We ended our study last week talking about the sovereignty of God. Yahweh not only created the universe, He controls it, all of it. And He controls it all in accordance with what He has ordained. Do you realize that whatever takes place in time is what God planned from eternity past? The "Westminster Confession of Faith" puts it this way:
God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass (chapter 3, section 1).
The Bible puts it this way:
also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, Ephesians 1:11 NASB
All that comes to pass in our lives is according to the eternal plan of the all-wise, all-powerful, and all-loving great God and our Father. We do not have a God that set the world in motion and stepped away to watch the clock wind down. We are not talking about fatalistic deism here. We see that while God chose in the past, and He predestined in the past, He is presently "working" all things according to the counsel of His will. God cannot be accused of neglect. He is imminent, presently involved in creation at every moment to bring about "all things." There is nothing that happens outside of the counsel of God's will. Nothing. And though it is hard at times to wrap our minds around the inescapable will of God, it is the most comforting thought and doctrine that we can have. There is nothing that happens outside the counsel of His will.
Most believers will say that they believe in the sovereignty of God, but most won't acknowledge that the sovereignty of God is absolute, irresistible, and infinite. God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases; whatever takes place in time is but the outworking of that which He decreed in eternity. This is too strong for most believers. But this is the God of the Bible:
But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. Psalms 115:3 NASB
Nothing happens outside the sovereign will of God. The Doctrine of God's Sovereignty, properly understood, won't paralyze us from taking action. The Doctrine of God's Sovereignty is a comfort to us, it assures us that He is able to do what He has promised us. If God wasn't sovereign, He would make promises like we do—maybe with all good intentions, but without the power to carry them out. But because He is sovereign, He can, in fact, carry out every promise that He has made. But the bare fact of God's sovereignty raises one big question: "If God is in control of all things, including our actions, how can we be held responsible for anything?" How does Paul answer that question? He says, "Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?" (Romans 9:20) Notice what the Scriptures teach:
The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9 NASB
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, Ephesians 5:15 NASB
How can we be responsible for our walk if Yahweh is directing our steps? To the Western thinker these verses pose a problem. But the problem is that the Bible is an Eastern book, and we approach it with a mind set from a Western culture.
The Bible, in its original languages, is, humanly speaking, a product of the Hebrew mind. But the influence of Greek philosophy upon the interpretation of Scripture has had a tragic effect. When Greek logic is used to understand Scripture, the reader is filled with feelings of contradiction.
The biblical authors never argue the existence of God; they only assume it. God is not understood philosophically, but functionally. He acts. The Hebrews primarily thought of Him pictorially, in terms of personality and activity, not in terms of pure being or in any static sense. Westerners are abstract thinkers, we like to put information in definition and proposition form; we like organization. We like words that carefully explain.
Alright, so the Hebrews think differently than we do, and we need to have an understanding of how they think if we are going to properly interpret the Scriptures. The Hebrews often made use of block logic. Marvin Wilson wrote this about Hebraic reasoning: "Concepts were expressed in self-contained units or blocks of thought. These blocks did not necessarily fit together in any obviously rational or harmonious pattern, particularly when one block represented the human perspective on truth and the other represented the divine. This way of thinking created a propensity for paradox, antimony, or apparent contradiction, as one block stood in tension—and often illogical relation—to the other. Hence, polarity of thought or dialectic often characterized block logic."
The Greeks used a linear logic that flows in steps from premises to a conclusion. Each step linked closely to the next in a coherent, rational, logical fashion. The conclusion is almost always limited to one view—a human being's limited perspective on reality.
Hebraic reasoning does not focus as much on linear thought (argument), or linear narrative. Instead, it focuses on blocks of context, or subject matter. For example, the Gospel narratives have chronological problems at some points, because in the Hebrew mind, chronology takes a back seat to theme and content. Chronology is subsumed by more important principles. This doesn't mean that the Bible cannot be trusted in its chronology. Rather, we must understand where it is attempting to be chronological and where it is not.
