“According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”
The connection between this verse and the preceding is expressed by the words “according as”. The apostle purposes to develop the keynote of verse 3. He will describe that glorious salvation, our spiritual blessings in heavenly places, which is ours in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Unto that end he, in verses 4 and 5, refers us to the quiet of eternity, the eternal beginning of our salvation, at the same time revealing unto us the preeminent place which God’s people occupy in God’s counsel of salvation. “According as” is an expression which implies, in the first place, that God has blessed us with all spiritual and heavenly blessings in Christ according to the standard of our election. God has elected us in Christ Jesus. According to that eternal election, agreeing thereto, He has blessed us in Christ Jesus. Therefore this expression refers us, secondly, to the only origin and ground of our salvation. We were elected in Him before the foundation of the world. Therefore we could be blessed centrally in Him, He could suffer and die for us, and become the fullness of our salvation when He was exalted at the right hand of power.
“He hath chosen us in Him,” we read. The word “election”, which means literally “to choose out of” (the Dutch translation reads ‘uitverkiezing’), apparently supports the infralapsarian view. Infralapsarianism places election (also reprobation) after the fall of man in the counsel of God, so that, in God’s counsel, the Lord elected out of a fallen human race. Reprobation, according this view, signifies that the Lord decreed that others should be left in their sin. This conception is, first, of all, very unsatisfactory. It begins with the reality of sin and makes no attempt to account for its presence in this world. Must this night of sin and misery, already six thousand years old, be divorced and separated from the alone living and sovereign God? Secondly, infralapsarianism can never be maintained in the light of Scripture. Did God not hate Esau and love Jacob before they did evil or good, that His good pleasure might stand, and did the Lord not harden Pharaoh’s heart, yea, raise him up for that very purpose? How can anyone separate the existence of anything from the living God, who alone ruleth over all? We agree that the word “election” sounds infralapsarian. Notice two things, however. Firstly, the Scriptures view God’s decree historically, from the viewpoint of time. Looking at the entire human race, we read, then, that God, out of many, has elected some. This does not imply at all that election occurred in that manner in the Lord’s eternal thoughts. Secondly, the word “election” (does not emphasize the manner of God’s decree but its fruit. If we, e.g., say that we elected him president we mean that his becoming president was the fruit of our election of him. When the Scriptures say that God elected, chose out of the whole human race, the implication is that the fruit of this election of God is their separation from the rest of mankind. God’s election of His people and His reprobation of others are strictly divinely sovereign. Sin does not precede God’s election; it must serve it.
God hath chosen “us in Him”. This expression must be regarded in its entirety as the object of election. “Him”, of course, refers to Christ. To be in Christ means that He is the sphere of our life. We are in Jesus, judicially and organically. To this thought I have already called attention in connection with verse 3. It is this body, whereof Christ is the Head and we are the members, which constitutes the object of our election. That God elected us in Christ does not merely mean that He elected us because we were in Christ. This would be inconceivable. Fact is, to be in Christ is our salvation. But God sovereignly willed a people who would be the body of Jesus Christ. God willed to glorify Himself in Jesus, Who would be the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Unto that end He willed a people who would be the body of that Christ, in whom the fullness of Jesus would come to manifestation. Unto that end He elected millions of elect, each of whom would occupy his own place in God’s eternal temple and all together shewing forth the fullness of the glory of God in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Such was God’s decree of election.
He hath chosen us in Him “before the foundation of the world”. The common interpretation of these words is well-known. The “foundation of the world” refers, then, to the creation of the world, the moment when the world was founded. That God elected us before the foundation of the world simply means that God chose us before the world’s founding, sometime in eternity. This interpretation emphasizes, we understand, the element of time. Our election is older than six thousand years. This interpretation purposed to emphasize, of course, the divinely sovereign character of our election. Zion was already elected before anything had been called into existence. This fact, that we were chosen before our birth, yea before the beginning of the world, would therefore exclude any merit or activity on our part.
