What is in mind in reading these Scriptures is to attempt a sketch of Divine movements, shewing how God has moved towards us to effectuate His purpose. We read in the opening chapters of Romans how the gospel reached us, and what it has effected for us; but I would like, the Lord helping me, to shew how God has used it as one step in giving effect to the thought of His heart, formed before time began. There are seven distinct thoughts in this section which we have read together, hanging upon one another like links in a chain, which I think give us a complete picture of these movements towards us, beginning with PREDESTINATION and ending with TRANSLATION.
In v. 20 we read of the jubilation of the disciples as they recount to the Lord the wonderful things done in His Name by the power He had given to them, greater power than had ever been given to the sons of men before. Even demons had been subdued by it. There was, however, something greater than this in which they could rejoice, namely, that their names were "written in heaven." Satan would eventually be cast down from heaven (v. 18), yet a more wonderful fact is made known to them. God had marked them out for a place in heaven, in PREDESTINATION. God had marked them out for heavenly citizenship. It was His purpose before time began. They could not have written their names there; they were already written there — a truth never before made known to the sons of men. This, then, is the beginning beloved, so far as God is concerned. He has predestinated us for a place in heaven.
That paves the way for another movement — INCARNATION. If predestination was to be effected, the Son must come into Manhood to do it. We venture to suggest that predestination called for the incarnation for it was men who were predestinated to this place. In v. 22, the Lord speaks of this fact with all its mystery to the human intellect, "No man knoweth Who the Son is." That He was here to carry into effect every thought of blessing for man is clearly seen in this section (vv. 21, 22). "All things are delivered to Me of My Father." The earthly things in relation to Christianity. He was here to secure all, whether it be Israel on the earth, or the new company He was beginning to form, those whose names are written in heaven. We believe the moment had come in this chapter to begin this work, for, through His messengers, Israel had rejected Him as their Messiah. The earthly things concerning Israel were now being laid aside in order that the greater heavenly things concerning the assembly might be brought into being. The "Lord of heaven and earth" had committed all things into His hand to bring them into effect and, if for the moment the earthly things were to be laid aside to bring in the heavenly things, the Son rejoiced because it was "good" in the sight of the Father. Note, beloved, how the Lord said, "heaven and earth," not earth and heaven. Historically, the earthly sphere of blessing had been the object of the ministry of our Lord, but now we learn that the heavenly was to take precedence over the earthly as the present object of His ministry.
While much was written in the Old Testament concerning the earthly sphere — promises and prophecies concerning it abound there — not one word was written about the heavenly sphere of blessing for men. This, as we know from other places, was a secret hidden in the heart of God. How then are we to know anything about it? It is this which necessitates a further Divine movement, and that is REVELATION. Twice in this section we read of things being revealed. First, the Father revealed to the disciples that the One in Whom they had faith was in truth the Christ; that is how they came to be in His company. The revelation of the Father in their hearts had drawn them to the Son. Then, the Son also gives them a revelation; He reveals to them God as Father. The heavenly company will not stand in relationship to God as Jehovah but as Father, for so He has been made known to us by the Son. It is characteristic of us today that we know the Father, and it is in this name and relationship the heavenly company is formed.
This brings about another blessed thing in the hearts of the disciples, that is, ILLUMINATION. The Lord turns to His disciples "privately" and tells them they saw and heard things which many prophets and kings had desired to see and hear, and had neither seen nor heard them. The truth is they could not be known till the Son was here to reveal them. That is why the incarnation was a necessity, for these heavenly things could only be known by One Who shared these Divine secrets. He must come from heaven to tell us of them, and He must come again from heaven to take us there. Only in this way could we reach that place in heaven for which we had been predestinated. Linking these four things together we learn that predestination necessitated the incarnation; which in turn has brought to light the revelation of God as Father, by which the saints today have been illuminated as partakers of the heavenly calling.
The rest of this section shows how all has been done on our side to fit us and bring us into this place of favour. When this lawyer tempted our Lord with his question about the law, opportunity was provided to shew that the incoming of the Son into this world had brought about a TRANSITION in the dealings of God with His creature. You will remember it is recorded in the first chapter of the Gospel of John that, "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." Hence this lovely parable is brought in here to demonstrate the transfer from law to grace. Which one of us here today has the slightest doubt that had it been left to law-keeping to make good our names written in heaven, or to produce in us the fitness to be there, not one of us would ever have been there? Instead of God securing us on the line of demand, He has secured us by supplying all that we need, for all has been brought to us by the Son coming into Manhood in order that He might come "where he was." Both the priest and the Levite were on the line of demand. The priest needs a sacrifice from this man to give to God on his behalf, but the man is stripped of all that he had, and empty handed the priest passed by. The Levite would have instructed this man as to what he should do, but the man is half dead and incapable of doing anything at all; so they both pass by and leave the man almost, but not quite, as they found him. They simply added the fact that if man is left to his own efforts to get right with God, his case is both hopeless and helpless. Hence the need of this transition from priest and Levite to the "certain Samaritan" or, as we have said, from law to grace.
Here, in parabolic form, we have what we all stood in need of — SALVATION. Brought to us and not worked out by us, with an abundance of supply which has met our need completely, and fitted us for the place we are going to fill in heaven above. The oil and wine may suggest "joy in the Holy Spirit," which we have now as in the kingdom of God. The beast would assure us of being supported by our Lord right to the end, for He ensures that there
will be no breakdown between the beginning and the end. Moreover, we are now in company where we can be cared for; a company endowed with enough spiritual riches to support us till the end of the journey. One thing remains, How and when will that journey end?
"When I come again" is the word to the host. At such an early moment in this ministry we have the bright hope of the return of our Saviour. This, beloved, will complete the picture, for it means for us — TRANSLATION. Not all the actual words we are using are found in this section, but I am sure we know that the thoughts conveyed by them are. If, then, God wrote our names in heaven in predestination, the Son was in reserve to bring it all about. His coming into the world was to secure this company by fitting them for the place, and His coming again will be to take them there. The One Who began the work will complete it and will surely land every one of us safe home in heaven above, where we shall fill the place marked out for us in counsel, when our names were written in heaven. So it will be that that which began in predestination will be effected by translation, and because of this we "rejoice in hope of the glory of God."