by Barnabas Bagby
“Having predestinated (Gr. = proorizo, marked off beforehand) us unto the adoption of children (Gr. =huiothesia, sonship) by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,” (Eph 1:5)
The subject of predestination has long been a topic of great controversy and has confused many knowledgeable Bible students. The issue becomes more complicated when we confuse modern day language, laws and customs with the laws and customs of the time these words were written.
What Eph 1:5 does not say is, that we have been “predestinated unto salvation”. This letter of Paul was addressed to “saints who are faithful”. (Eph 1:1) This title is not addressed to those we may think of as ordinary “Sunday go to meeting” Christians, but rather, those who had a special knowledge or enlightenment of God’s purposes. This letter describes “the mystery”, a secret that was hid in God before the ages and was then, at that time, revealed only to the Apostle Paul. (Eph 3:2-3; 3:7-9) This secret is vital in God’s purposes for the ages and describes a hope for a portion of God’s family called “the church which is His body” whose hope and destination is associated with heavenly places. This destination is above the heavens where Christ sits on the right hand of God. (Eph 1:3; 1:20)
This epistle speaks of the Lord Christ Jesus in His fullest and exalted position, “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. (Eph 1:21-23)
For what purpose are these believers “marked off beforehand”? Not salvation, rather, they are “marked off beforehand” for sonship (adoption). God, in His foreknowledge, looked off into the horizon of time and marked off some believers, to sonship. There is a purpose in mind for this body of believers. Regarding “...the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together (head up together) in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him... (Eph1:10). This goes far beyond the destination of the human realm of this body of believers, but includes principalities, powers, mights and dominions. To limit the meaning of adoption (sonship) to our modern day use of the word adoption, results in confusion and veils the precious truth prescribed in Eph 1:5.
Paul uses a word known to the Greek and Roman world of his time to describe the immutable, absolute surety of the position of those who have received the knowledge of the mystery of His will (Eph 1:9). The term “sonship” is a legal term that represented an irrevocable contract. The adopted son became a member of the family, as though he was a blood relation of the adopter. The effect of adoption included: a change of family, a change of name, a change of home and new responsibilities and privileges which included the capacity of inheritance. If these contractual terms can be applied to those mentioned in Eph 1:5 and to us, then the change of family, name, home, and responsibilities and privileges are surely spiritual blessings far beyond our comprehension.
by Barnabas Bagby