Archive for the ‘The God-Centeredness of God’ Category

The God Centeredness of God 12

June 11, 2013

Ephesians 1:1 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: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us

In thinking through the passage above it is easy to see how so much of “Christianity” in modern America is focused in self and thinks God is focused on self rather than Himself. It appears that American “Christianity” thinks of God in such a way as to think of Him as focused on themselves and even primarily on themselves. This is to change the biblical God into an idol. It is to take the glory of the Gospel of the glory of God and make it about the glory of man. It is appalling to hear what people are saying and writing about the gospel of the glory of man in this nation (and the world) today.

When man is made the center of the gospel rather than God as the center of the Gospel, man continues to think of himself first and foremost which leads to a destruction (in theory) of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God saves to the praise of the glory of His grace, though what that means is far different depending on the center and focus one has. If we think of man as the center of what God is doing, then God’s grace is only seen by how man responds to it and how man does. When man is at the center of the gospel of man’s glory, then when the focus is taken from man and put on God, the glory is dulled and then gone. Yet the Gospel of the glory of God is all about God and regardless of how man responds (in one sense), the Gospel puts the glory of God on display. The glory of God is never dulled and is never gone when the focus is on Him.

God redeems and forgives sinners according to the riches of His grace. When sinners try to think that God redeems and forgives them because of who they are or what they do, even if that is small, then the glory of the Gospel has dimmed. God redeems and forgives sinners because of who He is. If sinners are redeemed in any way because of who they are or because of what they have done, then grace is no longer grace. If sinners are forgiven in the slightest because of who they are or because of what they have done, then grace is no longer grace. Romans 11:6 gives us this principle: “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” Grace will have no challengers and it will have no help. Sinners are redeemed and forgiven according to the riches of His grace and not because of anything they are or because of anything they have done. The assertion that the sinner has any part in his salvation or that there is anything that he can contribute is to make the Gospel of the glory of His grace nothing.

God redeems and forgives sinners because of who He is and nothing else. The Gospel is all about God the Father electing and planning salvation. The Gospel is all about the Word taking human flesh and earning and accomplishing each and every aspect of the Gospel. The Gospel is all about the Holy Spirit being purchased for the elect by the Father and then applying the grace of God in Christ to all the people of God. God must be His own motive, intent, and goal in all He has done or He could not be a holy, holy, holy God. If God the Father loved sinners and was focused on them rather than His perfectly holy Son, He would not be holy. If God the Son loved sinners and focused on them rather than the Father, He would not be holy and as such would not be God and could not be a perfect sacrifice.

The Gospel rests upon the fact that God is a God-centered God and not centered upon man because the character of God demands that He must be that way or He would not be perfect in triune love and as such perfectly holy. The Gospel rests upon the fact that a God-centered God must save sinners according to grace and nothing in themselves or He would not be a holy God and they could not be forgiven at all. The Gospel rests upon the true God who can save apart from any worth, value, or merit in man and must do so if the Gospel is to be by grace alone which is the only grace that can be to His glory alone. Man-centeredness destroys the Gospel (in theory and in hearts) and also destroys (in theory and in hearts) the Gospel of grace alone. This is vital to grasp. But a God that is not God-centered also destroys the Gospel of grace alone as well. We live in a time where darkness is rampant.

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The God Centeredness of God 11

June 6, 2013

Ephesians 1:1 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: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us

Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the Reformers that followed after them stressed justification by faith alone. But the reason that they did this is so that justification would be by grace alone which is to say that justification would be by Christ alone and to the glory of God alone. Underneath this grand teaching stressed by the Reformers is that God saves sinners based on nothing found in the sinner or anything that the sinner can produce or do. The Gospel stands firmly on the concept that God saves sinners to the glory of His grace and that alone. God not only saves sinners apart from any value, righteousness, or merit found in them or done by them, but He saves sinners when they are His enemies and have an infinite amount of anti-righteousness and de-merit to their account. There is absolutely no reason for God to save sinners unless He is motivated by Himself and His own glory.

