Union and Unity
By Dr. Thomas's Daughter.
In view of the great importance and high estimation which we have ever been wont to place upon the testimonies of Yahweh, we desire to draw your attention for awhile to the consideration of the subject of Unity. This has come to be a subject of primary importance at the present time. All true earnest believers of the truth everywhere feel the great importance of Unity, in order that they may not lose their early confidence, become shaken in mind, and be in a fit condition to be blown about by
"every wind of doctrine and the sleight of men."
The apostle Paul, the great teacher of the Gentiles, dwells largely upon Unity. He speaks of the "Unity of the Faith" and "Unity of the Spirit." He never alludes to any kind of unity which does not include as a foundation these two kinds before-named. A seven-fold unity is clearly shown in his Epistle to the Ephesians, a number of units which complete the whole.
One of these is styled "the One Faith:" this we conclude to be the same that is mentioned in Jude, viz., "the Faith once delivered to the saints," which he exhorts us "to contend earnestly for." The body of Christ, another fold of the seven, has been honoured and appointed as the "pillar and ground of the truth."
Pillars perform a very important office in upholding the edifice: the ground is also indispensable. But suppose the pillars and the ground were to take up opposite views concerning the edifice they were upholding, what would become of the building?
"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
If the body of Christ is to perform its proper functions—its legitimate office, it must be an unit, based upon the seven, as taught by the apostle Paul. It may then be a "light shining in a dark place until the day dawns;" it may then be in a condition not only to enjoy the truth within itself, but also to extend the same boon to others, and maintain an effectual defence of the faith until the Master comes.
When firmly united in this kind of unity, however small in number or in worldly standing, the ecclesia cannot fail to exert a powerful influence in behalf of the truth upon society around, thus obeying the injunction given by Christ, to
"let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,"
and be able to carry out fully the exhortation of the apostle, to do all things without murmurings and disputings,
" that ye may be blameless and harmless sons of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life."—(Phil. 2:15).
If, on the contrary, we fail to secure Unity in those things set forth by the apostle Paul, we shall fail to sustain an effectual defence of the Faith—we shall fail to preserve harmony and love amongst ourselves, and we shall fail to shine as lights in the world; for each individual member will soon find the light which once did illuminate his own mind, through the truth, gradually diminishing, until it become finally extinguished; and while a form of Godliness may be preserved, it will be without the power—having very little vitality left in it.
Vitality is the life-power. Spiritual life is the life of the inner man, the spirit of the mind. It does not always flourish, accompanied with a high degree of animal spirits or natural life; for the apostle Paul recognises a condition of things, wherein,
"though the outward man perish, the inward is renewed day by day."—(2 Cor. 4:16.)
When the two kinds of life accompany each other, it is well; but they may exist independently of each other. If we desire to promote spiritual life in a community whose association together is based entirely upon a community of sentiments in regard to Scripture doctrines and precepts, it becomes necessary to keep in lively remembrance those elements which constitute the basis of their Union.
Their faith, their hope, their purpose of life, their aims, objects and affections, all tending towards, and centering in this seven-fold Unity, by which alone the incense of their hearts' devotion can ascend with acceptance to the One God and Father of all,
"and that we may stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel."
The Scripture testifies concerning Paul, that he
"preached the kingdom of God, and taught those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ."—(Acts. 28.)
When giving account of himself, he states, that
"after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets."
In his Epistle to the Galatians, he identifies the gospel which he preached with the promises made to Abraham. In his defence before Felix, the hope and resurrection of the dead form is the theme of discourse:
"I stand, and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers;"
and again, touching the resurrection of the dead, "I am called in question by you this day." He reasoned three Sabbath Days unto them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered and risen again from the dead, and that Jesus was that Christ, thus uniting the hope of the promises with the things concerning Jesus Christ, to be attained after the resurrection of the dead.
We find these things amplified and greatly enlarged upon in reading the epistles. The promises made of God unto the fathers, the covenants, both Abrahamic and Mosaic, are dwelt upon copiously in the epistle to the Galatians. In Romans we learn concerning justification through faith; justification by grace, and not through the works of the law. According to the text, it reads:
"Therefore, it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed."
Both the natural seed and the spiritual seed are included in the acceptance by grace, after repentance from dead works, and justification through faith, by the principle of obedience, "according to the election of grace." The natural branches to be grafted in again, if they continue not in unbelief, when the time of restitution shall arrive.
The Christadelphian, Oct 1873
The Epistle to the Ephesians is a general epistle in the sense that it does not deal with any specific problems, but with the deep principles of the Truth. It has no special greetings to, or even reference to, any individuals, as would be expected in an epistle to one ecclesia, especially where Paul had but recently spent three years, as he had at Ephesus.
It gives the appearance of being intended, not just for Ephesus, but for the brethren and sisters of all the ecclesias of Western Asia Minor of which Ephesus was the centre and hub—the same group of ecclesias to whom John wrote from Patmos.
In the first two chapters, Paul describes the eternal purpose of God to unite in one perfect, harmonious, unblemished (that's the point), spiritual whole, all things in Christ.
The epistle is addressed (v.1) to the saints (holy ones) and the faithful—not two classes of course, but two essential characteristics: those who are holy and are full of faith. Both are essential: either alone would be sterile, actually impossible.
The epistle is addressed to none other than these, except in the sense of exhorting all others to make themselves holy and full of faith. It is our wisdom to be sure we know what God means and expects as to holiness and fullness of faith, and to be sure that we—to the best of our ability—constantly and continuously labour to be in that very limited class—holy and without blemish.
Holiness is total sanctification unto God and separation from the things of the flesh—the passing meaningless, animal things of the natural world. And we are told that—
"without holiness, no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12: 14).
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.38
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:
Holiness and fullness of faith are a total, every moment way of life, way of thinking and speaking and acting—totally different from the ordinary way of the world. They are total, absorbing, exclusive interest in God and in divine things.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.38
The faithful in Christ Jesus
Paul broadens his salutation to include not only the holy ones in Ephesus, but also that select and blessed few who in all ages come under the category of "the faithful in Christ Jesus." Does this include us, too?Are weamong the "faithful in Christ Jesus"?
Faithful means many things. First, it means "firm in belief," having the full assurance of faith, unquestioning and undoubting, single-minded adherence to God's Word.
"Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God MUST BELIEVE" (Heb. 11:6).
Secondly, it means "true to one's word"—faithfully fulfilling one's promises and obligations.
"Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it" (1 Th. 5:24).
"The Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God which keepeth covenant and mercy" (Deut. 7:9).
Third, faithful means "steadfast in the face of temptation," holding firm and unmoved come what may.
"Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life"
Then faithful means "trustworthy in guarding what has been entrusted," and diligent in its use.
"He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust in much."
"It is required in a steward that a man be found faithful"
Let us remind ourselves of that—the little things are just as important as the big things for all is a matter of principle. Often, indeed, the little things are more important than the large things, and little sins worse than big ones. Why? Because while big transgressions may be the result of human weakness under great pressure, the little ones are often a sign of just plain heedlessness and lost love and enthusiasm for God.
It is the little sins and little services that paint the true picture of the heart; the daily acts of faith or faithlessness, unaffected by either momentary stress or momentary enthusiasm.
Many of God's faithful committed grievous transgressions—they fell low, but when they came to themselves He received them again with joy, for He knew that their hearts were set upon Him and their life was bound up in His, though they were overcome for a while.
Again, faithful means "trusting and dependent"—unwavering confidence and reliance.
"If God so clothe the grass of the field ... how much more will He clothe you, O ye of little faith?"
"Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?" (Matt. 8:26).
And, finally, faithful means "true and constant in affection," having the entire heart and mind firmly fixed upon an object of devotion. It means steadfastness in love. This perhaps is the foundation of all its other meanings—the basis or motive power of all, for "Faith," says Paul (Gal. 5:6), "worketh by love."
Such then are the faithful in Christ Jesus; the ones to whom Paul is speaking throughout this epistle; the ones for whom these blessings are reserved:
"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
By this we can measure ourselves.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.36
2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is not, as some make it, just a technical, formal opening salutation to a letter like "Dear Sir." It is a reference to the very heart of the divine purpose itself.
Paul uses the word "grace" twelve times in this epistle—three times in each of the first three chapters. "Grace" is God's divine favour and benevolence toward us—the means and the secret of our salvation. It is far above and beyond mere justice. It is even above and beyond mere mercy. It is active, all powerful, all transforming, redeeming compassionate love and blessing.
"And peace"—The peace of God—perfect peace—is that essential state of mind to which we can and must attain by laying hold upon the freely offered grace of God.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.38
"The love of the many shall wax cold" (Matt. 24:12, RV).
