“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love.” –Ephesians 1:4 LEB
This verse. There was a time I asked what it meant that God chose me before the foundation of the world? Or how I’m to be holy and blameless before Him in love? Some translations stop verse four at ‘Him’, and attribute ‘in love’ to verse five, which kind of confused me for a bit. I appreciate the literal word-for-word translation of the Lexham English Bible, which can also be seen in the Christian Standard Bible. The CSB translates it as: “…to be holy and blameless in love before Him.”
The first thing God stripped from me while meditating on this verse is that I cannot ascribe what I think to God, as if I understand His ways. The notion that my tiny peon brain is even capable of considering God’s majesty or motivations outside of what He has revealed through His Word is hubris (Isaiah 55:8-9). And even if I don’t exactly understand what He has revealed in His Word, who am I to talk back to my Creator or tell Him who He should be? I love the CSB’s translation of Romans 9:20a, “But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God?”
We like to project our notion of who God should be onto Him from our fallen state of being. With this verse especially, we might debate election versus congruent election, freewill versus predestination. Yep. Scholars use this verse to argue election and predestination; and while some may argue that these are just opinions on a confusing and unnecessary topic, we always have to bow down to what God’s Word tells us.
We may struggle with why God loved Jacob and hated Esau, we may even be able to argue that it was Jacob and Esau’s descendants that the Word is talking about in those verses rather than the two brothers! No matter, it still shows that God choses one man or his descendants over another (Malachi 1:2-3; Romans 9:13). Whatever one’s take is when examining Scripture like this, the final realization always leads to this question: if He chose us before the foundation of the world, does He choose one to be saved while choosing another to not be saved? This will lead us to wrestle with a lot of things.
We may wrestle with why Jesus said that many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14). Does that mean that some of us have been chosen from before the foundation of the world and cannot be snatched out of His hand (John 10:28), while others might kick the tires of Christianity and then fall away proving they were never saved to begin with? (Hebrews 6:4-6). Does this mean that some are internally called or chosen by the Holy Spirit, while others are externally called and will come only by way of hearing the Gospel?
There are many questions we’ll wrestle with and some might argue against our even needing to worry about this. But I wonder if that isn’t encouraging and helping promote spiritual laziness? Should we not know what the Word of God tells us? Should we not study to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15), are we not told to be prepared to give an account to anyone who asks why we believe and hope in Jesus? (1 Peter 3:15).
Would we be inclined to take someone serious if we asked them why they believed in a certain heart surgeon before considering using them and all they could say was, well, because my nurse said she was good? Right there, would we ask no more questions, do no more research on the doctor, and just not bother to examine the doctors body of work for itself? Would we just go off of what someone else has told us without checking the facts? Cut me open, Doc, I trust you can do it. Half of us can’t even get through a conversation without checking Google to see if what we are being told is accurate.
Yet, some of us expect others to become holy and blameless in love, before our Lord, based on nothing but an appeal using charisma and emotionalism! That sounds like stories I have heard about youth camp. Kids getting swept up in the emotions of camp and are all about Jesus as they return home. But how many kids does that approach sustain if their youth pastor is NOT encouraging them to study God’s Word for themselves? Did martyrs like William Tyndale die in vain? Strong of conviction, Tyndale translated the Bible into English so that people like us could read it and study it. Doing so was not well received and being true to the Word of God even when it ran contrary to the King of England’s desires led him to being strangled and burned at the stake. How blessed are we that we have Bibles to read at our leisure?! How foolish are we if we simply do not?
This is your salvation, faith, and eternal life we are talking about here. If you are a believer, do you feel compelled to know what it means to be holy and blameless before God? Are you placing the burden of understanding what God reveals about Himself solely on your pastor on Sunday or are you taking up your cross and studying it on your own time, too? You can’t blame the pastor for not understanding if you aren’t studying it for yourself. Worse yet, are you a pastor that discourages study because what the Word says may not align with what your heart says? You cannot blame the congregation for not understanding God’s will if you discourage them from studying the Bible on their own. So, do you encourage or accept spiritual laziness because it is easier, or do you challenge others to know what God says from His Word? I thank God that our lead pastor encourages us to study the Word of God and know it, while teaching it as much as preaching it. I am also grateful that our youth pastor encourages our kids to be in the Word and study it, too! What is even better is that not only do they do that, but you can see the fruit of God’s work in their own lives by how they treat others and pastor their flock.
The truth is we can only become holy and blameless before God by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Jesus paid for our sins by living life without being guilty of a single sin. He was 100% God; He was 100% Man. He chose to save us by laying down His life down so that we could be restored to God. He lived, died, and resurrected so that we could live eternally with God in harmony. This is understood clearly, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His son to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17 ESV). Further, Hebrews 10:8-10 shows us that we are sanctified and made holy through His sacrifice.
So, whether some of us are called before the foundation of the world by God in Christ and we receive that call internally from the Holy Spirit, or some of us are externally called by hearing the Gospel and come to accept Jesus, at the core we ALL have a Gospel response to contend with and the crux of that response is based on whether we believe that the Word of God made flesh is Jesus Christ and whether the Word of God given to us in the Holy Bible is God’s revelation to us about Himself.
Therefore, are you in the Word? Is the Word in you? In the end, that is the only way we can answer these questions.
Until Next Time