According to the foreordained plan of God before time began, we were created to be like God — to be renewed, transformed, into the image of the Creator — in true righteousness and holiness.
God’s eternal plan, foreordained and predestined before the beginning of time for the created universe, for Mankind, and for the church is that we would become like Him, in the nature of Jesus Christ, so that we would share fellowship with Him both in this life and throughout eternity. This Unifying Law of Everything and Prime Directive for the church must preempt anything else. The placement of anything higher is idolatry. Yet, the organized church has missed the “high calling” of the plan because the church has continued the misdirection into the world that had begun by the end of the first century, and the church has never reestablished itself back on track over the subsequent almost 2000 years.
We are a privileged people living in a time of incredible opportunity and blessing. It is not because of any government, constitution, freedom, economic status, standard of living, or retirement package, although these things can be peripherally related. It is because we live in the last times – the final age in the design of God, planned before the creation of the world and because we have all that is needed for life and godliness in preparation for an eternity with God. “The sky’s the limit.” No, actually it’s not; there is no limit.
Ephesians 1: 3-14
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 to be adopted as his sons 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 And 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 will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even 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 purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
God had a plan which involved the heavens and the earth – everything above the earth, on the earth, and under the earth – and the heavenly realms. It involved the design of the physical realm, the universe, and the spiritual realm. It involved the formation of everything of a material nature, including mankind over a period of about 16 billion years of physical and energy transformation and maturation. An investment of physical evolution, and about 50 thousand years of human evolution (depending on when one defines the beginning of homo sapiens), and 4 thousand or so years of social, religious, and political evolution culminated of the most important part of God’s plan – the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. The Gift of the Holy Spirit is the most significant event between the Big Bang and the final coming of Christ. That was the fulfillment of the Promise of the Father – part of God’s foreordained plan.
We praise God because He has given us all spiritual blessings in Christ from the heavenly realms to us in the physical. His plan for us began before the creation of the world, so everything from the moment of the beginning of physical creation until now has been done in compliance with and orchestrated by His plan. Was the plan set in motion at the beginning and allowed to carry itself out through inevitable channels or was God somehow involved at each step by directing the path? The use of “predestined”suggests the former. The plan involved Christ, through whose action we would be seen by God as sinless and holy. It implies that we would “appear to God” as being sinless and holy, although not necessarily being truly sinless and holy yet. Because of God’s love, which is His nature, it is His will to give us, freely and without cost (to us), redemption from the bondage of consequences of sin. God bore the cost for this by the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we receive glory and grace in that we could also be God’s children.
Although this plan was made before creation* began, it was revealed only after the created* had evolved or developed a capacity to understand what was being given at that point in time. To accomplish this from the initial formation of energy and matter, the physical substrate had to be first formed – human beings with sufficient brain development and intelligence to think, assimilate and synthesize information, create, and recognize social concepts greater than their individual physical selves. Humans were the highest form of creation*, who first had the capacity to begin the next phase of social development, with an accompanying
* ”Creation” is used in the sense of identifying the source of the divine plan for the energy and matter that make up the universe irrespective of the actual physical mechanism. It includes the changes in matter that produced the outcome we have today in nature, including Mankind. The use of “creation” is not a commentary on how these changes came about – whether by direct intervention or manipulation by God or by using the results of the flow of natural laws set into place at the “Big Bang.” “Creation” is the natural and spiritual outcome of the carrying out of God’s plan in the physical and spiritual realms. In this use of the word, a physical evolution over 16 billion years, an evolution of life on earth for 3 billion years, a human evolution from primal hominid ancestors – all according to God’s foreordained plan – is still “creation,” even though the physical component of it may have occurred in a manner indistinguishable from a random process from our human perception. That is another reason why considering the design of God for the universe is important. It explains what the limited and confined perception from physical data cannot and fits these observations into a much larger concept. Thus, the use of “creation” and “evolution” is not an oxymoron; they are actually words from the same concept – creation reflecting the source and the plan, and evolution reflecting the mechanism – irrespective of whether or not the design is physically evident.
progressive revelation of God and His plan – given to the extent that they were able to understand it. Thus, from the human perception, God’s plan was a “mystery” or was “hidden” and not fully revealed – although some were aware that a greater revelation was coming in the future, even though they didn’t know what it was. Only after the plan was fully revealed in Christ could it be recognized that, by comparison, previous revelation as recorded in the Old Testament had only been stepwise and partial. But even after God’s revelation through Christ was completed, some remained (and still remain) clouded in their thinking, so that their dogmatic preconceived ideas block their spiritual vision like a veil in front of their face (2 Cor. 3:13-15).
