by Mike Ratliff
3 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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6 (NASB)
A few years ago I listened to an attack on “Reformation Theology” in which the preacher based his entire case upon one single charge. He said that a Monergistic interpretation of the Bible is based upon a faulty presupposition. That presupposition is in two parts. The first part is that we say man is dead in trespasses and sins and incapable of obeying all commands to come to God in his own ability. The second part is that we say God takes the initiative and regenerates those whom he has elected before the foundation of the world enabling them to repent and believe and come to Christ and be justified by faith. This fellow totally ignored the fact that this theology is based upon God’s free choice before the foundation of the world and the redemptive work of Christ in the obedient life and keeping the Law and going to the cross to the become the propitiation for those elect. That’s right, he totally ignored what was actually accomplished at the cross. Instead, his interpretation of all those “difficult” passages like John 6:44 are best to be seen as God’s people being those who come to him in repentance and then he saves them. So, totally ignoring all these passages about election and imputation, he says salvation is a totally Synergistic system which man kick starts by coming to God in repentance first and then God takes over from there. He gave examples of genuine converts he had seen who came in brokenness and he could tell they were saved because they grasped the truth and walked in repentance, et cetera. He contrasted that with false converts who were simply religious who never walked in repentance. Right, could it be that he was confusing the order of things? Could it be that those he was seeing coming in repentance have been regenerated by God first and now are able to believe because they are the elect of God?
God does not elect people because they repent. Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. At the end of v4 into v6 we see, “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” Why did God choose or elect those who are in Christ? It was in love. Love is at the very root, the very heart of God’s election. Here is this same passage from the Greek text, “ἐν ἀγάπῃ, προορίσας ἡμᾶς εἰς υἱοθεσίαν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς αὐτόν, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἧς ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ.” Which translated says, “In love, He predestined us to sonship through Jesus Christ to himself according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace by which he favored us in the Beloved.” The word “love” translates ἀγάπῃ (agapē), “a self-emptying self-sacrifice.” Αγάπῃ is a word I am sure we have all heard about in numerous sermons and teachings. The essence of this passage and Paul’s usage of ἀγάπῃ here to explain why God elected all who are saved in Christ is that he does not deal with us only according to his sovereignty and holiness. If he did, all of us would be doomed. God also deals according to love.
God’s election flows from his love and this is found throughout the Scriptures (Deut. 7:7-8; Deut. 31:27; Jer. 17:23). Why did God love you or me? Are we not just as stiff necked, depraved, rebellious, and self-centered as the nation of Israel described in those passages? That’s right, we do not know. All we have is what is given to us in passages like Ephesians 1. God elected us because he loves us. In Deuteronomy 10:15 we learn that, “Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day.” Now let’s take this to the New Covenant.
16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. John 15:16-19 (NASB)
As we not only stand firm in the doctrines of truth don’t we experience the wrath of those who cling to the man-centered, easy-believism non-gospel that has decimated the visible church? That mess is no different than the world. Of course, the attacks from unbelievers who hate the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ are just as vicious at times. Our Lord had it right.
God loved us before the foundation of the world. He loved us according to his gracious purpose, his good pleasure. Don’t we love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)?
Soli Deo Gloria!