sermon: All in All (Part 1)
The End Point of God's Purpose and Plan
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 09-Apr-09; 77 minutes
Today I am going to use a variation of the Paul Harvey forum. We are going to begin at the end of the story, and then reverse at some point to a beginning of the story. I am using this scheme to hopefully give us a better sense, a better feel about our journey toward the Kingdom of God.
The Days of Unleavened Bread symbolize a very important part in the process of God's spiritual creation. Its seven days portray the longest period of time in the processes of our personal growth in salvation. It is the time picturing the coming out of sin and preparing for the Kingdom of God. It is that period of time in which growth and overcoming takes place. It is a time when holiness literally becomes ours. It is called "sanctification."
Sanctification is a cooperative effort—a work of God and man during which the image of Jesus Christ is created in us. But we are going to leap to its very end, and we are going to do that by going to I Corinthians 15—the "resurrection" chapter.
I Corinthians 15:20-24 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.
I am going to read verse 24 again so that we get it firmly in mind. This is when the end occurs. "Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power."
I Corinthians 15:25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.
You can tell there is some kind of opposition against God that is continuously going on, and has been continuous at some point in time way, way back there. Of course we know that began with Satan the Devil, and he is still around doing his thing. He is against God, and he is against you. He is against anybody who is on God's side. We can see now that part of Christ's responsibility is to fight in the way He can fight against these beings who are enemies of His Father.
I Corinthians 15:26-28 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For "He has put all things under His feet." [This is a figure of speech showing that He is ruling over them, standing on them, as it were.] But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. [That is the Father.] Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
"All in All" is the title of this sermon. I gave this sermon for the first time in 1994, just following Pentecost. I gave it again on the Last Day of Unleavened Bread in the year 2000. So it is six years between the first and second giving of this sermon, and I think the time has come to give it again. However, each time I have given it, it has expanded somewhat, and so I understand from my notes here that we are going to have a 2-part series on "All in All." It started out as one sermon, but I get windier as I get older.
The sermon subject of "All in All" is fitting for just about any festival of God's, but I think that it particularly fits the Days of Unleavened Bread. The theme touches on God's sovereignty, God's providence and faithfulness, but most specifically with God's providence.
The phrase "all in all" is one that we are mostly unfamiliar with, but it points out, in its unique way, the most specific point toward which all of God's purpose is headed, and ends—at least ends in terms of God's revelation in the Bible. We know for sure, because by that time everybody will be living everlastingly, that it is going to be going beyond that, and beyond that, and beyond that, and beyond that, and beyond that until who knows when. But as far as the revelation of the Bible is concerned, everything ends when God is "all in all."
Notice how frequently the pronouns "He" and "Him" are used, and notice too, if you have a Bible using capitalizations to indicate either the Father or the Son, that most of those pronouns are capitalized. The "He," most of the time, is Christ. The "Him," most of the time, but not always, is the Father.
What we are looking at here is a very brief detailing of the very conclusion of God's work through Jesus Christ on earth. What has happened in the past is that the Father and the Son set a purpose between them for their creative labor and design, and implemented a plan to carry it out. The design of that plan has a Supreme God—the One we know of as the Father—in the background, while out in front, and sometimes even visibly so, representing this family project, is the Son, and He would be the One through whom all interaction with man would be accomplished.
What we have recently described here is a revelation that the climax of the Son's operations occur when He has obtained all power, having defeated every enemy of God, including death. Death is an enemy, and it is the last enemy to be destroyed.
I Corinthians 15:45-47 And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.
Jesus Christ is the second Adam. He is the perfect Son who succeeded in what the first Adam failed. The first Adam, led by Satan who became Adam's god, led man into rebellion against God, thus precipitating the outworking of this millennia-long plan of redemption. Now once the defeat of all enemies of God is accomplished, He then turns everything over to the Father. His last act in this particular role is to formally submit Himself to the Father as well.
Now He has been submissive in all things all through these millenniums of time, but there is going to come a time when there is a formal submitting of Himself to the Father. It will probably be some grand operation in which everybody who is alive at that time will witness this taking place. It is this that gives rise to the phrase that "God may be all in all." Another way of saying that, is that God will be obviously supreme over everything. Remember, He has always been in the background. When Jesus said, "You have neither seen the Father, nor heard His voice," He meant exactly what He said.
