(All Bible texts are in the NIV Bible unless otherwise indicated)
9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
3 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.4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purposeof his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 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, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritanceuntil the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—
11 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,
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Many have confused ideas as to what constitutes faith, and they live altogether below their privileges. They confuse feeling and faith, and are continually distressed and perplexed in mind; for Satan takes all possible advantage of their ignorance and inexperience. Through manifold temptations, Satan often succeeds in making the experience of the Christian dark and bitter, according to his evil designs. We are to accept of Christ as our personal Saviour, or we shall fail in our attempt to be overcomers. It will not answer for us to hold ourselves aloof from him, to believe that our friend or our neighbor may have him for a personal Saviour, but that we may not experience his pardoning love. We are to believe that we are chosen of God, to be saved by the exercise of faith, through the grace of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit; and we are to praise and glorify God for such a marvelous manifestation of his unmerited favor. It is the love of God that draws the soul to Christ, to be graciously received, and presented to the Father. Through the work of the Spirit the divine relationship between God and the sinner is renewed. The Father says: “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people. I will exercise forgiving love toward them, and bestow upon them my joy. They shall be to me a peculiar treasure; for this people whom I have formed for myself shall show forth my praise.”
The Father sets his love upon his elect people who live in the midst of men. These are the people whom Christ has redeemed by the price of his own blood; and because they respond to the drawing of Christ, through the sovereign mercy of God, they are elected to be saved as his obedient children. Upon them is manifested the free grace of God, the love wherewith he hath loved them. Everyone who will humble himself as a little child who will receive and obey the word of God with a child's simplicity, will be among the elect of God. Of the church at Ephesus, the apostle writes:
“Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him; in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”
In the council of heaven, provision was made that men, though transgressors, should not perish in their disobedience, but, through faith in Christ as their substitute and surety, might become the elect of God predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself according to the good pleasure of his will. God wills that all men should be saved; for ample provision has been made, in giving his only-begotten Son to pay man's ransom. Those who perish will perish because they refuse to be adopted as children of God through Christ Jesus. The pride of man hinders him from accepting the provisions of salvation. But human merit will not admit a soul into the presence of God. That which will make a man acceptable to God is the imparted grace of Christ through faith in his name. No dependence can be placed in works or in happy flights of feelings as evidence that men are chosen of God; for the elect are chosen through Christ.
Jesus says, “Him that cometh unto me I will in nowise cast out.” When the repenting sinner comes to Christ, conscious of his guilt and unworthiness, realizing that he is deserving of punishment, but relying on the mercy and love of Christ, he will not be turned away. The pardoning love of God is appropriated, and joyful gratitude springs up in his heart for the infinite compassion and love of his Saviour. That provision was made for him in the councils of heaven before the foundation of the world, that Christ should take upon himself the penalty of man's transgression and impute to him his righteousness, overwhelms him with amazement, and calls forth from his lips words of praise and songs of gratitude.
Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. To many it has been a mystery why so many sacrificial offerings were required in the old dispensation, why so many bleeding victims were led to the altar. But the great truth that was to be kept before men, and imprinted upon mind and heart, was this, “Without shedding of blood is no remission.” In every bleeding sacrifice was typified “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Christ himself was the originator of the Jewish system of worship, in which, by types and symbols, were shadowed forth spiritual and heavenly things. Many forgot the true significance of these offerings; and the great truth that through Christ alone there is forgiveness of sin, was lost to them. The multiplying of sacrificial offerings, the blood of bulls and goats, could not take away sin.
In the old dispensation many failed to see the force of the lesson presented to them in sacrifice and offering, and they were without excuse. But today we are living when type has met antitype in the offering of Christ for the sins of the world; we are living in the day of increased light, and yet how few are benefited with the grand and all-important truth that Christ has made an ample sacrifice for all! What justice required, Christ had rendered in the offering of himself, and “how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” Those who reject the gift of life will be without excuse; “for God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)
16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.
11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ,
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
“I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 5
Union is strength; division is weakness. When those who believe present truth are united, they exert a telling influence. Satan well understands this. Never was he more determined than now to make of none effect the truth of God by causing bitterness and dissension among the Lord's people.
