Thursday, June 11, 2009

Calvinism in Ephesians 1?

I am not Calvinist. If you have read much of my blog or talked with me about such matters you might already know that. I have been debating predestination and election, and Calvinists keep pointing me to Ephesians 1:4. So I have decided to go over all of Ephesians 1 in an expanded study.

"He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,"

As I see it, there are two possible meanings here:
1. God has chosen every single individual who will be saved out of the whole of humanity.
2. God has chosen the believers, not necessarily a set group of people, to inherit righteousness.

Let's look at the context of the verse.

Ephesians 1 (NIV)

"3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love 5He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— 6to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. 7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9And He[d] made known to us the mystery of His will according to his good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, 10to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

11In Him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, 12in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. 13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of His glory."

In the context, what is Paul talking about? In the first paragraph, he talks about how the believers were chosen and predestined. He then goes on to talk about what the believers were chosen and predestined for: to be sons, to have redemption, to be given wisdom and understanding.

In the second paragraph, Paul starts out again talking about the believers being chosen and predestined. He then moves on to how individuals join this body of believers. "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit."

First off, note here what Paul did not say. He did not say, "and you were included in Him before the creation of the world." He said, "and you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation."

I cannot think of a second meaning for this part; it has one meaning. Of the two possible meanings I gave earlier for the fourth verse, only the second one can be reconciled with this verse. This verse clearly says that those who hear the word of truth are included in Christ. They are not included in Christ before the dawn of time!

If you don't accept that, then I have more evidence that Paul intended to convey the second meaning. Obviously, if there are only two possible meanings, and one meaning contradicts other passages with only one possible meaning, then that meaning must not be true. It is simply good hermeneutics.

Romans 10:4
"Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes."

Romans 10:13
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Romans 10:9-11
"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

Matthew 4:17
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

There are many such verses in the Bible, that exort us to repent, believe, confess, and be saved. And of course, if a person does not follow these verses, then he will not be saved. I believe in the simple truth of Romans 10:9-11. I believe the simple truth of John 3:16, the most striking and well-known verse of the Bible. Whoever believes in Christ will not perish, but have eternal life. Not the predestined, not those chosen, not the elected. Whoever believes.

Listen to what 2 Peter says.

2 Peter 3:16
He [Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

I believe firmly that the Calvinists have distorted the simple truth in Paul's letters. Look at what he said to the Romans! He clearly believed in a Christ who would take anyone who believed! He clearly understood the simple truth! Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life! Anyone who says otherwise, no matter how noble their intention, is distorting the simple, beautiful truth of the Bible.

I do not believe in unconditional election. I believe that Christ died to give every man on earth one thing: a second chance. And I believe that God extends that second chance to everyone, and that Christ's blood is more than enough to cover anyone who will believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead.


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