Friday, December 07, 2012

NOTES FROM EPHESIANS 1:1-14

In Him We Have Redemption
Ep.1:1-14
 
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

- Eph 4:11-12  He (God) gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints…

To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

- This is an opening statement to "faithful...saints"
- This is not a statement about HOW they became faithful saints (their being predestined to salvation)
- This is a statement about HOW God has provided for salvation and WHERE this provision is found
- Notice, they are "...faithful IN CHRIST JESUS..."

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 

- This is praise to God
- God has provided blessing
- Where is this blessing? IN CHRIST

4 just as He chose us in Him...

- Because we have been conditioned by certain doctrinal discussions, we automatically assume a certain concept of "predestination" when we see the word "chose"
- Paul's point is that it is IN HIM that we are chosen
- It's not that people are chosen (predestined) to be in Him
- Remember, he is talking about "faithful saints" and what is true of "faithful saints"
- It's that those who are IN HIM are chosen - how one gets in Him is not the point
- When did God decide that He would choose those who are IN HIM - when did God decide that He would bless us IN HIM?

...before the foundation of the world...

- What did He choose would be true of those who are IN HIM?

...that we would be holy and blameless before Him.

- The beginning of the next statement speaks of God's motive in all He has done when He says, "In love..."

In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 

- Caution, "predestination" ahead
- What is Paul NOT saying? He's not saying that God predestined certain people to be "faithful saints" /   adopted / saved
- Paul's NOT saying that God predestined WHO would be adopted, Paul is saying that God          predetermined HOW we would be adopted
- God predetermined that "faithful saints" ("us" in the text) would be adopted THROUGH JESUS     CHRIST
- AN IMPORTANT REMINDER: This must be view in light of the Jew / Gentile controversy - it has been predetermined by God that both Jew and Gentile receive blessing and adoption THROUGH JESUS CHRIST (Ep.2:13, 14, 18)

6 to the praise of the glory of His grace...

- God is to be praised for this self-inspired provision (grace)
 
...which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 

- This is an arrangement He freely bestowed on "faithful saints" IN THE BELOVED (Jesus Christ)
- The Good News is that anyone, Jew or Gentile, who set their lives apart unto (saints), place their faith in and live a faithful life IN CHRIST can partake of the blessing and adoption of God
- The Good News is NOT that some have been predestined to be saved and others have not 

7 IN HIM we (faithful saints - Jew and Gentile) have redemption THROUGH HIS BLOOD (a way of referring to the atonement),

- What does this redemption involve?

...the forgiveness of our trespasses...

- Paul makes clear, in other places, that salvation involves more than forgiveness bot it DOES involve a very much needed forgiveness for real guilt incurred due to our moral violations
NOTE: Redemption (being "bought" back) is just one phase of the larger work of salvation (recovery from all the complications caused by sin)
- Why or how did any of this take place or become a reality?

...according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight...

- It was God's idea and God's provision which He conceived of BEFORE the foundation of the world and has been working out FROM the foundation of the world

9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed IN HIM 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things IN CHRIST, things in the heavens and things on the earth. 

- God has revealed that He purposes to "sum up" all things IN HIM (Jesus Christ)

IN HIM 11 also we have obtained an inheritance...

- Straight forward and self explanatory

...having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 

- God, of His own initiative (working all of these things of which we speak according to His own will), predetermined that this would be the arrangement; that this is the way it would work
- This is NOT saying that everything that happens, including the predestination of salvation for a limited group of people, is the will of God

12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, 

- In this statement we have a glimpse of HOW one enters into Christ
- "...after listening to the message of truth...having also believed..."
- This is the consistent message of Scripture
- Paul's point is NOT that some were predestined to believe
- Paul's point IS that anyone (Jew or Gentile) that enters into Christ by faith (belief) is adopted,      redeemed, forgiven and blessed

...you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance...

