God's Purpose and Counsel

Notes of an address on Ephesians 1.

1919 263 I have read this in order that we may have the purpose and scheme of God before us. Nothing can set aside His purpose. Israel despised the land, but it was God's purpose to bring them in, We get their despising it in Num. 14, but there is one verse there that fits in with my subject this afternoon. Joshua there says (ver. 8) "If the Lord delight in us."

Now that is what He does do. God delights in His saints and He delights to bless them in Christ. But Israel despised the land and they were set aside, and unable to get in; and He tells them He would treat them as they had said He would, and they should wander forty years in the desert, according to the days in which they had searched the land — a year for a day — until they all died. But in spite of all this, the very next chapter begins, "When ye be come into the land." Notwithstanding all their sin it is looked at as if they were there.

Nothing can set aside His purpose and counsel. In regard to Israel it is presented as from the foundation of the world. But in relation to His saints now and the church, it is fixed from before the foundation of the world.

No wonder Paul's heart overflows with blessing and praise as we find in vers. 3 of our chapter! We are blessed not with earthly, but with spiritual blessings. His purpose and counsel is that we should participate in all the conferred glory of Christ as He says in John 17 — "And the glory which Thou halt given Me I have given them." He is indeed the Firstfruits, but we shall appear with Him in glory, and reign with Him.

I want us each to get some idea of our calling, that it may separate us from this present world. We live in tumbledown houses in these poor bodies, and in a scene of corruption too, but we are going to be conformed to His body of glory, and share in all His exaltation.

When Abraham was on the mount with the Lord, the Lord said "Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do?" He was the friend of God, and God took Him into His confidence. And the Lord Jesus says the same thing of us in John 15, "I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you." So the whole mind of God — all that He is for man has been told out in Christ, and by the Spirit now given.

Now let us go to Ps. 2 and see how scripture is interwoven with, and bears out, scripture. The first part of the psalm deals with the time Christ was here and rejected; and the apostles quote it in Acts 4. It refers to all the nation gathered together against Him at the cross. They would not have Him at all. But in the purpose of God (ver. 6) He is set on the holy hill of Zion. Then as born into the world, He is declared to be Son (ver. 7), and the inheritance is given Him (ver. 8). But in order that we may be associated with Him in it, He takes it as Man, by redemption.

Now turn to Rev. 2:26 — the promise to the overcomer and connect this with what we have just read in Ps. 2. "To him that overcometh will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron … as I received of My Father." Now you, beloved, truly belonging to Christ, will come back with Christ when He appears in glory, to rule and to judge the nations with Him. So Paul says to the Corinthians, when they were not able to judge the wicked man, and went to courts of law: "Know ye not we shall judge angels; how much more things of this life?" (1 Cor. 6:3). He thinks the simplest among them ought to be able to judge these trivial things. Yes, we shall come back with Christ, and be associated with Him in all He takes up. Now I go again to Corinthians. Because they were walking as men carnally, therefore Paul was unable to give them these deeper truths, but he begins to whet their appetites (and ours too). In 1 Cor. 2:9 he quotes Isaiah, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him." Most stop short here, but we must go on to the next verse. "But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit." God sets this knowledge before us. "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." Isn't that plain, that God intends the most simple and elementary of Christians to enjoy what He has brought them into? If an immense estate was left me in America, and the title deeds brought to me, I should be poring over them, finding out all about it, until I was living there in heart. A man lives where his thoughts are.

Now we will turn to Ps. 8. If you are studying the Psalms, don't read yourselves into them. Such a thing as the present possession of forgiveness of sins is unknown to them. They are nearly all prophetic, and bear on Israel. The Lord is here spoken of as Son of man. You know in Matt. 21 when He rode into Jerusalem, the children rejoiced, and that fulfilled the second verse which He quoted. Now turn to Heb. 2 and we will see what says the expository book on that (for the Epistle to the Hebrews is the great expository book on the Old Testament, specially on the sacrifices). "But one in a certain place testified saying, What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels, thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands. Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But" listen to this! — "now we see not yet all things put under him, but we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour, that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man." It is grace, not judgment, that is here brought in.

