Paul’s response to God’s grace. Only God could turn disobedience into an opportunity for His mercy toward those who would believe.
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” -Romans 11:25
Paul then boldly declares: “. . . . all Israel will be saved,” (vs. 26). This surprising statement should be studied within the big picture of Paul’s previous statements about the nation Israel.
What is the basis of Paul’s claim?
Shepherd’s Notes suggests the following:
Although interpreters differ widely in their understanding of this difficult passage, the most probable interpretation of the phrase “all Israel” is that it indicates a great turning of Israel to Christ, without specifying the conversion of every individual Jew, just as the “full number of Gentiles” does not mean that every Gentile will be saved.
Israel’s salvation will be like all other people—responding in faith to the forgiveness made possible by Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection.
Paul describes this as a “mystery”, which had been previously kept secret, but now revealed. This mystery contained the revelation of God’s will made known to all (1 Cor. 2:1,7; 4:1), which included Gentiles (Rom. 16:25-26; Col. 1:26-27; Eph. 3:3-6).
The mystery of the New Testament is described as an open secret: “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
God—who is always at work in people’s lives—is gracious. He is extremely patient and longs for all to turn to Him for forgiveness and eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). He desires that everyone share in the blessings of the gospel (Eph. 2:11-13), made possible through Jesus’ work (Col. 2:2, Eph. 1:9), and His indwelling Holy Spirit (Col. 1:26-27).
Last week we looked at Ephesians 2:1-10 to find the who, what, and why of God’s plan/purpose in giving believers spiritual gifts: Who and what we used to be without Christ, who and what we are in Christ, and why does God do an extreme makeover in us?
This second post will focus on where and how God does His extreme makeover as a background to spiritual gifts.
Where does God do His extreme makeover?
God does His extreme makeover in His people—the church
Ephesians 2:18-22 (NIV): For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.
God does His extreme makeover in the heart
Ephesians 3:14-19: For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. How does God do extreme makeovers?
Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and Satan is witnessed through spiritual gifts in His church
Ephesians 4:7-13: But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When He ascended on high, He led captives in His train and gave gifts to men. (What does “He ascended” mean except that He also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
According to Ephesians 2:18-22, what is the church?
Have you ever been helped by someone using their spiritual gift?
*Next week: Principles for understanding spiritual gifts.
He [God] does have surprising, secret purposes. I open a Bible, and His plans, startling, lie there barefaced. It’s hard to believe it, when I read it, and I have to come back to it many times, feel long across those words, make sure they are real. His love letter forever silences any doubts: His secret purpose framed from the very beginning [is] to bring us to our full glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7 NEB).”
― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
How are your New Year’s resolutions going? My exercise/diet resolve has wavered a few times since January 1. But I’m getting back on that horse! Past times I’ve reasoned: If I ditch my plan then I can’t fail! (Yes, this is an area God is patiently working with me on.)
Plans . . . . Are you a planner? God is. Just as He has purposed to save and sanctify us, He also has specific plans in which He wants to use us—individually and corporately—in His kingdom service. His plans require us to die to ourselves, but when we follow Him, we experience the highest calling, greatest joy, and purposeful living possible.
I’m planning a plan series for my next few posts. Yes I know, it sounds nerdy, but God’s Word is worth exploring this topic amongst others. The following is my rough outline:
God’s plan involving spiritual gifts
Aligning our plans with God’s purposes
Monitoring and adjusting our plans
What about when our plans fail?
Have you made any plans lately? How are your plans going? Do you have a specific area you’d like to explore on this broad topic? I’m willing to dive in if you are!
We find God to be the One on whom we can depend to bring us to our destined goal, and One who already in Christ gives us rest for our souls.”
God doesn’t call us to a neurotic dependency on Christ, but rather a simple childlike trust. Rather than automated fulfillment of rules and rituals, He desires that we develop a fulfilling relationship with Him, rooted and ignited in faith (Romans 1:17).
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1
These two qualities—sure and certain—have a secure beginning and ending point.
Beginning Point of Faith
Receiving Christ as Lord is the seed that contains life with Christ. Our faith and salvation are not drummed up by self-determination. They are gifts from God (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Mary, Mary Quite Contrary . . .
(Napa Valley Vineyard by Jim G., Flickr)
How does your faith grow?
