29. Redeemed To (2)

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 29. Redeemed To (2)

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: 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 study we considered something of what it means to be ‘alive’ spiritually.  We move on now to the second aspect.

Seated with Christ:  Now I did cover this area in some detail in Part 3 of a previous series, ‘Lessons in Growth’, and so I will simply take some snippets from there to produce a more concise summary for this aspect of the Christian life to which I believe many give little thought. It is, of course, a matter of perspective; it about us seeing ourselves. Yes, it is very much about our daily human lives living out human existence here on earth, and yet it is about seeing ourselves as linked to Christ and therefore, in the realm of the Spirit, being seated with him in heaven where he is seated at his Father’s right hand. Because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, He is the link between us and Christ who is reigning at his Father’s right hand in heaven.

An Aside: Having just referred to heaven, I am aware that there are schools of Christian thought today that are pushing away the idea of heaven as our ultimate goal and are focusing on a new heaven and a new earth and especially about the reality of our living out the God-life here on earth which becomes the main focus. Now I believe there did need to be that readjusting balance but if we reject thoughts of heaven – even now or in our future – we fail to pick up on the bigger picture that the New Testament brings to us – that Christ IS reigning in the midst of his enemies from his Father’s right hand in heaven, expressing his rule through his Spirit, until one day all his enemies will be destroyed. I would love to think that it will be a gradual process whereby the world will get better and better, but the New Testament picture does not convey that. The primary resource that God has given us for understanding this period has to be the book of Revelation, and there we see that despite God’s ongoing redeeming activity on the earth, the folly of sinful mankind means that that destruction of enemies will come in stages and Jesus’ Second Coming will be one of those biggest stages.

Yes, in the meantime we are to remain faithful and respond to all Jesus is showing us – and that will bring blessing – but it is a naïve believer who ignores the lessons of the Old Testament seen through Israel, that even with God’s presence and God’s help we stumble and mess up. We are going through a period of time where in different parts of the Church there are positive changes that have been taking place for a number of years (while many others just carry on oblivious of these things). Yet again and again, as the years pass, we see new ideas or ideologies coming, lasting and falling and, tragically, that is also true of leaders as well. Even with the indwelling Spirit, we are prone to getting it wrong (as we have sought to show in previous studies).

Us with Christ: So what can we learn that hopefully will help us in our struggles as we see Paul describing us as being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms? Well let me take the things I identified in the previous series:

  • First of all, that it is a position in the presence of God. In heaven everything focuses on God. Your life and mine must first of all be a life that is God-conscious.
  • Second, because it is heaven, there is also a sense of being ‘above’ the earth and therefore everything of the earth is visible to heaven and therefore God sees everything and knows everything. This position therefore, as we share it with Christ, is a position of revelation. Although I suspect that is a strange concept for many modern Christians, our present life, the life He is redeeming us to, is intended to be a life of revelation, where Jesus shares with us knowledge and insights and wisdom to help us through.
  • Third, because this is all about God, it is also all about power and authority. We might take that as read when we start by saying we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but this takes on a new emphasis now because it is a direct link to the Godhead and so there is this enormous sense of power and authority wherever God is concerned.
  • Fourth, because we are now talking about a more intimate or closer link to Jesus by his Spirit, and this to the Godhead in its entirety, we must remember a crucial word that occurs in the Bible over five hundred times – holy. It means to be utterly different and it reminds us that God is perfect, and that means He cannot be improved upon, He is complete, lacking nothing. There is also a moral or ethical dimension to it, that He is morally perfect. How can we have contact with such a God and still live? Only by the completed work of the Son of God on the Cross. Never have any silly idea that this concept, that we are touching on in this Part, allows us to become super-beings, super-Christians who can do what they like. We are what we are because of Christ’s work and we do what we do because of Christ – nothing more and nothing less.
  • Fifth, what we are now looking at is another phase in the strategy of the Godhead formulated before the creation of the world, that is working towards a clear goal, and it opens up a vista or panorama of new understanding for the child of God who is open to the Lord in His word and by His Spirit, a vista that has an end goal The apostle Paul caught something of this panorama when he spoke of when Christ returns again at some future time and he says, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24,25) You and I need to understand that, and recognise that, ‘seated with Christ’ and ‘empowered by his Spirit’ we are part of God’s means to overcoming his enemies – anything that is contrary to the design, the will and the purposes of God, and we will only be able to do that by revelation that we referred to earlier.

