Brethren Archive

Before the World’s Foundation

by Inglis Fleming

The minds of men are mostly occupied with the things which can be seen, with matters connected with the earth as it now is.

Astronomers and geologists are engaged with the manner of the earth’s formation, expounding their own theories and exploding the theories of others as to this matter.

Believers understand that “the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:3).

But the Spirit of God would take us back in our thoughts into the eternity before the earth began to be:

“Before its deep foundations

On nothingness were laid.”

What was then? Very little is made known, but all that is communicated is of the profoundest interest.

I would like to call your attention to three passages where these eternal realities are presented, and where the expression “Before the foundation of the world” occurs—the only three in which it does occur.

John 17:24

Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.” From this we learn that “before the foundation of the world” the Father loved the Son.

In the deep affections of the Father the Son delighted then. In the deep affections of the Son the Father found His pleasure. The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father hath now declared Him to us; but before there was any revelation made, and before the world where the revelation was to be made existed, He was rejoicing in the love which is now declared s fully. As it is said of Him, as Wisdom, in Proverbs 8:29-30, “When He appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by Him, as One brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.”

We are thus led into the realm of divine affections, and privileged to contemplate, as it were, the infinite and eternal delight of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Father. The Father’s love in all its blessedness resting with infinite complacency on the Son. The Son responsively delighting in being the object of that complacent love.

All this is natural, if we may so say. The very nature of God is LOVE (1 John 4:8, 16), and this love of complacency rested on a perfect Object with perfect delight.

Ephesians 1:3-4

But a deeper mystery attaches to the fact that in that bosom in which the Son lay eternally, thoughts of love should be found towards us.

Ephesians 1:3-4 brings this into view.

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 before Him in love.” Thus the Apostle begins to pour out his heart in praise as he contemplates that of which I now speak.

The Son, the eternal Son, who was eternally the object of the Father’s love has become incarnate, He has glorified God about the whole matter of sin, has upheld the majesty of His throne, has magnified the law and made it honourable, has wrought atonement at Calvary, and thus has finished His blessed work. Now He is exalted to the right band of His God and Father.

It is as the blessed, risen, exalted Man that He is viewed in this passage. Therefore it is that God is spoken of as His “God and Father,” who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings “in Christ.” He is the measure of the blessings that are ours. His place of nearness is our place of neatness. We look upon Him where He now is as Man in all the favour of God, and we read our acceptance in His acceptance there.

“In Christ” speaks of the fullness of favour and privilege which are the portion of all who are His. And this is for time and for eternity.

And all this is “according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” His purpose was made then; that is, it was outside and apart from the world altogether. Then it was God chose us for blessing in Christ, to be holy and without blame before Him in love, blessing to be enjoyed now in part, but which, in its fullness, will be known only when we are conformed to the image of His Son.

This is distinctly Christian blessing. Israel was chosen from the foundation of the world, its blessing is earthly in character and connected with time. Christian blessing is heavenly and eternal. So it is that the Christian is not understood by the men of the world. Their ultimate thought is prosperity in the world. Their minds travel not beyond the confines of things seen; they have nothing outside of them. But for the Christian these things are not all; indeed, they are of minor import to him, for he looks, as the Apostle Paul says, “Not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

But if these unseen, eternal, heavenly blessings were to be ours they must be so in perfect righteousness. “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts.” “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” It could not be that He could pass over the question of sin, the blighting influence of which has been cast over the whole world, and has involved those who were foreordained to the blessing as well as all others. How, then, could the demand of His holiness be met? How could God have those predestinated to the adoption of children before Him in righteousness.

1 Peter 1:11

This passage gives the key. We are “not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”

Here we see that when the Son lay in the bosom of the Father—the object of His love—when the purpose was formed that that Son, having become man, should have companions to share the Father’s love with Him—then also was He foreordained to be the Lamb of God whose precious blood should open the way in righteousness for the accomplishment of the Father’s will.

Of this fact of redemption by blood there were indications all along the history of man on the earth. The animals slain to provide the skins wherewith our first parents were clothed—the firstlings of the flock brought by Abel in sacrifice—the burnt offering presented by Noah on Ararat—all shadowed the redeeming work of Christ. Isaac’s inquiry of his father Abraham as they two went together and ascended the mountain where he was to be offered, “Where is the Lamb for a burnt offering?” tells that he knew what the customary offering was. And his cry has been echoed by the centuries. The offerings on Jewish altars all cried out for Christ to come and fulfil the truth of which they were but shadows.

At length the solemn time drew near, and John Baptist was sent as forerunner before His face. Then, looking upon Jesus as He walked, he cried, “Behold the Lamb of God.” There was the Lamb for a burnt offering. He who was foreordained to be it had now come.

Then, later, we gaze with wonder and with worship upon Him on the cross, and see Him accomplishing redemption and glorifying God in the very place of death and judgment. There is the Lamb offering Himself without spot to God, fulfilling every type and shadow and definite prediction of the law and the prophets. That work is finished. Redemption by blood, eternal redemption has been obtained, and He who obtained it is in glory. Now we may see Him crowned with glory and honour and with glad hearts we may say again, There is the Lamb. He is now in the brightest spot of heaven’s glory, acclaimed as worthy by all the hosts above. And His presence there opens the way for all His fellow-heirs and companions to be with Him.

Thus in perfect righteousness can all God’s counsels have their fulfilment. His majesty, His truth, His holiness, have all been fully expressed, and praise, eternal praise, is His.

“Before the foundation of the world” the Son was loved by the Father.

“Before the foundation of the world” we were chosen for blessing in and with Him.

“Before the foundation of the world” He was foreordained to be the Lamb of God who should accomplish the necessary redemption work.

Well may we bow in worship while we wait for Christ’s coming to receive us unto Himself.

“God and the Lamb shall there

The light and temple be;

And radiant hosts for ever share,

The unveiled mystery.”


S.T. 1913


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