But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Neil Anderson: “You are not who you are in Christ because of the things you have done; you are in Christ because of what He has done. He died and rose again so that you and I could live in the freedom of His love.” (Who I am in Christ, p.15, emphasis mine)
Question: What message is Paul trying to convey?
Answer: It is not by the greatness of man that we are saved, but by the perceived weak things of God, who is “well-pleased” to “save those who believe.” (1st Corinthians 1:21) The Jews valued strength, and a Messiah who refused to take on the Romans, worked against this principle, especially a Messiah who was crucified. The Gentiles valued the things of this world, and therefore to suffer loss in the only world that is, while awaiting an imaginary world to come, is just foolishness. The Gentiles essentially are saying: “Look out that window, because that is the only world that is, and the sooner that you realize that, the sooner you will get your head on straight.” Yet it escapes their notice, that this world was formed by hands that are not seen. Therefore, knowing the truth, God despises the values of man, and verse 30 follows Paul’s explanation of who God has chosen, which was not the world’s noble, mighty and wise, but the world’s poor, weak and simple, in order to insult the values of man. But notice that the passage does not establish a secret society of eternally elect creatures, and that God has chosen these, so that by an Irresistible Grace, are these in Christ. Rather, more generically, God has chosen the poor, weak and simple in order to shame the noble, mighty and wise. Calvinists infer this to be the Calvinistically elect, but that’s not what the passage sets up.
However, Calvinists infer that you are in Christ because of Irresistible Grace. Unfortunately, Calvinists don’t always spell it out this way, and will often use coded words like: “God’s grace saves powerfully.”
Calvinist, James White: “By whose doing is anyone in Christ Jesus? Every evangelical will say, ‘Oh, it is God’s doing, surely,’ but if such a person denies that God’s grace saves powerfully and without the addition of human actions, even the autonomous action of faith, does that person truly believe it is by God’s doing that they are in Christ? Did not God do the same for every lost person, and yet for some reason they are still lost, but that person, due to some difference, some goodness, on his part, accepted God’s ‘offer,’ while others did not?” (Debating Calvinism, pp.204-205, emphasis mine)
Dave Hunt: “Of course salvation is not our doing; but that does not prove that we cannot freely receive the salvation Christ wrought as a gift of God’s love.” (What Love is This?, p.228)
Dave Hunt: “God has set the rules for entering heaven. Man either accepts or rejects the salvation God offers in Christ--but he is certainly not in charge.” (What Love is This?, p.221)
If I wanted to go to college but couldn’t afford it, and a
gracious friend offered me a free scholarship, surely, by
virtue of simply accepting the free gift, I would not
suggest that it was somehow by my doing that I was
now going to college.
Similarly, by simply receiving the free gift of salvation,
does not mean that it was by my doing that I was in
Christ Jesus. All that I did was receive a free gift. Being
the receiver, does not make me the giver.
1st Corinthians 1:30-31 and Ephesians 2:8-9 essentially teach the same principle, but not according to Calvinists, since they imagine a person being in Christ, not by faith but by an irresistible grace, and upon becoming regenerated, one then hears and believes and is technically saved by grace “through” faith. You see this principle displayed in the following quote:
John Calvin: “First he points out the eternity of election, and then how we should think of it. Christ says that the elect always belonged to God. God therefore distinguishes them from the reprobate, not by faith, nor by any merit, but by pure grace; for while they are far away from him, he regards them in secret as his own.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.393, emphasis mine)
In contrast, Laurence Vance explains: “There is no such animal as an ‘elect unregenerate’ child of God.” (The Other Side of Calvinism, p.336, emphasis mine)
Calvinism: The elect are sequentially placed in Christ first (by grace, and not faith), through which they receive Regeneration and the faith needed to believe, which only then, upon hearing and believing the gospel, does he then become “saved.”
Question: What does it mean to be in Christ Jesus?
Answer: Union, identification and association with Christ.
Question: How does a person become in Christ Jesus?
Answer: When you are sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit, upon believing in the Gospel. Ephesians 1:13-14 states: “Having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”
Question: How is it that by God we are in Christ Jesus?
Answer: Because He made the provision for salvation at Calvary. Moreover, Jesus is the One who seeks (Luke 19:10), draws (John 12:32) and knocks (Revelation 3:20), while the Holy Spirit pricks (Acts 26:14), convicts (John 16:8) and opens hearts to receive Him. (Acts 16:14) This makes God the primary cause of our being in Christ.
When the prodigal son of Luke 15:11-32 returned home, did he save himself? Did he restore himself? The father would (culturally speaking) have every right to have him stoned to death, but instead chose to be gracious. Similarly, guilty sinners who confess their sins before God do not make themselves forgiven. God simply choses to be merciful, and God alone has set the condition for bestowing mercy.
Calvinists do not recognize any grounds for an offer of salvation at 1st Corinthians 1:30-31 because they see it as saying, “by His doing [and not your acceptance of Christ] you are in Christ Jesus.” In this way, Calvinists teach that people become in Christ as a result of unconscious, involuntary reception of Irresistible Grace:
James White: “Man’s traditions would have us hear that as saying ‘He made it possible for you to join yourself to Christ Jesus,’ but that is not what it says.” (Debating Calvinism, p.299, emphasis mine)
It’s not really “man’s traditions,” but the Bible, which clearly speaks of us having to do something, in order to receive eternal life, which according to John 3:16, is believing in Him. However, Calvinists want you to think that whatever it is that God tells us to do, such as believing in Him, we do solely by an involuntarily received, Irresistible Grace. So when it all boils down, Calvinists want you to think that you came to Christ because God made a unilateral decision on your behalf, through which, you followed an inalterable course of action, which resulted in your coming to Christ. Calvinists sometimes speak of this as being “made willing.” In other words, you are in Christ because God irresistibly made you want to, and if your salvation, in any way, depended upon your conscious free choice to accept or reject God’s gift of salvation, then you couldn’t truly say that it was by God’s doing that you are saved. However, as an analogy, sometimes we use the expression, “I’m alive today because...”, and what follows is not meant to exclude our actions, but instead is meant to reinforce the primary cause of why we lived through a particular event, and the primary cause of our salvation is indeed God. Our role is non-resistance. If I was drowning and someone rescued me, then I could rightly say that it was by their doing, that I lived to tell about it, because without them, I surely would have perished. That’s what it means when the Bible says that it is by God’s doing that we are in Christ. Moreover, the context mentions nothing about an Irresistible Grace being the cause of our becoming in Christ. So where is the Calvinist drawing their interpretation? Since it’s not the context, then it must be due to a systematized, theological commitment.