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Introduction to Ephesians 1:5
This verse enhances the themes of election and predestination, revealing God’s eternal purpose to bring believers into His family as adopted sons. It shows that this adoption is achieved through Jesus Christ and stems from God’s own desire and sovereign will.
- He foreordained us to adoption as sons:
- He foreordained us: The term “foreordained” comes from a Greek word meaning to mark out or determine beforehand. God’s plan of salvation is based on His foreknowledge of who will believe in Him and have faith in Him. More on this below.
- To adoption as sons: The purpose of this foreordination is adoption, a term with rich legal and familial connotations. In the Roman world, adoption was a formal process by which a person, usually a son, was legally and permanently integrated into a new family. The adopted son acquired all the rights and privileges of a natural-born child. In the spiritual realm, adoption refers to the gracious act by which God brings believers into His family, conferring upon them all the rights and privileges of being His children.
- Application of Future Knowledge: Understanding God’s foreordination in light of His knowledge of all future choices adds depth to this concept. God’s decision to adopt is not arbitrary or coercive but takes into account the free choices individuals would make. This perspective upholds both the sovereignty of God and the genuine freedom and responsibility of human beings. More on this below.
- Through Jesus Christ:
- Through Jesus Christ: This phrase is central to Paul’s thought, showing that Jesus Christ is the means through which adoption takes place. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). All the blessings of salvation, including adoption, are realized through union with Christ.
- To Himself:
- To Himself: God’s purpose in adopting believers is that they might be brought into a close and intimate relationship with Himself. This stresses the personal and relational aspect of salvation. It’s not just a legal transaction but a restoration of the fellowship that was broken by sin.
- According to the good pleasure of his will:
- According to: This introduces the basis or ground of God’s action in foreordaining to adoption.
- The good pleasure of his will: This phrase emphasizes that God’s choice is neither arbitrary nor capricious. It’s rooted in His own perfect and sovereign will. The “good pleasure” stresses that God’s will is good, pleasing, and perfect (Romans 12:2). It’s an expression of His nature and character.
- His will: It’s vital to see that the ultimate basis for God’s action is His own will, not something outside Himself. God’s will is not constrained or forced but flows from His nature, wisdom, love, and grace.
Ephesians 1:5 offers profound insights into the nature and purpose of God’s eternal plan, especially His gracious act of adoption. This adoption is characterized by intimacy, relationship, and inheritance, and it’s grounded in God’s sovereign will, fulfilled through Jesus Christ, and aimed at bringing glory to God.
The verse is a striking reminder of God’s initiative in salvation, His love in choosing us, and His power in securing our adoption. It’s also an invitation to marvel at the gracious and loving nature of our Heavenly Father, who has brought us into His family, not on the basis of our merit but according to His own good pleasure.
From the perspective that emphasizes God’s foreknowledge without negating human freedom, Ephesians 1:5 becomes a testament to God’s wisdom, sovereignty, and grace. It affirms that God’s eternal plans are worked out in harmony with the choices and responses of human beings, painting a picture of a God who is both transcendent and immanent, sovereign and relational, eternal and personal. This understanding adds depth to the doctrine of God’s choosing and adoption, providing a balanced view that celebrates both divine initiative and human response.
Ephesians 1:5 is thus a vital and vibrant expression of the Gospel, rich in theological insight and pastoral encouragement, calling believers to live in the light of their status as God’s adopted children, rejoicing in His love, walking in His ways, and longing for the full realization of this adoption in the age to come. It’s a truth that inspires worship, shapes identity, and fuels mission, reflecting the very heart of God’s redemptive plan in Christ.
The verse is saying that Jehovah foreordained us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. This is a reminder that our salvation is not based on our own merits but on the merits of Jesus Christ.
Here are some ways that we can apply this verse to our Christian living:
- We can be thankful for God’s adoption. We can be grateful that God has adopted us into his family and that we are now his sons and daughters.
- We can show our appreciation by carrying our His will and purposes. We can do this by carrying out the great commission of making disciples.
- We can share the good news of God’s adoption with others. We can share the good news of God’s adoption with others so that they too can experience it.
The verse specifically mentions that we were foreordained to adoption through Jesus Christ. This is a reminder that our salvation is not based on our own merits but on the merits of Jesus Christ. It also teaches us that we are now heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. This is a great privilege and responsibility that we should never take for granted. The verse ends with the phrase, “according to the good pleasure of his will.” This is a reminder that God’s plan for us is perfect and that he will never abandon us.
- Roman Adoption Practices: In the Roman world, adoption was a common and significant practice, often used to secure an heir or strengthen political ties. The adopted son would gain a new identity, family, and status. Paul’s readers would have understood the profound implications of being adopted into God’s family.
- Family Honor and Inheritance: The Greco-Roman culture placed great importance on family honor and inheritance. By employing the language of adoption, Paul taps into cultural concepts that emphasize both honor and inheritance, elevating the status of believers as God’s children.
Divine Foreordination: The concept of foreordination, or predestination, is intertwined with God’s sovereignty. Here, it describes God’s purposeful plan in salvation history, where He, according to His will and pleasure, adopts believers as His children.
