My wife and I have a daily reading of Scripture where we read through large sections of the Bible at once, to get the bigger pictures in Scripture, and cover the full ground of Scripture as often as possible. (This is not our only devotional time). Last week, we read Ephesians in one sitting. During the second chapter, I started to cry. Not balling, more just tearing up. My wife looked up at me and said, “To me, this is neat stuff. But it means so much more to you.”
She was right. So many make Ephesians out to be this herald of predestination; a triumph of Calvinism. But such a reading loses the very message that Paul is communicating, the very thing that brought me to tears.
God had predestined the children of Israel to be His chosen people, the children of promise, the heirs of His blessing. Everyone else was outside. Myself being a descendant from a rough-necked, violent, superstitious Celtic tribe had no right to approach the Holy God, my maker and true Lord of the heavens of the Earth.
But then came Christ. He broke down that barrier dividing the elect and reprobate, and made it so that the promise could be inherited by the gentiles; by me. Think of that! Think of the grace! Think of the mercy! That I, who had no right to the promises of God have been given access to the throne! That I, who was an heir of depravity and death have been given life, and life everlasting.
But most importantly is that I was not born that way. That’s right, I was not born elect. Through the power of Christ Jesus, I, who was a member of the reprobate have become elect. That’s the grace! I don’t know if I can express this any better, I wish I could, but this is important. I now have what I did not have.
This grace is something a Calvinist can never see, for in Calvinism, you are born elect. In Calvinism, Christ didn’t break down the barrier between the elect and reprobate; He just moved it. But that goes so strongly against what Paul is saying here.
I was dead in my transgressions and sins, in which I used to live when I followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. But because of His great love for me, God, who is rich in mercy, made me alive with Christ even when I was dead in transgressions—it is by grace I have been saved.
Therefore, I say this to all you who may read this, remember: formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” — remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.