One of Jesus' responsibilities, when He became a man, was to reveal that the Father exists. Very few in Old Testament times knew of the existence of this relationship between two beings—both who are God—but one is greater than the other. They did not know they were dealing with the One who was under the Supreme God. There are some people, very possibly Moses, who knew. David definitely knew, because he said so in Psalm 110:1: "When the LORD said to my Lord, . . ." David knew there were two God Beings. He called them both LORD, but using different words in each case. But David definitely knew.
We know that others also knew. Daniel probably knew, because he saw a vision of "One like the Son of man who was brought before the Ancient of Days," like in a courtroom setting. So Daniel knew as well that there are two God Beings—one greater than the other, but both God. We are coming toward that point in time when the One who is under authority formally puts Himself, obviously and forever, under the Father.
In one sense, I think I am not wrong in saying that the statement, when God is "all in all," is the end of the Bible, just like John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." That is time-wise the beginning of the Bible. In I Corinthians 15:28 is the end. An awful lot is said in between those two times. An awful lot of things occurred during those two periods of time, but there is the beginning, and there is the end, at least time-wise.
Zechariah 14 contains a great deal of prophetic information regarding the return of Jesus Christ, and what is given here in verse 9 is a prophecy looking forward to, I will call it, "a" beginning of the fulfillment of the "all in all" prophecy. Now the events of this chapter are a major step towards the "all in all" fulfillment, but the reality we must face on a daily basis is that we are not even yet to the events of Zechariah 14. We are on the path, but there is still a long way to go.
We are going to go John 10:30 as we begin to continue to lay the foundation here of where God is headed. It is very important to our overcoming and our growing to know what all these things occurring to us have to do with. In John 10:30 we get a great deal of understanding. Jesus said:
John 10:30 I and My Father are one.
He did not mean that they were one person. He meant that they have, between them, one mind: two minds in perfect harmony with the other, in agreement with one another, and so the way they thought, even though they were separate individual personalities, they were one in purpose as to what they were working out between them. They were one in terms of how that plan is going to be fulfilled and carried out.
They were one with where they are headed with all those who have been called into the church. There are places, for instance in John 6:44 where Jesus says that "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day."
One of the things He is showing us by that statement is that when God calls somebody, regardless of how the person looks to Jesus on first glance, He is in perfect agreement with it already. "This is somebody I am going to work with." His Father called the person, and so Jesus was already in agreement. He said, "I always do those things that please the Father." That is how submissive He was even though He may not have understood exactly what was going on at the moment. If the Father did it, He was in agreement with it.
What we need to understand is that the Father and the Son are in perfect agreement as to where they are headed with the creation they are working out. They are in perfect agreement.
Now let us expand on this in an exciting way. Remember, in John 17:20 we have Jesus' prayer that He made just before He was crucified. He was still with His disciples, encouraging them and instructing them. I said in the Passover Service that these are probably the most significant words for us in the entire Bible, because it shows us where God is headed.
John 17:20 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; . . .
That is, we come to believe in Jesus Christ through the words of Peter, James, John, Andrew. You get the point.
There is our destiny! Even as Jesus is one in perfect agreement with the Father, that is where we are headed, that we will be in perfect agreement with the Father. If we do not reach that place, then how can we be part of the "all in all" situation where everybody is in agreement with the Father?
John 14:22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them.
That glory incidentally was the Word of God. That glory was the gospel of the Kingdom of God. That told them, and tells you and me, what purpose God is working out. He is bringing us into agreement with Him. He knows what He is doing, and we agree with it, and we submit to it. We submit to it not because we are under His thumb. No brethren, we really agree with Him. There is not the slightest bit of resistance in us that He is a God of love. He knows exactly what He is doing, and everything He does is for our well-being, as well as His purpose.
John 14:22-23 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one [Made perfect in one what? In one body, one family, one church], and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
So this looks forward to the time when all men will not only be reconciled to God, but everyone and everything will be in total agreement and in harmony with each other and with the Son and with the Father. When everybody and everything is subject, submissive to God, then brethren, all will be accomplished.
In Romans 8, Paul speaks of this when he said "the entire creation is delivered from its bondage to corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." "All in all" is when the complete restitution of all things will have occurred. It is that restitution Peter spoke of in Acts the second chapter. Then will be the conclusion of the new creation—the work of Jesus Christ.