- Not only are we adopted, redeemed, forgiven and blessed but we are given a seal, a pledge by way of the impartation, witness and presence of the Spirit in our lives
- "Sealed" does not refer to hermetically sealed, as though we are locked in (once saved always saved thing)
- This is reference to the seal a King would put on a document to validate that it is of him, to        authenticate that his authority is associated with it - a pledge of authenticity to encourage confidence

...with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

- Praising God for our ultimate destiny

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

LOVE DEFINED – Part Two

Our culture defines love erroneously. We generally think of it in terms of an emotion or simply an act of kindness. While love might involve one or the other (or both), both fall short of the biblical definition. While Scripture clearly states that God is love, the apostle Paul also states in Romans 11:22, "Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off."  Love is the purpose and pursuit of the highest possible good, all things considered.  It requires wisdom to discern what measure of kindness or severity is appropriate to arrive at the highest possible good.  We can see, therefore, that love might involve acts of kindness but it also might involve various expressions of severity, both of which could produce a wide range of emotions.

The context of Romans 11 involves cutting off those who do not have faith (Jew or Gentile) and embracing those who do have faith (Jew or Gentile).  Both cutting off and embracing are acts of love and both will produce considerably different emotions.

It is critical to involve both kindness and severity in our concepts of love, lest we simply dismiss the actions of God revealed in the Bible that we commonly have difficulty reconciling...with a more shallow view of love. The Old Testament Scriptures reveal that God implemented extreme measures in His effort to pursue the highest possible good. We must not simply dismiss such revelation.  God has revealed to us incredible insights into His nature and character, including his love.  We must allow such revelation to define our idea of love, not dismiss passages that do not fit our presuppositions about love.  In the same way that we talk about the loving kindness of God, we must be aware of the loving severity of God.  Love involves doing what is appropriate, no matter how difficult, to arrive at the highest possible good.

It is common for people to struggle with the severe acts of God as revealed in the Old Testament because of a deficient concept of love. In the same way that a surgeon might have to amputate a cancerous leg in order to save the rest of the body, God has, on occasion, cut off those who were cancerous (i.e. wicked).  The greatest act of love ever expressed is in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In the atonement, we see the greatest manifestation of kindness and severity imaginable.

Eph 5:1-2  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (NAS)

Friday, November 09, 2012

OBSERVATION

In hearing and reading comments and observing responses from the Christian community to recent political activities, I write the following. It seems that the task of dealing with the “both / and” issue (in comparison with the “either / or” issue) is very important. Simply put, we need not pit preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ against being good stewards and having active involvement in the realm of government (or education, business, etc.). The tendency to dismiss the need to and importance of giving wise and responsible attention to the affairs of national and international governance is often portrayed as a more spiritual approach to life on earth. This is largely the fruit of an unhealthy and inappropriate secular / sacred dichotomy. The assumption is that our current, earthly existence is of no importance in comparison to our future spiritual destiny.

I would suggest that such an assumption and its ensuing approach falls short of the full reality that God is Creator of heaven and earth and, having been created in His image, He gave the human race (of which Christians are a part) a cultural mandate to rule over all the earth. A well balanced, holistic perspective and approach is our goal. Many seemingly pious remarks intend to communicate that it really doesn’t matter how things pan out in such earthly affairs because God’s kingdom is not of this world, etc. There are others who quickly allude to the assumption that everything happens according to God’s plan. Here’s where caution and balance must be sought. The fact that God’s kingdom is not dependent upon or ushered in through political movements does not mean that such affairs are of no importance. Neither does it mean that such affairs have no influence or impact on how, when and where the gospel is preached or how quickly the church manages to preach the gospel of the kingdom in every nation as a testimony (after which the end will come – Mt 24:14). Therefore, a dismissive or piously passive attitude regarding the unfolding of such events is not to be seen as the height of great faith.