When sinners seek forgiveness based on anything they can find in themselves or do themselves, they are not seeking forgiveness on the same basis that God actually forgives. In the Fall man turned from complete dependence and reliance on God for all things to dependence on self. In the Gospel man must be turned by God from a dependence and reliance on self to a complete dependence and reliance on God. As long as man looks to himself for a little worth or a little righteousness of merit, man is not looking to God in complete dependence and reliance.

In the passage above we see that it is God’s choice and not the choice of man in matters of salvation. We can see that it is the will of God and not the will of man. We can see that it is according to the pleasure of God and not the pleasure of man. We can see that sinners are saved to the praise of the glory of His grace rather than according to the praise of anything found in them. We see that sinners are saved by grace which He freely bestowed on them rather than waiting for them to do something so He could respond to them. We see that sinners are forgiven and have redemption according to the riches of His grace (alone) as opposed to something found in them or done by them plus grace. When we put those things together, it is so crystal clear that God saves according to Himself and what He has done rather than according to the worth or merit of the sinner.

Because God saves according to Himself He can save sinners with a grace that He lavishes upon them. If sinners had something that they could contribute to salvation that God had not done, then grace would be given according to something found in the sinner (which would mean that sinners would no longer be saved by a real grace at all) and grace would not and could not be lavished upon them. It is only when sinners are forgiven based upon who God is and what He has done that they can have grace lavished upon them.

It is only because of blindness and pride that sinners will not look to God and His grace alone rather than their constant efforts to rest in something about them or what they have done. It is a horrid pride that would rather depend on some little something regarding self or the efforts of self rather than look in complete dependence to God and His grace alone. It is an effort to want God to be moved by some pathetic little something (actually, sin) rather than to be moved by love for Himself and His own glory to save sinners. But the desire sinners have in wanting God to save them based on them rather than on Himself is actually the desire for the sinner to be God. The sinner wants to have the choice and control in the matter rather than God. The sinner wants to have God love the sinner rather than for God to love Himself. If the desire on the part of the sinner was actually fulfilled, God could no longer be holy and just in saving sinners. Not only does that desire (if carried to its logical end) overthrow the Gospel, it would tear God from His throne and change His very nature. But God will not be torn from the throne and He will not be changed. God does all out of love for His own name and His own glory.

The God Centeredness of God 10

June 1, 2013

Ephesians 1:1 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: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us

The Gospel flows from the very nature and glory of God rather than the merit or worth of man. It only makes sense, then, for God to be focused or centered on Himself and His own glory rather than for God to be focused or centered on man. The text (v. 6) is specific and clear. God saves to the praise of the glory of His grace. How does the sinner obtain this grace? Does s/he try to merit it or work up some form or kind of worth in any way? No, verse 6 goes on to say that this is freely bestowed on sinners in the Beloved. The word “free” is an interesting word with more meanings than meets the eye at first thought. The word “free” can mean without cost, but it can also have the idea of without cause. In other words, for God to saves sinners by grace alone because of His glory alone there can be no cost and nothing in the sinner to move God to save them. In fact, the word for “free” in this case has the same root as the word “grace” does.

For those who love the great and glorious doctrines that flow from and manifest the grace of God, a slight (or more) chill moving up and down the spine is not out of the ordinary. God saves sinners by grace alone and in giving this grace there is nothing but Himself and His grace that moves Him to give grace. But again it is seen that God is focused on God and is moved within Himself in all He does. When we say (with understanding) that God saves by grace alone, what we mean is that God saves because of who He is and not because of anything found in the sinner. The glorious doctrine of grace teaches us that God is God-centered and is not centered upon man at all. When human beings try to find a reason other than God Himself to show grace, they end up in thinking of things like the value and worth of man. But why would God look to the value and worth of man rather than His own value and worth? If God saves because of something in man rather than Himself, salvation is no longer of grace alone, but is conditioned on something in man.

