Thursday, April 11, 2013

By Pastor Max Solbrekken, D.D.
    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph.1:3)
      St. Paul’s salutation in the beginning of his letter to the church at Ephesus begins with him bestowing God’s wonderful peace upon them. Then, he immediately proclaims a testimony of praise unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for His marvellous blessings to us: “He hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Heavenly places in Christ.”
      He is referring of course to our standing with Him as sons of God through the New Birth. The important thing to note is that these blessings have come to us because of our relationship to God the Father, through his Son Jesus Christ!
    In Christ’ is a recurring term we see many times in our study of the Book of Ephesians.
     The enormity of the blessings received through the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is so magnanimous and difficult for mortal man to comprehend. In theology we use the term “incomprehensible” which means that we cannot understand or comprehend God.
    The plans and purposes of God for which we were born and the extent to which the Almighty has gone to call us to Himself, and to protect, lead, guide and teach us is beyond our ability to understand!
     The Scripture says: “According as 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.” (Eph.1:4)  
    When you consider the fact that we were all born in sin and were sinners by birth, nature and choice with the propensity to go our own way and do our own thing, yet Almighty God knew about us and loved us! (Isaiah 53:6; Prov.16:25)
     Long before the earth was formed, God knew that we would become righteous and without blame before Him in love and that in humility and repentance we would receive the Gift of His Son and worship Him in the beauty of holiness!
     Before there was life on this planet, God knew that Adam and Eve would fall. And the Law of Righteousness demanded a penalty for Sin and High Treason against the Almighty and that was death - Eternal Damnation!
     The Lord KNEW that the Man He would create in His own image and likeness –with a free will - would succumb to the temptation of the Evil One and would fall, plunging the entire human race into a downward spiral!
     In His omniscient wisdom our Heavenly Father would send His Own Son to Planet Earth to be incarnated and to suffer, bleed and die to redeem mankind from power of SIN and Satan’s snare. He also KNEW that His Son would defeat Satan, Death and Hell and rise again in power and great glory, freeing us all from Sin and its awful power!
     It is amazing that God who is totally pure, righteous and holy deigns to choose us who were totally the opposite: vile, sinful, despicable and unholy!
     What is the essential message I receive from this astounding text? “That I am wanted by the Highest Authority in the Universe. That I was chosen by the King Eternal, the Creator of Heaven and earth, to be His very own child! And that I would somehow be changed from being His enemy to being His friend – from a beggar in rags to a Prince in His Palace!”
    I learn that His plan has always been, to transform me from being “GUILTY” to “BLAMELESS” and that His LOVE would do it all. His love would somehow change me and more than that, His Love would also become my Love!
     Talk about Grace! Talk about Peace! St. Paul knew what he was writing about! He had been a hateful, spiteful, horrible murderous and proud Pharisee, despoiling the Church through a terrifying spiritual blindness that was anchored in pride and ignorance!
     Then, suddenly all was changed and he made a one hundred and eighty degree turn when he was blinded by the Light and heard the Voice of the JUST ONE on the Damascus Road! The change was so dramatic that it wasn’t long before he was hunted with a price on his head by the very fanatical religious leadership who had earlier authorized him to kidnap, torture and kill the disciples of Jesus, the Messiah!
      Many years later, he communicates this matchless truth to the new converts in the Church at Ephesus. You may ask, “How could all this come about?” We have not only been CHOSEN by our Heavenly Father but we have been predestined to be His sons and daughters through ADOPTION!
    What an amazing, grandiose and marvellous truth! That a wicked, vile, unrighteous sinner and an enemy of God who has broken His laws and flaunted His Commandments is chosen by the Lord of Glory to be His adopted Son!
     That Christ Himself would be crucified by ‘sinful man’ whom He had come to earth to redeem and adopt as His own – and all this planned and executed in the heart of the Saviour before the foundations of the world were laid.
     All this was done by God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: “Having predestinated us unto the ADOPTION of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” (Eph.1:5)  
     The Holy Bible states: “To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Eph.1: 6, 7)
     What does this mean, “To the praise of the glory of His grace?” As our finite minds are supernaturally expanded to understand more of His ‘wondrous workings’ we get a glimpse of His grace at work in sinful lives doing what is humanly impossible!
   A sinner and outcast running from God, doomed for Hell and perdition is lifted out of servitude to the world, the flesh and the Devil and is redeemed, liberated and taken into God’s Family!
   When we taste of His goodness and love we begin to understand a little of His grace! Therefore, we praise our Heavenly Father and glorify Him for His matchless grace toward us all. Not only has He cleansed us from our sin and filth but He has made us accepted in the Beloved!
    We have passed the test! We have been accepted in the Beloved and made ready for the ‘Marriage Supper of the Lamb’, to be a part of the Bride our Heavenly Bridegroom! You may ask: “HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?”
     Here is the answer to this Mystery: “In Whom we have redemption through His Blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace.” (Eph.1:7).
      A Gospel Song says it all: “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! Oh, precious is that flow; That makes me white as snow. No other fount I know, nothing but the Blood of Jesus! Nothing but the Blood of Jesus!
     Another Gospel song says: “Redeemed how I love to proclaim it, Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. Redeemed through His infinite mercy; His child and forever I am.”
      We were lost in sin, unbelief and following in the footsteps of our father Adam who hath committed High Treason against his Creator. We were in the Enemy’s Camp bound by chains of unbelief, lust, fear and pride when the Holy Spirit called us and we answered that call, not fully understanding the magnitude of the charges against us.
