Paul teaches the Ephesian believers that, like Israel, they were chosen by God. The choice wasn’t based on their quantity or their quality but simply on God’s love. There was nothing special about them over and against anyone else that motivated God’s choice. He just chose them to be His Children. He has the sovereign right as the creator of all things. God’s choice was made “…before the foundation of the world.” Just as God had chosen Israel to be His unique people in the world, so too are Christians chosen by God for that purpose as well. The final phrase of Ephesians 1:4 explains what God’s choice results in regarding each believer. He states this biblical truth,  “that we should be holy and blameless before him.” This is either the most encouraging phrase in the Bible or the most discouraging. It all depends on how it is understood. Jenkins makes it most discouraging. He writes, “Nobel had a purpose in setting up his awards, and God had a purpose in electing those who are in Christ. Paul states the purpose in these words: that we should be holy (separate, set apart, different) and blameless. Saints are to be holy because God is holy (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 19:2). Saints likewise must be blameless (without blemish). The word is used in the LXX with reference to the sacrificial animals (Leviticus 1:3 et al.). In order to be presented unto Christ, the church, as His bride, must be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27; cf. Colossians 1:22). This indicates the type of life the Christian must lead.”[1] There is no “good news” in this comment.

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament verify the fact that all people are lost sinners and incapable of living Holy lives. Benfield explains this well, “This is where the problem lies. Isaiah declares our righteousness is as filthy rags. Paul declares there are none righteous, not even one. James reveals that if we fail to keep one of the commandments, then before God, we are guilty of all. This reveals one would have to live a perfect life, just like the life Jesus lived on earth, to be accepted by God through an attempt to keep the law. Common sense and simple knowledge of our own sinful tendencies reveal this is utterly impossible. We cannot live righteous enough, in and of ourselves, to merit salvation!”[2]

How can anyone be “Holy and Blameless?” There are two parts of this verse that needs to be understood to explain that to us. First, The Bible is clear that there is nothing we can do to make ourselves such. We either are, or we are not. The two-word phrase “holy and blameless” shows up in the Old Testament description of the sacrifices that would be presented as the sin offering. It is clearly a description of Jesus as the unique one and only perfect individual. We will never be holy and blameless in our practice, but our position in Christ ensures that we will never fall short because he cannot fall short. What He has, He has given to us. This is the good news of the gospel in a nutshell. The second thought to be considered is “before Him.” Obrien explains, “Since the whole expression is dealing with the goal of election, that is, their full perfection in Christ, it is likely that the day of the Lord Jesus is in view. God chose his people in Christ with the ultimate goal that they would be holy and blameless before him when they appear in his presence.”[3] Although we should get better in life, we all know that we will never achieve perfection. But the good news includes the idea that we will have it in the end. This is all good news for us. We try and fail. We try again and fail again. But when it’s all said and done, when we see the Lord, it’s promised that we will not fail anymore!

[1] Jenkins, Ferrell. 1987. “Election.” Edited by Brent Lewis. Christianity Magazine, 1987.

[2] Benfield, Chris. 2015. “The Way of Salvation # 36 (Romans 10:5–10).” In Pulpit Pages: New Testament Sermons, 853. Mount Airy, NC: Chris Benfield.

[3] O’Brien, Peter Thomas. 1999. The Letter to the Ephesians. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.