It is in Christ that all of redemption is located. Redemption is totally in the blood of Christ and forgiveness is totally based on the forgiveness in Christ. Redemption and forgiveness is found in Christ and Christ alone and is by grace alone. God saves sinners because of Himself and His grace and this is seen because all merit and worth for salvation are merited and earned by Christ alone. All the merit needed for sins to be forgiven is in Christ and given by grace alone. All the righteousness needed to be declared just is in Christ and there is nothing that a sinner can possibly add to that. The sinner can do nothing and must not try to do anything at all but is simply to receive. When sinners look to themselves for any merit or anything found in them that would move God to save them, they are not looking to grace alone. When sinners look to themselves for an act of faith that God will then act and save them, they are not looking to grace alone. When sinners pray to God and ask Him to save, forgive, or give them something based on what they have done, they are not looking to grace alone.

The text of Scripture (verse 7 above) tells us that sinners are forgiven “according to the riches of His grace.” This tells us that sinners are to rest in forgiveness and/or seek forgiveness based on His grace and His grace alone. It is not that sinners are to seek forgiveness based on something called grace that is apart from God, but it is His grace and His grace alone. In other words, it is not just something called grace that saves, but it is God Himself who saves. The word “grace” refers to the fact that God saves based on who He is as opposed to saving based on who sinners are. After all, sinners have to be saved despite who they are rather than who they are. So God must save based on Himself rather than them. The Gospel is all about the glory and grace of God which is to say it is all about how God saves based on Himself and love for His own glory. As long as human beings think that God is human-centered, they have no basis for the Gospel. As long as human beings think that God is human-centered, they worship an idol and not the real God. It is only right that God would do all out of love for Himself and His own glory. The true Gospel depends on that truth as well.

The God Centeredness of God 9

May 28, 2013

Ephesians 1:1 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: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us

It is beneath the created nature of a human being to focus on human beings before God or look at things from a human-centered point of view. Yet that is precisely what happens in so many Christian circles. People can look at passages like Ephesians 1:1-8 and think of the value and worth of man rather than the grace and glory of God. When this is done, man speaks much of God but only as if God is centered on man and is only exalted to the degree that He saves man. This is to tear God from the throne in the heart and mind and replace Him with man. Paul says “blessed be the God” when he starts off. Paul is focused on God and His eternal and infinite blessedness and what God does to the glory of His own name. The eternally and infinitely blessed God could do nothing but manifest Himself for His own glory. There is nothing greater that He could act for and there is nothing that can increase His joy and happiness, so He must act for His own glory and for manifesting who He is.

As one thinks through this passage of Scripture, it makes no sense to think of this eternally and infinitely blessed God as being man-centered and so saves sinners from His own wrath while being moved primarily for them. Instead, what makes sense is to think of an eternally and infinitely blessed God who out of that blessedness can save sinners for the sake of His own name and out of that infinite blessedness bring sinners to Himself to share in that blessedness. The Gospel, after all, is “according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:11). A literal translation gives us a sense that is very much like the context of Ephesians 1 when it reads “the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God.” When Paul (in Eph 1) says “Blessed be the God and Father” he is not writing as if he could somehow bring blessing to God, but is pointing to the glory of the blessed God who alone can give all the spiritual blessings that flow from His blessedness. It is out of His blessedness that He can bless and He does so to the glory of His name, which tells us about Him who displays His glory and blessedness in the Gospel of the glory of Jesus Christ far more than it does the ones that receive the blessing.

