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Ephesians 1:4 NASB

“just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.

What does it mean to be chosen in Christ? How was this choosing before the foundation of the world? Does it mean that Christians were somehow in Christ ere the world was created?

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    Before we can answer this question we first need to establish when the foundation of the world happened. (Not the foundation of the earth!) Did it happen in the first chapters of Genesis? Or before Genesis one? Or at the time of Noah’s flood? Or, did it happen at the end of time? Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 23:08

5 Answers 5

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The simple explanation is to understand nothing more than what the text says:

  • Eph 1:4 - For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence.

This is an idea that the NT repeats in numerous ways throughout the NT - see the appendix below. That is, God decided to save people before any even sinned.

Stated another way, the appearance of sin did not catch God by surprise, a Savior existed before there was a sinner:

  • 1 Peter 1:20 - He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
  • Rev 13:8 - All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

APPENDIX - God want to save all people

  • John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
  • John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave …”
  • John 12:32, “I [Jesus] … will draw all people to myself.”
  • John 12:47, “… for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.”
  • Acts 17:30, “God … commands all people everywhere to repent.”
  • Rom 3:23, 24, “… for all have sinned … and all are freely forgiven...”
  • Rom 5:8, 10, “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … if, while were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him by the death of His Son, …”
  • Rom 5:15, “But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s [Adam’s] offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to the many.” [Note the same word, “many” applies to all people.]
  • Rom 5:18, “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all people, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all people, resulting in justification of life.”
  • Rom 11:32, “For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.”
  • 2 Cor 5:14, “…we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”
  • 2 Cor 5:18, 19, “…God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ …”
  • 1 Tim 2:3, 4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
  • 1 Tim 2:6, “[Jesus Christ] gave Himself as a ransom for all people.”
  • 1 Tim 4:10, For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe.
  • Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God appeared bringing salvation to all people.”
  • Heb 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”
  • 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
  • 1 John 2:2, “He Himself [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours [Christians to whom John writes] only but also for the whole world.”
  • Isa 53:6, “We all like sheep have gone astray … and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

The Bible frequently makes this same point of wanting to save all people by emphasizing that God does not show favouritism but treats all people impartially (Duet 10:17-19, 2 Chron 19:7, Eze 18:25, Mk 12:14, Acts 10:34 Rom 2:10-11; Eph 6:9, 1 Pet 1:17).

Thus, God saved (“elected”) all people by extending His Grace to everyone, even before they sinned! Further, God did this without any input from us, nor request from us, nor consultation with sinners (Eph 2:5). Unfortunately, many will reject this wonderful, free offer.

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  • elect means "in the club" already and no matter how much you want to deny or lessen this "truth" by listing god(s) love the "world" (elect only), if you're not the elect, you're going to hell, period.
    – VNPython
    Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 10:50
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    @VNPython - yes and no. If God chose all people to be saved before the foundation of the world, then all people will be saved - unless they choose not to be saved, as many will. You cannot deny the plain statements of the Bible listed above unless you want to cling to dogma over Bible statements. That is, salvation is an opt-out system, not an opt-in system as many churches try to make out. That is how real divine grace works.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 10:58
  • IF everyone is to be saved, "chosen" so no matter how hard you try not to be chosen by sinning and going against everything good, will still be "saved" in the end. Maybe a slap on your hand for not being "good" person. IF so, then what's the point for jesus's death?
    – VNPython
    Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 11:03
  • @VNPython - Jesus' death enabled the salvation for all people. Only those who choose not to be saved are lost. Please read the texts quoted above.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 11:12
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In the headline question "in" is italicised as needing particular attention. In this answer I take two ways of seeing "in" to compare their merits.

A. chosen 'to be in' Christ. Here based on God's eternal sovereignty [eg Mat 28:18] God chooses who will be in Christ and thus saved and go to heaven.

B. chosen 'who are in' Christ. Here God chooses those who are already in Christ that due to their being in Christ, he will save them. If one brings a belief in free-will to this verse then that allows the possibility of created man ultimately deciding whether they go to heaven or not.

Other verses apart from Eph 1:4 may or may not prove free-will exists but if Eph 1:4 is ambiguous about free-will existing, we should not force our beliefs on it. We need to see this verse for what it is rather than what we can make of it.

Eph 1:5 and 1:11 are part of the context of 1:4 and I think for the following reasons push the meaning to A.

