Chosen "before the foundations of the world..." If not predestination, what then?

Ephesians 1:4 “God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God's presence before the creation of the world. God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan...” (CEB)

Along with the shocking revelation of the Gentiles inclusion in the family of God, it was just as surprising that anyone could become family with God. God's plan to make (any) people his sons and daughters through adoption was only just being understood at the time of Paul’s writing—the first generation of Christians. We have been so conditioned to read this passage individualistically and replace the word “us” (in “God chose us…”) for Joe or Sally or me. But what does “before the creation of the world” modify? Does it modify when He chose who? Or when He chose what? I believe the what that was chosen is the source of Paul's euphoric glee. Let’s read more of the context of Ephesians 1 and see if you can sense Paul’s joy. As you read, keep these questions in mind: What was chosen for us who believe? What had been predestined for us? 

Ephesians 1:3-13 (CEB, emphasis mine):

Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven. God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world. God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan and to honor his glorious grace that he has given to us freely through the Son whom he loves. We have been ransomed through his Son’s blood, and we have forgiveness for our failures based on his overflowing grace, which he poured over us with wisdom and understanding. God revealed his hidden design to us, which is according to his goodwill and the plan that he intended to accomplish through his Son. This is what God planned for the climax of all times: to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth. We have also received an inheritance in Christ. We were destined by the plan of God, who accomplishes everything according to his design. We are called to be an honor to God’s glory because we were the first to hope in Christ. You too heard the word of truth in Christ, which is the good news of your salvation.

Paul’s exposition of God’s predestined plan for us can be summarized like this: God has planned, since the beginning, to make sinners his holy and blameless sons and daughters through Jesus' blood and to unite all these sons and daughters along with all things in Jesus! It's about Gentiles and Jews becoming one, Jesus and his bride becoming one, just like a husband and a wife become one. And in that place of oneness, we have power and authority to stand against and face the demonic forces we were once enslaved to. Not only will we face them, but it is God's plan that we—his redeemed and righteous sons and daughters—defeat them and display to them the manifold glory of God through our unity and strength.

John Wesley said this: “Ephesians 1:21 states that God has invested Christ with uncontrollable authority over all demons in hell, all angels in heaven, and all the princes and potentates on earth.” Jesus has authority and sovereignty over all powers…yet, at the same time, we are his body, his representatives on earth, whom he is training up to be co-rulers who know how to properly wield his power and authority so that his will is done through us on earth. His sovereignty doesn’t give us license to give up and wait for the outcome; no, it is an invitation to greater intimacy. As we come to know him better, we discover what pleases and displeases him, and as we learn that, we can more accurately and confidently wield the weapons he has given us to take down negative spiritual strongholds and mindsets. He is inviting us to be partners in his sovereignty. Referring to God’s sovereignty should come with an air of courage and resolve, not with a sigh of resignation. Trusting in God’s sovereignty should motivate us toward courageous faith.

On that note, because of all of these exciting things that God has been sitting on the edge of his seat for for thousands of years, go and love well, overflowing with grace, and knowing all your failures are forgiven!

[taken from my book Catharsis]