Every four years or so, we have the pleasure of seeing an election campaign here in Canada. This is a time where candidates from various parties participate in a political crusade where they spend months flicking their credentials at us in a lengthy brag-a-thon. There are waves of signs along the roads and lots of not-so-well thought out slogans to draw your attention. These contenders for the crown attempt to show us how competent they are and there is little holding them back in immersing you with all the wonderful accomplishments. That, of course, and sharing through nasty tv adds how their opponents are going to burn down the country. At some point, they’re forced to give a plan as to how they will run the government and how they view the future of the country, province or small town they are hoping to manage. In recent elections, especially on the federal front, there has been little concrete planning except to spend a lot of money on programs. What is shocking is that they peddle plans that demonstrate little to no fiscal responsibility, comparing our hard earned tax dollars to a personal credit card to fund all their activistic endeavours. Their pitch focuses largely upon what they will give to the people in return for their vote. In the olden days, this was considered the equivalent of buying votes and was frowned upon but in our enlightened generation, well, this is now perfectly acceptable. But now try to imagine an election where YOU are the candidate. What would you say to the public about your achievements and competencies? What pitch would you make to convince them to commit to voting for you? How would you view the destiny of the constituents and government that you potentially could be appointed to manage? How would you view your own future in this role? Now, while you think about this, let us consider God’s election and His view of our destinies in terms of the divine revelation.
The first of these heavenly blessings for which we attribute the great eulogy to God are based upon two related verbs mainly chosen and predestined. Paul introduces these with the expression just as to demonstrate how we are blessed.
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would 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)
The first of these two verbs is chosen. Paul introduces us to the biblical concept of election which is arguably one of scripture’s most significant and yet most confused idea. The verb itself is not difficult to define since we use it in our lives as choosing an official to a government position or to a committee but how exactly it fits with God’s blessings has been challenged. We must begin by first identifying it for what it is mainly a blessing. Yahweh has blessed those elected with something special that He has not blessed others. The subject of this verb is God, and the direct object is us. There is nothing said within this text of us choosing Him, regardless of the outcry to the opposite. He hasn’t chosen a plan of salvation or to save as an open concept, but He chose a people and He has chosen them to be holy and blameless, terms relating to salvation. The same apostle Paul could also say:
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
The act of choosing is personal and with little vagueness. So, in other words, God the Father elects a specific people. While this seems simple enough, some are not so convinced and argue that the election is corporate. In other words, when we believe, we are entered in Christ and become the elect because He was first the elect. In other words, it a corporate body that is chosen, not so much the individuals. Elect is, in essence, a title that we received. It is claimed that this concept is similar to that of Israel being God’s elect and an Israelite was elect because of his association with the nation. While I appreciate my brethren who subscribe to this view, I don’t believe it truly conveys the idea since what is often ignored in this interpretation is the chooser. It isn’t the chosen that determine their election but the One who chooses them. Paul’s desire is to make it quite clear that God chooses according to the kind intention of His will (v.6). The only will involved in this election is God’s and Paul didn’t fail to mention that man’s will was included. The oft remark that is made to challenge the personal view of election is what the text doesn’t say. It is said that Paul is not arguing that we are chosen to be in Christ but when we come to be in Christ, we receive this blessing. While we agree that this is not the primary meaning, the election is individual since the redemption and forgiveness of trespasses are personal, not corporate. It should be noted in passing if we are focusing upon what the text doesn’t say, we must acknowledge that it never says that we are chosen because we have chosen to be in Christ. The very foundation of our blessings is Christ and in return what He purchased on the cross was much larger than the forgiveness of sin, but also our election and predestination. There is no room for boasting or human intervention in election since the apostle elsewhere says that it is by His doing you are in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:30). It is through Him that we are believers (1 Peter 1:20-21). The very fact that we are in Christ was by the will of God and His actions.
