You are currently browsing the daily archive for November 1, 2022.

All Saints Day is November 1.

Readings for Year C can be found here, including links to the exegeses on the Gospel reading from Luke, his version of the Beatitudes.

The Epistle is as follows, emphases mine:

Ephesians 1:11-23

1:11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will,

1:12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

1:13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;

1:14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

1:15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason

1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

1:17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,

1:18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,

1:19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

1:20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.

1:22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,

1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

The first half of this passage concerns predestination: God’s choosing His elect.

The doctrine of election, or predestination, is confusing to the point that people make jokes about it. Old-school Presbyterians have and still do place much emphasis on election. Some say that one can be predestined, commit murder and still be saved. Not so. Others wonder if they are part of the elect and pray for those who do not have faith, some of whom who come to belief later in life.

John MacArthur explains more about election, borrowing a quote from the famous 19th century English evangelist, Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you’ll be saved.” You can’t think for a moment that you are supposed to figure out whether you’re elect; that’s absurd. As Spurgeon said, we can’t run around and see if people have an E stamped on their back. But you are commanded to believe, and, “You’ll die in your sins if you believe not on Me,” Jesus said. The reality of all of this is you have an apparent paradox in every major doctrine in Scripture that brings God together with man.

Paul mentions predestination when he says that, in Christ, we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of Him — God — who accomplishes all things according to His counsel and will (verse 11).

God does this, Paul says, so that we, setting our hope on Christ, live for the praise of His glory (verse 12).

Paul tells the Ephesians — and those of the churches surrounding Ephesus —  that when they heard the Gospel and believed it, they were marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit (verse 13), as belonging to God and His Son.

In examining these verses, MacArthur unpicks the confusion many of us face when we think of predestination:

All of this is God’s plan. Go back to verse 11: He is the one “who works all things after the counsel of His will,” energeō. He energizes everything. So when you think about salvation, I want you to think about it as the purpose of God, the will of God, the plan of God, the intention of God. He chose you.

But sometimes people get a little bit confused with this, and they wonder, “Well where is the necessary faith in that?” And it’s side by side, down into verse 13: “You also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed.” Salvation doesn’t happen apart from faith. Through the years that’s been a question that is asked of me over and over again: “How do those go together? If salvation is all of God, if it’s monergistic, if God does the choosing, God does the predestining, if God has to give the life to the dead person, if God has to do the regenerating, if God has to grant the faith, if God has to give the sinner sight and life in order to respond and believe—how is it the sinner’s responsibility? The answer is, I’m not sure the dynamics of that, but I know that God’s purposes in election never come to fruition unless someone believes the gospel. And we’ve been told to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

Rather serendipitously, the Gospel for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity in Year C, October 30, 2022, has the story of Zacchaeus, the despised chief tax collector, whom Jesus saved. Jesus knew who he was and Zacchaeus received Him joyfully. Luke 19:10 concludes the story with Jesus saying:

19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

I cited a sermon from MacArthur wherein he says God seeks us first, then we seek Him:

In our sinfulness, in our fallenness, in our reprobation, in our blindness, in our ignorance, in our association and relationship to the kingdom of darkness and under the power of Satan, we cannot seek after God. We do not seek after God.  There would then be no reconciliation, no salvation, no forgiveness, no hope of heaven if God did not seek after us.  God does the initial seeking.  God does the saving of those who apart from Him would hide themselves from Him like Adam and Eve, running from His presence with no capacity in them to ever turn and pursue Him …

And this is the work of the Son of Man.  The Son of Man in verse 10 is a title which Jesus used of Himself more than any other, by far … The word “seek,” zte, means to pursue, to look for, to search for.  To save means basically to rescue from harm, to deliver from danger And the amazing irony of it all is that God sends Christ to seek and to save those who are headed for His own wrath and judgment.

Returning to today’s reading, another essential component of predestination, or election, is that we must believe in Christ and confess Him as Lord. MacArthur says:

You cannot be a believer without believing—basic …

John 1:12, “As many as received Him”—that would be the same as believing—“to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” Who becomes a child of God? Those who believe. Then verse 13, “Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” There you have the same thing again. It’s the will of God, not the will of man—and yet you must believe. In fact, if you don’t believe, you weren’t elect, because election will be confirmed by faith.

