Here’s this week’s question:
“Dear Dave and Tom: I recently read a verse in Ephesians that seems to support the views I’ve heard from some of my Calvinist friends. I don’t consider myself a five-point Calvinist, although I tend to agree with them on the fifth point—perseverance of the saints related to eternal security. How do you understand God choosing us as it is stated in Ephesians:1:3-7?”
Tom: Dave, now, all I’m going to do in this segment here is just read the verse, because I don’t want to get involved here, because I know if I do, I’m going to get letters. And they’re usually from our Calvinist friends out there; they’re usually 17 pages or more, okay? So to avoid that, I’m just going to read the scripture and I’m going to let you get all the mail, okay? You don’t mind that, do you?
Dave: Oh, that’s fine, Tom.
Tom: “Blessed be,” this is Ephesians:1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen,” I think this is an important one, “as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us,” and I assume that’s another one they are concerned about, “having predestinated us unto the adoption,” there’s another key phrase, “the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will [we’ve heard that before], To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Take it, Dave!
Dave: Well, Tom, we don’t have time to deal with the word “chosen” even. In John 6, Jesus says, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil.” So everybody that is chosen does not—it doesn’t work out.
Tom: Dave, the Israelites—chosen people, and not all of them are going to be with the Lord forever.
Dave: Right, but here in Ephesians 1, he is talking about real believers: “predestinated unto the adoption of children according to his good pleasure.” See, we could be saved, Tom, without becoming the children of God. So all these things that it’s talking about…
Tom: Now wait, can you explain that? That one’s…I’m not sure I got that.
Dave: Yeah. What is the issue? The issue is we’ve broken God’s law, and we’ve rebelled against him. Now, He could forgive us; that doesn’t make us His children. Are you following me?
Tom: Well, I thought if we’re saved, if we’re born again, aren’t we…
Dave: Oh, no, we’ve got a misunderstanding going here. Of course we are the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, but God didn’t have to make us His children in order to forgive us! That’s all I’m saying.
Tom: I get you.
Dave: Right, see, He could have saved us without—we’re still nice people in the Garden or something, but He wanted to make us His children, adopt us into His family.
So when you have predestination or choosing, election, and so forth, it’s always unto some blessing, not unto salvation.
For example, Romans 8: “Those whom he foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” He didn’t have to make us like Jesus. So predestination is always according to foreknowledge—1 Peter 1, “elect according to the foreknowledge.”
Now, just logically, why does foreknowledge even have to enter into it? Because it’s talking about those that God knew would be saved. If He’s just picking some people to go to heaven and some people to go to hell, foreknowledge has nothing to do with it, okay?
Now, furthermore, we get a real problem then: If God chooses some for salvation and some for hell, and there is nothing you can do about it, and everything works according to His will, then why did Jesus say that we should pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? Is all the rape and murder and crime, this is all according to God’s will? No, men are in rebellion, and God has given us the power of choice so that we could love Him. Otherwise nothing makes sense.
Now Tom, we just got an e-mail, and it’s rather interesting—listen to what it says: “Dave Hunt’s right again!” Well, I like that! “Allah is a Calvinist! He wills men to be left straying, closes their breasts, then heaps penalties on them for refusing to believe.” Then he cites Surrah 6:125: “Those whom Allah in his plan wills to guide, he openeth their breast to Islam. Those whom he wills to leave straying, he maketh their breast closed and constricted, as if they had to climb up to the skies. Thus doth Allah heap the penalty on those who refuse to believe.” Well, he keeps them from believing, and then he heaps a penalty on them for not believing. It’s exactly what the Calvinist teaches, and it is not biblical.
I mean, Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Be ye therefore merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful.” Now, you tell me: Is it merciful to predestine to eternal torment people before they’re even born, and they’re not even given a chance to believe because you’ve fixed it so they can’t believe? I don’t believe so.
So that’s the main problem, Tom. So I can’t read—when I come to these difficult passages like Ephesians 1: “He works all things according to the council of his will.” It doesn’t say, “He works all things according to his will.”
“To the council of his will,” and in the council of His will He has given men the power of choice. And when I come to a passage that seems like He’s choosing some for heaven and some for hell, I’ve got to interpret it with the rest of the Bible and with God’s character—God is love!
Tom: Dave, I said I wasn’t going to get involved, but the latter part of this question where the person says, “I tend to agree with them on the fifth point: perseverance of the saints related to eternal security,” I don’t think perseverance of the saints has anything to do with eternal security. It’s all based on demonstrating that you are one of the elect.
Dave: Tom, the very words “perseverance of the saints” tells you it’s not perseverance of God, it’s not held by Him; perseverance of the saints…and we quote in that book What Love is This? many Calvinists who feel they have lost their salvation, or they have lost their hope because they haven’t been living a good enough life.