Specifics of God’s Calling 2 (Conclusion)

This will be another rather long article, as it contains the remaining considerations of the particular pericope we are examining from Ephesians 1 (for the entirety of the pericope, please see the short entries Specifics Of God’s Calling, Part 2and Specifics Of God’s Calling 2 – Continued (Part 2) for context).


Even as begins the next verse, and refers back to that which began in the first verse. It was due to our being chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world that we have been blessed in Christ Jesus with all spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. God’s purposes are one, as He is, but our experience of His eternal purposes are finite and diversified, in this age, giving us a glimpse of that which is to come. Even as He blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ as purposed in Him before the creation of the world, we gain that knowledge of these things in temporal fashion, even those spiritual blessings which shall attend us into everlasting.

The next phrase is quite daunting: that we should be holy and blameless before Him. I say daunting, because it speaks of a perfection that we know is of God, because it proceeds from God, who alone is good (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19).

Goodness, as a perfection that is unchangeable, infinite and eternal, exists in God alone; in fact, when our Lord said that God alone is good, He did not speak of something God has, but of that which He is, for as many orthodox theologians have well noted “whatever is in God is God.” [1] That is, God is His goodness, and His goodness is God, just as God is love, and love is God. What we call attributes of God are really not composite, or separate parts, but we speak of them separated the better to consider them.

Getting back to our passage, we are told the purpose of God choosing us in His Son and blessing us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies is that we may be perfect before Him, which were impossible, if we were not comprehended in Christ, with whom our life is hidden in God (Colossians 3:3). Even were we perfect such as Adam prior to the fall, we would still not be in a state that is acceptable to God, for the mutability that gave rise to Adam’s fall would still be ours, and none could rightly hold that they would keep themselves. That takes the power of God, which He gives to us via His Spirit communicating the perfections of the unique God-man, Jesus Christ, to us. He, alone, is the Beloved, therefore, to be holy and blameless before God, even when we reach our eternal standing, we are comprehended in He who is holy and blameless. This fact changes what would otherwise be overwhelmingly discouraging into yet another reason for us to give praise to God.

Because of what God purposed for us in Christ, we were predestined to adoption as sons. In Him, we have been granted entrance into the family of God, and this was predetermined according to God’s will, which is to say, as part of His eternal and unchangeable purpose. Paul, in this passage, sets immovable bookends around the fact of God’s will bringing about all His purpose, and each reason for giving praise to Him leads inexorably back to who He is. This adoption is not a one-on-one comparison to what we think of when we hear the word “adoption,” for it is sealed of God Himself in the giving of the merits of His Son. These merits – both the negative penalty of death for sinning against God, and the positive reward of having His righteousness contrariwise attributed to us, resulting in our being considered sinless and perfect before God, were predetermined from everlasting. God’s purpose is as timeless and unchangeable as He is, so that which resulted from it is without termination, and beneficial to a degree that we cannot begin to fathom (except for His gracious condescension is communicating both the benefits and the means by which we apprehend those benefits via His special revelation). Making this even more certain (from our perspective), all these were given to us in His Son. God intersected the time He alone created for the creatures He alone eternally decreed should be His children by sending His Son to die for, then live for them (Titus 2:11, 3:4-5; Galatians 4:4-7). This adoption is as sure as God Himself, without end.

To the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

This phrase is a pivot in the middle of the particular pericope we are considering – it states the focus of God’s glory in His grace, as given and displayed in Christ, which permeates every other aspect of these reasons we are considering that cause us to give praise to Him. It further qualifies that which has preceded and that which comes after, therefore it is, in this sense, parenthetical. Everything which we are considering is based on that which God has decreed to manifest and magnify of His glory through the gracious display of it in Christ Jesus our Lord, and the subsequent results, which we have noted are called “blessings in the heavenlies,” by which that grace is given to us now and forever.

In Him we have redemption through his bloodaccording to the riches of his grace,

This is the continuation of definition of how we have those great spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, and expressly, the canceling out of the debt of our sin by His expiating sacrifice (Colossians 2:14).

In looking at these various aspects of God’s blessings to us “in Christ” (which statement is synonymous with being “blessed in the heavenlies”), we are always brought back to the consideration of where these blessings are – that is, the center of where they exist. We are also always brought back to how these blessings are expressed, and the results of our expression to God for His gracious giving to us to understand these things. “In Him” is another synonymous expression of the location of these blessings, and comprehends both our temporal experience of these things now, and the eschatological culmination of them, realizing that in our Lord’s expiation of these things by His sacrifice, we derive eternal benefit which is temporally experienced now, and leads to the end of that experience, or the terminus. By stating it as the end or terminus, we do not intend that it ceases, but at that point, the everlasting culmination of all these blessings is realized.

