Ephesians 1:4

Ephesians 1:3-4 (see also 2nd Corinthians 1:20Romans 8:29; Ephesians 3:11 2nd Timothy 1:9)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.

Paul’s thesis is all that which God has predestined in Christ (v.3), namely exclusive access to God’s spiritual blessings, outside of which, there are zero spiritual blessings accessible: One must be a Christian. In contrast, the Calvinist thesis is God predestining an elect group in the Father, with the result of being spiritually blessed to be chosen to become believers. Thus, Calvinism is the very antithesis of Pauline theology.

Summary of Calvinist errors:

(1) Basic Reading Comprehension: Calvinists know that v.4 starts with “just as” but don’t consider  how that would connect to the principle statement in v.3. See the discussion on Ephesians 1:3.

(2) Equivocation: Calvinists see the word “us” and simply assume Calvinism’s elect, instead of defining the “us” as “us who believe” (v.19), which are Christians, and which is consistent with v.3, since this passage is about the Father’s spiritual blessings that are exclusive to Christians.

(3) Confirmation Bias: Calvinists see “chosen,” “us” and “before the foundation of the world,” and thus receive confirmation of what they already believe, which is that there is a certain sect of secretly, preselected individuals from eternity for salvation. Simply notice the myriad of Calvinist’s quotes below, which bear out the point that Calvinists see only what they want to see, and filter out the rest.

All spiritual blessings belong to Christians, exclusively, just as God has eternally chosen us who believe (i.e. Christians, v.19) to stand innocent before God. (v.4) The following verses are a list of additional spiritual blessings that are exclusive to Christians.  

​Question: If, according to Calvinism, Ephesians 1:4 means that an “elect” class is chosen into Christ, then in whom were they first chosen, so that God, on that basis, would choose to give them to His Son, in order to become in Christ?

Answer: Calvinism inevitably presupposes an overshadowing election in the Father.

Calvinist, James White: “[Dave] Hunt may not like what Ephesians 1:4-7 says, but his dislike of its message of divine election does not make it false.” (Debating Calvinism, p.322, emphasis mine)

Its not that Arminians dislike Ephesians 1:4 or think that it is false, but instead dislike what Calvinists assume into the text, and how Calvinists misquote it by lopping off “in Him,” by speaking of election in the abstract, without it principally being an election of Christians in Christ

​Although frequently cited by Calvinists as a proof-text for Calvinistic Election, Ephesians chapter one actually stands as perhaps the strongest proof-text for Corporate Election of Christians since it firmly places eternal election in Christ. This Christocentric verse is so often misquoted by Calvinists that it has become nearly epidemic. Most often, “in Him,” which is in Christ, is either completely severed in a Calvinist quote, or it is subtlety substituted for the Father. It is what we call, speaking of Election in the abstract, and it is the bedrock of error. Speak of Election apart from its basis in Christ, and error will follow, as the following demonstrates.

John Calvin: “Paul’s words in the first chapter of Ephesians are clear (v.3): Blessed be God who hath blessed us in Christ, according as He hath chosen us before the foundation of the world.”  (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.68, emphasis mine) 

​Do you notice anything missing? What key item did John Calvin accidentally omit?

Rather, God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Was this a mere typo by Calvin, or is there a pattern forming? What follows is a stunning display of Calvinist misquotes of Ephesians 1:4:

John Calvin: “God effectually calls those whom He has fore-ordained to life from before the foundation of the world by His secret purpose, and in the same way He follows through His continuous course of calling by His sheer grace.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Hebrews and I and II Peter, p.334, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “As long as God imputes our sins to us, He cannot but regard us with abhorrence, for He cannot look with friendship or favour upon sinners. But this may appear to contradict what is said elsewhere, that ‘we were loved by Him before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1.4), and to contradict still more John 3:16 where He says that His love for us was the reason why He expiated our sins by Christ, for the cause must always precede the effect.” (Calvin’s Commentaries: II Corinthians, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, p.78, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “There God stretches out His hand to all alike, but He only grasps those (in such a way as to lead to Himself) whom He has chosen before the foundation of the world.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Hebrews and I and II Peter, p.364, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “He chose us before the world was. The very time of election shows it to be free; for what could we have deserved, or in what did our merit consist, before the world was made?”  (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, pp.124-125, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “There God stretches out His hand to all alike, but He only grasps those (in such a way as to lead to Himself) whom He has chosen before the foundation of the world.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Hebrews and I and II Peter, p.364, emphasis mine) 

John Calvin: I reply that it is not unusual to find that those elected before the foundation of the world are thought of as strangers, until by faith they are gathered among the sons of God.”  (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.68, emphasis mine) 

