God has purposed in Himself to have before Himself that which shall reflect His own blessedness - He taking pleasure in us, and we taking pleasure in Him; as it is said here, "that we should be holy, and without blame before Him in love." He will have His people of the same nature as Himself, gathered around Himself, happy here, and for Himself. His thought is not merely that we should have an inheritance; as we read of "the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." He "hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved."
And this is just the character of this Epistle; the apostle, in speaking of redemption, does so, not so much as of something needed by us, in order to appear before God, as of these purposes of God concerning us. We may look at God as a Judge; but, more than this, God is working for the display of the riches of the glory of His grace.
This lifts up the soul. God has thoughts and intentions about us. As in the case of a young man, whom, a person has (in ordinary language) "taken up," and is about to provide for, it is not a question of what the one was, but of the thoughts and intentions of the other - of what, in a word, he is, and will do, for the young man; so, though in a much more blessed sense, has God "taken up" poor sinners, that He might act towards them worthily of Himself, to the praise of the glory of His grace. The other thing remains true: God is a Judge, and "we have redemption, forgiveness of sins, through his blood" (Christ's); and we must understand this before we can enjoy our privileges in Christ.
God has "taken us up." Our very existence in the new creation, is the fruit of His purpose and thoughts about us. This has a double bearing. It shews how we are to measure what God is doing for us, as a question of God's purpose; and, besides being this measure, it makes us understand the source of it all. And this has a most happy effect: instead of looking at ourselves, and judging from ourselves, we look at God. Nothing but life-giving power could ever have wrought this. Our thoughts about God are, that He is the source of all our blessing. As the young man, before alluded to, would have pleasure in thinking about the friend who had "taken him up," so this thought about God is a happy thought, and, moreover, one of great sanctifying power.
127 God has "predestinated us unto the adoption of children." It is not here, simply, a question of purpose (of God's counsel, and, therefore, sure): that to which He has predestinated us, is the present adoption of children. A poor sinner, a sinner of the Gentiles, having no title whatever to blessing, I trace all my title to God's purpose, which He has purposed in Himself. This is true also of the Jews, though, in a certain sense, they stood on different ground; Christ was "a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers"; but of the Gentiles it is said, "and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy." It is of grace, of God's free thought about us. He has taken pleasure in us, as Joshua said to Israel: "If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it unto us, a land which floweth with milk and honey." We cannot boast in anything; for we have not anything whatever wherein to boast, except in this, that God has taken delight in us to give us the adoption. The effect is most blessed; we know Himself - "after ye have known God, or rather are known of God." What He has predestinated us unto, is not a distant thing, nor yet merely salvation (in the sense of escape from the wrath of God); it is the nearest place He could have put us into, not as with the Jews, "I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn": we are adopted with the "adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved." Here we get not only the source but the manner - the source, God's love; the manner, in Christ.
"The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" - the Word that was in the beginning with God, and was God. But the light shone in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not. It is not said that there was want of power, but that men's deeds were evil, and that, therefore, they would not come unto the light. A Christian who is walking carelessly does not like a godly Christian to come into contact with him, he feels condemned; whenever the heart is not with God, light makes it uneasy. But besides being light, "In him was life," and that is what we needed; while He shews us our evil, He is the good we need. Predestinated unto the adoption of children, it is in Him. Called according to God's purpose, we are to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Of His fulness, have all we received, and grace for grace. We are brought into the presence of God in Jesus Christ. Therefore, when Jesus goes away, He says, "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, unto my God and your God." He has Himself met all our responsibility, otherwise the light would have been terrible. There are two things, substitution, and communication of life. In substitution, He stood alone. But guilt being taken away, we quickened together with Him, He presents us in the Father's presence, as He is.
128 "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." But not merely has the Son of God visited us when we were in our sins, nor merely, either, been delivered for our offences. "Herein is our love [love with us] made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world." We have no life except in Christ; we have no acceptance apart from Christ. He has made us accepted in the Beloved - the measure is just that. It is God's delight to bring us, in Christ, and by Christ, into His own presence. We can go no farther; "truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ," writes John. We may enjoy it more and more, we may delight in it in deepened measure, but we cannot have anything beyond. When God speaks of glorifying Himself, or of our glorifying Him, it means through the display of what He is; it is God's glory to display Himself; therefore, in this, which is to the glory of His grace, we have the display of Himself.
And do not let us suppose that this goes beyond what we may think about (a very natural thought): the apostle says further on, "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man: that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith: being rooted and grounded in love, that ye may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God," chap. 3:14-19. It is not a matter of human wisdom, learning, or attainment; in proportion as we become simple as little children, we shall understand these things, through the Holy Ghost. "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise." It has nothing to do with human learning, except to set it aside; lowliness of mind is what is needed.
129 "The good pleasure of his will" is not, simply, sovereignty - it is the good pleasure of His will. God is acting in His love, displaying the will of His grace, "taking up" poor, wretched, vile sinners, and unfolding on these objects of His mercy, all the riches of His own goodness. The "good pleasure of his will," that which God takes delight in, is the ministering of the fulness of His blessing to us. Here the soul gets established. It is quite evident, that the measure of His goodness cannot be, in any sense, the measure of what we are, as deserving at His hands; while it is His good pleasure, it is the good pleasure of His grace. And further, whilst I have need, for the establishment of my soul, to learn what He is, to be delighting in the goodness of God, it is this too which sanctifies. If I could be always thinking of what He is, I should be perfectly happy, and there would be the reflection in me of that with which my soul was occupied.
