THE SCRIPTURES which we have hitherto considered, that deal with our election, have prepared us sufficiently, so that we may now take the last step, which leads to the highest level, and places us in the very heart of our evangel. In the midst of transcendent, divine blessing, surrounded and borne by the deepest love of God, the Father, for His ecclesia, we find the words which bring to our hearts the highest peak of our election, as follows: Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, in Christ,
according as He chooses us in Him
before the disruption of the world,
we to be holy and flawless in His sight,
in love designating us beforehand for the place of a son
through Christ Jesus: in accord with the delight of His will, for the laud of the glory of His grace, which graces us in the Beloved (Eph.1:3-6).
This is the crowning capstone of the revelation of our selection. But before we delight ourselves with a close consideration of this divine declaration, we will endeavor to honestly cut this word of truth. Practically, this consists in not applying the continually recurring words we and us to ourselves. With these words Paul unites himself with believing Israelites, who, like himself, had left the Jewish, earthly kingdom prerogatives behind, and had accepted his evangel (Phil.3:4-9), which made them members of the body of Christ, and the recipients of celestial blessings. In all honesty we will first view these blessings as outsiders, but very briefly.
In the thirteenth verse Paul brings the believers among the nations, to whom we belong, into the same sphere of blessing with the words you also, and raises them to the status of joint enjoyers of this the greatest of all glories. This, our position in grace, is the principal theme of this epistle. In it Paul reveals the most glorious of all the secrets, namely, that the believers out of the nations have received from God equal rights with the believing Israelites (Eph.3:6). Treading along this path in the biblical order of rank may help us to a deeper thankfulness to the Giver of these gifts, the Saviour, Who has raised us from the lowest to the highest place in the universe. So may we, in the power of these words, like the believing Israelites and our precursors in faith among the nations, find ourselves the most richly blessed creatures in the whole world.
And now we stand before the deepest revelation concerning our selection, which gives us the place as well as the time. The place where our election occurred is the most glorious in the universe—Christ—for "in Christ" it was that God chose us! To begin with, as uncreated, we were in God. Thereupon we were transplanted into Christ. Even more, we were created in Him. This was true of all creatures, both the celestial and terrestrial. Now, however, revelation proceeds with us alone, leaving all the rest behind. This divine operation leads us once again to the creation of all in Christ. How could God have undertaken to choose us out of the rest of mankind if they were not all then already visible to His eyes? The creation of all in Christ was the basis on which our selection was accomplished and was therefore an insistent necessity.
For this new phase of our selection, the example of Jacob's choice is fitting. This occurred while he was still in his mother, whereas ours was accomplished by God while all were still to be found in Christ. Before the brothers were able to do either good or bad, God preferred the inferior to the greater. In the same situation God saw all creatures in Christ, and, without being able to find anything better in us than in the others, proceeded to choose us apart from works, corresponding to His gracious purpose. This truth cannot be emphasized enough, so that it may be present with us always, as an effectual bar against high-flying and haughty ideas, such as our heart harbors far too readily.
The expression "in Christ" is full of significance here. Christ denotes the Anointed, and is the official title of the Son, which reveals Him as the one to Whom God has entrusted a great undertaking. This title, in connection with our election, reveals the principal purpose which God has in view. It is our introduction into this office of the Son, in which we are joined with Him as fellow-workers by God, in the fulfillment of His mission. Israel will have a like function on the earth, while we have it above in the heavens. This position, which, in our present mortal bodies, we cannot fully grasp, is a truth concerning us which is taught especially in the Ephesians epistle. God has seated His Christ at His right hand among the celestials, up over every political power (20,21). There we also are already blessed with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, in Christ (3), yes, even seated there now in Christ, in spirit (2:6). Even now, in the time of our humiliation, God is making known to the sovereignties and authorities in these heavenly spheres his multifarious wisdom (3:10). This leads to our future occupation on behalf of these celestial beings, which will consist in cooperating with Him to the end that these, so far as they have fallen away, will be brought back to the true worship of God. All this is included in our selection in Christ.
