MUSINGS CONCERNING GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE
The Eternal Purpose of God “According To” Ephesians (Continued)
The meticulous language used by the Apostle in all his writings was utilized for the sole purpose of exalting the unsearchable wonder of the glorious Godhead. For the elect this marvelous grace can only find explanation in the purpose which God the Father purposed in Himself. There is no praise of human exploits or initiatives which contributed to the Lord’s counsels. Paul never gives applause to created beings as assistance of God without such deeds being completely subject to the will of God working in and through them. (Phil. 2:13)
What is celebrated in the “according to” uses of the Apostle is the overflowing adequacy of God in Christ Jesus. He is substantiating the fact that Jesus is more than sufficient to achieve redemption for the chosen without the aid or intervention of created beings or things. “No place would any longer be found for pretended satisfactions, or for those trifles by which the world vainly imagines that it can redeem itself; as if the blood of Christ when unsupported by additional aid, had lost all its efficacy. . . As if the blood of Christ were dried up, and lost its force.” (John Calvin)
Paul had great distaine for any doctrine that diminished the abounding fullness of God in whatever comes to pass. Whatever means or methods God is pleased to employ in His purpose is simply the components that pleased Him. The only elements indispensable then according to the Apostle for redemption to be complete were the deeds and doings of what the Godhead willed. Nothing else can explain redemption accomplished or applied. “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6)
After his customary introduction of the grace and peace of God to the faithful in Christ Jesus vs. 1-3, the Apostle unlocks an exposition of the sovereignty of the Almighty Father in Christ by revealing to his readers the unconditional authority the Lord has with regard to the salvation of His people. Paul began in verse four (4) by declaring “according as” “he hath chosen us in him.” All that is reported in verses 1-3 is a result of this one statement. Believers are saints, they are the receivers of grace and peace; they are blessed with all blessings because they were chosen in Christ before the world began. In verse five (5), it was God that ordained, having predestinated (past tense) the chosen unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, and this was assigned “according to” the good pleasure of His will. The elect of God are accepted in the beloved by the acts of perfection accomplished by Jesus Christ for the purpose of magnifying the wonders of divine grace, all of which is “to the praise of the glory of his grace.”
In verse seven (7) the mighty works of Jesus are powerfully set forth as the effectual cause of redemption. These holy acts exalt all of God’s counsels and reveal the pristine value the utterances of JEHOVAH eternally deserve. The actions of Christ Jesus reveal the riches of God’s grace.
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, ACCORDING TO the riches of his grace.” (vs.7) “In whom we have redemption.” Jesus Christ is redemption, there is no salvation without Him. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) see Acts 10:43; 1 Tim. 2:5-6.
Religion redeems no one, faith in a Christless religion redeems no one, good works and deeds redeems no one, strict adherence to the law, (even the Holy law of God) redeems no one..” “. . No man is justified by the law in the sight of God. . .for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. . .For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did. . .” (Gal. 2:16, 3:11; Heb. 7:19) Note also Acts 13:39 & Rom. 3:20.
It should be understood that even those whose religion is based upon the very God of the Old Testament are without salvation regardless of the homage paid toward Jehovah. Any faith or practice that denies the finished work of Jesus Christ is opposed to God and is devilish at the root. Israel’s religion is as useless for redemption as is the secret oaths of diverse cults. It is in Jesus and in Him alone that redemption has acceptance with God the Father Almighty. “Neither is there salvation in any other.” (Acts 4:12)
God “according to” His riches has made Jesus Christ unto the chosen – redemption. (1 Cor. 1:30) He was made sin for us and paid the price the Holy Law demanded, perfect satisfaction. In this satisfaction the elect supersede the divine law for as sacrosanct as the law was and is it has the ability to save none, but the bringing in of a better hope did – that better hope was Jesus Christ. All of the chosen are therefore sovereignly placed by purchase in Him with a righteousness which nullifies any demands the law could prescribe. In Jesus is perfect and irrefutable redemption.
Redemption speaks clearly of deliverance, a ransom must be understood, pardon must be realized or redemption would not be necessary. (Matt. 20:28 & Mark 10:45) That the use of blood was invoked in redemption announces that there was a great travesty of sin, rebellion, wickedness, and ungodly motions of life permeating the earth. Divine redemption equates remission of sins, and accordingly, blood must be shed. (Heb. 9:22) Eternal once and for all redemption is in Jesus Christ through His redeeming blood. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:14)
The atonement that Jesus provided is a justifying sacrifice that bespeaks of unmerited favor freely given in a propitiatory function of God through the blood of His Only Begotten Son solidifying the requirements of salvation (Rom. 3:24-25) that He had ordained through His Son. The sacrifice was flawless and incorruptible while He shed His precious redeeming blood. The writer of Acts (Luke) calls the vicarious victim the purchaser of redemption. (Acts 20:28)
The giving of Himself for our sins in the redemptive scheme is termed in the Book of Galatians as “according to the will of God and our Father.” (Gal. 1:4) The sacrificial death of Jesus not only captured and destroyed our sins, but it also produced a blood redemption that God Himself rendered as forever. “. . Having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Heb. 9:12) The “for us” in this verse are the same ones who are the called, chosen, and predestinated by God to receive this eternal redemption. The promised trophies of grace are the beneficiaries of the eternal redemption of blood. “And for this cause he is the mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Heb. 9:15) Oh! Let us join in that “new song” as the redeemed of God’s inheritance exalt their Redeemer. “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” (Rev. 5:9)
“. . .the forgiveness of sins . . .” What a tremendous announcement, what a gloriously divine purpose is “the forgiveness of sins.” “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” (Oh! no these were executed to the full by Christ Jesus.) “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” Ps. 103:10-12) The redemption that is through the blood of Jesus blots out all sins for the elect and as a result, God sees their iniquities no more. (Is. 44:22) Not only does God not see sin any more in the chosen, but the powerful antidote to iniquity produced by the blood of Christ erases them forever from the mind of the Eternal Sovereign. (Jer. 31:34)
Jesus made an end of sin. “. . God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” (Rom. 8:3) So potent is the redemption brought through the blood of Christ that the consequences of sin are obliterated. All iniquities, transgressions, and sins for the elect are subdued, purged, and cast into the depths of the sea, and forgotten. (Micah 7:18-19)
The daily confession of sin in the believer is evidence that he is redeemed and that his confidence rests not in his confession but in the faithful and just God that cleanses us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) The redemption by the blood of Jesus eradicates all sin. They are pulled up by the roots and destroyed.
