“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.”
The first chapter of Ephesians is among the very last chapters on which we would suppose the Arminians would feel disposed to speculate. Not because other portions of the inspired Scripture are less antagonistical to Arminianism, but because this chapter presents the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in the election and salvation of his chosen people, in such language as to defy the ingenuity of men or devils to make it appear to say anything favorable to the doctrine of salvation by works. First, in this chapter we are assured that all spiritual blessings were bestowed upon the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus according as God has chosen them in him before the foundation of the world. Consequently no spiritual blessings have ever been, ever will be, or ever can be added to those with which God has already blessed them in him; and this blessing, including all spiritual blessings, could not possibly have been given on the ground of any merit or goodness in them, because they were blessed according to quite a different standard; according as he hath chosen us in him, Christ, before the foundation of the world. The date of this blessing, including all spiritual blessings, is as ancient, as absolute, as creature-humbling, and as God-honoring, as their election, and both were before the foundation of the world. The Arminians will find it rather a difficult matter to make themselves believe, predisposed as they are to error, that they had done anything to bring God under obligation to bless them, before the foundation of the world. Instead of their having been so blessed in consequence of holiness in them, the blessing in Christ Jesus was that we should be holy, and without blame before God in love. If therefore, eternal election, and the security of all spiritual blessings to the saints in Christ Jesus before the world began, does not tend to holiness, and absolutely secure, beyond the possibility of a failure, the ultimate holiness and blameless state of all the elect, it will not answer the design which God had in so blessing them. We are therefore compelled to conclude that a blameless state of holiness by the blessing of God, wherewith he blessed his people in Christ, their Head, before the foundation of the world, must certainly follow as a consequence, or else that God was himself mistaken, and failed to secure to them what he intended to. If any are sufficiently heaven-daring to take the position that God’s wisdom and omniscience were at fault, and that he was mistaken, and did fail to secure what was his intention in blessing them before the foundation of the world, we ask them what assurance they pretend to have that any blessing of God since the foundation of the world, will be likely to prove any more effectual? If he has failed in one case, may he not in another? Again, we are in this chapter assured that God has predestinated us, (those whom he has blessed with all spiritual blessings, and chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world,) to the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, unto himself. And this predestination and adoption is not according as our works may be, but according to the good pleasure of his will. God’s own immutable will is the standard of this predestination, and indeed he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. And we are expressly informed that he is without variableness or the shadow of turning. Still farther, we are assured in this chapter that the adoption of those who are thereunto by him predestinated, shall be to the praise of the glory of God’s grace. Should this predestination and this adoption fail, must there not also be a failure of that revenue of praise unto the glory of God’s grace, which was contemplated by him, in so predestinating them? Do any inquire, what grace this predestinated adoption is to be to the praise of the glory of? The answer is given, it is that grace wherein he, God, has made us accepted in the Beloved. Not that in which we have made ourselves accepted by our works, or in our Adamic nature. Nor is it a kind of grace wherein God proposes or intends to make the adopted accepted or acceptable; but that grace wherein he has made us accepted, out of ourselves and in the Beloved. But in what Beloved has God made his blessed and chosen and predestinated children accepted? In that very Beloved in whom we have (not in whom we are going to have, or may have) redemption through his blood; the forgiveness of sins. And all this according to what? Not according to the poverty of our good works, but according to the riches of his grace. Not a grace wherein we have commended ourselves to his favor, but that grace wherein he, God, hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.
This all wisdom and prudence is exemplified in God’s having made known to the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus, the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, he might gather together all things, in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him; in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will; that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. That is, that we, who first trusted in Christ, namely, the apostles and primitive saints, unto whom Christ was first revealed, should be to the praise of the glory of Christ; and not only those who first trusted, but the Gentiles also, who also trusted in Christ, after that they heard the word of truth. But as the Hebrew disciples first heard the words of truth, the gospel of their salvation, and were first called by grace, born of God, and taught by the Spirit, they first trusted in him in whom the saints which were at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus, among the Gentiles, also trusted at a later period. For as the first or primitive disciples did not trust in Christ until they had a knowledge of him, (and to know him is eternal life,) so neither did the Gentile believers at Ephesus trust in him until he was revealed unto them. So far is this from giving any countenance to Arminianism, it completely demolishes their favorite heresy, namely, that faith is a condition or means by which sinners are to be made alive; that God offers us life on condition of our believing.