Finding a fruitful “both / and” approach in which we are not distraught to the point of incapacity or passively pious to the point of inactivity is our goal. We have not been taken out of this world (we are in this world) and our involvement and influence must be seen as significant and even necessary. At the same time, we are not to be controlled by the principles of the ungodly (we are not of this world). We must, instead of being dismissive in our attitude, be involved in destroying speculation that is being raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5)  wherever this is being accomplished; philosophies of government, education, economics, family life, child training, etc. Our commission is to disciple nations, teaching them to observe (obey and honor) God’s principles and truths for fruitful human living, individually and corporately.

In a future article, I plan to address a similar confusion regarding the relationship between God’s active involvement and man’s active involvement in the unfolding of human history. Again, it is not all one or all the other.

Friday, October 19, 2012

LOVE DEFINED - Part One

Christ taught that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength…and to love our neighbor as our self.  Seems simple enough, right?  But when we unpack these commandments of God, we find a treasure trove of meaning that compels us to properly define the word LOVE

Mark 12:28-31 - One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.'  "The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

The word for love here, agape (agapao) is used in the New Testament to describe the attitude of God toward His Son, John 17:26; the human race, generally, John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 and to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, John 14:21; and to convey His will to His children concerning their attitude toward one another, John 13:34, and toward all men, 1 Thessalonians 3:12; and to express the essential nature of God, 1 John 4:8.

Biblical Christian love has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in obedience to His commandments. 1 John 5:2-3 tells us “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”  A self-centered life is the negation of love to God.  Christian love, exercised toward our neighbor (mankind), is not an impulse from our feelings, it does not always agree with our natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom we have some affinity.  Love seeks the welfare of all, Romans 15:2, and does no wrong to any, Romans 13:10; love seeks opportunity to promote the highest good for God’s Kingdom and to all men, and especially toward the fellow believers, Galatians 6:10.

Love can be experienced only from the actions it prompts. God's love is seen in the gift of His Son, 1 John 4:9-10. This is not the love of affection, that is, this love was not drawn out by any excellence in its objects.  In Romans 5:8 we see that God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  This was an exercise of God’s divine will in deliberate choice, and consistent with the very nature of God Himself.

Love was demonstrated perfectly among men in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:2 indicates that we are to walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. This love is the fruit of His Spirit in the Christian, Galatians 5:22.  Part two of this topic (in my next post) will deal with “loving-severity” (i.e. love involves the difficult and, often, unpleasant aspects of discipline, correction and even judgment as He and we attempt to employ wisdom in discerning where on the scale of kindness and severity (Romans 11:22) we must properly operate). This lays the foundation for understanding some of the Divine actions we “normally” have difficulty reconciling with love and, therefore, are inclined to dismiss.  Written by Keith A. Dunlap

Thursday, October 04, 2012

A GRAIN of WHEAT


Jesus tells us in John 12, verses 23-26, that "…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.  If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”  What does Jesus mean with these words, and how should we apply this truth to our lives?
This is not salvation by works! This is obedience, even unto death…death of my selfishness, death of my agenda in lieu of God’s agenda and His Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven; and this, regardless of the cost to us.


Jesus was teaching two elemental truths here to His disciples: 1) His imminent and glorious atoning death on a cross and resurrection from the dead would bear much fruit for God’s kingdom, and 2) Christ was calling people to discipleship…to follow Him.  One truth reveals the greatest happening in human history, and the other reveals our appropriate and right response to God’s redemptive provision to mankind.
Jesus consecrated Himself fully to the work of God on this Earth, even unto death on a cross.    Christ’s death and resurrection led to glory and life not only for Himself but also for others.  God publicly demonstrated His displeasure with sin through the sufferings of his sinless son …Jesus Christ.  Christ's suffering was a real and meaningful substitute for the punishment humans deserve for our sin.  Christ is telling the disciples in this passage, that He must die in our place so that God can forgive our sins when we repent with faith.  On this basis, God is able to extend forgiveness while upholding His righteous laws for the highest good of His Kingdom and His created order.
The teaching is clear…if we seek after the perishable things of this life on Earth; if we do not seek Christ and follow His example and His teachings…we will lose our spiritual life and we are eternally separated from the God who created us.  If, however, we divest ourselves of all that is of this world only, and we prepare and equip ourselves for the great calling of God…to be Christ’s disciples to reach the nations with the gospel of God’s Kingdom and work with God in His implementation of redemption for mankind…then we will gain life eternal, and the Father will honor us as we serve Christ in this way.  Written by Keith A. Dunlap