More of the details of God’s plan for the universe were progressively revealed as Mankind developed (evolved) in areas of social, interactive, emotional, religious, political, tribal, and inter-relational intelligence. Looking retrospectively, one can see prototypes of Christ throughout the recordings of the Old Testament that increase in detail and application as the people had developed the physical and social intelligence and spiritual perception to handle it. God revealed predictive promises through prophecies and covenants with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other patriarchs. God revealed His righteousness through the Law of Moses by commands to obey, The Law further defined people’s relationships to God and to their neighbor (Deut 6:5; Lev. 19:18; Matt 22:36-40). But, the people could not keep the law perfectly, and the resulting disobedience to God’s commands became the definition of sin and its consequence. (Rom. 3:20; 5:13; 7:9). The nomadic children of Israel became a Nation of Israel with Kings and leaders in government, and new developments in social and political systems were made. A downward cycle of entropy from disobedience to God resulted in conquest by foreign powers and relocation of the people. During this time many prophecies were made concerning the coming of Christ and what He would do for the people. During the period of exile, the return to Judea, and the post-exile period of Greek and Roman conquest and rule over the Jews, the Law of Moses was merged with humanistic rules and control by greed, and the original intent of God through the Law became overlaid with picky rules and regulations. This was out of the Jews response to exile that they wanted to be sure and avoid trouble with God because of having any graven images or because they had broken a law of Moses. So they developed a religious system so steeped in legalism God’s original intent behind the law was lost. And they despised the Roman who held their freedom from them. Human social evolution had reached a point of sufficient development of government stability and political structure, technical achievements of language (Greek and Latin), communication by mail and roads and by sea that the message of Jesus Christ could be communicated, witnessed, and recorded. Jesus could do His work so that the church could be founded with the beginning of the spiritual evolution of the last phase of God’s plan. Jesus’ life and teachings stood in sharp contrast against the backdrop of the darkness of legalistic religion, paganism, and idolatry which was human endeavor at its best.
Every detail of the coming, announcement, birth, life, teaching, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus could be accurately predicted by the prophets because it had all been foreordained in the plan of God before time began. God had loved Jesus before the creation of the world (John. 17:24) and had chosen Him to carry the message (Luke 9:35), God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power (Acts 4:27; 10:38) to bring freedom to the oppressed (Luke 4:19). What Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews did against Jesus had been determined beforehand (Acts 4:27-28), because Jesus had been chosen as the Lamb without blemish or defect to shed His blood for our sins (1 Pet 1:19). He was handed over and put to death by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23). The script had been written, and Jesus knew exactly what it was and what the outcome would be. When Jesus was born into this world, the conditions were set so perfectly that the suffering and death of Jesus was inevitable. It has already been written in the mind of God. Jesus, who was with God before creation, “knew the drill” because it had all be created through Him (John 1:1-4). Jesus knew what the Jews were thinking in response to Him or to His teachings, as though it had been preprogrammed. Jesus know what do to and what to say to bring about the human and evil response that draw out the works of greed, pride, and selfishness that would culminate in His death (Matt. 26:24; Mark 14:21; Luke 22:22).
People today do scientific experiments on probability to determine a pattern or randomness and say they find no evidence for any design in the evolution of the universe or of Mankind. That’s likely the same thing the Jews would have said about Jesus – “We see no evidence of any design of God behind what this man does.” But in the retrospective light of the recorded word, the pattern of God’s design is obvious.
Jesus chose and called those would be His disciples and, after Pentecost, His apostles (the sent-ones, Acts 1:8; 10:41); and Jesus knew who would betray Him (Matt. 26:21, 23; Mark 14:18; John 13:18). Jesus was chosen to fulfill His task on earth, but Jesus wasn’t a puppet-stringed robot who had no choice in the matter. Jesus had the right to chose disobedience, but He chose obedience (Heb. 5:8). He said no one took His life from Him, but He gave it willingly for the sheep (John 10:11-18) He could have called down more than 12 legions of angels when they came to arrest Him (Matt. 26:53). He chose to humble himself and become obedient even to death on a cross (Phil. 2:6-8). Therefore, Jesus was chosen to be called according to the foreordained and predestined plan of God, but Jesus also exercised a choice. He could have chosen rebellion, which is what Satan tempted Him to do (Luke 4:1-14), but He chose to be a Son who was obedient to the Father.
When Jesus called the disciples “one by one,” they chose to follow Him immediately. But they could have said, “I’m too busy,” or “Can’t you see I have a life to live?” They could have chosen to not follow the call. Some people wanted to exercise other choices instead, and some wanted to do both – choose Jesus, okay, but also choose to tend to understandable family matters (Matt. 9:19-22). By their choice they determined for themselves whether or not they were fit for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:57-60).
This is important to note that Jesus was chosen by God and the disciples were chosen by Jesus, but the call to be a chosen one had to be accepted in an act of obedience to God so that the foreordained will of the Father could be carried out. We have also been chosen and called by God and, likewise, been foreordained for salvation, but, like Jesus and like the disciples, we have to accept in obedience for the will of the Father to be carried out in our lives. Peter said in the sermon on Pentecost that the opportunity for salvation was given to everyone (Acts 2:39), but those who “called on the name of the Lord” would be saved (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13).
This observation of obedience in accepting one’s having been chosen does not support the doctrine that some individuals have been foreordained for salvation and some have not, like people were automatons under divine control. People have to exercise their right of choice to obey or rebel against God’s call, just as was exercised by Adam and Eve in the Garden. Jesus brought glory to the Father because of His choice; the disciples brought glory to Jesus; and we bring glory to Jesus and testify of the love of God by our choice to obey God’s call, given in accordance with His predestined plan. The design or plan was to include all of Mankind in the call, with those choosing to accept being the individual believers included in “the elect.” The divine right of choice to accept the call and be saved also suggests one had a right of choice to remove themselves from the elect. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, but we can choose to separate ourselves from an obedient relationship with God. So, “once saved, always saved,” or the later rendition, “if saved, always saved.” may be more like “once saved, make your calling and election sure.”
