In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
Previously, it was mentioned that in verses 1-2, the focus was on Christians, that is, the saints at Ephesus who are faithful in Christ Jesus, and previously it was mentioned that in verses 3-4, the focus was on what God had eternally decided “in Christ,” that is, to take “every” spiritual blessing which are in the heavenly places, and place them all in His Son (i.e. “in the Beloved”). To me, this is reminiscent of Isaac’s blessing. Jacob got it all, and Esau was left to ask, “Do you have only one blessing, my father?” (Genesis 27:36) There’s nothing left, as every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places is already given out, and placed in Christ, and there is nothing left. So there is nothing left for a supposed, secret blessing in the Father, for a secret group of elect people, to receive an Irresistible Grace. Sorry Esau Calvinists. You’re out of luck. It’s all in Christ. Every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places is in Christ. If you want a special blessing from the Father, then the only place to get it, is in Christ.
The Father’s eternal election in Christ, for the purpose of being holy and blameless before God (as per verses 3-4) AND predestination to adoption as sons (as per verses 5-6), are BOTH subsets of the “every” spiritual blessing in the heavenly places and are only found in Christ (i.e. “in the Beloved”).
Building on this point, notice that the predestination to adoption as sons is “through Jesus Christ,” rather than “to” Jesus Christ. It is not through the Father (via special election) and unto the Son (i.e. the end result of Calvinistic election for being given to Jesus), but rather, reconciliation is rooted in Christ, as being “through Jesus Christ” unto reconciliation with the Father, which echoes what Jesus elsewhere stated at John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” So again, any relationship with the Father is “through” His Son.
So if we are keeping score, God has exhausted all of His spiritual blessings in the heavenly places, and placed them all in Christ, in which two subsets are:
(1) eternal election in Christ for the purpose of Christians being holy and blameless before God, and,
(2) eternal predestination in Christ to adoption as sons.
Question: What is “in the Beloved”?
Answer: The Beloved is Jesus, so to be in the Beloved, means to be in Christ.
Luke 9:35 states of the Transfiguration: “Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!’”
Matthew 17:5 also states: “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!’”
Jesus is the beloved Chosen One, and whatever we have from God, including the predestined plan of “adoption,” is solely from the standpoint of our identification with and position in Christ. So in context, it is believers who are being predestined, as believers, to be adopted as sons. The who being predestined are those in Christ, and the what is the adoption to sonship that comes through Jesus, accomplishing God’s purpose of making believers holy and blameless in His sight.
Question: What is Predestination?
Predestination to adoption is according to love, “the kind intention of His will.” (v.5)
Predestination to redemption through His blood is according to “the riches of His grace.” (v.7)
Predestination to the knowledge of the mystery of His will is according to “His kind intention.” (v.9)
Predestination to an inheritance is according to “His purpose” (v.11)
Predestination is “through” Jesus Christ (meaning not through the Father and then for Jesus Christ), but rather, “through Jesus Christ” to the Father (v.5), and this is because Jesus Christ is “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
Consider the example of the adoption of Mephibosheth into the House of David. (2nd Samuel 4:4; 9:1-13) Mephibosheth was adopted into the house of David, not simply on his own account, but adopted solely on account of his identification with and position in Jonathan’s family, through the blood covenant between David and Jonathan. (1st Samuel 18:3) For just as David had elected Mephibosheth into his household, so too, God the Father elects you into His household, not simply on your own account, but adopted on account of your identification with and position in Christ, through the blood covenant between He and Christ: “God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32, KJV)
God predestined those who are “in the Beloved,” that is, in Christ (i.e. Christians), “to adoption.” Galatians 4:4-5 states: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
Adrian Rogers explains God’s work of Predestination: “What is Predestination? Predestination is not God saying from eternity that one man’s going to heaven and another man is going to hell. Predestination deals primarily with what God intends to do for those who trust Him and what God will do for saved people. Predestination teaches me on the authority of God that when I’ve trusted Christ as my personal Savior and Lord, I will be like Jesus Christ.” (What We Have in the Lord Jesus, Ephesians 1:1-12, emphasis mine)
Adrian Rogers explains what it means to be predestined to Adoption: “How do you get into the family of God? You are spiritually born into the family of God. You are legally adopted into the family of God. Now when you are born in to God’s family, that’s the new birth. That deals with your position in Christ. When you are adopted, that deals with your privilege in Christ, and in Christ, we have both birth and adoption and we are predestined to this adoption. Therefore, we are fully accepted.” (What We Have in the Lord Jesus, Ephesians 1:1-12, emphasis mine)
