Chosen in Him
These words appear in the Ephesians 1:4. The first question to ask is "To whom was the Apostle Paul writing"?
When you hear the postman knock followed by the sound of several letters dropping on the floor do you immediately pick them up and open them or do you look at the address on the envelopes? I must confess that I usually look at the address but nevertheless have not always done so which on one occasion led to an embarrassing situation. Fortunately the intended recipient was most understanding and my apologies quickly waived aside.
Here the Epistle was addressed to the "saints" and "faithful in Christ Jesus". Other Epistles were not so addressed. But just as a letter addressed to us can contain information of interest and maybe of importance to someone else so also can a letter addressed to someone else contain information for now. Peter, for instance, addresses his first epistle to "the Sojourners of the Dispersion" (Diaglott) referring to believers amongst the scattered Israelites, but here are some of the statements which are so important, so meaningful and so comforting. James similarly addresses "the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad". Even Paul on occasions addresses the "Ecclesias" (Diaglott) as for instance at Corinth and Galatia.
But here there is none of that. Just "saints and faithful" and the question is "Does this expression refer to us?" Some may say something like ‘I think it refers to a class, but whether I am in that class I cannot say’.
There are some believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who are not unduly interested in Paul’s later Epistles, which were written whilst in prison especially this one so‑called to the Ephesians. Some of these would even say that they prefer the Corinthian epistles with their emphasis upon the gifts of the Spirit. This Epistle is loved because it speaks to us of such high and holy things, such deep and wonderful things which the heart of man could never conceive.
It is a pity that the understanding of the word "saint" still suffers from the errors of Catholic Theology. Depicted as one dressed in a long flowing robe, usually with a holier than thou facial expression and a halo around the head, usually given this title for the works done and often for allegiance to the doctrine of Rome. The "saints" addressed here are such because of what God has done and are made such by the call of God, although there is a manner of life that "becometh" saints. (Eph.1:4; Eph.5:3‑5).
It is also said of these "saints" that they were "faithful" or "full of faith" and the word is sometimes translated "believing" so that in John 20:27 it says "Be not faithless, but believing". It is said in 1 Cor.4:2 that "It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful", that is not only believing what God says but faithful in proclaiming it, holding it as a stewardship before God, and such were the saints addressed here.
Again "Does this expression refer to us?" Most have faced up to the truth of Rom.6. Reckoning ourselves dead unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord, having been baptized into his death. There is no outward change in the flesh, but just believe it is a fact because the Holy Spirit of God has brought conviction into our souls. God has transferred us out of Adam (from whom we all received our natural life in this world) into Christ from whom is derived that spiritual life of the Ages.
So here is the answer to the question. As long as we believe we...are... some of the saints and the faithful in Christ Jesus, to whom Paul addresses this Epistle. Nevertheless, alas, it is undoubtedly true that many very dear Christians, perhaps unconsciously turned their backs or closed their eyes to the truths of Romans 6 etc… think it a kind of presumption to take those words in verse 1 to themselves. Maybe through excessive introspection or prolonged bodily weakness and affliction or through presenting a listening ear to the subtle attacks of the Adversary and saying in effect, that having begun in the Spirit they are to be made perfect in the flesh, such are putting themselves back under law and are therefore not free to enjoy the wonderful truths of this Epistle.
As believing, then, that we are some of the saints and faithful IN Christ Jesus let us just take a look at this expression "In Christ Jesus". In verse 4 we are "chosen in Him" (vv.3; 6; 7; 10; 11; 13). It is all "IN HIM" and outside this chapter or even this Epistle there are many more examples.
So in verse 4 we are told that God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. What a tremendous statement this is. Let us notice first of all that this expression "before the foundation of the world" differs considerably from another expression often used in Scripture "from the foundation of the world". Things which took place or decisions which were made before a new Government in this country was formed could be quite different from those after it was formed. The former term although used elsewhere being particularly applicable to this Epistle it is certainly significant and, a study of the two terms is most rewarding.
But before going any further let us just take a look at this word "foundation" as used in the A.V. The usual Greek word translated "foundation" is themelio as in Eph.2:20 "the foundation of the apostles and prophets" and also 1 Cor.3:10 and 2 Tim.2:19 and in Heb.1:10 "Thou...hast laid the foundation of the earth".
