In the last two articles we saw how the mystery of God was related to Israel and his descendants (part three) and how the mystery in Christ was established before the foundations of the world (part four). The goal of this work in Christ is to unite those called in faith; those of the old covenant with those of the new covenant. So is this unified body the final objective, or is there a greater purpose which lies dormant and unobserved? That is the focus of this fifth article.
The unity that Christ is building isn’t just between Israelite and Gentile. It’s a unity that reaches back before Abraham and reaches into the very heavens to the throne of God. It’s a unity that seeks to describe the depths of the oneness we now have with the Godhead.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
- God’s mercy and love has brought us to Christ. It is by his grace that we are saved
- We are raised and seated together with and through Yeshua to his heavenly throne. Nothing and no one stands between us and God’s throne.
- To show his kindness by the richness of his grace extended toward us. We’re the recipients of his kindness, but are we the ones God is desiring to show that to?
- In all, it is by God’s grace that we are saved – it is the gift of God. There are no works by which we have achieved this grace.
- We are his creation, through Christ, for good works. It is God’s will that we should live in these works. Are we, the believers, the only benefactors of these good works?
The implication here is that there is more to the promise of eternal life in Christ for his faithful servants. It’s as though the physical creation is only the beginning. In Christ Jesus we are being made into something more. Let’s continue further in Ephesian 2. There we’ll see a deeper into the underlying purpose. Together as the united body of believers, we are:
- Able to draw near to the Father
- Fellow citizens with the saints
- Children of the household of God
- Being built upon the foundations of apostles and prophets with Yeshua as the cornerstone
- Growing into a holy temple, a habitation of God, through the Holy Spirit
Previously we saw that we are called into Christ’s priesthood, and now we can see that we are being built into a holy temple, a habitation of God. Let’s go further into Ephesians where we’ll get closer to the core of God’s will and intent.
20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Did you catch the shift in what Paul is suggesting when he says created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness? It is this new self, created in us by Christ, through the Holy Spirit, which brings us closer to the likeness of God. They are to lay aside the old man and put on the new man. Paul continues to instruct the Ephesians regarding their role in this process through the renewal of their mind (Ephesians 4:25-5:2).
|Put away lying||Speak the truth|
|Be angry||But do not sin. Do not cherish anger (ill-will toward another). Contention is alien to the spirit of love.|
|Put away the unproductive||Take up the constructive good works God has prepared for those he has chosen.|
|Put away bitterness and malice (they grieve the Holy Spirit)||Take up kindness, forgiveness, tenderness toward one another. Just as we have received from the Father.|
|Walk in love – by this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another. (Fourth Gospel(1) 13:35)|
Paul clarifies the work Christ is completing in us in 2 Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
It’s important to note that this new creation was not an afterthought (Romans 8:28-31). It was God’s will to set aside and call his firstfruits to Christ before the foundations of the world were set.
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
I’ve observed that this new creation points to a unique kind of worship which leads us to the completion of His purposeful work in us:
- based in love
- abiding in faith
- living in truth
- worshiping in spirit, not in word only
A New Creation – Based in Love
In Romans, Paul clarifies that the obedience God seeks is not one based in fear – which is contrary to the spirit of love he has sent us.
- Obedience out of fear is not sufficient, but for conscience sake
- Owe no man anything, except to love one another
- Love is the fulfillment of the law. It does not work evil against his neighbor
Our effectiveness in “working out your own salvation in fear and trembling” is directly related to our awareness of the source of that love. It is God who loved us first, and it is by his grace and Spirit that we can love him, one another, and all his creation. (Fourth Gospel(1) 6:64-65; Ephesians 1:5-6, 11-12, 17-20; 2:4-6; Hebrews 13:20-21)
It is by God’s love for the world that he gave his only beloved son in order to reconcile the world to him, and to make in us the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
- As Christ, the one, died for all – then all died
- Those who live should no longer live for themselves – live for God
- Any in Christ are the new creation
- God is reconciling the world to himself in Christ
- Ours is the message of reconciliation – be reconciled to God
- God made him who had no sin to be sin for us
In this we see then that God sent his son to die not only for the righteous but for the ungodly and the wicked.
