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Our Destiny in Glory

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Our Destiny in Glory

Meditation on Ephesians 1:11-14

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

We already have an inheritance, a glorious inheritance! God planned and determined that inheritance beforehand. Jesus Christ purchased that inheritance for us. The Holy Spirit applies that inheritance to us, in fact, He is the seal of that inheritance. We have obtained this inheritance because we are in Christ. The Holy Spirit has united us with Him. That inheritance is now in heaven and will finally cover the whole universe. We have this inheritance now and can never lose it. God works all things in heaven and on earth, not only in the creation of all things, but also as to the development of all things. Although God did not create sin, there is the development of sin. God is sovereignly in control. There is also the development in regard to salvation from sin and our final glory.

We have a lively hope in Christ Jesus. As the Old Testament saints looked forward to Christ’s coming, so we in the new dispensation look back at what the Lord Jesus has done and look forward to what He is doing and will do. The hope has three elements. First, there is expectation. The object of that expectation is the glory that is to be revealed in the future. Second, there is certainty. It is not merely a wish. For example, I might wish for warm weather. Rather, real hope is certainty not only of the existence of that glory, but also the revelation of that glory. We also have the certainty that we will have a personal part in that glory. Third, our hope implies longing. In distinction from longing for things of this world, we have a longing for the things of heaven and in the eternal future. Do you have this? Is it evident to others? We have hope only when we are in Christ, when we believe in Christ and as we live in the sphere of Christ.

Verse 13 undoubtedly presupposes a verb, so that we would read, “in whom ye also are.” How can we be so sure that we are in Christ? The answer is our faith. It is by the hearing the word of truth: we hear the gospel of salvation. How do we hear that gospel? The Holy Spirit directs the preaching of the gospel to our ears. “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring tidings of good things” (Romans 10:14,15).

How beautifully the truth of the work of the Holy Spirit is set forth in our text. The Holy Spirit not only directs where the preaching goes, but the Spirit also gives new hearts that are receptive to and understand spiritual things (I Cor. 1:17-25 I Cor. 2:9-12). We call this the internal call. The Spirit of Truth applies to our hearts God’s Word. It is called “the word of truth.” The Holy Spirit does not call attention to Himself, but to Christ. The “truth” is the word that is in Christ Jesus and revealed in the Scriptures. It is called “the gospel of your salvation.” Gospel means ‘good tidings’. They are indeed good tidings: the tidings of salvation from sin, corruption, and death, from the guilt of sin and all that is connected with sin and death. They are the tidings of a righteousness that is given to us and the hope of eternal life. We not only hear these tidings, but by God’s grace, believe them.

We are sealed with the Holy Spirit. A seal is a mark of authenticity. It is like the seal put upon our currency or on one’s wedding license. It cannot be altered. Those who believe in Christ can never be lost. This is so because the seal is the Holy Spirit of promise. It is through the Holy Spirit that the promise is realized. “I will be your God, and the God of your seed after you.” It is the promise of Christ and all that is in him and effected by him. It is the promise that is given to the saints: the forgiveness of sins, our adoption as children, righteousness, and eternal life. That promise is sealed by the Holy Spirit to the hearts of the believers. The Holy Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance. We have a down payment of the final glory that will be ours, the salvation perfected in body and soul in the new heavens and new earth.

What is your response to this? Does it make you glad? Is there praise to God on your lips? If you have not noticed yet, the phrase “the praise of his glory” is mentioned twice in this pericope: vs. 12 and vs. 14. God’s purpose in all of his plans and now in our salvation is his glory”. What a doxology!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise him all creatures here below. Praise him above ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

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The Mystery Revealed (Meditation on Ephesians 1:8-10)

 This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

The Mystery Revealed

Meditation on Ephesians 1:8-10

 ...[A]ccording to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.

I had to smile when contemplating this text. It was a text that many years ago had been given to a young man for his classical examination for ordination. I was one of the sermon critics. We had to bring the sad report that in his sermon, the lad had completely missed the point. In his sermon, he concluded that it is still a mystery to him why God chose him to be saved. Now while that is true for each of us sinners, that is not what the chosen text was about. We read in verse 9, “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself.” What mystery did God make known? The answer is that in the fullness of time, God would gather together all things in Christ.

