Ephesians | chapter one | verse 4
‘Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we might be holy and blameless before Him in love,’
Paul, in verse three, explained to us that we, who are saved, have been blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ; that is, these blessings are in Christ; our union with Him allows us to be partakers of these benefits. It is thus here, in verse four, that we are introduced to the first blessing of our union with Christ, viz., that of our election.
As we isolate this verse for a closer inspection, we ought to interpret it with the last sub-ordinate clause in mind; that our blessings, and, in this instance, our election, has its source in the love of God. It is the love of God that pervades our salvation, a love so bizarre yet profoundly beautiful; and it is that which Frederick H. Lehman speaks about when he says,
‘…could we with ink the oceans fill, and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade; to write the love of God above, would drain the oceans dry, nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky’ (1917).
With this glorious truth in mind, we should note that it is fundamentally our by election that we are made recipients of such spiritual and heavenly blessings. Our election is the antecedent that brings about the rest of our heavenly blessings; one cannot receive the blessings Paul speak of if one has not yet first been elected.
Paul, firstly states that God has chosen us. By ‘us’, is meant those who believe; those who have received sonship, those who have remission of their sins, who are being made holy and who eagerly await eternal life. Additionally, our being chosen by God is through Christ. Hodge explains, ‘It is in Christ, as our head and representative, that we are chosen to holiness and eternal life, and, therefore in virtue of what he did on our behalf’ (paraphrase from Commentary on Ephesians, p.9). It is our union with Christ; our relationship to Him that we are made partakers of this gospel; this covenant of redemption, for it is God’s very purpose and desire to save men in Christ and elect us unto salvation.
Paul clarifies and confines our being chosen as an event which took place ‘before the foundation of the world’. Our being chosen ‘before time’, confers two things, – 1. That God the Father works all things after the counsel of His will; by bringing about all things according to a preconceived idea or plan. Hodge says that the ‘whole scheme of redemption…lay mature in the divine mind’. From this truth we can be convinced that everything is certain, that there can be no fault or failure in the purpose of God; for He is sovereign. This brings us to our second point, – 2. That grace was graciously given to us before we even existed; before we breathed the air of life; before we had committed any deeds– whether good or bad. As Eph. 2:8-10 states, our salvation is by grace through faith, and that the basis of our election is for or unto good works, not by them. Ultimately, we are to take away with us a great deal of both confidence and humility; confidence in the God who is Lord of all; who’s hand cannot be twisted; who spoke all that exists into existence; who’s footstool is earth; who chose us in Christ – anything but confidence in Him is a mockery of His person. Of humility– we who are saved, have no ground upon which to boast on; our salvation is not of our own, but of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on our behalf (Eph. 1:7).
Finally, our election in Christ, according to the foreknowledge of God, is unto holiness. Holiness is that end to which we are saved. This state, of being holy, is not an immediate one, not fully attained in this life, instead it is only wholly actualized once in glory. Paul, here, thus, speaks of this day when we are made holy as He is holy. As of now, we undergo the process of sanctification– tending toward holiness; as Christ chips away at our sins, yet we are simultaneously already justified before the eyes of the Father, as Christ is our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). This verse, then, speaks of our being presently justified, not of our present process of being sanctified. Hodge comments, ‘We are reconciled to God by the death of His Son in order that we should be holy. Propitiation is in order to holiness’ (Commentary on Ephesians, p.11).
To conclude, we are chosen by God, through Christ to be a holy people– a people who are filled with the Spirit, who’s duty and delight it is to produce fruit and live a life of faithfulness. The doctrine of election provides two truths: 1. That holiness in no way can be the basis of our election, as Hodge says, ‘if men are chosen to be holy, they cannot be chosen because they are holy’, and, 2. The consequence or result is that holiness is the only evidence of election. All who live lives of sin and still claim to be elected, live lives that are a contradiction to this glorious truth, this magnificent grace freely given to sinners from their Creator. So, examine yourself, does your life tend to holiness or to a life of sinfulness? Make sure you are a recipient of this love of God, put your faith in Jesus Christ, and live to please Him.