The Reformation and the Election – Ephesians 1:4
A sermon preached on Lord’s Day, October 31, 2010
A. Today, October 31, marks the 493rd anniversary of a significant even to us, but not to those who were living at the time or even to those who might have witnessed it. An unknown and insignificant Roman Catholic priest, Martin Luther, tacked a series of 95 statements on a church door in Germany. In those days, the way a subject for debate among priests and theologians occurred was when someone like Luther pinned his concerns on a church door. But Luther’s concerns, slowly but surely, would change the world. The result of this seemingly insignificant act by a relatively unknown man is what we call the Protestant Reformation. October 31, 1517 is when the Reformation of the Christian church began and the world has never been the same.
B. During the Reformation of the 16th century, the Bible took its rightful place – front and center. And God raised-up two main leaders, Martin Luther and John Calvin, who changed the face of the church and of the Western world.
1. Luther and Calvin were different men: But Martin Luther and John Calvin were very different men.
a. Luther was an ex-monk who, at the age of 42, married an apostate nun, Katherine. Luther really needed to get married. He once said, “Before I was married the bed was not made for a whole year and became foul with sweat” (Bainton, Here I Stand, 226). But here what he says next, “But I worked so hard and was weary I tumbled in [bed] without noticing it” (Bainton, Here I Stand, 226). PT. What drove Luther to work so hard?
b. Luther was quite the character. He sent out many invitations to his wedding. There was a man named Leonard Kopp who had helped some nuns escape from their convent (Luther’s soon-to-be wife being one of them). Here’s how the invitation to Kopp read, “I am to be married on Thursday. My lord Katie and I invite you to send a barrel of the best …beer, and if it is not good you will have to drink it all yourself” (Bainton, Here I Stand, 226). Calvin was much more refined than Luther; he drank wine.
2. Luther and Calvin, though they were different men, they believed some of the same things: Though Luther and Calvin were very different in terms of their personalities, Luther and Calvin agreed on many things. And this is what fueled the Reformation – not the great men, but the great truths they held in common. This is vital to understand! PT. It is the truth that sets souls free not strong leaders or unique personalities! The Gospel was unleashed at the time of the Reformation and the world became different as a result!
3. Luther and Calvin and the Five Solas: Luther and Calvin, and the first wave of Protestants, all believed in what we call the five solas of the Reformation – Sola Scriptura (the Bible is above the Church not under it), Sola Gratia (to be right with God is based on God’s grace not our works), Sola Fidei (salvation from sin comes to a soul through the instrument of faith and faith alone!), Solus Christus (Christ and Christ alone as the object of ones faith saves) and the last Sola is, Soli Deo Gloria – to God along be the glory in all things (Rom. 11:36). It’s all about Him, not us. The universe isn’t tethered around us; its’ tethered around God. Everything exists for Him. All that is, is, for Him.
C. Transition: Protestants all over the world are remembering the Reformation today. And to help us understand why the truths rediscovered at the time of the Reformation were so life-changing, I want you to turn to Ephesians 1:4 as we consider the Reformation and the Election.
Introduction: What I would like to do with this text is to show you that it is one of many NT passages that justify the solas of the Reformation. I will first explain the text, deal with some common objections, and then draw some practical applications.
1. Notice the context of the verse: 1:3-14 is an anthem of praise to God for the blessings of salvation. Paul’s soul explodes with praise to God the Father for the fact and way He saves sinners.
a. Praise to God the Father for election – 1:4-6
b. Praise to God the Father for redemption in the Beloved one – 1:7-12
c. Praise to God the Father for sealing by the Holy Spirit – 1:13-14
PT. Notice how each section ends with a soli Deo gloria type of statement!
2. Notice the teaching of the verse
a. The author of election: He
1) This refers back to verse 3.
2) He is God the Father.
3) God the Father is the author of election. He is the elector.
4) The Father is depicted in Scripture as the divine fountain-head from which salvation ultimately begins (cf. Eph. 1:5, 9, 11 [His will, His purpose]; Col. 1:12). The work of salvation is divided between the Persons of the Godhead – the Father plans redemption, the Son purchases redemption, the Spirit applies redemption. The redemptive stewardship of the Father lies mainly in the realm of the planning of salvation, in election and predestination.
b. The fact of election: chose
1) To chose for one self
2) To chose or select or elect out of a group
c. The objects of election: us
1) The “us” is Paul and the believers in Christ to whom he was writing. Election is personal. It refers to individuals.
2) But notice with me how Paul describes the “us” in 2:1-3. This is before they believed the gospel.
3) The “us” are chosen to be holy, not because they were holy.
4) IOW, elect people are first sinful people. Election is necessary because we are sinners. If there were no election, there would be no salvation! Since there is election, we can be sure that there is salvation!
ILLUSTRATION: This election is very unlike Tuesday’s election. In political elections, if you run a great campaign, chances are better that you will be elected. But the election of Eph. 1:4 has no campaign slogans that will work. Not only do we have nothing to offer God to make us fit for election, we can’t come up with a slogan that will cause Him to overlook our faults and choose us anyway.
d. The sphere of election: in Him
1) We are not told by Paul just exactly what being chosen “in Him” means.
