IN our last study we considered a phrase, "among the
celestials," which is peculiar to the Ephesian epistle. In conjunction with
its first occurrence is another phrase, which appears altogether ten times in
the Greek Scriptures, but only once in the writings of Paul—"the
disruption of the world." We must now consider this as it affects the
THE DISRUPTION OF THE WORLD
The expression "disruption of (the) world" katabole
kosmou occurs in two forms; seven times it is "from the
disruption of the world" and three times, "before the
disruption of the world." These two prepositions establish the phrase as an
important line of demarcation in God's activities, and we should be careful to
distinguish between that which is before the disruption and that which is
from the disruption. For that which is before the disruption is
obviously unconditioned by that event, while that which is from the
disruption may well have come about in consequence of it.
In one instance, the same feature of God's purpose is
described as being both before and from the disruption of the world, and this
has relation to the death of Christ. Let us look at the two scriptures, and see
how they differ.
Peter (in 1 Peter 1:19,20), writes of "the precious
blood of Christ, as of a flawless and unspotted lamb, foreknown, indeed, before
the disruption of the world, yet manifested in the last times because of
you...." John (in Rev.13: 8), speaking of those who will be worshipping the
wild beast, adds "everyone whose name is not written in the scroll of life
of the Lambkin slain from the disruption of the world."
In these two scriptures, we have a progression of facts
concerning the same event; foreknown before the disruption, slain from
the disruption, manifested in these last times.
The normal person, looking at the death of Christ, sees it as
a crime committed by men somewhere around the year 33 A.D. This is how the four
accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John present it, although even in these
there are suggestions that it was not entirely controlled by men. For example,
Jesus spoke of the manner of His death before it occurred (John 3:14 and 12:32),
and also of the fact that no one had the power to take His soul away from Him,
but that He would be laying it down of Himself (John 10:18). No one could
stretch out his hands against Him until the hour spoken of in Luke 22:53 had
arrived, and He permitted Himself to become submissive to the jurisdiction of
Now the jurisdiction of darkness finds its origin in the
disruption, for darkness then covered the whole of the submerged chaos that the
disruption had caused (Gen.1:2). In the book of Revelation, the slaying of the
Lambkin is actually dated from the disruption, and this takes us back to a time
before humanity was created, thus absolving men from any responsibility for
predetermining this event, though not from their accountability to God for their
part in bringing it about.
The Lambkin is said to be slain from the disruption of the
world because the disruption, with its accompanying darkness, both physical and
spiritual, was the prior evidence of rebellion against God which must have taken
place in the celestial realms since, as we have just said, man had not yet been
created. We note that the phrase speaks of the disruption of the world,
or kosmou, and not the disruption of the earth. The earth was
undoubtedly disrupted, but so were the heavens; hence the need for the creation
of a new heavens as well as a new earth (Isa.65:17; 2 Pet.3:1013; Rev.21:1), and
for the reconciliation of all in the heavens as well as on the earth (Col.1:20).
But if the Lambkin was slain from the disruption of the
world, the slaying was not something planned as an afterthought because of the
disruption, for Peter declares that the precious blood of Christ, as of a
flawless and unspotted lamb, was "foreknown, indeed, before the
disruption of the world." This is the same expression that Paul uses in
Ephesians, and it speaks of a time antecedent to those circumstances that
brought about the disruption. In short, the slaying of the Lamb was not a
consequence of anything attributable to Satan, who will never be allowed to
claim that he was able to change God's designs—it was not an improvisation to
correct something that had gone awry in God's plans—but was an integral and
predetermined feature in His purpose. And so too is the ecclesia, for it also
was chosen in Christ before the disruption of the world, when God's counsels
were unchallenged and His love unquestioned.
Just as God purposed every feature of the matters surrounding
His Son, even to the giving of Him up, and was constrained by nobody, not even
Satan, so too He has purposed every feature concerning the ecclesia which is the
body of Christ, and will not be deviated one whit from His intentions. Certainly
not by Satan; he cannot interfere.
It is interesting to note the other usage of the expression,
"before the disruption of the world." It is in John 17:24, and tells
of the love which God had for His Son. The full verse reads, "Father, those
whom Thou hast given Me, I will that, where I am, they also may be with Me, that
they may be beholding My glory which Thou hast given Me, for Thou lovest Me
before the disruption of the world."
