Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. Ephesians 1:4
Really, Paul? Weren’t you just being poetic here? How could God have chosen me before the foundation of the world? I thought the first thing was “Let there be light” (Gen 1:3).
As head of a medical service one of my tasks is the hiring of personnel. I believe I have quite mastered the science and art of reviewing resumes and piling them into 2 categories. If I’m not interested, it goes to the “I wish you all the best in your future endeavors” shredder. If the resume looks great, it goes to the “invite this person for an interview” stack. The interviews would narrow it down to the best candidate who is then offered the position.
As far as I know, none of us submitted our resume to God and none of us were interviewed. To be chosen by him was and is totally independent of anything we could ever have done. Chosen. This past participle form of the verb “choose” always involves a decision or action of someone outside of us. When we are chosen, someone else did the choosing. When God chose us before the foundation of the world, he was acting out of his infinite goodness and love. It was dependent on his character and not based on our worth.
A closer though still imperfect analogy would be the process of adoption. The infant being adopted has no clue about what’s happening. The baby doesn’t pay lawyer fees, airfare/relocation expenses. The baby doesn’t have to prepare for the court hearings and other legal processes. The burden lies entirely on the adoptive parents. Once all is said and done, the baby simply gains a new set of parents, a family, a home, a future.
If Paul’s words don’t convince us, then let’s see what Jesus had to say. In John 6:44, Jesus said “No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him…” And during his last moments with his disciples, he said “You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.” (John 15:16).
How does this help shape our identity? First, it establishes that our worth and our value is based on the fact that he chose us. We can lose our jobs, suffer illness, undergo bereavement, experience losses of all sorts, but none of these can rob us of the assurance of who we are in our Father’s eyes. Similarly we can succeed in our various roles, know prosperity, enjoy health and other good things, but none of these can even attempt to compare to the overwhelmingly glorious truth of God choosing us.
Secondly, it establishes our purpose – to be holy and blameless before him. And since only Christ walked this earth holy and blameless, this means we are to become image bearers of him, just as the branch is made of the same wood as the Vine. After all, the ability to bear lasting fruit only happens when we (the branches) remain in the Vine (Christ). Apart from him, we can do nothing.
Andrew Murray, who pastored churches in South Africa in the late 1800s wrote “The deeper I enter into this purpose of His electing love, the more I will realize what the link is between the purpose from eternity, and the fruit to eternity: the abiding in Him. The purpose is His, He will carry it out” (from The True Vine: a devotional).
Father thank you for choosing me before the foundation of the world. This is what your word says and your word is true. I did not earn it. I do not deserve it. I will never be worthy of being chosen by you. Thank you that it was all by grace, sealed through the finished work of Christ on the Cross. Let me not seek any other identity except that which you have designed for me, and may you be glorified now and forever in the fruit that I bear as I yield and abide in absolute surrender. In Jesus’ name, Amen.