Not Chosen? — Chosen!

I am teaching Ephesians in ALTS this quarter, the third time I have done so. Instead of getting bored with it, I find that Paul’s letter is deeper than when I first read it 55 years ago, deeper than when I have taught in congregations the past 30 years, and deeper than the several times I have translated it.

Sometimes a fresh reading and perspective is needed. Here is one verse to whet the appetite for digging deeper.

… just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. (Ephesians 1:4 NAS)

Obviously we examine the words and the theological significance of the words: “God chose us in Him.” And we will do that tonight in class.

But there is also the practical side, the living reality, of what this means. In our current situation in the world, “not chosen” comes through words like alienation, abuse, abandoned, and the list goes one. What does it mean for us “God chose us in Him”?

Eugene Peterson, in his book, Practice Resurrection*,  helps us dig through this practical stuff.

Everybody I have ever become acquainted with has a story, usually from childhood, of not being chosen: not chosen for the glee club, not chosen for the basketball team, the last chosen in a neighborhood sandlot softball team (which is worse than not being chosen at all), not chosen for a job, not chosen as a spouse. Not chosen carries the blunt message that I have no worth, that I am not useful, that I am good for nothing.

These and a host of other compensatory strategies often work quite well, sometimes spectacularly well, but they don’t have much staying power. [Peterson, 58]

Against this background, common to all of us, of not being noticed, being ignored, being dismissed as of no account, being indistinguishable from the background, the verb “chose” is a breath of fresh air: God chose us.

And yes, God chose us. It wasn’t a last-minute thing because he felt sorry for us and no one would have us, like a stray mutt at the dog pound, or an oprhan who nobody adopted. He chose us “before the foundation of the world.” [Peterson, 58-9]

Such a perspective helps us to relate this powerful text to those who have lived lives “not chosen.” This does not mean teaching people how to be good enough, how to behave. This means that God’s Word can speak into our very own lives, where we struggle often with “not chosen.” And receive what God had intended from eternity past.

God chose us “in Him,” namely, “in Jesus.” God’s choosing is not a “behind the curtain” kind of choosing that we have no clue about. “God choosing” is not left for us to wonder who he chose, or why has He not chosen…?

This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4 CSB)

If we want to know God’s desire for everyone, it is clearly stated in this passage. We look at what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world, not as a life coach, to help us live the good life. Jesus came to be human, to endure the pain and suffering of life, to pay the penalty of our own sins, meaning He takes the punishment we deserve.

And He came to endure the most devastating “not chosen-ness” imaginable when He was on the cross, and gasped these words:

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”

In that moment He experienced what we all dread, the forsakenness by God. But prior to that moment, Jesus also received this accolade:

behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:17 NAS)

Paul goes on in Ephesians to expand the horizons of what it means to be chosen in Him. When we believe in Jesus and are baptized into Him, we receive the same declaration from the Father, “My beloved child.” Your chosenness is certain because it is God’s work in Jesus. We cannot undo what Jesus has done. Even more, Paul reminds us that God chose us in Him “before the foundation of the world.”

And Paul ends this section with even more good news:

In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession (Ephesians 1:13-14 CSB)

In our world of brokenness because of sin, the forsakenness of others, our own despondency, this Word comes from God to become a bright beacon of light for all who believe in Jesus. In Jesus is salvation, in Jesus God’s eternal plan comes to fruition and completion, in Jesus is hope, not just for today, but for eternity.

No wonder that Ephesians 1:3-14 divided into three sections (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and Paul includes the phrase at the end of each section: “to the praise of the glory of His grace.”

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*Peterson, Eugene H. Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

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CSB In Congregational Use

In this post I will not discuss the translation itself. Rather I will observe things about actually using the CSB translation in church settings.

I began using CSB for our lectionary readings beginning with Lent, for both Sunday and Wednesday worship. Generally, the lectors have done a good job. Sentence structure and oral comprehension aid the listener to understand the text.

Sentence Structure and Readability

At the same time, our Saturday morning Bible class has studied 1 John (6 weeks, then continue after Easter). I would pass out one chapter of CSB each week printed so that each participant could write notes in the right hand column.

I conducted the class differently than all previous studies. This six week study was focused only on what the text says. We used only that text, no study aids, etc, nor other translations. This proved effective because we all had the same text, and we had to wrestle with what the text stated. It also allowed each participant to see connections in the texts.

The sentence structure of CSB helped in this approach. Sentences were not overly long, which aided students in reading the thought progression. If questions arose, everyone was seeing the same thing in the text. That formed the basis of the study. The CSB translation was a positive experience for all participants.

After Easter, we will return to 1 John, for a more extensive examination, but this time focusing on application of the text.

Font Size—Text

My edition is: CSB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible.

While I like the font size for personal study, I found that 9.5 font size was too small for me to use in a preaching and teaching environment. This particular edition says it is “Large Print.”  Here is the description from CSBible.com

I looked at the CSB web site for other options. They have a Giant Print edition with 14.75 point size. That is too big for my purposes.

I have several other translations and many publishers have a size in between that is Large Print, namely 11 pt. That is exactly the size I find comfortable for reading in public, for preaching, and for teaching (my NAS Reference Bible is that size font).

Corrected: CSB publishers do offer a true Large Print Bible with 11 pt font size; but it is not available on their web site; found it on Amazon. (Special thanks to Diego and Gary)

Strange that CSB offers several different font sizes, all identified at Large Print:

8 pt [Compact]
9.5 pt [Ultrathin Reference], and
11.25 pt [Larger Print Personal Size]).

That is less than helpful. I would think that Large Print from the same publisher would designate all Bibles regardless of the edition.

Font Size—References

Despite this being a “Large Print” edition, and the text size is not true large print, the real problem comes with the cross references. Sadly I have to use a magnifying glass for most of the cross reference texts. We have two other people in the congregation who use the same Bible. Their first comment after talking about liking the translation is on the size of the cross references.

Sadly, these cross references are essentially useless, whether personal reading or especially when teaching/preaching and looking for a cross reference.

Single Column Text

Over the past several years I have picked up 3-4 translations (ESV, NKJV, GW) in single column format. It really is much easier to read in that format. This is especially true in poetic sections in the Old Testament. Because of the narrower columns in a double-column format, it is harder to follow the thought and connection.

CSB for Isaiah 64

God’s Word translation still offers the best single column format with indentation in poetic sections that makes reading silently and orally much easier. Here is Isaiah 64 in GW:

GW Layout Design: Isaiah 64

Suggestion/Request

I think CSB would be much more user friendly in offering a single column edition in 11 point font size with cross references that are readable and with indentation in poetic sections to clarify relationships and help readers.