The Elect of God
By Eddie Cloer
"Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:4-6).
Everyone likes to be remembered. Perhaps this desire in all of us is what has given rise to some of our popular colloquial expressions. We write across a birthday card we are sending to a loved one, "I'm thinking of you." In a telephone conversation, we say to a friend whose companionship has been especially dear to us, "I've been thinking of you." As we say good-by to home folks when we leave on a vacation or on another trip, we say, "We'll be thinking about you." These are tender expressions which convey that a person is special and has not been or will not be forgotten. When sincerely spoken or written to us, these expressions touch and encourage us.
If it is meaningful to us to hear friends and relatives say that they are or have been thinking of us, how much more meaningful it is to hear God say that we are special in His sight! If you are in Christ, God has said this very thing to you. Paul said in Ephesians 1:4-6 that Christians are the chosen of God. All redeemed ones in Christ are assured by the Scriptures that they are the elect of God! Does this not greatly encourage you?
We know from the way Paul worded this sentence that the Spirit meant for us to see being chosen of God as something very important, something greater than any earthly honor. Paul was writing to the church in Ephesus in Asia Minor. The theme for his epistle could be summarized with the phrase "the church, the body of Christ." Paul wrote at the beginning of the letter that the church is made up of the ones whom God has chosen. They are the elect of God, the ones whom He has selected for His divine blessings. He calls this type of choosing "predestination," a determining beforehand or a choosing in advance (Ephesians 1:5).
This matter of God's choosing us raises some questions, does it not? Was Paul saying that God chooses one person to be saved and another to be lost? How could God have a special love for each person of the world, as Jesus said in John 3:16, if He chooses one for heaven and another for hell?
Let us give careful thought to this passage and allow Paul to answer our questions on this fascinating subject of predestination. In Ephesians 1:4-6, we will see how God loves everyone, how He thought of us before the foundation of the world, and how He chose to have chosen ones.
CHOSEN IN HIM
First, Paul said that God "chose us in Him..." (Ephesians 1:4; emphasis mine). The body of His Son is the place where God has chosen to offer to man His salvation and His other spiritual blessings. Those who have come into this body are the chosen of God.
In the larger context of Ephesians 1:4-6, the entire doxology of 1:3-14, which is said to be the longest sentence in the Bible, Paul enumerates specific blessings which God has placed in Christ. He mentions adoption as God's children (v. 5), forgiveness (v. 7), redemption (v. 7), wisdom and insight (v. 8), a summing up in Christ (v.10), an inheritance (v.11), and the sealing of the Holy Spirit (v.13).
God, in ageless eternity past, decided that those who would come into Christ and would avail themselves of Christ's gift of grace would be His chosen ones, chosen for His blessings and His salvation. This plan of salvation was predestined, determined beforehand, by God in eternity past. He was not capricious or partial in His choosing. He did not predestine one person to be lost and another person to be saved, but He did determine that the only ones He would save would be those who receive the salvation of Christ by entering His spiritual body, the church.
The word "predestine" means "to fix before," whereas "foreknowledge" means "to know before." Perhaps God foreknows who will be saved and who will be lost, but He does not predestine their personal salvation or their personal destruction. Each person chooses whether or not he will be saved by what he decides to do about coming into Christ.
These two subjects, foreknowledge and predestination, are obviously too deep for us to understand completely. To some degree, we will just have to accept by faith what the Bible says concerning them. The Bible does imply" though, that God can foreknow without predestining. The foreknowledge of God has been likened to our memory. We can remember what happened yesterday, but our remembering the events of yesterday does not cause them to happen. Perhaps the foreknowledge of God goes forward in time somewhat the way our memories go backward in time. God may see the future in His foreknowledge even as we see the past in our memory. In His omniscience, He sees the future; but His seeing it does not make the events of the future happen.
Both concepts of free moral choice and predestination are found in the New Testament in one verse, Acts 2:23. They are used in the same sentence and do not contradict each other. Peter said, "This Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death" (Acts 2:23). God foreknew the death of Jesus; He even predetermined it or predestined it, but He held responsible the godless men who did it. The free moral choice of man and foreknowledge and predestination by God are found in this one verse, yet one concept does not cancel out the other.
