When Paul wrote the beginning of Ephesians he wrote one giant sentence. Vv.3-14 are, in the original language of the letter, one uninterrupted thought ¹.
He begins by saying that, as believers, we are to praise God because of all that He has given us (v.3). The spiritual blessings Paul is talking about are given, we read, in Christ, and originate in the heavenly places. This should permanently dissuade us from ever trying to manufacture our own spiritual blessings or feeling like we can find them outside of Christ or from any other place than the Divine.
Paul then brings together two huge theological themes: Sovereignty and free will:
“… he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him in love. He did this by predestining us to adoption as his legal heirs through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will— to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son.”
(Ephesians 1.4-6, NET)
We read that we are [chosen] in Christ before the foundation of the world – God’s Sovereign knowledge and action in play. We are chosen to be holy and blameless before him in love. We are chosen (Sovereignty) and as a result must behave a certain way (free will).
We are chosen before the foundation of the world…[predestined] to adoption as his legal heirs through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will. God chose you and I to become fully-fledged members of His family long before we did anything about it (before the foundation of the world). God always acts first (John 6.44). He acts first, He acts the most definitively, but we do have a role to play.
Rather than trying to reconcile the two seemingly-opposing forces (Romans 11.33), Sovereignty and free will, let us rest in the truth that God’s foreknowledge and predestining are to the praise of the glory of his grace that we experience through the person and work of his dearly loved Son. It is only through Jesus that we experience the glory and grace of God (v.5, John 14.6).
God acts first and Jesus is always central, but you do have a role to play.
I read this recently, a great thought to take into the day:
“It is impossible for us to fully understand the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will and responsibility. Only God truly knows how they work together in His plan of salvation. With this doctrine, probably more so than with any other, it is crucially important to admit our inability to fully grasp the nature of God and our relationship with Him. Going too far to either side results in a distorted understanding of salvation.”
Stay in the middle: God has the major role but you are involved too. Enjoy being a part of the process!