15. No Longer Orphans

The Wonder of the Church:  Part 3 – Making of Believers

15. No Longer Orphans

Jn 1:12,13 to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

1 Jn 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Me – Us?: I wonder if you were asked what aspect of ‘being a Christian’ stood out most to you, what you would reply? A believer? A church-goer? A good person? I want to suggest in this study that our starting and finishing point is that I am a child of God. That speaks of origins and identity, and it speaks of ongoing relationship, and it opens up thoughts about the future and our eternal destiny. Let’s browse together in this field.

Alienated: Psychologists talk about alienation, environmentalists talk about alienation, Marxists talk about alienation. It simply means being separated or estranged from some essential part of life. That counterfeit religion, Marxism, blames capitalism for isolating and dehumanizing people, psychologists blame relationships for human breakdown, sociologists blame society for human injustices that warp outlook. There is always a cause and always an effect. Sometimes in the context of his writings, the apostle Paul used the word ‘Gentiles’ to simply mean those who had no relationship with God. Speaking of this group he said, “For they live blindfold in a world of illusion and cut off from the life of God through ignorance and insensitiveness. They have stifled their consciences and then surrendered themselves to sensuality.” (Eph 4:18,19 JBP) See the cause: ignorant of God, insensitive to Him, hardening themselves (their consciences) to Him. See the effect: they just live lives given over to the five senses – and that is all. They are alienated from God, separated and cut off from Him, and thus live in a world of illusion, of deception, of delusion, and it feels lonely.

The Big Picture: The truth is that God created and brought this world into being and designed us to be people who had a relationship with Him, but that was lost at the Fall. There may be a bundle of secondary reasons why we experience difference sorts of alienation – from ourselves (not facing who we truly are), from others (not being able to relate to others), from society (who we see as hostile and cruel) and so on, but the ultimate truth is that because we are alienated from God, the One we were designed to relate to as Father, all these other things tend to be dysfunctional, not working as they should. And that is how it would stay if God had not foreseen all of this and planned to counteract it by the work of His Son and His Spirit.

The Problem of Sin: Have you ever thought that when God said, “you must not eat from…” (Gen 2:17), the first and only prohibition, in their perfect provision for Man, the Godhead knew that living with provision was fraught with dangers? Eating too much would cause obesity. Making and using alcohol in excess would have many harmful effects, and so on, so many potential hazards – and so many hidden boundaries. Throughout the Creation, excess would harm but wise use would bless. And thus man would have to learn about boundaries, so God applied a limitation to just one tree to teach the lesson, and man learnt to restrain his appetites as wisdom decreed, an expression of love, of relationship, an acceptance of God’s wisdom in provision.

But then came, “Did God really say…”  (Gen 3:1) and behind even just one boundary, one limitation, there lurks temptation, temptation to reject, temptation to ignore, temptation that says, “Perhaps He didn’t mean it, perhaps my way is best.” Temptation is there behind the many hidden boundaries that wise usage means are there. Temptation had to be faced and overcome or given way to, and whichever way, lessons learned. And thus God stood back while a tempter came, the test faced, and the Fall experienced, and life would never be the same again. And that is how it has been for you and me ever since. We sin, we do wrong, we miss the mark, we fall short, and all these things alienate us from God. In the same way that Adam and Eve hid from God immediately after their disobedience (Gen 3:8), the deep-down sense of our failures, our inadequacies, our falling short, mean that we too feel alienated from God. We should be children of God but we lost our relationship, we became orphans.

Adopted? Which is what makes that verse in the first chapter of John so wonderful: “to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (Jn 1:12) We ‘become’ – we weren’t but now we are adopted into God’s family, taken back into the family where we were designed to be from the start. Expanding that, as the Amplified Bible puts it, to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name.” See the new cause: believing, sticking to, trusting in, relying on Jesus – that is what brings about this new relationship. See the new effect: we become children of God, and when it says, “He gave the authority”, those other words explain that God conveys the right to be called a child, the privilege of being a child of God, and the power to be a child of God. Keep on turning those words over. I not only have the privilege of being able to be called a child of God, I have been given a legal right from heaven of having that title – and it doesn’t stop there – and I also have the power to live as a child of God.

