|God's Purpose In Creation And Redemption|
|God's Greatest Creative Act||45||Free To Be Sons, Not Slaves!||52|
|Frightening Freedom!||46||Forgivness From Sins||53|
|Man's Lost Greatness||47||Free To Be United, Not Divided||54|
|Brilliant Ray Of Hope||48||Free To Be Confident, Not Fearful||55|
|Man–Creature Of Freedom Or Fate?||49||Discussion Questions||56|
|God's Positive Purpose Revealed||50||Discussion Questions (Continued)||57|
|A Positive Response To A Positive Purpose||51|
Genesis 1:26-31, Genesis 2:7-14
God's Greatest Creative Act
The greatest creation of the personal God, of whom we have been thinking in the last chapter, is Man. Man may not be the strongest animal or the fastest animal or the largest animal, but Man is the only animal who asks ultimate questions and who seeks ultimate meaning in life. Man is unique because man was uniquely created. God said, "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness". (Genesis 1:26)
That man is a self-conscious, self-determinative creature is clearly revealed in the Biblical account of Man's creation and fall. (Genesis 1-3) The nature of man, as revealed in these chapters, can be seen from various perspectives, all of which we must examine: (1) Man's Dominance; (2) Man's Limitation; (3) Man's Freedom; (4) Man's Rebellion; (5) Man's Fall; (6) Man's Hope. The Genesis record states Man's unique creation, reveals Man's deliberate wrong choice, and unveils God's merciful provision for Man's predicament.
When Genesis uses the word 'Day' in reference to God's creation, does it literally mean 24 hour days as we know of them or does it symbolically represent eras of time? This is a question which has been unfruitfully debated for along time. The important thing is not how or how long God actually took to create and to organize, but the important thing to realize is that God actually is the creator of all things. The orderly universe is not an accident or chance happening. It is the intelligent handiwork of God. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork." (Psalms 19:1) It is much more difficult to believe that the orderly universe is the product of accident and chance, then it is to believe that the orderly universe is the amazing product of an intelligent and personal God.
Man is different from all other creatures because he is made in God's own image. "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7) God is a Tri-une Being; Man is a Tri-une being as well. God is a Being of intelligence (Omniscience), and so man is created a rational being. God is a Being of temperament (Love), and so man is created an emotional being. God is a Being of action (Omnipotence), and so man is created a volitional being with the capacity to act. God, whose dominance is supreme, has shared that dominance with mankind.
Look first then at Man's dominance. God is creator and Lord of the earth, but God put Man in charge of the earth. Man must exercise his dominance over the earth with a constant sense of his stewardship before God. (Read Genesis 1:28) God gave man dominion over all things, not to abuse the world of nature, but to govern and creatively to use the world of nature to serve mankind and to glorify God. Man is not to use his call to domination over the world as an excuse to exploit the world's natural resources, such as lumber, coal, oil and the soil. God is the giver of all good and perfect gifts. Man is to receive those gifts gratefully and selflessly. God's creatorhood reveals His grace and love.
"Creator God, help me to be creative, not destructive, in the use of the raw materials of creation which you have put under my control."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is the Giver and I am the Receiver of all good things. I will henceforth live gratefully!
We are looking at the nature of Man from various perspectives, as recorded in the early chapters of Genesis.
Second, look at Man's limitation. God placed one limitation upon Man. "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17)
This tree represents God's sovereign knowledge which belongs to God alone. Man must depend completely upon God and not try to assert himself as God's equal. The tree reminds Man that God alone is all-knowing, and that Man must acknowledge his utter dependence on God, who as creator, is infinitely greater than the creature.
Third, look at Man's freedom. Only as man could freely choose to obey and to serve God, could man's love for God be proved and developed. A slave is forced to obey and serve his master even against his will. The attitude of the slave's resentment for his master is vastly different from the attitude of love with which a son willingly performs duties for his father. Only the son, who has the power of choice, can prove his love for the father.