God, in the riches of His grace, showers or abounds that grace unto us or even into us. How can we know that? The answer: “in all wisdom and understanding.” According to the context, the grace of God has abounded into us exactly in all wisdom and prudence. Prudence or understanding is one of the fruits or results of wisdom. By wisdom, the person who knows God is given understanding of God’s will. This is not just an intellectual knowledge of the head, but heart knowledge. Knowing God and His will, we therefore know the way of salvation. It is very practical. Such a person walks in that way. He or she has discernment or distinction between the truth and error, between the way of the will of God and the way of evil, between the way of salvation and the way of destruction. This is not dead orthodoxy. In contrast, this is a true, living faith! God gives that to each of His people by the Holy Spirit.

God has made known unto us the mystery of His will! The entire knowledge of salvation, which was not known before the coming of Christ is now clearly made known. In the Old Testament times, God revealed that He would presently bring salvation in many ways: verbal prophecy and all kinds of signs, wonders, and types. God’s people understood that too. And as far as the mystery of God’s will was pictured in the old dispensation, the Old Testament saints were saved by faith.

So the mystery of the will of God does not refer to the fact that nothing at all was known in the old dispensation. It refers to the fact that with the coming of Christ, and only with the coming of Christ would God’s work and purpose be clearly revealed. Although there were prophecies, signs and wonders in the Old Testament, the will of God was still a mystery. It could not clearly be discerned. Who is the promised Mediator? How will He save? What will He save His people from?

When Jesus Christ, was on earth, He taught the people to know God by His teaching and miracles. But why was the cross necessary? Do you remember the grief of the two on the way to Emmaus? “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel” (Luke 24:21)? What despair! They did not know what to make of Jesus’ death or the women’s report of the resurrection. Jesus had to open up to them the Scriptures to show them the necessity of the Messiah’s death. After Christ’s resurrection and ascension, He poured out His Spirit as He promised. His Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. Suddenly, the disciples understood why Jesus had to die. They understood that His kingdom was not an earthly kingdom but a heavenly kingdom. Then the disciples were able to be bold in preaching the gospel which before had been a mystery. By his Word and Spirit, Christ is gathering all the citizens of His kingdom.

But the mystery of the will of God also is revealed in regard to the ultimate purpose of all things. The Apostle Paul continued to write in our text, “according to the good pleasure of his will, which he hath purposed in himself” (that he set before him). What is that purpose of God? We have it in verse 10, “That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are one earth; even in him.” God delights in His own eternal counsel. It is according to His counsel that He does all things.

The contents of God’s counsel are set forth. Why was there the fall into sin? Why were there the flood and the saving of Noah and his family? Why was Abraham chosen? Why did God have His people as slaves in Egypt for 400 years? Why did His people have to wander in the wilderness for 40 years? Why did their dwelling in Canaan end with the captivity in Babylon for 70 years? Many would question these things. And we can go on with events today. Why is there this Covid-19? Why does the extreme wickedness of the world continue to develop? Why must there be tribulation and the final era of the Antichrist? Could and cannot God prevent so much misery?

The answer is that God is in charge, working all things in these various eras for the gathering and salvation of His people. The fullness of times in verse 10 is the whole New Testament era, and especially that very last time, the very end of the fullness of times when Jesus returns.

God works all things in time and history so that Christ will be the head of the whole world. He is not Head only of His church or of the angels, but all things in heaven and on earth. Adam was the head of the earth, but not of heaven. But when all things will be fulfilled, then all things in heaven and on earth will be united in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What a gospel we have to tell to our children and to the world around us. We are able, because God has made known the mystery of His will. What comfort we have in the various trials we have to endure. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Christ will come to make up his jewels.

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Redemption by Christ's Blood

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Redemption by Christ's Blood

Meditation on Ephesians 1:7

 he hath made us accepted in the beloved, in whom we have we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

In this verse we focus on Christ’s principal work, which is redemption. All the persons of the Trinity are involved in this work, but Christ’s role is central. The work of the Father was primarily in planning our salvation. The work of the Holy Spirit is in applying it to individuals. It is the second person of the Trinity who came down from heaven and assumed our sinful flesh to redeem us by His death upon the cross.

Redemption is central to Christianity. What a precious word it is on our lips. How many Christian songs sing of our Redeemer.

Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed thru his infinite mercy, his child, and forever I am. Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Redeemed, redeemed, His child, and forever I am. (William Kirkpatrick, 1838-1921)

In the Greek language, there are three words for redemption. The first word comes from the noun for a Greek market place. It means ‘to buy’ or to ‘buy in a marketplace’. This word emphasizes the price Jesus paid for our salvation. Redemption is deliverance from a life of sin and death. Deliverance by payment of a price was common in the Old Testament period. A kinsman-redeemer would purchase back the property that was lost through debt and restore it to the family. Boaz did this for the land that belonged to the husband of Ruth.

Another New Testament word for redemption is the same word as the first but with the prefix ‘ex’, meaning ‘out of’. The word means ‘to buy out of the marketplace. This has the thought that one thus purchased might never be returned to be sold on the marketplace again . This is a wonderful thought for Christians because it has to do with the effective and permanent nature of redemption. We have been redeemed from sin, and the promise of this word is that we might never be sold under the power of sin again. Think of the example of a slave purchased, and then the owner tires of the slave’s performance or abilities and thus sells him again. A slave’s position was never secure. This is not the case with Christ Jesus. Jesus purchased us so that we might be taken out of the market place and never have to return.

A third word for redemption in the New Testament is unrelated to the other two terms. It means ‘to loose, set free or deliver’ by the payment of a price. This is a beautiful and encouraging thought. Not only are we bought out of the marketplace of sin, never to be returned there, but we are set free. A slave could be bought on the slave block, never to return there, but always remain a slave for the rest of his life. Jesus buys us from sin to set us free! Again there is a hymn that describes this:

Free from the law, O happy condition! Jesus hath bled, and there is remission; Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall, Grace redeemed us once for all. Now we are free, there’s no condemnation! Jesus provides a perfect salvation; Come unto me, O hear his sweet call! Come, and he saves once for all.” (Philip Bliss, 1838-1876)

What was the cost? What was the price for our redemption? How was it paid and to whom was it paid? We read in our text, “in whom we have redemption through his blood” That “in whom” refers to Christ. In eternity Christ was declared the Head of His people, to be the Head of the church. In the fullness of time, Christ came into our flesh to shed His lifeblood on the accursed tree. And therefore we have redemption. It means that we are freed from the guilt and the power of sin. And that freedom is through His blood. This phrase means the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, the shedding of His blood. He gave up His life willingly. He gave up His life in the love of God. He gave up His life as the Person of the Son of God in human nature. This is the forgiveness of sins.

Could not we be forgiven in some other way? The answer is, “absolutely not.” For the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Jesus paid the penalty for our sins to the righteous and just God. The sinner must die. But Jesus died that death for us. Not only that, but He procured the perfect obedience that is demanded of us. This is the only way of salvation! We are sinners. Because it was the person of the Son of God that shed His lifeblood willingly, and in love to God, and in perfect obedience, we are forgiven and much more! We will be united with Him. And we will have eternal life and glory. This is all of God’s rich grace. How you and I should sing God’s praises each and every day in gratitude.

I will sing of my redeemer and his wondrous love to me; On the cruel cross he suffered, from the curse to set me free. I will tell the wondrous story, How my lost estate to save, In his boundless love and mercy, he the ransom freely paid. I will praise my dear redeemer, his triumph power I’ll tell, How the victory he giveth over sin and death and hell. Sing, O sing of my Redeemer, with his blood he purchased me; On the cross he sealed my pardon, paid the debt and made me free. (James McGranahan, 1840-1907)

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Covenant Reformed News - September 2020

Covenant Reformed News


September 2020 • Volume XVIII, Issue 5



The Amazing Pregnancy of the Woman of Revelation 12

In the last News, we saw that the radiant woman of Revelation 12:1 is the church. Now we note that the (Old Testament) church was pregnant, pregnant with the Messiah (5): “she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered” (2).

Thus the church not only rejoices that the “Wonderful Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” is “a child [that] is born” and “a son [that] is given” “unto us” (Isa. 9:6); she also marvels at the truth that He was born out of her.

What an amazing 4,000-year pregnancy! The church was pregnant with her seed, Christ, right from the very day of the fall in the Garden of Eden, according to Jehovah’s mother promise: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). Who ever heard of such a long pregnancy? This is what the Old Testament days were: a gestation period of four millennia, not just nine months!

