MUSINGS CONCERNING GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE
The Eternal Purpose of God “According To” Ephesians
There are sixteen (16) uses of the words “according to” in the Book of Ephesians if we count “according as” in verse four (4) of chapter one as one of the sixteen. Nine “according to” uses as far as the believer is concerned are non-participatory. The nine uses are completely the acts and purpose of God. The elect are simply the beneficiaries of God’s exploits of unconditional love. The exclusive and particular devotion of God toward His chosen is demonstrated in the following verses. (1) Eph. 1:4 (“according as”), (2) 1:5, (3) 1:7 (4) 1:9, (5) 1:11, (6) 1:19, (7) 3:11 (8) 3:16, and (9) 3:20. The seven remaining utilizations of the words “according to” are (1) Eph. 2:2 (2 times), (13) 3:7, (4) 4:7, (5) 4:16, (6) 4:22, and (7) 6:5. It will be only the nine that shall be considered at present, hopefully, in a profitable and edifying manner. These nine uses of “according to” are fraught with immeasurable sovereignty and have the will, purpose and glory of God as their preeminent objects. The unchanging excellence of these grand counsels if Divine love is realized in the eternal redemption of the chosen of the Lord. The particular employment of the words “according to” in these nine verses support and sustain that it is God’s ultimate purpose and His alone that nothing can prevent every aspect of His will from pleasing Him completely and forever.
“ACCORDING AS he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, ACCORDING TO the good pleasure of his will.” (Eph. 1:4-5)
All blessings both spiritual and temporal are in and through Christ. Verse 3. The “ACCORDING AS” of verse 4. And the “ACCORDIBG TO” of verse 5 draw their unconquerable force from the blessed God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who blesses and has blessed “us” with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. The “us” in both verses 4 and 5 are limited to the ones chosen and predestinated before the foundation of the world unto the adoption of children. The “us” therefore cannot embrace all of mankind but is particular in that the number here included is the saints and faithful in Christ who became such because of the choice of God in eternity past and realized by the predestinated ones in time. “The object is “us”, not everybody.” This pronoun “us” must be explained in the light of its context. Paul is writing to “saints and believers” seen in verse 1. He says that the Father has blessed “us” that is, “all saints and believers” (here with special reference to those at Ephesus) including Paul as seen in verse 3. Therefore, when the apostle now continues, “just as he elected us,” this “us” cannot suddenly have reference to all men whatever, but must necessarily refer to all those who are (or who at one time or another in the history of the world are destined to become) “saints and believers;” that is, to all those who, having been set apart by the Lord for the purpose of glorifying him, embrace him by means of a living faith.” (William Hendriksen)
“ACCORDING AS he hath chosen us in him. . .” That election is clearly taught in these words cannot be discounted or denied without being unfaithful to the conspicuous teaching of Scriptures. The choosing of some demands the obvious, that being, there is also a not choosing of others. Jesus taught this as absolute, and as the will of God. “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: But the sheep did not hear them. . .I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:7-8, 14-15) Surely Jesus here made a distinction between two different groups, sheep and not sheep. Perhaps the strongest statements are found in verses 11,26, and 27 of John in this same chapter. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. . .But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” If Jesus was not qualifying the doctrine of salvation as the decree and purpose of God’s election, His choice of words was certainly misleading. To say “you are not of my sheep” if that is not what Jesus in reality was teaching is a position that could only lend itself to sarcasm. Please note how untenable and unsatisfactory it would be if “some” included “all” in the language Jesus employed. “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” (John 6:39) See context verses 36-40.
In John 15:16 &19 Jesus states dogmatically that the choice of the chosen was His and He makes a pointed difference between the “chosen” and the world. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you. . .If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”
John 17:2, 9, &11 make no sense but only nonsense if it was God’s plan to include the whole of mankind in the category of those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. . .And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, Keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” Who would not have some questions if it was God’s will to choose “all” in Christ, if not the “all” be saved? Either God’s choice was too large, or Christ’s sacrifice was to small if the purpose of God was not perfectly fulfilled. (John 6:38-40, 43-45, 17:4-6) “According as he hath chosen us in him” is the Lord’s testimony that not all of mankind was “Predestinated unto the adoption of children.” “The foundation and first cause, both of our calling and of all the benefits which we receive from God, are declared to be his eternal election.” (John Calvin)
Election is unconditional. There was nothing foreseen in the chosen that caused God to choose them. Neither good nor evil in man was a condition or consideration of God’s choosing some unto eternal redemption, but rather, it was purely His own good pleasure and Divine will. “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God ACCORDING TO election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.” (Rom. 9:11) Before Jacob or Esau were ever born it is stated that God loved the one and hated the other. Neither good works nor thoughts, or bad works and deeds in any way influenced God’s choice of Jacob or rejection of Esau positively or negatively. See Rom. 9:13 & 2 Tim. 1:9.