J. Vernon McGee: “God chose believers in Christ before the foundation of the world, way back in eternity past.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.27, emphasis mine)
J. Vernon McGee: “I cannot repeat often enough that election is God’s choosing us in Christ.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.33, emphasis mine)
J. Vernon McGee: “God sees the believer in Christ and He accepts the believer just as He receives His own Son. That is wonderful. That is the only basis on which I will be in heaven. I cannot stand there on the merit of Vernon McGee. I am accepted only in the Beloved. God loves me just as He loves Christ, because I am in Christ.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.38, emphasis mine)
J. Vernon McGee: “It is the overall purpose and plan of God that believers should have a part in Christ’s inheritance. They are going to inherit with Christ because they are in Christ.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.50, emphasis mine)
Jacob Arminius states: “For God chooses no one unto eternal life except in Christ, who prepared it by his own blood for them who should believe on his name. From this it seems to follow that, since God regards no one in Christ unless they are engrafted in him by faith, election is peculiar to believers....” (Works of James Arminius, Volume 3, emphasis mine)
Robert Picirilli writes: “We are objects of God’s grace only in Christ. Election and foreordination graciously flow to us in union with Christ--the only way God could elect us and maintain His holiness, given that apart from union with Christ we are sinful and cannot be objects of election. God’s eternal decree to save, then, was not a sterile one that logically preceded the plan of redemption in Christ. Instead, it is grounded in the plan of redemption by Christ and grows out of it.” (Grace, Faith, Free Will, Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism, pp.68-69, emphasis mine)
Walls and Dongell explain: “It is in him that we have chosen and predestined (Eph 1:4-5), just as it is in him that we have been seated in heavenly places (Eph 2:6-7). This means that Jesus Christ himself is the chosen one, the predestined one. Whenever one is incorporated into him by grace through faith, one comes to share in Jesus’ special status as chosen of God.” (Why I am Not a Calvinist, p.76, emphasis mine)
Question: So where does Calvinism go wrong with this?
Answer: Calvinism does NOT teach that our election with the Father depends upon our place in Christ, but that our position in the Father, as His Chosen Ones, determines our being given and drawn to Christ. That’s a fundamental distinction and a critical error on the part of Calvinism. Calvinism is essentially an in the Father adoption, as chosen members of His eternal flock of sheep, through which, such Chosen Ones, receive the blessing of adoption into Christ.
John Calvin: “The end of adoption is simply that we should be considered His children.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.126-127, emphasis mine)
Actually, being in Christ is the beginning, not the end of adoption. Calvin imagines that he was adopted and predestined ‘to be’ in Christ, on account of being God’s beloved Chosen One, as a member of a class of similarly Chosen Ones.
Calvinist, John MacArthur: “And so He chose us, and He chose us for the purpose of predetermining our destiny to become His children, and He did it according to the kind intention of His will. He did it, to put it simply, because He wanted to. It gave Him pleasure. And He says in Isaiah 46:10: ‘I do all My good pleasure. I fulfill all My purposes.’” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)
MacArthur adds: “You and I are saved and we know the Lord Jesus Christ because God chose us before the world ever began. What an incredible reality! ... He selected people to be made holy in order to be with Him forever. Why he selected me, I will never know. I’m no better than anyone else. I’m worse than many. But He chose me. ... I’m a Christian today because before the foundation of the world from all eternity past, God chose to set His love on John MacArthur and to give him the faith to believe at the moment that God wanted him to believe. He chose us.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)
John Calvin: “God has predestinated us in Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, unto adoption, and has made us accepted by His grace. In the word predestinate we again attend to the order. We did not yet exist and therefore there was no merit of ours. Hence the cause of our salvation did not proceed from us, but from God alone.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.126, emphasis mine)
What happened to what God freely bestowed on us in the Beloved? Ephesians chapter 1 is a consistent message of all that we have in Christ. Those whom God the Father, out of His good pleasure, grants adoption, purpose, glory and justification are those who are in Christ, that is, those in the Beloved. On what basis does Calvin interpret in the Beloved as meaning in the Father, rather than in Christ?
