All Scripture references are taken from the NASB translation unless otherwise noted.
3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
God’s Grace is Freely Given
The word translated ‘heavenly’ in verse 3 is the same word found in John 3:12, “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”. “In the heavenly places” refers to the location from which these blessings originate. The heavenly places about which Paul speaks of every Believer as being present in this spiritual life, Although we are presently in this physical body the spiritual blessings about which Paul speaks are ours to enjoy now because spiritually speaking we are with Christ in the heavens. Think about it for a moment, God has already united us in Christ from the moment of our rebirth of which Jesus told Nicodemus in John chapter 3. Spiritually speaking we can say that we are present with Him where He is. The “heavenly” might be explained as being the existence of the Believer’s spiritual relationship with the Christ on earth.
In time our bodies will die and our spirits will enter into His presence as seen in 2 Corinthians 5:1-5, “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because * we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.”
Paul utilizes the expression, “in the name of the Lord—grace and peace,” in order to bless the recipients of his letters. “Grace from God” directs the Apostle’s purpose to Believers and “His peace” speaks of His presence in spiritual conflicts that are encountered. Paul presents God’s grace and peace because it seems to make sense that His peace cannot be established before His grace. “Why?” you might ask, does Paul write in chapter 2 of this letter, “you are saved by His grace through faith.” And it is also reasonable that His grace comes before one can know His peace.
Because God gives us His blessing of grace through faith and there is no need to ask for them again. However, we must accept His gifts by faith and give thanks to Him. I utilize the expression of faith found in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” There is another quote which follows verse one above which is attributed to Manley Beasley, “Faith is acting as if it is so in order for it to be so for with God it already is so.” “it” refers to whatever one has prayed for and “it” will come to pass when God’s glory is sought for. We must understand that the word ‘heavenly’ points to that which is of heaven is in stark contrast to everything we hold dear. And we can see this in the following verses from the HCSB:
1 Peter 1:3-4, “For His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires.”
Colossians 3:1-4, “So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
Hebrews 3:1-4, “Therefore, holy brothers and companions in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession; He was faithful to the One who appointed Him, just as Moses was in all God’s household. For Jesus is considered worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder has more honor than the house. Now every house is built by someone, but the One who built everything is God.”
Believers Are Predestined for Adoption
Now, we move to vv. 4 and 5 which may or may not cause some questions about whether you may or may not be a Follower of the Christ. For many, these verses cause concern and may present disturbing questions. Serious conversation oftentimes results in the loss of friendships, split churches and good-byes to pastors. But here is what the Apostle writes, 4 “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,” NASB.
“Just as He Chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” This phrase in no way says that God chooses some individuals for eternal bliss and condemns others to be cast into the Lake of Fire for all eternity. However, what we discover is before God created the world He did decide to have a people only Himself. In the Old Testament, that nation is Israel. In the New Testament that group is the Church, the Bride of Christ. This body of faith is to be Holy and blameless before Him. God chose the body of Believers to be holy which is living proof His Church belongs to Him.
“He predestined us.” That is, He foreordained that the Church of Jesus Christ is to be adopted as His people. What we see here is a general election of God upon His Church and not a particular election of one person over another. God foreordained His Church as His children. The act of predestination is simply God’s sovereign will which was and is the cause of our being ‘in Him.’
For more than a decade I have read the arguments whereby the disagreement among theologians has caused predestination to be much more difficult than the Word of God explains. What I now know is the meaning of God’s purpose is not so to understand. The determining factor is the fantasy of men. From the beginning, God designed His creation to accomplish His will well in advance of His creation. I think this affects us human beings and everything else God spoke into being. Within the pages of God’s Word, we find His divine purpose in creating you and me. His will is that we would, through His grace and by faith in His Son, become children of God. In a nutshell, this is God’s purpose for every man and woman ever born on earth. He provided us the freedom to choose or the freedom of will which may or may not prevent many to effect God’s purposes in their lives.
I would argue, as others do, the failure to find salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is to reject God’s purpose is found in Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus in John chapter 3. However, that which is contradictory to what Scripture teaches is the profound misconception which claims that God chooses who will inherit eternal life and electively causes others to deny the Christ without reason other than “God is sovereign.”
From John 3 the Doctrine of Predestination is not demonstrated , does not come from God and cannot be found in the words of Paul. I am not a Greek scholar, but from what I gather in Romans 9:22, the word ‘willing’ refers to the spontaneous will of God, growing out of His moral character and does not indicate His predetermined purpose. For some folks, this is simply too difficult to grasp.Now, let us move on.
In v. 6 we find, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
In short, all is accomplished to the praise of the glory of His grace because through His Son, God chose to lavish His love upon His Church, His beloved. This is easily known and is the result of the Great Commission that Jesus instructed His disciples to proclaim as He ascended into the heavens, “Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 HCSB.
Jesus is Lord.