“With regard to the related passage of Ephesians 1:4-5...in this he [Richard Rice, openness theologian] is following Barth’s view of election as primarily Christocentric, that God elects His Son, the Lord Jesus, first and foremost and then the corporate body of those who are in him. BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THE TEXT DOES NOT SAY THAT GOD CHOSE CHRIST. RATHER IT SAYS THAT GOD CHOSE ‘US’ (HEMAS) IN HIM BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD. THE VERSE THUS STRESSES THE ELECTION OF PEOPLE IN CHRIST RATHER THAN THE ELECTION OF CHRIST HIMSELF. And in addition I would argue that THE ‘CORPORATE ONLY’ UNDERSTANDING OF THE ELECTION IN EPHESIANS 1---THE ELECTION OF ALL THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST, WITH THE FACTOR DETERMINING WHETHER ANY PARTICULAR INDIVIDUAL IS A PART OF THAT GROUP BEING HIS OR HER UNDETERMINED FAITH---goes against the specific teaching of Ephesians 1:5 (which says that Christians have been predestined to be adopted as God’s children ‘in accordance with HIS pleasure and will’ rather than in accordance with our faith) and Ephesians 1:11 (which says that we have been chosen and predestined ‘according to the plan of HIM who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of HIS will’)” (Steven C. Roy, “How Much Does God Foreknow? A Comprehensive Biblical Study.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006, pages 85-86).
In my last post, I discussed that Steven Roy’s view of election as not being Christocentric is a complete misreading of the Bible itself. While it seems that the focus of Ephesians 1 (with regards to election) is the church, the church itself doesn’t have an election without Christ, since He is “the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23). I’m not trying to eliminate individual election or bash the corporate election idea of Richard Rice; what I’m trying to do is affirm that election is a Christocentric idea first and foremost! That is, that Christ is the elect one, according to Luke 23 and 1 Peter 2. Since both of these verses state that Christ is “eklektos,” “elect,” they must be incorporated into our view of Christ and so forth. Does it not make sense that, if Christ is the head of the body (the church), that the church would be elect because Christ is the elect one?
My point against Steven Roy in the last post was that election is Christocentric, as revealed by the Scriptures themselves. Romans 5 also confirmed the federal headship of the human race of Adam and the federal headship of the sons of God of Christ. Because Christ is the Son of God, He is THE SON...and through our union with Christ, we become “sons of God” (1 John 3:2).
In this post, I am gonna deal with Steven Roy’s words regarding faith and individual election. Let’s read Roy’s words again:
“And in addition I would argue that THE ‘CORPORATE ONLY’ UNDERSTANDING OF THE ELECTION IN EPHESIANS 1---THE ELECTION OF ALL THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST, WITH THE FACTOR DETERMINING WHETHER ANY PARTICULAR INDIVIDUAL IS A PART OF THAT GROUP BEING HIS OR HER UNDETERMINED FAITH---goes against the specific teaching of Ephesians 1:5 (which says that Christians have been predestined to be adopted as God’s children ‘in accordance with HIS pleasure and will’ rather than in accordance with our faith) and Ephesians 1:11 (which says that we have been chosen and predestined ‘according to the plan of HIM who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of HIS will’).”
Roy distinguishes between faith and God’s pleasure and will when he says, “undetermined faith...goes against” Ephesians 1:5, which affirms God’s pleasure and will, as well as Ephesians 1:11, which affirms “His will” and His plan. The problem with such distinction is that the Scriptures themselves never separate faith and God’s pleasure and will; rather, the two of them are linked together.
Look at Ephesians 1:12. The verse preceding (v.11) speaks of God working all things out according to His will; but what does verse 12 tell us? “that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:12, NKJV). In other words, the Father’s will was (and still is) that those who trusted in Christ should be saved. This was the will of the Father. Verse 6 had already told us that the Father’s grace is the means “by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6), the “Beloved” referring to Christ.
We are now in a position to tackle Steven Roy’s comments regarding Ephesians 1. Let’s revisit his comments about verse 5:
“...the specific teaching of Ephesians 1:5 (which says that Christians have been predestined to be adopted as God’s children ‘in accordance with HIS pleasure and will’ rather than in accordance with our faith) and Ephesians 1:11 (which says that we have been chosen and predestined ‘according to the plan of HIM who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of HIS will’).”
