“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
Our Standing In Eternity Through Christ
In Ephesians chapter one, St. Paul gives us an excellent teaching regarding the reality of our standing with God the Father, through Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son.
You must understand that St. Paul intends to build upon this foundational information addressed to the Church at Ephesus. Therefore, the rest of the epistle expounds upon this notion of who you are in Christ. This letter addresses the spiritual understanding of our nature, which is the reality of who we are. While it is abstract because it is based upon notions of the unseen kingdom of heaven, it is solid, addressing the psychological and philosophical voids, which exist in every human soul.
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You exist because God the Father first thought of you…
St. Jerome wrote, “The former [verse] refers to those saints who did not previously exist and who before they came into being were thought of and subsequently acquired existence. This [verse] speaks of God, who was preceded by no thought or willing but always existed and never had a beginning for His existence. Therefore he rightly used the term destined for those who, having once not existed, subsequently acquired existence. But of the Son, that is, of our Lord Jesus Christ, he wrote ordained in another place also.”
This is a very Jewish perspective and we need to understand where it comes from. The Hebrew word for remember is zakar, which is not passive but active. If God remembers you, you have salvation and life. If God does not remember you, you have no salvation. The best example is of the thief on the cross next to Jesus asking, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus said to him, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
So you have existence in the first place because God the Father thought of you before the beginning of the world. If He did not think of you, you do not exist. Also, in regards to salvation, if He does not remember you, you have no salvation.
. . . So He Sent Jesus Christ
It also must be understood that the Father, when He thought of you/us, understood the nature of mankind, that we would fall becoming twisted in our minds and nature, unable to help ourselves. He reasoned that He would have to rescue us from death. Therefore, the Father begot the Son before the foundation of the world, ordaining Him to be the answer to our dilemma of death.
Scripture makes it abundantly clear that the nature of fallen man not only rejects the knowledge of God; but also our reasoning becomes unsound because we have been cut off from the spiritual. We only reason in the flesh and therefore our mind operates on a base level only considering what we can touch, see, smell, and feel. We become one dimensional and concerned with only with sensation. Unable to comprehend the abstract things of the Spirit, which sound like nonsense.
St. Chrysostom wrote, “The wonder is not only that he gave his Son but that he did so in this way, by sacrificing the one he loved. It is astounding that he gave the Beloved for those who hated him. See how highly he honors us. Even when we hated him and were enemies he gave the Beloved, what will he not do for us now?”
God, loving us so very much, understood that our fallen nature would struggle to comprehend His actions and intensions. Therefore He gave us the free will to choose.
St. Chrysostom wrote, “Everywhere the purpose or good pleasure means God’s antecedent will. Yet there is another will. For God’s first [or antecedent] will is that sinners should not perish. His second or consequent will is that those who become evil should perish. Hence he does not chastise them from necessity but due to their own willing.”
In Christ We Are Remembered
For those who would trust Christ Jesus, believing in Him through the hearing of the Word, you were sealed, through baptism, with the Holy Spirit. “Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.”
This “seal” guarantees God the Father will never forget you. In this wise understand that to forget us after we receive the seal of the Holy Spirit would be to forget his Son. Because we are in His Son it is impossible for Him to forget us. We have, according to St. Paul, been adopted by the Father through the redemptive price of the blood of His Son. And this was understood in the Godhead before the foundation of the material universe.
The Father’s plan was adoption through Jesus Christ. “Everything comes from God, and everything should be drawn back to Him. God’s original intent for the Incarnation was not redemption from the fall but adoption as Sons of God, that is deification. For when contemplated creating the world, He planned on bringing it into union with Himself through the incarnation of His Son, that is, through the Son’s union with human nature. That is why St. Athanasius can say, ‘God became man that man might become god.’”
The pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all flesh is evidence of the last days.
St. Chrysostom said, “The fullness of time was the Son’s appearing. When, then, God had done all through angels, through prophets and through the law, yet nothing had improved, there was a danger that humanity had come into being for nothing. It was not going merely nowhere but to the bad. All were perishing together, just like in the days of the flood but more so. Just then he offered this gracious dispensation – to ensure that creation should not have come into being for nothing or in vain. The fullness of time is that divine wisdom by which, at the moment when all were most likely to perish, they were saved.”
Our response to this profound knowledge can only be joy. As this sinks in can you think of any reason why you would not want to boldly share this with any and everyone you know?
Can you think of any reason why you would not want to study the Scriptures further to peer into the Spirit and have a greater understanding of God’s full intent for your life?
The example of the horse whisperer
Picture if you will a horse, mistreated, malnourished, forgotten. The whisperer comes along and remembers it. He reminds the horse that it was created for bravery, to be fearless and strong. He nurses the horse back to health but not to pasture it. He knows that the worst thing you can do to a noble animal such as a horse is to rob it of the dignity of the valor for which it was intended. It craves the dignity of discipline, rigor, and service. It thrives under pressure and becomes fearless when it has a mission. The whisperer restores its mission by asking through command to fall under discipline. Man is like this. This is the purpose of the church, and the practice of religion.
In the gospel of John, chapter 16, Jesus says "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." There's three important points we can discern from this passage. First, we learn that Christ had to go away so that his disciples could grasp "the understanding of the invisible". Second, the role of the Holy Spirit is to comfort and console the hearts of God's people. Finally, we see that the Holy Spirit also inspires our faith, enlightens our minds and enables our witness. Watch this Sunday's sermon to learn more.
Starting this Sunday, St. Mark's will begin an adult catechism offered weekly at 9 a.m. Sunday Mass will be moved to 10 a.m. and shortened slightly to accommodate this new learning opportunity. The class will work through the ACNA's approved adult catechism, "To Be A Christian." This in-depth study of the faith is sure to enrich your christian walk and deepen your love of Jesus and his church. We hope to see you there!
Christ really was human, and the record of his circumcision is proof.
Circumcision of Christ, Menologion of Basil II, 979-984.
If Jesus Christ was truly human as evidenced by his circumcision, that means he really died on that cross 33 years later. More importantly, he really did rise from the dead for our salvation. The message of the Church to God's people in this season is full of mercy. The message is that Christ, who is fully God, took on flesh to redeem us from sin and death. At Christ's circumcision, he shed his first drops of blood for us. It was a foreshadowing of his bloody death, resurrection, and second coming.
The circumcision of Christ was not only a fulfillment of prophecy, but it was also a promise to all believers--including us--that all God's promises are true. Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled more than 350 prophecies in his 33 years on earth. Because of that, we can be sure that those remaining will also be fulfilled. That is why we can declare with absolute confidence, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!"
Listen to this week's sermon to learn more.