Wednesday, July 29, 2015

PAUL'S MOST ASTOUNDING SENTENCE (PART 8)

(This post is the conclusion of parts 1-7). To read these first, scroll down or click on the titles on the right side of the web page)
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To the Praise of His Glory

It is clear that Paul was simply astounded by all that God had done and all that he had promised. But even with all that he saw and understood, it was not the deeds and the promises of God that were really the object of his astonishment. Paul's center of astonishment remained God himself. Three times in this opening sentence of Ephesians, Paul expresses praise to God:
 
“To the praise of His glorious grace.” (Ephesians 1:6)
"To the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:12 and also in 14)

Interestingly, this praise to God also appears to be what God is seeking in all that he is doing. As people, we see the desire to seek praise as being self-serving and conceited. But God is not a man.

The difference is when we are praised as men and women, or when we seek praise for ourselves, we seek something that is not rightfully ours. One of the central points to this introductory sentence to the book of Ephesians is that everything that we are and everything that we possess is because it has been given to us by God. When we accept praise unto ourselves, we accept something that should instead have God as its object.

Praise to God is simply the acknowledgement that He is the origin of everything. God wants people to praise him not because he needs his ego bolstered, as a man might want. His purpose is different. He is the creator and the first cause. People must acknowledge that fact. That is why it is not only acceptable to give praise to God, but it is essential.

The View from the Top 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 

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. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV) 

Let’s stop and take a breath. That is Paul’s sentence in its entirety. It was a tough go, coming up this mountain. We may have stumbled a few times, but we made it to the top. Now is the time to find a nice comfortable rock on which to sit and lean back in the sunlight. Now is the time to take our breaths slowly, making use of any oxygen that we can. Now is the time to feel the coldness of the altitude upon our faces. Now we take in the scenery.

You may not have a complete understanding of how Paul’s teaching of predestination works together with our own ability to choose, but having made it this far, you hopefully have at least a little better perspective. In an earlier post I gave the illustration of sitting high on the side of a mountain and seeing two rivers that would obviously eventually join and flow together. Although this confluence of the rivers was still hidden from your view by a distant ridge, it was apparent that the two rivers, off in the distance, would become one.

In a similar way, although we cannot yet see how the fact of predestination eventually will flow perfectly with our own free wills, Paul seems to have no difficulty with telling us that both remain true. Remember, this is only the introductory sentence to this letter of Paul’s, there are more insights in the pages that follow.

We may not understand everything completely at this time, however, what I take away from Paul’s words about predestination and everything else is not a negative response to his explanation. After all, these are eternal matters. Can we expect to comprehend anything of an eternal nature in its entirety? We are bound by time, We fall far short of understanding anything outside the province of time.

When we think that we can begin to explain the details of eternity, we make the mistake as did the man Job of ancient days, after which he said, “I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3).

In a sentence, and not one as long as Paul’s, what I take away from his explanation is this: “God is sovereign, and if I place my confidence and trust in him, then the truly important matters of life are secure can never be in question.”

The mountaintop view will be given to us in due time.


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