This blessed God who blessed His people with every spiritual blessings did so according to the pleasure of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace. This blessed God who chose His people before the foundation of the world and made them holy and blameless before Him in Christ did so according to the pleasure of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace. This blessed God who took some of the sons of the devil and predestined them to adoption as His sons in Christ did so according to the pleasure of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace. In each case we should notice that it was not according to the will of the human soul, but according to the pleasure of His will. In each case we should notice that God did not do these things according to human choice or so called “free-will”, but according to His own will. We should notice that it is not up to the human being to be saved as he pleases, but according to the pleasure of God. We should take very close notice to see that sinners are saved to the praise of the glory of His grace and not according to their merit or worth.

The heart of God is seen in this passage and we see that God saves to the glory of His own name (the value and worth of Himself) and not according to some value or worth found in the sinner. We see that God saves to the glory of His grace and not because there is some merit found in the sinner. God saves because of who He is and in spite of who the sinner is. God saves out of love for His own glory and a love for Himself as manifested by His grace rather than anything found in or done by the sinner. God saves because He loves Himself and His own glory and as such grace must always be sovereign or it is not grace at all.

The God-Centeredness of God 8

May 22, 2013

Ephesians 1:1 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: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us

God the Father has blessed His people by blessing them with every spiritual blessing in Christ. It should be noted that spiritual blessings are not the same thing as material blessings. This means that God can give His people every spiritual blessing while according to His sovereign choice and wisdom He can either give or withhold material blessings. Election is a spiritual blessing that so far exceeds material blessings that they are not even worthy to be compared. When God took sinners who were dead in sins and trespasses and by nature children of wrath and made them holy and blameless in Christ, this was and is also a spiritual blessing that makes material blessings pale into nothingness. When God took the children of the devil and adopted them as His own sons through Christ Jesus, this is a spiritual blessing of far greater value than if He gave them several worlds of material things.

But why did God do all of these things? Was it simply because He couldn’t bear to see human beings perish in their sins and so He provided a way out? No, but it was “according to the kind intention of His will.” However, that is not the best translation of the Greek at that point. The Greek language reads like this: “kata. th.n euvdoki,an tou/ qelh,matoj auvtou/.” Kata means “according to”, th.n means “the”, and euvdoki,an means good pleasure. qelh,matoj has the meaning of will, wish, or desire and auvtou/. is the pronoun meaning “his.” Putting that together, in a very literal sense, it means “according to the good pleasure of His will. God the Father has blessed His people with all spiritual blessings in Christ according to His own good pleasure. God the Father has elected a people, made them holy and blameless in Christ, and adopted them as His own children through Christ in accordance with the pleasure of HIS own will.

The focus of Ephesians 1, then, is quite clearly on God and what He has given. Logic will force two options upon us. The real focus in Ephesians 1 is either on God or on man. Since God is the One that gives all spiritual blessings in Christ, that is evidence that God is the real focus. Since those who receive the blessings are not only unworthy of them but actually only deserve wrath and damnation, the focus cannot be on them for their own sake. The only real option that we have if we are looking for the real focus of Ephesians 1 is God. The Scriptures are the Word of God and Ephesians 1 is the declaration of the glory of God. What we must see, then, is that God is setting forth the beauty and glory of the Gospel in a way that manifests and declares His own glory. It is not that God is declaring that man is so valuable and worthy that He saved man, but that God is so valuable and glorious that God displays and manifests God in saving man.

The doctrine of election demonstrates to us that God saves according to the good pleasure of His own will and man is not saved in accordance with some choice of his own. The doctrine of justification by grace alone (standing before Him holy and blameless in Christ) is not just something God provides so that man can make a choice and save himself, but is so that the glory and pleasure of God in the matter may be displayed. The adoption of man as sons of God is not in accordance to the will of man, but is in accordance to the pleasure of the will of God. In other words, what we see in Ephesians 1 (as well as the whole Bible) is that God saves because it pleased Him to do so. We see that God takes sinners and makes them holy and blameless in His sight because it pleased Him to do so. God saves sinners not because He saw their value, but because He saw the value of His own glory to do so and it pleased Him to display His glory in saving sinners. God saves sinners not because He saw any worth or value in them, but because He saw the worth and value of displaying and manifesting His own glory and it pleased Him to do so. Ephesians 1 declares just how God-centered God really is. How horribly wicked it is of men to think of self and focus on self when they read and study Ephesians 1. It is about God and His glory and pleasure. Let us bow in worship of Him rather than ourselves.

