Arthur W. Pink
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will (Ephesians 1:3-5).
God decreed that His own dear Son should be made visibly glorious in a human nature, through a union with it to His own person. Then for His greater glory, God decreed us to be adopted sons through Him as brethren unto Him. For God [did not desire] His Son [to] be alone in [human nature], but [to] have “fellows” or companions to enhance His glory. First, by His comparison with them, for He is “anointed above His fellows” (Psa 45:7), being “the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29). Second, God gave to His Son a unique honor and matchless glory by ordaining Him to be [the] God-man, and, for enhancing the same, He ordained that there should be those about Him who might see His glory and magnify Him for [it] (Joh 17:24). Third, God ordained us to adoption1 that Christ might be the means of all the glory of our sonship, which we have through Him; for He is not only our pattern in predestination,2 but the virtual cause of it…By His electing act, God took the Church into a definite and personal relation to Himself, so that He reckons and regards its members as His own dear children and people. Consequently, even while they are in a state of nature, before their regeneration,3 He views and owns them as such. This is very blessed and wonderful, though alas it is a truth that is almost unknown in present day Christendom.
It is now commonly assumed that we only become the children of God when we are born again, that we have no relation to Christ until we have embraced Him with the arms of faith. But with the Scriptures in our hands, there is no excuse for such ignorance…Love in the heart of God was a secret in Himself from everlasting, being wholly unknown before the world began, except to Christ [the] God-man; yet it has been exercised towards the whole election of grace. Though they were beloved with a love [that] contained the uttermost of God’s good will unto them and to the uttermost of blessing, grace, and glory, yet it was in such a way and manner that, for a season, they were altogether unacquainted with [it]. Though the acts of God’s will in Christ’s person concerning them and upon them were such as could never cease, nevertheless, they were, for a season, to be in a state in the which none of them were to be opened and made known to them. All was in the incomprehensible mind of Jehovah from everlasting, and the same it will be to everlasting; but the revelation and manifestation of [it] has been made at different times and in various degrees.
The various conditions in which God’s elect find themselves not only exhibit the manifold wisdom of God, but illustrate our last remark above. The elect were to be in a creature state of purity and holiness; as such they were made naturally in Adam. From that they fell into a state of sin and misery, sharing the guilt and depravity of their federal head.4 They were to be brought therefrom into a redeemed state by the atoning work of Christ and given a knowledge of this through the quickening and sanctifying operations of the Spirit. After their earthly course is finished, they are brought into a sinless state, while they rest from their labors and await the consummation5 of their salvation. In due course, they shall be brought into the resurrection state, and from thence into the state of everlasting glory and unutterable bliss…
In all these states through which the elect are ordained to pass, the love of God is exercised and displayed toward them and upon them, agreeably to “the good pleasure of His will” (Eph 1:5). The secret and everlasting love of God to His chosen and His open disclosure6 of [it]—though distinct parts—are one and the same love.
The first act of God’s love to the persons of those whom He chose in Christ consisted in giving them being in Christ, wellbeing in Christ from everlasting. That was the fundamental act of all grace and glory, for God then “blessed them with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 1:3). The love of God in His own heart towards the person of Christ, the Head of the whole election of grace, cannot be expressed! And His love towards the persons of the elect in Christ is so great and infinite that the Scriptures themselves declare it “passeth knowledge” (Eph 3:19). The open expression and manifestation of this love is now our design to ponder.
First, the incarnation and mission of Christ: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1Jo 4:9). Take notice of the persons unto whom the love of God was thus manifested, expressed in the word us. This is a term the sacred writers made use of to include and express the saints of God. It is a distinguishing excellency of the apostles that they bring home their subjects with all their energy to the minds of saints, and then apply them so that hereby the truth might be felt in all its vast importance. Let the subject be election, redemption, effectual calling, or glorification, and most generally they use the term us, as thereby including themselves and all the believers to whom they wrote. This serves fitly to evince7 that all of them are alike interested in all the blessings and benefits of grace, which opens the way for them to appropriate and enjoy the good of them in the Scriptures.
To illustrate what has just been pointed out: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph 1:3-6). In that passage, the repeated us shows the interest that all the saints have in their eternal election in Christ. With respect to effectual calling, the apostle uses the word us in Romans 9:24, [as he does in] connection with salvation (note the us in 2Ti 1:9) and glorification (see Eph 2:7; Rom 8:18). Let it be carefully observed that whereas this repeated us in the Epistles includes the whole election of grace, yet it excludes all other and cannot with any truth or propriety be applied to any but the called of God in Christ Jesus.
We next consider in what this open manifestation of the love of God consisted, namely, in the incarnation and mission of Christ. In the infinite mind of Jehovah, all His love concerning the persons of the elect was conceived from everlasting, with the various ways and means by which [they] should be displayed and made known in time, so that the Church might be the more sensibly taken therewith. Notwithstanding His eternal love to His people in Christ, it pleased the Lord to [ordain] their fall from a state of creature purity into depravity; [likewise,] their redemption from [their fall] was predetermined. An everlasting covenant transaction took place between the Father and the Son, wherein the latter engaged to assume human nature and act as their Surety and Redeemer. His incarnation, life, and death were fixed upon as the means of their salvation. This became the subject of Old Testament prophecy: that Christ was to be manifested in the flesh (1Ti 3:16), with what He was to do and suffer, in order to take away sin and bring in everlasting righteousness.
