Paul Teaches that Election to Salvation is Individual, not Corporate. Ephesians 1:3-14

The Augustinian view of election of believers outlined in the comments on Eph 1:4 in particular has come under challenge recently from scholars who defend a view they term “corporate election.” Brian J. Abasciano explains:

Most simply, corporate election refers to the choice of a group, which entails the choice of its individual members by virtue of their membership in the group. Thus, individuals are not elected as individuals directly, but secondarily as members of the elect group.… Individuals are elect as a consequence of their membership in the group.… On both the individual and the corporate level, election is contingent on faith in Christ.

This view is proposed over against the historic Augustinian/Calvinist view, which, we are told, “refers to the direct choice of individuals as autonomous entities” and leads to a “maverick Christianity” of isolated individuals rather than to a healthy, unified church.

Furthermore, we are told, the insights of the “new perspective on Paul” (NPP) have bolstered this corporate view of election as consistent with E. P. Sanders’s homogenized view of Second Temple Judaism, in which corporate Israel was elected gratuitously and individuals enjoyed this election and predestination only insofar as they maintained their status within the group through personal covenant fidelity, i.e., obedience to the law. It should be noted that not everyone agrees that the radically diverse groups in Second Temple Judaism can be homogenized quite so easily.

The argument for corporate election as it relates to Ephesians concentrates on Eph 1:4a (καθὼς ἐξελέξατο ἡμᾶς ἐν αὐτῷ, kathōs exelexato hēmas en autō, “insofar as he chose us in him”), where ἡμᾶς (hēmas) (“us”) is said to refer not to individuals but to “the church as a whole, especially as it was uttered in a collectivist cultural milieu in which the group was seen as primary and the individual as secondary, embedded in the group to which he belonged and referred to as a result of his membership in the group.” Continue reading “Paul Teaches that Election to Salvation is Individual, not Corporate. Ephesians 1:3-14”

Sovereign Grace, Regeneration and Humble Calvinism

Salvation is Solely the Work of God
One of the hallmarks of Calvinism is monergism, that is, the biblical conviction that we are born again by God working alone (mono = one). God is the only active agent in our rebirth because the depravity of sin has rendered fallen man totally unable to believe in Christ. God’s sovereign grace actualizes salvation, beginning with effectual calling and regeneration, the process whereby the gracious sovereign action of the Holy Spirit recreates fallen human nature and enables sinners to believe in Christ. In this regard, regeneration precedes faith. In contrast, synergism (Arminianism) teaches that we are born again by divine-human cooperation, each contributing its part to accomplish regeneration (syn = together). Synergism is possible because sinners retain sufficient ability to believe in Christ. Effectively, this mean that God offers potential salvation which is actualized only when a sinner believes.

The Canons of Dort (1618-1619), which is one of the foundational doctrinal documents of the Calvinist Reformation, resolutely rejects synergism in one of its affirmations. Continue reading “Sovereign Grace, Regeneration and Humble Calvinism”

Predestination and the Beginning of New Birth – Pelagianism-Arminianism-Calvinism

The expiatory work of Christ which is sufficient for, adapted to and freely offered to all men, being presupposed, the question of questions is, How, by what agencies and on what conditions, is it effectually applied to any individual? The Scriptures make it plain that the condition of its effectual application is an act of faith, involving real spiritual repentance and the turning from sin and the acceptance and selfappropriation of Christ and of his redemption as the only remedy. But what will prompt a sinner in love with his sin, spiritually blind and callous, thus to repent and accept Christ as the cure of the sin he loves? The first movement cannot begin with man. The sinner of himself cannot really desire deliverance from sin; of himself he cannot appreciate the attractive beauty, loveliness or saving power of Christ. The dead man cannot spontaneously originate his own quickening, nor the creature his own creating, nor the infant his own begetting. Whatever man may do after regeneration, the first quickening of the dead must originate in the first instance with God. All Christians feel this as the most intimate conviction of their souls. Yet it involves necessarily this very doctrine of eternal predestination or election. If God begins the work, if our believing follows his quickening, then it is God, not man, who makes the difference between the quickened and the unquickened. If we believe, it is because we have been first quickened. If any man does not believe, it is because he is yet dead in his natural sin. God’s eternal choice therefore cannot depend upon foreseen faith, but, on the contrary, faith must depend upon God’s eternal choice. Continue reading “Predestination and the Beginning of New Birth – Pelagianism-Arminianism-Calvinism”

Christ’s Penal Substitutionary Atonement as God’s Act of Righteousness and Grace

The nature of the atonement
[Atonement as “satisfaction” (compensation, reparation) was first used by Anselm (1033-1109) to stress that the death of Christ was a satisfaction rendered to God’s justice and honor. Subsequently, 17th century Reformed theologians taught that Christ (1) satisfies the demands of the law by his active obedience or perfect obedience to the full requirements of the law (2) satisfies the curse and condemnation of the law by his passive obedience or submission to the penalty of death on the cross].

A.A. Hodge draws out the deeper dimensions of Christ’s  work of atonement by setting it in the context of the covenant God made with Adam in which God promised them blessedness contingent upon their obedience to His command:  [The word “satisfaction”] accurately and adequately expresses what Christ did. As the Second Adam he satisfied all the conditions of the broken covenant of works, as left by the first Adam. (a.) He suffered the penalty of transgression. (b.) He rendered that obedience which was the condition of “life.”

