Category Archives for Salvation

Herschel Hobbs on Ephesians 1:4

August 9, 2017

By Ron F. Hale

In 1974, Word Book Publishers released Dr. Hobbs book on Ephesians entitled: New
Men in Christ. Dr. Hobbs admits his book “is more devotional that technical.” Yet, you
will find it deep enough to engage most pastors and clear-cut enough to cause serious
laymen to dig deeper.
Hobbs believed the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians showing them their place in
God’s eternal redemptive purpose in Christ. They were a called people with a purpose
–to propagate the gospel. Composed of both Jews and Gentiles, “in Christ” they found
both a unity of persons and purpose.
The “asterisks” represent corresponding direct quotes by Hobbs without adding my
personal thoughts or commentary. Due to limitations of word count, I could not include
all of Hobbs’ material from pp. 13-20.

According as* he hath chosen us** in him before the
foundation of the world,*** that we should be holy and
without blame before him**** in love:***** (Ephesian 1:4
KJV).

* “According as” – may be read “even as.” This connects the following words with
“who hath blessed us” in verse 3. So, God has blessed us in that “he hath chosen us in
him before the foundation of the world.”

** “hath chosen” – is a first aorist middle (reflexive) form of the verb meaning to
pick out or select. From it comes the words “elect” or “election.” Paul is introducing his
great treatment of what is called the doctrine of election. This doctrine has been
variously understood. Some, placing their entire emphasis upon God’s sovereignty, see
it as God’s choosing certain individuals for salvation to the exclusion of all others. Such
a position ignores the free will of man.
Basically, election means that God has taken the initiative in his purpose to save men.
Apart from that initiative no man can be saved. But initiative does not mean fatalism.
Rather is an expression of God’s love and grace. Therefore, election should not be

viewed as God’s purpose to save as few but as many as possible. To relate election to the
few is to ignore the many exhortations to preach the gospel to all men. And it runs head-
on into such phrases as “whosoever believeth” (John 3:16) and “whosoever will” or is
willing (Rev. 22:17; see Isa. 55:1).
Election never appears in the Bible as mechanical or blind destiny. It stems from a God
of love and grace, and relates to man who is morally responsible. In no case does it
appear in violation of the will of man (cf. Matt. 11:28; 23:37-38). In John 6:44 Jesus
said, “No man can come to me, except the Father … draw him.” “Draw” is God’s
initiative; “come” is man’s response through his free will. Of course, an all-wise God
knows beforehand who will believe or refuse to do so. However, foreknowledge of an
event does not necessarily mean that one is responsible for it. God has done all that even
he can do to save men. But he does not coerce men against their wills. Through the Holy
Spirit he draws, but men must come to him in personal, willing faith.

*** “in him before the foundation of the world” – It should be noticed that God
has chosen us “in him” or in Christ (cf. v.3). And this choice was made “before the
foundation of the world” or the cosmos. This means that the election took place before
the creation of the universe or man. It was no afterthought with God after man had
sinned. But knowing that he would do so, in eternity God chose to do something to
enable man to be restored to his fellowship. The choice under consideration, therefore,
did not take place in time. It was in the eternal purpose of God (cf.3:11). This suggests a
method of election rather than the persons involved. It was a chose based on God’s
grace, not upon man’s merit. It was an act of his sovereign will. But this does not rule
out man’s free will. God provided, but man was/is still free to accept or reject. Otherwise
God’s sovereignty would have violated man’s freedom. To have done this would reduce
man to a puppet, rather than a person capable of God’s fellowship. By his own choice
God must be sovereign and man must be free. This can mean only that in his sovereign
choice God by grace offered man a means of salvation, with man left free to his reaction
to it.

**** “that we should be holy and without blame before him” — Now what
was/is the purpose and goal of God’s gracious sovereignty? This refers to character as
well as standing with relation to God. In his electing grace God proposed to place man in
a condition of righteousness through Christ (Rom. 1:17; 10:1-4). Thus man would be
once again in fellowship with a “holy” and “blameless” God. “In Christ” the believer is
regarded by God as being holy and blameless. This also is a work of God’s grace. At the
same time subsequently the Christian is to grow in this state into the likeness of the
character of God in Christ. He both is and must become, again, by God’s grace.