John Calvin: “Scripture teaches us (Eph. 1:4-5) that we were freely adopted by God before we were born.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, Matthew, Mark and Luke, Vol. III, James and Jude, p.270, 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)

Charles Spurgeon cites the Waldensian Creed: “That God saves from corruption and damnation those whom he has chosen from the foundations of the world, not for any disposition, faith, or holiness that he foresaw in them, but of his mere mercy in Christ Jesus his Son, passing by all the rest according to the irreprehensible reason of his own free-will and justice.” (Election, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, D. James Kennedy: Many Christians seem surprised to learn that the doctrine of predestination--that God in His sovereignty chose us from the beginning, before the foundation of the world, to be saved--is even in the Bible.” (Solving Bible Mysteries, p.23, emphasis mine)

​Question: Is being chosen in Christ merely extraneous information? If not, then why do Calvinists so often lop it off, as if it was extraneous? 

Answer: By frequently speaking of Election in the abstract, Calvinists reveal a perspective of Election which deems themselves as the elect of the Father.

Kennedy adds: He chose us before the foundation of the world. All of those He has called will come unto Him and be justified.” (Solving Bible Mysteries, p.26, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, John MacArthur: “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)

John MacArthur: “You and I are saved and know the Lord Jesus Christ because God chose us before the world ever began.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer: “If God from all eternity purposed to save one portion of the human race and not another, the purpose of the cross would be to redeem these chosen ones to himself. We can know whether we belong to that number.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.187, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, James White: “In the final analysis, I have peace with God because God in eternity past chose this undeserving sinner and placed His grace and love upon me. There can be no other consistent, biblical, and God-glorifying answer. This is sovereign freedom, divine grace, and it leads inexorably to the truth of unconditional election.” (Debating Calvinism, p.95, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, William MacDonald: “The apostle was assured that these saints had been chosen by God before the foundation of the world. But how did he know? Did he have some supernatural insight? No, he knew they were among the elect by the way they had received the gospel.”  (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.2024, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, Ron Rhodes: “Election is a sovereign act in which God chooses certain individuals to salvation before the foundation of the world.” (Commonly Misunderstood Bible Verses, p.269, emphasis mine)

​Question: Does the Bible’s mentioning of being chosen “in Christ“ merely cloud the matter with unnecessary theological clutter, or is it something vital? 

Answer: By the way Calvinists miss recall Ephesians 1:4 without “in Him,” you might conclude that Calvinists don’t see the significance of it.

Grace Assembly: “Before the foundation of the worldGod elected a great multitude of men and women to eternal life (1) as an act of His free grace alone. This election was in no way dependent upon His foresight of human faith, decision, works, or merit (2). In the unsearchable realm of God’s sovereign will (3), all men remain responsible beings, subject to God’s commands to repent and believe, and accountable to God for their rebellion, impenitence, and rejection of Christ (4).” (Grace Assembly, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, Jim Elliff: “There can be no question that the Bible speaks of election. In fact, God says that we are elect before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4).” (A Three-legged Stool: All Sides of God’s Salvation Process, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, John Piper: “It is because God chose us before the foundation of the world that he purchases our redemption at the cross and quickens us with irresistible grace and brings us to faith.”  (Sermon manuscript What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism, desiringgod.org, emphasis mine).

CJF Ministries: “We believe in divine election that God chose and elected His people to salvation before the beginning of the ages.” (CJF Ministries)

How could this happen? Are these misquotes the result of a divine veil, and if so, why?

Calvinist, R.C. Sproul Jr: “Calvinists, for good or for bad, have a reputation for being smart. We are the ones ever so adept at crossing our theological ‘t’s,’ and dotting our soteriological ‘i’s.’”  (The Potters Freedom, p.14, emphasis mine)

That doesn’t appear to be the case at Ephesians 1:4, now does it?

Adrian Rogers: “If you take part of the truth, and try to make that part of the truth, all of the truth, then that part of the truth becomes an untruth.” (Let the Earth Hear His Voice: 2 Corinthians 5:13-20, emphasis mine) 

That’s precisely what Calvinists do at Ephesians 1:4, when they quote the verse as: ‘God chose us before the foundation of the world. Not only is it only half of the truth, it omits the most important part. 

​Paul mentions “In Him,” “In Christ,” “In the Beloved,” 11 times in the first 13 verses:

v.1: “The saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus.
v.3: “Blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.
v.4: “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.
v.6: “Which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
v.7: “In Him we have redemption through His blood.
v.9: “Which He purposed in Him.
v.10: “The summing up of all things in Christ.
v.11: “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance.
v.12: “We who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.
v.13: “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.

