Individual Election in Ephesians 1

Some point to Ephesians 1 as a proof text highlighting God’s initiative in individual election. This article will look at the text to see what it is that Paul is saying to the church in Ephesus and to the church today.

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us.”

Who is the “us” that Paul is referring to? The church at Ephesus. He is speaking to the “we who are saved.”

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us (the redeemed, the saved, the church) with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us (the redeemed, the saved, the church) in Him before the foundation of the world, that we (the redeemed, the saved, the church) should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us (the redeemed, the saved, the church) to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us (the redeemed, the saved, the church) accepted in the Beloved.

One must understand that this passage itself has nothing to do with individual election. This does not negate any significance in individual election but this text itself does not demand it. In this light, that which was ordained before the foundation of the world was not the names of the elect but rather the blessings for the elect or those who are redeemed and have been saved. When Paul writes, “having predestined us” he is simply saying God made provision for our salvation in Christ Jesus.

Notice the last phrase in verse 6, “He made us accepted in Christ Jesus.” When does this “accepted” take place? Was it accomplished on the cross? Was it accomplished at repentance? WHEN does one move from the unaccepted to the accepted? This is an essential question. Calvinism contends individual election was settled actually PRIOR to the cross, before the foundation of the world. When Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin, He died for the sin of the elect and their sin alone. According to the postulates of Calvinism, the elect are NEVER the non-elect and are in fact, accepted before the foundation of the world. Now, this position is not negated by this passage but the terms of being accepted must be defined because the timing of this acceptance is crucial in the varying theological positions.

Verse 7 describes those who are accepted in the Beloved.

7 In Him we (the redeemed, the saved, the church) have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us us (the redeemed, the saved, the church) in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us us (the redeemed, the saved, the church) the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 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.

What is Paul saying here: Simple; Human history is pointing to eternity. That is what verse 10 is saying. One could argue that in this particular text, everything that God has foreordained and predestined is with eternity in mind; not individual election.

11 In Him also we (the redeemed, the saved, the church) have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, (provisions for eternity) 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

Verses 11 and 12 the “we” changes some. Notice verse 13. Paul writes, “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.”

So it must be understood that the “we” in verse 11 and certainly verse 12 does not include the “you” in verse 13. It could be argued that this would be true of every “we” in chapter 1 to this point. So what is it that Paul is saying? Paul is saying that God has gone to great lengths to bring salvation to the gentiles. That is it. Personally, I am actually inclined to believe that the “we” and “us” in all the verses mentioned above, reference not the (the redeemed, the saved, the church) but rather they are a direct reference to him and those Jewish believers that are co-laborers together who are bringing the gospel message to the gentiles. In this foreordained and predestined work of God is all of Israel’s storied history from which Christ came and became the fulfillment of the law and sacrificial system.

Now note what Paul says about the gentiles who have received this inheritance that has been foreordained and predestined by God.

Paul writes, “13 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, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

The gentiles trusted AFTER they heard the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Note a couple of things. It is the Word of Truth that had power to save them; they trusted AFTER they heard the Word of Truth. Paul does not say anything about them being regenerated so that they could THEN trust or believe. The Word of God has power to save them that believe. (Romans 1:16) To further clarify this redeeming process, he wrote, “after you believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” It is clear that new life comes AFTER one believes, not before. The Spirit is life. (John 6:63-70)

Ephesians 1 is not a proof text on individual election.

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Interested in bringing the issues facing The Southern Baptist Convention to light.
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43 Responses to Individual Election in Ephesians 1

  1. Verses 4 and 5 sure look pretty explicit to me:”According as he hath chosen us in him.” When? “before the foundation of the world.” Morever, “Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself.” How? “according to the good pleasure of his will.” Why? “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (v. 6). “Chosen” means “chosen.” What could be more clear?
    We might also mention that “redemption” (v. 7) means that Christ paid the price for our sin and thereby secured our freedom. This is what we mean by “limited atonement” or “particular redemption.” It involves a real substitution and the real payment of a price. And it has the real effect of actually securing our salvation.
    The passage then goes on to emphasize God’s sovereignty and providence: “being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the cousel of his own will.” (v. 11).
    And what is the purpose of all this? “That we should be to the praise of his glory.” (v. 12).

    • sbcissues says:

      “Chosen” means “chosen.” What could be more clear? I agree. My point is that while your interpretation can be brought TO THE TEXT, the text itself does not demand the same interpretation. Paul is speaking of himself and perhaps the church he is writing too AFTER THEIR CONVERSION… so it is fair to say God has chosen us based on our repentance and believing faith in Him.

      Your comment dealing with limited or particular atonement is not at all demanded by the reference to redemption; redemption comes to ALL WHO REPENT AND BELIEVE and that has NOTHING to do with limited or particular atonement.

      Thanks for the visit and the comment.

      • But what your argument amounts to is this: When Paul says “He chose us” (v. 4), that what he really meant was “we chose Him.” That makes Paul say the exact opposite of what he actually said.
        As for redemption, it means that He bought us — He paid the price and we are his!. It does not mean “He merely made salvation possible.”