Ephesians 1:5

"he predestined us for adoption [placed in sonship] as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will". ESV My bracket.

God predestinates. He places for sonship. He acts according to his will. In these three statements God appears to take the initiative, but again that might be his reacting to something created man first did.

Passing on through the continuing argument we come to Eph 1:11

"In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will". My emphasis.

God predestinates and works "all things". This rules out any created being ultimately originating something. In Eph 1:11 "all things" includes our "willingness".

If our willingness to cooperate with his grace is a manifestation of Christ's grace already at work in us, then Christians are chosen "to be in" Christ before the foundation of the world. [What other meaning could there be for "all things?"].

Chosen to be in Christ fits with Romans 11:36 "all things". "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things".

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There is a difference between natural affection and personal love. There are instincts of affection towards nature. But there is a much deeper love for the person within the nature of the existence in which they exist.

So also, God loves the creatures whom he created : he is kind towards them and generous and cares for them, not desiring evil to any one of them.

Yet, there is a deeper love that he has towards his own, those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.

The foreknowledge of God perceived them, and God predestined their salvation under the Headship of a humanity yet to come.

They came to light - came into existence - in Adam, as indeed they must in righteousness. This as to their nature, the natural manifestation of their existence within the creation.

But their destiny, predetermined, already foreknown, was as to their individual person, their unique being.

They were ever seen in Christ. They were ever seen under his Headship in a new humanity.

There was ever a kinsman nearer than flesh and blood (see the book of Ruth and the gaal, the kinsman-redeemer).


Hereby we may know the Divine nature of Deity - God, who creates humanity in Adam.

And hereby we may also know the Divine Person of Deity - the Father, who begets again, in Christ, through Holy Spirit.

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    there is a deeper love that he has towards his own, those chosen in Christ; so God IS as respecter of persons He arbitrarily decides upon?
    – Steve
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 3:53
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    It is evident that not all humanity is chosen in Christ, else would all believe in Christ. The 'respect' is for the One in whom the choice is made (not the ones being chosen).
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 3:55
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    It seems an incongruent concept that 'God IS love' yet you say there are levels (deeper) within that true and perfect love? On what would you base support for this? You say - 'not the ones being chosen' - but you refer to as 'those'.
    – Steve
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 4:05
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    @steveowen I prefer not to enlarge at length in comment, thank you. My answer is confined to the OP's question and I do not wish to extend its scope at the present time.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 4:09
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In context, the word “chose” does not convey a sense of exclusivity. Speaking to the Gentile church, the way Paul uses “chose” brings to mind the love of a parent who desires to raise a family and wills to bring new life into the world. “He chose us” and therefore we are chosen, we are wanted, we are loved (Eph 2:4).

Exclusivity enters the picture with the words “in Him.” The passage hinges upon these two words. Those who were chosen were chosen in Christ. Outside of, apart from him, by any other way, no one was chosen (cf 1 Tim 2:5, Acts 4:12).

“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” God’s will was purposed from the very beginning, even before we were brought into existence, even before the world came to be. God had given thought to “us” and planned our destiny through Christ to be the adopted sons and daughters of God (Eph 1:5).

“That we should be holy and without blame before him.” This last clause reveals the mechanics of God’s plan. To be chosen in Christ is to be holy and without blame. For we all are by nature born the children of wrath.

And you were dead in your offenses and sins, 2 in which you previously walked according to the course of this world… 3 Among them we too all previously lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the rest. – Eph 2:1-3

In this state we are far from God, but God has made it possible for us to come close to Him (Eph 2:13), so that those who were born as strangers can become part of his household and fellow citizens with the saints (Eph 2:19). But such a reality is possible only in Christ, for through Christ we have forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:5-7) and in Christ we obtain an inheritance and are sealed with the Spirit (Eph 1:11-14), without which we cannot reach the goal that God intended for us (Eph 3:16).

Paul emphasizes that it is God’s plan, His work and His gift. Even before we were created, God set man’s destination and in Christ He prepared the way. All that is left is for those who are chosen in Christ to walk accordingly (Eph 4-6).

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. – Eph 2: 10

Reference:

“What the Bible Says about Predestination.” Zondervan Academic, 16 July 2017, https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/predestination.

