Who can teach like God? If we sat at the feet of the greatest master in the world, he would be as much dependent upon our ability to take in the thing that he had to communicate as we should be dependent on his wisdom to show us; if we had not capacity to take the lesson in he could not do anything with us. God is not like that; He can enable us to take in what He says; not only unfold things to us, but can make them good in us; this applies to the most profound truths. In Ephesians we are told of the blessings of a man in Christ. These are infinitely higher than the blessings of the saints in Old Testament days. They cannot be set forth in Abraham, Ephraim, or Manasseh; Christ alone can set them forth. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ.” These are not the blessings simply of a justified man, though no doubt the man is justified; but it is not the way he is looked at here, but as chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. It has nothing to do with what we are as sinners; we were chosen in Christ before the world was, so are viewed on an entirely different plane, on the line of divine counsels; blessed with every spiritual blessing, not on earth, but in heavenly places in Christ according to God’s eternal choice before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. Before all worlds He predestinated us unto sonship by Jesus Christ unto Himself; He wanted sons. It was not in any way to fulfil the desire of your heart and mine. Which of us desired to be a son before the face of God? Some lone place within His door would have been good enough for us; we did not want to be too near God. The prodigal said, “I will be a hired servant.” Well, wait and see what your Father says. You are not to dictate where you are to be or where you are not to be, you are to be blessed according to your Father’s thoughts. When he was a great way off his father saw him, and ran and fell on his neck, and covered him with kisses. That is not the way hired servants are usually treated, but that is the way God has received us; we are holy and without blame before Him in love, in the place of sons.
In Ephesians it is the Father coming out to fulfil the desires of His own heart; in Romans it is God coming out to bless us according to our need. It is the Father who has predestinated us by Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, whereby He has made us accepted, or taken into favour—“in Christ”? No, that would not do. “In the Beloved”! Of course it is in Christ, but Christ as the Beloved, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
All our blessing is set forth in Christ, God’s “beloved.” There is one little sentence in the Epistle of John which makes our blessings plain—“As He is, so are we in this world.” Do you inquire, “What is the nature of these blessings?” Well, the better I know Christ, the better I can explain it, and the better I shall be able to tell you. If you are to know the nature of these blessings, the extent of them, you must know something of Christ, you must know Him; and the better you know Him and the place He has as Man before God, the better you will know what the blessings are, because they are all set forth in Him.
A person may say, “What is the good of learning all the blessings of a man in Christ? It is all very nice and very instructive, but what is the benefit of it?” I will tell you the benefit of it. What benefit is it to a prince to know that he is a prince? Oh, well, you say, knowing his rank, he does not consort with common people. Quite so, there is a dignity about him flowing from his exalted rank which nothing else could impart, a tone about him that no common person has. It is the consciousness of his princely birth which imparts this tone to him which no commoner could have. He may not always act worthily of the position, the exalted place that he has in the kingdom, but it belongs to him by right as it does not to those outside the royal family. If we could get hold of the greatness of the place that we have before God, the dignity of our position, we should be different people. You remember what Paul said when he was before Festus and Agrippa. Picture a man who had been for two years in an Eastern prison; he must have been in a terrible condition, he certainly would not present the appearance of a courtly man as he stood chained before the king and nobility. Listen to him as he addresses Agrippa, “I would to God that not only thou, but all that bear me this day, were not only almost, but altogether such as I am, without these bonds.” “Such as I am”! not such as I shall be when I am glorified. Think of Paul, with torn raiment, chained as a criminal, guarded by soldiers, having been conveyed out of the hands of the rabble that would have torn him to pieces, saying, “Would to God that you were just like me.” Could you go into the presence of a great potentate, a king, or an emperor, and say to him before all the nobility, “I wish you were like me?” Would you not be ashamed to say it? Would you not think, They will scoff at me? Ah, but if we only had a sense of the dignity that is ours it would be a very different thing. We should feel what an enormous benefit it would be to those men if they were only just what we are. “Would to God” it came from the very bottom of his heart—“that not only thou, but all that hear me this day, were not only almost, but altogether such as I am, without these bonds.” You may be perfectly sure that Paul walked through this world, whether he made tents or stood before his judges, in the sense of the dignity that was his as a child of God.
Just think, we have such a place before God that nothing can set it forth but Christ; that we have no less a place than the place He has as Man in the presence of God, we are in Him, blessed with every spiritual blessing! He went down to the very bottom when He gave Himself for our sins; but He has brought us to the very top, set us in all the value of His work, in all the acceptability of His person, before the face of God, and in the relationship in which He stands to God—in all the grace and favour which rests upon Him. That is our place now as much as it will be in eternity; then glorified we shall enjoy it more, but it is our place now. A person conscious of this unique favour could surely well wish that every other man on earth was like himself.
Where is the pomp, the grandeur, the glitter with which Agrippa and Bernice entered Caesarea? Where are the chief captains, the principal men? Where is the court now? All gone in dust and ashes long ago; death and time, decay and corruption, have swallowed all up. Not so that which belonged to Paul, not the dignity that was his, not the blessings which were his—all these are imperishable, and will shine forth in the day of Christ’s glory in all their magnificence. The world will then say, “Why, God has loved Paul and every other Christian as He has loved His Son!”
If we knew and entered into the blessings of the man in Christ more and made them consciously ours, it would impart a tone to us in this world that nothing else in the universe can. Mere intelligence will not do it, religious education will not do it; the Spirit of God alone can give us the sense of the dignity that is ours as men in Christ Jesus. Let faith appropriate the matchless roll of blessings in this chapter in the power of the Spirit, and the effect produced in Paul will be found in us.