Jesus Thought of Us Before Time
Jesus Thought of Us Before Time
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
This is to see if you’re awake, when did Paul write the letter to the Ephesians, what year? You’d be embarrassed.
No, ’57. Oh, I’m sorry ’62, you were right. What a way to start a class. Who’s awake now? (lots of laughter) This is just a sermon, it’s not a class. That’s right. I’ll watch you because you’re like that little guy in the back that has all the answers except you’re a big guy.
Well loved ones, will you turn to Ephesians chapter one. That’s what we’re studying and we’re about the fourth or fifth Sunday into the study of Ephesians. And you’ll remember that the last verse we studied was verse 3. Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” And of course, the surprise to us is the past tense there; who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. We usually expect, “Oh blessed be our Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who will bless us, in this life, with every spiritual blessing.
But here Paul says, “Who has blessed us,” it’s already done. Of course, that is startling to us and we wonder, “Does he just mean the Ephesians? Is he just talking to the Ephesian Christians?” He’s saying, “Now, you’ve all been born of God and you’ve received the blessing of regeneration. Therefore you’re now experiencing the blessing of sanctification, you’re now experiencing the blessing of healings and gifts of the spirit, and you have now been blessed in these past years with every spiritual blessing.” Well, they all didn’t have every spiritual blessing so he can hardly mean that.
Then he adds, “Who has blessed you in the heavenly places with all these spiritual blessings.” So he’s obviously talking about more than just what a pastor would say to his flock, “Now listen, since you came to Jesus you’ve had many spiritual blessings.” He’s saying more than that. I wouldn’t say to you, “You’ve had many spiritual blessings in the heavenly places.” You’d say, “No, we’ve had them right here on earth.” But Paul says, “You have been blessed, not with many spiritual blessings but with every spiritual blessing. Every blessing that you need you have already been blessed with it, in Christ, in the heavenly places.”
And you remember how we went into this whole business of the heavenly places and what that word meant. And it begins to bring enlightenment to us because we realize that heaven, among the Jews, had three meanings. One — it meant broadly speaking, the atmosphere where the birds fly. The astronaut who answered the question right at the beginning would say, “Where the planes fly, whatever that height is.” I think we fly at 37,000 feet or 39,000 feet when we’re flying across the Atlantic. Well obviously, you can go up several miles, but it’s the atmosphere and that’s the first meaning that the Jews had for heaven. And then there is the stellar, or stella. This is just the Latin word for star, so it’s the starry heavens, the places where we see the stars. And then the third one was of course, what Paul talks about as the third heaven. It’s what the Bible refers to as heaven itself.
And you remember we got some light on this whole verse as we talked about the incredible distances
that are involved in the third heaven, or even in the stellar heaven. Here you have the earth, and here you have a little star way out here. And you remember we said that many of those stars died thousands or millions of years ago so that what we’re seeing is just the light that is coming from them. We said that light travels at 182,000 miles per second and therefore in one light year you’d travel six trillion miles.
So really we’re saying that this star is an incredible distance from the earth. We also said that after a year it would have traveled six trillion miles, so the star itself might have died six trillion miles ago, or a light year ago, but the light has just reached that point. Then in another six trillion miles it would have reached there but of course 12 trillion miles back the star would have died, or two light years ago the star would have died. And yet, we’re experiencing something that was experienced back there two years ago.
Well then of course, as you multiply that you begin to realize, “Wait a minute. Depending on what point in the universe you were in, it would determine what you were experiencing. If you were back here you’d be experiencing what was there back there.” And you start to realize that even in our own physical universe we can perceive without even going into this spiritual dimension, which is obviously a different kind of existence completely. But even in this one we can see that there is the possibility of time being transcended and of you actually experiencing things depending on where you were in the universe.
In a sense God can transport us to some place here where that has just taken place in his heart, where the lamb has just been slain in his heart. God is able to transport us to a place where all that has just happened. And of course, for most of us, the easier way to see it is still the illustration of the little guy, who is down here watching through the hole in the fence. He’s watching the precession coming and here is one, two, three and four. He can just see those and maybe also five and six. He just sees a little bit. With us it’s just 80 years of life.