This, however, cannot exhaust the meaning of the apostle. In the first place, we must be on our guard against any conception of time. To be elected from the foundation of the world would imply, then, that sometime before the world’s founding we were elected. However, such a moment never existed. God’s counsel is as eternal as God is eternal. Eternity knows no moments; time is not a part of eternity. It cannot be true, therefore, that sometime before the creation of the world the Lord elected His own. Secondly, we should bear in mind that God is the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth. That God has not only elected Zion but He has also willed the world and all the things therein. The elect but also the reprobates, heaven but also hell, this present world or, if you will, this present organical existence with all its joy and sorrow, song and weeping, peace and war, sickness and misery and death, owe their existence only to the alone living God Who has willed all things and performs all His good pleasure.
That God has elected us before the foundation of the world must be understood as occurring thus in God’s own eternal counsel. In His eternal decree our election preceded God’s eternal purpose with respect to the creation of the world. We must understand that the order in God’s counsel must not be regarded as an order of time. The time element must be completely disregarded. There are from the viewpoint of time no first or lasts in the counsel of God. Known unto God, eternally, are all His works. There is in Jehovah’s thoughts no succession of moments. However, all things do not have the same significance in the Lord’s decrees. There is an order, therefore, as far as their importance is concerned. We must not speak of a time order in God’s counsel but we can speak of a logical order. Scripture certainly teaches this truth. We read in: “For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” That God has elected us before the foundation of the world means therefore that, in the counsel of God, God’s people are first and the world with all that is therein is subordinate to them and must serve them. The highest in the counsel of God is, of course the glory of God’s eternal name. This Name the Lord willed to glorify in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, according to the human nature, would be the fullness of the Godhead bodily, of whom we read in : “And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.” In that logical order God gave unto the Lord Jesus Christ a people, who would reveal the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ in heavenly glory, and manifest the glorious power of God’s marvelous grace. Unto that end the Lord willed the foundation of the world, with all the things therein, its joy and sorrow, darkness and light, sin and grace, pain and misery, in order that the world and the development of all things might serve the elect of God, unto the glory of God’s alone praise-worthy name. The elect of God have therein the counsel of the Lord the preeminent place; whatever takes place in the history of the world must serve them and be instrumental toward bringing them into the eternal glory which God has prepared for them.
God hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, “that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” These words express the purpose and result of God’s election. God surely elected us in order that we should be holy and without blame. Separation from sin and dedication to God, the praise of His Name, is the purpose of our salvation. However, these words also express the result of our election. We must notice that. God did not elect us because of our holiness. Such is the Arminian view which advocates an election of God upon foreseen, faith. God, then elected us because we were holy and blameless. To the contrary, our holiness is the result of our election. For God executes His own counsel and fulfils His own will. Having elected us in Jesus Christ, our Lord, unto holiness and blamelessness. Jehovah also realizes His counsel of election and calls us unto Himself through the power of His irresistible Spirit.
God elected us. . . .“holy and without blame before Him”. The relation between holiness and blamelessness is self-evident. Holiness emphasizes the idea of positive purity. To be without blame refers to the negative aspect of our being separated from sin and pollution. According to some these expressions must be understood in the judicial sense of the word. To be holy then would, signify a judicial holiness, in the sense of justification, and to be blameless would imply that we are free of all guilt. This, however, is not the meaning of the apostle. In the first place, these words, then, would merely convey a negative thought. Secondly, to be holy means spiritual and ethical purity throughout the Scriptures. To be holy and without blame expresses therefore the thought that we are separated from all evil and spiritually dedicated to the Lord.
We must be holy and without blame “before” “Him” refers to God. To be holy and without blame before God implies a holiness which is such, not according to the judgment of a mere man, but in the sight of God, the Sole Judge of heaven and earth.
This holiness is possible only in the sphere of love. We read: “That we should be holy and without blame before Him in love”. Some would connect the expression “in love” with verse 5. However, in the first place, the predestination of verse 5 is already modified by the good pleasure of Gold’s will. And, secondly, love is the proper sphere wherein our holiness and blamelessness are alone possible. For love is the bond of perfection. Love unites us with the living God. And only in the sphere of love are we devoted to God and separated from evil.