Rabbi Akiva, who lived one generation after Yeshua, was regarded as one of the greatest Jewish rabbis. The Talmud (Menachos 29a) compares him favorably to Moses, which is the ultimate compliment in the Jewish Lexicon. A pronouncement of Rabbi Akiva, is in effect an affirmation of the two contradictory sentiments: "All is subject to providence, yet man possesses free will" [Mishnah, Avot 3:16].
The Hebrew mind was willing to accept the truths taught on both sides of the paradox; it recognized that mystery and apparent contradiction are often signs of the divine.
The renowned biblical scholar, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, writes, "We [Jews] are practical. We are more interested in discovering what God wants man to do than we are in describing God's essence." He goes on to say, "Judaism is never afraid of contradictions . . . it acknowledges that full reconciliation of the two is possible only in God. He is the coincidence of opposites."
It is particularly difficult for Westerners—those whose thought patterns have been influenced more by the Greeks and Romans than by the Hebrews—to piece together the block logic of Scripture.
Eastern thinkers can live with the tensions and paradoxes surrounding block logic. To the Jew, the deed was always more important than the creed. He was not stymied by language that appeared contradictory from a human point of view. Neither did he feel compelled to reconcile what seemed irreconcilable. He believed that God ultimately was greater than any human attempt at systematizing truth.
Intellectually, we are Greeks, not Hebrews. We apply Aristotelian and Socratic thought patterns to practically everything. It is surprisingly difficult to escape these patterns and enter into the Hebraic mind-set. We insist on rendering everything into logically consistent patterns; on systematizing it; on organizing it into tight, carefully reasoned theologies. We cannot live with inconsistency or contradiction.
This Hellenistic thinking is a real problem when it comes to God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. We can't see how both can be true. What we must understand is that Yahweh's sovereign will controls all things, but His moral will tells us how we must live. When the Bible talks about God's will, it can be referring to one of two things: God's sovereign will, or providence— His predetermined plan for everything that happens in the universe; or His moral will, which is revealed in the Bible, which tells us how to live. Look at "will" in these two passages:
You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" Romans 9:19 NASB
For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 1 Thessalonians 4:3 NASB
Does the term "will" mean the same in both of these passages? No. Romans 9 uses the term "will" to speak of God's secret will of decree, His sovereign will. And 1 Thessalonians 4 uses the term "will" to speak of God's revealed will of precept, or His moral will. As we have seen, God's sovereign will is always carried out. His moral will, on the other hand, is not. Do people commit sexual immorality? Yes, but it is God's moral will that they not commit sexual immorality, and if they violate His will they will suffer the consequences.
The term "will" itself is ambiguous. We must determine its meaning from the context. "The Ten Commandments" are God's perceptive, or moral, will. They command men to do this and to refrain from that. They state what ought to be done, but they neither state nor cause what is done. God's sovereign, or decretive will, however, causes every event.
Let me show you a great description of a disciple of Yeshua:
not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Ephesians 6:6 NASB
These last eight words sum up God's moral will for all believers. This is what life is all about. We are to be "doing the will of God from the heart." God created us, He is the author of life, and if we are ever going to live life to the fullest, it will be by living in the will of God. Does that make sense?
Our guide for life and conduct is the moral will of Yahweh. We don't know what His sovereign will is until it is past. But we know His moral will and that is what we must concern ourselves with. Why evangelize when it is God who saves sinners? We evangelize because our sovereign God told us to. So we can never blame our disobedience of God's moral will on His sovereign will. We are not responsible for His sovereign will, and we don't know what it is, but we are responsible for His moral will. Knowing that Yahweh is sovereign in all things does not give you the right to ignore His precepts.
Now that we cleared that up, let's get back to our text. In verse 10, we saw that the purpose of God in history is to bring glory to Himself by bringing all of creation under the headship of Christ. In verses 11-12, He talks about bringing Jews under the headship of Christ. And in verse 13-14, He talks about bringing Gentiles under the headship of Christ.
