From “Explore the Bible” curriculum, LifeWay
Stephen V. Allen, senior pastor
Tabernacle Baptist Church, Carrollton
“This is the song that never ends, it just goes on and on my friend!” Do you remember that car-riding song from your childhood? I always wondered what sadistic person wrote that tune.
On a more positive note, I could contend that Paul was the original author of a similar song as he wrote the original song (of blessing) that never ends to open his letter to the Ephesians.
Humorously, E. Norden calls this collection of verses “The most monstrous sentence conglomeration in the Greek language.” In the Greek, this passage contains no ending punctuation in this 11-verse run-on sentence. Paul’s grammatical error has nothing to do with poor education but everything to do with prodigious exhilaration. In his hymnic rejoicing, Paul cannot stop talking (rather singing) about his blessings! He wants to inform the church in Ephesus of the blessings that they have received through the interworking of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
God has chosen to bless you with a holy purpose
Eph. 1: 3-6
Paul begins by noting that we are blessed not for our own doing – but on account of Jesus Christ by God the Father’s divine design. It needs to be emphatically stated: This passage is not about elitism – it is about that which is made possible for those “in Christ.” In Him, you were chosen not for your own merits but because of Christ’s benevolence. More importantly, election communicates that you were chosen for a specific purpose.
With the idea of gracious election in mind, you can read the next sentence with proper context: “In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” The Greek word “proorizo” means “to mark out the boundary or limits of a place, thing or person in advance or before.”
Although there has traditionally been controversy surrounding the concept of predestination, a contextual reading can dismiss the divisive interpretations of the past. The Greek construct communicates more clearly that God lays boundaries in which the free-will of humanity works.
Theologically, there can be tension when reconciling God’s sovereignty and human free-will. However, we can see this play out in more practical ways in the Bible. For instance, Jesus chose the twelve, but Judas chose to betray the Christ. Unfortunately, many interpret this predestined status to infer a kind of elitism that is incongruent with Paul’s Gospel. Thus the need to include the all-important clarifying statement: “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” All of this points back to His demonstration of grace and how it gives your life purpose.
Nothing is deeper in God’s purpose than to redeem your sin
This second stanza highlights the down to earth details of the work of Jesus. How did this election occur? God lavished His grace upon you through Christ’s salvific work (v. 7-9).
This redemption was once a mystery – but now it is explained. Anywhere in the Bible where you see the word mystery, it is always revealed through the lens of Christ. In this case, the story of your redemption was the mystery, but through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, the abstract words took shape. It is like God the Father wrote the lyrics, but God the Son put music to it. All of it perfectly orchestrated for the purpose of bringing reconciliation between God and his creation (v.10).
You are sealed with an irrevocable inheritance of grace
This final stanza points to the sealing of the Holy Spirit that binds you eternally with Christ: Remember where this inheritance came from: Your adoption (v.5). In Christ, you have obtained an inheritance (v. 11). Note though, you were not just some robot elected without choice. You heard the gospel, believed in Him, and then received the sealing inheritance (v. 13). That is the free-will of humanity at work. You were adopted and claimed for an inheritance that is sealed.
When all three stanzas of Paul’s confessional hymn conclude, you can see a beautiful panorama of God’s plans, purpose, and perspective unfurled in the abundant blessings of your life. If I had space to keep going I would! However, like Paul, all good lengthy works must come to an end. The best news is this: The blessings of salvation are a song that never ends.