2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
King James Version (KJV) by Public Domain
(II of II) Dr. Jeffrey K. Boer
As we saw a couple weeks ago, the Apostle Paul was a 5 point Calvinist! Or, to put it correctly: John Calvin was a 5 point Paulinist! You see, the essence of what we, today, call Calvinism is set forth right here in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. These five points of Calvinism are also known as “the doctrines of grace.” If you want to explain to someone how it is that a person is saved solely and completely by the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, this is a wonderful place to start.
Ephesians 2:1-10 teaches us that Arminianism is a false Gospel. All 5 points of Calvinism – or all five of the TULIP doctrines, if you want to call them that – are taught right here in Ephesians 2:1-10. Let’s review them quickly. Can you remember all five of the points? It’s a little easier to remember them if you think of the acronym: TULIP.
T, U, L, I, P.
Let’s see how many of them you can get right. Don’t say it out loud, but what does the “T” stand for? Total Depravity. And the “U?” Unconditional Election. The “L?” Limited Atonement. The “I?” Irresistible Grace. And the “P?” Perseverance of the Saints.
All 5 of these doctrines of grace are taught right here in Ephesians 2, and all 5 work together to focus on one thing: the fact that salvation is by grace alone.
Unfortunately, Arminians reject all five points of those doctrines of grace. This makes their Gospel a false Gospel, because it’s not a Gospel of 100% grace.
The Arminian teaching that man, in his fallen state, is able to choose to believe in God, destroys the whole foundation of the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, which faith is a gift of God alone, and according to God’s choice alone.
In the Arminian Gospel, the key difference between those who are saved and those who are lost, the one deciding factor that separates the sheep from the goats, is a human act. According to the Arminian Gospel, the only thing that determines who receives God’s gracious salvation and who doesn’t is man’s decision to believe.
People of God, that’s not salvation by grace alone! That’s salvation by God offering grace to everyone equally, plus man, in his own strength, choosing to take God’s offer. Without man’s part, without man’s choosing, without man’s deciding, of his own free will, God couldn’t save anyone, according to the Arminians.
Well people of God, I’m here to tell you that that’s a false Gospel!
Let’s look at our text and see how all 5 of these doctrines of grace are clearly taught in the Bible. We looked at the first two points last time, so let’s review those:
How do these verses teach TOTAL DEPRAVITY?
Ephesians 2:1-3 says, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”
These verses teach us that, apart from a person being given the gift of faith in Jesus Christ, he’s dead in his sins. All men, since the Fall, are spiritually dead and unable to do anything pleasing to God.
In Genesis 6:5, all except believing Noah and his family are described as “only evil all the time.”
The text says, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”
And in Romans 3:12, Paul writes, quoting Psalms 14 & 53, “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
That’s Total Depravity. I realize that comes as a great shock to modern man’s view of self-esteem and self-worth – to be told that all men, apart from Christ, have “together become worthless” – but that’s the way it is.
How do these verses teach UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION?
Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”
Notice, here, that God loved His people before He made them alive. He loved us, “even when we were dead in transgressions.”
Paul says the same thing in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
So if you’ve been made alive, says Paul, it’s “because of his great love.” It’s because of His rich mercy.
That means it’s not because we changed to somehow make God pleased with us. It’s not because we chose to believe in Jesus Christ, and therefore, God decided to choose us.
No. God’s choosing of His people is an Unconditional Election. It’s a choosing based on nothing we say or do, because, by nature, we’re all spiritually dead so that only God can enable us to have faith.
The Arminian protests at this point. He says, “It’s not fair that God would, for no reason at all in man, choose to save some and choose to send others to Hell.” And so the Arminian has to come up with some reason why God would choose some and leave others. And that reason, he thinks, must be because some men believe and others don’t believe.
But when you think that way, there goes 100% grace, right out the window! If God chooses who to save based on some difference in men, then men can claim credit for whatever that difference is. They can boast, “At least I’m better than those unbelievers because I chose to believe the Gospel. That’s why God chose to save me and not them.”
Now we go on to the third of the five points of Calvinism taught in these verses:
How do these verses teach LIMITED ATONEMENT [Also called Definite or Particular Atonement]?
Limited (or Definite or Particular) Atonement is the idea that Christ’s death actually atoned for the sins of all those, and only those, for whom He died. If Christ died for the sins of everybody in the whole world, then no one in the world would ever have to die for his own sins, since Christ already died for them. Everybody would be saved if Christ died for everybody’s sins!
In actual fact, the benefits of Christ’s death are limited to only those who are His elect. Christ died for a particular group of people, not for everyone. And His death definitely atones for their sins, not just maybe atones for their sins if they decide to believe.
So what does our Scripture text say? Vv. 4-7, “But, because of his great love for us [not because of God’s great love for everyone in the whole world], God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
You see, God’s love for His chosen people is a very particular love. It’s a very special love. It’s a very specific love. It’s because of God’s “great love for us,” His specially chosen people, that He joined us to Christ in His death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. Christ’s atonement, His sacrifice on the cross, was not a universal atonement to cover everyone, or even to make salvation possible for everyone who decides to accept it. It was a Limited Atonement. It was a sacrifice that completely covered a limited group of people, His elect.