Calvin continues: “The material cause, both of eternal election, and of the love which is now revealed, is Christ, whom he names the Beloved, to tell us that by Him the love of God is poured out to us. The highest and last purpose is immediately added, the glorious praise of such abundant grace. Every man, therefore, who hides this glory, is endeavoring to overturn the everlasting purpose of God. Such is the doctrine of the Sophists, which turns everything upside down, lest the whole glory of our salvation should be ascribed undividedly to God alone.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.127, emphasis mine)
Since, by Calvin’s own admission, “the Beloved” means “Christ,” why then did he say that “God has predestinated us in Himself”? The only sensible answer is that because Calvin is so utterly preoccupied by an in the Father election that it has totally blinded him from seeing the biblical source of election.
Calvin adds: “But that no ambiguity may remain, he uses the contrast ‘good pleasure’, which expressly sets aside all merit. In adopting us, therefore, the Lord does not look at what we are, and is not reconciled to us by any personal worth. His single motive is the eternal good pleasure, by which He predestinated us. Why, then, are the Sophists not ashamed to mingle with it other considerations, when Paul so strongly forbids us to look at anything else than the good pleasure of God? (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.127, emphasis mine)
The real question is why isn’t Calvin “ashamed” since he knew better: “Paul testifies indeed that we were chosen before the foundation of the world; but, he adds, in Christ (Eph 1:4). Let no one then seek confidence in his election elsewhere, unless he wish to obliterate his name from the book of life in which it is written.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.126, emphasis mine)
John Calvin: “For if the salvation of men is wholly comprehended within the mercy of God, and God saves none but those whom in His secret good pleasure He chose, there is nothing left over for man to do.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.82-83, emphasis mine)
Rather, the unveiled “good pleasure” of God is to honor His Son, whereby every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places is placed in Him: “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.” (Ephesians 1:3)
In Christ, the love of God is poured out. Apart from being in Him, you are a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction (Romans 9:22), but God is “patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2nd Peter 3:9) 1st Corinthians 1:4-8 states: “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The critical question, therefore, is how does one become in Christ? The answer is that you become in Christ when Christ comes in you. (2nd Corinthians 13:5; Revelation 3:20; John 14:23)
Calvinist, James White: “Upon what basis does God choose one and not anther? ‘According to the kind intention of His will.’ It is God’s will, God’s purpose, God’s intention that determines the issue. How else could it be in the light of the next phrase, ‘to the praise of the glory of His grace’?” (Debating Calvinism, p.93, emphasis mine)
Answer: Upon the basis of being in Christ, that is, in the Beloved. How could it not be so, given the very next phrase of, “which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved”?
James White: “Unconditional election is simply the recognition of the biblical teaching that God is free in the matter of salvation. He chooses to exercise mercy and grace toward undeserving creatures solely on the basis of ‘the good pleasure of His will’ (Ephesians 1:5).” (Debating Calvinism, p.91, emphasis mine)
If Election is hinged upon the condition of being “in the Beloved,” that is, being in Christ, then how can someone say that Election is “unconditional”?
James White: “This election unto salvation is plainly unconditional, for how could those who do not yet exist fulfill the necessary conditions for their election?” (Debating Calvinism, p.93, emphasis mine)
Answer: The foreknowledge of Romans 8:29. That which was before the foundation of the world was God’s choice, and God’s choice was that for those in the Beloved whom He did foreknow, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, to be called according to His purpose, to be justified in His blood and glorified by the Holy Spirit. Everything that God has designed the Christian to become was placed in Christ. God has placed treasure in Christ for us Christians to appropriate into our lives so that we may become all that God has purposed for us to be as Christians. However, Calvinists think that God had placed treasure in themselves so that they may become Christians. That’s the difference that Calvinists don’t seem to understand, or are willing to allow themselves to grasp. Calvinists are Calvinists because it’s a doctrine that they really, really like a lot, and so you are up against emotional bias when trying to explain the truth of Scriptural Election to them.
Calvinist, James White: “I just also believe the undisputed and unrefuted fact that I come to Christ daily because the Father, on the sole basis of His mercy and grace, gave me to the Son in eternity past.” (Debating Calvinism, p.306, emphasis mine)
Again, Calvinists view themselves as the Beloved, and as a body of Chosen Ones, through which they are thus given and drawn by the Father to His Son, which is refuted by the fact that Jesus is the Beloved, Chosen One, through which we have an adoption with the Father.