The Mystery of God's Will
I was born into a Christian family. It was during World War II, and my dad was in the army. He landed on the coast of France the day I was born and was not able to come home and meet me until I was 18 months old. While he was fighting the war in Europe, my mom and I lived just down the street from my maternal grandparents. Grandpa was a Methodist minister, and I learned about Jesus at an early age. Before I could walk, I was taught to get on my knees and pray. Every night at bedtime, my mom and I knelt and she prayed for my Daddy. Some of my first words were prayers. I went to Sunday School and learned to sing “Jesus Loves Me” and “The B-I-B-L-E, That's the Book for Me”. When I got older, I learned the liturgy in the Lutheran Church because every summer we spent time with my dad's parents and went to their church. I had a Bible and knew the names of all the books by heart, but I hardly ever read it and never studied it. It wasn't until I was 35 years old that I started reading the Bible seriously and discovered that in learning the Lutheran liturgy, I had memorized many of the psalms. It was also, as I read, that I discovered I could know the mystery of God's will.
As we have been looking at Ephesians Chapter 1 (in past blog posts), we have been taking note of the many spiritual blessings believers have in Jesus Christ: all believers have been chosen in Christ (Ephesians 1:4), predestined to adoption as sons (1:5), freely lavished with God’s grace (1:6-7), redeemed (1:7), and forgiven (1:7). But that’s not all. God has generously and freely made know to us the mystery of His will (1:9).
Hmmmm. What does that mean? How is that relevant in a personal way? Well, first of all, although the Old Testament, believers had God’s promises and looked forward to the coming of Messiah, they did not know the fullness of His plan. Even the prophets did not have full knowledge of God’s plan. There was much that remained a mystery. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son (Galatians 4:4). God had a marvelous plan all along, but He was waiting for just the right time to reveal it. And it was not just a plan for His chosen people of the Old Testament, the Jews. It turned out to be a plan that is inclusive of all who will believe. You and I can be a part of that plan by simple faith. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).
God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4-5)
Look at Galatians 4:4 again: But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son. When Christ came, the mystery of God’s will was revealed. Christ is the embodiment of the mystery of God’s will.
This is all revealed to us in the Scriptures. We can know the mystery, we can know the fullness -- all we have to do is open His Book, read it, study it, take it into our minds and hearts and be blessed by it all. Martin Luther discovered this when he was a young Augustinian monk and it changed his life. And when God’s Word changed Martin Luther’s life, it changed the world. What Luther discovered was that God had provided a sure and simple solution to save lost sinners and restore us to fellowship with Himself. The solution is salvation by faith through the grace of God. The solution has nothing to do with our own righteousness or working hard or self-denial! God solved the problem of sin for us by sending His Son to die in our place. And that is the best news ever!
For centuries the Jewish people had been offering countless sacrifices for their sins. They knew the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and they meticulously complied with God’s commands regarding the sacrifices for sin. When they laid their hand on an innocent animal, symbolically transferring their sin to that one who would have its blood shed in their place, they knew that the sins they had committed would be forgiven, but they had to continually offer more sacrifices because they continued to sin. They were powerless to stop sinning, to help themselves, to save themselves. They just couldn’t stop being sinners. In Christ, God revealed the solution to the problem. Jesus Christ, the God-man, the perfect Lamb of God, the only man who had never sinned, shed His blood so those who believe in Him will never have to sacrifice an animal and will never have to die for their own sins, but can take refuge and stand secure in Christ’s righteousness and have eternal life with Him forever through faith (John 3:16).
When Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world (John 1:29), the Jewish people, indeed all people who put their faith in Him, were absolutely absolved of their sins once and for all -- they were saved and passed from death unto life (John 5:24). The mystery was clearly revealed in the cross of Christ, and those who had been wandering in a spiritual wilderness stepped into the light of Jesus Christ.
It is a high privilege we have been given to possess God’s Word in His Book, the Bible. It is the greatest gift that we have in this world because it reveals to us the mystery of God’s will. This is what Martin Luther discovered. It was in God’s Word that he discovered the truth that set him free and led him to dedicate his life to ensure that everyday ordinary people could also discover that truth for themselves.
A couple of months ago, my life became so busy that I often neglected my daily Bible reading. Every day I felt a tugging at my heart to pick up my Bible and read, but the days flew by so quickly -- and when I sat down at night to read, I fell asleep. This past week, as I reflected on Ephesians 1:9, I knew I needed to get back onto my habit of reading my Bible daily. What a difference that has made in my busy life! Yes, I’m still busy, but the busyness is buffered by God’s Word in my heart and mind and that makes all the difference!
Putting God and His Word first needs to be a priority for each of us because it is a great blessing that God has bestowed upon us to know the mystery of His will and the only way we can know it fully is through His Word. I hope you will join me in committing to placing God and His Word first in our lives, even during the busy holiday season ahead. I can testify: that is what “living” really means.
The Bible is a love story, the story of God’s love for mankind in general and love for His people in particular. We have been looking at the manifestation of God’s love to His people through the spiritual blessings He has bestowed upon us. The apostle Paul calls them every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). We have reflected upon God’s blessing of redemption (Ephesians 1:7) and seen how that blessing is pictured in the love story of Boaz and Ruth -- just as Boaz paid a ransom to save Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, from poverty and took them under his wing (Ruth 2:12 and 3:9), God paid a ransom, the life of His only begotten Son, to save us from slavery to sin and take us under His wing (Psalm 91:4) by bringing us into His family (Ephesians 1:5).
But that is where the analogy ends, for God has done for us something that Boaz could never do for Ruth - something that no mere man could ever do for another. God has forgiven our sins. We are all sinners. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), so if God has chosen to redeem us and bring us into His family, if He desires to fellowship with us as sons and daughters, He must forgive us. As believers, we received God's forgiveness when we repented (denounced and turned away from) our sins and turned to Jesus Christ for salvation. Now all of our sins are forgiven forever. God has reached down and lifted us up to fellowship with Himself in the light.
The apostle John tells us that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), so we had to be lifted out of the darkness of sin to fellowship with Him. Amazingly, God desires our fellowship, so He has graciously blessed us with the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on us (Ephesians 1:7-8). For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, (1 Peter 3:18). We need to understand that forgiveness is more than just a gift from God. Without forgiveness, we could never, ever fellowship with Him, and “we were made for God….made to know him and love him and be with him in a fellowship that is satisfying to the soul and, because it is satisfying to the soul, it is glorifying to His name (John Piper, DesiringGod.org).
This blessing of forgiveness was costly to God. Without the shedding of Blood, there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22), and Christ shed His blood for our sins, having been offered once to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:28). God may be calling you today to turn….from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that [you] may receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 26:18). Although you are dead in your sins, they have been nailed to the cross with Christ, and you will be alive together with Him, with all your sins forgiven (Colossians 2:13-14), forever. God graciously forgives all of who believe. He has promised to cast all your sins into the depth of the sea (Micah 7:19) and “remember your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25).
“Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin,
And be washed in the blood of the Lamb;
There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean,
Oh, be washed in the blood of the Lamb!”
(Elisha Hoffman, 1878)
May we all take advantage of all our blessings in Christ,
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.