Predestination in Ephesians 1:4-6 & Romans 8:28-35

This study will be a brief explanation of the high, biblical doctrine of predestination as Paul sets forth in Ephesians 1:4-6 and in Romans 8:29-30. This will not be an exhaustive study of the text nor the doctrine itself; merely a brief study where I will try and show the love and free grace of God in our joyous salvation in the high doctrine of predestination. 

    First, we will look at Ephesians 1:1-6 then to Romans 8:28-35 to see and understand how Paul understood predestination and what effect it had on him devotionally. 

    Then we will further discuss this doctrine; which will be followed by a list of suggested scriptural readings to further study this doctrine. 

How would you define \”predestination\”?

    Predestination teaches that God works positively and actively intervenes in the lives of the elect, those whom He has freely chosen for salvation, to work grace in their hearts and bring them to faith. 

    Keep this in mind as we continue our study. 

  1. Read Ephesians 1:1-14

  2. 1:1 

Who was Paul?

    Paul described himself in Romans 1:1 as a \”servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God\”. 

    Paul was a called servant of Christ for the Gospel of God. 

    He had a biblical mind, a resolute will, and a loving heart. 

What do you think he means when he says \”an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God\”?

    He means that it was the will, or purpose, of God to save him and for him to be an apostle. 

    It is important to note that in 1:3-14 was one long sentence in Greek. It is an expanded doxology on God\’s purpose in salvation. Praise goes to the Father who chooses/predestines (1:4-6), the Son who redeems (1:7-12), and the Spirit who seals (1:13-14). Paul reflects on the believer\’s election or predestining, of God from eternity, their forgiveness in the present, and their inheritance in the future. Note throughout the repetition of the phrases \”in Christ\” or \”in Him\”, referring to the intimate union God has established between Christ and His people.

  1. 1:3

What are these \”spiritual blessings\” that we, in Christ, have been blessed with?

    Christ\’s victory over death has won believers a series of benefits, or spiritual blessings, for which Paul blesses the Father. Some of those blessings would be God\’s freely choosing us for salvation in Christ.  

  1. 1:4

In what way were you chosen by God?

    Some suggest that \”in Him\” means God foresaw who would have faith in Christ and on that basis elected them for salvation. Not only does this suggestion add a thought that is not in the text, but elsewhere Paul teaches that the very state of being \”in Christ\” is something to which one is elected (1 Cor. 1:26-31). 

Pauls says explicitly that the sole ground of God\’s predestinating love is His own good pleasure (Ephesians 1:5, 10), not anything that the elect have done or will do (Romans 9:11, 16). \”In Him\” means that God\’s choice always has had in view a fallen people in union with their Redeemer (2 Timothy 1:9). 

And what is the effect of this \”choosing\”?

    The effect of this choice is that we will be holy and blameless in His sight, or presence. God intends/wills to bring His elect all the way from spiritual death in sin to forgiveness of sin in Christ and finally to the elimination of all sin fro their experience (Romans 8:29-30). 

Why did God choose you?

    God chose you out of His own good and pleasing will. Not out of anything good He saw in you. This is referred to theologically as the \”unconditional election\”. 

Given this, how do you react to God\’s choosing (electing) love for you? 

    Knowing that I am utterly unworthy of the love of God, or the salvation of God leads me to recognize just how much He has truly done for me in His love toward me. Therefore, the electing love of God causes me to humbly, joyful, sincerely, thankfully love Him out of gratitude for all of His goodness and love toward me, a totally undeserving sinner. 

  1. 1:5

What are we predestined for?

\”to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself…\” 

God chose us to be His sons and daughters. 

According to whose will are we predestined?

\”…according to the good pleasure of His will.\” 

It is by God and His will that He predestined us for salvation. 

  1. 1:6

To whose praise, or credit, do we owe our predestination to adoption/salvation?

\”to the praise of the glory of His grace…\” 

God is the one who accomplished all the work of our salvation from start to finish; and He did it by His grace, unearned favor, toward us. Thus, He gets all the praise and credit for our salvation. 