“. . . ACCORDING TO the riches of his grace.” The Apostle continues to embellish the inexhaustible attributes of God. In this verse, it is “according to” the riches of His grace. We know from other scriptures that regardless of the abounding number of sins committed by all the chosen from the time of Adam until there is sin no more grace will much more abound. (Rom. 5:20) The riches of God’s grace is so dynamic that it reaches to the uttermost and expunges all that is contrary to holiness. Yet the unsearchable riches are not diminished or lessened by the redemption accomplished through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Paul was very much given to enhancing his epistles with adjectives. It was as if he could not fully display in words the wonders of Divine grace..In verse (8) of Ephesians chapter one Paul said the riches of God’s grace had “abounded toward us.” In the nineteenth (19) verse, it is “the exceeding greatness of his mighty power.” Words just fall short even when inspired men seek to reveal the awe and magnificence of the riches of the grace of God. ”By grace ye are saved” is truth indeed. (Eph. 2:5) Still, Paul must add that this grace is exceeding in richness and that it is through Christ Jesus that the value and greatness is made manifest. “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:7-8)
In the Book of Romans, the Apostle declares that it is the purpose of God to make known the riches of His glory on the objects of mercy who were ordained unto eternal life. (Rom. 9:23) This inestimable reservoir of riches is termed the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Eph. 3:8) These riches defy definition and evade the most astute mind, they are past finding out. The believer may rest assured, however, that God “shall supply every need “ACCORDING TO” His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19) What possible addition could be added to a purpose so sublime and inspiring as this one, “According to the riches of His grace.” (verse 7)
“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, “ACCORDING TO” his good pleasure which he hath purpose in himself.” (Verse 9) The unveiling of the mystery of God’s will was by the commandment of the Almighty Himself. For centuries this mystery was kept secret and was to be made known only in God’s time, or as Paul called it in verse ten (10), “in the dispensation of the fullness of time.” That time has arrived, “Now to him that is of power to stablish you “ACCORDING TO” my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, ACCORDING TO” the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest by the scriptures of the prophets, “ACCORDING TO” the COMMANDMENT of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” (Rom. 16:25-26)
That God would show favor to the Gentiles was something Israel deemed not possible. However, the mystery of redemption is neither national or political, but rather entirely divine and ignores pedigree. Salvation is by grace, and grace alone. The revelation of such mercy was the calling of the Apostle to the Gentiles. The Gentiles also were to be included in the eternal purpose of God. The revealing of this mystery is the New Testament Covenant. Because of Jesus Christ the redeemed are all now the Israel of God, the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, and the peculiar people regardless of ethnic background whether Jew or Gentile. (Gal. 6:16 & 1 Peter 2:9-10)
In this very Book of Ephesians, the Apostle went to great lengths to disclose the secret of this mystery. He refers to himself as the “prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles.” (Eph. 3:1) This secret mystery was hid for ages, but no longer. (Eph. 3:5) Then in Chapter 6:3, Paul reveals a truth that is as thrilling as it is overwhelming, “That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” This revelation was to fulfill the word of God, (Col. 1:25) and obey the commandment (Rom. 16:26) so all men might see the manifold wisdom of God. (Eph. 3:10)
Chapter two of Ephesians was dedicated to the mercy and grace of God, and the great love where with He loves the objects of that grace. (Eph. 2:4-10) After establishing the will and purpose of God’s grace, Paul destroys the distinction between Jew and Gentile and reveals that because of Jesus Christ, there is no difference at all. Grace reigns supreme and the mystery is opened up for everyone to see. “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made with hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby; And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together growth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Eph. 2:11-22) See also Col. 1:25-29 where the Apostle says in a few words in verse 27 the sum total of the mystery. “To whom God would make known what is the richest of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Amen.
“. . . according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself.” Some prefer to render the last few words “which he hath purposed for himself in him.” The meaning being that which God the Father purposed for Himself in the Son. Eph. 3:11 would seem to support this though as almost the same words are utilized with regard to the purpose of God. “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Little needs to be said concerning the difference, however, as the members of the Godhead are one in all things. The “according to” His good pleasure is what we hope to examine. The purpose of God as stated before is only contingent upon what pleases Him. (Verse 5) The constant repeating of this theme seems almost redundant, but it appears that much of professed Christendom is still unfamiliar or unwilling to see the unalterable purpose of God in redemption. When one can hear such pathetic phrases such as “I accepted Jesus,” or I let Jesus into my heart,” or even more lame is the evil suggestion to some poor soul “won’t you now let Jesus have His way.” This type of language bespeaks the fact that there are many that have very little conception or appreciation of the Divine purpose. It is a theology that is diametrically opposed and foreign to that which is taught in Ephesians. In fact one would have to strain to find a teaching more extravagant.
The “according to” His own purpose (Eph. 1:9) is reflected in every aspect of redemption. In closing, we need only repeat Paul’s words to Timothy. “Who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not “according to” our works, but “ACCORDING TO” his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Tim. 1:9)