Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Parable of the Shrewd Money Manager: A Difficult Parable Instantly Made Simple

The parable in Luke 16 of The Shrewd Money Manager is part of a series of parables which our Lord Jesus uses to teach those who have gathered, first at a dinner which he was attending as a guest and later in a more general setting. Before this parable, for example, we have the parable of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost (prodigal) son. The setting describes both saved and unsaved people being our Lord's audience.

Often, in parables, certain elements of the parables are equated with divine and human persons. For example, in the lost or prodigal son, the father (the authority figure) is representative of God. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to determine these things in each parable because they cannot be assumed to be true in all other parables. Each must be determined in and of themselves as to whether or not the carry these parallels with them.

The parable of the shrewd money manager is one which has many commentaries providing different interpretations. I believe much of the misunderstanding is by way of over complicating the issue and wrongly defining who or what is being represented. I will post the parable and then afterward explain it in its very simple intention in order to eliminate the difficulty which so many have with this particular lesson. But first a summary.

Summary of the Parable

Essentially, we have a parable or story of a man who was responsible for managing the accounts of a wealthy lender. At a certain point in time the lender came to his subordinate and told him he was going to fire him because the manager had mismanaged the wealthy lender’s money.

In lieu of this the manager sought, while time was still on his side, to secure for himself a soft landing upon being fired. He realized he was not strong enough to do manual labor (dig) and too proud to beg.

So he went to various people who were in debt to the wealthy lender and forgave portions of their debt. For example, one man owed nine hundred gallons of olive oil and the manager told him to make his bill out for only four hundred gallons.

The wealthy lender became aware of this and responded to the money manager in a positive way. He told him that though he was unrighteous he had been shrewd and the parable says that the manager was “commended”. This is the end of the parable itself, but what follows is what reveals what we are to learn and the simplicity of the parable.
Luke 16: 1-15 (NIV)
Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
“‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
“Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.
Understanding the Parable by way of Jesus’ Commentary

Too often people will immediately ask:

How can the wealthy lender commend dishonesty? 
Does God commend dishonesty?

Of course the immediate and obvious answer is no, God does not commend dishonesty but more importantly, the wealthy lender is not representative of God. And this is where many fail to grasp the meaning and fall off track. This isn’t a lesson about how God deals with dishonest but shrewd Christians. There is a point about shrewdness but it isn’t here.

Who are the People in the Parable?

Look at what is being said, later in verse 8, by our Lord and you will understand:
“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 
How does he describe the people in the parable? As “the people of this world”. The people in the parable are not representative of believers or of God. They are merely just what they are, people of this world. There is no representation of someone else.

What is Jesus Teaching Us about People of the World?

Sometimes those who do not belong to God’s Kingdom, children of this world, are used to illustrate something from which we can learn. Here, Jesus does this very thing. He uses the carnal or sinful shrewdness of the unsaved and darkened heart that has sense enough to care for his welfare on earth to point us to the wisdom of using spiritual shrewdness to care for the welfare of our eternal condition. Look at verse 9:
I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Our Lord is teaching us that unlike the people of the world, who use their wealth for themselves and their temporal welfare, we still have wealth and it is to be used for something, not ignorantly or foolishly but shrewdly or wisely and for quite practical reasons. And that practical reasons is our investment is into the lives of God’s people, our spiritual family. These are those with whom we will spend eternity. 

While in heaven all sin will be removed and any dissatisfaction with others, the Bible never teaches that those blessings, even basic blessings of giving to others, will not be remembered in eternity. In fact, I suspect not only will they be cherished but just as our Lord says, they will be motivating factors of those in heaven already who will be rejoicing at our arrival. You are investing into eternity, my friend, when we use your worldly wealth for the needs of God’s eternal Kingdom and namely that of his children.

How we are to Manage our Wealth

As I said earlier, this parable, while enough people do receive with clarity, too many, on the other hand, over complicate and obfuscate the lesson. It isn’t necessary. In fact it is one of the most practical and basic of all the parables and its modesty is revealed by the closing comments of our Lord in verses 10-13:
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” 
This does not say we cannot be monetarily wealthy, nor does it state we cannot invest our money and make it grow. It does not need to say that. It is teaching something which comes before such decisions, it is teaching our fundamental attitude toward wealth and its purpose and ultimately faces us with some decision making, either loving God or money but never both.