And So for us? How does this affect who we are today? Well let me summarize in one sentence these five things: we are to be a God-conscious people, sharing in His insights, knowledge and understanding, receiving and using as He imparts it, His power and authority, maintaining that ‘utter different-ness’ (holiness) that is constantly reminded that we are what we are by Christ’s work on the Cross and by his indwelling Holy Spirit, and that we are working towards a goal, the restoration of God’s design in our lives and bringing righteousness and goodness wherever He directs and enables us.

The first of those three things in verses 4 to 6 of Eph 2 – us coming alive – enabled us to enter into a new life with a new identity and new power source. The second one, that we have just been looking at, puts focus and goals before us. So far it has been ‘being’ and ‘doing’ but there is yet a third, even more wonderful, aspect yet to come and that we will consider in the next study.

28. Redeemed To (1)

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 28. Redeemed To (1)

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.

Moving On:  Having, for the last three studies, been focusing on the things the Lord seeks to redeem us from, we now move on to what He wants to redeem us to. You remember the picture of the Exodus? God wanted to deliver Israel out of the land of slavery, Egypt, into the Promised Land, a land of new identity, freedom and resources. The first 3 verses of Ephesians 2 were about our old life that God had delivered us from, a life of spiritual death (v.1), a life of being led by the deception of the world’s godless ways of thinking (v.2), a life that was focused on responding to personal whims, personal desires, personal emotions (v.3). Those are the things we have been considering in the last three studies.

Balancing Verses: But 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). From being spiritually dead, He has made us spiritually alive; from being led by the world, He has made us one with Christ to be led by him; from having to struggle to satisfy ‘self’ by getting, He has brought us into a place of wonderful provision. Now because I suspect we so often succumb to taking these things for granted and becoming so familiar with the teaching that we just don’t rejoice in it any longer, we also succumb to relying on the old ways and fail to enter into the wonder of the reality of these things. For this reason we will, in these next three studies, major on these things.

Alive? For those of us who have had a dramatic salvation experience, this is more of an observable reality. For those of us who made childhood professions of faith or professions of faith spread over a period, this often fails to be so clear. I am in the former category and I can remember to this day (even though it is now over fifty years ago) praying on my own, late in the evening, going to bed and waking up a new person. I was alive in a way I had never known before. There was much I would take time to appreciate, but I went off to visit a cousin and spent the day seeking to convert him. I bought a Bible and started reading avidly. I got involved in Bible studies and very soon was leading a number each week. I became involved with a youth evangelism team and found myself sharing my testimony. I had found Christ and was changed. Without being particularly conscious of it, it was happening. His life in me was a reality, prayer became part of my life. I knew the reality of Paul’s words, “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor 5:17)

Familiarity dulls: Now let’s be honest. For those of us who have known the Lord for many years, it is quite possible (probable?) that that early feeling has abated. The trouble is that we get sucked into daily life and life of ‘church’, and regularity and familiarity take the edge off. When you have prayed every prayer you can think of, when you have read your Bible inside out, when you have heard thousands of sermons and attended thousands of ‘church services’ there does become a feeling of ‘been there, done it three times, got the tee-shirt’ and faith on a daily basis seems to become a struggle, and you know it shouldn’t. What had happened? ‘Life’ was replaced by routine; faith was replaced by ritual. Church becomes a ritual, prayer becomes a ritual, Bible reading becomes a ritual.

Think about ‘life’: ‘Life’ is something spontaneous, new, fresh every moment. Watch a new born baby. Every new move, every new experience is avidly watched by its parents. We observe it beginning to focus and watch a mobile hanging above its crib, we watch it develop so that it can roll over, then sit up, then stand and then take its first step. Excitement! We note its first word which creates competition: “Say Momma,” “No, say Dadda.” Sometimes we cause laughter trying to make it learn new words. A nephew of mine had been given a brightly coloured plastic duck and so someone said (without hope), “Say fluorescent duck.”  He didn’t, but other words soon did come as he grew and developed at his own pace. This is the thing about ‘life’, it is natural, it changes and grows and develops at its own pace, and some parents worry about the fact that their child isn’t saying or doing the same things as the new child next door, and they have to learn that their baby is unique. Each ‘life’ is unique and here’s another thing you watch as your children grow: they have ‘growth spurts’.