- Christ died for us, who were sinners
- That we might be justified in his blood
- Likewise to be saved from God’s wrath
- It is through Christ’s death that we are reconciled to God
- And through his life we are saved (from the permanence of death)
A New Creation – Abiding in Faith
To be reconciled to God then, means to live in the faith extended to us through God’s grace; a faith intended to be without bounds (Ephesians 2:8-9).
- An offense, a stumbling block, is a necessary reality in this world. What’s at lesson here is how one should respond:
- Among brethren: correct, if he repents, forgive him
- How often? (Matthew 18:21) An unlimited forgiveness – matched to the offender’s willingness to repent. This is exemplified in God’s abounding grace, mercy, and forgiveness toward each of us. We’re commanded to “Go and do likewise.”
- Faith to do what seems impossible (unlimited forgiveness and not offend others), though it is a gift, comes through service and obedience and experience (vs 5-6).
God is not so impatient, or so quick to set aside his patience and long-suffering that he would rob us of the experiences by which his faith, practiced in us, should be developed.
- In asking for increased faith, the disciples either;
- seek the reward before the work has started or is finished, or
- desire the unbounding grace needed to forgive “seventy times seven time” and not offend
In either case, the following parable (vs 7-10) outlines the order of things.
- Note that there is a time when the servant will enter in and sit down, but this is not the state of things at the moment (vs 7). (Luke 12:37)
- At the moment, each servant is obligated to do that which his master has prepared for him to do (vs 8-9)
- that is his duty/obligation as a servant
- doing one’s duty does not warrant thanks or any obligation on the part of the master
Yet the grace of God is such that he has prepared a reward for each of his servants and they will enter in and sit down at his table – but not until all is finished. (Revelation 19:1-10)
A New Creation – Living in Truth
As we should well know, Yeshua the Christ is the truth (Fourth Gospel(1) 14:6-7). He is the substance into which we are called, the one who has fulfilled all temporary forms. Our life, purpose, and future are in him. (Ephesian 1:15-23)
We know that Yeshua is our High Priest (Hebrews 3:1-6). What we must also recognize is that we’ve been called into his priesthood. Let’s return to Matthew 12 and see an application of this.
- The subject here is obedience to the sabbath and according to the Pharisees Christ’s disciples were violating it
- Christ then provides the insight to the blameless nature of those that abide in him.
- David, who lived his faith, ate of the show bread which was only lawful for the priests – yet he was not condemned
- The priest, in service to the temple, work and violate the sabbath yet they are blameless
- As we can see throughout scripture – Yeshua is the temple of the Most High God.
- Abiding in Christ we also abide in his priesthood and are therefore blameless before Yahweh
- Yeshua establishes his righteousness regarding the sabbath – he is Lord of it. By virtue of abiding in him we also abide in it.
How then are we partaking of the priesthood of our Lord? Is this not the purpose into which we are called and serve in part now but mostly in the kingdom to come?
1 Peter 2:9-10
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 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.
Let’s go back to Ephesians 2 and Ephesians 3 to see more of the depth of our relationship with God through Yeshua the Christ.