But our text holds the doctrine that faith to trust in God is a fruit of the Spirit, a gift of God, and a consequence, not a cause, of our being quickened and born of God. When did the saints trust in Christ, before they heard the word of truth, or afterwards? After that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. This is, in substance, what Jesus himself affirmed: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words which I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” Not the words spoken to everybody, by anybody, but the immediate communication of Christ the Life, the Head and Fountain of Immortality; in whom life was given to them with all other spiritual blessings before the foundation of the world. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. His sheep hear his voice, he knows them, and he gives to them eternal life, and they shall never perish. The dead hear his voice, and they that hear shall live; and all because the words which he speaks to them, are spirit and life.
Therefore it is that they are born again of an incorruptible seed, by the word of the Lord, (his word, which is spirit and life,) which liveth and abideth forever. After they hear this, his life-giving word, which is to them the gospel of their salvation, and are by it made alive, then, but not till then, do they trust in him. Then they are effectually delivered from all confidence in the flesh, from all dependence on free-will, free-agency, human power and ability, and every other Arminian refuge of lies; then, stripped of every other dependence, they trust in him alone. They do not drag out a miserable existence, under the fearful apprehension that they may fall from grace and sink down to hell at last; for they are made savingly acquainted with Christ, and they know that he is able to keep that which they have committed to him against that day. They know that he (and not themselves) hath begun the good work, and that he (and not they) will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the holy spirit of promise. All is in him. In him they are blessed of the Father with all spiritual blessings; in him chosen or elected before the foundation of the world; in him predestinated to the adoption of children; in him accepted; in him they receive the aboundings of wisdom and prudence; in him they are, in the fullness of the dispensations of times, all gathered together in him; in him have obtained an inheritance according to the purpose of God. The holy spirit of promise, that spirit which was promised, is sent down from heaven to them who are thus quickened, and do thus believe and trust in Christ, and who are partakers of this grace, and it bears witness with their spirit that they are born of God; as a seal is used in testimony, and as the witness of a covenant, a pledge, a promise, &c. So the spirit of adoption which is given them, makes them, in the fullness of the assurance of faith and trust in God, to cry, Abba, Father. Until we believe, or until faith is given us in Christ to trust in him, we cannot cry, Abba, Father; we lack the sealing evidence. A seal makes an impression also on the wax, or on that which is sealed; so those who believe and trust in the Lord Jesus, are prominently marked, and have the seal of God in their foreheads, as John saw and testified in his vision on the isle of Patmos; and they bear the image of their Redeemer, which is by the spirit enstamped on them.
But the spirit of promise particularly designed in this text, is that which is said to be an earnest of their inheritance; and the spirit whereby they are sealed unto the day of redemption, or until the final resurrection of our bodies, which shall by it be made spiritual and incorruptible, when God shall raise them up, and change and fashion them, and make them like the glorious body of their risen Redeemer. “But if the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” This spirit of adoption in us is therefore a seal and earnest of the promise of a glorious resurrection and immortality beyond the grave, although we who have it, do now groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. Not before we were quickened, born of God, and made the recipients experimentally of the faith of God’s elect; but after this development and manifestation is made, we exhibit the impress of this seal, and thereby are enabled to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. This seal is defined by the inspired writer of our text, as the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession. The bodies of the saints are bought with a price, and are spoken of as a purchased possession; the price has already been paid, but the redemption of them includes their deliverance from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Hence the spirit of adoption, when given to us, is a sealing assurance of that final deliverance from corruption, which we shall realize when the promise shall be fulfilled in the resurrection of our bodies from the dead; for then they shall put on incorruption, and be clothed in immortality, and by adoption take their place among the children. Now we are informed, Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom, neither can corruption inherit incorruption; but the spirit with which we are sealed, promises that they shall be changed, and made like unto Christ’s glorious body; all impediments will then be removed, death will be swallowed up of life, and the bodies quickened with spiritual and immortal life; and so prepared to dispense with the earthly sustenance which they now require, and to live on spiritual and immortal food, and suited to the heavenly element; they will be capacitated to enjoy the glories of that immortal state which God has prepared for them. Seeing, then, that we are bought with a price, and consequently are not our own, let us endeavor to glorify God, in our bodies and in our spirits which are his.
Middletown, N. Y.
August 15, 1857.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 11 - 16