"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Adoption Bonus

This incredible declaration by our Lord was cited in a recent sermon by John Cox in connection with the cross of Christ:

"For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
'I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite.'"

- Isaiah 57:15

It is a simple pronouncement, but let us not overlook the amazing implications contained therein. The Lord crafted this statement before time began; He delivered it in an age of antiquity, and He has taken omnipotent care to preserve it up to this very day and through time. Let us look again, then. The holy, eternal High King of all things, who dwells in a place of exaltation, nevertheless does not hesitate to dwell with those who are indescribably lower than Himself - people like us.

He tell us this in His Word because there is glory in it for us to survey. In fact, this verse points to the central glory of all the universe. We may make what seems a simple case that the Lord could easily have divined a way to save us without drawing near to us and revealing that wonderful nearness. The fact that our purposeful, deliberate, careful God did not choose to execute things in this manner is very telling: if asked what the aim of redemptive history truly is, we cannot answer simply, "Salvation, of course." There is more to it than this. Salvation lies at the core of redemptive history - hence the name - but what it accomplishes is the illumination of the unspeakable glory of God. Mark this well. He draws near to the lowly not because He must, but because as He draws near, His glory looms incredibly larger and clearer. The aim of redemptive history is the glory of God.

This is clearly expressed in Ephesians 1:4b-6: "In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." Do you marvel at the glory? We are lovingly grafted into a place we dare not presume to insinuate ourselves: the very family of the Almighty. He comes to dwell in our midst according to His own predetermined plan, and this occurs not "to the salvation of His people," but "to the praise of the glory of His grace."

Our salvation both demonstrates God's glory and gives us eyes to perceive it, until our hearts are saturated and overflowing with an unprecedented, unexpected gladness. Yet atop this glittering and lofty mountain of grace, the Lord has still more to pile and to heap, until we are blinded and staggered again at the renewed brilliance before us. The divine arm that extends to save us is the selfsame arm which draws us irrevocably into the eternal and holy family of God, there to remain forever. We see His eternal, infinite glory in His salvation and His adoption, and we will rightfully praise Him forever for the glory that we see.

In considering the happy pinnacle of utmost blessing on which we now permanently stand, let us not stop short by considering only the grace that we receive, but also the glory that the one true God receives. The grace points to the glory; the salvation points to the Savior. If our thinking allows us to divorce the glory from the grace, the grace begins to mutate into entitlement, and the vacuum created will inevitably replace God's glory with our own - a poor and transient substitute at any time.

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."

-Ephesians 3:20-21


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