Chosen To Be Holy; Predestined To Be Adopted

Introduction:  Your Heavenly Father’s immeasurable riches of grace and kindness to you

I.  Chosen and Predestined.

  1. The OT Background and the Meaning of “Election” (cf. Deut 7:6-8).
  2. The Meaning of “Predestination” (Eph 1:5, 11; cf. Acts 4:27-28; Rom 8:29-30).
  3. When did this “election”—this “choosing”— take place?
  4. Whom did God choose here in Eph 1:4?
    1. Did God choose CHRIST?
    2. Did God choose certain individuals based on their “FORESEEN FAITH”?
    3. Did God choose certain individuals based on HIS OWN GRACIOUS PURPOSE?

II.  On What Basis?What are the grounds of election and predestination?

  • Eph 1:5-6 “…according to the kind intention [good pleasure] of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace…”
  • Romans 9:11 “…though [Jacob & Esau] were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls…”
  • Romans 9:15-19“’I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”
  • Romans 11:5-6“So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”
  • 2 Tim 1:9. “ God…saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…”

“[T]he one who is chosen has no legal claim on the one who chooses. In fact, it is clear in Scripture that human beings come short of his glory and do not even seek him (Rom 3:10-11). God did not choose anyone because they were holy and thus had a legal claim to be chosen. On the contrary, all people are sinners and deserve rejection.  There was no obligation on God’s part to choose anyone but he freely chose some and this is evidence of his great grace.  The point is that if God had not taken the initiative, no one would have his everlasting presence and life.  The real problem is not why he had not chosen some, but why he chose any. No wonder God is to be praised.”  (Harold Hoehner, Ephesians, p.176).

III.  To What End? What is the Goal of Election and Predestination?

“…that we should be holy and blameless before Him…” and “…for adoption to himself as sons” (v.5)

(cf. Eph 5:25-27; Romans 8:29-30; Eph 5:1ff; 1 John 3:1-3,9-10).

From eternity past, God had His Son’s wedding in view!


Some additional helps from John Stott on Ephesians 1:4-6, in The Message of Ephesians, pp.37-39:

Now everybody finds the doctrine of election difficult. ‘Didn’t I choose God?’ somebody asks indignantly; to which we must answer ‘Yes, indeed you did, and freely, but only because in eternity God had first chosen you.’ ‘Didn’t I decide for Christ?’ asks somebody else; to which we must reply ‘Yes, indeed you did, and freely, but only because in eternity God had first decided for you.’

Scripture nowhere dispels the mystery of election, and we should beware of any who try to systematize it too precisely or rigidly.  It is not likely that we shall discover a simple solution to a problem which has baffled the best brains of Christendom for centuries.  But here at least in our text are three important truths to grasp and remember:

  1. The doctrine of election is a divine revelation, not a human speculation. It was not invented by Augustine of Hippo or Calvin of Geneva.  On the contrary, it is without question a biblical doctrine, and no biblical Christian can ignore it.  According to the OT, God chose Israel out of all the nations of the world to be his special people (Ex 19:4-6; Deut 7:6; Is 42:1; 43:1).  According to the NT he is choosing an international community to be his ‘saints’ (v.1), his holy or special people.  So we must not reject the notion of election as if it were a weird fantasy of men, but rather humbly accept it (even though we do not fully understand it) as a truth which God himself has revealed…
  2. The doctrine of election is an incentive to holiness, not an excuse for sin. True, the doctrine gives us a strong assurance of eternal security, since he who chose and called us will surely keep us to the end.  But our security cannot be used to condone, still less to encourage, sin.  Some people seem to imagine a Christian talking to himself in such terms as these: ‘I’m one of God’s chosen people, safe and secure.  So there’s no need for me to bother about holiness.  I can behave as I please.’ Such appalling presumption finds no support in the true doctrine of election, however.  Rather the reverse. For Paul here writes that God chose us in Christ in order that we should be holy and blameless before him (verse 4)…  Far from encouraging sin, the doctrine of election forbids it and lays upon us instead the necessity of holiness.  For holiness is the very purpose of our election. So ultimately the only evidence of election is a holy life.  F. F. Bruce wisely comments:  ‘The predestinating love of God is commended more by those who lead holy and Christlike lives than by those whose attempts to unravel the mystery [of it all] partake of the nature of logic-chopping.’
  3. The doctrine of election is a stimulus to humility, not a ground for boasting. Some people think that to believe oneself one of God’s chosen people is about the most arrogant thought anybody could entertain.  And so it would be if we imagined that God had chosen us because of some merit of ours.  But there is no room at all for merit in the biblical doctrine of election.  The opposite is the case.  God specifically explained to Israel that he had not chosen them because they out-matched the other nations in number or in any other way, for they did not.  Why then? Simply because he loved them (Deut 7:7-8).  The reason why he chose them was in himself (love), not in them (merit).  The same truth is hammered home in Ephesians.  The emphasis of the whole first paragraph is on God’s grace, God’s love, God’s will, God’s purpose and God’s choice.  For he chose us in Christ, Paul declares, before the foundation of the world, which was before we existed, let alone could lay claim to any merit.  So ‘God’s election is free and beats down and annihilates all the worthiness, works, and virtues of men’ [Calvin].