A photo of a solitary figure standing on a mountaintop, bathed in golden sunlight, symbolizing the divine choice and purpose bestowed upon us before the world began.

What Does It Mean That God Chose Us Before The Foundation Of The World

The idea that God chose His people before the foundation of the world is a profound theological concept with implications for how we understand God’s sovereignty, humanity’s free will, and our identity in Christ.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: According to passages like Ephesians 1:4-5, God chose and predestined certain people to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ, demonstrating His grace and the mystery of His redemptive plan from before time itself.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore the biblical basis for this idea, unpack what it theologically means that God ‘chose us’ and ‘predestined us’, grapple with tensions around free will and election, and finally reflect on our response and what this means for followers of Jesus.

The Biblical Basis for Divine Election

Key Ephesians 1 Passage

The key passage in the Bible on God’s election is Ephesians 1:3-6. In this passage, Paul says that God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”

This shows that God’s choice of believers was made before the world was created, and it was solely due to His gracious will, not because of any merit in us. God predestined believers to adoption and acceptance.

Old Testament Foreshadowing

The doctrine of election is foreshadowed in the Old Testament as well. For example, God chose Israel as His special people out of all the nations on the earth (Deuteronomy 7:6-8). This was wholly due to God’s love and grace, not Israel’s greatness (Deuteronomy 9:6).

And within Israel, God chose certain individuals like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David to accomplish His purposes. God’s sovereign choice is evident throughout the Old Testament.

Other New Testament References

Besides Ephesians 1, election is mentioned in other New Testament passages as well. Romans 8:29-30 speaks of those God foreknew He also predestined, called, justified, and glorified. And Romans 9 has an extended discussion of God’s choice of Jacob over Esau to serve His purposes according to election.

First Thessalonians 1:4 and First Peter 1:1-2 indicate that God has chosen His people and sanctified them. Second Thessalonians 2:13 says God chose believers for salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth.

So the New Testament contains rich teaching about God’s gracious election.

Unpacking the Theological Meaning

God’s Sovereignty and Omniscience

As an all-powerful and all-knowing God, He has complete authority and awareness to predestine believers according to His divine plan and will. This affirms His sovereignty over all of creation and history, orchestrating everything toward His intended purpose (Ephesians 1:11).

Though some argue this overrides human free will, most theologians emphasize God’s transcendence – ability to allow free will and predestination to coexist mysteriously.

Predestination and Free Will Tensions

The doctrine introduces an apparent paradox between God’s sovereignty and human free will. Some Christians believe predestination means God directly causes everything, including human decisions. Others argue God predestines the end result, but not every detail along the way.

Most agree that while we have some freedom in small choices, God remains in complete control of ultimate destiny for believers chosen before the world’s foundation (Ephesians 1:4-5).

Election for God’s Glory and Praise

More than just saving specific people, divine election manifests God’s supreme grace and calling so that those chosen would live “to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). Predestination humbles human pride in salvation and exalts Christ as the source.

This brings greater worship, not fatalism. Foreknowing believers would freely receive His gift, God predestined them to glorify Him through redemption in Christ (1 Peter 1:20).

Thinking Through Objections

Isn’t This Unfair?

Some may view the idea that God chose some people before the foundation of the world as unfair. After all, doesn’t this imply that God picks favorites or arbitrarily condemns some people without giving them a chance? There are a few things to consider here:

First, no one inherently deserves to be saved. As the Bible teaches, all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). If God chose to save anyone at all, that would be an act of grace, not something unfairly withheld.Second, those chosen by God are chosen for service, not just blessings. Ephesians 1 talks about those “predestined…for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ…to the praise of His glorious grace” (v. 5-6).

But it also mentions being chosen “for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v. 10). This choice involves responsibility.

Third, God’s choices are for His purposes and glory. As Romans 9 explains, God has mercy and shows compassion on some while allowing others to pursue their own path – “that His purpose…might stand, not of works but of Him who calls” (v. 11). His choices ultimately shine the spotlight on Himself.

What About Evangelism?

If God already decided who would be saved, why preach the gospel? This is a common question. There are several angles to consider here:

First, we do not know God’s eternal decrees. Only God knows those He has chosen. Since we cannot see people’s hearts or God’s hidden will, we are called to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19).Second, the preaching of the gospel is a means God uses to save people. Romans 10 explains that people call on Christ when they hear the gospel preached – so preaching serves God’s plan. And 2 Thessalonians 2 calls the gospel a means of obtaining salvation.Third, it is a privilege to be used by God. Even if God has already chosen who will believe, we should view evangelism as an honor to be part of His work. Like Paul said, some plant, some water, but God causes the growth (1 Cor 3:6-7).

Reflecting on Our Identity and Response

Chosen and Adopted Children of God

As God’s chosen ones, we have the incredible privilege of being adopted as His children (Ephesians 1:5). Though once far off, we have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13). This free gift of grace gives us an amazing new identity and inheritance as co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

What an awesome blessing that before the world began, God set His love on us and predestined us for adoption (Ephesians 1:4-5). As His children, we are dearly loved and accepted, having received redemption and forgiveness of sins according to His grace (Ephesians 1:6-7).

Living Out Our Election With Gratitude

In response to God’s gracious choice, we are called to live holy and blameless lives (Ephesians 1:4). Our election is not for our glory but for God’s praise and renown (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). We are saved by grace to do good works God prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).

As chosen people, we should clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, patience and forgive one another (Colossians 3:12-13). We ought to be thankful and let Christ’s peace rule our hearts (Colossians 3:15).

By walking in love as dearly loved children of God, we give evidence of our election and bring glory to the Father (1 John 3:1, Ephesians 5:1-2).


In closing, though the idea of divine election from before creation confounds human logic, it provides great comfort that our mighty, loving God has always known His own. This breathtaking grace should move us to worship and impel us to share the good news of Jesus with the world.

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