The eternal covenant is the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. It carries with it the sense of eternality, and hence the term itself. By being eternal, it transcends time and circumstance. The fact that God works in an eternal covenant then also seems to demand an eternal election. After all, no matter what part of history you are examining, past, present, or future, the eternal covenant is in existence, and it is something that pertains to that time. How is it that the eternal covenant, which parallels so steadfastly with the new covenant, is contained within the Old Testament to an elect people that God has foreknown and loved? The answer should not be so difficult. What makes it difficult is because when we take that same language into the New Testament, we don’t want the same answer.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame in love: having predestined us into the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise and glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
The concepts that are in this passage, which continues on from here, are grounded in the Old Testament. Paul does not bring in new and unheard of language, nor does he have the authority to do so. Being an apostle does not grant Paul the power to now bring forth an entirely different frame of view than what the prophets before him declared, because if he did, he wouldn’t actually be an apostle. What exactly are the spiritual blessings in heavenly places? Well, through context it is obviously what Paul goes on to explain: being chosen, predestined, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, given an inheritance, etc. Yet, for me this isn’t sufficient – specifically where do we find a “heavenly blessing” in the Old Testament? If Paul is building upon what was already laid by the prophets and Jesus Himself, then we should be able to find this kind of pattern or mindset in the Old Testament.
We do. It isn’t outright declared, but the pieces are indeed strung together, maybe especially when we consider Hebrews 11:10. The concept of the New Jerusalem, or Zion, which we have been brought unto, the City whose builder and maker is God, which Abraham himself sought after, is throughout the entirety of Scripture from beginning to end. Zion is the place where God dwells, whether in heaven, or on the earth. Wherever God is, it is Zion. It is Jerusalem. It is the City of peace. It is God’s City. It is where righteousness dwells. It is where the righteous rejoice. It is the wisdom of Proverbs that was with God from the beginning, from before the foundations of the world. It is the polar opposite of Babylon, which is the harlot, the woman who waits in the streets for the young fools who pass by. Wisdom and Babylon both cry out in the streets, but we choose which one to listen to.
Jeremiah proclaims that God cast the beauty of Israel from heaven to earth.1 How is it that this sinful nation, which is in judgment because of its debauchery, is somehow dwelling in heaven with God? The only way is that there is an eternal election, and therefore an eternal security, for that one nation, whether they are in keeping with the covenant or not. Apparently there is indeed a heavenly dwelling for the people of God in the Old Testament, and the prophets saw it. That same place is where we have received blessing, and where we are seated with Christ even now.
What shall we say about being chosen? Does the election, or the predestination, apply in the Old Testament? Is it solely the remnant?
For thou art an holy people unto the LORD your God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people2 unto himself, above all people that are on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people.
For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.
But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.
To me the scandal is not the election of Israel. The scandal, which might even be a conspiracy, is that we have read these texts and taken them to mean the church. And, we don’t even mean church like Stephen used the word about the whole congregation of Israel in the wilderness at Sinai;3 we mean the Gentiles who are in the faith currently, as a completely separate entity from what was happening back then. Where else do we find what it means to be holy and without blame, except from the very words of the covenant in Leviticus and Deuteronomy? Is it not the very text of Leviticus that Peter is quoting when he tells us “be holy as I am holy”? If Leviticus had that much bearing upon Peter and those who he was writing to, then why do we think it has absolutely no bearing upon us? Because we’re not Jews? What a shameful and arrogant thing to believe, let alone to declare. Who are you, who has surpassed the holiness and righteousness of even the apostles?
Are you even aware that the phrase “blessed be God” is rare in Scripture, and is most often used in relation to God’s faithfulness unto the covenant? Yet, this is how Paul starts the very statement of our election and call. Even Jesus when speaking of the end of the age speaks of the eternality of His covenant by claiming that the Kingdom was prepared from before the foundation of the world. The whole passage drips of the language spoken to Israel in the prophets. If that is the case, then where do we have validation that Ephesians 1 is speaking about something other than Israel?
If we continue in the passage, we see that the inheritance is spoken of in two ways. First, it is that we have obtained inheritance in Christ. Second, it is that our inheritance has been guaranteed, or we’ve been given down payment on it, until the redemption of the purchased possession. What in the world is the purchased possession? Doesn’t it say elsewhere that we were bought with the precious blood of Messiah? Notice Deuteronomy 32:6 and 9. The language is similar here, that God has bought Israel – the context being even they who are disobedient. It even says that the LORD’s portion is His people, and Jacob is the place of His inheritance. Do you see the similarity in language here? It is not a stretch that I’m making, but rather a pulling the strings together. If that be the case, then we can see quite clearly that God has one Bride, one dwelling, one people, one Messiah, one faith, one Spirit, one Father, one Body, one Tabernacle, one covenant, and anyone who is unwilling to be grafted into that one tree shall be deadwood that is good for nothing but fire.
2Is this where the idea of being called a peculiar people comes from?