Divine Act: But how and why? Because of what follows:  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (Jn 1:13) There is early warning of what was to come a couple of chapters later – “Children born…. Of God”Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.” (Jn 3:6,7) So why, to use the language above, do I have the right to be called a ‘child of God’? Because I am a product of the work of God, Him justifying me, Him placing His Holy Spirit within me to indwell me. Why do I have the power of a child of God? Because His power indwells me.

Different! Do you remember the first study in this Part (no.8) was all about the fact that a Christian is different from a non-Christian? Here is the second of the things that come about when we are born again that make us different – I am given the right to be called a child of God because I have been born of God – He has made me that when I surrendered to Him, and that is only possible because of the work of Christ on my behalf on the Cross, (It is for you also if you receive it as such!) and the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit in me for the rest of my life. How wonderful!

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30. Redeemed To (3)

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 30. Redeemed To (3)

Eph 2:6,7    God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Recap Again: We are looking at the verses in Eph 2 that follow on from those where Paul describes our ‘old life’ and we said that from verse 4 he balances out those things with the things God had made us to be and is making us to be: alive to Him (v.5), joined with Christ (v.6), recipients of His incredible blessings (v.7). In the previous two studies we considered something of what it means to be ‘alive’ spiritually, and what it means to be joined with Christ, seated with him in the heavenly realms.  We move on now to the third aspect.

Incomparable:  The idea of ‘the riches of his grace’ sounds manageable until we note the word ‘incomparable’ which simply means cannot be compared to anything else, unmatched, unique, unparalleled, i.e. there is NOTHING else like it! Whatever this means it is mind blowing and because it is that enormous, that incredible, it is probably challenged by our intellect that says, ‘Surely that can’t be!” And of course you know who from Gen 3 is there in the background encouraging us to think like that. Our great danger as Christians, is that we get caught up in family life, caught up in our work, caught up in the bizarre goings-on of the world today, and we lose perspective, we forget who we are, who God is and what he has done for us, and so we live mundane lives of struggle instead of gloriously equipped lives of blessing. Let’s change that! Let’s think about what these things mean!

Familiar acts of God’s Grace:  There are certain aspects of God’s grace, His working out the effects of Christ’s work on the Cross when He finds a responding repentant heart in us, that I refer to quite often in these studies and because they become familiar they tend to lose their wonder.

First, there is the fact of our justification when we turn to Christ, the fact that God puts us legally right with Him and with justice, ‘just as if’ we’d never sinned. That involves forgiveness and the removal of our guilt so that we can be at ease with God and no longer fearful of any punishment.

Second, there is the fact of our being adopted as God’s children (Jn 1:12,14, Rom 8:14-17, Gal 3:26, 1 Jn 3:1) and we receive a new identity, ‘sons of God’ (Rom 8:15, Gal 4:6, Eph 1:5) which implies the possibility of an intimate relationship with Almighty God, a sharing of His heart, and an entering into His ‘business’ (that’s the significance of ‘sons’ in the OT).

Then, third, to enable those things to be worked out practically on a day to day basis, He imparted His own Holy Spirit to indwell us, to both empower us and be a conduit of revelation from Him to us.  Now I just said that these things become familiar and familiarity takes away the wonder of the reality, so let’s try and expand on those things and try and capture something of the wonder that is there.

Our Justification: Many see this as some theoretical, theological aspect with little practical outworking but exactly the opposite is true. The fact that we have been justified by God means that we don’t have to work to try to impress God, get Him on our side or even to forgive us – because He has already done that. How many Christians subtly still try to DO things to make themselves right with God? You can’t He’s already done it. Reading the Bible, praying, witnessing, going to church, are all good things in themselves but they are not what makes you a child of God, they are, as is often glibly said, ‘the icing on the cake’. You and I are guilt free, forgiven, and children of God.

All over the world there are millions of people who do not know that about themselves, and it has crippling effects. Only yesterday I sat in a (non-Christian) forum about homelessness and listened to a number of those from the local authority and other agencies who work with the homeless, and as they rolled out the causes, again and again they mentioned relationship breakdowns and even mental health issues, and both causes, they said (these non-Christians) were increasing daily and are often interlinked. This in a nation that is one of the most affluent in the world, that has so much and yet so little because the vast majority (possibly between 93 to 95%) are self-centred and godless. Most show little interest in God or spiritual matters, so caught up are they in materialism. On the outside, so much seems good in the nation, but look into individual lives and you find people who feel guilty but don’t know why, people who struggle with themselves and with the people around them for self-accreditation, self-approval, but constantly fail to get it. Why? Because it only comes with God’s forgiveness because of Christ.