Love could not be tested without the presence of a standard by which to determine obedience or disobedience. God's commandment forbidding Man to eat from the tree was the standard by which to either praise Man for his obedience or to condemn Man for his disobedience.
The fact of Man's freedom is well described by Suzanne de Dietrich: "The thing that makes us uniquely human is that, unlike the other creatures, we are able to say both 'yes' and 'no' to God. Man does not do the will of his Creator by necessity. The stars in the sky follow their prescribed orbits, the animals of the field obey their instincts, but man has this unique and frightening ability–he can refuse to be obedient to his Creator. For God does not want slaves, but sons". (God's Unfolding Purpose, pg. 36)
Obedience or disobedience means nothing if there is no objective standard by which to judge. The tree in the Garden provided that standard, making possible the exercise of Man's frightening freedom!
"Thank you for my freedom to choose. My freedom of choice allows me to ascend to the highest heights of moral development or to descend to the lowest depths of moral degeneracy. Help me to choose the Right. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: It is both frightening and fantastic to be a creature of freedom. I will exercise this freedom responsibly!
Man's Lost Greatness
Fourth, consider Man's rebellion. Man, possessed with the freedom to choose, determined his own destiny. Man yielded to the subtle temptation of Satan and was enticed by Satan's allurements.
Satan implanted the seeds of doubt into Evils heart. Appealing to the "gratification of Man's desire, Satan succeeded in getting Man to overstep his God-imposed limitation, and thus to challenge God's sovereignty.
Satan, whose own fall is attributed to the drunkenness of pride (Ezekiel 28:1-10), became the instigator of Man's pride, which caused Man's fall. When Man ate of the tree, he declared his independence of God and his desire to "run his own life".
When Man invaded God's territory of personal knowledge through eating from the tree, Man yielded to the temptation to play the part of God. Man's relationship to the Creator was made to be one of servant to master. Man attempted to usurp God's mastership when he yielded to Satan's evil suggestions.
Fifth, recognize Man's fall. Man's disobedience to God led to Man's fall. Man failed to stand the test and thus prove his love for the Creator. Man fell from the height of splendor to the depth of despair, from the beauty of perfection of the vileness of distortion, from the joy of fellowship to the anguish of separation, from the freedom of innocency to the bondage of guilt, from the strength of health to the weakness of disease, from the glory of life to the corruption of death, from the richness of an heir to the poorness of an outcast, from the fullness of knowledge to the shamefulness of ignorance.
Sin replaced innocency with guilt and caused man to clothe his nakedness. No longer could man reveal himself as he really was, but he was compelled to hide his true identity.
Sin also caused man to run from God's presence and hide. (Genesis 3:8) No longer could Man enjoy intimate fellowship with God, but Man instead became an alienated, estranged rebel afraid to face God.
Neither was willing to accept personal moral responsibility. The man blamed his actions on the woman and the woman, in turn, blamed her actions on the serpent. The transgressor often scapegoats, blaming his actions on his background or friends or society or heredity. Man seeks to sooth his conscience through rationalization, but God cannot be fooled.
"Legitimate physical appetites were exploited by Satan to cause Adam and Eve to sin. Help me, God, to obey you and never to allow my appetites to rule my life."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: With every right moral choice, there are wonderful moral results!
Genesis 3:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-18
Brilliant Ray Of Hope
Sixth, see Man's hope. Immediately following Man's fall, a brilliant ray of hope shown over the horizon of Man's history, revealing God's future plan for Man's salvation. That ray of hope was found in the curse God pronounced on the serpent: "I will put enmity between you and the woman; also between your offspring and her offspring; He will crush your head and you will crush his heel". (Genesis 3:15)
This prophecy refers to Jesus who was born of the virgin Mary, a descendant of Adam and Eve. Al though Satan inflicted injury on Jesus the Son of God, through crucifixion Jesus crushed and destroyed the works of Satan through His redemptive death on the cross, and proved to be victor over Satan through His glorious resurrection. (Hebrews 2:14-15) Man's bondage to Satan was broken through the conquering power of the resurrected Lord. Through the seed of Eve, Man would be reconciled or brought back to fellowship with God. Through Christ, Man would be "born again" and receive a new nature.
