I would like to point out seven things about unconditional election that we see in Ephesians 1:4-6. I will include the text below (and verse 3 for context).
(3) Blessed by 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.
In verses 4-6, I believe we are given the following seven glimpses of Unconditional Election: the event, the object, the sphere, the moment, the purpose, the basis, the end. This article is not meant to complicate matters – I simply want to provide a simple, clear explanation of what God wrote through Paul in Ephesians 1:4-6.
The Event of Election
“He chose,” Paul writes (exelexato). First, notice who chooses. God is the selector: He actively chooses. The text does not seem to leave room for passivity or indifference on God’s part, in relation to this selection. Second, notice two things about the choice. It is already accomplished (Greek tense is aorist) and on behalf of God (Greek voice is middle). This verb literally means to “pick out.” We could translate it as: “God picked out for Himself.”
The Object of Election
God chose the saints. First, notice a numerical characteristic. The object of election is actually plural – the objects. “Us” should be identified as “the saints” of verse 1, now including Paul. The plural pronoun seems to intend we see multiple cases of election. That is: God chose every saint. The verb is singular because God alone accomplishes it, and the pronoun is plural because He chose multiple individuals. Second, notice a personal characteristic. The objects of election are clearly humans. The text does not say He chose Christ or a plan: He chose people. This choice, then, is of a personal nature.
The Sphere of Election
“In Him” (en auto) articulates the close personal association that the saints have with Christ in election. The saints were chosen within the sphere of Christ. Jesus is the context in which they were selected. God did not arbitrarily elect individuals: He chose them in light of Jesus Christ. It may be helpful to ask, “In what sense are we elected in the context of Christ?” I suggest that the saints were elected in light of Christ’s obedient life and death on earth. He had not yet been incarnated but God had covenanted with Himself to accomplish redemption. Likewise, the saints had not yet been created but God chose them in light of Christ’s obedience. This grace of election was “freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (v.6). Contemplating the sphere of election reminds us that not even God’s predestination is done outside of the cross of Christ.
The Moment of Election
God completed this action “before the foundation of the world.” This is the temporal nature of election. God’s choice to save certain individuals does not develop over time. He does not start or finish this blessing as history progresses. Rather, He accomplished it prior to Genesis 1:1. Before the act of creation – even before time – He began the work of redemption. Geerhardus Vos said, “The best proof that He will never cease to love us lies in that He never began.”
The Purpose of Election
These certain individuals were differentiated from the mass of wicked humanity for a particular reason: “that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” We could dive into Paul’s particular word-choices, but for the function of this article we may simply call this “salvation.” So: God chose these individuals that they would be saved. This is when the saints are given an eschatology. Verse 5 gives further details: “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself” (emphasis mine). We may rightly say that this election is unto redemption.
The Basis of Election
Continuing in verse 5, we read that “He predestined us…according to the kind intention of His will.” The dependent factor in election was not anything within those chosen. God’s intention and will alone determined every facet of election. Words like unconditional should therefore be attributed to God’s selection of certain sinners to salvation. This warrants great comfort to those believing in Christ. We know that God’s choice to save is never hanging on works that we do.
The End of Election
While verses 4-5 give us a purpose of election, verse 6 communicates the great end of election: “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” God’s glory is the ultimate purpose which even our salvation serves. Not only this, but considering the previous six facets of election, it is literally impossible for an individual to take credit for election. We have not pride to glean from this doctrine.
A Brief Confession
In light of Ephesians 1:4-6, I would like to provide a brief confession of Unconditional Election. I pray this article has been helpful to you.
Before He created the world, the Triune God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – covenanted to accomplish the work of redemption. In light of Christ’s obedient life and death, God chose certain individuals to experience this redemption in order that He would be glorified through such a demonstration of His rich grace.