Today I want to address the age old question of what Paul refers to as being “not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” in Ephesians 2:8-9. When I first became a Calvinist I fell into the same trap as many others of seeing Calvinism all over the place. So when I came across a verse that says, “faith…not of yourselves,” I thought, “Yes! Faith is from God, not our free will! Let me add this to my list of cross references!” (Of course, Calvin himself didn’t see only faith as the gift.) This is the common interpretive mistake of letting systematic theology guide our exegetical theology instead of the other way around. It is true that other scriptures teach that faith is a gift from God (Acts 16:14; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 2:25-26). It is true that the analogy of Scripture ought to be brought into consideration during Bible study. Yet every text must be examined by themselves to determine the original meaning the author intended. This is what we shall do now with Ephesians 2:8-9. Continue reading What is the “Gift of God” in Ephesians 2:8-9
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.”
My focus for this post is from verse 25. What I wish to draw from this text is Paul’s purpose for staying alive. Whatever this ambition is, to him it was worth staying alive and suffering more, rather than going to be with the Lord. Being that death is “much gain”, this task must be of incredible importance to Paul.
So for what reason is Paul remaining? He says it is for the church’s progress and joy in the faith. Before elaborating on the meaning, there are a few things I wish to point out from our text, and the book as a whole, concerning working for the progress and joy of our brothers’ faith. Continue reading True Fellowship: Increasing One Another’s Faith and Joy
A conviction is not something you hold, but something that holds you. It is something outside of which one cannot operate safely or consistently. In the present time, however, conviction is not seen so much as a virtue but a vice. “Arrogant,” and “Narrow-minded,” are some of the labels given to people moved by such convictions. But nothing could be further from the truth.
It is true people of conviction speak with boldness, directness, candor and clarity. However, this bravery must not be confused with arrogance. It is not pretentiousness that moves these people but an absolute certainty that what they believe is true and that what is popularly believed is a lie. Continue reading Conviction or Narrow-mindedness?