How much of our salvation is dependent on us? To what degree are we currently held in faith by our own efforts or strivings? I want to open up a topic that I believe is foundational to our understanding of the gospel and how we would preach it to others. I am writing this to help us separate our responsibility from God's.
The section of scripture were going to look at is Ephesians 1:3-13
-Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the Heavens, in Christ;
-for He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight.
-In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will,to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the beloved.
-In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
-He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him for the administration of the days of fulfillment – to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.
-In Him we were also made His inheritance, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.
-In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation – in Him when you believed – were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the downpayment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.
– Ephesians 1:3-13 (bullet points added to clarify how I sectioned the passage.)
This starts becoming really clear when we read this as 7 specific things that Paul wants us to know about Gods work in salvation. If we were to write down the parts that pertain to what God did for us it would read like this:
- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the Heavens, in Christ.
- He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight.
- In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself.
- In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.
- He made known to us the mystery of His will.
- In Him we were also made His inheritance.
- In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, when you believed you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. (slight change made for clarity)
These are seven very important things that include our blessing, election, adoption, justification, and sanctification. Those are pretty important things for God to receive credit for doing.
It goes further when we ask simply, ‘Why would He do that?’ Our 4 simple answers are found in the same text.
- V5 – “According to His favor and will.”
- Vv7b-8 – “According to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”
- V9 – “According to His good pleasure that He planned in Him.”
- V11 – “According to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of his will.”
And we can similarly ask, ‘to what end is He doing all these things?” Again there are 4 very clear answers to that question found in the same section of scripture.
- V6 “To the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved”
- V10 “To bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and on earth in Him”
- V12 “So that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory”
- V14 “To the praise of His glory”
My favorite is in verse 12 how it says that we “might bring praise to His glory” makes it sounds like we are bringing chips to a party. The way that it is worded brings me joy. He owns and possesses all glory, it is sustained with or without us, but He enjoys having us with Him, to bring praise to His glory. This is a motive of God that we need to know is always at work.
What is the main point is all of this?
God predestines for adoption.
God redeems and forgives.
God makes known the mystery of His will.
God makes us valuable to Him as His inheritance.
God seals us in His Holy Spirit, the downpayment for our inheritance.
And wonderfully He does all of it because He likes to and for His ends. All of the work of salvation then is dependent wholly on God and not on man so that no man can brag in Gods presence. Will anyone be able to earn a measure of grace with God? No. There is not one thing we can do to initiate our salvation.
Mike, if that is true then what is the reason for prayer, fasting, evangelism etc?
The simple answer to this is that God initiates and causes our salvation and we pray, evangelize, and fast because He has initiated it and caused it. God doesn't save because we have preached, rather we preach because He has elected. For what reason would we fast if God didn’t initiate it? Who would gain credit for that pursuit? Therefore how far we go in our faith is not a product of human strength or ambition, but of Gods choosing. This is why I refer to this as a true mystery, we find out how far we are predestined to go by simply going until we cannot go any longer. The point at which we stop determines who was doing the thing God inspired or the thing with its origins in man, that is, hell. “The man who endures to the end will be saved” and “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
We determine the mystery of Gods choosing by seeing who endures to the end, faith acceptable to God is enduring faith for, “these three things endure: faith, hope, and love.” and faith that endures will be faith that produces much fruit. A man who truly believes wont be shaken, won’t be turned away, won’t grow weary in doing good, because of what he has seen! No one could shake me from my firm belief in my mothers existence, why? Because our history together is undeniable. I am supremely convinced of her existence. Likewise with God I am supremely convinced of not merely His existence, but His goodness and power. This faith was initiated by Him and caused by Him, what was my responsibility?
To believe whatever measure I am enabled to believe and to bring praise to His glory.
Evangelism reveals an ultimate mystery, it is actually a peeling away of layers and uncovering truths hidden before the foundation of the earth. When we preach the gospel of Jesus then authentic faith will arise in the person who is appointed for that moment in time. When they hear the word of truth of salvation as God initiates their faith then they are obeying God to believe it. It is a divine mystery being manifest and revealed to Gods creation. That is why is says, “creation groans in anticipation for the sons of God to be revealed”; their revelation is the ultimate herald for the end says Matthew 24:14, and the summing up of all things in Christ. What peace this should bring when we are preaching this message; if the preaching is authentic and God inspired then who could possibly be discouraged when there is no reaction from the people we are preaching to? If it is an act of obedience then Gods smile on us will be enough.
We don’t preach for mans approval or to help God out, we preach because of an affectionate desire to obey the God of mercy. The desire to preach the true gospel is the single most miraculous act that God could ever perform inside of a human being. It is the proper response to faith in these profound works of Gods grace and kindness. To sum this up, we did not choose Him, He chose us. We do not serve Him because of our strength or virtue, but simply because He has favored us. We really cannot brag about a single thing we have done. It is all Him.
The most common attack against the election of individuals in the church is that the text states "in Christ" repetitively. The argument goes like this: this sovereign grace in Ephesians 1 has been given to the church which is made up of individuals who choose to accept or reject Christ. The church is elected and MUST exist whereas the individuals that make up the church are not determined to be in the church. To that I believe Paul responds in 1 Corinthians 1:28-31 saying,
God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.