Gratitude for our divine election unto salvation in Christ has been Paul’s theme in Ephesians 1:3–6, as the apostle has outlined the blessings of adoption and holiness conferred upon us in the Savior. The idea that God gives such things to us in Christ is very important, for our heavenly Father could never have chosen us for such things without electing us in His Son; that is, He never could have predestined us for salvation without determining to unite us to Jesus by the Holy Spirit through faith alone. Only the work of Christ can set us apart as holy and make us worthy of being called the children of God (v. 7).
Scripture emphasizes our sinfulness and the universality of this plight. Apart from Christ, human hearts continually long for evil — even the most outwardly righteous person has sin-tainted thoughts, actions, and desires (Gen. 8:21). Jew and Greek alike, the entire human race (except Jesus) is “under sin . . . ‘None is righteous, no, not one . . . no one seeks for God’” (Rom. 3:9–11). The Lord is so holy that He cannot gaze upon sin — He cannot tolerate it in His presence (Hab. 1:13) — and therefore God cannot adopt us as His children unless He does something about our wickedness. To accept us into His family and wink at sin would compromise His justice and holiness, which are as essential to His character as the love that moved Him to save us.
In choosing us for salvation, the Father must choose us in Christ — He must choose to unite us to Him by faith alone, for our Savior’s blood secures our redemption from the slavemaster of sin and the guilt of our transgressions (Eph. 1:7). Paul does not say that the blood of Jesus is a magical substance in itself; he uses it as a shorthand for Christ’s perfect life and sacrificial death. God demands that sinners die under the curse of His wrath (Gen. 2:15–17), and He must punish us for transgressing His holy standards. The Father does not compromise His justice in electing us for eternal life; choosing us in Christ, He decided to put our sins on Jesus’ shoulders on the cross so that His wrath might be satisfied. Consequently, our Savior’s righteousness and worth to be called God’s Son according to His humanity are imputed to us, making us worthy to be His children (2 Cor. 5:21). When the Father chose us, He chose us in Christ, and only in Him can we be considered God’s children.