IN ORDER to carry out this part of His purpose, He equipped a special creature in a special way, to be able to demand and draw creation to himself. Just before He died, Jesus made a remarkably deep observation, "Simon, Simon, Satan claims you."
Here the Son of God gives us an extraordinary revelation of Satan's object. Not only did he desire the disciples at that time, but much earlier he longed to have the whole creation for himself. He made that wish of God his own, to have the whole universe, and in this we see the basis and pinnacle of his counter-working. But this craving did not find its source in him. It came rather out of God's purpose. It was altogether God's intention to turn over creation to a creature, in order that it may have a drastic, yet wholesome, proof of what happens when the creature lives for the creature, and by this for itself, instead of for God. In every aspect it should learn and experience the bitter lesson of evil, in order to attain a proper knowledge and true appreciation of good. For this it was an unavoidable necessity that it should come into the merciless slavery of Satan, in order to grasp the difference between his service and God's. This had to be, so that eventually it would serve God willingly and thankfully.
In the course of Israel's history, during the period of the kings, we will find this divine method of discipline brought into play on a small scale. In second Chronicles (12:1, etc.) we read that king Rehoboam departed from the law of Jehovah, and, as a result, he came under the hand of Shishak, king of Egypt. Yet, being corrected by the prophet Shemaiah, he and his chiefs humbled themselves. So God was merciful and gave them a measure of salvation, not complete freedom from the hand of Shishak. And now it is pointed out that God uses this disciplinary method: "for they are coming to be his [Shishak's] for servants, and they shall know My service and the service of the kingdoms of the lands" (8).
How convincingly clear does God here apply His basic principle: Knowledge of good through the experience of evil! It was a fearful judgment when God gave His people into the hands of brutal folkstems, and only too often cried they to Jehovah because of their hard and horrible slavery. But in God's hand the discipline prepared them for salvation. The severe slave service under the lash of merciless peoples was designed to teach them the goodness and glory of His service and recall to their longing hearts all that it meant.
At that time God had not yet attained this end. Indeed, it was not yet the proper time for this, for not till the day of His power, at His advent in glory, will the Lord find them a willing and grateful people (Psa.110:3).
Although the purpose of this discipline has not yet been attained, the extract from the history of Israel's kingdom contains a very precious teaching (Rom.15:4). In it we see the divine method set forth which God uses for the whole creation, and with universal success, so that every creature will find its highest happiness and fullest satisfaction in the willing and joyous service of God.
In order to carry out this unique thought, so full of the highest wisdom, He gave a created being the overwhelming desire to gain the whole world for himself and his service. By his intelligence, he managed to deceive and bring it all under his power. And now the creature learns what it is to serve the creature, separated from its God and Creator, and all its bitterness and injustice.
And this deeply stirring, painful experience is the most favorable preparation for the knowledge, that only through a life for God can we be truly and permanently happy. This terrible treatment, that was inflicted by God's counter-worker, together with the knowledge of the vivifying love-deed of Christ on the cross, will have the effect, in the last phase of God's plan of salvation, that all will willingly and exultantly submit to the leading of God. The remembrance of the erstwhile slave life will raise the praise, the thankfulness, the love to the highest pitch. All will be permanently cured, by that time, of ever glorifying the creature, and will never desire to worship any false divinity, instead of the true.
With this in view, His own glorification and the permanent blessing of His creatures, God puts them in the service of Satan, so that they will be innerly and eternally "for Him." Without this painful, yet temporary lesson, it would be impossible to attain this. With deepest thankfulness to God, all will agree with all the basic methods He has employed, and recognize their righteousness. There can be no real appreciation of the good apart from the experience of evil.
We, however, His elect, will constantly remember that, in Christ Jesus, He designated us beforehand, so that we may have a foretaste of His glorious goal in our short, mortal existence, by means of loving communion with Him, and eager joyful service for Him.
God must have viewed this goal as attained, from the very beginning, for our designation beforehand was "in accord with the delight of His will." It sounds as if He had experienced a great, anticipatory joy, as He saw His Son take over this purpose, and tasted beforehand of the glorious fruit which He harvests with us.
In Paul's epistle to the Romans we are told what we ourselves receive through our selection: "whom He designates beforehand, these He calls also" (8:30). But in Ephesians it is revealed that this is "for the laud of the glory of His grace" (1:6). And still again it is emphasized that it is that we should be "for the laud of His glory" (11). And still further does this glorification of God enter into our lives, for our salvation and sealing with the spirit, the earnest of the enjoyment of our allotment up to the deliverance of that which has been procured, are all "for the laud of His glory" (13,14).
We can be for the laud of His glory only because He has wrought a work in us beforehand, as it is further revealed in this text: "[The grace] which graces us in the Beloved" (6). This glorious truth is, perhaps, the deepest phase of our selection. As it is in Him, occurring in Christ, this already implies that we have a share in His office, which He as the Anointed, will carry out. Yet here we are shown that the roots of our election lie still deeper. Christ is also the dearly beloved Son, and in Him, the Beloved, we were graced with our selection. Although our participation in the work of Christ enrolls us in the register of the divine nobility, yet we now meet the joyful truth that, as His chosen ones, we are the fruit of God's work of love. "In love designating us beforehand...," has already been His testimony, yet not only His love to us was thus engaged, but also the Father's love of the Son. Now, as God carried on our selection in the light of this love, we have a most intimate share in it. That is the deepest meaning of our choice in the Beloved.
Even if we are able to add somewhat to this by means of holy behavior, nevertheless the ground out of which it sprouts and comes forth is exclusively the work of God, that is our selection. This seedbed is immutable, and out of it springs and spreads the praise of God. This is not dependent on the current condition of the believer's holiness, but only on the fact that, at all times, there have been and will be called ones, and that the ecclesia continues without intermission. This assures Him of uninterrupted praise of the glory of His grace. By its activity in the ecclesia, grace reaches such a triumph, that God presents us to this grace like a prize for its praise and glorification. But with how much greater joy must He accept this praise when it flows from a life of obedience and sacrifice!
Lastly, there should be a word said about the unique and divine method of making known our election, as well as the preparation for the later emergence of the ecclesia which is His body. This important part of His plan God did not explain in public promises, but hid in secrets. Such a divine method of revelation is especially noteworthy when we judge it by the history of Israel. Long before this people existed, He gave written accounts of its calling and station. In the very first of these (Gen.12:2-4), we are given a clear insight into the future of Israel, and this was followed by many similar revelations. In contrast to this He kept His purpose concerning the ecclesia hidden for a long time. Repeatedly Paul emphasizes in his writings that it must be taken as a revelation of divine secrets which had hitherto been concealed (Rom.11:25; 16:25, 1 Cor.2:7; Eph.3:3,9; Col.1:25).
The economy which God had foreseen for the fulfillment of this purpose is called "the administration of the secret" (Eph.3:9), and it had been concealed from the eons in God. The crisis when God began to reveal this secret came in Israel's deepest and most serious period of callousness, when this people became useless as a channel of blessing to the nations. Then it was that God made known through Paul that He would begin to form an ecclesia for His Christ, or Anointed, which will take part with Him in His celestial rule. Is the earliest epistles of Paul these revelations begin, with continual additions, until the prison epistles present the concluding as well as the highest truths to the ecclesia.
"Having perceived, brethren beloved by God, your choice." So we started (1 Thess.1:4). On this basis has God given light and insight into this position in grace. In Ephesians He removes the last covers, so that we may now possess a fully rounded out revelation of our election. Profound thankfulness to God must fill our hearts to overflowing.