The Praise of His Grace

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV)

In Ephesians 1:3-6 the Apostle Paul described two acts that God performed which resulted in the praise of his glorious grace. The acts to which Paul refers is that God, in his love, “chose us in him…that we should be holy and blameless before him” and “predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.” In other words, God’s choosing of us to be holy and blameless before him and the predestination of our adoption as sons, commends or praises his grace. Again, God praised his own grace by choosing us to be holy and blameless before him and by the predestination of our adoption as sons. He chose and predestined us to show the glories of his grace and love.

These acts of praise were initiated by God before the foundation of the world and had no dependence upon our future choice to receive his adoption. God did not choose and predestine us based on our merits or because he looked into the future and saw that one day we would receive his choosing. In fact, had God not chosen and predestined us we neither would not nor could not have chosen him. God did not look into the future and say, “Because they will one day love me I am going to love them.” It was God first loving us that gave us any hope of ever loving him (1 John 4:10 ESV). There was nothing in us that was lovable. That is what makes his love for us so incredible and his grace so glorious.

The glory of God’s grace is manifested in his predestination of us as sons because we were not capable of saving ourselves. In fact, we were not even capable of making a righteous decision to choose to believe in Christ. Later in his epistle, Paul tells the Ephesians that they were by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3 ESV). Paul, quoting King David, told the Romans, As it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Romans 3:10-12, Psalm 14:1-3 ESV). King David also wrote, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me (Psalm 51:5 ESV).

In another psalm David wrote, I say to the Lord, You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you (Psalm 16:2 ESV). Isaiah, in the midst of his prophetic word concerning the Messiah, said, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way. (Isaiah 53: 6 ESV). Isaiah also lamented, We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6 ESV) God himself said that the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21 ESV).

God’s election, choosing and predestining of us is totally based on his love for us. There is nothing we could have done to ever have been worthy of his love. If God’s choosing of us was based on our eventual choice to choose him we would have reason to boast. However, Paul wrote to the Ephesians, 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 works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV).

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:28-31 ESV)

Paul wrote to Titus, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:5-7 ESV). Peter wrote, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3 ESV) We will not be able to stand before God one day and say, “God, had I not chosen you I would not be in heaven.” To which God might reply as Jesus did to his disciples, “You did not choose me, I chose you.”

For he [God] says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:15-16 ESV)

Paul went on to tell the Ephesians, In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-12 ESV) The Greek word Paul used for predestined is proorizo which means to limit in advance, predetermine, determine before, ordain or predestinate. Paul also used the same Greek word in Romans 8:29 where he wrote, For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (ESV)

Many people have interpreted Romans 8:29 as saying that God, in his omniscience, looked down through time and saw the people who would one day accept his call on their lives then chose and predestined those people based on the choice he knew they would one day make. However, this interpretation is lacking in at least two ways. First, certainly God is all-knowing, but the verse says that God foreknew people not certain facts about people. Secondly, the scripture does not say God foreknew or foresaw that a certain group of people would believe and then predestined them according to that knowledge.

Furthermore, Paul continues in Romans 8:30, And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (ESV) Paul did not say that those whom God called he gave the option of self determination. Rather, those whom God called he also justified. God justifies all whom he calls; there are no exceptions. This truth is supported in Acts 13:48 which reads, And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (ESV) Luke did not write that those who believed were then appointed to eternal life, their appointment to eternal life was preceded by their believing. Had they not been appointed to eternal life they would not have believed. Though it is true that not everyone who hears the call of man to believe in Christ unto salvation will indeed believe, all those who hear the call of God will believe and be justified.

When being questioned by the Jews on whether or not he was the Christ, Jesus replied, I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. (John 10:25-26 ESV). Notice that Jesus did not say, “but you do not believe “therefore” you are not part of my flock.” He made it plain that being a part of the flock was a prerequisite to believing. In other words, if those Jews had been a part of Jesus’ flock they would have believed.

In 1 Peter 1:20-21 Peter writes concerning Christ; He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (ESV) Peter used the same Greek word (proginosko) for foreknown as Paul used for foreknew in Romans 8:29. Was Christ’s coming and subsequent death on the cross for our sins based on a decision that God knew Christ would one day make? Was Jesus given an option as to whether or not he would be the lamb without blemish (1 Peter 1:19 ESV) or was there a predetermined plan?

In Acts Peter declared, Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:22-23 ESV) The Greek word Peter used for definite is horizo which means to mark out or bound to appoint, decree, specify, declare, determine, limit or ordain. The Greek word Peter used for foreknowledge is prognosis which means forethought. (Peter also used the word prognosis in 1 Peter 1:1-2 in writing to the exiles who were elect “according to the foreknowledge of God.”)

In Acts 4:26-27 the disciples prayed, For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. The Greek word used for predestined in this verse (proorizo) is the same as is used in Ephesians 1:5 and 11 as well as in Romans 8:29. This fact begs the question, “Did God plan the salvation of mankind based on the choices he knew Jesus and man would make or did he predetermine the plan of salvation and in his sovereignty influence the voluntary choices of man to guarantee the outcome he had predetermined?” Scripture confirms the later.

Acts 4:27 plainly states that it was God’s hand and God’s plan to crucify his son. Isaiah 53:10 says, Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief. (ESV) The King James version says that it pleased the Lord to bruise him. Though lawless men willingly chose (not forced by God) to carry out the crucifixion of God’s son, it was God who planned it and brought it to pass; holding them totally responsible.

John Piper writes in his book Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ: “Why should this matter to you? It should matter because if God were not the main Actor in the death of Christ, then the death of Christ could not save us from our sins, and we would perish in hell forever. The reason the death of Christ is the heart of the gospel, the heart of the good news, is that God was doing it. Romans 5:8: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” If you separate God’s activity from the death of Jesus, you lose the gospel. This was God’s doing. It is the highest and deepest point of his love for sinners.”

Just as it was God’s great love for us that caused him to predestine (plan and execute) the crucifixion of his son for our sins, it was also God’s great love for us and mercy toward us that caused him to predestine (plan and execute) our salvation. God chose to display his love in this way for the praise of the glory of his grace. So, as Christians we are living representations of the praise of God’s glorious grace.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
(1 Peter 2:9 ESV)

The Greek word Paul used for grace in Ephesians 1:6 is charis. Charis means graciousness of manner or act; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life. How do we represent the praise of his glorious grace? We give praise to his grace simply by being chosen by him. However, the praise of his grace is reflected in our lives as we give verbal testament of his saving grace and as our conduct and character reflect his divine influence; the conformity of our lives into his image. Therefore, let us walk in a manner worthy of the calling by which we were called (Ephesians 4:1 ESV).