That which was revealed in the Scriptures of the prophets concerning Christ made it fully evident that it was of God that the whole of it was originally [a] council-transaction in heaven before time began, the fruit of consultation between Jehovah and the Branch, of which the eternal Spirit was witness. He [communicated] the same to holy men, “spake as they were moved” by Him (1Pe 1:21), for He “searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1Co 2:10). In the person of Emmanuel, “God with us” (Mat 1:23), by His open incarnation and the salvation He wrought out and most honorably completed, all the love of the blessed Trinity is reflected most gloriously. God has shone forth in all the greatness and majesty of His love upon His Church in Christ, and thus displayed His everlasting good will unto them. He has so loved them as to give His only begotten Son (Joh 3:16). This is clearly set forth in His Word, so that it is all-sufficient to keep up a lively sense thereof in our minds, as the Spirit is pleased to maintain a believing knowledge of it in our hearts.
A brief word upon the end of this manifestation of the love of God as spoken of in 1 John 4:9: it is “that we might live through him.” “It is through the incarnation and mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ that we live through Him a life of justification, peace, pardon, acceptance, and access to God…The elect of God in their fallen state were all sin, corruption, misery, and death; in these circumstances God commended His love toward them, in that while they were yet sinners Christ died for them. He by His death removed their sins from them. He loved them and washed them from their sins in His own blood, and brought them nigh unto God, so that herein the Father’s everlasting love of them is most distinctly evidenced.”8
A most striking parallel with the Scripture we have looked at above is the statement made by the Lord to His Father in John 17:6: “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me.” The manifesting of the name of God, or the secret mystery of His mind and will, could only be performed by Christ, Who had been in the bosom of the Father from everlasting, Who became incarnate in order to make visible Him Who is invisible (1Ti 1:17). It was the office and work of the Messiah to open the “hidden wisdom” (1Co 2:7), to unlock the holy of holies, to declare what had been kept secret from the foundation of the world; and here in John 17, He declares that He had faithfully discharged it. But mark well how the us of 1 John 4:9 is here defined as “the men which thou gavest me out of the world.” Yes, it was to them Christ manifested God’s ineffable9 name.
In John 17, Christ opened the whole heart of God, making known His everlasting love as was never revealed before. Therein He expounded the good will that the Father bore to the elect in Christ Jesus, in a manner sufficient to fill the spiritual mind with knowledge and understanding, even such as was calculated to lead to an entire trust and confidence in the Lord for all the blessings of this life and that which is to come. And who could give this information but Himself? He came down from heaven with this express end and design. He was the great Prophet over the House of God. He had the key of all the treasury of grace and glory. In Him personally was “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3) …It is [God’s] love to the Church, His covenant relation to His people in Christ, the eternal delight of His heart to them, which Christ has been pleased to so fully reveal.
It is by the Lord’s admitting us into the knowledge of Himself that we are led to know our election of God. The true apprehension of this is a ground for joy, therefore did Christ say, “Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luk 10:20). As we cannot know that we are the beloved of God but by believing on His Son, so this is the fruit of spiritual knowledge. Christ has the key of knowledge and opens the door of faith, so that we receive Him as revealed in the Word. By His Spirit, He is pleased to shed abroad the love of God in the heart
(Rom 5:5). He gives the Spirit to make a revelation of the everlasting covenant to our minds, and thereby we are made to know and feel the love of God to be the fountain and spring of all grace and everlasting consolation. As Jehovah caused all His goodness to pass before Moses and showed him His glory (Exo 33:19), so He admits us into the knowledge of Himself as “The LORD God, merciful and gracious” (Exo 34:6).
From Studies in the Scriptures
A.W. Pink (1886-1952): Pastor, itinerate Bible teacher, author; born in Nottingham, England, UK.
1. adoption – Adoption is an act of God’s free grace whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God. (Spurgeon’s Catechism, Q. 33).
2. predestination – God’s sovereign foreknowledge and determination of all things, including the salvation of His chosen ones and the rejection of unbelievers.
3. See FGB 202, The New Birth.
4. federal head – Federal theology suggests that Adam, as the first human, acted as the “federal head” or legal representative of the rest of humankind…Just as Adam was the federal head of humanity, so also Christ enters history as a second Adam, free from the curse, and acts as the covenantal head of righteousness for all those who believe in Him. (Grenz, Guretzki, and Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, 50-51)
5. consummation – completion; full accomplishment at the end of the world.
6. disclosure – act of making known.
7. evince – prove
8. Samuel Eyles Pierce (1746-1829), An Exposition of the Epistle of First John (Springfield, MO: Particular Baptist Press), 78.
9. ineffable – too great to be described in words.
Courtesy of Chapel Library