Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love
(Ephesians 1:3-4 HCSB)
choose (chooz) To select from a number of possible alternatives; decide on and pick out.
I can clearly recall the ritual of choosing. As a young child at Elmer Thienes Elementary School in Connecticut. The year was 1974 and at lunchtime the boys would gather near the ball diamond to play kickball. Those who were athletically gifted would be captains and they would one by one choose the members of their team. They made the choice based on their knowledge or estimate of the ability of the potential players. One by one they tried to make the best choice until they got to the last kid which was often me.
God Chose Us
Paul in writing to the “faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus” said that God made a decision to choose “us” (that is Paul and those saints). We can extend this statement to say that God chose saints regardless of their location (Ephesus, Corinth, Thessaloniki etc.) and regardless of location in time whether the first century or the present day. Therefore I, and perhaps you as well if you are in Christ, am chosen.
God in making his choice was free. That is to say, He could have chosen otherwise. The fact that he chose me says nothing about you. He may or may not have chosen you. Some questions then arise.
- Chosen for what?
- On what basis did he make his choice?
- Did I have a say in this choice?
Chosen for what
“…to be holy and blameless in His sight” – Ephesians 1:4
He has chosen the way that he will see or consider me. The two words that describe His view of me are holy and blameless.
- Holy – Living according to a strict or highly moral religious or spiritual system; saintly
- Blameless – Free of blame or guilt; innocent.
Anyone who knew the facts of my life would say that I am neither of these things though I might aspire to them. Is God saying that he prefers to believe a legal fiction rather than the plain facts when he considers me or is there a very real sense in which I am holy and blameless? If there is such a sense then does my conduct matter? Of course it does because my choices result in evil when I choose wrongly. The world has more then enough evil in it already. I must not add to the disaster.
He Chose Us In Him
There are three pronouns in this phrase. He, us and Him. The translators capitalized He and Him suggesting that they refer to divinity as is the convention.
- He — the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (v3)
- us — the saints (v1)
- Him — Christ (v3)
What does it mean to chose us “in Him”? It can only mean that our relationship to Him (Christ) has some bearing on the choice. He could have said “He chose us.” but adding in Him adds some meaning. The word “in” in this sentence is a preposition and “Him” is the object of the preposition.
preposition – expressing the situation of something that is or appears to be enclosed or surrounded by something else. “living in Deep River”
So we could say that I am enclosed in or surrounded by Christ and that God’s choice is not simply me but me “in Christ”. God chose me surrounded in Christ to be holy and blameless.
When did he make this choice?
Before the foundation of the kosmos (world). Before the big bang. Before Adam, Abraham, Moses, David or anyone else existed God chose me. This means that God chose me long before I existed. The implications of this are staggering.
- God knows everything that will ever happen from the beginning of time to the end and he knew it before anything was created.
- He created the kosmos knowing every being that would exist and what they would do.
- In spite of the great evil and resulting suffering that would be perpetrated on his creation he still chose to create it which, if he is indeed good, means that the eventual outcome will be worth the price paid in suffering.
- He created beings that would rebel and he would have to deal with their rebellion by sending his Son to die on a cross.
- He chose some (or perhaps all) of his creatures to be holy and blameless “in Christ”.
Life on the Timeline
If you watch a video you can pause the playback at any given moment. The subjects of the video would consider that moment “now”. As the viewer, you can rewind, or fast forward it to observe a moment in the “past” or “future.” These terms: “now”, “past” and “future” are subjective references to a point on the timeline and the subjects of your video are bound to life on the timeline but you are not. So when you think of Walter White from the TV series Breaking Bad, are you thinking of the meek & mild Walter White of the first episode or are you thinking of the ruthless, murdering drug kingpin of the last episode? Because we exist on the timeline we cannot conceive of what it must be like to consider both and everything in between when we think of the creature named Walter White.
In fact, we tend to think of people only in the moment we call “now” or perhaps in the most recent moment that we have recollection of them. But God must not think of us in the same limited way. When God thinks of me, he thinks of every moment of me from the crying infant to the infirm aged man taking his last breath.
Before the foundation of the world, God could see the timeline. He could see what his creation would do given the choice to act. He could see what I am going to have for breakfast today and could (if he chose to) reveal to me exactly what it would be prior to my making it. Does this mean he “predestined” me to have oatmeal? Does it mean that I had no real choice in the matter?
Of course, God probably doesn’t mind one way or the other what I have for breakfast. But if he did, he could influence my choice. Perhaps he could remind me of the smell of eggs and bacon. Or he could command an infestation of worms in the oats so that I throw them out and eat something else. What he would not do is simply change my mind for me. At least I don’t think so.
If God’s choice for me was to be holy and blameless then which me is he referring to? By that I mean that there is a sense that the Ron of 1974 was a very different creature than the Ron of 2014. Of course, neither Ron could be considered holy and blameless by any stretch of the imagination. One spot, one stain, one blemish committed across these 50 years of living would make me not blameless but blame-worthy. The cumulative effect of living in this fallen world with a sinful nature ensures that by the time my life is ended I will most certainly be judged as unholy and yet scripture says he chose me to be holy.
Could it be that there is yet to come (from my perspective) a moment when God’s assessment of me will be holy and blameless? There is only one such moment where God’s assessment, God’s judgement will matter and that is on the great and terrible day of the Lord.
I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books. (Revelation 20:12 HCSB)
On that day we become unbound from the timeline. All of humanity from the first to the last standing before God at the same moment. All accountable to God. All judged according to their works.
And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15 HCSB)
God’s choice, before the foundation of the world was to have my name written in the book of life. Me, the sinner, the liar, the cheat, the list goes on and on. He chose to see me surrounded by Christ, holy and blameless.