Chosen Before the Foundation of the World

By Mike Ratliff

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? (Romans 9:14-21 ESV)

The more I deal with those who “resent” the doctrines we hold to here at Possessing the Treasure, such as the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone, the doctrine of Regeneration, and the doctrine of Election, among many others, the more I have prayed for God to show me why it is that so many reject what is clearly presented in His Word. The answer to those prayers seems to be that those who have a problem with Paul’s presentation of the Sovereignty of God in Ephesians 1 & 2 and Romans 9, for example, have that issue because they are somehow centered in their pride while looking at the Sovereignty of God as some sort of insult to it. It is as if they are demanding “their rights,” and see the Sovereignty of God as something that violates those rights. The Apostle Paul did not have this issue and neither should we. 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:2 ESV)

2χαρις υμιν και ειρηνη απο θεου πατρος ημων και κυριου ιησου χριστου (Ephesians 1:2 WHNU)

Favor (χαρις) to you (υμιν) and (και) peace (ειρηνη) from (απο) God (θεου) father (πατρος) of us (ημων) and (και) Lord (κυριου) Jesus (ιησου) Christ (χριστου). (Ephesians 1:2 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

What is it that Paul is ”blessing” the readers of this epistle? It is χαρις και ειρηνη απο θεου πατρος ημων και κυριου ιησου χριστου, grace and peace from God and Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Never forget from where true grace and peace comes. The Geneva Bible renders v2 as follows:  “Grace be with you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Iesus Christ.” This greeting lets it be known that those who are truly God’s are so by His grace and have a peace with Him that no one else has. The word translated here as “grace” is χαρις, which is favor, acceptance, a kindness granted or desired, a benefit, et cetera. It is a favor done without expectation of return. It is representative of the bounty and freeheartedness of God as he blesses those He chooses with unearned and unmerited favor. The word “peace” is ειρηνη, which speaks of the absence or end of strife. This blessing by the Apostle Paul to his readers is a statement of the absolute “peace” that those in Christ have with God that those outside of Christ do not have. In fact, all not in Christ are at enmity with God (James 4:4), but those who are in Him are also at complete peace with God (Romans 5:1).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV)

3ευλογητος ο θεος και πατηρ του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου ο ευλογησας ημας εν παση ευλογια πνευματικη εν τοις επουρανιοις εν χριστω  4καθως εξελεξατο ημας εν αυτω προ καταβολης κοσμου ειναι ημας αγιους και αμωμους κατενωπιον αυτου εν αγαπη  5προορισας ημας εις υιοθεσιαν δια ιησου χριστου εις αυτον κατα την ευδοκιαν του θεληματος αυτου  6εις επαινον δοξης της χαριτος αυτου ης εχαριτωσεν ημας εν τω ηγαπημενω (Ephesians 1:3-6 WHNU)

Well-spoken of (ευλογητος) the (ο) God (θεος) and (και) father (πατηρ) of the (του) Lord (κυριου) of us (ημων) Jesus (ιησου) Christ (χριστου), the (ο) one having spoken well (ευλογησας) us (ημας) in (εν) all (παση) good word (ευλογια) spiritual (πνευματικη) in (εν) the (τοις) heavenlies (επουρανιοις) in (εν) Christ (χριστω), just as (καθως) he selected (εξελεξατο) us (ημας) in (εν) him (αυτω) before (προ) foundation (καταβολης) of world (κοσμου) to be (ειναι) us (ημας) holy ones (αγιους) and (και) blameless (αμωμους) down before (κατενωπιον) him (αυτου) in (εν) love (αγαπη), having set bounds before (προορισας) us (ημας) for (εις) adoption as son (υιοθεσιαν) through (δια) Jesus (ιησου) Christ (χριστου) in (εις) him (αυτον), by (κατα) the (την) good thought (ευδοκιαν) of the (του) want (θεληματος) of him (αυτου), for (εις) praise on (επαινον) of splendor (δοξης) of the (της) favor (χαριτος) of him (αυτου) by which (ης) he favored (εχαριτωσεν) us (ημας) in (εν) the (τω) having been loved (ηγαπημενω). (Ephesians 1:3-6 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

