I’ve had the very great pleasure of hearing Ephesians 1 preached on twice in the past few days. I love the way Paul seems almost to stumble over himself in his rush to mark out the dimensions of God’s immeasurable grace in verses 3-14 (infamously a single sentence in the original Greek).
For now, I want to dwell on the way Paul draws together two themes in verses 4 and 5 — election and God’s character:
He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will
A little while ago I shared a few observations about election, highlighting some of the suprising connections the Bible keeps making (between God choice of some and his desire to save/bless all). But this blows that out of the water! For by placing election and God’s love side by side, Paul opens a window into the heart of God.
God doesn’t choose us because we’re impressive (or attractive). Nor does he choose us because we’re ugly and unlovable — although, morally speaking, we often may be.
It’s love that fills God’s heart. He’s motivated only by his pleasure and will. Neither setting his love on us because that’s only natural and right (given our record of achievement, etc). Nor summoning up some forced affection or pleasantness — as though through gritted teeth. Rather, God loves in freedom. Not the freedom of arbitrary decision mind you. But the freedom echoed by faithful lovers, giving themselves wholeheartedly to another.
Ultimately, the only explanation for this — if you can call it an explanation — is that this one who chooses is love. Eternally. Existing in the perfect movement of self-giving love between Father, Son and Spirit. Before we were even a possibility. And yet spilling over in the joyful decision to create, redeem and perfect — through the Son and by the Spirit.
That is how deeply the doctrine of election can take us into the heart of God.