By Ron F. Hale
Can you picture in your mind the most magnificent church that you have ever entered? For me it was walking into St. Stephens Cathedral in Vienna, Austria.
Seeing the big picture, the architect must have initially pictured and purposed the Cathedral in his mind. He studied the lay of the land and marked out the length and width of the building -- first conceptually, then onto paper in design drawings. Yet, the concept preceded the construction.
Eventually men with rougher hands marked out the outer walls with stakes or markers in preparation for building. They studied the plan and began to dig the foundation and lay stones. Therefore, the “marking out” of the building plan beforehand was imperative.
I Peter 2:4-10 shares how Jesus is … “the living Stone … chosen of God …we are living stones, being built into a spiritual house … we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession … .”
The Bible teaches that Christ was foreordained before the foundation of the world to die as the sacrificial Lamb (Rev. 13:8; I Peter 1:20). This ransom and resurrection was purposed by the Father in eternity. This plan was no afterthought or last minute addition after Adam sinned. In eternity, God “marked out” His great and glorious plan of salvation and it would be “in Christ.” Jesus is God’s beloved Son or the Chosen One (Luke 9:35).
The phrase “in Christ” was one of the Apostle Paul’s favorite expressions. In Ephesians 1:3-14 the phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” is utilized in some form at least ten times in these verses to depict our union with Christ, and over thirty times in the book of Ephesians.
Let us concentrate on these wonderful verses:
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding …”
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 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.”
In teaching this passage, Dr. Herschel Hobbs saw that God sovereignly chose or elected a specific plan of salvation. God “marked out beforehand” that salvation would be “in Christ” which reflects the basic meaning of the Greek word proorisas (predestine, v.4). Dr. Hobbs teaches that proorisas or “pro-horizo” comes from two Greek words, “pro” and “horizo” and basically pictures the marking out a boundary. Hobbs says, “The verb translated “having predestinated” is a participle meaning “to horizon beforehand.” This verb is used six times in the NT (Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29-30; I Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:5, 11).
In other words, God as the great architect of the universe “marked out beforehand” that all who are “in Christ” (the Church, His Bride) will be saved – the elect of the ages. The question then becomes: How are we to be found “in Christ”? The Scriptures are constantly and consistently clear that whosoever hears the Gospel (which is the power of God unto salvation, Rom. 1:16) and repents by trusting (believing on/in) Jesus will be saved! God’s dealings with individuals can only be understood in the context of his greater plan!
In eternity God sovereignly “marked out beforehand” this “in Christ” plan of salvation – that all who believe “in Him” become the elect of the ages or the new chosen people! Individuals who hear the Gospel and as the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin and the convincing of truth, the believer is saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9) – and receives the “new birth” (JN 3:3).
The “in Christ” view of predestination (and election) is a God-centered view of salvation. It begins with God in eternity. It is grounded in the OT revelation of God choosing a particular people to bless all peoples on earth (Gen. 12:4). Jesus is the “Chosen One” before the foundation of the world. In the “fullness of time” Jesus comes into our sinful world (through God’s elect people). His atoning death on the cross makes it possible for lost sinners to be saved. This was done as Christ was handed over by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23).
The Holy Spirit works to lift up the name of Jesus (to draw, convict, call -- Rev. 22:17) and to apply the atoning sacrifice of Jesus the very moment the sinner exercises faith in Christ. Instantaneously, the believer is baptized into the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13). The born again believer is now “in Christ” and Christ is in the believer (Col. 1:27; Romans 8:10).
Hobbs says, “So if you are ‘in Christ’ you are saved. If you are not ‘in Christ,’ you are not saved. God in his sovereignty decreed ‘in Christ,’ but each person in his free will decides wheter or not he will be ‘in Christ.’ Thus God’s sovereignty and man’s free will are harmonized.”
We can say that in eternity, God “marked out beforehand” His church and “in time” the sinner believed and was saved. The new believer is spiritually baptized into that one body (the church) and becomes “in Christ.” Ephesians 1:13 explains it:
1) “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” 2) “When you believed” 3) “you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”
Most persons reading this article have filtered every sentence through a theological paradigm (a pattern or model of seeing things). As I read the Scriptures, I clearly see the “in Christ” corporate model of election; the plan not the man (the “how” not the “who”). As I reflect on the sovereignty and character of God, this view makes sense to me.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19-22 ESV).
- Ephesians 1:4-8; 11-13 (NIV, 1984 Edition).
- Herschel H. Hobbs, New Men In Christ, (Waco: Word Books), 1974, 17.
- Ibid., 20-21.
Sources to Study:
- Herschel H. Hobbs, New Men In Christ, (Waco: Word Books), 1974.
- David Dockery, Ephesians: One Body in Christ -- Adult Winter Bible Study, (Nashville: Convention Press), 1996.
- David L. Allen and Steve W. Lemke, Whosoever Will, (Nashville: B&H Academic), 2010.
Ron F. Hale has served local churches and at the denominational level for over thirty-five years.
© Ron F. Hale, February 9, 2013