To God be praise for planning before creating the world to make his people holy and blameless (1:4). To God be praise for planning to reconcile heaven and earth to himself through Christ at just the right time in history (1:10). To God be praise for arranging ahead of time to adopt those who believe as his children (1:5). We have seen no predestination language of this sort elsewhere in Paul’s writings. Sure, Romans 9 is extensively about God’s right to predetermine the fate of his people, but Paul there does not really celebrate being a part of the “elect.” Ephesians 1 gives us the primary instance in the Pauline collection where we find a celebration of being part of the elect, being part of those chosen by God.
Even here, however, the celebration is for those who are already in. Ephesians 1 does not use predestination language to exclude those who are out or predict those who will come in. It is language that praises God collectively for those who are already in. It thus functions, as we argued in chapter 4, as “after the fact” language that relates more to believers as a whole than as individual believers.
Indeed, if we take predestination language in Ephesians 1 as some do, we run into all sorts of thorny problems. Some, for example, would suggest that God not only arranged for us to be saved but for Adam to fail in the first place so that we would need to be saved. Surely it is foolish for us to try to figure out the details of what God was thinking before the creation. How could we possibly understand such things? Surely the poetic comments of passages like Ephesians 1 are the barest of pictures.
God knew the world would need fixed. God knew he would fix it through Christ. God knew that not all would avail themselves of Christ and be rescued. The precise dynamics are mystery, and the biblical texts themselves gave their original audiences pictures they could understand. We know that God was and is in control of all things. We know that God’s desire is to save. We know that not everyone is rescued in the end. The connection of these dots is mystery.