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Our relationship to God can be pictured in a number of ways: (cf. John MacArthur here)

1)  Servants — subjects of His kingdom

Christ is our Lord, giving us the direction we need and we are His servants carrying out his will.  What a privilege to serve the King of Kings.

2)  FriendsJohn 15:15 goes beyond the relationship as servants to describe us as friends — true companionship — the sharing of intimate knowledge — insight into the mind of God; so that we don’t act out of just blind obedience

3)  Our passage goes way beyond this to speak of adoption as sons

    1. Hebrews 2:11


Adoption is a simple concept.  The Roman practice of legally adopting a child would be similar to ours.  In addition to all of the family privileges and the right of inheritance, there was the new civil status of all the rights of a Roman citizen.

Human parents can adopt children and come to love them every bit as much as they love their natural children.  They can give an adopted child complete equality in the family life, resources, and inheritance.  But no human parent can impart his own distinct nature to an adopted child.  yet that is what God miraculously does to every person whom He has elected.  He makes them sons just like His divine Son.  Christians not only have all of the Son’s riches and blessings but partake of the Son’s nature.

Bryan Chapell: God loves us because we are in union with the Son that he loves. United to Christ, we are also adopted by the Father, and as such have all the rights, privileges, and affection that the Son of God himself receives from God. Adoption in the Roman world emphasized the rights and privileges of sonship, and the analogy to our spiritual lives was one of Paul’s favorites (Rom. 8:15, 23; Gal. 4:5). In Paul’s day the head of a family would adopt a son (often a grown man) in order to pass on the family name and inheritance. Note how the saints’ inheritance is also important later in the opening chapter of Ephesians (1:11, 14; cf. 1:18). . .

Paul is using the doctrine of predestination not to separate believers, not to instill pride in our being chosen, nor to vaunt any special knowledge of how God works, but simply to assure hard-pressed believers that God has loved them and does love them apart from any merit of their own. In other words, predestination is meant to bless believers’ hearts. It is not meant for endless argument; it is not an excuse not to evangelize; it is our basis of comfort when we face the limitations of our actions, will, and choices. We make mistakes at times by making predestination the source of our pride (i.e., we have status others do not, we know something others do not, or we are superior theologians who don’t dodge hard truths), rather than the basis for assuring the beleaguered who are wrestling with their sin and the world’s trials. To such God says, “I loved you before the world began, so don’t doubt me now.” Predestination is the heavenly Father’s shout of eternal love that echoes in our songs of thankful praise as our strength is renewed by the assurance of his care. When predestination is properly taught, it accomplishes what Paul says is his goal: praise to God for his glorious grace and peace to his people (vv. 3, 6).

Benjamin Merkle: God’s work of predestination was done “according to the purpose of his will” (v. 5). It was done in accordance with his “purpose,” indicating that the choosing of his people was something in which God delighted. And it was done in accordance with his “will.” God has a definite plan and redemptive purpose for adopting wayward sinners into his family.

God’s gracious act of predestination and adoption was done so that his redeemed children might praise his glorious grace (v. 6; cf. vv. 12, 14). God’s grace is glorious as it reflects his character and is therefore worthy of our highest praise. Paul further notes that God has “blessed” us with this grace. This verb highlights the abundant kindness of God in freely granting salvation to those who did not deserve it. This grace comes to us “in the Beloved,” that is, “in Christ.”


A.  God Predestined Us

He predestined us

Bruce Hurt: The aorist participle (proorisas) may be translated either causally (“because he predestined,” “having predestined”) or instrumentally (“by predestining“). A causal nuance would suggest that God’s predestination of certain individuals prompted his choice of them. An instrumental nuance would suggest that the means by which God’s choice was accomplished was by predestination. The instrumental view is somewhat more likely in light of normal Greek syntax (i.e., an aorist participle following an aorist main verb is more likely to be instrumental than causal).

Kenneth Wuest: The genius of the word is that of placing limitations upon someone or something beforehand, these limitations bringing that person or thing within the sphere of a certain future or destiny. These meanings are carried over into the New Testament usage of the word. Thus, the “chosen-out” ones, have had limitations put around them which bring them within the sphere of becoming God’s children by adoption (Eph. 1:5), and of being conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus.