John MacArthur: “What dominates this wonderful section of Scripture is the idea that God has brought about salvation by His own will, and His own purpose, and His own design and to the praise of His own glory.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)

*** Actually *** what dominates Ephesians chapter 1 is all that which the believer has in Christ

Neil Anderson: “The most overwhelming concept in the early parts of Ephesians is the tremendous inheritance we have in Christ. … Forty times in the one book of Ephesians, references are made to either you being in Christ or Christ in you.” (Who I am in Christ, p.68, emphasis mine)

J. Vernon McGee: “In Christ is the high word of this epistle. The wonderful counterpart of it is that Christ is in us. In Christ--that is our position. Christ is in us--that is our possession. That is the practical side of it.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, pp.103-104, emphasis mine)

The apostle Paul is telling us all that we have in Christ. Its not about what we have in ourselves

J. Vernon McGee: “That is the only basis on which I will be in heaven. I cannot stand there on the merit of Vernon McGee. I am accepted only in the Beloved. God loves me just as He loves Christ, because I am in Christ.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.38, emphasis mine)

James McCarthy: “His act of choosing is qualified by the phrase ‘in him,’ referring to Jesus, which means that the Father chose us with our close connection to Christ in view.” (John Calvin Goes to Berkeley, p.276, emphasis mine)

McCarthy adds: “Wouldn’t it be more reasonable…to think of the elect as God’s choice ones, rather than his selected ones, putting the emphasis on their excellent position before him, rather than a selection process of some sort?” (John Calvin Goes to Berkeley, p.194, emphasis mine)

Robert Shank: “In the Epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul follows his brief salutation with a doxology praising God for the grace given to us in Christ, grace that spans the ages from before the foundation of the world to the dispensation of the fulness of times.” (Elect in the Son, p.27, emphasis mine)

Shank adds: “In Paul’s Ephesian doxology, as in certain other Scriptures, an essential aspect of election is explicit: the election is Christocentric. The first step toward a correct understanding of the Biblical doctrine of election is the recognition that the election of men is comprehended only in Christ; outside of Christ there is no election of any man.” (Elect in the Son, p.27, emphasis mine)

Shank concludes: “In the realization of the kingdom purpose of God, the elect is first of Christ and then of men in Him.” (Elect in the Son, p.31)

One member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians: “Every salvific benefit mentioned in Eph 1 is grounded ‘in him;’ i.e., there is not a single salvific benefit outside of Christ. Union with Christ is key to Eph 1.” (SEA)

When God sought a place for His grace, it doesnt seem to suggest that He found me. Instead, it seems to say that He found His Son, and that my union with Christ is what gives me any standing before God. I am foreknown in Him. (Romans 8:29) It was never about what we have in the Father independent of the Son. Jesus said: I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6) I will be blunt: do you think that you had special access to the Father, apart from the basis of your union with Christ? Would such a view undo everything that Paul is saying? My view of Election is that you are chosen in Christ (Ephesians 1:4), and that in Christ, having been foreknown as such (Romans 8:29), you have an eternally predestined inheritance, for all that which God the Father has sovereignly bestowed in His Son.

Does Calvinism teach that they were given and chosen to become in Christ, only because they were first, eternally in the Father? (Point #4 outlined below will address this question.) Which of the following represents Ephesians 1:4:

a) Before the foundation of the world, God chose me in Himself. 
b) Before the foundation of the world, God chose me in His Son.

​Question: Who is the “us” that was chosen in Christ?

Answer: Believers. The “us” of verse 4 is the same “us” who believe at verse 19: “...what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”

Question: What does being “chosen” in Christ mean?

Answer: In Him, that is, in Christ, you are elect. From the position of being in Christ, you have the privilege of being legally adopted in the Father. 1st John 2:24 states: “If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.” The only path to the Father is through the Son, just as Jesus stated: “No one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) Calvinism has invented another way to the Father called “sovereign grace.” However, if you ask a Calvinist what it means to be chosen in Christ, you will likely get an answer something along the lines of: ‘It means that God doesn’t do anything apart from His Son.’ However, such a squirrelly answer ultimately renders Ephesians 1:4 as the typical secondary election, as will soon become apparent.

​Question: How did God choose us in Christ before we were born?

Answer: Sometimes you can answer a question with a question. For instance, how were we “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20) from before we were born? In Christ, as Christian believers, we are elect with Christ, the Elect One, just as those in Christ benefit from Christ’s atonement. All spiritual blessings are in Christ, alone.

​Question: Were there people in Christ before the foundation of the world?

Answer: No. What was before the foundation of the world was God’s choice, based upon God’s foreknowledge. It is a biblically settled fact that God’s Foreknowledge is linked to both Election (1st Peter 1:1-2) and Predestination. (Romans 8:29; Acts 2:23)

​Question: When do you become in Christ?

