ELDER NEIL PHELAN JR.
HE HATH CHOSEN US
"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" -Ephes. 1:4
As we read the first four verses from the book of Ephesians, we find some of the clearest statements ever penned by the Apostle Paul. These simple truths place our feet firmly back on solid ground, on the rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ. If we ever forget who we are, where we are going, and who saved us from our sins, let us remember "he hath chosen us".
This fourth verse of the Ephesian letter is packed with power. Paul uses the next two chapters of this book to illustrate what he has written in this verse. We might consider this verse as the springboard for the first three chapters of this letter to the church at Ephesus.
Within this one verse we learn: 1) That it was God who first chose us and that we did not first choose Him: "he hath chosen"; 2) Who God chose: "us"; 3) When God made this choice: "before the foundation of the world"; 4) God's purpose behind the choice: "that we should be holy and without blame"; 5) "What moved God to make the choice in the first place: "love".
It is certain that Paul wrote this verse in a very simple and concise manner, in order that God's people might grasp these foundational principles and build upon them. We can throw away many false ideas when we submit our hearts unto the simplicity of God's word.
"HE HATH CHOSEN US"
What a difference it makes when we are blessed to understand that it was God who first chose us and that we did not first choose God. God always comes first because He was first. God was before Adam, creating Adam by the power of His Word from the dust of the earth. God was first, creating woman from a rib of the man. We observe God first, not only in creation, but also in the beginning of each loving relationship He shares with His people "We love him, because he first loved us" -1 John 4:19. God approached Abraham first, telling him to "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee". God made the first contact in the life of Saul of Tarsus during his Damascus road experience when Saul exclaimed "Who art thou, Lord?" We now know Saul, as the Apostle Paul, and so it is every time the Lord touches one that He loves.....there is a change.
If you can say today that you love God you must also acknowledge that it was God who first approached you. Even though we may be like Saul, taught by parents or loved ones about the God of the universe, the only knowledge we would ever have of God is head knowledge had God not touched us with His divine grace and changed our heart.
Before God touched us with his grace we were "dead in sins"-v5. A dead person can not hear, can not see, and can not respond in any way. We must first be made alive spiritually, born again, before we can see spiritual things, hear spiritual things, take one spiritual step or make one spiritual choice. There we were and there we would forever have remained "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)" -Eph 2:4-5. God comes first in regeneration, birthing us into His eternal family. To be quickened is to be made alive, to be born from above and it is God only who has this power because we were "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" -John 1:13. The heart knowledge of God (love and feelings toward God) comes only from God in regeneration, when we are born from above and brought into divine relationship with our eternal Father. The only way we can ever have a loving relationship with our heavenly father is because He first touched us by His divine presence.
Just to imagine that God, before the foundation of the world, knew us intimately, and in spite or our shortcomings, in spite of our failings, in spite of our sins, "hath chosen us".
When Jesus paid for our sins upon Calvary's cross, He knew every individual he died for personally and intimately for "by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities" Isaiah 53:11. Jesus came first in our salvation, knowing His elect long before He "was made flesh, and dwelt among us"; long before He became our sin upon the cross. The redemption of the cross was specific or particular redemption. The elect were given to Christ before the foundation of the world and it was for the benefit of this chosen people that Jesus descended from glory as He "came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day" - John 6:38-39. If we believe in a successful savior, we believe that Jesus eternally secured all He died for. Jesus didn't make salvation a possibility, He made it a reality, He knew who He died for because "he hath chosen us."
We must never forget that choice is a privilege which is afforded to those who have the freedom and the power to exercise that right. The black slave of the 1800's had very few choices extended to him. Apart from the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we were all slaves to sin, guilty as charged, unable to bring ourselves above our own fallen depravity "wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience". A prisoner can make no choice, he must first be set free.
Now if we can consider ourselves in the position of being "dead in sins", we can understand the necessity of God making the first move and we are very thankful that "he hath chosen us."
C.H. Spurgeon once said something like this: "these little words like 'we' and 'us' are like the door of Noah's ark: they shut out and they shut in." In this verse of scripture, the word "chosen" is translated from the Greek word, "eklegomai", which means "to select: make choice, or chosen." This implies, that God made a choice. Now, as we read this verse of scripture, do we find a preacher involved in this choice? Do we find a particular church? Do we find the works or activity of any individual or group of individuals involved in this choice of God.
As we go to the polls to vote we have the privilege to vote for any candidate on the ballot. But we must recognize God's sovereignty in the election of His people: this is God's election and His vote is the only one that counts! "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" When we speak of God making a divine choice we are exalting the sovereignty of our God. We place Him in command and control and we know that even if men fail, heaven will be populated.
This very word, "eklegomai", comes from the Greek word "eklektos". "Eklektos" is the Greek word which is translated into the word "elect" in the New Testament. These chosen of God can be none other than God's "ELECT"!
The doctrine of election is taught throughout the whole Bible. God chose Israel above all other nations; God chose his prophets; God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus; and concerning the twelve Apostles Jesus said "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you" John 15:16.
Election is not predicated upon performance, chance or ability. Election echoes the sovereign choice of God. There are many people who acknowledge election as a solid Bible doctrine but try to blend in the works and activity of man to make it fit their theology. Calvinists believe that all of the elect will at some point in their life hear the gospel and respond appropriately, thus securing their eternal destiny and declaring their election. Others believe that one must hear the gospel and respond to it appropriately to become one of the elect. But each of these ideas place the gospel as God, either saving us or condemning us; a God which is tied to the legs of men or to sophisticated means of travel to carry the gospel to its saving destination. This is why Jesus said "search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me" -John 5:39. The scriptures do not give eternal life, they testify of the one who gives it. Therefore the gospel nor the scriptures have any thing to do with making or selecting the elect. As the poet wrote "only God can make a tree" and we might add "only God can make the elect".