Now right in the center as the focus and the cause of the oneness is the Father, not the Son. The Son is already focused and submissive to the Father. So for our benefit, the focus in what Paul wrote is actually the Father; everything is moving in the direction of Him and the Son is the One who is sitting at the controls driving things. That is His job. His job as High Priest is to get us there, and the first step for us is to become submissive to Him, He is the One we are dealing with all the time, and He is the One who is working with us all the time on an individual basis.
Jesus then turning over all things to the Father, I think I can confidently say is not only the end point, but it is also the exclamation point that draws attention to the Father. However, there is a fly in the ointment. We are not there yet, and the fact is that we are at least over a thousand years from it.
It is right here that this sermon begins a change from the end point to any point where any of us might be in this process of becoming one with the Father. I think you will understand that better as we go along, but I will explain it anyway.
Everybody is not at the same place. If we just imagine how the Israelites went through the wilderness, somebody was at the head of the line and somebody was at the tail of the line, and the people at the head of the line had walked over that ground that the people at the tail of the line were just beginning to walk over, and so they already had experience walking over that which others were going through at that very time.
If you understand what I am getting at here... it is a time-line, as it were, or a path, or a trail, or a highway in which people are at different stages of progression toward the oneness with God.
Now because people are at different stages, it has the ability to create problems, divisions, resistance to that "one and one" with God in that some are just ignorant of their inexperience, or immaturity, or their lack of knowledge or growth at the time. It is not necessarily their fault. It is the way God called them. They had a longer way to go to get there maybe, or had a more difficult row to hoe, as we might say today, and so we have to deal with those things without losing our love for one another, because we have the opportunity to rub against one another and be irritants to one another. But that is part of what we deal with as we go along the way.
I mentioned something just a little bit earlier—that it is Jesus Christ we are dealing with even though we pray to the Father. The Father is not out of the picture, at least in our mind, but the One who is actually carrying out the work that needs to be done in our behalf, to prepare us for the Kingdom of God, is Jesus Christ. He is the One who is working with us.
Let us go to John 15, and we will just make a statement or two regarding how important Jesus Christ is to us.
John 15:5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
Sometimes we feel that we are pretty talented, pretty strong, pretty smart, and really intelligent. But do you know what? Physically and carnally we may very well be, but what Jesus is talking about here is not that we cannot do those things without Him, as it were, but rather He is talking about being "all in all"—being one with God. Without Him we can do nothing toward that end.
Brethren, we have never been there! Our experience in walking in that direction is extremely limited. That describes, in a very succinct statement, how important His relationship is with us and ours with Him. He has walked that path before. He has had experience doing it as a human being. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses, and He knows what needs to be done to correct us, or to encourage us, or just instruct us and give us understanding or wisdom; but always there are choices that have to be made along the way. We are walking on a path that has a great number of forks in it, and of course He wants us to choose the right fork at all times, but we do not always do it. He wants to cut down the errors as much as He possibly can so that we and He are on the same side.
How far would Israel have gotten toward the Promised Land if God, through Jesus Christ, had not killed the first-born, had not parted the Red Sea, had not been in the Pillar of Fire? What if He had not been in the cloud? What if He had not dropped the manna every day? What if He had not brought water out of the rock whenever they needed it? You get the point.
What Jesus said is absolutely true: "Without Me you can do nothing." Without God's participation in Israel's trek through the wilderness, they probably would have died in a very short period of time on their own, or they would have turned around and gone back to their bondage. It would have been one or the other, absolutely, because they could not have survived out there in the wilderness.
Brethren, I have concluded, just using my own experience, that we are every bit as poorly equipped on our own to walk on our path as they were theirs. We are going to turn to a scripture where God gives us a little bit of information on this. It is a series of scriptures you are familiar with.
I Corinthians 1:26-29 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh [meaning you and me—those He has called out of the world] should glory in His presence.
God has purposely restricted Himself, in almost every case, to calling people who may not be the absolute bottom of the barrel, but are nonetheless nothing in terms of real accomplishment in the world. He has done this on purpose. He has done it so that we come to realize it, and we are humbled because of it, and because of a recognition that we do need Jesus Christ every step of the way. "Without Me you can do nothing." That is Jesus' acknowledgment of those whom God is calling.
