My Jesus, I love Thee

IMG_2343Penned by William R. Featherston in 1864, this hymn is based on 1 John 4:19– encapsulating the love of the Saints for Jesus. The hymn basks in the glorious and beauteous union that saved sinners have with Jesus because of His finished work on the cross (Eph. 1:7).

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

– William R. Featherston (1864)

 

Hymn CI

IMG_2343‘Holy, Holy, Holy!’, written by Reginald Heber, is a dear hymn of profound proportions; one that induces an immense amount of reverence, wonder and worship for the Three Person God who created us. This hymn speaks of God being three– God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit, in the syllabic structure of 11. 12. 12. 10.
Holy, Holy, Holy!  Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee: 
Holy, holy, holy!  merciful and mighty, 
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity! 

Holy, Holy, Holy!  all the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, Holy, Holy!  Though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see,
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love and purity.

Holy, Holy, Holy!  Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, Holy, Holy!  Merciful and mighty,
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!

– Reginald Heber (1783-1826)

 

Exegetical Muse | Ephesians 1:4

Ephesians | chapter one | verse 4

‘Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we might be holy and blameless before Him in love,’

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetPaul, in verse three, explained to us that we, who are saved, have been blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ; that is, these blessings are in Christ; our union with Him allows us to be partakers of these benefits. It is thus here, in verse four, that we are introduced to the first blessing of our union with Christ, viz., that of our election.

As we isolate this verse for a closer inspection, we ought to interpret it with the last sub-ordinate clause in mind; that our blessings, and, in this instance, our election, has its source in the love of God. It is the love of God that pervades our salvation, a love so bizarre yet profoundly beautiful; and it is that which Frederick H. Lehman speaks about when he says,

‘…could we with ink the oceans fill, and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade; to write the love of God above, would drain the oceans dry, nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky’ (1917).

With this glorious truth in mind, we should note that it is fundamentally our by election that we are made recipients of such spiritual and heavenly blessings. Our election is the antecedent that brings about the rest of our heavenly blessings; one cannot receive the blessings Paul speak of if one has not yet first been elected.

Paul, firstly states that God has chosen us. By ‘us’, is meant those who believe; those who have received sonship, those who have remission of their sins, who are being made holy and who eagerly await eternal life. Additionally, our being chosen by God is through Christ. Hodge explains, ‘It is in Christ, as our head and representative, that we are chosen to holiness and eternal life, and, therefore in virtue of what he did on our behalf’ (paraphrase from Commentary on Ephesians, p.9).  It is our union with Christ; our relationship to Him that we are made partakers of this gospel; this covenant of redemption, for it is God’s very purpose and desire to save men in Christ and elect us unto salvation.

Paul clarifies and confines our being chosen as an event which took place ‘before the foundation of the world’. Our being chosen ‘before time’, confers two things, – 1. That God the Father works all things after the counsel of His will; by bringing about all things according to a preconceived idea or plan. Hodge says that the ‘whole scheme of redemption…lay mature in the divine mind’. From this truth we can be convinced that everything is certain, that there can be no fault or failure in the purpose of God; for He is sovereign.  This brings us to our second point, – 2. That grace was graciously given to us before we even existed; before we breathed the air of life; before we had committed any deeds– whether good or bad. As Eph. 2:8-10 states, our salvation is by grace through faith, and that the basis of our election is for or unto good works, not by them. Ultimately, we are to take away with us a great deal of both confidence and humility; confidence in the God who is Lord of all; who’s hand cannot be twisted; who spoke all that exists into existence; who’s footstool is earth; who chose us in Christ – anything but confidence in Him is a mockery of His person. Of humility– we who are saved, have no ground upon which to boast on; our salvation is not of our own, but of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on our behalf (Eph. 1:7).

Finally, our election in Christ, according to the foreknowledge of God, is unto holiness. Holiness is that end to which we are saved. This state, of being holy, is not an immediate one, not fully attained in this life, instead it is only wholly actualized once in glory. Paul, here, thus, speaks of this day when we are made holy as He is holy. As of now, we undergo the process of sanctification– tending toward holiness; as Christ chips away at our sins, yet we are simultaneously already justified before the eyes of the Father, as Christ is our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). This verse, then, speaks of our being presently justified, not of our present process of being sanctified. Hodge comments, ‘We are reconciled to God by the death of His Son in order that we should be holy. Propitiation is in order to holiness’ (Commentary on Ephesians, p.11). 