B.  God Adopted Us = Goal of Predestination

to adoption as sons

Clinton Arnold: Paul also has in mind the concept of adoption that characterized David’s relationship to God. Through Nathan the prophet, God promised to be a father to David and said, “He will be my son” (2 Sam 7:14). Second Temple Judaism looked to this passage as a promise that would also be fulfilled in the future at the time of the restoration, but with an extended application to all God’s people: “And I shall be a father to them, and they will be sons to me. And they will all be called ‘sons of the living God’ ” (Jub 1:24–25; see also 4QFlor 1:10–12).  One author accurately notes, “If adoption is about anything it is about belonging, a belonging where God as ‘Father’ occupies centre stage in his ‘family.’”

As the descendant of David who has come and sits on the throne by the Father’s side, Jesus Christ has fulfilled this promise and has been “declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:4). “Through Jesus Christ” (διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ) and based on their close and vital union with him, believers share in this adoption and truly become children of God (see also Rom 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal 4:5).

God has chosen us and has predestined us to adoption “to himself” (εἰς αὐτόν). This ties in with love as the basis for his predestinating act and reinforces the idea that he views his people as his own glorious inheritance (Eph 1:18). The final purpose of election is then relational. God is bringing together a people whom he can delight in and enjoy.

R.C. Sproul: Again, the goal of predestination is adoption. It was God’s good pleasure not only to prepare the kingdom for his Son, but also for those whom he adopted in his Son, the heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. Election is in Christ, leading to adoption into the family of God. . .

There is a reason why the elect have been chosen to salvation, but the reason is to be found in God and not in them. In other words, God did not choose them because they qualified for the choice. Rather, he chose them because he was pleased to extend mercy to them, while the others he passes over. God is not obligated to save anybody, to make any special act of grace, to draw anyone to himself. He could leave the whole world to perish, and such would be a righteous judgment.

Donald Barnhouse: Let us take the Greek word apart. It is huiothesia. The first half is huios, the common noun for an adult son. The latter half is thesia, a placement, an installation, a setting of a person or a thing in its place. So the whole word means not so much adoption as the placing of a son.

Charles Spurgeon: The chosen ones are adopted; they become the children of God. The universal Fatherhood of God, except in a very special sense, is a doctrine totally unknown to Scripture. God is the Father of those whom he adopts into his family, who are born again into his family, and no man hath any right to believe God to be his Father except through the new birth, and through adoption. And why God thus elects or adopts is declared here: “According to the good pleasure of his will.” He does as he pleases. That old word of God is still true: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Men do not like that doctrine; it galls them terribly; but it is the truth of God for all that. He is Master and King, and he will sit on the throne, and none shall drag him thence.

Van Parunak: Application. — We need to recognize our status as sons and daughters of God, (2 Cor 6:18), and act in keeping with it. We are not just his little children, whose immature behavior may be excused by our age. We are adult sons and daughters, full heirs to the household and representatives of our divine Parent, and we should conduct ourselves in the sense of this status.

C.  God Worked Through Christ to Accomplish His Goal

  1. Agency

through Jesus Christ

Bruce Hurt: (dia) is a preposition of intermediate agency. Christ is the intermediate agent of (the means by which) the Father brings to fruition His purpose of placing believers as His adult sons, doing so through Christ’s finished work on the Cross.

  1. Goal

to Himself,

Bruce Hurt: To (eis) Himself (846) (auto) refers to the Father Who had previously marked us out with a view to adopting us as sons for Himself for His own satisfaction that He might lavish His love on us.


according to the kind intention of His will,

Vaughan: Re “according to the kind intention of his will” — Here it directs attention to the fact that God’s election is an act of His own pure goodness, of His own benevolent sovereignty.  What He did, He did solely because it seemed right and good for Him to do it.

Clinton Arnold: The term “good pleasure” (εὐδοκία), however, clarifies that God did not select a people in some austere, dispassionate way. Long ago, John Eadie noted that the term “defines His will as being something more than a mere decree resting on sovereignty.”  God took great delight in thinking of his future people and being kindly disposed toward them. . .

The good pleasure of his will, then, is “the basis of” (κατά) his election. This preposition is important in this passage, occurring five times (cf. 1:7, 9, and twice in 1:11). It typically indicates the norm or standard by which an action is carried out and is often translated “according to” (so the NASB; ESV; NRSV). A contemporary equivalent would be, “the boy assembled the model according to the instructions.” Here, however, the norm is at the same time the reason for the election.  One can also translate, “because of the good pleasure of his will.”

