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1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
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:
That is His work. We cannot make ourselves holy, but we can present ourselves to Him that He may make us holy. We can want to be holy, strive to be holy, hunger and thirst for the beauty of holiness, and He will clothe us with it, according to the mercies of His grace toward us...
"For His great love wherewith He loved us, He made us alive in Christ and raised as up with him."
"It is not of yourselves (2: 8) -- it is the gift of God."
There is the crux of the matter.
"We are HIS workmanship, created unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." *
4 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:
Above, and around, and through all the activities of the Ecclesia is the Mind and Power of God. All is of Him, and by Him, and for Him. As the Head, Jesus yielded himself in all things to the will of the Father, and in turn received all his strength and wisdom and joy from Him, so must the Body do likewise. "When I am weak," Paul says elsewhere (2 Cor. 12:10), "then am I strong." This is the theme of this epistle, and indeed of all the epistles. All things are of God. All things are created by Him and for His purpose, and to contribute to His ultimate glorious end.
The Ecclesia, the Body of Christ, is taken from the weakest of His creatures -- the low ones, the weak, the despised, the poor. Not the wise, mighty, and noble; not the able and self-reliant; none who are contaminated with the wisdom of this world, or pride, or vanity, or ambitions. "When I am weak, then am I strong," for
"My strength (saith the Lord) is made perfect in weakness."
And from this lowly human clay, God is building a temple of glory, eternal for the ages. His method is slow, gradual transformation. In little steps from one shade of glory to a brighter shade until we come to the perfect man in Christ Jesus.
The power for all this comes from God. We cannot make ourselves good or pure or holy, any more than we can make ourselves beautiful. A beautiful character is like a beautiful form -- it is the work and glory of the Creator, not of itself. We present ourselves as mediums for manifestation of God's glory by allowing Him to transform us to His likeness. See how Paul emphasizes this basic fact throughout this Epistle:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly." *
These "spiritual blessings in the heavenly" are His transforming works upon us, transforming us from dross to gold --
"That we should be HOLY and BLAMELESS before Him."*Bro Growcott - Holy and Blameless
9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
10 That in the dispensation of the fulness 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:
Among the many and various titles of the Supreme Being in the Scriptures of truth, is that of a Builder and Architect, as it is written, "The BUILDER of all things is God." Pursuing this suggestion, I remark, that "a wise master builder" never begins to build without a design. He draughts this after a scale of so much to the foot. This is the extension, or time, so to speak, of the building, or edifice, to be erected.
Having well considered the whole, he concludes that it is the best possible plan that can be devised in harmony with the rules and principles of architecture. The plan then becomes his "purpose," his "foreordination," "predestination," or design.
All subsequent arrangements are made to conform to this recorded purpose, because it is the very best his most deliberate wisdom and ingenuity could devise; and no extraneous suggestions, or considerations, will cause him to diverge in the smallest iota from his predetermination.
The next thing the builder does is to collect together all the necessary materials, whether of brick, stone, lime, sand, wood, or aught else that may be needed. If a spectator desired to know what all these crude matters were heaped up together in one place for, the architect would reveal to him "the mystery of his will which he had purposed in himself" (Eph. 1:9), by submitting the draught of his plan, in all its lines, circles, angles, &c.; and he would describe to him such an arrangement of the materials as would impress the spectator's mind with an image of the edifice, though it would fall infinitely short of the reality when perfected.
If we suppose the edifice, call it temple, or palace, to be now finished, the architect would next order the rubbish, or materials which were left as unfit to work into the building, and therefore worthless, such as broken bricks, splinters, shavings, sand, and so forth, to be cast out to be trodden under foot, to burn (Mal. 4:3; Matt. 5:13), &c.
Thus the edifice is built out of the accumulated materials, according to the outline of the draught, or purpose of the builder; and the work is done.
Elpis Israel 1.6.
11 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:
12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
13 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,
The Millennial Reign the Grand Topic of the Gospel
It is a great thing in these latter days for men to arrive at the conviction that a belief of the gospel is indispensably necessary to salvation. It is another great step in advance for the same persons to aver, that immersion must be preceded by faith in the gospel to constitute it the "one baptism;" and a still greater for such to admit that a knowledge of the gospel in its great, strongly-marked outlines, is absolutely necessary to a man's becoming a Christian.
