John’s Love Letters, Part 4: Atonement

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. -1 John 2:1-2 ESV

 There are two theological camps within Christianity, Calvinism and Arminianism. As a general rule, I associate myself with the Calvinist camp 9 times out of 10 on any given theological debate. However, when it comes to the issue of the atonement, verse 2 of today’s passage in 1st John always runs through my mind. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

You see, the Calvinist would argue that Jesus’ atonement is effective for God’s elect. The Arminian would say that Jesus’ atonement if effective for the whole world. Who is correct? Both. There are passages in Scripture that cannot be denied that point to God’s particular love for His elect people. There are also passages that point to God’s plan of Salvation that invites ‘whosoever will.’ You see, salvation is all at once inclusive yet exclusive, inviting yet restrictive. This subject of salvation, this passage alone is worth more than a 5 minute blog post so I encourage you to meditate on it and study it more in depth, but that aside, let’s get into our topic, Atonement.

The very root word, ‘atone’, is made up of two words, ‘at one.’ That’s exactly what atonement means, to make one with something or someone. Sin separates. Isaiah 59 tells us that our iniquities have separated us from God. Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and as a result of that sin we deserve death according to Romans 6:23, but Jesus came to offer and give eternal life. He does that by taking away our sin and giving us the priceless gift of salvation by His atonement. Today, think on this wonderful subject. Rest in the finished work of Christ.

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 4

I’ve decided that I’m going to do something that I’ve not done in a really long time and that is finish a series. So, if you’ve been following me for a while you’ll notice that I’ve been doing a series called, “It’s All About Jesus”. The title is self-explanatory. The material that we’ve been going over is found in Ephesians 1

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

According to this passage of Scripture there are nine things God has done for us and they are:

1. He has blessed us (Eph. 1:3)
2. He has chosen us (Eph. 1:4)
3. He has predestined us (Eph. 1:5, 11)
4. He has made us accepted (Eph. 1:6)
5. He has redeemed us (Eph. 1:7)
6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)
7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)
9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

Let’s get started where we left off:

6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)

In the ESV, Ephesians 1:7, 8 read like this:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight – [Ephesians 1:7-8 ESV]

The word ‘lavished’ implies more than enough. It tells me that God didn’t just give me enough grace to get by on but he gave me grace for every day. He gave me more than I needed. He didn’t have to give me more than enough but he did anyway because He really loves me. Just to think that God has shown that kind of love for each and every person is incredible and unfathomable.

7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)

When Paul is talking here, he’s telling us about the mystery of the will of God. How can this mystery remain a mystery if it’s made known to us? To be honest, it can’t. Paul couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He just had to talk in Ephesians 3:6:

“And the mystery is this: Because of Christ Jesus, the good news has given the Gentiles a share in the promises that God gave to the Jews. God has also let the Gentiles be part of the same body.” – [Ephesians 3:6 CEV]

We, who were rejected and kicked out in the cold, are now welcomed by God’s wonderful grace to be his elect people.

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – [1 Peter 2:10 ESV]

8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)

This great inheritance that Paul speaks about is our salvation. God gave this to us as a free gift. I’ve heard a lot of Baptists express this as God giving us a box wrapped in paper and all we have to do is accept it but I’m with RC Sproul on this one:

“God just doesn’t throw a life preserver to a drowning person. He goes to the bottom of the sea, and pulls a corpse from the bottom of the sea, takes him up on the bank, breathes into him the breath of life and makes him alive.” – R.C. Sproul

A dead man can’t receive anything. God has to be the one to bring you to life. Jesus says in John 10:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – [John 10:10 ESV]

A lot of people use this to preach on living a blessed and abundant life. That’s all well and good but people seldom realize that you must have life before you can have abundant life and that’s what our inheritance is: life.

9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

I love what Scofield has to say about this in his commentary.

The Holy Spirit is Himself, the seal. In the symbolism of Scripture, a seal signifies:
(1) A finished transaction; (Jer_32:9); (Jer_32:10); (Joh_17:4); (Joh_19:30).
(2) Ownership; (Jer_32:11); (Jer_32:12); (2Ti_2:19).
(3) Security; (Est_8:8); (Dan_6:17); (Eph_4:30).