‘Life’ for Jesus’ disciples: I’ve written this at least twice previously in this past year, but it bears repeating. Imagine Levi the tax collector at his collection booth when Jesus walks up. “Hullo,” says Jesus. “I’m Jesus.” “Yes, I know,” comes the response from Levi, “I’ve heard about you.” “Great but I don’t want you to just hear about me, I want you to follow me.”  “But I’ve got a job here, I’m a tax collector.” “Yes, I know but I want you to come and follow me.” “Where to?” “Wherever I go. Follow me and see.” “What to do?” “Whatever I do. Follow me and see.”  “When do I have to start?” “Right now.” “For how long?” “For as long as it takes. Follow me and see.” “What will happen to me?” “Follow me and see.” That was life; it was following Jesus as he was led by the Holy Spirit.

Ah, there is the crux of life for the Christian, it is the life of the Holy Spirit, and being led by Him. Sometimes that is a conscious thing, sometimes it is a natural flow, sometimes we seek Him, wait upon Him, and sometimes He comes without warning. But Jesus said it would be like that: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:8) Now to come back to what we’ve said a number of times about redemption, this may apply to the initial ‘new birth’ but it also applies to the nature of the ongoing new life. We can put ourselves in the way of the Lord as we wait on Him in prayer or reading the Bible and all we can do is pray, “Holy Spirit, please come,” and then just be open to Him. Life flows, life is spontaneous, life comes from Him.

Regaining Life: How can we get back on course so that our daily and weekly experience is one of ‘life’? One of the ‘rules’ I have adopted in the last few years is ‘God first’. Now what I mean by that is when we are ‘doing’ anything we consider spiritual, we pause and seek Him and ask, “Lord, what do you want here?” That can apply if we are church leaders and worship leaders in respect of weekly services. Some of us will be part of denominations that use prayer books or other means of established, regular ritual. This is not for you; you will feel frustrated by this. But for those of us from so-called ‘free churches’, dare we put aside our routines and try this new approach? My congregation used to laugh when so often I would say, “This morning we’re going to do something different.”  But why shouldn’t each Sunday morning be different? We follow a Creator God and we do Him a disservice by using preplanned, premade repetition instead of the life He wants to bring. No wonder the people in synagogues (where ritual prevailed) were delighted and surprised when Jesus came in, brought authoritative teaching and healed and delivered people.

Let the Spirit flow: Where the Spirit is allowed to flow, He brings life. Ezekiel’s picture is so graphic and powerful (Ezek 47) that wherever the river was allowed to flow, life followed it (see v.8-10), but not in the ‘swamps (v.11). A swamp is a stagnant quagmire where there is no movement and life dies. I will refrain from saying the obvious here about much modern church life. But the call is to let the Holy Spirit come, let Him lead, let Him bring fresh life. It is all there in the New Testament.

And me? Will I remember every morning to turn to Him when I pray and be aware of His presence and not just utter words? Before I open His word, before I study, before I write, will I pause and seek Him and look to Him for His life flow in what I read? And on Sunday mornings, will I come to Him and make myself available – if not able to break loose in the structure others are responsible for – at least to bless Him in the reality of my worship, and my availability in looking to bless and encourage others before I come home?  In my daily life when I am confronted with problems, difficulties, ways of doing things, will I turn to Him for wisdom and grace to carry me through? This is what the Lord is redeeming us to, and away from arid formalism and meaningless ritual that stifles the Spirit. No where do I find this more challenging than in preaching. When I get up and speak, will I seek for and allow His life to flow in my words, bringing alive His word so that people are thrilled, lifted, challenged, encouraged, blessed and sent out full of faith? To do this every week is one of the biggest challenges of church leadership and so team ministry allows time to think, reflect and, most importantly, overcome routine and familiarity.

Reality: In truth, there is no easy ABC (despite the books!) of retaining a fresh flow because, although I can do the things above, life is a spontaneous thing and it seems the flow is more like the ebb and flow of the tide rather than the regular flow of a river. Sometimes He is very evident, other times not so – perhaps to prove the reality of it. On the good days, rejoice in the wonder of the life; on the quiet days, remain faithful and continue to wait on Him and seek Him. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (Jas 4:8) This is not for spiritual-super-giants, this is the potential for each and every one of us, this is what He is redeeming us to.

21. A Matter of Position

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 21. A Matter of Position

Eph 2:6,7 And 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.

Overview: The first Part was all about having died to the old life. The second Part was all about the power of God that gives us new resurrected lives. This third Part is all about our Position TODAY and what that can mean. In the opening study of this Part we looked at the ascension of Christ and noted our verses above, but before we move on I sense we need to really get hold of this matter of position more fully.