For these 4,000 years, the believing church was conscious that Christ was coming through her, as a pregnant woman knows that she is with child, especially as her due date approaches. As we saw above, Eve was told that her seed would crush Satan’s head. Abraham rejoiced to see Christ’s day and was glad (John 8:56).

Jacob and his sons looked forward to the coming of Shiloh (Gen. 49:10). A great prophet like Moses was in Israel’s womb (Deut. 18:15-19). The Messiah was to be the son of David (II Sam. 7:12-14). The prophets taught that the church would bring forth the Branch (Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:12). He would even be Immanuel, God with us (Isa. 7:14)!

The Old Testament church’s consciousness that she was pregnant with the Messiah included her experiencing, for some four millennia, the pain and struggle of bearing Him, yearning for His birth and bringing Him forth. She longed for God to show His face and glory—in the incarnation of His only begotten Son. Out of the deep sense of her sin and misery, she struggled in prayer for forgiveness and righteousness—in the coming Christ and His cross. She sought for strength to fight against iniquity and for deliverance from her enemies—in the Messiah who would slay Satan and sin. She prayed for the extension and growth of God’s people, including the conversion of the Gentiles—through Christ who builds His church and saves His elect out of all nations. She desired the coming of God’s kingdom and the realization of His covenant—in the advent of the King of kings and “the messenger of the covenant” (Mal. 3:1).

“O Lord, hasten the coming of Thy Son, and bring His birth and our deliverance, for our labour pains are hard!” Such was, in essence, the prayer and hope of the woman, the church, in the Old Testament.

As members of the New Testament church, we cannot and do not groan in pain for Christ’s first coming, since that has already happened. But we ought and can and do pray earnestly for His second advent: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). In this, we join with the creation itself which groans and travails, suffering birth pangs, for Christ’s return and His renewal of the entire universe (Rom. 8:19-23)! Rev. Angus Stewart

 

Universal Grace in Jonah?

A reader has asked about the meaning of three texts, two of them from the book of Jonah, which some use in support of a universal divine grace.

(1) First, he mentions Jonah 2:8 which some claim teaches a well-meant offer of the gospel. Jonah 2:8 reads in the Authorized Version, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.”

I was sent nearly 35 translations of the verse, most of which are different from each other. Apparently, translators cannot agree on what is the proper translation and some, such as the NIV, clearly support the idea of a well-meant offer (WMO) of salvation to all men.

I have discussed the issue of this heresy of the WMO over and over again in the News, but it keeps coming up because many in Reformed and Presbyterian and other circles are determined to introduce into the Reformed faith this heresy which is a crucial component in Arminianism.

Let me give a brief summary of the teachings of the well-meant offer. The WMO presents the preaching of the gospel as an expression of God’s love for all men absolutely and His passionate desire to save everybody. It is up to man either to accept this love of God and believe in Christ or to reject it.

Implicit is the heretical doctrine of universal atonement, that Christ died for every man head for head. This is necessary because God cannot desire the salvation of all men unless it is available to them and all of salvation comes only from the cross. I cannot offer to give a man £10,000 if I do not have it, without making a mockery of my offer.

Further, along with the preaching of a universal love of God comes His grace to all men head for head. God’s grace is shown in His love, for grace to sinners is unmerited favour and God’s favour includes love. But that grace in giving all men a chance to be saved is also a grace bestowed on all men that enables them to accept the proffered salvation. Jonah 2:8 is appealed to as proof for God’s universal love.

I must make a few remarks about Jonah in general. First of all, Jonah was commanded to go to Nineveh to preach repentance to this arch-enemy of Israel, which was poised to destroy the Northern Kingdom of Israel where Jonah lived.

Second, Jonah did not flee the land of Canaan because he was scared to go to that godless city. Jonah was no coward; after all, he was asleep and unafraid in a boat that was being tossed around by a storm that terrified seasoned sailors. He fled Canaan because ordinarily only in that land did God speak to His people. Jonah thought that, if he could get out of Canaan, God could not send him to Nineveh.

Third, he had to go to Nineveh because God would save one generation among the worst of all the uncircumcised heathen because their salvation was prophetic of a coming day in which the gospel would be sent to the four corners of the earth to save a catholic or universal church. However, though God did not ordinarily speak to people outside Canaan in the Old Testament era, He could also speak through raging storms and huge fish. Apparently, Jonah forgot that.