After God's Word has given us an insight into the place where our selection occurred, the sentence goes right on, without interruption, and gives the time when this divine action occurred (1:4):
before the disruption of the world!
By this expression our exalted position is made most impressive. The usual translation, "before the foundation of the world," demands a closer inspection of the new term, "disruption." By means of the Keyword Concordance it is possible for the layman to check this rendering, to see if it is correct. In it (page 79) we can ascertain that this word is composed of the elements kata and bolee. From many other words it appears that kata has the meaning of DOWN. Katabasis means descent, katapiptoo fall down, katabainoo descend, kataballoo DOWN-CAST, disrupt, etc. Bolee means CAST, throw, balloo CAST. Without difficulty we may derive DOWN-CAST disruption, out of katabolee, as it is in the Greek original.
After this explanation we are prepared to consider its proper application. It speaks of the stirring fact that the world was once cast down, disrupted, which may only be viewed as a mighty divine judgment. This shows further that there was something wrong with the world, or earth, so that God had to judge it. That it is concerned with such a world is evident from the fact that we actually find the earth beneath an abyss of water, and in a condition that demands a restoration, on the very first Page of the sacred Scriptures.
Since sin always precedes every divine judgment, we may be quite sure that the disruption was the result of sin, which Satan had introduced into the universe previously. This is hardly the place to enlarge on this theme, for which there is other evidence in the Scriptures. The grand idea which the divine spirit emphasizes here is that our selection by God was accomplished before this sin and judgment took place. It was not done in the dark shadows of the disturbance which has since marred God's creation, but in a phase when undimmed light and lovely harmony in divine perfection reigned in the universe.
Another special circumstance connected with this phrase shows our exalted position. The Scriptures speak twice again of the time "before the disruption." Once the Son speaks of the Father's love to Him: "...for Thou lovest Me before the disruption of the world" (John 17:24). Then Peter comes to speak of it, revealing Christ as the flawless and unspotted Lamb, "foreknown, indeed, before the disruption of the world" (1 Peter 1:20). Only the members of the body of Christ are linked up together with these revelations of Christ, and no other creatures.
The disruption forms a most momentous monument in God's plan of salvation, which divides the creation into two vastly different moral stages, for after the disruption its previous radiance was paled. Therefore that which commences after the disruption cannot compare with that which began before it. The great difference between the present ecclesia and Israel is nowhere else so clearly revealed as when we use this standard of comparison.
In the Unveiling there is a passage which tells us that all who are dwelling on the earth will be worshiping the wild beast, except those whose names are written in the scroll of life of the Lambkin, slain from the disruption of the world (Rev.13:8). This little company of faithful Israelites belong to the bride of the Lambkin, for, at this time, in the great affliction, the members of the body of Christ have already been snatched away to be with the Lord above. According to this the members of the Jewish ecclesia were enrolled in the scroll of life from the disruption of the world, but our selection took place before this event. Israel does not begin to figure in God's plan until after sin has begun its work and judgment has occurred. That is a clear indication that Israel's place and mission is on a lower plane than ours, because we were chosen in a period in which nothing of this sort had arisen, for all was still perfect. The beginning of the ecclesia lies in a realm of sinlessness and holiness. Because God's Word calls believers today a new creation (2 Cor.5:17; Gal.6:15), we are also associated with the future new creation, in spirit, in which sin will be absent and permanent perfection will be introduced by God. Hence all our blessings are on a higher plane.
