Sixth Sunday after Trinity – July 19, 2020
3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him. In love, he predestined us to adoption through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will— 6 to the praise of the glory of his grace, with which he has highly favored us in the Beloved.
SLIDE 2 -title slide
- Open bibles/apps to Eph 1.
- If someone were to ask you: what is your destiny (i.e., what is going to unfold for you in the years to come), how would you answer? Here’s a related question: Who or what determines your destiny? And one final question: Is it important to know your destiny? IOW, Does knowing your destiny make a significant difference in how you live your life?
- In the ancient port city of Ephesus, as in most places in the G-R world of the 1st century, the vast majority of people would say that their destiny or fate was tied to the vicissitudes, whims and caprice of the gods (of which there were hundreds) and the motions of the astral bodies (Sun, moon and stars: the signs of the Zodiac). They believed that knowing the motion of the bodies, could provide some degree of certainty and direction in their lives. The first century Stoic writer Manilius, referring to the Egyptian priests, said: “They were the first to see, through their art, how fate depends on the wondering stars. Over the course of many centuries they assigned with persistent care to each period of time the events connected with it: the day on which someone is born, the kind of life he shall lead, the influence of every hour on the laws of destiny, and the enormous differences made by small motions.” (Sounds a little like the typical horoscope you read today, doesn’t it?) He continues: “From long observation it was discovered that the stars control the whole world by mysterious laws, that the world itself moves by an eternal principle, and that we can, by reliable signs, recognize the ups and downs of fate.”
- In 21st century America, it’s different. While some people still follow the astrological signs, it’s more common in our day to believe (whether we ever voice it or not) that what largely determines who we are, what we do and what we become is our family of origin, or our personality, our physical health or the privilege or mistreatment of our identity group. One I hear a lot is that our present and future are mostly determined by our past mistakes. Our poor choices have created a path for us that we can’t escape.
- In the two verses we look at today, the Apostle Paul is going to deconstruct that way of thinking. He will argue that none of those things—the Zodiac, fate, your temperament, upbringing or past mistakes—none of these things determines your destiny. Only one thing in the entire universe determines your destiny as a Christ follower: the Father’s predetermination to redeem your life and make you his dearly loved child both in this life and in the life to come. Paul will make clear that the Father’s resolution in this matter is inalterable, unassailable, and and inexorable: what he has determined to do he will bring to past, and this can be the source of enormous confidence, peace and assurance to our hearts. SLIDE 3
- Last week, we looked at verse 4 of chapter one of this letter, and we saw that the Father has chosen us from time immemorial to be before him, in the exquisite intimacy of face to face communion, forever. SLIDE 4
- This afternoon, we’re going to examine verse 5-6, to see how Paul builds on that theme.
- So, let’s pray and get started.
“In love, he [God] predestined us to adoption through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will— 6 to the praise of glory of his grace, with which he has highly favored us in the Beloved.”
- I want to begin with three general observations before we look at the individual units of thought that comprise this verse.
- First, keep in mind this is part of a much longer literary unit. Verses 3-14 are a single, complex, run-on sentence. So, verse 5 actually begins with a past participle: “in love, having predestined us”. In our English bibles we break up the text to make it easier to digest. It’s fine, but somewhat artificial, and it’s good to bear that in mind
Also, remember the genre of this text: you might remember from high school English that genre is a type of literature: essay, poem, narrative, etc. Verses 3-14 are a doxology of praise, a eulogy or berekah: an extended blessing to God the Father. It is a form of worship, an outpouring of thanks, not a theological discourse meant to address every minute point of doctrine, but a theologically pregnant pronouncement of praise to God.
It’s important to always pay close attention to both the genre and broader literary context of any teaching of scripture. The reason is simple to deduce: We have to be careful not to abstract individual verses from their larger units of thought, because to do so is to attribute to them meanings the original authors never intended. This is what the early church called heresy: unbalanced teaching that emphasizes one truth at the expense of other, counter-balancing truths. The word heresy comes from the Gk. word hairesis, which basically means “choice, opinion.” Most cults are based on the selective abstraction of certain biblical truths out of their proper contexts (EX: Dt 6:4; Mt 28:19 other NT texts; Modalism vs. Nicene Trinitarianism.)
