Monday, October 5, 2015

An Exposition of Ephesians 1:1-6

     The epistle of Ephesians deals with the church as God’s masterpiece. In verses 1-6, the apostle Paul expounds on the spiritual blessings that the church has in Christ. The church’s standing is given in verses 1-2. Verse 3 is probably the key verse of the whole section, declaring the church’s position: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Verses 4-6 expound on how the Father is involved in the church’s salvation: He chose us.
     Now let’s consider the text itself. Ephesians 1:1-2 says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 
     Paul is said to be “an apostle”. An apostle is a messenger or ambassador, one who is “sent forth”.1 Who was Paul sent to? The text says, “to the saints who are at Ephesus” (Eph. 1:1). The Holy Spirit is using the apostle to address the Ephesians, but more broadly, Paul is addressing all church-age believers. This is all the more clearly seen when it is remembered that the words “who are at Ephesus” are not found in the best Greek manuscripts.2 It is believed that this epistle was intended to be a circular letter, read in the Ephesian church and then passed on to be read by other assemblies.3 Thus it is clear that this epistle has as much application to believers today as it did to the Ephesians of Paul’s time. 
     Saints (or as the NIV translates it: “God’s holy people”) are said to be “faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:1b). This is a reassuring text, for in actual condition, saints are not always faithful. But God sees believers not in their condition, but in their position in the risen, glorified, and faithful Son of God (see Gal. 2:20; Eph. 1:20, 2:6; Col. 3:1-3; 1 Jn. 1:9). 
     The text continues, “Grace to you and peace” (Eph. 1:2). Before people can experience the peace of God, they must receive His grace. There can be no peace for those who must bear their sins for all eternity in Hell. Christians, on the other hand, can have peace knowing that Christ Himself bore their sins “in His body on the cross” (1 Pet. 2:24) and paid the full penalty there (Jn. 19:30; Acts 13:38-39; Heb. 10:12; 1 Jn. 1:7). 
     This grace and peace originate “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:2b). It is only by the second birth that believers can enter into this blessed relationship where God is their “Father” (cf. Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:15-17). Jesus told Nicodemus that the second birth is a spiritual birth, entered into through faith (Jn. 3:6-8, 3:14-16). Grace and peace are also said to be from the “Lord Jesus Christ”. 
     The term “Lord” is the Greek word kurios, signifying power or authority.4 This Greek word can either refer to Christ’s deity or to His lordship (kurios would then be translated as “Master” or “Sir”).5
     Jesus (or Joshua) was a common Hebrew name (Ex. 17:9; Lk. 3:29; Col. 4:11). It underscores the real humanity of Christ and shows His identification with His people. The name Jesus is a one-word summary of what He came to do (Lk. 19:10), for it means “Jehovah is salvation”.6 Although the name Jesus focuses on the humanity of Christ, it also portrays His deity, for Jesus is said to be “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). 
     The title of Christ is the Greek word Christos, meaning anointed one or Messiah.7 The term was applied to prophets, priests, and kings because these offices were entered into through anointing. Christ is called the Messiah because He is the ultimate Prophet (Deut. 18:15, 18:18; Acts 3:22), Priest (Psa. 110:4; Heb. 7:11-28), and King (2 Sam. 7:16; 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 1:5, 17:14, 19:16) to which all three of the anointed offices pointed. Grace and peace, then, are seen to be from God the Father and from the resurrected, exalted Son, Jesus Christ. 
     In Ephesians 1:3, the apostle Paul goes on to say, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Pridham aptly comments, “the Apostle, after his brief but emphatic salutation of his fellow-saints, proceeds at once to open to them, as a helper of their joy, the rich abundance of that treasure which had been committed to him as a steward of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1).8 The divine plan of salvation involves much more than just the forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7), although that too is most important. In God’s grace, He has blessed us “exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). Such blessings include being predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ (Eph. 1:5, 1:11), obtaining an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 1:14), being made alive (Eph. 2:1, 2:5), saved by grace (Eph. 2:1-10), brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13), made fellow heirs (Eph. 3:6), made partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel (Eph. 3:6), and made children of light (Eph. 5:8). “Contemplating what God has graciously done for hell-deserving sinners ought to encourage and thrill the soul of every blood-bought child of God!”9
     Now let’s consider Ephesians 1:4, which says, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him, in love”. Concerning this verse, Warren Wiersbe writes, “This is the marvelous doctrine of election . . . That salvation begins with God, and not with man, all Christians will agree.”10 Wiersbe immediately goes on to quote John 15:16, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.”11
     It’s interesting that the Scripture reference Wiersbe uses to support his statement is taken out of context. When John 15:16 is interpreted in light of it’s context, it becomes clear that this verse does not support the doctrine of unconditional election to salvation. In context, John chapter 15 takes place in the upper room during the Last Supper (Jn. 13:1). In John 15:16, Jesus is speaking to the eleven disciples (for Judas Iscariot had gone out into the night, Jn. 13:30), not all believers.12 The context is service, not salvation, for Jesus says, “I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit” (Jn. 15:16).13 When Jesus says to the eleven (cf. Jn. 13:5, 13:30), “I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit” (Jn. 15:16), He is referring to their previous appointment to the apostolate (cf. Lk. 6:13).14 In the upper room, Jesus is no doubt preparing His disciples for their apostolic ministry after He “returns to God” (Jn. 13:3, 14:1-3). This apostolic ministry is referred to in Acts 1:2 (“the apostles whom He had chosen”) and Acts 1:24-26 (“show which one of these two Thou hast chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside”). It’s clear that John 15:16 doesn’t support the idea of unconditional election to salvation, but in fact argues strongly against it. 
     This is not to say that salvation begins with man. Clearly salvation begins with God. For only through the universal convicting work of the Holy Spirit are sinners able to see their true condition and need for a Savior (Gen. 6:3; Jn. 1:7-9, 12:32, 16:8-9; Acts 7:51).15 The word “convict” (Jn. 16:8) means to convict, confute, refute, or reprove.16 The Holy Spirit convicts in three areas: sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn. 16:8). The Holy Spirit uses various means to convict the unsaved, such as: people (Lk. 3:19; Eph. 5:11; 1 Cor. 14:24), light (a synonym for truth, Jn. 1:5-7, 3:20; Eph. 5:13), conscience (Jn. 8:9), the preaching of the Word (2 Tim. 2:4), and sound doctrine (Titus 1:9).17 Conviction through the Holy Spirit can only occur subsequent to knowledge of God’s truth, for the Holy Spirit uses God’s truth to convict and convince. This is why Romans 10:14 and 10:17 say, “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Similarly, Ephesians 1:13 states, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Sinners must first hear God’s Word before they will ever be convicted and trust Christ. 
     God’s gracious work of salvation is universal in scope and not limited to a select few (Jn. 1:7, 3:16, 5:40; Acts 10:43, 17:30; 1 Tim. 2:1, 2:4-6, 4:10; Titus 2:11; Heb. 2:9).18 Salvation available only to some and not the entire world (Greek kosmos, Jn. 3:16) would contradict the whole teaching of Scripture that God is not “wishing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Why is God not wishing that any should perish? The reason is clearly because God loves the whole world (Jn. 3:16) and salvation is available to all who believe (“whosoever,” Jn. 3:16; “everyone,” Acts 10:43, “to the ends of the earth,” Acts 13:47, “all everywhere,” Acts 17:30, and “whosoever will,” Rev. 22:17). Christ is the propitiation (satisfactory payment) for the sins “of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2), having actively laid on Christ “the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). The only reason the wicked are damned is because they choose to be, not because God foreordained them to damnation: “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:4-5, emphasis added). 
     It is clear from the text what election is not, what then is election? Simply stated, election is God’s sovereign decree to choose those who choose to believe. God chooses to save those who choose to believe. God’s plan obviously precedes human action but God has chosen to incorporate human action into His plan.19 This is clear all throughout the New Testament. Jesus Himself said, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life” (Jn. 6:40). Salvation is through simple faith in the person and work of Christ. Just as “Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe” (Jn. 6:64), He also knew from the beginning who would believe (Rom. 8:29, 11:2, 11:5; 1 Pet. 1:1-2). The word “foreknow” (Rom. 8:29, 11:2) is the Greek word proginosko, which simply means, “to know before” (pro meaning “before,” ginosko meaning “to know”). The English Bible scholar and theologian W. E. Vine states that foreknowledge means “to know before” (as the etymology of the term indicates).20 Vine also says, concerning believers, that “the foreknowledge of God is the basis of His foreordaining counsels”.21 God’s foreknowledge is the basis of His election, as the Bible declares in 1 Peter 1:1-2, Romans 8:29, and other passages. Vine’s definition of the word foreknow is in harmony with the Scriptures. The term “foreknowledge” (1 Pet. 1:2) is the Greek word prognosis, which means “a foreknowledge”.22 Concerning this, Vine states, “Foreknowledge is one aspect of omniscience; it is implied in God’s warning, promises and predictions. See Acts 15:18. God’s foreknowledge involves His electing grace, but this does not preclude human will. He foreknows the exercise of faith which brings salvation”.23 Because of His foreknowledge, omniscience, and stated purpose (Jn. 6:40), God chooses to save those who choose to believe. 
     Now that we have seen what God’s choosing is, who does God choose? Ephesians 1:4 says God “chose us in Him”. Remember that the letter to the Ephesians concerns the corporate church and Ephesians chapter 1 portrays the church as Christ’s body: “And He [God the Father, Eph. 1:17] put all things in subjection under His [Christ’s] 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” (Eph. 1:22-23, emphasis added). To be true to the text we must interpret the “us” in Ephesians 1:4 to mean “the church, which is His body” (Eph. 1:22-23).24 God’s choosing here in Ephesians 1:4 is seen to be corporate, not individual. God chose the church in Christ.25 How do individuals (here in Ephesians 1:1 and 1:15 they are referred to as “saints” because they had at some point previously entered into the corporate church through faith, Eph. 1:13, 1:15) become part of that corporate entity, the church? Acts 2:47b says, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (KJV, emphasis added). Individuals become part of “the church in Christ” (Eph. 1:4) by coming to Christ for salvation.26 Individuals enter into the church through salvation. How are people saved? People are saved through faith.27 Faith is the noun form of the verb believe. Every time the word believe is used in the context of salvation, it is always in the Greek active voice. This means that the subject does the acting. The subject produces the action. If belief were a gift bestowed upon people by God as some suppose, the word believe would be in the Greek passive voice (meaning that the person receives the action or is acted upon); however, this is never the case. Sinners convicted by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:8-9) through the Word of God (which may occur using any number of means or methods) must actively rely upon the person and work of Christ for salvation. Once individuals become saved, they are placed into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13), thereby becoming part of the corporate church, “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). 
     Now let’s consider the time of God’s choosing. This will be brief, for we have already touched on this point. The psalmist declares: “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth” (Psa. 103:25) – but it was even before this that God chose the church. Ephesians 1:4 says that the corporate church was chosen “before the foundation of the world”. 
     For what purpose did God choose the church? The apostle Paul says: “that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (Eph. 1:4). Here in Ephesians 1:4, the text is not teaching that God chose us (meaning the church, Eph. 1:22-23) for salvation.28 Instead, the text is teaching that God chose the church to be “holy and blameless in His sight” (Eph. 1:4, NIV). In Colossians 3:12 Paul says, “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”. Individuals in the corporate church are seen by God as “holy and beloved” (Col. 3:12) because they are united to Christ, their Head. God sees not their sins and shortcomings; they are washed away in the blood of the Lamb, in whom they have trusted. He has taken their punishment and borne the penalty of their sins on the cross. In the book of Isaiah it is written: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried . . . He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isa. 53:4, 5). Similarly, 1 Peter 2:24 says, “and He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” Salvation is the Great Transaction. Through faith, Christ takes our sins and we take His righteousness. Because of Calvary, God is free to “justify the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). God sees believers in Christ as “holy and beloved” (Col. 3:12) but also knows our true condition and therefore calls us to be “holy and blameless” (Eph. 1:4). 
     In Ephesians 1:5, Paul goes on to say: “He predestined us”. Our English word predestine (or predestinate) is the Greek word proorizo. W. E. Vine says that proorizo “denotes to mark out beforehand, to determine beforehand, foreordain.”29 Vine also states this concerning proorizo: “This verb is to be distinguished from proginosko, to foreknow; the latter has special reference to the persons foreknown by God; proorizo has special reference to that to which the subjects of His foreknowledge are predestinated.30
     What did the Father foreordain us to? Paul says, “to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself” (Eph. 1:5). The term adoption is the Greek word huiothesia (from huios, a son, and thesis, a placing). Adoption “signifies the place and condition of a son given to one to whom it does not naturally belong.”31 Biblically, adoption is not how individuals enter into the family of God. People are born into the family of God through regeneration, not adoption. W. E. Vine affirms, “God does not adopt believers as children; they are begotten as such by His Holy Spirit through faith. Adoption is a term involving the dignity of the relationship of believers as sons; it is not a putting into the family by spiritual birth, but a putting into the positions of sons.”32 From what we know of predestination and adoption then, Ephesians 1:5 can be translated, “He foreordained the church (of whom Paul and the Ephesians are a part of through personal faith in Christ) to the position of sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” The King James Version translates “kind intention” as “good pleasure”. The Father determined that through Christ the church would be placed into the privileged position of sons, and this was according to the good pleasure of His will. 
     Ephesians 1:6 reads, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” The goal of the church’s election is said to be “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” Paul makes a similar statement in Ephesians 2:6-7 when he says that God “raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Paul says that God freely bestowed His grace upon us in the Beloved. The “Beloved” (Eph. 1:6) no doubt refers to Christ who is said to be God’s “beloved Son” in Colossians 1:13 (cf. Matt. 3:17). 
     Paul, in Ephesians 1:6, gives his audience a hint of the blessings that are bestowed on them as members of Christ’s body, the church. In Christ, the church is seen to be faithful (Eph. 1:1), blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3), chosen before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), predestined to adoption as sons (Eph. 1:5), and the recipient of divine grace (Eph. 1:6). 
     The promises of Ephesians 1:1-6 are addressed to all church-age saints (Eph. 1:1). As members of Christ’s body the church, this includes all Christians! During times of discouragement and spiritual famine, let us remember that we are in Christ, seated far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, and every circumstance that is imaginable, not only in this age, but also in the age to come (Eph. 1:21)! 


