The series so far:
Ephesians 1 is sometimes wheeled out to support the notion that God does all things for the sake of a self-reflexively, self-interested glory (stole the phrase from Michael Jensen). Well let’s have a look. (Father, Son, Spirit, us.)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love 5 He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will– 6 to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. 11 In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him Who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 Who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of His glory… 22 And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be Head over everything for the church, 23 which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills everything in every way.
An eternal torrent of Spiritual blessings flow from Father to Son – by the Spirit comes election, predestination, adoption, redemption and grace. And as they are lavished on the Head, so they flow to His body, the church.
The Father’s generosity towards the Son is described as the lavish riches of His grace (see here for more on ‘riches’ in Ephesians). The riches/wealth/substance/weightiness/glory of the Father is an overflowing profligacy, an out-going being towards the Son. But, more than this, the overflow towards the Son has the church in view. Even before the foundation of the world, the church is foreknown as internal to the love that God is. The other-centredness of the trinity is not a holy huddle exclusive of us. The triune God refuses to be God without us.
As we reach the end of the chapter we almost dare not believe what we read. Is Christ really appointed as Head over everything for the church? Is the church really the fulness of Christ? There are many purpose clauses in this chapter – do we dare to take seriously these ones? Of course Paul is not suggesting that we fill an otherwise empty Christ. He fills all things. Yet we must take these verses seriously. In His divine initiative there is a determination for the Head to be fulfilled in His body.
Therefore whatever glory we ascribe to this God, it cannot be the glory of self-exaltation. In fact verse 6 tells us in no uncertain terms what His glory consists in. It is the “glory of His grace which He has freely given us in the Beloved.” What we will praise into all eternity is the grace of a Father who from eternity past has determined to do all for the glory of love. The repetition of the phrase “to the praise of His glory” (v12 and 21) can only be understood in the context as a short-hand for this lavish, other-centred benevolence.
Now certainly this means that we are to praise God. And certainly it means that this praise is intended by God. But this is not at all the same thing as positing a self-centred God.
The steps of the argument that precede the statement “God does all things to the praise of His glory” are absolutely crucial. If the first few steps are things like: God’s the best so by definition He must exult in the best or he’d be an idolater – then the praise of this glory would be to join in His self-exaltation. But if the steps in the argument are something like: God’s triune love and election of the church in Christ reveal the glory of other-centred love – then the praise of His glory is joining in His other-centredness. Very different.
Put it another way – the argument is not, God loves God therefore you should love God. The argument is God loves you, you should love God.
Or again, it just isn’t the case that we make much of God because God makes much of Himself. We make much of God because He makes much of others (His Son and us in His Son) and that is His glory. Hallelujah.
Final part here…