“Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him”
We as believers are in Christ, which is a marvelous and reassuring truth because as we are in Christ, we have the assurance of a long list of spiritual blessings in the heavenly places, which are not merely a future hope but are also a present reality. As we see, they are based upon God’s choosing, or electing, of a people in Christ, and predestining us for spiritual adoption as sons to Himself through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Yet when God’s sovereignty in salvation is discussed, as well as the choosing or electing of sinners unto salvation, some may become uncomfortable.
But we need to understand these truths because we believe that the Word of God is His breathed-out, authoritative Word to men and that everything He says is true: whether justification by faith alone, salvation by grace alone, preservation and perseverance, sanctification, the creation of the world, the resurrection of Christ, the second coming of Christ, or even God’s sovereign choice of sinners in salvation.
No one who is honest will say that election is an easy doctrine to consider. On the other hand, we need not be ashamed of election because this truth is plain in Scripture. Any difficulty with the reality of God’s work in eternity and throughout history to save specific sinners is not a problem with God, but it is a problem with men accepting that God truly is completely in charge of salvation. Jonah clarifies: “Salvation belongs to Yahweh” (Jonah 2:9).
Early in human history, we find man’s wickedness was great on the earth, and God was grieved that He had made man after seeing his fall into sin. God determined that He would destroy the earth and all living creatures, but He also determined to preserve mankind through one man. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of Yahweh” (Gen. 6:8). Does this mean God foresaw some goodness in Noah that caused Him to show grace to Noah? No, because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We are told that “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among those in his generations” (Gen. 6:9), but note that statement follows the grace of God and the calling of God. Noah was chosen and called out by God to be a witness to that wicked generation and a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5).
We see God’s choosing of Abraham. God selected him to be the father of a great nation and to bless all families of the earth through him (Gen. 12:1-3). This calling and choosing was once again not based on some goodness in Abram, for what we know of Abram and his family is that they were idol worshippers (Josh. 24:2-3). Abraham was chosen by God sovereignly for His purpose.
We see the example of Jacob, the son of Isaac and a grandson of Abraham, the other being Esau. God chose to fulfill His covenant promises to Abraham through Jacob, even though Jacob was a cheat and swindler, stealing Esau’s birthright (Gen. 25:29-34) and Isaac’s blessing (Gen. 27:1-40); in fact, Jacob means supplanter or swindler. When Paul was elsewhere teaching about God’s sovereignty in salvation, he used God’s choice of Jacob instead of Esau as an example: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Rom. 9:13-16). Again, the choice of God was sovereign, not based on human works or goodness.
We also have New Testament examples and the teachings of Christ himself regarding these terms and speaking of this doctrine. In the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus says “for many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). When teaching the apostles, Jesus told them, “You did not choose Me but I chose you… but I chose you out of the world” (John 15:16, 19). Then concerning Paul himself, the Lord told Ananias, “he is a chosen instrument of Mine” (Acts 9:15). Paul asks who “will bring a charge against God’s elect” (Rom. 8:33), speaking of those who are saved. Peter uses the terms elect, called, and chosen to speak of believers in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:2, 2:9; 2 Pet. 1:10).
We can see clearly that election is a Biblical term and doctrine that should not be shied away from and should not cause shame. We should freely accept that we were chosen in Christ simply because this is what God purposed to do.
When did our election occur? Was it after the creation, after the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, meaning that God had to formulate an alternative plan? No, Paul says it was before the foundation of the world before time began as we know it. We understand God laid the foundation of the world, speaking about how He created the entire universe. “Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands” (Ps. 102:25). “My hand founded the earth” (Isa. 48:13).
Before creation, the Triune God had the plan of salvation in place, including the choosing of a people in Christ, their redemption by His blood, and the calling, indwelling, and sealing of the Holy Spirit. “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but appeared in these last times for the sake of you” (1 Pet. 1:20). Jesus was foreknown or foreordained before the foundation of the world to die for these people Paul says are chosen in Christ.
The word for foreknown, also used by Paul for the saved (Rom. 8:29), in Greek is proginosko, the prefix pro meaning before and the suffix ginosko meaning intimate knowledge. This foreknowledge is not simply knowing something will happen beforehand, which God certainly does, and this is not what but whom.
We see that God’s plan of salvation for every one of these chosen and foreknown in Christ was ordained before the world’s creation, and His plan cannot fail for a single one of us because it is indeed God’s plan, and we know His purposes cannot fail. “For Yahweh of hosts has counseled, and who can thwart it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?” (Isa. 14:27).
The plan of God will come to pass, and all of those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world will hear His calling. they will believe the Gospel, and they will be glorified. I do not know who they are: that is God’s business, and my business and the church’s business is to preach the Gospel to every creature. God’s plan excludes the pride and boasting of man; all praise and boasting will be in Christ.
For further reading
David Webber is married to Mary and they have four children and four grandchildren. He is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Longview, TX. Webber earned a BS in History from the University of Texas at Tyler, TX, and attended Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary in Jacksonville, TX. Throughout his ministry, he has served as a guest preacher and teacher in many churches and various Bible conferences.
December 29, 2023
More from David Webber
In this article, we will examine Paul’s proclamation of our adoption as children of God and the spiritual benefits of the predestinating purpose of God through Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:3 marks the very beginning of a section of Scripture which is a reminder of Paul to the Ephesian believers of all that they are in Christ Jesus, and all the spiritual blessings that flow from from Him, which they possess even now as a result of the grace of God and the eternal plan that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit purposed before time began.
The apostle Paul is greeting the saints in Ephesus in these first two verses reminding them that they are saints, redeemed by Christ. He speaks of their faithfulness in the short time they have been believers, and reminds them in his opening words of the grace and peace that they have with God, which is through the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross.
In our examination of Paul’s salutation to the Ephesian church, we will explore Paul’s past life before salvation, his calling as an apostle by Christ, and the qualifications that validate his standing as one of the greatest apostles of Christ.