Specifics of God’s Calling 2 (Conclusion)

This will be another rather long article, as it contains the remaining considerations of the particular pericope we are examining from Ephesians 1 (for the entirety of the pericope, please see the short entries Specifics Of God’s Calling, Part 2and Specifics Of God’s Calling 2 – Continued (Part 2) for context).


Even as begins the next verse, and refers back to that which began in the first verse. It was due to our being chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world that we have been blessed in Christ Jesus with all spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. God’s purposes are one, as He is, but our experience of His eternal purposes are finite and diversified, in this age, giving us a glimpse of that which is to come. Even as He blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ as purposed in Him before the creation of the world, we gain that knowledge of these things in temporal fashion, even those spiritual blessings which shall attend us into everlasting.

The next phrase is quite daunting: that we should be holy and blameless before Him. I say daunting, because it speaks of a perfection that we know is of God, because it proceeds from God, who alone is good (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19).

Goodness, as a perfection that is unchangeable, infinite and eternal, exists in God alone; in fact, when our Lord said that God alone is good, He did not speak of something God has, but of that which He is, for as many orthodox theologians have well noted “whatever is in God is God.” [1] That is, God is His goodness, and His goodness is God, just as God is love, and love is God. What we call attributes of God are really not composite, or separate parts, but we speak of them separated the better to consider them.

Getting back to our passage, we are told the purpose of God choosing us in His Son and blessing us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies is that we may be perfect before Him, which were impossible, if we were not comprehended in Christ, with whom our life is hidden in God (Colossians 3:3). Even were we perfect such as Adam prior to the fall, we would still not be in a state that is acceptable to God, for the mutability that gave rise to Adam’s fall would still be ours, and none could rightly hold that they would keep themselves. That takes the power of God, which He gives to us via His Spirit communicating the perfections of the unique God-man, Jesus Christ, to us. He, alone, is the Beloved, therefore, to be holy and blameless before God, even when we reach our eternal standing, we are comprehended in He who is holy and blameless. This fact changes what would otherwise be overwhelmingly discouraging into yet another reason for us to give praise to God.

Because of what God purposed for us in Christ, we were predestined to adoption as sons. In Him, we have been granted entrance into the family of God, and this was predetermined according to God’s will, which is to say, as part of His eternal and unchangeable purpose. Paul, in this passage, sets immovable bookends around the fact of God’s will bringing about all His purpose, and each reason for giving praise to Him leads inexorably back to who He is. This adoption is not a one-on-one comparison to what we think of when we hear the word “adoption,” for it is sealed of God Himself in the giving of the merits of His Son. These merits – both the negative penalty of death for sinning against God, and the positive reward of having His righteousness contrariwise attributed to us, resulting in our being considered sinless and perfect before God, were predetermined from everlasting. God’s purpose is as timeless and unchangeable as He is, so that which resulted from it is without termination, and beneficial to a degree that we cannot begin to fathom (except for His gracious condescension is communicating both the benefits and the means by which we apprehend those benefits via His special revelation). Making this even more certain (from our perspective), all these were given to us in His Son. God intersected the time He alone created for the creatures He alone eternally decreed should be His children by sending His Son to die for, then live for them (Titus 2:11, 3:4-5; Galatians 4:4-7). This adoption is as sure as God Himself, without end.

To the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

This phrase is a pivot in the middle of the particular pericope we are considering – it states the focus of God’s glory in His grace, as given and displayed in Christ, which permeates every other aspect of these reasons we are considering that cause us to give praise to Him. It further qualifies that which has preceded and that which comes after, therefore it is, in this sense, parenthetical. Everything which we are considering is based on that which God has decreed to manifest and magnify of His glory through the gracious display of it in Christ Jesus our Lord, and the subsequent results, which we have noted are called “blessings in the heavenlies,” by which that grace is given to us now and forever.

In Him we have redemption through his bloodaccording to the riches of his grace,

This is the continuation of definition of how we have those great spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, and expressly, the canceling out of the debt of our sin by His expiating sacrifice (Colossians 2:14).

In looking at these various aspects of God’s blessings to us “in Christ” (which statement is synonymous with being “blessed in the heavenlies”), we are always brought back to the consideration of where these blessings are – that is, the center of where they exist. We are also always brought back to how these blessings are expressed, and the results of our expression to God for His gracious giving to us to understand these things. “In Him” is another synonymous expression of the location of these blessings, and comprehends both our temporal experience of these things now, and the eschatological culmination of them, realizing that in our Lord’s expiation of these things by His sacrifice, we derive eternal benefit which is temporally experienced now, and leads to the end of that experience, or the terminus. By stating it as the end or terminus, we do not intend that it ceases, but at that point, the everlasting culmination of all these blessings is realized.

The frequent use of pronouns throughout this pericope stresses the recipients of these blessings. Ten times such pronouns are used in the pericope we are considering, and each time these pronouns speak of the recipients of God’s gracious blessings in Christ Jesus, by that exact phrase, or the use of synonymous phrases. It is impossible to emphasize the corporate meaning to the exclusion of the individual meaning throughout the periscope; indeed, the two must always be considered together. Corporately, all members of the church are considered as receiving individually these many blessings “in Him,” so that the stress of such elective grace as expressed in the first phrase we considered is cumulative of the overall blessings to each member, resulting in the benefit to the church as our Lord’s body, both in localized churches and universally.

In the phrase immediately under consideration, the blessing considered is the forgiveness of our sins by the atoning death of Christ. In His receiving the punishment due us, we are counted as having gained that which He alone so dearly paid for with His own life. It is an unequal exchange that He took the penalty for our sins and we received the virtue which was His, but this is the manner God made it possible for us to be considered His children. This is the operation of God’s grace in dealing with His only beloved Son in the manner that all sinners, outside of that grace, must be dealt with, which is receiving the fullness of God’s wrath against sin in eternal measure.

…which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight

This phrase brings into consideration that it is only of God’s mere good and beneficent pleasure, grounded in His infinite, eternal and unchangeable knowledge, or wisdom and insight, by which all these many blessings were given to us. Connected with the previous phrase, it speaks to the forgiveness of our sins, and how this was His everlasting purpose in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. This knowledge of God speaks of that eternal counsel within Himself that determined to send the Son to inhabit flesh, live perfectly, then offer Himself as sacrifice for those whom the Father was pleased to give Him according to the covenant of peace (Isaiah 53:10-12, 8:16; cf. Hebrews 2:13; John 17:6, 15).