*****“In love.” Some interpreters connect “in love” with verse 4 as it appears in the
King James Version. But others read it as a part of verse 5. This latter position, which I
prefer, expresses the sphere in which God did his electing or foreordaining. Thus it
reads, “In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to
himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (v.5). (Note the order “Jesus Christ.)
So Paul anticipates the historical event whereby Christ became Jesus of Nazareth in
order to activate in time God’s eternal purpose. However, he is still thinking of the
electing grace of God as before the foundation of the world.
“In love having predestinated.” Whatever Paul meant by predestination, it was done in
the sphere of God’s love. How may we understand “having predestinated”? Some read it
as in election that some souls are predestinated for heaven and others for hell. But as we
have pointed out, this position magnifies God’s sovereignty to the neglect of man’s free
will. In this light may we not find another sense which is in keeping with the nature of
both God and man?
The verb translated “having predestinated” is a participle meaning “to horizon
beforehand.” This verb is used six times in the New Testament (Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29-
30; I Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:5, 11.
One papyrus example uses it in the sense of fixing a boundary of a piece of land. Another
is rendered “survey.”
Unfortunately the word “predestinated” has come to mean for many an arbitrary
decision on God’s part where the future is in a fixed mold with no regard for man’s free
will. But the original Greek, the papyri, as well as the basic meaning of the word in the
New Testament, says otherwise. It is especially true in this verse. The Greek word in this
case is the one from which comes our word “horizon,” but with a prefix added that gives
it the special meaning “to horizon beforehand.” God did this by drawing a circle about
those who are to be saved. Keep in mind that this refers to the mode set in eternity, not
to temporal action within the context of history. In the light of the papyri examples cited
previously, may we not say that before God created the universe and man he drew a
circle, or built a fence (set a boundary) saying that all who are within this fence shall be
saved?
And what is this fence? The fence is Christ. God elected that all who are “in Christ” shall
be saved. The phrase “in Christ” or its equivalent appears ten times in eleven verses (vv.
3-13). So if you are “in Christ” you are saved. If you are not “in Christ,” you are not
saved. God in his sovereignty decreed “in Christ,” but each person in his free will decides
whether or not he will be “in Christ.” Thus God’s sovereignty and man’s free will are
harmonized. Therefore, the doctrines of election and foreordination in the New
Testament are, for all practical purposes, the same.   The former expresses God’s will;
the latter shows how His will is accomplished.

You Don’t Understand Calvinism!

June 21, 2017

By Leighton Flowers

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Soteriology 101 and is used by permission.

After years of discussing this topic with many Calvinistic brothers I have come to this firm conviction…

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO RIGHTLY REPRESENT A VIEW WITH WHICH YOU DISAGREE TO THE SATISFACTION OF EVERY OPPONENT.

This is not meant to suggest that we shouldn’t at least try to rightly represent those with whom we disagree. We should never intentionally misrepresent (or “strawman) the views of our brethren. This is why I almost always play a clip of a notable Calvinist or read a direct quote when bringing a critique against the claims of Calvinists.  In fact, I have begun all my teaching sessions on this subject by telling my students that it is only fair to learn Calvinism from a Calvinist. Continue reading

A Defense of The Age of Accountability

May 11, 2017

By Leighton Flowers,
Director of Apologetics and Youth Evangelism for Texas Baptists

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Soteriology 101 and is used by permission.

Most Southern Baptists grew up being taught to believe in the “age of accountability” (AoA), as was I. After all, we certainly see this even in our own Baptist tradition as the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message states regarding man “as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.”  However, after going away to college and adopting five-point Calvinism, I became convinced that this was not a taught in the Bible.  I had been persuaded by my new Calvinistic mentors that this was a “man-made doctrine” created to help ease the pain of those who tragically lost a young child. After leaving behind Calvinism many years later and doing some more thorough study on the matter, however, I have come to firmly believe this doctrine has strong biblical roots.