About Perspective: It is, of course, a matter of perspective. In the first Part we noted the apostle Paul telling us to consider ourselves dead to the old life so that the things of the past will not impact us in the present. It was a matter of perspective. In the second Part we emphasized again and again the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit who is our power source for what I have called again and again, our resurrected lives. A matter of perspective and understanding. But now it about us seeing ourselves – yes, very much with our daily human lives living out human existence here on earth, and yet seeing ourselves as linked to Christ and therefore, in the realm of the Spirit, being seated with him in heaven where he is seated at his Father’s right hand. The ‘resurrected life’ emphasized the power we have today, but the life ‘seated with Christ in the heavenly realms’, is all about authority that leads to action that expresses the kingdom of God on earth.

The Godhead: First of all, how does this actually work? Well, it’s very simple isn’t it. We have dwelling within us the Holy Spirit, otherwise referred to as the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ. It is God within us. But God expressed His one self in three ways. As the Father is the all-powerful authority over all things, so the Son is the part of the Godhead who exists alongside the Father in heaven from before time, who left heaven, came to earth, died for us, rose from the dead and ascended back to heaven where he is seated at the Father’s right hand ruling. (Sorry, we do need to say these things again and again for many today seem to lack this understanding).

The Spirit: The third member of the Godhead, or the third expression of it is, of course the Holy Spirit, the power-on-earth element of it, who moves on the earth expressing the will of the Father and the Son and is now indwelling all Christians. He is the link between us and Christ in heaven and He is the way Christ communicates with us. In this sense we are completely linked with Christ and there is able, therefore, to be a two-way communication. It is because of this permanent link that we are to envisage ourselves as being seated with him as he reigns. As we are open to him, so we become vessels or instruments through whom he can flow and act here on earth. Of course, because we cannot see him, it is an act of faith to believe, to hear, and to respond.

With God: But next we need to see what this ‘position’ means and because it is a position in heaven that means, first of all, that it is a position in the presence of God. I have already in the past studies put forward a ‘God first’ strategy and that must come to the fore again here. Anything and everything we say in this Part must take its origin from God; that is the big emphasis. In heaven everything focuses on God. If you want a revelatory picture of this, sometime read Revelation 21 and see the position and emphasis on God and His Son seen there.

Place of Revelation:  Second, because it is heaven, there is also a sense of being ‘above’ the earth and therefore everything of the earth is visible to heaven and therefore God sees everything and knows everything. This position therefore, as we share it with Christ, is a position of revelation, and we will find that various aspects of it, will be about knowing in ways that go beyond normal human experience. Revelation plays a big part.

Place of Power & Authority: Third, because this is all about God, it is also all about power and authority. We might take that as read when we start by saying we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but this takes on a new emphasis now because it is a direct link to the Godhead and so there is this enormous sense of power and authority wherever God is concerned.

Holiness: Fourth, because we are now talking about a more intimate or closer link to Jesus by his Spirit, and this to the Godhead in its entirety, we must remember a crucial word that occurs in the Bible over five hundred times – holy. It means to be utterly different and it reminds us that God is perfect, and that means He cannot be improved upon, He is complete, lacking nothing. There is also a moral or ethical dimension to it, that He is morally perfect. How can we have contact with such a God and still live? Only by the completed work of the Son of God on the Cross. Never have any silly idea that this concept, that we are touching on in this Part, allows us to become super-beings, super-Christians who can do what they like.  We are what we are because of Christ and we do what we do because of Christ – nothing more and nothing less.

Strategy: Fifth, what we are now looking at is another phase in the strategy of the Godhead formulated before the creation of the world, and it opens up a vista or panorama of new understanding for the child of God who is open to the Lord in His word and by His Spirit. In this we grow. The apostle Paul caught something of this panorama when he spoke of when Christ returns again at some future time and he says, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24,25)

In that, we catch the big purpose of the present time – an era in the history of existence when the Son of God is working with those who become believers, children of God, to counter the works of the Fall and to bring an expression of the kingdom of God to earth. As we play our part in this, so we grow. Now because this is such a big and significant concept, we will stop this present study here and pick up on the kingdom of God tomorrow.

