THE PLAN AND WORK OF THE TRIUNE GOD
In our last lesson the nature of this wonderful sentence, which reveals the plan and work of the Godhead, was set before us. We found that the Father’s choice, Ephesians 1:4, is realized in Christ, Ephesians 1:7, and sealed with the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 1:13. In this lesson we are going to look more intimately at Ephesians 1:4 to 6, which reveal to us the Father’s part for the working out of the purpose and plan of the Godhead.
THE FATHER’S CHOICE Ephesians 1:4
“According as he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.”
The Father’s choice of us “in Christ” is seen to be according to a preconceived plan which He purposed in His own infinite wisdom “before the foundation of the world” or literally, “before the ages began.” The whole-scheme of redemption, and the calling of the Church with all its details, was on the heart of God before the ages began. The members of “the Body” are placed in an eternal relationship with Christ their Head. The calling of the Church was not an afterthought on the heart of God, when Israel had failed to realize her purpose and the judicial sentence of blindness was passed upon her. Before man was created, God had already planned the calling of the Church; but He kept it a secret, “hid from generations” until He was ready for the working out of His purpose, at which time the revelation of it was made known to the apostle Paul. Should you want to know when the Church began or where it originated, one answer is plain, viz. In the heart of God “before the foundation of the world.”
I want you to turn with me to some of the similar expressions that bring out this important fact, and then contrast them with the passages that relate to Israel’s choice and calling. II Timothy 1:9, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN.” Also, Titus 1:2, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN.” Now notice the choice of God’s earthly people the Jews. Genesis 12:1 to 3. “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee, and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” The history of this one nation is clearly marked in the Word of God, we see God making choice of one tribe within the nation, that of “Judah”, then one house within the tribe, “the House of David”, then one particular virgin within the house “Mary” and, in the fulness of time Jesus came born of a woman to redeem Israel, and although the Jews would not have this King to reign over them when He came the first time, yet, “when the Son of Man shall come in His glory” in His second advent, the purpose of God’s choice and calling of Israel will be realized. Matt. 25:34. “Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD. All these things “God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets SINCE THE WORLD BEGAN (Acts 3:21). Surely the words “before the foundation of the world” and “from” or since the foundation of the world” must be distinguished if confusion of truth is to be avoided, and our eternal relationship with Jesus Christ that originated in the heart of God before the foundation of the world, must not be made identical with any Jewish hope or promise spoken of as being made since the world began, and a thought worthy of meditation is this, that according to God’s eternal purpose the members of the Body of Christ are not “historic” but “prehistoric” specimens of grace.
The glory and wonder of the Father’s choice is made more precious in the light of other facts that obtained; before the foundation of the world.
In John 17:24, we find this blessed statement in the prayer of Jesus Christ “Thou lovest me before the foundation of the world”, and now with Ephesians 1:4, before us we can truthfully say that with the love of the Father for the Son, we also were loved and made choice of before the foundation of the world. And again, in I Peter 1:19, 20, the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ is said to have been “foreordained before the foundation of the world” so now we can, say that we were chosen and loved with the foreordination of the sacrifice. These statements are profound and beyond human comprehension leaving us lost in wonder and awe, so that with a deep sense of reverence we bow before the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the Apostle Paul cry “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and, knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!”
THE FATHER’S PURPOSE Ephesians 1:4
‘‘ . . . That we should be holy and, without blame before Him.”
Only “in Christ” can we ever stand thus before the Father, for only Christ Jesus has met every demand of God’s righteousness and holiness. What we are, we are by Divine mercy and grace, that has been so freely given us through the death of His Son. I believe there is a two-fold interpretation of this passage, that must be recognized in view of corresponding passages to be found elsewhere. In Colossians 1:21, 22, we have been reconciled to God in the death of Jesus Christ that we might be “holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight”, then Philippians 2:15, requests that we “be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” “holy and without blemish” is the language of sacrifice, and speaks of an acceptable offering, does not this remind us of Paul’s great appeal in Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
In Titus 2:14 the purpose of our redemption is unmistakably clear “that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” These passages seem to emphasize our walk, He, who has called us into this life, has made perfect provision for any emergency in His Son, and the supply of our needs is amply met according to His riches in glory, and the God of righteousness, who has worked in us the salvation that is ours “in Christ”, now asks that we show the fruit of Christ’s indwelling by a manifestation, in our walk through life. All this is only possible because of “Christ in us”, but a more blessed truth is the revelation of our standing “before Him” because of our being “in Christ”. This places the emphasis not upon “condition” but “position”. In Chapter 5:27, we have the words “That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” This certainly is not descriptive of the Church’s purity realized in an earthly pilgrimage, but rather a presentation before the Father because of an heavenly standing in Christ.
