Ephesians 1: 3-6, 9-12
Romans 12: 1-2
Acts 21: 10-14
I would like to say a few words, beloved brethren, on two truths. One will lift us up, and the other will bring in comfort. I would like to speak about the purpose of God and the will of God. As we go through each week, we constantly need to be uplifted and also comforted. Both of these things will prevent us becoming restless in mind and activity because we are deepening in our souls in spiritual truths and blessings. God has always had both His purpose for us, and along with this exists His will for every believer. These two truths need pondering. As we go through the various stages of our life, it is sometimes profitable to stop and consider; perhaps as the Psalms would say, take a “Selah”. Do I realise that God had His purpose for me before I was ever here? Before anyone of us was ever here, God included us in His purposes. Before even the worlds were in existence, we were chosen in Christ: "before the world’s foundation". If you are down tonight or if you are anxious and coming under the attack of the enemy in your mind, I commend this verse to you. We all have these experiences, perhaps more regularly than we may care to admit to others, including those very near to us; and the purpose of God is a great uplifting truth. It is unchangeable and unchanging. God has never changed His purpose; He never had any need to change it because it is perfect, and everything God does is perfect. These matters are wonderful for faith: faith gives the capacity to grasp hold of, and to believe in, such a God as this. As we have often been reminded these days, Great Britain is becoming more and more ungodly, and yet there are souls in it - and I trust we are amongst that number - that have an implicit faith in a God who had His purpose for men before the world was.
And so one man here, Paul, was given distinctive light from God. Oh, what light and what ability Paul was given under the hand of the Spirit, in the prison epistles particularly, to bring out the greatness and glory of the truth of the purpose of God. He could trace it all back to "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” from whom the whole purpose has come. He “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ”: blessed, glorious truth. As you get older the purpose of God becomes more and more assuring, more and more stabilising, more and more uplifting - we may change but God’s purpose for us never changes. Let the word just come to us all to pause and consider, and never ever let us forget the greatness of the purpose of God. By taking us into sonship, choosing us in Christ before the world’s foundation, God had selected personnel who would be fit for His universe of glory eternally; they were predestined for glory. The Lord Jesus was loved before the world was. We cannot speak of Him at that time as a Man in sonship, but this brings out the inscrutability of His own being. He also said He was loved “before the foundation of the world”, John 17: 24. It is unchanging and unchangeable because the purpose was according to God Himself. How precious sonship is; it is such a near and dear relationship as it envelops us in divine affections. The Lord Jesus was and is supremely so as the Son, and He is the only One who could be described as the Beloved, but we are taken into favour in that One. His place becomes our place. We are accepted in all the glorious worth of the perfection of Jesus to the Father, and such is the purpose of God. I say these few words for our uplifting that the purpose of God is there in all its grandeur and glory. Sin has not affected it and could not, the enemy cannot touch it, and Satan cannot mar the fact that Christ was there in purpose before man ever failed in responsibility; and the purpose of God has included men for eternal blessing and favour. God demonstrated the magnificence of His ways and His attributes in order to recover man and fit him to be brought into the greatness of His purpose. How fine these things are: God in Christ has brought out the calling at its height; and the Lord Jesus as Priest is serving to preserve the saints at the height of their calling. May we all know this, and prove the reality of it. It is for you. Take this away and ponder it. God has His purpose for you and me. My state will never change it; my failure will never dilute it, although that does not condone low state, but God’s purposes will always be for His own glory, and that is for ever. How precious!
And so in this section Paul also touches on the will of God. I think the will of God is a comforting truth. You have "the good pleasure of his will", "the mystery of his will" and "the counsel of his own will". This gives us how God is securing His purpose. Central to this is Christ, the glorious One who came into manhood in a condition in which He fulfilled perfectly the will of God. He is the only Man who has ever been in this scene in complete committal to the will of God. He glorified God on the earth; He fulfilled the law and made it honourable and every element that God ever sought in man He found in Jesus. Mr Darby says, in the Synopsis on Leviticus 2, ’The hand that struck the chord found all in tune‘, page 118. He answered and displayed God’s thoughts of grace, holiness, goodness, and judgment of evil. He spoke words of sweetness to every weary ear, and fully made God known. Mr Darby goes on, ‘Every element, every faculty in His humanity, responded to the impulse which the divine will gave to it, and then ceased in a tranquillity in which self had no place. Such was Christ in human nature’. What a wonderful truth this is for comfort for our restless minds, and often wayward affections, that the divine will was brought out by our Lord Jesus Christ.
But I thought we might be encouraged to see the will of God for us. There is the will of God for you; there is the will of God for me, and that really brings out how God in His love hedges us around, brings matters before us, tests our discernment, and tests our outlook. But it appears that the great appeal to start with is to place your body on the altar in response to the compassions of God that have come out and reached you in the gospel. Let us realise that each one of us has a body: so by what principle are we going to think and live? You place your body on the altar, once, and never take it off. Through every decade of our lives we are to "prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God". The will of God for each one of us, like His purpose, is perfect. It accomplishes His end as it forms the features of Christ in brothers and sisters as they go through the many and varied experiences in life. In the testimony, in private matters, in family matters, in household matters, and in assembly matters, we prove what is the good, and acceptable and perfect will of God. That is a comforting thought. We are in a learning time, and we are in a forming time. God has His eye upon us. His love lies behind His eye. His eye is never off us, which is a great comfort. As we go through an exercise or burdens, or times of encouragement, think of God watching over every soul, watching to see how they shape up through an exercise or a developing situation. And through it all there is the will of God for every detail of our lives. Let us yield to His grace; let us yield in dependence to His overtures. The compassions of God continue; they continue new and fresh as in Lamentations 3: 23. They are there for us to prove, but let us always remember, and be comforted by the fact, that God has His will for us, and that will is perfect. It is good, and more than that it is acceptable, and more than that it is perfect - God’s purpose and His will are two blessed glorious truths.
But ever also let us also remember the authoritative nature to the will of the God as Acts 21 shows. In a very testing point in Paul’s history when he was absolutely adamant that he was going to Jerusalem, the word of the Spirit comes from others who are concerned very much about the wisdom of going to Jerusalem. But the conclusion was, as it ever will be in any exercise, "The will of the Lord be done". That means, in effect, that God will have His way, and the will of the Lord will be done in everything. That is a fact. That should keep us restful, but keep us prayerful.
I just commend these two thoughts: one to uplift us and one to comfort us, and let us see that both of these work together for the blessing of every one of us, for His Name’s sake.
9th March 2010