Answer: The answer is found at Ephesians 1:13 where after believing in the Gospel, you are sealed in Him by the Holy Spirit as a born again, new creature in Christ. (2nd Corinthians 5:17)

​Question: Who are “the elect”?

Answer: Jesus Christ, including those who believe in Him. There’s no such thing as an elect unbeliever, because the elect are redeemed believers, while the rest are condemned unbelievers. In Adam, you remain “already judged” (John 3:18), while in Christ, there is “now no condemnation.” (Romans 8:1) In other words, before, when you were lost, you were separated from God as the old creature in Adam (2nd Corinthians 5:17), and most certainly were under condemnation. But now, being the new creature in Christ, you are no longer under condemnation. Paul asks: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?” (Romans 8:33) That means that you cannot simultaneously be one of God’s redeemed elect in Christ while being a lost unbeliever in Adam. Spiritually speaking, In Adam and In Christ are what we call: Mutually Exclusive

​Question: What is the relevance, then, of being chosen in Christ from before the very foundation of the world?

Answer: It is the will of God the Father to destine glory for His Son, and “us” by extension, for having been enjoined to His body through faith in Him as “one spirit” with Him. (1st Corinthians 6:17) That is the Doctrine of Identification. As born again Christians, we are identified with Christ as His Body. That’s precisely why you cannot separate the “us” from the “in Him.” Otherwise, if you separate the “us” from the “in Him,” the condition of God’s election is lost. 

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) 

The eternal plan of God was the adoption and blessing of those who receive Him through His Son. We were foreknown in Christ, as Christians. (Romans 8:29)

Calvinist, James White: “And, of course, unless one inserts some concept into the passage from outside, it is clearly the author’s intention to place this decision completely outside the realm of human activity by placing it in the timeless realms of eternity.” (Debating Calvinism, p.93, emphasis mine) 

When we are joined to Christ, His election becomes our election. Since Christ was elect from eternity, we can also be said to be elect from eternity, as we are identified with Him. In that sense, His history becomes our history, just as we can be said to have been crucified with Him. (Galatians 2:20) So when a Calvinist asks, “How were you chosen ‘in Christ’ from before you were born, and before you could make a conscious decision for Christ?”, I can likewise ask, “How was I ‘crucified with Christ’ from before I was born, and before I could make a conscious decision for Christ?”, and yet Scripture confirms it? The answer is that when I became identified with Christ, I became identified with what He had done. 

Walls and Dongell: “It is in him that we have been chosen and predestined (Eph 1:4-5), just as it is in him that we have been seated in heavenly places (Eph 2:6-7). This means that Jesus Christ himself is the chosen one, the predestined one. Whenever one is incorporated into him by grace through faith, one comes to share in Jesus’ special status as chosen of God.” (Why I am Not a Calvinist, p.76, emphasis mine)

​Question: Ephesians 1 refers to believers as predestined before the foundation of the world. How do you reconcile this with your view that free actions of people (like choosing to believe in Christ) can’t be predestined or foreknown ahead of time?

Answer: This is not about un-believers being predestined to become believers. God made a qualified choice of those in Christ (from the standpoint of being believers). The criticism of Calvinism is that Ephesians 1:4 cannot be speaking about Christians, because this refers to an Election before Christians exist, and therefore must refer to God’s choice of who to make into Christians, but the counter argument is that this is speaking of God’s eternal plan for Christians, that is, for Christians to be made holy and blameless and to be conformed into the image of Christ.

Greg Boyd: “Notice that Paul doesn’t say that God chose us ‘to be in Christ’. He rather says God chose us *in Christ* to be holy and blameless. What God chose from the foundation of the world was that whoever is in Christ will be holy and blameless. … God predestined that whoever is in Christ would become holy and blameless in his sight.” (How do you respond to Ephesians 1:4-5?)

​That’s exactly right, and follows the principle of Ephesians 1:3.

​1) Calvinist argument: God chose us in Christ (Secondary Election), as in ‘God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world,’ because God does nothing apart from His Son. 

Jim from oldtruth.com: “If there were some major conspiracy by Calvinists to partially quote this verse by leaving out ‘the critical missing piece, namely the ‘in Him part of the verse, you would think it would be a consistent behavior for each Calvinist.” (ExaminingCalvinism, emphasis mine)

Alan from the calvinistgadfly.com: “Of course we are chosen ‘in Christ. Did you think that Calvinists believed that we were chosen ‘in Muhammad?” (ExaminingCalvinism, emphasis mine)

Yes, of course Calvinists do teach that we are chosen in Christ:

John Calvin: “Paul testifies indeed that we were chosen before the foundation of the world; but, he adds, in Christ (Eph 1:4). Let no one then seek confidence in his election elsewhere, unless he wish to obliterate his name from the book of life in which it is written.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.126, emphasis mine)

However, the key point about the multitude of Calvinist misquotes of Ephesians 1:4 reveals what Calvinists really think about Ephesians 1:4, namely that they were first chosen in the Father, as the elect, whereby God, on that account, chose for these “elect ones” to be given and drawn to Christ. The point is that when you chop off in Christ at Ephesians 1:4, it implies an election an in the Father, instead, such that these “elect ones” are chosen secondarily “to be” in His Son. So, the flaw is that Calvinism teaches two elections: a primary election in the Father and a secondary election in the Son. 

