The mystery revealed

It’s a well established fact that human beings are much more fascinated by what they do not know than what has already been revealed. That is why writers save their greatest plot twists for the end of a book. God, fully aware of the inconsistencies of human nature also saved some of the greatest “plot twists” when He gave us the scriptures. The largest part of the Bible, the Old Testament, although containing a lot of plain truth, leaves some of the biggest truths of all shrouded in ministry. It is only at the end of the book, the New Testament, where the answers are revealed plainly:

With all wisdom and understanding,  he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, (Ephesians 1:8b-9 NIV)

The reason why God hid the truth about salvation in Christ for so many years was because of His wisdom and understanding. He knew that if He had unveiled His salvation right away that humans would have taken it for granted and quickly forgotten about it. So instead He built up the suspense. He gave His people instructions that helped them grow in their knowledge about their need for salvation from sin. He taught them about His salvation by giving them food in the wilderness. They learned about judgment from the plagues He sent among them. He taught them about the necessity of perfect sacrifice in the passover meal and the tabernacle rituals. He sent them prophets to give them hope that a savior was coming.

And then, one day, the savior came. They were excited for awhile–especially as long as Jesus was feeding the hungry and raising the dead. But it wasn’t long after that that they started taking Him for granted and forgot about Him, just as one would expect. Fortunately, not every one forgot about him. There have been some throughout the ages that have remained true believers. We have clung to the truth of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross even while others have gotten bored with it. It may have been more interesting when it was still a mystery, but now we can experience the deep joy that comes from having the mystery revealed. We must stay true to the hope that has been revealed to us, and not get sidetracked by the distractions of the world that try to make us forget about what we have learned.

Christianity addresses the problem

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us (Ephesians 1:7-8a).

People turn to religion for many different reasons. Often it is to find purpose, happiness, friends, or recognition. But true Christianity teaches us that we need to turn to God not only to get something that will make us happier, but to get rid of something that is destroying us. True Christianity teaches us that we are all sinners, not just part-time moderate sinners, but fulltime immoral sinners. We are all extremely wicked and we do horrible things to the ones that we ought to love. Other religions are not honest about the great depth of this problem. But true Christianity tells it to us like it is. It reveals us each as horrible sinners.

Fortunately, in addition to providing condemnation, Christianity also provides a way out. The answer is Christ, and only Christ. He is the only Who died for our sins, so we must believe in Him in order to be saved from Him. True believers are brought back to a relationship with God through His blood. We have all committed many sins, but fortunately God grants forgiveness of sins, not meagerly, but richly. With great liberality God’s grace has been lavished on us. This grace is only given to those who believe in the one through which it comes: Jesus Christ. Those who spurn this rich gift will still have to face punishment for their sins, as the writer of Hebrews says:

 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:3-4 NIV)

God’s Predestination is both gracious and glorious

In love  He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,  to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:5-6 NIV)

In my previous post we discussed how true believers are chosen by God long before they are born. We are too sinful to believe through our own power; the only reason that we are able to choose God is because He chose us first. He predestined us to be adopted as His own sons, and to spend eternity with Him. This act of predestination brings great honor to God, because it reveals His loving, gracious nature for all to see. The election of the saints (true believers in Christ) results in the praise of the glory of His grace. This grace is not something that any of us have earned, rather it is something that is freely bestowed on us. We are not saved by our own merit, but by the merit of the Beloved, that is, Jesus Christ.

How are we able to find our way?

In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, (Ephesians 1:5 NIV)

Finding the truth in life is hard. It is more than just learning facts; finding truth requires one to interpret facts, an exercise of the intellect that is much more difficult than it sounds. Human beings cannot discover spiritual truth on their own because of their ignorance of the facts on the one hand, and their strong bias to disbelieve the proper interpretation on the other hand. However, many people do believe the truth in the end because God predestined them to find it. True believers are not those who are naturally smarter and wiser than others; they are simply sinners who found the truth because God chose them in love, according to the kind intention of His will. Those whom God has thus elected are thereby predestined to be adopted as sons of God Himself. This adoption is made possible by the personal sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Therefore, no Christian is able to take personal pride in their salvation, since it came by the grace of God, not by the power of their own intellect, nor their own inherent goodness. We must praise God for our salvation; we can claim none of it for ourselves.

Christians are elected before they are born

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before [Him. (Ephesians 1:4 NIV)

The Bible teaches very clearly throughout that human beings have a responsibility to consciously choose to love and obey God. But in the text above we learn additionally that Christians do not get saved at random, nor do we choose to follow God at random. God chooses those who will be saved from before the foundation of the world, that is, before they are even born. Those who are chosen will believe on Christ and be forgiven of their sins, which will result in them being holy and blameless before God for eternity.

