Continuing our theme from last month’s issue (which see), we will discuss Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 with regard to the Calvinistic mishandling of both passages.
The main verses the Calvinists emphasize in Romans 8 are verses 28-33: (28) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (29) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (31) What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? (32) He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (33) Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.
Notice in verse 28 that the “good” is not foreordained, but rather the fact that whatever takes place will work together for good. In plainer words, the verse does not say that God has predestined certain specific, good things to happen to Christians. He has promised that, whatever actions the Christian chooses to take in life, and whatever befalls him in the way of trials or temptations, will ultimately work together for good. Two conditions apply to the previous promise that “all things work together for good.” First of all, it goes for those who “love God;” and secondly, to those who are “the called according to his purpose.” Now, every Christian is called according to God’s purpose. God never saved anybody for whom He had no plans for using in His service, at some capacity or another. The “calling” is not reserved for pastors, evangelists, and missionaries only. Verse 30 states plainly that “whom he did predestinate, them he also called.” Every Christian has been “predestinated” (vs. 29), “accepted in the Beloved,” (Eph. 1:4-6), and therefore “called according to his purpose.” But, as any Christian knows who has participated in personal work, or has attended a Bible-believing church with other “brethren” for any length of time, every Christian does not “love God.” If you have spent any time trying to be a witness for Christ, you have run across backslidden Christians who don’t love the Lord enough to miss a ballgame on Sunday to go to church. And if you’ve been in church for any length of time, you’ve met Christians that attend church for any and every reason BUT love for God! According to this verse, the Christian who has a “love problem” might have a hard time applying the promise that “all things will work together for good.” That being said, the promise is still true of every Christian without exception in the sense that, at the end of his or her life, no matter their victories, defeats, or troubles, they WILL end up in a body just like Jesus Christ’s in glory and, “It Will Be Worth It All When We See Jesus.” I’d venture that qualifies as all things working together for good.
“For whom he did foreknow...” (v.29) Did you ever meet anybody you didn’t know before? That’s what happened when you met Jesus Christ and got saved. You didn’t know Him before that. That’s the definition of “foreknow;” it’s to “know before” (it was difficult to piece that together, right?). Did you know there was a time when God didn’t know you? You say, “God’s always known me; He knows everything!” Tell that to the apostle Paul: “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” (Gal. 4:7-9) This explains Jesus Christ’s statement in Matthew 7:23, “...I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” That statement is given to a bunch of unsaved false prophets at the White Throne judgment who have done mighty works in the name of the Lord, but get tossed into hell (v.19) because they refused to do “the will” of God the Father (v.21).
Obviously, God “knows everything and everybody” in the sense of possessing the informative data. This led Job to exclaim, “Shall any teach God knowledge?” (Job 21:22), and David, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it” (Psa. 139:6). However, Romans 8:29, Gal. 4:9, and Matthew 7:23 do not refer to God’s knowledge in the sense of information, but His knowledge in the sense of relationship. That is, until you trust Christ as your Saviour and become a child of God (Gal. 4:7, above), God does not know you as His son. You are not part of the family. He has no relation to you, nor you to Him, and therefore you are not “known of God.” [This term is used in the context of intimate relationships throughout the Bible: “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived” (See also I Ki. 1:4; Matt. 1:25)] The Calvinist would have you believe that God “knew you” before you knew Him, and chose you to be saved as one of the “elect” without you having a say in the matter. But this is unscriptural nonsense. The passage in Galatians we’ve cited above shows plainly that you got to know God when you became His son (v. 7, 8 – Read it!), and you’re told in verse 9 that God got to know you at the same time. When did you become His son? When you received Christ: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (John 1:12). So you became a “son” of God at the time you received Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you entered into His foreknowledge at what time you became His son. Before this point, He “never knew you” as His son, though He knew everything about you, including the fact that you would one day become His son. And that’s the only way to understand the operation without butchering the scriptures and reading preconceptions into it. You leave the texts as they stand, and believe them.
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate...” Predestination is conditioned upon foreknowledge. What is foreknowledge again? It is the term used to describe the sense in which God knows someone in salvation, as a son of God. You entered God’s foreknowledge at the point you trusted Christ as your Saviour, and when you did, you got in on something wonderful. You got in on a promise that God has made to WHOSOEVER receives His Son as their Saviour. Your destiny is “fixed.” Salvation is what “fixes” it.
Never forget, predestination is a two-way street. Before you were saved, you were predestined to go to hell in your sins. John 3:18 states, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Your destiny is changed the moment you trust Christ, NEVER TO BE CHANGED AGAIN. Once again, we trip over the Calvinist who, having caught his toe on a root sticking out of the ground in the field of TULIPS he was romping in, is lying prostrate at our feet. What distracted him was the word “predestinate.” As soon as he reads it, he proclaims “See there?! See?! The elect ARE predestinated! It says so right there!” But having failed to remove his decoder goggles, he has missed the forest for the trees again. (Or shall we say, “missed the roses for the TULIPS?”) The verse says nothing about anybody, elect or non-elect, being predestinated to salvation. It plainly says, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate TO BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON,” not “predestinate to be one of the elect”! In other words, if you’re saved, you are now predestined to receive a glorified body JUST LIKE the risen, glorified body of Jesus Christ. And if anybody else decides to get saved, they will get “predestinated” to receive the same. God did not predestinate individual Christians before the foundation of the world; He predetermined the means by which an individual can be predestinated. Anybody who receives His Son will ultimately be conformed to His image. In short, it was Jesus Christ who was predestinated – (1Pet. 1:18-21) “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; (19) But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (20) Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, (21) Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”
This brings us to Ephesians 1, the chapter the Calvinists say we non-Calvinists can’t or won’t preach or teach from. It needs very little comment when taken in the light of what we’ve already discussed in Romans 8.
“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” (v4) As we already established, elect means chosen, and we were chosen IN HIM, therefore we were not elected before we were in Him. You were not always IN HIM, because you were once “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), without Christ (2:12), and in need of “quickening” – in need of life (2:1). You also needed your sin “put away” (Heb. 9:26) so you could be “made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13) and be “accepted in the beloved” (1:6). You became one of the elect when God chose you; and God hath chosen us IN HIM. It was not before the foundation of the world that you were chosen to be saved; you were chosen and accepted IN THE BELOVED at a point in time—when you got saved—and not a second before. The only thing that was chosen before the foundation of the world was that WHOEVER IS IN CHRIST would appear “holy and without blame before him.”
Eph. 1:11 – “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:” We’ve already covered predestination. Notice you were predestinated TO OBTAIN AN INHERITANCE. What’s the inheritance? Well, you inherit your Father’s traits and appearance (vs. 12-14).
Eph 1:13 – “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” And there’s the order of the operation, in direct contradiction of the doctrine of unconditional election. 1) You hear the word of truth 2) You believe and trust 3) THEN you’re sealed by the Holy Spirit AFTER you believe.