Half baked food for thought on fasting

This post is not an instructional presentation on how to fast, when to fast, how often to fast, or on the efficacy of fasting.  The purpose of this article is to describe a typological view of fasting by first establishing a biblically founded understanding of food, eating and sacrifice, and then from that extrapolating what its denial would illustrate.  This article is an expurgated version of my thoughts on this matter.  It is not meant to be a fully comprehensive treaty on the subject, but merely point out a few connections that should spur on individual study.  I may at some point expand the scope of relevant passages, tighten up and more fully develop the connections that paint this illustration and write a book.  If I ever find the time and desire to go back to school I could seriously see this as being a focus of my study and research.

Gen. 9:1: And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

6  “Whoever sheds the blood of man,

by man shall his blood be shed,

for God made man in his own image.

7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

Couched in between the command of God to fill the earth with His image, albeit one marred and corrupted by sin, we are told that the animals are given to us as food.  There is a prohibition stated with the explanation of the connection and correlation of life to blood.  From that the movement turns back as the reason for the application of justice for the shedding of man’s blood, who God created in His own image; the image of God that man is to fill the earth with.  These verses (Gen 9:1-7) should bring to our memory Gen 1:26-31; Gen 2:7-17; Gen 4:1-15.  We should note the continuity in these passages as well as the drastic changes and see why the differences are there.

Adam, our federal head, was created in the unblemished image of God and placed in the garden, the temple of the living God.  He is commanded to subdue the earth, expand the bounds of this temple and fill it with the uncorrupted image of God (sinless image bearers of God would produce more sinless image bearers of God).  During this probationary time plant life was given as food for Adam as well as to all the animals that have the breath of life.(Gen 1:29-30).

His failure to attain the glory of God by his sin corrupted the image of God that we in turn bear (sinful image bearers of God produce more sinful image bearers of God Gen 5:1-3) and plunged all of his posterity under condemnation and in need of the second Adam; the promised seed of the woman; the Christ who would succeed in every way that Adam failed.  His seed would be clothed in His righteousness, and conformed to His image (Christ being God/The exact imprint of His nature), filling His kingdom with the cleansed image bearers of God.  His seed here would be the temple of the living God.  The new earth and the new city would have no temple because its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb.

The first recorded sin after the fall and expulsion from the garden is the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, and his blood cries out to God for justice.  This crime while manifested horizontally (man against man) its essence is vertical.  The seditious nature of the crime is against God Himself.  The intent of Cain in his hatred and hostility toward God, is to kill God and take his throne, by eliminating His image that He has put on man.  The blood of Abel cries out, but it is God that deserves and demands perfect justice; it is God that will exact judgment and vengeance in perfection.  It is not until after the judgment of God wiping out life on the world that we come to Gen 9:1-7 where God now gives animals that have the breath of life in them as food, with the prohibition of blood.  We see the same prohibition, the connection of blood to life, and its correlation to justice and atonement found in Lev 17:10-16.  Keep in mind the connection to the priests as far as the ceremonial aspect of sacrifice and the food that they consume (Deut 18:1-3).

Deut 18 “The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the Lord’s food offerings as their inheritance. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them. 3 And this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach.

Lev 17:10 “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. 12 Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood.

13 “Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 14 For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off. 15 And every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean. 16 But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity.”

There are a few things we can take away from laying out these passages and examining the connections.  First is that there is a very real function that food plays in the physical context of lives of man.  God is the provider of our food source; He has given us animals to eat.  One of the ways God sustains our lives is through the killing and eating of animals.  The physical sustenance of our lives in one sense depends upon the death of another life.  It is interesting to note the warning in the Lev 17 passage for eating that which dies itself or what is torn by beasts and not go through the physical cleansing process.  While health and disease may be part of the reason, I would assert that what is being pictured here is specifically is hunting or the act of killing; Taking life to sustain your life.  This is a concept that our western culture has sanitized when it comes to food.  Gratitude to God for providing food in the form of life that we must take and consume in order to live.  The two other aspects that go beyond the purview of this article but that are tangentially related to this portion directly are clothing and shelter.

God intends in this physical context to illustrate a truth far greater; one with eternal consequences; one of a spiritual nature.  The reality of physical death points us to that of spiritual estrangement from any grace of God, eternal torment for our treason and rebellion against a pure and holy God.  The wages of sin is death.  Our good God being just must adjudicate these capital crimes against His sovereign rule and reign.  The life/blood of man must be shed as a requirement to His perfect justice.  The God-Man Christ Jesus stood in place of judgment propitiating the full measure of God’s wrath and vengeance, a reckoning for the life of man.  The spiritual sustenance of our lives depends upon the death of another life, that of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God here is the provider of this spiritual food (Gen 22).  We consume His life of perfect obedience lived in our place and death in our place.  More on this double imputation in a bit.

All of the elements discussed so far come together in the Passover narrative, as the physical seed of Abraham are removed from their slavery and bondage to go worship God, pointing to the reality of the spiritual seed of Abraham being removed from their bondage and slavery to sin and its consequences to worship God who delivered them.  Take a look and recognize in this passage everything mentioned thus far, noting the very real physical parts that illustrate the spiritual, focusing on the consumption of the Paschal Lamb and what that represents.

Exodus 12:1The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

In Luke 22 Jesus is making covenantal distinctions between the Old and the New covenants, rooted in the covenant of redemption.  Here He is connecting Himself to the Passover, its observance for the physical seed of Abraham and the institution of the LORDS supper for the spiritual seed. It is in the LORDS supper that we actively participate with Christ in His life, death and resurrection.  It is more than a memory, and is a means of grace.  We remember Him as we consume the bread and wine a picture of His body and blood.  Christ is the reality that the Passover pointed the physical seed of Abraham towards, the reality of the New Covenant in His blood.  An interesting item to note is the stark change now in place concerning the consumption of blood as compared to the Passover feast, and Levitical practices, and prohibitions laid out in Genesis and Leveticus as well as the prohibition not to eat what dies of itself.  We see more of the details of the picture to fill in as we turn our attention to the connection that Christ makes of Himself, to the historical narrative concerning God’s provision in physical food to His physical seed illustrating His provision of spiritual food to His spiritual seed in the Son in John 6:25-59.

