A Brief Meditation on Eph 1:11

Eph 1:11

also we we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will

This is a brief meditation on this one verse, especially on the final phrase, “who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

The verse occurs within an extended outburst of praise, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul’s thoughts are filled with the glory and overflowing majesty of God. Yet, he never explicitly defines God for us — not in the way systematic theologies or confessions of faith do. He presupposes a common understanding of God, probably because instruction about the nature of God was a part of his evangelistic teaching. Two brief sermons we have from him in Acts to the Gentiles draw out the implications of the Jewish/Christian view of God as creator. (see his sermon at Lystra in Acts 14 and to the Athenians in Acts 17.) We can only assume that these offer a glimpse into his constant practice. On occasion he appeals to the character of God in an ad hoc manner in the course of making an argument, reporting a prayer, or exhorting his readers. Often these are in the form of short relative clauses, such as this one, which we may tend to overlook but which are rich in information about the nature of God. We ought to linger over them.

What does this phrase, “who works all things after the counsel of His will,” tell us about God?

1. God is personal.He has motives, thoughts, purpose.He has a will and mind.He is not an impersonal force, principle or law.He is not a universal energy.

2. God is rational.He acts rationally.He has reasons for what he does.He chooses a purpose and acts to fulfill that purpose. He is not arbitrary or irrational.

3. God is consistent. He is not inconsistent and changeable. He does not waver from his own purpose.He is faithful.

4. God is active.Not passive.He works.He acts within time though he transcends time.One day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.His eternity doesn’t mean just a long time.He exists outside of time; both time and space are His creation.However, He is somehow still able to truly act within space and time.

5. God is independent.He is not constrained by anything outside Himself.His will is the ultimate explanation for all things.He sets His love on Israel because He loves them. This does not mean He is arbitrary; it means the explanation for His actions are within Himself. He is absolutely free.

6. God is sovereign.He is sovereignly powerful over all things.Possible exceptions — random events or chance; acts of the devil and demons; the free, responsible acts of human beings; my own sins — are found not to be exceptions in the Scriptures.

How should we respond?

We lose if we hold to a truncated view of God.Currently, some authors are arguing that these points are mutually exclusive:God can’t truly be personal in the sense that He can enter into a genuine relationship with His creatures unless He also limits His sovereignty and foreknowledge. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians by itself refutes this claim. Chapter 1 presents a beautiful picture of three motives of God coinciding: His zeal for His own glory, His intense love for the Son, and His passionate determination to bless His people. That is the majesty of the gospel and the source of all comfort — God is both absolutely sovereign and a resolutely gracious Personal Father.

Assurance.Even though “we have obtained an inheritance” is in past tense, our full enjoyment of this inheritance and consummation of all the promises of God toward us are still in the future.But Paul grounds our assurance of the future on the very character of God.He gives us two reasons for being sure: God’s working all things for us and the Spirit’s work within us (see following verse).The ground of both of these is the very nature and character of God.

Comfort.The corollary to God being rational, active and sovereign over all things, is that every thing that happens has a reason.I do not understand those who find it more comforting to believe either that some things happen purely by chance or that God’s knowledge and power are somehow limited.The issue seems to be a question about the character of God.We need to trust in God’s kindness, goodness, wisdom, power, grace, first.Then, we can trust that a good and gracious, all-wise, all-powerful God has his own good reasons for letting some things occur. Somehow the explanation for these things can be reconciled with His goodness though we ourselves cannot reconcile them.This is far more comforting to me than to think that God is either too weak or too stupid to prevent calamity.

Purposeful activity.We glorify God and fulfill His purpose for us by imitating Him. We may be tempted to think God’s sovereignty over all things would lead us to be passive, or diminish our significance as “real causes.”But this is philosophy, not Christian revelation.We were created in His image — to image Him forth. We, therefore, fulfill His purpose for us, we worship Him, when we set goals and fulfill them, when we work. Work is worship

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