“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”
The most intimate connection exists between verse 5 and the preceding verse. Fact is, verses 3-12 constitute one single sentence. Paul, having begun in verse 3 to sing of the marvelous, eternal, and sovereign grace of God, experiences difficulty in coming to a halt. His heart and soul are filled to overflowing. He does not pause until he has come to the end of verse 12. The same unbroken line of thought also characterizes verses 4 and 5. In verse 4 the apostle had declared that God had elected us before the foundation of the world in order that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. The grammatical form of the expression “having predestinated”, which is a correct translation of the original, clearly Indicates the intimate connection between this verse and the preceding text. God elected us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ. According to some this predestination unto adoption is the ground of the election of verse 4. We must remember, of course, that Paul here is speaking of matters which occurred in God’s eternal counsel. God, then, elected us because He predestinated us unto adoption of children. Without this adoption our election would not have been possible. This view, however, is not supported by this Scriptural passage. Notice, first of all, that our election occurred before the foundation of the world. This “foundation of the world” refers to the world and all things therein and includes this night of sin and death. Consequently, sin and death, and, therefore, also our adoption unto children, do not precede our election but must serve it. Secondly, according to verse 4 we were elected unto holiness. We were not elected because of our holiness (and hence not because of our adoption unto children), but that we should be holy. According to others, and this is the correct presentation, our predestination unto adoption of children must be regarded as the means, God’s way, whereby He sovereignly realizes our election in Christ Jesus. We must ever bear in mind that all this applies to God’s eternal counsel. The time element must be wholly disregarded. All things in this immediate context are eternal. However, there are degrees of importance in God’s eternal thoughts. Sovereignly God willed a people in Christ Jesus unto the glory of His name. Sovereignly He also decreed the way whereby that glory would be realized: the way of sin and death and our adoption unto children by Jesus Christ, our Lord.
“Having predestinated us.” This word means literally “to limit, as by means of a boundary, to determine, to order or decree.” God’s predestination refers to this decree of God which precedes the thing, not merely in a temporal sense, but in a creative sense. God’s good pleasure always precedes things, is their eternal creative source. The word “election” also, of course, refers to God’s eternal decree. Election, however, usually emphasizes God’s decree as it concerns persons. Predestination on the other hand, and evidently thus in this text, concerns things. We have been predestinated unto adoption of children.
The text speaks of our adoption unto children by Jesus Christ. We all understand the natural figure of an adopted child. An adopted child is a child that becomes the child of certain parents. He is not their child. But he becomes such. Adoption implies a twofold process. First of all, a child is adopted through the instrumentality of the law. Parents obtain legal possession of a certain child, and the child receives legal right to all the privileges of that particular home. But adoption also implies that it actually enters its new home and partakes of its life and all its privileges.
God’s children are children of adoption. By nature we are not children of God but of wrath. This is, first of all, a spiritual fact. The glorious life of God we do not know. Spiritual fellowship with the Lord is far from us. We know not the love and life of Gold, but, to the contrary, are filled with darkness and the lie and enmity against God and His Name. But we are also children of wrath in a judicial sense. We have been banished from the presence and fellowship of the Lord, have no right to God’s communion, and are, according to the righteous judgment of God, worthy of eternal hell. Besides, we cannot be received again into the favor of the Lord until His justice be perfectly satisfied. Spiritually and judicially, therefore, we are objects of wrath and children of the devil.
We become children of God by adoption. First of all, judicially. In natural life legal adoption signifies that the law attaches a certain child to certain parents, so that, legally, that child is entitled to all the privileges of a particular home. To become an adopted child of the living God, legally, likewise signifies that we legally belong to God. The law, God’s own law, has attached us to the Lord. We are legally entitled, according to that law of God, to the life of God’s covenant. Our state of estrangement has become a state of communion. Formerly the law of God demanded our banishment; now that law of God entitles us to God’s fellowship. God’s adoption of His people is, first of all, this judicial step, assuring us, upon the basis of divine justice, of our engrafting into God’s covenant life. From this must follow our spiritual adoption, whereby we are actually inducted into God’s blessed covenant. The Lord bestows upon us His grace and life, grants us a place at His table, cause us to experience and taste His love, and enables us to love and serve Him. We are translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the blessed covenant life of the living God.