John 6:25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

As pertaining to food, Jesus here is pointing us back to passages like Exodus 16.  While there is no talking of life to sustain life, the point of this passage is to show the supernatural provision of God to sustain His physical people and connect that provision of food with the Sabbath.  Jesus relates Himself here as the supernatural provision of God in sustaining the spiritual life of His spiritual people.  In verses 51-59 moves the discussion of  being the living bread that comes down from heaven to the feeding on His flesh and drinking of His blood, bringing the life for life reckoning back to the discussion.  Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2), entered God’s rest and has also rested from His works as God did from His.  His work is the supernatural provision of God to give life by the laying down of His; His active obedience (His perfect life of righteousness that He lives in our place because we don’t) and passive obedience (His suffering and dying the death that we deserve).  This is His righteousness imputed to us and our sin to Him.  When we take all of these passages together we see God’s intention in showing us various pictures of the gospel message in the simple act of eating; how He is just to justify sinners in active rebellion against Him and reconcile them to Himself.

As we read these final verses in the passage from John 6 again our minds should be drawn to the LORDS supper.  We see our communion with Him; abiding in Him and Him in us; the life we have in Him; the participation in His life, death and resurrection.

This brings us to the idea of fasting, and by this I mean a deliberate and often prolonged abstinence from food and sometimes drink.  Fasting was commanded for the Day of Atonement.   It was seen and used at times to be a sign of penitence, humility and repentance.  A cursory look through biblical passages that deal with fasting provides a glimpse at several reoccurring themes that coincide with this practice.  They are mourning, tearing of clothing, sackcloth and ashes, all of which are expressions of grief and associated with death.

All those who by the atoning work of Christ have been reconciled to God, have also united with Christ, life death and resurrection.  We have died to sin; to our old self, to a life lived for ourselves, and have risen to walk in the newness of life in Christ.  Our old self enslaved to sin was crucified with Christ.  This is the picture of repentance, of turning away from our rebellion and the life of sin that leads to death and turning to God and eternal life in His Son.  We no longer live for ourselves but for Him who for our sake died and rose again.

Luke 9:23-24; John 12:23-26; Romans 6:1-23; Romans 8:1-11; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:1-21; Galatians 2:19-21; Galatians 5:16-26; Ephesians 4:17-5:13; Philippians 2:1-11; Philippians 3:7-11; Colossians 3:1-17; 1 Peter 4:1-6.

It is the death of our old self that we affirm with fasting; in the denial of the life sustaining food. We are looking past the temporal physical promises of this life to the greater spiritual eternal promises that they represent (Hebrews 11). Only we don’t mourn or grieve like the hypocrites but rejoice in the granted repentance and newness of life.  There is an interesting flow that happens in the sermon on the mount.

Mat 6:16“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

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Specifics of God’s Calling 2 (Conclusion)

This will be another rather long article, as it contains the remaining considerations of the particular pericope we are examining from Ephesians 1 (for the entirety of the pericope, please see the short entries Specifics Of God’s Calling, Part 2and Specifics Of God’s Calling 2 – Continued (Part 2) for context).


Even as begins the next verse, and refers back to that which began in the first verse. It was due to our being chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world that we have been blessed in Christ Jesus with all spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. God’s purposes are one, as He is, but our experience of His eternal purposes are finite and diversified, in this age, giving us a glimpse of that which is to come. Even as He blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ as purposed in Him before the creation of the world, we gain that knowledge of these things in temporal fashion, even those spiritual blessings which shall attend us into everlasting.

The next phrase is quite daunting: that we should be holy and blameless before Him. I say daunting, because it speaks of a perfection that we know is of God, because it proceeds from God, who alone is good (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19).

Goodness, as a perfection that is unchangeable, infinite and eternal, exists in God alone; in fact, when our Lord said that God alone is good, He did not speak of something God has, but of that which He is, for as many orthodox theologians have well noted “whatever is in God is God.” [1] That is, God is His goodness, and His goodness is God, just as God is love, and love is God. What we call attributes of God are really not composite, or separate parts, but we speak of them separated the better to consider them.

Getting back to our passage, we are told the purpose of God choosing us in His Son and blessing us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies is that we may be perfect before Him, which were impossible, if we were not comprehended in Christ, with whom our life is hidden in God (Colossians 3:3). Even were we perfect such as Adam prior to the fall, we would still not be in a state that is acceptable to God, for the mutability that gave rise to Adam’s fall would still be ours, and none could rightly hold that they would keep themselves. That takes the power of God, which He gives to us via His Spirit communicating the perfections of the unique God-man, Jesus Christ, to us. He, alone, is the Beloved, therefore, to be holy and blameless before God, even when we reach our eternal standing, we are comprehended in He who is holy and blameless. This fact changes what would otherwise be overwhelmingly discouraging into yet another reason for us to give praise to God.

