EPHESIANS 5: Chosen in Christ (1:4-12)

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves…. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” (Eph. 1:4-6, 11-12)

Klyne Snoddgrass on “election” in Ephesians 1:

The election language in Ephesians 1 is primarily about God and shows why God should be praised. Any conclusions drawn must derive from the fact that this is a doxology, not a systematic theology. This is not to ignore the theological significance of doxologies, but to stay within Paul’s intention with his worship. His purpose is to focus on God at work, planning and drawing people to himself through Christ. If the focus is corporate rather than individual and if people are elect only in the Elect One, Christ, then this text has nothing to do with our fear that God chooses some and ignores others. That is the nonbiblical conclusion about the result of election and the question who is elect. The focus of the biblical text is on the cause of election — God — and its purpose — that Christians live holy and blameless before God. God values human beings and draws them — both Jews and Gentiles — to himself in Christ. The focus is God’s grace, and this text will not support any discussions about arbitrary decisions from God.

Numerous questions remain about election, and Christians will no doubt disagree on the answers. Can election be lost? Is it possible to have once been in Christ and then be out of him?  But this text (and most others) do not treat our questions and suggest they may be misguided. Paul was more interested in praising God for his grace. While granting an element of mystery in the subject of election, certain points must be emphasized:

1. Election is God’s grace in action.

2. God chose Abraham and then Israel for a task — to bless all the nations of the earth (Gen. 12:3).

3. Jesus took on the task of Israel as God’s Elect One.

4. People are elect in Christ for relation to God.

5. While God chooses, people still have choice and are responsible for their decisions.

6. Election does demonstrate God’s favor, which can be a strong support in a time of difficulty, but it is never to be treated as a sign of superiority.

7. More importantly, election always implies responsibility. People are chosen to do something.

8. The ultimate goal of election is the revelation of God’s own character, which Ephesians expresses as the praise of his glory.

Consequently, most of the debates about election should be politely set aside. If we focus on praising God for valuing us and if we realize the responsibility that his valuing brings, we have understood Paul, and the other questions on election recede in importance. No one should worry whether he or she is elect. The main question is: “Are you in Christ and one with him?”

– Klyne Snodgrass, The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians, pp. 58-59.

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