Now we have vast, wonderful, awesome potential. That is the beautiful thing about it, but it has got to be first created so that it goes in the right direction. We can see from the things man is able to create—everything from all the electronic things, which is almost like magic, and in breaking the atom so that there is awesome power there.
We can do awesome things, but they hardly ever change the quality of life for the better. What really drives the quality of life is a person's character, a person's morality. It is a person's attitude. It is things like kindness, gentleness, and goodness, and a cooperative spirit. But unfortunately, that does not appear in mankind just by nature because of what Satan is, and so we find in I Corinthians 1:26-30 that God has specifically limited Himself, as it were, to calling those who are weak and foolish. Then, in verse 29, he says, "so that nobody should glory in His presence" because when we are humbled before Him, the chances increase exponentially that we—the ones He has called out of the world—are going to submit to Him.
I Corinthians 1:30-31 But of Him [the Father] you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD."
One of Israel's major problems in the wilderness was that they never truly believed God would provide for them. We must not let ourselves fall into that dangerous line of thinking. You can recall that in the outline prayer Christ gave in Matthew 6, it tells us to ask God to provide us with our daily bread. That bread, brethren, is not merely physical bread, but spiritual bread. Daily we are to ask God for the strength, the spiritual qualities of Jesus Christ.
You might recall on Passover night the very first series of scriptures we went into came out of John 6 where Jesus described Himself as "the bread of life"—that which we feed on. He is the true manna, and when we eat of Him, not physically but spiritually, when we eat His Word, when we take His direction, when we use the wisdom that comes from Him and it becomes a part of our mind, of our character, of our hope, and of our dreams, we are being fed the true manna from God that leads to eternal life.
Jesus Christ is everything to our salvation. He is our elder Brother, and He loves us and He wants to help us into the Kingdom of God. So our acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our repentance from dead works, and the receiving of God's Holy Spirit are the first major steps for each of us toward becoming one with the Father, even as Jesus said He is, and He desires to be.
"All in all," then, is the conclusion of what is revealed in the Gospel of which the return of Jesus Christ and our inheriting the Kingdom of God is the next major step. Now though this may seem or appear to be something far in the future, the oneness has already begun in us.
It is important to our spiritual well-being that we understand that this is a reality, and you might recall that in previous sermons I have mentioned to you that we are inextricably linked within God's purpose as to what has happened in the past. We are linked with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and David, and Moses, and Aaron, and those who went before us. They lived in the past, but we are also linked to their future, and they are going to be in the Kingdom of God with us, so they provide examples for us. They provide lessons for us to learn.
But history is not static. History is constantly moving, and though we can look back to people like Abel and Noah, who are part of that linkage, so also is Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and so forth. So history is not something confined only to the past. Prophecy is history written in advance, and it is an ongoing event occurring in the present. We are already actively participating in history just as surely as those prominent figures in God's purpose and plan did that we read about, but we have at least a narrow insight into future history because God has revealed a small portion of His prophecy.
We are going to take a look at something foundational to our growth right now. Please understand I am examining little segments of becoming "all in all" with God. We are going to turn to the book of Philippians. The first segment we have here is the importance of Jesus Christ to us. He is absolutely essential to it.
Philippians 3:17-21 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
These verses place us solidly in the present, clearly stating what our position is right now, which I will lead up to. The first thing these verses show is that there exists a very clear "them" and "us." There are those who are citizens, and there are those who are not citizens. There is a "them" and an "us" contrast with those not in our state before God.
The word "citizenship," as it appears in verse 20, specifically indicates an assembly, fellowship, or society of persons all living generally in the same place, under the same general way of life; and thus citizenship indicates there is a unity. It is not saying how strong it is. It is only implying that there is a unity. This unity is deliberately contrasted by Paul with another group whose characteristics are shown in verses 18 and 19.
In verse 17 Paul urges those receiving the epistle to follow him. He leaves that thought then for two verses to describe the others in verses 18 and 19. Then in verse 20 he gets back to the first group once again. I think that we can correctly assume that those described in verses 18 and 19 had been in the church, but left it; otherwise, why would he be weeping? He felt badly. He felt sorrow because of something negative that occurred to them.
I think that it is safe to assume that they had been in the church, but that they turned away from it. Now instead, because they had turned away, the focus of these peoples' lives being on preparing for the Kingdom of God and the return of Jesus Christ, and the work in the Millennium, leading all the way to when God is "all in all," had radically changed. They had returned to carnality and immorality, and that the certain end was death.