Because of what God purposed for us in Christ, we were predestined to adoption as sons. In Him, we have been granted entrance into the family of God, and this was predetermined according to God’s will, which is to say, as part of His eternal and unchangeable purpose. Paul, in this passage, sets immovable bookends around the fact of God’s will bringing about all His purpose, and each reason for giving praise to Him leads inexorably back to who He is. This adoption is not a one-on-one comparison to what we think of when we hear the word “adoption,” for it is sealed of God Himself in the giving of the merits of His Son. These merits – both the negative penalty of death for sinning against God, and the positive reward of having His righteousness contrariwise attributed to us, resulting in our being considered sinless and perfect before God, were predetermined from everlasting. God’s purpose is as timeless and unchangeable as He is, so that which resulted from it is without termination, and beneficial to a degree that we cannot begin to fathom (except for His gracious condescension is communicating both the benefits and the means by which we apprehend those benefits via His special revelation). Making this even more certain (from our perspective), all these were given to us in His Son. God intersected the time He alone created for the creatures He alone eternally decreed should be His children by sending His Son to die for, then live for them (Titus 2:11, 3:4-5; Galatians 4:4-7). This adoption is as sure as God Himself, without end.

To the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

This phrase is a pivot in the middle of the particular pericope we are considering – it states the focus of God’s glory in His grace, as given and displayed in Christ, which permeates every other aspect of these reasons we are considering that cause us to give praise to Him. It further qualifies that which has preceded and that which comes after, therefore it is, in this sense, parenthetical. Everything which we are considering is based on that which God has decreed to manifest and magnify of His glory through the gracious display of it in Christ Jesus our Lord, and the subsequent results, which we have noted are called “blessings in the heavenlies,” by which that grace is given to us now and forever.

In Him we have redemption through his bloodaccording to the riches of his grace,

This is the continuation of definition of how we have those great spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, and expressly, the canceling out of the debt of our sin by His expiating sacrifice (Colossians 2:14).

In looking at these various aspects of God’s blessings to us “in Christ” (which statement is synonymous with being “blessed in the heavenlies”), we are always brought back to the consideration of where these blessings are – that is, the center of where they exist. We are also always brought back to how these blessings are expressed, and the results of our expression to God for His gracious giving to us to understand these things. “In Him” is another synonymous expression of the location of these blessings, and comprehends both our temporal experience of these things now, and the eschatological culmination of them, realizing that in our Lord’s expiation of these things by His sacrifice, we derive eternal benefit which is temporally experienced now, and leads to the end of that experience, or the terminus. By stating it as the end or terminus, we do not intend that it ceases, but at that point, the everlasting culmination of all these blessings is realized.

The frequent use of pronouns throughout this pericope stresses the recipients of these blessings. Ten times such pronouns are used in the pericope we are considering, and each time these pronouns speak of the recipients of God’s gracious blessings in Christ Jesus, by that exact phrase, or the use of synonymous phrases. It is impossible to emphasize the corporate meaning to the exclusion of the individual meaning throughout the periscope; indeed, the two must always be considered together. Corporately, all members of the church are considered as receiving individually these many blessings “in Him,” so that the stress of such elective grace as expressed in the first phrase we considered is cumulative of the overall blessings to each member, resulting in the benefit to the church as our Lord’s body, both in localized churches and universally.

In the phrase immediately under consideration, the blessing considered is the forgiveness of our sins by the atoning death of Christ. In His receiving the punishment due us, we are counted as having gained that which He alone so dearly paid for with His own life. It is an unequal exchange that He took the penalty for our sins and we received the virtue which was His, but this is the manner God made it possible for us to be considered His children. This is the operation of God’s grace in dealing with His only beloved Son in the manner that all sinners, outside of that grace, must be dealt with, which is receiving the fullness of God’s wrath against sin in eternal measure.

…which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight

This phrase brings into consideration that it is only of God’s mere good and beneficent pleasure, grounded in His infinite, eternal and unchangeable knowledge, or wisdom and insight, by which all these many blessings were given to us. Connected with the previous phrase, it speaks to the forgiveness of our sins, and how this was His everlasting purpose in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. This knowledge of God speaks of that eternal counsel within Himself that determined to send the Son to inhabit flesh, live perfectly, then offer Himself as sacrifice for those whom the Father was pleased to give Him according to the covenant of peace (Isaiah 53:10-12, 8:16; cf. Hebrews 2:13; John 17:6, 15).

However, the prepositional phrase has to do with how God lavished upon believers that grace by which they were forgiven and saved eternally. We do not gain all the wisdom and insight which are God’s, for such would be impossible; we do gain that knowledge and discretion into these blessings of God in Christ given us, to the degree we are able to understand them accurately, to the blessing of our souls. The word “lavished” is rather the key word in view in the phrase, constituting, as it does, the magnificent bounty of God’s grace in bestowing these blessings upon those He chose from eternity to be His in Christ.

I do not think it does any harm to consider that the wisdom and insight are God’s in this passage, but the stress laid down here must be considered as that unrestrained blessing of God giving us knowledge into the mystery of His will towards us, so that the wisdom and insight so named are a part of that which we receive. It is “all,” in that we now have everything we need to adequately comprehend that which He willed to give, and the means by which He willed to give it, which is further reflected in the fact that He has “revealed to us the mystery of His will” (v. 9). This mystery is the gospel, but in the pericope under consideration, we are looking at those blessings with which the gospel supplies us by God’s decree, and in the phrase under immediate consideration is the extravagance of these blessings He has poured out upon us. Colossians 1:9b is a parallel passage to consider with this one:  That you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. We take it that this is what God is doing here in this instance, in giving us without reserve that knowledge and discernment of His blessings contained in the gospel, and so we go on to consider our next phrase.

making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

As above considered, this mystery is the gospel, and it is spoken of as a mystery because it was not formerly known. However, God has here remedied that condition, for we are expressly told that He has made “known to us the mystery of his will,” and that it was according to the aforementioned covenant of peace, or as it is more commonly known, Covenant of Redemption. In giving us the lavish riches of the gospel we receive, in this passage, the knowledge of those blessings in the heavenlies which impacts us here and now. It may truly be said that we are experiencing, to the degree God has willed to reveal these things, a bit of “heaven on earth.”  This is expressly God’s purpose, which ties back into vv. 3 and 4 of this passage. That which was predetermined by the eternal will and counsel of God has come to pass, and we are the recipients of such blessings by our joint union with one another “in Christ.”

