Hearing Believing and Receiving are the means to Having (Ephesians 1:13)

“And you also were included in Christ after listening to the message of truth, the gospel, the Good News, the glad tidings and the Evangel of your salvation and saving health.  Having also believed in the Messiah, you were afterwards marked in him with a seal, receiving a sign that you were identified and  owned by Christ, – that long ago promised Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of holiness.”  (Ephesians 1:13 My own translation – paraphrase cum expanded interpretation)

 
aaa1And here we have it at last!  The access to all the blessings and graces explained in Ephesians thus far, is fully encapsulated here in verse 13 of the first chapter.

 

In the opening greeting Paul wishes grace and peace on the saints “in Christ” and “at Ephesus;”  yet he fails to explain how the recipients became saints.  In verse three he exults in the fact that God has blessed “us” with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.  So whatever a saint is they have become saints by the same means as Paul did, for he identifies himself as one of the saints, i.e. he states that God has “blessed us” not “blessed you.”  So we have what is to us in a modern bible three verses written, and we know that whoever the saints are, and whatever they have done, or achieved in becoming a saint they have grasped all the blessings heaven can afford.

 

The next line (verse 4) is joyful simply because the saints have been chosen by God Almighty to be holy and blameless in God’s presence.  Every statement it seems is a statement of blessing that is incredible in it’s magnitude and depth.  But by verse 4 we still are not told how to become one of these saints that inherits this list of promised blessings.

 

aaa2Verse 5 tells us that every saint “in Christ,” according to God’s pleasure in choosing them, has been predestined to be an adopted son of God through Jesus Christ.  Yet the apostle still has not written what we need to do to enter into these mammoth statements of God’s lavish love, heaped on these saints that are “in Christ” and “at Ephesus.”  Verse 6 tells us what we instinctively understood from verses 3 to 5 that all this lavish outpouring of God’s goodness on these saints brings great praise to God and His glorious grace that has been freely given in Christ. We know it has been given, and that it has been given through the person and work of Christ, but not one single nuance is given to us explaining how anybody who reads this letter can also enter into this fellowship and family of God and His people.

 

He continues to explain the benefits of being “in Christ” as if the “how to partake” issue is not even on his agenda.  Verse 7 continues that we “have” redemption through Christ’s blood, which is defined as the “forgiveness of sins,” and that it is all done through the riches of God’s grace.  By the end of verse seven he has the readers mouth watering.  One would be foolish not to want these blessings that he is talking about in the letter  full of revelation concerning the blessings and realities of the cosmos that is to us invisible.

 

aaa3He has done these things with infinite forethought and planning, and in prudence and wisdom has effected this glorious plan of eternal blessing in His own pleasure and joyful will (verse 8). Verse 9 tells us that God the Father has happily made known to us the mystery of his plan and purpose for all of humanity that is “in Christ.” In fact God’s entire purpose is wrapped up in Christ.  However, we have poured over the first nine verse and the author has still not told us what it is that we are supposed to do to take hold of these blessings that seem to be rolling off Paul’s tongue.

 

The apostle is establishing the fact that “saints” have these blessings as in personal ownership. It is a position, a status of being blessed.  It is a platform that all saints stand on.  It is not a plan for a few. It is quite plain that whoever the Saints are, and whatever they have done to qualify them as Saints, these blessings are theirs simply because they have been made saints.  “But Paul!,” I ask, “I am salivating at the thought of this incredible concept of a heavenly outpouring of love. I want it!  Tell me what I must do to own it in the same way as these “Saints in Christ who at at Ephesus.”

 

aaa4Even in verse 10 he continues. It is as if he has closed his eyes and has received a vision. Saul of Tarsus, now Paul of Christ, explains how all these tangible blessings poured out on the Saints from the invisible world where Christ is will lead, and are leading to the summation of the entire universe when it comes to consummation in Christ. Things on the earth, under the earth, things seen and unseen will all come together in glorious unified submission to Jesus Christ.

 

He still has not finished his description of what the “saints” have entered into. Verse 11 referring to himself and the Saints as part of the same group, he declares that in Christ “we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”

 

These people have, to put it bluntly, inherited God Himself. The person of Jesus Christ and all He is and has done, every blessing and every strain of power and authority is theirs.  But still the reader is left with their tongue hanging out. “How do I also gain this inheritance?” is the cry of the first time reader.  It is as if the apostle is tantalising the reader hanging before their nostrils the sweetest smelling gift ever conceived.  He offers to the spiritual taste buds of his readers the most nourishing and delicious flavour of truth ever seen by man. The texture of the proffered gift is so lovely to the touch it almost has us in anguish waiting for the “How to…” of this status he refers to as “sainthood.”

 

aaa5Verse 12 stops us in our tracks. He begins to satiate the thirst for the knowledge of Christ. He talks of this homogenous group of saints as being “the first to put our hope in Christ.”

 

What?

 

Is that it?  So we are to put our hope in Christ? But how do we initiate the dynamics of this future hope – for the word “hope” surely suggests a future expectation.

 

The hope and expectation Paul refers to must be the fulfilment and climax of all these things that he has just explained that every saint of God owns.

 

aaa6So we are still asking the question: “How do I get this hope within me? How do I get to own these blessings that boggle the finite nature of our human thought processes. How do I become a Saint.

 

And then we arrive at verse 13.  Oh how glorious is the answer to our long awaited question.

 

The only criteria here stated is that we listen to the message, believe the message he is telling us, and then being sealed by receiving the Holy Spirit as promised long ago by Joel.  How much more simpler could the means to “sainthood” be achieved.

 

aaa7The word Gospel, or Evangel literally means “Good News.”  I am not wanting to insult the intelligence of my readers when I say that ”News” is something that has happened – i.e. something that has historically taken place and is relevant to this current moment.  The news is that Christ has paid the debt of man’s sin. There is nothing more for God to do in relationship to saving mankind.  It is done!   One of Christ’s dying cries was “Tetelestai!” In plain English the word means: “Finished! Complete!” The gospel message means that the work on God’s part is complete and all we need to do is pro-actively believe and receive.  Once a person believes and receives the fullness of the message, they are the recipients of the mind boggling list of blessings that we read of from Ephesians 1:3 through to 1:12.