My worthy friend and correspondent has arrived at these conclusions, so that there is no issue between us on these vital questions. There is, however, still a difference which prevents us seeing eye to eye in all things. The immersed are justified by faith in the great, strongly-marked gospel outlines acquired before baptism. This is a great principle, and one which no man can overturn.
But then, What is that gospel which is so indispensable to salvation? This is a question which The Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come does not answer satisfactorily to my friend. Its definition he cannot as yet assent to - a definition of the gospel which makes the ground it occupies unique, and contra-positional to all the world. The Herald's definition of the gospel places it on Noachic ground, upon which the truth has stood dauntless in all ages; and there it will stand, however feebly sustained, unfraternally with any system or doctrine which fails to teach the indispensable necessity of obeying the gospel of the kingdom in order to the possession of the same.
It is with my intelligent correspondent a query, whether the one thousand years' reign of Christ and his brethren over Israel and the nations, be embraced in the first principles of the gospel. In reply, I should say, it would be passing strange if it did not; for the gospel is the glad tidings of the reign of God's kingdom in the possession of Christ and the saints over all nations - "His kingdom ruleth over all."
This gospel was preached to Abraham, saying, "In thee and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." Would it not have been strange if Isaac had asked his father Abraham, saying, "Is the blessedness of all nations embraced among the first principles of the gospel preached to you by the angel of El-Shaddai?" - and Abraham had replied, "No, my son?" Isaac would have been confounded.
The blessedness of all nations in him was the thing promised, and without which there was no gospel or good news for the nations. It is the embodiment of all the principles from first to last. The one thousand years' reign of Abraham's Seed over all nations confederated in him, is their blessedness in him. Abolish this reign and the principles it embodies, and the glad tidings are dissipated into thin air.
There is then no kingdom for the saints, and consequently no recompense of reward; for all that the gospel evangelizes to them is concentrated in, and inseparably connected with, the kingdom. If there be no kingdom for Christ and his brethren on earth, there is no blessedness in store for the nations. Their case is hopeless; and the future of the world is damnation and ruin-sin triumphant over a howling wilderness.
The kingdom is the very A B C of the gospel - no kingdom, no gospel; hence the phrase, "the gospel of the kingdom of God." This is equivalent to the glad tidings of God's one thousand years' reign. So unquestionably is this king-dominion the, not a, first principle, that it sometimes stands for every thing connected with the gospel. Hence, while Jesus was preaching the gospel of the kingdom, he said to one, "Go thou and preach the kingdom of God." And in the Acts it is recorded of Paul that "He spake boldly in the synagogue at Ephesus for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God."
He afterwards took his stand in the school of Tyrannus, and disputed there daily for two years, doubtless about these same things of the kingdom. Now, I would ask, suppose we had no more testimony in the Bible about Paul's preaching at Ephesus than the above, what would we say was the great subject-matter that pervaded all his discourses and disputations? Unquestionably, the kingdom and the things corncerning it. He preached the things concerning the kingdom of God, and about nothing else.
But, says an objector, he preached about the Lord Jesus; for "all Asia heard the Word of the Lord Jesus." True; and "the Word of the Lord Jesus" is "the Word of the kingdom," which he himself scattered broadcast in Israel, which honest and good hearts received with abiding joy. But the objector means, he preached "Christ crucified." So he did, for this was one of the things of the kingdom Israel could not receive. A crucified inheritor of David's throne, whose resurrection they denied, was to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Greeks foolishness.
They did not understand that the Covenant of the kingdom could have no force, and consequently that there could be no everlasting kingdom, without the death of its Royal Testator. Yahweh had testified to David that his Son and Lord should be raised up from the dead to sit upon the throne; so that the death and resurrection of the Christ, and therefore of Jesus as that Christ, are things pertaining to the kingdom, which, however, is not perceived by those who are ignorant thereof.
His blood is the blood of the Covenant of the kingdom by which it is dedicated; and being dedicated by so precious a principle, none but those who believe the gospel, or things of that kingdom he preached, and yield the intelligent obedience he commands, can be cleansed thereby, and as a consequence, with him share in its joy.