Another difficulty is sin. If the Holy Spirit is with us, whose fault is it when we sin?

MacArthur explains it this way:

If—whatever’s good happens in your life, you give Him the praise; whatever wrong happens in your life, you take the blame. There you are again with the same reality that you cannot do anything in the flesh, you can only do it by the power of the Spirit—and yet you are responsible to conduct your life in a sanctified way.

… that should encourage you because it means it’s a far more glorious issue than any human being could ever understand. But it doesn’t happen without believing. That’s why the New Testament is filled with the command to believe, to believe. “Faith comes by hearing, hearing the word of God.”

It’s somewhat simpler than it sounds:

So we have an inheritance. The ground of that inheritance is basically predestination, verse 11. But the ground of that inheritance is also, according to verse 13, believing. Your responsibility is not to figure out God’s predestined plan; your responsibility is to believe. And whoever believes, the Lord will never turn away, right? So that’s the foundation understanding; the ground of our inheritance is bound up in God’s predestined plan and our response of faith.

Let’s look at the role of the Holy Spirit, because Paul says that the Spirit’s seal is the sign that we are pledged to that inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, for the praise of His glory (verse 14).

MacArthur tells us how the Holy Spirit helps us lead a sanctified life:

The Holy Spirit does illuminate us. The Holy Spirit is our resident teacher. The Holy Spirit does convict us of sin. The Holy Spirit does an ongoing work in our lives of enabling us to minister through spiritual gifts. But He is also “the Holy Spirit of promise,” and that is to say He guarantees the fulfillment of the future inheritance.

MacArthur tells us that a seal was very important in that era and in the Old Testament:

Now it says the seal of the Spirit: “You were sealed in Him.” What does this notion of sealing mean? Well let me see if I can just give you some illustrations of it. In looking at it maybe from different facets. First of all, we’d say sealing is a sign of security

You remember that Christ’s tomb was sealed with a Roman seal, which meant that no one could break that seal. No one had the power to break that seal unless they had more power than Rome. That was a way to secure something. And that is exactly what the seal of the Spirit is. We are secured, and we are secured by the Holy Spirit, and no one has greater power than He. No one can break the seal. The seal also in Jewish culture was a sign of authenticity. You remember back in 1 Kings 21 when Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard, and through Jezebel’s deception she got it for him by writing letters and sealing them with Ahab’s seal. This was the official mark of authenticity, the royal signature. So God seals us to secure us, and He seals us so that it is labeled that we belong to Him. We are legitimate, authentic sons of God

I think that’s a marvelous way to think of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who grants to us delegated authority to access all divine resources. Jesus said, “Ask anything in My name and”—what?—“I’ll give it to you—anything according to My will.” Being sealed with the Spirit is a sign of security, authenticity, ownership, and authority; and we exercise all those things as believers.

A pledge for us, on our behalf, is also involved:

So the ground of our inheritance is predestination and faith. The guarantee of our inheritance is the promise, the Holy Spirit of promise who secures us and our inheritance. One other comment on verse 14: The Holy Spirit is “given as a pledge”—not only a seal, but a pledge. What is a pledge? It’s the Greek word arrabōn. It’s used a couple of ways. One is “a down payment.” The Holy Spirit is the first installment on our inheritance yet to come. The Holy Spirit is God’s down payment on our eternal inheritance. And every believer has the Holy Spirit. “If any man have not the Holy Spirit, he’s none of His,” Romans 8:9. So the fact that the Spirit has taken up residence in us and we are the temple of the Spirit of God means that God has given us the first installment on our eternal inheritance. Arrabōn was also used another way: It was used for an engagement ring. So the Holy Spirit is for us not only the down payment to our future inheritance, but the engagement ring that means we are the bride, and we will be married to the bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

Paul has a reason for writing these words to the Ephesians:

Paul is really calling on these troubled believers living in the worst life of their day to suffer patiently and wait with hearts full of praise for the eternal inheritance that was promised to them. He’s calling for them to understand the spiritual heavenly blessings that were already secured for them by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and the elective purpose of God in eternity past, and they were just waiting for the full realization of them when they entered glory.

