I’ve structured the whole section in verses 3-14 off the of the Ἐν ᾧ phrase, which occurs at verses 7, 11, and 13.
Here’s just those first four verses (everything is lined up under the Greek, not the English).
3 Εὐλογητὸς (X) ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,
Blesses is God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
ὁ εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ,
who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ
4 καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου
Because he elected in him before the foundation of the world
εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ,
to be holy and blameless before him in love.
5 προορίσας ἡμᾶς εἰς υἱοθεσίαν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς αὐτόν, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, 6 εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ
Because he predestined us for adoption as heirs us through Jesus Christ in him, according to the pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace
ἧς ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ.
which he has freely given to us in his beloved son.
Verse three begins with a declaration of praise to God. “Bless is God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the only independent clause in the entire section. Thus, in one way or another, everything else leads back to this praise/blessing to God. Εὐλογητὸς is always used in reference to God, something extremely consistent with LXX usage.
The following clause, is a participial clause modifying God. ὁ εὐλογήσας has the same number and gender as ὁ θεὸς. God is the one, “who has blessed us…” Following are three ἐν phrases. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing, in the heavenly places, in Christ. These prepositions are likely, association, spacial, and sphere. The language of these phrases seems to anticipate Paul’s discussion in chapter two specifically, 2.4-7:
4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
TNIV, Eph 2:4-7. My emphasis.
Such usage suggests to me that verses 3-14 is a sort of prequel to the themes and discussion of the rest of the book.
The next clause begins with a καθώς, a comparative conjunction that can also function in a causal manner. That is like what Paul intends here. If that is the case, then this clause gives the reason for Paul’s declaration in verse three. “Blessed is God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … because God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless” God’s choice of us, the believers, is all of his doing, freely.
The following clause, “εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ,” modifies ἐξελέξατο likely with the idea of purpose – for us to be holy and blameless before him. Translating the clause as “to be holy and blameless” obscures the use of the pronoun ἡμᾶς, but a more natural sounding English rendering would be, “He chose us … to be blameless and holy before him in love” Paul concludes this clause with two prepositional phrases. The first of which, “κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ,” is an image that does not resonate easily with the modern ear. But this is a concept that David deSilva, in his book Honor Patronage Kinship and Purity ,(click here for Amazon) discusses how the concept of being in the presence of someone else, especially God. Because honor and shame were so incredibly important for first century culture.
Like the leaders of other minority cultures in the first century, New Testament authors were also careful continually to point the members of the Christian group away from the opinion that non-Christians might form of them toward the opinion of those who would reflect the values of the group and reinforce the individual’s commitment to establish his or her honor and self-respect in terms of those group values. It is this latter group that must constitute the “court of reputation,” the sole body of significant others whose approval or disapproval should be important to the individual.
Most prominent within this court of reputation is God, whose central place is assured because of God’s power to enforce his estimation of who deserves honor and who merits censure.
David Arthur deSilva, Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity : Unlocking New Testament Culture (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 55. (Amazon)
Thus, Paul writes, “to be holy and blameless before him,” here. John writes,
And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.
TNIV, 1 Jn 2:28.
Their intent is to remind the believer’s whose opinion matters, not the pagans and unbelievers but God.
Regarding the last prepositional phrase, ἐν ἀγάπῃ , it is best to see it as connected with “to be holy and blameless.” Harold Hoehner makes some strong arguments for this view, one of which is related directly to the structure of the passage:
Within the present context the verbs and participles describing god’s actions always precede the qualifying phrases … the only exception to this in the entire passage is where there is the introductory relative pronoun.
Harold Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2002), 184. (Amazon Link) (by the way, this book is definitely worth its price). I’d like to review it eventually…as I get through all 960 pages.
Verse five begins with a adverbial participial clause again pointing back to the missing copula of verse three (Blessed [is] God…). This clause goes in line with the καθώς previously discussed. Thus God’s predestining of the believer is another reason for declaring Him blessed in verse three. This is an incredibly lengthy clause where Paul has piled up the prepositions. “because he predestined us for adoption as heirs through Jesus Christ to himself according to the pleasure of his will.”
Roman adoption, in my opinion (its workin’ on being a humble one) is what is in view here, specifically the practice of adoptio, where there is a legal transfer from one father to another so that one’s old relationships are completely severed and the son’s identity was founded wholly in the relationship with his new father. Within the context of Ephesians, such a Roman understanding makes a lot of sense, especially in view of Ephesians 2.1-10 and indeed 4.17 through the end of the letter. It is also important to notice that adoption is done through the Son and according to God’s good pleasure or the pleasures of his will. For the reason I translated this word, “adopted as heirs,” you can read this post.
Verse six continues this length clause with, “to the praise of his glorious grace.” God’s grace is the focus in this clause -another reason to praise. Also note the parallels with this phrase with those of verses 12 and 14.
The last clause we’ll be examining in this post is a relative clause, “ἧς ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ.” The antecedent of the relative pronoun is grace. “to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely give (consummative aorist) to us in his beloved son (lit. in the beloved).”
That last phrase, “ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ,” is key for the rest of the passage. It is the antecedent of all the of Ἐν ᾧ phrases that follow in verses 7, 11, and 13. It is these passages that we will be examining next…