I read these scriptures to show we have actual association with Christ in all He takes up. Poor wretched creatures that we are in ourselves. What were we before we were converted? When I remember what I was — and if Paul by the Spirit had not taken the place, I would own myself to be "chief" of sinners. But it does not become us to doubt God's purpose and counsel about us. That was the failure of Moses (Ex. 4), and Jeremiah too, and they were told to believe their Creator. It is not grace or meekness to disbelieve Him.

On the holy mount Moses is seen with Elijah, and they are speaking of the most marvellous event in the whole of time. The death of Christ is the centre of all God's counsels. His glory never shone out in such splendour as on Calvary. God's glory is silhouetted on the dark cloud of judgment there. Christ is God's righteousness (sealed and witnessed to by His precious blood) that He might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.

Now we are going on to see, though we were speaking of being such poor creatures, that God foreordained and predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His Son. 1 John 3 treats of this and shows it to be a purifying hope. But let us now turn to 1 Cor. 15, and see in ver. 47 and onwards what we have been brought out of, and brought into. "As is the earthy such they also that are earthy" all in Adam, right down from the beginning, are of that earthy nature, and must be born again or never see the kingdom of God. "And as is the 'heavenly, such they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" — that is, exact conformity to Christ.

In Phil. 3 all our concerns ("politics" if you like) are in heaven, "from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body." What an outlook! There unto His own body of glory! to "head up all things in Christ." But "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 15:50). The design of Satan is to bring the earthly man — the man of flesh into the things of God. He has no standing before God. There is no possibility of salvation save through the death and resurrection of Christ. Man is teaching now that there is some little good in man that will lead him on to more good; and, denying the eternity of punishment, he elbows the atonement of Christ out of the way to make room for himself, and the coming man of sin.

Now go to Col. 1:12 "Giving thanks unto the Father which hath made us meet" — a real living reality — let us rejoice in it! — "Hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." We have been reading of the inheritance in Ephesians, "After that ye believed, ye were sealed with the holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance." He is the earnest. How many of you have tasted the grapes of Eshcol today? We are tasting those grapes as we realize by the Spirit the inheritance we have in Christ.

"Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness" this is the world. Everything in it, the glories of it, are to the church as the fiery serpents and scorpions were to Israel in the wilderness, defiling and poisonous.

"In whom we have redemption." The person of Christ. It is in Him we have all this. Wisdom is the Word unuttered. In John 1 we have the Word uttered — the same Word. "For by Him were all things created" (Col. 1:16). As the eternal Creator they belong to Him, but He became man and died in order to take them by redemption, and associate you and me with Him in administering them. How will the angels see the manifold wisdom of God in His kindness towards us! To see such sinners brought into association with Christ! Oh, when we think of grace! well, contrast gives us some idea of things. When I see what I was, and then what the wondrous grace of God has made me, I learn a little the meaning of grace.

In Hebrews 1. the Lord Jesus is made Heir of all things, yet is He Creator, and addressed as "God." Scriptures are divinely marshalled in that chapter to bring out His place as "God" and "Man." Now here in Col. 1:18 He is Head of the body. The Lord's words in John 17:22 take in all the glory given Him as Man. Up to ver. 20 He had been speaking of the apostles, but we are brought in here, and the Lord is praying for you, beloved. His hands don't need to be upheld as were Moses' hands. "That they all may be one this ought to be true of us; for a certain space of time it was in evidence. But ver. 22 is what I have been dwelling on as my keystone — "the glory that thou gavest me I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me." Oh, how wonderful, and to be rejoiced in! There is a fulness in that verse to occupy our hearts for long. The world will know, to their condemnation, that the poor creatures they had despised are in the same glory with Christ, and loved as He is loved! R.E.C.