Ephesians 1:4 ‘In Him before the foundation of the world.’
Ephesians 1:4 ‘In Him before the foundation of the world.’
Verses one through fourteen of the first chapter of Paul’s epistle to the saints that are at Ephesus are somewhat well known, in the original, to comprise one sentence. This may, perhaps, be disputed among students of the Greek. Yet, the very concept of these many grand and glorious blessings, even possibly, being contained in one sentence is striking and marvelous at the very least. This wonderful statement of the apostle begins with his assertion of the blessings that the people of God have been granted; he has been enabled to speak of them all under the use of the plural in the third verse, when he declared that his addressees—all those having come to faith in Christ, including ourselves today—have each been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.
It is surprising to discover upon searching that this third verse referred to just above is the single verse in the entire epistle where Paul has used ‘blessed,’ once toward God, and once toward us, or ‘blessing,’ only once. Ephesians contains references, as Paul eludes, to so many, yea, to every spiritual blessing, that it is indeed surprising the word blessing is not itself used again in this letter. Count our many blessings, name them one by one. Paul reminds us, firstly, that he chose us in him, and that because of His having foreordained us unto adoption. He continues his soliloquy—technically not only speaking to himself, but to his hearers and readers—with yet more, telling himself, and us, of His grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. This is followed wonderfully with the grand results through that grace of the twofold blessings, having, not only, redemption through his blood, but also, the forgiveness of our trespasses, and these equally, according to the riches of his grace, which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence. By now, if we hadn’t earlier done so, we must be crying out, Why me? Why have I been a recipient of these blessings without number? Why was I made a heritage, vs. 11? And how is it that we should be unto the praise of his glory, vs. 12? We, in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation,—in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
But why in the world—how many multitudes around the world and over many centuries have never heard the word of truth, not even one—why, again, in the world did we ever hear the gospel of our salvation? And how many have heard, yet hearing did not hear? Why was it that we were given ears to hear, in order that having also believed, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise? We were made willing in the day of God’s power to come unto Him through Jesus Christ. But why were we and not others? We were born again; the Holy Spirit of promise regenerating our hearts. This it was that made us willing to come when the Father drew us unto Himself. But why was it us that were made willing and not others? Many have heard and refused to come. Jesus has said in unmistakable terms (John 6:44), No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him, and I will raise him up in the last day. But why me? Josiah Condor set this answer before us:
“Tis not that I did choose thee, For, Lord, that could not be;
This heart would still refuse thee, Hadst thou not chosen me.
Thou from the sin that stained me hast cleansed and set me free;
Of old thou hast ordained me, that I should live to thee.
Condor’s lovely hymn has pointed out much of what Paul has dealt with in the verses under discussion in our focus passage this week. He brings out the biblical reality that we are not saved because we chose Him, intending to demonstrate that something had to be done before we would ever choose Him. This something is alluded to in the next line while admission is made that his heart would still refuse had God not made the first move through His electing grace; something had to be accomplished with respect to that heart that still refused to choose God. Something indeed was accomplished; God the Holy Spirit intersected the sinner’s life and regenerated his heart. He wrote God’s law upon that heart, making the sinner a new creation that happily chose the Lord. This was the only way for the sinner’s stains to be removed; for him to be cleansed. This was the only way for him to be set free; to be declared ‘not guilty;’ to be justified for all of time. But Condor’s last line which is noted above seems to evince in concise terms everything in the proverbial nutshell, when he wrote “Of old thou hast ordained me that I should live to thee.” God ordained him; He predestined him; that is the beginning of the end of his being able to refuse to come. God predestined the sinner that he should live unto God. Someone had to do something and God took the initiative in doing something. But regeneration was not the first thing that He did. Calling was not His first activity in redemption. Neither was granting that this sinner heard the gospel proclaimed the true beginning of the rescue of this lost soul.
It seems that the Key to this mystery has been intimated in verse four of our focus passage. It is this portion of this extended sentence where the apostle has laid the foundation of the determined activity of our Sovereign and Lord, Jehovah of hosts. In the verse now brought to our specific attention, Paul was led by God the Holy Spirit to express this activity of initiating His determined counsel toward a particular sinner, when saying:
Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in love. [or, having in love foreordained.]
The answer to the perennial question that often arises in the heart and mind of believers, Why me? is found in that statement of verse four. God chose His people; His peculiar people, or the people for His own possession even from before the foundation of the world. This is extremely difficult for us to grasp, for we are creatures of time. Indeed, time is one of God’s creations while we are another. While we may imagine that we are understanding ‘before the foundation of the world,’ it is surely beyond the ken of simple human beings; it belongs to the secret things of God. That He placed us in Christ before the beginning; before He created the heavens and the earth. Praise God; we aren’t required to understand in order to believe and to praise Him for His marvelous goodness. He has loved us because He has loved us. He placed us in Christ from whence none can pluck us.
David Farmer, elder
Fellowship Bible Church
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