First, a few words on the whole blessing (Hebrew Berakah), which stretches from verse 3 all the way to verse 14 (one sentence in Greek). The blessing is one indivisible whole (Barth, pg. 78). Note the progression of time from eternity past (vs. 4) to past history (vs. 7) to present history (vv. 8ff.) to future blessings (vs. 14). Furthermore, there is also (corresponding to the historical progression) a Trinitarian progression. Each major section ends with the refrain “to the praise of His glory.” The refrain ends each of the Trinitarian sections. The work before creation began was the salvation-work of the Father (vv. 3-6). The work of the Son was accomplished in past history (vv. 7-12). The work of the Holy Spirit is accomplished now and in the future (vv. 13-14). There is some overlap, of course, since the work of no one Person of the Trinity occurs without the work of the other two Persons. However, it is something on which we can hang our hats through this long, complicated sentence.
Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Blessed is emphatic” (Lange, pg. 27). Eadie says, “His blessing of us is one of deed, our blessing of Him is only in word. He makes us blessed, we pronounce Him blessed” (pg. 13). Paul does not seem to have any problem calling the Father “the God of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The early church fathers solved the Trinitarian problem here by saying that God the Father was God to Jesus as Jesus was human; God was Father to Jesus as Jesus was God. The distinction between the divine and the human nature plays the crucial role in this difficulty.
ὁ εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ, “Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Notice that we sit with Christ in the heavenly realms now as members of His body (Best, pg. 117). The believer’s life is conditioned by transcendence (Hoehner, pp. 169-170). “This was a new concept for the Ephesians for they had been worshipers of Artemis who was the local deity on earth” (Hoehner, pg. 172). Notice the word-play: “God is blessed; God blesses us with every spiritual blessing.” Blessing on the brain, as one might say. “In Christ”- “Herein (en Christo) is to be found the difference between the Christian and Jewish churches, the New Testament and Old Testament people of God” (Lange, pg. 29).
καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him.” “ ‘Kathos’ marks a relation, indeed a conformity of two facts” (Lange, pg. 29). The correspondence is that God is blessed as He has decreed (ibid). This verse also implies the pre-existence of Christ before the world began (Hoehner, pg. 178; cf. (a bit more cautiously) Lincoln, pg. 24). I don’t quite understand Lincoln’s caution. If we are chosen in Christ, then Christ must have been there to be a representative for us in whom God could choose us. Jerome says that “before the foundation” implies that God made all things out of nothing (ACCS, pg. 111). Jerome also says “Paul does not say he chose us before the foundation of the world on account of our being saintly and unblemished. He chose us that we might become saintly and unblemished (ACCS, pg. 111). Hodge says exactly the same thing: “If men are chosen to be holy, they cannot be chosen because they are holy” (pg. 12). Notice that Paul is teaching election to the very people he had himself evangelized! (Ferguson, pg. 10). This gives the lie to the tired Arminian objection that election vitiates evangelism. Paul taught election, and was himself an evangelist, and to the very people he evangelized he taught election!
ἐν ἀγάπῃ προορίσας ἡμᾶς εἰς υἱοθεσίαν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς αὐτόν, “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself.” “We are not children by nature, like Christ, but only by grace” (Lange, pg. 33). Hoehner has an excellent discussion of Roman adoption (pg. 196). See also DPL, pp. 15-18. The last prepositional phrase indicates God the Father, not the Son. This verse proves that election is not some dry, cold business. Rather, election is evidence of God’s great love for us. See my sermon on this whole passage here.
κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἧς ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ, “According to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace with which He has graced us in the Beloved.” Notice how many times already the phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” has appeared. All the blessings come to us “in Christ,” not outside of Christ. As Calvin says, Christ is of no benefit to us as long as we remain outside of Him, and He outside of us. This verse shows us the end purpose of God’s great redemptive acts: his own glory. In the somewhat literalistic translation I have given, I have attempted to show the word-play between “grace” and “graced.” The word-play emphasizes the place of God’s grace towards us.