Ephesians 1 is About Hope, Peace, and Assurance

Ephesians 1 is an amazingly huge chapter. Not by length, but by subject.

Unfortunately, much of Ephesians 1 has been hijacked by Calvinists. This takes away the fun of actually studying the passage and finding application.

When you get sucked too deeply into the Calvinist/Arminian debate, all you see in Scripture is your side. That’s it. Nothing else exists. Everything is about this issue and this issue alone.

Which is too bad. Just like Romans 9, Ephesians 1 has a very cool point to make.

Ephesians 1 points us backwards first:

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:
–Ephesians 1:4

Our minds are expanded to eternity past, before anything was. There, before there was anything physical, there was God.

God had creation in mind. He knew how things would go if He created a creature in His image and gave them freedom to rebel. He knew we would rebel.

But God had a plan. At some point in the future, God would enter His creation and sacrifice Himself for it, demonstrating His great love toward us.

We, believers today, are baptized into the Body of Christ. He chose us to be in Christ, to receive salvation by means of what He did.

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
–Ephesians 1:7

Right now we can benefit. We can have complete confidence that salvation is in Christ because this was ordained and determined to be the case since before the world was created.

There is forgiveness in Christ because God determined there to be many years ago. We can have confidence in Him.

But salvation isn’t just about the present or the past, it’s also about the future.

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
–Ephesians 1:10

There is coming a time when all things will be gathered into Christ, all the created things will be redeemed, including those who came to Christ for salvation now.

This will fully be seen and experienced in the New Heavens and New Earth where righteousness will reign.

This future promise will happen. We can know it will happen because He’s given us the Holy Spirit:

ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
–Ephesians 1:13b-14

The Spirit is the first-fruits–the initial harvest that guarantees more is coming. He’s our down-payment on our future inheritance.

You know if you have the Spirit now, that this eternal regathering under the rule of Christ is yours too!

Paul is pointing us back to give us assurance in God’s plan of salvation–it was planned before the world was created. Then he points us forward to give us more assurance–the Holy Spirit in you is the guarantee you’ll receive the rest of the inheritance. Knowing this better time is coming gives us hope and peace.

Paul writes Ephesians 1 to encourage us. He writes it to give us hope, peace, assurance. Salvation is God’s plan. It’s a solid plan; you can trust it! He gives us His Spirit to help us hang on through this present evil world until we make it to the next.

Take confidence in your God and His promises. Don’t take a beautiful chapter like this and make it about arguing over Calvinism. It aint worth it!


Resisting Irresistible Grace

Irresistible Grace is the “I” of the Calvinist TULIP.

It refers to God’s ability to save all whom He has ordained to salvation. He overrides their will; by His grace He makes them believe.

John Calvin described God’s grace in salvation like this:

“All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.
–Calvin’s Institutes, Ch. 10, section 1

Two things:

  1. You will notice that Calvin chalks people’s salvation up to God’s timing (it’s the first underlined phrase above). This gets at yesterday’s post. We blame God for taking so long to save people, yet God says He’s waiting for us so He can be gracious. If God is waiting to be gracious (God’s words, not mine) in what sense is this Irresistible Grace? Sounds fairly resistible to me.
  2. You will notice also some hedging in Calvin’s words. There are so many verses in the Bible that say we have something to do with our salvation, that even Calvin has to back it off a bit. He says, “they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.” If I have to be made willing to come, how is this me coming freely? This is the irrationality of Calvinism, always dismissed with “It’s a mystery.” It is a mystery. It’s a mystery how people can believe such Biblically contradictory stuff.

R. C. Sproul recently died and found out Calvinism was wrong.

But I think Dr. Sproul knew it was wrong before he got before God. Here’s what Sproul had to say about Irresistible Grace:

“The idea of irresistibility conjures up the idea that one cannot possibly offer any resistance to the grace of God.”