Here is what John Calvin believes about being chosen in Christ:

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) 

Rather, God chose us in Christ because outside of in Him, there are no spiritual blessings.

One Calvinist writes: “That the Father chose none apart from Christ, per Eph 1:14 is clear; and such a choice, He made before the creation of the world should also be clear. So I do not really see the point of splitting your imaginary hair.”

John Calvin: “For without Christ, we remain strangers to the Father’s grace. So Paul is saying that God’s loving-kindness is revealed only by the light of faith.” (1 & 2 Timothy & Titus: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, pp.202-203, emphasis mine)

Yes, but its still a secondary Election, and thats the problem. 

​2) Calvinist argument: The elect are chosen in Christ (Secondary Election), such that the backdrop of Ephesians 1:4 is a primary election in the Father, whereby the Father’s secret sheep are secondarily chosen into Christ because God doesn’t do anything apart from His Son. 

Calvinist, Harold Camping: “But the simple truth is there are other passages which seem to declare that only the elect who have been chosen before the foundation of the earth will be saved. Take, for example, Ephesians 1:4, which states, ‘...He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world...” (Gods Magnificent Salvation Plan, emphasis mine)

Do Calvinists believe that they were first chosen in the Father as elect in order to be chosen in the Son?

James White: “He chose us in union with Jesus Christ.” (Debating Calvinism, p.92, emphasis mine)

By “us,” James White infers the “the elect,” as if God chose the elect in union with Christ. In other words, God chose “the elect” [in the Father], and these He has chosen “to become” in union with Christ.

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)

James White: “In this case, in eternity past God chose to enter into personal relationship with His elect people, even before bringing them into existence.” (Debating Calvinism, p.146, emphasis mine) 

James White: “No, these words are specifically and clearly about the elect, those chosen by God before the foundation of the world.” (Debating Calvinism, p.94, emphasis mine)

One Calvinist asks: “Since the elect were chosen before the foundation of the world, how can Christ honestly be said to have died for all men?

Reisinger & Allen: “Teach them that God chose the elect for salvation from the foundation of time out of his own mercy and desire, and that Christ died as a propitiation for his people.” (Instructions for Local Church Reformation, emphasis mine)

However, Christ is the Elect One (Isaiah 42:1; Luke 9:35; 1st Peter 2:6), and we are merely elect based upon our association and identification with Christ.

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)

There can be no denying that Calvinistic Election is an in the Father Election, when the source of election in Christ is so plainly grounded in the Father

3) Calvinist argument: God chose us to be in Christ (Secondary Election), as in ‘God chose us to be in Christ’, such that we are chosen into Christ, by means of a secondary election, in order to be given to the Son, who before were the Father’s eternal secret possession. 

​George Bryson: “According to Reformed Theology, these individuals are not chosen in Him but chosen to be in Him. This distinction is crucial. To be chosen in Him is to be chosen as a believer.”  (Dark Side of Calvinism, p.123, emphasis mine)


J. Vernon McGee: “God chose believers in Christ before the foundation of the world, way back in eternity past.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.27, emphasis mine)

J. Vernon McGee: “I cannot repeat often enough that election is God’s choosing us in Christ.”  (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.33, emphasis mine)

J. Vernon McGee: “God sees the believer in Christ and He accepts the believer just as He receives His own Son. That is wonderful. That is the only basis on which I will be in heaven. I cannot stand there on the merit of Vernon McGee. I am accepted only in the Beloved. God loves me just as He loves Christ, because I am in Christ.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.38, emphasis mine)

J. Vernon McGee: “It is the overall purpose and plan of God that believers should have a part in Christ’s inheritance. They are going to inherit with Christ because they are in Christ.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.50, emphasis mine)

Jacob Arminius: “For God chooses no one unto eternal life except in Christ, who prepared it by his own blood for them who should believe on his name. From this it seems to follow that, since God regards no one in Christ unless they are engrafted in him by faithelection is peculiar to believers....”  (Works of James Arminius, Volume 3, emphasis mine)

These statements are exactly correct, and exactly why Calvinism is wrong.

