Monday, July 27, 2015

PAUL'S MOST ASTOUNDING SENTENCE (PART 7)

(This post is a continuation of parts 1-6). To read these first, scroll down or click on the titles on the right side of the web page)

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The Future is Now

As Paul continues this long, introductory sentence, he again links predestination with future promises. However, we should avoid thinking that future promises will only be revealed in the future. One of the major teachings of the letter to the Ephesians is that the chosen people of God should live with the promises of God always on their mind.

Paul writes: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11-12 ESV).



Earlier we read in the book of Romans, how those who are adopted as children refer to God and call Him in a manner that only his children can, saying, “Abba! Father!” (Abba is the Aramaic word for Father). Paul again uses that phrase in yet another one of his letters in talking about the inheritance given to the chosen of God. This one is found in the book of Galatians. It is much the same message that he wrote to the Ephesians regarding the promise of God. He tells us that while we may not see much of the reality of our inheritance at the present moment, that does not mean that it is not secure. Here is part of what Paul wrote to the Galatians:

The heir, as long as he is a child, is not different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything… And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:1, 4-7 ESV) 

To the Ephesians, Paul’s message concerning the Holy Spirit in regards to our inheritance is much the same. That which we see in this present life is not normally a good indicator of what is promised to us. Like a small child who is heir to a great fortune, our lives at the present may not be much different than the household servants; in fact, we may even be placed under the authority of the servant. However, that does not change the fact that we are indeed heirs to great promises given to us by God.

How are we to know this? We can live with this assurance because God has given us his Holy Spirit, who enables us to know that we have a child/Father relationship with God. We also can cry out, “Abba! Father!”

Paul tells the Ephesians that the Holy Spirit is given to us as a guarantee of our inheritance. It is as if we have received written confirmation of what has been promised to us, and this promise is sealed by the Holy Spirit until the time when we will take possession of it.

A major problem and confusion of very many Christians in these present days is that we try to be just like the world. We want to be accepted by the world, so we try to be like them. The sooner that we understand that we are actually different, the better it will be for us.

The Purpose of Blessing – The Administration of Christ 

Verses nine and ten of this first chapter contains a phrase that is central to understanding what God’s intentions are as he blesses us. It reads like this: 

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. (Ephesians 1:9-10 NAS). 

Crucial to understanding what God is doing is to grasp the importance of what Paul is telling us here: God means to bring all of creation under the administration of Christ.

This phrase, “the administration of Christ,” deserves some comment. The word administration is the translation of the Greek word oikonomia. It literally means “household management,” or “the rules of the house.” It is, by the way, where we get our English word economy, as in the study of economics.

In other places of the Paul’s writings, this same word is translated as stewardship (1 Corinthians 9:17; Colossians 1:25), which also captures the idea of the word. God’s eternal purpose is that all of creation will be under the household management or the stewardship of Christ. In everything that we see God doing, we must realize that it is with this central purpose in mind.

I earlier quoted some verses from Galatians, chapter four. These are the verses that speak of a child being under “guardians and managers” until the date set by the father (Galatians 4:2). The word managers, in this sentence, is also a form of the same Greek word oikonomia. Paul uses this word to show that also mankind, before the coming of Christ, was under the administration of those things of the world that are more elementary, or rudimentary.

Primarily, Paul is talking here in Galatians about being under the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was, at that time in the Old Testament, the best demonstration of the “rules of the house of God” that mankind had.

This changed, however, with the coming of Christ. Paul writes, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5 NAS). This all happened with the first advent of Christ.

However, here in Ephesians, we learn that even though Christ has already come, the complete administration of Christ is yet to be realized in time. In Ephesians we read of “the administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth” (Ephesians 1:9 NAS). Paul is now speaking about a time that we have not yet seen. This completion of events we will see in the future.

Do you see that for both stages of the building of the completed administration of Christ, Paul uses the phrase, “the fullness of times?” For reasons that are unknown to us, God did not send Christ to be born of a woman immediately after sin entered into our existence in the Garden of Eden. Christ only came in this way after some thousands of years.

Likewise, for reasons unknown to us, this second stage on the perfection of the establishment of the administration of Christ did not happen immediately following Christ’s death and resurrection. We are yet to see it completed. But Paul tells us that we will see it. We will see the summing up of all things in Christ. We will see all things unified in him. When will this be? It will be in the fullness of times. That is, when all has been made ready by God.

So central is this to God’s purpose that even the blessing of our own inheritance is based upon it. God even had this in mind when he predestined us to be his people. We are the beneficiaries of this purpose of God. It was with God’s “kind intention” (Ephesians 1:5, 9 NAS) that He also included us in this purpose. Christ is and will be exalted, and because of this, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
 
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Next  time we will conclude our look at this most astounding sentence of Paul's. We likened our climb through this sentence to climbing a mountain. Finally, at the end, we hear a little about the view from the top



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