God’s Timely Choice
We have been amazed by the blessings upon blessings that God pours out on us. He blesses us. We are so filled up with His blessings that we bless Him back - what we call worship. But the more we bless Him, the more He blesses us right back. So we take His blessings and pour them out on all the people we come across. That was last week’s sermon!
I left you with a cliff hanger. The greatest blessing of all happened even before creation…
#1 - God ___CHOSE_US___ First!
“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…” Ephesians 1:4a
The greatest election that has ever taken place in all of history is the election when God elected you! When God chose you! We often get this confused because of our understanding of time. We remember the time when we chose Him! When we decided to follow Christ! When we made the choice to become a Christ-follower. And it was a real choice! A good choice. The right choice! Just not the first choice.
God’s choice was the first choice. And notice that He chose us even before the foundation of the world! What does that mean? I believe it means before creation. God created the world. God placed the world and all the universe in motion. We read about this in Genesis chapter one - the creation narrative. “In the beginning, God created…” What Ephesians 1:4 tells us is that even before the foundation of the world, even before God created… GOD CHOSE!
Admittedly this is a mind-blowing concept, but only because we can’t fathom a time before time. For us, “in the beginning” means first. The beginning of time is the first thing that happened. However, when we say “the first thing that happened” there are more words that we all presume to assume but don’t need to say - “the first thing that happened in time!” Because everything that happens to us, happens in time. We are creatures of time. Time existed before us. Time will exist after us. We exist within time.
But this is not true of God. God exists outside of time. There has never been a time when God has not existed. God is forever. God is eternal. The very concept of time, the very existence of time, the very idea of one event happening after another, the very idea of a past, a present, and a future… these are ALL created by God.
However, there is before time. There is before the foundation the world and in Ephesians 1:4 we read that in this before time, before foundation of the world, God… stop right there. BEFORE FOUNDATION GOD. That by itself is a mind-blowing concept, but proves the point that time follows God, not the other way around.
Here’s the other thing you need to know about God, whether within time or outside of time… God is not only a Being of existence (hence the Name, I Am), He is also a being of action. God is not only a Noun (the most proper noun there is!), but God is also a verb. The very definition of God is completeness, wholeness. One cannot have a complete sentence without a noun and a verb. To have a sentence describe God describes His existence and His action. God is always doing. His very Being is action in motion! This is why we know God as Spirit, as “hovering over the face of the waters” in Genesis 1:2. In Ephesians 1:4 we discover what God was doing before God was creating…
#2 - God Chose Us ___IN HIM___ !
“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…” Ephesians 1:4a
God didn’t just choose us for any old thing, God chose us for THE MOST HOLY thing. God chose us in Him. As we read the Scriptures we learn about the sacred and the secular. There are tools and people that are very important and very valuable, but are used for the everyday. We call these the secular. Then there are the tools and the people that are sacred. These are HOLY. These are set apart for God’s special purpose, for God’s special use.
THIS is the use and the description that God has for you and for me - God chose us IN HIM! We are in God. God is in us. When we become a Christ-follower, when we are a child of God, God lives within us. His Holy Spirit indwells us! We are IN HIM! We are holy. We are set aside for His use, for His purpose.
So we have two descriptions given about us as chosen IN HIM…
That we should be ___HOLY___!
This is what we have been talking about. We are set aside for God’s HOLY purpose. We are a people set aside for God. For God’s use. For God’s pleasure. This is why the first Christians were all called “saints.” We have a misguided concept of saints. We think of saints as some very special Christians in the past who have done some incredible service to God! Yes, THEY are saints. But so are you! Because God has set you apart to be holy! God’s very Presence in your life makes you Holy. How could God’s HOLY Spirit abide within anyone less?
Some of you are balking right there, because you’re thinking, Pastor Mark - you just don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know me! You don’t know what I’ve done. You don’t know who I really am. I don’t know much, but I know I could never be described as holy. I’m just too guilty of sin! This is ALSO why God CHOSE you before the foundation:
That we should be ___BLAMELESS___!
You’re so right about not being able to be holy because of your sins. But here’s the thing. There’s not a man or woman alive who can come before God’s Holy Throne and brag upon their own perfection. There’s not a man or a woman who has ever lived who has been blameless!
Except for One! The God-man, Jesus. He was and is blameless. So God chose us in Him! Who is the Him? Let’s follow the rule of pronouns. Whenever we see a pronoun, in this case “him,” we go back to the first proper noun we find. So let’s do that in verse 4. He chose us in him. Who is the him referring to? We see our answer in verse 3:
“Has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.”