The frequent use of pronouns throughout this pericope stresses the recipients of these blessings. Ten times such pronouns are used in the pericope we are considering, and each time these pronouns speak of the recipients of God’s gracious blessings in Christ Jesus, by that exact phrase, or the use of synonymous phrases. It is impossible to emphasize the corporate meaning to the exclusion of the individual meaning throughout the periscope; indeed, the two must always be considered together. Corporately, all members of the church are considered as receiving individually these many blessings “in Him,” so that the stress of such elective grace as expressed in the first phrase we considered is cumulative of the overall blessings to each member, resulting in the benefit to the church as our Lord’s body, both in localized churches and universally.

In the phrase immediately under consideration, the blessing considered is the forgiveness of our sins by the atoning death of Christ. In His receiving the punishment due us, we are counted as having gained that which He alone so dearly paid for with His own life. It is an unequal exchange that He took the penalty for our sins and we received the virtue which was His, but this is the manner God made it possible for us to be considered His children. This is the operation of God’s grace in dealing with His only beloved Son in the manner that all sinners, outside of that grace, must be dealt with, which is receiving the fullness of God’s wrath against sin in eternal measure.

…which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight

This phrase brings into consideration that it is only of God’s mere good and beneficent pleasure, grounded in His infinite, eternal and unchangeable knowledge, or wisdom and insight, by which all these many blessings were given to us. Connected with the previous phrase, it speaks to the forgiveness of our sins, and how this was His everlasting purpose in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. This knowledge of God speaks of that eternal counsel within Himself that determined to send the Son to inhabit flesh, live perfectly, then offer Himself as sacrifice for those whom the Father was pleased to give Him according to the covenant of peace (Isaiah 53:10-12, 8:16; cf. Hebrews 2:13; John 17:6, 15).

However, the prepositional phrase has to do with how God lavished upon believers that grace by which they were forgiven and saved eternally. We do not gain all the wisdom and insight which are God’s, for such would be impossible; we do gain that knowledge and discretion into these blessings of God in Christ given us, to the degree we are able to understand them accurately, to the blessing of our souls. The word “lavished” is rather the key word in view in the phrase, constituting, as it does, the magnificent bounty of God’s grace in bestowing these blessings upon those He chose from eternity to be His in Christ.

I do not think it does any harm to consider that the wisdom and insight are God’s in this passage, but the stress laid down here must be considered as that unrestrained blessing of God giving us knowledge into the mystery of His will towards us, so that the wisdom and insight so named are a part of that which we receive. It is “all,” in that we now have everything we need to adequately comprehend that which He willed to give, and the means by which He willed to give it, which is further reflected in the fact that He has “revealed to us the mystery of His will” (v. 9). This mystery is the gospel, but in the pericope under consideration, we are looking at those blessings with which the gospel supplies us by God’s decree, and in the phrase under immediate consideration is the extravagance of these blessings He has poured out upon us. Colossians 1:9b is a parallel passage to consider with this one:  That you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. We take it that this is what God is doing here in this instance, in giving us without reserve that knowledge and discernment of His blessings contained in the gospel, and so we go on to consider our next phrase.

making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

As above considered, this mystery is the gospel, and it is spoken of as a mystery because it was not formerly known. However, God has here remedied that condition, for we are expressly told that He has made “known to us the mystery of his will,” and that it was according to the aforementioned covenant of peace, or as it is more commonly known, Covenant of Redemption. In giving us the lavish riches of the gospel we receive, in this passage, the knowledge of those blessings in the heavenlies which impacts us here and now. It may truly be said that we are experiencing, to the degree God has willed to reveal these things, a bit of “heaven on earth.”  This is expressly God’s purpose, which ties back into vv. 3 and 4 of this passage. That which was predetermined by the eternal will and counsel of God has come to pass, and we are the recipients of such blessings by our joint union with one another “in Christ.”