- The second observation concerns the connection of this verse to the previous thought. In v.4, Paul said the Father chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless before Him. Here, Paul is saying that the Father predetermined us to a particular privileged position: that of adoption. Clint Arnold notes: “God not only chose us to be in Christ, but at the same time he decided to bring us into a relationship with himself that could best be described through the metaphor of adoption. The advancement of thought here is the emphasis placed on a close personal relationship with the Father. We also find that he made this decision out of a heart of love.”
- Third, let’s consider the conceptual flow of the passage by noting the grammatical structure. SLIDE 6
- The unit begins with the prepositional phrase “in love,” setting the affective tone for the whole text and qualifying the way in which God accomplished the action that the verse is going to attribute to him (IOW, it tells us Why God did what he did). SLIDE 7
- Third, let’s consider the conceptual flow of the passage by noting the grammatical structure. SLIDE 6
- The next thought unit, “he predestined to adoption through Jesus Christ to himself” is a participial phrase and is Paul’s main point of the text. It tells us What God did: He adopted us as his own children. It then qualifies that action in two ways. It explains that we were adopted: 1) through Jesus Christ (who is the instrumental means of our adoption), 2) to himself (a reflexive action meaning that the Father is the beneficiary of his action: we are children now belonging to him) SLIDE 8
- The next phrase “according to the good pleasure of his will” informs us that God’s decision to adopt us was his own, and he carried it out with consummate joy and pleasure. SLIDE 9
- The next unit of thought, “to the praise of the glory of his grace,” describes the outcome or result of his action: all God’s children will praise forever that dimension of this glory consisting of his undeserved favor to us, his grace. And not just his human children, but also all the spiritual beings in heaven will forever praise God for the mercy and favor he has poured out on humanity. SLIDE 10
- The final explanatory phrase, “with which he has highly favored us in the beloved” tells us where God has graced us. It is done “in the Beloved”, that is in Jesus. So our connection with Him qualifies us to receive the benefits. And it is bestowed on us superabundantly, lavishly. We are not just “favored” but “highly favored”.
- Okay, now that we have seen the big picture, let’s drill into the text itself with the Lord’s help. SLIDE 11 Verse five begins:
Exposition of 1:5-6
- en agape. This is the controlling affect of this text: God’s rich, deep, tender love. It’s not utility or pragmatism that drives God but ardent, overflowing, effervescent, never-ending, freely-given love.
- It’s so important we keep this uppermost in our minds and hearts you guys. Ideas like God’s election and predestinating are often treated as philosophical concepts and cold abstractions divorced from relational considerations. This is so contrary to the intent of Paul and the other biblical authors.
- All that we talk about today was done with us in mind. God is not following some impersonal decree or trying to service the dictates of cold justice. He has done what he has done out of his sheer, free, generous and delighted love for us.
- The verse continues SLIDE 12
he predestined us to adoption through Jesus Christ to himself
- This is a loaded statement, and we need to unpack its contents carefully one at a time. We’ll start with the notion of predestination.
- There’s no question that predestination has gotten a bad rap. Because of the way its been unhelpfully framed by its proponents and unfairly caricatured by its opponents, we associate with it images of God sending some people to heaven and others to hell by divine fiat, regardless of how they’ve lived or the choices they’ve made. So, on this view, if you have not been predestined by God for heaven; bummer for you. SLIDE 13 You’re kind of like the cow in this illustration; no matter what choice you make in this life you’re pretty much screwed, because God has already chosen your fate, and you are powerless to influence that choice or alter your fate.
- Now, here me on this: That is not the biblical doctrine of predestination. That is a form of philosophical determinism or fatalism and is a distortion of the bible’s teaching. You won’t find any persuasive evidence for it in Scripture. And you certainly won’t find anything akin to it here in Eph 1.