To conclude, we are chosen by God, through Christ to be a holy people– a people who are filled with the Spirit, who’s duty and delight it is to produce fruit and live a life of faithfulness. The doctrine of election provides two truths: 1. That holiness in no way can be the basis of our election, as Hodge says, ‘if men are chosen to be holy, they cannot be chosen because they are holy’, and, 2. The consequence or result is that holiness is the only evidence of election. All who live lives of sin and still claim to be elected, live lives that are a contradiction to this glorious truth, this magnificent grace freely given to sinners from their Creator. So, examine yourself, does your life tend to holiness or to a life of sinfulness? Make sure you are a recipient of this love of God, put your faith in Jesus Christ, and live to please Him.

Exegetical Muse | Ephesians 1:3

Ephesians | chapter one | verse 3
‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,’

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetIt is here that Paul begins his eloquent discourse, his crescendo into the doctrines of salvation; our election (Eph.1:4), our adoption, (Eph.1:5), our redemption and forgiveness of sins (Eph.1:7), and finally our being sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph.1:13-14); all achieved in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for the express purpose of the Father’s glorious and rich grace being lavished on us sinners, in order that He might receive glory, honour, praise and adoration. This is the gospel. Look no further than these words.

Many a word can be said concerning this verse, but, here, I shall speak only of two. Firstly, the Apostle here states, ‘blessed be the God the and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’. ‘To bless’, simply means to ‘praise’; and, in the context of which Paul continues until verse 14, it is the praise of the Father; praise unto Him – the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob and of the Lord Jesus Christ– that we are to direct our blessings.  This is the covenantal God, the God in whom we are called to trust, and to whom we are to look to as the source of all good, this is the God of redemption– revealed in the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Hodge, C., Commentary on Ephesians, p.8). It was Jesus who said, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God‘ (John. 20:17), and, here, Paul affirms this relation of God the Father with Christ– they are one; and by the latter, we have access to the former (Eph. 3:11-12).

Secondly, Paul tells us that this Jehovah God has ‘blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ’. Two things must be mentioned here. Firstly, Paul speaks of our having been blessed spiritually in the past tense. It has already happened. Our blessings in Christ have already taken place – that is, if we have been made alive in Christ – our salvation, secured and already actualized. Christian, if you have trusted in the Saviour for the forgiveness of your sins, then this is your current position– one of blessing. Not only are you to be blessed, but, you have been blessed, you are blessed. Paul affirms this yet again in verse five and six of chapter two:

‘…even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,’

We, by that same, identical power that raised Christ from the dead,  have also been made alive – a spiritual resurrection – and we are said to have been seated in the heavenly places with Christ, which, in verse 21 of chapter one is ‘far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come’. We are exalted. Past tense.

Finally, this brings us to the second point; viz., that we are to inherit a glorious inheritance (Eph.1:12), one that was set in motion before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), one not acquired by works or by our own doing, but entirely on the basis of God’s grace (Eph. 2:8-9). Having already been glorified, we live lives that ought to be sanctified; by the power of the Spirit, given to us, to live and walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called.

Exegetical Muse | Ephesians 1:2

Ephesians | chapter one | verse 2

‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’
Verse two of chapter one maintains the usual benediction of Paul to his hearers. In this greeting, Paul prays for and desires two things for the saints at Ephesus; that of grace and peace. We shall pay attention to these two words, as well as where they originate from, namely, God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 
 
Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetGrace is that term which, today, seems to be thrown around an awful lot. Yet, it is the most profound and soul-changing word for man- it is that word which carries the whole sense of our salvation; grace, by definition, is ‘unmerited favor’, and, in the context of the scriptures, is that grace which was poured out on Calvary; that grace which saves us, that which is pure, holy, and magnificent. Hodge applies the ‘grace of God’ to be the ‘source of all good’ (Commentary on Ephesians, p.3), for indeed, goodness cannot exist apart from God. ‘Peace’, here, is that sense in which we gather our well-being; all that stems from the Father– i.e. goodness and blessings.
 