Our adoption: Then, we said, there is this matter if our being adopted as children of God, even ‘sons’ of God. The world derides us and says how dare you make such claims, but our answer has to be that it is not OUR claim but that of the Bible and of God. This is our anchor point in life, everything hinges on this, my goals, my desires, my aims and objectives, my endeavours. Yes, I may have a job, yes I may have various roles in life – husband, father, worker etc. etc. – but actually the meaning that underpins my life NOW is that I am a child of God.

Father: Some of us struggle with the concept of God as Father, because of our earthly experiences, but dare you see Him as loving, gentle, caring, compassionate, understanding, forgiving (all things the Bible says of Him) and see yourself in a picture, as a little child snuggled up on His lap, totally secure, utterly bathed in love and peace, because that is what this idea of adoption enables us to have.

Empowered: This is what He is redeeming us to, to realise the reality of this, that His Holy Spirit really and truly does indwell us, a concept that is unbelievable by the world, that God could put a part of Himself in us, to link us to Him, and to act as a power source and channel of revelation. While the world struggles with self-help courses and so often wakes each day with a sense of dread at the day to come, you and I wake with the knowledge that we are children of God and have within us a spring of living water, just waiting to spring up afresh for today, to refresh us, wash us, to satisfy our thirst and be a life source for the day. But it is not just an impersonal power source, like adrenalin, it is HIM. But here is the challenge; if you are like me, it is a struggle to believe that reality, it is something we have to declare again and again. The Bible says it, so I must believe it. It is a reality and yet it is a reality that clashes with my old self-centred focus that so often is there. I have to purposefully pause and be still to know that He is God – here, now this moment, and He indwells me, and He’s here for me.

The Reality: Be honest, the things of the day call, the concerns of the day distract, I wake up after a poor night and feel weak, the burdens of life call to me, the lacks of church life cause me anguish – but He is here and I need reminding of that, I need to declare it afresh and then experience it, and when sometimes it is not so clear and obvious, just trust. But the truth is still here in this; on a bad day when I feel weak, suddenly, almost inexplicably, strength seems to come from somewhere, and I sense His provision to enable me to get on being the person He’s called me to be and do the things He’s called me to do. On a bad day when I feel confused and the way of the world seems even more chaotic and the church doesn’t seem to be living up to its potential, suddenly, almost inexplicably, a peace descends, and I know He is still in charge, and together we can face it. On a bad day when I am confronted with perplexing problems and paralyzing situations and antagonistic people, suddenly, almost inexplicably, a sense of what needs to be done settles in my mind and that sense of peace returns and He conveys His wisdom to see us through the maze of life.

Perhaps more than any other study I have ever written, I am left with a sense of having fallen short as we have started to ponder what these words – incomparable riches – mean, a sense that rather like the iceberg, still nine-tenths of it is still hidden. Maybe I’ll have to try to continue it tomorrow, maybe not, we’ll see.  But this is what He calls us to, this is what He is redeeming us to. I am a child of God.

62. Addendum: Christ’s work in me

Focus on Christ Meditations: 62.  Addendum: Christ’s work in me

Rom 8:29,30   For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

You might be excused for thinking we had arrived at the end of this series in yesterday’s study, for I had thought that. However, having done that I found this nagging feeling that actually we have not summed up the effects of Christ’s work on the Cross. Yesterday we sought to carry out an overview of the life and activity of Christ, but to more fully appreciate his work we need to try to lay out just what he has done and is doing in our lives, personally.

In our verses above the apostle Paul conveniently laid out an overview of the work of God in respect of our lives. As we have commented a number of times, at least seven times in the New Testament we are shown that the plan of God in respect of Christ and our salvation was mapped out by the Godhead before the foundation of the world. At that time they looked into the future and knew who would respond (that is not the same as making people respond) and in that sense they knew even then the total number of those who in time-space history would become believers, i.e.  ‘predestined’. In the fullness of time the process involved God, by His Holy Spirit, calling people and when they responded He declared them righteous on the double basis of Christ’s work and their faith response. i.e. they were justified. But then He also put His own Holy Spirit within every believer and established eternal life for them which would continue from this life into the next. i.e. they were glorified.

