There was a man who was a good husband and dad. He loved his family faithfully, was always around, steady, and took care of them. His influence, even if wasn’t realized, was central in everyone’s life.
But his family didn’t fully appreciate the scope of his love until one day when they found his journal. Upon opening it, they could see the backstory to their memories. Their happy experiences were intricately planned and carefully executed. He even reflected after, about how glad he was he gave that his wife and children such joy. When they could see the backstory, these previously hidden details, in the journal, the family was filled with a new kind of appreciation and love for their dad and husband. They were welcomed into the quiet place of intentional planning and loving execution. They could see how they were central to everything that he had done. Thumbing through the journal, they realized his love for them engulfed their entire experience.
In Ephesians 1, it’s as if the children of God are permitted to thumb through the journal of their heavenly Father. Reading through it, we find out that the experiences that we enjoy so much were carefully and intricately planned. God has set his love on his people before the foundation of the world, and he carried it out in real-time. What’s more, these thoughtful, intricate, and loving plans gave our Father you himself. He loves to shower blessing on his children.
What the Father Did
In the early pages of this journal, we find that God chose his people before the foundation of the world. This choosing means to pick out. This isn’t a new concept in the Bible. It’s a truth taught throughout the Old Testament (Deu. 14:2). We find that God doesn’t elect or choose people because he saw something admirable in them, nor because they might fulfill some emptiness or lack in him. Both assertions would be ridiculous. God saw no merit in Israel, because Israel proves itself over and over again to be a sinful people. And God did not choose them because he needed anything, for God himself is the only self-sufficient being in all of the world. He needs no one, and everyone and everything relies upon him.
What then is the reason? He chose or elected his people.
Election is a loving act of God before creation, where he chooses some people to be saved—not based upon anything they would do—but only because of his good pleasure.
This choosing is his electing love. Election, according to Calvin, is “the foundation and first cause” of all blessings.
When the Father Did It
When did this occur? We can see in Ephesians 1:4, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
Paul is trying to secure people’s worship by eliminating human boasting. How does he do this? He focuses our attention on God’s unmerited gracious choice in Christ before the foundation of the world. The point is that this election was not based upon anything we might do for God, because it was before the foundation of the world.
What existed before the foundation of the world? There was no-thing, but there was someone. That is God himself. He chose people before the foundation of the world, to be united to Christ in election, according to his own free decision and love.
Christians, think about this: Your identity in Christ precedes your existence, and it will abide throughout eternity. Being in Christ is more central to who you are than anything about you. You belonged to God before time began, and you will be his forever. We were chosen in him before the foundation of the world. And then our names were written in the book of life of the lamb who was slain (Rev. 13:8; cf. 17:8).
Christians, think about this: your identity in Christ precedes your existence, and it will abide throughout eternity. Being in Christ is more central to who you are than anything about you.
Why the Father Did It
At the end of verse 4, we read that this journal of God’s secret workings reveals God’s eternal love for his children. Think about this: God’s attitude towards his people—before the foundation of the world—is love.
There was truly nothing that compelled his decision to elect a people to himself but his love for us. There was no human merit or goodness in us. We couldn’t have done anything to merit his love. And we couldn’t add anything to God.
He loved us before the foundation of the world, and he will love us unto eternity.
What is the response to such a love? The doctrine of election compels our worship, because it shows God’s loving plan to save people who don’t deserve it.
Not only was it love, but also to make us holy and blameless before him (Eph. 1:4).
Holy means set apart. In the Old Testament, we read of things that are clean and unclean, common and holy. The point is there are things and people who are set apart to God. What makes someone set apart, or holy to God, is how they relate to the Bible. Holiness describes someone who reflects God’s standard.
Then there is the second word, blameless. This means to be without defect, blemish, or fault. It means that the person is in perfect conformity with God’s Law. It’s perfection of the highest order.
Now combine the terms, holy and blameless. What is he saying? He is saying that part of what God’s electing purpose was to secure their eternal acceptance before God in a state of absolute moral perfection.
Finally, the purpose is shown to be the praise of God’s glorious grace. He did these things to glorify himself.
Sometimes people get hung up on this concept. They struggle with the idea of God doing all these things for his glory and honor. If you or I were all about exalting ourselves, we would not be doing a good thing. We would be supremely narcissistic. It’s ugly to be self-exalting if we are imperfect.
But God is not like us.
He is the highest good. There is no blemish in him. To exalt or glorify God is to do the best thing, because he is the highest good. To turn away from doing this or to exalt someone or something else is to turn away from what is best. If God were to stop glorifying himself or pursuing his glory, he would be turning away from the best. Or to put it another way, he’d be doing something imperfect. And in an instant, he would be flawed. He would cease to be acting like God.
So it is consistent with his character and nature as God to pursue and promote his glory—above everyone and everything else. But also, to glorify himself by doing immeasurable good to others whether we are talking about the gift of natural life or eternal life.
But, second, to the question of using us rather than loving us. Others have described a hypothetical situation to make the point. Let’s say a husband brings his wife flowers, and then when he comes home, his wife says, “So, you did your duty?” “No,” the husband says, “I love you. This is not a duty. It’s the expression of my love for you. Nothing makes me more happy than to spend time with you and see you happy.”
Could you imagine his wife answering this to say, “You are so selfish. All you ever think about is yourself.” Of course not! We can see at this moment that the husband loves his wife. He enjoys happiness in her happiness. God is not using his people rather than loving them. He is glorifying himself 100 percent by loving us 100 percent.
The reason God in exalting himself is not an egomaniac is that he is promoting the very thing that satisfies my soul, namely his beauty, his glory, his character.
So, if God did it for his glory and praise; therefore, it should be our response also. If the glory of God was the ultimate motive for divine election and predestination, then it most certainly should be the response of his children.
Thumbing through the pages of sacred Scripture we find the personal narrative, the motive-disclosing details of events ordained and contained in the divine decree of God. And as we pour over the heart of our Father revealed in the Word, we are made humble, filled with happiness, and compelled toward personal holiness.