SALVATION IN EPHESIANS

#2 CHOSEN

Chosen in Christ. This is the first of the spiritual blessings that Paul lists in Ephesians 1 and 2.

Sadly, most of us do not easily respond to this concept as if it were a blessing. It creates in us not an awareness of blessedness but a sense of threat, even a feeling of offense. It threatens our human pride; it is offensive to our human ability. It takes not only salvation out of our hands, but it also denies that we have any ability or inclination to actually choose God if he left us to ourselves.

Yet this concept of being 'chosen' demonstrates both the immense grace of God active on our behalf in salvation, and also the utter assurance and certainty of that salvation. We need to let go of our foolish and ego-centric thoughts that prevent us from rejoicing in this concept of being 'chosen in Christ' and look at what Paul is actually saying here.

Paul states: 'he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight' [Ephesians 1:4]. This teaches us:

[1] God chose us. This fact of divine choice is affirmed by Jesus Christ in Matthew 11:25-27; 16:17; John 6:44,65; 10:29. God's will is the initiating cause of our salvation.

[2] This divine choice is not motivated or enabled by any predisposing meritorious or worthy factor in us. We do not stand before God alone and exposed, depending on our own being and our own doing to merit and motivate his choice of us. Rather, God chose us 'in Christ' - because of his being and his doing. In this choice another choice of God is identified: his choice to never again relate to us as a stand-alone individual, but to always, ever and only relate to us in and through the one Mediator, Jesus Christ.

[3] This divine choice was made 'before the creation of the world' - it was not an afterthought, a 'plan B', arising from something temporal that caused God to act in this way. God knew, even before the events recorded in Genesis 1 that the events recorded in Genesis 3 woud occur, necessitating the incarnation, necessitating the crucifixion. God knew this, and, knowing this, still deliberately created us, planning even before he did so, that beyond our rebellion, he would,  through this act of divine choice, save us 'in Christ'. Thus Paul states in 2 Timothy 1:9 that 'this grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.'

[4] This divine choice has a specific purpose and outcome: that 'in Christ' we would be 'holy and blameless in his sight'. This is not, as some interpret this verse, something we as Christians are here being commanded to strive for, but rather the purpose and result of God's action. 'In Christ' this is what we are, 'in Christ' this is how God now relates to us. 'In Christ', as Paul affirms in Colossians 1:22, God presents us to himself 'holy in his sight, without blemish, and free from accusation.' Hidden in Christ [Colossians 3:3], clothed with his righteousness [1 Corinthians 1:31], God, by his divine choice and his divine initiative, and his divine will, now accepts us as holy, now accepts us as perfect [Hebrews 10:10,14].

This is that offensive message of Romans 4:5 'God ... justifies the wicked'. This is that provocative truth identified by Martin Luther 'simul justus et peccator' - at the same time justified and a sinner.  Yet there it is: 'in Christ' by God's choice, as the result of his purpose and action, we are 'holy and blameless in his sight.' This is why he did it this way. This is why our salvation, this blessedness of which Paul speaks, must be nothing to do with us - with our merit, with our choice, and everything to do with God - with his choice, with the merit of his Son. Were it by our choice, it would all depend on our abilility to choose [yet the scripture says we are dead and powerless - Ephesians 2:1, Romans 5:6], and on our desire to choose God [yet the scripture says there is no one who seeks for God - Romans 3:11], and on our ability to actually know who the true God is [yet the scripture teaches that left to ourselves we do not and cannot know him - Romans 3:11, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Matthew 11:27].

There is a human choice, and Paul will come to that later in Ephesians. But now, for the moment, addressing those who believe in Christ, and including himself with them, he praises God for this blessedness: that God chose us in Christ, before the creation of the world, with this purpose and result, that we would be holy and blameless in his sight.

This divine choice is not a threat to our human identity and integrity, rather it is that by which we are restored to that relationship with God in which we are liberated to be most truly and most completely human.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2007, 2017