on Ephesians 1 :4
According as he hath chosen us in him - As he has decreed from the beginning of the world, and has kept in view from the commencement of the religious system of the Jews, (which the phrase sometimes means), to bring us Gentiles to the knowledge of this glorious state of salvation by Christ Jesus. The Jews considered themselves an elect or chosen people, and wished to monopolize the whole of the Divine love and beneficence. The apostle here shows that God had the Gentiles as much in the contemplation of his mercy and goodness as he had the Jews; and the blessings of the Gospel, now so freely dispensed to them, were the proof that God had thus chosen them, and that his end in giving them the Gospel was the same which he had in view by giving the law to the Jews, viz. that they might be holy and without blame before him. And as his object was the same in respect to them both, they should consider that, as he loved them, so they should love one another: God having provided for each the same blessings, they should therefore be ἁγιους, holy - fully separated from earth and sin, and consecrated to God and αμωμους, without blame - having no spot nor imperfection, their inward holiness agreeing with their outward consecration. The words are a metaphor taken from the perfect and immaculate sacrifices which the law required the people to bring to the altar of God. But as love is the fulfilling of the law, and love the fountain whence their salvation flowed, therefore love must fill their hearts towards God and each other, and love must be the motive and end of all their words and works.
on Ephesians 1 :4
According as - The importance of this verse will render proper a somewhat minute examination of the words and phrases of which it is composed. The general sense of the passage is, that these blessings pertaining to heaven were bestowed upon Christians in accordance with an eternal purpose. They were not conferred by chance or hap-hazard. They were the result of intention and design on the part of God. Their value was greatly enhanced from the fact that God had designed from all eternity to bestow them, and that they come to us as the result of his everlasting plan. It was not a recent plan; it was not an afterthought; it was not by mere chance; it was not by caprice; it was the fruit of an eternal counsel. Those blessings had all the value, and all the assurance of "permanency," which must result from that fact. The phrase "according as" - καθὼς kathōs - implies that these blessings were in conformity with that eternal plan, and have flowed to us as the expression of that plan. They are limited by that purpose, for it marks and measures all. It was as God had chosen that it should be, and had appointed in his eternal purpose.
He hath chosen us - The word "us" here shows that the apostle had reference to individuals, and not to communities. It includes Paul himself as one of the "chosen," and those whom he addressed - the mingled Gentile and Jewish converts in Ephesus. That it must refer to individuals is clear. Of no "community" as such can it be said that it was" chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy." It is not true of the Gentile world as such, nor of anyone of the nations making up the Gentile world. The word rendered here "hath chosen" - ἐξελέξατο exelexato - is from a word meaning "to lay out together," (Passow,) to choose out, to select. It has the idea of making a choice or selection among different objects or things. It is applied to things, as in Luke 10:42, Mary "hath chosen that good part;" - she has made a choice, or selection of it, or has shown a "preference" for it. 1 Corinthians 1:27, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world;" he has preferred to make use of them among all the conceivable things which might have been employed" to confound the wise;" compare Acts 1:2, Acts 1:24; Acts 6:5; Acts 15:22, Acts 15:25.
It denotes "to choose out," with the accessary idea of kindness or favor. Mark 13:20, "for the elect's sake whom "he hath chosen," he hath shortened the days." John 13:18, "I know whom I have chosen." Acts 13:17, "the God of this people of Israel "chose" our fathers;" that is, selected them from the nations to accomplish important purposes. This is evidently the sense of the word in the passage before us. It means to make a selection or choice with the idea of favor or love, and with a view to impart important benefits on those whom be chose. The idea of making some "distinction" between them and others, is essential to a correct understanding of the passage - since there can be no choice where no such distinction is made. He who chooses one out of many things makes a difference, or evinces a preference - no matter what the ground or reason of his doing it may be. Whether this refers to communities and nations, or to individuals, still it is true that a distinction is made or a preference given of one over another. It may be added, that so far as "justice" is concerned, it makes no difference whether it refers to nations or to individuals. If there is injustice in choosing an "individual" to favor, there cannot be less in choosing a "nation" - for a nation is nothing but a collection of individuals. Every objection which has ever been made to the doctrine of election as it relates to individuals, will apply with equal force to the choice of a nation to unique privileges. If a distinction is made, it may be made with as much propriety in respect to individuals as to nations.