What general conclusions and applications can be drawn from a brief study of Genesis 1-3?
(1) God is the Creator of all of life; therefore, God has the right to rule in each man's life. Each person is responsible to use his body and soul and mind for God's glory. To abuse one's body, mind or soul is to sin against one's creator.
(2) Man's call to domination over the earth is not a call to careless exploitation, but to responsible stewardship. The God-granted power to dominate can become a temptation to 'lord over' other people and to exploit the world's resources for selfish use. Man's lordship over the earth is subject to God's lordship over all of created matter.
(3) Satan often tempts man by calling into question the truthfulness of God's Word. (Genesis 3:1)
(4) Sin can be defined as disobedience against the known laws of God and rejection of the revealed love of God. Because God, by nature is just, wrong moral choices always result in tragic moral consequences. The penalty of sin is death.
(5) Because God is a loving redeemer by nature, He has provided a redemptive plan for mankind's salvation.
"O God, because of your creative power, I was born for greatness; because of my willful disobedience, I lost my greatness; because of Christ's redemptive love, I can regain my greatness. Thank you! Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What God has promised, He has provided, and what He has provided, I will receive–Redemption! Glory!
Man–Creature Of Freedom Or Fate?
We said in the last devotional that, because God is a loving redeemer by nature, He has provided a redemptive plan for mankind's salvation. In seeking to understand God's redemptive plan for mankind, one of the best Biblical chapters to study is the first chapter of the book of Ephesians. Particularly in the first 14 verses of this amazing chapter, we see exposed both the positive purpose of God in redemptive provision and the positive freedom of man in personal faith and salvation.
In looking at both the free provision of God and the free appropriation of salvation by Man, some of your basic questions should be answered. "Are you a creature of freedom or a creature of fate? Are you free to determine your own eternal destiny or was your eternal destiny fixed by some divine decree before the foundation of the world? Did God only choose to save only certain human beings or did God choose to save the entire human race?
We must spend some time seriously examining the truths of Ephesians 1. This chapter tells us that the positive purposes of God have been wonderfully revealed to mankind. The ordination of God's eternal purpose is understood in terms of sonship through Christ (verse 5). The operation of God's progressive purpose is understood in terms of unity in Christ (verse 10). The consummation of God's perfected purpose is understood in terms of total redemption through Christ (verse 14).
Think first of the ordination of God's eternal purpose. "His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!" (Ephesians 1:5, Living Bible) Sonship through Christ is God's eternal ordained purpose. Was it God's eternal purpose only to ordain a limited, fixed number to become adopted sons or was it God's eternal purpose and intention to adopt all persons as his children? Who does 'us' refer to in Ephesians 1:5? A chosen number of individuals, determined by divine decree, or the total corporate human race? If only a select number by divine decree, then how can we say 'in love' He predestined? Is divine love consistent with a divine decree to damn those to destruction who were not chosen for adoption as sons?
From a serious study of the book of Ephesians (and all of scripture) we conclude that God predestined (or determined) that 'us' should include the entire human race. God predestined the entire human race to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. God's will is that all persons be saved. God does not will that any should perish! (Read 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16-17; Titus 2:11)
"O God, I am beginning to see that the entire human race is the object of your special love and that you long for all to be saved from sin. Your free gift of eternal salvation is now being offered to everyone. You favor the entire human race and never arbitrarily select to save only some. Thank you for the revelation of your saving purposes for mankind."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The God who wills to save all is able to save all–including me!