I think that if we look at the context of verse 11, we will see that Paul is making a distinction based on ethnic differences. The "we" of verse 11 speaks to Jews who were trusting in the Messiah, as opposed to the "you" of verse 13, which speaks of the Gentiles of the church at Ephesus who were trusting in Christ. This is made clear by the next verse:
to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:12 NASB
Who is the "we" here who were first to hope in Christ? It was those of Jewish origin. There is a definite article here and it reads, "...were first to hope in the Christ..." It is here that we see more clearly the Jewish/Gentile difference. Paul was separating two groups: He, the other apostles, and the first believers who trusted that Yeshua was the Christ, their Messiah; and the Gentiles who would later trust in Christ.
These Jews who first trusted in Christ play a special role in the salvation-historical story, in that they were the beginning of the fulfillment of the promises that Yahweh made to Israel in the Tanakh. All of the covenants and promises were ultimately fulfilled in Christ.
On the Day of Pentecost, for example, when the church had its inception, that group that were bound together in one body through the baptism of the Holy Spirit were Jewish. It's only when Yahweh drove the Christians out of Jerusalem, some ten years later, that the Gospel went out to the Gentiles.
"...to the praise of His glory."—that is, that these Jewish believers should be the means of causing His divine majesty or excellence to be praised.
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, Ephesians 1:13 NASB
He begins again with "In Him," this time referring to "the Christ" from verse12. "...you also..."—the "you" here is a reference to Gentiles. We Gentiles, just as the Jews, are in union with Yeshua.
The apostle, having in verse 10 declared that the purpose of God is to bring all the subjects of redemption into one harmonious body, says in verse 11 that this purpose is realized in the conversion of the Jewish Christians, and he here adds another class, viz. the Gentile Christians.
"...after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed..."—the message of truth and the Gospel are synonyms. The word "Gospel" means: "good news." So they listened to the message of truth, the good news of their salvation, and having heard it, they believed it. The word "believed" here is the Greek word pisteuo, which means: "to have faith." The Hebrew word is aman, which means: "Secure—Solidly fixed in place; to stand firm in the sense of a support. Not subject to change or revision."
Why did they believe? It was because they were chosen:
When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. Acts 13:48 NASB
So the Gentiles heard the message of truth, the good news of salvation, and they believed it. Notice what happened when they believed:
"...you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,..."—when a person believes the good news of salvation, at that moment, they are sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit.
The Greek word sphragizo, translated here as "sealed," means: "to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation" (Strong's Concordance).
Peter O'Brien notes, "In speaking of the Holy Spirit as a seal the notions of ownership and protection are in view. Cattle, and even slaves, were branded with a seal by their masters to indicate to whom they belonged." The sealing of God secures their safety. So Yahweh is marking out those who are His. In Ezekiel 9:4-6, we see that Yahweh set a sign or mark on those who were mortified because of the sin of their nation:
The LORD said to him, "Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst." But to the others He said in my hearing, "Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity and do not spare. "Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary. Ezekiel 9:4-6 NASB
The Hebrew word translated "mark" is tav. The tav is the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet. In modern Hebrew it looks like this, , but in ancient Hebrew it looked like this, ; it was two crossed sticks. So those who Yahweh had marked out for safety were those who had the ancient Hebrew letter tav on them that looked like a cross. That's interesting!
So we see from the mark of Yahweh that salvation is not like a transaction at Walmart, where later on you can return your faith when you don't need it anymore. You don't have faith one day, and give it away the next. When you put your faith in Christ, when you "trust" Him, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit, you are marked by Yahweh.
Later on in the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul says:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 NASB
Here Paul says that they were "...sealed for the day of redemption." This was a future event for them. The day of redemption was the coming of Christ in A.D. 70. Yahweh had sealed the first century saints who were waiting to receive the promised redemption, the consummation of their salvation.
