I'll spare you the actual outline, but watch Paul frame the following points around this main point: that Christ has the central role in every spiritual blessing, since every spiritual blessing is received only in or through Christ. First, Paul's own statement of his own topic from the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.So plainly enough, this is about being blessed through Christ, and about how God is praiseworthy on account of blessing us through Christ. How can we be sure that this is really Paul's topic? Notice how Paul spends the follow-up section by listing spiritual blessings and showing Christ's role in each and every spiritual blessing that we receive:
- 1:4 "in him" (Christ) we are chosen;
- 1:5 God's predestination that we are adopted as Sons of God comes through Jesus Christ;
- 1:6 God's glorious grace is given us in "the One he loves" (Christ);
- 1:7 "in him" (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins;
- 1:8-10 he has made known the mysteries of his will for the fulfillment of time: to head up all things in Christ, whether things on heaven or on earth;
- 1:11-12 in him (Christ) we are chosen as God's inheritance, as he predestines for the praise of his glory those who have placed their hope in Christ;
- 1:13-14 believing in Christ, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit guaranteeing our inheritance.
The mistakes go back at least to Aquinas, who when discussing predestination, quotes Ephesians like this:
inasmuch as God gratuitously and not from merits predestines or elects some; for it is written (Ephesians 1:5): "He hath predestinated us into the adoption of children ... unto the praise of the glory of His grace."Notice the "..." ellipsis mark, which J.R.R. Tolkien aptly called the trail of the passing editor. What has been edited out is the reference to Christ's role in this.
Many have followed the same footsteps, missing Paul's point about Christ's role in every spiritual blessing. I've discussed Ephesians 1 with a number of people who consistently mentally read "he chose us before the creation of the world ... he predestined us to be adopted as his sons ... were were also chosen, having been predestined" (etc.), having become accustomed to mentally deleting all references to Christ while reading that passage. On-line, there's CARM's on-line dictionary which takes the classic Calvinist/hyperCalvinist view of "elect, election" in that it quotes this passage of Ephesians but deletes the reference to Christ's role in the spiritual blessing of election:
The elect are those called by God to salvation. This election occurs before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and is according to God's will not man's (Rom. 8:29-30; 9:6-23) because God is sovereign (Rom. 9:11-16). The view of election is especially held by Calvinists who also hold to the doctrine of predestination.Just a note: when an interpretation systematically deletes the references to Christ from a passage, it's not going to be the right interpretation. Paul's point is how all these blessings -- including predestination to adoption and being in God's chosen people, being forgiven and redeemed, and receiving the Holy Spirit -- are granted through Christ. You cannot understand predestination apart from Christ, or being included in God's chosen people apart from Christ, any more than you can understand redemption and forgiveness apart from Christ. Christ is how we are predestined and how we are chosen just as surely as he is how we are forgiven; none of these things can be productively, Scripturally discussed apart from Christ. This, as Paul reminds us, is God's eternal purpose, his once-hidden mysterious will which has now been made known.