“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 3:3-8, NLT
Paul emphasizes that God chose us to make the point that salvation depends totally on God. We are saved not because we deserve it but because God graciously and freely gives us salvation. Our wisdom or good behavior does not influence God’s decision to save us; in his mercy, he has saved us according to his plan. Thus, we cannot take credit for our salvation or take pride in making the right decision. The mystery of salvation originated in the timeless mind of God long before we existed. It baffles us why God would accept us. But Christ, by his sacrifice, makes us holy and blameless in his sight. If we are in Christ, God looks at us as if we have never sinned. All we can do is express our thanks for his wonderful love.
That God “decided in advance to adopt us” is another way of saying that salvation is God’s work and not our own doing. In his infinite love, God has adopted us as his own children. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, he has brought us into his family and made us heirs along with Jesus (Romans 8:17). He did this on purpose for his own pleasure (Luke 12:32).
In Roman law, adopted children had the same rights and privileges as biological children, even if they had been slaves. (For more on the meaning of adoption, see Galatians 4:5-7.) Paul uses this language to show how strongly we are related to God through Christ and how strongly God desires a relationship with us. Have you entered into this loving bond with him
God has showered his kindness—his grace—on us. This is his voluntary and loving favor given to those he saves. We can’t earn salvation, nor do we deserve it. No religious, intellectual, or moral effort can gain it, because it comes only from God’s mercy and love. Without God’s grace, no person can be saved. To receive God’s salvation, we must acknowledge that we cannot save ourselves; only God can save us. We can receive this loving favor by believing in and uniting with Christ. Imagine that you are trying to go on an ocean voyage but have no passport, money, or credit cards—and then Jesus comes along to pay your way so you can travel in first class. This is a small illustration of how lavishly and freely he gives his grace to each of us.