Roy points out Ephesians 1:5 and says that we are predestined to adoption “in accordance with His pleasure and will,” but he leaves out three significant words that come before those---“by Jesus Christ.” The word “by” is a word that Calvinists often look over in their interpretations of texts. For instance, many try to assert that we are not saved by our faith---but what does Ephesians 2:8 say? “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (NKJV). The grace of God must first grant us the opportunity for salvation; but we must exercise our God-given faith in order to be saved. In other words, grace and faith are the conditions under which man is saved (both conditions are given to us by God, so we contribute nothing but confession and belief, Rom. 10:9).
When we arrive at Ephesians 1:5, then, we must recognize the words “by Jesus Christ” as what qualifies God’s pleasure and will. God was pleased to adopt us as sons because of Christ’s death on the cross and subsequent resurrection, all for the sins of the world (John 1:29). Had it not been for the Incarnation of our Lord and His sacrifice, we would not have even had access to the grace of God. God’s displeasure with mankind was turned to goodwill and God’s favor when Jesus was born (Luke 2:14).
Romans 5 lists all the benefits of faith and it’s result, salvation: we have peace
with God (v.1), as well as “access BY FAITH into this grace in which we stand.” So access to post-salvation grace comes by faith. God, then, was pleased to adopt believers as sons because of Christ Jesus---His advent, trial, crucifixion, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. To only cite the words of adoption without the phrase “by Jesus Christ” is to do the text a great harm and give the impression that believers are simply chosen by God without regard to anything (unconditional election). This is why Roy can go on to say that “undetermined faith...goes against the specific teaching of Ephesians 1:5.” Faith doesn’t---rather, faith is implied in the phrase “by Jesus Christ,” which is something that Calvinists would have us remove from our Bibles and forget about. This is why Paul goes on to mention faith itself in Ephesians 1:15---“Therefore I also, after I heard OF YOUR FAITH IN THE LORD JESUS and your love for all the saints...” (Eph. 1:15, NKJV).
God’s good pleasure is not only connected to faith within Ephesians 1, but within the remainder of Scripture itself, we see a reference to faith and God’s good pleasure:
“Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 11:38).
“By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, THROUGH WHICH HE OBTAINED WITNESS THAT HE WAS RIGHTEOUS, GOD TESTIFYING OF HIS GIFTS...” (Heb. 11:4)
“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death...for before he was taken he had this testimony, THAT HE PLEASED GOD” (Heb. 11:5).
“But WITHOUT FAITH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE HIM, for he who comes to God MUST BELIEVE THAT HE IS, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).
All of these verses from Hebrews 11 show us that faith is the key to pleasing God. Abel, Enoch, and others pleased God by faith; and verse 6 reveals that unless we have faith, it will be “impossible” (adunaton, meaning “unable,” “not possible”) for us to please God, too. So, contrary to Roy, we can please God---by believing in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Last but not least, Roy divorces faith from God’s will. Is it God’s will that we believe? Yes. Let’s look at 1 Timothy 2---
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, WHO DESIRES ALL MEN TO BE SAVED AND TO COME TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH” (1 Tim. 2:3-4, NKJV).
Jesus as the spotless Lamb of God was slain for the sins of the world (John 1:29; John 3:16-18), so we can conclude that God wills all men to accept His atoning sacrifice by faith in Christ.
Jesus tells us the Father’s will in his encounter with the crowds:
“And THIS IS THE WILL of Him who sent Me, THAT EVERYONE WHO SEES THE SON AND BELIEVES IN HIM MAY HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).
The Father wills that everyone who hears the Word (“sees the Son”) would hear, understand the Word, and place their faith in Christ. As Jesus tells us in John 6:40, faith is included in the Father’s will, not separate or apart from it.
As I have shown in this post, God’s good pleasure is not divorced from faith (neither is God’s will divorced from faith). Roy’s response to Openness theologian Richard Rice was a good attempt...but in this case, I’d say there is something to Rice’s view of election as Christocentric.