Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has 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, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.
Question: What does it mean that salvation and the Christian Calling were eternally granted to me in Christ? How was I granted the grace of a plan and a purpose from eternity past, when I yet did not exist?
Answer: In the same way that my grandfather gave me U.S. Savings Bonds when I was just a child. He put it in a safe deposit box, which I didn’t receive until I became 18. Similarly, God has eternally laid up riches for us in Christ, and when we become a Christian, we receive what God has reserved for us. Just imagine that each one of those boxes contains what God has for you in Christ, and that once you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit opens the box and begins to give you what God has in store for you.
As an illustration, Christian musician, Stephen Curtis
Chapman was once interviewed at the Dove Awards,
and a reporter asked him what he would say to someone
like Howard Stern.
Chapman responded that he would try to persuade him
to ask Jesus into his heart, and that “Jesus has a
wonderful plan for your life.”
A reporter then went back to Howard Stern.
Howard Stern responded that he doesn’t believe in
“fairy tales” and that the plan for his life was to “make
millions of people laugh.”
Nevertheless, on the basis of 2nd Timothy 1:9, I do
believe that if he ever became a Christian, that he
would get what God eternally laid up for him in Christ,
which includes a purpose and a calling for his life, just
like Stephen Curtis Chapman had stated, and someday,
on the day of Judgment, God will reveal to him, exactly
what God had in store for him, and how different his life
could have been, just like how different the life of the
rich younger ruler would have been, had he accepted
Jesus’ offer to sell all of his possession and become one
of His disciples, stated at Matthew 19:16-30. The
problem is when people overly focus on the things of
this world and end up missing God’s purpose for them.
Calvinist, James White: “Surely it is part of modern evangelical tradition to say, ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,’ but providing a meaningful biblical basis for this assertion is significantly more difficult.” (Debating Calvinism, p.265, emphasis mine)
This is because Calvinists do not believe that God has a “wonderful plan” for everyone’s life, and in fact, a dreadful plan for most, since Calvinism teaches a doctrine of Reprobation, in which people who become saved, do so because God had predestined it, and alternatively, those who remain lost, do so because God designed it that way too. To a Calvinist, this is part of the total plan of God via decree:
John Calvin: “…the reason why God elects some and rejects others is to be found in His purpose alone. … before men are born their lot is assigned to each of them by the secret will of God. … the salvation or the destruction of men depends on His free election.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.203, emphasis mine)
The Calvinist perspective is that from eternity past,
God had a people. These were His people and they
were to be created for a purpose. These comprised
the eternal flock of the Father. In time, these would
be brought to salvation. Why God selected one
person over another, no Calvinist can explain. That
is left to mystery.
My question is this: How far of a jump is it, to go
from saying that someone is in an eternal flock of
the Father, to saying that someone is eternally “in
the Father”? That’s where things get a bit dicey,
and yet that’s what Calvinism
inevitably seems to imply.
If I was a Calvinist, the book that I would write would be entitled, Elect in the Father, and it would serve as a response to the book by Robert Shank entitled, Elect in the Son. The heart-beat of Calvinism is wrapped up in the concept that God, from all eternity, has purposed to save only those whom He has mysteriously chosen, and implicit is that these are those whom He has chosen in Himself, and having been chosen in Himself, He graciously gives them to His Son. Calvinists, however, never come right out and say that Election is in the Father, which is perhaps because biblical Election is explicitly in Christ. Calvinists will respond to my allegation by declaring that I have built a false dichotomy of in the Father and in the Son, when yet the Bible also uses those same terms, as found at 1st John 2:24: “If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.” The closest that a Calvinist will ever come to conceding that theirs is an in the Father Election, is by speaking of God having chosen us in Himself, which Calvinists do frequently state. Refer to Point #4 in the discussion on Ephesians 1:4. Just to clarify, Calvinists do not disagree that Election is in Christ. Rather, what they’ve done is essentially rendered election in Christ as being secondary to the primary election in the Father, such that all whom God the Father has chosen in Himself, He thus gives to His Son, and that’s precisely how Calvinists do express it:
Calvinist, James White: “God elects a specific people unto Himself without reference to anything they do. This means the basis of God’s choice of the elect is solely within Himself: His grace, His mercy, His will.” (The Potter’s Freedom, p.39, emphasis mine)