The God-Centeredness of God 7

April 21, 2013

Ephesians 1:1 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: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us

In this passage we see the flow of all spiritual blessings and that comes from the ever blessed God which is seen in 1 Timothy 1:11 very clearly: “according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.” God is the eternally and infinitely blessed God and as such is the author and fountain of all spiritual blessings as well as all physical blessings. While Christ is the purchaser of all blessings as all spiritual blessings are found in Him, it is the Father who has blessed believers with all spiritual blessings. So we see the biblical pattern once again. All things are from the Father and through the Son.

When we see that biblical pattern (paragraph above) again, it should drive us to think of how the triune God is within Himself. Why is it that all of these blessings are from the Father and yet they are in Christ? How is it that all spiritual blessings are from the Father and are in Christ? We see a hint of this in John 17:1-3 which is beautiful in its simplicity and yet profound teaching.

John 17:1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. 3 “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

We see in John 17 that Jesus prays to the Father and asks Him to glorify the Son. But why does He want that? He wants to be glorified so that He (the Son) may glorify the Father. In this we see the pattern of all things coming from the Father and coming through the Son, though indeed all must go back to the Father as Romans 11:36 points to. This also, quite clearly, shows us something of the triune God and the same God with whom we have to do in Ephesians. In fact, it is when the Father glorified the Son that the Son glorified the Father and in doing this the Son purchased all the spiritual blessings at the cross for the elect of God. It is in this triune fellowship that eternal life flows and eternal life is in knowing God the Father and the Son. In other words, eternal life is to be in fellowship with God and it is to know God in an intimate way.

It was at the cross that Christ purchased a people for the Father, yet the Father had a people to be purchased by the Son. The Son died for all that the Father would give Him and those are the ones that are given eternal life. Those that the Father gave to the Son the Son died to satisfy the wrath of God and also to give them a perfect righteousness by imputing His righteousness to them. In this way, then, we can see the spiritual blessing of being able to stand before (in His presence) God holy and blameless. But we must look beyond the blessing to see the One that gives the blessing. The giving of the blessing and the purchasing of this blessing is totally by the grace of God and for no other reason. But why does God show grace and why does God save sinners? He does these things for His own purposes and for His own glory. If God saved sinners for reasons other than love for Himself and His own glory, He would not be a holy God. So this shows why God saves sinners and that is for His own purposes.

Why did Christ die for sinners? If He loved sinners because of who they are rather than love them out of love for the Father and for the sake of His love for the Father, then He would have violated the Great Commandment and would have been a sinner. If the Father loved sinners more than He loved His own Beloved and eternal Son, He would not be holy. This shows us that the Father giving some to the Son to die for and the Son’s actually dying in their place actually displays the glory of the love of God within the Trinity. If God did not love Himself, He would not have a motive to save sinners. But He does save sinners because of His love for Himself and His own glory and as such He saves sinners to the glory of His grace.

The God-Centeredness of God 6

April 16, 2013

Ephesians 1:1 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: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us

It is easy to read Ephesians 1 with the concept that man is the focus of it all and that God is focused on human souls, which in turn means that human beings tend to look to themselves as they read Ephesians 1. In other words, though the Great Commandment teaches us that we are to love God with all of our being, we will take passages of Scripture like Ephesians 1 that are dripping with the glory of God and dry them up with the aridness of humanism. The soul that loves God should look for God and His glory in this great epistle rather than be caught up with theology or duty. Sure this book is full of theology and doctrine, but to see the real purpose of theology and doctrine we must see it as a revelation of God by God first and foremost.