      • sbcissues says:

        No. You are reading in to my response the same thing you are reading into the text. My point is that the “us” is NOT a reference to individual election as you suggest because the “us” is clearly a reference to those who have already been saved. There is a difference and all I am saying is this text does not demand an individual election interpretation… I will give it to you that it is not inconsistent with the individual election position but the statement itself does not require that interpretation.

        Hopefully you can see the difference.

        As for your second statement, “As for redemption, it means that He bought us — He paid the price and we are his!.” My question to you is this: when He bought you He obviously paid the price for you on the cross… so when Jesus said “it is finished” your redemption was completed THEN correct? that is a “yes” or “no” question.

        If you answer “yes” then there is no need for regeneration or conversion because your sin has already been paid for in full on the cross and there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ because your sin has been paid for in full. No need for repentance because you do not have to repent of sin that has been “bought and paid for.”

        Now, if you say… it was finished on the cross and is effectuated at conversion then your redemption could not have been completed at the cross if it is completed when God regenerates you and you repent and are converted. In this latter case, provision FOR redemption was completed at Calvary and once the provision is applied THEN your redemption is complete.

        Keep this in mind as you respond. I am not concerned with WHAT calvinists SAY…

        I am looking at the implications of the system itself not the application of those who hold to the system. I believe the implications are flawed and I am fairly confident that individual application is even MORE flawed creating a multitude of problems!

  2. DP says:

    Thanks Bob H, for what its worth, I’m with you on your understanding of these texts. There is nothing explicit in these texts (or chapter 2) about anybody’s faith being an irresistibly imposed gift, as Calvinism insists.

    A couple of thoughts/comments.

    My only clarification/quibble would be to say that Eph 1 is not a proof text on “CALVINISTIC” individual election. Ephesians 1 is teaching biblical election and predestination but not the Reformed view. Before the foundation of the world, every believer was predestined to enjoy the listed blessings in Christ. But your point is well taken that no individual was irresistibly predestined to be a believer (that is trust the gospel truth) before the foundation of the world. Believers are “appointed to eternal life” and its an immutable eternal decree. It won’t be changed. Likewise, we know that unbelievers are “appointed” to wrath but no individual is irresistibly appointed to be an unbeliever. 1 Thes 5:9

    You ask, “WHEN does one move from the unaccepted to the accepted?”

    A very important question indeed. I would say that the biblical answer, for someone who was dead in sin, (that is someone who has had their own sin imputed to their own account), is when God no longer imputes that guilt to them personally but permanently transfers their guilt to Christ and imputes His perfect righteousness to their account… by faith. The just shall live by their faith. This is when the new birth occurs.This yields the washing of regeneration, when we are raised/quickened with Him through faith (Titus 3; Col 2:12-13) [Note: an altar call is not needed for this glorious event to take place, but that may be another subject for another day]

    “12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.”

    God’s trustworthiness receives much more glory when our faith is resistible… than if it were irresistibly coerced. It is glorious that God could make the rocks cry out with his praises but it is even more glorious when our faith works by love (Gal 5:6) and not irresistible compulsion.

    You say, “Paul does not say anything about them being regenerated so that they could THEN trust or believe.”

    Amen. A good Calvinist says “regeneration precedes faith” but what they really mean is: “irresistible regeneration precedes irresistible faith.” Thus, Calvinism is a Christian form of fatalism. It stifles the glory. Real, heart repentance is impossible in the Reformed view.

    Not sure why the Jew/Gentile distinction? Eph 1 would apply to both.

  3. DP says:

    TSaint, Remember, Peter explicitly said that false teachers, who are bringing destruction on themselves, deny the Lord who “bought” them. (2 Peter) Nevertheless, we should not think they are saved as they are really unbelievers. Their redemption was purchased but would not be imputed. The cross itself does not apply the redemption to anyone and faith does not redeem. Only the blood redeems.

  4. Dr. Hadley,
    The question you raise about when redemption is completed goes right to the very heart of the major issue facing Evanglicalism today — and, form what I gather, the Southern Baptist Convention in particular. What is the relationship between justification and sanctification? Is there any necessary connection at all?
    When we say that Christ “redeemed” us we mean that Christ paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. Then, when we personally place our trust in Christ we are one with Him and His righteousness is imputed to us. This is what we mean by forensic justification.
    But does that mean we are free to sin? No. When we believe we are born again, and that begins the process of progressive sanctification. Salvation is a work of God that includes BOTH justification (freedom from the guilt of sin) and sanctification (freedom from the power of sin).
    Unfortunately, the way “salvation” is often presented today it is equated with justification only — believe on Christ and your sins are forgiven. Then, to complicate matters, if we insist that man has a free will, and God is powerless to do anything unless we permit Him to, we have the problem of the “carnal” Christian who decides to accept Christ as his Savior but not necessarily as Lord. Just because he is “saved” (he made a free-will decision to accept Christ as Savior) does not necessarily mean that he will go on to live a holy life. It all depends on what the carnal Christian decides to do.
    Does the Bible know any such “carnal Christianity”? Paul goes on in chapter 2 to say “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10).
    II Pet. 2:1 is a problem for those of us who believe in a vicarious, substitutionary atonement. It is also a problem for anyone who believes in eternal security / perseverance of the saints for Peter goes on later in the chapter to say that it would have been better for them never to have been saved (vv. 19-22). Did they lose their salvation? The best explanation I can give is that Peter is considering them from the standpoint of people who have made professions of faith, been baptized, and joined the visible church. From the church’s standpoint they are “saved.” Their subsequent course, however, would indicate otherwise, and so they “bring upon themselves swift destruction” (v. 1).