Time would take its toll. Other things would claim the attention. The original enthusiasm would slowly disappear, and the lightstand, no longer zealously tended, would gradually flicker out. How slowly! But how surely and how deadly!
"Thou hast left thy first love" (Rev. 2:4).
A watchman slumbering at his post with a cold, empty lamp in his hand!
But none of this had begun when this epistle [to the Ephesian ecclesia] was written. All is light and joy and Paul writes freely and warmly of the things nearest to his heart—of the things he desired to share with the Corinthians, but could not because they were yet carnal and had to be carefully fed with milk as babes.
He writes of the deep things of the glorious, predestinating purpose of God in Christ. He writes of the fellowship of the mystery, of the multitudinous unity of the Spirit, of the love of Christ which passeth all knowledge and which constrained Paul to super-human effort and endurance on behalf of his brethren.
He writes of the fullness of God with which they were filled and by which they were gloriously strengthened with might in the inner man, and of the wonderful time in the future to which all creation was painfully travailing when God would gather together in one all things in Christ.
Contemplating their love and faith and unalloyed zeal, he ceases not to give thanks unto God continually, and he prays that they may fully know within themselves the inexpressible joys of the working of His mighty power.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.36
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in [the heavenlies] in Christ:
Blessed be God
To those who have the least conception at all of the depth and stupendous magnitude and glory of these things, that can be the only and the irresistible reaction. And not just once, nor even just periodically, but constantly, all day long. "Blessed be God." If this is not our total and continuous frame of mind in all our waking moments, then we have just not made real contact with the glory and greatness and goodness of God at all.
Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings
"Blessed be God . . . who hath blessed us." Our blessing of God is, of course, a totally different thing from His blessing of us and the words in the original are different. "Eulogetos"—is always applied in the New Testament to God, and "Eulogeo," applied to His blessing of men. But they are very closely related, and English has no better than "bless" for both of them. The former carries the idea of praise and worship, the latter more that of poured out goodness.
With all spiritual blessings
The original is even stronger, "with every spiritual blessing" (as R.V.)
God has held absolutely nothing back of all the spiritual blessings He could possibly give us. We may think, in some of our circumstances and abilities, He could have done differently and better—but that is not wisdom.
He has done the very best and most possible for us spiritually. If we do not lay hold on it all in its infinite fullness, that is our fault and our loss. To lay hold on it, to possess it and absorb it, is a full time, full-hearted, full-devoted thing.
In the heavenlies
The word "places" is not in the original. It could be heavenly things. It appears to mean, more abstractly, heavenly realm or sphere—that is, spiritual relations as against natural relations.
It is used five times in this epistle; twice (as it is used here) of the present blessed state of the believer; once of Christ, as and where he is at present; and twice of the spiritual powers of the present world—those who hold religious authority and rule. In the last use (6: 12) Paul speaks of spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies against which the soldier of Christ must do battle.
In the heavenlies in Christ
The whole plan is in Christ. All centres in him. He is the means by which God is destroying all evil and bringing the whole creation into eternal harmony and glory. Only "in him"—inside of him, totally absorbed into and covered by him, can we have any Hope or Life or Peace or Joy.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.38
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:
...the Heavenlies in Christ are not luoghi, heux, or places, but STATES, the foundation of which is laid in Jesus Christ - Deity manifested in the Flesh. "The Man Christ Jesus" is a real man. When on earth he was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and sinless," as to character; yet imperfect as to his material nature.
He is now perfect - a perfect man "justified by spirit," and therefore incorruptible and immortal - a perfect character or moral nature, developed by Divine power, or spirit, into a perfect material nature.
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." *
Spiritual blessings in the heavenlies
"Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God!" (1 John 3:1).
FULL adoption into the divine family, with all its privileges! He throws the door to Himself wide open. Sonship implies fellowship and communion, confidence and dependence. He could offer us no more than to offer us Himself. No higher honour. No greater blessing. And He gives it to us freely, merely upon our promise to be faithful, and to give Him in loving return the pitiful little we have to give.
"All things are yours . . . the world, life, death, things present, things to come; ALL ARE YOURS!" (1 Cor. 3:22-23).
"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling . . . what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness!"
Holiness, the divine eternal beauty of holiness, is the purpose of all this manifestation of love toward us. If it fails to move us to ceaseless and wholehearted efforts in that direction, it has missed its object and failed in its purpose. This is the end to which all is directed, as Paul continues here in v. 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."
