Having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
1. Wherein does the predestination of the fifth verse differ from the election of the fourth? Election only, and always, refers to the Church; predestination refers to the Church, and the world, and the whole universe. It is a general, all-embracing principle. He elected us that we should be holy, and to accomplish this He predestined us to the adoption of sons. Election is a mere passive preference of some rather than others, while predestination is active, and includes the ideas of ordering, defining, and controlling all things according to a settled purpose and plan. Election is the foundation of a Church, and predestination is the basis of providence.
2. But what is this adoption to which we are predestinated? It is the very first of the privileges which Paul ascribes to the Jewish nation — "To whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever" (Romans 9:4, 5). In a wide sense, the Jews were nationally the children of God, and the principle of adoption was in their polity; for the Son of God, the Messiah, was the hope of the nation. They were His peculiar people (Deuteronomy 14:2). But the adoption is the peculiar privilege and glory of the New Testament Church, in which the incorruptible seed remains, because they are born of God.
3. This adoption into the family of God is by or through Jesus Christ.
4. The two words "unto Himself" has occasioned the commentators some trouble, and their sentiments are very various. But surely, looked at simply, the most common understanding can see no difficulty in this idea — "God has predestinated us unto the adoption of children to or for Himself." Is it not a Scriptural idea that the Church is the peculiar treasure and property of God? (See Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 14:2; Psalm 135:4; Titus 2:14)
5. Note here, also, that this predestination and adoption are according to the good pleasure of His will. This is the mode and the measure of His working.
6. We see here the purpose in which all His working, before time and in time, ends — "That we might be to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved" (ver. 6). The phrase "glory of His grace" is a Hebraism which our translators have rendered literally, but which means "His glorious grace." (For similar forms see Colossians 1:27; 2 Thessalonians 1:9) The purpose of electing and redeeming love is to form from among the sinners of mankind a people to the praise and glory of God. The glorious grace of God shines forth in the struggling, wrestling Church more than anywhere else in the creation; for it is there put to the severest tests, and, like the rainbow in clouds and storms, it is enhanced by the contrast. As sure, and so far as God is the Ruler and Governor of the world, the great end of every creature must be His glory; and as grace is the form in which His glory has shone forth most brightly on this earth, the highest aim of the redeemed creature — in all states and conditions of being — should ever be "to the praise of His glorious grace."
(W. Graham, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,