So let’s put this blessing all together. God chose us in HIM - Jesus Christ - the second person of the Holy Godhead, that we might be two things - holy and blameless. We can’t be set apart for God’s use without being holy. We cannot be holy without being blameless. And we can’t be blameless without Jesus perfect work on the cross on our behalf. All of this - every bit of it - was God’s choice! Before the foundation of the world. Before God created the universe. Before God created humans. Before God created you! God chose us IN HIM! It is God Who makes this choice. It is God Who makes this possible!
There are those who may ask, why? Why would God do this?
#3 - God Chose Us In Him BECAUSE OF LOVE.
“… that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love.” Ephesians 1:4b
To know God is to know God’s love. The apostle John wrote it perfectly: “God IS love.” 1 John 4:8. God chose us because God loves us. It’s just the kind of thing God does, because this is just the kind of God that God is. Remember the whole noun and verb thing? God is love. God loves. They are both the same thing. We can’t have one without the other.
Here I take you briefly into the deep weeds of historical Christian debate. You’ll notice a strange thing in most of our modern day English bibles. We have a period at the end of the word, Him. Then we capitalize In love, to begin a new sentence. But you’ll also notice that the “In love” is part of verse 4 and not a part of the rest of the sentence in verse 5.
It may come as a shock to you, but the original manuscripts and all the copies we rely upon did not come with any punctuation, with any capital letters and did NOT come with any chapters and verses. The chapters and verses that we use today didn’t appear until the 1550s!
So here is the deep question that great Christian thinkers have been asking themselves for centuries - Does God’s love apply to the fact that He chose us In Him to be holy and blameless? Or does God’s love apply to the fact that God predestined us for adoption (verse 5)? We don’t really know. It could be either.
It could be BOTH! (That’s what I think!) By cleverly assigning the period after “blameless before Him” but including the words, “In love” within the same verse, you could make an argument either way. And the truth of the matter is it doesn’t matter! Because BOTH ARE TRUE! God’s choice was you! God’s choice for you was to be holy. God’s choice for you was to be blameless. God’s choice for you is to be adopted. God’s choice for you is to be a holy blameless son or daughter in Christ! And ALL OF IT comes from God’s love.
#4 - The Result Of God’s Love? Our ADOPTION!
“He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:5a
I have a lot to talk to you about our adoption as children of God. That’s where all this is leading. God didn’t just make us holy. God didn’t just make us blameless. God chose us to be His children. He went through the entire full legal process to formally make us His children. He gave us His last name! He made us brothers and sisters next to His Son Jesus. Wow! God’s love knows no bounds. We’ll talk a lot more about this next time we get together.
But for now - and while we have been talking about time and before time and God’s creation of time and God being outside of time and yet all of us being within time… well let’s just admit that we struggle with the idea of predestination. It’s a heady concept. God predestines us for adoption to Himself. It’s right there. In Scripture. It’s God’s Holy Word!
And I know this raises all kinds of theological and just plain logical questions about God and predestination. How can we answer all these questions? I’m going to tell you what I’ve concluded - we can’t answer all the questions! Here’s what we know. God loves us. God chose us. God predestines us. God adopts us. Exactly how all that works… well, it’s not entirely up to us to figure out, right? God tells us it is so. And so we accept it on the basis of His Word. We can’t accept it on the basis of our experience, because all of our experience is within time.
Still we wonder about it. Here’s what I think. God is outside of time and the Creator of time. I am one of His creatures and I exist within the boundaries of time, also created by God. However, my existence is not defined by the limitation of time. My existence is defined by God, Who is outside of time. God exists before. God exists now. God exists in the future. All time - past, present and future - it’s all NOW to God. (Yeah, I know - a little mind blowing.)
But if I want to try to see this through time - really the only way I CAN understand - I see God the Father, God the Creator have me in mind even before He creates. And He knows that on my own I will be / am / was never holy nor blameless. Yet He loves me. He loves me so much that He gave / will give / gives His only begotten Son for me so that His blood shed on the cross purifies my dark blame to pure blameless and makes me holy.
So that when God the Father/Creator looks forward through time at me (and you) He see me (and you) through the prism of His Son Jesus’ sacrifice for me (and you) on the cross. God the Father looks forward through time, through the prism of God the Son’s blood making us holy and blameless.
He not only looks forward, but He is also looks back. When we become Christ-followers, we are filled with God’s Holy Spirit (the third person of the Holy Trinity). So God in us (The Holy Spirit) looks back through Jesus (God the Son) at God the Father.
We are “predestined” because it’s all God. God in the beginning. God in the now. God in the future. It’s all God’s choice. It’s all God’s love! And so we are predestined to be adopted children of God.
So what does it mean to be adopted children of God? For that we’ll need to come together again next time!