TODAY’S READING: EPHESIANS 1-6

 

OVERVIEW:  

The believer’s position in Christ (chapter 1); the believer’s salvation by grace through faith (chapter 2); the revelation of the mystery of the church (chapter 3); the believer’s walk in the world (chapters 4-6).

 

HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:

There are a zillion things that could be said about the Book of Ephesians and should be said, but there is simply not space to do so in this setting:  We will only be able to establish the “big picture” at best.  Perhaps the best way to see the big picture of this Book, is by applying it to one of the most controversial passages, not only in this Book, but the entire Bible.  That passage is found in chapter one, verses 4 and 5:  “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: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”

 

Now, based on where you land on the interpretation of these verses (and verses such as these), you are labeled a “Calvinist” or an “Arminian.”  Several hundred years ago, one position was popularized by John Calvin, and the other by Jacob Arminius.  The basic Arminian position when it is used today, is that in terms of salvation, “whosoever will may come” (Rev. 22:17).  The basic Calvinist position as it is expressed today, is that only the quote – unquote “elect,” will be saved; meaning that in eternity past, God chose, according to His sovereign grace, those who will be saved” – and in the final analysis, those are the only ones who will be saved!  (Most who hold to this position would rather say they believe in the doctrine of “Sovereign Grace” or “Sovereign Election,” than to say they believe in Calvinism. Okay, we’ll go with it.) 

 

There are many others, who if they were asked if they were an Arminian or a Calvinist, would answer “yes,” meaning that they believe both.  Their reasoning is, that there is no doubt about it, the Bible teaches that “whosoever will may come”, and yet, that there is no doubt about the fact that the Bible also teaches that believers are “chosen in him before the foundation of the world.”  When asked how they reconcile the two seemingly contradictory statements, they may answer, as did Spurgeon, “Friends don’t need to be reconciled!”  They believe God put both in the Bible, so they both must be equally true, and though they don’t come together in the human mind, they do come together in the mind of God, so rather than force them to come together, let God be God, because after all, His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are far above our thoughts, and the secret things belong to the Lord, so just accept it, and go on! This reasoning is usually followed with the illustration!

 that goes something like, as we approach the gates of heaven there’s a sign over the top that says, “whosoever will my come.”  As you walk through the gates on into heaven, and you look back above them, however, the sign says, “Chosen before the foundation of the world.” 

 

That “middle-of-the-road” approach is rather convincing, and sounds pretty spiritual, and even humble, but none of those things are the real issue!  The issue is always the same: Is it BIBLICAL?

 

So we come to verse 4 of Ephesians 1, and what does it say?  “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.”  Someone says, I mean, how clear can it be? My goodness, just let the Bible be the Bible!  Okay! Let’s!

 

First of all, if this verse is teaching that sometime before the foundation of the world, God had already chosen each of us who know Him, the verse is actually teaching that we were “in Christ” before the foundation of the world.  Now that poses a huge problem!  Because the Bible clearly states that prior to our salvation, we were:

      “IN ADAM”!  (I Cor. 15:22)

      “IN TRESPASSES AND SINS”! (Eph. 2:1)

      “IN THE LUSTS OF OUR FLESH”! (Eph. 2:3)

      “IN THE WORLD”! (Eph. 2:12)

 

Are we to believe that in eternity past (“before the foundation of the world”), God chose us “in Christ,” and then somehow we came out of Christ, and were found “IN ADAM, IN TRESPASSES AND SINS, IN THE LUSTS OF OUR FLESH, and IN THE WORLD,” so the He could put us back “IN CHRIST” again?  That just doesn’t make any sense, y’all!

 

The fact is folks, Ephesians 1:4-5 must be understood within the very first principle of Bible study: CONTEXT!

 

Most people come to these verses and read “He hath chosen US in him,” and assume that the “US” means “individuals chosen to salvation.”  Hopefully, you have learned what happens to people who ASSUME!

 

In the context of the Book of Ephesians, that “US” is “the Church” in a collective sense, “the Body of Christ”!  That’s what the whole Book of Ephesians is about and why it is placed in the Bible!  To teach us that the Church is the Body of Christ!

 

Notice verse 10 of chapter one:  “That in the dispensaton of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things IN CHRIST.”  And to what time period is that referring?  The church age, right?

 

Yes, Ephesians 1:4 teaches that God made a very definite decision before the foundation of the world. But what was He actually “CHOOSING”?  Individuals to salvation?  Absolutely not!  Before the foundation of the world, God chose that the church, the Body of Christ (all of “US” who exercised our will and by faith, called upon Him to save us) would be different than any people who ever lived.  God chose that our salvation would place us “IN CHRIST.”

 

Do you realize that the only people who have ever been “IN CHRIST,” are the people saved in the church age?

 

Do you realize that as smooth as Noah, Daniel and Job were (Ez. 14:20), they were never “IN CHRIST” a day in their lives?!  That was something God decreed before the foundation of the world that would be totally unique to believers in the church age!

 

Read carefully in Ephesians 3:1-12, and you will see that “the eternal purpose which he purposed IN CHRIST Jesus our Lord” (3:11), was that it would be the “CHURCH” that would know “the manifold wisdom of God,” having been placed “IN CHRIST.”

 

Those of “US” who are believers in the church age are the only ones who have had the distinct privilege of being “holy and without blame before him in love” (1:4)!  Is that because we’re so much more holy and blameless and loveable than Old Testament saints? No!  It’s because we have been placed “IN HIM”!

 

Do you realize that the only ones who have been “predestinated unto the adoption of children” (1:5), are those of “US” who are believers in the church age?

 

And do you see now why it is that believers in the church age are eternally secure, and why that was not true for Old Testament saints, and will not be true for Tribulation saints (Matt. 24:13)?  It is because we are the only ones who are placed “IN HIM,” and our righteousness and acceptance with God is not based on what we do, but in Who Christ is (II Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:6)!

 

This is really very simple when you simply place the verses in their context, and stop reading into them things that aren’t there!  (For a more in-depth study of the subject, refer to “The Destiny of the Chosen” – II Thess. 2:1-14, through the New Philadelphian Resource Center (bookstore@fbcnp.org).