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Deliberate Selection

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
just as He chose us in Him
before the foundation of the world,
that we should be holy and without blame before Him
in love

Ephesians 1:3-4

These opening verses in the letter to the Ephesians begin a paragraph of praise which vividly describes the good blessings God has poured out on us. Although we know these opening verses were intended to be a joyful benediction to our God of blessing, sometimes we may find our joy is tempered because of the central phrase 'chose us in Him.' This because we are aware that the Greek word for 'chose' is closely related to the Greek word translated 'elect,' and that relation has often resulted in this passage becoming a theological battleground instead of a field of rejoicing.

Instead of avoiding the point of contention, let us boldly face the key issue head on, and take a close look at the Greek word for 'chose'. Let us search out the word through all the pages of scripture to see how it was used and what it meant. Let us honestly seek out its true definition, delineate it, and then apply it to this passage. Let us seek the truth, and not avoid it.

[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]I[/dropcap]n researching the meaning of a word, a natural place to begin would be to look at the definitions in the lexicons.  However, given the scholarly contention over this word, we may question our ability to discern whether the lexicons are giving us an unbiased opinion of the word's meaning.  We would undoubtedly feel safer if we could somehow verify the lexicon definitions.  Of course, the best method for testing a word definition from a lexicon is to carefully look ourselves at how scripture used the word over a number of contexts.  While it is beyond the scope of this book to present a highly detailed study, we will look at a summary of a word study on the Greek word 'chose.'

The Greek word Paul used in Ephesians 1:4, translated 'chose,' is a verb.  The word also has an adjective form and a noun form.  Listed below is each form of the word, along with their associated Strong's numbers and a brief, basic definition.

G1586      eklegomai: Verb; To choose, select, choose for oneself.
G1588       eklektos: Adjective, derived from G1586; The chosen, select, elect.
G1589       eklogē: Noun, derived from G1586; The choice, selection, election.

The definitions of the three words are related, and we will examine each word, attempting to gain a clear understanding of their definitions based on scriptural use while hopefully avoiding theological bias.

G1586: To Choose

[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]T[/dropcap]he Greek verb represented by the Strong's number, G1586, was not a narrowly defined word.  A broad spectrum of contexts used it throughout the Greek Old Testament (LXX) and the New Testament (NT).  In fact, it apparently was as versatile a word as our English word, 'chose.'  Similar to our English word, G1586 was used to speak of the choosing of a wide variety of things, such as:

  • God choosing the nation of Israel
  • God choosing Saul as king
  • The people choosing Saul as king
  • David choosing five stones for the battle with Goliath
  • Saul choosing soldiers for battle
  • Joshua's call to the people to choose whom they would serve
  • Lot choosing the plains of Jordan
  • The prophets of Baal choosing their bull
  • A man choosing a log to make into an image
  • Etc.

Not only was G1586 as versatile as 'chose,' but it was also similar in meaning: the act of picking out or selecting from multiple possibilities.  However, the lexicons tell us that G1586 indicated a specific type of choice: that of a careful, deliberate selection.  It did not indicate an arbitrary or random selection.

[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]T[/dropcap]o illustrate the type of selection, imagine a man shopping in the marketplace for a melon.  Suppose he comes down the aisle to the display of melons and arbitrarily grabs the melon nearest him for purchase.  It would not be appropriate to use G1586 in describing this type of selection.  However, if the man approached the display and carefully evaluated several of the melons before finally making his choice, then G1586 would be appropriate to use.

[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]A[/dropcap]s mentioned above, G1586 enjoyed broad use throughout the LXX.  It is beyond the scope of this book to examine each and every context in the scriptures where G1586 occurred.  Instead, we will narrow the focus to the contexts involving God's choosing.  Even in this reduced scope, the number of passages is significant, but we can group all of God's major choices into the following categories of chosen objects: priests, city, ministers, people, and apostles.  It is within the scope of this book to briefly look at each of these categories in turn.

[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]A[/dropcap]s we look at the categories of God's choosing, we will find there were three or four elements consistently present in each one.

  1. We might readily anticipate the first element of God's choosing: there was always a clearly defined set of chosen items or individuals. In contrast to a random choice of arbitrary items, a careful and deliberate choice is normally expected to have clearly defined items or individuals.
  2. The second element was a definite purpose or function which the chosen were to fulfill. This element is not surprising since it would be odd to have no purpose in mind for deliberately chosen items or individuals.
  3. The third element of God's deliberate choice was a certain permanence of choice. This element comes from the character and person of God.  He knew the end from the beginning, saw the public things and the secret, and was intimately acquainted with the innermost parts of a man.  When God made a choice, He was fully aware of every implication.  He never was surprised by a choice which didn't turn out the way He intended.  Therefore, it should be no surprise that when God made a deliberate choice, it was permanent in nature.
  4. The fourth element was true in most contexts of God's choice, although there were one or two exceptions. This element is that the chosen objects became holy unto God.  Often, when God made a deliberate choice, He was choosing items or individuals for His purpose and use.  Thus, these objects were made holy because, by definition, any object set apart for God's use is holy.

Noting these elements within each category of God's choice should help us gain a clear understanding of G1586, and enable us to arrive at a clear interpretation of Ephesians 1:4.