- We are God’s creation, created through Christ for good works
- Prior, we were Gentiles in the flesh
- called uncircumcision
- different from that called circumcision, namely the children of Israel
- aliens to the customs and covenant of the promise
- without God (not a people)
- afar off (from God)
- But through Christ, much has changed:
- brought near by his blood
- he is our peace
- makes both uncircumcision and circumcision one
(chosen of Israel one with chosen of Gentiles)
- breaking down the wall that separates them
- abolishing the enmity between them
- reconciled both in one body with God
- preaching peace to those afar off and to those near
- enabling both to draw nearer, by one spirit, to the Father
- no longer foreigners or strangers
- fellow citizens and children of the household of God
Continuing in Ephesians 3:
- Paul, for the sake of the Gentiles, brings the mystery of the grace of God toward the Gentiles (vs 1)
- Paul is an Israelite
- of the tribe of Benjamin (not Judah)
- a Pharisee
- righteous under the law, blameless
- who better to reveal the mystery of Christ and the mystery in Christ (vs 4)
- that the Gentiles (uncircumcision) should be (vs 6):
- fellow heirs
- partners of his body
- heirs and partakers of the promise given through him by the gospel
- the gospel – the unsearchable riches of God’s grace in Christ (vs 7)
- Christ – is the mystery (vs 8)
- hidden from the world for ages (vs 9)
- the church of believers in Yeshua are the manifestation of this mystery – revealed now to angels and powers in heaven (vs 10)
- it’s fulfilled in Yeshua the Messiah (vs 11)
- in and by whom we have access to the Father, since in Christ’s death and resurrection we are brought near to God – into the very “holy of holies” (vs 12). Recall that at Christ’s death the curtain separating the “holy of holies” from the common temple area, was torn in two. Christ’s death and resurrection not only draws us near, but also opens access to God for those who are already near him.
- This is the height and depth and length and breadth (vs 18) – that all things are made new in Yeshua (Ephesians 1:10)
- unto him be glory in his congregation, by Yeshua throughout all ages, world without end, amen (vs 21)
As partakers in the death, life, and priesthood of our lord and savior, we are becoming that habitation of God intended from the beginning. We have yet to see the fulfillment of that habitation but wait earnestly for the return of Yeshua and the reward he brings. (Revelation 1:5-6; 5:4-10)
A New Creation – Worshiping in Spirit
Perhaps the most challenging of these is worshiping the Father in spirit and not only in word. Our words alone do not create any substance. Only when they are aligned with motive and action do they solidify into the tangible. This is the mechanism by which God shapes our character – that spiritual power that extends beyond death – and survives into the true reality that is the abode of God.
It’s ironic to consider that much of the illusory reality of our physical existence is more for our benefit than for God’s. Consider the example of Abraham in Genesis 22 when God asked Abraham to offer his son Isaac on a mountain he would show him. Based on his previous experience with God, it is clear that Abraham’s motive and intent was to trust God. The proof of that trust came as Abraham aligned his intent with action.
Whether he said to himself or out loud – I will do as the Lord desires, the fact that he rose the next morning, prepared and led his son to the mountain, and proceeded to offer him is what solidified those words into something tangible – character and trust. Character in that he demonstrated to himself and God the alignment of intent, word, and action. Trust in that he trusted God to fulfil his prior promise to bless Abraham through his son Isaac. Whether that would be in the form of resurrecting the offered Isaac or providing another offering in his place.
It’s important to consider that God already knew how Abraham was going to respond. He sees the beginning and the end of all things. Being outside of time, he sees all time. That enables us to see that Abraham was the true benefactor in this manifestation of character. Abraham would experience the proof of that character and the assurance and certainty of trusting in God.