15. A Reigning Body

Short Meditations on the Body of Christ:  15. A Reigning Body

Eph 2:6,7  And 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

And so we come to the last of this particular series which leaves us realizing a crucial spiritual reality – and it is spiritual.  We have considered that we, the Church, are Christ’s body on earth today, and that he is still the head of the body, even though he is seated at his Father’s right hand, ruling in heaven over all things. So positionally Christ, the Son of God, is in heaven with his Father, but we have also observed that we are indwelt by his Holy Spirit who not only unites us with each other, but now also with him in heaven.

And so he now wants us to grasp this picture that Paul brings to the Ephesians, that because we are untied with him by his Holy Spirit, it means that we too, having been raised to new life after dying to the old, are in a sense, sharing with Christ in his role as the present king ruling over all things.

Now is this just an academic or theological nicety or does it have any practical outworking? Yes, it is far more than just a theory, it is an overall picture of how the body is supposed to work to bring about the will of God, the reign of God on the earth.

First of all this means a change of understanding. We are to see ourselves as sharing with Christ in his rule, so that, second, as we listen to him and sense and receive the revelation of His Holy Spirit, so we are led to do the things on his heart and those things will bring change on the earth.

Third, we will see these things as incomparable riches of grace, amazingly wonderful expressions of his love and mercy that come to us through his kindness, here within the body so that the body uses this grace to perform signs and wonders to bring changes on the earth. Every time you pray, every time you command in the name of Jesus, as he leads you, so his grace is released in the form of power so that things are changed on the earth, people released, people delivered, circumstances changed. Every time we bind something in his name (Mt 16:19 & 18:18) the power of the enemy will be annulled.

We have much to learn about being his servants, about wielding authority and bringing in the reign of the kingdom of God, as we experience what it means to be “seated with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”, i.e. as we experience what it means to be part of the active body led by the head from heaven. Hallelujah!

10. Seated with the Father

Meditations in Hebrews 1: 10.  Seated with the Father

Heb 1:3b   After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

We now consider the second half of this sentence.  Jesus, now seated at the right hand of the Father is testified to by a number of scriptures. Now I need to make a point here so please be patient: “Jesus … was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honour at God’s right hand.” (Mk 16:19) “Now he sits on the throne of highest honour in heaven, at God’s right hand.” (Acts 2:33) “Then God put him in the place of honour at his right hand as Prince and Saviour.” (Acts 5:31) “Stephen…saw Jesus standing in the place of honour at God’s right hand.” (Acts 7:55) “he …. is sitting at the place of highest honour next to God, pleading for us.” (Rom 8:34) “and seated him in the place of honour at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 1:20) “God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name.” (Phil 2:9) “Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honour and power.” (Col. 3:1) “Our High Priest sat down in the place of highest honour in heaven, at God’s right hand.” (Heb 8:1) “Then he sat down at the place of highest honour at God’s right hand.” (Heb 10:12) “Now he is seated in the place of highest honour beside God’s throne in heaven.” (Heb 12:2) “He is seated in the place of honour next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers are bowing before him.”  (1 Pet 3:22)

How often have you heard sermons about Jesus glory and authority at the Father’s right hand?  I have just given you twelve verses that point this out in the New Testament. That way outnumbers the numbers of verses about him being involved in creation or upholding the world by his word of power. This I would have to suggest to you is a vital doctrine. Now notice various things that are said.

In eleven of those verses it emphasises that this is THE place of honour and in the other verse it simply said he has been given a name above every other name, which is the same intent. A place of honour is given to someone who deserves it or who has earned it. Often this positioning is linked with his work on the Cross and his death and resurrection; other times it is just a statement of fact.

Second, note it is at the Father’s right hand. The right hand was always the hand of authority and so Jesus is sitting in the place of authority next to the Father. Again, notice the equality words – besides, next to – he is there ruling with the Father.

That is the third main point to note, that it is a place where he rules. Prophetically the psalmist declared, The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.” (Psa 110:1,2) Echoing this, the apostle Paul wrote of Jesus, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:25).  I think we have commented before on the heavenly anthem recorded in Revelation: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise! …..  To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” It is the acclamation of the supreme rule of Father and Son from heaven.

Now the application of this is fairly obvious. The Jesus we worship today is not the meek and mild Jesus of the children’s song; he is the Lord of all Creation and in heaven all bow before both Father and Son.  He has no competitor, he is supreme ruler, all powerful as he administers His Father’s kingdom: “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.” (1 Cor 15:24) i.e. the end product points to the present process.