Hm, I wonder why people “conjured” up that idea? Perhaps because that’s what the word means! Here’s how Webster’s defines irresistible, “impossible to resist.”

Sproul’s problem is that his doctrine puts him in opposition to common sense. He feels a need to back off the term.

“However, the history of the human race is the history of relentless resistance to the sweetness of the grace of God. Irresistible grace does not mean that God’s grace is incapable of being resisted. Indeed, we are capable of resisting God’s grace, and we do resist it.”

Irresistible Grace can be resisted. Got it?

The Holy Spirit changes the inclination and disposition of our wills, so that whereas we were previously unwilling to embrace Christ, now we are willing, and more than willing.

It’s important to understand who the “our” is here. Sproul is obviously referring to Believers. According to Sproul you will be a Believer if God has ordained you to be a Believer.

If God has not ordained you to be a Believer, you are not part of the “our.” Therefore, if you are ordained to be a Believer, you will not resist God’s grace; God will change your will so you accept it.

Therefore, Sproul still believes in Irresistible Grace, he’s just tired of people picking on this irrationality, so he decides to use a different word for God’s grace that sounds nicer.

“I have a little bit of a problem using the term irresistible grace, not because I don’t believe this classical doctrine, but because it is misleading to many people. Therefore, I prefer the term effectual grace, because the irresistible grace of God effects what God intends it to effect.”

Sproul prefers Effectual to the “misleading” Irresistible. In essence they both mean the same thing–God’s desires will be brought about regardless, which he admits with that last weird sentence–irresistible grace effects what God wants to effect. How is this any different? Sproul just wants to sound like he’s softening things, backing off a bit because he knows this doctrine is ridiculous.

Yes, I am reading into his psychology behind the word change. To me it smacks of deception, because he means the same thing, he just picks a softer word to represent the same hard doctrine.

I think R. C. Sproul’s Calvinism is wrong. I think he thinks that now, too.

“Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you
Isaiah 30:18

Doubting Fanatics

“The fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt.”

George Smiley, author of spy novels, said this. I have no idea what the context is because I do not read spy novels.

I will, however, use my ignorance of the context to pontificate on an idea.

A fanatic is someone, in my opinion, completely sold out to an idea to the extent of being willing to fight for it. Not just willing to fight if a fight comes, but itching to fight for it, starting fights for the sole opportunity of fighting for it.

People who yell and scream and get mad at those who disagree with them. These are fanatics.

To paraphrase Shakespeare: Me thinks thou dost protest too much.

People who make a scene of defending their cause, who use violence, vitriol, and red-faced arguing, are actually displaying their insecurity.

Emotional rage is a substitute for intellectual reasoning.

Observe our modern political landscape. There are few calm voices. Everyone is yelling. Most Americans who are yelling can’t name the three branches of their government or the difference between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Theologically, Calvinists are largely fanatical. Calvinists have no monopoly on fanaticism, but they are a handy example since this response is prevalent among them, which makes a guy like me have that much more confidence in my own stance on the issue.

One Calvinist posted on this page for years, made everything about Calvinism, and argued every post. I eventually blocked him.

He changed his username and email and tried posting under a new identity. But I had ways in place to block him and knew it was him changing his identity. He then sent me emails for months, few of which I read, continuing to fight.

This was all very weird to me. I make no secret of not liking Calvinism. But I do not hunt them down to fight with them. I do not troll their blogs.

The reason behind our responses, in my opinion, is because I have confidence the Bible is on my side; he did not.

Several times in our discussions over the years he could not answer my arguments and told me to talk to his pastor or read some book someone wrote.

Anytime someone says that to you it’s because they do not know what they are talking about. People who don’t know what they are talking about have doubts. People with doubts get loud and argumentative.

It is a waste of time to argue with fanatics. They are not listening. They are just arguing to give them a confident feeling their intellect can not. They go to bed at night knowing they defended the faith against the nay-sayers.

