“Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”
Our redemption, so we observed in our last Meditation, is the incentive to sojourn in Godly fear!
Ransomed we were by that precious blood of Christ, God’s Lamb, without blemish and without spot!
Ransomed out of a vain conversation received by tradition from our progenitors!
The knowledge of this redemption should incite us unto consistency between our confession and our walk.
But that is not all that should incite us!
Wonderful as that redemption is, that is not all of the picture!
Back of that redemption is the decreeing God! Who not only predestined Christ as the Captain of our salvation, but Who has also chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world. In this sovereign foreknowledge of God lies, along with our redemption in Christ, the ground of all our hope.
Christ, the anointed Mediator and Saviour of His people, was foreknown before the foundation of the world. And this means that fundamentally Christ is eternal. Foreknown by God Triune, not as Son, but as Mediator! The reference to foreknowledge here is not that knowledge which God has eternally of Himself, according to which also the Son is known eternally as Son; but this foreknowledge has to do with that knowledge which God has concerning those things outside of Himself: His predestinating, decreeing foreknowledge, the foreknowledge of His eternal, sovereign decrees. In that eternal, sovereign foreknowledge Christ has the preeminence. In the counsel of God Christ is the first-born of all creatures, and it is God’s purpose that in Him all the fulness should dwell; for it is, according to Scripture, God’s purpose to gather together all things in one in and through Christ.
That Christ is foreordained, foreknown before the foundation of the world, must therefore also be understood, not in the temporal, but in the logical sense. To say that the term “before” has temporal reference here gives no sense, for the simple reason that there is no time before the foundation of the world. Time begins with the foundation of the world. Time and space were created with the foundation of the world. Nay, rather, the term “before” ought to be understood logically. It means, therefore, that in the counsel of God the foreknowledge of Christ was in the mind and purpose of God before the foundation of the world. Christ is first, not the foundation of the world. In the order of the divine decrees Christ is the beginning, the first, in the purpose to glorify Himself. Then follows logically the predestination of the elect and reprobate, the decree concerning the fall, and the decree to create the world and all it contains.
It is precisely this truth which is emphatically set forth in our text as belonging to the ground of our hope. To be sure, as the hymn writer has expressed it: our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness, and therefore all other ground is sinking sand. But it must also be clearly understood that the precious blood of Christ was not an afterthought on the part of God. Back of that spotless Lamb and the cleansing power of His precious blood is the decreeing God Who in His unchangeable, eternal counsel ordains that Lamb Whose sacrifice and perfect obedience must redeem all who were chosen unto eternal life in Him. This digs, as it were, the ground of our hope much deeper, does it not? Accordingly, therefore, the Lamb of God is slain already in the eternal purpose and counsel of God; and it follows that also in that counsel all the redeemed are also saved by the blood of the Lamb.
Consequently our faith and hope are not rooted in a “whosoever will gospel,” so generally presented in our day; but in the full-orbed gospel which is anchored in the eternal foreknowledge of God.
This is the thrust of the gospel so highly recommended by such leaders of the Reformation as Calvin and others. This is the truth of the Word of God so clearly expressed by the father of Dordrecht. This eternal love of God in Christ is the ground of our redemption and therefore of our hope.
Its timely manifestation!
But was manifest in these last times for you!
We have before called your attention to the fact that there is a difference between manifestation and revelation. This we did when we meditated on verse 5 of this chapter. Though these terms are evidently closely related, there is a difference in viewpoint that should be marked. Revelation, you may recall, can be represented by the figure of a statue that is to be unveiled. The statue stands there, covered by a veil. When the veil is removed, the statue is revealed. In revelation the subject is passive. Manifestation, on the other hand, may be represented by the figure of the sun piercing the clouds. While the clouds hold their cover, the sin remains hidden. But suddenly the sun pierces through the clouds to manifest its rays. In manifestation the subject is active.
In the fulness of time Christ Jesus, proceeding out of the eternal, sovereign foreknowledge of God, pierced the clouds which hid Him from our sight to manifest Himself. Those clouds were the law and the prophets. All through the old dispensation these clouds hovered over the church of the old day. Those clouds allowed for some light to shine through them, for how else would the saints of the old dispensation know that Christ was behind them? Though He had not yet manifested Himself, they knew He was coming. Thus they were saved in hope, by a typical Christ Whom they believed would in His manifestation deliver them from all their sin, and grant to them His righteousness.
But now He is fully manifested!
Now we see Him Whom God has eternally foreknown and in Whom He has determined all our salvation!
Literally the apostle informs us: Manifested on the last of the times on account of you!
This refers to this entire new dispensation, beginning with the incarnation—His assumption of our human nature; He is manifested in such a way that aged Simeon could take Him up in his arms while he exclaimed: Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation. He was manifested in word and deed as He walked among men. He was manifested on the cross where He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. He was manifested after He arose from the dead with many infallible proofs. He was manifested again when He ascended into heaven to God’s right hand. On the day of Pentecost He manifests Himself most clearly through the Spirit as the Lord Who saves His church. And all through this present dispensation until He is manifested finally on the clouds of glory in His second advent, He is manifested to us by His Spirit and through the preaching of the Word.
On account of you He is manifested!
You who are the children of God in time, and as you live in this present evil world where you are called to be strangers and pilgrims. On account of you, whose hearts are often filled with fear, and whose hope is so often dim. On account of you, who so often in the history of this present dispensation are a persecuted lot who need to be encouraged and lifted up. On account of you, who so often are surrounded by manifold temptations and trials. On account of you, who are humbled by the knowledge of your sin and unworthiness, and who look to Him for all your salvation. On account of you, who in Christ were also foreknown before the foundation of the world, and concerning whom God our Father ordained that you should be redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb, and become heirs of life everlasting and of an inheritance that is reserved in heaven for you. On account of you who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead and gave Him glory.
That your faith and hope might be in God!
Faith and hope—beautiful combination!
So related are they that the one is the source of the other; the one is the spiritual fruit of the other.
In I Corinthians 13 the Word of God informs us that these graces abide, along with love.” And now abideth faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Here love, which completes the beautiful triad, is evidently to, be understood as the fountain and source of both, faith and hope. But then, too, the relationship of these concepts is to be understood so that, while both faith and hope find their source in love, they proceed out of love in such a way that hope proceeds out of faith. Without faith we cannot hope. And it is this latter relationship that our text has in mind.
Your faith and your hope!
Your faith as the source of your hope! Or, better still, that your faith and therefore your hope may be in God!
You, who through Him, i.e., Christ, are believing in God . . . probably better translated—who through Him are faithful unto God. That presupposes believing in God; and at the same time it means that in all their relation in the world they are faithful to God. And this is through Christ, for apart from Him we are nothing. Through Christ we are faithful to and therefore hope in God as the God of our salvation.
Our present hope is the result of that timely manifestation of the eternally foreknown Christ.
Whom God raised from the dead and gave Him glory! God raised Christ from the dead and gave Him glory, and by raising Him from the dead, He becomes the God of our salvation—the only object of our hope.
What an incentive we have therefore to continue faithful unto God in our present walk!
What an incentive also for our present hope!
Hope that is grounded in the Christ of God Who was eternally foreknown, foreordained to ransom us through His precious blood and bring us at last into the glory, the very glory into which He was brought by the decreeing God. Such hope cannot perish, but it must cause us to so walk that daily we live in the expectation and longing that He will perfect us also in glory.