Paul actually lists four things that their lifestyle changes either illustrated or would earn them. The phrase "their god is their belly" has actually very little to do with eating. It is an idiom that was used at that time. It is an idiom that means they were driven to pamper themselves rather than taking care of more important responsibilities. That is what they served. They served the flesh. Food was a part of it, but they were serving the flesh rather than things that were more important.
So, what were they doing? They were caving in to their sensual desires, to things you feel. Those things may have had absolutely nothing to do with faith, but rather their passions were involved. It was not always sex. It was not always food. It was just following the passions. They had gradually returned to their pre-conversion life, becoming drunkards, gluttons, adulterers, fornicators, you name it—something in which there were carnal feelings involved. They were simply following the normal desires of human nature. So what they gloried in was in reality shameful things, and their reputations were being destroyed.
Now their "minding earthly things" is a synonym actually for "their god was their belly." It was just intensifying what they were doing, and it indicates they were becoming blind to spiritual truths, that they were living by sight rather than living by faith. The result of all this was that they had made themselves enemies of Christ, and therefore what awaited them was eternal destruction in the Lake of Fire.
It is the contrast that I really want us to understand—the contrast that begins "Follow me" in verse 17. And then he gets back on that contrast in verse 20. The contrast is that those who are citizens of the heavenly are of one, with a fellowship whose characteristics and manner of life are the opposite of those described in verses 18 and 19. These are people who have their flesh under control, whose lives are focused on the Kingdom of God.
I think that it is highly likely that Paul used the word "heaven" to emphasize how wide the difference is between the two groups. "Heaven" represents the unreachable to those whose minds are fixed upon goals limited to gratification of the senses. These are people, brethren, that live only for the present. That is very important.
Immediate gratification is very important to those people in verses 18 and 19, and you and I have to seriously understand that it is wisdom to understand that the Christian lives in the present, but he is always anchored with his mind in the future, and what he does in the present is being made through choices with the future in mind rather than the present, and so that person is almost always forced to walk by faith. Please understand that.
We live in the present with our mind on the future, and the immediate resolution of problems, though it may be important to us, does not drive us to fail to submit to God. We will do it anyway because our real focus is on the future, on the Kingdom of God, of being part of that group that is "all in all" with God.
Those in verses 18 and 19 are people who are dominated by feelings rather than by truth, so Paul can call them "sensual." Doing this is much easier in the immediate present because one does not have to overcome or make sacrifices in order to control one's carnality. What they are doing is that they are living the broad easy way, but God says that this is going to end in destruction.
Now we are going to expand further on what Paul means by the term "citizenship." Again, it is important to us, because where a person's citizenship is has almost overwhelming influence on one's attitude and conduct.
Colossians 1:13 He [I believe in this case is the Father] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed [translated] us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.
God wants us to understand and believe, that even while we are in this present position in relation to Him—that is, we are still flesh and blood—we are nonetheless already citizens of His Kingdom, and He, as our government, will provide what we need to be prepared for fully living within it. This does not mean the Kingdom of God is on earth—not in the way the prophecies show; but that nonetheless is also true, that we are already part of it.
Now follow this example. We are going back in thought to Philippians 3 again. The citizens of Philippi did not think of themselves as Romans. Philippi was a conquered city, conquered by the Romans, but Philippi citizens still thought of themselves as Macedonians. It was their land of birth, and it was there that they were enrolled as citizens. It was Macedonian dress and customs that they followed, and a Greek dialect, not Latin, was the language that they spoke.
In like manner, regardless of where we live on earth, Paul says that our citizenship is in heaven. It is from there that we are governed, where our rights are secure, where our inheritance is held in guarantee. Though we are strangers and sojourners now, we are of the household of God, and we are fellow citizens with the saints.
Jerusalem above is our spiritual mother, and like Abraham, we look for a city whose builder and maker is God. Jerusalem above is where our governing Leader and Savior lives. Added to this is that our relationship to Him is so close, so intimate, we are described as filling out His body. It is from heaven that our Head is going to return and deliver us from our flesh and from all enemies.
It is absolutely imperative that we recognize this orientation as history moves on to where God is "all in all." Our orientation in all manner of custom—our dress, language, courtesy, the way we handle our income, and even the food we permit ourselves to eat—is training us to be heavenward.