There is, doubtless, something for men to learn after they become Christians; but it is saying little for the intelligence of a pretender to that much-abused name to plead the necessity of his adding to his faith a knowledge of the covenants made with Abraham and David, as a legitimate increase to his post-baptismal acquisitions! These covenants must be understood before baptism, for they contain the gospel.
They are not difficult of comprehension. A man who believes what God Almighty has promised in them, and the things testified of Jesus, believes the gospel of the kingdom. The details are the amplifications of the things covenanted, with revelations showing how they are to be established on the earth. Here is scope for post-baptismal increase of knowledge which will keep a man engaged for life.
Our friend says truly enough, that "the hope of that which is incorruptible, undefiled, and will never fade away, is that to which we (that is, true Christians) are begotten." In saying this he has the words of Peter before his mind, which I will quote in order that our friend's demonstrative pronoun "that," which he uses twice, may be apostolically interpreted. The apostle says to those who are
"elect unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ - elected through sanctification of the Spirit: - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath begotten us again unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead, (even) to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heavens for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto a salvation prepared to be revealed in the last time. In which ye greatly rejoice."
From this it appears that our friend's "that" is a hope of living again by resurrection to the possession of an incorruptible, undefiled and undecaying inheritance. Peter's contemporary brethren were begotten to this by the annunciation of glad tidings to them. His words are, "begotten again through the Word of God, living and abiding to the Age; and this is the word which as glad tidings is announced to you."
The hope Peter defines as above made the Word announced glad tidings, or gospel, to them. They were begotten to this hope, so that in order to become heirs of it - heirs of the incorruptible inheritance - they became obedient, that "in the obeying" they might be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ, which is the blood of the Covenant of the Inheritance made with Abraham.
Whatever is possessed by an heir through his father's will is an inheritance. All who believe and obey the gospel of the kingdom with honest and good hearts become brethren to Jesus, and consequently, as he is Son of God, children of God; and says Paul, "If children, then heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."
This proves that Christ and his brethren are all heirs of the same inheritance. Would it not be passing strange if they who are begotten to a living hope of an inheritance by the gospel should continue ignorant of it, not only at their baptism, but for years after it; and some even, who are esteemed as very pious by their brethren in darkness, die without suspecting what the "that" is to which they are supposed to be begotten?!
Paul writes in a plain and straightforward manner to them whom he had begotten by the gospel: "We, "says he, "preached to you the gospel of God without charge; and charged you to walk worthy of God, who hath called you [in the gospel he preached] unto his kingdom and glory." This was the inheritance to which they were begotten - they were called to "inherit the kingdom." Kingdom and Inheritance in gospel style are synonyms. The gospel of the kingdom is the gospel of the inheritance, and concerning them Paul thus speaks:
"To Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. God saith not, And to Seeds, [in the plural,] as of many [persons,] but as of one [person,] saying, And to thy Seed, who is Christ. And this I say, that the Covenant before confirmed by God concerning Christ, the Law [of Moses,] which was 430 years after [the confirmation of the Covenant,] cannot disannul, that it should make the promise [covenanted] of none effect. For if [the right to] the inheritance be from law, it is no more from promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. The law was added because of the transgressions until the Seed [Christ] should come, to whom the promise [of the inheritance] was made."
It is easy to see what the inheritance covenanted to Abraham and his Seed is, by reading his biography by Moses. When Abraham was in Canaan after Lot had separated from him, the angel of the Lord met him with a message from El-Shaddai, saying,
"All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy Seed [Christ] during the Age. Walk through the land in the length of it, and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee." The confirmation of this promise is related in the fifteenth of Genesis. The Land of Canaan is the royal domain - the place of the kingdom; and therefore synonymous with it, so that he who obtains a covenant - right to the land also obtains a right to all the things to be manifested upon it in the Age to Come.
This royal inheritance announced in the gospel is "incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading," because it is not to be left to other people, as other royalties are. It is the Saints' encampment for 1000 years; and as fresh and glorious at "the end" as at the beginning. The land is where it was in Abraham's time; but the royalty to be annexed to it is "reserved in heavens." Peter did not say "in the heavens," because the elements which constituted the civil and ecclesiastical heavens of the world in his day, were not to form the royalty of Jesus and his brethren.
