Before the world was, before there was earth and sky and sea, before there was anything but the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, the eternal counsel of the Trinity determined to choose and predetermine a people who would bear His name and walk in the beauty of holiness. We are told God did this according to the good pleasure of His will.
“Chosen” means “to select” or “pick out” for oneself – it is used of Christ’s choice of the apostles (Lk 6:13), the church’s choice of deacons (Acts 6:5) and the action of the selection of men from the Jerusalem counsel who would join Paul (Acts 15:22). In Ephesians it speaks of God’s selection of specific sinners to be saved. “Having predestined” means to “mark off in advance” – it is always used of God’s determination and foreordination of events (Acts 4:28, Rom 8:29, 30, 1 Cor 2:7, Eph 1:11).
The doctrine of election is a matter of concern in several of Paul’s epistles. In addition to the flagship verses here in Ephesians 1 and Romans 8:28-11:36, election is also key in 1 Thess 1:4-5, Col 3:12, 2 Thess 2:13-14, 2 Tim 1:9-10, Titus 3:4-6 – look up these verses and find the similarities in them. Scripture uniformly teaches that all of the actions of saving grace which are revealed in time, flow from God’s election in eternity (see John 6:44, 65, Acts 13:48, 1 Pet 1:1-2).
For the clearest illustration of God’s sovereign election read Romans 9:10-13. In these verses we find that though Rebekah’s children had the same father, yet before the twins were born – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand – she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger. Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved–but Esau I hated.’
A. W. Pink has observed that this text: gives the most emphatic refutation to the theory that God’s choice is dependent upon something in the creature – something either actual or foreseen – and shows that the eternal election of certain individuals unto salvation is due to no worthiness in the subjects, but results solely from God’s sovereign grace. The case of Jacob proves conclusively, that God’s choice is entirely sovereign, wholly gratuitous, and based upon nothing but His own good pleasure.
Ephesians 1 also reveals to us that God’s sovereign choice in predestination is made in love. It is not a harsh or arbitrary act, as the enemies of this doctrine have painted it to be. In fact, the matter of election is often brought up within doxologies and is intended to elicit the gratitude of God’s people, yet man in his wickedness has made it a matter of contention and strife. In Scripture, election is never thought of as a blind, impersonal or mechanical thing, but as a merciful and gracious decree made in infinite wisdom, goodness and love. It is tied to His saving us, and so should bring us great joy.
Pink writes: Election is not as some have supposed – harsh and unjust – but is a most merciful provision on the part of God. Had He not from the beginning, chosen some to salvation, all would have perished! Had he not before the foundation of the world, chosen certain ones to be conformed to the image of His Son, the death of Christ would have been in vain, so far as the human race is concerned!
Reduced to its simplest terms, election means that God chose me before I chose Him. … We love Him, because He first loved us. … Election means that we believed because He made us willing in the day of His power. Election then … ascribes all the glory to God!
Prejudice against the doctrine of election for some, may stem from misunderstanding it as a harsh, arbitrary decree. Others know no better, having been taught that it is a false doctrine first described by John Calvin. But above all, the spiritual reason that the doctrine of predestination and election are so maligned by men, and the doctrine of free-will so exalted, is plain and simply, pride and conceit. Without a doubt, this doctrine deals a crushing blow to man’s pride, as it strips away all trust in human flesh, leaving one to only hope in the magnificent grace of an Almighty and Sovereign Lord. If you have hated or even ignored this doctrine in the past, it is time that you repent, and make it a matter of immediate attention and meditation. Read all of the verses contained herein and determine what is the plain meaning of each text in context; set aside all of the presuppositions of your past teaching and let the Scripture speak as to the meaning of, He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.