“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” (Ephesians 1:4)
The search for identity and meaning can drive one to great successes or tragic failures. For the Christian, however, the question is answered throughout Ephesians.
We are chosen! We are selected as a favorite out of “many [who] are called” (Matthew 22:14) “out of the world” (John 15:19). What a privilege! We are God’s choice to bear His name, represent His cause, and share His glory throughout eternity.
In fact, we are “predestinated [previous boundaries set] . . . unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself” (Ephesians 1:5). And “if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).
Furthermore, we have been “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). That word, “accepted,” is a specialized form of the word most often translated “grace.” We have been “graced” by almighty God, who has set absolute boundaries around our lives and made us His children. We were purchased “through his blood” (Ephesians 1:7) “that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar [that is, ‘precious’] people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).
Moreover, we are forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)! Our sins are “covered” (Psalm 32:1); “cast” behind God’s back (Isaiah 38:17); removed “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12); “remember[ed] . . . no more” (Jeremiah 31:34); and cleansed “from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Hallelujah! Since we are God’s children, we should have no identity crisis. We are a chosen, predestined, accepted, redeemed, forgiven, and holy people. Finally, we are predestined “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).
“But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” (1 John 2:5)
The New Testament is emphatically clear that we are saved entirely by the grace of God through faith in Christ. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; . . . it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
But how can we know for sure that our professed faith in Christ is genuine and we are really saved? Many who claim to be Christians are not truly saved, for Christ said: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
Now, note that John’s main purpose in writing his gospel was to win people to saving faith in Christ. “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). Then the ultimate purpose of his first epistle was to assure them they were saved. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
His epistle, in fact, gives us several tests to prove our faith. One is in our text—we keep (literally “guard against loss”) His Word. Also: “Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3). Then: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14).
Thus, we can not only have salvation, but also assurance of salvation if we love and guard His Word, seek to keep His commandments, and love all others of like precious faith. Finally, we have the indwelling witness of the Spirit. “Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John 3:24).
“The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee.” (Numbers 6:25)
This request is part of the well-known Mosaic benediction for the children of Israel (Numbers 6:24-27). The first occurrence in verb form of the word “shine” is in this verse, although in the noun form, translated as “light,” it appears in the third verse of the Bible when God said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).
True light comes only from God, since “God is light” (1 John 1:5). As the world depends on the sunshine for its physical life, so we continually must receive the Son’s shining in our hearts to sustain our spiritual life.
It is noteworthy that the prayer of our text occurs seven other times in the Scriptures. These are as follows:
“Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: save me for thy mercies’ sake” (Psalm 31:16); “God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah” (Psalm 67:1); “Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved” (Psalm 80:19; also vv. 3, 7); “Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes” (Psalm 119:135); “O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake” (Daniel 9:17).
Since God, in His omnipotence, dwells “in the light which no man can approach unto” (1 Timothy 6:16), He shines on us for salvation, spiritual illumination, and daily guidance only through His Son, the Word made flesh, for “in him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
“Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy: That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, LORD, hast done it.” (Psalm 109:26-27)
There is disagreement as to the proper interpretation of this psalm of David. Its center section (vv. 6-20) consists of a strong denunciation and curse, while the beginning and ending sections petition God for judgment and deliverance (vv. 1-5, 21-31).
Most hold that David is speaking in both sections. If so, it is a bitter and vindictive spirit finding vent. “Let Satan stand at his right hand. . . . let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few. . . . Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: . . . Let the extortioner catch all that he hath. . . . Let there be none to extend mercy unto him” (vv. 6-12).
Others would claim that David is quoting the curse of his enemy directed toward him and point to the use of the singular personal pronouns “he,” “his,” and “him” used 30 times in 15 verses. Indeed, if this is the proper interpretation, the psalm becomes the plea of a persecuted man of God who entrusts his enemies’ judgment entirely to the Lord. “But do thou for me, Oh GOD the Lord, for thy name’s sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. . . . I became also a reproach unto them. . . . Let them curse. . . . I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude. For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul” (Psalm 109:21-22,25,28,30-31).
Like his master who had come after him, “when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).
“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (1 John 3:11)
The pungent phrase “from the beginning” occurs no less than nine times in the first three chapters of the little epistle of 1 John. Thus, while in one sense, Christ’s command to love one another was a new commandment, in another sense it has been with us from the very beginning of the world. “Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning” (1 John 2:7).
The first verses of John’s epistle show that this beginning is the same beginning in Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1: “That which was from the beginning, . . . of the Word of life; . . . that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1:1-2). Note also 1 John 2:13: “I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning” (see also 1 John 2:14).
“Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father” (1 John 2:24). This is an eternal commandment, for “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and “love is of God” (1 John 4:7). In the upper room, Jesus prayed to the Father: “Father . . . thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. . . . And I have declared unto them thy name, . . . that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them” (John 17:24,26).
Love, therefore, has been at the center of God’s plan from the beginning, but a new pattern and measure of that love was given us by Christ. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).
“Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 106:48)
Many is the speaker who, after he has made some point which he considers especially good, will then say: “And all the people said, ‘Amen’” (meaning “that’s right!”).
It is interesting to note the biblical examples of such a demonstration. There are 16 times in which this or a similar statement occurs in the Bible—all in the Old Testament. Twelve of these are found in Deuteronomy 27:14-26 with the people so responding after the pronouncement of a “curse” on those who commit various sins. The last curse is as follows: “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen” (v. 26) in agreement with the judgment.
King David described his thanksgiving for the return of the Ark of the Covenant with, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel for ever and ever. And all the people said, Amen, and praised the LORD” (1 Chronicles 16:36). When Jerusalem’s wall restoration was being delayed and Nehemiah had to rebuke some of his people for their covetousness, threatening God’s judgment on them if they did not repent, then “all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the LORD. And the people did according to this promise” (Nehemiah 5:13). After the wall was finished, as Ezra read the Scriptures to the people, “Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen” (Nehemiah 8:6). The final such reference is in our text.
If we follow biblical precedent, therefore, whenever God’s Word is read to a congregation, either in denunciation of sin or thanksgiving for blessing and revival, or simply in praising the Lord for His eternal goodness, it is appropriate for the people to respond with a heartfelt “Amen!”
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Ephesians 5:11)
What are these “works of darkness” which we must avoid? Some of these works are enumerated in Romans 13:12-13: “Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, . . . not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.” A Christian is thus to “cast off” all such works of darkness from his or her own life, to “have no fellowship” with those who practice them, and even to openly “reprove them.”
“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:17-19). Such works of darkness stem directly from a denial of God as sovereign: “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, . . . and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21). This darkening of the heart is soon followed by a darkening of the life: “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness. . . . Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Romans 1:24, 28).
In these days of moral confusion, with attitudes and actions once outlawed by society now being defended and favored (e.g., sexual promiscuity and perversion), and with once-honored attributes now ridiculed (e.g., chastity, spirituality), there are great pressures on Christians to compromise with these works of darkness. God and His standards do not change, however, and He still expects us to shun and reprove them.