[Budding Leaf, 2016, JA Van Devender]
2 Timothy 1:8–10 (NKJV)
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,......
Herman Witsius, "The Economy of the Covenants" (Vol. I, p 298-99 Logos) ......because it is impossible for the decree of God to fail, or the promise of God to deceive, the person to whom God decrees and promises to give any thing may be as certain that it shall be given as if he was already in the actual possession of it.
How many times have I, over the years, read those verses in 1 Timothy but did not notice the powerful contribution to our assurance that Paul gives in them?
It was not till I came across Witsius' exposition in his defense of the doctrine of election that it really sank home. Again I find myself humbled before the sheer eternity of God's purposes and intentions. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News that in Jesus of Nazareth, God has revealed to us His divine intentions for this world and for those who inhabit it. Paul roots everything about Jesus; His entire history, His works, His speech, His obedience, His death, resurrection and ascension, in this comprehensive summation - "His own purpose and grace... has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ." Paul affirms explicitly, lest any should doubt, that this was all purposed "before time began!"
There are no emergency detours in God's providential ordering of all things. God's purposes in creating the cosmos were to construct a sphere in which He would be glorified through the existence and lives of a redeemed humanity. The entire universe exists just for that purpose. Witsius says "For since the manifestation of his glorious grace in man, through Christ, was the chief end of God in creating man, we must look upon the foundation of the earth for a habitation of the good as a means to that end." I can't improve on that. This beautiful world, the stars and the sun, the moon and all the depths of the sea, are there for our ultimate blessing. God does not create futility. God brings mans prideful endeavors to futility, but nothing He does will be frustrated of the ends toward which they are designed. That alone should seal the argument that this world will be purged of its sin and corruption one day, but it will not be annihilated. Rather, as the new leaf shoots forth on the branch that winter "killed", so shall the New Earth erupt in splendor when it is delivered from its bondage at the revelation of the sons of God (Rom. 8:18-22). And at the center of that glorious reality will be the shining light that is Jesus Christ Himself... but not Jesus Christ alone, but rather Jesus in the midst of a splendid congregation... the gathered saints of the ages, dressed in glory, flashingly brilliant in their eternal bodies and united in joyful celebration of the inheritance they have been granted through grace.
This reality, this ontological certainty, is God's eternal purpose. The Covenant of Redemption is His eternal purpose codified. The drama of history is a shining "sea" (Rev. 4:6ff) situated before the throne of God which reflects the progress of that Covenant of Redemption in space and time. The Scriptures are the record of that progressive revelation of His eternal purpose unfolding and being interpreted to the minds of men. The heritage of God's people is grounded in that meta-narrative and its call to men to embrace that heritage, to renounce the paltry and prideful substitutes of ethnicity, vain and empty national pride, personal agendas and embrace that lineage. We are not our own, we have been bought with a price. We are not slaves to sin but we are bound as servants of the King. By dying to self and all worldly distinctions, we live to Him who has saved us by His grace.
This is the amazing transformation in men that is called regeneration or "being born again." It is a radical revision of every facet of man's physical and spiritual constitution. It is a renewal of heart, will and affections. It involves a realignment of thought processes and embraces the new potential for understanding and loving spiritual things. This is a miraculous transformation that only God can accomplish.
And God's eternal purpose is that it is in this that He is to be glorified. It is to this end that the world exists - that in it, men and women, can be reconstituted through grace and once again bear the image of God by reflecting the image of Christ. The glory of our heavenly bodies will only be the fullest expression of this temporal phenomenon, it will not be something different in essence. Eternal life begins in this time and age, for that is what Jesus came to establish beyond a doubt.
All of this comes together and bears this fruit - the possibility of what the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF 18:3, WLC Q-80)1 calls an "infallible assurance." To the extent that any fallen sinner can ever rise to a certainty of their own eternal blessing... of their own absolute right to stand among those who will glorify God for eternity, it is upon this foundation: God's eternal purpose cannot be denied. Our faith is His seal that we are objects of that eternal purpose. He knew us before time began... He has done all things for our eternal blessing... and it is in blessing us with all things in Christ that He manifests His glory in its ultimate expression. He is our hope... and that hope will never fail.
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
1There are many expositions of this doctrine available for study and meditation. A. A. Hodge's "Outlines of Theology" is concise even if the elegance of 19th century prose diminishes its appeal to modern sensibility. James Nichols' "Puritan Sermons" is a fine compendium that is very adapted to daily devotions. J. Pipa's excellent recent work on Galatians also covers this same ground.