Monday, January 31, 2011

Elected to Holiness (Ephesians 1:4-6)

The fact that God chose His people “before” the foundation of the world means that He chose them in eternity. To say “before” is a rather limiting thought, because eternity is outside of time. God’s electing act, therefore, is eternal and not only predates time but is independent of it. To say before is appropriate, because it is made completely in the context of grace and in Christ and has nothing to do whatsoever with what His people have done, will do or would have done anyway.

God’s people are chosen regardless of any quality or merit. This means that there is no place for pride in being chosen, for God’s people have done nothing to earn that election. At the same time, they have been chosen for something specific—that is to be holy. This means that there is also no room in this doctrine for people who would say that their condition-less election frees them to do however they please. To be chosen is to be set on the path of holiness.

The way of holiness will be further clarified as the letter progresses, but here we see a few clues. Being chosen for holiness is a part of the spiritual blessings Paul is listing, so the role of the Holy Spirit shaping the child of God is a key factor. This is not something the believer achieves alone. The other key to the holy life comes at the end of verse 4 although some interpreters try to link the phrase to what follows it instead of what precedes it: In Love. When Paul is read this emphasis is seen over and over again. It is part of the pattern of his teaching. Rather than look to the law and work to please God, we are to live by the Spirit and in love.

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