    • sbcissues says:

      TS

      I do not mean to be disrespectful to your last post here, but unfortunately it has NOTHING to do with the thrust of my original article nor the discussion that has ensued. We are discussing justification and specifically the actuation of that justification. I asked if this justification was completed on the cross or at conversion. My contention is that calvinism really posits the first but then admits to the second and that is terribly inconsistent as I see it.

      If it is the latter, which I believe to be the case, then provision for atonement was made at Calvary…. not atonement itself. Your atonement was completed at repentance and conversion because the provision that was made available at Calvary.

      Your comments there would be nice. We can talk about sanctification at a later time.

  5. DP says:

    TSaint, Not to pile on… but I thought the same thing as Dr H when I read your post. I realize that the biblical doctrines of salvation are inter-twined and/or vitally connected to one another. (J Edwards used the word “concatenation”, but I had to look that one up!) But your post seemed to be dodging Bob’s main point. He was showing that Eph 1 should not be used to teach that irresistible regeneration must precede saving faith. He’s right. This is one of the flawed inferences of the Reformed/Calvinistic system. There are no biblical texts that explicitly teach (or necessarily infer) that regeneration must precede faith. None.

    Hodge says of C Finney that he used a logical scheme that was built upon a false premise. Calvinism does the same thing. It employs relentless logic that is built on the false premise that everyone is born dead in sin, guilty of Adam’s sin, and is not given the prevenient grace needed to repent and believe the Truth. It is a thinly veiled form of divine fatalism.

    Bob H, I am more inclined to say that atonement was actually made on the cross for all human sin, but God holds the sovereign right to impute the effects of that atonement when and where He sees fit. Of course, He has promised that He will apply/impute the full effects of the atonement to whoever believes and calls upon the name of the Lord. I don’t like the idea of a mere “provision” being made. 1 John 2:2 says that Jesus WAS the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Nevertheless, unbelievers will not enjoy the imputation of the cross to their sins. This may seem to be splitting hairs but we leave ourselves open to be teaching an atonement…that doesn’t actually atone. (One of Al Moeller’s favorite attacks on the non-Calvinist views.)The souls who end up in hell will be there in spite of the fact that Christ died for them…not because He did not die for them. Fair enough?

    • sbcissues says:

      DP

      I agree in principle with you comment on the atonement… Christ died to pay the penalty for ALL SIN but instead of the language of imputing the effects of that atonement… I prefer application of the provisions of the atonement. The provisions are available to cover the sin of ALL WHO BELIEVE.

      I understand the retort of an atonement that does not atone… but that is an unfair inference that makes the calvinist limited or particular atonement seem more plausible… that is all that statement is.

      I agree wholeheartedly with your final statement, The souls who end up in hell will be there in spite of the fact that Christ died for them…not because He did not die for them.

  6. The “actuation of justification” is a new term to me. I prefer John Murray’s terminology: “Redemption Accomplished and Applied.”
    I think we want to be careful here and not try to be more logical than the Bible. Ours is a revealed religion — we only know what God has been pleased to reveal to us. The rest is a mystery. I am very leery of imposing a logical system on the Bible — and both Hyper-Calvinists and Arminians have been guilty of this.
    The atonement is a particularly difficult example of this. Christ died on the cross 2,000 years ago. He died as our subsitute, He bore our sins on the cross. But I do not actually experience salvation until I personally believe. I am “justified by faith,” which means I am not justified until I believe. But I do not add to what Christ accomplished on the cross, nor do I “complete” the atonement by believing. As a sinner I can add nothing to what Christ has done on my behalf.
    So when was my guilt imputed to Christ? When He died as my substitute. When is His righteousness imputed to me? When I believe.
    Perhaps the best way to understand it is that when Christ died, He died in the place of the elect. But I don’t vicariously participate in His death, burial and resurrection until I believe. At that point I am united to Christ as my Head and receive all the benefits He purchased for me at Calvary.
    If the Hyper-Calvinists are right I was saved before i was even born. If the Arminians are right, the “atonement” didn’t accomplish anything other than to make salvation hypothetically possible for an indeterminate number of possible future believers.

    • sbcissues says:

      I am very leery of imposing a logical system on the Bible — and both Hyper-Calvinists and Arminians have been guilty of this. REALLY? What about ordinary calvinists? You do not consider your theology imposing a logical system?

