Digging Deeper into Scripture: Ephesians 1:3–14

July 10, 2024 Phil Rigdon

Many teachings in the Bible are easy to understand and accept. Such teachings include the following:

  • God created the universe and everything in it.
  • God takes care of us.
  • Jesus loves us.
  • Jesus died on the cross for our sins.
  • Heaven and hell exist.
  • Satan is always working to pry us away from Jesus.
  • Baptism saves.

The list goes on. It is unlikely that these teachings and others like them would cause Christians to doubt or reject Jesus. At the same time, some teachings are challenging to understand, challenging to accept, or both. Teachings that are challenging to understand or accept include the following:

  • God is both three and one.
  • The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all equally God, yet they are distinct from one another.
  • People can’t choose to be Christians.
  • God not only allows but also causes challenges in our lives.
  • There is salvation in Christ alone.
  • God commanded the Israelites to kill thousands of people.

Predestination in Ephesians

One challenging teaching that I did not include above is addressed in our reading from Ephesians—predestination. Consider these verses from Ephesians 1:4–6:

Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.

The Greek word for “predestined” can also be translated as “predetermined” or “preordained.” Through the apostle Paul, God is pointing out that from eternity, God chose who He would call to Himself to be saved. Paul explains that in this salvation, we are made holy and blameless and adopted by Him as sons and daughters. By “from eternity,” I mean that before the creation of the world, being in eternity, God and no one else made these determinations. 

Common Objections to Predestination

1. “This means, then, that God also chose from eternity who would go to hell.”

While it is logical to draw this conclusion since God has elected those who are to be saved, if this objection was true, it would suggest two falsehoods about God: He wants people to spend eternity in hell, and He is the reason some will. Consider these verses:

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3–4)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18)

God wants all people to be saved. Some will spend eternity in hell because of their unbelief.

 2. “Predestination isn’t fair! Everyone should have the same chance to get into heaven.”

Consider what would be fair. Adam and Eve sinned of their own free will. We continue to do the same. It would be fair for God to cast us all into hell. Thankfully, God is a god of grace. We don’t get what we deserve. Instead, we get what we don’t deserve. God solved our problem at His own expense—the life of His Son, Jesus Christ. When it comes to everyone having the same chance to get into heaven, remember that no one can choose to be a Christian. The Bible tells us that as sinners, we are conceived in sin, spiritually blind, dead enemies of God. The Holy Spirit is the one who reaches out to us through the means of grace: the Word and Holy Baptism. Consider these verses:

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you. (John 15:16)

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws Him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)

3. “God chose me for salvation because He foresaw from eternity that I would one day believe in Jesus.”

Again, this is a logical conclusion, but there is nothing biblical to support this statement. This false conclusion suggests that because I choose to believe in God, God chooses me for salvation. As explained above, God is the one who predestined and reached out to me. I cannot choose God because I am spiritually a blind and dead enemy of God.

Concluding Thoughts

Predestination is one of God’s teachings that is challenging to understand and accept. Nevertheless, we must recognize that it is true if we hold the other teachings of the Bible, such as God’s love and Jesus’ resurrection, true. Accepting predestination, or any challenging teaching, is trusting that God is good and does not do evil things. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways are higher than our ways. The comfort of predestination is knowing that our salvation is completely in God’s hands and doesn’t depend on us to do anything. God the Father created us and loved us enough to send His Son to save us from our sins. Jesus became man and died on the cross to pay for our sins and win heaven for us. The Holy Spirit creates saving faith in us and keeps that faith strong through Word and Sacrament throughout our lives. Rejoice that God predestined you, through Jesus Christ, for eternal life with Him.

Scripture: ESV®.

531230Learn more about predestination from C. F. W. Walther in his commentary on the topic. 

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