The Arminians, on the other hand, teach that God loves everybody. They also teach that Christ died for everybody. They say that now it’s entirely up to us to choose to believe in Him.
But then, why don’t they also teach that Christ was raised for everybody, and why don’t they also teach that Christ ascended into heaven for everybody?
Paul is very clear in our text. God loved us, His chosen, elect people. God made us alive. God raised us up to heaven with Christ. He didn’t love all mankind in general and do all of these things for all mankind in general, and then leave it up to man, himself, of his own free will, to decide if he wanted to take it or leave it. That’s what the Arminians would have us believe.
The Arminians teach that God loves everybody and wants to save everybody, but that He’s somehow bound Himself to being at the mercy of man’s will, and at the mercy of man’s desire, and man’s choice.
Back in the 1700’s, a hymn writer and theologian by the name of Augustus Toplady, preached about some of the dangers of Arminian teaching. [I’ll add an excellent quote by Toplady to the Appendix of this sermon which you can read in the e-mail version that’s sent out tonight.]
Toplady makes the point that to believe in a god who can’t do what He wants to do – save all men – is to believe in a god who’s not the God of the Bible. To believe in such a god is idolatry and blasphemy and “the mountain top height of atheism!”
Some of you may already be familiar with the name of Augustus Toplady. He’s one of the ministers of God whom the Arminian, John Wesley, so despised and hated. Wesley would write things against Calvinism and then say that Toplady wrote them! Wesley even went so far as to spread a vicious slander that Toplady had renounced the doctrines of grace on his deathbed! But to Wesley’s surprise, Toplady actually recovered from his deathbed long enough to write that Wesley had lied about this!
Augustus Toplady is also the man who wrote the words to the famous hymn, Rock of Ages, along with eight more of his hymns that have been included in our Trinity Hymnal. We’ll sing one of them at the close of our service.
So anyway, the third point of Calvinism that our text teaches is Limited Atonement – the teaching that Christ’s sacrifice was only for those on whom God has set His love, and it’s only those, and all those, that God desires to save and that He does completely save.
Now to our fourth point:
How do these verses teach IRRESISTIBLE GRACE?
Arminians teach that God offers His grace to everyone equally and God wants to save everyone equally, and then some accept His offer and some resist or reject His offer.
How does our text teach that God’s grace is irresistible, that is, it’s always effectual unto salvation and it’s impossible for man to resist?
Well, first of all, v. 1 says, “you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”
Now, how could a dead person resist anything?
When Jesus raised Lazarus, did He merely “offer” life to him? Did Jesus say, “Hey Lazarus, I’m standing at the door knocking. Won’t you please open the door and let me give you life?” How could Lazarus even hear to resist such an offer, since he was dead?
No, when Jesus called Lazarus from death to life He said, “Lazarus, come forth!” And Lazarus came forth!
There was no way on earth that such a command of God could have been resisted!
Of course it’s true that the outward call of God, where He commands all men, everywhere, to believe the Gospel – that outward call can be resisted, since those who are spiritually dead can’t obey that call to believe. But the inward call of God, where God gives a man ears to hear, and the faith to believe, is irresistible. The reason it’s irresistible, is because in order for a man to even hear God’s call, he must first be made spiritually alive. And all those who are made spiritually alive will want to come to Christ, in faith. They wouldn’t dream of resisting such a call!
Ephesians 2:5-6 says, “God, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ,” and so on…
So no one whom God loves will ever resist His love and refuse to believe in Him. God’s grace is irresistible!
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”
God’s grace is effectual. It’s irresistible. When God graciously gives you faith, you believe, period. It’s as simple as that!
That brings us to our fifth and final point:
How do these verses teach the PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS?
The doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints is the teaching that God, by His power, causes every one of His chosen people to persevere in the faith until the very end and be saved. God doesn’t allow Satan to snatch a single child from His almighty hand.
Well, think about it. What’s the purpose that God gives His people new life and faith in Jesus Christ? He gives us these things for His own glory, so that we might glorify and enjoy Him forever. Now why would God give us faith in Christ only to let us lose it later? That’d destroy His purposes, wouldn’t it? And we’ve already seen that God always does what He purposes to do. He always does what He desires to do. There’s just no way that man can mess up God’s perfect plan!
Ephesians 2:6-7 says, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
If God raised us from death to life “in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus,” then that’s what will happen to all of us in the end!
And v. 10 adds, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
So every part of our salvation is provided for us by the Almighty power and grace of God!
And every part is brought to its final end and completion by that same power and grace of God.
Paul writes, in Philippians 1:6, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
God always finishes what He starts, and God always brings His plans into completion!