1 W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary, p. 55. 

2 See Arno C. Gaebelein, God’s Masterpiece, p. 18, and John Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 2 Volumes, Vol. 2., p. 615. Kenneth Wuest explains, “The words ‘in Ephesus’ are within brackets in the Nestle and the Westcott and Hort texts. Tradition has it that this letter was sent to the local church in that city. But certain considerations have led recent expositors to believe that it was not sent to that church alone, but that it was an encyclical letter, sent to all the churches in Asia Minor. The oldest and best manuscripts, Aleph and B, do not contain the words ‘in Ephesus.’ Origen did not have them in his copy. Marcion called it the Epistle to the Laodiceans. Paul in Colossians 4:16 alludes to the letter from Laodicea. Marcion was familiar with the copy in Laodicea. Basil in the fourth century mentions some manuscripts with no name in the address. Paul was intimately acquainted with the members of the Ephesian church, but he makes no personal reference to any of them in the letter, nor does he send any word of greeting to any of them, as is his habit in other letters. From the above, it has been concluded that this letter was a general epistle to be circulated among the churches of the Roman province of Asia, and it is supposed that the name of the church was inserted in the space provided in each instance.” (Wuest, Ephesians and Colossians in the Greek New Testament, p. 18.) 

3 Ibid. 

4 See W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary, p. 688. 

5 Ibid., also see Spiros Zodhiates, “kurios . . . might, power. Lord, master, owner. Also the NT Gr. equivalent for the OT Hebr. Jehovah.” (Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary, p. 900.) 

6 W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary, p. 604. 

7 Ibid. 

8 Arthur Pridham, Notes and Reflections on the Epistle to the Ephesians, p. 4. 

9 George Zeller, The Riches Of His Grace, p. 1. 

10 Warren Wiersbe, Be Rich, p. 18. 

11 Ibid. 

12 All disciples are believers, but not all believers are disciples. The Scriptures give ample evidence of this truth. For example: A truly saved person is one who believes the gospel (Rom. 1:16, 6:17). A true disciple is one who continues in Christ’s Word (Jn. 8:31). In order to be a believer, a person must come to Christ crucified and claim the mercy of God (Lk. 18:13). To be a disciple, a person must sit at the feet of Christ and hear His Word with a meek and teachable heart (Lk. 10:39). Every saved person is a believer (1 Jn. 5:1), whereas only learners are disciples (the word “disciple” means “a learner, student, pupil, adherent”). A believer possesses Christ (1 Jn. 5:12), while a disciple forsakes possessions (Lk. 14:33). Being saved involves trusting (Eph. 1:13), being a disciple involves training (Matt. 28:19-20). Every believer measures up to the full demands of God’s righteousness in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21), but believers often do not measure up to the full demands of discipleship (Lk. 14:25-33). A saved person is a saint (1 Cor. 1:2), a disciple is a student (Matt. 11:29). These are only a few of the many differences between salvation and discipleship, between a believer and a disciple. Although at times there are slight overlaps, it is clear that the two are different and should not be equated by those seeking to be true to the Scriptures. 