So how can election be Unconditional, as Calvinism purports, when Ephesians 1:4 conditions election in Christ? To resolve the dilemma, Calvinism infers that God chose us ‘to be in Christ, or chose us ‘into Christ. Thus, a prior election in the Father is again presupposed by the Calvinist, so that ‘the elect in the Father are chosen ‘to be given in Christ at the foreordained time by means of preemptive Regenerative Grace. Here is are examples of Calvinisms secondary ‘to be Election in Christ: 

Calvinist, R.C. Sproul: “The term election refers specifically to one aspect of divine predestination: God’s choosing of certain individuals to be saved.” (What is Reformed Theology?, p.141, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “He means that they were partakers of Christ by His calling. Those who are to be heirs of eternal life are not only chosen, are committed also to His care and trustworthiness as their Shepherd.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.18, emphasis mine) 

Calvinists, Peterson and Williams: “Gods choosing us ‘in him before the creation of the world’ (Eph 1:4, 11) refers to union with Christ before creation. The words cannot speak of actual union with Christ because we didn’t exist before we were created. Rather, they speak of God’s planning to join us to Christ.” (Why I Am Not An Arminian, p.58, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, William MacDonald: “First of all, he addresses the Colossians as the elect of God. This refers to the fact that they had been chosen by God in Christ before the foundation of the world. God’s electing grace is one of the mysteries of divine revelation. We believe the Scripture clearly teaches that God, in His sovereignty, has chosen men to belong to Christ. We do not believe that God has ever chosen anyone to be damned. Such a teaching is directly contrary to Scripture.”  (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.2010, emphasis mine)

MacDonald correctly quotes Ephesians 1:4 as an in Christ election, but then inserts “to be.” Next, he is more explicit:

William MacDonald: “The Bible teaches definitely that God chose some before the foundation of the world to be in Christ.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.1623, emphasis mine)

Isnt it amazing how “to be” creeps into Ephesians 1:4?

The Calvinistic Canons of Dort: “Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, he hath out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen, from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of Salvation.” (Canons of Dort, I:7, emphasis mine)

This a cleverly stated ‘to be Election which is essentially saying that God, before the foundation of the world, has chosen the elect to redemption in Christ.

One Calvinist states: “God’s election of individuals leads to their union with Christ. The Father chose people to be ‘in Him’ [His Son, Christ]. Arminians reject that God should be gracious to choose one
to be ‘in Christ.’” 

Arminians reject inserting ‘to be into Ephesians 1:4.

Calvinist, John MacArthur: “Well, the doctrine of election simply means that God, uninfluenced and before creation, predetermined certain people to be saved.” (Election and Predestination: The Sovereignty of God in Salvation, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer: “God works in the lives of those who are to be saved, convicting them of sin and giving them the faith to believe the gospel.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.191, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “…it is the most crass stupidity not to acknowledge that the eyes of our mind are opened by God, since, before we were conceived in the womb, He chose us to be faithful.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.50, emphasis mine)

Again, Calvinism teaches that the final destination of election is to become in Christ, whereas Arminianism teaches that the source of election originates with being in Christ, with the final destination being that Christians are to become Christ-like.

Another Calvinist points out: “The NIV states: ‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.’ (Ephesians 1:4) From eternity past, when God sought a place for His grace, He found us, and made us the focus of his love to be made holy. So tell me how I am taking Ephesians 1:4 out of context by saying that ‘God chose us to be in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight’?” 

1) Why are you sliding the “to be” around? Paul placed the “to be” after election in Christ so as to show that the purpose of our election in Christ was to be made holy and blameless in His sight?

​The Calvinist: God chose us to be in Christ.

​Paul: God chose us in Christ to be holy.

Take note of when Calvinists slide “to be” around.

Robert Picirilli: “We are objects of God’s grace only in Christ. Election and foreordination graciously flow to us in union with Christ--the only way God could elect us and maintain His holiness, given that apart from union with Christ we are sinful and cannot be objects of election. God’s eternal decree to save, then, was not a sterile one that logically preceded the plan of redemption in Christ. Instead, it is grounded in the plan of redemption by Christ and grows out of it.” (Grace, Faith, Free Will, Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism, pp.68-69, emphasis mine)

When God the Father sought a place for His grace, He found His Son, and we share in that grace only as being “one spirit” with Him (1st Corinthians 6:16-17), as the Bride of Christ.

​4) Calvinist argument: God chose us in Himself (Primary Election), as in ‘God chose us in Himself before the foundation of the world,’ being the first cause of God’s secret love for the elect. 

When Calvinists inadvertently leave off in Christ from their misquotations of Ephesians 1:4, it has the same effect as meaning: God chose us in Himself before the foundation of the world. 

​God chose us...before the foundation of the world.
God chose us [in Himself] before the foundation of the world.

Notice how both errors imply the same thing. Now look over the following quotes and decide for yourself whether Calvinism teaches just such an in the Father election.

