It is written:
“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 should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)
It is often claimed that this text of Scripture teaches that God unconditionally elected which individuals would go to Heaven before the foundation of the world.
Is this true?
First of all, the context of this passage in Ephesians shows us that Paul is talking about the fact that Paul is discussing the church (corporate), not individuals. God has predestined that those who are in Christ will become sons of God and that they will be made like unto Jesus.
To understand why this distinction is important, consider the words of one former Calvinist:
““Obviously, the corporate body of the elect is comprised of individuals. But the election is primarily corporate and only secondarily particular. The thesis that the election is corporate, as Paul understood it and viewed it in the Ephesian doxology, is supported by the whole context of his epistle: … gather together in one all things in Christ … the redemption of the purchased possession … his inheritance in the saints … the church, which is his body … who has made both one … to make in himself of twain one new man … that he might reconcile both unto God in one body … the household of God … all the building fitly framed together er … an holy temple … builded together for an habitation of God … of the same body … the mystery from the beginning of the world [now disclosed in] the church [as the fulfillment of] the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord … of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named … glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages … one body … the body of Christ … the whole body fitly joined together … increase of the body … we are members one of another … Christ is the head of the church … the saviour of the body … Christ loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church … they two shall be one flesh [but] I speak concerning Christ and the church.”…The New Testament comprehends believers, not in isolation, but as members of the body of the elect. The election of individual men cannot be isolated from “the church, which is his body” any more than it can be isolated from Christ Himself….A central thesis of the Biblical doctrine of election may be stated thus: The election to salvation is corporate and comprehends individual men only in identification and association with the elect body.” (Robert Shank, Elect In The Son, 346-375 (Kindle Edition); Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bethany House Publishers)
Paul’s point is that God had predestined that salvation would be “In Christ-“ in the church. Whether or not a person decides to be a member of God’s choice is up to that individual. Thus, a simple study of the context of Ephesians shows us the fallacy of Calvinism’s misunderstanding and wresting of Scripture. As we continue our study of Scripture, we will see that this same theme is made evident when discussing who is predestined to be saved (and what that predestination entails, and what it doesn’t).
Second, that brings us to this fact: whether or not a person decided to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation was dependent on the person himself. Each person is free to accept or reject God’s offer to become part of His church. Paul himself makes this clear throughout Ephesians:
Ephesians 1:13-In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
The phrases “heard” and “having believed” are in the Greek active voice, which demonstrates that they themselves had done these things. This is in harmony with the rest of Scripture, which teaches that we have the ability to hear and obey the Word of God (cf. John 6:44-45; Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 1:22-24).
Finally, let’s consider that these teachings about predestination regarding salvation apply to all of the texts of predestination which we will study (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17). When talking about salvation from sin, the passages of Scripture which discuss predestination are in the context of the church of Christ. God has foreordained that salvation for sinners be in the church: but He leaves the decision of becoming a member of His church up to each sinner.
Next we will turn our attention to the subject of God’s amazing foreknowledge.