13 If it is true, as some Calvinists teach, that the choosing in John 15:16 refers to salvation, then to stay consistent with their theology, Judas Iscariot must have been saved – for Luke 6:13 states, “And when day came, He [Jesus] called His disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles” – one of the twelve was Judas Iscariot (Lk. 6:16; Jn. 13:18). However, the Bible clearly asserts that Judas Iscariot was never saved (see Jn. 6:64, 6:71, 13:10-11, 13:18, 17:12, 18:1-9). 

14 The “you” in John 15:16 obviously refers to the eleven disciples/apostles that are present with Jesus at the Last Supper (Jn. 13:5, 13:30). 

15 Notice John 16:8-9 states, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin . . . concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me” (emphasis added). 

16 W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary, p. 231. 

17 Notice that after the Holy Spirit has convicted the heart, it is the unbeliever who “hates the light and does not come to the light” (Jn. 3:20). It is the sinner who walks away from Jesus (Jn. 8:9). God the Father is willing to save all who believe in His Son (Jn. 6:40), but there are many who love the darkness more than the light and so they remain unsaved, having never believed. God judges men not because they are sinners per se, but because they are sinners who have rejected the light (Jn. 3:19, 16:9). This light, used by the Holy Spirit to “expose” (Jn. 3:20) or convict sinners, is sufficient to save. John 1:7 says that John the Baptist “came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him [referring to Jesus, Jn. 1:29-34].” The text goes on to say that whoever receives the Light (Jn. 1:9, 1:11), whoever believes in His name (Jn. 1:12), become children of God (Jn. 1:12). 

18 Concerning John 3:16 and Acts 10:43, Richard Baxter once said, in substance, something like this: “If the Bible would say Richard Baxter should have everlasting life by believing in Jesus, I could not be certain that I was meant, since there might be others named Richard Baxter, but it declares ‘whosoever,’ and I know that means me!” 

19 Does incorporating human freewill into His plan make God less sovereign? No, it actually makes God more sovereign, for He is great enough, omniscient enough, and sovereign enough to incorporate the freewill of man in the outworking of His purposes. His sovereign decree to allow His creatures freedom of choice will not be His downfall, will it? By no means! Some will say, then, that God’s plan is conditioned upon men. This must be answered in the negative, for God’s ultimate decrees will come to pass. He does, however, incorporate the free will of His creatures into His plan while still arriving at His desired outcome. He can do this because He is omniscient. If Satan chooses to rebel, God allows it. If people choose to reject Him, God allows it. The choices of His creatures don’t take God by surprise. He is all knowing and all-powerful and can easily accomplish His purposes while at the same time allowing men to exercise their freewill. 

20 W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary, p. 449. 

21 Ibid. 

22 Ibid. 

23 Ibid. That God foreknows a person’s faith more than the person himself is easily seen. Romans 11:5 declares that “there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice”. How did God “graciously choose” a remnant? The answer is in Romans 11:2 which says, “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.” God’s choice was according to His foreknowledge. Notice God chose the Israelite faithful remnant of Paul’s day in the same way (Rom. 11:5) as the 7,000 faithful prophets in Elijah’s time. How did God choose the 7,000 prophets in Elijah’s day? God chose them according to His foreknowledge (“God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah?,” Rom. 11:2), knowing what they would do before they did it, knowing that they would be true to Him and not worship Baal. As has been previously shown, God’s choosing based upon His foreknowledge is attested to elsewhere in Scriptures (1 Pet. 1:1-2, etc.). Notice that although Romans 11:4 mentions “men” (“I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal”), the people are not the main focus of God’s foreknowledge, their actions are the focus. This is seen even ore clearly when the original account is read from 1 Kings 19:18. Here the text reads, “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” Notice in this sentence there is no mention of the subject – the person, only the verb – the action. What makes these men special is not who they are, but what they did. It is what they did that made them the object of God’s grace and the reason He chose them according to His foreknowledge (“whom He foreknew”). The critic will inevitably point out that the text does say, as I have quoted, “whom He foreknew” meaning that God does foreknow the person. I do not dispute this. In order for an action to be taken, a person must act. Action is impossible without someone there to do it. My point though is that the person is not the point, but the person’s action is. As seen from the text, what makes these people special is not who they are (they are all Israelites – that doesn’t make the faithful any different from the unfaithful) but what they did – that’s what makes them different (they trusted God)! 

24 This is consistent with the Scriptures, for 1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (cf. Romans 12:4-5 and Ephesians 4:12-13 which equates “the body of Christ” with “we,” referring obviously to “saints,” Eph. 1:1). 

25 Oliver B. Green states, “The church as a body, a complete body without spot or wrinkle, was chosen by God in Christ before God created Adam.” (Green, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians, p. 32.) 

26 Ibid., p. 32. Green comments, “Individuals receive or reject Jesus according to their own free will. God did not create man as a puppet or as a mechanical thing . . . an electronic brain that operates when God pushes the switch. Man is created in the image of God. Man is created with a will to choose or to reject the way of righteousness.” 

27 Faith is not “the gift of God” as some advocate. It is true that salvation is a gift of God, but faith is not. Those who teach that faith is the gift of God confuse the gift with the reception of the gift. Salvation is the gift of God brought to man by grace and received by personal faith in Christ. George Zeller correctly states, “If faith in Christ is itself God’s gift, then how do I receive this faith? Instead of asking, ‘What must I do to be saved?’, I must now focus on the question ‘What must I do to believe?’ If faith is God’s gift, then how do I get this gift? Do I pray to God and ask for the gift of faith? Do I sit back and do nothing and hope that I am one of the chosen ones who will be given this gift? How do I get the gift of saving faith? It is all very confusing and it takes away from where the focus of the sinner ought to be, which is upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified”. (Zeller, What is the “Gift of God”?, p. 4.) Ephesians 2:8 (“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God”) is a major proof text for those who would say faith is the gift of God. Some argue that the pronoun “that” (“and that not of yourselves”) refers to “faith”. However, the correct rule that Greek grammar demands to be followed is this: PRONOUNS AGREE WITH THEIR ANTECEDENT IN GENER AND NUMBER. THEIR CASE IS DETERMINED BY THEIR USE IN THEIR OWN CLAUSE. Zeller comments, “This rule argues forcefully against the identification of ‘faith’ as the antecedent because ‘faith’ does not agree with the pronoun in gender. The pronoun ‘that’ (v. 8) is FEMININE. If Paul wanted his readers to understand the pronoun as referring to ‘faith,’ then there is no reason why he could not have used the feminine form of the pronoun . . . This would have settled it. If Paul had used the feminine pronoun then it would be very clear and obvious that FAITH is the gift of God. Paul did not use the feminine pronoun”. (Ibid., p. 5.) Instead of referring to “faith”, the neuter antecedent “that” refers to the idea contained in the main verb “saved;” the idea of salvation. Zeller quotes D. L. Moody: “Some say that faith is the gift of God. So is the air, but you have to breathe it; so is bread, but you have to eat it; so is water, but you have to drink it. Some are wanting some miraculous kind of feeling. That is not faith. ‘Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.’ It is not for me to sit down and wait for faith to come stealing over me . . . it is for me to take God at His Word”. (Ibid., p. 13.) The Scriptures are clear, God must do the saving, man must do the believing. Zeller quotes William Hendriksen (who believes that faith is the gift of God in Ephesians 2:8), who affirms that “both the responsibility of believing and also its activity are ours, for God does not believe for us”. (Ibid., p. 12.) An illustration of this is found in the Bible in the book of Numbers, chapter 21. Here it can be seen that indeed Israel played a part in their deliverance from the deadly snakes. Their part was to look; God’s part was to heal. The apostle John uses this passage as an illustration of our own salvation when he says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life” (Jn. 3:14-15). As Zeller so aptly states, “SALVATION IS WHOLLY THE WORK OF GOD; FAITH IS WHOLLY THE RESPONSIBILITY OF MAN”. (Ibid., p. 12.) 

28 The corporate church doesn’t need salvation; salvation is how individuals enter into the corporate church (Acts 2:47), thereby becoming chosen because they have entered into the chosen entity of the church, Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:13). Entering into, or being spiritually baptized into Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:13) is synonymous with being baptized into Christ. This occurs at salvation (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 3:27). 