The text starts off and tells us who Paul is and that Paul is an apostle of Christ Jesus. In other words, the reason for Paul and the reason for Ephesians is because Paul was sent by Jesus Christ with this message. Then to go on, Paul is an apostle of Christ by the will of God. Why was Paul saved? It was because God had elected Paul from all eternity and while Paul was on his way to Damascus to persecute the followers of Christ a bright light shone from heaven and God revealed himself to Paul. When Paul was blinded for three days God sent a man named Ananias to him, but Ananias did not want to God. Here was what God said to Ananias about Paul: “But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16).

In order to get at the real issues concerning Ephesians we must get at the reason for why Paul was Paul (instead of Saul) and why he was an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. We must learn to look at Scripture from a God-centered view rather than a view that makes man the center. God called Paul and sent Paul to the Gentiles for the sake of His own name. All of the sufferings of Paul should not make us admire Paul as such, but instead to behold the glory of God because Paul suffered for the sake of His name and not his own.

Paul identifies the source of grace and peace, and those are not from him. Grace and peace come from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is vital to grab a hold on and to see that Paul is directing us away from him and a theology about him, but instead he is pointing us to the source of grace and peace. The book of Ephesians has a lot of teaching about grace in it and unless we think of grace as coming from God and His sovereign hand we will miss the real point of it all. Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ? God the Father has. So why doesn’t this text turn us in admiration of the living God to behold Him and love Him? It is because we get caught up with wanting our doctrine to be correct and precise (which is important) and forget that this is primarily about the glory of God and God blessing to manifest His glory.

In the first few verses of Ephesians Paul directs us to why he is an apostle and the source of grace and peace. He moves on to tell the readers that all their spiritual blessings are in Christ and are given to them by God the Father. For Paul, it would appear; he is very small in his own eyes and is nothing but a messenger of the grace and glory of God in Christ Jesus. That should be a great lesson to all who would dare to handle the words in this text. Human beings are not the focus of this text but God is. Human beings are instruments that God manifests His glory through and they are not to try to steal some of the glory of God by their preaching, teaching, or expert handling of the text. No, God is the star (if we may say that with reverence) and man is to stand down. Even more, man is to bow on his face before this God and be in awe of Him while He praises Him for the splendor of who He is.

The God-Centeredness of God 5

April 13, 2013

Isaiah 48: 9 “For the sake of My name I delay My wrath, And for My praise I restrain it for you, In order not to cut you off. 10 “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.11 “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.

This text shows us the motive and the central desire and love of God. When God acts to either judge or forgive, what is His motive in doing so? It is for the sake of His own name. This seems so bizarre to many people because they think that God should help people for the sake of the people, but a few moments of reflection should help for that view to dissipate. If God helps people for the sake of the people in and of themselves rather than for the sake of His own name, then that means that God is less holy than what He commands of others. Human beings are commanded to love God with all of their being and to do all for His glory even in the mundane things like eating and drinking. It is only because human beings think of all things in relation to themselves (from their fallen nature which thinks it can be like God) that they think it odd that God would do all things out of love for Himself and His glory in accordance with the Greatest Commandment He gives to human beings.

Human beings may say words of praise to God when He does not punish them for their sins, but they think of that in relation to how nice He is being toward them. What they fail to see (most of the time) is that God restrains wrath for the sake of His own name. God restrains wrath for the sake of His praise. This points us to the primary meaning of what it really means to pray in the name of Christ. To really pray in the name of Christ is not to simply give a list so things that we want and then invoke the name of Christ after we finish asking for the things we want, but it is asking for things that will exalt God and having a heart that truly desires God to be exalted in what we ask for.