A side note that must be mentioned (because of the importance of these things) is that this experience of a bit of “heaven on earth” is not a solitary thing. As this epistle is directed to the church in Ephesus, and other churches that will read the cyclical letter from the apostle, [2] it speaks of members in the plural. Most especially, this has to do with corporate existence and interaction “in Christ,” and that is where our fullest experience of the heavenly blessings comes to us. It must also be remembered that the body of Christ locally meeting on the Sabbath most fully experiences the covenant, corporate result of these blessings as they are here set forth.

as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

This speaks to the eschatological fruition of God’s purpose for His creation, which He determined from everlasting to everlasting to be culminated “in Christ.” Our praise and thanksgiving to God for what He has done for us is seen to have more reasons than our own, personal redemption, just as our worship of Him is done in a corporate manner. That which takes place in myriads of local bodies in churches throughout all of history in the world is but a bit of that which will take place perfectly in our completed redemption with the entirety of all the saved in eternity to come. This is God’s plan, and has always been His plan. We see that not only our personal redemption, but our corporate redemption, is tied to that of the entire creation (Romans 8:18-24a), or conversely, the redemption of the entirety of God’s creation is tied to that of the completed redemption of all His elect. The realization of our hope is in a fully redeemed creation which will reveal the fullness of God’s glory, and this is revealed to us now, in Holy Writ, that we may praise God for such magnificent bounty of His grace.

It should be noticed, up to this point, that we are speaking of the results of our being chosen individually for the corporate worship of God, with the blessings obtained for us by Christ being set forth in a manner that continues to draw out reasons for our praise of God. Although the specifics of our being called and ultimately having our salvation are contained in this particular pericope, the thrust is doxological. In other words, the reason God has communicated these great truths of His gospel in Christ Jesus to us here is not only to show forth His glory, but to receive glory (praise and thanks) from those He has mercifully saved. The pulling back the curtain, as it were, from that which has taken place, is taking place, and will ultimately take place, should bring paeans of praise and thanksgiving from us on a continual basis, as we behold the wonder of His purpose in Christ Jesus, our Lord, being established throughout redemptive history to the point of its culmination. In other words, here, in this phrase, not only is personal redemption mentioned as that which has been accomplished, but the complete redemption of the old creation into the new creation. The ultimate judgment of the first creation is put forth, with the ultimate redemption of that first creation seen to come about from the judgment of it, to the glory of God in Christ Jesus. Such knowledge facilitates our understanding of the Lord’s ultimate purpose for both the old and the new creation, and admonishes and provides us with the impetus of godly living now, to reflect our doxological praise and thanksgiving of He who subjected all things in the Son, that He may be seen to be all in all (2 Peter 3; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28). This shows that doxology has as its object the inimitable God of glory, through the work He has done and will accomplish through His Son’s cross work and mediation.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…

 This is the promise to us, and the sureness of that promise. We praise God because in Christ Jesus, His Son, our Lord and Savior, our standing before God for all eternity was determined beforehand, according to that great love and mercy that are God’s, not as some emotions that are short lived, but as His essence. In Christ, we have this standing before God – it is said here we have obtained an inheritance. This is not something we strive to obtain, but realize we already have it. In Colossians 3, we are told that we are raised in Christ, and so share in his resurrection and ascension in and to glory, as well as that when He died, we also died with Him, so that our lives, presently and continuously, are hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3).

Rather than such predetermining of our standing before God being something which is reason to say we need do nothing, we are told, in v.1 of that same chapter of the epistle of Colossians, to seek those things which are above, because we have our lives hidden in Christ, therefore we are seated at the right hand of the Father with Him. This harkens back to v. 3 of the epistle and pericope we are considering, where we give praise to God because of what He has done in Christ Jesus our Lord, giving us all spiritual blessings in Him, of which we are setting forth some at this point. A sure promise based on the determination of God before time began assures us of these things now, and when time ends, we will receive the finished work of our Lord on the regenerated, restored New Earth, giving still more reasons to praise Him. That this is the purpose of God, who works all things according to the counsel of His will, is still another reason for our thanksgiving and praise – these things are as sure as God is unchanging, as certain as He is faithful, all based in His glorification of Himself in our Lord Jesus Christ. Another way of translating this is suggested by Harold W. Hoehner in his commentary on Ephesians in the Cornerstone Commentary, which is “for his unchanging plan is the working out of all things just as he decided long ago.”[3] This emphasizes that our standing before God in Christ is the outworking of God’s unchangeable will, not as a decision, but as the redemptive-historical effects in time which give us to see that one act, which we call God’s decree, here called His counsel, or the counsel of his will. This refers back to v. 4 of our chapter of this epistle of Ephesians, for which exposition, please see above.

so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

This has direct reference to the first of those who believed in God through our Lord Jesus Christ – it speaks precisely to the fact of the believers of the primitive church, beginning with the 120 at Pentecost in Acts 2, those who believed through their message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and those immediately after them (which included, but was not limited to, the apostle Paul). It is not that those things which have heretofore been spoken of do not have to do with all believers, but rather, that the fact of those who were the first to hope in Christ are not only to the praise of his glory, but a visible witness to those who hear the gospel message as ordained of God and, believing, are also to that worshipful thanksgiving and praise. This is a plain indication that the faithful lives (and byliveswe mean speech and actions) of those who believe in Christ are used of God as secondary means to promote His glory among future generations of believers, and so it is yet another reason for us to give God the praise and thanksgiving that are His due alone, for the continuation of His magnificent work in redemptive-history, showing His faithfulness in bringing all those He has predestined from before the creation of the world to that standing in and before Him which is of Him alone. Appropriately, then, we may state that all glory is to God alone through Christ alone, as our Christian heritage always rightly observes.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit

This is again speaking of Christ and faith in Him, but the focus has shifted from the first believers to those who believed after them, so there is the understanding of those who believed later, which has connotations for all subsequent believers. It would also be true that those who believed first has such a connection, which has been noted in the commentary on the former verse, but this is more directly related to those who followed in belief because of the faith of the first believers.

