“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”
The word predestined (proorisas—aorist active participle) is a late and rare word, meaning to determine or decide beforehand. It is a compound word meaning to set a boundary and beforehand, thus to set boundaries beforehand. It refers to God’s predetermined plan and purposes. It is used twice in Ephesians (1:5, 11). It points clearly to believers being the objects of His predestination. God has predestined us to something. The emphasis is not on whom, but to what one is predestined. Predestination is an act of God the Father. He determined and decreed it. Election deals with Gods selection, while predestination deals with God’s determination or plan for those whom He selects. Thus, election and predestination are not the same, but they are connected. The object of predestination is “us,” i.e. believers. Unbelievers are never said to be predestined.
The preposition eis (to or unto), indicates direction or appointment and “adoption as son.” The object of the preposition is adoption. The Greek word is huiothesia, a compound word meaning a son and a placing, and “signifies the place and condition of a son given to one to whom it does not naturally belong.” (Vine, Expository Dictionary, 1:32). It is a term used only by Paul, and first employed and developed by him (cf. Rom. 8:15; 9:4; Gal. 4:5). There is good reason for this; it is a term that Jews know little or nothing about, for it was borrowed from Roman law. The term is not found in the Old Testament (LXX). Paul is a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28), he was raised under the Roman system in Tarsus. It is from his Roman background, not his Jewish background that inspired him to use the term. He is writing to Gentiles who knew and lived under Roman law. The word is rich in meaning for the believer. Barclay tells us how adoption under Roman law was carried out:
It was carried out by a symbolic sale in which copper and scales were used. Twice the real father sold his son, and twice he symbolically bought him back; finally he sold him a third time, and at the third sale he did not buy him back. After this the adopting father had to go to the praetor, one of the principal Roman magistrates, and plead the case for the adoption. Only after this was the adoption complete.
When the adoption was complete it was complete indeed. The person who had been adopted had all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family and completely lost all rights in his old family. In the eyes of the law he was a new person. So new was he that even all debts and obligations connected with his previous family were abolished as if they had never existed (DBS: Ephesians, 78).
What a picture this presents to us as believers. Notice the following aspects of the term adoption:
· It is a forensic or legal term. This makes it very binding. The term and act provides security. A Roman father had the legal right to disinherit his natural children, but not his adopted child.
· The term does not center upon the nature of the Christian, but upon the status and rank of the believer, our new position in Christ. “The point is that the one adopted acquired a new status, privilege, and property that would not have been available under his old father” (Hoehner, Ephesians, 197).
· It was a twofold process. First, the son was released from the control of his natural father. Second, he came under control of his new adopted father. The old is done away with, now things are new. There is a new relationship and benefits. We are now sons (notice our text says “as Sons”) of God. The new father now has the right to control our lives and property. With this comes new responsibility to our new father—God.
The agency of the believer’s adoption is “through Jesus Christ to Himself.” The Greek preposition is dia (through), and has the idea “of passing between two objects through another object” (A.T. Robertson, Gramar, 581). This is in keeping with Jesus as the way to the Father (John 14:6). We come to God only through Jesus Christ. The words “to Himself” apply to God the Father, not to Jesus Christ. The whole context is what God the Father is doing and how He is doing it. God the Father is the subject (1:4). This action of the Father comes through Jesus Christ. The preposition through indicates the work of Christ on our behalf.God choose and predestined us “according to the kind intention of His will.” The proposition (kata, according to) denotes the standard of the Father’s action. It denotes that the action taking place conforms to the standard—“the kind intention of His will.” The Greek word translated kind intention is eudokia, meaning good pleasure or delight in. God acts in accordance to His own delight or pleasure of His will. His will is not arbitrary, but is controlled by His absolute positive character. God will never contradict His character. Nor can His will be influenced by something outside of Himself, this is especially true in the present context since these events were before the act of creation. The standard of God’s choosing and predestinating is the pleasure and satisfaction of His own holy, loving, and perfect will.