When the text sets out God proclaiming how can His name be profaned we see why God does all things for His own name’s sake. When Israel did not keep covenant with God, He was obligated to act for the sake of His own name. He was not obligated to them in and of themselves, but instead because He had made a covenant with them and so His name was at stake. To quote Thomas Manton, “God only is independent and self sufficient of himself and from himself; but self-seeking is monstrous and unnatural in the creature!” The Israelites sought themselves in what they did and sought God (in a manner of speaking) for the sake of themselves, but God judged them and blessed them for His own sake. So fallen man, though blind to the reality of it, seems himself primarily and seeks God for the sake of self. But God, on the other hand, seeks all things for the sake of His own name.

Once again, then, the distorted concept of the modern portrayal of God is set forth quite clearly. Man thinks of God as being centered upon himself and his perceived needs, but in reality God is centered upon Himself and His own glory. Man longs for and desires nothing but what will give him comfort and pleasure, but God does nothing which is not for His own glory. While fallen man seeks himself as his own god, the religious person seeks a god of his own imagination to do things for self that he cannot do. But both are demonstrative evidence that in the fall of human beings into sin the fall was from being centered upon God to being centered upon self. What a great delusion it is when man is very religious and yet all of his religion is truly fixated upon and for the sake of self.

A God that that truly does all for His own glory and pleasure is a God that will view the open sinner and the very religious sinner as both being opposed to Him and His glory. The open sinner seeks self and is quite unashamed to do so. The open sinner seeks pleasure for self and all that he does is for self as opposed to doing all for the glory of God. But the religious sinner does the same thing in that he does all for self, though indeed he may utter words that deny that. The religious sinner does all for the sake of self just like the open sinner, but the religious sinner may be worse in that he uses religion and the name of God in order to obtain honor and glory for self. But God, who as a holy God must always do all for the sake of His own name, will punish the open sinner and the religious sinner for the sake of His own name. It is the just and holy thing to do.

The God-Centeredness of God 4

April 10, 2013

Isaiah 42:8 “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images.

In this text we see that the LORD (YAHWEH, the self-existent, self-sufficient sovereign of all) will not give His glory to another and will not give His praise to graven images. In other words, the Greatest Command and the first two commandments given to men are reflections of how God exists in and of Himself as well as toward Himself. It is not that God does not shine forth of Himself in glory and have that glory dwell in men so that they may enjoy Him and live so that His glory would shine through them, but that as a thrice holy God He will not put up with someone taking glory to themselves and seeking themselves in living for themselves. We know what happened to King Nebuchadnezzar when he tried to glorify himself.

The LORD will not share His glory in that He will not allow Israel to take the credit for defending themselves as a nation and try to trust in their systems of defense. The LORD will not share His glory with anyone in terms of saving themselves are finding ways to earn anything before Him. No, the Gospel is the Gospel of the glory of God and the Gospel is the glory of God shining in the face of Christ. God saves to the glory of His own name and He will not share that glory with others. The Gospel is all about the glory of God and when puny man tries to share in that glory in any way, it is no longer the Gospel of the glory of God.

For some reason man continues to fight and attempt to come up with ways to make the Gospel all about himself. Man tries to think that God values man so much that God saved man. Man tries to think that God loves man so much that God saves man. Man tries to think that God cannot violate the liberty of man and so He provides a way for man to make a choice or to work hard and be saved. Some seem to think that as long as man comes up with the right beliefs about God then God will save man. But what escapes man in his sinful self-centeredness is that God is thrice holy and it would be sin for Him to save man unless He saved man for His own glory. It would be sin for God to value man above Himself and it would be sin for Him to love man above Himself. No, no and a thousand times no. God can only save man in a way that demonstrates how much He values Himself (as triune), loves Himself, and does this as His choice and work rather than man’s.

So much of the history of ancient Israel had to do with the idolatry of graven images. So much of the modern Church has to do with the idolatry of the self, of money, and impressing people with numbers and power. But God will not share His glory with another. Whether it was Israel bowing before idols of stone or the modern “Church” bowing before the idols of self, progress, numbers, success, and money; God will not share His glory and in fact doing those things will bring down His wrath upon them precisely because He loves Himself and His own glory.