A side note that must be mentioned (because of the importance of these things) is that this experience of a bit of “heaven on earth” is not a solitary thing. As this epistle is directed to the church in Ephesus, and other churches that will read the cyclical letter from the apostle, [2] it speaks of members in the plural. Most especially, this has to do with corporate existence and interaction “in Christ,” and that is where our fullest experience of the heavenly blessings comes to us. It must also be remembered that the body of Christ locally meeting on the Sabbath most fully experiences the covenant, corporate result of these blessings as they are here set forth.

as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

This speaks to the eschatological fruition of God’s purpose for His creation, which He determined from everlasting to everlasting to be culminated “in Christ.” Our praise and thanksgiving to God for what He has done for us is seen to have more reasons than our own, personal redemption, just as our worship of Him is done in a corporate manner. That which takes place in myriads of local bodies in churches throughout all of history in the world is but a bit of that which will take place perfectly in our completed redemption with the entirety of all the saved in eternity to come. This is God’s plan, and has always been His plan. We see that not only our personal redemption, but our corporate redemption, is tied to that of the entire creation (Romans 8:18-24a), or conversely, the redemption of the entirety of God’s creation is tied to that of the completed redemption of all His elect. The realization of our hope is in a fully redeemed creation which will reveal the fullness of God’s glory, and this is revealed to us now, in Holy Writ, that we may praise God for such magnificent bounty of His grace.

It should be noticed, up to this point, that we are speaking of the results of our being chosen individually for the corporate worship of God, with the blessings obtained for us by Christ being set forth in a manner that continues to draw out reasons for our praise of God. Although the specifics of our being called and ultimately having our salvation are contained in this particular pericope, the thrust is doxological. In other words, the reason God has communicated these great truths of His gospel in Christ Jesus to us here is not only to show forth His glory, but to receive glory (praise and thanks) from those He has mercifully saved. The pulling back the curtain, as it were, from that which has taken place, is taking place, and will ultimately take place, should bring paeans of praise and thanksgiving from us on a continual basis, as we behold the wonder of His purpose in Christ Jesus, our Lord, being established throughout redemptive history to the point of its culmination. In other words, here, in this phrase, not only is personal redemption mentioned as that which has been accomplished, but the complete redemption of the old creation into the new creation. The ultimate judgment of the first creation is put forth, with the ultimate redemption of that first creation seen to come about from the judgment of it, to the glory of God in Christ Jesus. Such knowledge facilitates our understanding of the Lord’s ultimate purpose for both the old and the new creation, and admonishes and provides us with the impetus of godly living now, to reflect our doxological praise and thanksgiving of He who subjected all things in the Son, that He may be seen to be all in all (2 Peter 3; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28). This shows that doxology has as its object the inimitable God of glory, through the work He has done and will accomplish through His Son’s cross work and mediation.

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…

 This is the promise to us, and the sureness of that promise. We praise God because in Christ Jesus, His Son, our Lord and Savior, our standing before God for all eternity was determined beforehand, according to that great love and mercy that are God’s, not as some emotions that are short lived, but as His essence. In Christ, we have this standing before God – it is said here we have obtained an inheritance. This is not something we strive to obtain, but realize we already have it. In Colossians 3, we are told that we are raised in Christ, and so share in his resurrection and ascension in and to glory, as well as that when He died, we also died with Him, so that our lives, presently and continuously, are hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3).

Rather than such predetermining of our standing before God being something which is reason to say we need do nothing, we are told, in v.1 of that same chapter of the epistle of Colossians, to seek those things which are above, because we have our lives hidden in Christ, therefore we are seated at the right hand of the Father with Him. This harkens back to v. 3 of the epistle and pericope we are considering, where we give praise to God because of what He has done in Christ Jesus our Lord, giving us all spiritual blessings in Him, of which we are setting forth some at this point. A sure promise based on the determination of God before time began assures us of these things now, and when time ends, we will receive the finished work of our Lord on the regenerated, restored New Earth, giving still more reasons to praise Him. That this is the purpose of God, who works all things according to the counsel of His will, is still another reason for our thanksgiving and praise – these things are as sure as God is unchanging, as certain as He is faithful, all based in His glorification of Himself in our Lord Jesus Christ. Another way of translating this is suggested by Harold W. Hoehner in his commentary on Ephesians in the Cornerstone Commentary, which is “for his unchanging plan is the working out of all things just as he decided long ago.”[3] This emphasizes that our standing before God in Christ is the outworking of God’s unchangeable will, not as a decision, but as the redemptive-historical effects in time which give us to see that one act, which we call God’s decree, here called His counsel, or the counsel of his will. This refers back to v. 4 of our chapter of this epistle of Ephesians, for which exposition, please see above.