2) I think Charles Hodge, a 19th-century Presbyterian theologian says it well: “It was in Christ as their head and representative they were chosen to holiness and eternal life, and therefore in virtue of what he was to do in their behalf. There is a federal (or covenantal) union with Christ which [comes before] all actual union [which comes by faith], and is the source of it. God gave a people to his Son in the covenant of redemption [before the world began]… It is, therefore, in Christ, i. e. as untied to him in the covenant of redemption [before the world began], that the people of God are elected to eternal life and to all the blessings [connected to it]” (Hodge, Eph., 31).
e. The timing of election: before the foundation of the world
1) Paul uses this kind of language elsewhere. For instance, 2 Timothy 1:9, “[God] saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,” And 2 Thess. 2:13, “…we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” Here Acts 13:48, “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; ans as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”
2) So the Bible teaches us that before the foundation of the world, something was going on between God the Father and God the Son concerning the salvation of souls!
3) Jesus knew these things to be true: Jn. 6:35-40; 17:2.
f. The goal of election: to be holy
1) Not God chose us because we were holy.
2) Not God chose us because we promised to be holy.
3) But God chose us to a goal we were not pursuing and could never, ever attain – holiness and blamelessness in the presence of God. I think Paul is referring to the same thing Jude alerts to in Jude 24, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy”!
PT. Ephesians 1:4ff. teaches that God chose some he viewed as sinners to be holy in His presence (or saved), before the foundation of the world, in the plan of redemption between the Father and the Son and all according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace. Sola gratia and soli Deo Gloria!
- Stated: I’ve got a real problem with this. This does not seem to be just. You claim that God is just, yet this sure does not seem to display justice. Answered: Well, I must say that I agree with you. Election does not display justice; it displays mercy, grace, kindness, and love. That’s why it’s so amazing! If you want God to be just alone, then no one will be saved, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). That one soul is elected is staggering to the mind, considering how holy and just God is and how sinful we are. But there are millions upon millions of elect sinners!
- Stated: If election is true the way you have explained it, this would mean that man has no say in the matter. Answered: Our having a say in the matter is our problem not the solution! Our hearts are not naturally inclined to say yes to God, yes to His law, yes to His Son, yes to the Gospel, and yes to holiness, selflessness, sacrifice, and obedience against all odds. Man’s will is one of the things that man needs to be saved from. Rom. 8:8 [in our natural state we are] not able to please God!
1. For the lost and unbelieving.
a. A warning: Don’t leave here playing the unjust card against God. Spurgeon said, “I will not attempt to prove the justice of God in having thus elected some and left others. It is not for me to vindicate my Master. He will speak for himself, and he does so…” (Election, 11). Listen to Rom. 9:14-24. Don’t turn things upside down and become God’s judge instead of He being ours. Everything God does is just, simply because He does it.
b. An encouragement: If you affirm with the Bible that election is of grace, that justice requires punishment, and that you are both unworthy of election and worthy of punishment, then you are in a good state of mind. As Spurgeon told and audience over 100 years ago, “…take courage, take hope, O thou sinner, that there is election!” If there were no election, there would be no hope of salvation. But, since election is, salvation is. So, take God’s word for it, and come to Jesus Christ and live! You’ve already got election down; now get the gospel right and come! You will not be more sinful if you do so. In fact, Christ is your only hope to know if you are elect. If you want salvation, take Christ. And if you do, you will know that you are elect! Not only is election true, but all who come to Christ acknowledging their sins and trusting Him are received by Him! You need Him; only Him, all of Him, and nothing but Him!
2. For the saved and believing.
a. Always remember that this teaching on election comes in a context of praise and thanksgiving, not polemics. Understanding election should move us to worship not argument. Eph. 1:3; 2 Thess. 2:13. Hymn #95: Not one of all the chosen race, But shall to heaven attain, Partake on earth the purposed grace, And then with Jesus reign!
b. This doctrine of election strips believers of boasting in themselves and directs their boasts exclusively to the Lord! Tis not that I did choose Thee, For, Lord, that could not be; This heart would still refuse Thee, Hadst Thou not chosen me. It is by God’s doing that anyone is in Christ. Let him who boars, boast in the Lord!
c. This doctrine of election reminds us of the truths embodied in the solas of the Reformation: Salvation is by sovereign and electing grace alone (sola gratia), through the instrument of faith alone (sola fidei), in Christ alone as offered in the gospel and nothing but Christ (solus Christus), and all for the glory of God – soli Deo Gloria! May our cry ever be Free grace alone, from the first to the last, Hath won my affection and bound my soul fast! Amen.
Dr. Richard Barcellos is associate professor of New Testament Studies. He received a B.S. from California State University, Fresno, an M.Div. from The Master’s Seminary, and a Th.M. and Ph.D. from Whitefield Theological Seminary. Dr. Barcellos is pastor of Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Palmdale, CA. He is author of Trinity & Creation, The Covenant of Works, and Getting the Garden Right. He has contributed articles to various journals and is a member of ETS.