That is the glorious secret of His purpose—a people perfected in holiness by love. Not by force or fear, but by love. Holiness is the watchword of the future. Even the bells of the horses are to be inscribed, "Holiness to the Lord." (Zech. 14:20).
"And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it."
And they shall sing with triumphant ecstasy—
"Who is like unto Thee, O Yahweh, GLORIOUS IN HOLINESS?. . . Thou in Thy mercy hast led forth the people which Thou hast redeemed; Thou hast guided them in Thy strength unto Thy holy habitations" (Exod. 15:11-13).
Such was the Song of Moses, upon the deliverance of Israel, and such will be the Song of Moses and the Lamb.
"Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure . . . Blessed are the pure in heart."
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.36
The Heavenlies in Christ
An Association of true believers is termed in scripture "a heavenly;" and, as the Lord Jesus, their Elder Brother and High Priest, is reconciling his household, which is composed of the believers of the manifold wisdom of God of all past and present ages and generations, where he is now, is also "a heavenly," in relation to the said association.
These two heavenlies stand related to one another as the Holy, and the Most Holy, of the temple; divided the one from the other by the Veil of the Covering, or the flesh. The first heavenly is now upon earth, the second heavenly is not yet manifested.
When the Veil is abolished with regard to the true believers, which will be at the appearing of the High Priest, they will be like him, and in the angelic nature will constitute the Most Holy, or second heavenly. Alluding to these two heavenlies, the apostle says to the saints in Ephesus,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ," ch. 1:3;
and, speaking of the exaltation of the Son, he says,
"Having raised him from the dead, the father set him on his right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality and authority, and power and lordship, and every dignity that is named, not only in this Aion, but in the future; and put all things under his feet: and appointed him Head over all things to the Ecclesia, which is his Body, the fulness of him that perfecteth all things in all." Eph. 1:20.
In this testimony the reader will remark that there are qualifying words which distinguish these heavenlies from those in which "the spirituals of the wickedness" flourish. They are designated by the apostle as "the heavenlies in Christ." The other heavenlies in which Queen Victoria, Louis Napoleon, the Pope, and Stars of that order shed their rays, are the heavenlies in Anti-Christ, which are blessed with no spiritual blessing, unless it be a blessing to be made merchandize of for their glorification and profit.
But in "the Heavenlies in Christ" the spiritual blessings are notable and well defined. Jews and Gentiles have introduction into the heavenlies by believing "the manifold wisdom of God," and by being thereupon immersed. Consequent upon this, they enjoy the spiritual blessings of justification from all past sins; of being "free indeed" from bondage to "the spirituals of wickedness in the (Gentile) heavenlies," with all their traditions, schemes, and gospel-nullifying impositions; of having free access to the Father, to whom they are privileged to offer up the spiritual sacrifices of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, which is acceptable to him through Jesus Christ, in the Most Holy Heavenly within the Veil; of being honoured to
"show forth the excellencies of him who hath called them out of the darkness into his wonderful light;"
and of having a right to the Kingdom of the coming Aion, with its glory, honor, incorruptibility, life, power, riches, and delights, the full appreciation of which can only be appropriated in their manifestation.
We perceive, then, that there are "heavenly things," even now upon the earth. An obedient believer of the manifold wisdom of God, styled by Paul "a new creation," or "a new man," is a heavenly thing. He is a creation which the truth of God alone can form. All the Spirituals of wickedness combined in one general camp-meeting, or revival, could not develop one such.
They can make papists, and protestant sectarians of all "the names and denominations" of blasphemy in Anti-Christendom, by thousands; but one enlightened new creature, "rich in faith, and heir of the kingdom of God," they cannot develope; for he is created by exact knowledge after the Image of God; and of that knowledge they are ignorant as Brigham Young, or his oriental prototype, the Camel-driver of Mecca.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Nov 1860
The Heavenlies in Christ
"The heavenly things themselves are purified," says Paul,
"with better sacrifices than the Mosaic victims of whose blood the patterns of those things were consecrated."
This is his teaching in Heb. 9. He tells us that the better sacrifice was "the once offering of Christ to bear the sins of many;" whatever, therefore, is sanctified by his blood, as the blood of the Covenant, is a heavenly thing in Christ. Upon this principle, the covenants made with Abraham and David; and the throne and kingdom hereafter to be established in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, are heavenly things.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is a heavenly thing; and is styled by Paul, "the heavenly calling." The Holy Land, also, is termed "a heavenly country," because it is the subject-matter of a divine covenant confirmed by the blood of its Mediator: and lastly, the One Body of Christ, immortalized and glorified, is called "The heavenly Jerusalem."