But perhaps we extend it to the life of mankind and we say it’s 4,000 BC to beyond 2,000 AD. But he just sees that little bit. But his elder brother, climbs onto the roof and his elder brother can see everything that is about to come and everything that is passed. And there is a place where God is, a place in the third heaven, a place in the heavens, where everything is seen as one present moment. And that’s what Paul is pointing to when he says, “Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
We have already been crucified, and raised up and made to sit with God in the heavenly places. We have already experienced that there. And then God has created a little physical universe where he can play it out second-by-second so that we have the chance of appreciating all that and entering into it. But it all has already happened. God has already blessed us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus with every spiritual blessing.
Of course, the great advantage and blessing of it is we are not down here trying to shoot ourselves up into God. We’re not down here trying by faith and belief to shoot ourselves into Christ. We have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. We are in Christ. The issue is not how do you get into Christ. The issue is living in that reality now and that’s what faith is called. Faith is not creating in yourself a feeling that you’re in Christ. Faith is living in reality, living in the fact that you have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing.
The struggle in being healed is not a struggle of trying to feel healed. It is simply a struggle to
see what reality is and to live in that reality. So we have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing and that’s what Paul is saying. We’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. Every spiritual blessing? Yes, every one. God who is rich – out of the great love with which he has loved us, who is rich in mercy towards us, even when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God enabled that to happen even when we were yet sinners, even back here in the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.
Now you might say, “Well wait a minute. ‘Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus’, that doesn’t necessarily mean before we were made. I know Psalms 139 seems to imply that God saw our unformed substance and that he had every day of our lives written in the book before there were any of them, but still this verse just says God blessed us sometime in the past in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Let’s look at today’s verse, “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” It’s just so blatant, and so simply stated that it’s very hard to get around it. “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” There’s nothing mysterious about it. That is the Greek, this is the Latin and the vulgate for it sicut. That’s it. Lloyd Jones is right, he translated “according as”. Actually it’s quite interesting because he says, “How are these blessings to become ours?” And he says, “God gives the answer in the next few verses.” They become ours even as he chose us in Christ, according as how he chose us in Christ. Sicut in Latin really means “just as if”, or “just as”. Just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.
How do those blessings become yours? Because God chose you in Christ. No, no, they become ours as we have faith. No, that’s not what Paul says. He says, “They become yours because they’ve been given to Christ and God has chosen you in Christ before the foundation of the world.” Those of you who know a little Greek know that exelexato – would be transliterated like that, and so that it’s God elected you, he chose you, he selected you, and he elected you in Christ before the foundation of the world.
So these blessings are ours because they belong to Christ and God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. And if you want to know, “Well, wait a minute is there some way around it in the old foundation of the world?” No, catabolic is actually – those of you who know a little Greek will know pro – means just before, and here is “katabole” in English letters. “Kata” is down and “bole” is “to throw”. I suppose hyperbole comes from. But it means “throw down”, or “cast down”. So it’s a foundation, something that you cast down or you throw down. So that’s what it means, “God chose you in Christ before the foundation of the world.” Before there was any world God chose us in Christ.
Now, just going back to my attempt to tell the story simply — when our dear Father conceived his Son Jesus, he conceived his Son Jesus not only as his divine Son who would dwell with him in eternity, but at that same moment, he conceived of us. I know it just humbles you. He conceived of his Son as the one who would be the first born of all creation and in his Son he conceived of us, other children that would share his fellowship and would be like him, and would love him. And we would do that inside his Son. That’s why he conceived of us in his Son.
I don’t know what you think but I always thought, not quite that we were an afterthought, but I always thought of the Father having a whole life with Christ for millions or billions of years and then suddenly he thought, “Oh I must make some others.” Well of course it’s hard for us to conceive
of eternity but God obviously thinks of everything at the same moment. We’re engaged in silliness when we talk this way because what do we know about infinity or eternity? But obviously God doesn’t think sequentially, “Oh, what will I do next?” He sees everything at once.
So the moment he conceived of his Son in that spaceless, timeless existence of eternity he conceived of us little human beings. He conceived of his son therefore as the first-born among all creation, as the first among many brethren. Then Ephesians 2:10, “You are God’s, workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” In other words, he created us in his Son Jesus and in that way he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.
He made us part of his Son. He knew what we would do. He knew that if he was going to give us freewill he had to give us the freewill to actually kill him and yet in some way he had to retain his life. He actually was committed therefore to destroying us and yet in Jesus, allowing us to be raised up again. And all that was conceived before the foundation of the world which is why the Bible talks in revelation about Jesus being the lamb that was slain from before the foundation of the world. This is why Romans 6 talks about we were crucified with Christ from before the foundation of the world. All that took place in Jesus.
