Before Times Eternal
It is to be noted that the Apostle had barely begun Letter to the Ephesians and opened the flood-gate of this pent-up revelation, than he carried his readers away back past all time and landed them in what he called "before the foundation of the world." It is language which he used more than once: "before times eternal" (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2). Having taken that long flight back over centuries and millennia, he intimated what in that dateless past took place. Two things are indicated and stated. In the counsels of the Godhead, the Son of God was designated and appointed the eternal Sphere of all that would be of God. "In Him" is the definition (Eph. 1:4). Two hundred times the Apostle uses that term in varying forms in his writings. The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews states the same thing in precise words: "Whom He appointed heir of all things" (Heb. 1:2). This is not knowledge exclusively Paul's. Both John and Peter speak of the same thing as to the eternal position of the Son of God. But Paul unfolds so much more of that designation. There, then, first in the "before times eternal," the Son of God - now given the name which became His so long after, "Our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 1:3) - was determined the inclusive realm of all that which would belong to God. As a race would be "in Adam" (1 Cor. 15:22); as a nation would be in the single seed of Abraham (Rom. 4:13); and as the harvest is in the single grain of wheat, so the Son of God would be the content of all that which would eventually be of God. So the Apostle links with the Person the persons: "He choose "us" in Him." This was in the Divine deliberations. We are not unfamiliar with this concept. Jesus Himself made reference to it: "for the elect's sake ...," "... so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect" (Matt. 24:22, 24). "Shall not God avenge His elect ...?" (Luke 18:7), etc. Peter also uses the term (1 Pet. 1:1). In those eternal counsels there was determined and secured a "people", a "body", a "nation," which just had to be to justify the appointment of the Son. No, we are not going to launch into a discussion of "predestination" or "foreordination." All that we will say just at this point is that two things govern this matter of the Divine election. One is that it is corporate; it is a "Body" and, just as a physical body was prepared for God's Son in incarnation - "a body didst Thou prepare for Me" (Hebrews 10:5) - so a corporate "Body" was prepared for Him. It was as essential as it is for a spirit to have a body for all practical purposes. (More on this later.) The other governing thing is that this election is not to salvation, willy nilly, but to "purpose". This is fundamental to this whole Letter to the "Ephesians." See how large and powerful a place the "eternal purpose" has in Paul's mind and writings. It is that "purpose" that determines so much in God's ways! The exhortations, he admonitions, the encouragements, the warnings, the entreaties, are all related to "His purpose" in salvation. How vastly much there is bound up with that drawing aside of the veil upon those eternal counsels! Out of them come the deliberations and activities of God: "Who worketh all things after the counsel of His will," "according to the good pleasure of His will' (Eph. 1:11; Romans 8:28-30).
We must, however, remember that there is one absolutely preeminent and predominant matter which determines everything and from which and to which all things are related. This is the one thing which explains everything which is in this Letter and all Scripture. It is the place of God's Son. That indeed does explain the Calling, the Conduct and the Conflict. This, then, in and from eternity past, stands over all time and eternity to be; affecting, determining, governing "all things." To substantiate this it is necessary to pass an eye through this Letter to note how often the Lord Jesus is actually mentioned. His personal name is mentioned some forty-four times, in addition to which note the many pronouns - "He," "Him," and "Whom."
It has often been said that the criterion by which truth or error in any system of religious teaching is determined is the place that it gives to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. That is a very sound criterion.
(continued with - "The Tragic Interlude")