      Look at what you just wrote… The atonement is a particularly difficult example of this. Christ died on the cross 2,000 years ago. He died as our substitute, He bore our sins on the cross. But I do not actually experience salvation until I personally believe. I am “justified by faith,” which means I am not justified until I believe. I agree.

      Here is where things get slippery… “But I do not add to what Christ accomplished on the cross, nor do I “complete” the atonement by believing. As a sinner I can add nothing to what Christ has done on my behalf.” I hate to “impose a logical system” but that is EXACTLY what you are doing. I can agree that we do not add to what Christ accomplished on the cross… BUT for you to say on one hand “I must believe to be justified” and then “nor do I complete the atonement when I believe” is somewhat contradictory… I can agree that you may not “complete the atonement” but if you do NOT believe you will not be saved. So while belief may not COMPLETE the atonement belief is essential for the application of the atonement in YOUR LIFE.

      You wrote… “At that point I am united to Christ as my Head and receive all the benefits He purchased for me at Calvary.” You should have no problem with my using “provision of atonement” for that is exactly what you just alluded to in this statement.

      I hate to tell you this but there are more than the two extremes you cite at the end of your comment.

      I disagree with the statement you simple put out there… “Perhaps the best way to understand it is that when Christ died, He died in the place of the elect. ”

      I believe Christ died so that ALL who believe will be forgiven and their sins atoned. Atonement is for all who repent and believe by faith in the finished work of Christ and His resurrection.

      This actually brings even more attention to the phrase “the atonement completed on the cross.” The resurrection brings the victory that was finished on the cross.

      Lot of logical implications in this soteriological journey we are all on.

  7. You say that I am imposing a logical system on the Bible, but then say that I am “somewhat contradictory.” So which is it? Am I logical or aren’t I?
    The better Reformed theologians, including Calvin himself, always had a high regard for the authority of Scripture as the inspired Word of God, and tried to be careful in their exegesis. The so-called “Five Points of Calvinism” were a response to the Arminian Remonstrance, which was just as much a “logical system” as the response of the Synod of Dort. But there have been Reformed theologians since then, such as John Newton, Robert L. Dabney, and Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who were more concerned with being biblical than they were with being logical. But then there were people like John Gill who took things to extremes for the sake of logical consistency.
    Paul, in Titus 2:11, could say “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (NKJV), or as it might be translated, “”For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (NASV). But then he could go on only a few verses later and say “who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Did he just contradict himself?

    • sbcissues says:

      Look I am not interested in playing semantic games… if we can engage in an intelligent conversation then I will try to do so but the following statement is a bit too cutsie for me. You wrote… You say that I am imposing a logical system on the Bible, but then say that I am “somewhat contradictory.” So which is it? Am I logical or aren’t I?

      You are imposing a logical system on the Bible… we ALL are… and given that, yes the statement that I highlighted is somewhat contradictory as I see it. If we can discuss the implications of our respective positions then I am in, otherwise I have better things to be doing.

      Your reference to Titus seems rather trite to me; it does not address the specifics of soteriology nor redemption… it simply acknowledges God’s salvific work in the lives of those Paul is speaking to. So No there is no contradiction.

  8. P.S. When you say “I believe Christ died so that ALL who believe will be forgiven and their sins atoned. Atonement is for all who repent and believe by faith in the finished work of Christ and His resurrection,” are you saying that Christ died vicariously for those who believe (essentially the Calvinistic view of the atonement), or are you saying that the death of Christ merely makes forgiveness possible for any who may choose to believe? Did the atonement involve a real substitution and the real payment of a price?

    • sbcissues says:

      Was your redemption sealed when you repented and believed? If it was then that is what I believe the Bible teaches… those who repent and believe will be saved. Did the atonement involve real substitution and a real payment; absolutely for those who repent and believe. We should be in complete agreement on this position.

      If one CANNOT be saved apart from repentance and believing faith then it is what it is; we BOTH stand on the same position.

  9. DP says:

    TSaint said, “So when was my guilt imputed to Christ? When He died as my substitute.” [Which was a very long time before TSaint was born.] Then he says, “If the Hyper-Calvinists are right I was saved before i was even born.” Therefore, by saying he was forgiven before he was born, TSaint is cuddling up quite close to the Hyper Calvinists by his own admission. If the elect, who are born after the death of Christ, are born with with their guilt already imputed to Christ, then they must be born innocent of any sin.They could never have really been dead in trespasses and sins. If they were never dead in sin… then they would never need to be born again. Too much speculation about the omniscience of God gets us in trouble.

    Here is a related question that I could never answer when I was a Calvinist: If the atonement of Christ was particular and definite for only the elect then why would it need to be imputed/applied to them? Where else could it be imputed? How could it not be imputed. Thus, Calvinism emasculates justification by faith. Instead of being the means through which our salvation is received, penitent faith would be reduced to the means through which the elect are identified. It is a shame to relegate such a glorious and essential aspect of the biblical salvation to such a perfunctory status.