But, let’s assume all that is being taken care of, so it is not a salvation issue for believers. The plan of God is too important for anyone to take their eyes off of Jesus to spat with someone else over this relatively minor doctrinal point. Unity trumps uniformity.
Ephesians 1: 11-14
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, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
God planned before creation to have a chosen people who would be His children who would call Him, “Father,” because they would be spiritually born (see section on “New Creation”) from out of His presence with His DNA, coding for the characteristics expressed and modeled to perfection by Jesus Christ on earth. God set the natural and spiritual worlds up in a way that His plan would be followed in a predictable manner. Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins, so that we could be declared holy and God through His Holy Spirit could dwell within us. God is glorified when we hear the word of truth and believe it and accept it, and the promised Holy Spirit, poured out on the Day of Pentecost, is given to live within us as a token of the glory that will come.
What does it mean that God “worked out everything?” What is the glorious goal or destination that to which this process is directed and what are we supposed to do about it? When will the end of this process come? Can a process that produces a progressive upward change (as in transformation or metamorphosis) be a type of evolution?
The word translated “worked out” is the participle form of energos (God’s working/operating with His might/ energy), which is parsed as present, active, genitive, singular, male. This action would be better translated “is working” in the present tense, indicating a continual active process from God effecting His foreordained plan throughout time, without physically placed limits. Therefore, the effecting of God’s plan – according to His foreordained will – has been a process and continues to be a process until the final coming of Christ.
How do we glorify God and by what process is this done? We glorify God when we become like Him. We share in His glory because we can have a greater participation or sharing in the divine nature (1 Pet. 1:4). We become more like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24). We are transformed into His likeness with increasing glory (2 Cor. 3;18) by the renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2) by the power of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5), who poured the love of God into our hearts (Rom. 5:5) as a gift (Acts 2:38) of His grace.
What could there be more important than this? Could our buildings? Our denomination name? Our private doctrine that makes us so unique compared to other Christians? Our liturgical form and protocol and dress? Is Christ divided like His body on earth is divided? Is our doctrinal pride more important than becoming like the true righteousness and holiness of God? Do we say, “No,” but what we do says “Yes?” How is God being glorified by the attitude of prideful and selfish division within the church? How can the body of Christ repeat the same immature behaviors exhibited by the Corinthian church and call itself “mature?” Is the Corinthian church still recycling today after 2000 years?
The church should be full of believers who are scrambling to work together and help one another to become like God, which is their created destiny. The church becomes a stream of people headed toward the mark of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. “Hey, let’s argue about …..” “No time for that – too busy becoming like God. Here, let me help you.”
What might be some “global time and space” characteristics of “the process” as designed by God?
The plan was made before matter and time – therefore there was nothing left to “chance.” Either God invisibly manipulated each event through the creative process, or God set up natural laws that would function along predictable channels with predictable outcomes. Was was certain by design of God appears random to us. We say, “It just happened,” because we do not have the mind of God and we cannot understand a concept or design that has an origin outside of time and space. When we limit our conceptual universe to the physical, which is where we reside, we cannot see anything that has no such limitation. That is why spiritual things are revealed by the Spirit to those people who have that dimension of understanding, and why those people without the Spirit call it all foolishness (1 Cor. 2:6-16).
The best evidence supports the process involving a gradual increase in complexity (as appearing to us) over time. The social system and organization increased in complexity between the time before Abraham to the time of the nation of Israel to the time of Christ to the present. The depth of knowledge increased exponentially, with technology and new creativity supporting it. God has allowed a growth in social and mental intelligence as one generation builds on the discoveries of the previous. Why should the creation of the physical substrate be any different?
What consistency is there between the sudden appearance of the universe and life on earth during a 6×24 hour period of time 6000 years ago and the way God’s plan has been carried out since? God has allowed His plan to be carried out according to His will and pleasure in a way that is indistinguishable from the natural. Scientific evidence for a 16 billion year old universe and a 4.5 billion year old earth with 3.5 billion years of life forms and a few million years of hominid ancestors that continued to evolve until there was a physical structure that God would work with to further accomplish His plan. There is no justifiable reason from either scientific or theological perspective to force such an interpretation as young earth creationism on Genesis 1-3. It just does not fit with the rest of God’s plan.
If God were going to make everything on earth like it is today in one week’s time, why did He start with such spiritually primitive people? Why did He allow all that grinding process of people killing each other and making mistakes and being captives and living 40 years in the wilderness? Just skip the flood; just skip Sodom and Gomorrah and the angelic Ninjas; just skip Babylonian captivity; just skip the part where Jesus had to be crucified; just make humankind starting with the Day of Pentecost with His Spirit and give everybody a running start toward becoming like God. In fact, just make everybody like God to start with so we can skip all the earthly stuff. “No, no; that’s silly. We have to go through the earthly things of getting people saved and helping the orphans and being good and suffering.” Why? Because that’s God’s plan before the creation of the world? Then an interpretation that God zapped everything into a sudden physical creation 6000 years ago is totally inconsistent with any other part of God’s plan. It makes no theological sense. It is in no way a theologically defensible interpretation of Genesis 1-3 to force a scientific history of the mechanism of the history behind a physical substrate, into which God could place His breath of life, called Man.
