"YOU ARE ALL BROTHERS"

FORORDAINED from the FOUNDING of the WORLD

July 19, 2012

 

 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” 

– Ephesians 1:3-5

 

     These words the apostle Paul wrote to the first century Christians in the congregation at Ephesus while he was being held in prison for preaching the good news.  This congregation was made up of mostly Gentiles who were leaving behind their worship of idols and taking up the worship of the Father of All.  Up until this time, God had dealt primarily with the nation of Israel.  Paul wanted these Gentiles to know that the Father truly loves and accepts these non-Israelites into his family, and that he has alwayspurposed to do so.  Yes, from the very beginning, “from the founding of the world,” the Father intended for earthly man to be adopted into his spiritual family in the heavens as “sons to himself.” 

 

     Note that it was not an emergency contingency plan that was introduced to remedy the default of Adam and Eve.  It was the Father’s purpose “from the founding of the world;” “before the creation of the world” (TNIV Bible); “before the world was made” (GNT Bible); “before the creation of the universe” (CJB Bible); “before he made the world” (NLT Bible).  

 

     About the same time as this letter was penned to the Ephesians, Paul had also penned a letter to the congregation in Colossae.  In the letter to the Colossians, Paul expounded on the “mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people.” (Colossians 1:26)  Likewise to the Ephesians, Paul revealed the sacred secret.  In order to get the full impact of Paul’s letter, imagine that you are in the Ephesus congregation as the letter is read.  Imagine you are one of the Christians eagerly awaiting word from this faithful apostle.  As each sentence is read, know that the message is for you, to upbuild and encourage you.

 

The Sacred Secret of His Will

 

     After introducing the hope of our adoption as sons of the Father, Paul wrote:

 

“... With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment— to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” 

– Ephesians 1:8-10 

 

     With the advent of Christ, the appointed time had arrived.  The Father revealed the sacred secret of our sonship and began gathering together ‘the things in the heavens and the things on the earth’ in the Christ.  Now, when the Ephesian brothers heard these words, what did they think Paul meant by ‘to bring unity to all things’  If you were in the Ephesus congregation, what would you have thought he meant?  

 

     One interpretation is that Paul was referring to gathering together the anointed Christians who would live forever in heaven, and then gathering together the other Christians who would live forever on earth.  We doubt that was the correct understanding because at that time, there was no indication of any kind that the Father intended for followers of Christ to live on earth forever.  The only hope known to the early Christians was to be adopted as sons of God in the heavens. (Romans 8:14-17, 23; Colossians 1:5; Galatians 3:26-29; Galatians 4:5-7)  It is more likely that Paul meant exactly what he wrote: that all things in heaven and all things on earth would eventually be gathered in Christ, where he was, in heaven.  He goes on:

 

“To be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen,having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritanceuntil the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” 

– Ephesians 1:10-14

 

     Paul refers to the small remnant of Christian Jews as those “who have been first to hope in Christ.”  But he makes clear that the Gentiles who “also hoped in him” would likewise be sealed with holy spirit as a guarantee of their heavenly inheritance.  It is likely these Gentile Christians that Jesus indicated he would ‘also bring who would will listen to his voice, and become one flock’ with the Jewish Christians.  (John 10:16)   He continues:

 

“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you,the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength.” 

– Ephesians 1:15-19

 

     Paul wanted these Gentiles to accurately know and have faith in their glorious inheritance, and truly understand the nature of the hope to which they were called.  He tells us that there is a surpassing power that upholds this hope, a power we can have confidence in, a power that had already been demonstrated in an unprecedented way by the resurrection of Jesus:

 

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” 

– Ephesians 1:18-23

 

     Jesus is now in power, and has been in power since his resurrection when the Father ‘seated him at his right hand and gave him the authority over everything,’ including us.  We, the Christian congregation, referred to as ‘his body,’ are under his lordship – directly, with no intercessor.  But Paul makes mention of another authority:

 

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” 

– Ephesians 2:1-3

 

     This is the authority from whence we came prior to accepting the glorious good news of the Christ.  It is an authority that operates in everyone who is not a child of God.  Paul refers to all the others (the rest of them), not as children of God, but as “children of wrath;” not as sons of God, but as “sons of disobedience.”  There is no middle ground.  