But let’s look at this ‘process’, as I have called it, first from a) what Christ did on the Cross and then b) what he does for each believer.

The Work of the Cross: The angel told Joseph that “he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). The sins of mankind since the Fall were the thing that not only brought down mankind and made us less than that for which God had designed us, but also kept us from God and God from us. The word ‘justice’ has come up many times in these studies because it is a strange phenomenon of the human race, this demand for ‘rightness’ (that must come from the character of God). How to ‘put right’ the human race has been the central aspect of the plan of God from the beginning. So note the following two key concepts of his work on the Cross:

i) Atonement: We noted in a previous study: “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished– he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Rom 3:25,26) The footnote in v.25 offers instead of ‘sacrifice of atonement’, “as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin.” But look at the reasoning: “to demonstrate his justice”. The apostle John added, He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole(1 Jn 2:2)

So here we come across a word we have not picked up on before: atonement,  which is about making amends, putting wrongs right and bringing reconciliation with God. It produces a salvation that is available for any and all, e.g. whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Rev 22:17 & also 1 Jn 2:2 above). Note my use of ‘available’. It is not automatic, it has to be asked for, it has to be received and it has to be appropriated – but it IS available for any to come down the path of repentance and faith.

ii) Redemption: This is a concept that suggests we have been bought back from slavery to sin and Satan (and indeed the Law’s curse, Gal 3:13), and the price paid was the blood of Christ. The idea conveyed in the Bible is that unbelievers ‘belong’ to Satan or are under his sway (dominion) and he has rights over them because of their sin. They can only be ‘ransomed’ from this way of life after they have repented and on the basis of Christ’s death. See 1 Pet 1:18,19 & Eph 1:7

The Work in our lives: That leads us on to what happens as a result of this work of the Cross which is available to each and every person.

i) Justified: we have already touched on this twice and it happens because of our faith and is received by our faith. Paul’s teaching in Romans 3-5 was that faith within us, the accepting of the truth of Christ put before us, and surrendering to God, is what God looks for to declare us justified. When He declares it, we have to believe and accept it and live it out. There is a sense whereby we were justified the moment we turned to Christ in faith, and are being justified as we live it out.

ii) Regeneration: This is not a word you will find in your Bible but it refers to the act of God by which a new life, His Holy Spirit, is implanted in the individual and can only happen because that individual has just been justified and made right with God, and so can now become a vessel of God or a temple of the Holy Spirit (e.g. 1 Cor 3:16). Words we associate with this are being ‘born again’ (see Jn 3:3-8) or converted (e.g. Acts 15:3)

iii) Adopted: This is God’s act of declaring us to be part of His family as a result of the above things (see Eph 1:5)

iv) Sanctified: This refers to the act and process of being set apart to God and conforming to the image of Jesus. For the act see 1 Cor 6:11 & Rom 15:16 and for the process see 1 Thess 4:3 & 5:23.

v) Glorified: In addition to what we have said about this above, we may speak about the glory given to believers because of their union with Christ. (Col 1:27), his expression (Eph 1:27) who glorify him (Eph 3:21) as we are seated with him in the heavenly realms (Eph 2:6) but living out our lives here on earth. Moreover, one day we will receive gloriously transformed bodies (Rom 8:11,23, 1 Cor 15:43-53, Phil 3:21)

Now all of these things are what you will find in any book of theology but perhaps the biggest issue of all, in respect of who we are now, as a result of the work of Christ on the Cross, and now in our lives, is the potential of the relationship with God that is before us, summed up in Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10) If we may expand that at the end of this series: God has done everything He has with His Son, Jesus the Christ, to bring about a new possibility in us humans, the possibility of sharing in the being that is Christ, so that we may share in the things that he is doing, things he planned from before the foundation of the world, things he wants us to share in. That is the climatic end to all of this. The Son of God came and lived and died and rose and ascended in order to reverse the works of the Fall so we could share with he and his Father in working to eventually create a new heaven and a new earth. Incredible! Hallelujah!

17. Jesus’ Grace

Short Meditations in John 1: 17.  Jesus’ Grace

Jn 1:16  From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.

