Ephesians 5:14: Is Supernatural Grace Dependent upon the Right Use of Natural Gifts?

But now, when the text applies this promise to those awaking from sleep and rising from the dead, from this it is not gathered that supernatural Grace is only going to follow upon the right use of natural gifts and strength; as if by virture of these natural man could be awakened from spiritual torpor and arise from the death of sin.  The contrary is taught by the whole Scripture; our National Synod of Dort, closely following the Scripture in this matter, is to be revered in the determination of Articles III and IV controverted between us and the Remonstrants.  But, as it is not advantageous to one sleeping, even if the night be past and the day come; and it is at the same time unbecoming, after the sun has a short time ago risen and shining widely in all directions, by snoring to lose the time, and willingly to neglect the immense advantages, which from the shining rays of the sun are otherwise able to return to us:  so the Apostle recalls into the memory of the Ephesians the day of grace, which had also begun to dawn upon the Gentiles through Christ, the Light of the world, incarnate in the fullness of time and perfected in sufferings, according to the promises of the Father formerly made to Him; he sets forth to them a duty most becoming, being incumbent upon those called through the Gospel; and he renders the same more certain of the bond of the fulfillment of this duty with a gracious reward, especially fitting and most excellent, of which reward, on the other hand, they would be destitute, unless they should act diligently in fulfilling the preceding admonition.  But by no means in this manner is it signified, that the promised Illumination following the ἔγερσιν/waking from sleep and resurrection from the dead would be the first gift of grace to be granted to man by the power of the merits of Christ; and in no way is prevenient grace thus excluded, through which those called might fulfill this admonition:  while everywhere in Sacred Scripture the beginning of all good in natural man, who is declared to be altogether inept for the fulfillment of it, is traced back to divine grace; the omnipotent, efficacious, insuperable power of which is everywhere declared as preceding in order all cooperation of man in the elect man’s regeneration, new creation, vivification, and resurrection from the sleep and death of sin:  to which supernatural and divine operation the moral method of operating, occurring in our text in a manner altogether suited to God’s independence and man’s dependence, as I already advised above, ought to be subjoined.  Compare similar propositions found in the Sacred Codex, Proverbs 8:17; Ezekiel 33:11; Malachi 4:2; James 4:8; Revelation 3:20:  and in what manner generally these come to be taken in accordance with sounder Theology, in such a way Pelagianism might gain nothing from them, you will learn from the passages already cited in § XVIII:  see, if you please, MARCKIUS’ Compendium Theologiæ, chapter XV, § 26, chapter XXIII, § 7, 9.  PAREUS on this passage:  “It appears that the Apostle makes illumination our work:  as if we might at last be illuminated, after we have risen by our own strength from our sins.  Such is the Syllogism:  To whom now awakened from the sleep of sin Christ at last gives light, those go before grace:  But the Apostle attributes that to us:  Therefore, the beginning of conversion is of us.  RESPONSE:  The minor is denied:  The Apostle does not give notice about the effect, so that we might reflect upon the cause:  as it often happens, that the cause, prior in nature, only becomes known after the effect.  Thus illumination by the Holy Spirit is the cause of our conversion, preceding our conversion in nature:  but we only learn that we have been illuminated after we have been converted to Christ and have risen from sins.  Therefore, the Apostle exhorts that we arise, so that we micht see that we are illuminated by Christ. Second, even with the minor conceded, it does not follow:  The Apostle orders us to arise:  Therefore, we are able to arise by our own strength. Third, it is not a promise of the beginning of conversion, but of its increase, which does not take away the promise of its beginning, to which Scripture testifies that it is from God alone: Lord, turn thou me, and I shall be turned.[1] Without me my can do nothing, John 15:5. No man cometh to me, except the Father draw him, John 6:44.  Therefore, the sense is:  Rise, and Christ shall give thee light:  that is, more and more, so that thou mightest make progress in true repentance, according to the promise, Whosover hath, to him shall be given, etc.[2]

[1] Jeremiah 31:18.

[2] Matthew 13:12; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; 19:26.

Leave a Comment