However, the prepositional phrase has to do with how God lavished upon believers that grace by which they were forgiven and saved eternally. We do not gain all the wisdom and insight which are God’s, for such would be impossible; we do gain that knowledge and discretion into these blessings of God in Christ given us, to the degree we are able to understand them accurately, to the blessing of our souls. The word “lavished” is rather the key word in view in the phrase, constituting, as it does, the magnificent bounty of God’s grace in bestowing these blessings upon those He chose from eternity to be His in Christ.

I do not think it does any harm to consider that the wisdom and insight are God’s in this passage, but the stress laid down here must be considered as that unrestrained blessing of God giving us knowledge into the mystery of His will towards us, so that the wisdom and insight so named are a part of that which we receive. It is “all,” in that we now have everything we need to adequately comprehend that which He willed to give, and the means by which He willed to give it, which is further reflected in the fact that He has “revealed to us the mystery of His will” (v. 9). This mystery is the gospel, but in the pericope under consideration, we are looking at those blessings with which the gospel supplies us by God’s decree, and in the phrase under immediate consideration is the extravagance of these blessings He has poured out upon us. Colossians 1:9b is a parallel passage to consider with this one:  That you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. We take it that this is what God is doing here in this instance, in giving us without reserve that knowledge and discernment of His blessings contained in the gospel, and so we go on to consider our next phrase.

making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

As above considered, this mystery is the gospel, and it is spoken of as a mystery because it was not formerly known. However, God has here remedied that condition, for we are expressly told that He has made “known to us the mystery of his will,” and that it was according to the aforementioned covenant of peace, or as it is more commonly known, Covenant of Redemption. In giving us the lavish riches of the gospel we receive, in this passage, the knowledge of those blessings in the heavenlies which impacts us here and now. It may truly be said that we are experiencing, to the degree God has willed to reveal these things, a bit of “heaven on earth.”  This is expressly God’s purpose, which ties back into vv. 3 and 4 of this passage. That which was predetermined by the eternal will and counsel of God has come to pass, and we are the recipients of such blessings by our joint union with one another “in Christ.”

A side note that must be mentioned (because of the importance of these things) is that this experience of a bit of “heaven on earth” is not a solitary thing. As this epistle is directed to the church in Ephesus, and other churches that will read the cyclical letter from the apostle, [2] it speaks of members in the plural. Most especially, this has to do with corporate existence and interaction “in Christ,” and that is where our fullest experience of the heavenly blessings comes to us. It must also be remembered that the body of Christ locally meeting on the Sabbath most fully experiences the covenant, corporate result of these blessings as they are here set forth.

as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

This speaks to the eschatological fruition of God’s purpose for His creation, which He determined from everlasting to everlasting to be culminated “in Christ.” Our praise and thanksgiving to God for what He has done for us is seen to have more reasons than our own, personal redemption, just as our worship of Him is done in a corporate manner. That which takes place in myriads of local bodies in churches throughout all of history in the world is but a bit of that which will take place perfectly in our completed redemption with the entirety of all the saved in eternity to come. This is God’s plan, and has always been His plan. We see that not only our personal redemption, but our corporate redemption, is tied to that of the entire creation (Romans 8:18-24a), or conversely, the redemption of the entirety of God’s creation is tied to that of the completed redemption of all His elect. The realization of our hope is in a fully redeemed creation which will reveal the fullness of God’s glory, and this is revealed to us now, in Holy Writ, that we may praise God for such magnificent bounty of His grace.

It should be noticed, up to this point, that we are speaking of the results of our being chosen individually for the corporate worship of God, with the blessings obtained for us by Christ being set forth in a manner that continues to draw out reasons for our praise of God. Although the specifics of our being called and ultimately having our salvation are contained in this particular pericope, the thrust is doxological. In other words, the reason God has communicated these great truths of His gospel in Christ Jesus to us here is not only to show forth His glory, but to receive glory (praise and thanks) from those He has mercifully saved. The pulling back the curtain, as it were, from that which has taken place, is taking place, and will ultimately take place, should bring paeans of praise and thanksgiving from us on a continual basis, as we behold the wonder of His purpose in Christ Jesus, our Lord, being established throughout redemptive history to the point of its culmination. In other words, here, in this phrase, not only is personal redemption mentioned as that which has been accomplished, but the complete redemption of the old creation into the new creation. The ultimate judgment of the first creation is put forth, with the ultimate redemption of that first creation seen to come about from the judgment of it, to the glory of God in Christ Jesus. Such knowledge facilitates our understanding of the Lord’s ultimate purpose for both the old and the new creation, and admonishes and provides us with the impetus of godly living now, to reflect our doxological praise and thanksgiving of He who subjected all things in the Son, that He may be seen to be all in all (2 Peter 3; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28). This shows that doxology has as its object the inimitable God of glory, through the work He has done and will accomplish through His Son’s cross work and mediation.

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…

 This is the promise to us, and the sureness of that promise. We praise God because in Christ Jesus, His Son, our Lord and Savior, our standing before God for all eternity was determined beforehand, according to that great love and mercy that are God’s, not as some emotions that are short lived, but as His essence. In Christ, we have this standing before God – it is said here we have obtained an inheritance. This is not something we strive to obtain, but realize we already have it. In Colossians 3, we are told that we are raised in Christ, and so share in his resurrection and ascension in and to glory, as well as that when He died, we also died with Him, so that our lives, presently and continuously, are hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3).

Rather than such predetermining of our standing before God being something which is reason to say we need do nothing, we are told, in v.1 of that same chapter of the epistle of Colossians, to seek those things which are above, because we have our lives hidden in Christ, therefore we are seated at the right hand of the Father with Him. This harkens back to v. 3 of the epistle and pericope we are considering, where we give praise to God because of what He has done in Christ Jesus our Lord, giving us all spiritual blessings in Him, of which we are setting forth some at this point. A sure promise based on the determination of God before time began assures us of these things now, and when time ends, we will receive the finished work of our Lord on the regenerated, restored New Earth, giving still more reasons to praise Him. That this is the purpose of God, who works all things according to the counsel of His will, is still another reason for our thanksgiving and praise – these things are as sure as God is unchanging, as certain as He is faithful, all based in His glorification of Himself in our Lord Jesus Christ. Another way of translating this is suggested by Harold W. Hoehner in his commentary on Ephesians in the Cornerstone Commentary, which is “for his unchanging plan is the working out of all things just as he decided long ago.”[3] This emphasizes that our standing before God in Christ is the outworking of God’s unchangeable will, not as a decision, but as the redemptive-historical effects in time which give us to see that one act, which we call God’s decree, here called His counsel, or the counsel of his will. This refers back to v. 4 of our chapter of this epistle of Ephesians, for which exposition, please see above.