 

The message of truth is the word of our redemption. The word used for “redemption” in the Greek (Apolutrosis) literally means the liberation procured by payment of a ransom. It also refers to a “releasing effect” (Thayer). It is used ten times throughout the New Testament (Luke 21:28.  Romans 3:24 & 8:23,  1 Corinthians 1:30.  Ephesians 1:7.  1:14. & 4:30.  Colossians 1:14.  Hebrews 9:15 & 11:35.).

 

It is made totally clear from Matthew 20:28 as well as Mark 10:45 that the price paid for our redemption was the life of Jesus Christ, referred to in Colossians 1:14 as the blood of Christ.  Hebrews 9:14 tells us how this redemption impacts eternity and is intended to purify the believer from all iniquity (1 Timothy 2:14) and bring us to a place where we serve completely the living God.

 

aaa9The message therefore is the recounting of the facts and the implications of Christ’s life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and glorification in heaven. That  is the message.

 

The message cannot be believed until it has been heard. And Paul says that people cannot hear it properly unless it is passed on by someone that God has sent in order to reap the harvest. After having heard and believed the message, the believer is sealed by the Holy Spirit. Non Pentecostal or Charismatic Christians tend to believe that the “sealing” of the Holy Spirit is the process of being born again by the Spirit of God.  My Pentecostal teaching has taught me to believe from my heart that because the text says  that “after you believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” it cannot possibly be referring to the conversion experience of new birth. Being born of the Spirit cannot, for that reason refer to entering the kingdom, but refers to something that takes place after conversion while one has already become a believer.  Evangelicals that do not believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit have no concept of how to explain this phrase and so they teach and preach that it is referring to conversion. In holding cessationists beliefs (i.e. that tongues and the baptism of the Holy Spirit have ceased) they are forced to have to hold to that conclusion.

 

aaa8It is my conviction that this statement by Paul refers to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Baptism in the Spirit was the normal expectation after people had been converted to Christ.  The word translated “sealed” (Sphragizo) means “to stamp” with a signet punch or ring, or some kind of personal mark. The apostle is obviously referring to the marking of a person’s spirit with the Holy Spirit baptism.

 

The being clothed upon by the Spirit of God was the outward proof that established not only the recipients faith, but facilitated the confidence that people were truly converted.  The baptism was an outward show of the ownership by Christ.  The receiving of the Holy Spirit in this manner was a phenomena promised long ago in the scriptures.  The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of the promise, because he is often promised in the Old Testament as in Isaiah 32:15.  Ezekiel 36:27 and Joel 3:1.

 

One cannot be baptised in the Spirit unless one is already born again.  The time between conversion and Holy Spirit baptism could be some kind of nano second, months or years later.  Sadly some born again Christians die without even believing that there is such a divine promise as the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This writer is convinced that, even though millions are converted and make the Pentecostal experience a point of controversy, proper New Testament normalcy cannot be entered into outside of being immersed in the Spirit.

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The Praises of God are Embedded and Engrafted in the Purpose of His Plan (Ephesians 1:12)

“God’s purpose and plan in all this was that we should bring the praise and honour of His glory, that is, that we who first focused, hoped and trusted in Christ the Messiah would praise and honour the glory of the grace that has saved us and be committed to exulting in His glorious attributes.”  (Ephesians 1:12)

 

 

Type = ArtScans RGB : Gamma = 1.9One of the secrets of a blessed life, and a key to opening doors of freedom and Godly increase throughout one’s days, is to be thankful. I have even heard atheists talk of being “thankful.”  As for me however, I ask: “How can I be thankful unless I am thanking somebody for having granted me something that I treasure and appreciate?”  If I am thanking “nature,” or “circumstance,” I am not being thankful, I am merely appreciative of the fact that circumstances have left me better off in some dimension or other.

 

If a person gives me something, from as little as a glass of water to as much as risking their life to save mine, I look them in the eye and say, “Thank you!”  Giving thanks is to warmly appreciate how somebody wilfully chose to gain something and own something that they wanted to give me, and then did so.  Whether it is a little or a lot, they have given of themselves.  The size of the gift, in that respect, is utterly irrelevant.  I say “Thank you!” for things great or little.

 

God however, has gone to the ultimate parameters of self sacrifice in order to bless us with the ultimate parameter of giving. When we think of the Passion of Christ, we tend to see it in a sanitised religious sense, and the pain and anguish He suffered is something we sing and meditate about, but find it hard to empathise or sympathise with.

 

If we, as Christians, truly understood our status before our conversion, and truly understand our status now “in Christ,” a complete renewal of attitude towards praising and thanking God for what He has done would sweep over us all.  Our “lostness” in the sight of God, His heaven and eternity was deep and profound, and still is for millions of people outside of Christ.  Ephesians refers to that condition as being utterly “without hope.”  Equally, our “foundness” in Christ is so deep and profound that I shudder at the superficiality I have engaged with in matters of relating to God for the last forty five years.  Relationship with Christ is deep, wide and as broad as anyone can imagine.  It cost Him so very much to forge a friendship with us that  deals with our sin, and makes us righteous.  The gift is so phenomenal that saying “Thank you!” seems paltry in light of the gift that is so extravagant.

 

Thankfulness and praise, falling prostrate before Him to express our true thoughts and feelings about what Christ accomplished, is an embedded and utterly integrated factor of the Christian’s life. It is an internal self developed frame of mind to adore Him, be devoted to Him, and then to find the words to express  one’s feelings to Him fully. I do not mean to legalistically infer that unless you lie prostrate you cannot worship – God forbid! What I am saying is that thankfulness and praise for God’s kindness towards us, and true worship must contain a sense of awe and amazement.  We need to ask God for revelation that facilitates us seeing Him as He really is, then we would not need addresses on true worship, we would be lost in doing it.