The word translated as “blessed” in these 4 verses is various forms of ευλογητος, which means to speak well of. It is the source of the English word “eulogize.” Paul is saying, “Eulogize God for He has blessed us with the best spiritual blessings there are.” Of what do these “every spiritual blessings” consist? He has not put our salvation to chance, to the result of our own efforts or to the efforts of others. No, He has εξελεξατο ημας εν αυτω προ καταβολης κοσμου. He has “elected or chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” The word translated as “chosen,” εξελεξατο, is speaking of God selecting a people for Himself and doing so before He had even created the world. However, this choosing has a purpose. These elected ones were chosen in Him ειναι ημας αγιους και αμωμους κατενωπιον αυτου εν αγαπη, which says, that God chose these elected ones to be holy and blameless before Him in love. . God intends to bring His elect all the way from spiritual death in sin to the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and finally to the elimination of all sin from their experience. The words “in love” do belong with this phrase. This explains the nature of the holiness and blamelessness to which these elect are called. God chose these elect in love. He has placed the focus of His love on them.

He not only εξελεξατο ημας (chose or elected us), in v5 we see that he has προορισας us as well. Some Bibles render this as “predestinate,” however it literally means to “predefine” or “set the bounds of” what is being created according to this same αγαπη, or love. This predefinition for us is that we would be for υιοθεσιαν δια ιησου χριστου εις αυτον, “adoption as sons through Jesus Christ in Him.” Think of it. None of us are worthy of consideration. We are all lost in our sins yet God has chosen to elect some to be predestined to be adopted as His sons through His almighty love. However, the ultimate reason God has done this is found in v6. At the end of v5 we see that He elected and predestined His people to the good pleasure of His will, but then we see in v6 that He did this εις επαινον δοξης της χαριτος αυτου ης εχαριτωσεν ημας εν τω ηγαπημενω, “for praise on of splendor of the grace of Him by which He favored us in the having been loved. “ In other words, He did this for His glory and, through this, His elect are made acceptable in His sight as He pours out His love on them.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:7-14 ESV)

7εν ω εχομεν την απολυτρωσιν δια του αιματος αυτου την αφεσιν των παραπτωματων κατα το πλουτος της χαριτος αυτου  8ης επερισσευσεν εις ημας εν παση σοφια και φρονησει  9γνωρισας ημιν το μυστηριον του θεληματος αυτου κατα την ευδοκιαν αυτου ην προεθετο εν αυτω  10εις οικονομιαν του πληρωματος των καιρων ανακεφαλαιωσασθαι τα παντα εν τω χριστω τα επι τοις ουρανοις και τα επι της γης  11εν αυτω εν ω και εκληρωθημεν προορισθεντες κατα προθεσιν του τα παντα ενεργουντος κατα την βουλην του θεληματος αυτου  12εις το ειναι ημας εις επαινον δοξης αυτου τους προηλπικοτας εν τω χριστω  13εν ω και υμεις ακουσαντες τον λογον της αληθειας το ευαγγελιον της σωτηριας υμων εν ω και πιστευσαντες εσφραγισθητε τω πνευματι της επαγγελιας τω αγιω  14ο εστιν αρραβων της κληρονομιας ημων εις απολυτρωσιν της περιποιησεως εις επαινον της δοξης αυτου (Ephesians 1:7-14 WHNU)

In whom we have the redemption through the blood of him, the sending off of the trespasses, by the rich of the favor of him by which he exceeded to us, in all wisdom and thoughtfulness, having made known to us the mystery of the want of him, by the good thought of him which he set forward in him for management of the fullness of the seasons, to be brought to head the all in the Christ, the on the heavens and the on the earth in him. In whom also we were appointed having set bounds before by purpose of the one the all operating by the plan of the want of him for the to be us for praise on of splendor of him the ones having hoped before in the Christ. In whom also you having heard the word of the truth, the good message of the deliverance of you, in whom also having trusted you were sealed in the spirit of the promises the holy, which is earnest of the inheritance of us, for redemption of the possession, for praise on of the splendor of him. (Ephesians 1:7-14 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