REFLECTIONS ON THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, 2012

Mitt Romney represented himself and his political ideology in a very sound manner. Romney spoke clearly and, for the most part, directly to the President while President Obama often compiled layers of words that rambled into a vague, poorly communicated idea, finding it undesirable to maintain connection with Governor Romney during the communication process. As with debate formats of this sort, details, such as President Obama indicated Governor Romney lacked, are difficult to unpack (how many pages was the Obama healthcare package?). Regarding direction, ideology and general agenda, Romney communicated confidently and clearly, alluding to accomplishments as Governor whereas Obama was vague, rambling and only able to manufacture references to imaginary successes based on the juggling of figures and “facts” surrounded by almost four years of a poorly handled presidency.

By way of commentary, I must say that Romney’s America is more consistent with the American exceptionalism of which we’ve benefitted as American citizens than is the deep seated change associated with Obama’s America. This particular presidential election is, more than any recently held, an ideological matter. In brief, the Romney candidacy is stressing reduced control and interference by the federal government while President Obama assumes high levels of federal control is desirable and instrumental in curing America’s ills. There have been shards of this perspective in the Democratic Party in the past but not to the extent we now see, and in some measure, experience (and will to a greater measure experience in a second Obama term). More than this, President Obama represents a hybrid democrat. There are ideological influences well outside the commonly held demoncratic approach toward building America. This is not your father’s democrat. Though, I must admit, this was not greatly evident in this debate focused on domestic and economic issues, there is a greater global connection that influences Obama decisions and policy. This is an ideological matter that, in my humble opinion, will prove detrimental for this nation.

Finally, I think it is safe to say that America has never achieved perfection in its efforts as a nation and Mitt Romney is not to be touted as the perfect candidate who will usher us into such an age. However, the reality that lies before the American public is an oval office occupied by Romney / Ryan or Obama / Biden. I trust the reality of the character and quality of these two men, biding for this great leadership position, will surface and the clarity needed to make the healthiest decision possible will, in fact, present itself through this and the two upcoming debates.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

THE SACRED / SECULAR DELUSION


A very important contribution Dr. Francis Schaeffer (among others) has made, in general but specifically in my thinking, is to expose a form of dualism that assumes there are realms of life in which God is not “permitted” to play a role, be recognized for who He is or function as Lord and supreme authority of the universe. I am not speaking of a controlling, cause and effect authority but rather a moral authority that we should willfully acknowledge in obedience and cooperation. Though it surely presents a challenge on every level, we, as individuals and as a society, must grapple with and labor to arrive at a healthy relationship with “Him with whom we have to do.” I find this dichotomy infectious in the minds of many when it comes to the issue of civil government. I state with confidence that we will promote various forms of imbalance in this social institution as long as we fail to structure the parameters and guidelines of this realm according to the Divine design. There are not areas of life that are truly “secular,” functioning better without an acknowledgement and openness to the guidance, wisdom and blessing of God. Amazingly, God has granted us enough freedom that we can, if we so choose, attempt to pursue other arrangements while warning, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” No matter how clever we become in our effort to relegate God to “His room,” whether in the area of family, education, marriage, sexuality or civil government (just to name a few), we lose in the effort.

So, as I’ve stated many times, our task is to put things in their proper place. Is there a proper place for God in the social, civil and political affairs of a nation? Many have conveniently, but inappropriately and detrimentally, drawn upon the “separation of church and state” concept in defense of locking God out of “politics.” As long as we get this issue wrong, we will suffer the consequences, reap what we sow. We need to think long, hard and accurately, especially in this present age during this current presidential election, about this tremendously influential consideration. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD..." (Ps.33:12)