- So let’s be clear. The bible does teach that God predestines certain things to take place. But the bible also teaches that spiritual beings like angels and material beings like animals and humans have genuine free will to make a range of self-determining choices. So, if we want to be biblical in our thinking, then, we need to account for both these data sets and hold them in tension, even if we can’t satisfactorily reconcile them intellectually. If we deny or minimize either, we end up in theological hot water. SLIDE 14
- Now, the idea that God predestines or predetermines certain things to take place should be a metaphysical given. If God is God, he must exist independently of created realities like space, time, energy and matter. So, if God possesses existence independent of time (which clearly he must), then the idea that he does things outside of time or before time should hardly come as a surprise. God, as God, is not subject to the temporal and spatial constraints imposed on humans and other finite beings.
- But we need to keep in mind that God’s predeterminations or choices do not act on the same plane as human choices. The two operate on entirely different levels. They are, therefore, non-competitive. IOW, they don’t work against each other in a kind of zero-sum game, where, for any given action, God is, say, 70% responsible for the action and humans, 30%. Because God and humans occupy different planes of reality, God can fully exercise his will and humans can exercise their will simultaneously without competition or contradiction.
- So, the bible clearly teaches that God predestines certain things, but this should never be taken to mean that, in so predestining those things, human choice is thereby excluded or limited or compromised. Make sense? SLIDE 15
- Okay, let’s look more closely at the biblical concept of predestination. The word is rare in the bible, used only 6x, two of which are located in this passage, here in v.5 and in again in v.11. SLIDE 16
- In the original language, the term is proorizo (orizo= “boundary”, English word horizon; pro=preposition meaning “before”) = “predetermine; to mark out or decide upon beforehand”.
- So, what, precisely, is being predestined in this verse? It is our adoption as God’s sons and daughters. SLIDE 17
- A similar idea is taught by Paul in Rom 8:28-29. Let’s look at it:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (What is that purpose?) For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he [Jesus] might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
- Here we see that we are predestined to one day be perfectly shaped into the image of Christ, who is the perfect image of God. Let that sink in: According to texts like Col 1:15 and Heb 1:3, Christ is the perfect, exact image of the Father. And we are being shaped into that very image. As the Church Fathers put it: “What the Son is by nature, God is making us by grace.”
- God’s overarching plan—his delight and resolute determination—is to create a gigantic family of sons and daughters who are like Jesus in every respect except their creatureliness. Jesus is God and will always be God, together with the Father and the Spirit. We, on the other hand, are creatures and will never be God. But with regard to our human nature, our love, our character, values, virtues, our righteousness, holiness and love, we will be indistinguishable from the Lord Jesus. What he is now, we will one day be, excepting his deity.
- So, back to Eph 1:5. Paul is teaching that God predestined or predetermined a particular action. What is it? Our adoption as sons and daughters. SLIDE 18
- “Adoption” is our English translation of the Grk. verb huiothesia (from hios-“son”; thesia/tithemi-“making”); adoption lit. means: “son-making”.
- Used 5x in NT, all by Paul (Rom 8:15, 23; Rom 9:4; Gal 4:5)
- Some people ask: Aren’t all people sons of God? God made everyone, doesn’t that make him the father of all? The NT doesn’t speak of human sonship or divine fatherhood in that way. It speaks of these things in terms of likeness. We are sons and daughters of those things our lives resemble.
- In fact, the letter Paul writes to the Ephesians makes a special point of teaching us that, prior to becoming children of God, we were “children of disobedience” and “children of wrath” (you can reference those in Eph 2:2-3).
- So what does it mean to be adopted by God? We can answer that question by considering Roman adoptive practices. The Jews had no real concept of humans adopting other humans. They had some sense of God adopting David and the nation of Israel, but didn’t have a legal mechanisms adoption that the Romans had. In the Roman world, adoptions entailed five things:
- First, a release from the control of the natural father – usually the adopting father would purchase the adoptee (a son) from his natural father. This would mark a clear release from the sons former way of life, including his family and his family home.