Mercy bestowed or withheld is the Divine prerogative. “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Rom. 9:15, 18, 21) Why do professed believers insist upon arguing over God’s ultimate purpose to glorify His own name as if He would be unjust if election were true? “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own?” Is the answer of the Lord? (Matt. 20:15) In the Scriptures, there is surely an obvious difference between those chosen and those not chosen. “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.” (Rom. 9:22)
Election is a Biblical doctrine too prevalent to ignore (Rom. 11:7) and absolutely necessary to have a proper understanding of man’s redemption. “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 11:7; 2 Thess. 2:13-14)
“Before the foundation of the world.” God’s choice of the chosen was given in Christ before the world began. As stated before, works were not calculated in God’s choosing. “Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not ACCORDING TO our works, but ACCORDING TO his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Tim. 1:9) In fact, to suggest as some do that God chose certain people to eternal life because He foresaw they were going to believe in Him is a wretched twisting of the Holy counsels of God. If such were the case, there would not be a holy choosing or a holy calling, but rather a meritorious response (and then grace would no more be grace) and man’s actions would be the initiative which makes the Lord’s election effectual. (Rom. 11:6) Whenever God’s sovereignty is tampered with finite minds, the purity of the Eternal Father is always diminished and becomes no more than good responses from those who are naturally dead spiritually. If election is based on foreseen good works, salvation is no more praise worthy than the worshipers of the false gods of mythology. To be sure, the Biblical presentation of redemption is the only honorable position to propagate. See Rom. 11:6 & 2 Thess. 2:13. To divorce one’s self from the doctrine of election is to call God untruthful (Titus 1:2) and make the substitutionary death of those before the foundation of the world a meaningless purpose, or at best the elections were unnecessary. (John 17:24; 1 Peter 1:20; Matt. 25:34, Heb. 4:3)
The Apostle in Acts 13:48 put ordained to eternal life as the action of God, and believing as the reaction of those who He ordained. “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48) It cannot possibly be embraced by a fair assessment that man would believe if God had not ordained that he would. Salvation is of the Lord and it is His work. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” (Acts 15:18) Note also 1 Cor. 2:7.
John Eadie in his exposition of Ephesians said with respect to the words “before the foundation of the world” the following: “The phrase itself declares that this election is no act of time, for time dates from creation. Prior to the commencement of time, we were chosen in Christ.”
“That we should be holy and without blame.” When Jesus was made sin for us, the elect were made the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21) The righteousness of Jesus is therefore the righteousness of the chosen in Him. The redeemed are approved of God as if they were without sin. Because the Redeemer is incorruptible so is the redemption He procured. This is what Peter emphasized when he wrote “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:18-19). The elect will be presented before God only because they are in Christ. “And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.” (Col. 1:21-22) See also Jude 24 & Eph. 5:27.
“..holy and without blame.” This being holy and without blame is how the redeemed are seen by God because of Christ and should be acknowledged as totally a benefit of grace. “..for these are fruits and effects of election, and therefore cannot be causes or conditions of it:” (John Gill)
One can be truly impressed by Matthew Henry’s comment of the elect being “holy and without blame.” “Observe here one great end and design of this choice – that we should be holy; not because he foresaw they would be holy, but because he determined to make them so. All who are chosen to happiness as the end, are chosen to holiness as the means. Their sanctification, as well as their salvation is the result of the counsels of divine love.”
