"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved." (Ephesians 1:3-6 NKJV)
There is enough information in these verses to write a book. I remember as a young person how often Bible studies got into discussions (arguments) about words like "chosen", "predestination" and "called." I was always left with an uneasy feeling when we were done. I couldn’t grasp how people could be content with some people being chosen before the foundations of the world leaving some to obviously not be chosen.
In Calvinist circles, we were taught by some authorities that God predestined some to heaven and then obviously not others. Extremists have been known to believe in double predestination. On one hand, people are predestined to heaven and others predestined to Hell.
Why am I bringing this up? Because if the word "chosen" is thought of as predestination to heaven, it leaves compassionate people like me to wonder why I was chosen and others weren’t. At the same time, I couldn’t really trust an arbitrary God who would choose and predestine people on an apparent whim.
I recently read a short blurb in a social media column in which a writer tried to comfort others by telling them God knew them from before the foundations of the world. I am sure there are comforting passages which bring solace to those who are perceiving God’s work before the foundations of the world as pertaining specifically to them as an individual.
A Fresh Look
Let’s start by saying that neither the word "chosen" in Ephesians 1:4 and "predestined" in Ephesians 1:5 and Romans 8:29 are dealing with salvation. Predestined does not refer to being predestined for heaven or hell, but rather God has a favorite destiny for Christians. That destination is to be conformed to the image of His Son. Any destination we harbor contrary to His destination for us will be like trying to make water flow up hill.
Now let us look at a Biblical meaning of the word "chosen" in Ephesians 1:4. We should be able, after a bit of study, to see that God’s intention for His children, indeed for mankind, is to make them holy and without blame before Him.
But, before we jump to the conclusion that this is speaking of heaven, that is, the hereafter, we need to address a common misconception. That misconception is that perfection in this life is impossible. Did I just hear you accuse me of being a heretic? Go ahead, but be careful. In Matthew 5:48, God said, "You therefore shall be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect." Is Jesus a heretic? Hebrews 10:14 reads, "For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified." (The word "being" as in "being sanctified" is not in the original.)
In Galatians 2:20-3:3, we read that perfection cannot be achieved by our behavior, for that would be like getting information from a witch! It would be ranking our behavior under law.
Ephesians makes clear how the believer is to become holy and without blame before Him. God said He formulated a plan, a method, before the foundation of the world. And what was the plan He chose? He decided that He could make us holy and without blemish by placing us in Him. What does that mean?
Can you picture two lines that merge together? One line represents you as you were born, separated from God in your first birth. However, in your salvation, God merged your line with His eternal life line. In other words, your spiritual life was merged, united, baptized into His Spiritual life. "He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him" (1 Corinthians 6:17). Thus our life united with Christ is the basis of a new identity, "as He is, so are we in this present world" (1 John 4:17).
In the new covenant instituted during the Lord’s supper, we are presented with a new covenant for righteousness (perfection). Instead of an achieved righteousness, we obtain a received righteousness. The key words to this chosen plan to make us holy and blameless are the two words "in Christ." Christ’s qualities of righteousness, blamelessness and holiness become ours simply by being "in Christ."
We need to read Ephesians in this new way. We need to see ourselves "in Christ" in the heavenly places, blessed with every spiritual blessing. And how does this help us? Ephesians 2:7 states that now “ He might show us the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."
He chose a plan for those who accept His Son. And that is how we became partakers of our new identity which allowed us to immediately occupy our place in the heavenly places by faith in what God says is true in the unseen world.