Vol. 1 - No. 11
He Chose Us In Him
by Lynn Trapp
God's choice of saints in Christ is a vital theme that needs to be perused by concerned students of the word of God. The subject of election is critical because it conveys many wrong concepts to many readers. Therefore, Paul's argument in Ephesians 1 needs to be studied further. The apostle said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” (Ephesians 1:3-4). No passage has been subjected to more abuse than this one. Because Paul said we are chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, many men have assumed that God made a selection, out of all depraved humanity, of certain ones to eternal life and left all others to work out their own way, which naturally leads to eternal destruction. Nothing could be farther from the truth or more damaging to the integrity of God in the minds of a skeptical world.
The key to understanding Ephesians I (as well as the rest of the letter) is the expression in Christ, or its equivalent, which appears ten times in verses 3-14. When Paul says “in Christ” he is not saying that God looked through time and saw the sacrifice of Christ and chose men “with a view” to Christ. The Greek word for in “denotes a vital spiritual connection so that we translate: 'in connection with'.” (R.C.H. Lenski, Interpretation of Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians, P. 347). While the foreknowledge of God is obviously involved in our choice in Christ, there is much more to our salvation or damnation than an impersonal decree made with no regard to man's condition before God. When Paul says, “In love He predestined us” it becomes clear that all of God's actions in relation to man must have been in response to man's sinful condition. The concept of unconditional decrees makes much to do of the fact that election is not due to anything in us whether good or bad. While it is not due to anything in us, if election is in Christ Ephesians 1:3-14 clearly shows that it is not done in ignorance of our spiritual condition. Election, as viewed by Paul in both Ephesians and Romans, is God's response in love to provide salvation for sinful men in Christ. The in Christ statements in our passage shows that God not only acted “before the foundation of the world,” but has also acted and continues to act in time to work out His purposes for man's salvation. This is truly the theme of Ephesians.
We read in our passage of five facts which are involved in man's salvation from sin. All of these are involved in God's election of saints in Christ. Anyone who ignores these facts is bound to end up with some strange concept of election. Observe the following things revealed in the immediate context of Ephesians 1:4. (1) PREDESTINATION TO ADOPTION AS SONS (vs. 5). Predestination means to determine the end of a thing ahead of time. However the context must determine the end to which a thing is predestined. Paul is not dealing with Predestination to eternal salvation or damnation, but “to adoption as sons.” (2) REDEMPTION THROUGH HIS BLOOD. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (vs. 7). The blood of Christ is an inseparable part of God's election of us in Him; not because God knew of His death ahead of time (though I am sure He did), but because Christ actually shed His blood and in Him we can receive the benefits of his blood, the forgiveness of our sins. (3) REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY (vs. 9). God's revelation of the gospel plan of salvation is man's only source of understanding God's will for man. Any decree that God might have made could not benefit man any without a revelation from God. However, Paul refutes the unconditional decree notion by showing that the revelation of the mystery, not an eternal decree, is God's means of “summing up all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth” (vs. 10). (4) OBTAINING AN INHERITANCE (vs. 11). As God's adopted sons we are recipients of an inheritance in Christ. This inheritance is not heaven, because it is something we now possess: our privilege of being “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). (5) BEING SEALED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE (vs. 13). If, as I am persuaded, this has reference to the extraordinary operations of the, Spirit, then Paul is dealing with some kind of outward manifestation that demonstrated to the world that the promises of God were real. Keeping these five facts before our minds will help us understand election better.
Holy and Blameless
As we close this study, let us draw our minds back to the purpose of election: “that we should be holy and blameless before Him (vs.4). God's intentions in election are not a whim which is tied to some secret decree, but are to bring about a change in the character of man. These intentions are summed up in the five facts we have discussed above. God does not want a church which is merely the result of an irresistible call, but a church that He loved, and therefore responded to in the sacrifice of Christ; “that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:24-25).