The world is against us, the popular churches are against us, the laws of the land will soon be against us. If there was ever a time when the people of God should press together, it is now. God has committed to us the special truths for this time to make known to the world. The last message of mercy is now going forth. We are dealing with men and women who are judgment bound. How careful should we be in every word and act to follow closely the Pattern, that our example may lead men to Christ. With what care should we seek so to present the truth that others by beholding its beauty and simplicity may be led to receive it. If our characters testify of its sanctifying power, we shall be a continual light to others—living epistles, known and read of all men. We cannot afford now to give place to Satan by cherishing disunion, discord, and strife.
That union and love might exist among His disciples was the burden of our Saviour's last prayer for them prior to His crucifixion. With the agony of the cross before Him, His solicitude was not for Himself, but for those whom He should leave to carry forward His work in the earth. The severest trials awaited them, but Jesus saw that their greatest danger would be from a spirit of bitterness and division. Hence He prayed:
“Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth. As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.”
That prayer of Christ embraces all His followers to the close of time. Our Saviour foresaw the trials and dangers of His people; He is not unmindful of the dissensions and divisions that distract and weaken His church. He is looking upon us with deeper interest and more tender compassion than moves an earthly parent's heart toward a wayward, afflicted child. He bids us learn of Him. He invites our confidence. He bids us open our hearts to receive His love. He has pledged Himself to be our helper.
When Christ ascended to heaven, He left the work on earth in the hands of His servants, the undershepherds. “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
In sending forth His ministers our Saviour gave gifts unto men, for through them He communicates to the world the words of eternal life. This is the means which God has ordained for the perfecting of the saints in knowledge and true holiness. The work of Christ's servants is not merely to preach the truth; they are to watch for souls as they that must render account to God. They are to reprove, rebuke, exhort with long-suffering and doctrine.
All who have been benefited by the labors of God's servant should, according to their ability, unite with him in working for the salvation of souls. This is the work of all true believers, ministers and people. They should keep the grand object ever in view, each seeking to fill his proper position in the church, and all working together in order, harmony, and love.
There is nothing selfish or narrow in the religion of Christ. Its principles are diffusive and aggressive. It is represented by Christ as the bright light, as the saving salt, as the transforming leaven. With zeal, earnestness, and devotion the servants of God will seek to spread far and near the knowledge of the truth; yet they will not neglect to labor for the strength and unity of the church. They will watch carefully lest opportunity be given for diversity and division to creep in.
There have of late arisen among us men who profess to be the servants of Christ, but whose work is opposed to that unity which our Lord established in the church. They have original plans and methods of labor. They desire to introduce changes into the church to suit their ideas of progress and imagine that grand results are thus to be secured. These men need to be learners rather than teachers in the school of Christ. They are ever restless, aspiring to accomplish some great work, to do something that will bring honor to themselves. They need to learn that most profitable of all lessons, humility and faith in Jesus. Some are watching their fellow laborers and anxiously endeavoring to point out their errors, when they should rather be earnestly seeking to prepare their own souls for the great conflict before them. The Saviour bids them: “Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
Teachers of the truth, missionaries, officers in the church, can do a good work for the Master if they will but purify their own souls by obeying the truth. Every living Christian will be a disinterested worker for God. The Lord has given us a knowledge of His will that we may become channels of light to others. If Christ is abiding in us, we cannot help working for Him. It is impossible to retain the favor of God and enjoy the blessing of a Saviour's love, and yet be indifferent to the danger of those who are perishing in their sins. “Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.”
Paul urges the Ephesians to preserve unity and love: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
The apostle exhorts his brethren to manifest in their lives the power of the truth which he had presented to them. By meekness and gentleness, forbearance and love, they were to exemplify the character of Christ and the blessings of His salvation. There is but one body, and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith. As members of the body of Christ all believers are animated by the same spirit and the same hope. Divisions in the church dishonor the religion of Christ before the world and give occasion to the enemies of truth to justify their course. Paul's instructions were not written alone for the church in his day. God designed that they should be sent down to us. What are we doing to preserve unity in the bonds of peace?