Ultimately, for us:

The ground of our inheritance is predestination and faith. The guarantee of our inheritance is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of promise who is both a seal and a down payment, engagement ring, a pledge. Finally, the goal of our inheritance. What is the purpose in all of this, end of verse 12? “To the praise of His glory”; end of verse 14, “to the praise of His glory.” God is going to finally redeem us into glory as His “own possession,” verse 14, “to the praise of His glory.” That is always the reason for everything. It’s not about us; it’s about Him.

This is what’s remarkable, and I want you to grasp this as a final thought. If you’re like me, you wonder why the Lord even tolerates you. After all, He is perfect—perfect in every way. It’s incomprehensible to imagine a situation where you are altogether, in every way, exactly what He wants you to be so that you have capacity for only one thing, and that is to bring praise to His glorious name. That’s what heaven is all about. It’s not about you getting your own mansion, it’s not about you traversing the New Jerusalem and counting the jewels; it’s about God having made you like His Son so that you fully satisfy His holy desire. You are to Him as His own Son is to Him. That’s your best life.

In the second half of this passage, Paul prays for the members of the church.

MacArthur says:

This prayer, you almost feel, is a kind of interruption in the flow of Paul’s revelation for the church. It’s almost as if he can’t go another step unless he offers a prayer for the church. He’s writing to the church in Ephesus; it’s been four years since he was there. Not only to the church in Ephesus, but Ephesus was a major town in Asia Minor, and there were other churches listed in Revelation 2 and 3; they also would have received this letter. He starts out with that amazing set of blessings, spiritual blessings in Christ; and then before he starts to go into some more detail about the church and what it believes and how it behaves, he raises a prayer starting in verse 15.

Paul is writing this letter in Rome, where he was being held prisoner.

He tells these Christians in Asia Minor that he has heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love towards all the saints, i.e. fellow believers (verse 15).

MacArthur says that Paul would have received reports of them, either written or in person:

Now he knows he’s writing to a true church because if you look at verse 15 he says, “I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints.” Why does he mention those? Because those are the evidences of true salvation: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and manifest love for the saints.

How did he know about this? How did he know that the Ephesian church was doing so well after four years? Well he says he heard; he heard about it. How would he have heard about it? He’s a prisoner in Rome, he hasn’t seen them in four years, he’s incarcerated. But prisoners could receive letters, and they could receive visitors. And over the period of time of his imprisonment he had received both letters and visitors. And the testimonies were always the same; it was about the faith of the people in Ephesus, and it was about their love for the saints. These are evidences of a true church.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that love of the saints, of greater or lesser degrees, brings heavenly blessings:

Faith in Christ, and love to the saints, will be attended with all other graces. Love to the saints, as such, and because they are such, must include love to God. Those who love saints, as such, love all saints, how weak in grace, how mean in the world, how fretful and peevish soever, some of them may be.

For the reasons of their future divine inheritance, which they are manifesting through their faith and love in anticipation thereof, Paul gives thanks as he remembers them in his prayers (verse 16).

Paul prays for their further spiritual enlightenment, that God, the Father of Jesus Christ and of all glory, may give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation (verse 17).

Henry explains:

The Lord is a God of knowledge, and there is no sound saving knowledge but what comes from him; and therefore to him we must look for it, who is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ (see v. 3) and the Father of glory. It is a Hebraism. God is infinitely glorious in himself all glory is due to him from his creatures, and he is the author of all that glory with which his saints are or shall be invested. Now he gives knowledge by giving the Spirit of knowledge; for the Spirit of God is the teacher of the saints, the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. We have the revelation of the Spirit in the word: but will that avail us, if we have not the wisdom of the Spirit in the heart? If the same Spirit who indited the sacred scriptures do not take the veil from off our hearts, and enable us to understand and improve them, we shall be never the better.—In the knowledge of him, or for the acknowledgment of him; not only a speculative knowledge of Christ, and of what relates to him, but an acknowledgment of Christ’s authority by an obedient conformity to him, which must be by the help of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. This knowledge is first in the understanding.