BEFORE THE DISRUPTION
These three usages of the phrase, "before the disruption
of the world," bring out three vital aspects of the Deity of God.
First, there is His love, concentrated primarily in the Son
of His love, and passed on through Him to all His creation (Col. 1:13-17).
Second, we see His foreknowledge of events before they come
to pass. This is because He, and He alone, is able to operate all according to
the counsel of His will (Eph.1:11), which-means that He can designate beforehand
what He wills in accord with His purpose.
Third, His prerogative to choose whom He wills for whatever
place He wills is shown. Only He can do this, and He chooses us, the ecclesia,
"for the place of a son for Him" (Eph.1:5).
These three usages of our phrase also cover three aspects of
God's purpose. Its motive is to be found in the love which God has for
His Son—all is for Him (Col.1:17). The means by which His goal is
achieved is the death of Christ, for He makes peace with all through the blood
of His cross (Col.1:20). The medium through which all in all is being
completed is the ecclesia, which is Christ's body (Eph.1:22,23).
HOLY AND FLAWLESS
Now there can be no doubt that the love which God had for
Christ was, and is pure and spotless—completely unadulterated; equally it is
clear that the blood of Christ was that of a pure and unspotted sacrifice.
Significantly, therefore, it is stated of the ecclesia that it was to be
"holy and flawless in His sight." As the complement of a holy and
flawless Christ, it surely must be holy and flawless in itself. And in God's
sight it always is!
The verb in the phrase, "we to be holy and
flawless in His sight," is in the infinitive form, and does not indicate a
finite time. Though the infinitive may sometimes point to the future, as in a
phrase like "I hope to be here tomorrow," it can equally well refer to
the present, as in "I am glad to be here today," or even to the past
as in, "I was glad to be here yesterday." So it is really timeless. In
the hymn, "Take time to be holy, speak oft with the Lord" the second
line runs, "Abide in Him always, and feed on His word," and the
whole theme of the succeeding lines lies within present experience.
And so it is with the expression, "We to be holy and
flawless in His sight." In the context of Ephesians 1, this is a status for
all time, not something only to be attained in the future. (In the context of
Ephesians 5:27, a different aspect is being presented, which we will look at in
a later study.) Here, in Ephesians 1, we are looking at the ecclesia as it is
seen by God, chosen by Him in Christ before the disruption of the world—that
is, before anything occurred to mar or to spoil, or to entice away from God. The
ecclesia is not the child of a rebellion or the offspring of sin, and none of
the consequences of the disruption— the sin and death that have entered into
the world—can destroy the perfect status of the ecclesia in the sight of God.
To Him, it is ever holy and flawless, in accord with His predesignation of it
for the place of a son for Him.
It is true that there is a different aspect of the ecclesia,
in which its members are seen to have been descended from Adam, chosen from out
of the old humanity with all its faults and failings, offenses and sins. Again,
we will look at this more fully in a later study, but for the moment let it be
noted that when one is reckoned to be of the faith of Jesus, he is immediately
justified (declared righteous) gratuitously in God's grace through the
deliverance which is in Christ Jesus (Rom.3:24- 27), so that Paul is able to
declare, in Romans 8:1, that "Nothing, consequently, is now
condemnation to those in Christ Jesus," and to ask, later in the chapter,
questions that have no answer: "Who will be indicting God's chosen
ones?" "Who is the Condemner?" If God will not indict, and Christ
will not condemn, who else dare stand up to challenge the righteousness of those
whom God has chosen?
In 2 Corinthians 5:16,17, Paul speaks of our life in the
flesh as something that is passed by. From now on, we should be acquainted with
no one according to flesh, not even Christ, Who did not sin while in the flesh.
If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: the primitive passed by. Lo!
there has come new! In Ephesians 2, Paul speaks of our behavior, while in the
flesh, as something of the past, no longer operative. Notice how the apostle twice
makes the point that we are dead to the life of the past (verses I and
5), just as he twice stresses that in grace are you saved (verses 6 and
8). The one expression perfectly complements the other.
