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Ephesians 1:3-6

Context
Spiritual Blessings in Christ

1:3 Blessed 1  is 2  the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed 3  us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. 1:4 For 4  he chose us in Christ 5  before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished 6  in his sight 7  in love. 8  1:5 He did this by predestining 9  us to adoption as his 10  sons 11  through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure 12  of his will – 1:6 to the praise of the glory of his grace 13  that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son. 14 

1 sn Eph 1:3-14 comprises one long sentence in Greek, with three major sections. Each section ends with a note of praise for God (vv. 6, 12, 14), focusing on a different member of the Trinity. After an opening summary of all the saints’ spiritual blessings (v. 3), the first section (vv. 4-6) offers up praise that the Father has chosen us in eternity past; the second section (vv. 7-12) offers up praise that the Son has redeemed us in the historical past (i.e., at the cross); the third section (vv. 13-14) offers up praise that the Holy Spirit has sealed us in our personal past, at the point of conversion.

2 tn There is no verb in the Greek text; either the optative (“be”) or the indicative (“is”) can be supplied. The meaning of the term εὐλογητός (euloghtos), the author’s intention at this point in the epistle, and the literary genre of this material must all come into play to determine which is the preferred nuance. εὐλογητός as an adjective can mean either that one is praised or that one is blessed, that is, in a place of favor and benefit. The meaning “blessed” would be more naturally paired with an indicative verb here and would suggest that blessedness is an intrinsic part of God’s character. The meaning “praised” would be more naturally paired with an optative verb here and would suggest that God ought to be praised. Pauline style in the epistles generally moves from statements to obligations, expressing the reality first and then the believer’s necessary response, which would favor the indicative. However, many scholars regard Eph 1:3-14 as a berakah psalm (cf. A. T. Lincoln, Ephesians [WBC], 10-11). Rooted in the OT and Jewish worship, berakah psalms were songs of praise in which the worshiper gave praise to God; this would favor the optative (although not all scholars are agreed on this genre classification here; see H. W. Hoehner, Ephesians, 153-59, for discussion and an alternate conclusion). When considered as a whole, although a decision is difficult, the indicative seems to fit all the factors better. The author seems to be pointing to who God is and what he has done for believers in this section; the indicative more naturally fits that emphasis. Cf. also 2 Cor 1:3; 1 Pet 1:3.

3 tn Or “enriched,” “conferred blessing.”

4 tn Grk “just as.” Eph 1:3-14 are one long sentence in Greek that must be broken up in English translation. Verse 4 expresses the reason why God the Father is blessed (cf. BDAG 494 s.v. καθώς 3).

5 tn Grk “in him.”

6 sn The Greek word translated unblemished (ἀμώμους, amwmous) is often used of an acceptable paschal lamb. Christ, as our paschal lamb, is also said to be unblemished (Heb 9:14; 1 Pet 1:19). Since believers are in Christ, God views them positionally and will make them ultimately without blemish as well (Jude 24; Eph 5:27; Col 1:22).

7 tn Grk “before him.”

8 tn The prepositional phrase ἐν ἀγάπῃ (en agaph, “in love”) may modify one of three words or phrases: (1) “chose,” (2) “holy and unblemished,” both in v. 4, or (3) “by predestining” in v. 5. If it modifies “chose,” it refers to God’s motivation in that election, but this option is unlikely because of the placement of the prepositional phrase far away from the verb. The other two options are more likely. If it modifies “holy and unblemished,” it specifies that our holiness cannot be divorced from love. This view is in keeping with the author’s use of ἀγάπη to refer often to human love in Ephesians, but the placement of the prepositional phrase not immediately following the words it modifies would be slightly awkward. If it modifies “by predestining” (v. 5), again the motivation of God’s choice is love. This would fit the focus of the passage on God’s gracious actions toward believers, but it could be considered slightly redundant in that God’s predestination itself proves his love.

9 tn Grk “by predestining.” Verse 5 begins with an aorist participle dependent on the main verb in v. 4 (“chose”).

sn By predestining. The aorist participle 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).

10 tn Grk “to himself” after “through Jesus Christ.”

11 tn The Greek term υἱοθεσία (Juioqesia) was originally a legal technical term for adoption as a son with full rights of inheritance. BDAG 1024 s.v. notes, “a legal t.t. of ‘adoption’ of children, in our lit., i.e. in Paul, only in a transferred sense of a transcendent filial relationship between God and humans (with the legal aspect, not gender specificity, as major semantic component).” Although some modern translations remove the filial sense completely and render the term merely “adoption” (cf. NAB, ESV), the retention of this component of meaning was accomplished in the present translation by the phrase “as…sons.”

sn Adoption as his sons is different from spiritual birth as children. All true believers have been born as children of God and will be adopted as sons of God. The adoption is both a future reality, and in some sense, already true. To be adopted as a son means to have the full rights of an heir. Thus, although in the ancient world, only boys could be adopted as sons, in God’s family all children – both male and female – are adopted.

12 tn Or “good pleasure.”

13 tn Or “to the praise of his glorious grace.” Many translations translate δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ (doxh" th" carito" autou, literally “of the glory of his grace”) with τῆς χάριτος as an attributed genitive (cf., e.g., NIV, NRSV, ESV). The translation above has retained a literal rendering in order to make clear the relationship of this phrase to the other two similar phrases in v. 12 and 14, which affect the way one divides the material in the passage.

14 tn Grk “the beloved.” The term ἠγαπημένῳ (hgaphmenw) means “beloved,” but often bears connotations of “only beloved” in an exclusive sense. “His dearly loved Son” picks up this connotation.

sn God’s grace can be poured out on believers only because of what Christ has done for them. Hence, he bestows his grace on us because we are in his dearly loved Son.



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