Part 2
Chapter 4—Of Efficacious Grace

Section 1—Ephesians 1:19, 20.

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.

Since the apostle, in these words, plainly intimates, that the work of grace upon the hearts of believers is to be ascribed not only to the power of God, but to the greatness,yea, the exceeding greatness of his power, and which is represented as equal to that which was put forth in raising Christ from the dead; we think we have good reason to conclude, that this work is a work of almighty, irresistible; and insuperable power, and in which men, in the first production of it, are purely passive. It is indeed said,[1] that "it must be absurd hence to infer, that the power of God working faith in believers is equal to that which effected the resurrection of our Lord, and that we must be therefore purely passive in the whole work of our conversion." But certain it is, that the power here spoken of is said to be kata< th<n ejne>rgeian, according to the working or energy of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead. And if the work of faith and conversion is intended, men must be passive under the energetical influence of divine power effecting it, as the body of Christ was, when, by the same power, it was raised to life. But let us attend to the reasons given:

1. It is said,[2] that "this power is not consistent with the persuasions and exhortations used in Scripture to move men to repent, and turn themselves from their iniquity." I reply that the exhortations to repent and turn from iniquity do not regard the first work of conversion, or the inward work of grace upon the soul, which is here designed, but an outward reformation of life. Besides, supposing the exhortations referred to respect the internal work of faith and conversion, they may be attended with that power from God, who makes use of them, so as to produce such principles of life and grace, in which men are purely passive; by virtue of which they may become active, and be enabled to answer to such exhortations; even as the command of Christ to Lazarus to come forth was attended with such a divine power as produced a principle of life in him, in which he was purely passive; though by virtue of it he became active, came forth,and answered the word of command.

2. This is also said[3] to be inconsistent "with a rational choice." I answer, that no doubt, whilst men are in a state of nature, they are able, without the special and powerful grace of God, to make a rational choice in things natural and civil, but not in things spiritual and eternal. How should they, when they are under the power of sin, influenced by their corrupt and deceitful lusts, and enslaved by Satan? Such men will always choose their own ways, for their soul delighteth in their abominations;which makes the powerful and efficacious grace of God necessary to enlighten their understandings, inform their judgments, guide their affections, and influence their wills.

3. It is urged[4] that if this was the case, "it could not properly be said that they turned, but only that they were turned, to the Lord." To which may be replied, that when the Scriptures speak of the internal work of conversion upon the heart, it is expressed in tike passive form, they were turned,see Jeremiah 31:18, 1 Peter 2:25. And when they speak of external reformation, or of such a turning to the Lord as is the fruit of faith, then it is expressed in the active form, they turned to him,see Acts 11:21.

4. It is observed,[5] that "this exposition is not agreeable to the words; for the apostle speaks not of the power exercised on us to render us believers, but of the power which shall be exercised on us who believe already." But nothing is more evident, than that the apostle speaks not of a power which shall be exercised on believers, but of a power which is exercised upon them, and is continued to be so; and is the same with that which was put forth when they first trusted in Christ, and must be continued to carry on and perfect the good work. Now, if the exceeding greatness of God's power is necessary to carry on and perfect the work of faith, it must be much more so to produce, plant, and form it at first. It is asserted,[6] that the apostle speaks "not of the power to be exercised on our souls, to raise them from a death in sin to a life of righteousness, but of the power to be exercised on our dead bodies, to give them a glorious resurrection to eternal life, as he had none already in the body of our head Christ Jesus." But though the apostle, in order to illustrate that power which is exalted towards them that believe, takes notice of the power which was wrought in Christ when he was raised from the dead; yet he says not one syllable concerning the resurrection of the saints. Moreover, the apostle is speaking not of a power to be exercised, but of one that is now exercised upon believers; whereas the resurrection of our dead bodies is an act of God's power, which is to be exercised; it is future, yet to come. Besides, this power is limited to believers; whereas the resurrection of the dead will be both of the just and unjust; and the resurrection of the one will be as much an instance of the exceeding greatness of God's power, as the resurrection of the other. Add to this, that at the resurrection the people of God will no longer bear the character of believers, (for faith will be changed into vision,) but that of saints and just men, being in themselves made perfectly so; whereas the subjects of this power are such who believe.To conclude, these words stand in connection with Ephesians 2:1: And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins,which is the plain instance of God's power the apostle had in his view; for all that is said between them, concerning the resurrection, exaltation, and headship of Christ, may be read in a parenthesis, and are only mentioned to illustrate and set forth the exceeding greatness of the power of God in this instance of it.


[1] Whitby, p. 272; ed. 2. 266.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Whitby, p. 272; ed. 2. 266.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. Vide Colt. Hag. art. in. and 4:p. 293, 294; Limborch, p. 388.

Gill Index