Watch out for yelly, argumentative fanatics of any camp: political, doctrinal, religious, etc. They don’t know what they’re talking about and use the number of fights they are in as proof of certainty.

Don’t give them that certainty. Calmly state your opinion and then move on.

Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.

Jesus Christ Does Not Drag His Followers Kicking and Screaming

Jesus’ desire is that people repent. “Repent” means to turn. We turn from our old life to a new life in Christ. A life headed in Christ’s direction, not the direction our flesh was planning on going.

God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

If this is God’s desire, and God has all authority and power, why doesn’t He just make it happen then?

This is where the Calvinist will tell you that God has many different kinds of will. They redefine words to fit their theory even though the Bible never speaks of differing wills of God.

If God desires (the same Greek word as “wills”) all men to repent, and yet also has a will that prevents people from repenting, then God is a house divided.

Instead, we should just go with what the Bible says. Sola Scriptura, don’t ya know.

God wills all people to repent. Not all repent. Therefore, we must conclude that God’s will is not always being done on earth.

In fact, we can see that clearly in the Lord’s Prayer where we request the Father’s will to “be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

God’s will is not being done here.

God leaves it up to us. Notice His words: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

“If any man will” is an important part of the verse. Jesus does not force people to follow Him.

What He says is: if you desire to follow Him, if you are willing to follow Him, then deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow.

Jesus Christ does not drag people behind Him kicking and screaming. If you want to come, then come. He tells you how. It’s up to you whether you come or not. He’s done everything necessary by His grace to provide the way.

You just need to decide to follow Him in The Way.

The Overstated Doctrine of Sola Gratia

After critiquing Sola Scriptura and a little bit of Sola Fide last week, one of my faithful readers asked if I would talk about Sola Gratia.

I am always up for critiquing Reformed Theology, so sure! Let’s do it.

Sola Gratia, yet another Sola of the Reformation, also sounds wonderful. But any time you hear an absolute statement, think on it for a bit. Sola Gratia is an absolute statement. Let’s look at some definitions.

The Reformers maintained that the sinner is saved by the grace of God, His unmerited favor, alone. This doctrine means that nothing the sinner does commends him to the grace of God, and that the sinner does not cooperate with God in order to merit his salvation.

This is what Sola Gratia means, quoting Reformed Theology types themselves. These are not my words. Here’s another definition just to let you know I’m not making anything up.

Sola gratia is a Latin phrase that means “grace alone.” Sola gratia means that salvation from sin and death is provided by God’s unmerited favor alone, and we can do nothing to earn it.

As I’ve said before, Reformed Theology is a response to Catholic Theology. As much as Catholic Theology was wrong, combating it with an equally wrong theology does little good. Often, when combating a doctrine, we drive ourselves into the opposite ridiculous corner.

The Reformers wanted to eliminate penance, indulgences, and various other churchy things Catholics said to do to get forgiveness of sins. The Reformers moved as far away from this as possible (in theory anyway). Instead of correcting Catholic error, they eliminated works of any kind from the discussion by saying that salvation has absolutely nothing to do with you.

Certainly this will keep you from the dangers of works!

But it’s overstated, as most reactionary stances are.

Every time Sola Gratia is brought up, Ephesians 2 is brought up, with emphasis on verses 8-9, “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.”

A simple reading lets you know salvation is not by grace alone because he just said, “for by grace are you saved through faith.” Grace and faith are both there. Which, of course, they admit: that’s why they also have Sola Fide.

And again, this is where I wonder if words mean anything to people anymore. If it’s by faith alone, how is it also by grace alone?

Calvinists even understand this tension and some eliminate faith from the equation (I saw RC Sproul recently say Reformed Theology is founded on the idea that regeneration comes before faith, which is contrary to many verses). If Reformed Theology folks were honest, they would believe in Sola Electio, by election alone. They think salvation is entirely up to God, you have no say, you’re either one of the lucky ones whom He picked, or you’re not. This doctrine is officially called “Monergism.”