29 W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary, p. 297. 

30 Ibid., p. 897. 

31 Ibid., p. 24. 

32 Ibid., p. 24.


Baker, Charles F. A Dispensational Theology. Grand Rapids: Grace Bible College Publications, 1971. 

Greene, Oliver B. The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians. Greenville: The Gospel Hour, Inc., 1973. 

McGee, J. Vernon. Ephesians. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991. 

Pridham, Arthur. Notes and Reflections on the Epistle To The Ephesians. London: William Yapp. 

Vine, W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997. 

Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary on the New Testament. Ontario: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1983. 

Wiersbe Warren W. Be Rich. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1984. 

Wuest, Kenneth S. Ephesians And Colossians in the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1953. 

Zeller, George. What is the “Gift of God”?. Middletown: The Middletown Bible Church, 1998. 

Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1992.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Non-Calvinistic Explanation of Matthew 22:1-14

      This passage in Matthew chapter 22 does not support Calvinism and is easily explained.
     Matthew 22:1 must be connected to the preceding context because: 1) it begins with the connective “And” (Matt. 22:1, KJV), and 2) it tells us that Jesus spoke to them “again”. In the preceding context we see that Jesus has nations in mind (Matt. 21:43). The invited guests who are unwilling to come (Matt. 22:3) represent the unbelieving nation of Israel (Matt. 21:45; cf. Matt. 23:37; Jn. 5:40; Acts 7:51, etc.). Matthew 22:7 is a veiled reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
     A shift takes place in Matthew 22:9-10 in which the slave called “as many as he finds there” and “all that he found”. Apparently the king gave them all wedding clothes as they arrived off the streets (Matt. 22:10). But in Matthew 22:11 we see that one individual hadn’t made adequate preparation for the feast. He had failed to appropriate what the king had offered – he was not wearing wedding clothes (therefore he was unsaved, not having chosen to appropriate the king’s free gift). Even though the man is unsaved, the king still calls him “friend” (Matt. 22:12). Christ often called the unsaved “friend” (e.g. Judas in Matthew 26:50, and others in Matthew 11:19). Therefore it is not a contradiction that Christ calls an unsaved man “friend”. Matthew 22:13 is a reference to Hell.
     Matthew 22:14 is our key verse. Yes, “many are called”. The term “many” may refer to the whole of something (whatever the context is talking about) as in Isaiah 53:12 (cf. Isa. 53:6) or Daniel 9:27 where Dr. Mark Bailey, at the 2001 Moody Bible Institute prophecy conference, said that the “many” was a reference to the nation of Israel, the whole of Israel. In Matthew 22:14, when it says “many are called,” it means “as many as were found” (Matt. 22:9) and “all they found” (Matt. 22:10). This calling is indiscriminate – i.e. for everyone – even the unsaved man (Matt. 22:11-13; cf. 1 Tim. 4:10; 1 Jn. 2:2). 
     Matthew 22:14 goes on to say, "but few are chosen." The Greek word for "chosen" is eklektos. How are people “chosen”? 1 Peter 1:1-2 uses the same Greek word and explains that believers are chosen (eklektos) “according to the foreknowledge of God”. Foreknowledge is simply the Greek word proginosko and it means “to know beforehand”. It has been said that God chooses to save those who choose to believe. This parable in Matthew 22 supports this statement, as does the whole New Testament (especially the Gospel of John – John 6:40 in particular). 
     Why are so few chosen? They are unwilling to come (Matt. 22:3). This parable in Matthew 22 actually is emphasizing man’s choice more than God’s choice in the matter of salvation, although both are true - God chooses to save those who choose to believe. “For many are called, but few are chosen” is one sentence tacked on to the end of a whole section emphasizing man’s choices and responses to God and their consequences. 
     So we see that the call of God is indiscriminate (Matt. 22:9-10), the call can be refused (Matt. 22:3, 22:12, 22:14), men are chosen if they correctly respond to the call (Matt. 22:11), God’s choice is according to His foreknowledge – what He knows beforehand (1 Pet. 1:1-2), few are chosen because they are unwilling to come (Matt. 22:3, 22:14, 23:37; Acts 7:51, 13:46, etc.). 
     Recently I heard a Bible teacher give a good illustration of Matthew 22:14 when it says that “many are called, but few are chosen”. The teacher said that if he were to call and invite everyone in his class to come to his house on a certain date to help him move, that would be an example of how “many are called”. And then on the date of the move whoever actually shows up at his house (let’s say maybe only a small percentage of the class actually shows up to help the teacher move) - they are the ones he chooses. And so “many are called, but few are chosen”.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

JACOB IS ISRAEL: Romans 9-11 Explained


Theme: The past national election of Israel 

Introduction: In Bible-believing circles today there are some who use the following verses to prove individual election to salvation. However, Romans chapter 9 is not dealing with individual salvation; the apostle Paul has already discussed that in Romans chapters 3-5. Although Romans chapter 9 refers to saved people, the context is not individual election to salvation, but national election to a place of privilege. In Romans chapter 9, Paul is dealing with national election; explaining why God chose Israel. God’s unconditional election of Israel was a national and corporate election in which each Israelite still had to personally come to saving faith in Yahweh God through personal belief. Therefore it is not valid to suppose that Israel’s national election to privilege and blessing proves individual election to salvation.

9:1-2. In the following verses, Paul is going to show that God had not rejected His people although they have been set aside for a time in unbelief. Since God had not rejected Israel neither had Paul. This is clearly seen by the apostle’s emotional response concerning his nation.

9:3. my kinsmen according to the flesh: Kinsman can mean cousin, speaking of a blood relative (Luke 1:36), or in a wider sense fellow countryman (Mark 6:4); the latter meaning is in view here.

9:4-5. Israelites: This is speaking of the nation of Israel.
according to the flesh: This is speaking of a natural or physical relationship, not a spiritual one.
to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.: Paul is speaking of Israel’s national privileges.

9:6. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel: In other words, they are not all spiritual Israelites simply because they were physically descended from Abraham. Though they may be Israelites physically (circumcised outwardly, in the flesh), they are not necessarily Israelites spiritually (circumcised inwardly). Entering into the nation of Israel was not synonymous with salvation. Subsequent to being chosen or born into the nation, each Jew still had to personally come to saving faith in the Lord.

9:7. neither are they all children: Isaac was the child God promised to Abraham through Sarah; Ishmael was a product of Abraham’s unbelief. Isaac was miraculously born to Sarah and was the promised child. He was part of the physical nation of Israel while Ishmael was not. Ishmael was not chosen to be part of the physical nation of Israel, however, this does not mean that God consigned him to spiritual damnation.

9:8. children of the flesh: This is speaking of the physical descendants of Abraham.
children of God: These are physical Israelites who trust the Savior, as Abraham had done.
children of the promise: This is referring to saved Israelites (Gal. 3:6-9). It is apparent that each ethnic Israelite had to personally come to faith in Christ. Although they were part of a chosen nation and experienced many privileges that the Gentiles did not, that alone did not provide salvation. In order to become “children of God,” each Israelite had to personally trust Jehovah God, as their father Abraham had done (Gen. 15:6).

9:9. Son: An Old Testament prophecy referring to Isaac (Gen. 18:10, 14). God refused to bless Abraham through Ishmael, who was a product of unbelief. Instead, Abraham had to trust in God to provide a son through Sarah. “Because Isaac was the child of promise, the Scriptures view him as being of faith in contrast to Ishmael, who was of the flesh . . . . It was necessary for Abraham to believe the promise God made concerning a son in order for Isaac to be born”.1

9:10. While verse 9 is referring to Isaac, verse 10 is speaking of Jacob, next in the chosen line.