For the sake, then, of distinctness, we state that there are in contemporaneous existence,
1. Gentile Heavenly Places; and
2. Heavenly Places in Christ.
3. That the Gentile Heavenlies constitute the Political Aerial, the locality of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, Political;
4. That the Sovereign Power of the Political Air is Sin, "the Prince of the Dominion of the Air;"
5. That this in relation to the Saints, the Gospel of the Kingdom, and God, is the Satan and the Devil, politically developed;
6. That the orders and degrees of men, styled "world-rulers of the Darkness," and "Spirituals of the wickedness," through which Sin governs the nations, are the "Angels of the Devil:"
7. That the Ecclesia, which is Christ's Body, is the Holy Heavenly in Christ, in which burns in the Word-Lamp the light of truth; and where the bread of the Presence is eaten: and,
8. That the Ecclesia manifested in glory is the Most Holy Heavenly State, in which Jesus now is, then visible upon the earth—"heaven opened."
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Nov 1860
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:
The saints are said not only to have that now, for which they wait by faith (John 6:47), but to have had it given to them from before the foundation of the world (2 Tim. 1:9), and to have been chosen also from the same date.—(Eph. 1:4.)
The explanation is, they have received it, or been chosen for that length of time in His purpose. Everything that will be, exists already in the purpose of God; and then, again, what to us is a whole millennium off, is but to him, as it were, a thousand minutes away. Past, present, and future are terms related only to finite apprehension; with God they are all alike.
The Christadelphian, July 1873
According as He (God) hath chosen us in him (Christ)
Paul deals here, and in the next verse, with Election and Predestination. It is vital to our salvation that we understand what these are, and how they apply to us.
"Election" is simply "choice" and to elect is simply to choose; and the word is usually so translated. Our word election is from the Greek word for choose, and it's simpler if we drop the words elect and election and stick to choose, which is plain and clear.
"Pre-destinate"—as in verse 5, is simply that; pre-destinate, to decide the destiny beforehand, and we have no better word for the idea and that's the literal meaning of the original. God, by His foreknowledge, (and that's the point), chooses men and predestinates them. Paul is speaking, all through this epistle, only of those who will be the final redeemed.
He keeps two things clear and we must keep them clear. First, God is no respecter of persons. He chooses men to salvation upon the basis of what He knows they will do. We are told in the Old Testament that—
"The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him" (2 Chron. 16: 9—the prophet Hanani).
And Christ says the same—
John 4: 23—"The Father seeketh such to worship Him," that is, He is hunting for them. The problem is not discrimination by God; the problem is trying to find enough individuals in the vast heap of human flesh who will give their lives totally to God without reserve. That's whom He is seeking so hard to find.
The second point is that whether or not we are ultimately part of this choice and predestination depends upon what we do. It's up to us.
Paul speaks throughout this chapter of the ideal Body, the ultimate redeemed. It may sound to some like it's a cut-and-dried affair, arbitrarily determined by God; that is, that He predestinated before the world began, so it is immutably set, regardless of what man may or can do. But He predestinated on the basis of His foreknowledge of the course that we would choose and His predestination had no influence upon that choice. In His foreknowledge our own choice comes first and then His predestination, based upon that choice.
Some may not be able to understand this—though it should not present any problem to the reasonable mind. But whether we understand it or not, we must accept it as a fundamental divinely attested fact. (There's nothing cut and dried). Peter warns us to—
"give diligence to make our calling and election (choice) sure." (2 Pet. 1: 10).
and he tells us how to do so; by abounding in certain virtues; knowledge, patience, godliness, etc.; not just having them, but abounding in them. And Paul tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2: 12).
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.38
The whole thrust of Scripture—all its instruction and exhortation and solemn warning is to the effect that it's up to us, and it requires total effort. The Scriptures are full of such expressions as "Let not slip", "keep in mind", "always abound", "overcome", "endure to the end", "patient continuance", and many more. Some say, "it is already predestinated, then nothing I do can make a difference." That's utter blind stupidity or deliberate wickedness.
Though the Redeemed have from the beginning of the world been chosen and predestinated, it is entirely on the basis of God's foreknowledge of the total effort they will make and the total devotion they will show. None of this is to say that they earn or even merit eternal salvation. Salvation is wholly a free gift of God's grace. But the effort and devotion will determine to whom the free grace is shown.