God planned or predestined our salvation in Christ before the foundation of the world, but we must choose to come into the sphere of salvation, the body of Christ, to be saved. Anyone can choose to be among the chosen of God. Someone has said, "The whosoeverwill's are the elect, and the whosoever-won'ts are the non-elect."
Have you been chosen of God? How can you know that you have been chosen of Him? According to Paul, the answer is simple: Are you in Him? Those who are in Christ can rejoice that they are among the chosen. In Christ we are in the place of blessing which God chose or predestined in dateless eternity past. If we faithfully live in Christ during our time on the earth, heaven will be our eternal inheritance.
CHOSEN FROM ETERNITY
Second, Paul said that the elect ones of God, the church, were chosen from eternity, chosen before the foundation of the world. His words are, " ..... He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,..." (Ephesians 1:4; emphasis mine).
Paul used a very basic Greek word which has been translated "foundation" in the NASB. It actually means "before the beginning of the beginning." God first thought of us, picked us out to be His peculiar people, in beginningless eternity past before we sinned, before we were created, and before the world was made. In His holy and infinite mind, He chose us to be His elect people by devising a plan of salvation which centered in Jesus, His death on the cross, and the spiritual body of Christ, the church. In this sense, Jesus can be spoken of as the Lamb of God who was slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8; 1 Peter 1:19, 20).
God told Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). Paul said that God had set him apart, even from his mother's womb (Galatians 1:15). God did not violate the free moral choice of Jeremiah or Paul, but He had His mind on them before they were born. God can devise, plan, and even predestine, without interfering with the free choice of His creation. We may not understand it, but we can stand on it because of the clear teaching of God's Word.
If you want to know how important the church is to God, consider His choosing the church to be His elect people before the foundation of the world. God made this choice before He created anything. We often convey our priorities regarding a given circumstance to someone by saying, "When that happened, I first thought of...... It is our way of revealing what we considered at that moment to be most important to us. By the probing instrument of God's Word, we can see in a similar way what is most important to God by looking at what was first in His mind: "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." The church as His chosen ones, as His elect people, was in God's mind before the creation of the world.
How dear the elect are to God! They have been in the mind of God from before the beginning of time. This truth should enliven and strengthen us with divine encouragement.
CHOSEN FOR HOLINESS
Third, Paul said that we have been chosen for holiness. He wrote, ". ... He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him" (Ephesians 1:4; emphasis mine). We have been chosen for a purpose.
God has chosen the church to be His people and to reflect His character or likeness. He has ordained that His church be holy. Peter said, "But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy"' (1 Peter 1:15, 16). Holiness means being cleansed of sin and being set apart for God's sacred use.
God has also chosen His people to be blameless. This word means "without blemish" or "without fault." It indicates the goal of the people of God. We are to strive to live faultless lives before Him. Although we will never completely achieve this ambition in this life, it is the continual attitude of our hearts. Our strivings after holiness and blamelessness will not be realized until we stand before His throne in eternity. Christians, because of the cherished directives of their Lord, seek to live before God so that no legitimate accusation can be brought against them.
God planned or predestined our salvation in Christ before the foundation of the world, but we must choose to come into the sphere of salvation, the body of Christ, to be saved.
Paul also said that God "predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself" (1:5). He has chosen us to be His children. Adoption in this context means "to receive all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of sonship." At the moment of adoption, we receive all that sonship in God's family implies. God predestined-determined beforehand, decided in beginningless eternity past-that He would adopt those who came into Jesus and would make them His children, giving them all the rights, riches, and responsibilities of His divine family.
Suppose you were called by a radio station and were told, "You have been chosen. We have selected you." You would immediately ask, "Chosen for what?"
Suppose the caller said, "We have chosen you, but we don't know what for. We didn't have anything special in mind when we picked you out. All we can tell you right now is that you are the chosen one. We had thousands of names in a basket, and when the drawing took place, you were chosen. So we have called to congratulate you." The excitement of being the chosen one would immediately fade when you heard, "We don't know what you were chosen for." You would no longer feel chosen or exceptional. The thrill of being chosen would be lost in the confusion of its meaning.
