Ephesians 1:13-14 (see also John 5:24; Romans 10:17; 2nd Corinthians 1:21-22)
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--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.
George Bryson: “The Calvinist contends that the elect believe because they are in Christ, while Scripture makes it clear that we are in Christ because this is where God places the believer when he believes.” (The Darkside of Calvinism, p.121)
Exactly! There is no such thing as an unbeliever in Christ, who is placed there in order to believe.
Martin Glynn comments on Ephesians 1:3-13: “...the you and us refers to Christians, the ‘us’ refers to the first Jewish converts while the ‘you’ refers to Gentile converts. A lot of what Paul says about ‘us’ does apply to the Gentiles, but this is founded in him first saying ‘and you also’ which means that the Gentiles receive equal treatment under the new covenant as the Jews.” (Jc_Freak: The Irish Protestant)
But a Jew and Gentile dichotomy is not clear from the text. Verses 7, 11 and 13 begin with “In Him,” which speaks of what we have in Christ. Verse 1 references the Ephesian “saints,” to which Paul says in verse 2, “grace to you.” In verse 3, Paul references “our” Lord Jesus Christ, which is inclusive of the former, since there is no transition to indicate otherwise (such as “we” Jews, might indicate a transition), and Paul adds “us,” and therefore all of the us’s that follow, leading up to verse 13, must likewise be inclusive of the same aforementioned saints, so that upon arriving at verse 13, we should conclude that Paul had been addressing the body of Christ, as a whole, so that now at verse 13, he discusses a particular part of the whole, in terms of how they, too, had become saved. Some infer that verses 3-12 referred specifically to the Jews, and not the Gentiles, but such an interpretation would require that the Gentile reader would have no idea that the former verses, up to verse 12, did not apply to him, and then he would have to go back, and re-think the prior verses with just such an understanding.
Adrian Rogers asks: “Where does God live? ... God lives in us. In the Old Testament, God had a temple for His people. In the New Testament, God has a people for His temple. God lives in us. Our hearts are a royal residence. ... Sometimes we come to Church and we say, ‘Well, we’re coming to God’s house.’ No, you’re bringing God’s house to Church. You see, God lives in you.” (My Heart--God’s Home: 1 Cor. 6:19)
This is called The Indwelling, that is, when the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of a person’s heart. Romans 8:8-9 states: “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” 1st Corinthians 3:16 states: “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” So when does this happen? It happens when you give your heart to Christ, when you ask Him to come and live inside of you. When you seal Christ in prayer, the Holy Spirit seals you in Christ. That’s the lesson of Ephesians 1:13. The order of operations is: 1) hears, 2) believes and 3) sealed in Christ, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. You cannot become in Christ until you repent and believe in Him, which principle, is devastating to Calvinism since it teaches that a person must first be preemptively placed in Christ before he can repent and believe.
Question: Is this passage teaching that a person is first in Christ and then he hears the Gospel, believes in the Gospel, and is sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit? That is the key question here. At what point do you become in Christ?
Answer: According to 2nd Corinthians 5:17, we go from the old creature in Adam into a new, reborn regenerate creature in Christ, and which occurs when we are sealed in Christ, and becoming sealed in Christ only comes after faith in Christ. (Ephesians 1:13) There are no unbelievers who are secretly sealed in Christ. Unless you can prove that one can be condemned and redeemed, simultaneously, one cannot be (1) a condemned unbeliever, according to John 3:18, and (2) a redeemed believer in Christ, according to Romans 8:1, 33, all at the same time.
Romans 10:17 states: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” When we hear the Gospel preached, from it, we receive faith. However, a person with faith may still reject Christ. But if a person does positively respond to the Gospel, then he becomes sealed in Christ. Now what does being sealed in Christ mean? In other words, what is in Christ, and what is the sealing?
Question: What is in Christ?
Answer: In Christ, I have Redemption. Romans 8:1 states: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” In Christ, I have Regeneration. 2nd Corinthians 5:17 states: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Question: What is the sealing?
