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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.