When Jesus Christ became one with us in His incarnation, God was “in Christ” with a standing before men, and so now those who are “in Christ” have a standing before God in His exaltation, holiness and righteousness. We see God in Christ and God sees us in Christ, thus in Christ we have a perfect standing before the Father, and Colossians 2:10 is a blessed fact, we are complete “in Him”.
THE FATHER’S MOTIVE?
Ephesians 1:4 “ . . . In Love
Some commentators feel that these two words should be linked with Ephesians 1:4 as in the authorized version, others connect them with Ephesians 1:5, reading thus, “In love having predestinated us, etc.”. I believe these words belong to both verses and cannot be separated from either. It was love which passeth knowledge that motivated the Father’s heart to make such choice of us in His Son. Love we did not deserve and upon which we had no claim, Love that has broken down all barriers of distinction, and come to aliens, far off, dead in sin, Love that is not to be reckoned according to human concepts and cannot be fathomed by any reasoning process of man. The word here used for “love” is “agape” and never occurs in profane Greek writings, other words of lower standards being used. Now, God gives a new word, for “love”, for the language of man could never express the feeling of God’s heart for sinners. Only the sinner saved by grace understands something of its meaning as it is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). No wonder at all that the apostle speaks of God’s “great love wherewith He loved us” Ephesians 2:4, and prays that we might be “rooted and grounded in love”, Chapter 3:17, beseeching us that we “forbear one another in love”, Ephesians 4:2. He implores also that the precious truths we hold be not spoken in a manner that might detract from the glory of the message, but, “speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things”. Ephesians 4:15, and thus members of the Body can be “edified in love” Ephesians 4:16. May we never forget the motive of the Father’s choice, viz. “LOVE”.
THE FATHER’S WILL. Ephesians 1:5:
“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”
According to His own sovereign will, in love, God has predestinated or foreordained us to the “Son-position”. The word “adoption” does not bring out the clear teaching of this passage. Believers in Christ Jesus are made new creatures in Christ, and given the position of Sons. Literally speaking, we are given the “Son-place”, because we are partakers of His Divine nature. Just as Jesus Christ is the Son of God, by nature we who are “in Christ” are given the “sonplace”, and become the sons of God by grace. Notice all this is according to the good pleasure of His will, and, not according to our appreciation or understanding of this blessed truth as some would have us suppose. His will is the origin and secret of it all, and all blessings in the past, present, or future, realized or anticipated, are the wondrous manifestations of His love according to the good pleasure of His will.
THE FATHER’S OBJECT. Ephesians 1:6:
“To the praise of the glory of His grace”.
This is the end to which the Father made choice of us, to set forth “the glory of His grace”. Let our hearts be filled with adoration and praise. Surely every attribute of God is a revelation of His glory. But the glory of his grace is the most glorious in revelation and manifestation, for it shines in all its splendor on the dark back ground of sin and death. We who have been saved by His grace can say with Paul, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”, “that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so, might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20, 21). This indeed is grace glorified.
God said of His choice of Israel in Isaiah 43:21: “this people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise”. Now the truth is declared that concerning us, His choice is made to the end that we might be to the praise of the glory of His grace. Psalms 150 with its 6 short verses can truly be the expression of our hearts as a splendid doxology, forming a fitting climax to this portion of God’s word in the light of the fuller revelation. (Read it).
THE FATHER’S ACCEPTANCE. Ephesians 1:6
“. . . wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved”.
With the previous thought in our minds of “the glory of His grace”, the literal translation of the above clause is clearer, “with which grace He has graced us in the Son of His Love”. The “Beloved” is the one in the heart of the lover, and Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son, is the Beloved of God. Three times in Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus is spoken of as the “Beloved” of the Father, and with each mention these words are added “in whom I am (or my soul is) well pleased”. (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 12:18; Matthew 17:5). Now this precious thought is made known to us; we are accepted in the Son of His love, our lives are “hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). The love with which God loves the Son, is the love that includes us. In His acceptance of us in the Beloved, surely I cannot nearer or dearer be to the heart of the Father than I am “in Christ”, the Son of His love. I am “graced” or “accepted” in the Beloved, and rest near the warm heart of the Father in the person of Has only Son.
“Near, so very near to God, Nearer I cannot be;
For in the person of His Son, I am as near as He.”