White adds: “Jesus begins where Christian salvation begins (and ends!), with the Father. The Father gives a particular people to the Son.” (Debating Calvinism, p.118, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, William MacDonald: “Election refers to His sovereign, eternal choice of individuals to belong to Himself.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, pp.2290-2291, emphasis mine)
John Calvin: “Paul further confirms this, declaring that God was moved by no external cause; He Himself and in Himself was author and cause of our being elected while yet we were not created, and of His afterwards conferring faith upon us.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.69, emphasis mine)
John Calvin: “Then, when Paul lays down as the unique cause of election the good pleasure of God which He has in Himself, he excludes all other causes.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.69, emphasis mine)
John Calvin: “Christ therefore is for us the bright mirror of the eternal and hidden election of God, and also the earnest and pledge. ... We see here that God begins with Himself when He sees fit to elect us....” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.127, emphasis mine)
John Calvin: “God has chosen His own to be holy and without blame (Eph 1:4).” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.134, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, John MacArthur: “He saved us. He called us. Not according to our works. But according to His purpose, His grace, granted us in Christ from all eternity. I’m a Christian today because before the foundation of the world from all eternity past, God chose to set His love on John MacArthur and to give him the faith to believe at the moment that God wanted him to believe. He chose us.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)
After correctly quoting 2nd Timothy 1:9, he misquotes Ephesians 1:4 by lopping off in Christ. However, John Calvin is going to clarify for us what being chosen in Christ really means:
John Calvin: “God chose us in Christ, because He foresaw in us a place for His grace which was otherwise free to all.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.140, emphasis mine)
Question: Did God chose us in Christ because He foresaw “in us” a place for His grace?
Answer: Rather, God chose Christians for salvation because Christians are in Christ enjoined with Him as “one spirit with Him” (1st Corinthians 6:17), and share in all of the riches that God the Father has eternally reserved in His Son.
Question: Is 2nd Timothy 1:9 establishing the timeline of when people become in Christ, or when God has “given” and allocated the riches of Christ?
Answer: God predestined all spiritual blessings for us in Christ, including the purposeful calling of a Christian vocation, i.e. some teachers, some preachers, some ministers, ect.
John Calvin: “He elects from the whole, because He foresaw that what was set forth in common for all would become peculiarly ours, that sanctified by it we might be co-operators. He chose according to the purpose of His will, which is and was that He should choose those of whose future He foreknew what was written.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.140, emphasis mine)
Foreknowledge here is a bit of a distraction, since Calvinists teach that God only foreknows what He first foreordains (or scripts), and hence, that’s actually Foreordination rather than Foreknowledge.
John Calvin: “As if God were not said to have purposed His good pleasure in Himself alone, because finding no cause in us He made Himself the cause of our being saved! As if it was in vain that Paul repeats five times that our salvation is wholly the effect of that decree and purpose and good pleasure! As if he declared without any purpose that we were blessed in Christ because we were elect!” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.140, emphasis mine)
Calvin starts out by offering an in the Father election, and goes on to say that the elect [in the Father] are chosen in Christ. Hence, you have the Calvinistic, primary election to the secondary election, an in the Father election to an in Christ election. However, what he doesn’t realize is that we are only “elect” by virtue of being in Christ.
The way an Arminian reads 2nd Timothy 1:8-11
What does it mean that God “saved” us? It means that we were previously lost.
What does it mean that God “called us with a holy calling”? Now in Christ, He wants to use us.
Why not “according to our works”? The Law kills but the Spirit gives life. Grace is God’s gift.
Why is it “according to His own purpose and grace”? God decides how He will use Christians.
How is it granted us “in Christ Jesus”? The Father placed riches in His Son.
How was it from “all eternity”? God eternally granted His riches in Christ.
How is it “now revealed” by Christ’s appearing? God’s eternal plan was revealed in His Son.
The way a Calvinist reads 2nd Timothy 1:8-11
What does it mean that God “saved” us? We were selected into the eternal flock of the Father.
What does it mean that God “called us with a holy calling”? The Father drew these to His Son.
