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.
(Ephesians 1:3-4 ESV)
God is infinite and therefore is not completely knowable to human beings with finite minds. There are many things God has chosen to reveal about Himself but there are many more that He has not. While the Bible is a revelation of God there are times when the Bible discusses issues that human beings simply cannot fully understand. Today’s passage is often considered to be one of them.
This verse touches on the concepts of “election” and “predestination”, which can be quite controversial. There are many who interpret this verse as stating that God specifically chose – before the universe was created – certain people to spend eternity in heaven. Of course, if one is going to believe that then one has to believe the opposite of that which is God specifically chose – before the universe was created – everyone else to spend eternity in hell.
Considering the fact that well over half of the people who ever live will spend eternity in hell [Matthew 7:13-14], it doesn’t seem to me that a loving God would control the eternity of billions of people such that they go to hell. Such a concept does not align with the way God portrays Himself in the Bible. Not to mention that if God has determined who would go to heaven before the world was created then Jesus’ death on the cross is reduced to a symbolic gesture at best, and completely unnecessary at worst.
When I read the Bible I read several commentaries written by men more learned than I am to gain an understanding of Scripture. When it comes to this verse most of them confirm the doctrine of election. But none of them ever deal with the related doctrinal consequences of why the cross was necessary or why a loving God would intentionally and premeditatedly send people to hell. Not one commentary I’ve read on this verse attempts to reconcile these issues.
I therefore cannot accept the doctrine of election. It is not consistent with the loving way God portrays Himself in the Bible. Nor is it consistent with passages in Scripture which clearly state that man has a choice such as John 1:12.
I believe the best answer is to view this verse in its entirety. God has a plan – a destiny – for those people who do exercise their choice to believe. That destiny, which was planned “before the foundation of the world” and is offered to everyone, is to be “holy and blameless”.
Anyone who accepts God’s offer is born-again [John 3:3], and will be made holy – their sins will be removed forever and they will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus. But the choice is theirs.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.