In other words, the Father said, “My Son will you allow these dear hearts that I have made inside you to exercise their own free will? It’ll result in your death, it’ll result in pain, and it’ll result in me being in you reconciling the world to myself on that cross. I too will suffer what you suffer but it’s the only way we can be real about this. It’s the only way in which we can make men and woman and maintain our own integrity and they maintain their integrity. They must be free to do their worst against us. But my Son, I love you and I love them and I want them to be with us. So will you bear them and raise them up because you deserve not to be killed? And then you remember, it says, “He made him to be sin who knew no sin.”
Jesus did not deserve death himself. He died because he was full of us and we had to die. And so Jesus said, “Yes, Father you know I will because of course they’re one.” Then all that took place at that moment before the world was. Then it was played out here in this temporal existence so that we could each one say our “Amen” or say our “No” to the thing.
But that I think is part of the explanation of this mighty verse. These blessings are ours because God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. The great thing it does is deliver us from this dreadful subjectivism. Subjectivism is one of the weaknesses of the Pentecostal movement, our own evangelical movement and certainly parts of the Methodist Church. There’s a strong temptation for us to be preoccupied with our subjective experience, “Have you faith? “No, I haven’t faith.” “Well, you have to get faith.”
We have to see that faith is not what saves us. It’s by grace that we are saved through faith. But we’re saved by grace. We’re saved by God planning all this before the foundation of the world and graciously providing and giving all that we needed, while allowing us at this moment to live in the midst of all of that and reject it all if we choose. Or, by faith — by simply recognizing, accepting, and living it, we enter into it all here on earth.
So this is part of what is involved in this verse. I would ask you to think about it because you’ll see that there is not only great truth in it but great strength. The issue is not, are you sanctified or are you justified. The issue is, are you living in the reality of what God has done for you and to you in Jesus? Are you living in Jesus? Rather indeed, is Jesus living in you? Is
Jesus living his life in you or are you living your own life trying to imitate him?
So it is a great blessing. I ask you to read that verse again and think about it according and as he has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. It’s interesting that you can see there’s no emphasis on predestination where they say “He’s chosen us but he’s rejected everybody else.” No, what the verse says is he has chosen us and Christ has died for all, therefore all have died.
That’s what it says in Romans 6. We judge that if Christ died for all then all died – I think it’s 2 Corinthians 5, that all have died. And of course, that’s the horror of it as we think, “you mean Hitler died? You mean OJ Simpson died? You mean the person that murdered that person last week died?” Yes, yes, that’s part of the agony of God that he has suffered all that is needed to enable every one of us to live in the glory and beauty of Christ. He has borne it for every man and every woman.
That’s the wonderful gospel and it’s mighty because it’s why these people suffered to share the good news. That’s why, because they were telling everybody, “God has done everything to you and in you in Jesus that is needed. It’s all yours. It’s still yours even as you’re rejecting him at this moment, it’s still yours. It’s yours until the very end.” There finally comes a time where of course, you can hold out against what God has done but that’s the good news.
That’s the good news that the man that comes to deliver the meat, doesn’t know. They may know about Jesus Christ, and God, but they don’t know that. They don’t know that and they don’t even suspect that that’s possible. They just think they’re poor little creatures that are their mother’s sons and that have a short little life here, 70 maybe 80 years, and they’ll go out like a light. But they don’t know this, and that’s why the good news is such good news. That’s what God has given us to live and share. Let us pray.
Dear Father, we thank you for the wonder of this. We thank you Lord, for the immense, overwhelming, magnanimous generosity that has prompted you to love us like this and give us everything that we need in Jesus — to give us a free place at your right hand, to give us at this moment, your willing readiness to provide all that is needed in this life freely, because you love us.
Oh Lord, we thank you for such kindness. We thank you Lord, for delivering us from such a long uphill struggle to try to get into heaven. We see Father, that you are greater than our hearts. Even if our own hearts condemn us, you are greater than our hearts. You have lifted us above even our own favors and you look upon us as your own dear Son, as the very apple of your eye. And you continue to give us freely all the grace, and strength, and power that we need. We thank you Lord.
Father, we can only think of one thing to do and that is bow down before you and thank you and begin to walk in the glory of this. We thank you Father in Jesus.