Why not “according to our works”? Even our faith has nothing to do with it.
Why is it “according to His own purpose and grace”? God is sovereign, and predestines thusly.
How is it granted us “in Christ Jesus”? In us, His elect, God predestined a place for His grace.
How was it from “all eternity”? God has an eternal script.
How is it “now revealed” by Christ’s appearing? God’s eternal plan was revealed in His Son.
The rage of Calvinists is that Arminianism is man-centered, whereas Calvinism is God-centered. However, what Calvinists miss is that when they teach that God unconditionally chose them as a place for His grace, they are saying that they were chosen in themselves, only later to be given to Christ. However, the Bible teaches that God choose His Son to be a place for His grace, and God calls all to enter, as demonstrated in the parable of the Wedding Feast. The fundamental difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is the basis of election, residing either primarily “in the Father,” or residing primarily “in Christ Jesus,” and of course, the biblical foundation is in Christ.
Which of the following is more man-centered and which is more Christ-centered?
Calvinism: In us, God predestined a place for His grace, limited to those in whom it eternally pleased Him to favor, known only to Him why, buried in the unsearchable and unreachable, secret counsel of God.
Arminianism: In Christ, God predestined a place for His grace, and God is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance, and as such, desires all men to be saved in Christ.
John Calvin: “Christ makes our calling the definite seal of our salvation. Just as our salvation was completed in Christ’s death, so God makes us share in it through the Gospel. To emphasize the greatness of this calling, Paul says it is holy. Note this carefully, for just as we look only to Christ for salvation, so he would have died in vain and for nothing if he did not call us to share in this grace. So even after salvation is procured for us through his death, the second blessing still awaits us. We have yet to be incorporated into his body and receive the benefits he will bestow on us.” (1 & 2 Timothy & Titus: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, pp.122-123, emphasis mine)
Actually, the Christian calling is not the seal of our salvation, since the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the seal of our salvation. (Ephesians 1:13) The Christian calling (here stated as the “holy calling”) is the eternally reserved benefit of our salvation in Christ, in terms of what God has eternally laid up for each Christian’s vocation within the body of Christ, that is, each Christian’s predestined purpose in Christ, which is to participate in the ministry and also to edify the Body of Christ, according to the unique gift that the Holy Spirit bestows upon each believer. This is not according to us, but according to God’s own plan, in terms of how He desires to use each person in Christ. However, what Calvin is driving at is that this “calling” is the irresistible Regenerative Grace whereby the elect [in the Father] are preemptively made Born Again in order to believe.
John Calvin: “For if God chose us from the foundation of the world, he would not have taken any notice of our works, as there were not any, and we ourselves did not exist.” (1 & 2 Timothy & Titus: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.123, emphasis mine)
Overlooking Calvin’s obvious misquote of Ephesians 1:4, the basis for God’s election of us in Christ, before we existed, stems from God’s eternal purpose of adoption for those in Christ.
John Calvin: “Election is itself the origin of all good things. The grace that was given to us, which Paul refers to, is the predestination through which we are adopted as God’s children. I want to remind my readers about this, for often God is said to give us this grace only when God determined from the beginning, so that he gave it to people who were yet unborn and independent of the matter of merit. God kept this stored away among his treasures until he came, when he made it clear that nothing is done in vain, which he has determined.” (1 & 2 Timothy & Titus: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.123, emphasis mine)
What’s eternally laid up are the riches reserved in Christ, and people receive those riches when they become in Christ.
John Calvin: “Paul is saying that the only way for the fruits of its grace to come to us is through the Gospel. For ‘God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). It is a remarkable and memorable commendation of the Gospel that it should be called the means through which life comes.” (1 & 2 Timothy & Titus: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.124, emphasis mine)
Indeed, God’s word is “living and active.” (Hebrews 4:12) Jesus said, “the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63) Romans 10:17 states: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” When the Calvinists insist that man is spiritually dead, remind them that the Gospel is spiritually alive. Anyone can be saved, since Jesus draws “all men” to Himself (John 12:32), through the supernatural power of the Gospel through which “life” is “brought.” (2nd Timothy 1:10)
Here is a link to a Blog discussion on this topic.