Fourth, when Jonah was in the belly of the fish, his prayer was almost entirely quotations from the Psalms.

Finally, Jesus Himself tells us that Jonah’s three-day stay in the fish’s belly was a type of His burial and resurrection (Matt. 12:40); that is, the Gentiles, such as the Ninevites, could be saved only through Christ’s being raised from the dead on the third day. But our Lord’s mighty work was atonement for both Jews and Gentiles, markedly different from God’s saving work in the old dispensation, which was largely with the nation of Israel.

It is in this general context that Jonah 2:8 must be understood—not as proponents of the WMO, who grab texts out of their context and sing, “Hallelujah, we have found a proof text for our heresy.”

On the surface of the matter, I wonder why WMO advocates have to interpret the phrase “their own mercy” in Jonah 2:8 as being God’s mercy. If we take the translation of the AV/KJV as correct—as it probably is—it speaks of the mercy demonstrated by the wicked, not by God. So why make it proof for the WMO?

You may argue that the wicked exercise no mercy and that there is only that mercy which God gives to or shows human beings, but that is not true. Proverbs 12:10 states that “the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” They surely display a “mercy” which is a kindness shown to the underprivileged or others in distress. Many philanthropic organizations manifest a certain concern for others. James even speaks of a wisdom that the wicked have but calls it “earthy, sensual, devilish” (3:15).

Jonah, inspired by the Holy Spirit and thus speaking the word of Christ in the great fish’s belly, in his prayer to God in which he cites many different passages from the Psalms, expresses the truth that the wicked who worship idols do indeed perform their acts of mercy (as shown to Jonah by the sailors, for example). However, their acts of worship are idolatry. It is probable that Jonah implied the petition that God please show mercy to him.

There is in the world among the wicked a development of sin. The philosophy of common grace does not improve men and make them better than they would be without it; sin reaps the harvest of more and more terrible sin. More importantly, in the context in Jonah, God will save Gentiles too, although that must wait for its full realization when Christ comes. The unbelieving Jews and the wicked among the Gentiles, who reject the gospel and disobey the command to believe, develop in sin until they become ripe for judgment. Remember a command is not an offer.

The same reader continues, “The Lord has pleasure in the penitence, the sorrow and the conversion of the ungodly, even if these are temporal and absolutely without any signs of genuine repentance.” The texts appealed to are Jonah 3:5-10 and I Kings 21:27-29.

(2) Now we move from Jonah 2 to Jonah 3. The questioner’s interpretation of Nineveh’s repentance at the preaching of Jonah (Jonah 3:5-6) is wrong. It was a genuine repentance, as our Lord Jesus makes clear (Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:32). God saved the Ninevites as a prophecy of the salvation of the Gentiles in the New Testament age.

It is striking that only one generation was saved, for Nineveh returned to its idolatry. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, which later brought the Northern Kingdom into captivity. One can find the subsequent judgment on Nineveh in the book of Nahum. But before all this, Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah. That generation of Ninevites will rise up in judgment against the people of Israel who did not repent, even though the incarnate Son of God, one far greater than Jonah, preached to them (Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:32).

I am aware of the fact that not all commentators believe that Nineveh’s repentance was genuine but these words of Christ cannot be explained in any other way than that Nineveh truly repented.

(3) Concerning I Kings 21:27-29, it is clear that Ahab’s penitence was not the true repentance of a heart-broken sorrow for sin but was “the sorrow of the world” (II Cor. 7:10). That wicked king of Israel merely regretted what he had done because the consequences of God’s judgment upon him were frightening (21-24). Thus the next chapter speaks of Ahab’s hatred of the godly prophet Micaiah, whom he kept imprisoned (I Kings 22:8, 26-27). Nor did God gave him a “temporal” blessing; Ahab’s “extra days” meant more sin and a worse punishment for him in hell.

A drunkard whose family is suffering the effects of his drunkenness may be sorry for it, go to Alcoholics Anonymous, learn to quit drinking and restore his home. He may even ask for forgiveness from his badly-treated family. If he remains sober, a normal functioning family life may be recovered but that has nothing to do with salvation.