We have suggested a way of looking at God’s plan is in three phases or ages of evolution – the age of physical evolution (Big Bang until the time represented by God breathing life into Adam), the age of social evolution (interpersonal behavior; cooperation and productivity; communication; organization; government and political; religious – concept of deity, obedience, and sin; family; tribal) and the age of spiritual evolution (transformation, renewal, sanctification; new birth with the spiritual DNA of God to be expressed into the characteristics modeled by Jesus Christ) organized by the Holy Spirit living in the church) beginning at the Day of Pentecost when the Promise of the Father was delivered by Jesus pouring out the Holy Spirit upon all people.
God’s plan was revealed in final form when the Holy Spirit was poured out. Before that time, it was hidden – it was a mystery known only to God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Increments of the mystery were prophesied through John the Baptist, who was filled with the Holy Spirit.
All of this is just from 11 verses in Ephesians Chapter 1. Paul continues in Chapter 2.
Eph. 2:4-10 Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions— it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
It was God’s plan to save us from the death of sin and give us a new life by the grace given through Jesus Christ. How will God raise us with Him in the heavenly realms and show us the incomparable riches of His grace in the coming ages? First, by faith we accepted the free grace gift of God and were saved from spiritual death in keeping with His foreordained plan to show us His incomparable riches which come about when we do the works He prepared beforehand that we should do. For as we were created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works.
By grace through faith we are saved; by works through Christ Jesus we become like God.
Paul wrote to the church at Colossi concerning the mystery of God’s foreordained plan.
Col. 1:26-27 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
The mystery was actually revealed on the Day of Pentecost and was proclaimed by Peter in the sermon in Acts 2, although Peter, himself, didn’t completely understand some of his own prophetic message. The mystery was declared to the saints through the writings of Paul, Peter, and John when they explained to them what they had, which was done in the letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Romans, Thessalonians, and the elect in 1 & 2 Peter and the epistles of John. Therefore, the church has had this explanation in written form for almost 2000 years. The mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” transforming us into the likeness of the Creator, with the goal being “everyone perfect in Christ.”
Eph. 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 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. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
This (vs 13) is the Prime Directive for the church – to present the church perfect in Christ – the church as the perfect bride of Christ – the church with its marching orders as described in Ephesians 4:11-16, which is also the “prize for which God called us heavenward” and “the perfect that shall come” (1 Cor. 13:10).
The church’s mandate – the parts of the body work together until we ALL reach unity, maturity, stability, full knowledge, and the complete fullness of Jesus Christ, who, Himself, fills everything. This is the sum of every believer being transformed into the image of the Creator, like God in true righteousness and holiness.
THIS is the goal that the church must be working toward – the maturity of everyone in Christ. Anything less misses the mark, and that which misses the mark is sin.
Paul told the Ephesians what role the church was to play in revealing the plan of God as the church followed its Prime Directive —
Eph. 3:7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
Not only is the church to carry out the anointing of Jesus (Luke 4:19) – not only is the church to show the love of the Father to the world by the unity of all believers (John 17:23) – but the church is supposed to make plain the mystery of God’s eternal purpose by showing the manifold wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms by carrying out and faithfully administrating God’s foreordained plan.
God foreordained the plan that we should become like Him before the foundation of the world, set up the development of Mankind to be ready for the also foreordained coming of Christ, so that the Holy Spirit could be poured out to live in the church as the temple of God. Now the church has been chosen by God before the beginning of time to administrate this plan of God for the salvation of the entire world – all presented mature in Christ – in order to prove the wisdom of God authorities in the heavenly realms by showing them that the plan works!!
How well is the plan working for us? How well is the church working the plan? What type of proof of the wisdom of God’s eternal design has the church given to those rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms? Is the witness of the church improving with time?
Paul wrote to the church in his letter to the Thessalonians –
2 Thess. 2: 13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The believers had been called to salvation through the sanctification by the Holy Spirit and their belief in the truth, that they might share in the glory of Jesus. How would they share according to the predestined plan? By the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, they would become like God and share in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).
The foreordained plan of God for the saints and for the church is explained a little further in Romans – in familiar passages that we like to read, often superficially, for encouragement more than for a deeper meaning.
Rom 8:13-33 not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 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.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
The Holy Spirit of God testifies we are God’s children and in God’s family the same as Jesus Christ, with whom we are co-heirs to the inheritance for the saints. We share in His glory as we are transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory. According to God’s plan, the purpose of the entire creation was directed to our being declared as sons of God and then being transformed into His likeness by the expression of His DNA given to us as a New Creation. When we fulfill the destiny God set for us and for the church, the entire creation is released from bandage even as we are.
When we are led by the Spirit, we are guided into God’s will, which is to express the fruit of the Spirit, the characteristics modeled by Jesus Christ, in our transforming lives.
Therefore, the children of God are the elect, the ones who Love God, the ones who have been called out according to His foreordained design. To those who accept the call, and who call upon the name of the Lord, have been predestined by the will of God to be conformed into the likeness of His Son. Why? So that the firstborn should have many brothers. Who is the firstborn – Jesus Christ. Who are His brothers (and sisters)? We are. Why are we siblings with Jesus? Because we have received the Gift of the Holy Spirit, the DNA of God, the same spiritual genes that Jesus Christ had on this earth which He expressed into a perfect model for us. We have been justified by the blood of Jesus Christ, so that we could be sin-free to receive the genes of God. We are glorified with Jesus when we become like Him in true righteousness and holiness.
