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