Ephesians 1:11 establishes that God is directed solely by His own will in all that He does. Nothing outside of Himself directs Him. His sole guide is the counsel of His own will. His counsel is the determination of His own eternal, unchanging mind.
I often hear the question raised in hymns, “What did God find in me that caused Him to love and choose and save me?” Oh dear weak child of faith! The answer is nothing! There was nothing in me, because God found reason in Himself alone. He determined all and does all for His own name’s sake, because that is who He is: “as his name is, so is he” (1 Sam. 25:25); “Thou shalt call His name JESUS; for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21, 23). That is why God can save a sinner like me. That is why my salvation will not fail. That is why I am saved for all eternity. That is why I have hope at all. And that is why my hope is unshaken. There was nothing in us, neither good nor bad, that influenced God one way or another. Only God’s eternal will alone, uninfluenced by all that is outside of Himself, direct Him. I remember with great fondness what Spurgeon often quoted in his sermons: “What was there in us to merit esteem, or give the Creator delight? ‘Twas even so Father, we ever must sing, because it seemed good in Thy sight!”
All that God does in time, and all that He will do after time, He determined and set down before time by the immutable counsel of His own will.
Now, this solid rock of truth helps us to understand what took place before time. Is something done in time? Then God ordained it to be done before time. Is something foretold to be done after time is no more? Then God set that down too in His eternal counsel and will before time. Are only a specific people saved in heaven when time shall be no more? Then those individuals were chosen in Christ to salvation and given all things in Christ as heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ before the world began (Eph. 1:3-7)! Are there only some loved for all eternity? Then God loved them as His own from everlasting ages (Jer. 31:3)? And He did so, not because of what He found in them, but because God is love (1 John 4:19); because the LORD would love His own in Christ (Deut. 7:7-8; Rom. 8:28-39). How did those people present in heaven at the end of time obtain that eternal blessing and happiness? Because, by the counsel of His own will and choice of them in Christ before time, God made them accepted in Christ His Beloved One and with all of His beloved ones. He redeemed them by the blood of His Son set up from eternity in the covenant of peace and grace as the Lamb of God (Ezek. 37:26; Rev. 5:9; 13:8)? Christ was foreordained for them before the foundation of the world to redeem them by His precious blood (Eph. 1:4-7; 1 Pet. 1:18-20). That is why He shed His blood to redeem them at the cross. And that is why they will sing when time shall be no more of Him who loved them and redeemed them by His own blood (Rev. 1:5; 5:9).
Scripture is the record of God’s eternal thoughts, His will, His truth and His purpose. Yet those thoughts and that purpose did not enter God’s mind when that scripture was given or written down at some point in time. Oh no! God’s word is true from the beginning. And everyone of His righteous judgments endure forever (Psalm 119:160). What is spoken and written in time was in God’s mind and heart and established already before time. “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). “Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11). “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pet. 1:20).
We should not fret at slight differences in the words “from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18), “before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:20) and “from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). Indeed, we need not fret at all, because God always does all His thoughts (Isaiah 14:24; Psalm 33:11). And all that God does is always done according to His eternal counsel. He knows His own works from the beginning of the world. His chief work is that work of reconciliation by the redemption accomplished by the blood of His Son, which was ordained before the foundation of the world (2 Cor. 5:19-21). Therefore, “before the foundation of the world” must be all inclusive of all of God’s thoughts, decrees and will, because God is eternal (Deut. 33:27; Psalm 90:1-2; Micah 5:2), and does not change (Num. 23:19; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 1:8-12; 13:8), and does all of His will (Isaiah 14:24; 46:10; Psalm 135:6; 115:3; Eccl. 3:14).
From this we can conclude many things. Did God Anoint His Son to be the Prophet, Priest and King for the eternal salvation and blessing of His people, to save them from their sins, to act in all things as their Mediator between Himself and them in His person as God and man and by His saving work alone? Then we are certain from the explicit statements of scripture that this work and those for whom it was performed was established when God alone existed, when there was nothing outside of God, and therefore, when God was uninfluenced by all that He had not yet brought into being. Before creation and time, God laid out His specific works in eternal decrees according to His eternal, infinite, unchanging mind and will (Psalm 147:5). And this is all that God does at any time and for all eternity!