But the word used here in verse 4 and all the other passages where the words "before" or "from" the foundation of the world occur a totally different word–"kataboles"—is used, which carries the meaning of "casting down", "overthrow" or "disruption". Therefore some time after the world was created it was subjected to a tremendous catastrophe, a theory which more and more scientists are coming around to believe, because of geological finds etc… and which was maybe of Satanic origin. It was, then, even before this overthrow of the world that we were chosen in Christ.
Christ was with the Father and was daily His delight before the world was. (Prov.8:30) In that High Priestly prayer our Lord Jesus says to His Father "Thou lovedst me before the foundation (or overthrow for it is the same word "kataboles") of the world". (John 17:24) Now, in this epistle was revealed for the first time by the Apostle Paul that great secret previously hid in God of a joint body, the Head in heaven and the members of His body chosen from the Adamic race here on earth for a time whilst "in spirit" seated together with Him in the "heavenlies" until such time as they shall be with Him in reality, their bodies of humiliation transformed and made like unto His body of glory.
How wonderful all this is. And how otherwise could it be so than by being IN CHRIST, for later in this verse 4 it is in order that "we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." The truth is this takes us back to a time before Adam was created, let alone the temptation and the fall. In 2 Timothy 1:9 Paul tells us it was before aionian times. (Diaglott)
Consequently upon God having chosen us in Christ He has also blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places as we are told in verse 3. This expression "in heavenly places" which is a translation of the Greek "en tois epouranios" occurs five times in Ephesians as the Diaglott shows but nowhere else in the whole of Scripture.
It is true that the word "heavenly" (Greek epouranios) occurs quite often, for we read of "Heavenly Father", "heavenly gift" etc… but here and elsewhere it is used of the place of origin or of character. Even in the case of the "Heavenly Jerusalem" as it says of it coming down from God out of heaven but we do not read of it ever going back. With the fuller expression, however whatever is spoken of is "IN heaven".
The five references of "en tois epouraniois" are:‑
So we are called upon to believe (as the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus) that God has chosen us, in Christ, before the overthrow of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love and (only "in Christ" could we possibly be that) and only "in Christ" all spiritual blessings–where?–in the heavenlies.
All have a sense of unworthiness especially when considering the holiness of our great God. We wouldn’t love the Lord if that were not true? And as we try to "comprehend…what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ" (Eph.3:18‑19) as Paul says, the mind boggles and we are lost in wonder, love and praise. The purpose of it all is "that we should be to the praise of His glory" (Eph.1:12,14). We have merited nothing, for all is by grace and not of works. Surely it must call forth our praise.
Sing of the wonderful story,
It is not of works because all is by grace. Nevertheless that we are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them".
There is really no difficulty and certainly no contradiction here–"not of works"–"unto good works." Good works done in order to earn salvation are quite different from works done after we have salvation. The former are works of the law the latter works of grace, and the law was brought in by Israel’s defection, their presumption and self‑conceit.
The story of the Pharisee and the Publican illustrates this very well. Saul was a learned, clever and resourceful man, but he was also a firebrand. "Give me another law to keep and I will keep it" was his attitude of mind. Arraigned by God on the Damascus Road blinded and made helpless he was made to see that he could do nothing, and it needed a long period of training before God could use him and manifest through him the good works which He had ordained he should do.
Then again how different were his works before conversion to those after. Before conversion they were more akin to the mandate given to Jeremiah "to pluck up and destroy" but after conversion to "plant and to build" Jeremiah’s other mandate. In the latter Paul became gentle, as a nurse with her children, enduring afflictions, exercising patience and long‑suffering and could even tell his beloved brethren to be "followers of me, even as I...am of Christ" and "those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, DO." All because he knew that "God" was working in him "to will and to do of His good pleasure", which was, to perform the good works which God had before ordained he should do. (1 Cor.11:1; Phil.4:9; Phil.2:13)
Let’s rest in our allotment as seated together with Christ in the heavenlies and the sting is taken out of any taunts which the Adversary may make. Look at things from God’s point of view, remembering that His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are our ways His ways (Isa.55:8). Remembering that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; the weak things to confound the things that are mighty; the base things and things that are despised. (1 Cor.1:27‑28) It is by choosing such that He can make known through them to the principalities and powers in the heavenlies His "manifold wisdom" (Eph.3:10).