Your shrewdness is not toward gain in the world; rather it is toward gain in the next world. While all of God’s children inherit eternal life with some basic eternal blessings, the fact is there is the Bema Seat where rewards for faithfulness are handed out for eternity by our Lord Jesus.

And our Lord will evaluate, in light of divine protocols and standards, all of the handling of your earthly wealth and its investment toward the Kingdom of God, whether it be to God’s people individually or corporately, not to mention the investment of all of your other gifts from God, whether logistical or spiritual blessings and their use or investment. You are not to be like the money manager in dishonest shrewdness but you are to be shrewd like the money manager, this time with honesty and a divine viewpoint navigating your Christian life.

Sometimes, because we get no immediate treasure, we as Christians allow our carnal nature to communicate despair and hopelessness to our soul and forgo using our money as we should. In fact, we might even allow ourselves to get to the point of the Pharisees in verse 14 who "loved money" which resulted in them "sneering" at Jesus. And no doubt those who reject this protocol from God about money management for his children who know of our life which emphasizes investing in eternity sneer either behind our backs or to our faces. So it requires trust or faith, in the promises of God because good feelings and a positive reception on this world are not always waiting when we obey the Lord. But notice, again, his promise which is embedded in the negative in verses 11-12:
11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
The negative strongly implies the positive. That is, our Lord is saying along with the negative, something else. The implication is “but if you have been trustworthy…then you will be given”.  And what we receive in heaven is eternal, forever and never to be removed. You certainly do not want a monument of what could have been. What you want is an eternally real and alive consummation of what is. There is, even beyond the unfathomable wealth of eternal life, rewards from our Lord. You can love this world and the things of this world and its chief product, money, or you can love God. Words coming from your lips won’t really tell the true story of what is in your heart. However, the handling of your worldly wealth will.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Recommending Reading on Totay Depravity

The Augustinian/Reformed/Calvinist (ARC) doctrine of total depravity, which is expressed in various degrees by each ARC sect and person, has an increasingly unorthodox definition within Calvinist circles but specifically within Neo-Calvinist circles. Personally, I prefer the designation, "human depravity" since the the label "total" carries with it an an absolute property which can misguide the student of God's Word in understanding human depravity (which is the result of the fall, i.e. man's sin and his subsequent and immediate spiritual death and eventual physical death). That is, total does not always fit with certain aspects of the effects of man's fall. For example, one might claim a man who is unregenerate is totally incapable of pleasing God in any fashion. Dr. C. Matthew McMahon states precisely this as posted at A Puritan's Mind:
This would mean that man cannot fundamentally do anything to please God. Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
The problem is the lack of discrimination employed by many Calvinists, such as McMahon, in citing Isaiah while stating that the unregenerate man cannot "fundamentally do anything to please God". What Isaiah has in view is divine approbation with respect to earning righteous favor for salvation, not that we cannot ever please God as an unsaved person. And there is a difference between the two contexts.

Ex: An unsaved mother tends to the needs of her child. This is pleasing to God. In respect to earning righteous favor it is rags, but in respect to the moral fulfillment of God's will as a parent, it is pleasing to God.

Ex: A governmental leader, unregenerate, executes justices. God is pleased while his righteousness with respect to divine approbation for salvation remains as dirty rags.

Hence, the approach toward human depravity or sinful depravity and its various colors and dimensions within the Bible are denied, much by way of this faulty term but more so through rationalism and poor hermeneutics. To their credit there are some Calvinists who use the term "total inability" which helps, somewhat, but still, even with some of them their definitions extend beyond what is presented in Scripture and veer into philosophically based arguments. And this is not to say that much of what can be found written on the topic by Calvinists as well as Lutherans (for whom I have much affinity due to the carefulness of their expressions on the matter) is not true, it is, but we are dealing with its excesses or overreaching. Which brings me to my next point and recommendation.

Paul Dohse, Sr., author of The Truth About New Calvinism, has an extremely thoughtful and thought-provoking post on the matter of total depravity. I urge those who are interested in the history behind Calvinism's development and basic structure (a rationalistic foundation as opposed to an exegetical one-that is to say, the rationalism and propositions generally preceded its exegesis, its exegesis came afterward to support the propositions which is precisely backwards. It should be exegesis first, propositions second) to take time to read the article. It can be found here.