Ephesians 1:5-14, Ephesians 2:13-18
God's Positive Purpose Revealed
In the last devotional we noted that the ordination of God's eternal purpose is understood in terms of sonship through Christ. He can say next that the operation of God's progressive purpose is understood in terms of unity in Christ (verse 10). "This was his purpose: that when the time is ripe he will gather us all together from wherever we are–in heaven or on earth–to be with him in Christ, forever." (Ephesians 1:10, Living Bible)
God's eternal purpose is that all persons should be adopted as spiritual sons (verse 5), but divine intention and purpose to adopt all as sons could only be made possible through the blood of Christ (verse 7), which atoning blood makes possible man's release (redemption) from sin's bondage and relief (forgiveness) from sin's guilt. God's eternal purpose to save the human race could not be realized without the atoning work of Christ on the Cross. "So overflowing is his kindness towards us that he took away all our sins through the blood of his Son, by whom we are saved." (Ephesians 1:7, Living Bible)
That which God has ordained (universal salvation) becomes possible through Christ's accomplished work on the cross (unlimited atonement). Because Christ died, God's eternal intention can be fulfilled, namely, the salvation of all mankind. Christ's atoning sacrifice places all persons in a savable relationship.
But even though all persons are in a savable relationship, all persons are not automatically in a saved relationship. Christ's atonement makes possible the salvation of all, but only personal faith in Christ makes actual salvation operative. Although Christ died in order to reconcile all, all are not personally reconciled to Christ. God's eternal purpose–universal salvation of mankind–only becomes God's realized purpose as persons personally receive Christ's salvation.
If Ephesians 1:5 speaks of the ordination of God's eternal purpose– sonship through Christ–then Ephesians 1:10 speaks of the operation of God's progressive purpose in time–the uniting of all persons to Christ. It is God's purpose to unite all persons in Christ. (Ephesians 2:13-18)
Ephesians 1:14 speaks of God's perfected purpose consummated–namely, the total redemption of those who are God's possession. "His presence within us is God's guarantee that he really will give us all that he promised; and the Spirit's seal upon us means that God has already purchased us and that he guarantees to bring us to himself." (Ephesians 1:14, Living Bible) Christ provided an unlimited atonement, making forgiveness and redemption possible for all (verse 7). God's grace has been lavished upon the human race (verses 7b-8a). God's objective intention is to save the human race corporately (verses 11-12).
"God, how wonderful to know that you are not vindictive in your general treatment of mankind, nor arbitrary in your specific choice of men for salvation. You have sent your Son to seek and to save the lost–and that includes all persons of all times! Thank you for the revelation of such loving purposes!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's objective intention to save all mankind marks me as a savable person because of my human genealogy and as a saved person because of my spiritual regeneration!
1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16-17; Titus 2:11
A Positive Response To A Positive Purpose
We have noted that God's objective intention is to save the human race corporately. The Bible clearly declares this truth: "God longs for all to be saved and to understand this truth". (1 Timothy 2:4, Living Bible) "He isn't really being slow about his promised return, even though it sometimes seems that way. But he is waiting, for the good reason that he is not willing that any should perish, and he is giving more time for sinners to repent." (2 Peter 3:9, Living Bible) "For the free gift of eternal salvation is now being offered to everyone; and along with this gift comes the realization that God wants us to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures and to live good, God-fearing lives day after day." (Titus 2:11-12, Living Bible) "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3;16, Living Bible)
But while it is God's intention to save all, it is only those who hear the Gospel ('word of truth') and who believe the message of salvation that become a part of God's new race of people (the body of Christ). Those who hear and believe (verse 13a) are those who receive God's promised Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who is responsible to fulfill God's saving purpose in the lives of those who respond to God's saving purpose.
After we personally placed our confidence in Christ and in His saving message, we were "stamped with the promised Holy Spirit as a pledge of our inheritance, until the day when God completes the redemption of what is his own; and that will again be to the praise of His glory". (Ephesians 1:14, Phillips)
So, in light of our study of Ephesians 1 thus far, we must again ask: "Is man a creature of fate or a creature of freedom"? Man is made in God's own image and as such, is free!