Calvinist, William MacDonald comments on 1st John 2:24: “Here we have the wonderful truth of the unity between the Father and the Son. You cannot have the Father unless you have the Son. This is a message which should be heeded by all Unitarians, Christian Scientists, Muslims, Modernists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Jews.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.2315, emphasis mine)

So, why didn’t he include the Calvinists? Aren’t they the biggest offenders since they claim to be eternally hidden in the Father in order to be given to the Son?

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)

This is a ‘to be election, combined with an in the Father election.

Calvinist, James White: “Jesus begins where Christian salvation begins (and ends!), with the FatherThe Father gives a particular people to the Son.” (Debating Calvinism, p.118, emphasis mine)

James White: “...God brings His elect to Himself in love....” (Debating Calvinism, p.306, emphasis mine)

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)

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: “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: “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) 

John Calvin: “Christ certainly counts none among His own, unless he be given by the Father; and He declares those to be given who before were the Father’s (ibid. 17:6).” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.147, 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)

These quotes scream of an in the Father election. Why Calvin chose not to explicitly define it as such is known only to him, but it is nevertheless, the single most important element of Calvinism. Calvin wishes that Ephesians 1:4 had read: He chose us in Himself before the foundation of the world. If Paul had said that, then it would have been GAME OVER for Arminianism. But because it is grounded in Christ, just as 2nd Timothy 1:9 is grounded in Christ, it serves only as another proof-text for Arminian Election.

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)

Calvinists would be correct if Ephesians 1:4 had stated: “...just as He chose us in Himself....

​Calvinism: In the Father -> In Adam -> In Christ -> In the Father 

Arminianism: In Adam -> In Christ -> In the Father

To see which is correct, Jesus states: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)

The inevitable result of a Calvinistic in the Father election, is an election whose cause is left to mystery:

John Calvin: “The word purpose distinctly excludes all that men imagine they reciprocate, as though Paul were denying that the causes of our election are to be sought in any other place than in the secret good pleasure of God.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.180, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, John MacArthur: “We are chosen unto salvation. We are chosen to belong to Him. When you look at your salvation, then thank God. Thank God! Because you are a Christian because He chose you. I don’t understand the mystery of that. That’s just what the word of God teaches. That is the most humbling doctrine in all of Scripture. I take no credit, not even credit for my faith. It all came from Him. He chose me. He selected people to be made holy in order to be with Him forever. Why he selected me, I will never know. I’m no better than anyone else. I’m worse than many. But He chose me.”  (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)

MacArthur asks: “To whom do you owe your salvation? You owe it to the God who chose you. You owe it to the God who predestined you. You owe it to the God who redeemed you, the God who forgave you, the God who wanted you to be His own because He wanted you to be His own. It doesn’t give any other reason, even though we are so unworthy, so unworthy.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)

This is what happens when the cause of Election is separated from its foundation in Christ.

John Calvin: “This way of speaking, however, may seem to be different from many passages of Scripture which attribute to Christ the first foundation of God’s love for us and show that outside Christ we are detested by God. But we ought to remember, as I have already said, that the Heavenly Father’s secret love which embraced us is the first love given to us.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, pp.76, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “I answer briefly that Christ was so ordained for the salvation of the whole world that He might save those who are given to Him by the Father, that He might be their life whose Head He is, and that He might receive those into participation of His benefits whom God by His gratuitous good pleasure adopted as heirs for Himself.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.102-103, emphasis mine)

One Calvinist responds: “Do Calvinists secretly believe that God chose them for some reason other than their need for salvation? Would I, as a Christian, believe that God chose me for some other reason than my need for salvation? Yes, I do. God chose me for His glory, for His pleasure, for His purposes. Sure I had a need for salvation. But that is not why He saved me primarily.”

The Calvinist answers: “In the Bible, God does not say He chose us because of our desperate need. He chose us before our need ever arose.” 

Aside from misquoting Ephesians 1:4, this explains what is the fruit of a primary, in the Father Election, where Christ as Savior is undermined and Calvary becomes a mere formality since the Father’s alleged, secret love from eternity past had already, in a sense, saved us. This has led some to wonder whether Calvinists are thankful to God, first and foremost, for dying on the cross for their sins, or for having elected them? Listen, Calvary was not a means to an end, for an eternal election, but for the salvation of the world in which God so loved.

If there remains a veil over the hearts of the Jews for failing to see Christ in the Scriptures, why should we think that the same veil would not also blind those who teach a primary Election apart from Jesus?

