A Biblical Basis for Calvinism – iii: Ephesians 2:1-3

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – Ephesians 2:1-3

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, – Here Paul says that the Ephesian believers (and, by implication, you and I) were once dead in our sins.

Following the course of this world, – Being dead to God we were following the “course of this world.”

Following the prince of the power of the air, – Being dead to God we were gladly following Satan.

The spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – This provides a further description of Satan and his work.

Among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, – We lived among and were at one point “sons of disobedience.” Being sons of disobedience we made our choices based on “the passions of our flesh.”

Carrying out the desires of the body and the mind – Again, as sons of disobedience we lived in the sinful desires of our body and our mind (for more on the state of our sinful mind see Romans 8:7-8).

And were by nature children of wrath, – We are born enemies of God (Romans 5:10, 8:7-8). We naturally abide under God’s wrath, making us “children of wrath.” In our natural state we joyfully disobey God (Genesis 6:4) and are subject to the whole of His just and loving wrath.

Like the rest of mankind. – This is the state everyone on the planet is born into – enemies of God, hating God (Romans 3:9-20, 23). Everyone, by nature, makes their choice based on their sinful desires.

A Biblical Basis for Calvinism – ii: Ephesians 1:7-23

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”  Note, the Ephesians who believed in Jesus and were “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of [their] inheritance.” That is to say, God has saved them and given them the Holy Spirit, who acts as a sort of “down-payment,” a means by which God demonstrates to the Ephesian believers that they will finally be saved, they will not ultimately fall away from Jesus. It works the same for us; God has given us the Holy Spirit as a means of guaranteeing our salvation.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” – Ephesians 1:7-23

A Biblical Basis for Calvinism – i: Ephesians 1:1-6

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” – Ephesians 1:1-6

The first 2 verses are Paul’s greeting to the church at Ephesus. Verse 3 then begins:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, – Paul is exhorting us to bless God. Why?

Who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, – We are to bless God (with our worship, praise, adoration, and enjoyment) because he has blessed us. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing through Christ. It is because we are “in Christ” that we have “every spiritual blessing.”

Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, – In the same way we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, God the Father has chosen us in Christ “before the foundation of the world.” What has He chosen us for?

That we should be holy and blameless before him. – God has chosen us in Christ to be holy and blameless before Him. Next Paul explains what is involved in God choosing us in Christ to be holy and blameless. We may ask, “how has God chosen us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him?” Paul answers this question in the next part of the verse.

In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, – God has lovingly predestined us to be Jesus’ brothers and sisters – to be God’s children (Hebrews 2:10-18; Romans 8:14-17). The word predestined means precisely what you would think it means; Strong’s Exhaustive concordance defines the word like this: “to predetermine, decide beforehand” (see Strong’s note G4309; or this link http://bit.ly/6Jmy7C). God determined to arrange our destiny so that we would be his children. Before we existed, God determined to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ (that is, through Christ’s saving death on the cross). Why did God do this?

According to the purpose of his will – God did it because He wanted to. He did it “according to the purpose of His will.” He did not predestine us to be His children on the basis of something we did, He predestined us to be His children “according to the purpose of his will.” See 2 Timothy 1:8-9.

To the praise of his glorious grace – We’ve been predestined to be God’s children according to His will “to the praise of his glorious grace.” God’s grace is put on display by predestining people to be His children. He has made this display of His grace so that we would praise Him in how He has graciously dealt with us.

With which he has blessed us in the Beloved. – God’s grace is given to us through Jesus.

A Biblical Basis for Calvinism: Introduction

I was recently asked to give a scriptural defense of the Doctrines of Grace. In striving to do that I produced a brief commentary on Ephesians 1:3-6 and 2:1-10. Over the next few days – Lord willing – I’ll be posting that commentary. It will be broken up into 7 different posts which collectively represent my attempt to demonstrate a biblical basis for God’s sovereignty in matters of salvation. I’ll be posting primarily on Mondays and Wednesdays, following this schedule:

  1. Ephesians 1:1-6 – 1.26.10
  2. Ephesians 1:7-23 – 1.28.10
  3. Ephesians 2:1-3 – 1.29.10
  4. Ephesians 2:4-10 – 2.1.10
  5. TULIP – 2.3.10
  6. Some Affirmations of Belief – 2.8.10
  7. Conclusion: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.” – 2.10.10

We Value God to the Degree that We Depend on His Sovereignty

“For in proportion to the sense we have of our dependence on the sovereign God for all the good we want, will be our value for him, our trust in him, our fear to offend him, and our care to please him; as likewise our gratitude and love, our delight and praise, upon our sensible experience of his free benefits.”