If, as the Arminians teach, it’s up to man to remain faithful to God – if it’s possible for a true believer to fall away from God and be eternally lost – then that means that our salvation is only as firm and as sure as our own human abilities and our own human will.
Can you see how that immediately destroys the idea of 100% grace? Salvation, in the Arminian Gospel, is this: you’re saved by God’s grace plus man’s choice. And even after man chooses, it’s man who must keep himself persevering unto the end by the power of his own free will. It’s man who must see to it that he doesn’t fall away!
The Arminian Gospel says that you, man, are the determining factor as to whether or not you’re chosen by God to be saved. And then you, man, are the determining factor as to whether or not you’ll persevere unto the end.
But the Bible teaches that the same God Who chose us, and Who effectually called us, and Who made us alive with Christ, and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms – that same God has providentially ordered every detail of our lives so that we will perform those good works that He’s called us to do, and we will persevere in the faith until we’re all finally brought to glory by God’s power and by God’s grace alone!
People of God, Reformed doctrine, Calvinistic doctrine, including, at it’s core, the teaching of these five points of Calvinism, known as the TULIP doctrines, or the doctrines of grace – these doctrines are not just doctrines that describe one of several brands of Christianity. These doctrines of Calvinism are nothing less than the heart and soul of true, Biblical Christianity. That means that everyone must believe these doctrines if they want to have a sure hope of their salvation.
You see, if you hold to the Arminians’ false teaching in any of these five areas, you no longer have a salvation that’s 100% God’s doing and 100% God’s grace. And if your salvation is even 1% dependent on what you do, then your salvation is on shaky ground!
I’ll close today with the words of one of Augustus Toplady’s hymns. This one is #99 in the blue Trinity Hymnal. It emphasizes the fact that our salvation, from beginning to end, is 100% given to us by the grace of God, and therefore, is 100% certain!
A debtor to mercy alone,
of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with thy righteousness on,
My person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Saviour’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.
The work which his goodness began,
The arm of his strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Nor all things below or above,
Can make him his purpose forgo,
Or sever my soul from his love.
My name from the palms of his hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on his heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is giv’n;
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven. [Augustus Toplady, blue Trinity Hymnal, #99, stanzas 1-3.]
The glorified spirits who are already in heaven may be more happy than we Christians are in this world. But if we’ve been given the gift of faith to believe in Jesus Christ, then we’re just as secure in the future hope of our salvation as those who’ve already received it!
May this true doctrine of salvation by God’s 100% grace be a source of great joy and thanksgiving to you as you live your life in this world.
Yes, you must choose to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved. And yes, you must continue to believe and continue to persevere in that faith until the day you die and go to heaven. But the point is that both the ability to choose to believe, and the ability to persevere in the faith to the end, are gifts of God’s grace alone. They’re not something that we can do in our own power. They’re something God does in us and through us, by His grace alone. Your salvation is not dependent on anything you think, say, or do. It’s all of God’s doing. It’s all of God’s work, working in you. All of it. Period!
So let’s give God all the glory!
Back in the 1700’s, a hymn writer and theologian by the name of Augustus Toplady, preached about some of the dangers of Arminian teaching. Toplady said:
I dare say, that, in such an auditory [or group of listeners] as this, a number of Arminians are present. I fear, that all our public assemblies have too many of them. Perhaps, however, even these people, idolaters as they are, may be apt to blame, and, indeed, with justice, the absurdity of those who worship idols of silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. But let me ask: If it be so very absurd, to worship the work of men’s hands; what must it be, to worship the works of our own hands? Perhaps, you may say, “God forbid that I should do so.” Nevertheless, let me tell you, that trust, confidence, reliance, and dependence, for salvation, are all acts, and very solemn ones too, of divine worship: and upon whatsoever you depend, whether in whole or in part, for your acceptance with God, and for your justification in his sight, whatsoever, you rely upon, and trust in, for the attainment of grace of glory; if it be any thing short of God in Christ, you are an idolater for all intents and purposes.
Very different is the idea which Scripture gives us, of the ever-blessed God, from that of those false gods worshipped by the heathens; and from that degrading representation of the true God, which Arminianism would palm upon mankind. Our God ... is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he pleased. This is not the Arminian idea of God: for our free-willers and our chance-mongers tell us, that God does not do whatsoever he pleases; that there are a great number of things, which God wishes to do, and tugs and strives to do, and yet cannot bring to pass... Is their god the Bible-God? Certainly not. Their god “submits” to difficulties which he “cannot help” himself out of, and endeavours to make himself “easy” under millions and millions of inextricable embarrassments, uncomfortable disappointments, and mortifying defeats. ... This said scheme ascends, on the ladder of blasphemy, to the mountain top of atheism; and then hurls itself from that precipice, into the gulph of blind, adamantine necessity, in order to prove mankind free agents!” [Augustus Toplady (1740-1778), in “Free Will and Merit Fairly Examined,” The Works of Toplady, Vol. 3 (Choteau, Montana: Gospel Mission). Emphasis added.]