Answer: 2nd Corinthians 1:21-22 states: “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” Being sealed in Christ means being established in Christ, marking our entrance into the Body of Christ, whereupon the believer is made “one spirit” with God through the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as two become one. (1st Corinthians 6:16-17)
Calvinist, William MacDonald: “This means that every true believer receives the Spirit of God as a sign that he belongs to God and that he will be kept safe by God until the time he receives his glorified body.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.1911, emphasis mine)
Agreed. When you believe in Christ, then you receive the Holy Spirit, and not before, and that fact alone becomes a problem for Calvinism which requires a pre-faith, preemptive reception of the Holy Spirit in His regenerative work. Thus, you cannot have preemptive regeneration by the Holy Spirit, or else the order of Ephesians 1:13 is overturned.
Question: When is a person placed in Christ?
Answer: You are placed in Christ after you first believe in Christ. The formula of Ephesians 1:13 is hears, believes and sealed, rather than sealed, hears and believes.
Consider 1st Corinthians 12:13, which states: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” What body is that? It is the Body of Christ. We have a spiritual baptism into the Body of Christ when what?
Adrian Rogers comments: “We are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ. When does this take place? When we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, when we receive Christ as personal Savior, two things take place at the same time: We are baptized into the Body of Christ, and we are filled with the Spirit. We’ve all been baptized into His body and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. That is, the Holy Spirit of God, when I give my heart to Jesus, and I say, ‘Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner. I can’t save myself. You died to save Me. You promised to save me if I would trust You. I do trust You. Once and for all, now and forever, forgive my sin, come into my heart, be my Lord and Savior,’ and then a miracle takes place, and the Holy Spirit says, ‘Now I’m placing you, Adrian, into the Body of Christ. I am baptizing you into the Body of Christ.’ Water baptism only symbolizes this Spirit baptism. I am baptized, verse 13, into the Body of Christ. But not only am I placed into the Body of Christ, the Holy Spirit is placed into me, and I’ve been made to drink into one Spirit. Just as I take a drink of water, the Holy Spirit just comes in to me. So I am in the Body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is in me. That takes place when I get saved, and that makes the wonderful transformation, that makes the difference. And so when I am put into the Body of Christ, there I receive my spiritual gift.” (You Are Somebody in His Body: 1st Corinthians 12:12-18; emphasis mine)
Adrian Rogers adds: “Now, who is the Baptizer? The Holy Spirit. Who is being baptized? The believer in Jesus. Into what is he baptized? Into the Body of Christ. When is he baptized? At the moment of his conversion, the moment he gives his or her heart to Jesus Christ and no one is left out. We are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ.” (You Are Somebody in His Body: 1st Corinthians 12:12-18; emphasis mine)
In this spiritual baptism, through which the Holy Spirit indwells the body of the believer (1st Corinthians 3:16), the believer is simultaneously placed in the Body of Christ, and that fact alone is crippling to Calvinism, which insists upon a theology that requires a preemptive placement in the Body of Christ before repentance to Christ.
As will be shown, if the Calvinist accepted the Arminian explanation, then the Regenerative Grace of Calvinism would implode, and that dilemma will be the focus of this chapter.
Question: Does Calvinism teach that the Calvinistically elect are in Christ before they are sealed in Christ?
Answer: Calvinism absolutely requires it! Why? Because they need that which is in Christ, namely regeneration, in order to overcome Total Depravity and repent. Additionally, since regeneration is performed by the Holy Spirit, Calvinism therefore also requires that a person have the Holy Spirit, together with regeneration, preemptively before a person can repent, believe and be saved. Therefore, the theological mess that Calvinism makes is that before a person repents, he is already [allegedly] in Christ (where there is no condemnation per Romans 8:1), and is already regenerated with the Holy Spirit, so that he can then repent, believe and be saved. Nevertheless, Calvinists stand behind it.