Living by faith might be cynically seen as betting one's life on the unreachable, as being a daydream, a fantasy, because one is reaching for something one cannot see, smell, touch, taste, or hear, but God hastens to assure us that He has the power to bring us into this oneness with Him. Do you believe that? Our destiny depends upon that—that we are motivated to see heaven as the place where our citizenship is derived.
Anybody can tell that a person's citizenship is in the Southeast of the United States, that he was born and bred there, and without even trying, that person speaks the language. There is an inflection in the voice, and the way words are put together one knows that this person is from the Southeast. This is what I mean when I say that the citizenship we hold is so very important, because where we are citizens stamps its character, its attitude, its expression on those people, and they are just absorbed.
Right now that is our problem, because we have been citizens of this world and it has impressed itself upon us. It is part of our thinking. It is part of our habits. We act and react according to it. But if we are going to be "all in all," that has to change, because the world is God's enemy, and we do not want to be God's enemy. We want to be "all in all" with God.
Paul is telling us here that because this situation has come into our life we have to make conscious efforts to look to heaven as the place where our real citizenship is—the one that is going to be important for the future. Do you know where this orientation comes from? It comes from the relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not merely knowledge. It is the relationship with the knowledge that is important, because the relationship provides the vehicle through which this transference from citizenship on earth to citizenship in heaven is facilitated. It is the Spirit of God. And where does that Spirit come from? It comes from Jesus Christ.
Do you think He was just kidding when He said, "Without Me you can do nothing"? He is everything to us. It is the relationship that matters. When we make the covenant through repentance, through faith in His sacrifice, and through baptism, that New Covenant, brethren, is made with Him. It is not made with the church. Some of your loyalty is involved with the church, but the loyalty is first always to Jesus Christ, because He is the One with whom we deal, and He is in heaven.
Now heaven is not our goal. Let me hasten to add that, but it is the place where our Savior resides, and it is from there He is going to leave and come to earth and establish His Kingdom on earth. So this is something we have to work with, work toward, and it is something we can choose to do every day in spending time with Him in prayer, in study, and allowing Him to lead us by His Word through daily life.
With that thought in mind, let us go to Ephesians 3. What we will begin to see here is Paul lays down a series of gifts of blessings, of providences that God has given to each and every one of us in order that we might become one with His Son and with Him. We are going to read through chapter 3. I will call it a "pep" talk, just like a coach would give to his team. Paul says:
Ephesians 3:14-15 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family [the church of God] in heaven and earth is named.
What does God call His family in the Bible? It is "the church of God." It is "the Israel of God." It is the Israel that belongs to Him that is His possession. It is His family.
Now listen to what Paul asks on our behalf.
Ephesians 3:16-21 That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Paul is insisting to you and me that God will provide for us even above anything that we can even think to ask, and he is laying out some of that conclusion of His creative process of redemption and sanctification and the very glory of God, because we shall be like Christ.
We are going to look at an inspiring overview of how God has provided all along the way so that we can be in the position we are in right now. Let us watch God's provision unfold by going back to Ephesians, chapter one.
I have thought for a long time that the book in the Bible which has the most thunderous, awe-inspiring opening to it is the book of Hebrews, but I will tell you, Ephesians 1 is a great competitor to that. Both of them are awesome. Mr. Armstrong said his favorite chapter in the whole Bible was Ephesians 1, and I can understand why he said that.
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, . . .
I do not know whether to name them as I go along. I will try to do that. I mean, naming some of the gifts, the providences, that He has already given to each and every one of us so that we will be in the position that we are right now, so that we can choose to become one with God.
He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, but they are in Christ. Notice how Paul makes sure that we always get back to that, because He is the One who is working in and through us; and Christ, as it were, is the reservoir from which we can draw these things. We already have some of it now, but Christ is the reservoir.
Ephesians 1:4 . . . just as He chose us in Him [The Great God of heaven chose you and me individually, personally] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, . . .
"Without blame" shows that He has blessed us with forgiveness and applied to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:5-6 . . . having predestined us to adoption as sons [being adopted into His family is another gift] by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
Who is the Beloved? It is Jesus Christ. You will notice that most Bibles capitalize that because Jesus Christ is the Beloved. We are accepted in Him as part of His body.
Ephesians 1:7-10 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.
