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
* “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
**** “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
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.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV)
Preachers in general and pastors in particular have the calling to bring a word from God. Many pastors eschew expository preaching these days, choosing instead to address contemporary issues by topic. This approach advocates building a sermon around a popular theme that hopefully captures the attention of the listener. While well-intentioned, the topical sermon has the danger of espousing an opinion rather than a textual truth, which opens the door for error to creep into the church.
Preaching expository messages is the best method to build people in the faith. Preaching through books of the Bible will introduce people to a systematic theology found throughout Scripture. Preaching the Bible is doctrinal preaching.
We often think of doctrinal teaching as impractical, only conceptually related to the person of God, the work of Jesus Christ or the nature of the church. But practical matters about family, holy living and interpersonal congregational life are doctrinal issues too. The Greek word for doctrine simply means “teaching.” Sadly, we have segregated doctrine away from the practical. While we cannot be dogmatic about some gray areas of Christian practice, the Bible speaks clearly about what we should believe and how we should behave.
In 2 Timothy 3:16, the Apostle Paul says all Scripture is for our benefit. Paul wanted Timothy to be a complete person in ministry, and he told the young preacher that everything he needed was in Scripture. Paul underscored the “inspiration” of the Word of God as well as its purpose. He stated the Word of God would make the man of God “complete.” The Greek word “ARTIOS,” which means “fitted or complete,” is translated in other versions as adequate, equipped, trained and perfect.
We are well aware of the biblical illiteracy in the pew. Some of it is due to the lack of doctrinal preaching. Barna Research and Gallup have given us startling facts in recent years. While Americans revere the Bible, few know what is in it. Thirty-four percent do not consider the Bible totally reliable. Forty-five percent believe Jesus sinned. Over half say works is a part of salvation. The crisis can only be cured by a steady diet of doctrinal expository messages.
For 15 years a battle raged in the Southern Baptist Convention about the nature of Scripture. The struggle we are having now in our churches is affirming the sufficiency of Scripture. The Scriptures set forth propositions, absolute truth. It is important what we believe about the teachings of the Bible.
Paul says the Word of God equips the people of God in four ways.
First, it defines what truth is—doctrine. “Doctrine” incorporates soteriology, Christology, ecclesiology and all theology. The Greek word for doctrine appears 15 times in the Pastoral Letters and only six times in the rest of the New Testament. The only functional qualification for a pastor found in 1 Timothy 3 is for him to be “able to teach.” The role of the pastor/preacher is to expound the truth of the Word of God.
Second, doctrinal exposition of God’s Word reveals false teaching. The word “reproof” sometimes has a negative connotation, but it simply means “to expose.” There are some things we are to preach against. Paul’s warning about false teaching comes through loud and clear in 1 Timothy 6:3-5. Political correctness, radical feminism, prosperity gospel preachers and other cultural accommodations have muted many prophetic voices. Once a preacher loses his prophetic voice, he is robbed of preaching expositional doctrinal truth.
Third, the Word of God corrects. “Correction” means to restore to an upright or right state. The fruit of rebuke should be repentance. Having a teachable spirit enables us to teach others. Forgiveness, mercy, love, repentance and acceptance are the wonderful positives of correction. Sometimes Baptists have earned their reputation for negative preaching. The message must be balanced through sincere, loving correction.
And finally, the Word of God provides “instruction.” This is the same word used in Ephesians 6:4 to describe how fathers should bring up their children in the instruction of the Lord. The New American Commentary says, “There (in Ephesians) it denotes a system of discipline used by a parent to develop Christian character in a child. Here (in 2 Timothy) it describes a system of discipline in Scripture that leads to a holy lifestyle.” Discipleship leads to maturity and the center of God’s will. If we want to go deeper and be stronger, we must stay right. It is a daily discipline. It is a grind not glory that gets us to the crown.
Both listeners and preachers are completed by the Scriptures. We never arrive, but we can be trained along the way by the Word of God through doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction. As preachers we find these benefits in the preparation for delivery. Expositional doctrinal preaching completes the preacher as well as the people.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Theological Matters and is used by permission.
Last year saw the release of the film “Me Before You,” a movie about a man who ends his life after an accident leaves him disabled. In response, Christian radio host Joni Eareckson Tada raised very serious concerns with the message of the film. An article on theblaze.com reports on her podcast interview with The Church Boys in which Joni expressed great concern over the danger of the film’s message, one which radicalizes individual rights while removing the moral component from those rights. Tada encouraged Christians to respond to the film by proclaiming that “life really is worth living,” so “face circumstances courageously.” She added that affliction is an unavoidable part of life. Continue reading