 

This is the entire purpose and end of being predestined to the eternal inheritance of the believer – Ephesians 1:12 says so.  I see two pointed meanings in verse 12.  I perceive that the praise of the very glory of God, in his grace and goodness, might be discovered and made known to the true believers, just as it is seen in election, redemption, justification, pardon, adoption, regeneration, and eternal salvation.  However, I also see that the believing Christian should praise and glorify Him on account of these things, by ascribing it all to his initiating grace, and nothing of themselves, no, not even the choice they made to trust Christ to save them.  It is in this praise, that results from the realisation that the saving process is all of His plan and implementation, that the Christian, from the depth of His being gives Him thanks for all his benefits; by ordering His lifestyle aright as becomes the Gospel; and by doing all things with a view to his glory.

 

The whole machinery of God’s active salvation in our lives took off the day we chose to believe in Christ as our Saviour. Ever increasing revelation, faith and commitment To God and His will will bring an ever increasing insight to the very attributes of God. We will come to understand just who and what He is more and more. The depth and breadth of God’s love, power, and grace will come to dominate our characters, and we will be all the better for it. People will take note that you have been with somebody special. Christians will know that you have been with Jesus.

 

The exaltation of God and His grace is to be experienced oozing out of our characters and personalities. That will cause you and others to praise the glory of His grace.

The Purpose and Goal of the Entire Universe with Your Name on the File (Ephesians 1:11)

“In him, as before ordained, we also were chosen to be united with Christ as God’s own possession.  We ourselves have an inheritance from God as well as us being His heritage, having been predestined, foreordained, and had our way marked out beforehand – that is, we were chosen in advance.  This was all according to the plan of him whose might works out everything as He intends in conformity and agreement with the counsel, purpose and decision of the design of his own will.  He does everything He wills to do.”  (Ephesians 1:11 My own expanded paraphrased translation)   xxxxxxxxxxxxx1

 

This is the crunch line after the phenomenal statement of Ephesians 1:10.  This plan that was created in the mind of God before the stars and the galaxies were made, has a sharp arrowhead point aimed at the very centre of our hearts.  The irresistible statement of Ephesians 1:10-11 is only ever downplayed by Bible teachers because it seems too breathtakingly good to be true.  It is astonishing in its claim of personal intimacy and relationship with the believing Christian all being premised on the fact that God chose each one individually “twenty billion years BC” (That is a Lannonism euphemistically referring to a point of occurrence before time had begun). Each individual true Christian, born again of the Spirit of God, is a part of this huge and intergalactic plan; an “inter eternity and time” project.  In other words, the bullet of eternal life that was fired your way actually had your name written on it.  The concept, from start to finish, is bigger than any project ever discussed by man.  Could anything be more revelatory about those things that are invisible?  Could anything be more awe inspiring than being told that we are part of an infinitely larger cosmos than the one we consciously living in.  This world is not our home.  We are just passing through!  Could anything be invented that would bring more dignity, self worth, or purpose to a human life?  God is on your case and before you were even born, He had a reservation in His Father’s house with your name on the door and your initials on the towels.  Truly, our lives are hidden with Christ in God.

 

To say that true Christ believing Christians have struck gold the day they chose to believe is rather an understatement.  God chose us to be united and one with Christ.  No Christian is sinless, but they are blameless.  By faith in the blood of Christ, and what it achieved for us, we become God’s very own possession and part of His family.

 

The Christian has an eternal inheritance in God and all His promises.  Awesomely, concurrent to that, the Christian is the very heritage of God Himself.  It is quite mind blowing to the degree that I am not at all sure which is the greater blessing, for us to have all that God has promised (and there are rafts of rather startling promises) or for us to be God’s own heritage by His own will and choice.  We are blessed a billion times over with the former truth, and a billion times again with the latter.  Surely we are just doomed to a life of blessing and victory in this relationship that we have with Christ Himself.  The only thing that stops us singing and dancing with delight is the brightness of the light of this revelation – it truly blinds us to a mental numbness that can hardly take it all in.  It isn’t pink and fluffy poetical language that sounds nice and tickles the ego as well as the ears, these are the hard and concrete facts of the gospel as the Apostle Paul presents them.  This is Paul’s blinding revelation of the invisible. Indeed! The light of this truth is so bright it almost burns the spiritual retina out of its socket.

 

Moreover, we can’t get past these statements of wonder without stopping for a moment to chew on that giant word “predestination.”  This word has been a rallying call for polemic and polarisation in the body of Christ for centuries, when it has to be screamed from the rooftops that neither the Lord Himself nor Paul meant it to be any such thing but an elation inducing truth that inspires faith, destiny and motivation.  It is supposed to inspire us with faith, dignity, boldness, and determination.  “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” said the Lord Jesus.  The words are softened in most people’s minds because it was Jesus as a man, in the days of His flesh, speaking these words to men He had only met some three years previously.  For that reason most people understand that the choice that Jesus is referring to was something similar to  a football manager who has eighteen or nineteen players lining up for his team and from them he decides, “I choose Frederick in goal, and Charles as the striker,” and so on.  The assumption is that the manager has been watching the players in training all week and picks whosoever he thinks is “on form” and playing well “at the moment.”  However, that is as far as the east is from the west from the truth of what Jesus meant.  Jesus did not just decide as if He happened to be passing Peter one day and startled, stopped to utter, “Oh yes!  He looks like a good leader with potential!  I think I shall choose him!”  No such thing!  The point is that Jesus chose Peter and the others before Abraham was born or Adam was created.  His choice was made prior to time being created and instituted (or should it be “implemented?”).   xxxxxxxxxxxxx3

 

The choice of Peter, just as God’s choice of anyone who has believed on Christ to save them, was in perfect harmony with the activation of God’s plan and purpose set firmly before time even began. Ephesians 1:10-11 says so clearly. Oh!  How great is God!  He knew my name before a thousand generations before me were even a twinkle in their respective mother’s eye.