(1) God freely chose to save mankind corporately, even before the time when mankind (in Adam) freely chose to fall into sin!
(2) Christ freely chose to come to earth to voluntarily die for the sins of mankind, thus placing all mankind in a savable relationship through Christ's unlimited atonement.
(3) Each person can freely choose to accept or to reject God's salvation. Man is free to accept or to reject God's salvation, but man is not free to accept or to reject the consequences or results of right or wrong moral choice. To choose positively–that is, to choose Christ–is to choose forgiveness and redemption and ultimately a heavenly inheritance which is presently guaranteed by the Holy Spirit who seals the believer's heart.
"O God, your positive purpose is salvation for every person, made possible because of the atoning blood of your Son. Help me to make a positive response of faith in Christ, in order that I may enjoy personal salvation! Thank you for your powerful provision and for the possibility of a powerful appropriation!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What God has positively intended and positively provided, I will positively enjoy–salvation from all my sins!
Ephesians 1:5-8; John 1:12; Galatians 4:4-7
Free To Be Sons, Not Slaves!
We have looked at God's positive purpose revealed: (a) God's eternal purpose ordained–sonship through Christ (Ephesians 1:5); (b) God's progressive purpose operative–unity in Christ (Ephesians 1:10); (c) God's perfected purpose consummated–total redemption through Christ (Ephesians 1:14).
In light of God's positive purpose revealed, let us now look at man's positive freedom exercised: (a) freedom to be sons, not slaves (Ephesians 1:5-8); (b) freedom to be united, but divided (Ephesians 1:9-10); (c) freedom to be confident, not fearful (Ephesians 1:11-14).
In first considering man's freedom to be sons, not slaves, we must look at three aspects of this truth: (1) adoption as sons (v.5); (2) redemption from bondage (v.7); (3) forgiveness from sins (v.7,8a).
Freedom to be sons of God speaks of spiritual adoption. Even before the foundation of the world, God determined to adopt us–the human race–as His children. The mark of God's ownership is stamped deeply on the soul of every human being. God claims the right to be our Father, and we His children. "He determined in His love before time began to adopt us to Himself through Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 1:5 Barclay's translation)
God has destined us to be sons, not slaves! To be called children of God is to be called the objects of God's special care, love, and attention! "What is man that thou art even mindful of him?" But, just think, "What is man that thou art willing to make him a son of the living God!" "We were absolutely in the power of sin and of the world; and God, through Jesus, took us out of that power into His power; and that adoption cancel sand wipes out the past and we are made new. We have passed from the family of the world of evil into the family of God." (Daily Study Bible; Ephesians; Barclay; pg. 93)
Freedom to be sons speaks also of redemption from spiritual bondage. What is the relationship between redemption and adoption? Perhaps Galatians 4:4-7 best shows that relationship. "But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir." The meaning of redemption is 'to loose.' The powerful blood of Christ is the answer to the powerlessness of men who are in the grip of sin! "It is still true of Christ that by His power He can liberate men from this helpless slavery to the things which attract and disgust them at one and the same time ." (Daily Study Bible; Ephesians; Barclay; pg. 94)
"O God, release me from the bondage of sin and make me a captive of your love. Free from sin, I am free to serve you. I bow low before you in order that I might stand tall before everything else. I am redeemed from being a slave of sin in order that I might be adopted as a son of God! Glory!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The shame and humiliation of my sin is replaced by the dignity and status of my position as a son of God!
Forgivness From Sins
Adoption as sons (v.5), redemption from bondage (v.7), and forgiveness from sins (v.7,8a)–all were ways of declaring the wonderful truth that man is free to be sons of God rather than slaves of sin. We have looked at adoption and redemption. Let us now look at forgiveness.
What is the relationship between redemption and forgiveness? Redemption from sin means deliverance from the slavery of sin, but there is also forgiveness of the sins themselves. Deliverance from what I am–a slave! Forgiveness for what I have done–sin!