Though not explicitly set forth in scripture (much like infant salvation which also is not explicitly taught) the principles of AoA are quite plain in the text.

First, the bible is clear that “each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Rom 14:12)

Can a two-year old baby who tragically dies in a car accident give this accounting of himself to God?  Can the mentally handicapped? Difficult circumstances like these lead us to ponder on such questions as to when one is held accountable for their sins before God.

Scriptures do not speak so much about a specific age[1] but simply to a time in everyone’s life when God’s truth is clearly made known. When a child comes to understand that they have sinned against God and deserve punishment due to their sins, then and only then can they give an account for their wrong doings.  This is why we reference them being as being “accountable” (able to give an account for sin) or “responsible” (able to respond to Christ’s appeal). Some even prefer the “age of responsibility” because it connotes the child’s ability-to-respond of his own volition to the word’s of Christ, after all every one of us will be judged by those very words:

“He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.” (John 12:48)

Let us look at some passages in scripture which convey these principles. According to John’s account, Christ indicates that one’s accountability depends, at least in part, upon one’s understanding of sin:

John 15:22: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.”

or

John 9:41: Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

Paul, likewise seems to indicate this same principle:

Romans 7:9-10: “I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me…”

Another passage often used to support this principle is the story of King David’s loss of a child. David seems to presume that one day he would be reunited with him:

He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ “But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Sam. 12:22-23)

It is also worth mentioning that Jesus spoke of allowing the children to come to him “for such is the kingdom of heaven” (Lk 18:16). And Jesus even uses a child as an example in one of his lessons declaring, “Anyone who becomes humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”Apparently heaven is made up of such, which certainly gives much credence to David’s words and actions after the death of his own son.

Am I meaning to suggest that children do not have the inevitable curse of sin upon them? No, it is only to say that God, in His graciousness, does not hold them accountable while they remain in their ignorance. As recorded in John 9:41, they are not held to account for the sins they did in ignorance. Other passages seem to indicate that God does graciously pass over sins because of his loving patience toward fallen humanity:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:23-26)

And

“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:18-19)

The AoA principle can also be found in the Old Testament narrative. For instance, when God banned the unfaithful Israelites from entering the promised land he did so based upon age and ignorance:

“Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.” (Dt. 1:39)

Likewise, when the prophet Isaiah foretold of the Messiah’s coming he spoke of when a boy “will know enough to refuse evil and choose good,” suggesting there is a time in the child’s life he remains without enough knowledge to make accountable moral choices (Isa. 7:16).

So too, the prophet Ezekiel seems to strongly indicate that guilt was not imputed from one’s parents, which would seem to contradict the idea that all people are born guilty for the sins of those who have come before him:

“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (Ezek. 18:20)

For a complete systematic proposal which covers both a Biblical and historical survey of this issue, I highly recommend Dr. Adam Harwood’s book, “The Spiritual Condition of Infants.” Harwood concludes,

“Those who claim that infants inherit sin and guilt are faced with the following inconsistencies in their viewpoint: First, it would be inconsistent for God to hold infants guilty of the sin of another person (Adam) because he states that he holds people responsible for their own sin, not the for sin of another person (Ezek. 18:20). Each of us will give an account of himself to God (Rom. 14:12). We will not give an account to God of our parents or grandparents or even our furthest descendants, Adam. Second, because the Scriptures indicate that God judges people for their sinful thoughts, attitudes, and actions, it would be inconsistent for him to judge infants to be guilty of sin solely based on their sin nature.”


[1] Some believe the age of accountability could have been around 20 years old because this was the age when young men in Israel became accountable to serve in the army of Israel (or Ex. 30:14 mentions the census only counting those 21 years and older). Others believe the age of accountability to be around 12 or 13 due to this being the age when Jesus went up to Jerusalem with his parents and was found in the temple discussing the Law and asking questions. This was also the normal age for being received into Judaism as a “son of the law,” which would make him a full member of the religious community. https://bible.org/question/what-does-bible-say-about-age-accountability

Some have even speculated that when a child begins to recognize his or her own nakedness (as exemplified by Adam and Eve did in the garden after their sin) it may be an indication they have reached the age of accountability.