1 Pet 1:1 To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Peter writes to the “called-out ones” – those chosen by the foreknowledge of God (because it had been planned that way by design) – for obedience to Christ, for cleansing of sins by the blood of Christ, and for the sanctification process by which the Holy Spirit transforms them into the righteousness and holiness of God. This is done by a new birth – a birth from out of above as a new creation. The salvation is ready to be revealed because the last times began at the Day of Pentecost which will result in the present because Jesus Christ is being revealed in your lives now. You are being filled with joy because you are receiving the salvation of your souls according to your faith.
Some of these words seem to imply that the salvation is in heaven waiting to be revealed when Jesus comes again. Some of these words could be taken to imply that individuals were rather selectively predestined to be obedient to Jesus for salvation, as if some others were not. There’s more input from other verses in 1st and 2nd Peter.
1 Pet 1:19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
This is part of the mystery hidden until the last days. Jesus shed His blood so that the mystery of Christ in us (the spiritual genes of God that Christ had on earth) as He is revealed by the transforming work of the Spirit. This is for our sake.
The church is the place where the members put the expression of their genes of God together so that the image of Jesus Christ can be seen in his body on earth. How are we doing with the stewardship of the genes of God?
1 Pet 2:9-10 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
In these verses, Peter speaks more globally than individually, as though the plan was predestined for those who would accept, rather than individuals predestined to accept the plan overriding their own choice. But does God already know who will accept and who will not? Big doctrinal question? Shall we divide over our opinion about the answer? It doesn’t matter what the answer is – the magnitude of the answer is insignificant compared to the Prime Directive of the church. To hold the doctrine of predestination or “once saved, always saved” as a test of fellowship or as a test of how close a tribe is to the mind of God so that takes priority over becoming like God is nothing other than idolatry.
We are a chosen people; we are also a people of chosen individuals. We can discuss what God’s foreknowledge includes while we are headed to becoming like God at the maximum possible rate. Because we don’t have time to stop and deal with distractions that slow us down. The people of God have been predestined to become like Him. And we need everyone to continue and not fall by the wayside and argue with each other.
No tribe left behind.
2 Pet. 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
God through His dunamis power has given us what we need to become like Him and be changed into His glory. We have the Promised Holy Spirit, the Gift of the Holy Spirit – the genes of God so that we can grow into his character, grow to be like Him, so what we can share – participate – in the divine nature of God. That is action in the present tense; that is on-going; that is now. Sharing in the nature of God is to occur in this life in preparation for eternal life. That is the mystery begun at Pentecost and revealed through the New Testament, written to the Christians of the first century to explain to them what they already had received so that could live up to it.
The upward process is described in verses 5-7 in the so-called “ladder of virtues,” which are the fruit of the Spirit. The qualities are to be developed in increasing measure – there is no stop to argue pride of doctrine; there is no side track to develop greed of reputation or real estate; there is no return in making compromises with the world.
Are we really committed to becoming like God? Why were we cleansed from sin? Why did Jesus Christ die for our sins so that we can be pure and holy in the sight of God? So that we could be freed from the bondage of guilt of sin that so easily drags us down and so that we can grow to be like Him at the fastest possible rate. What happens if we lose sight of our Prime Directive? We show that we do not understand why Jesus died, that’s what happens. And if the church doesn’t understand it, how can the church possible explain the gospel to the world? What would that be called? Evangelical, missional, or hypocritical? The scripture has some other terms to describe people who lose sight of their mission in Christ, and in their disorientation, have become completely misdirected.
2 Pet. 2:8 …being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
2 Pet 2:20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”
James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.
Heb 6:4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because a to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
These scriptures are sobering because they don’t just refer to people who are in rebellion against God, but to people who have lost sight of the Prime Directive for the church and who have gone to pursing other paths, including holding onto and recycling their immaturity. The Hebrews passage describes people who have stayed with the milk of the word and not matured in Christ – by being transformed into Him. It takes less energy to recycle immaturity than to move at the maximum rate toward maturity in Christ. That is treated the same as forgetting why Christ died for your sins. Christ died so that we could become like God, not so that we could play “guess the church program buzzword” in our state-of-the-worship buildings and compare ourselves to one another, each tribe confident they are better than the others. Have the buildings of those competing tribes been inhabited by the “demon of vomit?”
But, moving right along, because there are additional observations to be made.
In light of these passages what might it mean “to be saved,” and what is “salvation?”
I once thought that one “got saved” when they heard the gospel (which essentially was water baptism), believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as God’s Son, repented of past sins, confessed that Jesus was God’s Son (just say, “I do”), and was immersed in water for the remission of sin as in Acts 2:38. That’s it; you’re saved. After that you tried to be good so you wouldn’t mess up your salvation, and you always needed to be asking God to forgive your sins. You could “hope” your salvation was in heaven, but to be “sure” of it was to be too presumptuous of God, so you needed to “be faithful” by attending the worship services and the fellowship potluck suppers. You could pray, ” ….. and in the final day, if we’ve been found faithful, … save us …..” What else would one expect from a cessationist doctrine and a works salvation system of bondage which excluded everybody else who didn’t agree? God help us.
A different doctrine comes from an understanding of the nature of the Unifying Law and the Prime Directive, which were planned by God before the universe began and which has been, and is being, carried out according to his predestined knowledge and will. “Being saved” is when the transformation starts. When one accepts the free gift of God’s grace so that their sins are removed by the blood of Jesus, they are declared righteous and holy because Jesus is righteous and holy. The Gift of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual genes of God, are poured into one’s heart by the Holy Spirit and the process of renewal and transformation into the character of Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God, begins. Being saved starts one on the path of sanctification; salvation is the process of sanctification. “Once saved, then sanctified.”