Calvinist, James White: “When the time comes in God’s sovereign providence to bring to spiritual life each of those for whom Christ died, the Spirit of God will not only effectively accomplish that work of regeneration but that new creature in Christ will, unfailingly, believe in Jesus Christ (‘all that the Father gives Me will come to Me’).” (Debating Calvinism, p.191, emphasis mine)
Do you understand what White is saying? He did not slip. His statement is deliberate, and it reflects an accurate understanding of exactly what Calvinism requires. Although stated in numerously different ways, the bare essential of Calvinism is a preemptive placement in Christ, in prior temporal order to the sealing, which sealing, does not occur until a person first believes in the Gospel, as per Ephesians 1:13. In other words, Calvinism teaches that a person is made in Christ, before he ever repents, before he ever believes in the Gospel and before he is ever sealed in Christ. But how can that be? When, therefore, do Calvinists think that they become in Christ? Listen, when you find out, you tell me, because I don’t think that the Calvinists even know the answer to that question. Rather, they simply point to a mysterious appointment in time when they are suddenly regenerated, and as a result of that regeneration, they now believe. However, that only creates more problems. For instance, what right do Calvinists have for a regeneration? Because you are elect? That’s Circular Logic. That’s assuming Calvinism in order to prove Calvinism. Regeneration only comes from being in Christ, and becoming sealed in Christ only occurs upon faith in Him, which then proves that, chronologically, regeneration must necessarily come after faith in Christ. One must be converted first, in order to become in Christ, in order to get the regeneration which Calvinists otherwise insist must come first. So Calvinists have a real problem at Ephesians 1:13.
Steven Hitchcock: “It is our faith in Jesus that connects us to God. We were not sealed in Christ before the foundation of the world but in this life, after believing in the gospel. At the point of being sealed in Him it could be said that God knew us personally and intimately and because of His ever-continuous present-experience of time it can be said that He knew us before the foundation of the world.” (Recanting Calvinism, p.100, emphasis mine)
But according to Calvinism, one must first be connected with God, in order to have faith in Jesus. The whole idea of faith connecting us to God is overthrown by the Calvinistic ideals of preemptive placement in Christ, simply on account of special election, which means, then, that faith is not the special key, but simply a divine means to a predetermined end.
Question: What right do you have to regeneration?
Answer: John 1:12 states: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Unfortunately, as discussed at John 1:13, Calvinists, perhaps without fully realizing it, take what we are born “of,” and render it what we are born because of.
Nevertheless, we have a divine right to regeneration under God’s Constitution in Christ. Here are the Christian’s Bill of Rights in Christ:
In Him, you have the right to Regeneration. You will be made a new creature with a new heart and a new spirit, through the new birth of being made Born Again as a new creature in Christ. (Ezekiel 36:26; 2nd Corinthians 5:17)
In Him, you have the right to Justification and Redemption. (Romans 8:1)
In Him, you have the right of Adoption. From the standpoint of being in Christ, you are therefore adopted in the Father, in His family, as a child of God. (1st John 2:24)
In Him, you have the right to Eternal Life. Whosoever believes in Him, has passed out of death and into life. (John 5:24)
In Him, you have the right to the Indwelling, whereby the Holy Spirit takes up residence within the temple of your body. (1st Corinthians 3:16)
In Him, you have the right to a predestined Inheritance, whereby we become joint heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17)
In Him, you have the right to a predestined Purpose, whereby you are called and equipped by the Holy Spirit, in order that you may both edify the Body of Christ and evangelize the lost.
Justification: legal metaphor, showing that by our trust in Jesus Christ, we are in fact counted righteous and have been freed from the guilt and penalty of our sin.
Regeneration: biological metaphor, a word picture of a birth into a new life that has a new spiritual nature.
Adoption: positional metaphor, showing that a pardoned sinner becomes a child of God (note the contrast: Jesus is by nature the Son of God while believers are the adopted children of God).
All of this occurs simultaneously upon being sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit.
Question: I know that I receive the right to these things when I am sealed in Christ. So what gives the Calvinist the right to these things, before he believes in the Gospel and is sealed in Christ?
Answer: Absolutely no right whatsoever! Jesus states: “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)
You cannot be in Christ among the redeemed, while being an unbeliever, condemned in Adam. The two are Mutually Exclusive.
Question: Why do Calvinists feel that they are in Christ, prior to being sealed in Him?
Answer: Because Calvinism absolutely requires it! Calvinism teaches that mankind is so depraved that even if God were to open your heart to believe in the Gospel, as per Acts 16:14, that that wouldn’t be enough. Make no mistake about it: Calvinism is not about opening hearts, but about exchanging hearts. You need to understand that. In order for Calvinism to ensure that the decision of Calvinism’s elect is rendered 100% irresistible, as in Irresistible Grace, Calvinism requires a new heart, and since the new heart is only in Christ, then Calvinism requires access to being in Christ. Hence, Calvinistic Preemptive Regeneration, is actually Preemptive Placement in Christ.