    Bottom line: Any Calvinism is hyper Calvinism with a better presentation. The substance is really the same. Its like a baked potato at a fast food restaurant vs a baked potato at a fancy restaurant. One comes through a drive through window in a paper bag with a plastic fork and the other comes on a fancy plate with a silver fork and all swirled up to look pretty… but its still just a potato.

    Personal confession: when I was a Calvinist, I had more trouble fending off hyper Calvinism than non-Calvinism. i didn’t want to be a hyper Calvinist but I came to see that there wasn’t any real difference.

    • sbcissues says:

      DP

      Personally I agree with your assessment concerning calvinism and hyper-calvinism. To me calvinism is calvinism. Hyper calvinism seems to be used quite often as something that the traditional calvinist is not… oh… that is what the hyper calvinist believes… It is a calvinist dummy that people like to point to to take the heat off them when the logical implications of their theological system is being called into question.

      Now to be fair, I do believe there are “calvinistic” individuals who do not believe some of the tenets calvinism posits but that simply means the individual does not understand that his acceptance or rejection of certain tenets does not change calvinism! That is why I try to keep the discussion on calvinism itself because there is no way under the sun anyone can begin to discuss what individual calvinistic believers believe.

      i have had guys say… I do not believe that… ok then you are not a calvinist! To me there is no such thing as a 3 point calvinist… that is just someone who is terribly confused. A calvinist is a calvinist and that means they accept all 5 points and hold the implications of the system.

      I can assure you… those who are at the top of the calvinist food chain are looking at individuals who accept the system as it is in its entirety and not those who accept this and reject that… etc etc.

      • DP says:

        Dr H (sorry, i am not sure of the right name/title for you!), you are so right. The so called hyper Calvinists get a lot of grief; often for simply having the honesty/cahoneys to teach the logical implications of the Reformed system.

        Agreed again, there is a lot of half way Calvinism out there today, which is no Calvinism.

        I have appreciated you letting me in on your discussions. Trying not to get in the way.

  10. As for myself, I am more interested in being a biblical Christian than I am in trying to subscribe to somebody’s “system.” But may I suggest, that instead of setting up a straw man and putting words into other people’s mouths, that you simply look at a commonly accepted official statement and critique it? And if we define “Calvinism” as the so-called “Five Points of Calvinism” (TULIP), then Calvinism is what the Synod of Dort said it is, nothing more and nothing less. And to be perfectly blunt, if you are not willing to look at the Canons of the Synod and see what they actually said, you are engaging in slander and have no right to speak on the subject. You frankly don’t know what you’re talking about. And if you can find a problem with what they actually said, then let’s talk about it.

  11. rhutchin says:

    OK I am confused.

    You say, “Personally, I am actually inclined to believe that the “we” and “us” in all the verses mentioned above, reference not the (the redeemed, the saved, the church) but rather they are a direct reference to him and those Jewish believers that are co-laborers together who are bringing the gospel message to the gentiles.”

    So, why even cloud the issue with “we” being (the redeemed, the saved, the church). Why didn’t you just say up front that your position is that Paul is lumping himself and the Jewish believers into “we.” Then you could start from v1 “Paul…to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:” and develop your argument.

    I don’t see how your conclusion works and you confused me by making a different argument than you ended up advocating.

    • sbcissues says:

      rhutchin

      The comment that you are referencing directly was one written “on the fly” and I do see the essence of your point and it is well made. My point or observation was with direct reference to the “we” in verse 12 and the “you” in verse 13. It is fair to say that the “we” is verse 12 is not likely to include the “you” in verse 13… that was the basis of my point…

      NOW the question THEN becomes, if this distinction does need to be noted, how far back does Paul’s use of “we” separate from the “you” in verse 13 go back? That was simply a distinction that I was noting and I am not sure there is a real good answer to it and that is why I simply alluded to it as opposed to building some case with it.

      Hope that helps.

  12. DP says:

    TSaint, Dr H’s original post was asserting that there is nothing in Ephesians 1 that explicitly teaches (or necessarily infers) that an irresistible regeneration/effectual calling is required prior to saving faith. No straw man there. He is objecting to the historical Calvinistic order of salvation and the Canons of Dort where it says :

    “. . . so that all in whose heart God woks in this marvelous manner are certainly, infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe.”(Heads III and IV-Article 12) And also: “He [God] graciously softens the heart of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while He leaves the non-elect in His just judgment to their wickedness and obduracy.”(Head I-Article 6)

    Thus, some of us do have “a problem” with Dort’s interpretation of Scripture on this point. Now, I would grant that the Canons of Dort contains much that all Bible thumpers can (and should) agree upon, but not the Calvinistic order of salvation. Dort is clear on its insistence that prevenient grace is needed prior to saving faith and that God does not give this grace to the non-elect/reprobate. However, they have done their best, (as most Calvinists do) to avoid the word “irresistible” in their description of prevenient grace. The word “irresistible” is just too clear and blows the cover off the naked fatalism. Note: you must admit that “infallible” sounds better than “irresistible” and the phrase: “inclines them to believe” sounds a whole lot better than “irresistibly drags them to believe.” I certainly believe that the grace of God inclines us to believe…just not irresistibly.