"God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him" (Acts 10: 34, 35).
If we don't work righteousness to the limit of our ability, we shall not be accepted—we shall not receive the grace.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.38
Hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world
The "us" cannot be pressed to prove either Paul or his readers had guaranteed, irreversible salvation. He is speaking ideally of those who will prove faithful to the end. It is he that endureth to the end that shall be saved. And though a man may be "in Christ", if he does not "abide in him" he is "cast out and burned."
Note in passing that if to be chosen before the foundation of the world indicates pre-existence for Christ, it equally indicates pre-existence for all the redeemed, which few, if any, would claim.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.38
Without blemish - R.V.
We note that this making holy and without blemish is done "by the Word," so it is clearly something that has to occur and be accomplished at the present time by diligent, prayerful, continuous study of the Word—always of course, seeking the essential help and guidance and power of God through Christ.
We must ourselves do it, but still it must be—and must be recognised as being—the work of God. Can we, in this weak, mortal flesh, achieve holiness and unblemishedness? We not only can but we must. Does that mean that we must achieve permanent perfection? That is obviously impossible.
The flesh could not achieve that for one day, let alone a lifetime; for it means not only not doing any wrong, but—which is much more important—doing everything right, total service, not wasting a moment of God-given time, not forgetting God for a moment.
What is required is that we follow a course that keeps us in God's sight, holy and without blemish. What then is that required course to be followed in order to achieve salvation?
Primarily, we must have—we ourselves must provide—(always of course with God's help) three things—
A goal of perfection. 2. Total desire for perfection. 3. Total effort toward perfection.
If we do not have the goal, obviously we are hopeless. God is not going to force a blessing upon us that we do not even perceive as necessary. And if the glorious prospect that God has laid before us, and the marvellous love that He has manifested to us in calling us to the light, and offering us the blessing of His power and guidance, offering us eternity in the joy of fellowship with Him, and limitless spiritual vitality forever—if this does not create a total reciprocal devotion and desire, then we are dead indeed.
And if such a desire does not automatically translate into total absorption and dedication and effort to achieve the desire—if there isn't sufficient wisdom and intelligence to cause us to strain every nerve and sinew to make sure we do not let slip from us such great salvation—then what good would such dull apathetic creatures be to God?
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.38
In baptism, we are washed perfectly clean. We rise from the waters "holy and without blemish before Him in love" (1: 4). How do we maintain that essential perfection?
He has lovingly provided a way—study, learning, meditation, self-examination, steady striving to overcome every aspect of the flesh, fixed determination to work to the limit for God in the joyful thanksgiving of grateful love, confession and repentance, prayer and supplication and, above all, constant washing out, re-purifying by faith in the all-cleansing blood of the Lamb.
We must constantly, repeatedly, keep purifying our heart before God. We must keep ourselves—by the merciful provision of cleansing—holy and without blemish before Him in love. It must be a continuous process, all day and every day.
Our strong desire for the love and fellowship of God must give us a strong desire for holiness.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.38
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
5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
The adoption - Brethren of Christ.
The Lord the Spirit
"Go and tell that fox that I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected:"
and "though a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him."-(Luke 13:32; Heb. 5:8, 9.)
While, then, he was preaching the gospel of the kingdom, he was imperfect; not morally, but as to flesh, which was mortal flesh, and susceptible of disease, as evinced by the morbid condition of sweating blood in agony.
In the third year of his ministry, and on the first and second days, the imperfection of crucified sin's flesh culminated in its death, and burial in the tomb. But in the third year, and on the third day from the crucifixion, through weakness (2 Cor. 13:4) it was made to live again, and come forth
"by the power of Deity."
It was now in a condition to be perfected by the same power. What his flesh required now was ascent to the Father, exaltation to consubstantiality with Him; so that, on this raising of flesh to Spirit he might be made "the Lord the Spirit," or "both Lord and Christ," upon the principle he had laid down to Nicodemus, saying,
"that which hath been born of spirit is spirit."
...Christ Jesus is the
"Image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of every creature."
He is the intellectual, moral, and material image of the Deity,
"whom no man hath seen, nor can see:"
to which image, as the model man, all foreknown of the Father are predestinated to be conformed in character and substance.