The preaching of the gospel does not make the elect, but rather informs the elect and brings "life and immortality to light through the gospel" -II Tim 1:9. The gospel shines the light upon what is already present.
The elect of God, the "us" of this verse, were chosen before they ever had the opportunity to hear the gospel or do any good or evil work. God did not choose His people because he looked down through time and saw them do some good deed, nor did He cast one aside because He looked down through time and saw them do some evil deed "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth" -Romans 9:11.
In Romans 9:11, Paul sets the premise for election by using an Old Testament example of God's choice. When you read the story of Jacob and Esau, who would you have chosen to be the sinner and who would you have chosen to be the saint? If you make your choice predicated upon performance your choice would not have been God's. As we read the story it is very clear that God chose Jacob before he came forth from his mothers womb and God did not change His mind after Jacob stole his brothers birthright and lied to his aged father.
David agreed with this principle as he wrote "For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb" -Psalm 139:13. "Possessed" denotes personal ownership. Now if God knew Jacob and David before they ever saw the light of day, did He not know "us"? Is anything hidden from the perfect foreknowledge of the omniscient God of the universe? Indeed, the "us" in this verse refers to a people known and loved of God before they were ever born; it refers to the ELECT.
"BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD"
This statement is very important because it reveals unto us exactly when God chose His people, the elect: "before the foundation of the world". Isn't that simple! It is so simple that it becomes almost humorous to hear some try to make it mean something else. By the time they try to explain the simple truth away, it becomes so complicated that no one can understand what they are teaching and I am convinced that they do not either. God's word usually becomes the most complicated when scriptures are misused.
When a scriptural principle is as plain as this, it should be a foundational cornerstone to build other truths upon. It should be like the corner pieces to a jigsaw puzzle: lay the obvious foundation first and then add to it. This choice being made, "before the foundation of the world", places Jesus Christ as the Chief and Head corner stone. I don't know much about how buildings are built, but in the days of the apostles, the architects measured every angle from one common and unmoving point, the cornerstone. If we build our doctrinal principles first upon Jesus Christ, who He was, what He did and taught, the other pieces will fall into place.
I remember when I was going to college I had to take Physics to gain the proper credits to get into Pharmacy School. The class began with about 30 to 40 pupils in it. By the time the semester was over, there were only about a dozen remaining in the class and even some of these failed the course. The reason was not because the material was so difficult. The reason was because the teacher did not have command of the material he was trying to teach. He made out to be a great intellect and many thought that he was. But a great intellect is capable of teaching the most complex of subjects to the most ignorant of pupils and teach them in a way in which they can be understood. So it was with Master Jesus and the ignorant and unlearned fishermen and so it is with this text as penned by Paul. God chose the elect in Christ and predestinated them "before the foundation of the world".
"That We should Be Holy and Without Blame"
This statement sums up the mission of Jesus Christ as He came down from heaven. It reveals the full intent of the Godhead, as they marked out and rescued the elect from the consequences of sin. The plan of the Godhead was to secure a portion of the Adamic family, redeeming them by family blood, bringing them into a legal position of "holy and without blame" before the Father. Ever since the wonderful victory of Jesus upon the cross, this is the precise posture the "us" have occupied before the throne room of God's divine justice: "holy and without blame" before God.
This is a blessed position wherein to be found before God "even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" -Rom 4:6-8. What kind of person is this? These are the elect; these are the "us". This legal position agrees perfectly with those who are "holy and without blame".
What did God see in any one of Adam's race to motivate Him to stoop to the low position of a cross? What moved God to elect a people out of a fallen and sinful race? The only answer the Bible gives is LOVE!
I have heard some refer to the elect as the "select" of God in a very humanistic way. Their implications were that there was something intrinsically good in each of the elect that set them apart and above others, and that God chose them for who they were, what they would do, or some other outward or worldly attribute. Even though the definition of the word "elect" does imply a selection, the selection was not predicated upon carnal attributes. The word elect, as viewed in its Biblical sense, implies something quite contrary to this line of thinking. Elect or election of God implies but one thing...."A choice of Love".
When I first saw my wife I selected her because I liked the way she looked. But ultimately that would have been a poor choice if there had not been something above and beyond what could be seen with the natural eye. I later elected her because I loved her. There is nothing wrong with first being attracted by outward appearances, but these features will lose their attraction when there is not the sustaining and lasting experience of love. Exactly why I love her would be very hard thing to pin down. I am quite sure there are many that would not love her as I do; therefore it is obvious that the mere existence of life does not demand love, especially from God. I guess it would be best said by just saying "I love her because she is who she is; and whether any one else loves her or not, I do". Isn't love amazing!
God's choice of "love" rises above the realm of carnal thinking. Love is, in itself, difficult to comprehend. After all you can't see it or touch it, but it is the most powerful force in the universe. You can't cause it to exist and you can't cause it to disappear; you can't make yourself love someone and you can't stop yourself from loving a person; I can't tell you who to love and you can't tell me who to love and if we did it certainly would not make it so. These things being true, how could we ever tell God who He is to love and who He is not to love. How could God stop loving one that He loved before the foundation of the world?
If God loves any person today, He must have loved them before the foundation of the world and since God cannot change, He shall continue to love them when this world is no more. God's love is eternal "for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God" -I John 4:7. This love, moved the Godhead to execute the plan to rescue the elect before they ever loved God "herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" -I John 4:10.
Genuine love is not founded upon performance, ability, mental capacity, physical makeup or any carnal characteristics. It is a spiritual virtue.
Love is the distinguishing difference between the worldly theology of "selection" and the biblical theology of "election". The elect of God shall forever stand before their loving father "in love" "for I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" -Rom 8:38-39.