 

God’s thoughts were perfect.  His plan was faultless.  His intentions gave Him great joy and the performance of those intentions gave Him unbounded delight.  It was the good pleasure of His will to give us the Kingdom. And it is all wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ and a person’s relationship with Him, conceived, brought to birth and development by faith in Him and His word.

 

The only reason there are heated discussions about God “predestinating” Christians is the concept of God “choosing some and rejecting others.”  However, that is not in the ring for discussion.  As finite beings we cannot conceive of the Almighty predestinating some without rejecting others, because that is simply how finite beings would be moved if the election of Christians was in their area of culpability.  A pox on that thought however!  We must start with the knowledge that God is as vast as eternity itself, and that He actually lives in eternity, i.e. outside of time.  That is why God cannot age.  He is the same “age” now as He deals with your life, as He was at the beginning of eternity (Can eternity have a beginning?) as He will be at the end of eternity (Can eternity have an end?).

 

Because of this vast eternal nature and being of God, we have to conclude that his knowledge of all things is as eternal and without beginning or end, just as He is.  Anything that can be known – is known by Him.  Whatever we discover in terms of knowledge, whatever it is, God Himself has known it always.  He didn’t learn it, He did not have to read up on it. He made all things and He  knows all things.  He couldn’t be eternal and omniscient if there was any falsehood in my statement here.

 

Because of His omniscience, His omnipotence and, His omnipresence we cannot but conclude that He is present in an omnichronological sense.  (I apologise! I have made that word up for the simple reason that I have never heard another word that expresses the fact that He is in all time, with all people.)  God rules the universe in a way that is present in all events on the planet, and throughout all time on the planet.  His active presence is there in every moment that ever did, ever is, or ever will occur in the entire universe. He is Yahweh. That name means what He was, what He is, and what He shall be is never ending and never changing. He is everywhere at once in our time space world.

 

xxxxxxxxxxxxx2In some of these events he is actively present and directly at work.  Other stuff takes place under the umbrella of the description of “providentially occurring.” This means that Some stuff is allowed to take place, good, bad  and/or ugly without it being anything to do with His wishes or will.  People do some things that God neither approved of nor sanctioned. He very rarely, if ever, strikes people dead for those things, but when wrong things are perpetrated like murder, starting wars, stealing or destroying, the world has to live with those consequences whether it is restricted to one person losing their money and so cannot buy food, or destroying a nation and having millions of people displaced and starving. That is just the way the world is and it has absolutely no bearing on the divine culpability apart from Him having given all men the freedom to think, choose and act as they will – just as He does.

 

Because He is eternal, He must foresee all things. He knows the day that your great great Grandson will be born, and He knows when He will die.  It does not  however, necessarily mean that He has predestined such moments.  Many people die before their time.  There is a difference between foreknowing and predetermining.  God foreknows everything.  God has not, however, predetermined everything. To handle these facts we need to hold tight of the truth that the Almighty Yahweh is infinitely good and plans and plots benevolence, kindness and goodness towards everybody on the planet. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

 

With these facts as the backdrop to any assertions concerning those who are redeemed we need to say that, according to these verses we are ploughing through in Ephesians chapter 1, those who are saved are saved by God’s personal action and volition. He chooses and actively converts.  It is this writers conviction that He is actively working to bring all people to Christ.  Repentance is given by God. Conversion is an act of God. Faith is injected by God.  Christ Himself becomes our sanctification.  It is all of Him. But, God grants all of mankind the freedom to choose. In the light of biblical truth, it means that to choose Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour, or to reject Him is clearly the most important choice that any person can ever make. xxxxxxxxxxxxx4

The Purpose and Goal of the Whole Existence of the Universe (Ephesians 1:10)

“And this is the plan, that at the right moment, with a view to an administration suitable for when the times reach their fullness and complete fulfillment, and when time itself ceases, He will gather, collect and bring together all of creation, summing it all up and bringing all of history to its goal, re-establishing everything and uniting the whole under the authority of Christ the Messiah, yes, everything in heaven and on earth under Christ.”     (Ephesians 1:10. My own paraphrase)  

In, the  world bestselling book, play, film and computer game “The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy,” a question was put into the greatest most advanced computer in the universe. The question was; “What is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the Universe and everything?” If I remember rightly, it takes the mega super duper computer 100 years exactly to find the answer to this, the Mother of all questions.  What was the answer? It was a piece of paper with nothing but the number “42” written on it.  (If the reader would care to take the trouble to look up the number “42” on Wikipedia, one will see the fascinating connotations that apply to these double digits.  It is very humourous, and the first time I saw it on a Television production I chuckled until I cried.

 

@@@@@ However, the question is so huge and important that it need not be ashamed of the funny answers that comedians and writers throw at it.  It is big, brash and bold  and old enough to withstand the ridicule that is thrown at it throughout the generations.  Ephesians 1:10 however, in the context of all the other spiritual and eternal data that Paul gives us in this incredibly revelatory letter, is the Bible’s definitive answer to that very question.

 

Jesus Christ Himself is the purpose for all creation; the hub and centre of what all of life is about, and only in submission to Him and adoration of Him will the world – indeed the universe, fulfil its purpose and reach its eternally set goal. Those that reject or spurn Him will not and cannot be part of this coming together as they are simply not “in Christ.”  The gathering is of all things that are “in Him.” They who have responded positively to Him in faith believing will be welcomed into eternal conscious bliss with the joy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit when this eternal unified oneness in Christ takes place.