so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

This has direct reference to the first of those who believed in God through our Lord Jesus Christ – it speaks precisely to the fact of the believers of the primitive church, beginning with the 120 at Pentecost in Acts 2, those who believed through their message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and those immediately after them (which included, but was not limited to, the apostle Paul). It is not that those things which have heretofore been spoken of do not have to do with all believers, but rather, that the fact of those who were the first to hope in Christ are not only to the praise of his glory, but a visible witness to those who hear the gospel message as ordained of God and, believing, are also to that worshipful thanksgiving and praise. This is a plain indication that the faithful lives (and byliveswe mean speech and actions) of those who believe in Christ are used of God as secondary means to promote His glory among future generations of believers, and so it is yet another reason for us to give God the praise and thanksgiving that are His due alone, for the continuation of His magnificent work in redemptive-history, showing His faithfulness in bringing all those He has predestined from before the creation of the world to that standing in and before Him which is of Him alone. Appropriately, then, we may state that all glory is to God alone through Christ alone, as our Christian heritage always rightly observes.

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

This is again speaking of Christ and faith in Him, but the focus has shifted from the first believers to those who believed after them, so there is the understanding of those who believed later, which has connotations for all subsequent believers. It would also be true that those who believed first has such a connection, which has been noted in the commentary on the former verse, but this is more directly related to those who followed in belief because of the faith of the first believers.

The first reason to give praise and thanks to God in this is due to that testimony of those who went before us, for as we said, God uses means to convey His gospel of grace, and without these initial believers, we would not have the New Testament Scriptures, for the ones whom God chose to give us the body of the New Testament writings were the necessary means by which we gained His direct revelation of His working in His Son to bring about the gospel of grace in every respect. Although all the glory is of, to and for God, there is an indebtedness to those He first willed to use that we do well to remember in our thanks and praise to Him. The next reason is that we heard that which is directly from God, which is the word of truth. This came about by those first believers being moved along by the Spirit of God to write it for us, that we might hear God directly, as it were, and having been regenerated by that same Spirit of God, we believed in all the work of Christ for the forgiveness of sin and the repentance that leads to life. Finally, in this verse, that which was preordained, which is to say all of our salvation, is also said to be “sealed,” with the result that we are assured of that which we have been promised. Thus, we have another score of reasons to give our God and Savior that glory that is rightly due to Him alone, as we continue to see His primary decree and the secondary means He utilizes to bring about our salvation – the salvation we could never earn or keep, but which is as certain and unchanging as the God who set it forth from eternity.

who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

And finally, we come to the end of this particular pericope, which comes full circle, so to speak. In the first verse we considered, God was recognized to be blessed in and of Himself, not simply because of, or as a result of all the blessings which He has vouchsafed for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. In fact, we saw that nothing done for us adds to that inherent blessedness that is God’s enjoyment in perfect, eternal, infinite unchangeable being in and of Himself. In the following verses, we have seen that what we owe Him is because of who He is, for the outpouring of the blessings we owe Him praise and thanksgiving for come from that which God is. It is appropriate also, then, that we are given this one last promise of guarantee of that which our God has promised us in His promise to His Son (Psalm 2:8) for what He was willing to do in taking on flesh, living among those He created to teach them of Himself and His Father, showing that everlasting love the Father and Son both divinely have within the divine essence, which, as we have seen throughout this section of Scripture, God had deigned to share with those who would otherwise hate Him, and not have Him to reign over them.

This is, indeed, to the praise of His glorious grace, which is but another way to say to the praise of His glory. Because of who God is, nothing can come between His love which He has condescended to show us in the Beloved. Our possession at the end of time, where true life, that began when we were born again from above in redemptive history, will finally be ours forever, dwelling with He who gave it to us, and the phrasing in this last verse rings with the triumphant song of those redeemed: We are His, and He is our God. Let us give praises and thanks to Him now, and forever more. Amen.

[1] This is in so many of the old Reformed divines writings, and those of contemporary Reformed theologians, that we simply refer the reader to the aforementioned book by Samuel Renihan, God Without Passions, again, in the Introduction, pg. 36

[2] See Ephesians, Introduction, Argument and Outline, by Daniel B. Wallace, PhD., Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Section Destination, regarding the likelihood that this was a circular letter to the churches of Asia Minor

[3] Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Volume 16: Ephesians-Harold W. Hoehner

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