What does Ephesians 1:4 Mean? Who are the “us in Him?”

Ephesians 1:4
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
καθως εξελεξατο ημας εν αυτω προ καταβολης κοσμου ειναι ημας αγιους και αμωμους κατενωπιον αυτου εν αγαπη

God is electing “someone” to be holy and blameless before Him.  When did this election to holy and blameless occur?  It occurred before the foundation of the world.  Lest anyone complain that before the foundation of the world means in regards to the fall, the companion verse in Timothy explains when the foundation of the world happened.  It was before time began.

2 Timothy 1:9 (NKJV)
who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,

The Calvinist “us” was inserted to propagandize an interpretation of this verse.  There is no us after calling and a better translation is 2 Timothy 1:9Young’s Literal Translation (YLT):

who did save us, and did call with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, that was given to us in Christ Jesus, before the times of the ages,

The holy calling is according to God’s purpose.  His purpose was given to us before the times of the ages.  Both the Second Timothy and the Ephesians verses should be understood be two important elements.  There is an election to something; what is being elected?  Who are persons being elected? Who are the “us in Christ?”

There is nothing inherent in the meaning of the verb “to choose” that implies salvation.  The common use of electing or choosing people for public office is a good English equivalent of the Greek verb.  Many people are elected or chosen to office all the time.  The verb is very generic.

The word to choose in Greek “ἐκλέγομαι” occurs 19 times in the New Testament.  Only perhaps three or four times does this verb mean an election to salvation.  Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, an early scholarly work in English has been a basic reference book since 1885. In this book he lists at least five different types of election relating to this verb:

1)      to pick out, choose, something of personal interest. i.e. Luke 14:7 to pick places of honor
2)      choosing one for an office i.e. Stephen to be a deacon Acts 6:5
3)      of God choosing the elect,  Mark 13:20
4)      the Israelites, Acts 13:7
5)      choosing the disciples, Acts 1:2

John Calvin certainly misuses Ephesians 1:4 as a reference to election to salvation.  Here in Ephesians Paul is describing an election to be holy and blameless.

Does Ephesians 1:4 really imply that all saved men were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world? As in the above example, it is common for the supporters of double predestination to leave out the infinitive clause at the end of verse. Those who are chosen are chosen to be holy and blameless. Grammarians classify verbal infinitive clauses in at least five ways: Purpose, Result, Temporal, Casual, or Complementary.

1)  Purpose – God chose us in Christ for the purpose of being holy and blameless.
2)  Result – God chose us in Christ as a result we are holy and blameless.
3)  Temporal – God chose us in Christ while we were holy and blameless.
4)  Casual God – chose us in Christ to make us holy and blameless.
5)  Complementary – “there is not a corresponding complementary use, since a verb of desire or wish is needed.”

There are good arguments for any of the above constructions.  There is an observation that must be made.  None of these uses implies “God chose us to be saved before the foundation of the world.”  The counter argument is that when we are chosen naturally we become holy and blameless.  This would make the statement into a banal tautology, God chose us to be chosen.

Corporate Election

What is the object of the verb “chose?”  The object is the pronoun “us” but the “us” is modified by the phrase “in him.”  God is choosing the persons who are already in Christ for something.  The something is in the infinite; “to be holy and blameless.”  Those who are already in Christ are chosen to be holy and blameless.

How does one get to be “in Christ?”  From the context a person becomes “in Christ” by believing first.  How can the chosen in Christ be predestined before the foundation of the world when there are no persons to believe?  This is corporate election.  Paul is outlining God’s plan for the body of Christ.  Those in Christ will be predestined to be holy and blameless.  The predestination of the group was predestined before the foundation of the world.   All those who would be in the group is not known until the end times.

Ephesians 1:13
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
13 εν ω και υμεις ακουσαντες τον λογον της αληθειας το ευαγγελιον της σωτηριας υμων εν ω και πιστευσαντες εσφραγισθητε τω πνευματι της επαγγελιας τω αγιω

What Calvin wants to do is to translated this verse as God chose from the world a group of people to be saved.  For this construction to work the words after “should be” would be the phrase “in Him.”  This would be the infinitive of purpose.  He chose us from the world for the purpose of being in him.

John Calvin has this wrong.  We were not chosen before the foundation of the world to salvation, those in Christ were chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless.  The comment with no regard to our own worth means that a person neither works for salvation nor exercises belief for salvation but is chosen based on the whim of God.

1 Thessalonians 4:15
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive [a]and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

Did Paul die before the “coming of the Lord?”  Of course he died about two millennia ago.  When he says “we who are alive” is he referring to the believing persons alive in the first century or is he referring to the believers who may be alive when the Lord returns.  No one believes the “we” in this verse refers to Paul and the first century believers.  The “we” is a corporate idea.  Paul is referring to a group of persons who may be alive when Jesus returns.  This group may or may not include Paul.  Corporate is from the Latin meaning body, the adjectival use of the world refers to a unified group of individuals.  To belong to this group, one must be alive when Jesus returns and be a believer.

Romans 12:5
5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. ουτως οι πολλοι εν σωμα εσμεν εν χριστω ο δε καθ εις αλληλων μελη-

The basic sentence is “we are one body in Christ.”  Here is the corporate use of “we.”  The reference is as universally applicable to the members of the body of Christ who are alive today as the message is applicable to the first century believers.  Paul is using the plural pronouns, “us,” “we.” and “you” in referring to the corporate body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:27
Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.
υμεις δε εστε σωμα χριστου και μελη εκ μερους

The reason Paul keeps referring to the individual members of this one body is to avoid an esoteric interpretation of oneness that is common in pagan religions.  In Platonism the goal of the initiate is the unification of the individual with god who is called the one.  This unity is an absorption into god.  The Christian is not absorbed into God, he is unified with him but the individual retains his identity as a person.  He is not absorbed into the Godhead.

How does one get to be “in Christ.”  If a believer is chosen to be “in Christ”  before the foundation of the world then that person is not
1)      dead in his sins
2)      By nature children of wrath
3)      Without Christ
4)      Having no hope
5)      Without God

Ephesians 2:1-3; 11-12
 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others…

11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

The Scripture is absolutely clearly when a believer become “in Christ.”

Ephesians 1:13 (NIV)
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,

A believer becomes “in Christ” after hearing the gospel and believing.  This is not before the foundation of the world, this is after a person is born and reaches an age of maturity where he can understand the gospel.

Is a person chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” or “after believing?”  When Paul says the “us in Him” he is referring to the body of Christ.  The individual members of the body of Christ are not chosen until they exercise faith and are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  The corporate group is chosen to be holy and blameless before Him.  We do not know who is in this group until much later than the foundation of the world.

Maybe an analogy will help.  The director says “the band is really fortunate this year, we will play in Hawaii this winter.”  Of course each band member has to try out for their chair in the band.  There remains a competition to determine who is going to be in the band.  The individual members have not yet been determined.  The corporate entity, the band, will go to Hawaii.

God chose the body of Christ to be holy and blameless before Him in love.  The body of Christ is the “us in Him.”  The individual members of the body have yet to be determined.

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2 Responses to What does Ephesians 1:4 Mean? Who are the “us in Him?”

  1. Pingback: Fisher on Ephesians 1:4 | God is Open

  2. Pingback: Fisher on Being Elect | God is Open

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