Here He is telling us what the end result is. He is going to gather everybody into one. One what? One family.
Ephesians 1:11-20 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 2:4-6 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses [that is, when we were dead in our sins and had not yet been forgiven], made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, . . .
In God's eyes, in His mind, we are already part of His family, and He foresees it in a way that we have already made it. He is that confident that He can bring this to pass.
Ephesians 2:7 . . . that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 3:7 . . . of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.
Paul is giving a testimony here of how this worked in him, that God just plucked him out. He was an enemy, and everybody it seems in that part of the world knew he was an enemy. But just like that, in Paul's case, God changed him from enemy to son. And not only that, He allowed him to be an apostle. That overwhelmed Paul, that one so rotten and wretched was given such a gift, God providing it.
Ephesians 3:8-11 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places [who are the demons], according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul mentions God's glory in some form five times in chapter one; three more times in chapter 3. Now part of that glory is how He has provided at each step along the way towards the unspoken glory as one looks beyond the grave to our resurrection. And at that time we will be in a world of unending and limitless success and fulfillment that is gleaned from tremendously increased learning capacity, unending life replete with challenge, adventure, and progress all within the framework of a relationship of a wonderful loving family that is living in complete harmony.
He has repeatedly touched upon the abundance of God's gift and powers that are given to us. Do we really believe that He has given these things to us? He has. Do you understand that there is hardly anybody in the world who actually believes them, and that it is possible for us to discount them because we are so familiar with them, and that we are not thrilled with it, appreciative of them, because maybe, brethren, we are not really thinking about how incomparable their value is.
I think in many cases this is why growth and overcoming is slower maybe than it could be because they are not appreciated, and maybe they are not appreciated enough because we do not consider them in that way. Maybe we do not make the effort to evaluate them by making proper comparisons with the way the world is now.
Do we really want to see the changes that God has prophesied are coming in the future? Those things are sure. He always gives what He promises, and so it is our responsibility to conform to what He says. As we conform these become sharper and clearer in our mind because we are thinking about them and we are making the proper comparison.
Ephesians 1:20-23 . . . which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, [This is where we come into this picture, and I mean in a strong way.] which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Christ is everything to our future. To you and me, He is all in all. We are not yet to that place where we are "all in all" with the Father, and it is our Head—Jesus Christ—our High Priest, who has become our Mediator, who has been given the responsibility by God to work with you and me, to work in us and through us. His responsibility is to bring us to the place where we are all in all with God the Father Himself, and all of the Father's purposes.
Paul is telling us now, that the way God looks at it, the church—the body of Jesus Christ—is the vital link to all of the glory that God is holding out to you and me. Jesus Christ and the church are complementary parts of one organism, but this is a very special organism, and so its unity is not so clearly visible to the eye. Can you see that because Christ and the church are described as one organism in His Word, that the literal oneness has already begun? I do not know what the level is for each and every one of us, but if we are part of that body, the oneness already exists. The only remaining thing is to make it tighter, stronger, clearer, better in every way that will please God.
With Christ as Head, joined with us as His body together, we then form the sphere in which God's glory is manifested. If you will recall, in Jesus' prayer in John 17:14, He said that He had glorified the Father. He also describes how He did it. He did it by accomplishing the work He had been given by the Father to do, and He said He had finished it. He had accomplished it.
Now the Son has returned to the Father in heaven, and the church is formed and is joined to the Son as one organism. This is another reason why Christ said, "Without Me you can do nothing." Brethren, can a body accomplish anything without a head? Not in the least. So by taking instruction and leadership from our Head—Christ—it is now the church's responsibility to glorify the Father on earth as the Son did in His life. How is this accomplished? It is accomplished primarily by completing the work which the Father has given us through the Son, and this is to become one with them through the power of the Holy Spirit given to us. Christ glorified the Father by successfully completing the work that the Father gave Him to do, and so do we.
Let us finish for today in John 15:8. We will tie this right to Richard's sermon given this morning ("Overcoming Is A Choice").
John 15:8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
These two sermons sort of tied together. They are both headed in one sense toward the same direction. That direction is when we become one with the Father, at least in a degree that is acceptable to God, given the talents, abilities, and so forth He has given us to accomplish what He wants to accomplish. We glorify Him by producing much fruit within the body. He has given us the gifts to enable us to do it, and so we can do it.