    Only by an act of mercy and grace were we accepted in the Beloved, transformed by His love and grace through the New Birth and washed by the precious, holy, living Blood of Christ, thereby receiving the forgiveness and a new standing in the Kingdom of God.
     It is all made possible by the Grace of God, given to us by the vicarious death of Jesus Christ and His glorious resurrection from the dead! St. Paul is enraptured - as we are also – by the fact that God has revealed this great wisdom and prudence to SINFUL MAN.
     Unto Paul was given the great honour and privilege to unlock this Mystery of ‘How and Why’ our redemption came about! In his Epistle to the Colossians, St. Paul shares this great and amazing truth.
     “Whereof I am made a Minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you to fulfill the Word of God: Even the MYSTERY which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you the Hope of Glory.” (Col.1: 26,27)
     Even though the Eternal God carried this great plan and purpose of Redemption in His great heart for millennia, He never divulged it to the Prophets but uncovered these great truths to the Apostle Paul who would carry this message of Good News to the Gentile World.
      He explains: “Having made known to us the MYSTERY of His Will according to His good pleasure which He has 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 in earth: even in Him:
     “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.” (Eph.1: 9-12)
     All this is beyond our comprehension or understanding, nevertheless, absolutely TRUE and WONDERFUL over and above anything our human minds can assimilate and our limited thought processes can absorb and speech can properly articulate!
     In the glorious hymn, ‘Rock of Ages’, Augustus M. Toplady (1740-1778) wrote: ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Saviour, or I die.’
    We did nothing to deserve this great honour and privilege, to be adopted by the King of kings and Lord of lords and to be made heirs of God and joint heirs with our Saviour:
    “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of Adoption, whereby we cry, Abba Father.
    “The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are children of God: And if children, then heirs: heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ: if so be we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Rom.8: 14-17)
    St. Peter also boldly writes about our exalted position as children of Almighty God and our eternal inheritance: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to abundant mercy hath begotten us again (born again) unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
    “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 3-5)
   “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:9,10)
    ST. PAUL received the great Mystery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and was sent by our Lord to the Gentile world, while St. Peter and others ministering mostly to Jews!
    He declared: “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 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 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.
    THINK ABOUT THAT! Believers in Christ are to be “unto the praise of His glory.” How could WE be to the praise of HIS glory? What can we possibly do to bring glory to Him? That is a stretch by all human measurements, but not with God, because with God all things are possible! (Mark 9:23; 10:27)
    St. Paul doesn’t stop there. He writes to former Pagans and Gentiles in Rome concerning the faith of Abraham, thusly: “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith; And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed unto him for righteousness.
     “Now it was not written for his SAKE ALONE, that it was imputed to him; But FOR US ALSO, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (Rom.4:20-24)
     The Pharisees were saying, “Sure, it happened to Abraham, but it can’t happen today.” St. Paul answers: “Yes, it can happen today and it does happen today! As Abraham sacrificed the ram in place of his son Isaac, he understood that Messiah, God’s Son would die on the cross for the sins of the world and rise again for his justification.
      He looked forward to the Cross and was justified. We look back at the Cross and are justified. He believed God and miracles happened. Paul believed God and miracles happened and TODAY we also believe God and miracles happen because our Saviour purchased our total Freedom on Calvary’s Cross and bodily resurrection three days later! (Rom.4: 24,25)
      The Religious today are peddling the ‘same old, same old’: “It happened in Paul’s day but not today. The Day of Miracles is past.” Tell that to St. Paul and you would get an earful! Miracles of salvation and healing happened when Abraham walked the earth and during Paul’s generation and is still happening today, because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever! (Heb.13:8)
    But, there is more, yes. Much more! When you first trusted in Christ, your name was written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life. After you believed and were born again, Jesus Christ Himself gave you the Gift of the Holy Spirit and filled you with great joy, fire and power. At that moment, you were sealed with the Spirit of Promise!
     WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?” You may ask! The HOLY SPIRIT answers to the BLOOD of Jesus Christ. When a sinner receives Christ as his personal Saviour, the Blood of Christ cleanses and washes away his sins. He is redeemed and brought into the Kingdom of God. It is, however, the work of the Holy Spirit to bring that soul into the body of Christ.
   After conversion, the Holy Spirit continues working with that soul and when his hunger and thirst intensifies and reaches out to God for more of Him, Jesus Christ, the Head if the Church personally baptizes Him with the Holy Spirit of Promise, thereby sealing him until the Day of Redemption!
    Here is a marvellous truth: We are sealed until the Day of Redemption for the Purchased Possession, which is the Believer! The Holy Spirit guarantees our eternal redemption by sealing us for Christ until we see Him face to face, until the redemption. HE purchased us with His precious Blood. He owns us. We are His Purchased Possession!
     Again, St. Paul nails down this great truth. In warning the Church at Ephesus to live a pure, holy and righteous life, he also warned against grieving the Holy Spirit of God!
      “If so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in JESUS; that ye put off concerning the former conversation (lifestyle) the OLD MAN which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts: And be renewed in the spirit of your mind: and that ye put on the NEW MAN, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness;
     “Wherefore putting away lying speak every man truth with his neighbour for we are members one of another...Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
   “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed until the Day of Redemption.” (Eph.4: 21-30)
    May God’s blessings rest upon us all until He returns in the Rapture of the Church! Amen.