so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

This has direct reference to the first of those who believed in God through our Lord Jesus Christ – it speaks precisely to the fact of the believers of the primitive church, beginning with the 120 at Pentecost in Acts 2, those who believed through their message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and those immediately after them (which included, but was not limited to, the apostle Paul). It is not that those things which have heretofore been spoken of do not have to do with all believers, but rather, that the fact of those who were the first to hope in Christ are not only to the praise of his glory, but a visible witness to those who hear the gospel message as ordained of God and, believing, are also to that worshipful thanksgiving and praise. This is a plain indication that the faithful lives (and byliveswe mean speech and actions) of those who believe in Christ are used of God as secondary means to promote His glory among future generations of believers, and so it is yet another reason for us to give God the praise and thanksgiving that are His due alone, for the continuation of His magnificent work in redemptive-history, showing His faithfulness in bringing all those He has predestined from before the creation of the world to that standing in and before Him which is of Him alone. Appropriately, then, we may state that all glory is to God alone through Christ alone, as our Christian heritage always rightly observes.

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

This is again speaking of Christ and faith in Him, but the focus has shifted from the first believers to those who believed after them, so there is the understanding of those who believed later, which has connotations for all subsequent believers. It would also be true that those who believed first has such a connection, which has been noted in the commentary on the former verse, but this is more directly related to those who followed in belief because of the faith of the first believers.

The first reason to give praise and thanks to God in this is due to that testimony of those who went before us, for as we said, God uses means to convey His gospel of grace, and without these initial believers, we would not have the New Testament Scriptures, for the ones whom God chose to give us the body of the New Testament writings were the necessary means by which we gained His direct revelation of His working in His Son to bring about the gospel of grace in every respect. Although all the glory is of, to and for God, there is an indebtedness to those He first willed to use that we do well to remember in our thanks and praise to Him. The next reason is that we heard that which is directly from God, which is the word of truth. This came about by those first believers being moved along by the Spirit of God to write it for us, that we might hear God directly, as it were, and having been regenerated by that same Spirit of God, we believed in all the work of Christ for the forgiveness of sin and the repentance that leads to life. Finally, in this verse, that which was preordained, which is to say all of our salvation, is also said to be “sealed,” with the result that we are assured of that which we have been promised. Thus, we have another score of reasons to give our God and Savior that glory that is rightly due to Him alone, as we continue to see His primary decree and the secondary means He utilizes to bring about our salvation – the salvation we could never earn or keep, but which is as certain and unchanging as the God who set it forth from eternity.

who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

And finally, we come to the end of this particular pericope, which comes full circle, so to speak. In the first verse we considered, God was recognized to be blessed in and of Himself, not simply because of, or as a result of all the blessings which He has vouchsafed for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. In fact, we saw that nothing done for us adds to that inherent blessedness that is God’s enjoyment in perfect, eternal, infinite unchangeable being in and of Himself. In the following verses, we have seen that what we owe Him is because of who He is, for the outpouring of the blessings we owe Him praise and thanksgiving for come from that which God is. It is appropriate also, then, that we are given this one last promise of guarantee of that which our God has promised us in His promise to His Son (Psalm 2:8) for what He was willing to do in taking on flesh, living among those He created to teach them of Himself and His Father, showing that everlasting love the Father and Son both divinely have within the divine essence, which, as we have seen throughout this section of Scripture, God had deigned to share with those who would otherwise hate Him, and not have Him to reign over them.

This is, indeed, to the praise of His glorious grace, which is but another way to say to the praise of His glory. Because of who God is, nothing can come between His love which He has condescended to show us in the Beloved. Our possession at the end of time, where true life, that began when we were born again from above in redemptive history, will finally be ours forever, dwelling with He who gave it to us, and the phrasing in this last verse rings with the triumphant song of those redeemed: We are His, and He is our God. Let us give praises and thanks to Him now, and forever more. Amen.

[1] This is in so many of the old Reformed divines writings, and those of contemporary Reformed theologians, that we simply refer the reader to the aforementioned book by Samuel Renihan, God Without Passions, again, in the Introduction, pg. 36

[2] See Ephesians, Introduction, Argument and Outline, by Daniel B. Wallace, PhD., Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Section Destination, regarding the likelihood that this was a circular letter to the churches of Asia Minor

[3] Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Volume 16: Ephesians-Harold W. Hoehner

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Specifics Of God’s Calling 2 – Continued (Part 2)

Thus, the beginning of our text, “Blessed be God…” runs through the entirety of the passage, and is the underpinning for all the reasons to give Him such praise. Without this theme being noticed, the meaning of the pericope loses coherence, for what God works to our benefit is always to show that which He is, that being not merely the source of all that is good and holy in the unique manner that belongs only to God, but to express His inexpressible, self-contained, infinite, eternal and unchanging essence in a manner that elicits wonder, and the expression of that wonder resulting in paeans of thankful praise from those creatures He deigned to create to show that which is true of Him alone.

This is the expression of the first point: “Blessed be God.” This is not a suggestion of happiness based on interaction with anything, but an expression of that state in which God alone exists. While we are told, by our Lord, that we shall be blessed for various reasons (cf. Matthew 5:3-11), God, in Himself, is always blessed, which is to say in a state of perfection that has no need for any interaction with any but Himself. ([1]This goes into theology proper [the Doctrine of God]; however, we will not belabor the point here.) We must note that God did not need to create, but in our passage, that which is true of Him is observed and stated, for the purpose of bringing about that praise of Him which is due His inestimable, glorious holiness, and that by His creatures – not because He needs such to prove that which He is, but because it pleased Him, in His perfection, to decree such to come about.

The expression of the second point is clearly perceived in the words set forth in Holy Writ as well: “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

As has been stated, this is not of a need for our Great God to do such, but of His good pleasure. He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (in the realms of the heavenlies) by His beneficent fiat, not due to our being owed such blessing.

If we are to ask, what blessings has God given to us, regarding that which pertains to such that we might be assured of His divine pleasure in both this life, and the life that is to come, it is simply answered: “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” What greater blessing is there in this life that we can be assured of, or what better proof of that greater blessing which is to be given us in the age to come, than to surely know that we have these blessings now, at this time, here, for our benefit, to the praise of the glory of His grace in Christ Jesus?

This, alone, is cause to worship, and by worship, I do not intend merely acknowledgement of the greatness of our God, but of that which He has deigned to do. The worship intended here is that of thanksgiving for His glorious condescension to those creatures, such as you and I, whom He had no need to create in the first place!