When the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the early church, the brethren loved one another. “They ... did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people: and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Those primitive Christians were few in numbers, without wealth or honor, yet they exerted a mighty influence. The light of the world shone out from them. They were a terror to evildoers wherever their character and their doctrines were known. For this cause they were hated by the wicked and persecuted even unto death.
The standard of holiness is the same today as in the days of the apostles. Neither the promises nor the requirements of God have lost aught of their force. But what is the state of the Lord's professed people as compared with the early church? Where is the Spirit and power of God which then attended the preaching of the gospel? Alas, “how is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!”
The Lord planted His church as a vine in a fruitful field. With tenderest care He nourished and cherished it, that it might bring forth the fruits of righteousness. His language is: “What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it?” But this vine of God's planting has inclined to the earth and entwined its tendrils about human supports. Its branches are extended far and wide, but it bears the fruit of a degenerate vine. The Master of the vineyard declares: “When I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?”
The Lord has bestowed great blessings upon His church. Justice demands that she return these talents with usury. As the treasures of truth committed to her keeping have increased, her obligations have increased. But instead of improving upon these gifts and going forward unto perfection, she has fallen away from that which she had attained in her earlier experience. The change in her spiritual state has come gradually and almost imperceptibly. As she began to seek the praise and friendship of the world, her faith diminished, her zeal grew languid, her fervent devotion gave place to dead formality. Every advance step toward the world was a step away from God. As pride and worldly ambition have been cherished, the spirit of Christ has departed, and emulation, dissension, and strife have come in to distract and weaken the church.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christmay be built up
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teachingthem to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
Christ recognized no distinction of nationality or rank or creed. The scribes and Pharisees desired to make a local and a national benefit of all the gifts of heaven and to exclude the rest of God's family in the world. But Christ came to break down every wall of partition. He came to show that His gift of mercy and love is as unconfined as the air, the light, or the showers of rain that refresh the earth.
The life of Christ established a religion in which there is no caste, a religion by which Jew and Gentile, free and bond, are linked in a common brotherhood, equal before God. No question of policy influenced His movements. He made no difference between neighbors and strangers, friends and enemies. That which appealed to His heart was a soul thirsting for the waters of life.
He passed no human being by as worthless, but sought to apply the healing remedy to every soul. In whatever company He found Himself, He presented a lesson appropriate to the time and the circumstances. Every neglect or insult shown by men to their fellow men only made Him more conscious of their need of His divine-human sympathy. He sought to inspire with hope the roughest and most unpromising, setting before them the assurance that they might become blameless and harmless, attaining such a character as would make them the children of God.
In God’s covenant with His people in ancient times, directions were given for the faithful recognition of the gracious and marvelous works which He had done for them. God delivered His people Israel from bondage in Egypt. He brought them into their own land and gave them goodly heritage and sure dwelling places. And He asked of them a recognition of His marvelous works. The first fruits of the earth were to be consecrated to God and given back to Him as an offering of gratitude, an acknowledgement of His goodness to them. For they said: “When we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labor, and our oppression: And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders: and He hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which Thou, O Lord, hast given me.”
Concerning these offerings the Lord said, “And thou shalt set it before the Lord God, and worship before the Lord thy God: and thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.” They were to remember “the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.” This was a standing requirement.
“This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments: thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in His ways, and to keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His judgments, and to hearken unto His voice.” This is not the voice of man. It is the voice of Christ from the infolding pillar of cloud. Read carefully all of (Deuteronomy 26), also chapters 27 and 28; for here are stated plainly the blessings of obedience.
These directions, which the Lord has given to His people, express the principles of the law of the kingdom of God; and they are made specific, so that the minds of the people may not be left in ignorance and uncertainty. These Scriptures present the never-ceasing obligation of all whom God has blessed with life and health and advantages in temporal and spiritual things. The message has not grown weak because of age. God’s claims are just as binding now, just as fresh in their importance, as God’s gifts are fresh and continual.
Lest any should forget these important directions, Christ has repeated them with His own voice. He calls His followers to a life of consecration and self-denial. He says: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” This means what it says. Only by self-denial and self-sacrifice can we show that we are true disciples of Christ.