If those in the transition period were sealed, securing their salvation, until the Lord returned, consummating their salvation; how much more secure are we today who believe? We are in Christ in the new age, dwelling in the presence of Yahweh, and therefore, eternally secure. Through the years the subject of eternal security has been hotly debated in theology. There have always been those who have affirmed that you can lose your salvation. The "Five Points of Calvinism" are simply the Calvinistic answer to a five point manifest put out by certain Belgic semi-Pelagins in the early seventeenth century. We know this semi-Pelagin manifest as Arminianism; its fifth point states: "It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith: those who fail here fall away and are lost."
As Christians, do we all live on the brink of damnation? Is our salvation conditional on our ability to maintain it? Talk about depression! I mean, people get depressed for a lot of things far less significant than that. I could understand depression, and I could understand taking massive amounts of Prozac if you believe you can lose your salvation. To believe that would be to constantly live in mortal fear.
"...the Holy Spirit of promise..."—Yeshua, in His own words, anticipating the day when this would take place, taught:
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Yeshua stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" John 7:37-38 NASB
John clarifies what he is talking about and says:
But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Yeshua was not yet glorified. John 7:39 NASB
So all who believed in Yeshua received the Holy Spirit. In Acts 15, during the debate at the Jerusalem Council, Peter refers back to his experience of preaching to the Gentiles (Acts 10). He says:
After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. "And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Acts 15:7-9 NASB
Peter says that the Gentiles heard the word of the Gospel and believed, and that God gave them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to the Jews at Pentecost.
in order that in Christ Yeshua the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:14 NASB
So, promised in the Abrahamic blessing, given to Abraham hundreds of years ago, was ultimately the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. And those believing Jews received the blessing of Abraham. Then Gentiles, as they are born again, also, are grafted into the olive tree of Israel and become partakers of the root of the fatness of the olive tree; to use Paul's metaphor in Romans 11.
who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:14 NASB
"...who is..."—relates back to Holy Spirit in verse 13. So the Holy Spirit is, "...given as a pledge..."—the word "pledge" is from the Greek arrhabon. Strong's says this word is of Hebrew origin; a pledge, that is, part of the purchase money or property given in advance as security for the rest:—earnest. The Hebrew word for "pledge" is arabon. This word is used in:
He said, therefore, "I will send you a young goat from the flock." She said, moreover, "Will you give a pledge until you send it?" Genesis 38:17 NASB
Do you understand the context here? Tamar had disguised herself as a harlot, and Judah, her father-in-law, wanted to have sex with her. They were negotiating a price, and she said. "What will you give me, that you may come in to me?" He says, "I'll send you a goat." But he didn't have the goat with him, so she wanted a "pledge" until he gave her the goat. She wanted property given in advance as security for the rest.
The word pledge might better be translated as:"down payment or earnest money." A pledge is something valuable that you give as temporary collateral until you complete the agreement. We see this same word used in Job:
"Lay down, now, a pledge for me with Yourself; Who is there that will be my guarantor? Job 17:3 NASB
This is a parallelism, and "pledge" and "guarantor" are the same. So a pledge is a something given to guarantee the rest.
So the Holy Spirit was given to first century believers guaranteeing their future redemption. Paul also uses this word in:
who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. 2 Corinthians 1:22 NASB
Here Paul uses the word "sealed" and "pledge" indicating that Yahweh "marked" them for security or preservation, and gave a deposit of the Spirit. What the saints had in the transition period was the down payment, or pledge, of the perfection that was to come:
Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 2 Corinthians 5:5 NASB
What is the purpose of this pledge? In context it was as a guarantee that they would receive their new home, a building from God, a house not made with hands. This "Spirit as a pledge" is the same thing as the "spirit of adoption." So we could say that the Spirit was given these transition saints as a pledge, or guarantee, that they would in the very near future receive the adoption, the redemption of their body.
Therefore, Paul teaches that once a person becomes a Christian, it is impossible for him to become a non-Christian again. After God causes a person to have faith in Christ, it is impossible for him to lose the faith:
and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. John 10:28-29 NASB
The life God gives is eternal, it can never be lost. Believers will never perish.
who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:14 NASB
"...of our inheritance..."—notice the switch back to the 3rd person plural personal pronoun? Paul has gone from speaking of "we," the Jews who first believed; to "you," the Gentiles who were also sealed with Holy Spirit of promise; to now, "our" inheritance. He has brought together these two groups, Jews and Gentiles, and joined them into one group—those who have the Spirit as a down payment.