9:11. His choice: The context here is national election to a place of privilege and blessing, not individual election to salvation. Therefore, the choice concerns blessing, not salvation (cf. Gen. 12:1-3). Although Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3), Isaac (Gen. 17:21), and Jacob (Gen. 25:23) were chosen by God to be the patriarchs of Israel, obviously a place of physical blessing and privilege, they still had to individually come to saving faith in the Lord.
but because of Him who calls,: Notice this verse cannot stand alone, for it is an incomplete sentence and thought. Verse 11 must be interpreted in light of and along with verse 12. God’s calling in verse 11 is directly referring to verse 12. Specifically, God’s calling in verse 11 is referring to national election, not individual election to salvation (Gen. 9:12, cf. Gen. 25:23). God’s choice (Rom. 9:11) is concerning service (Rom. 9:12), not salvation. God is prophesying that the nation of the older, the Edomites, will serve the nation of the younger, the Israelites.2

9:12. Old Testament quotation from Genesis 25:23, which was a prophecy given to Rebekah around 2,000 B.C. God is speaking in prospect; prophesying the future of Jacob and Esau while they are still in their mother’s womb. In Genesis 25:23, God is speaking nationally, not individually. Three times this is emphasized: Two nations; two peoples; one people shall be stronger than the other. Further evidence that this prophecy is national is found in the fact that Esau, the older, did not actually serve Jacob, the younger. But Esau’s descendants, the Edomites, eventually became servants of the Israelites (1 Sam. 14:47; 2 Sam. 8:14; 1 Kgs. 11:15-16, 22:47; 2 Kgs. 14:7). It is important to remember that God is not appointing Jacob to salvation and Esau to damnation. God is speaking nationally and predicting one nation (that of the second born) will be stronger than the other nation (that of the firstborn).

9:13. Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated: The apostle Paul may be using a Semitic idiom to signify preference or choice. If so, he would mean that God preferred Jacob over Esau. Love and hate in this sense would signify preference, not emotion. The statement would then be a comparison, not an absolute statement. The Scriptures employ this idiom in both the Old and New Testaments. In Genesis, it is used of Jacob loving or preferring Rachel over Leah (Gen. 29:30-31). Jesus employs the idiom when he declares: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Lk. 14:26; cf. Matt. 6:24; Jn. 12:25). Paul, however, may be taking these words literally. If this is the case, it is important to remember that in Romans 9:13 Paul is quoting from Malachi 1:3, a prophecy given to the nation of Israel by the prophet Malachi around 400 B.C. in which God is speaking in retrospect, looking back on the lives of Jacob and Esau and the nations they represent. In Malachi 1:1-4, God is speaking nationally more than individually (as each son represented their respective nations): The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel; But you say, “How hast Thou loved us?”; Though Edom says, “We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins”; thus says the LORD of hosts, “They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the LORD is indignant forever.” And your eyes will see this and you will say, “The LORD be magnified beyond the border of Israel!”3 God did not choose in eternity past to hate Esau or the Edomites. Only after Esau despised his birthright (Gen. 25:34) and lived an immoral and godless life (Heb. 12:16) did God conclude, “I hated Esau” (Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13 A.V.).4 Esau, much like Pharaoh after him, rejected God, and in turn was rejected by God.5

9:14. What shall we say then?: What is our response in light of what Paul has previously said? injustice: or unrighteousness (cf. Rom. 3:5: The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He?) Is God unrighteous because He chose to bless Israel (Gen. 25:23; Rom. 9:12)? Is God unrighteous because He loves Israel (Mal. 1:1, 2) and hates Edom (Mal. 1:3, 4)? May it never be! God always deals according to His justice (although not to the exclusion to His love, mercy, or other attributes).

9:15. Old Testament quote from Exodus 33:19, in which God is allowing Moses to see His glory on Mt. Sinai: And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” The context has to do with God revealing His glory in a special way. The context has to do with special revelation, not salvation. Like Moses on the mountain, Israel had the special privilege of seeing God’s glory as other nations didn’t. God uniquely revealed Himself to Israel in various ways: through the pillars of cloud and fire during the Exodus (Ex. 13:21, 22, 16:6, 7, 10); through the Mt. Sinai experience (Ex. 24:17; Deut. 5:22-24); through the Shekinah glory (Ex. 40:34-35; Num. 14:22); through the tabernacle (Lev. 9:23; Num. 14:10); through the temple (1 Kgs. 8:10, 11; 2 Chron. 7:3); and through His divine appearances to the nation of Israel (Ex. 29:43-46). God’s reason for revealing His glory to Moses is stated in Exodus 33:17: for you have found favor in My sight.6 Favor here is the same Hebrew word as grace, and means undeserved favor. Like Moses, it is only by God’s grace, mercy and compassion that the nation of Israel is privileged to see God’s glory revealed to them in a special way: The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers (Deut. 7:7, 8a). Through God’s gracious election, Israel was privileged to see God’s glory in a special way that other nations didn’t.

9:16. So then: Paul is about to conclude his line of reasoning.
it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy: Romans 9:16 describes at least three people. Who has the apostle Paul been talking about in the previous verses? He’s been talking about at least three men in the immediate context, namely: Moses, Jacob, and Esau. These three individuals are clearly “men who will” or “men who run”.
     First, Paul is describing Moses. In Romans 9:15, Paul referred back to Exodus 33:19 which speaks of God’s mercy and compassion in allowing Moses the privilege of seeing His glory in a special way. Notice in this passage Moses is clearly seen to desire a blessing. He wants to see God’s glory, for he pleads to God in Exodus 33:18, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory” (cf. Ex. 33:13)! Notice the context has nothing to do with salvation, but everything to do with blessing and privilege. Moses is clearly seen to be, as Romans 9:16 describes it, a “man who wills”.
     Second, Romans 9:16 describes Jacob, for he too is in the immediate context, and was clearly a “man who wills” and a “man who runs”. Jacob’s life was characterized by will power, determination, and perseverance. Even from before birth, he is seen to be struggling against his brother (Gen. 25:22). Hosea says of him, “In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his maturity he contended with God. Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; he wept and sought His favor” (Hosea 12:3-4a).7 Genesis 32:24-30 describes the account of Jacob wrestling with God. Here, like Moses, he clearly desires a blessing, for he says to God, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gen. 32:26). Jacob is seen to be a “man who wills” and a “man who runs,” for the Scriptures declare that he had “striven with God and with men and had prevailed” (Gen. 32:28).8 Again, the context is not salvation, but blessing and privilege. What was the blessing? Clearly that God changed Jacob’s name (meaning deceiver) to Israel (meaning prince). Like Moses, it was here that Jacob saw God “face to face” (Gen. 32:30).
     Third, Romans 9:16 describes Esau, for he too is in the immediate context, and was a “man who wills”. The word “wills” (Greek thelo) here in Romans 9:16 means, “to will, have in mind, intend, to be resolved or determined, to purpose.” This is the same word that is used to describe Esau in Hebrews 12:17, “For you know that even afterwards, when he desired [Greek thelo] to inherit the blessing [just like the others], he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.”9 It is clear that in Romans 9:16, Esau in view when it says, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills”. The context of Romans 9:16, just like the context of the entire chapter, is not concerning salvation, but blessing and privilege. So we see negatively, that Romans 9:16 is referring to Esau. The Scriptures are clear. Esau is referred to in the immediate context of Romans 9:16 and the same Greek word is used to characterize him in Hebrews 12:17. The book of Hebrews tells us that Esau was not seeking salvation, but blessing! Isaac, Jacob, and Moses were sovereignly chosen in grace to be recipients of God’s compassion and mercy – not in the context of salvation but in the context of special blessing. Here in Romans 9:16, Paul uses key individuals to demonstrate how God sovereignly blesses some more than others. Notice God did not damn to Hell those who were not chosen for special blessing. Although Ishmael and Esau were not chosen, God still physically blessed them (Gen. 17:20, 33:9, 36:7), although in a much less personal way. In light of verse 17, Romans 9:16 can be seen to describe two types of people, those who receive the blessing (Jacob and Moses), and those who don’t (Esau and Pharaoh). Notice none of them deserved a blessing, for the Scriptures declare that it was only by God’s grace, His undeserved favor, that Moses was blessed. Jacob too, was unworthy of God’s blessing, for he was Jacob, the deceiver. Notice this is not concerning salvation, but special blessing. In the context, Jacob and Moses were not saved because they received a blessing, neither were Esau and Pharaoh damned because they did not received a blessing. In the Old Testament, individuals became saved just like we are today, by faith. Romans chapter 9 refers to saved people, but the context is not salvation. The context is blessing. Often I hear people say that individual election to salvation is referred to in Romans chapter 9, thus proving national election to salvation. But in Romans 9:16, we have just seen three of the main individuals referred to and salvation is not being discussed! Further, the context of Romans chapter 9 is not national election to salvation, but national election to a place of privilege and blessing.

9:17. Romans 9:17 is a quote from Exodus 9:16.
raised you up: The Hebrew word is most often translated in the Old Testament to mean stood, stand, or stand up. This verse is not saying that God created Pharaoh for this purpose, but simply that He raised him up for this purpose.10 Paul is not speaking of Pharaoh’s birth or his being brought into existence, but being raised up in the sense of his rulership, raised up as king of Egypt. God allowed Pharaoh to appear; brought him forward on the stage of events.11 That no ruler is in power apart from the will of God is seen in Romans 13:1, “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Pharaoh was the leader of a nation. Pharaoh was sovereignly chosen as head of the nation of Egypt much like Isaac and Jacob were sovereignly chosen as heads of the nation of Israel.

