In the last three issues of the News, we saw that election is the source of the church (Eph. 1:3-4). Thus the Reformers called election the cor ecclesiae, the heart or source of the church, and Wycliffe and Hus spoke of Christ’s church as "the company of the predestinate."
Now we shall see that election is not only the source of the church; it is also the fountain of all her blessings. Our Heidelberg Catechism declares that the "church [is] chosen to everlasting life" (Q. & A. 54). The Canons of Dordt affirm that "election is the fountain of every saving good, from which proceed faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects, according to that of the apostle: ‘He hath chosen us (not because we were, but) that we should be holy and without blame before him in love’ (Eph. 1:4) " (I:9). "Fountain," the word used here in the Canons and in the Reformed tradition generally, presents us with a very attractive picture. We are to envisage all the church’s many and rich blessings gushing forth and overflowing from God’s gracious and eternal fountain of election. This wonderful fountain brings all blessings to you, believer, and to every member of Christ’s church!
This is the teaching of Ephesians 1:3-4, which states that all the church’s blessings (3) come to us "according as he hath chosen us in him [i.e., Christ] before the foundation of the world" (4). The first blessing listed here is holiness (4). God infallibly makes every true member of the church holy, according to His eternal election. Thus each elect believer is spiritually separated from the ungodly world and consecrated to God in soul and body. God realises the holiness of the elect in the effectual call, translating them from darkness to His marvellous light; in progressive sanctification through this life; and in entire sanctification at death or at Christ’s bodily return. Holiness is not the condition or cause of our election! God did not elect us because He saw that we would be holy, as Arminianism teaches. Rather, He chose us in order to make us holy. God "hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy" (4). Holiness is the purpose and result of our eternal and unconditional election in Christ.
The second blessing recorded in Ephesians 1:4 is blamelessness before God. Some take this to be an upright and godly life (with God graciously forgiving all our many, remaining transgressions). Other say this refers to our acquittal before God our judge, based solely on the righteousness of Jesus Christ, our substitute. Either way, this is a great benefit given to us only according to our election.
Adoption is the third blessing listed here: "having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will" (5). We have all the legal rights and privileges of the sons and daughters of God, as members of His spiritual family, with the Lord Jesus as our elder brother. No one has ever been or will ever be adopted by God who was not eternally elected.
Verse 6 ascribes to us a fourth blessing: acceptance in Christ, God’s beloved. If you are tempted to think of this as a small benefit, think of those who never receive it. To them the Son of God will say on the judgment day, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:23).
Ephesians 1 lists other blessings: redemption through Christ’s blood (7), the forgiveness of sins (7), the knowledge of God’s purpose to unite all things in heaven and earth in Christ (9-10), our eternal inheritance (11), the sealing of the Holy Spirit (13) and the resurrection of the body at the last day (14). Moreover, we are the recipients of many more blessings, not listed in Ephesians 1, though found elsewhere in God’s Word.
We should also not forget the apostolic benediction: "Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ" (2). Grace, mercy and peace are not given to the reprobate. These spiritual blessings (3) are only given to the elect, "according as he hath chosen us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world" (4).
Let us now relate these blessings that we receive from God’s overflowing fountain of election to the five points of Calvinism ("TULIP"). "T" (total depravity) is not a blessing, nor is it peculiar to the elect for it is common to all fallen men, so it does not belong in this discussion. The last three points of Calvinism (limited atonement, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints) are according to and flow from the second point of Calvinism, unconditional election ("U").
This is taught in Ephesians 1. Christ’s redemption (7) is a blessing which comes to us "according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world" (4). This teaches limited atonement ("L"), that is, the particular redemption of the elect alone. God’s irresistible grace ("I"), "the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power" (19), flows from the fountain of gracious election (4). The perseverance of the saints ("P"), which rests upon God’s infallible sealing and preserving of us for our eternal inheritance (11, 13-14), is also a fruit of election (4). Thus God’s unconditional election, the second point of Calvinism, is the fountain of all of the church’s blessings, including three of the five points of Calvinism: Christ’s limited atonement, God’s irresistible grace and the perseverance (and, therefore, preservation) of the saints.
- Volume: 11
- Issue: 8
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
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