After opening with Salutation and Benediction, Paul opens his letter with a response of prayer in a form of praise. It is similar to the order of our worship. God speaks, his people listens and responds in praise and petition. When God’s Word is read or preached, the congregation respond in praise and thanksgiving. The proper response to God’s gracious Word is gratitude. Paul leads the Ephesian believers in response to God’s proclamation of blessing. This is a declaration of God’s pure grace towards His people. It is the gospel of God’s saving work for his elect.
The Triune God blesses God’s people with the blessing of election, adoption, redemption and revelation. The singular work of redemption by God effects salvation to those who believes. And each of the persons of the Trinity works in unison with each other in order to accomplish the salvation of the elect. In this prayer, Paul identifies the role of each person in the economy of redemption: (1) The Father plans; (2) The Son accomplishes; (3) The Spirit applies.
The Father Plans
verses 3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
The term “blessed” means in this sense to praise and give thanks when directed to God. We give thanks to Him because who he is and what has done.
Paul identified the subject/actor of the first part of this long sentence as God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Cults often conclude from this phrase to prove Jesus’ being as human only since Paul identifies the Father as God and Jesus’ God and Father. However, we clearly understand from this verse the distinction between the Persons but not disproving the unity of God’s Being, and the human nature of Jesus but not disproving his divinity. Jesus, in his human nature, address his Father as God because it is true touching his humanity. He is theist and cannot be an atheist.
The Father blessed (past tense) us in the Son with the Spirit’s blessing. The Father is the source of blessing and it comes with the Son by the agency of the Spirit. Each person has a distinct role of play in the economy of redemption but it is unified and perfectly orchestrated singular work.
However, this act of redemption comes from a higher order of reality. According Paul is from the heavenly places or heaven-lies. Verse 3 points out the form of the blessing while verse 4 explains its content.
Simply put, the blessing itself is first of all election. According to Paul, the Father chose (past tense) us in the Son. This event is before creation which makes belongs to the realm of the eternal. Election precedes every benefit we receive from God concretely in history and personally in each individual person. Paul praises God for his electing work because it provides us the double benefit of justification (blameless) and sanctification (holy).
Understanding God’s election and the fact that it precedes every redemptive benefit applied to us brings comfort to us believers. It secures for us salvation of soul because if the source of our redemption comes from eternity then it also follow that it ends in eternity. If the source is heaven then the destination is heaven. If it is inaugurated with Christ, it is consumed in Christ.
What is it about election that brings about these securities? While verses 3-4 provides the form and content God’s blessing, verses 5-6 details for us the motive, goal and means, standard, and result of election.
The Son Accomplishes
verses 5-6: “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 motive of election is God’s love. It is basis of our election. God chose us, we did not chose him. Man inability to chose God renders him incapable to save himself from sin. He is total depraved. There is nothing in him that makes God chose him. Instead Paul speaks of God the Father who predestines to save us. Predestination belongs to the decrees of God. God selects out of the whole fallen humanity some whom he saves.
The goal of election is adoption. God the Father brings these elect sinners from darkness to light, from eternal damnation to eternal life. God the Father adopts them as sons through Jesus Christ, the eternal Son. He is the means of election. Theologically, there are three aspects of union according to Berkhof. The first aspect of union belongs to the decrees of God which is our federal union with God. The second aspect of union belongs to redemptive history which points to the ideal union. The third aspect of union belongs to our individual union which the Spirit applies as subjective union.
Federal Union identifies the elect with their mediator. Representing them in the Covenant of Redemption, the Son brings them to God as a surety or guarantor. Everything that the Son accomplishes they receive as benefits.
This is accordance to the wise and powerful will of God. The standard of election is God’s will. Since our election happens in the realm of eternity, it goes beyond our will, action and accomplishments. It negates every possibility of having its origin from man or even in creation. It comes from God and God alone. Man did not have any contribution to it. It simply comes to us in accordance to God’s purposes.
As a result, our salvation is purely a product of God’s grace. It is by grace alone we are saved. And since grace saves us, the only appropriate response it praise and thanksgiving. It is fitting for God to get all the glory for he alone plans and accomplishes our redemption! The result of election is doxology.
ZCRC(Imus), God alone brings us to himself, works to redeem us from our sin, and provides the benefits of salvation. He did it all for his glory! Let our praise and give thanks to Him for his electing love and gracious work. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.