Faith blossoms through the following:
Believe in Christ’s Perfect Character: Jesus doesn’t just save us the moment of our salvation, but continues saving us . . . freeing us from captivity to sin, ourselves, and Satan’s deception. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority,” Colossians 2:6-9.
Meet Together:“Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching,” (Hebrews 10:25). We all struggle and falter at times. An infant doesn’t start out running . . . . Neither do we spiritually. When one falls down, let’s help each other up.
Abide in Christ: John 15:1-10 depicts a vineyard with Jesus as the true vine, God the Father as the gardener, and us as the branches. Jesus said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (vs. 5). We remain in Christ by submitting to him through prayer and obedience. Our faithfulness to the will of God in this life will be examined in the next life (Daniel 7:10; Revelation 20:12).
Hear God’s Word:“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ,” (Romans 10:17).
End Point of Faith
Lastly, believing in God’s promises anchors our hope in Him, resulting in life and peace.
Several years ago I discovered a cracked egg in my fridge—plastered in scotch tape. Like the king’s horses and men who tried piecing Humpty back together again, my son tried repairing our cracked egg. 🙂
This picture came to mind as I reflected on a much more serious incident that happened to my husband last winter.
Several of you already know this story. But it’s a good reminder to me of the following: We—like egg shells—are fragile; our time here is short, take advantage of God given opportunities; God is the One who holds us together and gives us our every breath (Acts 17:28; Colossians 1:17); we need each other; and, God works powerfully through the prayers of His people (James 5:16).
After fighting a cold nine days, Eric came down with the stomach flu. This set the stage for the “perfect storm.” I was shocked how quickly his breathing became labored. After driving him to the ER, the doctor confirmed a bad case of pneumonia on his left lung.
“He will need to stay in the hospital on antibiotics for a day or two,” the doctor said.
But our two days turned into 10 long days. (I realize that sounds short compared to what some people have gone through, but with both of us being active and healthy, this completely caught us off guard.)
Although the doctor did everything by the book, the medicine wasn’t reaching the infected areas. In fact, the bacteria spread to the other lung and into his blood.
Not a good sign.
After the fourth day, my hopeful outlook began to dim. “I won’t mince words,” the doctor said, “this is one of the worst cases I’ve seen.”
Watching my once healthy husband struggle to breathe—even with an oxygen mask—unnerved me. “If he doesn’t improve by tomorrow morning,” the doctor said, “we’ll need to move him to a larger hospital and connect him to a ventilator.”
Another bad sign. That would disable him from breathing exercises, which the nurses stressed as extremely important for his lungs to get back in shape.
The next morning, Sunday, I needed a break from the hospital. I went to church with my Mom and my sister’s family. At the end of the service, the pastor opened the altar for prayer. I didn’t want to go down because I knew I’d lose it. I’m pretty private (believe it or not). But when I set my pride aside—and yes, lost it—God met me there. His Holy Spirit comforted me with His peace.
I didn’t know what God had in mind for Eric. Lord, are you really calling him home to heaven now? I prayed. His rapid downhill condition indicated yes. But he’s not even 40! Although I knew we would meet again in heaven, the thought of raising our three kids alone and being without him increased my anxiety.
But the Holy Spirit prompted me to trust and wait upon God (Isaiah 64:4-5). During that time, I daily battled to replace my fear and anxiety with His peace and comfort through reliance on Him. I’m thankful He loves us unconditionally, through all the doubts and fears. In fact, He shines brightest during our darkest moments. I’m also thankful for the support from family and friends.
Although I don’t remember the outcome of my son’s taped egg, I’m grateful to share: God has completely restored Eric back to health. He doesn’t even have signs of scarring, which the doctor had predicted.
I credit God’s intervening hand to the many people who prayed for Eric—many who don’t even know him, yet faithfully lifted him to God’s throne room. I can’t predict how or when God moves and works, but I know He hears our prayers (1 Peter 3:12). He chooses to move through our requests that align with His will and purposes.
Whatever difficult circumstance(s) you might be facing, don’t give up. God wants you to come to Him right where you are, even in the middle of your mess. “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. . . . Blessed are all who wait for Him!” (Isaiah 30:18) Nothing is too difficult for Him.