If you think yourself worthy of such interaction and communication with our God, think again! He had no need of you, and He gains no glory through you, yet He has willed to receive that acknowledgement of who He is; you add nothing to His glory, yet He has willed to receive such paltry thanks and worship of Himself by that which He has done in His Son, and furthermore, He has revealed that unto you!

Do you give Him such thankful, worshipful praise? Do you render Him the praise that is due Him because of what He did for you in Christ, apart from any perceived merit on your part?  The particular merit belongs to Jesus Christ alone, whom God set forth as a propitiation for the sins of His people – this is both the fountain of and the reason for both our works and praise (see 1 John 2:2; 4:10 with Romans 3:21-31; Ephesians 2:10; Luke 7:7-10; etc.).

The remaining texts in our pericope simply add to the reasons for our doxological expression of thanksgiving towards our great and glorious God.

We will be given to worship Him in this continuing doxology as we consider the remainder of the particular portion of this Scritpure.

[1] See London Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 (hereafter LCF) Chapter 2.2; Also, God Without Passions: A Reader, edited by Samuel Renihan, 2015 – Reformed Baptist Academic Press (RBAP – http://www.rbap.net)

Specifics Of God’s Calling, Part 2

This will be another ongoing series of posts – I do not know what number it will reach. Although this was not my intention, initially, the subject matter of the Scriptures of which the initial post treats makes such necessary.

It is hardly an expectation to think that such matters as I am addressing could or would be so addressed within the scope of one posted article, yet I had not thought to go beyond that one article. However, since these things frequently come up in discussions, I thought it might be good to further address them in another passage which treats of them, for the benefit of those who are assisted by a lay-teachers/elders’ handling of such things.

I posted an article exegeting Romans 8:29-30 some time ago, regarding the specifics of God’s calling of His people, regarding the covenant He decreed for man to be saved, which is according to the Triune Covenant of Redemption He decreed in counsel with Himself (Ephesians 1:3), some time back, on a blog I formerly posted articles to; I reposted it on the blog I now share in posting articles with my good brother in the faith, Fernando Cassie Ramirez, and which is also a blog that give information on how to contact us at our present house church location (the information for contact is the email addresses given in the definition of the blog).

It was entitled “Specifics of God’s Calling,” and was somewhat of an exegesis of Romans 8:29-30.

Consequently, because I felt the need to somewhat expand upon this, I am writing this follow up article, but this time, it will deal with a portion of Ephesians 1 as to some of those specifics.

Here is our text:

Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)

3   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, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
5   he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 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, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 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, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In this text, the reasons for our praise (doxology) to the Father are given in that work of God accomplished in the incarnate and glorified Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. These reasons are: [1]

  1. He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing (all spiritual blessings) in the heavenly places.
  2. He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him (v 4[2]).
  3. He predestined us in love for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (v 5).
  4. This is for the purpose of praise towards Him for this glorious grace (v 6).
  5. He blessed us in Christ (the Beloved – v 6).
  6. He gave us redemption through the sacrificial death of Christ (in His blood – v 7a).
  7. This redemption accomplished forgiveness of our trespasses, according to His gracious riches (made in Christ v 7b, c).
  8. He lavished these riches of His grace on us in all wisdom and insight (v 8).
  9. As a consequence of this lavishing of His riches of grace, this wisdom and insight is how we apprehend (making known) the mystery of His will (all these things, again, are given us in Christ), and this is according to His purpose (v 9).
  10. That purpose is set forth in Christ as His plan for the fullness (completion, recapitulation) of times (eschatological terminus of redemptive history) which is shown in the uniting of all things in heaven and earth in Christ (v 10).
  11. Because of His predestination of us, who works all things according to the counsel of His will, we have been given an inheritance (in Christ – v 11).
  12. This is all to the praise of His glory, both for those who were first chosen, and subsequent generations of those who believe according to that predestinating, lavish grace of God in Christ vv 12-14).
  13. This is all proven by the downpayment, or surety, of His Holy Spirit sealing all believers unto that final redemption (vv 13-13)

These propositions could be divided differently, but this is a basic working outline of the passage which shows what God has done for us in Christ, and we need to notice the first thing that especially dominates this passage, which is that God is the subject, and we are the objects of His actions in Christ Jesus. The Father works through the Son to give us the blessings and lavish grace that secure our immediate salvation from the effects of sin and the present power of sin to bring about our present regenerate status, and ultimate glorification in the age to come. All these things are to bring about His glory (our present and future praise of Him) for the reasons listed above.

This will be followed by posts dealing with the specifics, but I did wish to make a start.

Blessing in Christ, to the solo glory of our God – Bill H.

[1] The following is largely dependent upon the excellent exegetical work of Pastor Richard Barcellos on this passage. I do not attempt to handle the technical details of the Greek grammar as he did (nor could I). His article is available in the following book: Southern California Reformed Baptist Pastor’s Conference, Volume 1, 2012, chapters 5 & 6, An Exegetical Case Study in the Doxological Trajectory of Scripture: Ephesians 1:8-10 in Light of its Immediate, Contextual Meaning and Redemptive-Historical and Canonical Trajectory, Parts 1 & 2

[2] This has rightly been called a statement of eschatological importance, although dealing directly with our salvation. The fact that it refers to that period when God chose us, which was before creation, is the eschatological factor; this also shows us that eschatology, rooted in who God is, precedes revelation.

Specifics of God’s Calling in Salvation: Romans 8:28-30

Romans 8:28-30

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

While “and,” at the beginning of v. 28, connects this entire context with what has gone before (as opposed to the negatives regarding those who are not adopted, do not have the Spirit of God, are actively hostile to God, cannot submit to God’s law in Christ, and cannot, at any time, please Him), the subsequent conjunction “for” at the beginning of v. 29 connects it with all preceding and within it, while the connective “and” at the beginning of v. 30 does the same, connecting the three vv. into one seamless whole, which is to say, although the context does not stand alone, it is, in itself, a standalone context, with a complete and comprehensive set of grammatically logical propositions that yield indisputable conclusions. The entire context is regarding the adoption in Christ by those led by and conducting their lives in the power of the Spirit of Christ who indwells them, and applied their adoption in Christ to them; therefore, we submit that this is easily understandable, and so will concentrate on particular aspects of the passage; namely, “called, (according to His purpose)” “foreknew,” “predestined,” “conformed to the image of His Son,” and in v. 30, along with, again, “predestined” and  “called,” “justified,” “glorified” and a bit more observations on the additional connectives at the beginnings of v. 29 and v. 30. We will consider, also, the objects of these grammatical elements, as well as the flow of the apostle’s meaning as to what these things intend for both this present age and the age to come.