Christ counted it essential to remind His people that obedience to the commandments of God is for their present and future good. Obedience brings a blessing, disobedience a curse. Besides, when the Lord in a special manner favors His people, He exhorts them publicly to acknowledge His goodness. In this way, His name will be glorified; for such an acknowledgement is a testimony that His words are faithful and true.
“Thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee.” Thanksgiving and praise should be expressed to God for temporal blessings and for whatever comforts He bestows upon us. God would have every family that He is preparing to inhabit the eternal mansions above give glory to Him for the rich treasures of His grace. Were children, in the home life, educated and trained to be grateful to the Giver of all good things, we would see an element of heavenly grace manifest in our families. Cheerfulness would be seen in the home life, and coming from such homes, the youth would bring a spirit of respect and reverence with them into the school room and into the church. There would be an attendance in the sanctuary where God meets with His people, a reverence for all the ordinances of His worship, and grateful praise and thanksgiving would be offered for all the gifts of His providence.
If the Word of the Lord were now as strictly carried out as it was then enjoined upon ancient Israel, fathers and mothers would give to their children an example which would be of the highest value. Instruction in the Word would be given, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little, and in such households God and heavenly angels would continually minister. Every temporal blessing would be received with gratitude and every spiritual blessing become doubly precious because the perception of each member of the household had become sanctified by the Word of truth. The Lord Jesus is very near to those who thus appreciate His gracious gifts, tracing all their good things back to the benevolent, loving, care-taking God and recognizing Him as the great Fountain of all comfort and consolation, the inexhaustible Source of grace.
The offering that is made to God without a spirit of reverence and gratitude He does not accept. It is the humble, grateful, reverential heart that makes the offering as a sweet-smelling savor acceptable to God. The children of Israel might have given all their substance, but given in a spirit of self-sufficiency or Pharisaism, as though God were indebted to them for their favors, their offerings would have been unaccepted and utterly contemned by Him. It is our privilege, by diligently trading on our Lord’s goods, to increase our store, so that we may impart to those who have fallen into distress. Thus we become the Lord’s right hand to work out His benevolent purposes.
There must be no withholding on our part, of our service or our means, if we would fulfil our covenant with God. “This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments: thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.” The purpose of all God’s commandments is to reveal man’s duty not only to God, but to his fellow man. In this late age of the world’s history, we are not, because of the selfishness of our hearts, to question or dispute the right of God to make these requirements, or we will deceive ourselves and rob our souls of the richest blessings of the grace of God. Heart and mind and soul are to be merged in the will of God. Then the covenant, framed by the dictates of infinite wisdom, and made binding by the power and authority of the King of kings and Lord of lords, will be our pleasure. God will have no controversy with us in regard to these binding precepts. It is enough that He has said that obedience to His statutes and laws is the life and prosperity of His people.
The blessings of God’s covenant are mutual. “The Lord hath avouched thee this day to be His peculiar people, as He hath promised thee, and that thou hast shouldest keep all His commandments; and to make thee high above all nations which He hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honor; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God, as He hath spoken.” God accepts those who will work for His name’s glory, to make His name a praise in a world of apostasy and idolatry. He will be exalted by His commandment-keeping people, that He may make them “high above all nations which He hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honor.”
By our baptismal pledge we avouched and solemnly confessed the Lord Jehovah as our Ruler. We virtually took a solemn oath, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, that henceforth our lives would be merged into the life of these three great agencies, that the life we should live in the flesh would be lived in faithful obedience to God’s sacred law. We declared ourselves dead, and our life hid with Christ in God, that henceforth we should walk with Him in newness of life, as men and women having experienced the new birth. We acknowledged God’s covenant with us and pledged ourselves to seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. By our profession of faith we acknowledged the Lord as our God and yielded ourselves to obey His commandments. By obedience to God’s Word we testify before angels and men that we live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Through the prophet Zephaniah God declares the position He purposes His people shall occupy before the nations of the earth: “Sing, O daughter of Zion: shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. ... The Lord the God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love; He will joy over thee with singing. ... Behold at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them fame and praise in every land where they have been put to shame. And at that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all the people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord.”
