Part 2 Chapter 2

Section 4—Ephesians 1:4.

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love.

These words are, indeed, a strong proof of the doctrine of an eternal, personal, and unconditional election of men to grace and glory; yet the whole strength of the doctrine is not placed in them, as is suggested:[1] we have other strengthening proofs of the proof of it; though we readily own this to be a very considerable one. This passage of Scripture proves, that the choice of men to holiness and happiness, is an eternal act of God the Father, or what passed before the world began; since it is expressly said, that he hath chosen us in him,that is, in Christ, as the head of the elect, before the foundation of the world;and not as the author[2] attended to, either through inadvertency, or with design, cites the words, from the foundation of the world.For the phrase is not apo katabolhv kosmou, as in Revelation 8:8, but pro katabolhv kosmou,and is expressive of the eternity of it, agreeable to other scriptures; as 2 Timothy 1:9, and 2 Thessalonians 2:13, compared with Proverbs 8:22, 23. It also proves, that this choice is of particular persons, he hath chosen us,and not of nations, or churches; seeing the apostle is not writing to, nor speaking of a nation: nor is it very evident that he is writing to a church; for he expresses himself with much caution and distinction, when he inscribes his epistle to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.And it is still less evident, that he is speaking of these same persons, or of them as a church; yea, it is manifest, that he is speaking of himself and others, as partakers of the several blessings of grace mentioned in the context; who first trusted in Christ,and were not members of this particular church. These are distinctly spoken of from verse 3, to verse 12 inclusive; and then the[3] apostle addresses himself to the Ephesians in verse 13, and says in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Besides, admitting that these words are spoken of the saints and faithful at Ephesus and of them as a church; they are not said to be chosen as a church, or chosen to be one, but that they should be holy, and without blame;who might be called by the apostle chosen in Christ,or the elect of God, as the churches of Colosse and Thessalonica are from their visible profession of religion, and from the majority among them of such as were truly so. Wherefore these words still continue a proof of personal election. Add to this, the phrase of being chosen in Christ,is sometimes used of a single person, as in (Rom. 16:13). Once more, this text proves that this eternal election of particular persons to salvation is absolute unconditional, and irrespective of faith, holiness, good works, and perseverance, as the moving causes or conditions of it; all which are the fruits and effects of electing grace, but not causes and. conditions of it; since these are said to be chosen, not because they were holy, but that they should be so. And supposing that the apostle, is here speaking of the saints and faithful in Christ,they are not said to be chosen, as such, or because they were such: nor does it follow that they were so antecedent to their election, because they were so when the apostle wrote this epistle, any more than they were so antecedent to their redemption and effectual vocation; since these same persons are said to have redemption in Christ,and the mystery of God's will made known unto them; which would imply this contradiction, that they were saints before they were called with an holy calling, and faithful before they were believers. And whereas it is said,[4] that these persons "were not all infallibly predestinated to salvation, but only to the adoption of children" (v. 5). It may be replied that if they were infallibly predestinated to the adoption of children, which adoption does not so much design the blessing itself prepared in divine predestination, or the grace received in effectual vocation, as he inheritance to which the saints are adopted, even the heavenly glory (see Rom. 8:23), then they were infallibly predestinated to salvation; and what short of salvation can be meant by being holy, and without blame before him in love?But that these words are spoken of such as were chosen out of the world to be God's church and people, and not of persons, infallibly predestinated to salvation, is thought to be exceeding evident.[5]

1. "From the exhortations and cautions given to these persons in this very epistle; such as in Ephesians 4:17; 5:6; and 6:13. All which are inconsistent with the character of the elect, that is, of persons infallibly predestinated to salvation." I reply, That the exhortations not to walk as other Gentiles,and to take to themselves the whole armor of God,though the former seems rather a testimonial of their pious walk than an exhortation to it; these, I say, are so far from being inconsistent with their character as elect, that nothing could be more pertinent to them who were chosen to be holy, and which were designed, and doubtless were blessed, as means of their perseverance in grace and holiness. And as for the caution given them, that no man deceive them into the commission of sins there mentioned, with this very good reason, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience;nothing could be more proper to give them a just idea of the evil nature of sin, and the resentment of it by God, in order to their avoiding it; and yet no ways prejudice their absolute and infallible election to salvation, nor their faith and hope in it; seeing the wrath of God cometh not upon them, but upon the children of disobedience.

2. "From the apostle's prediction" (Acts 20:29,39). But though the apostle prophesies, that after his departure either from them, or out of the world, grievous wolves should enter among them,and of themselves men should arise speaking perverse things; yet not that any of them who were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world,be such or act in this manner. For these words, as has been already shown, are not spoken of the members of the church at Ephesus; and were they spoken of them, the apostle in his prediction could never design any of the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus,who then constituted the church at Ephesus, but others that should creep in, and rise up among them in some time to come.

3. "From his advertisement to Timothy, in 2 Timothy 1:15; 2:18; 4:3, 4; 1 Timothy 1:19; 5:15; and 6:21, that some had or should turn away; all which is inconsistent with the character of the elect." I reply that some of these passages do not seem to have any immediate relation to the members of the church at Ephesus, nor any of them to them who were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world;some of them speak not of men's turning from the faith, but from the apostle slighting and neglecting him when he was in necessity; and others not of what was then done, but what should be hereafter; and though some then present instances of apostasy are mentioned, yet it is also affirmed, that nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his.So that these instances carry in them nothing inconsistent with the character of the elect, that is, of persons infallibly predestinated to salvation, nor prove what they are produced for.


[1] Whitby p. 47; ed. 2.48.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Qui enim praesperasse potuerunt, id est, ante sperasse in Deum quam venisset, nisi Jadaei, quibus Christus praenuntiabatur ab initio? Qui ergo praenun tiabatur ille et praesperabatur, atque ideo hoc ad se, id est, ad Judaeos refert ut distinctionem faciat, conversus ad nationes; in quo et vos quum audissetis Sermonem veritatis, Evangelium in quo credidistis et signati estis Spiritu promissionis ejus Sancto.—Tertullian adv. Marcion, 1.5, c. 17, p. 607, 608; ed. Paris.

[4] Whitby, p. 47; ed. 2.48.

[5] Ibid.

Gill Index