Similar principles concerning Ahab’s penitence are treated in a pamphlet written by Herman Hoeksema entitled, “The Curse-Reward of the Wicked Well-Doer,” which especially deals with Jehu. It is available to all online and we will post it free to any in the UK who request it.

The lesson is that all who promote a WMO and a universal grace do wrong when they flit from one text here and another there and, without any thought of the context or the Reformation principle that Scripture interprets Scripture, loudly claim to have found proof for their heresy. That kind of exegesis does injustice to Holy Writ and tears it apart as God’s revelation of Himself as the One who saves His elect people in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. Prof. Herman Hanko


Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
83 Clarence Street, Ballymena, BT43 5DR • Lord’s Day services at 11 am & 6 pm
Website: https://cprc.co.uk/ • Live broadcast: cprc.co.uk/live-streaming/
Pastor: Angus Stewart, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR • (028) 25 891851  
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Divine Election

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

Divine Election

Meditation on Ephesians 1:4-6

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

In Eph. 1:3, we saw that God “has blessed us…with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” How does such blessing become ours? Is it because we are so good and lovely? How can we possess the blessings God has for us? The answer is found in verses 4-6. Verse 4 begins with the word “according”. The Greek word can also be translated "just as" or "because". It links verse 4 to verse 3 as an explanation for verse 3. Spiritual blessing is ours because God chose us in Jesus Christ before the creation of the world. Why would God do that? These verses emphasize the sovereignty of God in regard to salvation all the way through. The blessings of salvation come because God has determined from before the creation of the world to give them to some people, and for that reason only!

There are various views that people hold about election. There are those who deny the truth of election outright. Others acknowledge that election is taught in Scripture, but it is an election based on foreknowledge. God elects some because He knows beforehand of their willingness to believe. It would be like a captain of a softball team choosing members for his team based upon his knowledge of their ability to play. John Calvin put it like this:

How should God foresee that which could not be? For we know that all Adam’s offspring is corrupted and that we do not have the skill to think one good thought of doing well, and much less therefore are we able to commence to do good. Although God should wait a hundred thousand years for us, if we could remain so long in the world, yet it is certain that we should never come to him nor do anything else but increase the mischief continually to our own condemnation. In short, the longer men live in the world, the deeper they lunge themselves into their own damnation. And therefore God could not foresee what was not in us before he himself put it into us. (Sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians).

We believe in God’s sovereign election. We are hopelessly lost in sin. Instead, God in His mercychose us (vs. 4), “in love having predestinated us to the adoption of children” (vs. 5), “according to the good pleasure of his will” (vs. 5). God accomplished our salvation by sending the Lord Jesus Christ to die for our sins. God made us capable and willing to respond to Him by sending the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and heart to the truth and glory of the gospel. All the blessings we enjoy must be traced back to this sovereign electing purpose of God toward us in Jesus Christ!

What are some of the blessings of election for you and for me as believers? First, election eliminates boasting! This is contrary to the human nature. We like to think that we did something. All the glory of all our salvation is in our Triune God! This is the purpose of election as we read in vs. 6, “to the praise of the glory of his grace…” Second, election gives assurance of salvation! If my salvation were based upon my feelings or my works, I would be one of the most miserable people around. My feelings are so fickle and my obedience so small. Our salvation would be as unstable as you and I are. We might be saved one moment and lost the next. Because our faith is grounded in God’s election, we can be assured of our salvation.

Third, election leads to holiness! We read in verse four, “he hath chosen us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” A person might say, “Well, if I am elect, I suppose I’ll be saved regardless of what I do.” It is like that phrase of the Apostle Paul in Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” In verse 4, the purpose of election is holiness! John Stott says, “Far from encouraging sin, the doctrine of election forbids it and lays upon us instead the necessity of holiness” (Stott, God’s New Society, p. 38). The glory of God is revealed in us as we live positively in holiness, and negatively, without any fault. We stand before the face of God and reveal His virtues. This is the purpose of our election.

Finally, election promotes evangelism! There are those who think that election makes evangelism unnecessary. The argument goes, “If God is going to save certain individuals anyway, then He will save them, and therefore evangelism really is not that important.” What folly that is! The fact that God elects to salvation does not eliminate the means by which He calls those elect persons to faith. God uses the proclamation of the gospel to sinners (Lord’s Day 31). God is pleased to use the testimony of believers and their godly obedience that “others may be gained to Christ” (Lord’s Day 32, Q.A. 86). We do not know who the elect are, but we sow the seed of God’s Word, leaving the harvest to Him.