This was just one of Abraham’s examples of worshipping God in spirit and truth. And it’s that faith that forms the basis for all believers that would follow. The promised source of that faith for the Gentiles, Yeshua, fills the cavernous void that lies between word and spirit. He explains this in the context of the law as observed by the Jewish Israelites of his day. As we can see in Matthew 5:43-48, Yeshua instructs in the differences between the old covenant and the new:
- The old was divisive and conditional; be kind to friends, hate your enemies
- The new is inclusive and unconditional;
- Love your enemies
- Bless those who curse you
- Do good to those who hate you
- Pray for those who abuse you
- Such is the mature, unconditional love of the Father – extended to us who were, in times past, enemies in unbelief
The union that Christ seeks for his body of believers is not based on the temporal or physical – including the letter of the law, but instead is based on a different spirit. Worship under the gospel is not confined to forms, rites, ceremonies, and works – but to the substance all of them pointed to – Christ himself. (Matthew 4:8-11/Luke 4:5-8; Fourth Gospel(1) 4:23-24; Philippians 3:3-11; Ephesians 2:4-22; 4:20-5:2)
Romans 7:4-6; Romans 8
- Death dissolves a connection from which obligation resulted (vs 4). As death dissolves the connection between a wife and her husband, and of course the obligation of the law as a result of that connection, – so the death of the Christian to the law dissolves that connection. This prepares the way for another union, a union with Yeshua, from which a new and more effective obligation results. [Barnes’ Commentary]
- You are dead to the law (of Moses) (Romans 6:34; Romans 8)
- By the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:15; Colosians 1:22, 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24)
- We are now bound to Christ (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23; Ephesians 5:23-30)
- The fruits of the law, regardless of the state of the man (Christian or otherwise), is the same for all – death (vs 5). How, because of the law? No, because of the nature of man to desire that which the law forbids. The law was a catalyst to this nature – the results of which are death. (Romans 7:7-8; Romans 6:12-13, 21-23)
- The gospel of Christ delivers us from the effects of the law (vs 6). How? See Romans 8.
- Delivered from the law as a means to justification
- Delivered from the law as a means to sanctification
- Yet still required as a role of duty – but as we saw earlier, to the spirit not to the letter
Paul also clearly differentiates the conditions under the law with those under Christ; saying that we have in fact died under the law through Christ so that we can now belong to him. It’s a move from obligation to willingness; from obedience out of fear and obligation to obedience out of willingness and love. It’s a realization that righteousness comes through what Christ has done for us, not in what we’ve done or can do for him.
It’s that “newness of spirit” that redefines the nature of our relationship with God and Yeshua.
- Here’s the dependency of the old covenant: The former covenant (of the law) was based entirely on obligation and requirements. It did not provide for the liberty of the heart to even express thanks, but dulled the minds of those constrained by it. (Luke 17:11-19, especially verse 16)
- Here’s the interdependency of the new covenant: The new is based on a willing heart, responding in love to the love, mercy, and grace poured out on us by God. That willing heart, though motivated by God’s love toward and in us, gives us ownership and a stake in our own salvation not present under the law. (Romans 6:11-14; 8:10-17)
Another contrast Paul makes concerns those things that create enmity with God, which Paul labels as idolatry, with those things that draw us near to God.
Galatians 5:13 – 6:2; Colossians 3:5-17
- One is of the flesh and its works (or fruits), and is well known
- The other is of the Spirit (one’s character), and against its works (its fruits) there is no law
Peter summarizes it clearly in 1 Peter 4:1-2
- He who subdues his body ceases from all sin
- That he should no longer live in the flesh, for the lusts of men, but live in the spirit for the will of God
Paul reminds us that our will is responsive to God’s grace and is encouraged, by the Holy Spirit, to live in life and truth, yielding to God. In so doing we abide in his righteousness.
- Yet the choice is ours. We must live this life as fitting our calling and according to our gifts
- To grow in truth
- To grow in the fruits of the Holy Spirit
Since this unique kind of worship leads us to Christ’s completed work in us, a reasonable question is – what is the end result of that work? Part of that result is echoed in 2 Thessalonians 1:12 – to be glorified in his saints and so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him. An underlying purpose for the faithful is to glorify God and his Christ at our Lord’s appearing.
The Substance of the New Creation
Now that we understand the characteristics of the new creation, the next question might be – where does all this lead and are the faithful the only benefactors of Christ’s work?
Back in Part-1, where we defined the mystery of God, we hit on one of the underlying purposes for the faithful; to contribute to the glory of our Lord. As he glorifies his faithful at his appearing, we in turn confirm, add evidence, and proclaim:
- that he is the Son of God
- that he is the Redeemer
- that he is the Forgiver of sin
- that he is our High Priest
- that he is the Resurrection and the Light
- that God loved him
- that God loved us – those he gave to him
And who were the intended benefactors of this glorious praise and acknowledgment of the Son of God? Let’s go back again to Christ’s prayer in the garden, since it’s there that he tells us.