The divine selection which related us to such a transcendent calling has also designated us accordingly, for "we are to be holy and flawless in His sight" (Eph.1:4). It would be unintelligent and wrong if we would connect this exalted station with a "should" and a "must," that is, present it as something for which we are to strive. Not our efforts make us holy and flawless, but God's act which has separated us from and out of the rest. The opposite of holy is common, rather than profane, in the Scriptures. This expression may help us to understand the essence of holiness. By both common and profane we usually describe something sinful, unclean or base. But in this case the word has another meaning. In the Keyword Concordance it is explained as follows: "common, belonging to all equally, by implication not sacred." Of the pentecostal believers we read, that they had all things in common (Acts 2:44). Before our selection we had all in common with the rest. But by the divine separation we were taken out of the common lot. This it is that makes us holy, which consists essentially in separation to God.
Our flawlessness is likewise to be so understood. Our election, the result of the noblest divine intention, brought about by a flawless God in a sinless sphere, has made us flawless. This knowledge should spur us on mightily to walk worthily of this high calling (Eph.4:1) and to separate us from the sinful world, as flawless children of God, to shine as luminaries in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Phil.2:15). We should consider that we live "in His sight," and who would like to present to Him the sorry spectacle of a sinful and disobedient life?
"In love designating us beforehand for the place
of a son for Him through Jesus Christ "
Already, in Romans(8:29-30), the phrase "designate beforehand" was used, in a revelation of our election. Here (Eph.1:5) it appears again, but on a higher plane. From this elevated outlook we now see the force of the before. Before the disruption, before sin came on the scene, He designates us.
Besides, in Ephesians, as one of the most precious of revelations, the real origin and the divine motive of our selection is brought to light—His love! What a joyous message for our hearts, and refreshment for our minds, to find ourselves once more in the sphere of God's love! Already, by our inclusion in God, and thereafter in Christ, we were surrounded by the love of God and of Christ. This love is available for all creation. Here, however, we stand under the influence of a higher love. It is that in which His purpose of grace for our selection is rooted. It was in view of this love that He selected us before all others. This love should impress us all the more, as He could see nothing whatever in us that might awake it. Only His purpose of grace accomplished this. Therefore every member, yes, the whole ecclesia, is the pure effect of His love. "God, being rich in mercy, because of His vast love with which He loves us" (Eph.2:4) is therefore the primal cause of the salvation of each one. What a dark background there would be for this divine love, if it were exhausted by our selection, so that there would be none left for the rest! The riches of His love is sufficient to eventually bring blessing to all.
Now that we have been given a glimpse of the root system of our designation beforehand, we are shown the exalted object which it has in view: the place of a son! It is the same truth which we found in the epistle to the Romans: "conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom.8:29). Sonship, literally SON-PLACing, denotes the introduction into the rights and dignities of a mature male. What a high rank in nobility is implied when the Deity Himself calls us "son!" Involved in this grace is the initiation into God's secrets. To enter into these is the practical application of sonship.
In Galatians we are told what it was that opened up the way to this dignity: "Now when the full time came, God delegates His Son, come of a woman, come under law, that He should be reclaiming those under law, that we may be getting the place of a son. Now, seeing that you are sons, God delegates the spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying `Abba! Father!' So that you are no longer a slave, but a son. Now, if a son, an enjoyer also of God's allotment, through Christ" (Gal.4:4-7). These words, unfold to us the essence of sonship, which consists in receiving the spirit of Christ, through which we, like the Son, may address God as "Abba," or "Father." As His sons we are also allotees of God, that is, we receive out of His transcendent riches of glory an allotment for our enjoyment and bliss. What the law could not succeed in doing, grace has accomplished for those whom He designated beforehand. And all of this is through Christ Jesus. As all else, so God has accomplished this glorious work, which has raised us to the position of a son, through Christ, His Son. This opens up the precious perception that God has carried out His selection through Christ.
