An Eternal Plan
“To me, the least significant of all the saints, this grace was given to declare to the nations the incomprehensible riches of Christ and to give light for all of the plan of the mystery hidden from the ages in God who created all things, in order that the manifold wisdom of God through the church may now also be made known to the rulers and to the authorities in heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord in whom the boldness and freedom to enter with confidence through faith in him.”
“According to the eternal purpose that is realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Herein lies one of those great and profound statements of the Bible. The revealing of the Gospel took place because it was purposed (or planned) by God. Was this something that God decided upon as he watched human behavior? No. Was the revealing of the Gospel a reaction to the Jews’ rejection of Jesus? No. This is the eternal plan of God. Thus, before God created, when it was just God that existed in eternity prior to creation, this plan existed in His mind.
The implications of this truth should be apparent in that they reject the theology of Open Theism, much of Dispensationalism, and much of Wesleyanism. It rejects the notion that Adam and Eve could have remained sinless and chosen not to disobey. God had all of these things planned before he even began to create because he had planned the way the Gospel would be revealed from eternity. As Election is a part of how God laid out and worked out his plan, it also clearly rejects the notion that election was a result of the Fall, even in terms of the question of theological priority. That plan was then realized in Christ and in the work that Christ did (and exactly the way He did it). And notice, it does not say that God realized it with Jesus and it is up to us to choose him…
How easy it is to fall into the trap of making God’s plan out to be something like we would want it imagined rather than what God has clearly set forth in His word. How simple it is for us to be attracted to those ideas that we like rather than to what is true and plainly taught in the Bible. God sovereignly saves his Elect and that plan was part of God’s eternal design, worked out in Christ Jesus.
The Laughter of the Saints
“And Sarah said, ‘Laughter, God brings to me; all the ones who hear will laugh with me.’”
The emphasis that is placed here is on the laughter. Usually, this word refers to the way we might mock someone by laughing and jeering at him, but in this context a very different sentiment is being conveyed. Here is the joy of a lifetime of reproach being lifted. The desire of Sarah’s heart, to bear her husband a child, has been denied to her through her normal childbearing years, yet he has remained faithful to her. Now, in her old age, a gift has been given to this woman. The shame and reproach that came with being barren has been removed and her only response is to laugh with joy at the thing that God has done.
What a beautiful picture of the response of this woman. Sometimes, when one has walked so long in the darkness of rejection and then suddenly one is thrust out of that despair and into joy, there is nothing to do but to laugh — one cannot contain the joy one is experiencing. Here, this woman who has tried to bring that child for Abraham in a variety of different ways, even to the extent of giving Hagar to her husband as a surrogate wife, is given the desires of her heart; what a beautiful and a human response as we see her laughing and anticipating the laughter of others who will join in celebrating with her.
Yet is this also not what Jesus does for every believer? He removes the reproach of sin and judgment from us as we stand before God. He gives us life where death was our only state of being. We are brought by him into the household of the Almighty God of the Universe and presented as clean and as a child of that God and King; beloved, what can we do but laugh in joy? What can we do but celebrate? The laughter of the saints is a holy thing and it is a thing that brings healing because it stems from a heart that has been redeemed. When God’s people gather together to fellowship, joyful laughter seems to be one of the most basic characteristics of those gatherings; I can only imagine what the joyful laughter will be like when we are all joined together before the throne of our Lord and our joy made fully and irrevocably complete. I pray that you are ready to join with me there on that day.
Wonderful night! Wonderful night!
Dreamed of by prophets and sages!
Manhood redeemed for all ages,
Welcomes thy hallowing might,
Wonderful, Wonderful night!
Wonderful night! Wonderful night!
Sweet be thy rest to the weary,
Making the dull heart and dreary
Laugh in a dream of delight;
Wonderful, Wonderful night!
Friends out of the Mammon of Unrighteousness (Luke 16:9)
“And I say to you, make for yourselves intimate friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness, in order that when it may fail, they may receive you into eternal tabernacles.”
We should perhaps begin by asking ourselves the question as to what Jesus means by speaking of “eternal tabernacles” or “eternal dwellings.” This is a phrase that is unique to the New Testament and to the Greek translation of the Old Testament as well. We do know, though, that the term aijw/nioß (aionios), which we translate as “eternal” is normally used in terms of speaking of the afterlife—though it is used to speak in terms of both heaven and hell (though it is most often used of heaven). We also know that the term skhnh/ (skana), translated here as “tabernacle,” can refer to any kind of temporary shelter or dwelling, but is the same term that is used to translate the Hebrew word !K’v.mi (mishkan), or “Tabernacle.” Thus, in certain contexts, the term skhnh/ (skana) carries with it important Old Testament theological significance. The Tabernacle, of course, being where God dwelt in his presence, it seems reasonable, then, when Jesus talks of eternal Tabernacles, he is talking about eternal life in heaven or at least eternal life with God (as this is something that begins in this life given that God dwells in the tabernacle of the believer through his Holy Spirit). This is also consistent with the contrast that we saw in the previous verses between the sons of light and the sons of this age—“this age” being contrasted with “eternity.” Beloved, this age will pass away, but eternity will go on forever.
I guess the next logical question is to ask what is the “mammon of unrighteousness” and how does one use such a thing to make friends. The first thing that we should note it the nature of the friendships that are being spoken of. The term that Jesus employs is fi/loß (philos), which reflects an intimate friendship or a dear friend. This is not a casual relationship, but a relationship that has been strengthened by sharing hardships as well as good times. It is not a friendship that will easily fall away.
