By Stan Brown
Ephesians 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love
I could wade around in the shallows for a while but I can’t avoid the issue in Ephesians so, I dive into the deep end. Alright, let’s face the matter of election head on. Sooner or later we either have to walk around it or answer any questions that might arise from it. It is our faith through which we receive His gift of salvation. It would be easy to get around the idea of election in this verse by making the “we and us” collective rather than personal meaning that God made a choice in eternity past that everyone who believes in Him would be holy and blameless. This would mean that He did not choose us in eternity past but rather the choice in eternity past was to make holy and blameless those who would choose Him. That’s a nifty (or maybe shifty) way to get around the idea of election but does not do justice to the passage, so let’s move past eisegesis (reading into the passage what I want it to say) unto exegesis (letting the passage speak to us its true meaning). I could write fifty-two pages on this subject. As it is, I am writing more than I would like. Anyway, here it comes.
The Word of God teaches two parallel truths about salvation. lthough they may appear contradictory to us, both are taught in Scripture and rather than try to explain either one of them away we must accept the tension present in the teaching of God’s Word.
Paul clearly states He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. Praise the God of all that is. I am His choice. This means I possess all of the blessings that Paul enumerates in Ephesians. This means that I am eternally secure in Him. I am not just an afterthought. God desires me to be His child. It is exhilarating to realize that God cares for me to the point that He chose me. He loves me personally and I am His whether I like it or not. Praise His Holy Name!!!
Paul clearly states in Eph. 1:13 that our salvation results from our belief, having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise. Paul clearly states in Eph. 2:8 that it is through our faith that we receive God’s gift. (Some would suggest that faith is a gift of God in Eph. 2:8, but the Greek construction makes that view impossible. The gift is salvation that we receive through our responsibility of faith; that is to believe.) John says in John 3:16 whoever believes in Him has eternal life. John did not write, whoever was chosen by God and believes in Him has eternal life. In John 3:18, John writes that condemnation is based on our failure to believe rather than the fact that we were not chosen. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Clearly the responsibility of belief is placed upon us.
I am trying to keep this short but it's already too late for that (as the preacher says on Sunday morning). Three things are true. (1). I was chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. (2) I am saved because I believe in Him. That is my responsibility. (3) People are condemned because they failed to believe. Clearly, tension surrounds these truths. We cannot reduce that tension so we shouldn’t try. We accept God’s truth because He has revealed it. Euclidean geometry states that two parallel lines never meet. In projective geometry two parallel lines meet at infinity. In our minds, thoughts about God choosing and our responsibility are beset by tension. In the mind of God there is no tension. One quick additional thought; God through the Holy Spirit is always involved in the process of salvation through His work of conviction. This is one reason why we may have confidence as we pray for the salvation of our loved ones. Hmm, the way God answers prayer is also one of those items that raises tension in our minds.
God put this tension here for a reason. It speaks to the fact that although we are made in His image, He and we are vastly different from one another. Does the conclusion bother us? Does it bother us that there are just some things that make perfect sense in the mind of God that cannot be completely understood by human beings? How could it possibly be otherwise? People want to put God in a box so they can explain Him. God will never fit into any box that we design for Him. Let us not be constrained by the limitations of our humanity and accept the revealed truths of God. God is in control of everything since He is God and He chose me to Be His. God holds me responsible to believe in Him. There is tension in the air. God is comfortable with the tension that we feel, after all for Him there is no tension. We must be comfortable with that tension as well. We must accept the beauty of all of God’s truth.
The book of Exodus contains a great illustration of this type of tension. When Aaron made the molten calf as Moses was on the Mountain talking with God, The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation. (Ex. 32:9-10). After Moses presented his case to the LORD, the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people (Ex. 32:14). God certainly had determined what He would do before the foundation of the world, yet God engaged in a real dialogue with Moses in which the LORD changed His mind. The tension here is the same tension that exists between God’s choice and our responsibility.
Now that you have received the final word on the subject of election, we can progress into the remainder of the book (This last sentence is stated with tongue only slightly in cheek).