9:18. Mercy in the case of the nation of Israel (represented by Moses, Isaac, and Jacob), hardness in the case of Egypt (represented by Pharaoh).

9:19. The question is raised, “If God hardened Pharaoh, how can God hold him responsible? Who can resist God’s will?” This is an objection, not necessarily a statement of fact. The fact is, Pharaoh hardened his heart against God first – only after that point did God harden Pharaoh’s heart. What the objector fails to understand is that God did give Pharaoh a choice. But God knew that Pharaoh would harden his heart and for this reason God specifically raised him up as king over Egypt in order to demonstrate His power through him.

9:20. The mere mortal objector who has the audacity to question or stand in judgment concerning God’s sovereign choice of Israel and His hardening of Pharaoh and the nation of Egypt is really not in any position to question or correct God.

9:21. same lump: Here, one category or class of people is in view. Saved and unsaved are not in view, but people in general, of the same lump.
vessel for honorable use: This is referring to the church (cf. Rom. 9:23, 24).
common use: This is referring to unrepentant Israel (cf. Jer. 18:1-18, 19:1-13).

9:22. what if: This is indicating a true hypothesis.
although willing: This is referring not to the “determinate purpose of God,”12 but to the unavoidable judgment upon rebellion that God’s righteousness demands: "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:4-5). Although God would rather deal in mercy, He must judge the unrepentant.
vessels of wrath: The unbelieving nation of Israel: “they were broken off for their unbelief. . . until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:20a, 25b). Israel is “broken off” due to her stubbornness, rebellion, and hardness of heart. Christ prophesied of the coming judgment upon the Jewish nation: Matt. 24:1-3; Lk. 19:41-44. Paul clearly recognized God’s judgment upon Israel: “. . . the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost” (1 Thess. 2:15b, 16).
prepared: This verb is in the middle/passive voice (the form of the Greek verb can signify either the middle voice or the passive voice, thus context and cross references must be consulted to determine which voice the verb takes in any given context). The verb “prepared” must be interpreted in the middle voice (i.e. the vessels of wrath prepared themselves for destruction) because the Scriptures attest to the fact that God does not take on the initiating and predetermining role in preparing people for destruction. Rather, God’s Word teaches that “vessels of wrath” prepare or fit themselves for destruction. This verse is not saying God chose before the foundation of the world to damn certain individuals because it pleased Him to do so. This would contradict the whole teaching of Scripture that God is not “wishing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), because Christ is the propitiation for the sins “of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2), having actively laid on Christ “the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). The only reason the wicked are damned is because they chose to be, not because it is according to God’s good pleasure: “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:4-5, italics added).

9:23. riches of His glory: This is used in reference to the Church, the body of Christ; composed not simply of Jewish Christians, but of Christian people from every nation (cf. Eph. 1:18, 3:16).
vessels of mercy: This is referring to the Church (v. 24).
which He prepared beforehand for glory: unlike man fitting himself for destruction (v. 22), God actively prepares vessels for mercy.13

9:24. even us: That is, the Church, in which there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles (cf. Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 4:12-13).

9:25. Paul is quoting from Hosea 2:23 to show how the Gentiles were predicted to become God’s people. Ethnic groups are in view, not individuals.

9:26. The in-grafting of the Gentile peoples (specifically the Church) was prophesied in the Old Testament (Hosea 1:10; cf. Rom. 11:17).

9:27. Old Testament quote from Isaiah 10:2. Although Israelites, God’s chosen people, each Israelite still had to individually come to saving faith in Christ. It has always been only a remnant that is saved. Israel was chosen but that doesn’t mean each Israelite was saved. Remember that not all choosing or election is in regards to salvation. There are different types of choosing, such as: the choosing of Israel to a place of blessing, the choosing of Israel’s king’s (Deut. 17:15; 1 Kgs. 11:34), the choosing of the twelve disciples to the apostolic ministry, the choosing of the Church, etc. But to interpret every instance of choosing as a choosing to salvation is to fail to see the context of the passage.

9:28. Old Testament quote from Isaiah 10:22-23. word: or decree (Isa. 10:23); God will execute a complete destruction upon the whole land of Israel (Isa. 10:22-23), with only a remnant being saved.

9:29. This is an Old Testament quote from Isaiah 1:9. The nation of Israel is still loved by God. posterity: or seed, descendant. Just as God miraculously provided Isaac, so He also miraculously keeps a remnant.

9:30. Gentiles: Peoples and nations are referred to, not individuals.

9:31. Israel: This is referring to the nation of Israel.

9:32-33. Here the nation as a whole is in view, not individuals. Israel as a national entity was set-aside in unbelief, not individual Jews (for they are still getting saved). Israel was set aside because they did not pursue righteousness by faith, but by works. Christ, a stumbling stone for Israel (Lk. 2:34), became the Church’s foundation.


Theme: The present national rejection of Christ

Introduction: Romans chapter 10 speaks of Israel's present rejection of God (Rom. 10:1), specifically their rejection of Christ (Rom. 10:4, 10:9-11). The apostle Paul shows that although Israel knew about God (even though they were ignorant of His righteousness, Rom. 10:3), they still rejected Him. Israel knew about God but was unfaithful to Him. Knowledge is a key word in Romans chapter 10. This is important to recognize and keep in mind because when we come to Romans 11:2, we see that God is said to “foreknow”. Besides the etymology of the word, the context will be shown to be simple cognition. The word foreknow obviously doesn’t mean forelove or foreordain.

10:2. they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge 

10:3. For not knowing about God’s righteousness

10:8. The word is near you (implying that they should know about it).

10:14. And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Before they can believe something they have to hear it, or know about it. If you hear something, you will know about it.

10:17. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. 

10:18. But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have. 

10:19. But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? At the first Moses says, “I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you”. Paul is implying that Israel had understanding. Israel knew.

10:20. And Isaiah is very bold and says, “I was found by those who sought Me not, I became manifest to those who did not ask for me.” Again, Paul is emphasizing knowledge.

10:21. But as for Israel He says, “All the day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” Israel was clearly called (Rom. 10:18), but resisted (Rom. 10:21; cf. Matt. 23:37; Lk. 13:34; Acts 7:51). God’s call to Israel was not deceptive. God does not have a hidden will as some suppose in which He apparently stretches forth His hand to call men to Himself, while all the time intending to prevent their coming. Thankfully such duplicity is not how the God of truth operates, but is only the figment of men’s imaginations. For what do the Scriptures say? It’s clear from the text that Israel resisted God’s call. Israel’s rejection of God is a problem for those who hold to “irresistible grace”.


Theme: The future national salvation of Israel

Introduction: Romans chapter 11 deals with Israel’s future salvation. In light of chapter 10, chapter 11 emphasizes God’s faithfulness in spite of Israel’s unfaithfulness. In chapter 10, Israel knew God and rejected Him. In chapter 11, God foreknew unfaithful Israel and still did not reject her (Rom. 11:1), although she is set aside for a time in unbelief.14

11:2. Paul continues the knowledge motif in 11:2 with the statement “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew”. God has not rejected His people, and one reason for this is because He knows there is a believing remnant. Again, foreknowledge is the Greek word proginosko, which simply means “to know beforehand”. By defining foreknowledge in this way (instead of forcing it to mean “forelove” or “foreordain”), the exegete (the interpreter of Holy Scripture) remains in harmony with: 1) the plain meaning of the Greek word, and 2) the context of the passage.
Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah: Beginning here, Paul expounds upon what he meant when he said, “His people whom He foreknew” (Rom. 11:2).

11:3. This verse is a quote from 1 Kings 19:10. Here Elijah is responding to an angel who comes and asks him what he is doing hiding in a cave. Speaking from his limited human viewpoint and knowledge, Elijah answers: “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” 

11:4. But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Notice God knew before any of this ever happened that 7,000 prophets would not bow the knee to Baal. And he knew it before Elijah knew it. To be sure, God kept these prophets, but why did he keep them? He foreknew (knew in advance) that they would remain faithful to Him and not worship Baal. This much is stated even here in Romans 11:4, but becomes even more evident when the original account is read from 1 Kings 19:18 (for the 7,000 are not even described as men but as “knees” and “mouths,” obviously emphasizing what they did, the action, and not who they were, the people), “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”15 Here, God’s dealings with men (i.e. the prophets) are seen to be the result of His knowing beforehand their actions.