Adoption as Sons: In the biblical context, the theme of adoption as sons is rich and profound. It signifies a change in status from alienation to sonship, with all the rights and privileges of a legitimate child. This is achieved through Jesus Christ, reflecting the New Covenant blessings.
The Good Pleasure of His Will: God’s will is portrayed as good and pleasurable, not arbitrary or capricious. It emphasizes the benevolent nature of God’s will in the process of adoption.
- God’s Foreknowledge and Human Free Will: In this verse, the concept of foreordination aligns with the understanding that God’s knowing doesn’t override human free will. He has foreordained the adoption, knowing who would respond to His call without forcing their response.
Ephesians 1:5 provides a rich theological insight into God’s loving and purposeful act of adopting believers as His sons through Jesus Christ. By utilizing the language and concept of adoption, Paul connects with both the historical Roman practice and cultural significance of family and inheritance. The divine foreordination expressed in this verse underscores God’s sovereignty and benevolent will in salvation, harmonizing with His perfect knowledge of human choices without negating their freedom. This teaching would have offered immense encouragement and identity to the Ephesian Christians, assuring them of their honored place in God’s family.
God’s Foreknowledge and Human Free Will
The texts we have been discussing (Eoh. 1:4-5) delve into the profound and complex subjects of predestination, adoption, foreordination, and foreknowledge, relating them to both human free will and God’s knowledge of the future. I will explain each term and how they relate to one another:
- Predestination: The belief that all events have been willed by God, usually with reference to the eventual fate of the individual soul. The text argues against this doctrine as unbiblical, stressing that God’s knowledge of future events doesn’t determine or dictate them.
- Adoption: In a theological sense, this term refers to the act of God accepting individuals as His children, granting them an inheritance and a new status as chosen by Him. By the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, those who were once enslaved by sin can be adopted as sons and daughters, becoming heirs with Christ.
- Foreordain: This term means to decide or determine something beforehand. It’s the act of God’s planning or determining certain events or occurrences before they happen. God’s ability to foreordain is consistent with the Bible, but it doesn’t mean that God’s foreknowledge predetermines human decisions.
- Foreknowledge: This concept deals with God’s ability to know in advance what choices individuals will make. This knowledge doesn’t cause or constrain the free decisions of human beings; rather, it is informed by them. The text emphasizes that foreknowledge is not equivalent to foreordaining.
The illustration of seeing someone’s shadow before the person appears explains how foreknowledge works. Just as a shadow does not cause or control a person’s presence, God’s foreknowledge doesn’t control or cause future events. Instead, it’s like a foreshadowing that provides insight into what will freely happen without constraining or prejudicing it.
Another illustration is comparing God’s foreknowledge to an infallible barometer. The barometer predicts the weather but doesn’t control or cause it. Similarly, God’s knowledge of the future doesn’t control or cause the future; it merely tracks the direction it will take.
The discussion on Judas’s betrayal of Jesus emphasizes that God’s knowing it would happen did not make it happen or constrain it in any way. Even if God’s foreknowledge were erased, the event would occur just the same. Thus, God’s foreknowledge doesn’t prejudice anything concerning the occurrence of events. If an event were not to occur, then God would not have foreknown it.
I have explored the distinct but interrelated concepts of adoption, foreordination, and foreknowledge, emphasizing that God’s foreknowledge of events doesn’t determine or control them. It underscores the view that human free will is real and that individuals’ choices are not constrained by God’s prior knowledge. The explanations and illustrations provided in the text offer a nuanced understanding of how God’s foreknowledge operates in harmony with human freedom, rejecting the idea of predestination as unbiblical.
God’s ability to know what choices people will make in the future does not mean that He determines those choices. Instead, people’s free will decisions determine God’s foreknowledge of them. For example, Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus was not predetermined by God’s foreknowledge; rather, God knew it would happen because it was Judas’s free decision to make. God’s foreknowledge is like a foreshadowing of future events. It allows us to see what will happen, but it does not determine what will happen. It is similar to seeing the shadow of a person before they come around a corner. The shadow does not determine the person, but rather the person determines the shadow. The same is true of God’s foreknowledge and human free will. Just because God knows something will happen does not mean that He has constrained human choices. Those who believe otherwise are mistaken and do not understand the nature of free will.
Some generally refer to the “doctrine of election.” The biblical way to view it is as a belief in God’s choosing of certain individuals for salvation based on His foreknowledge of who will freely choose to have faith in Him. God’s choice to choose individuals is based on His knowledge of their willingness to have faith in Him rather than on any predetermined plan or decree. In fact, it is better to refer to this concept as “conditional election” to emphasize the idea that God’s choice to elect individuals is conditional upon their own free will decision to have faith in Him.
 That is, decided beforehand
 Adoption: (υἱοθεσία huiothesia) The Greek noun is a legal term that literally means “adoption as a son,” which means to take or accept a son or daughter who is not naturally such by relationship, including full inheritance rights. The apostle Paul mentions adoption several times about those with a new status as called and chosen by God. These ones were born as offspring of the imperfect Adam, were formerly in slavery to sin. Through the purchase of Jesus’ life as a ransom, many have received the adoption as sons and daughters becoming heirs with the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. – Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5.