The Lord would have His people stand true to His honor and guard carefully the interests of one another. “All ye are brethren,” He declares. No injustice, no false dealing is to mark their actions. The Lord entrusts means and advantages to His stewards, that they may guard the interests of one another, that there may be unity among His covenant-keeping people, and that they may be a praise to Him in the earth. He calls them to be a people whom He can ever bless with still greater advantages, both temporal and spiritual, and thus honor them above the transgressors of His law. He would have them ever keep in memory the fact that they are to do His work in the earth, to be His hands of ministration, imparting His blessings and gifts to men. It is the design of God that in the unity of those who believe in Christ, the gospel of Jesus shall be proclaimed to the world. Those who have accepted the gift of His Son are to co-operate with Him in saving others.
All the children of God are embraced in the sonship of Christ. They are members of one family and should enjoy that unity one with another that exists between the Father and the Son. They are to love as brethren. If this characteristic is not manifest in the lives of those who profess to believe the truth, if in their lives the principles of the law of God are not demonstrated to an unbelieving world, if professed believers act out the perversity of the sinner, God must treat them as sinners. Such souls need to be converted before they can be trusted with responsibilities; for they give evidence that there is a deficiency in their lives, a departure from the righteous principles of the law of Jehovah. This separates the soul from God, so that they do not receive the quickening, discerning power of the divine mind. The mind is not fashioned and molded by God, because the capabilities are not working out the divine principles contained in the law of God. The power of God is not seen in their discernment, in their choice of words, or in a care to preserve the fragrance of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Self, unsanctified self, spoils their influence.
The third chapter of Ephesians contains a lesson for all teachers, for ministers of the gospel, and for all who occupy positions of responsibility in the work of God. When imperfections of character are manifest in those who should be ensamples to the flock, those who set a wrong example in the school, in the church, in the world—wherever they may be—should be advised to take up some other work where they will not lead others in a wrong direction.
The message of the gospel, from Genesis to Revelation, is God’s appointed means through which to reveal His will to men. It is to be appreciated, respected, andcarefully studied. In a humble, prayerful spirit, Scripture is to be compared with Scripture. In the fourth chapter of Ephesians, the plan of God is so plainly and simply revealed, that all His children may lay hold upon the truth. Here the means which He has appointed to keep unity in His church, that its members may reveal to theworld a healthy religious experience, is plainly declared. Those who conform their lives to obedience to the commandments of God, and are united in the faith of theScriptures; those who are bound together as one in Christ Jesus, their lives hid with Christ in God, will practice the golden rule, doing to others as they would have others do to them. They will bear a living, abiding testimony that the Father loves them even as He loves His Son, and their testimony will have a powerful influence with the unbelieving world. These souls appreciate the great gift of God to our world; their course in life testifies that Christ has not died for them in vain. They make use of the provision made by heaven at infinite cost to draw souls to obedience to the law of God. Co-operating with the great Master Worker, they become laborers together with God. They become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Their consistent Christian lives magnify the law of God and make it honorable before the gainsaying world. Their deportment in courtesy and unwavering fidelity, their justice and mercy demonstrate to the world that the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.
“Ye are God’s husbandry; ye are God’s building,” the apostle declares. The perfecting of a Christian character is a living testimony that God lives, and that His power is working miracles upon His consecrated followers. Those who love one another as Christ has loved them bear a living testimony that unseen agencies are working upon human hearts, bringing them into conformity to the divine Word.
The blessings of grace, which for Christ’s sake the Lord bestows upon those who believe, are the fruits of His eternal purpose, given that all believers may adorn the doctrine of Christ our Saviour. This doctrine must permeate the whole being in order that its influence may be felt in the family, in the church, and all the associations of life. This alone can distinguish us as those who keep the commandments of God. As did Christ in His human nature, so we are to show to the universe of heaven, to the church, and to the world that we are living the principles of the law of the kingdom of heaven.
We should not be as orphans, sad and discouraged. We are to show forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We are not only to acknowledge the Lord as our God and our Ruler, but we may call Him by the endearing name of Father. Our countenances should express His love and peace, His hope and joy; our lips should sing the praises of His holy name; our lives should tell of His goodness; our hearts should meditate upon His loving-kindness, his patience, and compassion, and His long-forbearance.