As we consider the categories of God’s choosing, we might notice there were two types of purpose for which God chose people. The first was for a ministry or service type of purpose. Aaron and his sons were chosen to minister as priests; the Levites ministered in the service of the tabernacle; David served as king; the disciples served as apostles. However, the nation of Israel was chosen, not primarily to serve God but to be His people. God chose them for Himself, as His special treasure on the earth. Thus, we see God chose people either for a particular ministry or for Himself.[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]F[/dropcap]or as often as the idea of salvation is linked to this word, it may be surprising to note that none of the surveyed categories of God's choice spoke of individuals chosen to be saved. In fact, each of these categories of chosen included unsaved individuals.
- Category A: Aaron's sons died before the Lord after their inauguration as priests, and Eli's sons died for their ungodliness.
- Category B: The Lord wept over Jerusalem because of their rejection of the gospel.
- Category C: All the Levites were not godly (recall Korah).
- Category D: The nation of Israel was often inundated with ungodly men.
- Category E: Even among the twelve, Jesus said: “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70).
In these categories, God's choosing was not an indication or a determination of the individual's salvation. Nor was God's choosing an indication of suitability or competence for fulfilling the purpose of the choice.
- Category A: As the fabricator of the golden calf, Aaron was completely unqualified to take the role as high priest. However, God made him a priest, fit to approach Him.
- Category B: Jerusalem was not the greatest or most beautiful of cities, but she received the greatest honor when the God of the universe set His name on her.
- Category C: The Levites descended from a man who helped slaughter an entire city. Because of this cruel act, Jacob prophesied that they would be scattered among the other tribes. God made them ministers of His holy things and keepers of His holy dwelling.
- Category D: The nation of Israel was small and insignificant among the nations, but they were elevated above all nations as the chosen people of God.
- Category E: In the gospels, we see the twelve were not exceptional men but came from the same stock as the rest of us. However, they were called to go before the Messiah and announce His approach.
In each category, God did not make His choice based on merit or ability. In the riches of His goodness, He chose ones who were unfit and provided what was needed to make them fit and acceptable for the purpose which He had in mind. The choice of God is truly a demonstration of unmerited grace: there is no one generous like our God.
...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 1:4)
Clearly, the chosen object is 'us.' However, who was 'us?’ The writers of the epistle? Or did the apostle intend to include the Ephesian believers? Or, was the intent to include every believing reader of these words?[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]L[/dropcap]eaving this question for the moment, let us uncover the purpose for which 'us' was chosen. Was it that before the foundation of the world God chose certain ones to be saved? The answer is clearly in the negative, for the verse does not say, "He chose us to be in Him (Christ)..." That is, it does not state that the purpose of God’s choosing was for certain individuals to be placed in Christ, i.e., to be saved. What is stated as the purpose of God’s choice is "...that we should be holy and without blame..." From this, it should be clear that the purpose for which 'us' was chosen is: for 'us' to be holy and without blame. In other words, certain individuals were chosen to be holy and without blame before the holy God.
At first glance, being ‘holy and without blame’ may appear to be synonymous with being saved. However, as mentioned above, there were many categories of people in the Old Testament who were made holy apart from salvation, such as Aaron’s sons as priests, the Levites (including Korah), and the nation of Israel. Thus, the purpose of God expressed in Ephesians 1 is that certain individuals will be made holy unto Him in the same sense as those made holy under the covenant of Law: they will be separated out from all other classes of people unto God.[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]H[/dropcap]aving identified the purpose for the choice, perhaps it is now more easily seen that the verse does reveal the identity of ‘us.' As noted above, the verse does not read “…He chose us to be in Him…” – it reads that "...He chose us in Him..." Surely it is now clearly evident that the chosen is not merely 'us,' but ‘us in Him.' Of course, we readily understand that 'us in Him' are people who have been saved and are in Christ. Thus, the verse is saying God made a selection of the people who are in Christ, for the purpose that they should be holy and without blame. In other words, God has chosen all those who are saved in Christ to be holy and without blame.[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]P[/dropcap]aul was telling the reader that all people who are in Christ, both Jew and Gentile, were chosen to be holy and without blame before God. In Ephesians 2, Paul reminded the Gentiles of former times when they were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." In those former times, the Israelites were chosen to be the holy people of God, and the Gentiles were considered common and unclean. However, he wrote, now in Christ Jesus…
...you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Notice how Paul took great care to emphasize the point that there was only one body in Christ, made up of both Jews and Gentiles. He reiterated the point in chapter 3.
...by revelation He made known to me the mystery... ...which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel... (Ephesians 3:3-6)
Having pressed home his point of one body of believers, he then brought out the truth that this grand work of God was not an alternative plan B. He wrote that it had been a hidden plan, but now was revealed as being the master plan from the very beginning.
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. (Ephesians 3:8-12)
In this way, Paul brought the train of thought to a full circle: by coming back to the thought of a plan established before the foundation of the world. The progression of thought from chapter one to chapter three is that from the very beginning, even the foundation of the world, God had chosen those in Christ, both Jew and Gentile, to be holy and without blame, so that they might be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ. Thus, Ephesians 1:4 served not only as an introduction but also a precursor of the climax expressed in Ephesians 3:8-12: the glorious purpose which God accomplished in Christ.[dropcap class="article-dropcap"]T[/dropcap]hus, consistent with its use in the LXX, G1586 was not used here to speak of individuals chosen for salvation. It spoke of those who had been saved and were in Christ, that they were chosen to be a holy people unto God. The word was used to indicate God's purpose for those who have been saved.