Now there is a mystery in all of this for we don’t know how Jesus is bringing down all his enemies – sin, Satan and all demonic powers and world authorities. The ultimate end is decreed: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9-11) It may be that he is working within history and things happen that we don’t realise he was behind – e.g. the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and many other major events of recent history (as well as other things that are likely to have been his judgments on the folly of mankind).

We have to make the comment yet again, because the folly and ignorance of so many has produced such a loud voice that needs denouncing, there is NO other figure in all of human history, and certainly not within the world religions, who compares in any ways to the claims of the Bible of Jesus Christ. Nowhere else is there any claim that in any way matches what we have been considering in this study.

One final linked thought before we finish: “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” (2 Tim 2:11,12) This is clearly one of the doctrinal sayings that was taught in the early church, that we are to reign with Jesus. This is confirmed in the heavenly singing: “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:10) How can that be? Well, “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Eph 1:22,23) As we, his body, respond to the head, so he will lead us into situations where we, his body, take control and take authority and bring change. I have a suspicion that we have a lot to learn here yet. May we be open to be taught.

16. The Rule of Jesus

Meditations on “The Big Picture” 16. The Rule  of Jesus

Rev 1:4,5    Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

Some would refer to the present ere as the day of the Spirit but the names of the Holy Spirit include ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ and so the Holy Spirit is the executive arm if you like of the Godhead, but He administers the will of Jesus in his people while Jesus sits at his Father’s right hand in heaven exercising his rule, deciding and determining what will be. Now of course many of us would prefer to focus on the works of the Spirit as seen, say, in the Acts of the Apostles and that is certainly the starting place.

Yes, there we see on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit being poured out on the believers and them being equipped to be Jesus’ witnesses (see Acts 1:8, 2:1-4,14-21).  Yes, there we see Peter preaching the first sermon and three thousand being saved (Acts 2:22-41), there we see the apostles performing miracles (e.g. Acts 3:1-10) and then taking the opportunity to share the Gospel (Acts 3:11-26) And so it continues. The Holy Spirit moving through the early church with signs and wonders accompanying the preaching of the Gospel.

Others may wish to observe the roles of the Church and Israel. It is a fact, forgotten by many, that the early church was entirely Jewish in nature with all the apostles being Jews and Jerusalem being the heart of the church. As the church reached out with the Gospel more and more, it was obvious that it would change its nature with believers coming from the larger population of the world and thus became more Gentile orientated. Indeed Acts shows us quite clearly that it was Jewish hostility that forced the apostle Paul to move on sometimes and thus pushing the Gospel out even further. (Some modern historians suggest that Jews continued to be saved in numbers until the seventh century). With the fall of Jerusalem  – and the church leaders had already moved on – Judaism was also dispersed into the world (see Rev 12)

As far as individual Jews are concerned, they are no different from Gentiles in terms of needing salvation: there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom 10:12,13) yet when it comes to them as a people, “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved.” (Rom 10:25,25)  Some will say that word ‘Israel’ simply means all believers whether from Jew or Gentile background, others will say it means the Jewish people will eventually be saved. Time alone will tell. That they as a people still have a part to play in the plans of God seems fairly obvious.

Which leaves us coming back to Jesus revealed as:

  1. a) the one seated next to the Father in heaven (Mark 16:19 / Acts 2:33 / Acts 5:31 / Acts 7:55 / Rom 8:34 / Eph 1:20 / Phil 2:9 / Col. 3:1 / Heb 1:3 / Heb 8:1 / Heb 10:12 / Heb 12:2 / 1 Pet 3:22), and
  2. the one with all authority (Rom 8:34 / Eph. 1:22 / Heb 2:8 / 1 Pet 3:22 / 1 Cor. 15:25 / Isa 9:7  / Psa 110:1,2) and
  3. the ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev 1:5, Psa 110:1,2, 1 Cor 15:24,25)
  4. the one ruling over the church (Rev 1:12-20)
  5. the one who will return sometime in the future in power (Matt 24:42,44, Matt 25:31-32, Acts 1:11, Eph 1:9,10, Rev 1:7)

It might be well to emphasis the 1 Cor 15 verses: Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24,25) We may not be able to discern his works but the truth is that he IS reigning over this world – from heaven. He brings things about by his Spirit working in his followers, he will use Satan and his demons and powers as he sees fit (this is too big a subject to cover here, but he does) and he will work to manipulate circumstances, yet overall it is a mystery for most of the time. BUT he IS ruling; this is the era of Christ’s reign from heaven.