Wrong moral choice (sin) always leads to wrong moral consequences (bondage). Christ not only releases one from the consequences of wrong moral choice, but Christ forgives one for the wrong moral choice which led to bondage in sin. Not only does Christ release the prisoner of sin, but Christ relieves the prisoner of the guilt of the crime which resulted in imprisonment. The present bondage is broken (redemption), and the past guilt is resolved! Not only are bad habits broken but a troubled conscience is cleansed! Forgiveness means relief, and redemption means release, and both are made possible through Jesus' blood. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us." (Ephesians 1:7-8a NIV).
Why does God redeem us? Why does God forgive us? Is there something about us that makes us worthy or appealing to God? Never! God redeems and forgives because God chooses to redeem and forgive, not because we are worthy! We cannot earn or deserve or purchase God's favor. God's grace– unmerited favor–is initiated totally by God. God loves us, not because we are lovely, but because 'God is love.' The very nature of God is love, not a sentimental love, but a suffering love. We are redeemed and forgiven 'through his (Christ's) blood.' (Ephesians 1:7) Love which bleeds is love which saves!
God could neither redeem man from the bondage of sin's consequences, nor forgive man for the guilt of wrong moral choices, without the atoning blood of Christ! It is not an eternal divine decree which is the instrument of man's salvation. It's instead the shed blood of Jesus Christ which is the instrument of man's salvation. The will and pleasure of God was to save humanity from sin, but this divine intention in eternity could only become realized in time if Christ should choose to consent to the Father's request that He die an atoning death on Mount Calvary! Christ had to die, not in the sense of absolute necessity, but in the sense of redemptive necessity. Only through the blood of Christ could God's holy nature be honored and man's salvation be guaranteed. Even though God the Father requested God the Son to come to earth to die for mankind, in reality, there are not three parties involved in this transaction (God, Jesus, Man), but rather there are only two parties involved in this transaction (Holy God and Sinful Man). For when Jesus died, God died!
"O God, I see now that your justice was maintained and your love was demonstrated at the same time when Jesus died, for, when Jesus' blood was shed, God's life was poured out! God, you took the penalty of sin upon yourself when Jesus died, for 'God was in Christ,' both dying for sin and at the same time reconciling sinners to Himself! Thank you! Thank you!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: 'The blood, the blood' – this is my plea, this is my salvation!
Free To Be United, Not Divided
Christians are called to unity. for God is a unifying God. Christians are free, not to divide, but to unite men around Christ. Not free to be independent, but free to be interdependent. Not free from social concerns, but free to meet social needs. Not free from authority, but free under authority. One is free when he fulfills the purpose for which he was created. Christians are created to unite all things in Christ.
A brick is not free when it is thrown aside, never to be used in a building. It is 'free' when it finds its place and purpose in the wall of a building. A large 'work horse' is not free when it is never harnessed to work. Rather it is free when it is given opportunity to pull a load. thus fulfilling its purpose for existence.