This harmonious cooperation between God and Christ is beautifully shown in the selection of the twelve apostles. Mark writes concerning it as follows: "And He is ascending into the mountain and is calling to Him whom He would, and they came away to Him. And He makes twelve, whom He also names apostles, that they may be with Him" (Mark 3:13,14). Luke also puts the matter so as if He alone had done the selecting: "Now it occurred in these days that He came out into the mountain to pray, and throughout the night He was in the prayer of God. And when it became day He shouts to His disciples, and chooses from them twelve, whom He names apostles also" (Luke 6:12,13). Now, however, comes John, who had a deeper perception, and reveals what preceded this selection through the Son. In His prayer Jesus emphasizes thrice (John 17:6,10,12), that the Father had given Him the apostles. Indeed, His Father had given Him the disciples also (John 10:29). Before He called the twelve to Him, He had received them from the Father. In that night of prayer, which preceded His selection, He probably received directions as to which ones had been designated beforehand for Him, and He did not choose them until afterward. Probably our selection operated likewise. We also were given to the Son by the Father, as will be shown later on.
The continuing revelation in the first chapter of Ephesians returns to our designation beforehand in connection with the headship of Christ: "...to head up all in the Christ—both that in the heavens and that on the earth—in Him in Whom our lot was cast also, being designated beforehand and according to the purpose of the One Who is operating all in accord with the counsel of His will, that we should be for the laud of His glory, who are pre-expectants in the Christ" (Eph.1:10-12).
This passage again harmonizes with Rom.8:28, for there already was His purpose, connected with designating beforehand, mentioned. But here we have more than a mere repetition. By enlarging the horizon of the purpose, God is here revealed as the One Who is operating all according to the counsel of His will. This fundamental underlies all of His activities from the beginning to the end. No matter what opposition there may be, in the last analysis all is the outworking of His plan, and only that is actually executed which harmonizes with His loving purpose for the whole creation.
When we read further, "...in Whom our lot was cast also," the implication is clear that there are other allotments and allotees. Here we have an allusion to the allotment in Israel, by which every Israelite was allowed to use a portion of land for his support and enjoyment. "In the bosom pouch is cast forth the lot, yet from Jehovah is all its judgment" (Prov.16:33). But the lot was cast for us long before, and no men were present at the drawing. Only God was there. We won the most glorious allotment that He could impart to us. The whole epistle to the Ephesians is a description of it, and shows that it is composed of the sublimest divine glories. One such is the pre-expectancy. The ecclesia will not need to go through the great affliction and wait for the return of Christ to set up His earthly kingdom. For us He descends earlier in order to snatch us away just before these heavy judgments, to be always together with the Lord (1 Thess.4:17). That itself is a most glorious beginning of the enjoyment of our allotment. What will it be when Christ leads us into the expectation which is reserved for us in the heavens (Col.1:5)?
The ecclesia, therefore, does not need to cast the lot to find out God's intention with each one, for it has already been drawn, before the creation of the world by God Himself. Had this been better known, there would be no daily or yearly drawing of a text, as is the custom among some Christian sects, for these to a large extent are taken from Scriptures referring to Israel's lot. They rather tend to increase the confusion as to the portion of the present ecclesia. If we wish to know anything about our allotment, we need not blindly draw out a passage anywhere in the Bible, but turn to the epistles of Paul which concern us. In them we will find a well rounded out, comprehensive revelation concerning it. This, our special, personal allotment, harbors such transcendent riches of grace that it is an inexhaustible spring of divine power and joy for every day, and every year, yes, sufficient for our whole life, so that we need no other whatever.
How much we owe to our divine selection! It raises us to the highest sphere into which a creature can go. Through it we have become candidates for the very glory of God and Christ (1 Thess.2:12; 2 Thess.2:14). Besides, God has reserved the highest allotment of all that He has to distribute in the heavens for us. Indeed, our selection is a source of blessing which showers upon us the highest blessings. When we meditate upon this we will be deeply impressed by such gracious, divine condescension. It can hardly be otherwise than that our hearts are filled with profoundest thanks to Him, the gracious Giver of these immeasurable gratuities. A fervent desire should possess us for the knowledge of His will, in order to fully exploit the possibilities He has given us to bring to Him the proper service and joy. And, indeed, such is the wish of God, our Father.