Summary: Second in a series from Ephesians. God has chosen us because it gives Him pleasure.
Last week, we entered into spiritual basic training as we began to dig into our training manual – Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. In the first three verses of that letter, we discovered that God has set his followers apart for salvation, for service and for spiritual blessings. Let’s see how well we’re doing with our Scripture memory and see if we can recite those first three verses from memory before Dave puts them up on the screen:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
You’ll remember that last week we said that verse 3 was the beginning of one long sentence that ends in verse 14. In those 12 verses, Paul is going to describe for us many of those spiritual blessings that God has provided for us through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This morning we’re going to look at just three verses that describe those blessings. So once again, let’s see how well we’re doing with our Scripture memory before Dave puts the verses up on the screen.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
There is no way that we can deal with this text this morning without coming face to face with a topic that has been the source of much debate among Biblical scholars, pastors and Christians over the years – the relationship between God’s election and predestination and man’s free will. Or perhaps a more accurate description would be the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.
Over the years, two basic camps have developed on this issue. On one side are the Calvinists, a group that is named after John Calvin, an early 16th century theologian who was instrumental in the Protestant reformation. This set of beliefs is also referred to as “reformed theology”.
Calvin’s followers organized this set of beliefs into what are known as the five points of Calvinism. We don’t have nearly enough time this morning to even begin to tackle a theological system that generally takes a semester or two to cover in seminary. Although it is a great simplification, for purposes of our time together this morning, we can look at Calvinism as having an emphasis on the doctrines of election and predestination. The emphasis is on the sovereignty of God in the process of salvation.
In the other camp are the Arminians, who as you might expect get their name from their founder, Jacobus Arminius. Arminius was a Dutch pastor and theologian in the late 16th and early 17th century who disputed many of Calvin’s conclusions. His most well-known follower was John Wesley, who became the leader of the Methodist movement. Again, we can’t even begin to discuss all the beliefs of that theological system this morning. They still believe that salvation is by grace alone, but their chief difference with the Calvinists is that they believe God’s election and predestination is conditional upon faith in Jesus. They alos focus more on the role of man’s will in the process of salvation.
My purpose in bringing up these two camps this morning is not to promote one view or the other. And it is certainly not to create any kind of division or conflict in our church. I don’t want us to become like the group of theologians who were discussing the tension between predestination and free will. Things became so heated that the group broke up into two opposing factions.
But one man, not knowing which to join, stood for a moment trying to decide. At last he joined the predestination group. "Who sent you here?" they asked. "No one sent me," he replied. "I came of my own free will." "Free will!" they exclaimed. "You can’t join us! You belong with the other group!"
So he followed their orders and went to the other clique. There someone asked, "When did you decide to join us?" The young man replied, "Well, I didn’t really decide--I was sent here." "Sent here!" they shouted. "You can’t join us unless you have decided by your own free will!"
What I want to do this morning is to just look at the Scriptures themselves and develop our theology from the Bible itself. So let’s continue our basic training this morning with a look at these three verses.