Jesus declared this plainly in his confession before Pilate when he said, "My kingdom is not of this world," or constitution of things upon the Roman earth. As if he had said, "I am a priest as well as a king; and so long as the Mosaic heavens continue, I cannot be High Priest in Israel, not being of Aaron's order." There being a change of the priesthood, there must of necessity be a change of the law; hence the necessity of the passing away of the heavens contemporary with Peter and Pilate, to make way for other heavens, Jewish and Gentile, the elements of which may be incorporated into a royalty for Jesus and the saints.
These heavens, which did not exist in Peter and Pilate's day, do exist now; for they are the kingdoms of this latter-day world that are to become the kingdoms of Yahweh and of his Anointed. Hence, this divine royalty is styled, "The Kingdom of the Heavens." It is in reservation there. Democracy cannot destroy these heavens, or kingdoms, by converting them into republics; because they are reserved for the saints; as it is written,
"The kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions [or heavens] shall serve and obey him."
"Flesh and blood," says Paul, "cannot inherit the kingdom of God." It is an inheritance then. Therefore James says, "God hath chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, as heirs of that kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him." The reason Paul gives for his saying about flesh and blood, is because "corruption cannot inherit incorruptibility." Flesh and blood are corruption, and the kingdom incorruptibility. It is therefore an incorruptible inheritance, and consequently "undefiled and unfading," as characterized by Peter.
Such, then, is the definition of our friend's demonstrative pronoun "that," to which he truly says "we" (by which I understand him to mean Christians of the old apostolic stamp) are begotten by the gospel as our living hope. Let him not forget that these were "rich in faith," and "through faith" kept by God's power unto a salvation prepared to be revealed in "the last time," or latter days.
They were not such poverty-stricken professors as we are familiar with in these times, who have not got faith enough to be justified, much less have they enough to enable them to "overcome the world," that they may "inherit glory." Men come to be immersed with a mere belief of creed-facts, having no faith in the covenanted promises, being ignorant if God have promised any thing demanding their conviction of its truth!
Justifying faith is belief of what God has promised concerning the inheritance, or "things hoped for and unseen." To "believe on God" is to know and believe what he has said he will do, as Abraham did; and to believe on Jesus, or "in" him, is to believe the gospel of the kingdom he preached, and illustrated in his parables.
An assent to creed-facts is the "faith" (pardon me, reader, for such a prostitution of that eminently significative scriptural term) of the Apostasy, Greek, Latin, and Protestant; which ignores certainty in any thing, but that Jesus Christ was the "eternal son" of God, "was crucified, dead and buried," "rose again on the third day, and ascended to heaven, whence he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead," in some way about which pulpit orators and professors entertain a multiplicity of contrarious suppositions!
A declared assent to these "facts," mixed up with the stereotyped phraseology of humanly-excited Cautiousness, Conscientiousness, Veneration, Marvellousness, indicative of "piety" of the old pharisaic stamp, is the ordinary "profession of faith" which precedes immersion, or admission into a Gentile church. Now, I have no hesitation in saying under the instruction of the Scriptures, that such a profession was never counted to a man for righteousness before, at, or after baptism; and that a subsequent understanding of the doctrine of the Covenanted Inheritance is not adequate to the patching up of such an old tindery garment, so as to cover the wearer's nakedness and to hide him from future shame.
He must throw away his rags, and wash his flesh in water, and so put on the wedding-robe, which is woven without a seam in the beauties of a holiness which is the result of an intelligent obedience to the faith of the covenants made with Abraham and David, and brought into force by the death and resurrection of their Son and God's, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, March 1854
16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
WE have a great and continuing duty to our brethren and sisters, and that is the duty of fervent prayer for them - not meaninglessly by habit and rote as a group, but thoughtfully and individually, one by one, entering into the joys and sorrows of each. Paul said to several
"We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers."
And his greetings show personal remembrance and care for individuals as such. His mind was ALWAYS filled with the things of God and of God's people. Until we have achieved the same "mind of Christ," we are not fully on the Way of Life.
Bro Growcott - Search Me O God
23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
We must FILL our mind with God's Word, and FILL our life with His character and actions. If we are content in our low animal way to do less than this, then we do not really care very much about Him, and we can hardly expect Him to care very much about us.
His conception of love is totality: He is willing to give it - and He requires it of all who would be associated with Him.
Bro Growcott - Search Me O God