*Post Script: Paul Dohse, Sr., uses the expression, Philosopher King in his article to describe many ARC Teachers.. I find it an effective and often precise description of the method and attitude of many Neo-Calvinist and some traditional Calvinist Teachers. R.C. Sproul, sadly, is sometimes easily found within this loop though not as consistently as John Piper.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Concerning Jesus’ Command to Hate

The other day I was with a friend and we were listening to a lesson on Luke 14:26. It records a statement by our Lord Jesus in which he commands us to hate.
26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
The comment was in the larger context of Jesus giving various instructions by way of analogy, metaphor and allegory but certainly with specific and literal lessons to be applied. The Teacher to whom we were listening explained that the Greek word for hate, μισέω, (miseo) means to “love less” or “prefer less” and that hate isn’t exactly the best translation. And the fact is many Teachers go on to amplify this idea by saying that it can be translated, “If any man come to me, and loves his…more than me, he cannot be my disciple”. Hence, my friend turned to me and asked the obvious question which was why did the translators in so many translations, use the word hate?

I had not given this particular element of Scripture a great deal of thought until this question was posed and until then, frankly, I was satisfied with the sentiment of the above believing that clearly it means to love Jesus more than anything and the others less. But after studying the matter I believe this idea is an overcompensation for the strong language here. That is, the word hate, is a fitting translation because it is not the positive which is being asserted, rather it is the negative. That is, there are times when we are to, indeed, hate our own lives, our children, wife, husband, sister, brother, mother and father.

Really? Yes, really and that is what our Lord meant!

The Illustration Which Serves

All humans love something universally. In fact, this thing which all humans love universally is an absolute. That is, there isn't a human alive that does not love it. And this it is called water. Sometimes you love it especially and sometimes modestly but water is something without which we cannot live and we love.

But imagine water being where it does not belong such as flooding in your house and destroying your home. On that day and on that occasion you genuinely hate the water. Why? Because it is out of place, it is where it does not belong and even more so, its presence is destroying something valuable to you. This is a rather simple illustration but to the point.

What our Lord Expects

Our own lives and the lives of our family mean a great deal. The saying, “blood is thicker than water” is no casual thought. If you were a criminal and wanted to force a mother or father to cooperate all you have to do is threaten the well being of their child. And it is understandable that our family (our spouse, parents, siblings and children) means as much as they do but like water, our Lord requires that if we claim to be his disciples and they are taking priority over preoccupation with him, we lie and do not the truth.

The Lord knows that these are things which will challenge us to our very core. Your spouse will threaten and pout at times, your parents complain, your brothers and sisters mock and your children throw fits because their lives are being inconvenienced, embarrassed and lessened by your fanaticism in devoting yourself to Christ and that they cannot usurp him from the throne of your heart.

I have heard the cry from parents for many years which is that their children have so many activities and their social calendar is so full that it is hard to have time to make Christ a priority. Okay, just understand, you are not a disciple of Christ. Yes, you may be trailing at a distance but you are no disciple.

Yes, You Must Learn to Hate What Destroys Your Home

Think about your heart, it is the home or residence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Shekinah Glory has come to live within you. Now, think of the blessing of your human family as water which has its proper place. It satisfies; it gives refreshment and serves in many ways. But it also can destroy your home if you let it.

It isn’t easy. Our Lord emphasized this in verse 27 by saying:
27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
You think there isn’t going to be an upheaval in your home and with your family when you commit your life to Christ as a disciple? Even if you are in a family with Christians there will be various levels of commitment and those less committed than that of a disciple will give you grief. You will be accused of all kinds of things and the Father of Lies, Lucifer, will be happy to send demonic emissaries to encourage lackluster believers and certainly antagonistic unbelievers who are part of your family. They will tell you Jesus has no intention of you denying them their social pleasures for the proper maintenance of your discipleship to Christ. They will offer you every temptation known to man and then some, all to derail you.

And when none of this works and it seems you have been able to vanquish familial conquistadors, there is you, left. And unquestionably you will come knocking at the door trying to get in and take over the home of our Lord. You will tell yourself that all of your selfish-ambition, pleasure seeking and whatever else is supported by Scripture. Yes, everyone else must get out of the house except you. And this is the hardest one of all to kick out because, well, you like him or her the most. But you must look at him or her and see them for what they are, interlopers who care not for Christ and his viewpoint but of its own viewpoint, needs, wants and sweet delights to the impairment of God's intentions for your life as a disciple of Christ.