A Christian is not free when he is given no responsibility. A Christian is truly free when he finds his purpose in creation and in the Church of Jesus Christ. When he is 'carrying his share of the load.' When he is using his spiritual gifts within the Church. When he is functioning as a healthy and cooperative member of the Body of Christ. He is free when he is in love and unity with other members of God's family. God's purpose is a corporate purpose. A Christian therefore is free when he is seeking to unite all things and all persons around the feet of Jesus. When he is involving himself in helping God to realize His ultimate purpose for His world. "For God has allowed us to know the secret of his plan. and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ. that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in him." (Ephesians 1:9-10 Phillips)
A Christian is free when he is involved in helping to fulfill God's Master Plan for the human race–"to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ." (v.10 NIV)
When a Christian involves himself in bringing God and men together and in bringing men together. with men in loving understanding, then that believer is helping to fulfill God's purpose of uniting all on earth around the feet of Jesus! Christians are to put their arms around sinners and draw them to the Saviour (2 Corinthians 5:2). Christians are to love one another (1 John 4:7). There should be no place among Christians for the sectarian spirit–that spirit which results in dividing true Christians because of secondary issues of doctrinal distinctives. Criticism, divisions, carnal jealousy, and competition–these are the results when Christian groups elevate secondary issues rather than unite together because of their common love for Christ! Whenever Christians manifest any spirit other than love. they are hindering the cause of Christ and frustrating the purpose of God which is "to unite all things in him (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth." (Ephesians 1:10 RSV)
"O thou unifying God, help me to maintain 'the unity of the faith in the bond of peace.' Broaden the circle of my inclusion of those fellow Christians who agree with me in the essentials of the faith but who disagree with me in the secondary doctrines of the faith. Deliver me from the sectarian spirit that results in destroying fellowship among Christian people. In Jesus' charitable Name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: While I am contending for the 'essentials of the Faith.' I will not become contentious among fellow Christians who choose to differ from me in the 'secondaries of the Faith'!
Psalms 37:34-40; Ephesians 1:11-14
Free To Be Confident, Not Fearful
How can you have confidence that you are included in Christ? You can have confidence that you are a Christian and on your way to heaven, if you have responded in faith to the Good News of salvation (v.13). It is not enough to hear the Good News. You must also believe the Good News. That is, you must put your faith totally in God whose plan for human salvation has been revealed through Christ. Believing is trusting God, taking God at His word, transferring your trust from yourself to God alone, for God alone has a plan for human salvation.
Confidence is based not on denial of sin, not on human ability or human accomplishment. Confidence is based on human confession of personal sin, and acceptance of 'the word of truth,' the 'gospel of your salvation' (v.13). There are those who appear to be very confident, very self- reliant, and self-assured ('towering like a cedar of Lebanon' – Psalms 37:35 Living Bible). These persons seem to manifest no doubts, no fears. Often they are brash and bold and brazen. They seem to have the 'world by the tail.' They enjoy intimidating others with their confident words and actions. It seems that such people make all the right decisions. They boast that they are self-made persons.
But such confidence is an illusion! Such confidence is built on a crumbling foundation! Such confidence is the product of spiritual ignorance–a lack of understanding of God's master plan for history!
What is the basis of confidence? Understanding the "purpose of his (God's) will." (v.11) What is the purpose of God's will? That each person, as a part of the corporate human race, recognize that he is chosen and predestined in Christ to be saved from sin (v .11). That each person, as a part of the corporate human race, realize that he individually is chosen to accept God's salvation. That each person who accepts God's salvation be confident that the "best is yet to be." Why? Because heaven is the inheritance of the believers, guaranteed to believers by the promised indwelling Holy Spirit (v.14).
Ephesians 1:11-12 speak of God's objective intention to save the human race corporately. This divine intention to put the human race corporately into a savable relationship is made possible through Christ. Ephesians 1:13a speaks of individual human response to God's plan of salvation. Those who respond to God's plan of salvation are those who first hear the word of truth (that is, after hearing the 'word of truth,' these persons believe the message of salvation which is made possible 'in Christ.' Hearing and believing the 'word of truth' results in receiving God's promised Holy Spirit who gives assurance of a future inheritance. Ephesians 1:13 b, Ephesians 1:14 speaks of God's gift of assurance and confidence to the believing heart. The believer's confidence is related to the past, present, and future–in his understanding of God's past saving intention (v.11), in his relationship to God's present saving power (v.13), and in his assurance of God's future heavenly inheritance (v.14).
"O God, I see that my confidence does not originate in the fulfillment of my own self-centered will, but in the fulfillment of your eternal will–the salvation of mankind through Christ. If one is not saved through Christ, he has no basis for confidence and every reason for doubt and fear. I put my trust alone in the saving Christ!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What God intended in eternity and what Christ provided in time, I will receive by personal faith–salvation from my sins and reconciliation to my Saviour!
