For those that don’t know, I’ve been brought up in a Christian home from birth. When I was in the sixth grade, James Smetanin helped lead me through the Sinner’s Prayer (back when we were both Arminian). Up until just a few months ago, I continued to believe in that version of the Gospels. However, there was an issue; I wasn’t as very consistent in my spiritual life as I would have hoped for. This last year, with my call to ministry and with going through basic training, really turned that around. I started spending more time in prayer and in the scriptures, and through that I came to accept the true gospel.
That being said, my eyes have really been opened to very obvious points that I hadn’t seen or heard before. A great example occurred last night when I was studying and taking notes. This particular passage is found in Ephesians 1:3-14. I’m going to be analyzing this passage to take a deeper look to the meaning. Through doing so, I hope you can see the very obvious points that I have found.
Ephesians 1:3 (ESV) starts off with, “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…” The passage starts off in a similar way to that of a first century Jewish prayer that were often recited throughout the day. He blesses God the Father of Jesus Christ, who has blessed us through Jesus with every spiritual blessing in Heaven. Paul says that God blesses us in Christ, which puts an emphasis on Christ’s part as the mediation. Furthermore, the Greek translation for spiritual (for when it says “with every spiritual blessing”) is pneumatikē, which derives from pneúma, or spirit. This implies that the Holy Spirit is involved, which I will get to later.
Continuing in Ephesians 1:4-5 (ESV), it reads, “… even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will…” I’m not sure I have to say much here, but I will regardless. He chose us before the world was even formed. It wasn’t us that decided to be a follower of Christ, but God who called us, according to the His will. God’s plan for salvation for the believer is not an arbitrary or capricious system. God has planned this all along. He planned for us to live a holy (representing a moral purity) and blameless (representing freedom from the guilt of sin) life.
It then says in love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. The word predestined, meaning ordained or appointed, and in this case to being adopted as sons, points back to God’s decision to save certain people. As sons, all Christians are the heir to inherit the spiritual blessings from God the Father in Heaven. However, we must note that He does all this in love. Some people claim that God is bad or even evil if predestination does exists, but I beg to differ. Without God, it is we who are evil. If it wasn’t for the moral compass of the Holy Spirit, we would be immoral. If it wasn’t for the teachings of Jesus, we would be in a very bad spot. But because He had mercy and love, He chose to save us. This could really be seen as a glass half empty/full kind of deal, but I see it as a great, glorious God who loves His children and for that I love him with all I have.
In the final part of those verses, it mentions “according to the purpose of his will.” This is a very important part to note. It is not our will, but His who is in heaven. We must understand this as we live our lives as Christians. If God calls us to do something, we answer. Period. Even if it is hard. We must be ready to give up everything we have for Him. If that’s too hard for you, than you don’t truly love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. When Jesus was giving instructions to pray in Matthew 6:10 (ESV), He said, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This is something I always have to remind myself when making lifelong goals and plans. Ultimately, God cannot be controlled and it is His will to pour out grace through Christ Jesus for all Christians.
The next few verses, from Ephesians 1:6-10 (ESV), reads, “… to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth…”
The beginning of the verse praises God’s grace as one of the blessings we receive in Jesus Christ, named here as the one Beloved. Because He was sacrificed, we have redemption through His blood. Redemption here means ransoming someone from captivity, and “the forgiveness of our trespasses” explains that we are rescued from sin and the guilt that comes with sin. All of this proves how rich His grace truly is.
The next half of these verses have to do with God’s will once again. He let us know His will, in all knowledge and insight, by showing us the mystery of his will. The word ‘mystery’ translate to mystērion, which means the counsels of God, once hidden but now revealed in the Gospel. That being said, God’s will is revealed in Christ, which is to “unite all things in him.” This plan was for the “fullness of time.” What Christ did on the cross was the central point in the history for all creation.
The next couple verses, starting with Ephesians 1:11-12 (ESV), goes back to the blessings we inherit through God’s choice and will; it reads, “… In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory…” As I mentioned earlier, we are predestined to inherit the spiritual blessings because God chooses to. Why does He choose to do this? Because He “works all things according to the counsel of His will.” He chooses to do it this way because He is God. By His sovereign decree, all who come to Christ must come through God’s grace and election.
When I was studying this passage, I noticed a common Greek word in one of these verses that was also in an earlier verse. The Greek word proorisas translates to “having predestined” whereas prooristhentes translates to “having been predestined.” The Greek root word for both of these is proorizó. This means to “predetermine” or “mark out beforehand.” I say these to give you an understanding that I’m not trying to twist words. I am simply trying to take a passage and analyze it to find what it means exactly. From what I’ve found so far, this is it.
Moving on to the final couple of verses, Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV), it read, “… In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it…” Here it says that when we (all true Christians) heard the truth (the Gospels of Jesus Christ) and believed it, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who guarantees our inheritance until either we pass from this world or until He returns. As I said earlier, the Holy Spirit is involved with the spiritual blessing that we will one day inherit.
When we accept the truth, we are sealed. The Greek word esphragisthēte translates to “you were sealed.” That has been and could be interpreted a couple of different ways. The first is that the Spirit protects and preserves us as Christians until we receive our inheritance. The second is that the Spirit authenticates our acceptance by God as being genuine. However, the Greek word sphragízō (which comes from the Greek root word sphragís) means to seal, using a ring or other instrument by stamping. This makes us assume the second interpretation is true. However, sphragízō signifies ownership and the full security carried by the backing of the owner (and in this case God securing His children). The Holy Spirit not only affirms our acceptance by God, but also protects and secures our place as Christians. For those who truly love God with all their heart, soul, and mind and call themselves Christians, we can find comfort that God will never abandon us and that our salvation is sealed, guaranteed by the Holy Spirit and God Himself.
I believe that it is not us who choose to follow Jesus, but rather the Father, who moves us, through the Holy Spirit, to answer His predestined call on our lives. There has been an argument between two groups for several years now, centuries even: Arminianism and Calvinism. While one side believes in free will and that we choose God, the other believes that God chooses us. In the case with Arminianism, the moment they decide to ask Jesus into their hearts and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior (or more commonly known as the Sinner’s Prayer), that is the moment the Holy Spirit seals their inheritance (assuming they truly mean it deep in their heart and soul). But it cannot be us, but rather God who chooses to save us. We can’t save ourselves and we can’t force God to do anything. Instead, out of His grace, mercy, and love, He has chosen us to be His children to inherit the spiritual blessings in heaven. We are not sealed by what we do or say, but by the grace of God, and the Holy Spirit.
My goal of this post was to take the passage and break it down in order to study what it truly means. From what I gathered and interpreted, this is what I got. These simply add to what I’ve learned from Reformed Theology. I think the best way to end this is found at the end of this passage in Ephesians 1:14 (ESV); “to the praise of His glory.” Soli Deo Gloria; to God alone be the glory!