MacArthur says that we lack this teaching today, because churches have moved away from teaching and preaching about Christ. They have focused too much on worldly matters and losing their essential purpose — proclaiming Christ:

This is how the church should live. We should live with this consuming preoccupation with the person of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, He’s anticipated; in the New Testament, He’s revealed. And He is the revelation of God that is the most clear revelation. God spoke in time past through the prophets and the writers of the Old Testament. In these last days He’s spoken unto us by His Son. God is on display in Christ. To know Christ is to know all the riches of heaven that are yours because you are His. Churches struggle with this. They get caught up, they get seduced away from Christ

Everything is about knowing Christ. And so … Paul says, “That’s my goal in ministry, is to proclaim Him, proclaim Him.” I hear a lot of things from a lot of so-called preachers these days. I say this too often; I say, “Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about Christ? Why?” We proclaim Him. Completeness is in Him.

Paul continues praying, saying that with the eyes of the heart duly enlightened, the faithful may know the hope to which they are called, the riches of our Lord’s inheritance among the saints (verse 18). The faithful belong to Christ and He inherits us as His Church.

MacArthur ties that verse in with predestination and encourages us to set our minds on the life to come:

Now look at the sweeping reality of verse 18. I want you to understand the doctrine of election; I want you to understand the doctrine of predestination. Some people say, “If you believe in predestination it’ll make you lazy, it’ll make you indifferent.” If you really understand the doctrine of predestination it’ll make you thankful, and then it’ll make you holy, and then it’ll make you joyful, and then it will fill your life with security. You need to understand that you were chosen, predestined, called to eternal glory. It began with the choice and the calling, and it ends with “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”

The very inheritance of Christ is with the saints. It’s in union with the saints that Christ receives His inheritance, and we receive it with Him. Think about it. Before time began God chose you, predestined you to eternal glory, called you in time, granted you faith to believe the gospel, justified you, and set you for glory. And it’s going to take place, because in verse 13 it says, “You were sealed [unto that glorious end] by the Holy Spirit,” who is God’s guarantee, “the Holy Spirit of promise.”

So when you’re focusing on Christ, focus on that which is eternal. You have to fly over life in this world, go from eternity past to eternity future. Think on that: “Set your affections on things above and not on things on the earth.” It’s not going to get better, you can’t fix it; let’s set our affections in the heavenlies. We live; whatever happens in the world around us, we are just a vapor that appears for a little time and vanishes away. This is a very short time; and while we’re here we need to set our affections on things above. Contemplate the greatness of the doctrine of election. This doctrine is so powerful and so important.

Paul then writes of the immeasurable power of Christ towards believers, according to the working of that great power (verse 19).

MacArthur says that the Greek word means ‘energy’:

Christ is your protector

You not only understand the greatness of His plan, but you understand the “greatness of His power,” power “in accordance with the working of the strength of His might.” There are four words here that describe His power: the word “power,” the word “working,” the word “strength,” and the word “might.” He has the power. He has the energy, energeia, His “working.” He has the strength. He has the might.

This is the good news. He not only has a plan, He has the power to execute that plan.

Paul says that God gave His Son that power at the Resurrection, raising Him from the dead, and the Ascension, where He sits at His Father’s right hand (verse 20).

MacArthur tells us:

The resurrection of Christ and the ascension of Christ demonstrates the power of God to bring you through death out the other side into His presence, even as He did for His own beloved Son.

Christ’s power is above all earthly powers and above every name, not just now but for all eternity (verse 21).

MacArthur says:

Sounds like Romans 8, doesn’t it? What’s going to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?—and Paul lays out a litany of things. No—no persons, no things.

Paul concludes with the holy mystery of the Church. Everything and everyone is subordinate to Jesus Christ, who is head of all things and all people for His Church (verse 22), His Bride, his body of faithful people, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (verse 23).

MacArthur conveys Paul’s idea as being one of Christ’s dominion over everything:

the One who is head over all things, God gave to the church as the head. He didn’t give us angels, He didn’t give us a committee of godly men; He gave us the head of the universe as head of the church. And we are His body; and as “His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” This is just overwhelming.

He lives in us. The one who has the universal, eternal, redemptive plan has the power to execute that plan, and is the person superior to all other persons and all other things; the One who is head over all things, ruler over everything, is ruler in His church. And not only does He rule His church, but He lives in His church. We are His body, and He fills us with His fullness. There’s so much doctrine and so much theology in this. This is the message we need to preach: It’s about Jesus Christ, who is absolutely everything, and the only hope of salvation and the only deliverance from judgment.

I hope that this explains more about predestination and our divine inheritance as believers.

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