 

We have no means of even guessing when this final summation shall come.  The details are discussed and debated and argued opon by Christian academics, theologians and prophetic types not because the Bible is vague, far from it, but because it is future and so specific in its far-reaching vision.  Because the Bible says some amazing things, the differences of opinion on eschatological matters are nearly always about the order of predicted events.  There are also wildly different perspectives on the literalness or otherwise of the events explained in scripture.  Finally, voices are raised from all corners of the theological spectrum when individual eschatological viewpoints are snagged on the template of the framework of world history and the resulting interpretative nuance’s of what has already taken place. What fits into history and the present political scenario and what doesn’t is conceivably the hottest potato in all tyhe dialogue of the end-times.

 

However Ephesians 1:10 reads as if Paul was aware before all the “school’s of thought” were even school’s that could do any thinking  of the confusion that was to come, and so he wrote down the sentence which is far shorter than the manner in which I have paraphrased it above. It sums the whole universe up.   The conclusions that cannot be debated concerning the purpose of life are these:

 

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1. God has a clear and defined purpose and time for all things.

2. Nobody knows when the ultimate moment of the consummation of all things will come.

3. It will happen outside time in the outworking of the fullness of time.

4. Circumstances in cosmic, world and human events have to conclude history.

5. All things “in Christ” are to be gathered, suggesting that those things outside of Christ will not be.

6. The visible and invisible, the heavenly and the earthly, the angelic and the human in Christ shall be collected.

7. “In Christ,” as in almost everything Paul talks about is the hinge of inclusion of exclusion.

8. The eternal purpose of all things is to be made subject to Jesus Christ.

9. It will take place at God’s initiation and NOT at the expediency of the human condition.

10. Ephesians 1:10 must be seen in the context of all that is written from verse 3 through to verse 12.

11. This verse must surely be seen as an ongoing event in perpetuity, rather than a “Judgement Day,” that comes and passes.

12. This is the last event for the universal existence, and existence that will never come to a conclusion yet has this final “event.”

 

 

Whatever biblical Eschatological viewpoint one adopts, it has to be affirmed that all Christians affirm that history and world events are in His hands and control. No matter how corny the pun and word play may seem it is absolutely true that “History is His story.”  God is pro-actively working with a strategy that stems from the plan He conceived in eternity. That plan has been, is being, and will continue to be outworked through time past, time present and time future being fully disclosed by the prophetic insights of scripture within time, and climaxing outside of and beyond time into eternity future. The bible has a pre planned pre destined linear plan in linear time that steps out into eternity in the same way Peter stepped out on the water. It cannot be doubted, be it by biblical scholars, or people with the most rudimentary grasp of the Bible that the hub and centre of the entire eternal plan and purpose of all things is the person and character of Jesus Christ. It’s all about Him and His redeemed, reconciled and blood bought people that follow in the train of His triumph.

 

What’s the purpose of it all?  John Stott wrote, “God is making human beings more human by making them more like Christ.” That is his succinct remark of why we are here.  The message for this generation is ensure that each individual is “in Christ” through believing the gospel message. God take us there.

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The Secret – Hidden yet Hinted at by the Prophets – is now out on the Streets in Glorious Technicolor. (Ephesians 1:9)

“God has now revealed and made known to us the mystery and secret of His will and plan which is in harmony with and according to His own kind intention and His good, merciful and benevolent pleasure which He ordained and purposed in Himself.”  (Ephesians 1:9.  My own translation)

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Nobody could talk like this prior to the day of Pentecost.  Nobody could make this assertion before Peter stood up to preach to that huge mass of humanity and reap 3,000 people into the kingdom in those opening moments of the birth of the church of Jesus Christ.  Oh yes!  It was explained and demonstrated in the person of Christ.  It was declared and manifested in every moment of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.  The complete whole was deposited in the mind and the understanding of all those who followed the Master and imbibed the things that He said and did.  But it was not theirs properly until that mighty wind blew on the 120 in that upper room (Acts 2:4). Nobody could truly say, “I have it!  I understand it!  You too can have it!  I give it!” until that definitive moment when tongues of what looked like purifying fire from heaven sat on the napes of those on whom the Holy Spirit fell.  It was so deep and profound, so heavenly and eternal, so momentous for the cause of humanity’s existence that they couldn’t speak their own language to declare it.  It was a series of utterances that the Spirit of God Himself uttered in the new homes He had just moved into.  The secret of past, present and future and the actions of God was out on the streets. It was for all nations and races of people.

 

Yet what had happened was so much a shaking of the status quo of the invisible cosmos also that languages that belonged to angels, principalities and powers were used.  It was indeed a secret that had been hidden in God from before the foundation of the world. It was a secret of such gigantic and time shaking proportions that had been hidden since time began, yet now it was open and being widely discussed and debated by every Tom, Dick and Jacob that was in Jerusalem. It was so astonishing that 3,000 people went to bed that night (if they went to bed at all that night) knowing God more intimately than Elijah, Isaiah or Jeremiah had. The very least of them was now greater than even John the Baptist had been.  We can make that assertion simply because Jesus did. Something new and so revolutionary had happened. No man or woman had known this truth in any previous generation.

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This secret is exactly what is explained throughout these first eleven verses of Paul’s missive to the Ephesians. God was out on the streets. His word was to be discussed and responded to by all who heard it. It did not shake the world because of the great preachers, or the great budgets or advertising campaigns to grab people’s attention. It shook the world because every person that was converted was walking in a new life, a new power, a new insight into what life was all about, and a new and glorious understanding about Jesus Christ.

 

The Old Testament prophets saw it.  Somehow they knew He was coming.  Yet, 1 Peter 1:12 says concerning the writing Hebrew prophets, “To them it was revealed that they were serving not themselves but you, when they foretold the very things which have now been openly declared to you by those who, having been taught by the Holy Spirit which had been sent from Heaven, brought you the Good News. Angels long to stoop and look into these things” (Weymouth Version). They knew it, but they surely could not envisaged that the common folk on the street could be filled with the Holy Spirit by the thousands, that the intricacies of Bible prophecy concerning Messiah would be a comfortable discussion amongst children of all ages and intellectual capabilities. The Prophets saw and explained, yet could not have perceived the true depth of what they were saying.

