Lesson 2: A Sentence Begun in Eternity Part 3 of 4 (Ephesians series)
by John Lowe
We can make a similar mistake with election—we rush to our own conclusions before seeing how the Scriptures unfold the truth and its implications. It is thus often said that if we believed in eternal election we would live any way we wanted—because we would still be “saved.” But to think that way means that we have taken our eyes off the text. We have seen the words “he chose . . . before the foundation of the world” without reading on to the result . . . “that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” We are certainly not chosen because we are holy; but we are chosen in order to become holy!
This is the logic of love—love that has chosen to love us, sacrificed and waited for us, been patient with us—this passionate love of God, once received, does not, indeed cannot, leave us unchanged. The believer in Christ is seen by God as one who is without blame.
Don’t get the idea that I am a hyper-Calvinist. I believe in the sovereignty of God—God knows the end from the beginning—but that has nothing to do with the free-will of man. I believe in Bible election, Bible predestination, so do not hastily jump to any conclusions because of the statement I have just made. I am not a fatalist; I do not believe that some are elected to go to heaven while others are elected to be damned. I do not believe some are chosen to be saved, while in the mind of God, in the eternity behind us, He chose some to be damned. That is not the God I know, nor is it the Gospel I find in Ephesians. Dear reader, if God has saved you, He hasn’t saved you because you are good but because you are not good. Paul puts it in such a marvelous way “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Romans 9:14-16).
God knows the end in the beginning. Because God is sovereign, omniscient, and omnipresent, He knew in the beginning that I would be saved. God knew that I would be a part of the body of Christ; but the foreknowledge of God had nothing to do with my own free will. God did not force me to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. I willingly accepted Christ as my personal savior. Dear friend, if you ever step inside the pearly gates it will be because you received Jesus Christ (John 1:12). If you have been led astray by hyper–Calvinism, may God help you to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ this very moment. Trust Him as your Savior, receive him by faith—and I guarantee on the authority of God’s Word, God will save you for Jesus’ sake, this very moment.
In these verses, we learn that the blood of Jesus was foreordained before God ever made this universe. The redemption price of a soul is the blood—nothing less. God demands blood . . . the blood of an innocent, sinless sacrifice—and that could have been no one except the Son. So—it was agreed between Father and Son that Jesus would die on the cross for the remission of sin. This covenant was made between the members of the Godhead before God ever created this universe or anything in it.
Election, predestination, and the foreknowledge of God are to be taught to spiritually-minded believers—never to be preached to unbelievers in a mixed audience. God pity the preacher who will stand before an audience made up of believers and unbelievers, and preach to that mixed audience that some are elected to be saved, and if they are elected they will be saved; but if they are not elected they cannot be saved. God pity such a stupid spiritual ignorance!
In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—
“In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ…” The King James Version attaches the phrase “in love” to the thought of verse four; most modern translations favor placing the comma before “in love” and putting these words with “he predestined,” as does the New International Version used here.
All of God’s saving activity in regard to sinners is “through Jesus Christ.” This phrase expresses the goal of all; that is, to bring sinners, redeemed through Christ, unto an adoring relationship to God as the true end and object of their being.
“…in accordance with his pleasure and will.” There is a further dimension to this. Paul moved, as it were, from one end of eternity to the other. God set His electing love on us before the world’s creation; he predestined us to adoption. Here and now we have the privilege of calling God “Abba, Father”; however, the complete manifestation of our adoption and the full realization of its privileges are still in the future (Romans 8:23). In the future, He will display in us the glory of the full family likeness (Romans 8:15-25, 29). God’s glory, God’s grace in election, our salvation, holiness of lifestyle, expressing the family likeness—these are not at odds with one another. They belong together. Some people seem eager to go to heaven, but they have no desire for holiness. Yet without holiness “no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
What difference does this make? It produces humility, the effect of being loved by Eternal Love. It gives us a new sense of dignity, the effect of knowing God Himself has loved us. It anchors us in a deep security—God’s grip of me goes back into eternity. It makes us want to sing the doxology: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Predestination is the bringing to pass of things determined by God in the eternity behind us. There is probably no rigid distinction between election and predestination; they relate to the same divine act and, for all practical purposes, are identical. Every believer is predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son of God. Predestination is never used in reference to saved people. God has never predestinated anybody to be lost. If you are lost, it is because you have rejected God’s remedy for sin.
We are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We do not work for our salvation . . . Salvation is God’s gift; but after receiving salvation we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We are to grow and become stronger day by day, as we study and feed upon the bread, meat, and milk of the Word of the living God.
In this verse, the word adoption has to do with our position, not with our relationship to God. Every believer is a son of God, a child of God through the new birth. We are born—not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man—but “born of God” (John 1:12-13). We are adopted into the family of God through the act of God, placing us in the position of an adult son. That is what Paul says that God has done for us. We were absolutely in the power of sin and of the world; God, through Jesus, took us out of that power into His; and that adoption wipes out the past and makes US New. Study carefully Galatians 4:1-5 and you will see what I mean.
6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
“To the praise of his glorious grace…” Dear sinner saved by Grace, never forget that God has saved you for Christ’s sake. God has forgiven you for Christ’s sake. God has redeemed you for Christ’s sake (Ephesians 4:32). God has saved you—“to the praise of His glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6). God through His great love and His great grace provided Jesus in a body, that in the body of flesh Jesus might fulfill every jot and every tittle of God’s holy Law, and through His shed blood might purchase redemption for sinners. All of this was blueprinted, planned, purchased and provided by God the Father in order that His Grace in Jesus might be published in all heaven’s Glory.
Foreordination (another word for predestination) is God’s enforcement act, whereby what God determined in the eternity behind us is carried out. Foreordination operates through the sovereign will of God (5). Foreordination insures us that what God has is a purpose for all believers it shall never be nullified, but shall surely come to pass. Foreordination and the free-will of man, like two parallel lines that meet at infinity, harmonize in God. When we view the foreordination of God and the free-will of man from eternity to eternity, we will find no conflict. Difficulties disappear and our thinking becomes clear if we will just realize that foreordination, election, predestination pertain only to God’s people. Every man in the world has a free will to accept or reject Jesus Christ, every man is invited and urged to accept the Lord Jesus. He took a body of flesh and bones, that in a body like unto our body He (Jesus) “. . . by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9).