Holy Living In An Unholy World,

The Mystery and the Blessing of Predestination

By Dr. Robert Jeffress

The other night, I watched a documentary about newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, who inspired Orson Wells’s classic film Citizen Kane. Hearst had invested a fortune in collecting art treasures from around the world. The collection was so extensive that a catalog of his holdings was produced. One day, Mr. Hearst found a description of a valuable piece of art he wanted to own. He dispatched his art deal to travel abroad to track down this piece and purchase it for his collection. After months of searching, the agent returned and informed Mr. Hearst that he had located that piece of art. It was in Mr. Hearst’s own warehouse.

Hearst had been frantically searching for treasures that he already possessed. And yet, had he simply read a catalog of his treasures, he could have saved himself a great deal of money and trouble.

Today, many Christians are discontent with many areas of their lives, including their relationship to God. And so, they go frantically searching for new experiences, different doctrines, or churches, not realizing they already possess everything they need for a satisfying relationship with God.

The first three chapters of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians are a spiritual catalog, an inventory, of all the riches that already belong to us who are in Christ.

In the first 14 verses of Ephesians 1, which in the Greek language is one long sentence, Paul describes seven specific blessings that belong to every person who is in Christ. The blessings of God outlined in verses 3–14, as one person put it, “is as though [Paul] was ecstatically opening a treasure chest, lifting its jewels with his hands, letting them cascade through his fingers, and marveling briefly at them as they caught his eye.” 

In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul explains the wealth we already possess because of our relationship to Christ, and in chapters 4-6, Paul explains how we should walk in our everyday lives because of our position in Christ.

Paul begins his letter with a eulogy. 

You know what a eulogy is. In every funeral service, the minister is called upon to say some words of praise about the dearly departed. I think about the pastor who was called upon to conduct the service of a man who was well-known in the town as a drunk and an adulterer. Before the funeral, the deceased’s brother visited and said to the pastor, “If you will say to the congregation that my brother was a saint, I will give you $500.” The pastor was on the horns of a dilemma. Everyone knew the deceased was good for nothing, and yet the pastor could use the money and yet, he didn’t want to hurt his credibility with the congregation, so this is what he said in his eulogy. “Everyone knew Jack for what he was—he was a drunk and adulterer, and a generally despicable character—but compared to his brother, he was a saint.”

In these opening verses of Ephesians 1, Paul offers a sincere eulogy; the word “eulogy” actually comes from the Greek word eulogia and means “high praise.” In verse 3 of chapter one, Paul begins this letter by using the word eulogia or high praise three different times in reference to God. 

The word eulogia is translated as “blessing.” Paul eulogizes God; that is, he praises God because God has blessed us. He has poured out His gifts to us with every blessing you can imagine. More to the point, as one scholar put it: “When we bless God, we praise Him, speak well of Him. When He blesses us, it is not that He speaks us good, but He does us good. Our blessing is in word. His is in deed. He confers benefits upon us.” And notice where those blessings, those riches are—they are in the “heavenly places in Christ.”

Remember I said that in Ephesus, a depository was located in the temple of Artemus. When Paul wrote to these Christians in Ephesus telling them of their great wealth, I’m sure they thought, “You haven’t seen my bankbook, Paul.” “No,” he quickly tells them. Your riches are not located in the Bank of Ephesus; they are in the Bank of Heaven. They are in “the heavenly places,” Paul says in verse 1.

Then, beginning in verse 3, all the way to verse 14, Paul gives us a spiritual inventory of the wealth that is already ours by explaining seven things God has already done for us.

As I mentioned before, verses 3–14 are one long sentence in the original language. All you English teachers out there would call it a run-on sentence. Fortunately, our English translations divide up these verses with periods. In the Greek, it’s a difficult passage to outline. 

But in general, there are three broad sections of God’s blessings. First, in verses 3–6, God the Father selected us, so we praise the Father who chose us in eternity past, before creation. Second, in verses 4–7, God the Son saved us, so we praise the Son who redeemed us in the historical past at the cross. Third, in verses 8–14, God, the Holy Spirit, secured us, so we praise the Spirit who sealed us in our personal past at conversion. 

1. Our Riches From God the Father (Ephesians 1:3-6)

Paul names two blessings we have received from God the Father.

“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Before you were born and even before the earth was formed, God chose to love you. Your salvation did not begin with your decision to trust in Christ as your savior; it began with God’s decision to love you, to set His affection on you. 

To try and explain the doctrine of election in five minutes is impossible; in fact, I couldn’t explain it in five hours if I had to because I don’t understand it—and neither does anyone else. But we should be able to agree with pastor John R.W. Stott when he wrote, “The doctrine of election is a divine revelation, not a human speculation.”

Many people use the word “elect” or “chosen” and “predestine” interchangeably. But they are not the same. In the Bible, election deals with people. God chooses people—like Abraham, Jacob, and Noah for special purposes. He chooses us for salvation. But the word “predestine” deals with events. The word means “to mark out the boundaries of.”

To simplify, Election emphasizes the who of salvation, and predestination emphasizes the why of salvation. Election emphasizes people, and predestination emphasizes purpose

So, in the Bible, the word predestine refers primarily to events God has planned for His People. 

For example, In Acts 4, God predestined the death of Christ. In Romans 8, he predestined that we should be conformed to the image of Christ. 

Some people teach double predestination—that God predetermines not only to save some people but to damn others to eternal hell. That is never taught in Scripture—people do not go to hell because God predetermines they go to hell.

Predestination refers to what God plans for the elect. And here, God has predestined us to adoption as sons. 

Why do we praise God the Father—because He has selected us. That is, He chose us, and He adopted us. Now, again, I don’t fully understand election and predestination, but I want you to notice two things about God’s selection of us.

  • God’s selection is rooted in love, not hatred.
  • God’s selection is purposeful, not arbitrary.

Why do we praise God the Father? Because apart from anything good in us, He selected us so that He might adopt us into His family with all the privileges that entails.

In her book The Whisper Test, Mary Ann Bird tells about a life-changing experience she had as a little girl that marked her life forever. I love this!

She said, “I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others. A little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech. When schoolmates asked: ‘What happened to your lip?’ I’d tell them I had fallen or cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow, it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born differently. I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me.

There was, however, a teacher in the second grade whom we all adored, Mrs. Leonard by name. She was short, round, happy, a sparkling lady. Annually, we had our hearing test. Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally, it was my turn. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something, and we would have to repeat it back to her. Things like “The sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?”

I waited there for those words that God must have put into Mrs. Leonard’s mouth. Those seven words that changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said in her whisper: ‘I wish you were my little girl.’

God says to every one of us deformed by sin: ‘I wish you were my son. I wish you were my daughter.’”

And by placing our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we can become that child of God.   

Full Passage: Ephesians 1:3-6