11:5. In the same way then there has come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. God graciously chose a remnant to be sure, but how did He choose them? “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.” He chose them according to His foreknowledge (v. 2). Notice God chose the Israelite faithful remnant of Paul’s day in the same way (v. 5) as the 7,000 faithful prophets in Elijah’s time. How did God choose the 7,000 prophets in Elijah’s day? God chose them according to His foreknowledge (“God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah?,” Rom. 11:2), knowing what they would do before they did it, knowing that they would be true to Him and not worship Baal. That God’s choosing is based upon His foreknowledge is attested to elsewhere in the Scriptures. 1 Peter 1:1-2 states in part, “who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”. Similarly, Romans 8:29-30 says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined…and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified, and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Just as “Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe” (John 6:64), He also knows from the beginning who will believe.

11:6. Grace and works are mutually exclusive. If this is true then how can God chose men based upon what He knows (or foreknows) about them? God can chose men based upon what He foreknows about them (i.e. “they have not bowed the knee to Baal”) because He sees their faith, and faith is consistent with grace (Rom. 3:27-28, 4:16).


1 Theodore Epp, How God Makes Bad Men Good, pp. 260-261.

2 Esau represents Edom, for “Esau is Edom” (Gen. 36:1, 8, 19; Mal. 1:1-5; Rom. 9:13). As Esau is synonymous with the nation of Edom, so Jacob (or Israel, as his named was changed to, Gen. 32:28) is synonymous with the nation of Israel (Micah 3:1, 8, 9; Nah. 2:2; Mal. 1:1, 2; Rom. 9:13, 11:26).

3 Italics added for emphasis.

4 Commenting on Romans 9:13, Dr. J. Vernon McGee declares, “This statement was not made until the two boys had lived their lives and two nations had come from them” (McGee, Romans Chapters 9-16, p. 30).

5 Bruce Demarest, a Calvinist himself, agrees. He states concerning Pharoah, “Some allege that the approximately ten references to God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (Exod 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; et al.) support the thesis of unconditional reprobation to damnation. But prior to mentioning the divine hardening, Scripture indicates that Pharaoh freely opposed God’s purposes (Exod 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35; et al.; cf. 13:15; 1 Sam 6:6). The Bible does not explain the nature of the hardening, but it appears that God’s role was that of confirming Pharaoh’s decisions rather than predetermining them....The hardening thus represents God’s punishment of Pharaoh for rejecting God’s good purposes” (Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, p. 135). Concerning Esau, Demarest adds, “Similarly, Esau was rejected by God only after he had rejected divine grace freely offered (Heb 12:17)” (Ibid., p. 137). It is clear that God’s initial choosing of Jacob and not Esau is not a saving or damning choice, but a national choice. In the national arena to which each was chosen, each still had to individually decide to trust the LORD. Only after Jacob was saved and lived a life pleasing to God did the LORD say, “I have loved Jacob” (Mal. 1:2). Similarly, only after Esau lived a life apart from God did God conclude, “I have hated Esau” (Mal. 1:3). Hate in the Jewish mindset was a comparison indicating preference; it was not emotional (cf. Lk. 14:26).

6 This is not referring to a salvation experience, for clearly Moses was already saved. For how could Moses, if we suppose him to be unsaved prior to Exodus 33: by faith consider the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasure of Egypt, see Him who is unseen, keep the Passover and lead all Israel through the Red Sea (Heb. 11:24-29)? In fact, Hebrews chapter 11 only mentions events in Moses; life that occurred prior to his Mt. Sinai experience, and nothing afterwards.

7 The angel is God Himself, for Hosea goes on to say, “Yes, he [Jacob] struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us – that is, the LORD God of hosts. The LORD is His memorable name” (Hosea 12:4b-5; cf. Gen. 32:28, 30).

8 The term “striven” (Hebrew sarah) carries the idea of persisting, exerting oneself, persevering. Similarly, the word “run” (Greek trecho) in Romans 9:16 denotes “spending one’s strength in performing or attaining something.”

9 What is it that Esau sought with tears? Was it his salvation? Was it forgiveness? No indeed, for what does the Scripture say? “When he desired to inherit the blessing” (Heb. 12:17, italics added). It is the blessing that Esau sought and that he was rejected the opportunity of having.

10 That “raised up” cannot mean “created” is seen in 1 Cor. 6:14. This is the only other time exegeiro is used in the New Testament: “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” This passage of Scripture is talking about being raised up in the sense of resurrection. That creation is not in view here is clear, for Christ was never created.

11 Pharaoh’s salvation, or lack of it, is not referred to in Romans 9:17. The context is not concerning Pharaoh’s salvation but his divine appointment as ruler of Egypt.

12 Oliver B. Green, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, p. 320.

13 The verb “prepared” (Rom. 9:23) is in the Greek active voice, indicating that God Himself prepares these vessels for mercy.

14  The word "foreknow" (Greek proginosko) literally means "to know before".

15  Notice that although Romans 11:4 mentions "men" ("I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal"), the people are not the main focus of God's foreknowledge; their actions are the focus. This is seen even more clearly when the original account is read from 1 Kings 19:18. Here the text reads, “Yet I will leaven 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” Notice in this sentence there is no mention of the subject – the person, only the verb – the action. What makes these men special is not who they are, but what they did. It is what they did that made them the object of God’s grace and the reason He chose them according to His foreknowledge (“whom He foreknew”). The critic will inevitably point out that the text does say, as I have quoted, “whom He foreknew” meaning that God does foreknow the person. I do not dispute this. In order for an action to be taken, a person must act. Action is impossible without someone there to do it. My point though is that the person is not the point, but the person’s action is. As seen from the text, what makes these people special is not who they are (they are all Israelites – that doesn’t make the faithful any different from the unfaithful) but what they did – that’s what makes them different (they trusted God)!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Calvinism - A Critique by Dr. B. Myron Cedarholm

"My dear young people, the bell has rung and it's time to quit, but I trust there will not be a one of you that will ever be a Calvinist and hold to the five points of John Calvin. I can stand here I suppose for many hours and tell you why it is so dangerous, but I do believe it denies the Bible, it denies your zeal for winning souls, and destroys your desire to pray for souls, and destroys missions...and we do believe that Calvinism destroys new churches...Calvinism ruins the desire to see people saved, start new destroys sacrificial giving, it destroys the challenge of young people to go into the Lord's work...and so as a result we find it destroys preachers, it destroys evangelism, it destroys churches, it destroys missions, it helps to destroy everything that is in God's precious Word. So I trust by the grace of God that you'll stay away from Calvinism, and you'll be one who believes that every man can be saved when they hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and you'll persevere by prayer, and work, and witnessing until they come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ." - Dr. B. Myron Cedarholm 1


1  Dr. B. Myron Cedarholm, Calvinism (1981), Maranatha Baptist Bible College chapel service. Dr. B. Myron Cedarholm (1915-1997) was the founder of Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, Wisconsin. I remember my Dad always said that Dr. Cedarholm taught him to water-ski.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The WAY to LIFE made PLAIN - by Norman H. Camp

Many years ago, Moody Press author Norman H. Camp wrote a helpful gospel tract titled The WAY to LIFE made PLAIN. In the tract, the gospel is clearly explained from the Bible:


1. Christ Crucified - He died for me, a sinner.
2. Christ Buried - the Believer's sins blotted out.
3. Christ Risen - He is able to Save completely.
4. Christ Manifested - He is Coming again.

                                            I Corinthians 15:1-5

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Three Things, Yes, Four

Does the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 have three points or four? Yes! It has both! The Gospel has three points, yes, even four! 