    Speaking for myself, I would agree that fallen sinners need the grace of God in order to repent and trust the Truth, but I would not agree that this grace is irresistible and limited to a pre-determined unconditionally elect. The Canons also says some very important things about the common grace of God that ought not be forgotten. For what it’s worth, I would maintain that when properly understood, the following little proviso, in Dort, holds the best solution to our debate:

    “There remain(s) however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the differences between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly.” (Head 4; Article 4?)

    This common grace, coupled with the Holy Spirit’s work in convincing the *world* of sin, righteousness, and judgment is sufficient for saving faith… in every one.

    The biblical teaching is “turn and live” not “live and turn”. You have yet to produce a sound biblical reason for assuming that irresistible regeneration must precede irresistible faith. Your crankiness is not an effective exegetical argument.

    • First of all let me apologize for my “crankiness’ — it’s just that I get irritated when someone lumps all Calvinists together and accuses us all of holding the most extreme and ridiculous opinions. But you are absolutely right — crankiness is not an effective exegetical argument.
      As I reread Dr. Hadley original article I did notice something strange about it –he argues that Ephesians 1 does not teach that regeneration precedes faith. But most Calvinists would use Ephesians 1 to support the idea of election and predestination, and the sovereignty of God in salvation.
      But as Dr. Hadley did point out near the end of his article, there is one statement in the passage that does have a bearing on the issue at hand, and that comes in verse 13: “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation — having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” (NASV). And, of course, this is obviously true — we are not “sealed” with the Spirit until AFTER we believe. I would even go so far as to agree with Dr. Hadley on this point: Gal. 3:2 clearly implies that we “receive” the Holy Spirit by faith. Does that mean that faith precede regeneration? If by “regeneration” you mean the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then I would have to say “yes.”
      But that still leaves open the statements you quoted from the Canons of Dort (and thanks, by the way, for citing an authoritative statement!). The one statement (“are certainly, infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe.”) certainly implies that regeneration precedes faith, and that is partially a matter of definition. But the question is, what does the Holy Spirit do to bring a person to Christ, and the second statement you quoted (“He [God] graciously softens the heart of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while He leaves the non-elect in His just judgment to their wickedness and obduracy.”) I think describes the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion very well. The word that the Bible uses is “convict.” Paul could say “And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (I Cor. 2:4,5), and “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God,and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ . . .” (II Cor. 10:3-5). Both repentance (Acts 5:31; II Tim. 2:25) and faith (Acts 13:48; Phil. 1:29) are gifts from God.
      And when we look at what happened in the New Testament, and in genuine revivals since then, that is exactly what we see. When the Holy Spirit moves, people get saved. When He does not move, they remain dead in their sins.
      Again, sorry about the crankiness!

      • sbcissues says:

        TS…

        You and I were writing responses at the same time. Let me say this; I try NOT to lump all calvinists together for 2 reasons… that cannot be done because you cannot put 2 calvinists in a room and get the same exact response from any of them on all the implications of calvinism… not that is not a slam but the same would be true of any 2 people discussing the Bible. So, I do TRY to keep my articles on the implications of calvinism… because that does not change. Sometimes I make statements in comments that are in reference to something someone else has said and some of those stray off onto what calvinists have said and I have read. I have read a LOT in that arena…

        With respect to your reference to verse 13 and Gal 2… this brings up another point that I will write about in To Be or Not To Be A Calvinist Part ? and that is… I do not believe new life is possible apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit… nowhere in the Scripture is there a reference to new life apart from the working of the Holy Spirit and I believe that involves His indwelling; a new heart and new life which is what regeneration are, I believe take place with the indwelling… and that clearly as you mentioned, take place AFTER believing as opposed to before. To make a different assertion, is tantamount to the Charismatic position of 2 special workings of the Holy Spirit`and I cannot find ANY Scriptural justification for either.

        Do you believe that new life is possible apart from the indwelling? If not then you do understand that you are putting 2 special workings of the Holy Spirit into the conversion process…

        Your last statement will draw a hearty AMEN from me; When the Holy Spirit moves, people get saved. When He does not move, they remain dead in their sins. I agree 1000% with this statement. I also agree that the work of the Holy Spirit is summed up in conviction and without that convicting work of the Holy Spirit based on revelation from the Word of God… salvation is impossible. I just do not believe in effectual calling, limited or particular atonement and most certainly regeneration prior to repentance and believing faith.

        I also do not believe repentance and faith are gifts that God gives but rather responses that men make to God’s initiative of revelation and reconciliation. It is God who does it on both of our positions, we just see them differently.

    • sbcissues says:

      DP

      First of all, I do believe I can discuss calvinism without quoting Dort. That was an interesting comment.

      Now to a comment you made: “Speaking for myself, I would agree that fallen sinners need the grace of God in order to repent and trust the Truth, but I would not agree that this grace is irresistible and limited to a pre-determined unconditionally elect.”

