Marked with God’s Seal

With the rise of AI and related technology, how do you determine whether a photograph or a video clip is authentic? How do you determine whether a product is genuine or a cheap knock off? More importantly, how can you be assured of the genuineness of God’s redemptive work in Christ Jesus? In Ephesians 1:11–14 Paul tells you that you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.

God, who works everything according to his plan, has given you an inheritance. God works all things according to the counsel of his will. God works out everything. God has chosen you (or given you an inheritance), but that is part of a broader, sweeping, plan. Verse 11 looks back to verse 4. He works all things according to the purpose of his will. Paul’s emphasis is on God’s planning, ordaining, choosing, activity. Remember that verses 3–14 are one sentence! God’s plan, or decrees, are all-inclusive. Paul tells us God works out everything. Even seemingly insignificant details are included in God’s plan, Matthew 10:29,30. That comforts you in an uncertain world.

“Ephesians 1:11 may be the strongest and most comprehensive statement about God’s absolute sovereignty in the whole of the Bible. He is the One who works all things according to the counsel of his will. This is not a user-friendly universe for all and sundry. But Paul is stressing that, whatever the native tendencies of people and things, God works with and through all that happens.”

Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Ephesians, p. 17

Although even the sinful acts of men are included, God is not sinful! How can the wickedness on earth fit with the plan of a sovereign God? The arch-crime of history was the murder of the God-man, the Messiah. Men were responsible for what they did, but this was certainly part of God’s plan, Acts 2:23; 4:27,28. Yet God is perfectly sinless, James 1:13.

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Revealed from Heaven in Blazing Fire

Judgment and eternal destruction. Those are not user friendly topics, and thus they tend to be ignored in a consumer-centered theology. But in 2 Thessalonians 1:6–10, as well as elsewhere, the Bible makes clear that they are very real. Paul’s focus is not primarily on an event, but on a person — Jesus Christ, returning in glory.

The Lord Jesus will be revealed in blazing fire! Your Lord will be revealed as the Judge. History is not an endless cycle. It is not meaningless It is moving towards a goal. God’s righteous judgment will be revealed in the day of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is important for the Thessalonians, who were persevering through persecution and trials. “Apocalypse” is not just the name of a movie. It refers to the awe-filled appearing, unexpected unveiling of the Lord from heaven. The Day of the Lord is coming! Notice the Old Testament imagery Paul piles up: Psalm 79:6; Isaiah 66:15,16; Jeremiah 10:25 all speak of judgment. Joel 2:1, 2 and Zepheniah 1:14–16 describe this as the day of the Lord.

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Worship Your Ascended Lord!

If your salvation depends on the death and resurrection of Christ, as it does, why pay so much attention to his ascension? Luke’s ends his Gospel with a brief account of the ascension of Jesus, Luke 24:50–53.

Receive Christ’s blessing. Christ is now the glorified Lord. Luke shows you the glory of your Lord. Near the beginning of his Gospel Luke records the blessed angelic song of joy and peace. Now he concludes with Christ blessing his disciples and their resulting joy. He has described the humiliation, suffering, and death of the Messiah. Chapter 24 recounts the triumphal resurrection. The exalted Lord instructed his disciples in the Word, showing its focus on him. Now you see the Lord ascend to the place of exaltation at the right hand of the Father. Yet this is not the end of the story, but only the end of the beginning. Volume 2 (Acts) is about to describe the continuation of Christ’s work. This will be the record of the work of the ascended, glorified Lord (who is life-giving Spirit) through the apostolic church. There is continuity with the church today, with this congregation. Christ ascended to the work which he continues today: sitting at the right hand of the Father, subduing the nations by his Word and Spirit, and ruling over his church. The ascension, no less than Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, was foretold in the Scriptures, Psalm 24:7–10; 68:18. The glorified, ascended Lord summons you to submit to his authority. It is this glorious, ascended Lord who invites you to live in fellowship with him.

“[T]he Christ who was invoked, confessed and worshipped by the faithful, was the living Lord. Though He was remembered as the One who on their behalf had surrendered His life unto death, and had ratified the new covenant in His blood, and though there was a sober realization that the perfect consummation was to be manifested only in the future manifestation of the rule of God, their present faith in Him as the Lord bound the elements of remembrance and hope together and afforded a present assurance of grace and righteousness through faith in His name.”

Ned B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Luke to Christ, p. 151
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Raised for You!

But what does it mean for me? You ask that about a change in tax law, a new employee policy at work, a new regulation at school. In Romans 4, Paul answers the question what faith, the kind of faith that Abraham had, means for you. In Romans 4:25 he focuses on what Christ’s resurrection means for you.

Christ was delivered over for your offenses. Abraham’s faith is relevant to your situation. Abraham lived about 2,000 years before the coming of Christ. You live about the same length of time after his death and resurrection. What bearing could the words written about Abraham’s faith have on your situation? Abraham believed God, and God said (through Moses in Genesis 15:6) that it was counted to him for righteousness. But those words were intended, not just for Abraham, but for all who share his faith. Thus they were relevant for the church in Rome that read Paul’s letter. And they are intended for you and me today. God’s absolute sovereignty, his power, his ability to do what he has promised, his faithfulness to his covenant, are all unchanging. They are as true for you as they were for Abraham. God revealed that faithfulness in the strange scene in the last part of Genesis 15, when the burning torch, representing the presence of God, passed between the butchered animals. When you face a situation that seems beyond your control, when God’s promises appear to be empty air, when discouragement sets in, remember God’s faithfulness to Abraham. When you struggle against sin in your life, focus on the power of the God who raised Christ from the dead. As you face that ugly intruder, death, in your grief you remember that God’s promises are greater even than that last enemy.

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