First, however, as to the audience of these precious doctrines, we assert Paul is speaking, in the primary sense, to the collective saints in Rome as a singular group, as proven by the verb “we know.” This verb is in a tense which speaks of a past action having continuing results in the present which will continue to be ongoing, regarding the certain and sure knowledge that these things are so for those reading them; by application, since God gave us His Word to know these things, this broadens out to the wider audience of all saints in His church throughout redemptive history since our Lord ascended to glory.

Regarding “called,” this refers “to those who are,” and it is a present, particular, ongoing call, according to the grammar. It is not addressing those who are not called in any manner, nor is it addressing those who are called in a general manner, as is made plain in the text; it is addressing those who are called, specifically, “according to His purpose,” which purpose is made clear in the following words. In this, Paul has moved away from addressing the group as one collective entity, to speaking of specific individuals within that collective entity, noted by the change from the first person singular in “we” to the  plural in the article “those.”

Within v. 28, “those” is in a case that makes these people, individually and collectively, the object of “God;” that is, because they have been called according to His purpose, by Him, particularly, they presently, actively love Him continually. That all things are working together for the good of these called children of God is not to be taken as if no adverse circumstances occur in their lives (which would dismiss the apostle’s own ministry completely), but that the mind of those so chosen will see the sovereign grace of their God at work for their good in even the most adverse of circumstances in every situation (as the following vv. 31-39 spell out in detail).

As mentioned previously, the adverb “for” beginning v. 29 connects the foregoing in v. 28with that which follows. It has the meaning of “for this reason,” or “in view of the fact,” and is linked with the called according to the foreknowledge of God (“those He foreknew”). This is not a passive, but an active foreknowledge, as the verb form shows, and is rooted in the past calling (as the verb form also shows) of God on those His active foreknowledge was set upon for accomplishing all these things from that past time, which is defined as “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” “Foreknew” also is in the third person, broadening out to the extent that, although still considering individuals, is now regarding all who are being written about, which considers all believers in Christ Jesus who have been called according to this foreknowledge of God.

Predestined” is in the same tense, voice, mood and person as “foreknew,” and is joined with the former through the emphatic adverb “also.”  Therefore, the two (foreknew and predestined) may not be considered apart from one another, but must be considered together, and both are rooted in the active foreknowledge of God, which, it must be noted, being active and joined to the also active predestination, cannot merely mean that God passively took in the knowledge of those whom He would call, or even that He reactively responded to the knowledge of those who would choose Him, but that He actively predestined those who would be called according to His active foreknowledge. Since the meaning of “predestined” here (and everywhere the word is used in the New Testament) is “to choose or select in advance of some other event—‘to choose beforehand, to select in advance,’” the possibility of the one chosen in advance of the particular event for the purposes stated in that choosing is nil [1]

Since the peace of the church has been so disrupted by unnecessary misunderstanding over the meaning of this word, I include this brief but excellent study of the word from The Complete Word Study Dictionary, © 1992 By AMG International, Inc. Chattanooga, TN 37422, U.S.A. Revised edition, 1993,  edited by Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D (numbers in parenthesis reference Strong’s Concordance):

προορίζω
proorízō; fut. proorísō, from pró (G4253), before, and horízō (G3724), to determine. To determine or decree beforehand (Act_4:28; Rom_8:29-30; 1Co_2:7; Eph_1:5, Eph_1:11). The peace of the Christian Church has been disrupted due to the misunderstanding which surrounds this word. It behooves the Church to consider the divinely intended meaning of this word by carefully examining the critical passages where it is used.
In 1Co_2:7 it has a thing as its obj., namely, the wisdom of God. The purpose was our glory, i.e., our benefits of salvation.
In Act_4:28 the verb is followed by the aor. inf. genésthai (gínomai [G1096], to be, become), to be done. The action of Herod and Pontius Pilate in crucifying Jesus Christ is said to have been predetermined or foreordained by the hand and will of God. This indicates that Christ’s mission, especially His death and resurrection, was not ultimately the result of human will but originated in the eternal counsel of God which decreed the event determining all its primary and secondary causes, instruments, agents, and contingencies.
In Rom_8:29-30, predestination is used of God’s actions in eternally decreeing both the objects and goal of His plan of salvation.Proorízō has a personal obj., the pl. relative pron. hoús, whom. This relative pron. refers to those previously mentioned as those whom God foreknew (proégnō [G4267]). The translation is, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.” The objects of predestination are those whom He foreknew. Predestination does not involve a predetermined plan only but also includes the individuals for whom the plan is devised. The goal of predestination is expressed in the phrase, “to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
In Eph_1:5, Eph_1:11 this same purpose of foreordination is termed adoption. Adoption (huiothesía [G5206]) is the placing into sonship or legal heirship of those who are born of God. According to Eph_1:5 the basis of this prior decree is “the good pleasure of His will.” The word rendered “good pleasure” is eudokía (G2107) and means pleasure or satisfaction, that which seems good. Paul is careful to add that it is the good pleasure of God’s will, it is what seems good to God-not man. Similarly, in Eph_1:11 foreordination is based upon “the purpose (próthesis [G4286]) of the One who is working all things ([neut. acc. pl.]  pánta[G3844], an idiom for the entire metaphysical and physical universe) according to the decision of His will” (a.t.). This same thinking is reflected in Rom_8:30 where foreordination is joined successively to foreknowledge. Here it is presented not as a capricious, arbitrary or whimsical exercise of raw will or unreasoned impulse, but as the expression of a deliberate and wise plan which purposes to redeem those undeserving sinners whom God freely favors as the objects of His mercy.
Because it is neither possible nor permissible for us to pry into God’s secret counsel, it is not proper to be fixated with determining who the predestined are. Instead, we should contemplate the glories of what they are predestined to, i.e., salvation, adoption, or glory.

Although this is where many stop their comments regarding v. 29 (being conformed to the image of His Son), this is clearly not where that purpose of God is finished being defined, either as to the objects of His electing will who all are being so conformed, or as to the logical order of this brief but robust teaching of the apostle Paul regarding these aspects of the Ordo Salutis (order of salvation), for the next v. – v. 30 – again begins with a conjunction which logically connects that which has immediately gone before with that which follows.