      I do not believe man is totally incapable of responding to God’s initiative in revelation and reconciliation (convicting work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart.) Now by that I mean this; God does not have to do a special work (prevenient grace) so that a man “Could respond.” In thinking about that for a moment, two things come to mind. First of all, irresistible grace is a form of prevenient grace. Had an interesting comment with a calvinist some months back about that and he could NEVER get that in his head.

      Now… to the Arminian concept of prevenient grace… where man is TD and must be made alive to repent and believe; well it does not make sense to me that God would bring someone from the dead and give them some semi-consciousness to believe and if they don’t, they kick the bucket for that moment. If one begins with TD/TI which both c’s and a’s do… THEN it is necessary for something to happen to give them life so they can then respond. In this case, if one believes in TD/TI, I maintain calvinism is the most logical conclusion.

      Now if one considers the convicting work of the Holy Spirit as a form of Grace then I am in; but it is not to give men “any ability TO BELIEVE” but rather a reason to believe… convicted of one’s sin and lost condition and the realization that Jesus indeed died on the cross to pay the penalty for one’s sin gives the lost person a reason to turn from his sin and to Christ. It is not as I see it, a special enabling that God gives effectually to some and not to others… and those who do not receive this special enabling CANNOT repent and be saved. I believe ANYONE who hears the gospel CAN repent and believe and be saved.

      Calvinism does not allow this distinction. Calvinism maintains Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for the elect and the elect only and if one is of the non-elect he CANNOT be saved because there was no atonement made for his or her sin on the cross. That is a DOG that will not hunt in my book.

      • DP says:

        Agreed. It is also a dog that won’t hunt in THE BOOK.

        Also, it can be useful, if not necessary, to bring Dort, Westminster, etc into the discussions in order to avoid chasing every side road opinion of wannabe and/or confused Calvinists. Our brother, Tsaint has clearly committed himself to Dort’s interpretation of Scripture, so we can hold him to it, and have a coherent debate of the issues.

  13. P.S. Most Calvinists that I know would not hesitate to use the word “irresistible grace” — after all that is what the “I” in “TULIP” stands for!

  14. rhutchin says:

    “The gentiles trusted AFTER they heard the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Note a couple of things. It is the Word of Truth that had power to save them; they trusted AFTER they heard the Word of Truth.”

    I think it obvious that a person cannot trust without first knowing what it is he is to trust in. One must hear the word – thereby coming to know the word (if only in a very limited sense) – before he has something to trust in. A person cannot trust in that which is unknown to him.

    While the hearing of the word is necessary to salvation, the issue is whether the word has the “power” to save. Paul says in Romans 1 that the gospel “..is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes.” I understand this to mean that the gospel is power in those who are believing but does not necessarily bring them to belief. By “unto salvation,” I think Paul means that the gospel is the power that moves believers to preach salvation – outside the gospel, they have nothing to offer.

    In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that the preaching of the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, and we know that the original condition of the unsaved is that they are perishing. So, the preaching of the gospel, by itself, does not seem to have the power to save but that gospel manifests itself in a powerful way in those who are saved – changing lives, motivating people to preach, evangelize.

    • sbcissues says:

      I think Paul means that the gospel is the power that moves believers to preach salvation – outside the gospel, they have nothing to offer.

      That my friend is eisegesis plain and simple. No responsible reading of that text would garner that interpretation.

      • rhutchin says:

        “That my friend is eisegesis plain and simple. ‘

        OK. That’s a fair assessment. So, can you provide an exegesis that takes into account 1 Corinth 1:18, “…the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness…”

        The verse reads, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

        Paul distinguishes the two effects of the preaching of the gospel – (1) to those who are perishing, it is foolishness; (2) to those who are saved, it is power.

        Who, among the many commentaries you have for reference, gives the best exegesis of this in your view?

      • sbcissues says:

        Well I believe it is fair to say that those who do not believe are those who are perishing and those who believe are those who are saved…

        That is the way I have always read this statement.

      • rhutchin says:

        “Well I believe it is fair to say that those who do not believe are those who are perishing and those who believe are those who are saved… ”

        That’s fine but I think it glosses over the real issue here. The original state of those who are unsaved is that they do not believe. So, all of us start out as lost and perishing. How then, is it that some change and no longer react to the preaching of the gospel as foolishness?

        Somehow, something changes in some people, but not all, and these people yield to Christ and then find power in the preaching of the gospel.

        The bottom line from Paul form this verse is that those who are saved see the gospel as the power of God. So, is this what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 1, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes.”

      • sbcissues says:

        Once again, you are bringing your systematic theology to the text… Look at the text…

        18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

        “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
        And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”[a]
        20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks[b] foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

        This is not a proof text on regeneration prior to repentance or believing faith; it is not a text related to TD/TI. Look at the next few verses…

        Paul is talking about the “wisdom of men” people trying to work out their own salvation; a far cry from your take on the passage. The Jews request a sign; Greeks seek wisdom.