Why else should we work to “make our calling and election sure?” You mean we have to work to keep our salvation? Salvation is sanctification is renewal is transformation is becoming like God by doing (works) what was modeled by the Lord Jesus Christ. We were saved by the grace of God so we would be free to become like God. Work because you have to? Work because you want to become like God at the fastest possible rate and nothing is going to stop you. I don’t have time to stop and argue or fight about doctrine and opinions and interpretations. And I want to be a part of a fellowship that understands the Law of the Universe and that works together for edification and encouragement as described in Heb. 10:25, 1 Cor. 14, and Eph. 4. Look out! We are dedicated to becoming like God by helping one another and we’re moving at warp speed, and there is nothing that will stop us, including the gates of hell. We don’t have time to stop and worry about our calling and election — we’re too busy headed there. Those who stop and recycle their gurgitations and argue and compete over their divisions that are petty in comparison to the Prime Directive are the ones who have cause to worry. But, who in the world would do something like that?
Sharing in the sufferings of Christ seems to be somehow linked to sharing in His glory.
Most all of the passages that talk about the plan of God included the same words and concepts. Two that appear in close proximity are suffering and glory. All of the references to becoming like God (Eph. 4:24), renewed into the image of the Creator (Col 3;10), sharing in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), being transformed into increasing glory (2 Cor 3:18), eternal glory (2 Cor. 4:17), glory to be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18) also refer to sharing in Christ’s sufferings or the sufferings we have in the present. In the flesh, we don’t want trials, persecutions, difficulties, opposition or pain, partly because we don’t understand why they happen and why we have to struggle with them. I have always wanted to just skip the struggle part and get to the glory part, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. Joy comes from having the spiritual vision to see the glory on the other side of the suffering — eyes on the unseen, not the seen (2 Cor. 4:18).
If the Lord were to allow discipline to come upon the “Church for the Self-Perpetuation of Wealth and Materialism,” most of the people living in a manner accustomed to that lifestyle would consider the intrusion to be trouble, conflict, evil, destructive, persecution like the prophets who lived before, suffering, and even mean-spirited. But if the consequences of the institutionalize church’s following the human desires were provided courtesy of the Ishmael and Sons Demolition Company, and if the remnant that remained began a new cycle of Christianity that was cleansed of 2000 years of a tradition of the idol of materialistic building and real estate so that all could follow the predestined will of God and together grow to be like God, what would be the eternal perspective of such an apparent cataclysmic event? Does 1 Cor.10:1-12 speak to us?
Becoming like God is linked to removal of the sinful nature.
Another association with fulfilling the plan of God involves removal of the sinful nature. After talking about the plan of God, Paul says, “Therefore, you should remove all ……. ” and “put on ……” That is our part of the sanctification process; we continually clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ; we continually work out our salvation with fear and trembling; we continually remove the desires of the sinful nature and turn the control over to the Spirit. We have an active part in the transformation process — we have to remove the old from the genes of Adam before the new from the genes of God can be expressed. Removing the sinful nature is a lot of work. There’s that word again.
The church, as a body of the sum of individuals, can follow the sinful nature the same as an individual can. It is a choice, and the choice is not always the one that is Spirit-led. The church isn’t perfect yet, but in growing into perfection as the members grow into perfection by loving and helping one another.
Stop diddling around — make haste, not hate
God has given us three major laboratories of life to develop into the maturity of His likeness — our relationship as caretaker of His physical creation, our relationships as members of the body of Christ, and our relationship in the covenant of marriage.
If the church had been teaching the purpose of the marriage relationship in God’s designed and foreordained plan for the universe and how this role is fulfilled by a lifetime monogamous relationship between male and female human beings as husband and wife, each dedicated to making the other grow to be more like God as long as they both shall live, maybe there would be a difference in the views toward divorce, adultery, homosexuality, same gender marriages, etc. The church knows how to condemn things; the church just doesn’t understand the model it is supposed to teach and demonstrate to the world. How can the church justify judging people who have suffered divorce or fallen into adulterous relationships if the church, itself, doesn’t understand what place is to have in carrying out God’s plan? The church is all divided and split up; why shouldn’t people do the same? As a result, the church is not the light of the world. The world is at the teacher’s lectern and the church is taking the notes. But the lecture has deviated from the course syllabus, and the church is too busy copying its new instructions to notice that the subject has changed and the teacher is a fraud. The worldly notes the church is busily making now will not help prepare for “the final exam” to come. And, guess what? The church borrowed the money to build the state-of-the-art school building where the fraudulent lecture is taking place.
There are a number of passages that give a sense of urgency, anticipating our time on earth is short, and we need to not waste it but persevere and encourage one another to keep on traveling toward God. This message is in familiar verses in Hebrews — Jesus paved the way that we could start becoming like God by giving us justification, so lets be faithful to the love of God through Christ. Let us build upon love and good deeds (works prepared for us to do by which we become more like God) and meet together for encouragement. What is the alternative to growing to be like God? Recycling immaturity and forgetting why Jesus died.
