The Epistle text for Christmas II in all three series, A, B, C, is Ephesians 1:3-6,15-18. What is written there about verse 3-6 will not be repeated here except by way of summary. Ephesians 1:3-14 is the "classical location"on the doctrine of election. Other New Testament passage on this subject are found in Romans 8, 2 Thessalonians 2 and 1 Peter 1.
Ephesians 1:3-14 is really a doxology. This passage begins with the word "Praise be" which means "blessed be." "Praise God for the fact that ..." etc. "To the praise" occurs three times in this text, in verse 6 and 12 and 14. Furthermore, this doxology is Trinitarian. In verse 3 Paul mentions the Father. In verses 3-14 Jesus Christ is mentioned or referred to 14 times! The person ad work of Christ is central to election. The Holy Spirit is plainly refereed to in verse 13.
There is nothing about God's judgment, justice or wrath in this text. It is purest Gospel. Note the following nouns in this text: blessing, 1; love, 1; adoption, 5; good pleasure, 5 and 9; God's will, 5 and 11; God's glory, 6 ,12, 14; grace, 6; redemption, 7 and 14; blood, 7; forgiveness, 7; riches of grace, 7; mystery of His will, 9; purpose, 11; counsel of His will, 11; the Word of truth, 13; the Gospel of our salvation, 13; the promised Holy Spirit, 13; advance payment, 14; inheritance, 14; permanently His, 14; praise, 6, 12, 14. We are overwhelmed.
Paul praises the Father for what He has done for us in Christ: He has blessed us with every spiritual, heavenly blessing. This happened because the Father chose us in Christ before creation. This resulted in our being holy and blameless before God in time. Through Christ, the Father foreordained us to become His children. What prompted the Father to do this? The good pleasure of His saving will. His glorious grace which He showered on us in His beloved Son is to be praised.
The first doxology is found in verse 6. Have you become a Christian? Then rest assured that you are one of God's elect children. Everything depends on your attitude toward Christ Jesus. You did not choose Him. He chose you and ordained you to eternal life. Election is nothing but the true understanding of the grace of God in Christ.
Verses 7 to 10 form a unit.
What do we have in Christ? The redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Here "redemption" refers to the atonement which Christ wrought for all men. It has a different meaning in verse 14.
Note that "redemption" and "forgiveness" stand in apposition to each other. One explains the other. It is the same as objective justification in Romans 5 or objective reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5.
What prompted the forgiveness of sins? The wealth of God's grace. However, note that the punctuation is interesting here. The Greek Nestle text is followed by NIV: ". . . in accordance with the riches of God's grace (and the thought continues in the next verse) that he lavished . . ." TEV disposes of the difficulty by making this an exclamation: "How great is the grace of God!"
"Which He caused to abound toward us." The richest attribute of God is His unmerited kindness, His "grace." No wonder that many combine verses 7 and 8. The goal of God's kindness is us.
"With all wisdom and prudence." Does this speak of how God caused grace to abound toward us? Thus TEV, JB, NASB. Or does it mean something which God gave to us along with His grace? Thus AAT: "He poured out the riches of His grace on us, giving us every kind of wisdom and understanding." If the phrase modifies the verb then it shows how God begifted us. If it means "along with" it shows what God gave us. Along with AAT, Stoeckhardt, Kretzmann and Lenski, we prefer the "along with" idea.
Kretzmann: And the wisdom and discernment given to us by God make us ready and perfect for a holy blameless conduct in love.
Lenski: That Paul refers to 'wisdom' and 'intelligence' bestowed on us need not be questioned, especially in view of the parallel 'in all wisdom and spiritual understanding' in Colossians 1:9.
Stoeckhardt: The second blessing is that which is called 'in all wisdom and prudence' . . . . The Christians are to think upon and to seek to understand the Lord's exact will and not to be foolish and irrational. Colossians 1:9ff; Philippians 1:9ff; Luke 1:17. The words describe the mind of the righteous in contrast to the disobedience of the ungodly.
We can see this wisdom and prudence, more or less, in the life of God's children.
"By making known" denotes manner. "The mystery of His will" is the Gospel. It is called a mystery because it has come only by revelation. The unbeliever in no way understand the Gospel. It is foolishness to him, 1 Corinthians 1:18. But to the believer it is the power of God.
In verses 5, 9 and 11 we have "His will." In all cases this is God's saving will, the Gospel. Paul calls it "God's will" because it proceeds only from Him. No synergism here.
AAT: "It was His kindly purpose in Christ to manage everything" etc. His good pleasure which He purposed in Christ Jesus caused Him to do what follows in verse 10.
