Bible Study Discussions with Gary Panell
Question: Are we Christians chosen by God before we were even born?
Answer: "...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 1:4a
The best way I know how to explain "chose us in Him" is to use illustrations taken from Scripture. Please look at this story taken from the book of Joshua first. Rahab the harlot took in the spies of Israel and hid them so they were not discovered by her king. Then when she sent them on their way she asked that she and her family might be saved when Israel came to attack her nation. It is very interesting what the spies said to her, because it helps us understand this phrase "chose us in Him."
"Then the men said to her: "We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, 'unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father's household to your own home. So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window." (Joshua 2:12-21)
You see the "scarlet cord" is one of the many pictures of the blood of Christ in the Old Testament. Rahab had to be inside the house, and her family members had to be inside the house with the scarlet cord in order to be saved. They could have chosen not to believe the spies message, but if they had they would have perished with the rest. So it is with us, God has provided a way of salvation, it is through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Think of it like a circle made on the floor and a big cross in it. Those who choose to get into the circle of Christ, or choose to be saved by His shed blood on the cross will be saved. Those who do not choose to be "in Christ" will be condemned. The choice is ours!
It is important to note though--God chose this circle of salvation, or manner of salvation before the world was created. It is His grace that saves us, then, not our choice. The reason we have a choice is because He made a way for us to be saved. Without grace we would not be saved! God chose everyone who would believe and receive Christ to be His. He did this by His foreknowledge, "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:2a) He chose us to be holy and without blame before Him in love. In other words, when God sees those in the circle of Christ, He sees them as "just as if they had never sinned, and with the righteousness of Christ added to their lives." Why did He do this, because He loves us, and He wants us to love Him and others!!!
Someone has said, "Salvation is like a gate, on the outside it says, WHOSOEVER WILL, MAY ENTER, but on the inside after a person has entered it reads, CHOSEN BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD."
Another illustration that may help us understand this phrase "as He chose us in Him" is the story of the Passover. You remember that the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and then they were assured by God through Moses that if they would put the blood on their door and stay inside the house, when the death angel passed over they would be saved from the last plague. We find this recorded in Exodus chapter 12:1-13 what God said to Moses to tell the people. "Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: 'On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household.' Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 'Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month.
"Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt."
This helps us to see how God chose the method of salvation and He also chose the people who would believe and obey His will. He knew who would believe and obey, but that does not change the fact that they had a true choice. So it is with us and salvation through Christ, Jesus died to provide the way of salvation. He shed his blood on the cross for us, now all those who apply that blood to their hearts will be saved. Just like the Israelites had to apply the blood to the door of their houses by faith. It is first and foremost the grace of God that we can even have a way of salvation, and it is He that chose us before He even created the world. He chose us in His Son Jesus Christ.
Those who He knew would accept Jesus as their Savior will be saved. Those who do not chose Christ will not be saved. Notice also God wants people saved by families, if they applied the blood to the door post (which makes the sign of the cross), the whole family would be saved. When Paul and Silas were asked by the Philippian Jailer how to be saved they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:31) God wants a people that want to be God's Holy people. He does not want robots that do what He says without a choice, but people who love Him because they choose to serve Him in love and holiness.
(5) "...having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,"
This word "predestined" is taken wrong by people sometimes. They think of it meaning God chooses some people to be saved, and He chooses others to be damned, not on the basis of choice on their part, but as a choice only on His part. This could not be further from the truth. So let us look at the meaning of this word "predestined" in the context of the passage.
The American Heritage dictionary defines this word as: "determine in advance; foreordain." The Greek word used here is PROGN0SIS, foreknowledge, used only of Divine foreknowledge, Acts 2:23; I Peter 1:2. Foreknowledge is one aspect of omniscience; it is implied in God's warnings, promises and predictions. See Acts 15:18. God's foreknowledge involves His electing grace, but this does not preclude human will. He foreknows the exercise of faith which brings salvation." (Vine's)
“If you are a Christian, it is because God chose you. Jesus told His disciples, ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you' (John 15:16). And for each of us who have received Jesus Christ as our Savior, we discover that He chose us. This confuses many people because they realize that we have the ability to choose, and that is true. But God, who know all things, know what we will choose; and He doesn't pick losers. He picks winners.
“You may say, ‘But that isn't fair? What if God didn't choose me?' Have you accepted Jesus Christ? If so, then He chose you. If you haven't accepted Him, do it and you'll find out you were chosen. If you don't want to accept Him, why do you care if you were chosen or not?” (The Word for Today Bible by Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel)
In other words, God knows who will receive Him. These He commands that they are to be adopted as sons and daughters into His family. He does this because He wants to do this for us. There is no thought here of saying arbitrarily, "OK I save you, but I do not want to save you." No, His choice to make us His adopted children is based on our choice to receive His Son Jesus Christ. When we are "in Him" we are adopted into the family.
This study can be found in our commentary on the book of Ephesians part one, chapter one.
I hope this helps,
Gary T. Panell
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Keywords: chosen, foreknowledge, adoption, salvation