Heb. 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
What do we do if we don’t understand these verses in light of the Prime Directive? We interpret Heb. 10:25 to mean if you miss church services you are not being faithful and not making your salvation secure. There is a space within our hearts, and within the heart of the church, where the truth is to be placed. Placing the truth in our hearts is intentional. The first step involves intentionally removing the trash that is in there from sin. Okay, Jesus did that, and that’s the gospel. Right? No, that’s part of the gospel. Now the space in the heart has to be intentionally filled with the discerned truth revealed by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13-15). If the church doesn’t understand what the truth is concerning the foreordained plan of God and the church’s role in carrying out that plan, what is there to place in the heart? There is a vacuum, and one of the laws of natural physics is that “nature abhors a vacuum.” And there is an abundant supply of natural material around to fill the vacuum. That is what happens when the church misses the mark. This principle is in Matt. 12:43-46 and Luke 11:24-26.
Now that would be a good name for a ministry web site — Ministry for Motivational Maturity – MMM. Just having the credibility from that web address would probably be enough to automatically launch someone into the instant status of a church growth guru — like a satellite. Hmmm. Let’s see now … where’s the URL search function on Go-Daddy?
Okay, fun’s over. There are different motivations for doing what we sometimes call “the Lord’s work.” These motivations reflect a level of maturity that needs to grow, because we already know that, without growth, stagnation and recycling do not end well. The levels might be called, from the least to the most mature, Fear, Duty, Debt, Love.
Fear is a powerful motivator, but it is circumstantial, and when the fear passes, compliance may also go away. Fear of repercussion, fear of loss, fear of consequence, fear for life, fear of going to hell. You’d better do this because if you don’t, the Bible says this is what will happen to you. Sinners in the hands of an angry God. Don’t wanna go there. Those who stay motivated by fear are not perfected in love (1 John 4:18), and punishment in hell is listed as an immaturity to grow beyond (Heb. 6:1-3). This is one of the disappointing things about good Biblical scholars who have spent so much time studying, publishing, and arguing their position about the characteristics of hell. There are so many more important things that the church needs to hear in order to grow up out of immaturity — centering on hell is not one of them. “Let the dead bury the dead.” Let hell take care of itself. We’re not going there — we are too busy growing to be like God to be sidetracked on someplace that is irrelevant to where we are headed. We can talk about hell theory as we travel warp speed toward the mark of the high calling. Keep eyes on Jesus, not on my publications, relative credibility, other scholars I know, and speaking schedule. Something wrong with these? No, but there is no strabismus on the road to being like God. Again, it is a matter of priorities — what is most important — not just lip service — but functionally important which is obvious in what I say and do. Motivation from fear has its place, but is useful only when used to promote continued growth into maturity.
Duty is just a step above fear. I have to do this. I have to be obedient. Jesus did all of this, therefore I am required to do such and such. Obedience includes anything from “obedience to faith” in water baptism for salvation, the way the Lord’s Supper is taken and when, methods in the worship service, attendance and contribution percentage. Jesus is King and we are commanded to do what He said, so here we have a list of works programs for you to choose any three — the ones we want you to choose are in bold type. Duty overlaps with legalism and carries over many of the attitudes of the Old Law. Motivation from duty has its place, but is useful only when used to promote continued growth into maturity. Sometimes our children have developed up to this level of maturity when they “leave home.” That’s because they haven’t seen many higher role models in the church or the family. It is a motivation that is transferable to other situations found in new independence, such as going off to college, but this level of maturity is easily challenged, and faith based only on this level is a little like the seed sown on the rocky soil.
Debt is a step above duty. This even borders on some passages from Paul’s letters. Paul said he was compelled to preach and woe to him if he didn’t (1 Cor. 9;16), and he said that Christ’s love compels us to love for the One who died for us (2 Cor 5:14). This is a pretty high class motivator. Do to others because of what God through Christ has done for you. That is definitely scriptural. This is the Spirit-driven “platinum rule,” which is higher than the “golden rule,” which could be achieved by human effort. But there are also elements of “duty” and “I need to pay back” also mixed into the motivation. God did so much for me, how can I do anything else but ….. (duty?) … (pay God back?). This is getting close, and it is scriptural, and it is spiritually-based, and it is good. But is it the mark of the high calling? Does it take in the grand design of God or does it emphasize just a partial design based on some particular passages? Is it complete? Is it the response to Eph. 4:13 and 1 Cor. 13:10?
Oftentimes a human illustration is given to make the motivation a little clearer. Say someone gives you a free gift of one million dollars. Okay, and the grantor pays the taxes, so you, the grantee, have a cool million which, by the way, you really need — at least some of it — to pay bills and to correct other things of a debt nature. You are out of debt and free to live a good life, all because of the incredible generosity of this one grantor. What a sweet deal! One day the grantor asks if you might be able to wash and vacuum out his car. Just an ordinary car — not a trick question. How could each of the motivators lead to a decision to wash his car for him? (Fear of consequences) – “If I don’t wash his car, I’m afraid that he might take back the money and then what would I do?” (Call of duty) – “Oh, okay. I knew something like this would come up. I have to do it; I just hope he doesn’t own a train, too.” (Debt) [This is the one we usually hear] – “After all that he did for me, how could I not pay him back by washing and vacuuming his car.” Yes, Paul gives some hints of using this approach of motivation, and it is a valid approach and better than the first two, but the fourth is the best one for many reasons. (Love) “The donor gave me this gift because he is growing into the perfect love of God; he is more like God because he gave it, and I am more like God because I received it. We are headed there together.”