 

Somehow, like Caiaphas in the days of Christ, who prophesied how that it was necessary that “One man should die for the people,” yet had no understanding of the power and the truth of the words he spoke, so spoke the likes of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Micah. Caiaphas had no clue of the depth and the power of the insight that his words afforded to others that heard him.

 

Professors and academics of Old Testament Theology differ and argue like a bad day in the House of Commons. It is the mist that covers the entire substance of the study of Old Testament Theology; Who knew what? How much did they know? How much could they say without understanding all of it?  From a New Testament perspective, when we read Isaiah 9, and those first few verses of chapter 11, and then browse through Isaiah’s so called servant songs and Isaiah 53, we could uneducatedly surmise that Isaiah knew as much as Paul did – almost.  But they spoke in plain language what must have sounded to their students like riddles, cryptic beyond decoding. He would reign in power and glory, yet almost in the same breath He would suffer and like a lamb before the shearers is dumb He would open not His mouth.  What sort of a nonsense riddle was that to people who had never met face to face with the glorious wonder that was Jesus Christ? How could it please the Lord to bruise Him, and in so doing how on earth was He to bare our pains and sicknesses?

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Having encountered the Spirit of the living Christ and engaged with the only source of a legitimate understanding of Who and What Christ was in the pages of scripture in both the Old and New Testament it is as plain as the noses on our faces. There are literally millions – nay, surely billions – who are completely au-fait with the language of being “In Christ,” “filled with the Spirit,” “Baptised in the Holy Spirit,” and being His disciple. It is so straight forward and assumed by Holy Spirit enlightened people around the globe that intelligent scholars argue as to how much (or how little) they understood what Messiah was coming for to do. Some academics exclaim how full was Isaiah’s and Ezekiel’s insight into the whys and wherefores of Messiah, yet fail to give us a clue as to why the academics of Israel in the days of Christ new so little that their ignorance sent them to hell and prevented them from being converted.

 

It was a secret, but now it’s utterly open to the world.  The picture Paul gives us in Ephesians 1 is that God has always been in an ecstasy of delight with the depth and breadth and height of God’s plan manifested in Christ for the entire planet of every generation since He rose from the dead.

 

The secret is that the entire cosmos, seen and unseen, near and far, large and small, throughout all time and beyond time has been made by, and exists for, and will be consummated through the person and work of Jesus Christ, all accomplished through the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father.

 

That’s it! That is the secret! It is all about Christ! And though it was channelled through the Jewish nation, and although God has a plan still to be fulfilled through the Jewish nation, the impact of this secret is intended for all people everywhere of every generation who hears the good news.

 

Jesus Christ died to correct every wrong that has ever been committed. Jesus rose from the dead to ensure that the Gospel, although may start with issues of forgiveness, must continue and be energised by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven and manifesting in power and glory in radically improving people’s lives, healing them, speaking prophetically into their futures and sealing and locking them in to a sure and certain hope for eternity.

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We need to grasp the nettle and understand that God has now revealed and made known to us the mystery and secret of His long held secret will and plan. It is a plan which is in complete harmony and oneness with His own infinitely kind intention. It is all summed up in this gospel message which is the straight forward demonstration of His good, merciful and benevolent pleasure which He ordained and purposed in Himself. And it’s all aimed at anybody who calls them self human.

 

On top of all this, the most glorious thing about it all is how we know these things. It is nothing but the revelation of the Holy Spirit on issues that are invisible to us. They are historically behind us by 2,000 years. They are spiritually invisible to us. They are Biblically hidden from us in what seems to the unconverted like cryptic coded messages that defy proper understanding. Yet to the man and woman in Christ it is in such plain straightforward language we are almost tempted to defy the world to attempt to misunderstand it. To the open minded Christian one literally needs help to misunderstand it. Jesus Christ is indeed Lord of all. The world needs to be made fully au fait of this open secret.

 

 

 

 

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God?  Lavish?  (Ephesians 1:7b – 8)

