Watch this short video clip for an overview of this passage.
Suppose there are two football coaches living there in your hometown, Coach Calvin and Coach Hobbs. Coach Calvin is in a league where he pre-selects and compels each player to be on his team.
Coach Hobbs is in a league where he invites who ever wants to play football to join his team voluntarily. However, one thing they both have in common is that prior to the teams being formed both coaches had predetermined to conform their team members into well conditioned and trained football players.
Calvinists insist Ephesians 1 teaches that God is like “Coach Calvin” but all the text actually states is what the coach has predetermined for his team to become, it says nothing about his predetermining who would and would not be on the team (i.e. “in Him”).
The first chapter of Ephesians is another hotly contested passage regarding the doctrine of salvation. The first verse reveals that Paul’s audience is “the faithful in Christ Jesus.” In fact, the “in Christ” theme introduced in the apostle’s opening sentence continues through this entire section of the text. He repeats this phrase, in various forms, ten times in just thirteen verses, as highlighted below:
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 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. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
I would like to pose a question for objective consideration. Let’s drop any preconceived ideas we have about this text and attempt to answer the question as honestly as we can.
How does one come to be “in Him?”
Does this passage state that he chose us individually to be effectually placed in him, or does it simply state, “he chose us in him?” Does it teach that Christ redeems us individually so that we might be irresistibly put in him or does it only teach, “In him we have redemption?” Does it say that God has chosen individuals to be in him, or does it say, “in him we were also chosen?”
- Has God chosen individuals to be placed in Him?
- Or, has God chosen individuals who are in Him?
Put another way…
- Has God predetermined the individuals to be in the group?
- Or, has God chosen a group of individuals for a predetermined end?
Some focus so much attention on the first 12 verses that they fail to see the last two verses where Paul gives an answer to this vital question; “How does one come to be in Him?”
13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.
First question: When were they included in Christ?
Was it before the foundation of the earth? What answer does the text give?
“…when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.”
Let’s continue to read:
When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Second question: When were they marked in Him?
Was it before the world began and without any regard to their response to the gospel? What does the text say?
“When you believed, you were marked in him…”
The text seems to clearly indicate that God has predetermined that the “the faithful in Christ Jesus” (vs. 1) will become “holy and blameless” (sanctification – vs. 4) and they will be “adopted” (glorification – vs. 5). (Note: Romans 8:23 clearly indicates that Paul sees “adoption” as a future hope for all who come to faith.)
How do we know that we, believers in Christ, will be sanctified and glorified? Because God has marked us IN HIM and given us His Spirit as a guarantee of what he has purposed for all who believe.
This passage is not about God predetermining which individuals will be in Christ. It is about God predetermining what will become of those who are in Christ through belief in His truth.
The divine “Coach” has invited all to come and join His team (Col. 1:23, John 12:32, Mt. 28:19, 2 Cor. 5:19-21, Mk 16:15, Mt. 11:28) because He genuinely desires all to come (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Tim. 2:4, Ek. 18:30-32, Matt. 23:37, Rm. 10:21). And all who do come will be trained (sanctified, conformed into his image -Rom. 8:29) and guaranteed a spot (adopted in glorification), because that is what our “Coach” has predetermined for all who are on HIS TEAM!
I strongly urge everyone reading these words to consider the exegesis given by Dr. Hershel Hobbs (co-author of the Baptist Faith and Message, the largest protestant denomination’s most widely accepted Statement of Faith): CLICK HERE
CLICK HERE to listen a podcast on this topic.