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  • *accidentally press post before i finish my sentence *
    – VNPython
    Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 10:54
  • well with this chosen verse, this would make Paul's saying look awfully bad: For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13 NET (ouch!)
    – VNPython
    Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 10:56
  • @VNPython I'm not sure what you mean. Could you explain what you mean by "this chosen verse" and how it would make Rom 10:13 look bad?
    – Nhi
    Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 11:58
  • If you're not the "chosen" no matter how you "calls on the name of the lord" you wont be saved. 🙄
    – VNPython
    Commented Jul 16, 2023 at 12:05
  • @VNPython I think you have misunderstood. What I am trying to say is that we are all, without exception, chosen in Christ, and everyone who calls on His name will be saved. These truths do not contradict but complement one another. "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)
    – Nhi
    Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 12:10
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A significant challenge to us is that we exist in time and we cannot imagine a perspective outside of space and time. But I'll try anyway.

Since God created space and time, he must of necessity have existed outside of what he created (as described in Genesis 1:1, time space, matter). It also means that God can work anywhere within space and time, because he is not stuck in space and time as we are.

  • So, a view of history outside of time means that all events appear simultaneously everywhere.
  • So, "after" you choose to accept God's gift of salvation, God can "go back in time" and predestine you to do so (except with God, there's no after or before).
  • So, an approximation of God's perspective of each of us is very roughly like watching a parade with each of us being a child, a teenager, an adult, and everything in between making free will choices at each point in the parade while God can freely observe us and interact at any and every point in history.

God's descriptions of himself includes

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” - Revelation 1:8 ESV

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” - Exodus 3:14 ESV

However, I believe the purpose of Paul's statements indicating predestination puts up a barrier against pride and any belief that we're somehow superior to everyone else who isn't a believer. He wants believers to be humble and sympathetic toward everyone!

If this were not the case, then God must have either made a decision to predestine believers because of some intrinsic quality, or God made a completely arbitrary and random decision. Neither of these sound like the God who created us in his own image.

We notice from the Genesis account of creation that God created this universe ex nihilo. He spoke his Word through the Logos and creation appeared.

Strange as it may seem, those who have studied quantum mechanics know that this is also true with humans to a minuscule degree. Numerous experiments have confirmed that when we observe or measure entirely mathematical probability waves, our decision to do so will cause "the collapse of the wavefunction" instantiating a tiny particle such as an electron, photon or even a small molecule.

What we consider “real” isn’t real by our definitions of real. Mathematical probability waves have been experimentally shown to are more real than the location in space-time. This includes effects such as quantum tunneling, quantum erasure, and the quantum Zeno effect.

Quantum effects are the most precisely measured and confirmed in all of science (up to 10 parts per billion). The effects are not in question, but their interpretation is highly controversial among theoretical physicists, reportedly even to the point of a shouting match at a conference.

Thus, what now seems fundamental to reality involves information, conscious observation/measurement, probability, and conscious choice. Everything else that we consider “real” emerges from these fundamental elements.

Many physicists find this disturbing. Niels Bohr, who was awarded the 1922 Nobel Prize in physics for his application of quantum theory to atomic and molecular structure, expressed it this way:

Everything we call real is made up of things that cannot be regarded as real. If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.

Another Nobel Prize winner, Werner Heisenberg, wrote the following in his 1958 book, Physics and Philosophy:

In the experiments about atomic events, we have to do with things and facts, the phenomena that are just as real as in daily life. But the atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real. They form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things and facts.

Quantum theory is now widely accepted by physicists. For example, Vlatko Vedral is a professor of Physics at the University of Oxford who specializes in quantum theory and whose research papers are widely cited expresses the concept this way:

The most fundamental definition of reality is not matter or energy, but information–and it is the processing of information that lies at the root of all physical, biological, economic, and social phenomena.

Let’s compare Dr. Vedral’s description to the beginning of the Gospel of John in the New Testament:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. – John 1:1 (NASB)

“Word” here is translated from the original Greek word logos, which encompasses meanings in English that include a word, a thought, a concept, a plan, reasoning, and logic—all of which represent information.

In light of these jarring discoveries challenging our materialistic perspective of the universe, how much more likely are we mistaken about the nature of God, predestination, free will, and time.

Thus my interpretation of passages such as in Ephesians 1:4, focus on Paul's motive rather than a description of God's modus operandi or thinking.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55:9 ESV

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