A Biblical Basis for Calvinism – iv: Ephesians 2:4-10

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:4-10

But God, – Paul spent the first 3 verses of chapter 2 telling us about our nature, now we turn to look at God and His nature.

Being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – When we were dead in our sins, disobeying God, and following our own carnal desires, God made us alive; that is, God saved us. Why did he save us? “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,” decided to save us. The reason God chose to save us is because He loves us, and He loves us because He has chosen to. See Deuteronomy 7:6-11 where God says He chose Israel because He loves them and is keeping the promises He gave to their fathers; also, Titus 3:5 (Titus 3:3-8 is very similar to Ephesians 2:1-10). Because our salvation is based solely on God’s sovereign choice it can truly be said,

By grace you have been saved – We have not brought about our own salvation, we did not initiate our salvation, God did (John 1:12-13, 15:16; Matthew 11:27). It is all owing to the sovereign grace He has chosen to show (Romans 9:16-18).

And raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. – More blessings of our salvation!!!

For by grace you have been saved through faith. – God’s grace has saved us through the faith we continually exercise in Him.

And this is not your own doing; – That whole equation that equals our salvation, namely, being saved “by grace” and “through faith” is not something we can do – it is not our own doing. We are not able to bring it about.

It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – God is the one who brings about our salvation. God has chosen to show His grace to us by giving us faith to exercise in Him. He has not shown us this grace based on anything in us – God did not save us because He knew we would believe in Him, instead, our belief in God is a result of Him saving us. This means we cannot boast; the only thing we have contributed to our salvation is our sin, the faith we exercise in God is a gift from God.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, – God made us, He owns us, and he has created us anew in Christ Jesus so that we would do good works.

Which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – The good works that we will do have already been “prepared” by God for us to do, so that He gets all the glory.

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:

THE MINDSET OF THE NEW EVANGELICAL LIBERALISM

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

CASE STUDIES IN THE NEW EVANGELICAL LIBERALISM

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

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE NEW EVANGELICAL LIBERALISM

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

MISCELLANEOUS BOOK REVIEWS

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

AUDIO – LEADERSHIP INTERVIEWS

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.

Jesus' Love Does Infinitely Overtop the Highest Mountains of Our Sins

Be always greatly abased for your remaining sin, and never think that you lie low enough for it, but yet don’t be at all discouraged or disheartened by it; for though we are exceeding sinful, yet we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, the preciousness of whose blood, and the merit of whose righteousness and the greatness — of whose love and faithfulness does infinitely overtop the highest mountains of our sins.

– Jonathan Edwards, in his letter dated June 3, 1741 to Deborah Hatheway.

Oh, For More Men Like This

Occasionally there will appear on the religious scene a man whose unsatisfied spiritual longings become so big and important in his life that they crowd out every other interest. Such a man refuses to be content with the safe and conventional prayers of the frost-bound brethren who “lead in prayer” week after week and year after year in the local assemblies. His yearnings carry him away and often make something of a nuisance out of him. His puzzled fellow Christians shake their heads and look knowingly at each other. But like the blind man who cried after his sight and was rebuked by the disciples, he ‘cries the more a great deal.’ And if he has not yet met the conditions or there is something hindering the answer to his prayer, he may pray on into the late hours. Not the hour of night but the state of his heart decides the time of his visitation. For him it may well be that revival comes after midnight.

– A.W. Tozer, Born after Midnight, p. 8.

By Faith

By faith we see the hand of God
In the light of creation’s grand design
In the lives of those who prove His faithfulness
Who walk by faith and not by sight

By faith our fathers roamed the earth
With the power of His promise in their hearts
Of a holy city built by God’s own hand
A place where peace and justice reign

We will stand as children of the promise
We will fix our eyes on Him our soul’s reward
Till the race is finished and the work is done
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight

By faith the prophets saw a day
When the longed-for Messiah would appear
With the power to break the chains of sin and death
And rise triumphant from the grave

By faith the church was called to go
In the power of the Spirit to the lost
To deliver captives and to preach good news
In every corner of the earth

We will stand…

By faith this mountain shall be moved
And the power of the gospel shall prevail
For we know in Christ all things are possible
For all who call upon His name

We will stand…

What A Friend We Have In Jesus

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

Indicted by Hippies

After watching this video I felt pained seeing how easy it was for them to intensely weep over cut down trees – which is hardly a cause for crying. Particularly when I considered how little I weep, with any heartfelt intensity, both over my own sins and over the sins of the Church – a cause which all Christians are called to cry over.

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God… Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

– James 4:4, 8-10

HT: Rhema

Do You Long For Holiness?

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

– Peter, in his first epistle

I never feel comfortably but when I find my soul going forth after God; if I cannot be holy, I must necessarily be miserable for ever.

– David Brainerd, The Diary and Journal of David Brainerd; Volume 1; pg. 113.

Why hatred is not an overreaction to the prosperity gospel

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

– Paul in 1 Timothy 6

Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

– Jesus in Matthew 19

John Piper explains why he abominates the prosperity gospel.

Benny Hinn provides a case in point on why Piper’s hatred is justified.