However when we see the praise given to him in heaven there comes a surprise: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:9,10) We the believers should be reigning. Now there will be some who say that is in the future but when you consider Jesus’ words, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:19 & 18:18) there seems a certain amount of ‘exercising rule’ about that. There is a similar hint in Eph 1:22 – “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,” Perhaps, as with so many things it is a partial reign this side of heaven, fulfilled completely in the new heaven new earth where, “they will reign for ever and ever.” (Rev 22;5)  Some room for more reflection there!

Pre-AD1 (say) Christ sat with his father in heaven, waiting for his day on earth to come. Somewhere about that time, about AD30-33  He expressed his father’s kingdom in his ministry on earth. Since that time he has been reigning from heaven. At some point in the future he will return again as a conquering king (see Rev 19) and will then preside alongside his Father in eternity over the new heaven and new earth. The present ‘stepping stone’ of history is unknown to us as to duration for the time being – so watch the skies.

15. Raised & Seated

Ephesians Meditations No.15

15.  Raised & Seated

Eph  2:6,7 And 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.

Here we are, yet another ‘link word’ – “And”. What have we seen here in this chapter so far? Contrasting our past with what God has now done in us, Paul started the chapter reminding us what we had been like – dead, disobedient, objects of wrath (v.1-3). But then God came and ‘made us alive’ (v.4,5). That was the big contrast, but it didn’t end there (and that is why we’ve gone back to the beginning) because we have this And“.

In other words, not only did God make us alive – just like He made Jesus alive after his death – He also “raised us up” AND “seated us with him.” Now of course when we were born again (we’ve covered that so many times in these meditations, let’s not detail it again), we had no idea that this had happened. We carried on living our normal lives on earth, aware that something amazing had taken place and we felt completely different – but we hadn’t realised what it was. That only became clear as we read the Bible and were taught.

Now one of the frustrating things about Scripture is that it isn’t always ultra clear. If we had been Paul’s pupils in a classroom we might have asked him to clarify what he meant but we can’t, and so when he says “God raised us up with Christ” we are not sure if he is referring again to the work of ‘being made alive’ or whether he is referring to an aspect of our being united with Christ in heaven where we are ‘seated with him.’ Both are true because God has raised us from the dead and He has united us with His Son who (positionally) is seated at His right hand in heaven.

Now we have observed previously that when Paul uses the expression, “heavenly realms” he means heaven itself, and so here we find an amazing claim for Christians. It is that we have not only been raised from the (spiritual) dead, but we have also ascended and are seated in heaven with Christ. Hang on, you say, but I still live here on the earth; that hasn’t changed, so have can this be? Look again at the description: “in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Because His Holy Spirit now dwells within us, we are linked to Christ, for the Holy Spirit is also referred to as the Spirit of Christ and so many of the descriptions of what has happened to us, as laid down in the New Testament, are said to be “in Christ“, just as we find in these verses. So Paul is saying, that because we are linked to Christ by his Spirit, it is as if part of us is there with him where he is, seated on his throne in heaven.

Now comes the crucial question: what is the significance of that, or what are the consequences, or outworking of that? Put another way, what is the practical relevance of this claim? Well we could speculate on many things but let’s restrain ourselves and limit ourselves to what Paul tells us: 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.” Did you note the link words, in order that’? He’s done that so that He may be able to do something else, bring something else about, and achieve something further in His plans.

Let’s check it. “in the coming ages.” Whatever else it means when Paul wrote it, it means the future. For the period of the church – between Pentecost and the time when God brings an end to all things – it means that Christ ruling on his throne in heaven is going to reveal and express the “riches of his grace” to us, i.e. he is going to be able to share with us all the outworkings of the Cross and how they affect us in our daily lives. Now if you are a bit unclear about God’s grace carefully note Paul’s description of this grace that we so often glibly talk about: “the incomparable riches of his grace.” This grace that God expresses to us through Christ has an immense value (riches) that has no comparison. It is more valuable that ANYTHING else we can think of! We may not realise the extent of this ‘grace’, this goodness of God towards us that is expressed in his kindness to us,” but it is ours and part of the development of our lives is coming to understand it, receive it and live in it more and more and more.

Now ultimately this ‘grace’ flows to us in two ways: firstly, and mainly, through the presence and working of his Spirit through us who takes his word (the Bible) and reveals the truth of it to us and brings us understanding which in turn brings changes in the way we live. As we step out in belief in response to what He has said (that is faith), we find his presence works as a power within us to enable us to live freely in ways we couldn’t previously. But his grace also flows to us by his activities in the world around us and so he does change people and circumstances as far as they relate to us.