        The answer does not lie in either but in Christ crucified on the cross… a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greek. Interesting isn’t it? No reference to TD/TI…

        To those who are called… those whose hearts are pricked by revelation and reconciliation and conviction of the Holy Spirit Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

        That is how I see the text and its context.

  15. rhutchin says:

    Pastor Hadley writes, “Who is the “us” that Paul is referring to? The church at Ephesus. He is speaking to the “we who are saved.”

    I think we need to start in v1 to sort out “we/us” and “you.”

    1. Paul…to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus…

    The term, “we,” would be Paul identifying with the “saints – the faithful in Christ” in Ephesus. The term, “you” would be the “saints” in Ephesus.

    So, v3 “God has blessed us – the saints – with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”
    v4 “…God chose us – the saints – in him before the foundation of the world…”
    v5 “…God predestinated us – the saints – unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ…”

    The Calvinist sees the term, “saints,” to refer to any person who is a saint and who might read this letter. Paul is writing to individuals, calling them saints and faithful.

    To make the “saints” to be Jewish believers would not be wrong, but it seems that the Jewish believers would just be a subset of all saints. Jewish believers are saints but saints are not only Jewish believers.

    To make the “saints” to be the church seems awkward to me. In 1 Corinth 1, Paul writes, “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth,…” Paul uses the term, “church,” elsewhere so it would seem that, if he meant the “church” here, he would have said such.

    • sbcissues says:

      As I have already said earlier, the statement you are harping on was an after thought… I see you have not cared to comment on the differences between the “we” in verse 11 and 12 and the “you” in 13 and following.

      There is a marked difference and so I stand on what I wrote.

      • rhutchin says:

        I thought that I had. I do not see how we can avoid the conclusion that “we” and “you” in v11-13, are determined in v1. v1 defines terms. “You” and the saints and faithful. By “we,” Paul includes himself with the saints and faithful.

      • sbcissues says:

        The point is the “we” in verses 11-12 do NOT INCLUDE the “you” in verse 13 and following.

  16. DP says:

    Tsaint, apology accepted. No harm done. Let he who has not gotten cranky and acted less than graciously over these issues cast the first stone! As mentioned, I shared your frustration over being called a hyper-Calvinist for years. I didn’t find it flattering. Hope to respond to your thoughts on the sealing of the Spirit this evening.

    • rhutchin says:

      I think many people use the term, hyper-Calvinist, to denote anyone who actually subscribes to the five points.

      If pressed, a person might claim that Calvinists are not evangelical. However, Calvinists are Bible centered and when the Bible says, Go and preach the gospel, they conclude that they must obey God and God and preach the gospel. Examples to the contrary are only proof that people need to study the Bible more.

      • rhutchin says:

        I hate it when I can’t go back and edit.

      • sbcissues says:

        You will NEVER hear me say that calvinists are NOT evangelistic. I believe most are as evangelistic as anyone. Some might argue the system itself does not necessitate an evangelistic effort and some will see the refusal to use a public invitation as a move against evangelism but there are plenty of issues to look for me than to chose those rabbits.

  17. DP says:

    Well, it seems Dr H has us moving on to a new post but I wanted to make a couple more comments about TSaint’s bringing the word “conviction” into the discussion of prevenient grace and the order of salvation. I like the word, as Paul insists that everyone has the law written on their hearts and a functioning conscience to know when they break the law/suppress the truth. The “gray area” (if you will) in this aspect of our debate is over the nature of this prevenient grace. Historically, both sides tend to like the term (prevenient grace) but disagree on whether the grace is particular and irresistible for some OR universal and resistible for everyone. Although Dr H may not agree, I have no biblical problem with calling repentance and faith gifts. I would contend that God’s common grace includes the ability to overcome our natural corruption (thanks to Adam), repent and believe the Truth. This ability may come in varying degrees (as in the parable of the talents) but God gives these abilities to every sinner.

    John MacArthur gives me reason to reject the Calvinistic view of the timing of the new birth in his sermon, “What to look for in a Pastor”. He says:

    “The Bible was not written for non-believers.”
    “You can’t teach the Bible to non-believers, they will reject it.”
    “You cannot teach the Scriptures to non-believers.”

    This is the confusing (but somewhat logical) conclusion that Calvinism gives us. It is biblically clear that we are begotten again by the Word of Truth and we born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God… Real Calvinism will concede that we are born again through the word but not by believing it! Of course they don’t call it magic; they call it a supernatural, mysterious, miracle. In the Calvinistic system the rational thought/conviction is bypassed in regeneration. Somehow we would become born again by the word…but not through believing it.(With no texts to support the assertion)

    God would be irresistibly making sinners born again who do not want to be born again. Thus, exposing the fatalism.

    Once again, we see how Calvinism emasculates the doctrine of justification by faith as a true and meaningful condition of salvation. In their system, faith is how the elect are identified, not how the effects of the cross are imputed. They render imputation (Rom 4) perfunctory. Calvinists talk about justification by faith a lot (and that is a good thing) but they don’t believe that it is an actual and meaningful condition for Christian salvation.

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