Perhaps we might expand or paraphrase this verse: “From the complete and unlimited grace that came with Christ, each one of us Christians has receiving blessing after blessing after blessing.” Let’s examine the components of this verse.

“From” – out of. What we have has come from Christ’s supply. Never take it for granted or forget that all we have has come from someone else. What we have is not self-generated.

“the fullness of his grace”. The previous verse had John the Baptist speaking of Jesus and therefore the ‘his’ here must refer to Jesus’ grace. ‘Grace’ here is all the divine resources made available through Christ. These resources are unlimited and we have been granted access to this supply, not just to a bit of it, but the fullness or completeness of it, very simply “all of it!”

“we have all received.” These resources have been made available to every Christian through Christ’s work on the Cross. It is not about how good we are, or how hard we work, the focus is on the ‘store room’, the ‘warehouse’ that is full of all good things we need in life. Some of these things just flow into our lives as God pours them into us, and others have to be taken hold of, but they are all there for the taking.

“one blessing after another.”  What are these things, these resources that are now ours? First there are the declarations of ‘being’  – forgiven, adopted, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, things that occurred at the point we were born again. Then there are the resources for living – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, the things referred to as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23). Then there the outworkings that produce growth and maturity – faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. (2 Pet 1:5-7)  Then we might include gifts and ministries given to enable us to serve in extending the kingdom (See 1 Cor 12:8-10, Rom 12:6-8, Eph 4:11,12)

All of these things have been made available to us by Christ’s work on the Cross and the Holy Spirit, made available to us, through whom all these things come. They are ALL the workings of God by His Spirit in us and they all come to us through Christ.

2. They had it all

Meditations in Romans, Ch.9-11 : 2:  They had it all

Rom 9:4,5  Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

As Paul reflects on his fellow Jews as an historical people, after his initial expression of anguish for them (the reason for which is not given at this stage but it does become clear that it is because of their hardness against the gospel), he now highlights all the good things they had going for them which marks them out as a unique people.

He now starts out, Theirs is the adoption as sons.” The Lord had declared, “Israel is my firstborn son.” (Ex 4:22) He had adopted Israel, they were a chosen people, a people called into relationship with the Lord. He continues, “theirs the divine glory.”  God’s glory had been a feature of their experiences of Him. (See Ex 16:10, 24:16, 40:34, 1 Kings 8:10,11) There is also the sense that on some occasions Israel were glorified before the eyes of the watching world who saw that God was with them to do great things, but the primary emphasis must be on the presence of the Lord’s glory with them.

Theirs also were “the covenants”. With who else had God made binding agreements?  The Lord had entered into a covenant with Abram (Gen 15:17,18), and with  Israel at Sinai (Ex 19:5,6, 24:3,4) and later again Deut 29:1-15 and Josh 8:30-35 and so on. Also they were known as the only people “receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.” Guidance, direction, commands and promises has all been part of their experience with the Lord. Who else in the world had received all this? No one!

He reflects on. It started right back with Abram: “Theirs are the patriarchs” seen in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob before the nation was fully formed. But from them, “is traced the human ancestry of Christ.” Jesus may have been the divine-man but the man side could be traced right back to these people. When God chose to come in human form, that human form was part of a family that went back centuries in the history of this people. This Christ, who had come out of their midst “is God over all.”  Isn’t that incredible! And for that He is to be “forever praised!”

So there is it. They are a remarkable people, made remarkable by their relationship with God Almighty. He had chosen their early fathers, He had called them into being as a nation after miraculously delivering them out of Egypt,  He had given them law by which to live, He had led them to take the Promised Land, and He had been with them throughout the centuries of their existence calling them again and again back to Him. They are an amazing people!

But Paul looks at this people who had been called to be a light to the Gentiles (Isa 42:6) a light to reveal God to the rest of the world, the people of God supposedly, a people relating to God and revealing God, and he realises that they had fallen short of all that.  So often they had turned away from God, so often they appeared no different from the rest of the world, and he ponders on this.

It is not as though God’s word had failed.” (v.6a) God had spoken, God had called, God had chided, God had made the way ahead plain and clear, God had corrected, God had promised, God had shown the potential of a wonderful future. Yes, in all these ways God had spoken and God’s word had come forth. But had His words failed? Had all His words missed the target, fallen on the floor so to speak and been to no avail? No, His words had not failed, they had all been true and nothing that He had said had been untrue or contributed to their failures. No, from God’s side there was no failure. So what was the truth?

