1:4 For 1 he chose us in Christ 2 before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished 3 in his sight 4 in love. 5 1:5 He did this by predestining 6 us to adoption as his 7 sons 8 through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure 9 of his will – 1:6 to the praise of the glory of his grace 10 that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son. 11
2 tn Grk “in him.”
3 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).
4 tn Grk “before him.”
5 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.
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).
7 tn Grk “to himself” after “through Jesus Christ.”
8 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.
9 tn Or “good pleasure.”
10 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.
11 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.