With a pregnancy which belongs exclusively to His Word, God reveals to us, in two short words, what is the chief object of our selection, as the joy of His heart:
For Him (through Christ Jesus)
A goal, so exalted, so sublime, even for our present life, opens up before us, more beautiful and glorious than our highest thoughts. "For Him" God has chosen us in Christ and designated us beforehand through Christ Jesus!
These two words give expression to our real happiness and glory. Let us take them as the wish of our heavenly Father, as a motto for our life, into our hearts, so that the man within, and the outer also, may receive the proper development and direction. A good grip of this high object of our existence gives us a powerful lever to avoid living for ourselves.
Now we must not see in this claim on us primarily a demand on God's part, for always, and in every case, He first gives before He expects. Yet just this desire of His for us is an assurance and proof that His gracious gifts have already accomplished something very great on our behalf. First of all, these words illuminate the completeness of work done for our redemption. The fact that God desires to have us is a sure sign that, through Christ, we have been made acceptable and useful to Him.
In introducing this subject we must further observe that the "for Him" is by no means exhausted by His elect, His ecclesia. In the phrase "All in God" we can already see God's wishes for the whole creation. It was created through Christ, out of, through, and for God, that is "for Him." At the consummation of the eons this goal is fully attained when God is "All in all."
Now God does not wait for everything until this far-off period, but desires to have a definite number of His creatures eons earlier, by means of selection, for Himself. This extraordinary divine purpose had a special object which He has by no means kept secret.
In the early Hebrew Scriptures we are already given much light on the purpose of this divine method. In Lev.20:26 Jehovah speaks as follows to the whole people of Israel: "I separate you from all the peoples to become Mine." This appropriation included the whole nation, all twelve of the tribes. Nevertheless Jehovah spoke a second time of the tribe of Levi: "Mine become the Levites" (Num.3:12). From passages which describe the method how Jehovah took the Levites for Himself it is evident that it was "for Him," in a deeper sense and for a special purpose: "And speaking is Jehovah to Moses, saying, `Bring near the stock of Levi, and stand them before Aaron, the priest. And they minister to him.'" (Num.3:6). And again, "And take the Levites for Me" (41). A still deeper insight is given us in Num.8:18,19: "And I am taking the Levites instead of every firstborn among the sons of Israel. And I am giving the Levites wholly to Aaron and his sons from amidst the sons of Israel, to serve in the service of the sons of Israel in the tent of appointment..." (Num.8:18,19). We may condense this as follows: Jehovah took the Levites to give them to the priests to be helpers in the service of God in His house, which was for God, in order to have fellowship with Him. God gave in order to give, and in order to receive again.
In this that Jehovah did with the Levites there are weighty truths which bind our election and prior designation harmoniously together. Let us note how the Word of God speaks of these. The election occurred through God in Christ (4) and the previous designation through Christ for God. What God did with the Levites He now does to us, only on a much higher plane. We also were taken by Him and given over to the Son, in order that God, through Christ, receive us back for nearer fellowship and useful service. Through the creation of all in the Son of His love we were already given over to Him, yet by our election it is repeated, but for a much loftier goal.
As we have shown, Christ cooperated with His Father when He called His twelve apostles. The fact that they could respond immediately to this elective call, is directly due to the Father, for, according to John 6:44, "No one can come to Me if ever the Father Who sends Me should not be drawing him" (John 6:37,65). Now the Father not only draws to the Son, but also reveals Him (Matt.16:15-17; John 6:29), and the Son intends to reveal the Father to those whom He has given Him (Luke 10:22).
So had God given the disciples to the Son, that through Him He could foster them and receive them back as useful instruments in His work.
These two traits of God's father-heart in relation to the disciples, yes, to all the elect, are clearly set forth in the selection of the twelve, as we find it in Mark (3:14), "And He makes twelve, whom He also names apostles, that they may be with Him, and that He may be commissioning them..." The "and" joins two distinct thoughts, first, that they should have fellowship with Him, and further, their commission for service. "Be with Him" does not demand doing at first, but rather enter into an immanent union with Him, a concord of heart with heart. And this is just how their Lord and Master trained them. How clearly did He make them understand, in the case of Mary and Martha, that fellowship comes before service (Luke 10:38-42)! And in praising the disciples, He showed that fellowship was more important in His eyes than aught else.