What makes God\’s grace glorious, as Paul describes it here?

The glory of God is simply God showing, revealing, Himself to us. His glory is Himself. He brought us to Him by His grace in choosing us for salvation. Thus, His grace is full of glory because His grace brings us Himself.

Do you think of His predestining grace upon you as glorious?

If we understand our total inability to save, redeem, ourselves from God\’s just wrath then our hearts should explode in a joyous song of our glorious grace to us in Christ. 

Paul mentions predestination elsewhere in his letters. Let us look to one place where he does so to further understand this doctrine and its effects on our lives and worship.

  1. Romans 8:28-35

Why did Paul write this letter to Roman?

    Paul wrote this letter to the church in Rome because the Jews and Gentiles were needing to grasp the fullness of the Gospel and to have security in their salvation. Paul wrote Romans to teach and comfort them about their salvation. 

  1. 8:28-29

Why does Paul mention predestination here?

    Paul was confident that \”all things work together for the good of those who love God\” 

Wait, does that mean that I have to love God more and more, to do more and more, to try harder and harder for all things to work for my good?

By no means. Paul continues and further identifies who are the lovers of God when he says, \”to those who are called according to His purpose.\” 

This sweet promise is made to those who love God. And what Paul is saying here is that your love of God is caused by God. Therefore we can and should take comfort in this promise because this promise of God relies completely on Him and not ourselves!

  1. 8:28

Notice Paul\’s confidence in knowing that \”all things work together for good…\”. What made Paul so confident in this verse? 

Again, his confidence comes from knowing that God has already worked out my salvation will He not also work out all things for His children as well?

  1. 8:29

What does the word \”for\” here mean?

It\’s short for \”therefore\”. Paul is continuing his argument. 

What does Paul mean when we says \”For whom He foreknew\”?

It is a plan of sovereign saving grace, entitling all who now believe to trace their faith and salvation back to an eternal decision by God to bring them to glory and to look forward to that glory as a guaranteed certainty. the destiny appointed for believers (IE conformity to Christ and glorification with Him) flows from divine foreknowledge. Here it is people, not facts or events, that God is said to foreknow. God does indeed foresee events, but Paul\’s point is that God has of His own initiative chosen the objects of His active, saving love. \”know\” implies intimate personal relationship, not merely awareness of facts and circumstances, thus the \”foreknown\” are the equivalent of \”elect\”, those whom God loved, individually and personally, even before they were created (Ephesians 1:3). This is especially evident in Romans 11:2, 5 \”God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew…there is a remnant according to the election of grace.\” \”Foreknew\” here is the direct parallel with \”not cast away\” and is further explained by \”election\”. 

\”Foreknew\” means to be elected, chosen by God. 

What are we predestined to?

\”conformed to the image of His Son\”

God chose us in Christ to be made like Christ in our Christian walk. 

What does it mean to be conformed to the image of Christ?

In this body we will not become Christ Himself; but we will be made to love and live like He did as we continually, constantly, and increasingly submit to God in obedience to Him.

The goal of the Christian life is to live and love like Jesus and, according to this verse, that goal is guaranteed by God Himself. Therefore our sanctification (the theological term for using becoming more like Christ, or more holy, in our daily lives) no matter how difficult or weary or unfruitful it may seem will succeed. God predestined us to kill sin and be made like Christ. Therefore, in the midst of temptation or sorrow for sin (past or present), we can have comfort and courage in knowing God has guaranteed our victory over our besetting sin form eternity past. 

  1. 8:30

Who is the actor in this verse? IE who did the predestining, calling, justifying? and who will do the glorifying?

God does the predestining, calling and justifying and will do the glorifying. 

  1. 8:31

\”What then shall we say to these things?\” In your own words, what did Paul write about in 8:28-29? 

What is your reaction to \”these things\” that he spoke of?