- Secondly, a change of identity. The adoptee’s former identity ceased to exist. He was disassociated from any crimes he had committed or debts he had accrued. His old name was discarded and he was given the new name reflecting his new family. For all intents and purposes, he was now a new person, a new creation. He had died to his old self and made new.
- Third, a change of status. Upon being adopted, the adoptee immediately assumed the same privileges, honor, and position in society as the family he was now a part of. The fortunes of the entire family were tied to the status of the head of the household called the paterfamilias, the Father of the family, the patriarch.
- Fourth, an assumption of property. The adoptee would assume the property rights of a natural born heir and, when the father died, everything would be inherited by him and whatever other heirs existed. In the distribution of assets, no distinction would be made between the adopted child and a natural born child.
- Fifth, a formation of a new father/child relationship. Prior to being adopted, the adoptee might have been a slave or an indentured servant or a neighbor to the head of the household. Now, he had direct access to his new father, allowing him to communicate with him and relate to him intimately and continually.
- You can understand the reason Paul used this well-known Roman custom as a means of explaining what God has done for us in Christ. The parallels are obvious:
- God released us from control of the powers of darkness, under which we born into this fallen world. His separated us from our former father, Satan. He erased our former identity as sinners with all the debts we had accumulated and He bestowed on us a new identity as holy ones, chosen ones, dearly loved ones. Having made us new creations in Christ, he lavished on us all the wealth and honor and privilege bespeaking our new status as God’s own children. And he is conferring on us a kingdom, over which we will rule with our elder brother, Jesus, for eternity, with whom we will share all things as his co-heirs.
- And all of this was granted us because God wanted to establish a new relationship with us characterized by love and intimacy. As one scholar put it: “If adoption is about anything it is about belonging, a belonging where God as ‘Father’ occupies centre stage in his ‘family.’”
- And how did God adopt us? The prepositional clause “through Jesus Christ” tells us.
through Jesus Christ
- Our adoption is accomplished through the life and ministry, the death and resurrection of God’s only natural son.
- His death satisfied all the legal conditions required to assure our adoption. And his resurrection signaled his defeat of death, guaranteeing our right to live with the Father and Son for eternity on a restored earth.
- Another prepositional phrase defines God’s intent: “To Himself”
- God adopted us not to be mere members of his extended family at large or servants on his administrative staff or some other general and impersonal calling. No, he adopted us as children “to Himself”. IOW, his action of adopting was done explicitly for the purpose of his enjoying and delighting in us as his very own.
- SLIDE 19 The next phrase describes his attitude in adopting us: “according to the good pleasure of his will”
according to the good pleasure of his will
- This complex Grk. phrase tells us God predestined our adoption in a way that was congruent with two impulses or motivations. The first motivation was his own innate, personal desire. SLIDE 20
- “Good pleasure” translates eudokia – “satisfaction, well pleasing, kind intention”. It’s a warmly personal term. It expresses the fact that God adopted us as his very own children for no other reason but that he desired to do so. God wasn’t coerced or guilted into doing it. He wasn’t prompted by some inducement external to himself.
- He did it because he wanted to do it. He did it because it gave him enormous pleasure. I think we have solid scriptural grounds for believing that the Father was smiling when he adopted us and that he smiles on us still. As one scholar put it: “God took great delight in thinking of his future people and being kindly disposed toward them.”
- Because of this, we can be confident that the one who made us, chose us and adopted us because of his good pleasure, will keep us safe until he fulfills his purpose to unite us to himself in heaven. Clint Arnold observes: “The final purpose of election is… relational. God is bringing together a people whom he can delight in and enjoy.”
- The second impulse or motivation in adopting us was God’s will
- Thelema in the Grk. is “will, purpose, resolve.”
- Nothing in all creation can successfully stand against God’s resolute purposes. While he allows a measure of human and angelic freedom to resist his will, ultimately, nothing can thwart his purposes; no one can prevent God from accomplishing what he intends to accomplish.