Calvinists who teach this, as James White was quoted as saying, are going to have to explain where they get the right to become placed in Christ prior to being sealed in Christ, and their answer is by virtue of their eternal secret position in the Father, through which, they are elected into Christ, whereby these elect ones are sealed in Christ, at some mysterious and unknown time, prior to hearing and believing.
Question: When the Holy Spirit seals believers in Christ, is He sealing people who were already in Christ?
Answer: Only if condemned unbelievers (John 3:18) are allowed in Christ. Otherwise, the answer is No.
Step 1) Hears Gospel
Step 2) Believes Gospel
Step 3) Sealed in Christ
Step 4) Born Again, New Creature, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, one spirit with God.
The Holy Spirit takes believers and seals them in Christ. Close the envelope, attach the stamp, they’re now sealed in Christ, and you can count them as Redeemed.
Step 1) Born again in Christ
Step 2) Hears Gospel
Step 3) Believes Gospel
Step 4) Sealed in Christ
Step 1 and 4 shows how dysfunctional Calvinism truly is, by placing unbelievers preemptively in Christ, in order to access what is IN Christ, namely a new heart, via regeneration, prior to being sealed in Christ.
John 5:24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
Again, we see the combination of hears, believes and receives. But according to Calvinism, this verse must mean that those who are preemptively in Christ, in whom there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1), must have already passed out of death and into life, and by virtue of that, when they hear, they irresistibly believe. The theological hole that Calvinism has dug itself into, is truly insurmountable.
John Calvin: “The one thing we must understand is that none are partakers of true faith save those who are sealed by the Spirit of adoption and who sincerely call upon God their Father. And as the Spirit is never extinguished in the godly, it is impossible that faith should vanish and perish when once it has been engraven in their hearts.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, A Harmony of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Vol. II, p.72, emphasis mine)
One Calvinist explains: “It is just bad doctrine to say that God chose us ‘in Him’ and mean we are the ones who place ourselves ‘in Him’.” (BaptistBoard, emphasis mine)
Actually, it is the Holy Spirit who places us “in Him,” and He does so, after we believe, according to Ephesians 1:13. On the other hand, the Calvinist is in a real predicament when they assert that people can be in Christ prior to being sealed in Christ, and that condemned unbelievers can somehow be a member of the body of Christ where there is otherwise no condemnation.
John Calvin: “But here he seems to subject the sealing of the Spirit to faith. If so, faith precedes it. I answer, the effect of the Spirit in faith is twofold, corresponding to the two chief parts of which faith consists. It enlightens the intellect (mens) and also confirms the thinking (aminus). The commencement of faith is knowledge; its completion is a firm and steady conviction, which admits of no opposing doubt. Each, I have said, is the work of the Spirit. No wonder, then, if Paul should declare that the Ephesians not only received by faith the truth of the Gospel, but also were confirmed in it by the seal of the Holy Spirit.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.132, emphasis mine)
And there’s the admission of the dilemma. Nevertheless, Calvin’s solution is to invoke two dispensations of the Holy Spirit:
John Calvin: “For the Spirit of God is like a seal, by which we are distinguished from the reprobate, and which is impressed on our hearts that we may be assured of the grace of adoption.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.194, emphasis mine)
John Calvin: “He does not begin to choose us after we believe, but by the gift of faith he seals the adoption that was hidden in our hearts and makes it manifest and sure. … Let us learn that God’s election is confirmed by faith in order that our minds may be turned to Christ as the pledge of election.” (Acts: Calvin, Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.229, emphasis mine)
John Calvin: “The calling is therefore a certain and specific calling, which seals and ratifies the eternal election of God so as to make manifest what was before hidden in God.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.70, emphasis mine)
John Calvin: “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)
According to Calvin, the sealing is something that the Holy Spirit does after a person believes, in order to impress upon the individual’s heart, the knowledge of a prior, eternal adoption in the Father.
Calvinistic paraphrase of Ephesians 1:13: “You also, after [being placed in Christ for regeneration] listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.”
Paul asks at Galatians 3:2: “This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by [A] the works of the Law, or [B] by hearing with faith?” The answer is [A], that you received the Spirit by hearing with faith. Amazingly, though, Calvinism teaches that the answer to Paul’s question is [C], none of the above (that the Spirit was preemptively received through Regenerative Grace).
