1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the holy ones who are at Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ, 4 just as He elected us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and faultless before Him in love. 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons to Himself through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, with which He favored us in the Beloved (Eph1:1-6)
After a few weeks researching and writing on Academia.edu, I return to Paul’s letters, moving on to Ephesians. Firstly, note how Paul describes his addressees (v1): “ἁγίοις” – saints, holy ones, those who have been set apart from the world. This is in line with how God had addressed the Jewish Nation under the Old Covenant: “You shall be a special treasure to Me above all other people, for all the earth is Mine” (Ex19:5). These descriptions allude to the heart of what I am endeavouring to impart – that although God loves the world as a whole (Jn3:16) and all the earth is His (Ex19:5), from the time of Abraham He has chosen a special people for Himself to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex19:6).
Under the New Covenant the Church has similarly become “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1Pet2:9)”. And to hell with everybody else? It should be evident from these descriptions that cannot be the case, yet it is what I reluctantly believed as an Evangelical for the first 28 years of my Christian life. I now know such a depiction to be a travesty of what had been heralded as “the Good News of great joy that shall be to all people” (Lk2:10), and the time has come for that to be systematically adduced from Scripture.
God’s broader benign providence
Such a conviction of broader benign providence derived from two spiritual encounters, fourteen years apart that I briefly outlined in an earlier post. The second of these focussed on a passage shortly to be considered in Ephesians: God’s secret plan, revealed not directly through Jesus or His twelve disciples but through Paul (Eph3:3-11). But the joyful vista being outlined is not dependent on a particular passage of Scripture or one biblical author, it is, as it must be, a coherent re-interpretation of the whole bible. Nor is there any need to wait for me to plod through the rest of the New Testament; the matter has already been set out in The Little Book of Providence, a PDF of which is freely available through the link supplied.
Returning to Paul’s opening statement, and it’s more of the same. His addressees had been “elected in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and faultless before Him in love – having been predestined to adoption as the very sons of God through Jesus Christ (vv4-5). Again, it should be evident that Paul is not referring to the “world and his wife” but to Christ and His intended (Rev19:7 & 21:9). As for the rest, their post-mortem destiny is determined along the lines of Mt25:31-46. For like the Gentiles of the Old Testament, not having been elected to the exclusive Covenant of Promise from which Ishmael, though blessed by God and Abraham was excluded, he and they function within an over-arching (theologically eluded) Universal Covenant from which Cain defaulted (Gen4), as shall all who follow in his way (Jud1:11) having demonstrated by their inhumanity they have souls derived or planted by the Evil One (Mt15:13; 1Jn3:12). Exactly how the three soteriological categories resulting from these two covenants are integrated with the rest of Scripture is what my book and these posts are primarily about.
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