His intellectual and moral image is delineated in the simple records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The pre-existent Word, by whom all things were made, manifested Himself in the nature that transgressed in Eden; because the many sons to be led to glory are partakers of the same.
The divine purpose to be accomplished in regard to them, made it necessary that the captain of salvation should be "made in all things like to his brethren, " in the first stage of divine manifestation.
He partook with them, in this imperfect state, and they will partake with Him in the perfect state of divine manifestation in glory; because of their having been, in this evil world, conformed to his moral image.
Being like him here in character, being in him, and he being in them, they will be like what he is now in substance; and thus being conformed to him as the central figure of the group, he will be fully manifested, both in character and in substance, as "the firstborn among many brethren."
When the divine family of sons and daughters shall be perfected in all its members, they will all be images of the invisible Father, developed upon the principle of knowledge, faith, obedience, love, and power, by which all things are subdued.
Flesh first, and spirit afterwards-divine moral nature primarily manifested in flesh of the first man from the earth; and, secondarily, manifested in the flesh and bones of the second man, the Lord from heaven, "Christ, who is over all, Deity blessed for the ages."-(Rom. 9:5)
This is the Firstborn among many Firstborns, who aggregately constitute a "general assembly and ecclesia in heavens," or heavenlies in Christ-(Heb. 12:23; Eph. 1:3.)
The Christ-Deity is the head of these, upon whom he will write the name of his own Deity, when he makes them "equal to the angels," and like unto himself.-(Rev. 3:12; 14:1.)
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, April 1869
All mankind are, as Paul says, in a natural sense. "His offspring." He is already the Father of all. But this adoption is much higher. This is for those who with all their hearts aspire to His beauty of holiness and hate in themselves any falling short of that holiness; those who seek his spiritual likeness.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.38
7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
The forgiveness of sins
Jesus taught that, "he to whom most is forgiven will love the most" (Luke 7: 43).
We must realise the extent of our forgiveness, and of our need for forgiveness. And we increasingly so realise this by dwelling our minds on the infinite purity and beauty of God's holiness, and the natural ugliness of our flesh.
The natural man is quite satisfied with himself. He sees nothing wrong, no ugliness, no loathsome disease with himself. But Paul says in chapter 2, he is "dead in trespasses and sins" (v. 1), "fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and the mind" (v. 3), "children of wrath" (v. 3)—and chapter 4—
"Alienated through ignorance" (verse 18).
We must realise that our natural way, our natural thinking is an abomination to God. We must learn His way and His thinking.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.38
The riches of His grace
This is the Almighty Creator of this infinite universe condescending to the passing vapour of the worm called man, riches, grace, abounding in all wisdom and prudence.
When anyone does us a kindness, we feel, or should feel, a sense of obligation, not a legal obligation, but an obligation of affection. This is what the Almighty God is striving to create and awake in puny man so that man will be driven to lift himself spiritually to God in love.
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.38
...the Father is inaccessible apart from Christ; that Christ, as the way, is open only to those who are no longer "strangers and foreigners," but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God (5:19). Christ is the "High Priest of our profession," and of that profession only (Heb. 3:1-6; 4:14; 9:24; 10:19-22; 1 Tim., 3:15).
If thanks or praise be given, they are to be presented in Christ's name (Col. 3:17; Heb. 13:15). All wants are to be made known through Christ (Jno. 16:24). And it is through him also that remission of sins is to be sought (1 Jno. 2:1).
...Man can only reach Deity through his son. In Christ, man is accounted perfect (Col. 1:22; 2:10; I Cor. 1:30; Hebrew 10:14; Eph. 1:6, ) and this qualification is essential to give him a standing before God.
"This is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us" (I John 5:14.)
Those in Christ have recognised the holiness of God and their own sinfulness, and have availed themselves of the only provision he has made for justification. Thus fulfilling the necessary principle set forth in the words
"I will be sanctified in them that come nigh unto me."
Bro AT Jannaway - TC 07/1886 "Worship in relation to the Alien
8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
...the Word of God is a vast and inexhaustible treasure of knowledge, and God has offered us all wisdom to increasingly reap these treasures. He will not be pleased, He will not see His likeness growing in us, if we do not take—if we are not intensely anxious to take—full advantage of that wisdom to the limit of our time and opportunity. If our mind is on earthly things, it will forever remain earthly and perish as such.
"To be carnally minded is death." (Rom. 8: 6).
