“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 (Emphasis mine)
So far I have begun to search out the spiritual blessings which we have been given along with the source of those blessings and the order in which the Father began to lay them before us. All of these spiritual blessings from the Father are bound up in Christ Jesus, who is the chief and first object of the Father’s choosing before the foundation of the world. For those who trust in Christ, we are said to be chosen in Christ, who is in this sense the firstborn among many brothers, before the foundation of the world. In setting His divine affections on us in Christ Jesus the Father has lavished His love on His elect before He ever spoke the world into existence. Since the Father loved us before He created the world, then it is our pleasure to “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” We hold in highest esteem the Father and His love. We give our lives to Him as the undeserving recipients of an amazing grace that surpasses all our understanding. We give our affections to Him. “We love Him because He first loved us.” But why? Why did the Father find pleasure in electing His chosen ones and in doing so set His affections on them?
Why Would God Love His Elect?
First, it has to do with Christ Jesus, who was first chosen by the Father to be the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.
God’s redemptive story begins and ends with Jesus, His Son. All of the riches of God have been bound up in Jesus. He is and He is the source of every spiritual blessing we have been given in heavenly places. Without the divine election of Jesus in eternity past there is no salvation of humanity and there is no transference of spiritual blessing upon humanity. So, in the immediate aftermath of choosing the Son, the Father chose the seed of His Son, the offspring of faith born in time through the covenant of faith, in which God contracted with Abram to bless him with a Seed (not seeds, plural, but seed, singular). Jesus would be the Seed of the covenant whereby in time all who believe on Him will be saved from the darkness of sinful depravity and brought into the life of the glorious light.
Isaiah predicted the Suffering Servant:
“Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:10-11
When the soul of Christ made an offering for sin He saw His offspring, His seed. Those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world were very much on the mind and in the heart of Christ as He made atonement for sin. We find in Isaiah another answer to the question of why the Father should set His eternal affections on us and his answer matches that of the apostle Paul’s in our text in Ephesians.
The second answer to the question of why the Father has elected us and set His affections on us is closely tied to the first and answered in our text – “that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”
Isaiah prophesied that the righteous one shall make many to be accounted righteous. The purpose of the Father in choosing the seed of faith in and by and for Christ Jesus was that Christ might have the preeminence in all things and have a bride for Himself who is, like Him, without spot or blemish. This principle streams through the New Testament.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,” Colossians 1:21-22
“and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,” Jude 1:24
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,” Philippians 2:14-15
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 Peter 1:13-19
Again and again the apostles point us to this divine purpose of election – that we might be like Christ – holy and blameless in His presence. In view here is both our positional holiness which is already ours in heavenly places (if we truly know Him) and our practical holiness for which we press on in the grace and power of God.
Our Positional Holiness
In position, we have (at the point in time of our conversion to Christ through faith) been justified by the Father and declared, in standing, to be holy and blameless before Him. This is the fact that our holiness (again, if we are truly converted) is already as good as done in the eyes of the Father.
“He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil. 1:6
The future of the believer is one of perfect holiness in the presence of God in glory.
“If this holiness here be meant of perfect holiness, (as certainly it is,) see then what heaven is. It is perfect holiness and perfect love to God. To be holy before him in love, this is the foundation of the glory in heaven. If I should spend millions of years in describing heaven unto you, I could say no more, but only open these three things couched in the text, perfect holiness in God’s presence, and enjoying and loving of him, even as we are beloved of him. This is heaven, and this is that which God hath pitched upon to bring us to. This is the chief thing in election, in which work of God’s he looks to this unblameableness in holiness and love before him, at the end of it.” (Thomas Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Vol 1)The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Vol. 1
Our Practical Holiness
While our future is perfect holiness, our present is mixed between the seasoned grace and salt of the presence and power of God by the Spirit and the invading lurking of the still lingering flesh of weakness. The perfecting work of our imperfections is the ongoing sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit who is alive in every child of God.
“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:9-11
There is a new creation living within the confines of this flesh of weakness. We are at once conformed to His perfect likeness in eternity, yet being conformed to His likeness in time. With regards to being holy and blameless, we are living between the already-and-the-not-yet. We are already delivered, but not yet there. We are already holy, but have not yet arrived at holiness. We hope and in our hope we trust. We trust the power of the One who chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. We trust the One who set His affections on us before He ever spoke all things into existence.
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32
For the Father to not deliver every true believer to Christ, perfected in holiness and blameless, would be an eternal tragedy. There is nothing that will ever separate the true believer from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
So we wait. Yet, while we wait, we strive by grace and by the power of His Spirit. We…
“press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
As Goodwin states,
“Without holiness here, there is no happiness to be expected hereafter.”The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Vol. 1
How can those who have truly put on Christ through faith and are now robed in his perfections in heavenly places, not also long for those perfections to be a reality in the life that now is? If you have no hungering, no yearning, no passions in your soul for the reality of the perfections of Christ in the present, then you are none of His. These longings are the first fruits born in the believer through genuine conversion. Even the backslidden believer must kick against the pricks of the Spirit of God who lives within them and longs to produce the holiness of Christ in them. Grieve not the Spirit of God by giving yourself over to the creaturely weaknesses of your flesh. Humble your hearts.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:7-10
Our Motivation for Holiness
“The ground of all true obedience is love: ‘To be holy before him in love.’ Faith works by love. As no duty is pleasing to God without faith, so neither without love. It was not the reason why God chose us, but the end unto which he chose us. He hath ordained us to be holy before him in love.” Thomas Goodwin
Too many so called believers live in mourning over their religious duties. The duty to go to church, the duty to read their Bibles, the duty to memorize scripture, their duty to pray…all of it seems to them to be drudgery and painful and boring. What such a person needs is not more duties, but rather to have their affections stirred by the delight of the Person of Jesus Christ. Religion has its duties, always trying to measure up and live up to the religious expectations so that God might find them satisfactory. Relationship with Jesus however, is filled with delights, a million of them! The delight of meeting with God and hearing from Him through His Word, the delight of cherishing His Word in the heart, the delight of having the affections stirred to meet with the Lord and His people, the delight of living in partnership with the Spirit of God. In relationship with Jesus all of those religious duties of performance are turned into the passions and delights of the heart.
What a difference true conversion of the soul makes!! True conversion turns the duties of religious performance into the delights of living in a relationship with the God who loved you before He ever created the world. Do you know the Lord in this way? Is there a passion in you to display the holiness of Christ? This is why you and I were chosen in Him (if indeed we have truly believed).