The words holy and flawless are not synonymous:
they do not mean the same. The word holy describes that which is in touch
with God, or that which is set aside for His use. Its first occurrence is in
Exodus 3:5, when God instructed Moses to take off his shoes because the place on
which he stood was holy ground. Now what had made that ground holy? In what way
was it any different from the surrounding earth? Intrinsically, it was no
different; the soil did not undergo any sudden change, either actual or
apparent. What had made the ground holy was that God had, at that moment, set it
aside for His own use. He had chosen that particular spot in the wilderness to
demonstrate, through the illustration of the bush which burned fiercely but was
not consumed, the present and future experiences of His people, Israel. Though
the nation might be persecuted to the limits of endurance, it would not be
destroyed, but would remain a people. Its continued existence would be
guaranteed by God Himself, Who later, through the prophet Isaiah, declared
Himself to the "Holy One of Israel." What does this last phrase mean?
Simply that, having chosen Israel to be "a holy nation, a procured
people," set apart for His service, He would set Himself apart to watch
over them and direct them.
The ecclesia which is the body of Christ is declared to be
holy. It was set aside for God's service long before Israel came on the scene.
Even long before humanity was created, the ecclesia was assigned a special
function in the purpose of God, being designated beforehand for the laud of His
glory—we, who are pre- expectant in the Christ. In that future great and
glorious administration of the complement of the eras, when all in both heaven
and earth shall be headed up in the Christ, we have a vital part, for our lot
was cast in Him (Eph.1:10-12).
The word flawless means "not having spot or
wrinkle or any such things" (Eph.5:27), or, as the Authorized Version has
it, "without spot or blemish." Israel, as a royal priesthood, should
have been a nation without blemish, but they soon demonstrated that, because of
their own imperfections, they needed a priesthood to minister on their own
account—to intercede between them and God. But the ecclesia never needs a
priesthood to stand between it and God: it has direct access to the Father
through Him Who is its Head (Rom.5:2; Eph.2:18; 3:12). In love, it was
designated beforehand for the place of a son for Him, and its individual
members, even while still on earth, are imbued with that spirit of sonship
whereby they cry, "Abba, Father" (Rom.8: 15; Gal.4:6).
IN HIS SIGHT
What we have in fact been suggesting is that the state and
status of the ecclesia both remain constant in God's sight throughout all its
history and in all its experiences. If it be argued that its individual members
are still sinners while they are in the flesh, we would reply that from the
moment of our being chosen, Christ became to us not only wisdom from God, but
also "righteousness and holiness and deliverance" (1 Cor.1:30).
God does not see us as being in the flesh; He is able to
"vivify the dead and call what is not as if it were" (Rom.4:17). We
are regarded by Him as being righteous now; nothing, consequently is now
condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. God, the justifier, will not indict His
chosen ones; He cannot, or His justification would be shown to be an unreality.
Christ, Who died, will not condemn. On the contrary, by His being made to be sin
for us, He has ensured that we may be becoming God's righteousness in Him (2
Cor.5:21). That is to say, that just as He, the One not knowing sin, became a
sin offering for our sakes when He hung on the cross, that sin itself might be
repudiated, so we, sinners as we were, become God's righteousness in Him. The
two states date from the same moment, Christ's death on the cross. We judge
this, "that if One died for the sake of all, consequently all died" (2
Cor.5:14). "Our old humanity was crucified together with Him"
(Rom.6:6). Why? "That the body of Sin may be nullified." And
this is how it appears in God's sight.
In His sight—these are wonderful words! For there
can be no higher estimation—no higher criterion of what is right and what is
wrong, what is just and what is unjust. God must be just as well as the
justifier of the one who is of the faith of Jesus (Rom.3:26).
"If God is for us, who is against us?" (Rom.8:31).
God is for us. He declares us to be righteous—this is the
meaning behind justification. He accounts us to be holy and flawless.
This was a condition established before the disruption, and nothing that
has occurred as a result of the disruption can in any way impinge upon, or in
the slightest degree affect, the standing of those who were chosen in Christ
before that event took place. They are holy and flawless in God's sight, and
must ever remain so.
How and why members of this ecclesia of God came to be chosen
from among the sons of sinful humanity will be considered in our next study.