I hate surprise arguments, especially the ones that make no sense at all. I confess, the argument the Arminian made to me in my last debate so caught me off guard and surprised me that I was almost speechless. Given Proverbs about not answering a fool lest he think himself wise, I probably should have remained speechless.
The man’s claim? After attacking me about my Calvinistic views on predestination and my response to read Ephesians 1, he said that Ephesians 1 wasn’t written for us, just the original audience.
Like I said, I was dumbfounded. You could make that claim about every book in the Bible and then just punt the faith all together. If the Bible is only written to those in the original audience, then he is either requiring God to provide new revelation today, or there is no hope of salvation.
Now, I’m sure the man would not say that. I’m sure he thinks he is wise enough to tell which books of the Bible are written to us, and which books are not. The problem with this is that the moment he starts determining which books are for us and which are not is the moment that he places himself above Scripture. Instead of submitting to what Ephesians 1 is saying, he had determined it is not for us. This is no different than what liberal theologians have done when they determine that the resurrection is not true.
This really is just neo-orthodoxy with a new twist. Those who are neo-orthodox believe that the Bible isn’t God’s word until it becomes God’s word to us. Again, the problem with this view is that it places us above the Bible in terms of authority.
This is not how the writers of the Bible treat the Bible. As Paul writes: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Paul wants us to know that all of Scripture is written to us and is to be used for our spiritual well-being. This is the same man that preached the full counsel of God to the Ephesians themselves (Acts 20). He held nothing back, because it all applied to them, and to us.
When Paul writes his letter to the Ephesians, he never intended it just to remain with Ephesus and the church there. It was intended to be circulated among the churches because what was true for the Ephesians in the letter was true for every believer, both near and far, and those not yet born. This is what happened as well. The churches in Asia Minor circulated the letters as they received them and copied them. If the truths were just for the original audiences, I’m sure Paul would have said so.
The reason why the man probably made the argument is because he knows the text definitely speaks of predestination. Arminians cannot get around this truth. Paul is clearly speaking of things that were determined before the foundations of the world were laid. They know it says this. I’ve also heard them say that it was not individuals that Paul was writing to, but the collective whole. Yes, but the church is made up of individuals and the truth Paul is writing about applies to individuals as well as the broader elect.
Arminians must give some excuse for what the text says other than accepting it for what the text… says. There is probably something deeper in this man that prevents him from accepting what it says. There usually is. Sometimes, these
I think the sad aspect of the entire ordeal is that the man was willing to punt great spiritual truths for his theological position. If predestination were not true, the Bible would never speak of it. But it does speak of it and it brings the believer comfort and joy knowing that God had us in mind before He even brought creation into existence. We are not just Christians by happenstance but Christians because of His sovereign will and plan. It’s sad that men like the Arminians miss this in attacking such a sound doctrine and the word of God itself.
For those of you who are interested in Ephesian 1, here are verse 3-14, which is the subject of the man’s comments:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us[a] for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known[b] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee[c] of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,[d] to the praise of his glory.