In Ephesians 1:3, Paul praises God for the blessings He has poured out on His people. Beginning in 1:4, Paul describes those blessings for us. He wants to draw us into praise as well. He stirs our hearts with reminders of the glorious things God has done. And he begins with the spiritual blessing of election: Because of His love, God chose us in Christ before the world began so that we would praise Him and give Him glory.
We see this clearly in the text itself. Paul says God “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (1:4), and He “predestined us for adoption” (v. 5). God chose His people and predestined His people. Put simply: God decided who would be the recipients of His saving grace. He made this decision before the world was ever created and without reference to any work we would do – so that the deciding factor would be His grace and mercy alone (Rom. 9:10-18). Paul is clear that God’s work of predestination is carried out “according to the purpose of his will” (v. 5) and not according to the purpose of our will. The reason anyone comes to Jesus and believes in Him and is forgiven by God and receives eternal life is because that person was first chosen and predestined by God (John 6:44,65; Rom. 8:29-30; 2 Tim. 1:9).
We should note, as well, Paul’s declaration that God chose us “in him” – referring to Christ. He determined not merely that we would be saved but that our salvation would come through the work of Christ. God did not simply decide to save us. He decided we would be saved by repenting of our sins and trusting in Jesus Christ. The purpose was to exalt Jesus as the Savior.
Why would God do such a thing? As astonishing as it may sound to us, Paul is clear that God chose us because of His love for us (notice the end of v. 4 – and see also John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10). Just like with Israel in the Old Testament (Deut. 7:7-8), God’s sovereign choosing was not out of necessity or obligation. He was not forced to do it. He chose us because of love. And we see this love even more clearly in the fact that He chose us not simply to be slaves or servants but to be His children. He predestined us for adoption (v. 5). We get to be part of God’s family. We do not belong to God as some piece of property but as beloved children. Through our faith in the Son, we actually become sons – with all of the rights and privileges which that includes (Rom. 8:15-17; Gal. 3:29; 4:7). The ground of God’s choosing was love.
And Paul is also clear about God’s purpose in doing this. God chose us in Christ “that we should be holy and blameless before him (1:4), and He predestined us for adoption as sons “to the praise of his glorious grace” (1:6). God’s purpose in choosing us and saving us was to make us holy – to wash us and cleanse us from the stain of sin, deliver us from the power of sin, and ultimately eliminate even the presence of sin. And His purpose in doing that is that we would stand as monuments to his grace – proclaiming His greatness and testifying to His glory (1 Pet. 2:9-12). – First, the text clearly says that “…he chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him” (1:4). This whole endeavor is about God, and His praise, rather than us and our praise.
So that is the first spiritual blessing which leads Paul to praise: Because of His love, God chose us before the world was ever made to be saved and be part of His family as His children so that we could demonstrate and proclaim His perfect power and goodness to everyone.
I hope and pray that this reality encourages the hearts of the saints. God chose you and made you His own – not because of anything you would do but because of His free love. And He never changes His mind so nothing can separate you from His love (Rom. 8:31-39). You will be perfect and blameless one day, and sing His praise forever as beloved children of the King (Rev. 21-22). And even now, you get to experience fellowship with Him as His child (Rom. 8:15-16) and live so that His glorious grace is known by everyone around you. May we praise Him even as Paul did.