Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
The Blueprints of the Universe
To understand Ephesians 1:4 we need this week to head back to the gospels: John?s gospel, to be specific, and chapter 6.
John 6:37-44, 63-65. introduces us to the subject of God making choices. Jesus has just fed thousands of people and also walked on water. The people follow Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They followed Him because He was a meal ticket, but Jesus has other ideas?and He introduces to them the idea that He is actually life-giving food?that His physical body will bring life. At this a lot of folks stopped following, but it gave Jesus the opportunity to talk about just how someone gets from a condition of death to life in God?s kingdom.
Notice a few things:
?37 Everyone the Father gives to Me comes to Me?
?40 And I will raise him up on the last day.?
?44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.?
63 The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn?t help at all.
65 ?This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father.?
What we learn from this section is that the Father makes decisions of whom He is going to give to Jesus. Our human minds cannot make that choice on our own (or not first anyway: ?flesh doesn?t help at all?). Coming to Jesus is granted by the Father ? but once a part of His family, you are never cast out and will be ?raised up? in the resurrection. The section also shows the interplay between the Father ?giving? us to Jesus (vs 37) and us ?seeing? and ?believing? in Jesus (vs 40) and ?listening? and ?learning? from the Father, then coming to Jesus (vs 45).
So this idea of choices, God?s, and ours, brings us back to Ephesians 1.
What we?ve seen so far is that it?s all about Jesus. In verse 3 Paul begins a very long praise of God for all He has done for us in Jesus. We have received blessings?advantages that are past, present, and future. We were redeemed and chosen, we are given new life, and we will glorify God in everything we do. These advantages are ?spiritual? which are actually more important and substantial than advantages in this age.
So now we come to verse 4. Let?s break this down:
Ephesians 1:4 ?For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love.?
God does the choosing, God chose with full knowledge of everything that was to happen. The word in Greek has some interesting subtleties to it:
- He chose with no ?indication of any dislike towards those not chosen? (Hoehner, page 175).
- The verb is in the middle voice, which indicates a personal interest in the one chosen. It wasn?t a random impersonal choice that God made when He chose you.
- We have no legal claim on God for choosing us. We do not deserve to be chosen (Romans 3:10-11). The problem is not why God chose some and not others, but why He chose anyone at all!
Does it mean we don?t make decisions? Of course not. But our decision follows God?s decision. If we both make decisions, God?s decisions are the most important. Whose decisions might predate the others decisions? That?s all this says. It doesn?t say how it works; this just says that it works. It is not determinism.
The big theological word is: Compatibilism. God?s and man?s choices can work together.
Remember, when God deals with the human race He is dealing with dangerous criminals. He loves us until we love Him. Remember 1 John 4:19? ?We love because He first loved us.? The very power of that effort, of that drawing, makes us love Him. So we come to Him. And He makes a choice about us.
The biggest obstacle people have when they think about God?s choices are what about those who are not chosen?why were they not? It seems on the surface to be unfair. We need to be careful not to call God unfair. Psalm 92:15 says ?the Lord is just.? God is fair and just, and in the end we will look at the choices He made and everyone in the universe will go ? yep ? that was fair.
It does NOT mean that anyone who wants to come to Christ can?t. Everyone can come to Christ. 1Tim. 2:4 describes God as One ?who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.?
You have to want Jesus, though, not just to go to heaven without God.
And it has nothing to do with our inherent goodness. It seems more likely that God looks around and sees the least likely to succeed and He pulls those out.
He did this so we?d be mystified by his decision. And it is amazing.
The first and foremost blessing is that God chose us at all. It?s ?in Him.? Jesus is the agency by which you got in there. He comes to your boat and says ?you belong to me.? He?s the agent and the means. We can never get to God without the agency of Jesus.
Holy & Blameless
The idea here is that in Christ we are different. We are different in that we are to reflect the character of God, which is different than the character of this age.
Holy: set apart. Blameless: without blemish. In Christ you are good, and free of sin. But because we live in both ages, it takes a while for the character of this age to be replaced by God?s character. But positionally He says that He will raise us up on the last day and we will be holy and blameless. We will reflect God?s glory.
For now there is a day-to-day growth in this and we are learning the skill. He?s given us life and now gives us ways to live in the reality of this new life. To practice eternal life.
Before the foundations
It means: before the foundations. Before the universe was created. God had already known you. Grace is unmerited favor. If there was merit in you, there would be no grace. He doesn?t pick you because you are good or because you try hard. Paul also uses this idea in 1 Thessalonians 1:4, 2 Timothy 1:9. The point of this whole section is that God had a plan that included you, and He made it before He made anything. The blueprints of the universe has a notation about you in it.
Could be with verse 4 or 5. If in verse 4 then we are to be holy and blameless with a quality of love. This goes well with Jesus telling His disciples that ?they will know you are My disciples by your love, one for another.? (John 13:35).
Paul uses the word ?love? 10 times in Ephesians. The word is ?agape? and was not used outside of the Bible until the writing of the New Testament. The idea is that God creates holiness in us so that we can show love towards one another. Agape love is self-less love?it is considering the needs of others, even to your own detriment.
It also brings us back to God?s choices. He chose us in love, but not for selfish reasons. He considered our needs to His own detriment. Duet 7:6-8. God put his love on Israel not because Israel was lovely but by His sovereign will. God also chose Abram, not for any particular reason. Abram was a rank pagan when God chose him.
Galatians 1:15 Paul never got over the fact that God loved him and chose him.
What we are seeing here is that one of the advantages that God gave us in Christ is that He planned in advance?choosing us by picking us out and giving us to Jesus so that our character would be transformed?that God would be glorified by His ability to take us who were lost and enemies of God and turn us into people that actually reflect His love and His character back at a world filled with evil.
How do you know if you?ve been chosen? Go back to John 6:45 ?Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to Me.? Start listening to the words of Jesus and learn His view of the universe: that we are desperately lost and in need of a Savior and that Jesus came to rescue us, cleanse us by sacrificing His own body on our behalf to satisfy the penalty for our sin, and now gives us eternal life ? a transformed life in which we mirror God?s character of love.
I think you?ll find that opening your ears and your mind and your heart to the words of Jesus makes you fall in love with Him, even if you don?t understand Him. And you?ll start hearing His voice calling you and you?ll find you are in fact chosen!