\”If God is for us, who can be against us?\” 

Here, we see where Paul\’s confidence comes from. Not himself. But God and all that He has done for him. If God is for us since eternity then who could possibly stand against us? God has been for us since eternity. Therefore everything I experience in this life is for my good because God planned my life in eternity. 

  1. 8:32

What is your greatest struggle, need, or weak point in your Christian walk?

    Whatever your answer may be remember that God did not spare His Son, His greatest possession, for you. Remember Christ crucified when you are in desperate need of your Father and then take courage that even if the Father does not grant your request that you will always have Christ with you in all things. 

  1. 8:33-34

Who is the one justifying in this verse?

God, of course. We can\’t justify, make right, with God ourselves. It needed to be done for us. 

Paul\’s point in these verses is to show that if our greatest need has been provided/given to us by God-the highest, most powerful, perfect, holy being in existence- then who/what can reverse His calling to salvation upon my life? If I know that God is for Him since before I even was alive then what does all else matter? All my biggest needs wants and desires are found in God.

  1. 8:35

If God is the one who accomplished all of your salvation and God is all that He says He is, then who/what can change/reverse His predestining love upon your life? His predestining love was with and for you before you existed before you could have done anything good or bad so that His purpose of salvation by His glorious grace might be accomplished by His own power. Or as Paul puts it, \”for the children [Jacob and Esau] not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election (God\’s free, loving, choosing of you) might stand, not of works but of Him who calls\” (Romans 9:11).

Given all of this, in your own words, how would you summarize these two portions of scripture?

In His love, God predestined us for Himself to be holy and blameless in His presence as adopted sons and daughters through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:4-5 ESV) and to be conformed to the image of His Son so that He would be firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:29 ESV); all according to the good pleasure of His will and to the praise of His glorious grace (Ephesians 1:6).

In Ephesians 1:3-14, how many times do you see the phrase \”according to\” used?

In love <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29195L" data-link="(L)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>he predestined us for <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29195M" data-link="(M)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29195N" data-link="(N)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>according to the purpose of his will (1:5)

<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29197Q" data-link="(Q)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>In him we have <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29197R" data-link="(R)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>redemption <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29197S" data-link="(S)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>through his blood, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29197T" data-link="(T)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>the forgiveness of our trespasses, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29197U" data-link="(U)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>according to the riches of his grace (1:7)

<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29199V" data-link="(V)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>making known to us the mystery of his will, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29199W" data-link="(W)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>according to his purpose, which he <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29199X" data-link="(X)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>set forth in Christ (1:9)

11 In him we have obtained <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29201AA" data-link="(AA)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>an inheritance, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29201AB" data-link="(AB)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>having been predestined <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29201AC" data-link="(AC)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>according to the purpose of him who works all things according to <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29201AD" data-link="(AD)\” style=\”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;\”>the counsel of his will (1:11)

What do you notice about all of these? What commonalities do they all share?

They are all according to Him, His will, His grace, His purpose. Predestination is never in accordance with you, or your will, or purpose; it is always about Him. \”For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of work, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

The high doctrine of predestination emphasizes the free grace of God in our lives and makes the Gospel actually accomplish what it was set out to do; namely the salvation of those whom God foreknew in eternity past because all of our salvation was planned, executed and accomplished by God and Christ\’s work on the Cross. 

Suggested scriptural readings:

John 3

John 6:25-65

John 11

John 17:9

Romans 8:7-8, 26-39

Romans 9:11-16

Ephesians 1:3-14

Ephesians 2:1-10

Titus 1:1-3

1 Peter 1:3-9

1 Peter 1:3-10

1 John 4:19 I pray this study be a blessing to you both! If you all have any comments or questions feel free to leave them in the comments belong and I will get to them as soon as I can. PS. Thanks for accepting my offer to help you both with this. This was a perfect warm-up for me before I start writing my sermon. God bless both of your lives, ministries, and semesters. 

#EphesiansBibleStudy #RomansBibleStudy #TopicalBibleStudies

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