An example of this as seen in the Old Testament was the way, in respect of Joseph: “The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant.” (Gen 39:2-4) i.e. God gave Joseph ability so he did well but He also impressed this on his master so that he so trusted Joseph that he put everything into his hands, thus acting for Joseph’s good (even as a slave!).  Later when Joseph was in prison we find, “the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.” (Gen 39:21,22) This wasn’t the Lord only giving Joseph ability, but He also impressed this on the prison governor so he acted for Joseph’s good (even in prison!)

We have much to learn about this grace, but note in summary some key things: a) it flows to us through us being united with Christ in heaven, b) because we are seen as ‘seated’ it comes to us not by our efforts but simply because Christ gives it to us, c) the extent of it is way beyond our frequently limited understanding and d) it is something we are to learn to receive more and more as we walk through this life with Christ. Wow!

11. Power & Rule

Ephesians Meditations No.11

11. Power & Rule

Eph 1:19-21 That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

Here we go again; note the link with what has gone before. “That power” refers to the power Paul has just said is, “for us who believe.” (v.18). Now that is vitally important to note because the power he is just about to speak about is a power which God has put in us who are Christians, who are believers. Now he goes on to let us know something more about this power: it “the working of his mighty strength,” which means God’s strength. Now if he didn’t say anything more that would leave us gasping because we know that our God is the One who created this world and so His power is limitless. Then we might start thinking about some of God’s mighty acts in the Old Testament – the plagues he brought on Egypt , the parting the Red Sea and the Jordan river , as well as vanquishing armies. This is the power that Paul says is in us. That is difficult to take in.

But actually he defines this power by something else: “which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” The human side of Jesus was powerless to come back from the dead so it was the power of God that raised him up. Peter said the same thing when he preached on the day of Pentecost: “But God raised him from the dead” (Acts 2:24 ). Paul himself said the same thing when he wrote, “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Rom 8:11). Now Paul says this more to describe the wonder of what God did with Jesus than the impact that it had on us (at least here in this passage), but surely he has that in the back of his mind, that we today are empowered by he same power that energized Jesus. But as he finds himself referring to Jesus, it is he who catches his attention and so he moves away from what has happened to us, to what has happened to Jesus.

It is not just that God raised him from the dead but He also seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. Now at the beginning of the book of Acts we have Jesus’ ascension described, a mystery but very visual. The picture of Jesus being seated at his Father’s right hand in heaven is conveyed a number of times in the New Testament. The writer to the Hebrews particularly caught this when he first quotes the Old Testament: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (Heb 1:13) and then, “We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,” (Heb 8:1) and “when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Heb 10:2) and “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2)

But we find the same thing elsewhere in the New Testament: “Now he sits on the throne of highest honour in heaven, at God’s right hand.” (Acts 2:33) and “Then God put him in the place of honour at his right hand as Prince and Saviour.” (Acts 5:31) and “Stephen…saw Jesus standing in the place of honour at God’s right hand.” (Acts 7:55) and “Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honour and power.” (Col 3:1). This is the clear message that Jesus didn’t just die and didn’t just rise again to die again later, he ascended to heaven again where he is seated, ruling with his Father.

But Paul doesn’t want us to have any doubt about this: “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given,” i.e. he rules over everything and everyone one! There is nothing and no one who is outside Jesus’ rule. Now you may not have taken this in yet, but this is one of those claims of the New Testament that elevates Jesus above any other religious figure and which makes Christianity unique among world religions. If you hear someone say, “All religions are the same,” then simply point them to all these verses (and there are more) that place Jesus as THE ruler over all things above everyone and everything and point out that no other religion makes this claim. We are dealing with THE unique Son of God here!

But Paul hasn’t finished: “not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” This isn’t a short term rule, this is an eternal rule. Yet there will come a time, as we’ve noted before when, “the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.!” (1 Cor 15:24 -26). Hence the prophetic word in the Psalms, “The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The LORD will extend your mighty sceptre from Zion ; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.” (Psa 110:1,2). Jesus rules in the midst of his enemies until he has dealt with them all – sin, fear, guilt, shame, death, Satan!

THIS is the one we are called to worship. No mere human being, but God who came in the flesh and then took it back to heaven to continue His rule. Worship Him!