This election is meant to bring glory to God the elector. The intention of the election was that we would be holy and blameless before Him. The purposed of this election was to bring Him glory so that we may become what we were originally intended to be, like Jesus (Romans 8:29-30). When did this happen? To sway the understanding that the election was based upon anything to do with us, the apostle describes the timeframe of the action of this verb as existing outside of time. The election happened before the foundation of the world and hence before creation or our personal existence. The election happens before we were born. The first blessing is God’s election, and it leads to being holy and blameless, not the other way around. To be holy and blameless is to be set apart and pure in a moral sense as a people who can approach the living God (Colossians 1:22). While this is something that we currently experience or are growing into, the final state that we are holy and blameless is to be prepared for the great day of His appearing (Parousia) when He returns to claim His bride to redeem her (1 Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13). To be holy and righteous is to be like Christ, and in return I’d say it means to be born again.
Predestined As Sons
While in some circles, the doctrine of election can bring about the anathema, the most controversial of these blessings is that of believers being predestined. The term predestined (προορισας) refers to a decision made beforehand. But I don’t believe that this quite gives us the extent of the term. When we think of predestination, we must think in terms of our destinies being established prior to the foundation of the world. The term is used exclusively of an act of God towards others (Romans 8:28-30; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:11; Acts 4:28). Once again, not everyone agrees with this. Some want to argue that we are predestined because of God’s foreknowledge, and He sees of our faith in Christ from eternity past into the future. In Romans 8:29, it is argued that foreknowledge of faith precedes the act of predestining so as to base the giving of the blessing upon the act of the individual. But the Romans 8 text says nothing of foreknowing faith, in fact, it is an action by God towards individuals. To know means more than simply to have knowledge but to have loved with intimacy (Amos 3:2). Our election and predestination are the outpouring of God’s love for a people prior to their existence (1 Peter 1:2). Peter could also say that Christ Himself was foreknown before the foundation of the world, which communicates more than simply a knowledge of actions but an intimacy (1 Peter 1:20). This is why the apostle Paul begins this verse with “in love”. The foundation behind these glorious blessings were found in a love for a people. This is not said to be a love from a people towards their God but God’s love towards people. This love was manifested in the predestining of individuals to adoption as sons. That prepared future was that God would bless and that blessing took on the form of adoption as sons. This was the goal of that predestining love, that we would be adopted as sons. This means that prior we weren’t natural sons but were brought into the family of God and received a privileged position. This was the privilege of Israel as sons to whom belongs the adoption as sons (Romans 9:4; Galatians 4:5) but now belongs to Jews and Gentiles (Romans 8:15; 9:26; 2 Corinthians 6:18). Receiving this adoption as sons is something that we are given in an already/not yet experience. We currently are sons of God in this life after being born again. Paul points out that you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:13) and at the same time, just a few verses later, he can say that we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23). Our adoption is so secured in Christ that we can say that we possess it. While we experience it today, it isn’t until we put on our new clothes and dead is swallowed up by life when we will truly experience our true adoption (1 Corinthians 15:53; 2 Corinthians 5:4)
The Will & Praise of the God Who Predestines
Prior to this adoption, we were sons of wrath destined for destruction (Ephesians 2:2-3). This wasn’t a random, unspecific or even unknown group of individuals, but a particular people who God chose to bring into His family. What Paul continues to emphasize is that this adoption is through Christ. It is through the work of the Saviour, the One whom the Father loved and who purchased the blessing of this predestining adoption. When we consider the decision made unto the blessing of election and predestination, we see that there is one will that was acted upon, and it wasn’t that of man. God didn’t foresee faith, God elected and predestined according to the kind intention of His will. God was the determiner of the outflow of His grace through election and predestination, and the One whom would receive this blessing. It wasn’t done with a grumbling heart but with delight! It was God’s delight to grant this adoption and it is not given to everyone but reserved for those He decided to grant these blessings. This was not an open invitation, but intentional and towards a purpose. In furthering the emphasis upon God’s choice in distributing these blessings with delight, Paul moves to a more glorious purpose to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (v.6). He blessed us before the foundation of the world so that He might receive praise in history. The praise that is lifted is not that of an acclamation of a man’s free will decision in history doing the right thing but of His unmerited favour towards man outside of man. He doesn’t grant it to us because of anything in us, but freely bestows it, as an act of unmerited mercy and love. The term used bestow (εχαριτωσεν) is interrelated with the term grace (χαρις) demonstrating that it is given as a gift. All these blessings are once again articulated through the beloved One. Because He is the object of the Father’s love (Colossians 1:13), we receive the love of God in these heavenly blessings.