This is when you are to hate their intrusion, hate their attempts to usurp Christ (even in innocence because, in truth, there is no innocent attack on the preeminence of our Lord Jesus in our hearts), and yes, hate them because they are flood waters which seek to destroy your home. This hate will enable you to place them, like the misplaced water, back in its proper location, hence enabling you to love it as it was intended. Protect yourself and your home and hate the waters which can decimate your discipleship. They won’t always understand but our Lord will.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

John Piper: God Gave Christianity a "Masculine Feel", When Will His Sycophants and *Apologists Wake Up? Do They Even Wish to?

Recently, published at The Christian Post, (from which part of the my title has borrowed) was an article concerning an assertion by Teacher, John Piper, which came from his Desiring God conference in January, 2012. The Christian Post reported the following quote by Piper concerning the assertion that Christianity is deliberately designed with a masculine feel:
God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as king not queen; father not mother," Piper said at this year's annual pastors conference hosted by the Desiring God ministry. "Second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son not daughter; the Father and the Son create man and woman in His image and give them the name man, the name of the male.
And a second place where you may read (and I strongly recommend) a more full account, is at the blog Jesus Creed and its post, John Piper, what he said (I do not necessarily endorse the blog as a whole one way or the other but it has superior content on this matter). 

Let me be clear with my readers, I am neither a egalitarian nor complimentarian by identification. So I have no vested interest in protecting a school of theology in that respect as a motivation for my response. And that is not to say anyone using such labels should be viewed as suspect in responding to Piper, for or against. But some might consider one's view of marriage and gender roles as a motivating factor in defending or contending with Piper's assertions. For the record I call myself a "Governmentalist". That is, marriage is fundamentally a government. From that stems certain necessities which are revealed in the Bible. But let's go no further, I am still working on a marriage series.

What concerns me is not what John Piper has said, it is obviously sophomoric. It is easily defeated and not that there are not bits of Biblical truths woven into his tapestry of error because there are. But this is the mastery of John Piper, a mixer of human philosophy and reason with bits of Biblical truth. This is what the word "heresy" means, by the way. I recommend a word study on this. However, most disconcerting is the silence by many, many allegedly spiritually mature and Godly Christian Teachers and leaders who refuse to address Piper's regular and errant hermeneutic formula which gave to the western Christian world his  fallacious Christian Hedonism - all the way to this tidbit of poisoned candy (here is a place which provides many links on Christian Hedonism and its evaluation).

The Fundamental Error

That which is spiritual is spiritual. Christianity is not anthropologically based (I recommend you read through the series, An Examination of Protestant/Evangelical Race Based-Special Interest Theology for a more thorough treatment of the Biblical and necessary distinction between divine institutions which are anthropologically/humanly based constructs and the one which is a spiritually based construct.). It is true that within the government of the church there are anthropological considerations, but this is the physical government of the church, that is, it is with regard to human order. The Bible makes it clear that certain anthropological orders are preserved in a church government. But this, in no way, makes Christianity to have inherent "masculinity". Why? I will tell you why.

When you receive forgiveness from Christ and are placed in the body of Christ is this masculine, feminine or spiritual? Right, it is spiritual. When you participate in the fellowship of our Lord, is this masculine, feminine or spiritual? right, spiritual. All of Christianity is spiritual. Now you, the believer, have an anthropological point of reference with respect to your own human experiences, but your human experiences are not the basis of your Christianity.

One might then ask, why did Jesus decide to come as a male? Could he have as easily been a woman? No. God's anthropological order for humanity required him to be Adam for the seminal/genetic representation of all mankind. But his maleness had nothing to do with his spirituality.

Our Lord's spirituality stemmed from his divinity, not his humanity. His humanity, indeed, represents a certain reality of human order but not that of a spiritual order.
Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
This is not a reference to the removal of anthropological orders, that is outside of Christ and within other divine institutions or even human institutions such properties remain real, but in Christ, none of this is relevant with regard to your walk with the Lord, your spirituality.

Piper's Two-Tiered Spirituality System

What John Piper has asserted is a spiritual advantage to men, merely because of their human masculine property. In essence, it at least implies if not outright demands, that we understand that there is supposed to be in view a two-tiered system for spirituality among brothers and sisters in the Lord which gives preference to males since they possess inherent masculinity hence, they receive more abundantly and with greater frame of reference, a "masculine Christianity". This is not simply nonsense, it ought to be seen as a great offense against the spiritual construct our Lord made clear for his body.

When will Piper's sycophants and apologists wake up? Are they so egotistically invested that they simply cannot bring themselves to admit their error about John Piper? Mr. Piper has a teaching gift but he has been teaching, unrepentantly so, a great deal of error for some time. His expertise at mixing human sentimentality, emotionalism and philosophy with parts of orthodoxy has been tolerated far too long. While it should never be tolerated, we, of course, are patient in the theological formation of our brothers and sisters as younger Teachers. But John Piper is not a younger Teacher and by now he ought to know better and does not. The silence of his peers and colleagues speaks volumes. What will it take for them to awaken? I don't know but maybe they simply do not want to.

*Special thanks to the unnamed but thoughtful friend who called attention to apologizers  vs apologists and the initial misspelling but I warned you about my editor. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

God’s Election of What? The Decoder Ring to Unlocking Election in Ephesians 1:4-5

The election passage in Ephesians is critical to understanding and formulating an appropriate view of election. As I have prepared this treatment I have done so over weeks and months and was astonished by a few things. My hope is to bring the reader, not necessarily to a point of agreement with me (though this is "a" hope) but to a place of escape from the trap of the common ARC (Augustinian/Reformed/Calvinist) view of this passage which bases its formulation, in part, on failing to ask the appropriate questions and if asked, answering them inappropriately. As well I hope to encourage you to examine and accept the weight of the grammatical/exegetical indicators, if only to cross-examine yourself and/or those who assert the ARC interpretation.

So to make it simple I am going to examine the passage with the needed questions and tackle them one at a time. I hope this will help with the ease of reading, even for the most basic student of the Word of God, though it will get very specific or technical at one point, most of it is easily followed.

The questions which need asked and answered (answers which the text provides) are your decoder ring for a proper examination of the text.

1. What was being chosen by God?
2. When was the choice made by God?
3. Where and when is the human elected by God?
4. Can Yoda and sentence structure (sentence diagram) show us anything? Yes!
5. Who are the “us” to whom Paul refers that God chose.
6. How does the panoramic context of “in him/Christ” inform us?

Here is Ephesians 1:4-5
4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—
*This treatment will be with verse 4.

1. First, ask yourself, what was being chosen by God?

This cannot be any more critical to comprehending this passage.  Was God choosing those who would be in Christ or that in Christ we would be holy and blameless?

Many students of Scripture have been trained to run over this portion with the kind of speed which does not permit asking this vital question and making appropriate observations because they have been taught to look at it one way. It is so important to note what is and is not there, in the text.

Dr. Thomas Constable in his Notes on Ephesians (2012 Edition) makes this classic error. He is no exegetical novice, but I am afraid as a committed Calvinist of some sort, he was led about too easily by its doctrine in approaching this passage. Here is what he states about the passage (bold mine):

God has ordained that all the elect should be under Christ's authority. Some interpreters have concluded that God chose Jesus and that all who believe in Him become elect by their faith.29 However this verse states that God chose "us" to be in Christ.

Right now I am about to blow the doors off of what Dr. Constable said, at the very end. He stated, “God chose us to be in Christ”. No, that is not what the passage says. That is an incorrect grammatical rendering of the passage and one, I suspect, is based on Calvinist instinct and not paying close attention to what is and is not there.

It states:
 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless
Look where the "to be" is. It is not where Dr. Constable puts it. God chose us to be holy and blameless, it does not say he chose us to be in Christ, that we would be in Christ or who would be in Christ. 

It is true that “in Christ” is where we are made holy and blameless and it is true that God chose “in Christ” as where we would be made holy and blameless, but it does not say “God chose us to be in Christ” nor “God chose who would be in Christ” or even that God determined "we would be in Christ". Now clearly some of us are "in Christ", many before us and many after us, but none of that is in the text and we are dealing with what the text contains and says, not what we wish to make it mean or put in it in order to make it fit our theology.

It is very important that you stay with me because when we get to the sentence structure you will understand that the phrase, “he chose us” has as its object “to be holy and blameless” and not “in Christ” or even “to be in Christ”. Neither of those are grammatically correct. I will give you a crude example of how you may view this and then we can move onward.

Ex: I have a Sunday school room and before arriving that Sunday I take with me enough candy for every single person who can possibly show up in that room. It then may be said by those who arrived and received candy that day, “He chose us, in the class, before the class ever began, to receive candy”.  I made the choice that whosoever (sound familiar?) came to the class, they would received the candy. The “us” is not predetermined. What was chosen before hand was that those “in the class” would receive candy.  They became the "us" and refer to themselves as the "us", not because I chose who the us would be, individually and before hand, but because I chose that "in the class" they would receive candy. They or us are determined by whether or not they came "in the class".

Now how they "came in the class" is another discussion altogether. That is to say, I am not suggesting that the analogy go any further. Coming to be "in Christ" does indeed involve divine drawing but this drawing and enlightenment in no way suggests or requires the view that God chooses who will and will not be "in Christ".

*The choice God made was that “in Christ” (that is anyone who comes to be “in Christ”) would be made holy and blameless. In other words, this is a reference to the plan of salvation for all mankind made by the Godhead.

2. Secondly, we must consider when was the choice was made that the case would be that "in Christ" we would be made "holy and blameless"?

The passage is rather clear, God made the choice “before the foundation of the world”  that “in Christ” we would be made “holy and blameless” (again, the plan of salvation, as you can see).

To the ARC student, election is claimed to be God choosing who would (and would not for hyper-Calvinists) be saved and decreeing it so, at this point. It is an unchangeable and eternal fixture in their mind. So being interested in investigating this claim I did the appropriate Greek digging in which I assumed that the exegesis would back this up. You see, in the Greek there are verb tenses like in the English, past, present and future but there is also the aorist and what is called the perfect tense (a special kind of past tense, a really important kind).

The perfect tense is a verb tense which refers to an action taken in the past with permanent and unalterable results and we are to view this action, along with its results, as permanent or final. Sounds a lot like Calvinism’s view of election where God made, once and for all time,  a list of whom he would save, in eternity past.

Only one small problem.

εξελεξατο – (verb – 3rd person singular aorist middle indicative) is the word translated chosen. It comes from two Greek words, ek or  ex, which means from or out of and legō which means “to say or speak” or as here, “to call”. Together they mean, “to call out of or out from”.

But what stands out and stands against claims that “in eternity past God chose who would  be saved” is the tense of this verb which is aorist as opposed to what would be expected here, the perfect tense. But the perfect tense is not used to refer to this alleged eternity past choice as to who would be saved, this once and for all not to be repeated choice, rather it is the little ole' aorist, indicative.

The aorist indicative, in and of itself, is used in a consummative way here. It is considered somewhat timeless apart from a specific use,  its emphasis is not on so much on time but on the nature of the action in relationship to its participants and its immediate or subsequent action. Here it has in view the entire process of the Divine Triumvirate of contemplating, deciding and bringing into existence the plan of God for humanity, namely that “in Christ” would be - and is - the means by which the Godhead chose or elected (and subsequently accomplished) to justify, sanctify and glorify mankind. Christ is the focus here.

Now one might complain that this is an argument from silence but it is not, at all. It is a scientific argument. That is, based on the consistent use of the perfect tense in the Greek reserved for such occasions, we find it missing. What we should expect to find, we do not.

While this is not a show-stopper, it does not bode well for the ARC student, even while granting that verb tenses in the Greek can, at times, have what appear to be both unusual and contradictory uses. However, here, as the Calvinist insists that election is about God choosing who would (and would not for hyper-Calvinists) be saved, we must expect to find the perfect tense to under gird this assertion and we do not. The Calvinist is at a distinct disadvantage, here.

3. Thirdly, ask yourself, where does the election of God for the individual human occur, that is in what location is it made?  

I want you to take a look at the expression “in him” in the passage, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless”.

Keep in mind what I am emphasizing here:

The choice by God made in eternity past was not “who would be in him” but that "in him" we would be made “holy and blameless”, which has been well established. However, we are not made "holy and blameless" until we are in Christ. Hence two points in time of occurrence or action are in view. 

1. Eternity past when God chose that it was "in Christ" humans would be made holy and blameless.
2. Present time when humans believe in Christ, thus come to be "in Christ" and are then made holy and blameless in which they become part of the "God chose us in be holy and blameless".

“In him” is a prepositional phrase. Prepositions generally give us either location or direction, now and then both. Here, ἐν αὐτῷ (in him-Christ) gives us the location of where God make us “holy and blameless”, therefore it gives us the time or "the when" as well.

So, even though God made the choice that it was "in Christ" humans would be made "holy and blameless" (thus becoming the "us" or "we") in eternity past, we must ask ourselves when is this choice made toward us, personally? We can do this by asking a question or two and do so while remembering that we must abide by the grammar and its consequences/implications which were chosen by God in inspiring Holy Writ.

Question: “If a person is outside of Christ, did God choose for that person to be holy and blameless?”

No. Obviously not.What God chose is for them to be condemned outside of Christ but as well, that if they will "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" they will then be "in Christ" where God has made clear he has chosen to make them "holy and blameless".

Only “in Christ” (the location of where we must be in order to be made “holy and blameless”) is where God's election for us, personally, occurs and where God makes someone “holy and blameless”.

Question: Then if this is the case, why are people saying God chose specific people to be holy and blameless who are outside of Christ? Doesn’t that contradict what the grammar demands?

Yes, but that doesn’t matter to some. They have a theology to support.

Think very carefully about where you are made “holy and blameless” and where this choice for you by God occurs? It occurs “in Christ”.   

So how, then does this immediately inform us? It informs us that until you are “in Christ” no choice has been made for you, personally, (εξελεξατο) to be made “holy and blameless”. It does not say, “outside of Christ” you were elected to be made “holy and blameless” and when you get finally get “in Christ” you will receive this specific and personal election which God predetermined that you would enter. None of that is anywhere in the passage.  Rather that, only when you are “in Christ” has a choice been made for you and so it requires you to be “in Christ”, first, before the choice of election occurs and from which you are made “holy and blameless”.

4. Can Yoda and sentence structure (sentence diagram) show us anything? 

Sentence structure is important, bringing with it the grammatical consequences of verbs, nouns, direct objects and so on. Yoda, from Star Wars, is popular for restructuring sentences without compromising the grammatical integrity (sometimes) known as OVS (Object, Verb, Subject)  instead of the very common SVO (Subject, Verb Object). And there are many variations of this, of course but here is the most basic and obvious.

Ex: SVO, I love you
       OVS, You, love I.

The meaning is not compromised while the word order is changed and this will help you understand the sentence structure you are about to encounter and why it should be understood, as it is.

(Original NIV)
4a For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

(Word Order Changed with Grammatical Integrity the Same)
4b. For he chose us, to be holy and blameless in his sight, in Christ, before the foundation of the world
What choice was made? Clearly the choice does not articulate “who” would be in Christ, rather the choice was that “in Christ” is where one becomes holy and blameless (justified).

But let me illustrate this with this portion of Ephesians diagrammed so you may know what the object of “he chose us” is. That is, we may know the objective of the choice, whether it was “who would be in Christ” (not even in the passage) or that he chose us “to be holy and blameless” in Christ through diagramming the sentence.

Below is my diagram of the passage in English (but based on the Greek) and two Greek sentence diagrams which you can find online. What you will discover is that the object of εξελεξατο (he chose) ημας (us) is not “who would be in Christ” or “to be in Christ” but ειναι (to be) ημας (us/we) αγιους (holy) και (and)  αμωμους (blameless), "to be holy and blameless".

This is the sentence structure plain and simple.

Mine Above  (Above)  (Above)

God, according to this, did not choose us “to be in Christ” nor did he choose “who would be in Christ”, none of the sentence or its properties supports this. It only supports, “He chose us…to be holy and blameless”.

Question: So where does the prepositional phrase come in? Just as we already covered, it gives us the location of where God chose to make us holy and blameless and where it occurs, for us, personally. And the sentence diagram shows us this, it is a prepositional phrase, not an object of the verb.

5. Who are the “us” to whom Paul refers? This will help, as well, in examining and determining the object(s) of God’s choice. Is the “us” everyone who has believed up to the point of Paul's writing the letter, all who will believe, or this unspecified but exclusive group God allegedly has chosen to save.

I am far more inclined that Paul has in view those “in Christ” without emphasis on quantity since he knows that the "us" will enlarge each time someone is brought into the body of Christ.

First, because of what has already been covered. That this passage is about the plan of God with respect to salvation and not individuals being elected and secondly, as I will cover in a moment, the rest of the passage which speaks about all we have “in him” or “in Christ”. He is speaking to believers. While it is potentially true for anyone, it remains untrue for them until they are “in him” or “in Christ”, hence the “us” Paul speaks of are believers.

But to the assertion the “us” refers to the secret elect as Calvinists define it. If you hold to this view, your biggest problem is with very beginning of the passage where Paul begins in Ephesians 1:3:

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.

Those outside of Christ, whether they be the elect you believe God chose to save but are not  yet save (or anyone else) these people are are still outside of Christ and Paul is speaking only to those who are “in Christ” since no one outside of Christ has been blessed with “every spiritual blessing”. You are forced to change the meaning of the pronoun "us" from those "in Christ" which has already been so definitely established in this passage, to (and magically only in verse 4) now include a group "outside of Christ" but elect and who will eventually be saved. Do you see just what Calvinisms is forcing upon who the "us" are?

But to the panorama and your final consideration.

6. “In Christ or “in him” the panoramic context of Ephesians itself arrests the foreign ARC (Augustinaian/Reformed/Calvinist) interpretation.

You must consider the following. It should impact you, if nothing else, by way of context.

1:3 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.

(Those outside of Christ have this? Really? The "us" are those in Christ, it can only be that,  which demands the exclusion of this yet saved but allegedly elect body of those still outside of Christ. It makes no reasonable sense any other way. In other words it simply cannot include some "outside of Christ" yet, allegedly elected to salvation group because they are not "in Christ.)

1:4For he chose us (in him)…to be holy and blameless

(And so Paul continues to speak to the "us" which we just understood cannot be those outside of Christ, which includes the  yet saved but allegedly specially elected to salvation group that ARCers assert the Bible teaches.)

1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood

(Who has redemption? Paul is talking to those who have it, not those who do not including this alleged yet believing special elect. But more importantly the "we" are the "us", those "in Christ".)

1:9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,

(In Christ is where the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure is found, and who again, is “in Christ" and understands the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure? Right, believers are the ones not some unspecified secret society of special elected yet not saved people.)

1:13And 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,

(When were you included “in Christ”? When are you “chosen”? Ah yes, when you heard the message and believed, not before but afterward.)

2:6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

Remember the “us” to whom Paul is speaking? Are you now going to insist the “us” includes this yet saved but secretly limited number of people elected or chosen to be saved along with those already saved or are you going to yield to the obvious, that God, through Paul, is talking only about those “in Christ”? That is,  unless you really believe this elect yet unsaved group have been raised up with Christ and seated with him in heavenly realms. Maybe you do but if so you have reached the level of absurdity and gross hersey.

You cannot have it both ways. The “us” are believers in Christ only, not potential ones, though when they get “in Christ” they will get this too. So in Ephesians 1:4 where Paul says:
4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
The context and repeated use can only refer to believers or those “in Christ”. So for ARCers who assert the "us" refers to the yet saved elect, who are still outside of Christ, this means this passage cannot apply to them as we have seen, repeatedly, the "us" refers only to those "in Christ" in this panoramic context.  This deconstructs the ARCer interpretation with a final blow.

Conclusion: In Him/In Christ

Paul repeatedly uses this expression in Ephesians and it is key to understanding what he is talking about.  It is all about what occurs “in Christ”. Paul writes the entire context about what we receive “in Christ”. Hence, it is rightfully and robustly theologically, contextually and exegetically argued that election is not a choice the Godhead made in eternity past as to who would and would not be saved, rather the choice which was made was about what humanity would receive “in Christ” which begins with our salvation and its accompanied “holiness and blamelessness” but spreads out further to the many spiritual assets and privileges Paul covers as being gained “in Christ”. So when you become “in Christ”, which is when you get saved, that is the time you become the “elect” because you have received (and will continue to receive) what God elected you to have “in Christ”. Here is your decoder ring.