If you are not a believer now, you need to repent of your sins and trust in Christ alone for your salvation while you still can.

Textual proof that “Lord” means “God” when referring to Jesus

There are many passages in the New Testament that refer to Jesus as Lord. “Lord,” in these contexts, is a reference to His deity, as is made clear by the texts below. In each of the passages below, the phrase “Lord” is used to refer both to Christ, and also to the Old Testament God. I have highlighted the use of Lord so that you can find it easily in each passage:

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”[f] 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9-12)

In this next passage, the Old Testament idea of the “Day of the Lord” (Day of God’s  Judgment) is used in the same passage where Jesus is frequently referred to as Lord. This clearly teaches that Jesus is the Old Testament God:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.[c] 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (II Peter 3:14-18)

The Apostle Peter also uses the title “Lord” in the same way that Peter does, in his reference to the day of the Lord in I Thessalonians:

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. (I Thessalonians 5:1-10)

These are just a handful of the passages that clearly equate the Lord Jesus Christ with the Lord of the Old Testament. There are dozens of other “Lord” passages that clearly indicate Christ’s deity as well. Anybody who is honestly interested in learning what the Bible really teaches about Jesus would be well advised to study them closely.

There are lots of passages in the New Testament that affirm the trinity.

There are some critics that try very hard to prove that the Bible does not teach that Jesus Christ is God. However, this is impossible, because the Bible is very clear that Jesus is God. For one thing, there are several passages, such as John 1:1, that refer to Jesus as “theos,” that is, God. But really, there are dozens of others that refer to Christ as God by a different name. Here is one of many:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (Ephesians 1:3 NIV).

Notice here, that Jesus is referred to by the very common title of Lord Jesus Christ. The word Lord is applied to Jesus in the Bible as a title of divinity. This passage is one of many that teach the doctrine of the trinity. It emphasizes the authority and deity of Christ, while at the same time implying His submission to God the Father. Even though God is one, the members of the trinity are also individuals, (a phenomenon that cannot be easily explained by humans). Christ on the one hand holds the complete authority of God, while at the same time submits to God the Father.

 

God blesses believers with every Spiritual blessing

Recently my two year-old and three-year old started asking to be allowed to take turns praying outloud with their mother and I before meals. While this was a good thing, some of the prayer requests they asked, naturally, were a little bit immature.  One of their favorite prayers–that they came up with by themselves–is that “God will give me everything we want.” My wife and I were quick to tell them why this is wrong, even though it is hard for them to understand it at this point in their life. Instead, we are teaching them to pray for “everything that is good for me.”

Indeed, God truly cares about what is good for His children, even if it doesn’t seem like it at times. God does not always give us the things we want–especially physical things–but instead He gives us every spiritual blessing that we need:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (Ephesians 1:3 NIV).

The best gifts that God gives to us are not the gifts that we get while living on this planet, but rather the spiritual blessings that He is storing up for us in the heavenly places. These are the rewards for spiritual growth that we will receive after the resurrection of the dead. God manipulates life on Earth not to give us what we think is good for us–cars, money, even careers or spouses–but what He knows to be good for us: patience, gentleness, longsuffering, faith, hope, love. All these blessings are given to us in Christ. That is to say, that they are all made possible by the suffering and death of Jesus for us. We cannot achieve them by our own goodness.

 

 

Grace and Peace: The perfect salutation

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:2)

The words “grace and peace” should be familiar to readers of my blog, since they were also mentioned in the last verse of Galatians, which we just finished studying two posts ago. The reason why Paul mentions them so much is because they are so important. “Peace” is the ultimate desire of a Christian, and “grace” is what makes ultimate peace possible. True peace–which requires one to have an eternal relationship with God–can only be attained by those who have been forgiven of their sins. Both of these, grace and peace, cannot be earned by human effort, they are gifts from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Christian ministry is given by the will of God

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 1:1)

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians opens by clearly stating who the sender is and who the recipients are. The writer is Paul, a man whose name and character was well known to the Ephesian church, since he had spent much time with them. He was an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. Paul did not choose himself to become a missionary, it was a purpose given to him by God. All Christians are really “apostles” or “sent ones,” meaning that we all have been chosen by God to perform tasks for Him. Some people put the original twelve Apostles up on a pedestal above other Christians, as if they were somehow more holy than the rest of us. But all of the brethren have God-appointed duties to perform, and we should take care not to exalt or minimize the role of any individual, as Jesus Himself told us that “many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30).

The recipients of this letter are God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus. These people were saints (holy ones), not because they were perfect people, but because they had faith in Jesus Christ who died for their sins. God had cleansed them from their wickedness, so that now they could be “faithful” followers of Jesus. They were Gentiles who just a few years before had been worshippers of idols, but now Paul assures them that they have been saved by grace through their belief in Jesus Christ.

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