Then he makes this astounding statement which upset so many: “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” We may look at millions of people that we call ‘Israel’ but the Israel that God speaks about are a people of faith, a people truly relating to God. If they are not people of faith, if they do not truly relate to Him they are NOT Israel, God’s people. That is God’s verdict.  Throughout Israel’s history there had been a faithful remnant, the true people of God; the rest simply went by the name, performed the rituals but had no real relationship with God. The Lord works on reality, what is real and true, not on the names we call ourselves.  ‘Christians’ for example, are not just church goers or good people, they are faith people, people who have put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and been born again of the Spirit of God. These are not merely words, they are the reality. Paul continues making the point: “Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.” (v.7) They may be literal descendants but as far as God is concerned real descendants are those who faith people like Abraham was. It’s not about outward appearance; it’s about inner reality.  What is your inner reality?

4. Adopted

Ephesians Meditations No.4


4.
Adopted for Praise

Eph 1:5,6 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

In the previous meditation we focused on the fact of us being ‘predestined’ by God but verse 5 also contains another word that is very important – adopted. See the parallelism with the previous verse: “he chose us…..to be holy and blameless in his sight…. he predestined us to be adopted as his sons.” (v.4,5) There we have two initiating acts of God in His choosing us and predestining us, and two outcomes – holy and blameless and adopted sons. Before we rush by, do you regularly praise and thank God for the wonder of these truths, that you are holy and blameless in God’s sight NOW, and you are an adopted son.

What does ‘adopted’ mean? It means that God has taken legal steps to declare you legally part of His family. Jesus is The Son of God by his very nature, he is God, but we are sons of God because God has declared us legally so. In case this is new to you, take it in. The ‘legal action’ that God took was first of all Jesus dying on the Cross to take your sin. Your ‘signing the legal document’ was you surrendering your life to Him, confessing your sin, seeking forgiveness and committing your whole future life into His hands for Him to be your Lord (which took place at what you call your conversion). God’s seal of the legal adopting agreement (as we’ll see later in this chapter) was Him putting His Holy Spirit into you so that you were ‘born again’ (Jn 3:3), but He did that so that you too are not only adopted by ‘legal action’ but are now a being who also is a son by nature, because you are a God-person, a person with God in you!

Those who are sensitive about gender might say, why a son? Why can’t I be a daughter? Well of course you are, but the imagery of being ‘sons’ goes back to the life of the Old Testament people where a ‘son’ was the one who inherited the property and, more importantly, took on the father’s business, together with all the responsibilities that went with it. Thus when we are adopted as ‘sons’ it indicates that we are not only part ‘part of the family’ but we are also inheritors of the Father’s business, which of course is to bless mankind!!!

Note also that here we have the sixth reference to Christ in these opening verses. We are what we are ONLY because of the work of Christ on the Cross, and thus we are “adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” Jesus made all this possible and without him it is not possible; that is how important he is in history.

But Paul adds a further rider to all this: “in accordance with his pleasure and will.” He is very much aware that this is all because of God, not us! It was because God initiated all this, even before He created anything. It was part of His plan right back then. Note that it wasn’t a hard thing. He didn’t say, “Oh dear, I suppose I’ll have to do this.” No it was a pleasure. He saw that with free will and with the presence of Satan, sin would come into the world with all of its consequences and that would mean that man was separated from Him, yet He had created mankind to enjoy them and have pleasure from them (us). Are you not sure about that?

Read Solomon’s revelation in Proverbs as he personifies wisdom, which was in reality Jesus, the Son, sharing in the creation work with his Father: “Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” (Prov 8:30,31) Isn’t that beautiful! Jesus was not only delighting in his Father’s presence but he also delighted in the wonder of the first man and woman that they had made. But all that was lost when sin separated us from them, and so the work to reinstate that relationship was a pleasure to the godhead.