Grant Osborne: The choice to adopt the believer takes place “in accordance with his pleasure and will,” which further points to the depth of his love. It is not a cold, dispassionate choice but a joyous one. The term for “pleasure” (eudokia) connotes the delight and joy that attend an action and here pictures the intense satisfaction of God as he elects a former sinner to become his adopted child. God’s will is uppermost as he chooses the individual and calls them to be his own, and this brings him great pleasure.

Van Parunak: “the good pleasure of His will” — His will embraces all that happens, but this does not mean he takes pleasure in it all alike.

  • Ezek 33:11, God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, although that death is certainly according to his will; in fact, he decrees it.
  • Isa 28:21 (cf. vv.14ff), God describes judgment as his “strange work” and “strange act.”
  • Micah 7:18, “Who [is] a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth [in] mercy.”


A.  Magnifying His Grace by Stirring Up Praise

to the praise of the glory of His grace,

Grant Osborne: In essence, this says that in bestowing his salvation on undeserving sinners God is showcasing his glorious grace for all to see.

Clinton Arnold: God’s ultimate purpose in selecting and predestining a people for himself is that it would lead to his own glory. . .  In this instance, the grace of God is praised; Paul here extols “the quality of its splendour, its magnificence.”  Because grace receives further emphasis in the following relative clause (ἧς ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς), it is better to see it as the object of praise than the glory of God here. Thus, the first refrain functions as an exclamation of praise to the marvels of God’s grace bestowed on his people.

Homer Kent: The refrain in verse 6 ends each stanza of this doxology.  It shows how each phase of our redemption moves toward the praise and glory of God.  In Paul’s view, redemption originated solely with God and was made effective by His unchanging decrees.  It is the greatest display of grace conceivable, for it bestows the most glorious privileges on completely depraved and fallen men, and this bestowal is all one-sided.  Man merely accepts or rejects; he brings no merits.

Stephen Fowl: Verse 6 begins by noting that the upshot of God’s adoption of believers in Christ is praise. Praise is one of the ends toward which God’s predestining is directed. Thus God is both the free initiator of believers’ adoption, and praise of God is the end toward which such adoption is directed. The adoption of believers is God’s gracious act, which leads not simply to praise of God, but to praise of God for this specific act of grace. The rest of v. 6, “which he has graciously bestowed on us in the Beloved,” elaborates on this grace.

Andrew Lincoln: The goal of believers’ predestination as sons and daughters has already been said to be εἰς αὐτόν but now it is also εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ. The redemption, which originated with God, has his own glorification as its end. The predestination, which is the product of God’s grace, resounds to the praise of the glory of that grace.

Van Parunak: God’s object in choosing us is not just to be gracious, or to show forth that grace as an aspect of his glory, but that the creation would respond in praise of that glory. His actions are calculated to inspire our worship and adoration. In a human, such behavior would be considered vain, but it is absolutely appropriate to the sovereign creator and sustainer of the universe. This phrase, “to the praise of his glory,” is the recurring refrain that marks off the three sections of this opening prayer (vv. 12,14). The work of each member of the trinity is calculated to stimulate the creation to praise the glory of our great God.

B.  Magnifying His Grace by the Free Gift of Union with His Beloved

which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Andrew Lincoln: Verse 6 then confirms the thought found earlier, that God’s predestining choice of believers to be his sons and daughters is inextricably tied to Christ’s being his chosen one and that their experience of this grace is through their being included in the one who is the beloved Son par excellence. Being highly favored with grace means, for the believing community, participation in that divine love with which the Father favored the Son, though the community’s participation in this relationship is through adoption (cf. v 5).

Frank Thielman: It seems likely, therefore, that when Paul calls Jesus “the Beloved” in this passage he has in mind Jesus’s embodiment within himself of the beloved and elect people of God (cf. Caird 1976: 36; Lincoln 1990: 26–27; O’Brien 1999: 105). God has shown believers his praiseworthy grace, therefore, not merely “by means of the Beloved,” through his atoning death, but also “in the Beloved,” through their identification with Christ. God’s delight in this act of free and lavish grace toward believers prompt them to praise him, and the praise of his people for his grace was the ultimate purpose of his primordial decision to make believers his people.


It’s great to live as God’s servants and even enjoy companionship as friends of God — but the highest calling is to enjoy our relationship as adopted sons of God.