After reading and studying what a seal was and its purpose, I understood what Paul was communicating. Our salvation is a done deal. God owns me. I’m secure. I’m not going to lose my salvation at the drop of a hat. As a believer, I have the Holy Spirit as a testimony that God will never let me go.

I hope that God absolutely blesses your socks off today. Remember, that you are loved by the Creator of the universe.

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 1

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

In our last post we talked about the Christ Hymn found in Colossians 1. In this post we’ll discuss the Praise Hymn found in Ephesians 1 and we’ll compare the two. While the Christ focused more on His preeminence in the cosmos through the church, this hymn focuses for more the redemptive work of Christ for the elect. I believe it’s important that we, as believers, know exactly what it is that we are entitled to through Christ’s atoning work on the cross. There’s nine things are shown here that God has done through Christ’s atoning work.

1. He has blessed us (Eph. 1:3)
2. He has chosen us (Eph. 1:4)
3. He has predestined us (Eph. 1:5, 11)
4. He has made us accepted (Eph. 1:6)
5. He has redeemed us (Eph. 1:7)
6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)
7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)
9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

Before we get into the details of what each of things mean to us I want you to see the use of the pro noun ‘He’. It is God who has done all of these things for us. It was of no effort of our own that God saved us and made us the elect. If you read in Ephesians later it says:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– …For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  – [Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9 ESV]

Going into this study it’s important to realize that our Salvation has nothing to do with our works. I need grace every day. I mess up a lot. I’m a sinner saved by God’s grace. As sinners, we were never meant to have any kind of inheritance in God’s kingdom but God did these nine things for us and now we have fellowship with Him.

1. He blessed us (Ephesians 1:3)

The verse says that God blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Paul was specific in using the term ‘spiritual blessing’. It supposed that he meant ‘spiritual blessing’ as opposed to a ‘temporal blessing’. We know that God can and will sometimes bless us temporally but what Paul is referring to here are the kind of blessings that never fade. Before I get into specifically what those blessings are I believe that it is worth mentioning where they are and how we get them. If read the verse carefully you notice that Paul said that we have these spiritual blessing in Christ. That’s how we get them, in Christ. Which leads us to the next question where are they? Since we get these spiritual blessings from God in Christ we must remember that Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places. Our Freedom under the new covenant, as New Testament believers, tells that we may boldly come before the throne of grace. What happens is when we pray we have access, by faith, to Jesus who intercedes on our behalf to the Father according to Hebrews 7:25 and 1 John 2:1:

“Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” – [Hebrews 7:25 RV]

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” – [1 John 2:1 ESV]

As far as what the blessings are, we know that they are spiritual in nature. The word for spiritual in the Greek, pneumatikos, is used a lot in the New Testament in reference to the Holy Spirit. This tells us that the Holy Spirit is the one that makes these blessings manifest in our life. So the spiritual blessing is our fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. – [Galatians 5:22-23 RV]

In his Commentary over this passage one writer says:

“But the fruit of the Spirit – That which the Holy Spirit produces. It is not without design, evidently, that the apostle uses the word “Spirit” here, as denoting that these things do not flow from our own nature. The vices above enumerated are the proper “works” or result of the operations of the human heart; the virtues which he enumerates are produced by a foreign influence – the agency of the Holy Spirit.” – Albert Barnes

2.      He has chosen us (Ephesians 1:4)

This is where it gets hairy to say the least. This is Calvinists and Arminians will fight to the death over the issue of Limited Atonement. I do not hold to that position but I will try my best to present you the facts as the word of God makes it clear. The word that is used here for ‘chosen’ in the Greek is eklegō and it implies an active choice as seen in this verse:

“but one thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – [Luke 10:42 RV]

This word implies an active choosing and the whole debate has been over whether Paul meant that God chose us individually or whether the church is the elect and by choosing to follow Christ, God makes us one of the elect. The Bible doesn’t really harmonize this paradox. Honestly, from studying this subject as long as I have, I ‘ve come to the conclusion is that it’s irrelevant just as long as your saved. I’ll probably have Arminians and Calvinists that will send me emails over this issue but it’s just another day at the office for me. What matters though is that whether it is in general or in particular, either way we are chosen and predestined for a restored relationship with God that will lead to an unbroken fellowship with Him in Heaven that only comes through Jesus Christ.

For the sake of time and energy I’m going to stop right here and continue this thought throughout the week. You are loved by the King of Kings! Be blessed this week!