by Mike Ratliff
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:1-14 ESV)
Most of us who call ourselves “Reformed” in our theology did not start out that way. I did not. However, in my case I actually had no theology. I was a typical Southern Baptist. I had never heard the term Arminianism until I studied theology for the first time back in 2005-2006. I had heard of Calvinism in World History classes in High School and College, but all I remembered about it was the emphasis on Predestination.
I was on my lunch break at work a few weeks ago in our break room. One of the accountants in our office came in and saw me reading my Bible. He is a former United Methodist Church pastor. He walked over to my table and we conversed for a few minutes. He then asked me if he was remembering correctly that I was a Southern Baptist. I told him that I used to be. He asked, “What denomination do you belong to now?” I had to think about that one since I am not so sure you could call Sovereign Grace a denomination. I tried to explain to him that Sovereign Grace is probably equivalent to what Southern Baptists were in the days of John A. Broadus as far as theology goes. He had a puzzled look on his face and I told him that the easiest way to explain my theology is that I am “Reformed.” He asked, “Do you mean that you are a Calvinist?” “Yes!”, I replied. Then he started talking about predestination, relating it to things that have nothing to do with God divinely choosing His people, but instead referring to God predestinating every thing such has him hitting me in the face, if he was to do that.
I replied that that as far as theology goes that really is not what we refer to when talking about election. Then he mentioned prevenient grace, the grace that comes before salvation. I replied that I knew what that term meant, but that is not the same thing as what is taught in Ephesians 1 and 2. He had a puzzled look on his face then said, “I am not up on my Bible verses, what does that say?” I quoted parts of the passage I placed at the top of this post along with Ephesians 2:8,9. He then told me he had to go back to work, but I could tell that this was all new to him.
I am sure many reading this could do a very good presentation on Reformed Theology. You know what the 5 Solas are. You know what the 5 points are. There was a time right after the reality of God’s Sovereignty in our salvation and all of the exegesis that clearly teaches it was all I wanted to talk about. I looked for Arminians to debate. Well, I rejoice that I am past that. Why? While our doctrines are important because they are what we use to define our theology, they in no way are the source of our joy, peace, and obedience in preaching the Gospel to this lost and dying world. No, if all we want to do is debate theology, but not share our faith with others then we have missed the point of divine election.
I listened to this sermon today preached by Dr. Russell Moore at a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary chapel service back in 2008. I highly recommend this sermon to you. The way Dr. Moore explained election and the affect it will have on those who truly understand it blew me away. It was from this that I could clearly see why Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and Asahel Nettleton were such powerful and successful evangelists while also being devout Calvinists.
I really appreciated Dr. Moore’s sharing of his own struggles with the ineffectiveness of the sinner’s prayer in his own salvation experience as he grew up. It was from this struggle that he finally saw that Arminianism is a form of works theology and that it teaches salvation by sincerity as one prays the correct sinner’s prayer. The reason I appreciated it is that I struggled with the very same thing as a youth and young adult.
In any case, I pray that you will listen to Dr. Moore’s sermon paying very close attention to how he explains divine election.
Soli Deo Gloria!