us…” God the Father, in eternity past, lovingly had you in his mind and his plan.
What was he thinking? He was predetermining you “unto the adoption of children.” Again, we might argue about how God could predestine us and we still have a will of our own, but that’s not the point.
We are to be glad and give praise to God because he has predestined us “unto the adoption of children” (εἰς υἱοθεσίαν).
When do we get adopted? Although God has predetermined our adoption before the foundation of the world, the actual adoption doesn’t happen until you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1:12)
What does it mean to be adopted by God the Father? It means that God places you, a believer in Christ, into his family. An adopted child is not second-class, he or she has the full legal rights as a natural-born child. In the same way, when God adopts us, we gain an eternal inheritance.
Adoption also means that we have the love of God as our Father. We are his son or daughter, just as Jesus is his Son. He loves you like he loves his Son Jesus. Jesus said so…
23 …that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them [the disciples and all believers], as thou hast loved me. (John 17:23)
I read about a Christian man named Gerald who adopted a son…
My wife and I waited 15 years for a child that never came by the natural way. However we were approached one day with a lead of a newborn not yet born. I remember standing in front of the judge on our day of adoption. He pointed his finger and asked of me, “Is anyone coercing you to adopt this little boy?”
After we had assured him that we were doing so out of love for our sin, he made this statement. “From today on, he is your son. He may disappoint you, even grieve you but he is your son. Everything you own one day will be his and he will bear your name.”
Then he looked to the clerk and gave this command. “So order a change in this child’s birth certificate and may it reflect that these are the parents of this child.”
It was then that I realized that my Heavenly Father loved me so much that, without coercion, He loved me and gave His all to me. On that day, He changed my name and I gladly bear His name and His image (Gerald Penix).
When we receive Christ, we are adopted by the Father “according to the good pleasure of his will” — It was his “will” to chose you and to adopt you. It wasn’t what you did—you great and pretty person—it was what God wanted to do. That means that nothing you do will ever get God to “unadopt” you. You have eternal security in him.
And more than that, God did not adopt you grudgingly, “Well, I better adopt that person, even though I don’t want to.” He adopts us in his “good pleasure.” He is glad to bring us into his family! That is the spiritual blessing of adoption.
How ought we to respond to these spiritual blessings? Should we argue about the specifics of how God could chose us and we chose him and it not be contradictory?
Should we yawn at the thought of being adopted by God the Father?Heaven forbid it! Rather we should respond the way Paul does in verse six:
Ephesians 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
6 εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ,
ἐν ᾗ ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ·
“To the praise of the glory of his grace” —
Paul is happy about knowing the Lord. He is happy about being chosen. He is happy about being adopted by the Lord. And, since he cannot contain himself, he shouts out praise and glory to the Lord.
He delights in the truth that God “hath made us accepted in the beloved [Christ].” — as a Christian, you are “accepted in the beloved.” As a Christian, you will sin, but never fear, your sin won’t change your acceptance in the beloved—in Jesus Christ.
I asked you at the beginning: who are you? If you are a Christian, you are chosen by God, adopted by the Father—accepted into Christ. Those are not just theological doctrines and concepts—they are spiritual blessings that can change the way you live.
The only way that a person can really have a proper sense of self-worth—a proper understanding of his or her purpose in the world—is, first, by entering into a right relationship with our Creator by receiving and believing Jesus Christ his Son.
But it also means, that as a Christian, as a son or daughter of the King, we come to appreciate the spiritual blessings that he has given us—that we are his chosen and adopted children. That’s a purpose and privilege that will never fade, never go away, throughout the ages and ages of eternity. As a chosen child of God, you are safe for eternity.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39)