Paul’s prayer, however, is that grace and peace would be received from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. That Paul would refer to God as ‘our Father’ is a continuation of what Jesus stated in Matt. 6:9-13, where He taught His followers how to pray. That the God of the universe, sustainer of all things, holy and just, would be called ‘our Father’, is no small deal. Reader, if you have the knowledge of God’s person, the thought that He should be called our Father is astounding, mind-blowing and ridiculous. There are three ways in which God is our Father– 1. He is our Creator; He made us (Gen.1:26). 2. He made us in His likeness; we are image bearers of His person (Gen.1:26-27). 3. He has adopted us into His family; we are reconciled to Him by the atoning death of Jesus, and sealed until the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:4-5, 7, 13-14). If you have been born again, you have the Spirit of God within you and you may call Him ‘Father’. It is with this in mind that Paul prays for grace and peace to be upon the saints at Ephesus; and, yet, it is only by God the Father that true grace and peace may abound.

Concerning ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’, we may find comfort and boldness knowing that this term ‘Lord’, which, in the Greek renders two meanings– 1. ‘Master’; perhaps the owner of a slave. 2. ‘Supreme Lord’; the equivalent of the Hebrew word ‘Adonai’, which, as Hodge states, is the ‘incommunicable name of God, and the substitute for Jehovah, a name the Jews would not pronounce’ (Commentary on Ephesians. p.4); it is thus the latter interpretation to which this passage refers, and to which our hope should be fixed. This Jesus, who walked on this earth, lived among us, died at our hands and then rose on the third day is ‘The Lord, The Lord of Lords, The Lord God; Lord in that sense in which God alone can be Lord– having a dominion of which divine perfection is the only adequate or possible foundation’ (Hodge, C., Commentary on Ephesians. p.4). To state that Christ is Lord, is to profess that He is God, and, as Paul stated in 1 Cor. 12:3, this can only occur by the presence of the Holy Spirit in us.

To conclude: grace and peace may only be found in the God-head; for it is in their nature, it permeates their existence. Do not seek for such blessings outside of the One who created you. Call on Him; pray– beg – for grace and peace to fill you, that you might be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpassed knowledge, and that you might be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Exegetical Muse | Ephesians 1:1

This post begins a series in my ‘Exegetical Muse’ category. The ‘Exegetical Muse’ posts are dedicated to working through a book of the Bible, verse by verse, providing  a small bit of exegesis, devotion, and application for the reader. This inauguratory post starts with the book of Ephesians, verse one of chapter one. Dig in.

Ephesians | chapter one | verse one

‘Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:’

To those who are accustomed to reading the Holy Scriptures, Paul begins his letter to the church at Ephesus in a rather familiar way; he firstly informs the reader of his station, that of being an ‘apostle’; and secondly, he tells us of whom he is addressing, viz., the church at Ephesus. Here, in verse one, I shall highlight two aspects, of which, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to appreciate the Word of God, grow in godliness and have a more informed mind and knowledge of our faith.
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Firstly, Paul here refers to himself as an ‘apostle’. The Greek word ‘αποστολος’ can be used in three senses– 1. ‘Messenger’ as in John 13:16; Phil. 2:25; 2 Cor. 8:23, the sense here is one who ‘brings’ or ‘bears’ information. 2. ‘Missionaries’, i.e., men who are sent by the church to preach the gospel – Acts 14:4,14; Rom. 16:7. 3. ‘Apostles’, with the ‘big A’, as it were. This, then, refers to the office of apostleship (Eph. 4:11). It belongs to those who are considered plenipotentiaries of Christ (Hodge, C. Commentary on Ephesians. p.2). They are chosen by God on the basis of their being witnesses of Christ’s miracles, teaching and resurrection. Hodge says that their ‘authority rested firstly on their commission and secondly on their inspiration; men who were rendered infallible by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Hence, it is evident that none can have the authority of an apostle who has not apostolic gifts’ (Commentary on Ephesians. p.2). It is in this last sense of the word ‘apostle’ that Paul here refers to himself. In doing so he asserts his authority as a ‘plenipotentiary’ of Christ. This word is rich and encompasses individuals who are invested with the full power of independent action on behalf of whom they represent; in this case, it is Jesus. It is important to note that this authority, viz., being an ‘Apostle’, is not a self-acclaimed position, but, as stated here and in his letter to the Galatians (Gal.1:1), is ‘by the will of God’; exclusively sent through Jesus Christ and God the Father. As Hodge states, ‘Paul, therefore, demands a hearing’ (Commentary on Ephesians).