The first reason to give praise and thanks to God in this is due to that testimony of those who went before us, for as we said, God uses means to convey His gospel of grace, and without these initial believers, we would not have the New Testament Scriptures, for the ones whom God chose to give us the body of the New Testament writings were the necessary means by which we gained His direct revelation of His working in His Son to bring about the gospel of grace in every respect. Although all the glory is of, to and for God, there is an indebtedness to those He first willed to use that we do well to remember in our thanks and praise to Him. The next reason is that we heard that which is directly from God, which is the word of truth. This came about by those first believers being moved along by the Spirit of God to write it for us, that we might hear God directly, as it were, and having been regenerated by that same Spirit of God, we believed in all the work of Christ for the forgiveness of sin and the repentance that leads to life. Finally, in this verse, that which was preordained, which is to say all of our salvation, is also said to be “sealed,” with the result that we are assured of that which we have been promised. Thus, we have another score of reasons to give our God and Savior that glory that is rightly due to Him alone, as we continue to see His primary decree and the secondary means He utilizes to bring about our salvation – the salvation we could never earn or keep, but which is as certain and unchanging as the God who set it forth from eternity.

who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

And finally, we come to the end of this particular pericope, which comes full circle, so to speak. In the first verse we considered, God was recognized to be blessed in and of Himself, not simply because of, or as a result of all the blessings which He has vouchsafed for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. In fact, we saw that nothing done for us adds to that inherent blessedness that is God’s enjoyment in perfect, eternal, infinite unchangeable being in and of Himself. In the following verses, we have seen that what we owe Him is because of who He is, for the outpouring of the blessings we owe Him praise and thanksgiving for come from that which God is. It is appropriate also, then, that we are given this one last promise of guarantee of that which our God has promised us in His promise to His Son (Psalm 2:8) for what He was willing to do in taking on flesh, living among those He created to teach them of Himself and His Father, showing that everlasting love the Father and Son both divinely have within the divine essence, which, as we have seen throughout this section of Scripture, God had deigned to share with those who would otherwise hate Him, and not have Him to reign over them.

This is, indeed, to the praise of His glorious grace, which is but another way to say to the praise of His glory. Because of who God is, nothing can come between His love which He has condescended to show us in the Beloved. Our possession at the end of time, where true life, that began when we were born again from above in redemptive history, will finally be ours forever, dwelling with He who gave it to us, and the phrasing in this last verse rings with the triumphant song of those redeemed: We are His, and He is our God. Let us give praises and thanks to Him now, and forever more. Amen.

[1] This is in so many of the old Reformed divines writings, and those of contemporary Reformed theologians, that we simply refer the reader to the aforementioned book by Samuel Renihan, God Without Passions, again, in the Introduction, pg. 36

[2] See Ephesians, Introduction, Argument and Outline, by Daniel B. Wallace, PhD., Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Section Destination, regarding the likelihood that this was a circular letter to the churches of Asia Minor

[3] Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Volume 16: Ephesians-Harold W. Hoehner

Specifics Of God’s Calling 2 – Continued (Part 2)

Thus, the beginning of our text, “Blessed be God…” runs through the entirety of the passage, and is the underpinning for all the reasons to give Him such praise. Without this theme being noticed, the meaning of the pericope loses coherence, for what God works to our benefit is always to show that which He is, that being not merely the source of all that is good and holy in the unique manner that belongs only to God, but to express His inexpressible, self-contained, infinite, eternal and unchanging essence in a manner that elicits wonder, and the expression of that wonder resulting in paeans of thankful praise from those creatures He deigned to create to show that which is true of Him alone.

This is the expression of the first point: “Blessed be God.” This is not a suggestion of happiness based on interaction with anything, but an expression of that state in which God alone exists. While we are told, by our Lord, that we shall be blessed for various reasons (cf. Matthew 5:3-11), God, in Himself, is always blessed, which is to say in a state of perfection that has no need for any interaction with any but Himself. ([1]This goes into theology proper [the Doctrine of God]; however, we will not belabor the point here.) We must note that God did not need to create, but in our passage, that which is true of Him is observed and stated, for the purpose of bringing about that praise of Him which is due His inestimable, glorious holiness, and that by His creatures – not because He needs such to prove that which He is, but because it pleased Him, in His perfection, to decree such to come about.

The expression of the second point is clearly perceived in the words set forth in Holy Writ as well: “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

As has been stated, this is not of a need for our Great God to do such, but of His good pleasure. He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (in the realms of the heavenlies) by His beneficent fiat, not due to our being owed such blessing.

If we are to ask, what blessings has God given to us, regarding that which pertains to such that we might be assured of His divine pleasure in both this life, and the life that is to come, it is simply answered: “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” What greater blessing is there in this life that we can be assured of, or what better proof of that greater blessing which is to be given us in the age to come, than to surely know that we have these blessings now, at this time, here, for our benefit, to the praise of the glory of His grace in Christ Jesus?

This, alone, is cause to worship, and by worship, I do not intend merely acknowledgement of the greatness of our God, but of that which He has deigned to do. The worship intended here is that of thanksgiving for His glorious condescension to those creatures, such as you and I, whom He had no need to create in the first place!

If you think yourself worthy of such interaction and communication with our God, think again! He had no need of you, and He gains no glory through you, yet He has willed to receive that acknowledgement of who He is; you add nothing to His glory, yet He has willed to receive such paltry thanks and worship of Himself by that which He has done in His Son, and furthermore, He has revealed that unto you!