“…holy and without blame” is seen by God as complete because it is “before him in love.” Believers are complete in Jesus (Col. 2:10) and when His work was declared finished (John 17:4, 19:30), it was finished for all of the elect. Becoming “holy and without blame” because of Christ “marks the purpose as potentially realized and not simply as aimed at.” (Brooke Foss Westcott) The redemption of all the chosen was secured forever in eternity, and made manifest when Jesus became sin for “us,” and was approved of by God when Christ sat down at the right hand of the Father. (Heb. 1:3) The whole purpose of God was actually completed for the elect before the world began, and as a result, we are seen as already glorified. “The proper view then is that perfection is secured for us – that complete restoration to our first purity is provided for us – that He who chose us before time began, and when we were not, saw in us the full and final accomplishment of His gracious purpose. . .The purpose of the election is that its object should be holy, an end that cannot fail, for they are in Christ.” (John Eadie)
“..before him in love.” For the believers, the love of God is a soothing and precious comfort. Surely, none would choose to stand before the Lord of Glory if they questioned His love for them. Every doctrine of the Bible for the redeemed is Divine love unbounded, unconditional, and free in Christ Jesus. “The historical fulfillment in time corresponds with the eternal Divine will. St. Paul piles up phrase on phrase to shew that all is of God’s timeless love.” (B. F. Westcott)
Even though the selection of some from a great mass of mankind is clearly advanced, the election of His chosen ones was based upon the unfathomable and timeless love of God for them. Love that was freely given and without cause from the recipients of that love. The adoption was solely God’s choice, but a choice saturated with eternal love. Why He loves some and not all (for all are equally destitute of any good) is known only to the glorious Godhead. Predestinated unto adoption by Jesus Christ has as its motive the good pleasure of God’s eternal and unchanging will — a will which can only be described as fully filled with love, holy love without human words, reasons, or thoughts to define its existence.
Again we consult Brother John Eadie. “Saints enjoy the privilege and heritage of adoption. The source of this blessing is love, and the love, unrestrained and self-originated, has developed its power and attachment – “according to the good pleasure of His will.” This verse is, to some extent, only a different phase of the truth contained in the preceding one. The idea of adoption was a favorite one with the apostle – Rom. 8:14, 15, 19, 23; 9:4; 2 Cor. 6:18; Gal. 3:7, 26; 4:5-77; Heb. 2:10; 12:5-8, etc.”
“Having predestinated us..” In verse 11 of this chapter Predestination is labeled the purpose of God who works all things after the counsel of His own will. It would be hard to miss the obvious reference Paul is reiterating. He is looking back to verse 4 and 5 to those chosen before the foundation of the world with respect to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.
Predestination is a concrete word which is rooted in the definite determination of God wherein He has foreordained whatever comes to pass. “The meaning is fixing and established in advance, in this case already in eternity. In God’s great elective act, when he chose us for himself in connection with Christ to be holy and blemishless in connection with Christ, he destined us in advance for adoption unto himself through Christ. The thought is much the same as in Rom. 8:28: “them he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son that he might be the first-born among many brethren.” (R.C.H Lenski)
In the purpose of the Godhead, time is the element created in which His holy decrees find fruition. In Romans 8:29-30, all is seen by God as fulfilled even though time has not yet run its complete ordained course. He, however, who knows the beginning of all, and the end of all, can easily speak in the past tense as if all were finished. Believers on the other hand are living in the present and can only admire as the outflow of His eternal counsels unfold. “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Rom. 8:30) The whom he did predestinate is fulfilled, yet Paul follows the same thought to the only end worthy of God. Them he also glorified is placed for effect in this verse because God is the one predestinating, calling, justifying, and glorifying. All the effects of redemption are viewed as complete in Christ Jesus the Lord. There will not be any disappointing mishaps in the eternal counsels of Jehovah. Nothing shall be able to separate the elect from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 39)
“Unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself.” The Apostle did not make reference to the acts that facilitated the adoption in verse five (5) but only stated that the elect were predestinated unto adoption by Jesus Christ. By Jesus Christ is not only the entrance into filial standing introduced, but also how and by what means it would be effected. Those acts are declared in verse seven. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, ACCORDING TO the riches of his grace.” (Eph. 1:7)
In the Book of Galatians, Paul expands and opens up these events of adoptions as discharged by the Lord Jesus. In the fullness of time (or when the appointed time had arrived that was decreed before time), Jesus was sent forth, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that the chosen in Christ might receive the adoption. (Gal. 4:4-5) The redemptive acts of forgiveness, reconciliation, and justification must first put away the strength of the law and its curse. (Rom. 8:1-3) This Jesus triumphantly did to the uttermost when He was made sin for us. The adoption has its unconquerable power in the faithful occupation of Jesus as the perfect redeemer. This adoption achieved results in the chosen of God as heirs and joint heirs with Christ. (Gal. 4:1-7 & Rom. 8:14-17), all of which we must receive as the pleasure of God’s will, or as stated by Jesus when He said, “This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Mark 12:11)
“..ACCORDING TO the good pleasure of his will.” To ask why God blessed, chose, predestinated, and adopted the elect can only be answered as stated here in verse five. It was “ACCORDING TO” God’s pleasure. He did so because it pleased Him to do so. “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” “Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.” (Psalm 115:3; 135:6) Whatsoever is done therefore, is done “ACCORDING TO the good pleasure of his will.” AMEN.