We can say much more from these two principles revealed in Acts 15:15-18, Eph. 1:11, and Psalm 90:1-2, 89, 160. Did God make a covenant of peace (Ezek. 37:26)? Is that peace between God and His people made by the blood of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 1:21; Rom. 5:9; Psalm 85:1-10; Heb. 7:3; Isaiah 9:6)? Is Christ the anointed one of God, the only begotten Son of the true and living God (Matt. 16:16)? Was He chosen to this office as God’s Anointed by God Himself (Heb. 5:5-6; Isaiah 42:1)? Was God’s choice of His Son to be Christ part of that covenant of peace (Psalm 89:3)? And is that covenant eternal and immutable (Heb. 6:11-20)? Then that covenant that that was revealed in scripture to Abraham was confirmed before time by God in Christ (Gal. 3:17). And in that covenant, Christ was chosen as Head of those given to Him to save to be His own and to give all covenant blessings of everlasting life and eternal glory (Isaiah 42:6; 49:8; Heb. 9:15; 2 Tim. 2:10). His people were chosen in Him (Eph. 1:4). He was ordained as God’s Anointed. All of this was done from everlasting, before time began, and established in the everlasting covenant of peace, a covenant of God’s grace to sinners, established and secured in the blood of Christ shed for them (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 13:20; Prov. 8:23; Psalm 119:160). That covenant with Christ was in Christ for His people. It was in God’s eternal mind and counsel and decree as an everlasting covenant (Ezek. 37:26; Heb. 13:20)? And as in that covenant Christ was set up from everlasting to be God’s Wisdom (Proverbs 8:14, 23), His power (1 Cor. 1:23-24), God’s righteousness (Rom. 3:21; 10:4) and as such, as Christ, was made of God our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).
Did Christ love the Church and give Himself for it (Eph. 5:25)? Then He loved Her with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3; Gal. 2:20; John 13:3; Rev. 1:5). Then He gave Himself for Her from everlasting ages according to His everlasting covenant engagements and eternal transactions with His Father (Heb. 13:20; Matt. 26:28; Rev. 13:8; 1 Pet. 1:20; John 10:17-18; 17:2-3).
Did God command Christ to lay down His life for the sheep — His elect (John 10:17-18; 17:9, 20; Rev. 5:9)? Then He gave them to His Son as our Mediator, His Anointed. He gave them to Him with this command: to save them, to bring them again to Himself (Gen. 43:8-9; Heb. 7:22), and Shepherd them as His own (John 10:27-29; 17:9-10). Thus, the Son of God, the chosen of God, the Anointed of God, in love to His Father and to His people (Ex. 21:2-6), gave Himself for His Church, His Bride, in pledge to His Father in that covenant of peace before time began (Prov. 8:30-31; Hosea 12:12; Genesis 29:18-20).
Is the everlasting covenant in Christ’s blood the same as the covenant of peace by Christ’s blood (Heb. 13:20; 2 Sam. 23:5; Isaiah 55:3; Psalm 89:2-4, 28-29, 36; Dan. 4:3; Luke 1:33; 22:29)? Was Christ’s blood what God the Father required in that covenant to fulfill all that was necessary to save His people from their sins and make them holy and blameless before Him in love (Eph. 1:4; Matt. 26:28; Heb. 13:20)? And did God foreordain that Christ would shed His blood for the redemption of His people before the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 1:18-20)?
Then we can be sure God’s covenant with Christ for His elect people, His choice of His Son to be the one Mediator, His setting Him up as Christ (Prov. 8:23) in that covenant, for that people called by His name and known to Him, and Christ’s commission to act in His anointed offices of Prophet, Priest and King, was all done in the eternal, immutable counsel of God’s own will, established to everlasting ages. That is what was done before time. That is what has been declared to be done at the cross and throughout time. And this is what shall be made known to be done when time shall be no more (Matt. 6:9-13; Eph. 2:7)! This is what Christ did (John 17:4; 19:30; 10:17-18; Php. 2:5-8; Heb. 10:5-18; Psalm 40:6-8). This is what is written in the book sealed with seven seals and that is in the hand of Him who sits on the throne, which only Christ is worthy to take from His hand, open, reveal, and accomplish that will.
What did God determine before time? Everything that He would ever do since time began (Acts 15:18) Why does God do what He does? One reason only: His own sovereign will (Eph. 1:11). Who are they whom God will approve of in all of His holiness on the last day? It will be all He determined to approve by the blood of His Son, all He therefore approved before time by His eternal decrees to be fulfilled by Christ’s justifying righteousness of His own life sacrificed in obedience. And not one of all of those chosen in Christ as His own shall be disapproved or ashamed or be found missing from that great company on Christ’s right hand to whom He shall then say, “ Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34)!
If this is not so, then God is not God. If any speak against these things, then they belittle God and His Christ (Gal. 2:21). Let us have grace, therefore, to bow in worship and in worship give ourselves into the hands of Him whose will and work cannot fail, knowing that we are His workmanship, and that He has already done all His works in us as He set down in covenant and sealed with Christ’s own blood that cannot be shed in vain (Isaiah 26:12; Psalm 57:2; Php. 1:6, 12; Heb. 13:20-21)!