Fourth Gospel 17:20-23
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Jesus Christ, in his prayer to the Father, identifies the benefactors of the unity he’s building in his saints – it was repeated several times:
- so that the world may believe that you did send me
- so that the world may know that you did send me
- so that the world may know that you did love them just as you loved me
This is profoundly important and not to be easily dismissed. Christ’s prayer was fully within the context of his Father’s will and that will is pointing to the world. Let’s put it another way. If all God’s judgment is concerned about is the destruction of the wicked and disobedient of the world (and casting them into hell-fire), why would he care that the world may believe that Jesus Christ was sent by him? Why would he care that the world may know that God loved us, his chosen ones, and that he loved his son?
If destruction of the wicked and the disobedient were his end goal, I submit that he wouldn’t care. Yet Christ indicates that he does. Let’s return to the list of characteristics for the mystery of God and see if a pattern is evident there.
Here’s what we can see about the mystery of God:
- Unity with the Father and with Christ for all (Fourth Gospel(1) 14, 17)
- Salvation to the Gentiles, their hope of glory (Colossians 1; 2)
- Heirs together in the body with Israel – one body, one new man from the two (Ephesians 2; 3)
- The appearance of Christ as the Son of God to the world (Fourth Gospel 17)
- Called to glorify Christ at his appearing and to glorify God at the day or trial (1 Peter 2, 2 Thessalonians 1, Fourth Gospel 17)
- The grace of God and the covenant of salvation for Gentiles and for Israel (Romans 11)
- Israel will eventually attain the promises sought, though some, through belief, have already obtained (Romans 11)
- To make all things new in Christ (Ephesians 1)
Considering each of these characteristics, let’s view them over time from the perspective of the High Priest – our Lord Yeshua. Now we need another fundamental goal of Christ’s work to serve as the wrapper for the timeframe of his work. For that we’ll look at 1 Corinthians 15.
1 Corinthians 15:22-26
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
This covers the work Christ has done, is doing currently, and plans to do:
- He has, through his death, burial, and resurrection, provided the pathway to eternal life for all humanity.
- When he returns, he’ll gather the faithful, his chosen ones, his saints. They will be resurrected and glorified first; the firstfruits of salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; Revelation 14:1-5)
- This includes those faithful in Israel under the first covent
- This includes those faithful (both Jew and Gentile) under the new covenant
- After that, he will reign on earth for 1000 years (Revelation 20)
- His saints will rule with him
- He is High Priest, they constitute his expanding priesthood (Jeremiah 33:22)
- As King of Kings, he will gather the remnant of Israel scattered among the nations, forgive their sin, and offer them a new covenant (Daniel 2:44; Hosea 3:5; Isaiah 11:10-16; 31:4-9; 65:17; 66:22; Jeremiah 23:3-6; 30:8-10; 31:31-34; Ezekiel 34:22-24; Micah 2:12-13; Zechariah 8:11-13; 14:1-11)
- In this way he will lead all Israel into obedience
- During his reign on earth he will put all enemies under his feet. This is available in two forms;
- As a life willing to kneel and surrender to the will of the King
- As ashes burned up in the lake of fire
- After each person has made their choice, death and the grave will be destroyed
- No flesh and blood can inherit (take ownership of) the Kingdom of God
- Christ hands over the glorified kingdom to his Father as the throne of God descends to a new heavens and a new earth. (Revelation 21)
So who are the benefactors of this new creation made in Christ from his faithful servants? First will be restored Israel who have their sins forgiven and receive the new covenant. They will be an example to the world during Christ’s 1000-year reign. He together with his priesthood of saints will then lead the world into obedience to the truth.
1) Due to the dispute over the authorship of the Fourth Gospel, traditionally attributed to John, I will refer to this book as the Fourth Gospel. I have concluded on the side of such authors as J. Phillips (ISBN13: 978-0-9702687-3-0) who has shown conclusively John could not be the sole author and instead attribute primary authorship to Lazarus – the disciple whom Christ loved.