In terms of “mammon,” there is quite a bit of discussion. The simplest answer to this question is to see it as a personification of wealth as in Matthew 6:24. Some scholars have suggested that the term mamwnavß (mamonas), might be derived from the Hiphil participle of the Hebrew verb !mea’ (amen), which would be spelled !ymia]m; (maamin). In Hebrew, the Hiphil form is a causative tense and a participle, as in English, can be used substantively as a noun (the runner). In layman’s terms, to use this verb in such a way can convey the idea of something that causes you to place your trust (the meaning of !mea’) in it rather than in God. And indeed, wealth is a prime culprit, if it is not the primary culprit, of doing just that. Yet, let us not limit our definition to wealth, but let us include all things that can turn the heart of man away from trusting in God. It can reflect prestige, fame, possessions, etc… Anything that you put your trust in apart from God becomes mammon, and in the context of the passage, these worldly things are unrighteous as well as they are not the things of God.
The simple answer, then, to our question, is that this steward used the worldly wealth to make friends or to become favored by those of this world—including his master. Now, there is more to the question, but it would behoove us to put the final puzzle pieces in place before we began to assemble them to draw a conclusion. Take, though, this simple principle. God has given us worldly wealth for a reason and for a purpose, and that purpose is so that we might be a blessing to the world around us. Yet, we are called to be a blessing to the world around us not just so that we will have lots of people like us, but so that we will draw lots of people to Christ. Indeed, as from God’s hand comes all good things, are we not just stewards of God’s possessions? Are we not stewards of the created order itself? If the intention of our stewardship is to use these worldly things to draw others to faith in Jesus Christ, how faithful are we being in the task to which we have been called? How consistently are we either faithful or unfaithful with the things that God has given us?
Jesus created Time: Hebrews 1:1-4 (part 7)
“through whom he also created the ages.”
When we think of Christ being the means, or the Word, of creation, typically, we think in terms of material “stuff” that is all around us. We think of rocks and trees, of birds and clouds, of stars and of everything else in this wonderful creation from the greatest heavenly body to the smallest microbe, quark, and string. But, oftentimes, we do not think of time in the context of God’s creation, yet, indeed, it was. Prior to the God’s creative act, time simply did not exist. God dwelt in perfect satisfaction in eternity prior, with no beginning, end, or middle. For most of us, that begins to make our heads hurt just a bit. Yet, time is a description of a progression of events with a definite beginning and a possible end. Eternity has no such progression, for to suggest eternity is bound by time, and hence God as well, is to suggest that God has a beginning, and such is not the case. In the beginning (of time) God was—he simply was, no temporal markers defined his existence, he simply existed (Genesis 1:1). And as God is the beginning, the great Alpha and Omega, all things, including time, flowed forth from his creative process—indeed flowed forth through the Son of God—the Word.
It is interesting, when we think of time, to see the difference between the way we usually behave toward time and to the way in which the Bible speaks of time. In scripture, there is a sense of time’s fleetingness. We are told over and over that time is short, that the return of our Lord is near, that the life of man is but a vapor and passing quickly, etc… Yet, despite all of these warnings and testimonies in God’s word, we usually go about our daily activities as if time were in abundance. We put off much that we ought to do today until tomorrow and then into the following weeks if it is not pressing. We usually do not conduct our affairs as if time is running out. Thomas Manton, the Puritan divine, once reflected that if a town were on fire and the fire was spreading, people would not go about their daily affairs at the usual pace. Instead, they would spring to action, alerting all of the imminent danger and would find a renewed vigor as they sought to do their duty in saving the town.
Beloved, we have been lulled into a slumber while the enemy is burning down our nation and indeed even the church. What is it that we are doing to alert our neighbors and fellow villagers? Are we doing our duty and joining the bucket brigade to extinguish this fire? Are we running through the village, joining the town crier, proclaiming, “Danger is Near! Danger is Near!” To change the analogy to one from our own national history, will you be like Samuel Prescott, and join Paul Revere and William Dawes on their ride to warn the valiant defenders of our land that the enemy is coming? Do you recall, that it is only Samuel Prescott who completed his ride to Concord? Dear friends, will you remain in your slumber, or will you shout loudly and proclaim that danger is upon us! Loved ones, we do not know how the War for Independence might have proceeded had Prescott not rallied himself from his slumber and joined the ride. Loved ones, the scripture cries to us that time is short and that even though many may mock you and proclaim that nothing has changed since their father’s day and nothing is bound to change, these are lies worked by enemies of God who are destined for judgment (2 Peter 3:1-7). No, loved ones, in this battle we need not fear the approach of the redcoats, but instead the fire of God’s impending judgment. You who are born again in Jesus Christ are ready, but what of those around you? Are they ready as well? And you who have been born again, are you prepared to present yourself as a faithful servant before our God, having studied to show yourself approved (note the importance of studying God’s word to our lived out sanctification!)? If not, count this as your clarion call as well. Awake beloved, our Lord has created time and has set its boundaries, and whether our Lord returns before the end of the day or whether he tarries another thousand years (or more), we have been given a job to do—to go into all the world and to make disciples of all men—a task that begins at home and extends to every corner of the earth; it is a task we will not succeed in if we slumber through the days that God has granted to us.