The point is that God was moved by no outside influence to do what He did. Our salvation from eternity to eternity is safe in Christ Jesus. No one can disturb it. No one can take it from us. John 10:28.
This verse begins with a purpose clause: "For the purpose of administering the fullness of the ages." We read: "In keeping with His good pleasure which He purposed in Christ for the purpose of administering the fullness of the ages." The phrase "the fullness of the ages" means the same as "the fullness of time" in Galatians 4:4. That is the New Testament era.
In His good pleasure the Father has given the administration of the New Testament era to His Son. Christ governs the entire New Testament era. Why? To bring all things to a unity in Christ.
"All things" are qualified by two phrases: "the things in the heavens and the things on the earth." We agree with Bengel, Stoeckhardt and Kretzmann that this means the Una Sancta, the Holy Christian Church, made up of those who are still living and those who have passed on to their eternal reward. Lenski and others object to this. They say that this passage speaks of Christ in the Kingdom of power, the same as is indicated in Matthew 28:18, Philippians 2:1-10, and Ephesians 1:22.
But Stoeckhardt says that here Paul is introducing the great Una Sancta doctrine, made so clear in chapters 2 and 3, the one Christian Church, made up of Christian Jews and Gentiles. Stoeckhardt objects to Lenski's explanation saying that not all creation will be united in Christ.
The RSV, TEV, NIV and AAT follow the Greek Nestle text and make a subparagraph here. Note the similarity between verses 4-6 and 11-12.
But there are two differences: in verse 11 we are told that we were elected "in keeping with the purpose of the one who is active in all things in keeping with the plan of His saving will." Secondly, here Paul introduces the Jews in verse 12 which goes with verse 11. What is Paul saying here? The history of the Christian Church from Pentecost to the very end is planned down to the very individual who was chosen already in eternity.
Another purpose clause. "So that we should be to the praise of his glory." That means "so that we should praise His glory."
Here specifically Paul is talking about "grace," the attribute in God which moved Him to send His Son to redeem all men, and the grace which also chose to everlasting life those whom He caused to come to faith in time.
Paul speaks of those Jews who were saved by the promises before Christ came.
In verse 12 Paul spoke of "we," the Jews. In this verse he speaks of "you," the Gentiles.
When they heard the Gospel they were sealed in Christ by means of the promised Holy Spirit. All that goes before, the election by grace from eternity, is brought to a focus here. Sealing means that God claimed them permanently as His very own. They are eternally secure.
In verse 12 it was "we." The in 13 we had "you." Now it is "us," both Jews and Gentiles.
The first part of the verse modifies "the Holy Spirit." "Deposit" means a payment in advance. In Romans 8:23 He is called "the first fruit of the Spirit."
Our inheritance is, of course, everlasting life. In verse 5 we were made aware of our election to adoption of sons, becoming His children. Now we have the inheritance in verse 14.
In verse 7, "redemption" denotes the atonement of Jesus. Here it denotes the deliverance from all evil at the time of death.
God sealed us in Christ by the promised Holy Spirit for the purpose of delivering that which God possesses, His child.
God sealed us to the praise of His glory. His glory very likely includes all the attributes and nouns mentioned throughout this text and summarized at the beginning of these Notes.
The Formula of Concord, S.D., Art. XI, Election, quotes our text twice:
It is beyond all doubt that the true understanding or the right use of the teaching of God's eternal foreknowledge will in no way cause or support either impenitence or despair. So, too, Scripture present this doctrine in no other way than to direct us thereby to the Word, Ephesians 1:13-14, to admonish us to repent, to urge us to godliness, Ephesians 1:15ff, to strengthen our faith and to assure us of our salvation, Ephesians 1:9,13,14. (Tappert 618.12)
Neither should we permit ourselves to try to explore the secret and hidden abyss of divine foreknowledge. Instead we must heed the revealed will of God. For he has revealed and 'made known to us the mystery of his will' and has brought it forth through Christ as that it should be preached, Ephesians 1:9-10. (Tappert 620.26)
In this lengthy passage about what my Father has done for me from eternity to eternity, the idea of faith does not appear until the second last verse. And here is clearly means "by believing" not "because of believing." The doctrine of a person's election totally eliminates any and all synergism, also that of the pseudo-Lutherans who claim that election is "in view of a future faith."
Not until we experience everlasting life will we fully realize the wonders of this passage. No wonder that we frequently find all saints, angels, archangels, Apostles and Prophets falling on their knees in the Book of Revelation singing eternal praises and "Hallelujahs" to the Lamb for sinners slain!