– T. Prince and W. Cooper, in their preface to Jonathan Edward’s sermon “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence
photo by motoyen

Jan./Feb. 2010 9Marks eJournal on Liberalism

Don’t miss the most recent 9Marks eJournal. I would heartily recommend the article Is the God of the Missional Gospel Too Small? in that it clearly articulates why sin, not lack of social action, is the big problem in need of the big God.

Here are the contents of the eJournal:


How to Become a Liberal Without Attending Harvard Divinity School
What kind of pastor is susceptible to liberalism? One who loves self, and even the sheep, more than he loves the Good Shepherd.
By Michael Lawrence

The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
Why do evangelical academics so crave worldly acceptance?
By Carl Trueman

Air Conditioning Hell: How Liberalism Happens
Liberalism happens when we try to save Christianity from itself.
By R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

The Neo-Liberal Stealth Offensive
The gospel’s most dangerous adversaries are not raving atheists. They are church leaders with gentle, friendly, pious demeanors.
By Phil Johnson


What’s Happening to InterVarsity?
A long-term InterVarsity vet takes a hard look at some disturbing trends in this historically faithful campus ministry. 
By J. Mack Stiles

Is the God of the Missional Gospel Too Small?
When we say that a gospel that addresses systemic injustice is “bigger” than a gospel of “sin management,” what are we saying about the worth of God’s glory?
By Jonathan Leeman

What Would Athanasius Do: Is The Great Tradition Enough?
Is this new rallying point for Christian unity all it’s made out to be? Not if you want to preserve the gospel.
By Greg Gilbert

Notes from the Future: Evangelical Liberalism in the UK
Want a sneak peek at the future of evangelicalism? Then listen in as a British brother takes a look at the past and present of liberalism in the UK.
By Mike Ovey

Social Gospel Redux?
Are some evangelicals preaching a renewed social gospel?
By Russell D. Moore


What Can We Learn from the History of Liberalism?
Historic liberalism was a response—the wrong one—to Christianity’s credibility crisis.
By Gregory A. Wills

Who Exactly Are the Evangelicals?
Is an evangelical simply “anyone who likes Billy Graham,” as one historian put it?
By Michael Horton

More Than a Feeling: The Emotions and Christian Devotion
Casting an eye toward recent evangelical history, Darryl Hart suggests that a wrong emphasis on emotions has been—and can still be—a path to liberalism.
By D. G. Hart

Evangelism and Social Action: A Tale of Two Trajectories
What do twentieth century ecumenism and twenty-first century evangelicalism have in common? More than you might think.
By Bobby Jamieson


Book Review: The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small Is the New Big for Today’s Church, by Tony and Felicity Dale and George Barna
Reviewed by Aaron Menikoff

Book Review: Why Join a Small Church?, by John Benton
Reviewed by Aaron Menikoff


The Story of Matt with Matt Chandler
Posted on January 1, 2010
A note from Mark Dever: “This past August, Matt shared an hour with us to talk about his ministry. In light of what has happened to Matt in recent days, we contacted him about publishing this interview. He said he was very happy for us to present it, and that he was continuing to trust in God for the future.  As you listen to this interview, thank God for our brother and pray for him.”

Pastoral Ministry and Training with Phillip Jensen
Posted on December 1, 2009
Phillip Jensen attacks evangelical assumptions about ministry training, spiritual gifts, and more.

HT: Thabiti

"Calvinism is the gospel"

[T]here is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus.

– C.H. Spurgeon in A Defense of Calvinism.

Love Your Neighbor by Sharing the Gospel with Them

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Now you love yourself suitably when you love God better than yourself. What, then, you aim at in yourself you must aim at in your neighbor, namely, that he may love God with a perfect affection. For you do not love him as yourself, unless you try to draw him to that good which you are yourself pursuing. For this is the one good which has room for all to pursue it along with thee. From this precept proceed the duties of human society.

– Augustine, “Morals of the Catholic Church,” in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4, ed. Philip Schaff (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 55; as quoted in Mark Dever’s The Gospel and Personal Evangelism.

Don Whitney with 10 Questions to Ask for the New Year

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

Click here for the whole post.