But this union with His own He never looked upon as the final goal, in order to hold them fast to His own person. Rather He used this communion as a preparation and training for intercourse and fellowship with the Father. In this spirit and altogether according to the will of the Father He received and trained His disciples. In reading chapters fourteen to seventeen of John's account we see that Jesus continually kept in the background in order to show them the Father (John 16:23,24). Then, when the spirit of God glorified the resurrected Son of God, it became apparent how completely the Son had done the work given Him by the Father, in that they became blessed and useful apostles for God, and, in fellowship and service, completely devoted to God. So it is that John, in his first epistle, writes, "...this fellowship of ours is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3). It was the will of the Son that the Father should come first in all things.
We also pursue His way, we who are the chosen members of His body, that, through Christ, we may be prepared for fellowship with the Father, and for service for Him. Even in our earthly life special training may be required for intercourse with eminent personages. How much more when God desires us to have fellowship with Him, and to be ready for His service! In order to reach this goal, He calls us into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Cor.1:9). Even in the call of His ambassadors in the world in order to gather out His elect is involved the fact that God first gives us over to His Son. We are beseeching, "For Christ's sake be conciliated with God" (2 Cor.5:20)! Where could we find a better training for worthy fellowship with the Father than with the Son of the Father Himself? For this His earthly career is, in many ways, the supreme example. In Him, God's Elect par excellence, we see a life lived in fullest perfection for the Father. The joy of His heart consisted in communion with His Father. In every episode of His course He was always drawn to Him. His whole life consisted in this, in love to Him to do His will. This spirit was so developed in Him that it became His very food (John 4:34). When twelve years old, He already was conscious of His divine sonship, so that He must be among the things which are His Father's (Luke 2:49). This attitude of His heart was so strong that He could be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. And on the shameful stake, where God made Him the sin offering, and sent His judgment fires into His bones, He persevered, in unchangeable attachment to the Father, and ended His lifework, as crowning conclusion to a Godcentered life, with the dearest word His heart could utter, "Father" (Luke 23:46).
This wonderful, adorable, unparalleled obedience is used by the apostle Paul as the highest example for us, in the words, "let His disposition be in you, which is in Christ Jesus..." (Phil.2:5). With this he means to say, As sons of God, imitate the Son in His obedience, and learn from Him to present your bodies a living sacrifice, and be conformed to the image of the Son in this regard also (Rom.8:29).
God Himself has given us the very best help, through the gift of the spirit of His Son (Gal.4:6). Through Him a very earnest longing for the Father is awakened, so that we may say, as once the Son Himself, "Abba, Father."
Our own apostle stands before us in this as a glorious example. He was so filled with the disposition of Christ Jesus, and with the obedience of the Son, that his life was devoted solely to God and the execution of His will. He reached such a high plane in this regard, that he was authorized by the spirit of God to exhort the saints to imitate him. Indeed, his life makes plain how fully the spirit of Christ can bring those who willingly follow Him, into fellowship with the Father. Twice, in his letters, he, like the Son, uses the "Abba, Father" (Mark 14:36; Rom.8:15; Gal.4:6), so that every believer is privileged to do the same. "Grace and peace" at the beginning of his epistles, comes "from God, our Father, and the Lord, Jesus Christ." That is fruit which sprang from fellowship with the Son.
According to these examples, that of the Son and our apostle, God has designated us for Himself. As soon as we recognize and get a grasp of this, we will understand how to form and foster our fellowship with God, the Father, altogether in conformity to His will. "Not work" is also, in this case, the first and foremost rule, but rather to live in heart and fellowship.
The closest communion on earth consists in mutual exchange of thought between two humans who love each other, which leads to immanent and reciprocal fruitfulness. Children can give their parents the greatest joy when they take time to consider their good advice and warnings, and so look up to them in love, that their lives are transformed thereby. On this foundation our closest communion with God also rests.
As a woman out of the throng lifted up her voice and said to Jesus, "Happy, the womb which bears Thee, and the breasts which Thou didst suckle!" and supposed that the closest communion lay in this, He replied, "happy are those who are hearing the Word of God and maintaining it" (Luke 11:27,28)! and showed by this that the reception of God's Word creates the nearest tie to God, and is much higher than the ties of blood.