Do you give Him such thankful, worshipful praise? Do you render Him the praise that is due Him because of what He did for you in Christ, apart from any perceived merit on your part?  The particular merit belongs to Jesus Christ alone, whom God set forth as a propitiation for the sins of His people – this is both the fountain of and the reason for both our works and praise (see 1 John 2:2; 4:10 with Romans 3:21-31; Ephesians 2:10; Luke 7:7-10; etc.).

The remaining texts in our pericope simply add to the reasons for our doxological expression of thanksgiving towards our great and glorious God.

We will be given to worship Him in this continuing doxology as we consider the remainder of the particular portion of this Scritpure.

[1] See London Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 (hereafter LCF) Chapter 2.2; Also, God Without Passions: A Reader, edited by Samuel Renihan, 2015 – Reformed Baptist Academic Press (RBAP – http://www.rbap.net)

Specifics Of God’s Calling, Part 2

This will be another ongoing series of posts – I do not know what number it will reach. Although this was not my intention, initially, the subject matter of the Scriptures of which the initial post treats makes such necessary.

It is hardly an expectation to think that such matters as I am addressing could or would be so addressed within the scope of one posted article, yet I had not thought to go beyond that one article. However, since these things frequently come up in discussions, I thought it might be good to further address them in another passage which treats of them, for the benefit of those who are assisted by a lay-teachers/elders’ handling of such things.

I posted an article exegeting Romans 8:29-30 some time ago, regarding the specifics of God’s calling of His people, regarding the covenant He decreed for man to be saved, which is according to the Triune Covenant of Redemption He decreed in counsel with Himself (Ephesians 1:3), some time back, on a blog I formerly posted articles to; I reposted it on the blog I now share in posting articles with my good brother in the faith, Fernando Cassie Ramirez, and which is also a blog that give information on how to contact us at our present house church location (the information for contact is the email addresses given in the definition of the blog).

It was entitled “Specifics of God’s Calling,” and was somewhat of an exegesis of Romans 8:29-30.

Consequently, because I felt the need to somewhat expand upon this, I am writing this follow up article, but this time, it will deal with a portion of Ephesians 1 as to some of those specifics.

Here is our text:

Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)

3   Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
5   he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In this text, the reasons for our praise (doxology) to the Father are given in that work of God accomplished in the incarnate and glorified Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. These reasons are: [1]

  1. He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing (all spiritual blessings) in the heavenly places.
  2. He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him (v 4[2]).
  3. He predestined us in love for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (v 5).
  4. This is for the purpose of praise towards Him for this glorious grace (v 6).
  5. He blessed us in Christ (the Beloved – v 6).
  6. He gave us redemption through the sacrificial death of Christ (in His blood – v 7a).
  7. This redemption accomplished forgiveness of our trespasses, according to His gracious riches (made in Christ v 7b, c).
  8. He lavished these riches of His grace on us in all wisdom and insight (v 8).
  9. As a consequence of this lavishing of His riches of grace, this wisdom and insight is how we apprehend (making known) the mystery of His will (all these things, again, are given us in Christ), and this is according to His purpose (v 9).
  10. That purpose is set forth in Christ as His plan for the fullness (completion, recapitulation) of times (eschatological terminus of redemptive history) which is shown in the uniting of all things in heaven and earth in Christ (v 10).
  11. Because of His predestination of us, who works all things according to the counsel of His will, we have been given an inheritance (in Christ – v 11).
  12. This is all to the praise of His glory, both for those who were first chosen, and subsequent generations of those who believe according to that predestinating, lavish grace of God in Christ vv 12-14).
  13. This is all proven by the downpayment, or surety, of His Holy Spirit sealing all believers unto that final redemption (vv 13-13)

These propositions could be divided differently, but this is a basic working outline of the passage which shows what God has done for us in Christ, and we need to notice the first thing that especially dominates this passage, which is that God is the subject, and we are the objects of His actions in Christ Jesus. The Father works through the Son to give us the blessings and lavish grace that secure our immediate salvation from the effects of sin and the present power of sin to bring about our present regenerate status, and ultimate glorification in the age to come. All these things are to bring about His glory (our present and future praise of Him) for the reasons listed above.

This will be followed by posts dealing with the specifics, but I did wish to make a start.

Blessing in Christ, to the solo glory of our God – Bill H.

[1] The following is largely dependent upon the excellent exegetical work of Pastor Richard Barcellos on this passage. I do not attempt to handle the technical details of the Greek grammar as he did (nor could I). His article is available in the following book: Southern California Reformed Baptist Pastor’s Conference, Volume 1, 2012, chapters 5 & 6, An Exegetical Case Study in the Doxological Trajectory of Scripture: Ephesians 1:8-10 in Light of its Immediate, Contextual Meaning and Redemptive-Historical and Canonical Trajectory, Parts 1 & 2

[2] This has rightly been called a statement of eschatological importance, although dealing directly with our salvation. The fact that it refers to that period when God chose us, which was before creation, is the eschatological factor; this also shows us that eschatology, rooted in who God is, precedes revelation.

Specifics of God’s Calling in Salvation: Romans 8:28-30

Romans 8:28-30

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

While “and,” at the beginning of v. 28, connects this entire context with what has gone before (as opposed to the negatives regarding those who are not adopted, do not have the Spirit of God, are actively hostile to God, cannot submit to God’s law in Christ, and cannot, at any time, please Him), the subsequent conjunction “for” at the beginning of v. 29 connects it with all preceding and within it, while the connective “and” at the beginning of v. 30 does the same, connecting the three vv. into one seamless whole, which is to say, although the context does not stand alone, it is, in itself, a standalone context, with a complete and comprehensive set of grammatically logical propositions that yield indisputable conclusions. The entire context is regarding the adoption in Christ by those led by and conducting their lives in the power of the Spirit of Christ who indwells them, and applied their adoption in Christ to them; therefore, we submit that this is easily understandable, and so will concentrate on particular aspects of the passage; namely, “called, (according to His purpose)” “foreknew,” “predestined,” “conformed to the image of His Son,” and in v. 30, along with, again, “predestined” and  “called,” “justified,” “glorified” and a bit more observations on the additional connectives at the beginnings of v. 29 and v. 30. We will consider, also, the objects of these grammatical elements, as well as the flow of the apostle’s meaning as to what these things intend for both this present age and the age to come.

