In the last post, we tackled the hard, and often controversial issues of predestination, election, and adoption as described in verses three to five. We read that God “chose” believers “in Christ” before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless. We saw that this “choosing” or election isn’t merely one of sanctification after one has been saved, but it extends into eternity past as God predestines men and women to be his own children by divine, gracious adoption.
Far from being a cause for division, controversy, and anger; these doctrines should fill believers with hope and a deep sense of gratitude for the pure unmerited grace of God that causes us who are vile sinners to become his very own children.
Verse five ends by telling us that all of this, from beginning to end, is according the purpose of God alone. This is a note echoed from the Apostle John who reminds us in his prologue that those who are born again into the family of God are born, “not of blood, nor by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).
We see that God’s wonderful plan of salvation for his people, the elect, was purposed and set on course by God himself before creation; a plan that was to be accomplished by sending his Son, Jesus, and would be applied to believers by the working of the Holy Spirit.
The purpose is God’s. The plan is God’s. The reasoning is God’s. The action is God’s. He alone has sovereignly acted to save a people for himself.
It might concern you for me to say that God is a “selfish” being. He is completely, totally, and eternally focused on his own glory, his own holiness, his own righteousness, and with the absolute perfection that is his by his very nature.
Strange sounding? God… selfish?
“I thought being selfish was a sin!” You might say. Didn’t Jesus teach us to love others more than ourselves and to not put ourselves first? Doesn’t even Paul say this elsewhere?
The obvious answer is, “yes!” Being selfish as a human being is sinful. Jesus and the whole of the Scriptures teach us to love our neighbor more than ourselves and to esteem the needs of our brothers and sisters as more important than our own; especially within the Body of Christ, the local church. It is absolutely sinful to be selfish; to look out for our own glory; and to do everything in our power to magnify and exalt ourselves. This is sinful… for us.
But for God? A being without sin, without imperfection, without blemish, perfect in holiness and glory? No. God’s concern for his own glory above all else is not sinful. In fact, for God to be more concerned about anything or anyone else other than his own glory and perfection would make God an idolater. In short; for God to be concerned with anything more than his own glory and worship would cause God to cease being God; an impossibility.
That is the glorious truth behind what comes next in Paul’s reasoning. God did all of this; the electing, the predestining, the adopting, the very act of saving for one overarching and all-encompassing purpose: his own glory!
Verse six bears that reason out stating that everything in the previous verses was done, “to the praise of his glorious grace…”
Far from being sinfully selfish in the sense that we are often tempted to be; God’s act in glorifying himself is the very cause and source of our great salvation. Apart from God’s concern with his own glory and praise; there would be no plan of salvation… there might not even have been a creation at all!
Genesis 1:1 tells us that, “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” We know from the Apostles John and Paul and the author of Hebrews that while it was God the Father who planned and designed creation, it was the Son, Jesus Christ, who was the working agent in creating (John 1:1-5; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:1-4).
So we see this pattern emerge: The Father plans; the Son accomplishes.
And isn’t that what Paul is making clear here?
Verses three through five have declared the glory of our salvation as having been planned, predestined, and chosen by God himself. A plan he instituted and decreed in order to bring glory to his own great name in eternity past.
Paul then moves on to tell is how this great salvation was accomplished: Through the actions of “the Beloved,” God’s only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:7-10 ESV)
God the Father predestines, decrees, elects, and orchestrates the great miracle of salvation while it is the “Beloved” Son of the Father who steps down into space and time to redeem us, “not with perishable things… but with [his own precious blood]”(1 Peter 1:18).
This precious blood brings nothing less than the very removal and forgiveness of all of our sins and trespasses.
All of this, again, is according to God’s rich grace… nothing more.
This marvelous, atoning grace has been “lavished” on us as God “makes known” his eternal plans and purposes (from verses 3-5) through the person and work of Jesus Christ. That is to say that all of God’s plans and promises, from beginning to end, are fulfilled, completed, and accomplished in the work of Jesus Christ our Lord.
All of God’s promises find their, “‘yes’ and ‘amen'” in Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:20).
Is it any wonder then that Jesus, as he is about to die, cries out, “it is accomplished” (John 19:30)?!
Not only that, but Paul says that the very will of God (everything he laid out for us in the opening verses) is “set forth” in Christ. In short: the eternal plans and decrees of God (including the actualization of his election and predestination) are put out there, presented, and revealed for the whole world to see in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The whole thing is “according to his [God’s] purpose” which is revealed in its fullness in the sinless life, vicarious death, glorious resurrection, and victorious ascension of the Lord Jesus (v.9).
This is his plan. This was his plan. The wise and glorious plan of God Almighty from ages ago was always simply this: to make everything culminate in Jesus Christ (v.10).
From the wisdom and foresight included in God’s predestination and election in eternity past; to the bright future and hope of the New Heavens and New Earth in eternity future; it all finds its meaning and driving purpose in the will of God as revealed ultimately and fully in the gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ.
We’ll move on next time to see what it is that Jesus brings his people and how the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, plays into the one wonderful plan of God that was set forth in eternity past.