We begin, often, at the wrong end. On what are we resting our acceptance? It is not anything in ourselves that will do. Or, it is a question of sanctification? "beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord" (that is, I look at the Lord, and, as a consequence of my looking at the Lord, I reveal to men what He is). Moses, on coming down from the mount, was not inquiring whether his face shone, in order to know if he had been with God; others saw this.
It is such a comfort, to get to God and feel, that it is in Him, and from Him.
Where, naturally, would our souls rest? It is quite a natural feeling, if we have been convinced of sin, that we should want to get at peace to know there is nothing against us, but the apostle here, is looking at those whom God has "taken up," and He has "made us accepted in the Beloved." That is God's thought about us; He has shewn us this grace in a particular way, and in a particular person - Christ. It is not merely a negative thing; He takes as positive delight in us, as He does in Jesus. He is no double-measure God.
130 "Put on as the elect of God," Paul writes to the Colossians, "holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness," etc., saints, and beloved ones of God, objects of God's love, God's delight (the measure of which is Christ), thus He addresses them. If I am beloved of a person, this draws out love. So the consciousness of God's love, God's delight produces links in affection, that exist not without it. My thought of being accepted is not merely, that my sins are put away, so that I could stand before Him - I am the object of His delight; holy affections are drawn out, and I pass through the world as a beloved one of God. We cannot suppose, in Christ's going through this world (and this shews us our deficiency as Christians), one single thing of it, that acts on our hearts, acting on His; He was the beloved One of God - "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," and He was going through the world as such. Thus, too, should the Christian walk through the world with the consciousness of being beloved of God; with this, we do not want the world - without it, we are obliged to turn to something that makes self the centre.
Young or old, that is what we are - beloved of God. Perhaps, you will say, "Ah, but I am very proud, very worldly, I do not give up the things of the world." Very likely not, and that is a reason for your being reminded of this, that you may.
"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." This is the leading thought in the apostle's mind. And remark, he speaks of that which is positively possessed, not of something we are hoping for, or expecting; He "hath made us accepted in the Beloved," we "have redemption through his blood," etc. This grace of God, this "good pleasure of his will" has planted and set us in it all. We may be practically destitute of the joy of these things, but that is where we are. And He has given to those whom He has set in this place, the knowledge of His purpose as to the glory of Christ, as it goes on to say, "wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence"; the apostle explains it, "having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself"; here again it comes from the good pleasure of His will, "that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth." Having placed the saints in all this fellowship and blessing, He imparts (as with Abraham - "Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I am about to do?") unto them His thoughts. Not only has He accepted us in Christ, but He will have everything brought under Christ's dominion and power. He is to gather together in one, all things in Christ - "even in him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." We are joint-heirs with Christ. Hence the prayer at the end of the chapter.
131 We cannot deny, we do not deny (whatever man's efforts to make the best of the world), that sin is in the world; there is not a single thing (take dress for instance) that does not tell us that. There is not a single thing we are buying or selling, a single thing we are looking upon, that is not, in some sort, a proof of sin. All that man does for pleasure, is necessitated by sin; Adam in Paradise had no need of it. What makes the world get on without God? The principle of sin; this is running through everything, it has got, so to speak, into the vital blood, and (though it be God's creation through which it runs) it runs through everything. Man builds his city, invents his instruments of music (Gen. 4), and strives to make the world happy without God. Introduce God, and His amazing work, where men are occupied with gain or with pleasure, it is all wrong and out of place. Whether for pleasure, or for gain, God must be excluded. That is the character of the whole world, and to tack on the name of Christ does not mend it; an avaricious Christian (nominally such) is in nothing better than an avaricious heathen. God is lingering over it, but the existence of the gospel in the world is proof that the world is lost. "We know," says John, "that the whole world lieth in the wicked one"; and again, "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." As it is, as a plain matter of fact, it is not God's inheritance. Who is called its god? Satan. God's title cast away, through the lust of men, and the pride and power of Satan, whom they follow, God has designated Satan "the god of this world," and made known to us (those who are of faith) the mystery of His will. The apostle speaks here of hope (v. 18). We have obtained an inheritance in Christ, and all things are going to be put under Christ; meanwhile (like Abraham, who had not so much as whereon to set his foot) "having nothing and yet possessing all things," the Christian walks through the world, as one beloved of God, in the consciousness that he is the object of God's purposes, and of God's delight. But what do we see in the Lord Jesus? Not merely that He has been designated the heir of all things; "the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." So too our proper delight is in knowing that we are beloved of God, and that God will have us before Himself, and for Himself - His delight in us, and our delight in Him. It is as a consequence of this love, that we shall have the glory of the inheritance. Where are our hearts? what is our joy? are we journeying, aye journeying, through the world in the blessed, joyful confidence of this secret of God? Then will the world be to us a "dry and thirsty land"; instead of finding delight in things around, we shall have to guard against them as against that which would bring us down to Satan's ground. Are we taking the world, with its pleasures and its gain? If so, we are entering into Cain's portion, and not into that of Abel or Abraham: we are "enemies of the cross of Christ." Through these things Satan is deceiving the world. Are we taking the position (not of Adam before he sinned, not of Christ when He was in the world, neither of Christ in the glory, but) of the "men of the earth?"
132 The Lord give us to see, and so to estimate that which is God's object, that we may have done with this present evil world.