First, however, as to the audience of these precious doctrines, we assert Paul is speaking, in the primary sense, to the collective saints in Rome as a singular group, as proven by the verb “we know.” This verb is in a tense which speaks of a past action having continuing results in the present which will continue to be ongoing, regarding the certain and sure knowledge that these things are so for those reading them; by application, since God gave us His Word to know these things, this broadens out to the wider audience of all saints in His church throughout redemptive history since our Lord ascended to glory.

Regarding “called,” this refers “to those who are,” and it is a present, particular, ongoing call, according to the grammar. It is not addressing those who are not called in any manner, nor is it addressing those who are called in a general manner, as is made plain in the text; it is addressing those who are called, specifically, “according to His purpose,” which purpose is made clear in the following words. In this, Paul has moved away from addressing the group as one collective entity, to speaking of specific individuals within that collective entity, noted by the change from the first person singular in “we” to the  plural in the article “those.”

Within v. 28, “those” is in a case that makes these people, individually and collectively, the object of “God;” that is, because they have been called according to His purpose, by Him, particularly, they presently, actively love Him continually. That all things are working together for the good of these called children of God is not to be taken as if no adverse circumstances occur in their lives (which would dismiss the apostle’s own ministry completely), but that the mind of those so chosen will see the sovereign grace of their God at work for their good in even the most adverse of circumstances in every situation (as the following vv. 31-39 spell out in detail).

As mentioned previously, the adverb “for” beginning v. 29 connects the foregoing in v. 28with that which follows. It has the meaning of “for this reason,” or “in view of the fact,” and is linked with the called according to the foreknowledge of God (“those He foreknew”). This is not a passive, but an active foreknowledge, as the verb form shows, and is rooted in the past calling (as the verb form also shows) of God on those His active foreknowledge was set upon for accomplishing all these things from that past time, which is defined as “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” “Foreknew” also is in the third person, broadening out to the extent that, although still considering individuals, is now regarding all who are being written about, which considers all believers in Christ Jesus who have been called according to this foreknowledge of God.

Predestined” is in the same tense, voice, mood and person as “foreknew,” and is joined with the former through the emphatic adverb “also.”  Therefore, the two (foreknew and predestined) may not be considered apart from one another, but must be considered together, and both are rooted in the active foreknowledge of God, which, it must be noted, being active and joined to the also active predestination, cannot merely mean that God passively took in the knowledge of those whom He would call, or even that He reactively responded to the knowledge of those who would choose Him, but that He actively predestined those who would be called according to His active foreknowledge. Since the meaning of “predestined” here (and everywhere the word is used in the New Testament) is “to choose or select in advance of some other event—‘to choose beforehand, to select in advance,’” the possibility of the one chosen in advance of the particular event for the purposes stated in that choosing is nil [1]

Since the peace of the church has been so disrupted by unnecessary misunderstanding over the meaning of this word, I include this brief but excellent study of the word from The Complete Word Study Dictionary, © 1992 By AMG International, Inc. Chattanooga, TN 37422, U.S.A. Revised edition, 1993,  edited by Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D (numbers in parenthesis reference Strong’s Concordance):

προορίζω
proorízō; fut. proorísō, from pró (G4253), before, and horízō (G3724), to determine. To determine or decree beforehand (Act_4:28; Rom_8:29-30; 1Co_2:7; Eph_1:5, Eph_1:11). The peace of the Christian Church has been disrupted due to the misunderstanding which surrounds this word. It behooves the Church to consider the divinely intended meaning of this word by carefully examining the critical passages where it is used.
In 1Co_2:7 it has a thing as its obj., namely, the wisdom of God. The purpose was our glory, i.e., our benefits of salvation.
In Act_4:28 the verb is followed by the aor. inf. genésthai (gínomai [G1096], to be, become), to be done. The action of Herod and Pontius Pilate in crucifying Jesus Christ is said to have been predetermined or foreordained by the hand and will of God. This indicates that Christ’s mission, especially His death and resurrection, was not ultimately the result of human will but originated in the eternal counsel of God which decreed the event determining all its primary and secondary causes, instruments, agents, and contingencies.
In Rom_8:29-30, predestination is used of God’s actions in eternally decreeing both the objects and goal of His plan of salvation.Proorízō has a personal obj., the pl. relative pron. hoús, whom. This relative pron. refers to those previously mentioned as those whom God foreknew (proégnō [G4267]). The translation is, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.” The objects of predestination are those whom He foreknew. Predestination does not involve a predetermined plan only but also includes the individuals for whom the plan is devised. The goal of predestination is expressed in the phrase, “to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
In Eph_1:5, Eph_1:11 this same purpose of foreordination is termed adoption. Adoption (huiothesía [G5206]) is the placing into sonship or legal heirship of those who are born of God. According to Eph_1:5 the basis of this prior decree is “the good pleasure of His will.” The word rendered “good pleasure” is eudokía (G2107) and means pleasure or satisfaction, that which seems good. Paul is careful to add that it is the good pleasure of God’s will, it is what seems good to God-not man. Similarly, in Eph_1:11 foreordination is based upon “the purpose (próthesis [G4286]) of the One who is working all things ([neut. acc. pl.]  pánta[G3844], an idiom for the entire metaphysical and physical universe) according to the decision of His will” (a.t.). This same thinking is reflected in Rom_8:30 where foreordination is joined successively to foreknowledge. Here it is presented not as a capricious, arbitrary or whimsical exercise of raw will or unreasoned impulse, but as the expression of a deliberate and wise plan which purposes to redeem those undeserving sinners whom God freely favors as the objects of His mercy.
Because it is neither possible nor permissible for us to pry into God’s secret counsel, it is not proper to be fixated with determining who the predestined are. Instead, we should contemplate the glories of what they are predestined to, i.e., salvation, adoption, or glory.