“He is so rich in his kindness towards us that He lavished ( poured out, showered, abounded, super abounded)  towards us in all wisdom and prudence (intelligence, understanding and insight)” (Ephesians 1:7b-8 My own translation). 006 Ephesus  Get hold of the concept.  God has been and is being lavish.  Being lavish is just His nature. He cannot be anything else apart from what He is, i.e. lavish.  As an adjective, “lavish,” in this context could mean luxurious or elaborate; perhaps affluent and even sumptuous is appropriate. Other words that one could use are costly, opulent, splendid, or regal.  As a verb it plainly means that something has been given and/or somebody has been endowed in a profoundly generous measure or with extravagant volume with a gift of whatever nature. When God “lavishes” grace upon us we need to assimilate the fact that He has deluged upon us freely and unstintingly an enormous heap of blessing and strength.  When one trusts Christ it is like a Tsunami of goodness rushing in and flooding our lives.  It is a Krakatoa type volcanic explosion of love and blessing that has erupted from the very heart of God impacting on all that a person has or is.  God has lavished His practical and tangible love upon us.  It’s no wonder Jesus referred to it as th “Gospel.” When used in secular historical documents the word means “The almost too good to be true message.”   It has to be said that whatever it is that Paul is struggling to explain to us in Ephesians 1, it is something that God has lavishly shovelled into our lives in a manner that suggests that it is randomly and extravagantly generous. It is so huge and has such a broad impact on people that Paul has to invent a new set of adjectives and nouns to paint the picture clearly.  It is so excessive in its measure I could even imagine the legitimacy of declaring that it is God’s random acts of lavish kindness, inasmuch as He has poured it out in the same plentiful generosity on literally anybody who believes. Not that God does anything at all that is random, but what He has given us in Christ is so full, voluptuous and dynamic and can be received by absolutely anybody who believes the gospel, that to us humans it looks as if it is totally random. I, personally have met men who were killers, murderers and hatefully violent in their earlier lives, and yet, when I met them and spent time with them they were the gentlest and deeply Godly people. Bank robbers and muggers turned to Christ are glorious trophies of the results of God’s lavish expression of lgracious kindness.   God is lavish in His love towards us.  In Greek it is “perisseuo.”  “Peri,” as in “periscope,” means all around and comprehensive.  Perisseuo means to exceed all limitations, to go far beyond what anybody would or could expect.  That is God for you!   And, as if this was not enough, intense power is added to this idea of God being lavish in the way He deals with us and saves us, by the added data that informs us that God intelligently and wisely thought the whole thing through, and with His infinite understanding and prudence decided to lavishly give.  What we have in Christ is truly beyond what we could reasonably expect and well beyond normal comprehension of what is reasonable behaviour.  I have in my life heard several songs, read one or two books and heard quite a few sermons entitled, “Love Beyond Reason.”  That is exactly what we are talking about here.  However, Paul is striving to put a system of reason, a body of thought and rationale behind his explanation of the fact that God has come looking for lost humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. It would seem – and this is the logic of scripture – that the worse we became the more lavish were His attempts to win us.   I know all these excessive superlatives sounds like pink and fluffy poetry, like majestically noble sentiments that could never be practically implemented or carried through, but I swear to anybody reading these lines that I am utterly understating the rock hard truth. This thing is bigger and better than any human mind has ever got their head around. It’s all about the character of God. The divine character in the eyes of the unbeliever is dull, boring and apathetic about most things. But that is a far removed from the truth as the east is from the west.   God made this planet in the midst of a universe with billions and billions of stars. I would say that is lavish. Wouldn’t you? In the entire expanse of earth, He made two people to live on it. Now if any reader does not consider that extravagantly lavish we need to sit down together and come to some agreement about the definition of language and the meaning of words. God promised Abraham that the entire planet would be blessed because of him. Is that lavish, or what?!  Joseph got up one day in a prison that he had been in for many years, and that night, before he went to bed he was the second most powerful man in the world. Surely that meets anybodies criteria for a lavish divine blessing.   There are instances and examples of God’s lavish attitude of giving right throughout the Bible. It is for the assurance of faith and the understanding of the believer that Paul tells us how lavish Heavenly Father is towards all men, but especially those that believe the gospel, Believing the gospel gives us access to more grace. How gloriously lavish is that!

The Entire Package of the Divine purpose is wrapped up in the Person of Christ (Ephesians 1:7)

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”  (Ephesians1:7)

 

00001These papers are all under the heading of, “Revelations of the Invisible.”  The entire first chapter of Ephesians is a series of statements that the apostle Paul swears to as being just plain straightforward facts.  These are facts that read as if Paul had been reading God’s own diary or notebook. It is as if the man of God from Tarsus had been given a copy of the divine project file.  God is invisible. His plans are therefore invisible.  They are undoubtedly cryptically mentioned here, there and everywhere within the Old Testament.  The description of God’s plans, pleasures and pass-times is nothing short of downright remarkable. In God’s dealings with Paul, and his dealings with God, Paul came to grips with the entire vista of God’s dealings with mankind. I would say Paul saw it all from A to Z, however, I believe it is more accurate to say that he understood what God was doing before the first A of time and after the last Z.  The man who wrote Ephesians 1 had a mind and a spirit that was utterly at home and thoroughly domiciled  in the purpose of God, the mind of Christ and the unleashed power of the Holy Spirit.

 

The sequential points of logic in Ephesians 1 are so straightforward they can be missed.  The opening verses explain to us God’s motives, thoughts, ideas and plans about how to save mankind and renew them so that they can live eternally with God in glory.

 

It starts with the statement of how God has blessed the Christian with every blessing that it is possible for God to give us, and all those blessings are encapsulated, wrapped in and embodied in Jesus Christ (1:3).  To do this He chose people by name, before He even founded the world (1:4).  His aim in choosing each Christian was so that each one could be presented before Him, not sinless – but blameless nevertheless; not intrinsically holy of themselves, but because they have received every heavenly blessing through Christ, they are made holy for the same reason. This is all accomplished and activated by God’s love that is actively moving towards us. That blamelessness and holiness is what allows us to walk and live before Him, invisible though His presence may be. The Christian lives “before Him” and it is that fact that sets them apart from others.

 

In order for this to happen each Christian has been predestined  us to be adopted into the Divine family by Jesus Christ Himself, simply because Jesus Christ was not only fully man, but fully God. We meet God through Him. We own God and are owned by Him through Christ.  We are adopted into the family of Father, Son and Holy Spirit through our relationship with Christ.

 

00002All this is being done because it gives God great pleasure, and therefore He has willed it to be so (1:5).  This is so wonderful that when properly perceived and understood all of creation will praise the very weight and authority of His grace.  While this whole process is in dynamic motion, the Christian is made to be accepted in the beloved Christ (1.6).  To be accepted into the presence of God blameless and holy (1:4), it requires that the human being who is a Christian needed to be bought from the domination and control of the devil and translated into the “ownership” of Christ, the blessing of Christ and the divine family. That purchase is referred to in Jewish terms as “redemption.” That redemption was fought for and purchased by Christ’s blood which was spilled for man’s salvation in the passion of Christ.  That gloriously kind and gracious act, perpetrated on behalf of humankind, gives Christians the forgiveness of their sins to the same depth of the riches of God’s grace – and that is deep-Deep -DEEP!  (1:7)

 

All this was not randomly or thoughtlessly activated, but with eternal forethought, forward planning and meticulously detailed love, it was utterly lavished on the Christian in all the eternal depth and breadth of God’s wisdom and prudence. No rubbish here! No mistakes here! It all happens from the deep and purposed well of God’s will, His plan, His intention and His own end.