Discussion Questions On 'God's Purpose In Creation And Redemption'
What evidence is there that man is uniquely created in God's own image?
Practically speaking, how is man to exercise his God-given dominance over the earth and at the same time practice his God-required stewardship in the earth? Cite practical examples of how this dual responsibility is carried out by sensitive believers.
Why did God place a limitation on man's freedom in the Garden of Eden, according to Genesis 2:16-17?
Was the exercise of man's will in the Garden of Eden an authentic exercise of freedom, or was it simply an apparent exercise of freedom which was really predetermined by a sovereign God?
What is the most distinctive feature of man that makes him a creature uniquely created by God, different from all other creatures of the earth?
What made Satan's temptation in the Garden of Eden so appealing to our first human parents, and what is there about that first temptation that is common to all subsequent temptations which all humans face?
What were some of the immediate consequences of the fall of Adam and Eve, and in what ways are these consequences the consequences which modern-day persons face when they sin?
How do you interpret Genesis 3:15, as this verse relates to God's provision for lost mankind's restoration?
After noting the general conclusions and applications from a study of Genesis 1-3 (which are listed in the chapter), which points (if any) revealed some new insights to you? What further additional insights and applications, from your own study of these chapters, can you share with others?
From a careful study of Ephesians 1 (along with the insights shared in the chapter of this devotional book), how would you answer the following questions? "Are you a creature of freedom or a creature of fate? Are you free to determine your own eternal destiny, or was your eternal destiny fixed by some divine decree before the foundation of the world? Did God choose to save only certain human beings or did God choose to save the entire human race? (Cite as many scriptures as possible to document your answers.)
According to Ephesians 1:5, what has always been God's unchanging plan for 'us'? Does 'us' refer only to certain favored human beings whom God has chosen or selected, or does 'us' refer to the entire human race? Is there any solid scriptural basis for believing that God has chosen only some in the human race to be saved, and that He has condemned the rest to be eternally lost? What scriptures can you cite to show that God wants to save every human being from sin and for heaven?
Discussion Questions On 'God's Purpose In Creation And Redemption (Cont.)
Could God's perfect will to save the entire human race have been possible without the atoning work of Christ on the cross? Note Ephesians 1:7.
If it is God's perfect will that all persons come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) then why does not God exercise His sovereign power to force all humans to repent of sin? Does God have a 'permissive will' as well as a 'perfect will,' resulting in God allowing sinners to refuse to repent of sins, even though He desires that all sinners repent? Is it a demonstration of God's sovereign power that He refuses to coerce man, and instead allows each person to exercise his free will in positive acceptance of or in negative rejection to Jesus' universal provision for human salvation?
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Even though all persons, because of Christ's unlimited atonement, are in a savable relationship, all persons are not automatically in a saved re1ationship."
What personal conditions must be met by the sinner in order for God's universal saving purpose to be personally realized in the individual sinner's life? Can you show from scripture that God offers the gift of saving faith to all persons, thus making possible the salvation of the entire human race?
What is the relationship between God's universal saving purpose, Christ's unlimited atonement, and a person's individual appropriation of salvation?
According to Ephesians 1:5-14, list three different ways in which man's positive freedom is exercised and demonstrated.
Spiritual sonship (according to Ephesians 1:5-8) is the result of what three spiritual realities?
According to Galatians 4:4-7, what is the relationship between redemption and adoption?
What is the relationship between redemption and forgiveness?
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Christ had to die, not in the sense of absolute necessity, but in the sense of redemptive necessity, for only through the blood of Christ could God's holy nature be honored and man's salvation be guaranteed."
What is a 'sectarian' spirit, and how does such a spirit violate the teachings of scripture, especially those in the book of Ephesians (Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 2:14-22)?
According to Ephesians 1:13, how can you be sure that you are a Christian and on your way to heaven? What does it mean 'to believe,' as used in this verse?