Calvinism in Ephesians 2

A detailed examination of total depravity, irresistible grace, and efficacious atonement in Ephesians 2

Agent C
8 min readSep 1, 2022


Coming out of Ephesians 1, Paul elaborates on some of the concepts taught in the former chapter. He starts off by elaborating on a statement he made in Ephesians 1:15–23:

“I…Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead…” (Ephesians 1:15–20, KJV 1900).

As I mentioned in the last article, verses 19–20 are of particular interest in the discussion of whether or not regeneration precedes faith. Paul tells us in this verse that we believe “…according to the working of…[God’s] mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead…” (Ephesians 1:19–20). Paul himself tells us that by the same power that Christ was raised from the dead, we ourselves are raised from disbelief to belief. This is the context in which the very next chapter starts, elaborating on this very statement:

“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:1–3, KJV 1900).

Paul reiterates his former statement but in a new light; previously he told us that we believe according to working of God by resurrection power, however in this statement, he likens the raising of Christ from the dead to our being raised from Spiritual deadness in sin. According to Paul, this deadness encompassed us walking according to the worldly age, as well as following Satan as he worked disobedience in us. We were children of disobedience, fulfilling our fleshly lusts, and were by inherent nature itself, children of wrath.

Being dead in sin according to Paul is defined as total opposition to God, even to the point of our following Satan. This is the description of a Spiritually dead man: a man in total bondage to sin, not even willing to seek for God but instead following Satan and his ways. Scripture, even Jesus tells us that no man can serve two masters:

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24, KJV 1900).

Think of the implications of this teaching! Paul tells us that our deadness in sin encompasses that we were following Satan and his ways, and yet Jesus tells us that no man can serve two masters: “for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other…” (Matthew 6:24). We were following Satan and were in total opposition to God! This is plain as day, and the fact that modern teachers say that we could be dead in sin and still trust in God is a testament to their heresy and apostacy concerning the Gospel and man’s sin.

Paul continues:

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:4–10, KJV 1900).

When we were in immense and utter deadness in sin, God, being rich in mercy and grace on behalf of the great love with which he loved his elect, chose (purely by grace) to raise us from our deadness in sin! Just as we were quickened with Christ after the cross, our sins having been acquitted, so we were quickened to Spiritual life in order to believe and follow God. He did this, not for our glory or because of some condition we would fulfill, or work we would do, but so that the riches of his grace would be shown in his son Jesus Christ; and so, the apostle proclaims in the following verse, “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast…” (Ephesians 2:8).

Think closely about this statement as it refutes all forms of conditionalism. The climax of Paul’s argument is that we have been saved by grace, through faith, apart from any works whatsoever. This is in light of his statement that God raised us up together with Christ “…That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (v. 7). According to Paul, all of the prior actions of God (our spiritual quickening, election, etc.) have been done to show his glory, not on behalf of anything found in man, but purely on behalf of God’s glory. If this is true, it is impossible to maintain that we are saved with faith as a condition to our salvation. Then, our salvation would not be purely of grace, and we would indeed have something inherent to us to boast about. If the difference maker in who is saved is an action that man commits, there is a solid ground for the believer to boast about his salvation! Contrary to this point are the words of the apostle “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast…” (Ephesians 2:8). Our salvation, even our faith itself is a gift of God so that any grounds for boasting would be excluded. Paul himself tells us this.

In verse 9, Paul tells us that we do works, not to be saved, but because we are saved. Martin Luther spoke to this truth when he said: “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone…”. The Heidelburg Catechism responds to this very question:

Heidelberg Catechism Q 64: “But does not this doctrine [justification apart from works] make men careless and profane?”

By no means: for it is impossible that those, who are implanted into Christ by a true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness. [a]

a: Matthew 7:18, John 15:5

Believers work deeds of righteousness, not because they are hoping to be saved on account of them, but because they are saved and purchased by the blood of Christ. A believer cannot help but bring forth fruits of thankfulness towards God (with occasional exceptions), and so the apostle tells us that we were created in Christ Jesus for good works which God beforehand ordained that we should walk in them.

Paul proceeds:

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” (Ephesians 2:11–17, KJV 1900).

John Gill explains these verses in depth far better than I ever could, and so I will link his commentary here. To give a brief synopsis of the text, Paul reminds believers never to rely on any works for our salvation, for in times past even we walked according to the prince of the power of the air in the unregenerate state, and were at one time excluded from the blessings of Israel, but now God has brought together Jew and Gentile in the cross, thereby slaying the hostility between the two groups, making peace by his blood, reconciling both parties to God. This is an important statement because it tells us about the nature of the cross. The nature of the cross is that it is a reconciling sacrifice, one that reconciles those whom Christ died for to God.

Limited Atonement as a doctrine is not (essentially) about how many people Christ died for, but rather about the cross actually accomplishing and doing something for the people of God. If the cross merely makes salvation possible for all men but does not actually blot out the sins of every person whom the sacrifice is made for, then the cross does not actually accomplish anyone’s salvation by itself. The cross is no longer a finished work, but rather a partially finished and fairly insufficient work. This is the crux of the issue. Here, Paul does not tell us that the cross made reconciliation between God and man possible, but that the cross itself actually reconciles man to God.

If it is true, that reconciliation was made by the lamb for all of those whom he was sacrificed for, then it only follows that those who Christ died for will be saved. If man and God are truly reconciled by the cross, none of those whom Christ died for will fail to be saved, for the wrath of God has been reconciled by the atonement. Either Christ died for every man without exception and every man is saved, or else Christ only died for some, and all of those men are saved. The only consistent way to read the Bible and affirm it’s teaching of an eternal hell is the latter.

Paul believes in a finished, efficacious atonement that actually accomplished that which it sets out to accomplish, the salvation of God’s people!

Ephesians 2 clearly teaches the doctrine of total, utter depravity of the fallen human nature, the irresistible nature of God’s grace in raising us from the dead to belief, and lastly a finished, efficacious atonement.



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Agent C

I am a Dutch Reformed Christian (3FU) and High Calvinist interested in providing answers to Biblical questions as well as objections to the Christian worldview.