 

All this amazing invisibly thought out plan God has made known to us. This is what Paul refers to as the mystery of His will; a will that was intended according to God’s own delight and pleasure which He had planned and purposed within Himself. It started before time had begun. It has taken since creation to bring His purpose thus far. It will be fulfilled as far as it extends within time right upto time’s end, and then continue on throughout timeless eternity (1:9).

 

When time has reached its fullness and end (assuming that time’s fullness refers to its end) God the Father will gather together in one glorious and wonderful unity all people and things that are in Christ (1:10). “Things in Christ,” refers to things in heaven and on earth, things we see and things that we at present cannot see, and it will all be those things that are “in Christ.”

 

In all this, the Christians true inheritance is revealed. It is a fixed, settled and eternally permanent inheritance. This inheritance has been predestined according as God has purposed. The inheritance is huge and magnificent. It is planned solely according to His purpose – God’s purpose, and God purposes everything according to the advice and counsel of His own will and intention.(1:11)

 

00003It takes those first eleven verses of radical heavenly revelation while Paul tells us who and what God is, how and why he makes plans, and in what manner He labours to bring His will about before he mentions anything that humankind can do to appropriate his place in this breath-taking eternal plan and purpose.

 

It is all “to the praise of His glory” to… who? “Those who trusted in Christ!” and Paul’s generation was the first generation to step into this plan.

 

The glorious revelation is that this plan has been being worked out and implemented since Adam and Eve strutted across earth’s perfect garden before human sin was a factual element of man’s existence.  Even though the entire working of the power of God is within each Christian, the only part that man actually plays in the process is to hear the message and believe it, and then to have the entire process guaranteed by the down payment of being sealed with the holy Spirit who had been promised long before through the prophets. That sealing is an act of God as well (1:12-13).

That sealing of the Spirit, this writer believes to be the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  It is the reality of that baptism which is the earnest, the guarantee of the fulfilment of the inheritance which is to sustain the believer until “the redemption of the purchased possession,” meaning the resurrection to life in a new and immortal body.

 

When the plan of God reaches that stage of fulfilment it will be to the praise of His glory beyond any praise that man has given to God hitherto.

 

That is the plan.  It started pre historically and will not be complete until post history. Its length, breadth, height and depth is beyond finity and goes to the most extreme parameters of infinity. This thing we call Christianity is a God thing, a Christ thing, a Holy Spirit thing that is bigger than any of us can properly measure. The more I read scripture and meditate upon its truths, the bigger the whole plan and purpose seems to become. All glory and praise to the Lord Almighty.

 

The incredible revelation that is startling to most people is that all people have to do is to LISTEN to the gospel message, the word of truth that brings salvation and BELIEVE the message as received. By all means the message should be checked against the scriptures and discussed and thought through, but the message is that the whole kingdom and purpose of God is wrapped up entirely in who Jesus was, what He did, and what God did in raising Him from the dead, and then to practically implement the dynamics of that faith by emulating the love, life, morality and spirit of Christ Himself. Love Him! Hear Him! Follow Him! Emulate Him! Trust Him! It’s all about Him. There is nothing and nobody else to hang our thoughts or faith on. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Everything that mankind is blessed with in the gospel is all summed up wrapped up and packed up in the person of Jesus Christ.

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When, in numerous parts of the New Testament we are told that the believer has the various aspects of salvation, “in Him,” that is, “in Christ,” it is a statement of how the person, the man Jesus Christ came to give us a full revelation of God. Christ is the full and total revelation of God. When we are talking of the “Big Picture” of God, we are talking of the Lord Jesus Christ. All He said, did and was is a relevant and ever contemporary revelation of His Heavenly Father. Christian scholars refer to “General Revelation” as in what we can see of God in creation, and “Special Revelation.”  Special revelation is all about concepts and facts that we would not generally know if God had not revealed them to us in the Bible. What God has revealed to us in special revelation needs to be received, believed, and applied. The ultimate of that message is the gospel that saves.

 

Moses wrote, “The secret things belong unto Yahweh: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).  What is revealed needs to be held tight and meditated on in order to nourish our faith and understanding of His ways. We all desperately need revelation, both from the Spirit and from the Word.

 

Revelation directly from the Spirit of God comes internally. In the usual Hebrew idiomatic way Isaiah relates revelation to hearing the preached word and believing it.  “Who hath believed our report?  and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”  (Isaiah 53:1). It is by the Spirit that prophetic people receive the word from heaven The prophet Amos declares, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7).  It is by the Spirit that Peter understood that Jesus was “the Christ the Son of the Living God.”  Jesus, undoubtedly with a smile of joy on His face, declared, “Blessed art thou, Simon son of Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto you, but my Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 16:17). Paul’s constant elucidation of his authority was that his understanding of Christ and the gospel was not learnt by book reading or college lecturing. “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery” (Ephesians 3:3). The New Testament apostles and prophets continued to be tutored after Christ’s ascension. Although they would have heard the gospel from Christ Himself in the days of His flesh, Paul talked of the whole arc of New Testament truth, “Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:5).

 

All Christians should be recipients of spiritual revelation by the active agency of the Holy Spirit Himself. We know this is a fact because of the words he used when he prayed for the Christians at Ephesus, “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” (Ephesians 1:17).  We are certain that what was stated and promised to one Christian is a blanket statement of divine intent for all Christians of all ages.

 

The regular interaction with the written word should also cause faith to sprout and spring, for faith comes by Hearing and Hearing by the word of God.

 

This vision and overall insight into God’s plans and purposes, His mind and mentality, His incremental revelation as well as His absolute declaration of things is all there in the Old Testament.  Talking of the prophets and the Old Testament  writers Peter, a man who walked and talked with Jesus for over three years later wrote, “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12).  It cannot but bring a sense of deep reverential awe to those who realise that by reading the scriptures, including Ephesians, we are delving into the very heart of God. We are getting our minds around revelations of the invisible.