The answer to who did God desire for salvation is everyone. For Gods part, that is absolutely His genuine, hear-felt desire for every lost person on the planet. He knows the number of hairs on their head, and He states that the value of their soul is the immeasurable cost of having to send His Son to Calvary to suffer and die to pay for our sins in order to redeem our soul to God. Calvinistic presuppositions say no to all of this. They claim that God wants to demonstrate His various attributes in various kinds of people, and all of this is necessitated by their need to tie their 5-Point system of presuppositions together.

Having said all of these things, the Calvinist is still left with this: 

One Calvinist explains: “So God chose me to be holy, blameless, and to be adopted, and he chose me before I chose him.” 

Once again, “in Christ is lopped off because Calvinists do not recognize the qualified choice of having been chosen in Christ. All Calvinists see (which is entirely presupposition driven, and which they deny vehemently), is that, 1) God had an elect caste of sheep, and 2) these were chosen to believe. They will nuance that point to infinity, but it will still be the same thing. The reality, once you get past the presuppositions, is the simple concept, that by referring to the fact that God had chosen us in Christ, Paul is simply reflecting upon the believers eternally privileged standing before God, and His objective to honor His Son through His Bride (i.e. the Bride of Christ). Calvinists cannot see past their presuppositions, no more than the Jehovahs Witnesses can see past the Watchtower Society being Gods special organization. 

Sometimes, in an attempt to appear biblical, Calvinists will try to incorporate Ephesians 1:4’s “in Christ” language into their definitions on Election, but when they do so, it is often done in a way that makes no sense of the term, and here’s an example:

The Calvinistic, Canons of Dort: “Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery.” (Cannons of Dort I.7, emphasis mine)

Regarding the phrase, “he chose in Christ to salvation,” is nonsensical, and is intended to appear biblical, but without actually meaning anything intelligible. The verse actually states, “He chose us [in Christ].” (The “in Him” is in reference to Jesus, so the part in brackets is an accurate substitution.) This makes it a qualified Election, of those belonging to Christ, and that’s something that Calvinists will dispute. (Conversely, the Calvinist language sounds more like having been chosen into Christ, than being chosen in Christ.) But the bottom line is that Calvinists are throwing around biblical phraseology, to sound biblical, but without really knowing what to do with it, which becomes very obvious when, immediately afterwards, it proceeds to speak of Election in the abstract (or in general, unqualified terms), and that’s extremely revealing. In other words, immediately after, it speaks of a “particular people” and “those chosen,” but without any logical tie to Ephesians 1:4’s “in Christ” qualification. In fact, it intentionally blurs any qualification in Election, when it speaks of commonalities, such as being on the basis of “neither better nor more deserving,” and having been drafted from the “common misery.” This betrays the fundamental aspect of Election, as a qualified Election, of those who belong to Christ, in terms of the eternal plan of God for Christians. This is something to keep an eye on, when Calvinists try to define Election.

The criticism of Calvinism is that Ephesians 1:4 cannot be speaking about Christians, because this refers to an Election before Christians exist, and therefore it must refer to God’s choice of who to make into Christians, but the counter argument is that this is speaking of God’s eternal plan for Christians, that is, for Christians to be made holy and blameless and to be conformed into the image of Christ.

Gordon Robertson: “God, I didn’t chose You; You chose me. Remember that. You looked across time. You looked across space. You looked from the Cross and saw me. You chose me.”  (The Power of a Covenant with God, emphasis mine)

Gordon Robertson: “He sealed you. He’s given you the Spirit in your heart as a guarantee. You’re His. And because of that, all of the promises of God are ‘yes’ and ‘Amen’ for you, because you are in Christ Jesus. If Jesus asks for something, is He going to get it?” (The Power of a Covenant with God, emphasis mine)

This is a good paraphrase of the big picture of Ephesians chapter 1. The basis for our covenant blessings are rooted in being in Christ. With Calvinism, it’s quite different, as Calvinism’s basis for our blessings is having been secretly elected in the Father, and for some inexplicable reason, with the result that the Calvinistically elect are caused to believe and chosen to become in Christ. There’s your contrast. Here is an additional article from SEA on what Ephesians 1:4’s “in Christ” is referring to.

​Ephesians 3:11-12This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.” 

Christ alone is the Elect of the Father, and we are elect only by virtue of our connection to THE, one and only, Elect One, as an extension of Himself, being sown together with Him as the Bride of Christ, as part of the Body of Christ. However, Calvinism imagines a “special class” of the Elect of the Father (essentially usurping Christ), who are chosen FOR Christ, and chosen TO BE in Christ, but that is not what the passage is saying at all.

This is about God’s predestined spiritual blessings that are exclusive to His Church, the Body of Christ, in Christ. This is not about God predestining certain unbelievers to become believers. The passage isn’t even discussing unbelievers, let alone a special class of elect vs. non-elect. That is instead part of the wild imagination of Calvinists trying to manufacture a proof-text for Calvinism.