There is perhaps no passage more quoted by Calvinists and other monergists in order to persuade Bible believing people to their worldview than Ephesians chapter 2. The first few times different people tried to do this to me, I was insulted. “They can’t possibly think I’m stupid enough to believe something so contrary to the text, let alone the context, of the passage, can they?” After a while, I started to suspect they actually believed it themselves.
I’m not interested in reading other people’s minds and projecting my interpretation of their intentions onto them. Maybe I’d be right; maybe I’d be wrong, but I don’t see how anything of meaning is accomplished. So for the sake of argument, I’ll take them at their word and at the word of their various catechisms and confessions of faith, several of which cite Ephesians 2 as “proof” texts of these teachings.
Such people are clearly wrong, and Ephesians 2 in and of itself is sufficient proof.
Why Class Election (a.k.a. Corporate Election) is the only possible interpretation of Ephesians 2
5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Christians are raised up together (in the past) with Christ and made to sit together in Christ Jesus (in the past) so that He might show the exceeding riches of His grace (in the future).
This is completely inconsistent with the notion of individual predestination, especially since the resurrection and ascension of Christ was 2000 years ago. No individual can be on earth today if he was, in the past, made to sit together in Heaven (again, in the past). Heaven and earth are two different places. If you, as an individual, have already been raised up and made to sit in Heaven in the past, you are not on earth.
The passage only makes sense if the “us” Paul refers to is a classification of people (the classification of people “in Christ”) and individuals are not predestined to that class. It is in that way and only in that way that Christians are raised up together (as should be obvious, the deaths of Christians have been quite staggered over the last couple millennia) with Christ in order to show them the riches of His grace in the future.
Some monergists will respond, “Sure, class predestination, fine, but individuals can still be predestined to that class! You haven’t proven that isn’t true!” Not if you read verse 7. If individuals were predestined to that class, the riches of His grace would have already been shown. Since the liberality and abundance of His grace (“riches” is a fine English word to use there, but “liberality and abundance” is a more accurate description of the transliterated Greek “ploutos”) is to be shown in the future to the individuals of the classification, in spite of the fact that Christians are raised up together in the past, individual predestination to salvation is logically impossible in light of this passage.
Why synergism is the only possible interpretation of Ephesians 2
Some monergists will point to verses 8 and 9 and say they teach monergistic faith:
8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Such people simply do not look at the text. “That” is not of yourselves. Interesting thing about the word “that:” it is a singular pronoun. “That” must either be referring to grace OR faith, but not both. Yet I’ll admit, those verses in and of themselves do not prove that faith isn’t “not of yourself.”
Clearly at least one of either grace or faith must be “not of yourself.” The monergist and the Bible are in agreement there. We’re left with three logical possibilities:
(1) Grace AND faith are not of yourself.
(2) Grace is not of yourself, but faith is.
(3) Faith is not of yourself, but grace is.
(3) is so ridiculous as to hardly warrant discussion, but for the sake of academic thoroughness I’ll give it its due. You are saved by grace (v5) because you are raised with Christ (v6). You did not resurrect Christ. Therefore, (3) is wrong.
(1) is the belief of the monergist, and it is logically irreconcilable with Ephesians 2. There is a sequence to grace and faith, either: (A) faith must come before grace, (B) grace must come before faith, or (C) they must come at the exact same time.
As was demonstrated above, the class of those in Christ was raised with Him (in the past) so that the riches of His grace would come (in the future). This makes both (A) and (C) irreconcilable with (1). If neither faith or grace is of yourself, but you, as an individual, are raised with Christ in the past, before you or your grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents were even born, then you have received grace before you had faith. To say otherwise is to say that you deserved to be raised with Christ at that time, which again, was in the past. If you deserved it, then it would be of yourself.
(B) is impossible in light of verse 8. By grace you are saved through faith. Faith is the channel by which grace is received. Without faith, there is no grace.
Being exhausted of possibilities, (1) is logically irreconcilable.
Therefore, the only logical possibility is that grace is not of yourself, but faith is. Monergistic faith, a.k.a. irresistible grace, stands in complete opposition to Ephesians 2. It stands in complete opposition to many other passages in the New Testament, as well as several of the Messianic prophecies.
Christians need not shy away from discussions with Calvinists about Ephesians chapter 2. It is true, and the truth is on the side of Christ. It’s also only logically on the side of class election and synergism, even in and of itself.