God’s choice is not arbitrary, cold, cruel, or foolish. God chose what was best, because he chose his Son. True, there is no lovableness in us. But when God set his affection on us, he did so by selecting us in his Son—his beloved Son, with whom he is well pleased (Matt. 3:17). And that makes us beloved sons as well, for what he saw in us was everything that Christ one day would do for us.
“In Him.” In my estimation, these are the two most important words for understanding the Christian life. These words teach us that union with Christ—being spiritually one with him—is what makes all the difference for the Christian. All that is Christ’s becomes mine. Every blessing I have I must understand through the lens of my union to Christ. And this is fundamentally and foundationally true of election.
We can’t make sense of election without union with Christ.
Paul writes in the opening of Ephesians,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world. (Eph. 1:3-4; emphasis added)
We can’t make sense of election without union with Christ, because there is nothing inherent within us that would make us desirous to God. There is nothing in us worth choosing. But when we are united to Christ, it all starts to make a little more sense.
When Paul tells us that this choosing took place “before the foundation of the world,” he sends us into the marvelous and mysterious eternal counsel of the Godhead. More specifically, Paul refers to what theologians call the Covenant of Redemption. A covenant is a binding agreement between two or more parties. The Covenant of Redemption teaches us that the Trinity made a binding agreement before time began that the Father would send the Son who, equipped by the Spirit, would redeem the elect.
Christ came to the world with a purpose.
While it might sound overly heady and perhaps even speculative, the Covenant of Redemption can be understood quite simply by stating it this way: Christ came to the world with a purpose. He had an agenda. He had a particular people in mind to save. The redemption of sinners was not wishful thinking on his part, nor were the saved selected by lottery. Jesus speaks of this intention in John 17, in what is known as the High Priestly Prayer:
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:1–5)
Jesus came to give eternal life to all whom the Father had given Him. This is the mission Jesus was on, or as he says, “the work that you gave me to do” (see also John 6:37-39).