Chosen In Christ Before the Foundation of the World

by Mike Ratliff

3 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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.  (Ephesians 1:3-14 NASB)

29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30 NASB)

In this post we will look at Ephesians 1:3-14 and Romans 8:29-30. In these two passage are found three Greek words that have been the source of large numbers of polemic works and, in my own experience, I have been accused of holding to doctrines that I do not hold to (nor do any hold to that I know of) by Synergists constructing straw men in order to attack them in an attempt to make it look as if they are defeating the Doctrines of Grace to which I do hold dear and the Monergistic faith through which I know I am saved.

The first is found in Ephesians 1:4, which the NASB translates as “chose.” Here is v4 from the NA27 Greek text, “καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ”, or, “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world for us to be holy and blameless in his sight, in love…” The verb chose translates ἐξελέξατο (exelexato), “to pick or choose out for oneself.” ξελέξατο is the Aorist, Indicative, Middle case of ἐκλέγομαι (eklegomai). This verb case denotes simple action taking place in the past. The middle voice pictures the subject acting in its own interest, that is, it receives the benefit of the action. Therefore, this verb case tells us that that God the one choosing independently in the past and did so primarily for his own interest, this, for his glory. Also, no where mentioned here is the fodder for most the straw man attacks I have experienced pertaining to election. God elected or chose for himself those who would believe and be of his kingdom. He did not reject or those not chosen, he simply did not elect them. It is not necessary to do that. Why? Ephesians 2 tells us plainly that all are born dead in trespasses and sins. Without God intervening, no one comes to Christ.

Our next polemic verb is translated in both passages from the NASB as “predestined.” In Ephesians 1:5 the verb is προορίσας (proorisas), “to designate before.” It is an Aorist, Participle, Active case of προορίζω (proorizō). This verb form is describing simple action. In Romans 8:29-30, the verb case of προορίζω used in both verses is προώρισεν (proōrisen). Προώρισεν is in the Aorist, Indicative, Active case. But, what is the essence of what the Holy Spirit is imparting to us through the Apostle Paul in the usage of this verb in these passages? Προορίζω is a compound word. The first part, προ, means “beforehand.” The second part of the word, ὁρίζω (horizō) speaks of a “boundary or limit.” It is the source of our English word “horizon.” Therfore, just as the horizon marks a limit between what we can and cannot see, God has placed us within a certain limit, a certain “horizon.” He has put us in a place where we can see and comprehend many things but where many other things are hidden from our sight and understanding, many things that are beyond our horizon. Even if we walk closer to the horizon, and understand things we never understood before (grow more mature), a new horizon appears. We will never understand it all this side of glory. God has marked out something for each of his elect. He has marked out a destiny. Much of that destiny is hidden from us because it is beyond the horizon, but praise be to God, he reveals more of it with each new step we take toward it.

The third polemic verb, found in Romans 8:29, is translated in the NASB as “He foreknew.” This is translating the verb προέγνω (proegnō), “know beforehand.” Προέγνω is the Aorist, Indicative, Active of προγινώσκω (proginōskō). The best way to understand what Paul was attempting to say here is to look at the subject of the verb. Here is Romans 8:29-30 from and NA27 followed by my translation.

29 ὅτι οὓς προέγνω, καὶ προώρισεν συμμόρφους τῆς εἰκόνος τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν πρωτότοκον ἐν πολλοῖς ἀδελφοῖς· 30 οὓς δὲ προώρισεν, τούτους καὶ ἐκάλεσεν· καὶ οὓς ἐκάλεσεν, τούτους καὶ ἐδικαίωσεν· οὓς δὲ ἐδικαίωσεν, τούτους καὶ ἐδόξασεν. (Romans 8:29-30 NA27)

29 Because whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son for him to be Firstborn among many brothers. 30 And whom he predestined these also he called and whom he called these also he justified and whom he justified these also he glorified. (Romans 8:29-30 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

This is, of course, the Ordo Salutis. Notice that it is God doing all the action and the subject of all of the action is those “whom he foreknew…”This is not a foreknowledge of facts, but a foreknowledge of each of those in Christ personally. Each was foreknown before the foundation of the world. God predestined each of them to be conformed to the image of his Son. Because of this predestination he, therefore, called them, justified them and their glorification awaits in eternity.

The more I think about it. I really don’t care if people want to denigrate me for believing this Biblical truth or not. I do not simply believe some philosophy or have some hope in some confession or religious act that I did. No, I am trusting in the completed work of God he did on my behalf and on behalf of all those elected before the foundation of the world. God foreknew me personally then and if you are in Christ, he did you as well. Notice what his purpose is in our predestination. It is to be conformed unto the image of our Saviour. That should sober us up quickly. Yes, we walk towards that horizon as we mature, but the more we learn the more there is to learn. How are you doing?

Soli Deo Gloria!

10 thoughts on “Chosen In Christ Before the Foundation of the World

  1. True, knowing that we have been predestined to be conformed into the image of Christ should “sober us up”. And what an encouragement it is to know that God will finish what He began in us so we have every reason to abandon sin.




    Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him. So His own Word expressly declares: ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’ (Isa. 46:10); ‘He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand’ (Dan. 4:34). Divine sovereignty means that God is God in fact, as well as in name, that He is on the Throne of the universe, directing all things, working all things ‘after the counsel of His own will’ (Eph. 1:11).”

    A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God (Swengel, Pa.: Reiner Publications, 1968), p. 27



  3. Yes, Mike…The more we learn the more there is to learn…
    These were the truths for which I left the last church I was in…Praise Him for revealing the steps I had to take…!
    and I thank the Lord for using you to help me learn more!


  4. Dear Mike,

    Thanks for continuing to encourage the sheep to new horizons!

    There is such comfort in knowing that God in His grace chose us. I love the song “Why me Lord?” “What have I ever done to deserve even one of the blessings I’ve known?” And the answer is “nothing”. Praise be to God for His mercy.

    I love the story in Exodus 17 where Moses had to hold up his hands while Joshua fought against the Amalekites. And as the story goes his hands became heavy so Aaron and Hur came alongside him and sat him on a stone and held up his arms. This is such a beautiful picture of the people of God working together to bring glory to God. It fascinates me that, of course, God could have won this battle in any fashion, yet He chose to use His beloved in their fraility to show His ultimate power and their dependence on Him and each other. I don’t know if this makes sense, but this is how I view your site.

    Blessings in Christ, charisse


  5. Charisse, that last part of your comment almost floored me. You are right about one thing there. If any good comes from what I do here it is not because of anything having do with my own frailties, which is the best I can do, but it is as I depend totally on Christ to work through me as I abide in Him that good is done. If God is glorified and you are edified here then it is God working through His truth presented here as the Holy Spirit works through it to bless and edify you. I am no more than an unworthy servant.


  6. Amen, God gets ALL the glory and honor. God does the choosing not us and God has that right. Not one of us deserves the breath of life much less. Not one of us deserves the joy of tasting food or existing.
    This means we are GREATLY encouraged to KNOW that since God chose us, WHO can be against us–no one and that is soooooooo Freeing for us to rest in him and live for him

    Pastor Jim McClarty has a great video where he thoroughly explains “how people get saved”. In it he clearly explains that God chose us…

    thumbs up Mike


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