Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Elect Before the Foundation of the World

It is true, and commonly agreed, at least among orthodox Protestants, that the atonement occurred in history, in the acts of Christ in His crucifixion and resurrection. We individually are justified, that is, have that atonement applied to us, also in history, at the time we believe.

However, there is an additional element in Scripture: the planning of that atonement, not in history, but before the world was even created.

This is described in several places in Scripture. Look especially at Ephesians 1:4: "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him." Who chose? Us? No, God the Father chose. When? When I raised my hand? When I went up at the altar call? No, but before the foundation of the world. Not just before I decided, and not just before I was born, but before any material thing existed. Chosen because I am holy and blameless? Definitely not! But rather that I could become holy and blameless.

The same concept appears in the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:34: "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." What is the promised blessing? A kingdom! One that started at the cross, or the resurrection, or when I believed? No! Rather, it is a kingdom that was prepared for me before the world was even created. The kingdom existed before the world did!

And again in the words of Jesus in John 17:24: "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am, to see My glory that You have given Me because you loved Me before the foundation of the world." This is a more-explicit description of the intra-Trinitarian covenant, that decision by the Persons of the Trinity that the Father decreed to give a people, i. e., the Church (Ephesians 5:25), to the Son, before the creation. That means that the sovereign election of Ephesians 1 is not about us, but about Christ. Not for our glory, but for His! Notice the "in Him" in Ephesians 1:4 above. While we are certainly not worthy, He just as surely is! Revelation 5:9: "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation."

Lastly, look at Revelation 17:8: "The dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast." This verse refers to a separate group of people, those who have not been chosen to be holy and blameless. This is the other side of the coin, the doctrine of reprobation. Just as God was glorified in hardening the heart of Pharaoh, He is glorified also in the hardening of all those who refuse to believe. Paul warned unbelieving Israel of this truth in Romans 9:18: "He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills."

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