Hoehner on “he chose us” (ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς) in Ephesians 1:4

I am completely reworking my notes on Ephesians as I prepare to teach through the epistle in Sunday school. As I was working through the great opening sentence (1:3-14), I was dealing with the verb “chose”  (ἐκλέγομαι) in the expression “he chose us” in verse 4. Election is a difficult issue for some and yet God is praised for doing just that.

When I was in seminary at Dallas, Harold Hoehner was my Greek professor for several classes and we all knew he was working on a commentary on Ephesians. It was worth the wait when it finally came out in 2002. Hoehner has a long excursus on the verb that is quite helpful (186-193) and he summarizes those findings of how the verb is used in the LXX and NT when commenting on the verb in 1:4. He notes, 

First, in most instances in the OT and NT, as is the case here, God is the subject. Second, the subject did not choose in a vacuum but in the light of all known options. God chose “us” from the whole human race. Third, there is no indication of any dislike towards those not chosen. It is not a rejection with disdain. The choice of Levi for the priesthood does not imply anything negative about the other tribes. Furthermore, nowhere is election contrasted with reprobation. It speaks only of those who are chosen and nothing of those not chosen. Fourth, it is in the middle voice, as is almost every instance, indicating personal interest rather than a random impersonal choice. Fifth, the one who is chosen has no legal claim on the one who chooses. In fact, it is clear in Scripture that human beings come short of his glory and so not even seek him (Rom 3:10-11). God did not choose anyone because they were holy and thus had a legal claim to be chosen. On the contrary, all people are sinners and deserve rejection. There was no obligation on God’s part to choose anyone but he freely chose some and this is evidence of his great grace. The point is that if God had not taken the initiative, no one would have his everlasting presence and life. The real problem is not why he had not chosen some, but why he chose any. No wonder God is to be praised.

Amen. Hoehner was a great scholar but he was an even better Christian.

Hoehner on Ephesians

Categories: ἐκλέγομαι, Christ, Commentary, Doctrine, Election, Ephesians, God, Greek, Salvation

6 replies

  1. Yes Dan, I too agree. Hoehner’s commentary is a ‘must-read’ for those studying Ephesians. I have learned a great deal what it means to study (interpret) and apply a text by reading his commentary.
    As a side note and for what it’s worth, I think a close second to Hoehner’s masterpiece is O’Brien’s commentary in the Pillar series edited by D. A. Carson.

    • Wayne,

      Good to hear from you. What’s your status on the dissertation? It is good to be done!!!!!

      • The status is good, but not great. I am still writing; really hope to be done by May of 2011. I have also acquired more responsibilities at school. I am now the dean of the seminary. I’m excited, but a lot of work to be done. I appreciate reading your comments on your blog; I too have recently started my own blog/web-site. Not much there yet though.

      • I started in August of 2007 and worked 30 hours a week (minimum) and finished in May. It can be done!

  2. This commentairy said that God choose only in good way but roman 9:13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

    • I don’t see the disconnect. When God says “Esau I hated” he means that he did not extend the same grace to Esau that he did to Jacob. Grace by its very nature is particular. God chose Israel over all the different nations. Why? He he loved them (Dt 7:6-8). Hoehner is simply saying God did so and was pleased to do it.

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