- So the fact that God purposed or resolved to adopt us with the intent of making us like Jesus means that God will, in the end, fulfill this good purpose. There is no doubt but that this will ultimately come to pass.
- And what is the result of God’s merciful dealings with us? SLIDE 21 Well, all that God has done for us will, throughout the long reaches of eternity, redound to the praise of the glory of his grace
to the praise of the glory of his grace,
- This combination of genitive clauses, “of the glory, of his grace” highlights the rich, wonderful nature of the favor God has bestowed on us.
- A couple weeks ago, we made the observation that “grace” is one of the key ideas in this letter, as Paul greeted his recipients with “grace to you and peace…”.
- As we’ve seen, grace is God’s predilection to bless us; The Father’s undeserved favor, given to us in lavish abundance in the person of Christ, through His Holy Spirit.
- Grace is therefore inherently gratuitous, its is free and unmerited, a gift lovingly given in generous proportions, a point Paul now accentuates in the next phrase: SLIDE 22 “with which he has highly favored us.”
with which he has highly favored us
- “Highly favored” here is charitoo, which is morphologically related to the Gk. word for grace, charis. As the verbal form of grace, and it means: “to make graceful, charming, lovely, agreeable; to look upon with grace, surround with favor, to honor with blessings”
- So this phrase can lit. be translated: “with which he has begraced us”, underscoring yet again the profusion of God’s favor and blessing. Andrew Lincoln notes: “That the noun is followed by its cognate verb…serves to emphasize the concept involved.”
- This is interesting fact: the only other time that charitoo is used in the NT is when the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary the mother of our Lord in Luke 1:28. He said to her: “Greetings, highly favored one!” Think about that you guys: just as Mary was singled out by God and called “highly favored”, so we Christians are singled out and regarded as highly favored ones by Him, according to this verse.
- Finally, where is this favor found? SLIDE 23 Where else but “in the Beloved”?
in the Beloved.
- This continues Paul’s pattern in this text of understanding all of God’s blessings to be found “in Christ Jesus” (v1), “in Christ” (v3), “in him” (v4), and now “in the Beloved”.
- In the Greek translation of the OT, beloved was used as what is known as a hypocoristicon or “pet name” to refer to Israel (Dt 32:15; 33:5,26; Isa 44:2). On one occasion it refers to Yahweh himself (Isa 5:1).
- In the NT, it typically refers to Jesus, whom the Father called his beloved at his baptism (Mk 1:11; Lk 3:22, Mt 3:17) and his transfiguration (Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7; 2 Pet 1:17) (Also see Col 1:13.) And that is the way Paul is using the term here.
- Our adoption and status as “highly favored ones” by God come as a result of our union with God’s Beloved, Jesus. By virtue of being joined to Christ, we participate in the relationship he has to the Father. As Andrew Lincoln comments: “Being highly favored with grace means, for the believing community, participation in that divine love with which the Father favored the Son.”
- But not only that. We also are referred to as God’s beloved in several places in the NT (Eph 5:1; 1 Thess 1:4; 2; Thess 2:13; Rom 1:7; 9:25; cf. Col 3:12). It is, in fact, at the heart of our new identity in Christ. Our belovedness by the Father and the Son is what defines us.
- You may have noticed that this ending “in the beloved” takes us full circle, back to the place we started today in v.5 “In love”. How appropriate: Like this short text, our lives begin in God’s love and end in God’s love. SLIDE 24
- So, I ask again: what is your destiny? It is to be a dearly loved adopted child of the Father and a younger sibling to our elder brother Jesus, forever.
- Your destiny isn’t determined by your backstory, your family or your failings, but by the inescapable, unfailing and indomitable love of God for you.
- Your part isn’t to make yourself move lovable but to gratefully embrace the love already yours, to let it define you, to live into it and live from it every day of your life.
- Let’s pray.
- Community group meets Tuesday night at 7pm SLIDE 25
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- Next week, bring bible, bread and grape juice/wine for communion