Secondly, Paul refers to his audience as the ‘saints’ and those who are ‘faithful in Christ Jesus‘. The word ‘saint’ confers a separation; a set-apart-ness. Just as Israel, under the old dispensation were a set apart nation, so too is the church. Here the word ‘saint’ is the Greek word, ‘αγιοις’, which literally means ‘holy ones’. As the nation of Israel were a set-apart people; by means of dress, law, and customs; so too are believers to be consecrated, however, not only externally, but our consecration to God ought to be internal, as we, those with faith in Christ Jesus, have been reconciled to God, adopted into His family, and are inwardly purified. The ‘saints’ are those who are cleansed by the blood of Christ, and, by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, we are separated from the world and consecrated to God, being His children. What a joy. Furthermore, those ‘who are faithful in Christ Jesus’ are those who, literally, are full of faith in Jesus.  The Greek word translated as ‘faithful’; can mean those with ‘preserving faith’, those ‘worthy of faith’ or those ‘exercising faith’; the latter is the most correct meaning in this passage, and is simply those who are believing. The faithful therefore are believers. Those whom Paul calls ‘saints’ he also calls ‘faithful’. In the words of John Calvin, ‘No one is a believer who is not holy; and no one is holy who is not a believer’.

In conclusion, some important questions to ask yourself– Do you read scripture, keeping in mind that it is God’s Word to us? Do you adhere to the truths that it teaches, just as truth is in Jesus (Eph. 4:21)? Do you pray for the Spirit of God to move in you and aid you in your reading of scripture; to enlighten you to the truths it proclaims; to the living out of that truth? Are you a saint? Do you desire all that God desires? Are you holy just as He is holy? Are you one who is full of faith in Jesus?

Spend time in the Word of God, abide with Christ in prayer, and, by the Spirit’s enabling, walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called. Be full of faith in Christ, for one day it shall be sight.

 

A mindful word.

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I have been doing an in-depth study through my favourite book of scripture, Ephesians. It has been nothing but joy, and only praise and a more informed knowledge of Christ has resulted from it. During my reading of this epistle to the church at Ephesus, I am always struck by what Paul says in chapter 4, verse 29:

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Every time I read these words I think back over my life; what did I say 5 years ago to my brother; what about last month; wait a minute, what did I say just yesterday? Has my conversation been one that is filtered through this verse? I want us to think about this seriously, and to act upon it solemnly. Only a word that is good for edification should proceed from our mouths? That is crazy Paul. No-one does that. This is the mission of a sinner; death to self and to the desires that are attached to that self

I find the last two clauses incredibly convicting, ‘according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.’ Imagine a world where believers’ words were only those that inspired grace; that embodied love; words that reflected God’s goodness. This forbids slander, malice, lies, half-truths, a discouraging word, selfish talk, foolish talk, coarse jesting, unthankfulness, prejudice, generalization, world-views, cussing, gossip, and the list goes on. It is scary. But it is close to home. Too close. 

Let us filter our words, our conversations, and our discussions through this sieve. Think before you speak. Let our speech have with it, attached, grace- inseparable. After-all it is all about grace; salvation and God’s plan of redemption in Christ is proclaimed as thus in Ephesians 1.6:

“To the praise of the glory of His grace, which He, freely bestowed on us, in the Beloved.” 

 The delight of the saint is it put on the new self. As Paul instructs us to rather be people who give thanks. (Ephesians 5.4) In conclusion, this ‘new-self’ is seen in verse 18b-20, Paul says:

 “… but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.”

 Let us be a people of thanksgiving, of eucharisteo.