1. Eternal Union with Christ
Having been occupied with Christ Himself, the meaning of Christ, seeking to set the background, lay the foundation, in some little understanding of His greatness and of His place, we now should be able to follow on with the meaning of our union with Him. You will see that the New Testament gives us various conceptions of that union. These are not different unions that is to say, the similes used of these unions do not apply to different bodies of people. They are only aspects of the one union, but each one has its own particular significance and value.
Let us first of all look at the first chapter of the letter to the Ephesians:
"Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world" (verse 4).
"Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will" (verse 5).
"In whom also we were made an heritage" (verse 11).
And if you ask, When were we made a heritage? -
"...to them that are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:28-29).
"Elect ... according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (1 Peter 1:1, 2).
"...The men whom thou gavest me ... thine they were, and thou gavest them to me ... Keep them in thy name which thou hast given me" (John 17:6, 11).
I ought at once to say that we are not embarking upon a theological discussion or argument. This matter of election or foreordination or predestination has passed almost entirely into schools of doctrine and has split the Church into parties through the ages, and it still remains largely an academic subject, to be debated, argued, wrestled with intellectually. For our part we will have none of it. It would be unprofitable, it would get us nowhere and we are not moving in that realm. We are seeking spiritual values, practical values for our own spiritual lives, and so we lift this matter right out of the realm of argument and debate and seek to see it in the light of Christ. It is entirely governed by Christ, for it is only in Christ that it exists.
But, before we go further, I want to say this. This matter of election relates to the Church and must be confined to the Church. (I would prefer to call the Church by the name of "the elect," because the very word "Church" has become an ecclesiastical conception.) It belongs to the Church, the Church belongs to it, and its real meaning has only been divulged in this dispensation. We are given to understand by the Word of God that all previous dispensations were pointing to, leading to and heading up to this dispensation, as though there were a drive behind them to reach a dispensation of fullness or completeness. They were all impartial, imperfect, unsatisfactory, all just reaching a certain phase passed to phase, and on to another phase, and still there was the waiting, the hoping, the expecting, the requiring, and then this age or dispensation came. It is called in the New Testament the "dispensation of the fullness of the times" (Ephesians 1:10). This is a very significant little phrase. The times are made full, all the times are made full, in this one. All those which lack fullness and finality are filled up in this one. This one gives that which they lacked and needed; this is the dispensation of the fullness, or completeness, of the times. This is what the Apostle calls "the ends of the ages" (1 Corinthians 10:11).
~ T. Austin-Sparks~
(continued with # 13)