Sometimes when Calvinists speak of Preemptive Regeneration, which is really Preemptive Placement in Christ, they describe it as being made preemptively Born Again:
Calvinist, R.C. Sproul: The Reformed view of predestination teaches that before a person can choose Christ his heart must be changed. He must be born again.” (Chosen By God, p.72, emphasis mine)
John Calvin: “…those who believe are already born of God.” (John: The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.23, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer: “The corruption of sin extends to his mind as well as his will; consequently, no one seeks God. Because man is dead in trespasses and sins, God must regenerate him and even grant him the faith to believe.” (The Doctrines That Divide, pp.179-180, emphasis mine)
The order of operations according to Calvinism is that regeneration produces faith which results in salvation. It is the Calvinist doctrine of being regenerated in Christ before you’re saved by faith.
Dave Hunt: “If regeneration takes place by God’s sovereign act without any faith on man’s part, what does believing in the gospel accomplish? Why would a regenerated child of God need to be saved? The biblical doctrine of salvation through faith in Christ contradicts so-called ‘Reformed Theology.’” (Debating Calvinism, p.127, emphasis mine)
Indeed, what would it accomplish, since, allegedly, they are already in Christ?
Question: What is Regeneration?
Answer: Titus 3:5-7 states: “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
First of all, deeds done in “righteousness” implies meritorious deeds of self-righteousness. Faith, however, allows for no boasting (Romans 3:27; 4:5), since it’s a matter of trusting in someone else’s righteousness, namely Christ’s, which, by His mercy and grace, He imputes His righteousness to the believer. Calvin actually has a tremendous quote on this very thing:
John Calvin: “Now it may be asked how men receive the salvation offered to them by the hand of God? I reply, by faith. Hence he concludes that here is nothing of our own. If, on the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which strips us of all praise, it follows that salvation is not of us. … When, on man’s side, he places the only way of receiving salvation in faith alone, he rejects all other means on which men are accustomed to rely. Faith, then, brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.144, emphasis mine)
Obviously, I could not agree more.
Question: What is Salvation?
Answer: “He saved us...by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit...through Jesus Christ our Savior....”
Salvation is not regeneration. Rather, salvation is by regeneration and by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, and both Calvinism and Arminianism agrees that this is alone reserved in Christ. Ultimately, Calvinists are going to stick to their guns, and simply insist that they were placed in Christ at a fore-appointed time, prior to repentance, despite whatever the sealing of Ephesians 1:13 states, or whatever the implications of John 3:18 may be, because Calvinists have completely bought into the notion that they were secretly drafted into the eternal flock of the Father, and that is their home base:
Calvinist, James White: “I just also believe the undisputed and unrefuted fact that I come to Christ daily because the Father, on the sole basis of His mercy and grace, gave me to the Son in eternity past.” (Debating Calvinism, p.306, emphasis mine)
Calvinists don’t merely believe in Calvinism; they love Calvinism. I perceive that it is because it has stoked their pride and ego, in thinking that they were eternally more special to God than others. They’ll never admit it, but Calvinism does place them in an upper caste, so to speak, set apart from the alleged untouchables of the alleged non-elect. Nevertheless, phrases like, “I just also believe” and “undisputed and unrefuted” reveals a stubborn attachment that won’t be easily loosened, which inevitably will cause biblical truth to become veiled to them. That’s the downside of the pride of Calvinism.
If, as Calvinism teaches, that you are in Christ before you are sealed in Christ, then what does the sealing accomplish? The moment you place any significance on the sealing, Calvinism goes on Life Support. Moreover, if you become in Christ, only upon the moment of being sealed in Christ, as Ephesians 1:13 suggests, then Calvinism flatlines, because Calvinism requires a preemptive placement in Christ in order to obtain the regeneration that Calvinism says is necessary in order to overcome Total Depravity.
Ephesians 1:13 indicates that one receives the deposit of the Holy Spirit after having first believed in the gospel, and therefore if the Holy Spirit regenerates a person before believing in the gospel (as per Calvinism), now you have a paradox, where the Holy Spirit is already present, before being deposited.
In summary, when you believe in Jesus, God opens the door of Heaven, a name gets recorded, and the Holy Spirit comes to live inside.
There is a follow-up discussion in this Blog.