That which follows is summed up thusly: “Those” refers to the the direct objects of the actions of being “predestined,” “called,” “justified” and “glorified,” as it is in the case that makes those so being addressed the direct objects of the actions of these verb forms, the Author of these actions being, of course, God. Please notice, these verb forms are of the same as that mentioned of “foreknew” and “predestined” in v. 29, which is to say, the actions perpetrated by God upon these objects of His purpose are all grounded in His predetermining, elective (“called”) foreknowledge, and since it is, as stated above, an active foreknowledge based in that same knowledge of God, it is to be taken as preceding from Him to accomplish His purposes, not responsive in any shape, form, or manner, as we trust the definitions of these terms have fully shown. This is to say God does not, in any way, react, but predetermines who will be conformed to the image of His Son, and does so according to that sure knowledge of His which brings about in redemptive history that which He determined to do beforehand, which is to say, before those who are called in (to speak in human terms) eternity past are actually confirmed in this elective calling at that specific time in redemptive history when they are adopted by the Spirit of God into His family.

The results of these actions of God has been seen, in v. 29, to “conform (usinto the image of His Son,” but this conforming is based in the objective reality of His resurrection and glorification, which has present results and realizations, as well as eschatological results; however, in the following verses (31-39), Paul is focused on the practical implications and application of these results, which the verb forms in v. 30 show, since these verb forms speak to the effect that all these things have been accomplished already in Christ; that is, those who are in Christ were predestined to be called, and having been called, are presently (some would say positionallyjustified and glorified, which accords with the ongoing process of being conformed into the image of His Son, which process will have it’s full result in the full redemption of each saint (this is where the eschatological consideration comes in, although it is secondary to the practical implications in the subsequent verses by which we live according to that which is now, and will be then, fully).

SDG –Bill

[1] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (362). New York: United Bible Societies.

An Exegesis of “Work Out Your Own Salvation”

The exegsis will be provided from the hand and mind of John Eadie. I rely on the heavenly gifted and heavenly minded minds of such men. However I should make the reader aware that this is an very technical quote from Eadie. However, I will bold the portions that are less technical and more pastoral for the average reader. I do wish to point out a pertinent section where Eadie points out  faulty understanding of working out to be in terms of only more fully realizing the that salvation is fully perfected in Christ (although it is true but not the point of this particular passage). Here is the place where I wish to draw attention- “He does not say He died for sin, or died for us. His reference is to the spirit of His death, and not to its character and results. It is true that His exaltation proved His mission divine, and His mediation effectual. But the apostle does not allude to this, nor does he in this paragraph in any way connect the glory of Jesus with a completed redemption. If he had said—He has died and risen again to save you, the connection could easily be—therefore salvation is perfect, and you are summoned either to receive it, or more fully to realize it. But it is simply of the fact that Christ denied Himself to benefit others that the apostle writes, and the Philippians are to do service to others, and thus evince that the same mind is truly in them which was also in Christ Jesus.”*

Here is the whole context and exegesis of Philippians 2:12-13:

(Ver. 12.) Ὥατε, ἀγαπητοί μου. The particle ὥστε introduces an inferential lesson. 1 Cor. 3:21, 4:5, 10:12; 1 Thess. 4:18, etc. Followed thus by the imperative, this particle which is so often followed by the infinitive, has the sense of itaque—ὡσ-τε. Tittmann, ii. 6; Winer, § 41, 5, 1; Klotz, Devarius, ii. p. 776. It does not reach back in its sweep to all the preceding statements. We cannot, with Wiesinger, give this as its ground—“Christ has attained to His glory only by the path of self-denial,—Wherefore.” We take in the whole picture from the 6th to the 11th verse—“wherefore,” or since such were Christ’s spirit and career, such His self-denial and reward, since such an example is set before you, you are bound by your very profession to “work out.” If He has set it, shall you hesitate to follow it? Will it not endear itself to your imitation as you look upon it—ἀφορῶντες τὸ παράδενγμα? The heart of the apostle warms towards them, his soul is bound up in them, and he calls them “my beloved,” adding a prefatory note—

καθὼς πάντοτε ὑπηκούσατε, μὴ ὡς ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ μου μόνον, ἀλλὰ νῦν πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἐν τῇ ἀπουσίᾳ μου—κατεργάζεσθε. The apostle appeals to their uniform obedience rendered in one sense to himself, but primarily to God, having the same object as ὑπήκοος applied to Christ in verse 8. There should be a comma after ὑπηκούσατε, for the next words belong to the concluding clauses, as the use of μή—νῦν seems to indicate. The construction of the verse is peculiar from its very compactness. Two comparisons are inwoven—my presence, my absence—or “not in my presence only, but much more in my absence;” and “as ye have always obeyed,” “so now carry out your salvation.” The fervid heart of the apostle was not fettered by the minutiæ of formal rhetoric; parallel thoughts are intertwined, and ideas that should follow in succession are blended in the familiar haste of epistolary composition. Παρουσία, in contrast with ἀπουσία, is not a future presence, as Wiesinger renders it. 2 Cor. 10:10. It is, indeed, applied especially to a future advent of Christ, a presence not now, but afterwards, to be enjoyed. The apostle uses in this epistle the words παρουσία πάλιν, 1:26. The adverb ὡς does not simply denote comparison, but it indicates a supposed or imagined quality which the apostle, indeed, warns against, and will not believe to exist. Rom. 9:32; 2 Cor. 2:17; Gal. 3:16. The claim of the injunction did not cease with his presence. His absence did not make the obligation less imperative, but it demanded more earnestness and vigilance from them in the discharge of the duty. His voice and person were a guide and stimulant, his addresses and conversations reproved their languor, and excited them to assiduous labour, so that His presence among them wrought like a charm. And now that he was not with them, and they were left to themselves, they were so much the more to double their diligence, and work out salvation. This was to be done μετὰ φόβου καὶ τρόμου—“with fear and trembling.”—See under Eph. 6:5, where the phrase has been explained. 1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 7:15; Ps. 2:11. The phrase means something more than Jerome’s non cum negligentia. It restricts the feeling described too much to one aspect of it, to suppose it to be awe before an omnipresent God, as do the Greek expositors; or a sense of dependence on God, as does De Wette; or the apprehension that the work is not performed sufficiently, as do Meyer and Wiesinger. In fact, the phrase describes that state of mind which ought ever to characterize believers—distrust of themselves—earnest solicitude in every duty—humble reliance on divine aid, with the abiding consciousness that after all they do come far short of meeting obligation. There does not seem to be any reference, as some suppose, to the spirit of Christ’s δουλεία, but there may be a warning against that pride and vainglory already reprobated by the apostle. In this spirit they are enjoined—

τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε—“carry out your own salvation.” The compound verb here expresses the idea of carrying out, or making perfect. Fritzsche on Rom. 2:9; also Raphelius, vol. ii. p. 495. This sounder philology opposes the explanation of Chrysostom—οὐκ εἵπεν ἐργάζεσθε, ἀλλὰ κατεργάζεσθε, τουτέστι μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς σπουδῆς, μετὰ πολλῆς της ἐπιμελείας. The verb describes not the spirit in which the work is done, but the aim and issue—“carry through;” while the idea of the Greek Father is only inferential. In the translation—“work out one another’s salvation”—which is that of Pierce, Michaelis, Storr, Flatt, and Matthies, we should at once concur, but for a reason to be immediately stated. The reciprocal meaning given to ἑαυτῶν may be found in Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:16; 1 Pet. 4:8, 10. The context, as van Hengel admits, is in favour of the latter translation which we have given. De Wette contends that the reference in the verse is quite general—an idea which the inferential particle ὥστε does not sanction; and he carries the reference back to 1:27, without any warrant whatever. Rheinwald, Rilliet, and others, uphold the idea that the verse is an inference from the preceding exhibition of Christ’s example. We think that this cannot be doubted, so close and inseparable is the connection. But what is that example intended to illustrate? Might we not say the injunction—“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” If the career of our Lord be introduced to show us what mind was in Him, surely the lesson deduced will be in unison. If he bid them have the mind of Christ, and then go on to show what it is, surely his inference must be that they should, in their own sphere, exhibit the same mind. Now the great truth which the exhibition of Christ’s example illustrates is self-denying generosity—the very charge He has already given them, and the inference is expected to be in harmony with the starting lesson. The command—τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε—will therefore be synonymous in spirit with the previous one in verses 4, 5. In this way the ὥστε would connect homogeneous ideas. If the words be rendered, “work out your own salvation,” we do not see how it can with the same force be derived as a lesson. The connection brought out by Alford is—“considering the immense sacrifice which Christ has made for you, and the lofty eminence to which God has now raised Him, be ye more than ever earnest, that you miss not your own share in such salvation.” But there is no hint of this connection in the preceding verses: for, in referring to Christ, the apostle does not speak of Him as a Saviour, nor yet of the salvation which He has secured. He does not say He died for sin, or died for us. His reference is to the spirit of His death, and not to its character and results. It is true that His exaltation proved His mission divine, and His mediation effectual. But the apostle does not allude to this, nor does he in this paragraph in any way connect the glory of Jesus with a completed redemption. If he had said—He has died and risen again to save you, the connection could easily be—therefore salvation is perfect, and you are summoned either to receive it, or more fully to realize it. But it is simply of the fact that Christ denied Himself to benefit others that the apostle writes, and the Philippians are to do service to others, and thus evince that the same mind is truly in them which was also in Christ Jesus. Nay more, the connection usually brought out seems also to have this peculiarity, that it seems to make the apostle begin the paragraph with one injunction, and end it by enforcing its opposite. He commences formally—“Look not every man on his own things;” and he ends by saying virtually—“Look every man on his own things—work out your own salvation.” Is he to be understood as either modifying or withdrawing his first injunction, an injunction commended by the example of Christ Jesus.

The only difficulty in the way of this view is philological. The pronoun ἑαυτῶν is used in verse 4th, to signify one’s own things; and in verse 21st it is used with the same meaning, and how should the same word in the intervening verse 12th be used with precisely an opposite signification? We feel the difficulty to be insuperable, while the leading of the context is so decided. And perhaps this may be the idea—carry forward your own salvation with fear and trembling, for with such a work in progress, and such emotions within you, you will possess the mind of Christ; for he who thus carries out his own salvation will sympathize with the toils and labours of others, and look not alone at his own things. Their own salvation being secured and carried out, they would not be so selfish as to be wholly occupied with it, so unlike Him who made Himself of no reputation, as to creep up to heaven in selfish solitude. For the law of the kingdom is, that he who stoops the lowest shall rise the highest—Christ the first, and each after Him in order. This loving and lowly spirit God rejoices in—it is the heart of His Son, and the genius of His gospel. How this duty is to be discharged, the apostle does not say, but he adverts to its spirit—“in fear and trembling.”

(Ver. 13.) Ὁ Θεὸς γάρ ἐστιν ὁ ἐνεργῶν ἐν ὑμῖν καὶ τὸ θέλειν καὶ τὸ ἐνεργεῖν, ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας—“For God it is who worketh in you both to will and to work, in consequence of His own good pleasure.” The article of the Received Text before Θεός is omitted in A, B, C, D1, F, G, and K. Its absence fixes attention upon Divinity, as in contrast to that humanity in which He wills and works. The γάρ indicates the connection, not by assigning a reason in the strict sense of the term, but by introducing an explanatory statement:—Engage in this duty; the inducement and the ability to engage in it are inducement and ability alike from God. It is too much to infer that the Philippians were despondent, and that this verse is to be regarded as an encouragement. But that they needed excitement to duty is plain, however, from the statement—“and how much more in my absence”—though certainly Bengel’s filling up is far-fetched—Dcus prœsens vobis, etiam absente me. It is as if he had said—“Work out with fear and trembling, for God it is that worketh in you. Engage in the duty, for God prompts and enables you; engage in it with fear and trembling—emotions which the nature of the work and such a consciousness of the Divine presence and co-operation ought always to produce.” If the impulse sprang from themselves, and drew around it the ability to obey, there might be “strife and vainglory;” but surely if the motive and the strength came alike from God, then only in reliance on Him, and with special humility and self-subduing timidity, could they proceed, in reference to their own salvation, or in offering one another spiritual service.

The position of Θεός shows the emphasis placed upon it by the apostle. God it is who worketh in you—alluding to the inner operation of Divine grace—for ἐν ὑμῖν is not among you. There is special force in the form ἐστιν ὁ ἐνεργῶν. Winer, § 45, 5, note; Fritzsche, ad Roman. vol. ii. p. 212. And the result is twofold—καὶ τὸ θέλειν καὶ τὸ ἐνεργεῖν—“both to will and to work,” first and naturally volition, and then action. Rom. 7:18. The double καί is emphatic. Winer, § 53, 4. The apostle uses ἐνεργεῖν both of cause and effect—ἐνεργῶν—ἐνεργεῖν—whereas the verb denoting the ultimate form of action was κατεργάζεσθε. The difference is very apparent. The latter term, the one employed by the apostle in the exhortation of verse 12th, represents the full and final bringing of an enterprise to a successful issue; whereas ἐνεργεῖν describes action rather in reference to vital power or ability, than form or result. The will and the work are alike from God, or from the operation of His grace and Spirit; not the work without the will—an effect without its cause; not the will without the work—an idle and effortless volition.