Bro Growcott - BYT 4.38
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:
Economy of the fullness of the times
in which "all things in the heavens," thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, and "all things upon the earth," peoples, nations, and languages, are gathered together under one head, anakephalaiosasthai, is termed "A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH".
See Rev 21.1.
The Almighty Builder of all things intended not to translate the whole human race from a state of sin and death at once into a state of unmingled good and glory. He foresaw that the living race would never be fit for this, but that they must be previously disciplined and prepared for the transition.
Hence, He proposed to develope an INTERMEDIATE STATE upon the earth, and among the nations of mortal men contemporary with it, in which, good and evil would still be commingled, but differing from the preceding state (the present) in this, that, though evil would continue to be, sin should not have dominion over the world, but be dethroned by righteousness.
We have styled this state intermediate, because it is designed to occupy a middle place between the present times of the Gentiles, and the unchangeable constitution of the globe, when there will be "no more sea," and all men will be immortal.
Elpis Israel 1.6.
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:
The Spirit of God will show us wonders in this way that we have not dreamt of, and fill our mouth with laughter and our lips with singing. We shall never be tired of the gladness or forgetful of our indebtedness to God for the goodness which will be ours through Christ in those happy days.
Is there not everything in such a prospect to encourage in that patient continuance in well doing which belongs to our present lot?
If there is anything to mar its satisfaction, it may sometimes be the thought that so few of earth's multitude will attain to it. It may give a twinge of distress to think that if we may be chosen for such a great salvation, so many will not. We are apt to painfully wonder why we should be brought into relation with such unspeakable goodness, and so many left to grope and perish in the darkness that covers all the earth.
This thought has been so painful with some minds as to deter them from embracing their own privileges, and led them to let a salvation slip that does not seem intended for all. We may quell such thoughts by the exercise of reason. We must remember, first, that the whole affair belongs to God, who is working it out "according to the counsel of His own will;" and who has a perfectly good reason for everything He does or omits to do, if we could only know it.
The words of Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth suggest some help on the point.
"There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent save unto Sarepta, a city of Zidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the times of Elisha, the prophet, and none of them were cleansed save Naaman the Syrian."
So we may say with reference to the matter in hand. There are many poor and needy people in the earth, but only unto some is the healing of the gospel sent. It is God's work, and God's wisdom regulates it. The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. Cannot we, therefore, trust Him to work out His plan rightly? It really comes to this. Here we find rest at last. We may be quite sure that we shall see the wisdom of God's ways at last, and His wisdom, therefore, in not inviting many people that we might like to see invited.
If we do not see it now, it is because we cannot see all. The people we know are known only to us as they appear. To judge competently, we should require to see them as God in His omniscience sees them. As God said to Samuel in the house of Jesse when he went to anoint David
"Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart,"
and it is not every heart of which He can make suitable use. Exercising our minds in this way, we shall find it easy to suspend judgment on problems that would otherwise distress; and be left free to bend our whole energies to the part that practically belongs to us in the place we occupy in God's scheme of things.
Do our own part faithfully. This is the sum of all wisdom for us and the end of all anxiety. What that part is we learn from the revelation of His will in the Word of His inspiration. We are here only for a short day to do it. Our little day is infinitesimal in the countless ages before and behind.
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
20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
Those who Dwell in the Heaven
Paul tells the saints in Ephesus, that he with them were "blessed with all spiritual blessings" in these heavenlies; in which they and Christ, though the latter is at the Right Hand of the Divine Majesty, and they in Ephesus and elsewhere, were regarded as sitting together (Eph. 1:20; 2:6).
A heavenly is a constituted supernal state. It may be Divinely constituted, or constituted by human authority. We have these two kinds of heaven-ies in Paul's letter to the saints in Ephesus. In ch. 6:12, he alludes to the heavenlies constituted by human authority. The Common Version styles them "High Places;" but Paul used the same word to indicate them as that rendered "heavenly places" in ch. 1:3,20; 2:6. There is no reason why the translation should not be uniform after the manner of the original.
....It is, however, to be remembered that Paul so expresses himself as not to be misunderstood by the enlightened. He defines the heavenlies in which they "sit together with Christ" as being "in Christ;" but he omits the phrase "in Christ" when he speaks of the heavenlies in which "the spirituals of wickedness" are found.
Hence, the two kinds of supernal states are characterized by being "in Christ" or not in Christ; which is equivalent to being out of Christ - outside, or not included in the things, of which the manifestation of Deity in the Flesh is the great and glorious centre.
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