God has a purpose behind His choosing. God chose us to receive His salvation in Christ, to be adopted as His sons, and to live holy and blameless lives as His very own people in this world. He has chosen us to live set apart as His called out people with a divine mission.
Holiness and blamelessness are maintained by a consistent commitment to God's Word. We have been set apart or called to holiness through obedience to God's will, and our living in His will makes us faultless or blameless before Him. Let us take to heart the words of our brother Peter:
Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you (2 Peter 1: 10,11).
CHOSEN BY GRACE
Fourth, we are chosen by grace. Paul said that God chose us "according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved" Ephesians 1:5,6; emphasis mine). In other words, this choosing was initiated and consummated by the goodness and kindness of God.
What is the "kind intention of His will"? God's will has commandments, directions, and precepts. His entire will, in all of its scope and subjects, has a basic intention, an ultimate motivation, and a gracious design. What is this basic intention? Is it not salvation from sin and life with Him? In other words, He seeks the best for us. All that God has done, He has done out of His benevolent interest in our true well-being. Peter said, "The Lord ... is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Paul wrote, "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:3, 4).
The existence of the church, as the chosen people of God, is "to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6). God planned the church, prophesied the coming of the church, sent Jesus to lay the foundation of the church, sent Jesus to die on the cross to purchase the church, miraculously started the church on Pentecost, and has providentially guided the preaching of the gospel-but all of this was done as a fulfillment of His compassionate intent for the salvation of the world. The result of His divine action, the existence of the church, is to the praise of the glory of His grace. The church cannot boast of starting from nothing and becoming a worldwide body. It can only glory in God's gracious intent and actions. Our glory is His grace.
Have you ever known anyone who constantly sought your best interest? Have you known one whose attitude, instead of being "me first," has always been "you first"? Has anyone preferred you in everything? If you could take the image of the most unselfish and generous person you have ever known and multiply that image a million times, you would have only a beginning of a picture of what God is like. Everything He does is in accordance with His loving kindness.
With gratitude for His grace, we should rejoice in the salvation we have in Christ, the mission He has given us, and the glorious future we have with Him as the chosen of God in endless eternity future. The heart of every saint should be constantly singing the theme song of the matchless grace of God. The superabundant grace of God should produce in us gratitude, praise, faith, and obedience.
Truly, the Holy Spirit through the pen of Paul has taught us that the church is the elect of God. He has told us that God chose us in Him, chose us from eternity, chose us for holiness, and chose us by His grace. We are the apple of His eye. We were His first thought as He planned the creation of the world, and we are His main thought now.
Anyone who is outside of Christ, outside the sphere of the chosen, should choose to enter His body without delay. When I was in high school, exceptional students were chosen to be placed among the "Who's Who" of the high school yearbook. Only a few were chosen, and the choices were based upon the students' popularity, superb talents, and excellent records. God's "Who's Who" is the church. Being among His "Who's Who" is a choice we make, not one that God makes. He places us among this elect group through our faith and obedience to Christ, not because of our popularity, talents, or records. Through His loving grace bestowed upon us in His Beloved, Jesus Christ, God invites all the nonelect to enter Christ's body and become one of the elect, one chosen for salvation, abundant life, and eternal life in heaven.
Elect to be among the elect. Choose to be one of the chosen ones. Decide to be one of God's predestined children.
QUESTIONS FOR STUDY
For Preaching and Teaching Purposes: Sermon or Teaching Type: Basic pattern; deductive; expository. Subject: The church. Theme: The church, the elect of God. Title: The Elect of God. Preaching or Teaching Portion: Ephesians 1:4-6. Proposition: (Declarative) The church is the chosen of God. Interrogative Question or Probing Question: How? Key Word: Ways. Major Points: I. Chosen in Him; II. Chosen From Eternity; III. Chosen for Holiness; IV. Chosen by Grace. Sermonic or Teaching Objective: To persuade the non-Christian to enter the Lord's church.