June 2008 • Volume XII, Issue 2
Fountain of the Church’s Blessings (1)
In the last three issues of the News, we saw
that election is the source of the church (Eph. 1:3-4). Thus the
Reformers called election the cor ecclesiae, the heart or source
of the church, and Wycliffe and Hus spoke of Christ’s church as "the
company of the predestinate."
Now we shall see that election is not only the source
of the church; it is also the fountain of all her blessings. Our
Heidelberg Catechism declares that the "church [is] chosen to
everlasting life" (Q. & A. 54). The Canons of Dordt
affirm that "election is the fountain of every saving good, from which
proceed faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and finally
eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects, according to that of the
apostle: ‘He hath chosen us (not because we were, but) that we should be
holy and without blame before him in love’ (Eph. 1:4)" (I:9).
"Fountain," the word used here in the Canons
and in the Reformed tradition generally, presents us with a very
attractive picture. We are to envisage all the church’s many and rich
blessings gushing forth and overflowing from God’s gracious and eternal
fountain of election. This wonderful fountain brings all blessings to
you, believer, and to every member of Christ’s church!
This is the teaching of Ephesians 1:3-4, which states
that all the church’s blessings (3) come to us "according as he hath
chosen us in him [i.e., Christ] before the foundation of the world" (4).
The first blessing listed here is holiness (4). God infallibly makes
every true member of the church holy, according to His eternal election.
Thus each elect believer is spiritually separated from the ungodly world
and consecrated to God in soul and body. God realises the holiness of
the elect in the effectual call, translating them from darkness to His
marvellous light; in progressive sanctification through this life; and
in entire sanctification at death or at Christ’s bodily return. Holiness
is not the condition or cause of our election! God did not elect us
because He saw that we would be holy, as Arminianism teaches. Rather, He
chose us in order to make us holy. God "hath chosen us in him
before the foundation of the world, that
we should be holy" (4). Holiness is the purpose and result of our
eternal and unconditional election in Christ.
The second blessing recorded in Ephesians 1:4 is
blamelessness before God. Some take this to be an upright and godly life
(with God graciously forgiving all our many, remaining transgressions).
Other say this refers to our acquittal before God our judge, based
solely on the righteousness of Jesus Christ, our substitute. Either way,
this is a great benefit given to us only according to our election.
Adoption is the third blessing listed here: "having
predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to
himself, according to the good pleasure of his will" (5). We have all
the legal rights and privileges of the sons and daughters of God, as
members of His spiritual family, with the Lord Jesus as our elder
brother. No one has ever been or will ever be adopted by God who was not
Verse 6 ascribes to us a fourth blessing: acceptance
in Christ, God’s beloved. If you are tempted to think of this as a small
benefit, think of those who never receive it. To them the Son of God
will say on the judgment day, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that
work iniquity" (Matt. 7:23).
Ephesians 1 lists other blessings: redemption through
Christ’s blood (7), the forgiveness of sins (7), the knowledge of God’s
purpose to unite all things in heaven and earth in Christ (9-10), our
eternal inheritance (11), the sealing of the Holy Spirit (13) and the
resurrection of the body at the last day (14). Moreover, we are the
recipients of many more blessings, not listed in Ephesians 1, though
found elsewhere in God’s Word.
We should also not forget the apostolic benediction:
"Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord
Jesus Christ" (2). Grace, mercy and peace are not given to the
reprobate. These spiritual blessings (3) are only given to the elect,
"according as he hath chosen us in [Christ] before the foundation of the
Let us now relate these blessings that we receive
from God’s overflowing fountain of election to the five points of
Calvinism ("TULIP"). "T" (total depravity) is not a blessing, nor is it
peculiar to the elect for it is common to all fallen men, so it does not
belong in this discussion. The last three points of Calvinism (limited
atonement, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints) are
according to and flow from the second point of Calvinism, unconditional
This is taught in Ephesians 1. Christ’s redemption (7) is a blessing
which comes to us "according as he hath chosen us in him before the
foundation of the world" (4). This teaches limited atonement ("L"), that
is, the particular redemption of the elect alone. God’s irresistible
grace ("I"), "the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who
believe, according to the working of his mighty power" (19), flows from
the fountain of gracious election (4). The perseverance of the saints
("P"), which rests upon God’s infallible sealing and preserving of us
for our eternal inheritance (11, 13-14), is also a fruit of election
(4). Thus God’s unconditional election, the second point of Calvinism,
is the fountain of all of the church’s blessings, including three of the
five points of Calvinism: Christ’s limited atonement, God’s irresistible
grace and the perseverance (and, therefore, preservation) of the saints.
Lending and Expecting no
And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what
thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them
of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to
sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do
good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be
great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto
the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father
also is merciful (Luke 6:33-36).
A reader asks, "I have borrowed from other Christians
in the past but I have never had one tell me he does not expect
repayment. Given the above verses, do you think a Christian should
expect to repay a loan?"
If it is true that a Christian helps his neighbour
because he loves his neighbour, he helps his neighbour in any way he can
so that he may seek his neighbour’s salvation. He seeks his neighbour’s
salvation, therefore, by giving him what he needs and speaking of the
truth of the gospel as he has experienced it in his own life. It is this
which now prompts him to help his neighbour in his need.
(I hope it is not necessary to point out that if a
neighbour is starting a business and wants you to help with the business
by investing some money, in this strictly business transaction it is
usually necessary to draw up papers stipulating the amount borrowed, the
interest to be paid and the repayment schedule. That is an entirely
different matter and something of no interest to the Lord in Luke 6.)
If the one to whom you lend money never repays you,
do not go to him and harass him for the money. Forget about the money.
If your neighbour is a fellow Christian and needs
something which you have, you not only do not charge interest; you do
not even loan the money; you give what your brother needs freely as a
gift. Isn’t that what God has done to you? Does He give you a gift for
which He expects repayment? Does He give you the money with which you
buy a car, and then charge you interest? Does He give you Christ and
expect a return from you? Is it God’s investment in you, from which God
expects returns? No, He gives freely and graciously. We are to do the
same. God is kind to us who are "unthankful" and "evil" (33). Ought we
not be the same to our neighbour?
Behind all this instruction on how to live as a
citizen of the kingdom of heaven lies another principle, the principle
of Christian stewardship. While Christian stewardship means a number of
things, it means also that we "sit loose" to material things. They are
needed (in small amounts) to walk our pilgrim’s pathway, but all
material things are not very important. They are, in a sense, necessary
evils. They serve a purely temporary purpose. Whether we have material
things or lack them is of no concern to us. We are indifferent to them.
Insofar as we do have them, we are to use them solely for the purpose of
furthering the cause of the kingdom of heaven, in which we are citizens.
If we give them away, so what? We are going to inherit the earth, are we
not? Who cares how much we own and how big our bank account is? We have
more important things to worry about. If our neighbour needs the money
we have, let him have it. It is of small importance and is as easy to
give to him as it is to give him a shovel full of soil.
The kingdom of heaven and life in it requires a certain indifference
to earthly possessions. If we have that attitude of indifference towards
earthly things, we will have no problem obeying our Lord’s command.
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