ephesians 1:1-14: greeting and spiritual blessings in Christ

adoption ceremony, spiritual blessing

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

January 15, 2013

adoption ceremony, spiritual blessings

“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.”
~ The Apostle Paul, Ephesians 1:11-12 (The Message)

Ephesians 1:3-14 is one of those passages that I have a sort of love/hate relationship with. But before I even get to that let me step back an open this thing properly like Paul did.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

I feel like it’s important to start this way. We need grace. We need peace. And it’s with grace and peace that Paul enters into a conversation that has become one of the stickiest conversations related to Christianity today. Yep, we’re talking about predestination.

The predestination conversation is one that separates large portions of the Church. Please note that this is my over-simplified version of the issue, but on one side you have the Calvinist perspective that essentially states that God predestined some for Heaven and others for Hell. To some people outside of the Church point to this as a major problem with God and Christianity. How can a loving God predestine people to burn in Hell? And if He’s already decided what my fate is, then why should I even try? It doesn’t matter what I do or say anyway, right?

On the other side of this issue is the Arminian perspective of free-will, meaning that none of this life is mapped out for us. Rather we have the freedom to choose which path we will travel, thus determining where we’ll end up for eternity.

Here’s where I get stuck with all of this.

Does the Bible teach predestination? Yes.

Does the Bible teach free will? Yes.

So while these two positions seem like they may be at odds with each other, somehow they both remain true. The great theologian J.I. Packer talks about this kind of antinomy between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. He discusses how the same thing happens in physics. For example, in the study of light there is evidence that light consists of waves, and other evidence that light consists of particles. Technically speaking, those two truths contradict each other, but science has proven both to be true. How? Scientists don’t know that part, so they live with seeming contradiction while accepting the truth of both.

It’s the same thing with predestination and free will. Both being true doesn’t make sense in my finite mind. But I have confidence that an infinite God knows exactly how they can both be true.

One perspective that I try to understand as it relates to the term “predestined” is what it really means. It means “decided or ordained ahead of time.” In the context of this passage it means that God determined ahead of time that He wanted to adopt us and give us spiritual blessings. But I don’t know if that means we have to take it.

Think about it this way…

Let’s say that I have a young friend who has nowhere to go. In fact, without anywhere to go, I can easily see how his life will continue in the direction of a downward spiral. Because I care for my friend, I decide to open up my home to him. I clear out a spare bedroom and make a place for him to sleep at night. I make a place at my table for him to eat with my family. And I even make time to spend with him to be a friend and to bless him with whatever I have. I’ve decided (beforehand) that I want to extend the benefits of what I have to him.

But then let’s say that my friend refuses my offer. Maybe it’s stubbornness. Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s just that he doesn’t like what he thinks I stand for. Regardless, he passes on the opportunity to accept my free gift to him. That’s his choice, and he has every right to make it. However, it doesn’t negate the fact that I still chose ahead of time (predestined) to bless him.

That’s kind of how I see this part of Paul’s letter. And that’s why I have a love/hate relationship with it. Too often we get hung up on the whole predestination conversation, and miss the point that it may not matter as much as the reality that God wants to shower us with spiritual blessings. He’s already determined that He has a place for us in His house. He’s already ordained our place in His family.

It’s up to us to accept that gift, and walk in the spiritual blessings of adoption into His family.


  1. Crystal Rowe

    This is such a great post on this passage. I have never thought about this passage as one talking about predestination – although I see now how it can be interpreted as such. Instead, I’ve always seen it as a continuation of Paul’s greeting – “grace and peace be with you.”

    It is Christ that shows us grace. Before we can even look to him, he is calling our name, preparing a way for us, just waiting to be a part of our lives and bless us more than we could ever imagine.

    Christ is where we find our true identity. God has created us to be in relationship with him – we all have a “God-shaped hole” in our hearts, if you will … and nothing else will satisfy that – no matter how hard we try.

    I see this passage as one of hope … one that calls us to our true identity in Christ. Free will allows us to choose otherwise, but we’ll always sort of feel empty unless we turn to him.

  2. Jody Collins

    We are all predestined to be conformed to his will, to be holy and blameless…and adopted as sons. If we choose. I think it’s in the choosing, in my humble opinion.
    Also, the photo for this is perfect, Dan. My nephew is adopted and I remember the day in court well. It was a pretty wonderful occasion.
    Thanks for the great kick off!

  3. Patricia W Hunter

    Like you, I’m sad that this is a place of division within the Body of Christ, and also like you, I am resigned to the truth that God’s ways are not my ways and many are beyond my complete understanding. Your illustration is very good, Dan. May we, as the Body of Christ, simply accept God’s amazing grace in it all and walk in the light He gives us.

    I’m looking forward to this Ephesians conversation.

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  6. Michele-Lyn

    You’re brave to tackle this truth. 🙂 I love the mysteries of God. It keeps us seeking, doesn’t it?


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ephesians 1:1-14: greeting and spiritual blessings in Christ

by Dan King time to read: 4 min