Listen to what Jeremiah heard: “I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and …. I will rejoice in doing them good ….” (Jer 32:40,41) This is God’s plan for His redeemed people, this is His pleasure and His will. Similarly Zephaniah caught something of the Lord’s delight when His people return to Him: “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zeph 3:17)

So God rejoices over us, takes pleasure in us. How wonderful! What is the other side of the coin, our part? Paul says it: “to the praise of his glorious grace.” Praise is the natural response to all of this. Remember we said earlier in a previous meditation that praise is the acknowledgment of achievement. Praise is a sign of relationship, of recognition of goodness. Paul had started this paragraph with praise: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v.3) and the paragraph is all about what we have to praise God for. This is all about His grace, and when we ‘see’ it, we cannot but help praise Him for the wonder of it. If need be, read back over this paragraph in Paul’s letter and take in the wonder of what we have seen so far and then praise the Lord for it all. Don’t let it be academic, let it move your heart.

3. Chosen

Ephesians Meditations No.3


3.
Chosen & Predestined

Eph 1:4,5 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.

There is a simple word at the beginning of these verses that tells us something significant: “For”. A longer way of putting it would have been, “Because of this…”. ‘For’ takes us back to the previous verse that we saw in the previous meditation: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (v.3). We saw then that Paul praised God because God had blessed us. Now he expands on that blessing. He goes right back to fundamentals. Let’s look at these fundamentals.


First of all, “he chose us”. We are what we are as Christians because God chose us. It wasn’t the other way round, as we so often think it is. But it isn’t that He just chose us a week before we turned to Him. Oh no, He chose us “before the creation of the world.” This is amazing. This is God who Created this world and before He created it He looked into the future, saw what would happen, saw sin, saw the need for the Cross, saw us coming into the world and (I suggest) saw that we would be those who would respond to the good news of Jesus Christ and at that point said, “Yes, they will be my children.” We see this sense of God’s planning before the world came into being, a number of times in Scripture – Jn 17:24, 1 Pet 1:20, Rev 17:8, Rev 13:8, 2 Tim 1:9, Tit 1:2.


But there are two crucial words that we have missed, “in him” – “he chose us in him before the creation of the world.” Jesus is the way God chooses who will be His. As we noted above, it is those who will respond to the good news of Jesus who are saved. Therefore in the planning before God made the world, He looked into the future and saw that when you heard about Jesus, you would respond. THAT was the crucial means of assessment. Right back then, God had it in mind that you would become His child at this point in history and your response to Jesus was the way that would happen.


But there is a further explanation. We were called with a purpose: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” That is the end product of the work of Jesus and you responding to the wonderful news that he has died for your sins, guilt and punishment, means that God may declare you holy and blameless in His sight! Because you have surrendered your will to God, declared your belief that Jesus has died for your sins, and sought His forgiveness and lordship, He has declared you forgiven
AND cleansed so you ARE holy and blameless in His sight. Yes, we know there is a practical day by day righteousness to be worked out and that will be a process of change that goes on until we die and go to heaven, but as far as God and justice is concerned, you ARE holy and blameless NOW . That is the wonder of this salvation of ours. Yes, we know there is an ongoing work of change to be continued throughout our lives but we are not having to focus on getting right in God’s sight, we are not having to earn His approval, because He has declared it already. That is why the Gospel is GOOD news! How wonderful”


But Paul isn’t content with saying it once; now he repeats it: “ In love he predestined us.” Now because the original didn’t have punctuation, you will find a note in your Bible that the words “in love” may come at the end of the previous sentence. It doesn’t really matter where they come because both sentences say the same thing, but it is important to note that this work of God is a love work, something He does because He is love (1 Jn 4:8,16). This is all about God’s love being expressed to whoever will receive it.


But now he uses the word ‘predestined’. Some of us get very caught up in the sovereignty of God with the use of this word. Yes, the Lord is sovereign but, I suggest, the Bible does include our free will in this. There’s no room for boasting in this. I have no idea why I responded to the Gospel and a friend didn’t, but free will is suggested when Peter uses the expressions about God knowing beforehand: “God’s set purpose and foreknowledge.” (Acts
2:23) and “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God.” (1 Pet 1:2). Predestination, we suggest, therefore is more about God choosing the ‘method’ of choice and knowing who would respond, rather than making people believe or not believe, which would lead us into a cruel God scenario.


The things we have been starting to consider (and they will come up again) are seen widely in the New Testament, e.g. “we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.” (1 Thess 1:4), “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose . For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Rom
8:28 ,29) and, “from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thess 2:13). So there we are, chosen by God, for a purpose and it’s all about blessing and love. How wonderful!