 

     These other sons are identified by their conduct and their desires.  They do not seek the heavenly riches.  They pursue what they know, earthly things, desires of the flesh.  But they do not have to remain in that state, anymore than we did:

 

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” 

- Ephesians 2:4-7

 

     It is by the undeserved kindness of God that we are transferred from the kingdom of man to the Kingdom of the Heavens.  In other words, there are no specific acts we must perform, no hoops to jump through, no special works, no high education.  All that is required is that we accept God’s kindness – his offer of sonship – by having faith in the possibility:

 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” 

– Ephesians 2:8-10

 

Joining Together the Two Flocks

 

     The administration God purposed would ‘gather together all things’ in the Christ.  There would be no division among God’s people such as had existed when Christ first arrived: 

 

“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—  remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”

– Ephesians 2:11-12

 

     But that division was done away with and now both Jew and Gentile can join together as one people, one flock, one body: 

 

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” 

– Ephesians 2:13-16  

 

     The message Christ brought of the fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man is a message of peace to both the Jew and the Gentile:

 

“He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” 

– Ephesians 2:17-18

 

     Both flocks were joined together as one body, one holy temple for the Father wherein His spirit would dwell:

 

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

– Ephesians 2:19-22

 

     Paul knew of what he wrote.  He reminded the brothers of his conversion and the revelation given to him by Christ Jesus (Acts 9:1-19), granting him a unique personal comprehension of the sacred secret. (Ephesians 3:1-4) He continued:

 

“Which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.  This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” 

– Ephesians 3:5-7

 

     Again, Paul tells us that the sacred secret of sonship – being joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) – was unknown to previous generations, but was always the Father’s purpose!  

 

“Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.” 

– Ephesians 3:8-9

 

     After the great error of Adam and Eve, many in the heavenly places did not understand how God would accomplish his purpose to gather all things together in Christ:

 

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.  In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” 

– Ephesians 3:10-12

 

     The apostle Peter also spoke about the heavenly interest in the way God would work out his purpose: 

 

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.  It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.” 

– 1 Peter 1:10-12 

 

     Paul was thankful to be blessed with the revelation of the sacred secret.  And he encouraged us to likewise be thankful and to apply ourselves toward gaining a complete understanding of the Father’s purpose:

 

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” 

– Ephesians 3:14-19

 

     The spirit of the Father that dwells in each of us helps us in this endeavor: 

 

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

– Ephesians 3:20-21

 

The Oneness of the Christian Congregation

 

     Seeing that it is the Father’s purpose that mankind be joined together as sons of God, heirs of Christ, and brothers to one another, we should each do our part in maintaining the oneness of the brotherhood:

 

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the callingyou have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

– Ephesians 4:1-5

 

     To assist us in maintaining our oneness, Jesus gave “gifts to his people” (Ephesians 4:7-10) whose job it is to keep us focused on the accurate knowledge of Jesus and not be led astray:

 

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” 

– Ephesians 4:11-16

 

     Yes, the only way to avoid being ‘tossed about by the trickery of men’ is to remain steadfast in Jesus’ teaching and work toward unity, not division.  Paul had to counsel the Corinthian congregation on the matter of unity because divisions had already started to develop. Instead of following the Christ, the congregation had turned to following various men.  Instead of being spiritual men and women, they had returned to a fleshly state of mind.  (1Corinthians 3:1-9) Paul warned the Ephesians against that path:

 

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.” 

– Ephesians 4:17-19

 

      That is not the way of true Christians:

 

“That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” 

– Ephesians 4:20-24

 

     The remainder of the letter to the Ephesians was counsel on how to behave in the congregation so that we do not destroy our unity and lose our inheritance. (Ephesians 4:24-6:8) The counsel can be summed up in these words:

 

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

– Ephesians 5:1-2

 

     Additionally, Paul counseled that we “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10):

 

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with thebreastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take upthe shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

– Ephesians 6:14-18 

 

     Paul specifically asked the Ephesus congregation to pray for him and for all those who are making known the sacred secret of the good news.  

 

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I willfearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” 

– Ephesians 6:18-20 

 

     And he bid the brothers farewell saying:

 

“Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” 

– Ephesians 6:23-24

 

    If you were present when the letter was read, how would it have affected you?  Would you have believed that the Father’s purpose is for you to be ‘adopted as one of his sons?’  Would you have accepted the ‘promised holy spirit, which is a token in advance of your inheritance?’  Would you have abandoned your fleshly desires and focused your mind and heart on the good news of the Kingdom of the Heavens?  Would you have conducted yourselves as a joint member of the body of Christ, in imitation of God?  Would you have donned the complete suit of armor and joined Paul in making known the sacred secret?

 

    If you would have done so back then, you can do it now.  The message has not changed.  It is the Father’s purpose to gather together all things in Christ by adopting faithful mankind, of all races, as His sons and heirs of the heavenly kingdom – the Sacred Secret!  That continues to be the Father’s purpose since “the founding of the world.”  

 

    We welcome your comments.

 

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