There is little question that we as humans have difficulty understanding the manifested love of God (an action verb) and also God is love as a character or nature (a noun). What about us? We are becoming the noun by performing the verb. Anyone who thinks they have become the noun — because of their behavior or because of their doctrine or because of their religious institution, or anything else of a physical, earthly nature — they have lost sight of the high mark in Jesus and have begun to cycle. Paul said that he hadn’t yet reached the goal, but that he was pressing on toward the goal (Phil. 3:12-14). The question isn’t “Are we there yet?” The question is “Are we still pressing on toward the goal?” If we are not pressing on, then we are stationary and cycling — defending and self-honoring the “righteousness” we perceive we have attained (vs 9).
Where you put your eyes; that’s about the size of it. Fear – eyes on consequences of not doing or of being wrong; Duty – eyes on actions that must be duplicate, even if in my own power, in order to be right; Debt – eyes on the action that was done for me out of love; Love – eyes on the nature of God modeled by Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), who I am growing to be like as I do the action of love — toward the mark of the high calling heavenward.
“Now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor. 13:13
What’s the difference? The mark of the high calling is #4, Love. The other three motivators can be useful as long as they lead one to continue to grow into maturity (Phil. 3:15). How does this happen? The church has to understand what its Prime Directive is — as established by Jesus through the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The Prime Directive to bring about the working of the plan of God that was foreordained before the world was created — what we have called the Unifying Field Law of Everything — which is:
From the individual, one member, one component of the church, the elect — extended and multiplied to all components, to every individual in the church, the elect — extended to the sum of every and all individuals, which is the church. Conceptually, it builds step-wise from one individual with eyes on Jesus to all individuals, each with eyes on Jesus, to the sum of all individuals working together and helping one another in their travel toward Jesus.
Eph. 4:24. (like God in true righteousness and holiness) — Col. 1:28 (present every person fully mature in Christ) — Eph. 4:13 (until we all reach unity, full knowledge, maturity, fullness of Christ)
People who are in motivation phases 1, 2, and 3 should be able to see the need for growth into phase 4, Love, because the mature of the church model that Love. This is where the leaders come in and why they have an enormous responsibility. Ministers must equip the saints so they understand their roles in the body, and the eldership (body of all elders) must provide the model of the love, peace, and unity in the body that the rest of the church is to follow. An eldership composed of a group of elders that occasionally meet together after an opening prayer can model the motivations 1, 2, and 3. But it takes an eldership that is a unit of one mind and purpose whose Spirit-empowered function is greater than the sum of the individual elders.
How close is any institutionalized church fragment or any congregation to operating in level #4? Is that related to why the institutionalized church is not growing into the fullness of Christ and why people are leaving?
Physical sight; spiritual blindness
Someone might say, “Picky, picky! Criticizing the church like it’s never good enough. I think we’re doing alright. At least we’re doing better than ………”
It is true we will be never “good enough.” To think that we are “good enough” is dangerous, because it produces stationary circular defensive movements that will obey the physical law of entropy, also according to the plan for the physical universe that God set up at creation. It is a delicate matter to point out the difference between the output of an organization and the standard it should measure up to. But that is what the church is supposed to for itself, so that God doesn’t have to point it out for the church by bring discipline upon it.
1 Cor. 11:31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
2 Cor. 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you — unless, of course, you fail the test?
If there could be anything worse than falling short of the standard, it would be refusing to recognize and admit there is a difference and then having the nerve to deny that a difference is there. Even worse than that, is for people to claim they are doing just fine and representing themselves in that manner — “We’re doing fine; we have the doctrine; we have the authority; we have ego; we …… oops.” Those who claim to know and to be doing things right, but in their pride are disobedient, will be compared to their own claimed standard and will be judged accordingly.
John 9:39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind well see and those who see will become blind.” 40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” 41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
Matt. 7:2 (Mark 2:24, Luke 6:38) “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Common buzzwords that various churches use to advertise themselves include things like — “fully committed, “fully surrendered,” fully whatever. Genuine. Authentic. The full gospel (as though there is another kind?). True believers. The Lord’s church (as compared to those other body fragments who aren’t?).
If the church were truly living the gospel of Jesus Christ and headed toward the prize of the heavenly call, there would not have to be any pretentious advertising and self-glorification. When young people grow up in a church fellowship that advertises claims such as these, but they can see from the inside that these claims are not lived up to, what is their reaction? They can recognize a difference between imperfect people who are helping one another toward the heavenly call and people who make fraudulent claims about themselves while making judgments about other Christians.
Do we also kid ourselves into thinking that people are actually fooled by this? Is is time to read another Barna survey of the people who were “raised in the church” but who have already left (past tense) the institutionalized church because of this misrepresentation?
Does 1 Cor. 13:12 say, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, so we just make comparisons to one another and imagine ourselves to be wonderful?”
The plan of God before the creation of the world is off track because the church has missed the mark. Yet the church looks for outside clues from human knowledge to figure out there is a problem. Analyze some survey data; do some street interviews; wonder what happened to the attendance numbers. Duh! Once the church figures out from outside human knowledge that the church has a major problem, it will be far too late to do anything about it. Preemptive prospective Spirit-led moves are initiated from the inside of the church. The church can keep adjusting to try to compensate for the bad forecast for the future until it can’t adjust anymore. When the demolition company arrives — yes, that one called “Ishmael and Sons” — they won’t even knock on the door before they knock it down.