In verse 11, the apostle says, "We have obtained an inheritance..." ;and here, "...who is given as a pledge of our inheritance..." Both Jews and Gentiles are by the mediation of Christ, and in union with Him, brought to be partakers of the benefits of that plan of mercy which God had purposed in Himself, and which He has now revealed for the salvation of men.
"...with a view to the redemption of God's own possession..."—Paul says here, speaking to first century saints, we have the promise from God, the same God who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we will be redeemed. Speaking of the fulfillment of that redemption, the culmination that will happen when God brings forth the new heavens and new earth, the consummation of the New Covenant. The promise was certain, but to them it was still future.
Sadly, most today still think the promise is future. John MacArthur writes, "Now look, we have not yet totally been redeemed, we've been redeemed spiritually but we haven't had our physical body redeemed, a la Romans 8." He doesn't know what time it is. He thinks we are all still living in the Old Covenant Age.
"...to the praise of His glory..."—so, the work of the Father, the work of the Son, the work of the Holy Spirit —all of these works are designed to lead to the praise of the glory of God. Yahweh declared this back in:
"The people whom I formed for Myself Will declare My praise. Isaiah 43:21 NASB
This b'rakhah begins and ends with praise to Yahweh. The great work of redemption ultimately redounds to the praise of God.
We are so man-centered that we mistakenly think that salvation is all about us. Thank God, salvation does rescue us from His awful judgment and give us eternal life. But, we need to understand that it is primarily about His glory. He saves us by His sovereign grace so that we will be to the praise of His glory. He owed us nothing but judgment, but He gave us infinite love and mercy.
The similarity between verses 11-12 and 13-14 are significant. Sha'ul had been a student of Gamliel, who was a grandson of Hillel. Hillel had seven rules for interpreting the Torah, which Paul would have learned. The second rule was G'zerah Shavah (equivalence of expressions), which Paul uses here to indicate an equality between Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles.
This passage rejects the theory of the Dual-Covenant Theology taught by John Hagee. The Houston newspaper quoted Hagee's own words: "I'm not trying to convert the Jewish people to the Christian faith." Hagee went on to say:
"In fact, trying to convert Jews is a 'waste of time.' The Jewish person who has his roots in Judaism is not going to convert to Christianity. There is no form of Christian evangelism that has failed so miserably as evangelizing the Jewish people. They (already) have a faith structure. Everyone else, whether Buddhist or Baha'i, needs to believe in Jesus. But not Jews. Jews already have a covenant with God that has never been replaced by Christianity."
And he calls himself a friend to Israel! He's their worst enemy, telling them they don't need their Messiah. He teaches a separate covenant for Israel and Christians. To quote Yeshua:
"What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." Mark 10:9 NASB
In the New Covenant Yahweh has joined Jew and Gentle in one body. This "Doctrine of the Unity of Jew and Gentile" in the New Covenant is often contradicted by Christians. For example, it is popular to assume that God regards the Jewish people as especially chosen and superior to the Gentiles. However, this rejects the "mystery" that has now been revealed and explained for so many centuries.
Gentiles are equal heirs in Christ; therefore, Jews are not superior in Christ. Then,
the Jews who do not believe the Gospel are not in Christ at all, and they are certainly not superior to anybody. Non-Christian Jews are under the wrath of God as much as the most vile and wicked non-Christian Gentiles. When Yeshua told the Jews:
"Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. Matthew 21:43 NASB
He was not making an empty threat. The Jews have no special place in the Kingdom, but they must enter like everyone else, through faith in Yeshua the Christ. They are to receive no special treatment and no special respect in the Church.
Believing Jews and believing Gentiles have both been redeemed by the blood of Christ, and are both united to Christ in one body. This ends Paul's b'rakhah. All we have, we have in Christ, and we are to praise Yahweh for it.
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