Although this is where many stop their comments regarding v. 29 (being conformed to the image of His Son), this is clearly not where that purpose of God is finished being defined, either as to the objects of His electing will who all are being so conformed, or as to the logical order of this brief but robust teaching of the apostle Paul regarding these aspects of the Ordo Salutis (order of salvation), for the next v. – v. 30 – again begins with a conjunction which logically connects that which has immediately gone before with that which follows.

That which follows is summed up thusly: “Those” refers to the the direct objects of the actions of being “predestined,” “called,” “justified” and “glorified,” as it is in the case that makes those so being addressed the direct objects of the actions of these verb forms, the Author of these actions being, of course, God. Please notice, these verb forms are of the same as that mentioned of “foreknew” and “predestined” in v. 29, which is to say, the actions perpetrated by God upon these objects of His purpose are all grounded in His predetermining, elective (“called”) foreknowledge, and since it is, as stated above, an active foreknowledge based in that same knowledge of God, it is to be taken as preceding from Him to accomplish His purposes, not responsive in any shape, form, or manner, as we trust the definitions of these terms have fully shown. This is to say God does not, in any way, react, but predetermines who will be conformed to the image of His Son, and does so according to that sure knowledge of His which brings about in redemptive history that which He determined to do beforehand, which is to say, before those who are called in (to speak in human terms) eternity past are actually confirmed in this elective calling at that specific time in redemptive history when they are adopted by the Spirit of God into His family.

The results of these actions of God has been seen, in v. 29, to “conform (usinto the image of His Son,” but this conforming is based in the objective reality of His resurrection and glorification, which has present results and realizations, as well as eschatological results; however, in the following verses (31-39), Paul is focused on the practical implications and application of these results, which the verb forms in v. 30 show, since these verb forms speak to the effect that all these things have been accomplished already in Christ; that is, those who are in Christ were predestined to be called, and having been called, are presently (some would say positionallyjustified and glorified, which accords with the ongoing process of being conformed into the image of His Son, which process will have it’s full result in the full redemption of each saint (this is where the eschatological consideration comes in, although it is secondary to the practical implications in the subsequent verses by which we live according to that which is now, and will be then, fully).

SDG –Bill

[1] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (362). New York: United Bible Societies.

Meditations and Exposition From the Gospel of John, Chapter 7

John 7:30-36: So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me.   You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”

That many of the people believed in Him is not necessarily a statement that they believed salvifically, but that they had that momentary belief which is not ongoing. As we have stated many times in this study, John uses the various tenses for belief in a manner that is generally quite consistent. The tense used here is of that faith that believes due to things seen at one point in the past (noting that such a past point of time can be indicated by a present exercise of temporary faith). Like the faith expressed in the crowd of five thousand that went away from our Lord when He spoke of His being the true bread from God, and that those who ate His flesh and drank His blood would be partakers of eternal life (John 6:54), these people are exercising that faith that follows as far as it can see, but will not follow to the cross to die, and be raised in newness of life. Looking for the signs of the Savior, they miss the fact of His work to secure the salvation of His people, and so fail at the point where that which He speaks becomes offensive to either their sensibilities or their temporal practice of religion according to that system which He abolishes in His body being broken (Hebrews 10:1-10).

Such temporary faith is conditioned, in some cases, on the carnal provisions (the eating of the bread and fish in chapter 6), or because of the miracles (as in our present case) without understanding that miracles are always revelatory, and point to the purpose of God by which He intends to communicate His glory. The verb tense of the word appears in our text speaks of that which will happen at some point, and can be used to refer to mere possibility; here, since the Jews believed Messiah would come, we take the former sense, but this also tells us that they are holding that He who is before them is not Messiah. They are believing He is a prophet, at most, holding forth truths of God, without understanding that He IS the truth of God, and the only way to eternally enter the kingdom of the Father (John 14:6) by those things that they should have seen in His doctrine, for the purpose of the miracles is, as we said, to revelational. Basically, we may say that the miracles our Lord wrought, in their primary function, were to act as signs to point to His person as that Messiah they awaited, and open their ears to those great, glorious, gracious and merciful truths He spoke.

However, when men fail to see their salvation in the grace, love and mercy of God, there remains revelational truth of the most dire kind. In this case, it is that where our Lord is going – He who is the firstfruits of those who are to be raised after and in the likeness of His resurrection to glory (1 Corinthians 15:22-23) – these others cannot come, for they lack such ears to hear and eyes to see, given only by that mercy and grace of God. The wrath of God is the flip side of the coin of redemptive revelation, which man, without the working of the Spirit of God to give him the new birth, remains under (John 3:16-21 shows us both sides of this dual purpose of revelational truth, as well as other portions of this gospel, which we will get to in their time).God displays His glory in both instances – the giving of that renewal of the inward man which results in salvation to those who believe, and the damnation of those who do not believe. This is not to equate these as equal acts (fallacy of equal ultimacy), for God, though He hardens those who do not believe, merely confirms them in their unbelief, while the gracious power which raises from spiritual death those who have believed is far more glorious, being equated to the raising of our Lord from the grave to His present session in glory (Ephesians 1:18-23, esp. vv. 18-20).

Soli Deo Gloria – Bill