This explanation of the Gospel is patterned after the "three things...yes, four" statements in Proverbs 30:15, 30:18, 30:21, and 30:29:

  • "There are THREE THINGS that are never satisfied, FOUR never say, 'Enough!'" (Prov. 30:15)
  • "There are THREE THINGS which are too wonderful for me, YES, FOUR which I do not understand" (Prov. 30:18)
  • "For THREE THINGS the earth is perturbed, YES, for FOUR it cannot bear up" (Prov. 30:21)
  • "There are THREE THINGS which are majestic in pace, YES, FOUR which are stately in walk" (Prov. 30:29)
Based on these Scriptures, the Good News we preach can be explained as THREE THINGS which are "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16), YES, FOUR that are "the gospel" (1 Cor. 15:3-5): The death of Christ for our sins, the burial of Christ in a tomb, the resurrection of Christ on the third day according to the Scriptures, and the fact that the risen Christ was seen by His disciples.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

New Believer's Bible definition of the Gospel

Here's the definition of the Gospel listed in the New Believer's Bible New Testament in the "GLOSSARY OF CHRISTIAN TERMS":

"Gospel: 1. The "Good News" of salvation; the explanation of how one can be saved from the eternal punishment of hell and receive forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, page 205). 2. This term in the plural refers to the first four books of the New Testament."1


1 New Believer's Bible New Testament (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2006), p. 374.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The proof is in the Gospel

"But God gives proof of His love to us in Christ's dying for us while we were still sinners." (Romans 5:8, Weymouth New Testament)

Some Free Grace people don't think Christ's burial is part of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 because according to them, "it's only a proof". This is one of the favorite talking points of groundless gospel advocates. Their mantra goes something like this: "The burial of Christ is only a proof, it's not really part of the gospel." But here's something to think about: All 4 statements in 1 Cor. 15:3b-5 are proofs! Please notice the following examples: 

1. Christ's DEATH: proof of His LOVE (Jn. 15:13; Romans 5:8) 
2.      "      BURIAL: proof of His PERFECTION (Isa. 53:9; 1 Pet. 2:22-23) 
3.      "      RESURRECTION: proof of His DEITY (Acts 17:31; Rom. 1:4) 
4.      "      MANIFESTATION: proof of His RESURRECTION (Lk. 24:39; Acts 1:3) 

So if groundless gospel advocates were consistent with their reductionist reasoning, they would have no gospel because each element of the gospel is a proof of something else. For example, Jesus' resurrection is said to be "proof" that He is God (see Acts 17:16-31; Rom. 1:1-4). So is the resurrection of Jesus Christ not part of the gospel because the Bible says it's a "proof"? Well, of course not! Such reasoning is not true in regards to Christ's resurrection and it's not true in regards to Christ's burial either. Both elements are proofs and both elements are part of the gospel. And so we see that "the proof is in the pudding" so to speak. In other words, the proof is in the gospel!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Gospel Quartet, & other Gospel Illustrations

"Now I declare to you, brothers, the gospel, which I announced as good news to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved. For what announcement have I preached to you if you know it? Except if not, you believed to no purpose. For I delivered to you in first order of importance that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas then by the twelve." (1 Corinthians 15:1-5, personal translation)

The Gospel in "four-part harmony"

In the passage of Scripture quoted above, St. Paul uses four verbs to announce the gospel:

1) Christ was dead for our sins (as John Wycliffe has put it) 
2) Christ was buried
3) Christ was raised
4) Christ was seen
The Gospel Quartet, & other Gospel Illustrations

Here are some illustrations to describe the gospel in four parts:

  • A gospel or barbershop quartet singing in four-part harmony
  • A table, chair, or stool with 4 legs
  • A baseball diamond with 4 bases
  • A heart with 4 chambers
  • A hand with 4 fingers
  • A square with 4 sides
  • A house with 4 walls
  • A chain with 4 links
  • A raft with 4 planks
  • A car with 4 tires

Can you think of any others?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Q & A with George Wigram: "What is the gospel?"

In an article titled "THE DEATH OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST," Bible scholar and theologian George Wigram (1805-1879) poses a question that is still relevant today, namely, "What is the gospel?" Here's what he says:

     "I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand, by which also ye are saved . . . how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve. After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once . . . after that . . . of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all . . . of me also, as of one born out of due time" (1 Cor. 15:1-8).
     The assertion I am about to make may seem to many strange (nevertheless I believe it to be truth), that great and general as is the profession of religion in our own day, so little and so rare is the understanding of the gospel, that not one out of ten of the religious would be able to give a simple and a scriptural answer to the question, "What is the gospel?" If any one calls this assertion in question, let him go into the coteries of his religious society, and try whether the question, simple as it is, will not elicit answers so various, as to prove that either there are many gospels, or that the one gospel is most strangely misrepresented in the minds of most. The vagueness of the answers, when the question has been raised about this or that minister's preaching the gospel, also has often struck me forcibly. "Is the gospel preached where I attend? Oh yes! I thought you knew what an excellent, or what a pious, or what a devoted man our minister is," is a frequent reply, as though there were no such a thing as distinct truth in the world. And so, I believe, in many minds the case is, that there is no clear, simple, distinct truth known; but truth, instead of being known in that firm, unvarying form in which it has been presented to us by God in the word, is looked at rather in the fickle, changeable forms in which it has been received by man taught the fear of the Lord by the traditions of men. To illustrate what I mean, I would say, that in any mixed religious society, the mooting such a question as, What is the gospel? would be felt to be throwing down the gauntlet, or perhaps something worse. The Baptist, the Wesleyan, the Independent, the Nationalist, each has his own points in connection with the subject peculiar to himself to be defended. True, he may tell you they are minor points of difference, and that essentially they all agree: but this is a mistake; for, in the first place, they are so far major points, as to constitute, practically, that which fills and holds the mind; and secondly, if you hear the answer, you will find it is not the same gospel at all which is stated. Moreover the effect of introducing the division of clergy and laity (a division which practically holds quite as much among Dissenters as in the Establishment), has been to make almost every Christian who is not pledged in some way by office to the work, to feel that the task of answering questions is not his; and I do believe, that three out of four of Christians you might meet, would feel this was one of the questions which it would be expedient thus to avoid answering. Not that I mean to say that they have not their own statements of the Gospel, but that, in the known multiplicity of thoughts about it, they would rather not risk, as it would seem to them, entering upon controversy. Now, it does seem to me a most gracious thing on the part of our God, to have given us such a testimony upon the subject, as for ever to set aside all reasonings thereupon; while, if I have been right in my estimate of Christianity in our own days, most fully to exhibit its poverty. The statement to which I refer, is that which precedes these remarks. The way in which the apostle gets upon it is remarkable; not saying simply, now I declare unto you the gospel; but introducing it as connected with so many little circumstances affecting those to whom he wrote, as to give it the more point. "I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you . . . which also ye have received . . . and wherein ye stand; . . . . by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain . . . For, I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received," etc., etc. Such a way of introducing his subject was, in a peculiar way, calculated to call attention to it. And how blessed that subject! "That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve. After that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time . . . so we preached, and so ye believed." This is the gospel! [Editor's note: While verses 1-11 give the context of Paul's gospel, verses 3b-5 give the actual content of the gospel message. Notice the four content conjunctions beginning in verse 3: "that Christ died . . . and that He was buried . . . and that He was raised . . . and that He was seen . . . ."] an artless simple tale of what befell Jesus. Observe, it is all about Jesus. The only actor, the only sufferer here is God. Man may be a spectator, and, through grace, a witness and a recipient, but the whole tale is about God, and his Christ. God, the Holy Ghost, had traced in the word many of the Father's thoughts about Jesus; and here we have this One anointed of the Father gleaning them all up for Himself, and fulfilling them all. Now, do let us remark how the whole action, from first to last, in the Gospel, is God's, and how there is no place assigned to man in it, but that of standing still, and seeing or telling of what God wrought. If we look also a little closely at the text, we shall find the matter dividing itself naturally into four parts; the death, burial, resurrection and manifestation of the Lord. And I think I may justly say here, that the maintaining the proportions of the component parts of truth is not an unimportant matter. To make the ointment used in the sanctuary, not only was the presence of all the appointed ingredients needful, but due attention to the just proportions was requisite likewise. Surely, in like manner, we corrupt the truth, when, knowing all the parts of it, we give a prominence to any one of them beyond, or less than that which the Holy Ghost in the word has; and, indeed, I do see truth now-a-days constantly so misused, and rendered of little effect. And is it not so with this very truth? The great stress which is now laid is upon the death of Jesus, so much stress, indeed, as almost to overlook the other three points: but here THE great stress is upon "the manifestation of the blessed Lord after the resurrection;" even as throughout the [book of] Acts we find the theme of testimony to have been Jesus and the resurrection. So strongly, indeed, does the apostle (Acts 17) seem to have pressed resurrection, that the poor ignorant ones to whom he spake thought that resurrection was a person as well as Jesus, saying (ver. 18), "He seemeth to be a setter-forth of strange gods," because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. Just so here the great stress is upon his manifestation, for while his death, burial, and resurrection are each of them mentioned but once, His manifestation is repeated six times over — to Cephas; to the twelve; to five hundred brethren at once; to James; to all the apostles; to me also. . . . I would press much the careful study of chapter 15 of the first Epistle to the Corinthians."1


1 George V. Wigram, "THE DEATH OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST." The Inquirer [London: Central Tract Depot, September 1840], Vol. 3, pp. 376-379. Also see: G. V. Wigram, "The Cross, the Blood, and the Death of Jesus Christ," Part 3, number 3. Bible Truth Publishers.