This Week's Focus Passage

Ephesians 1:4 ‘He chose us in him from before the foundation of the world.’

Ephesians 1:4 ‘He chose us in him from before the foundation of the world.’

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ: even as he chose us in him from before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him, in love having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.—Eph. 1:3-6.

Paul has outdone himself in these verses which begin his famously lengthy sentence to the saints which were at Ephesus. It is alleged by many writers and students of the Greek, that the longest sentence in the New Testament is to be found here in verses 3-14. Even this early portion of that sentence is remarkable for its contents. While the sentiment ‘in Christ,’ or, ‘in Him,’ is one of Paul’s favorite, if not his most favorite expressions, being found in this longest sentence no less than eleven times, it is already to be seen three times in the four verses cited above. Indeed, it may well be argued that being ‘in Christ’ sums up, and is, the epitome of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It may be contended, from Scripture, that if one may be said to be ‘in Christ,’ it may equally be stated that they are among the elect of God. And if any person is said to be among the chosen, or elect, of God, that it is thereby to be understood that they are ‘in Christ.’ These two circumstances go hand in hand. They cannot be separated. It would be the same as to make an attempt to claim, as it were, a distinction between frozen water and ice.

In the passage cited above, verses 3-6, we are witnesses to Paul making use  of this concept at least three times with some variation in form, beginning with ‘in Christ,’ followed by ‘in Him,’ and lastly, ‘in the Beloved.’ The apostle makes reference to the reality that every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places that we have ever received, or shall ever receive, has been received ‘in Christ,’ even as he subsequently ascribes our adoption as sons to be ‘through Jesus Christ;’ this adoption being yet another glorious and spiritual blessing bestowed upon us only because of our being ‘in Christ.’ So when were we at the first to be found ‘in Christ’?

It is somewhat popular among believers to enjoy making ‘chains.’ Martin Luther referred years ago to the 176 verses which comprise the wondrous 119th Psalm as a beautiful ‘chain’ of jewels.’ And it would be difficult to disagree with that sentiment. Yet others have attempted to speak of ‘chains’ of salvation, often having reference to the eighth chapter of Romans, and verses 28-30, where we may happily read the apostle’s glorious language speaking of the many different links of the believer’s salvation, while saying:

And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren: and whom he fore-ordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

From this lovely passage then, this ‘chain of salvation’ has been proposed by many; a chain, as it were, of the features of salvation, or the individual steps (not steps that we take, but steps that God has ordained). There is commonly some minor dissension over the use of the word, foreknew, followed by foreordained, since there are those in the church that have chosen to assert, against predestination, that those whom He foreordained were only so foreordained in the sense that God, knowing all things, knew from the beginning who they would be. It is not, they say, that God had elected them, or predestined them unto salvation, simply that He knew who those would be that would exercise their free will in choosing to come to Him through Jesus Christ.

So these would assert that knowing who these were, never minding that He knew who they were because He had foreordained them, these were those that upon being ‘called’ through the proclamation of the gospel, would come to Jesus. By their coming to Jesus through faith, they were also justified. And those whom He justified, were subsequently to be glorified. This then forms the supposed ‘chain of salvation.’ God knew, because He knows all things, who they were that would believe in Jesus when ‘called’ by the preaching of the Gospel. These folk He would justify for their faith. These would also be ultimately glorified. This all sounds well and good.

Is there a missing link in this assumption? What about this example where the apostle has chosen to use a different form of language to describe those who are to be saved, when he says at the beginning of this extended sentence that we are taking notice of this week. He has employed the magnificent expression,

Even as he chose us in him from before the foundation of the world.

Sinful man, even if he wishes to be saved from the guilt and penalty of his sin, continues in his Adamic nature, to make every effort to save himself, by himself. His Adamic pride insists upon contributing something to his salvation. But the teaching of the apostle in our focus passage gives no allowance for any such synergism in this matter of the salvation of sinners from the just wrath of God. As we may read in the prayer of Jonah, ‘Salvation is of Jehovah.’ Indeed, salvation is entirely, completely, of Jehovah or it is not salvation at all. Man can do nothing to contribute to his own salvation; not even that one last inch in the enormous distance between a Holy God and sinful man. Going down an aisle does not complete what God began from time immemorial. He completes what He began when He chose those for whom Christ would pour out His precious blood at Golgotha; when He chose us in Him even before the foundation of the world. Among the many supporting passages in the Word of God is none more confirmative than that of 2 Timothy 1:9; the apostle Paul;

God, who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal.


David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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