In him - In Christ. The choice was not without reference to any means of saving them; it was not a mere purpose to bring a certain number to heaven; it was with reference to the mediation of the Redeemer, and his work. It was a purpose that they should be saved "by" him, and share the benefits of the atonement. The whole choice and purpose of salvation had reference to him, and "out" of him no one was chosen to life, and no one out of him will be saved.
Before the foundation of the world - This is a very important phrase in determining the time when the choice was made. It was not an "afterthought." It was not commenced in time. The purpose was far back in the ages of eternity. But what is the meaning of the phrase "before the foundation of the world?" Dr. Clarke supposes that it means "from the commencement "of the religious system of the Jews," which," says he, "the phrase sometimes means." Such principles of interpretation are they compelled to resort to who endeavor to show that this refers to a national election to privileges, and who deny that it refers to individuals. On such principles the Bible may be made to signify anything and everything. Dr. Chandler, who also supposes that it refers to nations, admits, however, that the word "foundation" means the beginning of anything; and that the phrase here means, "before the world began" There is scarcely any phrase in the New Testament which is more clear in its signification than this.
The word rendered "foundation" - καταβολή katabolē - means properly a laying down, a founding, a foundation - as where the foundation of a building is laid - and the phrase "before the foundation of the world" clearly means before the world was made, or before the work of creation; see Matthew 13:35; Matthew 25:34; Luke 11:50; Hebrews 9:26; Revelation 13:8, in all which places the phrase "the foundation of the world" means the beginning of human affairs; the beginning of the world; the beginning of history, etc. Thus, in John 17:24, the Lord Jesus says, "thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world," i. e., from eternity, or before the work of creation commenced. Thus, Peter says 1 Peter 1:20 of the Saviour, "who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world." It was the purpose of God before the worlds were made, to send him to save lost men; compare Revelation 17:8. Nothing can be clearer than that the phrase before us must refer to a purpose that was formed before the world was made. it is not a temporary arrangement; it has not grown up under the influence of vacillating purposes; it is not a plan newly formed, or changed with each coming generation, or variable like the plans of people. It has all the importance, dignity, and assurances of stability which necessarily result from a purpose that has been eternal in the mind of God. It may be observed here,
(1) that if the plan was formed "before the foundation of the world," all objections to the doctrine of an "eternal" plan are removed. If the plan was formed "before" the world, no matter whether a moment, an hour, a year, or millions of years, the plan is equally fixed, and the event equally necessary. All the objections which will lie against an "eternal" plan, will lie against a plan formed a day or an hour before the event. The one interferes with our freedom of action as much as the other.
(2) if the plan was formed "before the foundation of the world," it "was eternal." God has no new plan, He forms no new schemes. He is not changing and vacillating. If we can ascertain what is the plan of God at any time, we can ascertain what his eternal plan was with reference to the event. It has always been the same - for "he is of one MinD, and who can turn him?" Job 23:13. In reference to the plans and purposes of the Most High, there is nothing better settled than that what he actually does, he always meant to do - which is the doctrine of eternal decrees - "and the whole of it.
That we should be holy - Paul proceeds to state the "object" for which God had chosen his people. It is not merely that they should enter into heaven. It is not that they may live in sin. It is not that they may flatter themselves that they are safe, and then live as they please. The tendency among people has always been to abuse the doctrine of predestination and election; to lead people to say that if all things are fixed there is no need of effort; that if God has an eternal plan, no matter how people live, they will be saved if he has elected them, and that at all events they cannot change that plan, and they may as well enjoy life by indulgence in sin. The apostle Paul held no such view of the doctrine of predestination. In his apprehension it is a doctrine suited to excite the gratitude of Christians, and the whole tendency and design of the doctrine, according to him, is to make people holy, and without blame before God in love.
And without blame before him in love - The expression "in love," is probably to be taken in connection with the following verse, and should be rendered "In love," having predestinated us unto the adoption of children." It is all to be traced to the love of God.
(1) it was love for us which prompted to it.
(2) it is the highest expression of love to be ordained to eternal life - for what higher love could God show us?
(3) it is love on his part, because we had no claim to it, and had not deserved it. If this be the correct view, then the doctrine of predestination is not inconsistent with the highest moral excellence in the divine character, and should never be represented as the offspring of partiality and injustice. Then too we should give thanks that" God "has, in love," predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will."
on Ephesians 1 :4
1:4 As he hath chosen us - Both Jews and gentiles, whom he foreknew as believing in Christ, 1Pet 1:2.