What a blessed truth for you and me to ponder and celebrate again! God loved me eternally!

Oh love of God, how strong and true, Eternal, and yet ever new, Uncomprehended and unbought, Beyond all knowledge and all thought. (Virgil Taylor, 1847)

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A Golden Chain of Every Spiritual Blessing

This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

A Golden Chain of Every Spiritual Blessing

Meditation on  Ephesians 1:3 

Blessed  be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.

My wife Alva always helps me with my writing, correcting the use of tenses, past and present. She also often tells me when my sentences are too long. It is a good thing that she was not there to try to correct the Apostle Paul and the Holy Spirit. Our text is the introduction of one long sentence beginning in verse 3 all the way through verse 14. English translators generally break up the words for ease of reading, but in the Greek Paul simply began with a note of praise to God for “every spiritual blessing” and then kept going, adding phrase upon phrase, and doctrine upon doctrine, as he listed these benefits. We could call it a golden chain of many links.

Eph.1:3 is a sort of doxology, with the object: God. The apostle expresses praise to God. And he does that because God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. If we look carefully at this long sentence (vs. 3-14), we will notice the interconnecting doctrine of the Triune God.  The work of God the Father is described in verses 3-6. The work of the Lord Jesus Christ is listed in verses 7-10. The application of this work is by the Holy Spirit, found in verses 11-14. Or we could look at these verses temporally. There is the past blessing of election in verses 4-6. The present blessing of adoption is found in verses 5-8. The future blessing  is given in verses 9-14, when God will gather together in one all things in Christ in which we have an inheritance.

When we read these verses,  do we break forth in praise? Our worship services begin and end with a doxology. So should our prayers, at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day. God is worthy of praise now and always for who He is and what He does. He is not only the Triune God, but He is also the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This means that through our Lord Jesus Christ He blesses us with every spiritual blessing. Our Lord Jesus Christ is personally the Son of God. He is also the Son in His human nature, as He appeared in the world. As the Christ, He came in your and my flesh. The name “Jesus” means that “Jehovah saves.” Jesus took all our sins upon Himself, and with those sins walked the way of the cross. He merited for you and me righteousness and eternal life. As the “Christ”, He was appointed and sent by God. He revealed to us the Father. He took upon Himself our sins and removed them. He rules in us by His Spirit and Word. That is why He is called “our Lord”. This is why the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” is the object of the apostle’s praise, and ours!

But let us speak a moment of the “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.” In the Greek it is literally, “he hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing.” The term is singular, referring to the separate spiritual blessings which we have in Christ. What are those blessings? They are the separate spiritual blessings such as forgiveness of sin, righteousness, new life, our adoption as children of God, justification, sanctification, and eternal life. These blessing are numerous. Do you each day think about them and praise God for them? There is a chorus of a hymn that goes: “Count your many blessings, name one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done…”

When they are called “spiritual blessings, they are contrasted with natural or earthly gifts or blessings that God gives. These are spiritual blessings because they are given to us by the of Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle adds, “in the heavens.”  They are heavenly blessings because Christ is in heaven. Christ is exalted, no longer on earth. From heaven, Jesus  our Savior is pouring out on God’s children the benefits of His cross and resurrection. Because we are engrafted into Christ, what is His is ours. His glory is ours. We are “in him” by faith. We are members of His body. These blessings are ours only in Jesus Christ! Each day may we think on this blessing and “praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

In our earthly pilgrimage, we encounter many trials and troubles. Maybe it is a life-long illness, the death of a loved one, the loneliness inflicted upon us by Covid-19, a rebellious son of daughter, or a spouse who has forsaken us. In our tears, we look up to praise God for who He is and what He is doing for us. He hath “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heaven in Christ!”

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy  you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, And you will be singing as the days go by.

 When you look at others with their lands and gold, Think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold; Count you many blessings- money cannot buy, Your reward in heaven nor your home on high.

So amid the conflict, whether great of small, Do not be discouraged- God is over all; Count your many blessings- angels will attend, Help and comfort give you  to your journey’s end.

Edwin Excell (1851 – 1921)

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