The concluding words—ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας—have given rise to a good deal of discussion. The phrase has no pronoun, and what then is its reference? The Syriac renders ܡܕܶܡ ܕܨܳܒܷܐ ܐܢ̱ܬܘܽܢ—that which you wish. And so Ambrosiaster, followed partly by Erasmus, Grotius, and Michaelis. But εὐδοκία, as is indicated by the article, belongs here to the subject of the verb. The preposition ὑπέρ is not “according to,” as it is rendered by Luther and Cameron, nor pro, as Beza and Bengel write it. It signifies “on account of.” John 11:4; Acts 5:41; Rom. 15:8; Winer, § 47, 1, (3). It is not very different in result from διʼ εὐδοκίαν—1:15—though the mode of representation somewhat varies—the ὑπέρ giving a reason, not in a logical, but rather in an ethical aspect. See under Eph. 1:5. The noun itself is defined by Suidas—τὸ ἀγαθὸν θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ. Suicer, 1:1241. Œcumenius gives the true meaning in his paraphrase—ὑπὲρ τοῦ πληρωθῆναι εἰς ὑμᾶς τὴν εὐδοκίαν καὶ τὴν βουλὴν αὐτοῦ. It is in consequence of, or to follow out His own good pleasure, that He works in believers both to will and to work. He is not an absolute or necessary, but a voluntary or spontaneous cause. He does it because He freely wills it, or because it seems good to Him. His efficacious grace is at His own sovereign disposal. Conybeare joins ὑπὲρ τῆς εὐδοκίας to the following verse, but the connection is neither natural nor warranted.

The sentiments of the preceding verses have been adduced as objections both to Pelagianism and Calvinism. Augustine made good use of them in his day, in defence of the doctrine of divine grace, and in overthrow of that meagre system which is based at once on shallow conceptions of man’s nature, and superficial expositions of Scripture, and which, in denuding the gospel of its mysteries, robs it of its reality and profound adaptations. In later times, commentators on this passage have attacked with it what is usually called Calvinism. “The Calvinistic writers,” says Bloomfield in his Recensio Synoptica, “are exceedingly embarrassed with it;” and after reprehending Doddridge for a paraphrase of the verses, not a whit worse or weaker than his ordinary dilutions, he adds, “When we see so sensible a writer, and so good a man, acting so disingenuous a part, we cannot but perceive the weakness of the system of doctrines he adopts, which drives him to such unwarrantable measures.” Now, if we understand Calvinism at all, these two verses express very definitely its spirit, belief, and practice. Divested of technical points, it is this—profound and unquestioning trust in God, united to the utmost spiritual activity and necessarily leading to it—acting because acted upon, as the apostle here describes. The terms employed by him exclude a vast amount of questions often raised upon the verses—as the injunction is addressed, not to the unbelieving and unregenerate, but “to saints in Christ Jesus,” to those who not only believed in Christ, but had suffered for Him. The allusion is not to man’s laying hold of salvation, or to his first reception of it, and the necessity of gratia prœveniens, and therefore queries as to free-will and grace—their existence or antagonism—are away from the point. The apostle writes to persons who have received salvation, and he bids them carry it out. And who doubts that man’s highest energies are called out in the work—that every faculty and feeling is thrown into earnest operation? What self-denial and vigilance—what wrestling with the Angel of the Covenant—what study of the Lord’s example—what busy and humble obedience—what struggles with temptation—what putting forth of all that is within us—what fervent improvement of all the means of grace—industry as eager and resolute as if no grace had been promised, but as if all depended on itself! The believer’s own conscious and continuous effort in the work of his sanctification, is a very prominent doctrine of Scripture, and the apostle often describes his own unrelaxing diligence. On the other hand, the doctrine of divine influence is caricatured by any such hypothesis as is implied in the phrase—homo convertitur nolens—or, when even under its “Dordracene” representation, it is styled, as by Ellicott, “all but compelling grace.” For in no sense can faith be forced; and the freest act of the human spirit is the surrender of itself under God’s grace to Himself. The rational nature is not violated, the mental mechanism is never shattered or dislocated, and the freedom essential to responsibility is not for a moment disturbed or suppressed. Though God work and work effectually in us “to will,” our will is not passively bent and broken, but it wills as God wills it; and though God work and work effectually in us “to do,” our doing is not a course of action to which we are helplessly driven; but we do, because we have resolved so to do, and because both resolve and action are prompted and shaped by His power that worketh in us—agimur ut agamus. This carrying out of our salvation is a willing action; but the will and the acts, though both of man and by him as agent, are not in their origin from him—the vis from which they spring being non nativa sed dativa. Lazarus came forth from the tomb by his own act, but his life had been already restored by Him in whom is life. The Hebrews walked every weary foot of the distance between Egypt and Canaan, yet to God is justly ascribed their exodus from the one country and their possession of the other. As man’s activities are prompted and developed by Him who works in us both to will and to do, so is it that so many calls and commands are issued, urging him to be laborious and indefatigable; for still he is dealt with as a creature that acts from motive, is deterred by warning, swayed by argument, and bound to obey divine precept. And what an inducement to work out our salvation—God Himself working in us—volition and action prompted and sustained by Him who “knoweth our frame.” It is wrong to say with Chrysostom—“If thou wilt, in that case, He will work in thee to will.” For the existence of such a previous will would imply that God had wrought already. The exposition of Pelagius was, that as there are three things in man, posse, velle, agere, and that as the first is from God, and the other two from ourselves, so the apostle here puts the effect for the cause—Deus operatur velle, id est, posse, quia dat mihi potentiam ut possim velle. Lex et doctrina are with him equivalent to, or are the explanation of, gratia divina. But law and revelation only tell what is to be done, and as Augustine says, qua gratia agitur, non solum ut facienda noverimus, verum etiam ut cognita faciamus.—Opera, vol. x. p. 538, ed. Paris, 1838. The command, “work out your own salvation,” is certainly not in itself opposed to what Ellicott calls the “Dordracene doctrine of irrevocable election;” for the divine purpose does not reduce man to a machine, but works itself out by means in perfect harmony with the freedom and responsibility of his moral nature; so that every action has a motive and character. Were this the place, one might raise other inferential questions—whether this divine operation in the saints can be finally resisted, and whether it may be finally withdrawn? or, in another aspect, whether a man whom God has justified can be at last condemned? or whether the divine life implanted by the Spirit of God may or can die out? But the discussion of such questions belongs not to our province, nor would the mere language of these verses warrant its introduction.”*

*Eadie, J. (1884). A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians. (W. Young, Ed.) (Second Edition., pp. 130–131). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

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Eadie, J. (1884). A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians. (W. Young, Ed.) (Second Edition., pp. 127–136). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.