5. State the true doctrine of Christ’s Satisfaction
1st. Negatively. (1.) The sufferings of Christ were not a substitute for the infliction of the penalty of the law upon sinners in person, but they are the penalty itself executed on their Substitute. (2.) It was not of the nature of a pecuniary payment, an exact quid pro quo. But it was a strict penal satisfaction, the person suffering being a substitute. (3.) It was not a mere example of a punishment. (4.) It was not a mere exhibition of love, or of heroic consecration. Continue reading “Christ’s Penal Substitutionary Atonement as God’s Act of Righteousness and Grace”

What is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?

In this sermon given at the SS Gospel Centre, Petaling Jaya, on 21 March 2021, I discussed whether the baptism in the Holy Spirit is an event that (1) is simultaneous with conversion or new birth (John Stott and Richard Gaffin), or (2) is distinct and subsequent to the new birth, accompanied by the initial physical sign of speaking in tongues (Pentecostals and Charismatics), or (3 ) follows a fixed pattern that is universal and normative for all believers?

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Cor. 12:13

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Cor. 1:21-22)

The Atonement in Isaiah 53

Classical Evangelicalism has always affirmed that the power of the gospel lies in the proclamation that Christ died for the ungodly and made atonement for their sins. “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins…But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 9:22; 10:12-14) The truth that underlies this proclamation is encapsulated in the phrase, “the penal substitutionary death of Christ.”

However, this glorious truth has been challenged by some modern theologians who deny that Christ’s death is a penal substitutionary sacrifice for sin. Similarly, the teaching of Christ’s atonement becomes distorted when some Charismatics claim that partaking the Lord’s Supper brings physical healing because of the blood of Christ shed on the cross.

You are invited to read the careful reading of Isaiah 53 (the locus classical of the doctrine of penal substitutionary death of Christ in the Old Testament) written by Dr. Leong Tien Fock. It will help you gain a better understanding and a grateful appreciation of the glory of Christ’s atonement. Continue reading “The Atonement in Isaiah 53”

Coronavirus19 – What is it For?

[A summary of Paul Helm’s article, Coronavirus19 – What is it For? His words in italics]

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐏𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐜 𝐂𝐚𝐬𝐞
When questioned about the incidents where (1) Pilate killed some Galileans and mingled their blood with their sacrifices and (2) eighteen Jews died in an accident when the Tower of Siloam fell on them, Jesus retorted, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you, unless you repent. You will all likewise perish’. (Luke 13: 1-3) These words are offensive to unbelievers.

The references to sin and guilt and repentance will put them off. But a contemporary Jesus – follower, who values Jesus’s words, should he not value these words? But no one, or scarcely one, of his followers today, quotes them, but shuns them. Jesus is silenced. When there are references, to sin, evil and judgment to come, there is a deafening silence. A person who respects Jesus’ words sees the purpose of the Coronavirus plague and other such evils as prompts to reflection and penitence, for Jesus calls all people are called to penitence for their evils even if, outwardly respectable, they convince themselves that they have no such need.

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐈𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐝𝐮𝐚𝐥, 𝐏𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐂𝐚𝐬𝐞 Continue reading “Coronavirus19 – What is it For?”

From Lament, to Hope and Action

The fact is that people who survive dire and desperate situations are not those just stay put while waiting for a rational answer. Neither do they just lament and wait for commiseration (romantic sigh of relief), whether from counsellors or from God. Well, unless they come the socially privileged class and therefore never have to fend for themselves all their lives. Not surprisingly, they are at a loss, not knowing what to do. Those who survive are those who refuse to give up. Instead, they overcome the temptation to resign to their fate and do what it takes to survive. Continue reading “From Lament, to Hope and Action”

God Has Answered our Coronavirus Lament. Contra. N.T. Wright

The headline of N.T. Wright’s piece published in Time Magazine (29/03/2020) is both shocking and provocative: “Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To.”

We may summarize NTW’s piece accordingly – There is no explanation, whether rationalist or romantic. We should not rationalize away or spiritualize our suffering especially in times when “the only advice is to wait without hope.” It is better just to grieve or lament. This is because lament reminds us that God himself is the one who grieved and lamented when his people betrayed him. NTW concludes, “It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead.”

Lament without an explanation for suffering without rhyme or reason? Doesn’t this sound like Greek catharsis in the face of cruel and capricious fate? Isn’t this a strange amalgamation of sentimentalism with Roman stoicism? In which case, why lament? Why not just accept our fate? In this regard, maybe the Muslims got it right – just throw up your hands and exclaim “takdir”, and get on with life. Continue reading “God Has Answered our Coronavirus Lament. Contra. N.T. Wright”

Why not be Calminian (Three grains of Calvinism and two of Arminianism)?

Received this question from a good Christian brother and friend –
Question:
So we should be a “Calminian” 😊!
Sorry, not trying to be flippant Bro Kam Weng. If we cannot fully understand it due to our finite minds trying to grapple with a divine mystery, I think it is ok agree to disagree and not let it divide us and certainly it should not be one side saying to the other “the gospel you preach is defective”.

Response: I fully agree with you that we must always bear in mind our limitations in the face of divine mystery. Humility is in order. Spurgeon notes that some Arminians display holiness that ought to put to shame Calvinists who turn out to be spiritually cold & legalistic. More importantly, both Calvinists & Arminians who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be heaven & their rewards will be based on far more wider considerations than just doctrinal precision. Continue reading “Why not be Calminian (Three grains of Calvinism and two of Arminianism)?”