How was grace given to us in Christ before time began?

Before creation, God purposed that, in Christ, we would be saved by grace: God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9).

In what sense were we given grace in Christ before time began?

Several passages teach that God planned our salvation before creation. There is disagreement in Christendom, however, about the consequences of that planning. Did God unconditionally predestine each individual to heaven or hell, as Calvinists believe? Or did God predestine an assembly to be saved, composed of those who accept the good news of salvation in Christ?

Although we cannot deal with the topic fully in a short lesson, we can learn much by simply reading and discussing the related passages.

Notice the words “we” and “us” as we discuss these Scriptures, and consider who “we” and “us” are.

Our text, 2 Timothy 1:9, says that God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”

We understand that we who are in Christ now are saved by grace and not by our own works. But we did not exist before time began, so how could God give us grace in Christ then? We were given grace before time began in the sense that God had already made provision for our salvation in Christ.

God's plan of salvation was so firm that Christ is called “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

This is explained in 1 Peter 1:19-21. We are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God.”

Thus, those who were given grace in Christ before time began, were those who would believe in God through Christ.

According to Titus 1:2, God's elect serve Him, “In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” How was eternal life promised before time began? God's plan to provide salvation from death, constitutes a promise of eternal life for those who would be in Christ.

This is explained in Ephesians 1:3-6. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”

Notice that this applies to those who are “in Christ”, those who by grace have been made accepted “in the Beloved”. “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.”

In the first chapter of Ephesians Paul mentions spiritual blessings we have “in Christ”.

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth - in Him” (Ephesians 1:7-10).

Thus, before time began, God purposed to gather into Christ all those who would be redeemed by His blood.

It is also “in Christ” that we obtain the inheritance: “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:11, 12).

This inheritance is for those who trust in Christ, those who believe the gospel and are sealed with the Holy Spirit: “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13, 14).

Paul prayed that the Ephesians might understand these things. “That you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18, 19).

Thus, the ones predestined for salvation before the foundation of the world are an assembly (in mathematical terms, a sub-set of humanity) defined as those who accept Christ when they hear the gospel of their salvation.

God gave Christ to be Head of the church, the assembly of the saved: “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22, 23). “And He is the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18).

Thus, we were given grace in Christ before the foundation of the world, if, upon hearing the gospel, we believe and are baptized into the church of Christ. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

To be in Christ, we must be baptized into Christ. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26, 27).

God predestined us (we who are in Christ) to be conformed to the image of His Son: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30).

After telling the parable of the indifferent wedding guests, Jesus said: “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).

Through the preaching of the gospel, God offers salvation in Christ to all. Jesus told His followers: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15, 16).

Everyone is invited. “And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

Thus, God predestined an assembly to be saved, the church of Christ, composed of those who believe and obey the gospel. “To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21).

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979, 1980, 1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.

Published in The Old Paths Archive