God’s Adopted Children: Chosen “In Love” (Ephesians 1:4-5; Romans 8:29-30)

Greek compound verbs have always fascinated me, since as in English—though many people don’t recognize or appreciate them because of the words’ unfamiliar Latin origins—they carry the resultant meaning derived from the inherent meanings of the two individual Greek words now joined. Most often these Greek compounds have a preposition as part of their forms. In the verses observed here in Ephesians 1, the Greek compound verb (ἐξελέξατο) occurring in an Aorist Middle voice form meaning (along with ἡμᾶς), “He chose us for Himself,” comes from the lexical form ἐκλέγω, a compound from the preposition ἐκ (ἐξ- = out of) and the verb λέγω (to say, speak). And this “choosing” or “speaking out” occurred “before the foundation of the world” (v. 4), at which creative point in time God literally “spoke” everything into existence!

But, there’s more to this passage than simply a captivating Greek compound verb. Especially when we look at it exegetically in conjunction with another familiar Pauline passage from Romans 8. There are two other important words in verse 29 that shed light on and undergird what we have already seen in Ephesians 1. Here in Romans, we find the Greek προέγνω = He foreknew (lexical form: προγινώσκω). Of course, there’s more going on here than is analogous to a football “prognosticator” verbalizing his educated “guess” on who the winners of weekend football matches will be. There is much more going on than the physician’s “prognosis” of what the result of the major surgery will most likely prove to be. This is Divine foreknowledge, literally: “to know beforehand.” And this pre-knowing is not simply celestial crystal ball gazing, but rather a “knowing” in the sense that Adam “knew” his wife Eve. There is a true intimacy which existed in the will of God toward those whom He would choose as His own children, as members of His own household. So, in Romans 8:29, God “foreknows,” and then sets His will into full motion by “foreordaining” (προώριζεν, from: προορίζω = to predestine, foreordain) us “to become conformed to the image of His Son.” Then in verse 30, the Father sets His will down as a finished act with a series of past tense Aorist verbs that form the major foundation of what bible students have come to know as the “Ordo Salutis” (“Order of Salvation”) —

“And those He predestined (foreordained), these He also called; and those He called, these He also justified; and those He justified, these He also glorified.

One final observation can now be more astutely accomplished. Many have long questioned where prepositional phrase “in love” (ἐν ἀγάπῃ) belongs in Ephesians 1:4-5. Does it belong at the end of verse 4 where “we should be holy and blameless before Him in love . . .” or, within the context of the longest continuous sentence in the New Testament) does it more appropriately belong with verse 5?

“. . . in love, He (God) predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph. 1:5)

We have only to refer back to our previous discussion of Romans 8:29-30 to find the only exegetically plausible answer. Within the context in Romans, God has “foreknown” or “set his love upon” us (προέγνω) as those “foreordained to become conformed to the image of His Son” (including our “adoption,” see Eph. 1:5, above). Here, as elsewhere, the bible repeatedly serves as its own interpreter, particularly through the beauty and precision of its God-breathed language.

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Robert, I don’t see how you are are arriving at “for himself.” Shouldn’t you be illustrating that the usage in the literature demands that reading, rather than appealing to the etymology?

    • Yes, the literature demands that reading, since from this same Greek root we get the word “election.” That God “elects” many for Himself, i.e. “a people for His own possession” (1 Pet. 2:9) is just one of many Scripture passages demonstrating this intimate choosing. And, while bearing in my what my New Testament professor once accurately reminded me: that “we don’t get our doctrine from grammar, we get our doctrine from the whole teaching of Scripture,” the grammatical/etymological structure in this passage also supports what Scripture teaches as a whole. For references, see Arndt, Bauer, and Gingrich’s A Greek Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, re: ἐκλέγομαι (ἐκλέγω is always found in the “middle” voice in the N.T.), p. 242, 2. Also, see Abbott-Smith’s Manual Lexicon the the Greek New Testament (entire book can be freely downloaded as a PDF) re: the “middle” voice of ἐκλέγω in the N.T., p. 139 — to choose out for oneself, choose. Thanks for your comment, interaction!

  2. As I read it, the sense is “picked” and in the context, it is the Jewish race, chosen as his servant to proclaim that God alone is God, and God is God alone, as Isaiah wrote:

    Isa 43:10 Be ye my witnesses, and I too am a witness, saith the Lord God, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know, and believe, and understand that I am he: before me there was no other God, and after me there shall be none.

    I might have translated the above, “…whom I have picked to be a servant…”

    ISTM that the “for myself” is misleading. The important thing is that one is picked *to suit a purpose*:

    Rom 9:11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

    The point of the above is not “that the purpose of God might have this characteristic: that it is based on him choosing for himself” but rather, “that, by picking the younger, God’s intentions might come to fruition.”

    In other words, “picking” has to do with “purpose” – it isn’t about “me”.

    The view from here.

    • True enough regarding your Romans 9 and Isaiah 43 citations, but in Ephesians Paul is addressing the Church, which would not be “the Jewish race” alone but believing Jews and Gentiles, “chosen” (“elected”) by God’s grace.

      • Accepting your position of “in love”, I think this is the passage you have in mind regarding EKLEGOMAI:

        Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him:

        The way I read this passage (in context) is that Paul is unveiling what I refer to as “the gracious corollary” to justification by faith. That is, he is bringing to their attention that *in addition to forgiving their sins,* God has a whole other purpose, which Paul is now disclosing, for those who have believed.

        Think about it. Could not God have opted to forgive those who repented and believed without ever doing another blessed thing for them? How does it logically follow that, on the heels of forgiving sinners, he turns around, and also adopts them as his own children? It doesn’t. This is just an addition kindness: repentant sinners are not only forgiven, but adopted as children, that they should live forever in his kindness and doting love, blessed with every blessing, etc.

        So Paul’s assertion is “we who are in Christ” and “we who first believed” have, as it were, entered into a train (the Christ train) that is bound to unimaginable treasure and wonder in the favor and blessing of God.

        So again, he is not choosing individuals for faith, but choosing those faithful in Christ (the new humanity) for favor.

        What Paul is saying is that God chose the saints to be his children.

  3. Re: “God chose the saints to be his children.”

    Since “saints” actually means “holy ones” —from ἄγιοι—meaning those “set apart” (similar to the Greek for “sanctified” — ἁγιαζμενοι), then I would say that God and God only can make sinners “holy” —by His saving grace—then graciously calls us His children “sons” (and daughters) by adoptive grace! He did both!!

    • But do you see that they are two completely different concepts?

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