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Throughout the book of Ephesians, One of Paul’s themes he writes about is the theme of unity. It is clear that Paul wants believers to have unity with Christ, but also unity with one another. Before he writes about how to have this unity, he explains in the reason for it. He writes about the blessings we receive in Christ, and in particular focuses on two things that have become highly debated topics; election and predestination.
While these two topics are debated about how they seem to affect us, they are focused more on the character of God. Paul writes in verse 5 that is ‘in love’ that God predestined us for adoption. In Wallace’s article, he writes that election is a “direct outgrowth of love” and that “election is necessary because we are totally depraved sinners”. In the unified story of Scripture, we see that God is loving. He sent Jesus to die on the cross because of the amount of love for us, so it makes sense that it is in this same love that he has chosen us to be his children, even before the foundation of the world. As the passage continues, we see this theme play out as well as Paul continues to describe the love that God has for us. While Paul doesn’t explicitly say it, we know that it’s because of God’s love for us that we have redemption through Jesus’ blood (1:7), that it’s because of God’s love for us that He has lavished grace upon us (1:8), that it’s because of God’s love for us that we receive an inheritance (1:9), that it’s out of God’s love for us that we are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (1:13).
In the Dictionary of Paul and his Letters, the author emphasizes this while describing God’s fairness. The author writes that election doesn’t mean that some people cannot receive salvation from God, but that it’s being offered to all people. Paul fleshes this out in describing that all people are offered salvation through God’s grace; the same grace that Paul writes about in this passage. It is by this grace that we are saved; that we are made alive with Christ and given new positions with Christ. If this isn’t love, I don’t know what is.
It’s because of this overwhelming love that God has for all people that allows me to agree with a lot of what Abasciano writes in his article. He argues that Paul isn’t talking about individual election, meaning that God has chosen select people, but corporate election meaning that God has chosen a group of people. In this case, Paul is talking about the corporate election of believers. Abasciano writes that in the New Covenant, God’s people are “chosen corporately as a consequence of their union with Christ, which is effected by faith.”
Election and predestination are some of the most highly debated topics throughout Scripture. Based on the words Paul uses in , people not only decide whether they are Arminians or Calvanists but also debate what people should be based on how they interpret the text. In Abasciano’s article, he argues that Paul isn’t talking about individual election, meaning that God has chosen select people, but corporate election meaning that God has chosen a group of people.
The word “predestined” showed up in the ESV in and . Paul uses the same Greek word in both instances, which means to appoint, determine, or designate beforehand. While this word is used two different times within this passage, there are repeated words and phrases that Paul uses that ties them together. First, Paul mentions that God has predestined us “according to the purpose/counsel of his will” both times. We first must understand that this isn’t about us. Whatever it is about, it is for God’s purpose and not ours. Paul further explains this in both verses as well saying that it is about praising of God’s glory.
What is Paul saying that God has predestined us for? According to verse 5, it’s for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ. We are not children of God until we accept the gift of salvation, and the author of the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters that Paul “parallels this divine ordination with election and defines it as ‘before the foundation of the world’”. According to verse 11, Paul describes us as being predestined as it relates to obtaining an inheritance. While he explains later that we are guaranteed this inheritance through the promised Holy Spirit, Paul is speaking of eternal life. God has chosen ahead of time to save us from our sins and give us eternal life.
In Christ
The phrase “in Christ” is used in Paul’s letters over 150 times. Paul’s life was completely changed because of what Christ did, and he is passionate about helping others experience the same thing. In Galatians 3:26-28, Paul explains best regarding what he means. He says that is “in Christ” that we are all children of God and that we are “baptized into Christ”. What he means here is that we are identified with Christ. We no longer find our identity in the things that we do, our accomplishments, or how much money we make. We find our identity in what Jesus did for us on the cross; the debt He paid so that we wouldn’t have to pay it. While Paul doesn’t explain what the words “in Christ” in this Ephesians passage he uses it a lot. Additionally, he explains what this looks like in Ephesians 2:1-10. It is through Christ that we are transformed from spiritually dead to alive. It is “in Christ” that we receive the same resurrecting power that raised Jesus from the dead. As Paul explains the blessings in Christ in Ephesians 1:3-14, he is explaining a complete identity transformation. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul uses this language as well as he writes about the supremacy of Christ.
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