Idolatrous mankind, after the fall, does believe the lie that Satan told Eve and so man thinks that he is as God. Man wants to live for self, decide for self, and to worship to please self. In doing so, though man may not understand it in these terms, man is attempting to play God to self and others and is trying to share in His glory. This is nothing more and nothing less than gross idolatry. While ancient Israel bowed before idols of stone out of love for self, today men bow before idols of money and success (yes, even in religion) and also do this out of love for self. It is a wicked sin to try to use a stone idol for self rather than to worship the living God to His glory, but it is at least as wicked (if not more) to use self as an object of worship in seeking things for self rather than for God.

God alone has the right to true worship. God alone has the right to the love and adoration of our thoughts, affections, and will. God alone has the right to do as He pleases in all areas of life. God is self-centered and is holy in doing that. All that man does out of his own self-centeredness and self-love just reflects the love that the devil has for himself and his enmity toward God. But the living God will not share His glory with another and as such men need to bow before Him in humility, lowliness, and broken hearts that they will not be full of self rather than full of the glory of God out of love for Him rather than self. In that way they will be like God because He is full of love for His own glory.

The God-Centeredness of God 3

March 16, 2013

Isaiah 6:1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with
the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 9 He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ 10 “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.” 11 Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, Houses are without people And the land is utterly desolate.”

In the last writing we looked at the God-centeredness of God in His creating the Seraphim who do nothing but sing about His holiness and glory. Then we looked at the response of Isaiah and how he was broken from his pride and strength of self in order to be nothing in his own eyes. That, however, was in order that he would be a man that sought the glory of God rather than the glory of self. That was so that he would be able to be a minister for the purposes and glory of God rather than looking to the success and honor of self.
The ministry that Isaiah was called to was certainly not one that would build him up in the esteem of others or make him popular and well-liked. Isaiah did not have a message that was winsome in any way and he was told that his message was going to succeed, but it would succeed in bringing down the nation of Israel. Isaiah was brought down to the point where he was ready to preach for the purposes of God at the expense of self being hated and spoken against. He was told to preach and as part of his duty in preaching he was told to render their hearts insensitive. He was told to render their ears dull and their eyes dim. He was told to do this so that they would not understand and so return and be healed. These are hard words that are not easy to bear now, but imagine Isaiah as a prophet to his people now told that judgment was coming and he was to be an instrument of that judgment.
Isaiah wanted to know how long he had to go and preach such a message. One would think that such a message would be for the purpose of bringing them down to a point, but surely it wouldn’t be for long. But instead he was told to preach for the goals mentioned above “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, Houses are without people And the land is utterly desolate.” When Isaiah was told to go and preach that message, it had to have been a shock to his system and utterly crushing to him. But now he was told that he was to preach this message until the cities were without inhabitant and the land was utterly desolate. In other words, he was to be the messenger of judgment and also of bringing judgment until the people were carried away in captivity.
The message and intent of the message that was given to Isaiah is demonstrative evidence that God is not man-centered as men think of man-centeredness. Instead, these severe judgments were sent by God and they declared His glory over the whole earth. These judgments declare to us that God is concerned about His holiness and His name rather than what we think of as well-being. The Israelites made many mistakes, but perhaps one of the mistakes they made was in thinking that God loved them and watched over them according to the ways of their own thinking. They thought that they were the chosen people and that He was focused on them and that they could worship Him as they pleased and also live as they pleased. But God does not grade on the curve and He does not treat people according to the way they think is fair. But instead God always acts according to Himself and His own character and He always acts according to His perfect holiness and always does what He does to the glory of His own name. In this way we can see that God is centered upon Himself and His own glory. The living God who is focused and centered upon Himself is a far different god than the one that is made up and so man-centered in the modern world. The devil couldn’t do better in all of his deceitfulness than to replace the true God-centered God with one that is focused on man in the modern world. Could it be that we are as deceived as Israel was?