This adoption unto children is ours, we read, “by or through Jesus Christ”. Our Lord is Jesus because He is the personal revelation of Jehovah as the God of our salvation, who, continuing true and eternal God, became like unto us in all things, sin excepted, to save us through the deep way of the cross and resurrection. He is Jesus Christ because, as that Savior, He is the anointed Servant of the Lord, to do all the things required of Him in the House of God, and acquit Himself of this task as our chief Prophet, only High Priest, and eternal King. We are children of adoption, by or through Jesus Christ, because this adoption is effected, realized by Him. Inasmuch as our adoption required the satisfying of the justice of God and our spiritual translation out of darkness into light, it must be self-evident that we could not bring it to pass. This we owe to Jesus Christ alone. He realizes our adoption, first of all, upon the cross of Calvary. Due to the fact that He is God’s anointed head of Zion He stands in our guilty relation to the law, assumes our guilt before the bar of God’s justice, and voluntarily descends for us into the depths of the wrath of Gold. This Jesus Christ satisfies completely the law of God, pays our debt and blots out all our guilt, and merits for us eternal life and the blessed communion with the Lord in heavenly glory. Our legal adoption is established through this meritorious and vicarious work of Jesus Christ, our Lord. But Jesus does more. He rises from the dead and is exalted at the right hand of divine power. He receives the Spirit without measure and establishes Himself in the hearts of His elect people. He unites us to Himself, grants us the assurance of our legal adoption, and causes us spiritually to taste the blessedness of the grace and life of God. Jesus also realizes our own personal adoption, now in principle, and soon in eternal perfection.
And now we read that we have been “predestinated unto or into the adoption of children by Jesus Christ”. Our adoption by Jesus Christ is, therefore, the direct result of this predestination. This implies, first of all, of course, that our adoption by Jesus Christ, as we have discussed its historical realization, is an eternal fact. In the counsel of God all this appears, all this is accomplished. History is merely the unfolding of God’s eternal plan. This also implies, however, that this adoption unto children by Jesus Christ, with all that it implies, has been eternally willed by God. God, therefore, not only decreed our eternal glory, but also the way unto that glory. He also predestinated our adoption unto children which implies the way of sin and death and our redemption through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
“To Himself”. We read literally “into Him”. “Him”, we understand, refers to God. The expression “into Him” directs unto the blessed fruit of this adoption. Even as a child is adopted into a certain family, so we, too, have been adopted into God. It is true that the people of God will inherit the life of the eternal Jerusalem. But the heart of that Jerusalem is God. Into God we are adopted. This does not mean that we become God. We cannot and do not desire to become God. But it does mean that we are adopted into the very life of God, become partakers of His divine nature () according to the measure of the creature, as creatures to live and taste the life of God, to love and will and desire what He loves and wills and desires. The life of God, which is God’s eternal self-love, is imparted unto us, whereby we love and seek Him even as Be loves and seeks Himself. And this life we receive, never to lose it again but to enjoy it forevermore.
“According to the good pleasure of His will”. The will of God, in this text, signifies the eternal reality of all things, as the Lord has conceived of them, together with the divine decree to reflect these divine thoughts in all the works of His hands. We cannot enter into this thought in detail in this brief article. Moreover, Paul speaks of the “good pleasure” of His will. The apostle does not speak of the will of His good pleasure, which would signify that the will of God is characterized by the Lord’s good pleasure, which in itself is certainly true. He speaks of the good pleasure of His will. The will of God is characterized, according to Holy Writ, by various virtues. The Word of God describes the Lord’s will as external, wise, all-comprehensive, good, and holy. In this text the apostle names the virtue of God’s good pleasure. This word refers literally to that which was pleasing to the Lord. God does as it pleases Him. It is this thought, the thought of God’s sovereignty, which receives the emphasis here. The “good pleasure of His will” refers to the will of God particularly from the aspect of its sovereignty.
“According to the good pleasure of His will”. According to this sovereign will the Lord has predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ. In this work of salvation the Lord was therefore determined, not by man, but solely by Himself. He elected those whom He sovereignly would. He determined to save them, in the way of sin and death through Jesus Christ, only because such was His good pleasure. That no flesh may boast, but he that glorieth let him glory in the Lord.