The word redemption in v7 is the Greek word απολυτρωσιν, which specifically describes the release on payment of ransom. In other words, a redemption that results in the release of a captive or captives. The way Paul stated it here, εν ω εχομεν την απολυτρωσιν δια του αιματος αυτου την αφεσιν των παραπτωματων κατα το πλουτος της χαριτος αυτου, is truly amazing. This doctrinally sound statement tells us clearly what happened at our salvation and through whom that took place. It is through the blood (αιματος) of Christ that the forgiveness of our sins (παραπτωματων) took place. Παραπτωματων means, “to purposely step over.” It is the missing of the mark of God’s standard of perfection. The word Paul used for our forgiveness here is αφεσιν, which describes the sending away of the guilt of our sins. It is the putting away of sin and the deliverance of the sinner from the power of sin although not from the presence of sin. Remember this was done κατα το πλουτος της χαριτος αυτου, “by the rich of the favor of him,” in other words, according to the riches of the grace of God.

In vv8-10 we have Paul’s exulting in this grace, telling us that this is the revealed will of God set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth. Now, think of the things those emergent and “missional” focused people have been saying about the Gospel over the last few years and compare that with what we have seen here. The Gospel, its preaching and our ministering according to it is the plan God has set forth. These other things focus elsewhere and attempt to move the Church’s direction from this to works righteousness or even a mystical focus in which there is no distinctions made pertaining to the religiosity of people.

Paul summarizes the Gospel, its source, its focus, and its ultimate culmination in this passage. Those who would attempt to move the focus of the Church from this elsewhere are apostate and are working at cross-purposes to this. We must never lose focus that the purpose of the Gospel is to preach the gospel to all then watch for the elect to hear and respond as God regenerates them, bringing them into the knowledge of the truth and salvation. Our job is to minister to these people and disciple them that they may also learn to reproduce themselves by being used by God to bring others into the Kingdom. This is all according to the plan of God by His grace.

Soli Deo Gloria!










11 thoughts on “Chosen Before the Foundation of the World

  1. Mike, I, too, have experienced people getting mad at me because I believe in election. Their argument is, “God is love. Why would he NOT chose everyone? Why would he chose only some?” Thanks for any help you can give us on this, and thanks for your articles.


  2. Joan,

    God is love, but He is also Justice, Wrath, Righteous, Holy, et cetera. You can’t isolate Love and make it all that God is. Romans 9 answers all those question, I believe, however, I have noticed that Romans 9, along with Ephesians 1 & 2 are closed to most professing Christians. They simply ignore those passages and their pastors and teachers do as well.

    Who are we to tell God who He has to save? He is Sovereign. He is not subject to the limited understanding that His creatures have, that would be us. 🙂 God has every right to do with His creation what He pleases. It is an important step in our maturity when we come to the place of surrender in this area. It puts us back where we need to be in order to mature spiritually the right way.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  3. I love this part…. “but who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”…. When I first found out about election this verse just seemed to stab me in the heart with conviction and now it brings a smile to my face. Shouldn’t we all be rejoicing that we have such an amazing Father that Chooses for us?

    I have talked with numerous people about the doctrine of election and my experience is the same as Joans. It’s sad really because these are all professing Christians that believe God is good , gracious, merciful, and some of them even agree that He is justice, wrath etc. But, even mention that He chooses a people for Himself (and show them the scripture that supports it) and Bibles are slammed (literally) name calling ensues (you, you, calvinists!!! lol) and your not invited to the next bible study!

    What I’m getting at is this, people are so quick to say God is Good but when they find out He makes their choices for them He’s suddenly a terrible god. I just don’t understand why we wouldn’t want a “Good God” making important choices for us? Everyone speaks against “works based salvation” yet they refuse to see that God really does do it all (Thank You JESUS!). Its no wonder people love purpose driven, emergent, etc. Everyone just wants to be their own god and these movements support that.

    I’m thanking God for the eyes and ears to see and hear ( because even that is a gift ).
    And also thanking Him for you, Mike, fight the good fight my friend.


  4. Hey Mike,

    Solid and timely post. I would only add that people also way underestimate human depravity (me included) and the consequential response of God’s justice. It also magnifies God’s grace to His elect even more, e.g. we should be crushed, humiliated in ourselves, yet rejoice ever more in God’s great mercy and kindness.



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