In this way comes genuine fellowship with the heavenly Father. In the Scriptures, through Christ, we are given a revelation of Him. By means of reading and reception by faith of all His sayings, He continually grows greater in His love and glory. So do we grow in the realization of God (Col.1:10), and our thinking is provided with the correct contents, so that we may be occupied with Him according to the Scriptures. The acceptance and preservation, that is pondering on the things of God, really consists in a childlike, believing aberration in Him, that leads to intimate conversation with Him, our Father. Especially the sight of the offering of His beloved Son for us draws us into His love, and is able to so grip our hearts that they can love Him fervently again and devotedly respond that He is the main object of our affection. He fills our hearts and we disappear in Him, and while we give Him the first place, our own personality remains minute and in the background. It is His highest aim, through the love poured out in our hearts by holy spirit (Rom.5:5), to lead us to love Him fervently again. That is the consummate form and highest plane of our existence for God, according to the wishes of His heart. It gives Him the greatest joy. Such communion with Him is a wholesome and sane mysticism, free of all that is dark and secret. We should consider more how He longs for the communion of the heart. We would keep the spring of our motives, the heart, much cleaner. Not only every bad, but vain and unprofitable thoughts, would be immediately dismissed by means of the discipline of the spirit, in order to put this whole sphere of our lives at the disposal of our Father.
Yes, indeed, "FOR GOD" deserves to be taken by all of us as the motto for our lives, and this expressed will of God should call for our highest endeavor. And when we see this wish of our Father's heart as the highest goal of our existence, it will give our short lives the most precious substance. Thus it has positive value to have lived, for no one else in the whole world would be worth clinging to in such fervent love, as our faithful Father and Saviour.
We cannot enjoy this blessed grace without considering that this is due to our highly loved Redeemer, His beloved Son. Indeed, it is to His God-forsaken suffering on the cross, that we owe this union with His Father. Forsooth, on the basis of what He accomplished for creation, He could bind it to Him permanently. Satan demands worshipful prostration to himself (Matt.4:9; Rev.13:8), and a spoiled son, Absalom, once stole hearts for himself which belonged by rights to his father (2 Sam.15:6)
Not so does the Son treat His Father. He does not seek to glorify Himself, but the Father (John 7:18). To be sure, He seeks to draw the hearts of the creatures to Himself, but only to present them to God as those who have been conquered by His love and to direct all worship to Him. The Son seeks and finds His greatest glory in bringing them into willing and happy subjection to the Father (1 Cor.15:28). Yet just this unselfishness in exemplary obedience will accord Him the unreserved love and affection of all hearts and through it again there will be generated still greater love to the Father, according to the word of Jesus: "Now he who is loving Me will be loved by My Father..." (John 14:2; 16:22).
To enter into this experience down here, indicates that we have taken a great step forward in the life which His own should live. In the beginning, in the childhood stage of faith, we hold fast to the grace gifts we find in Christ for every joy, and we pray to Him and acclaim Him. That is a very proper attitude, and it is quite right to give glory to our Saviour, for God calls us into His fellowship (1 Cor.1:9).
Yet one who is growing innerly and wholesomely will soon be led to see through the spirit of God that we were designated beforehand for sonship through Christ for God, and that Christ desires to lead us into the fellowship with the Father. So we give Him the opportunity to fulfill His mediatorship between God and us. From His Word to the ecclesia we are taught to thank God through Christ Jesus (Rom.1:8; 7:25), because through Christ we have access to the Father (Eph.2:18; 3:12). All our efforts in the life of faith should accord with this: "And everything, whatsoever you may be doing, in word and in act, do all in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God, the Father through Him" (Col.3:17).
It is something wonderfully great to enter into such communion with God, the Father, through Christ Jesus, that we are entirely taken up with it and exist only for Him, so that He becomes our All. This is a preview, on a small scale, through the elect, of the grand goal: "God All in all." In this manner have we already arrived at the consummation of the eons (1 Cor.10:11), for then will all God's creatures recognize Him as Father willingly and joyfully, and enter into heartfelt fellowship with Him. But that will not be until judgment, darkness and evil have fulfilled their purpose, and have been abolished by God forever. Yet it must be immeasurably precious for God, if today, during this dark man's day, in this evil eon, in which the adversary is god (2 Cor.4:4), thankful and loving calls to Him, as Abba, Father, ascend.
If, then, this communion of heart with our heavenly Father is the inauguration of our service and all our labor for Him, our work of faith will be supported by a priceless peace and rich restfulness, and be free of all pressure and haste. Where, however, this experience of being for Him is absent, we may devote time and energy for Him without His finding that for which He most eagerly longs.