There is a story in the O.T. which gives a lovely picture of this unmerited and unearned favour shown to one for another’s sake. It is found in 2 Samuel 9. In verse 1, King David asks if there is anyone left of the house of Saul that he may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake. "Yes" said Ziba, Saul’s servant "He has a son, Mephibosheth". This young man was dropped by his nurse when he was five as she fled on hearing of the death of Saul and Jonathan. (2 Sam.4:4) So he was certainly limited in what he could do. Moreover he was born of the rebellious house of Saul, and called himself a "dead dog" and when David sent and fetched him they found him at Lodebar which means "no bread" or "no pasture". As such he is typical of us far‑off Gentiles "having no hope, and without God in the world". (Eph.2:11‑13)
But, behold the miracle. The king calls for him. "Mephibosheth—Fear not". The first thing Jesus does is to take away our fear. "Fear not", (v.7) David says "for I will surely show thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake…and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually" and it means "continually" for verse 11 adds "as one of the king’s sons". So Paul tells us that God has adopted us as His own sons, so God found us and sent His spirit into our hearts, just as this young man was sent for and fetched, accepted in the Beloved, forgiven for Christ’s sake so we have been seated together with His only begotten Son in the Heavenlies.
We are, in ourselves, quite unworthy, just like that poor young man. "What is thy servant" he asks "that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?" (v.8) But he didn’t turn away. He didn’t reject the proffered blessing and return to his own home of "no‑bread". He gazed with love upon the king and then bowed in reverence and no doubt with his heart full of joy accepted the position and honour that was freely given to him, and we are called upon to do the same. Because the soul of David had been knit to the soul of Jonathan, and they were as one, so in his death. David showed kindness to another of his family. Thus does our Father, for Christ’s sake and since His death look upon us and accepts us as "in Him". All this then was the joy of Mephibosheth as he sat at the king’s table, day after day, gazing upon the king who we are told was "ruddy, and…of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to", (1 Sam.16:12) and a man after God’s own heart. (Acts 13:22) No doubt Mephibosheth took a pride in his appearance then.
But there came a time when Mephibosheth’s loyalty was to be tested as inevitably ours is likewise. The story is told when subsequently Absalom, David’s son, rebelled against him and stole the hearts of the men of Israel causing David to flee into exile with his faithful followers. David’s sufferings at this time were probably the worst he ever had to endure. But where is Mephibosheth? This is what David wants to know and asks the question of Mephibosheth’s servant, Ziba whom he met as he was fleeing and who had brought David presents of two asses and ample provisions. Why wasn’t he beware of such gifts and exercise better judgment? For in the heart of Ziba was black deceit. "A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom to pervert the ways of judgment" (Prov.17:23) Perhaps, after all there were reasons and in any case David was in great extremity.
However, he told David that Mephibosheth remained in Jerusalem and added he had said "Today shall the house of Israel restore me the kingdom of my father". (2 Sam.16:3) What a slander. Far from it being true, whilst the city of Jerusalem rejoiced at David’s flight Mephibosheth would have none of it. He kept himself separate and mourned for the king who had come to mean so much to him. Yet David gave to his deceiving and slanderous servant all his property to such an extent his true judgment had been warped.
But behold the sequel to it all, which carries such a beautiful lesson. The day came when David was received as king in Jerusalem and all the lies, all the treachery and all the deceit was brought to light. 2 Samuel 19:24‑30 records how throughout the time of the king’s absence Mephibosheth remained loyal to him. If he was denied the presence and gazing upon that lovely countenance then he cared not to seek the approval of any who had rejected him and caused him to flee. He couldn’t forget what he was by birth and what the king had done for him. Neither should it be forgotten what we are in Adam and what God has made us to be in Christ. What a devoted person Mephibosheth was. Property and a claim to possession in the land? What is that to me? The king has returned. In this does my heart rejoice. I am satisfied.
We too have been chosen—chosen in Christ because we have been and are loved by the Father, chosen to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Why should we mind then if we have not been allotted an inheritance in a restored earth, nor yet it maybe in the Heavenly Jerusalem for we can rejoice in the knowledge that we shall be to the praise of His glory and when Christ shall appear then shall we also appear with Him in the highest reality of glory—and be satisfied then.