In high school the gym teacher would often pick two captains for two teams, whether it be football, baseball, or dodge ball. The two captains would then take turns picking others for their team. Obviously, they would pick friends and then guys they believed would have the best athletic ability. Not to be picked last was the fear that ran through most of our veins. Well, that fear can grow exponentially if you think God has not picked you.
A few years ago, I knew a young man that struggled with his relationship with God. He commented to another brother in the Lord that he was struggling with assurance; not sure if he was really saved and going to heaven. Rather than providing comfort of the gospel, the other brother gave him a devastating answer, saying to him that maybe he wasn’t ‘elect’ or ‘chosen’. That’s pretty harsh and presumptuous in my opinion.
The go-to-verse for those who believe God arbitrarily chooses some people for salvation and rejects the rest is Ephesians chapter one, verse four: “…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”.
Most everyone has presuppositions, especially when it comes to seeing the word ‘chosen’. We can focus on the word ‘chosen’ and automatically think that God picked some and not others for salvation. But is that what the verse actually says?
The Body of Christ
No, it doesn’t. It does say that He chose us (referring to the apostle Paul and the Christians at Ephesus – Gentiles) in Him. The context as you read into chapter 2 is referring to believing Jews and Gentiles. They are the ‘us’ that God chose in Him. There was significant enmity between the two groups. But God reconciled them through Christ and now both Jew and Gentile believers form one new man (Eph. 1:10; 2:15, 16). That one new man is referred to as the church, the body of Christ (Eph. 3:6).
Unbelievers were never in Christ
Unbelievers are “in Adam”. IN ADAM all die. Only in Christ are we made alive (I Cor. 15:22). This happens when a person is born again; when one becomes a believer (John 5:24). No one is in Christ before the foundation of the world. According to Ephesians 2:12, Gentiles were without Christ. How could Gentiles who came to faith in Christ, be without Christ, if all believers were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world?
Secondly, the apostle Paul greeted Andronicus and Junia who “were in Christ” before him (Romans 16:7). How could those two disciples be in Christ before Paul, if all believers are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world? It’s not possible.
The Place of Spiritual Blessings
Under the New Covenant, God decided before creation to place all believers (Jews and Gentiles) after the cross in Christ when they believed the gospel. That means that every person who trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior is placed into the body of Christ (the church), where we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3). It’s a positional truth.
Being “in Him” is the very first blessing, resulting in being holy and without blame (v. 4); adopted as sons (v. 5); accepted in the Beloved (v. 6); and receiving redemption (v. 7). Many more of these blessings follow in the rest of chapters one and two. However, a person isn’t “in Christ” until he believes. God decided before He created the world that all believing Jews and Gentiles would be place into one body (in Christ), His church.
Trying to say that Ephesians 1:4 means that God picks some and not others for salvation is reading that into that verse. Jesus Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6). That’s includes all of us. He tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9). God “desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:4). People don’t get saved because God didn’t choose them. They fail to receive salvation because they reject the one and only way, Jesus Christ (John 14:6; John 5:40).
Find out how to have assurance of heaven
Check out , Assurance of Heaven. It is an in-depth Biblical study into how you can know you have the certainty of going to heaven and learn how to share the faith with others. Download a FREE Study Guide that compliments the book.