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Friday, September 15, 2006

To the Praise of His Glory

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on 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 on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory (Eph. 1:3-14).

I’ve been reading over this passage for days now. Oh, I read on, but I keep coming back to it. It’s just an astounding passage.

Do what you want with it. I’ve heard so many arguments on it. Here is just a sample. “Oh, you see the ‘us’ in the first part is different than the ‘you’ that starts at verse 13. The ‘us’ refers to the Jews as those chosen before the foundation of the world, but the ‘you’ refers to today’s Christians who are not.” “You see, ‘chosen before the foundation of the world’ refers only to those who are ‘in Christ’. No one is chosen before they are ‘in Christ’.” “Yeah, sure, that ‘works all things after the counsel of His will’ is a nice idea, but the Bible often uses ‘all things’ without actually referring to ‘all things’. This doesn’t mean that God actually works all things after the counsel of His will.” “You may believe that ‘sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise’ means that your salvation is secure, but you can break the seal any time you want.” And those are just a few examples.

Fine. Those who wish to argue over it may do so. As for me, I am going to marvel in the vast expanse of it. What do I see? I see “has blessed” (v. 3) as a “past tense” statement, meaning that these aren’t pending blessings, but bestowed blessings. I see that God’s ultimate and repeated goal is “the praise of His glory” (v. 6, 12, 14). (When something is repeated in Scripture, it likely means it is being emphasized.) I see that the focus, the intent, the primary operator of all of these blessings is Christ (See how many times “in Christ” or the equivalent is used – v. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 (2x), 12, 13.) I see the absolute sovereignty of God (v. 4, 5, 11). And what blessings! Chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, insight, inheritance, sealed!

Others can argue over the fine points, the applicability, the intent. I think I’m just going to bask in the wonder of it “to the praise of His glory”.


Scott Arnold said...

I'm going through a second Disciple class at my church, and the focus is Genesis-Exodus-Luke-Acts. Right now we're in Genesis primarily, and I am astounded by the examples of election - unconditional election that is. He chooses people, He chooses nations (or a nation), and he does so not on the basis of foreknowledge or merit, but of His own sovereign will- otherwise why in the world would Jacob have been chosen?

It's taken me over a year to realize, but no much has changed, really, between the "old" and "new" testaments - other than Christ, of course. In both, people are chosen on His sovereignty alone, they are saved by His Grace through faith, He keeps His promises, people are secured eternally,His will is accomplished,etc, etc.

It comforts me to know that the very things you highlight in this letter from Paul to the Ephesians - are available to us as far back as Genesis. It's pretty "plain" really... not much to argue about without damaging the text. We should read it as is, "to the praise of His glory."

Stan said...

Since I came to the same conclusion (election), I've been a little surprised on that point. We all know that God chose Noah. We all know that God chose Abraham. We all know that Israel was "the chosen race", and clearly not because they were the "obedient race". The Old Testament is full of God choosing apart from foreseen obedience. Why, then, do we assume He stopped that practice in favor of something else? I've never quite understood that.