Recently, I was kicked from the Soteriology 101 anti-Calvinist bash because Leighton was offended by something in my article. He stated that he was offended and what I said was childish. I informed him that it wasn’t childish and that he was begging the question. So, in honor of that, I have decided to write another Leighton Flowers article. I am not a big fan of his and you’ll see why.
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
I would like to pose a question for objective consideration. Let’s drop any preconceived ideas we have about this text and attempt to answer the question as honestly as we can.
How does one come to be “in Him?”
Does this passage state that he chose us individually to be effectually placed in him, or does it simply state, “he chose us in him?” Does it teach that Christ redeems us individually so that we might be irresistibly put in him or does it only teach, “In him we have redemption?” Does it say that God has chosen individuals to be in him, or does it say, “in him we were also chosen?”
- Has God chosen individuals to be placed in Him?
- Or, has God chosen individuals who are in Him?
Put another way…
- Has God predetermined the individuals to be in the group?
- Or, has God chosen a group of individuals for a predetermined end?
Some focus so much attention on the first 12 verses that they fail to see the last two verses where Paul gives an answer to this vital question; “How does one come to be in Him?”
13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.
Leighton tries to undercut the Calvinist interpretation by skipping most of the passage in debate and hoping that Calvinist have not read past verse 12. He puts on his coach Flowers outfit and drops to verse 13 because it says that we were included in Christ when we heard the message of truth. The issue is he assumes that means we by libertarian freedom have chosen to become apart of the elect. It is like the football team analogy. God wants many agents and chooses to send them invites, but it is up to them if they want to join the team. God is still in negotiations. It is up to the agent to decide. Now, where has Leighton demonstrated that is what the verse is saying? Leighton is always lacking on the exegetical side of things. Secondly, it is a false dichotomy to erect a distinction between corporate and individual election. The section is set up by verse 3 and unpacked in what verses come to follow. Paul explains what these spiritual blessings are that Christians have. It is left untouched whether God chooses who will believe in verse 4 by Dr. Flowers. Such as pointed out by a very good scholar Dr. Thomas Schreiner:
And since Eph 1:4 says that we “were chosen before the foundation of the world,” there is no evidence that the choice was based on our foreseen faith. To claim (as Forster and Marston do) that the faith of people is decisive reverses the emphasis of the text, for Eph 1:4 (and all of 1:3-14) focuses on the work of God, and thus to insert faith into the verse is to smuggle in an idea that is not stated. Moreover, Rom 9:11-13 confirms what we have suggested from Eph 1:4—namely, that faith is the result of being chosen. Second, when the text says “he chose us in him” it probably means that God chose that the Church would experience salvation “through Christ.” He is the agent and person through whom the electing work of God would come to fruition. When God planned to save some, he intended from the beginning that their salvation would be effected through the work of Christ. Third, thus it seems to me that those who stress that election is “in Christ” end up denying that God chose a corporate group in any significant sense. All God’s choice of a corporate group means is that God chose that all who put their faith in Christ would be saved. Those who put their faith in Christ would be designated the Church. Those who defend corporate election are conscious of the fact that it is hard to separate corporate from individual election, for logic would seem to require that the individuals that make up a group cannot be separated from the group itself
Leighton pays no attention to the actual exegetical issue. Verse 13 has a bit of a difficult syntax that Leighton isn’t sharing with his audience(an anacoluthon). This is simply Paul stating this is where the blessing we have become “operative” as Frank Thielman said:
If we may take 3:13 as a hint that Paul’s readers were discouraged, then this shift to a personal address at the end of the benediction may signal the purpose behind this opening prayer of praise. Paul designed it to move his readers’ focus away from the potentially discouraging circumstances that plagued both Paul and them and point them instead to the blessings that God has given them in Christ. The inclusion of his readers “in Christ”—in the sphere in which the blessings he has just described become operative—happened when his readers heard the gospel, believed it, and received God’s eschatological seal of the Holy Spirit.
The syntax of the phrase that expresses this thought is difficult because it begins with two adverbial clauses that are not joined together by any connecting word. The two clauses, moreover, begin in the same way, almost as if Paul had dictated the first clause and then suddenly started over again with the second clause before completing the phrase with the main verb:
First adverbial clause: in whom you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation,
Second adverbial clause: in whom you also, when you believed,
Main verb: were sealed. . . .
~Frank Thielman; Ephesians: Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament Page 78.
How has Leighton demonstrated that us being “in Christ” when we believe is incompatible with God in eternity past electing those to be “in Christ”? He hasn’t and that is why he avoids the first 12 verses.
First question: When were they included in Christ?
Was it before the foundation of the earth? What answer does the text give?
“…when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.”
Let’s continue to read:
When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Second question: When were they marked in Him?
Was it before the world began and without any regard to their response to the gospel? What does the text say?
“When you believed, you were marked in him…”
The text seems to clearly indicate that God has predetermined that the “the faithful in Christ Jesus” (vs. 1) will become “holy and blameless” (sanctification – vs. 4) and they will be “adopted” (glorification – vs. 5). (Note: Romans 8:23 clearly indicates that Paul sees “adoption” as a future hope for all who come to faith.)
How do we know that we, believers in Christ, will be sanctified and glorified? Because God has marked us IN HIM and given us His Spirit as a guarantee of what he has purposed for all who believe.
This passage is not about God predetermining which individuals will be in Christ. It is about God predetermining what will become of those who are in Christ through belief in His truth.
The divine “Coach” has invited all to come and join His team (Col. 1:23, John 12:32, Mt. 28:19, 2 Cor. 5:19-21, Mk 16:15, Mt. 11:28) because He genuinely desires all to come (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Tim. 2:4, Ek. 18:30-32, Matt. 23:37, Rm. 10:21). And all who do come will be trained (sanctified, conformed into his image -Rom. 8:29) and guaranteed a spot (adopted in glorification), because that is what our “Coach” has predetermined for all who are on HIS TEAM!
Leighton avoids the issues in debate and misrepresents what Calvinist are saying about us being “in Christ”. Steve Hays has an article where he quotes a couple of commentators on the verses in question. You will be able to look at how Coach Flowers exegetes or unpacks verses and how scholars unpack verses: