Election, Predestination, and Perseverance in Ephesians One

I began a series on the first fourteen verses of chapter one of Ephesians and lost it completely. Since I very much enjoy this epistle, I decided to take up once again the challenge of constructing an amateur exegesis of this section of the letter as it correlates to the rest of Ephesians as well as to other themes of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone noted solely through Scripture alone. I decided to write a brief commentary on this first section of the epistle in one post in lieu of several, relatively exhaustive posts, given that so few seemed interested in the lengthy commentary a year ago.

While there are many, many topics and issues that can be addressed in this first chapter, I have restricted the study mainly to the topics of election, predestination, and perseverance -- topics that will include the notion of being "in Christ" and adoption. In other words, this brief post will not exhaustively address issues such as textual variants (cf. Eph. 1:3, 4-5, 11, 14), issues related to the intended readers, its sphere of influence throughout Asia Minor, the author, or other intertextual concerns.

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BACKGROUND

Some pastors admit that they do not understand the purpose for St Paul's letter to the Ephesians -- assuming, of course, that the epistle was intended for the Ephesians,1 and also that the apostle Paul is the author.2 For them, though the epistle is a great affirmation of the blessings of believers who trust in and are "in Christ," and serves as a wonderful witness of living the Christian life, they do not detect an explicitly stated purpose for his writing it. He was not addressing problems, as within the Corinthian church (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1, 2, 3, 4; 5:1, 2, 3, 4, 5 &c.), nor did he sense any other urgent matter which needed to be addressed, as with St Jude (cf. Jude 1:3).

Dr. George E. Harpur proffers the following as a theme for Ephesians:
The great spiritual blessings brought to individuals now by the promised Spirit [Eph. 1:3-2:10], and the inclusion of the Gentiles with the Jews [Eph. 2:11-3:13], the movement of spiritual growth of these as Christ's body [Eph. 3:14-4:16], in manifesting the new moral standards [Eph. 4:17-6:9] are all unfolded as having been eternally planned, and now in this age in actual achievement through the living union forged in Christ. Though this presently entails a spiritual conflict [Eph. 6:10-20], it will teach its perfect culmination in the age to come.3
These interwoven themes can be deduced having read the letter. But does our author state that the believers in Ephesus were in need of being taught these great themes? No. Still, Dr. Harpur claims: "This letter forms a fitting crown to the extant writings of Paul the apostle of the Gentiles. In it his teaching is brought to an integrated wholeness and finality. Doctrines which are presented piecemeal elsewhere are here gathered in impressive harmony, each in its place in the whole concept of salvation."4 Whether or not the apostle sensed that the believers in Ephesus in particular were in need of receiving the contents of the letter, we trust that the Holy Spirit inspired our author, as well as directed the letter to various provinces throughout ancient Asia Minor, wherever He saw fit.

CONTEXT

The apostle Paul's connection to Ephesus -- the largest and most prominent of trading ports -- can be found during his second missionary journey in his initial yet brief visit at Acts 18:19. "When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, 'I will come back if it is God's will.'" (Acts 18:20-21 NIV) The following chapter teaches us regarding Paul's third missionary journey (51-56 CE): "While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus." (Acts 19:1) Paul urged young pastor Timothy, in 64-65 CE, to "stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines" (1 Tim. 1:3; cf. Rev. 2:2). Jesus Himself gave a message to the church at Ephesus (95 CE), that they had obeyed Him concerning the forsaking of those who teach false doctrines, but that, "You have forsaken the love you had at first." (Rev. 2:4)

SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS

The apostle, after addressing "the faithful in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 1:1), blessing them with the grace and peace that comes "from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 1:2), writes, εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ (Eph. 1:3a), lit., Blessed the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ being translated, traditionally, as "Blessed be the God and Father" (NRSV), but also as "Praise be to the God and Father" (NIV) (emphases added). Is God the Father "blessed" and, hence, the one who bestows blessings? Or is God the Father to be praised?

Our Greek word εὐλογητός can be translated either as "blessed" or as "praise," emphasis upon speaking a blessing, words of praise.5 Using "blessed" here, however, would indicate the worshiper blessing God, and not necessarily receiving a blessing from God, since εὐλογητός is reserved for the blessing and praising of God and Christ (cf. Rom. 1:25; 9:5; 2 Cor. 11:31; Eph. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:3). The apostle introduces our cause for worship of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ "who has blessed [εὐλογήσας] us in the heavenly realms with every [πάσῃ, all] spiritual blessing in Christ." (Eph. 1:3b, emphasis added)

All spiritual blessings, including salvation, can be found solely in Christ. Hence there is no secret blessing -- an unconditional election unto faith and salvation -- since all of God's blessings are found in a universal Savior, who does not show favoritism to anyone, yet restricts those same blessings to the recipients of God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We find believers who εὐλογητός, bless, God and Christ; and then we find that God εὐλογήσας, has blessed us -- our blessing Him being subsequent to His blessing us.

Our blessings are spiritual in nature, "in the heavenly realms," are located "in Christ," and include but are not limited to an election to imputed holiness (v. 4); adoption (v. 5), which demonstrates God's glorious grace (v. 6); redemption (v. 7); given or made an inheritance (v.11), through which God's glory is praised (v. 12); ultimate salvation (v. 13); and given the indwelling Holy Spirit (v. 13), whose goal is the securing of our redemptive inheritance (v. 14).

ELECTION TO ...

Surprising to some, unconditional election is not taught in the first chapter of Ephesians, nor throughout the entirety of the epistle. Calvinist pastor John Piper himself admits that Ephesians 1:4 will not settle the issue of the theory of unconditional election (link). He almost interprets the core message of Ephesians 1:4 correctly, especially noting, "God chose us to come to salvation in Christ, not apart from Christ. But it was us that he chose. These words are not strained at all in carrying this meaning that God chose particular people to be his children through their union with Christ." (link) (emphases added) We can agree with this interpretation in so far as it places Jesus Christ at the center of both our election and our salvation -- but neither are unconditional in nature.

Piper thinks a better case for individual, unconditional election unto faith and salvation is taught at 1 Corinthians 1:27-30 and James 2:5, both of which demonstrate God choosing to one degree or another. In the latter passage, James, contextually, is teaching against favoritism, which is ironic for Calvinists to use this passage for their own interpretive means, given that unconditional election posits God showing favoritism. But I digress. The rich oppress the poor; but God has elected or chosen for the poor who trust in Christ to be rich in Him and to inherit the promised kingdom. That is hardly a proof-text for the theory of unconditional election.

The former passage follows the same train of thought as that of James. Contextually, God has "made foolish" the so-called wisdom of the world (1 Cor. 1:20). He has clearly demonstrated that fact by electing or choosing, through "the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:21). Believers are not to "demand signs" or boast of wisdom (1 Cor. 1:22), but to look to Christ crucified as the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:23, 24).

When God called us to salvation, many of us were not "wise by human standards," or socially or politically "influential," nor were we of royalty (1 Cor. 1:26). Yet in Christ, by grace through faith in Him, God has elected or chosen what the world considers foolish or lowly to shame those who consider themselves wise and noble (1 Cor. 1:27, 28). Our boast should always be toward God in Christ through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 1:29. 31). We are "in Him," that is, Christ Jesus, due to the work of God Almighty (1 Cor. 1:30).

That God has elected or chosen to shame a God-rejecting, God-mocking, Christ-denying culture that He can work wonders through what it despises is hardly a proof-text for the theory of unconditional election. If Piper's admission is true, and Ephesians 1:4 is not a sufficient text to prove the theory of unconditional election, then 1 Corinthians 1:27-30 and James 2:5 are even less sufficient.



We, believers in Christ, are the recipients of God's spiritual blessings, which are a cause for praising the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3). The apostle continues: "For," lit. according as, "he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." (Eph. 1:4 NIV) God the Father -- the one who saves and blesses believers in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ -- chose (elected), before the creation of the world, us in Him, that is, in Christ, to be holy and blameless in His sight.

Note carefully the reality and context of God's choice: the text does not teach that God chose us to be "in Christ," but that those who are in Christ, by grace through faith (Eph. 2:5, 8), are elected to be holy and blameless in His sight. Again, Dr. George E. Harpur comments:
God's election antedates creation [we all agree on that truth], and the selection is made in Christ [we all agree on that truth, as well]. The objection to taking this to mean "chosen to be in Christ" is that the purpose of the election is clearly stated -- to be holy and blameless. Positive sanctification and negative blamelessness begin now, but are not fully achieved until we are in his sight.6 (emphases original)
These uncontested facts are further demonstrated in St Paul's letter to the Colossians: "he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him" (Col. 1:22 NRSV; cf. 1 Cor. 1:8; Eph. 5:26, 27; Phil. 1:10; 2:15; 1 Thess. 3:13; 5:23). This spiritual blessing is restricted to the one "in Him" (Eph. 1:4).

However, we cannot ignore the apostle's caveat and warning: "if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel." (Col. 1:23 NIV) We find impossible to insist that the apostle who allegedly taught unconditional election, with an accompanying corollary of necessary perseverance, would inconsistently maintain that a genuine believer also remains in a state of forfeiting his or her final salvation. If the latter is a possibility, and Scripture assumes that it is (John 15:1-5; Rom. 11:17-24; 1 Thess. 3:8; 1 Tim. 2:15; 4:16; 2 Tim. 3:14; Heb. 2:1, 2, 3; 3:12, 13, 14; 4:1, 11, 16; 6:4, 5, 6; 10:23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30), then the former are serious errors.

God did not unconditionally choose us to be in Christ, to the neglect of others, but chose that those of us who are in Christ will stand before Him holy and blameless. Those who insist otherwise are performing pure eisegesis -- reading into a text a foreign concept -- and not exegesis -- taking out of a text the contents therein. The theory of unconditional election is, simply, not in this text and, therefore, cannot be taken out of it. Since Christ Jesus is the Elect One of God the Father (cf. Isa. 59:2; Luke 9:35; 23:35; Gal. 3:7-29; 1 Pet. 1:20), then all who by grace trust in Him, and are united together with and in Him, are considered the elect of God, the choice beloved of God who are spiritually connected to the only-begotten Beloved of God (Eph. 1:6 NKJV).7

IN CHRIST

The phrase "in Christ" is referenced seventy-three times throughout the letters of St Paul, and that does not include its variants (i.e., in Him, in Whom, in the Beloved, in the Lord, etc.); eighteen of these references are trinitarian in nature and are "explicitly connected to the work of the Father and the Spirit."8 All who are "in Christ" have been granted a new status and a new identity: "They have moved from death to life [John 5:24; 1 John 3:14], from old creation to new [2 Cor. 5:17], from strangers to family [Eph. 2:12, 13]."9 As with husband and wife, who become "one" by nature of their union (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31), so, too, does the person "in Christ" become "one" with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17). While sufficiently defining "in Christ" deserves its own, exhaustive attention, I refer to Dr. Campbell's work, from his extraordinary book, Paul and Union with Christ:
To do justice to the full spectrum of Paul's thought and language, the terms union, participation, identification, incorporation are adopted, in place of previous terminology. These four umbrella terms successfully capture the full range of prepositional phraseology, metaphorical conceptualisations, and theological interactions that Paul draws on to communicate what it means to be united to Christ.10
First, notes Campbell, union with Christ "involves our location within the realm of Christ." The believer's spiritual union includes the notion of living one's life "conducted within the spiritual sphere of his [Christ's] dominion."11 Second, the believer has adopted a new identity -- no longer considered his or her own (1 Cor. 6:19, 20), the believer belongs to Christ, "puts on Christ" as one puts on new clothing (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27), and seeks to live as Christ lives. Third, directly related to the second notion, the believer participates in the life of Christ, having died with Christ and having been raised with Him.12 Fourth, the believer is incorporated into the body of Christ, a new community of believers. Fifth, the believer becomes an instrument through which God works out His will in the earth.

Yet there is more. Our union is trinitarian, as the "Father's will is enacted through the Son, by the Spirit, for the glory of Christ and the benefit of humanity."13 This union is tantamount to a nuptial, as mentioned above, and is also eschatological with implications stretching forth into eternity. This union is also a spiritual reality, not metaphorical, but concrete.14 Union with Christ, while an incomplete form for "in Christ," must always be thought of in the broader terms of union, participation, identification, and incorporation.15

PREDESTINED TO ...

The apostle continues: "God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure." (NLT) The New Living Translation is, I believe, the most faithful to the first part of this text, for the word προορίσας, traditionally translated "He predestined," maintains its proper connotation as "God decided in advance." Our Greek word προορίσας is taken from the compound πρό, before, prior, and ὁρίζω, determine, mark off by boundaries and assign (our English word "horizon" is derived from this Greek word). To what reality, then, is the believer predestined or predetermined? Just as at Ephesians 1:4 God uses the Instrument of Christ to consider believers holy and blameless, so has God used the Instrument of Christ Himself to predetermine the status of such believers, they become part of His elect family. God predetermined to bless the believer with spiritual adoption (cf. Rom. 8:23): making believers part of His spiritual family. He predetermined to accomplish this feat by bringing believers to Himself in and through Jesus Christ. This corresponds to St John's Gospel, where Christ stated, "No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

Adoption was once thought of only in terms of Jewish heritage: "They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption" (Rom. 9:4 NRSV). But God predetermined that His spiritual family would be comprised of anyone, from any nation, who would by grace trust in His Son Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul wrote to the Gentile believers: "remember that at that time [before faith in Christ] you were separate from Christ, excluded from the citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world." (Eph. 2:12 NIV) That summarizes life outside of Christ. "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away [from Him and from salvific hope] have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Eph. 2:13) Moreover:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off [Gentiles] and to those who were near [Jews]. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. (Eph. 2:14-18 NKJV, emphases added)
Did God predetermine to bring only certain people into His spiritual family? In one sense, yes, and in another sense no. All are welcome into God's spiritual family, as any cursory reading of the Christian scriptures will inform (cf. Matt. 11:28; 22:9; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 8:4-8, 9-10, 11-15; John 1:4, 7, 9, 12; 3:14-15, 16, 17, 18; 8:12). So God has not, from eternity past, predetermined to unconditionally elect anyone unto faith and salvation.



However, He has elected or chosen to save only those who by grace continue to trust in Jesus Christ His Son (John 3:15, 16, 36; 4:14; 5:24, 40; 6:47; 6:50-58; 20:31; Rom 3:21-30; 4:3-5; 4:9, 11, 13, 16; 4:20-24; 5:1, 2; 9:30-33; 10:4; 10:9-13; 1 Cor 1:21; 15:1-2; Gal 2:15-16; 3:2-9; 3:11; 3:14, 22, 24; 3:26-28; Eph 1:13; 2:8; Phil 3:9; Heb 3:6, 14; 3:18-19; 4:2-3; 6:12; 1 John 2:23-25; 5:10-13, 20). God does not save unbelievers (Mark 1:15; Luke 8:12; John 1:12; 3:16; Acts 16:31; Rom. 1:16-17; 3:22; 6:8; 10:9-10; 1 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 3:22; Eph. 1:19; 1 Tim. 1:16; Heb. 7:25; 11:6; 1 John 5:13). Hence He has predetermined to bring to Himself and into His spiritual family those who are in Christ. In Christ we "have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins" (Eph. 1:7). In Christ we were made His inheritance, or were predetermined to be the recipients of Christ's inheritance (Eph. 1:11).

All of these unfathomable expressions of God's grace, mercy, and spiritual blessings serve "to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves" (Eph. 1:6); "in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us" (Eph. 1:7, 8); "according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ" (Eph. 1:9); and "for the praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:12).

MARKED WITH A SEAL

The apostle then states that we, believers, were "included in Christ" when we heard and believed the Gospel of our salvation. (Eph. 1:13) By inference, then, we can conclude that our regeneration and inclusion in Christ is preceded by faith and not vice versa. By faith in Christ we are first forgiven of our sins and only then included in Christ and regenerated (Eph. 1:7; Col. 2:13). But the apostle also teaches that, when we first believed in Christ, we were "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. 1:13 NKJV; cf. 2 Cor. 1:22). This seal, σφραγίζω, of God is the Holy Spirit Himself (Luke 24:49; John 7:39; Acts 1:4; 2:33, 38). This passage is used by proponents of eternal security, or necessary perseverance, for a proof-text. I, however, view the passage in a conditional manner for two primary reasons.

First, the one thus "marked" with the seal of the Holy Spirit -- or the one in whom the Holy Spirit now resides -- remains in that state by faith: "after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed" (Eph. 1:13 NASB). If one were to cease the faith-act, i.e., believing in Christ for one's salvation, then the Holy Spirit would not dwell within such an individual -- the person would not be "marked" as one of God's own elect. Note the following passage: "this [being indwelt by the Holy Spirit] is the pledge of our inheritance toward [εἰς] the redemption as God's own people" (Eph. 1:14 NRSV). Our salvation is certain on the condition of possessing the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9) -- a reality that is based solely upon the prior condition of faith in the Gospel of Christ, and thus Christ Himself (Eph. 1:13).

Second, this passage cannot be isolated from other verses throughout the Christian scriptures which contextualize present and final salvation, reserving such for the one who continues in the faith and, hence, abides in Christ (cf. John 3:36; 5:24; 15:1-5; Rom. 11:1724; 1 Cor. 10:1-14; Gal. 4:9-11; 5:1-4; Phil. 2:12, 13, 16; Col. 1:21-23; 1 Thess. 3:5; 1 Tim. 1:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18; Heb. 2:1-4; 3:7-4:2; 5:11-6:12; 10:29-39; 12:1-24; 1 Pet. 1:5; 2 Pet. 18-22). We are not wise in selecting Ephesians 1:13, 14, or Philippians 1:6 (both of which refer to a corporate group, identified as such through the second person nominative plural pronoun ὑμεῖς), and triumphantly claiming that the person who once trusted in Christ cannot later reject that faith and be lost. We must collect all scriptures on the subject and then consistently harmonize them.

Moreover, we must remind ourselves of the apostle's immediate referents, "the faithful in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 1:2), and keep in mind that he "warns them against becoming participants in the wickedness of the world around them, thus becoming partakers of the wrath of God against the disobedient"16 (cf. Eph. 5:1-7). If we cannot understand the warning passages as being genuine then neither can we understand the promise passages (of salvation) as being genuine. God promises salvation to the one who believes; God warns believers about defecting from the faith; God promises reprobation to the one who refuses to believe or rejects his or her prior faith.

Conclusively, most Arminians agree with St Paul's conditional statement: "And you ... he has now reconciled ... so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him -- provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard" (Col. 1:21, 22, 23). Arminian Robert Shank writes:
We have earlier declared that throughout his earthly sojourn, the relation of the believer to Christ is never a static relationship existing as the irrevocable consequence of a past decision, act, or experience. Rather, it is a living relationship -- a present mutual indwelling of the believer and the Saviour, the sharing of a common life which emanates from Him "who is our life" [Col. 3:4]. For the believer it is a living participation proceeding from a living faith in a living Saviour. The foundation principle governing the relationship is reduced to its simplest statement in our Saviour's words, "Remain in me, and I in you." [John 15:4, 7] The believer's relation to the Holy Spirit cannot be disassociated from his relation to Christ; it is one and the same. The relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Christian is not static and indissoluble.17
If the person reconciled to God in Christ through the Holy Spirit cannot in any sense whatsoever forfeit her faith or her salvation, then the apostle's caveat makes no sense. One does not warn a person regarding falling off a cliff while he is walking on the plains.

SALVATION BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH

Can an individual who is presently trusting in Christ for his or her salvation maintain any assurance18 of final salvation? Absolutely! God saves the believer! (1 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 3:22; Heb. 7:25) He has promised to save the believer and He most certainly will save the believer. But the answer to the question also carries the caveat: God saves the believer.

Moreover, we believe that faith is a grace- and Spirit-enabled response and responsibility of the individual called to trust in Christ -- we believe, and God neither believes for us nor "implants faith" in the heart or mind (Matt. 8:10; John 1:7, 11, 12, 13; 2:50; 3:14-18; 5:32-47; 6:27, 29, 32-35, 51; 7:17; 8:24; 10:37; 12:32, 44-50; 16:8; Acts 10:34-43; 13:38-41; 14:22; 17:24-34; 28:23-38; Rom. 1:16-20; 3:21-26; 3:27-5:2; 16:26; Gal. 2:16-3:29; 1 Thess. 2:13; 3:1-8; 1 Tim. 2:4; 4:16; 6:9-14; 2 Tim. 2:12, 18; 4:1-4; Heb. 2:1-4; 3:1-4:16; 5:9; 6:4-15; 10:19-39; 11:1-12:29; 13:7-17; James 1:18-21; 2:14-26; 2 Pet. 1:10; 2:11; 3:16-18; 1 John 1:5-2:6; 2:23-25, 28; Jude 1:20; Rev. 2:10, 17, 25-29; 3:4-6, 11-13, 19-22; 22:14-19).19

The believer can be assured of his or her salvation in Christ. The person who rejects faith in Christ, however, can have absolutely no assurance of God's salvation -- salvation can only be found in Christ. We are elect in Christ; we are justified in Christ; we are counted righteous in Christ; we are sanctified in Christ; we will be glorified in Christ; we will be saved only in Christ. Outside of Christ salvation does not exist as a reality: "in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them"; and He has thus entrusted us with "the message of reconciliation." (2 Cor. 5:19). So we beg all: "be reconciled to God." (2 Cor. 5:20) This reconciliation occurs only in Christ.

The apostle explicitly states that our salvation is by grace (Eph. 2:5, 8) -- not "the result of works [cf. Rom. 4:4, 5], so that no one may boast" (Eph. 2:9). This mystery of the grace of God is acclaimed and proclaimed by the Church (Eph. 3:9, 10); and this "was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:11). Again, we learn that in Christ "we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him" (Eph. 3:12). Upon these glorious and mysterious truths the apostle then begs us to "lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called" (Eph. 4:1), as he begins to unfold how to live in holiness (Eph. 4:2-6:9). He closes the epistle by directing our attention to being clothed in the armor of God, through which we fight off our spiritual enemies in the strength of Christ.

The primary message of Ephesians is the boundless riches of the grace of God as it truly is in Christ Jesus our Lord and enacted by the Holy Spirit -- the Trinity zoetic and free! Our salvation, adoption as children of God, our future inheritance, our being indwelt by the Spirit of God, our wisdom, understanding, righteousness, holiness, and spiritual strength are found solely in Christ. If one is longing for the glory of God, salvation and strength for this life into the next, then such can only be found in Christ.

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1 George E. Harpur asks us to consider the following facts: "i. Early MSS [manuscripts] and writers witness to the omission of 'in Ephesus' at 1:1. ii. All MSS nevertheless refer to the letter as To Ephesians. iii. Marcion calls it the epistle to the Laodiceans. iv. There are no personal greetings. v. The letter does not deal with any local questions, nor is it polemic in character. vi. Tychicus, of the province of Asia (Acts 20:4), accompanied the letter to a definite circle of brethren. vii. Paul wrote from prison (3:1; 4:1), probably from Rome (6:20). viii. Eph. 3:2 might be considered rhetorical, but not 1:15. Paul envisaged a circle large enough to include some with whom he was unacquainted." See George E. Harpur, "Ephesians," in The International Bible Commentary with the New International Version, ed. F.F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 1429.

2 Dr. Harpur notes that the letter to the Ephesians presents "such a co-ordination of Paul's teaching that it is not surprising that its authorship did not come into question from Marcion's time [85-160 CE], if not Ignatius' (Ign. Eph. 12:2) [35-107 CE] until comparatively recent years." (1428)

3 Ibid., 1430.

4 Ibid., 1428.

5 A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, third edition (BDAG), revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2000), 408.

6 Harpur, 1431.

7 Andrew T. Lincoln, Word Biblical Commentary: Ephesians, gen. ed. Bruce M. Metzger (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishing,1990), 23.

8 Constantine R. Campbell, Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 141.

9 Ibid., 115.

10 Ibid., 29.

11 Ibid., 408.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid., 409-10.

14 Ibid., 411-12.

15 Ibid., 414.

16 Robert Shank, Elect in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Election (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1989), 51.

17 Robert Shank, Life in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1989), 116.

18 Dr. Robert E. Picirilli argues: "It is important ... for us who believe in the possibility of apostasy to teach assurance of salvation and the proper grounds for that assurance. This viewpoint does not mean, for example, that one may not have assurance, or that one must go about as though walking on eggshells for fear of 'losing' his salvation. Living in fear or with lack of assurance of salvation is neither God's will for His child nor in harmony with biblical teaching.

"Assurance, therefore, must be based on the Word of God, which promises salvation to those who turn away from their works and put faith in Jesus Christ. Confirming that assurance for those who do this will be the inner testimony of the Spirit of God. Understanding that being accounted righteous before God depends on the righteousness of Christ imputed to the one in Him by faith should help the most timid believer have assurance of salvation.

"At the same time, the Bible offers us no encouragement to provide assurance of salvation to those whose lives are characterized by sinful practice." See Understanding Assurance and Salvation (Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2006), 18. F. Stuart Clarke remarks that Jacob Arminius "questions Reformed views that a believer without a special revelation can be assured that he will not decline or fall away from the faith, or that believers are bound to believe that they will not so decline (so-called final perseverance). He rejects the claim that these are Catholic [Universal] doctrines and that their denial is heresy." See The Ground of Election: Jacobus Arminius' Doctrine of the Work and Person of Christ (Waynesboro: Paternoster, 2006), 102.

19 Taken mostly from Shank, 112. He also states, "Saving faith is a living faith in a living Saviour, faith so vital it cannot avoid expression ... The 'faith' of men who have no sincere intention of following the steps of the Saviour is something less than saving faith." See Life in the Son, 7, 8.