Irresistible Grace is what Sola Gratia means. I think Irresistible Grace is a human invention, thus I think Sola Gratia is also a human invention. If you are not a Calvinist, you do not hold Sola Gratia. Sola Gratia is Calvinism.

Sola Gratia says we can’t earn salvation. I agree. Sola Gratia goes on to say we have no part in our salvation, because if we did, then we would have earned it. I disagree.

This is a false conclusion. Me exercising Faith is not a work that earns/merits salvation. It’s fulfilling a condition that God placed on us that we are equipped to respond to or deny.

“God gives grace to the humble” is said a couple of times in the Bible. God does not arbitrarily give some people grace and not others. He tells us who He gives grace to: the humble.

If God says we can humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, then we can. If He says He gives grace to people who do that, then He does.

We should then act accordingly.

Beware any theology that eliminates human responsibility. It is of the devil.

In our desires to celebrate Grace, which indeed deserves our celebration, let’s not deny Scripture to push it out of reasonableness.

Calvinism and a House Divided

If there were a sixth point to Calvinism’s TULIP, it would be Meticulous Determinism. Unfortunately, this would make it TULIPM, which doesn’t sound right. Perhaps TULIMP?

Meticulous Determinism is best defined by The Westminster Confession of Faith like so:

God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.

This includes sin and bad stuff.

One of the particularly bad things that has occurred in the course of human events is demon possession. Demons make people crazy. They throw them into fires and convulse them and all manner of other physically harmful things.

Jesus took the opportunity to demonstrate His divinity by casting out demons.

On one particular day, Jesus was charged with being a tool of Satan. Various Jewish religious leaders said the demons were cast out by the power of Satan.

Jesus said that was silly.

How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.

If Satan casts out Satan, then Satan is divided and he will fail.

The Calvinist, who believes God has ordained whatever comes to pass, thinks it’s the exact opposite: God has cast out God.

Satan gets little playtime in Calvinist/Reformed Theology. That’s because in that system, Satan is rather superfluous. God seems to be messing things up quite well on His own, thank you very much.

If The Westminster Confession of Faith is true, then people are demon possessed because God made them be demon possessed. Then Christ came along and cast out the demons God put in them.

Therefore, God is casting out God. God’s Kingdom is divided against itself and His house cannot stand.

If God is ordaining sin, making people do what He Himself says He hates, then God is divided. The Calvinistic skewed view of sovereignty says that if anyone else (Satan, man, etc) is doing things in the equation, then God isn’t sovereign.

Therefore, the only solution (since changing your theology is apparently not an option), is to distort the character of God and contradict the teaching of Jesus Christ.

It seems like a heavy price to pay.

God’s Determinate Counsel and Other Things People Can Mess Up

A particular branch of Calvinism believes that everything is a result of God’s determinate counsel. Everything that happens, even sin, is a result of God’s ordination.

God said it should happen, therefore it happens.

In this elaborate structure, God, who makes people sin, is also released of blame. I have never been able to figure out why, nor has the Calvinist. “It’s a mystery” is the closest they will come to explaining it.

Which is fine, probably their safest answer, but it may also signify that the initial doctrine is illogical.

“Determinate counsel” appears one time in the Bible in Acts 2:23:

Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain

The “Him” is obviously Christ. “Determinate,” according to Thayer’s Greek Definitions, means, “to mark out the boundaries or limits, to ordain, determine, or appoint.” Counsel means purpose or will.

Therefore, Acts 2:23 says that Christ’s crucifixion, rather than being a massive mistake in an otherwise pretty fantastic Messianic life, was part of God’s plan.

The Calvinist concludes that the people who killed Christ had no choice. God made them do it because His determinate counsel (His marked out boundary of His will) forced them to kill Jesus.

Continue reading “God’s Determinate Counsel and Other Things People Can Mess Up”