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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