Thus fellowship and service for Him belong inextricably together. Like the disciples, we are being prepared and furnished for work, far more glorious than that which the twelve will have, in that, in Him, the Crucified and Risen One, we bring near and offer His conciliation to humanity. The motive power, therefore, is His love (2 Cor.5:14). Yet, in view of our future service, this is only a beginning, practice, training.
Christ Himself has received the grand calling, according to God's loving plan, to bring back all to the Father. To accomplish this great task, He is given fellow-workers, chosen for Him. On earth the people of Israel will be His instrument through which He will lead back mankind to Jehovah. For the celestial realms, which also have a share in the reconciliation (Col.1:20), there is a similar provision. There will be heralded the conciliatory message of grace, through the ecclesia which is His body, in the unbounded regions of the heavens, in order that these creatures, estranged from God through offenses, may be recalled to willing subjection to Him. And this high-yes, the highest-service for God, comes to us, who were chosen before the disruption. O, what glories are stored up for us in the phrase "for Him!"
How constricted and small it is to be sure, seen from this high vantage point, if we appropriate Christ merely for our own salvation, and remain stationary, and have no interest in God's great goal and tasks for us and with us, perhaps with the thought that He will be fully satisfied with this. To be sure, we also encounter in the ecclesia that commendable passion for the salvation of as many as possible before the descent of Christ. This event however, is usually taken as the end. At most we expect that there will be blessing for the nations in the millennial kingdom. But in our days the spirit of God is promoting the knowledge in the ecclesia, that the divine work of salvation will enter a powerful epoch in the coming eons, in which we will be the chief participants. Paul makes supplication for this knowledge in a special prayer for the ecclesia, it seemed so important to Him (Eph.1:17). As those whom He has called, we must know our calling, which consists in this, to bring about the fulfillment of God's great promise to be All in all. Even in his day it was of great concern to Paul that Christ's complete success should not be seen in the dim light of an apparent failure. He knew very well that this knowledge of God's grand design would release believers and free them of paltry and selfish motives. For one who has clearly seen that God, in our previous designation, has first of all His own interests at heart in bringing back the universe to Himself, will be ashamed that, so often, the pious "I" has been the center of his thoughts.
After the illumination of the holy spirit has revealed our exalted position in grace, we will not overlook the fact that, in the middle of this verse, which unfolds our glory, the deepest depth of our life in unbelief is also prominent (Eph.1:7). Such a recollection of that time when we were alienated from God, may raise serious questions which can lead to self-accusations that produce internal tensions. "The deliverance through His blood" points to our erstwhile slavery under the power of Satan and sin. Here our weakness is in the foreground, in which we were not able to defend ourselves against their superior strength. But "forgiveness of offenses," indicates that we are such as have greatly offended the loving heart of God, the Father. This mention, in the minds of the many loving deeds done for us long before we existed, is bitter and painful for the heart. How humiliating it is for us to be reminded that God, after these evidences of His love, should have reaped such dishonoring fruit from our lives! To be sure, Satan's craft and might is great, and we could not hinder it, that we came under his power. But offenses against our heavenly Father -oh, that they had never had a place in our lives! - so we are inclined to say. We have probably the most upright and loving forgiveness of the offenses, which assures us that God does not bear the least grudge against us. But, to the entirely consecrated heart, even that cannot fully free it from a bitter blame.
Children who have grieved their loving parents by serious offenses, shame, and dishonor, will, when they come to see their unworthy conduct, and have their parents, hearty forgiveness, never be entirely free from a painful regret that they were able to do such things.
So, in the heart of the believer, there persists a quiet lament over his erstwhile enmity toward God, his Father. The forgiveness of his offenses may sometimes operate like embers of fire on his head, especially in cases of excessive guilt. Such inner unrest often leads to the question whether God could not have hindered it, as well as the ardent wish that evil had never entered creation.
In order to fully and finally set aside this tension, to lead to the deepest rest and internal peace and an untroubled enjoyment of His forgiveness and grace, God bestows upon His ecclesia a revelation of the very earliest and continuous cause of all, and unites it with the doctrine of our selection in and for Him: "being designated beforehand according to the purpose of the One Who is operating all in accord with the counsel of His will..." (Eph.1:11). This "all" embraces everything without exception, including also the cause of our offenses against Him. The best commentary, perhaps, is Rom.11:32: "For God locks all up together, in stubbornness" (so that no one could do otherwise than offend God) "that He should be merciful to all."