The Foundation of the World (Part 2)
A. Leckie, Airdrie
In our first article we drew attention to the important distinction between the scriptural expressions, "from the foundation of the world" and "before the foundation of the world". We discovered that, before there were any created beings, the Father loved the Son, John 17. 24, the Lamb of Calvary was foreknown, 1 Pet. 1. 20, and believers of the present dispensation were chosen in Christ, Eph. 1. 4.
Pentecost was the commencement of an era in which is realized the fulfilment of what God purposed in Christ before the foundation of the world. The church is not something which God has somehow managed to salvage from the wreck of fallen humanity, nor does it owe its existence to Israel's present rejection by God.
The church was conceived in the heart of God before time; it is not a mere extension of God's dealings with Israel. God's dealings with Israel were dealings with a nation. Israel was intended to be the head and not the tail among the nations, Deut. 28. 13; it will be head one day. God gave to Israel a "worldly" sanctuary and "carnal" ordinances—meats, drinks and diverse washings, Heb. 9. 1, 10. Israel was viewed, therefore, as a nation in the world. In contrast, the church is not national; God is taking out of the nations a people for His name, Acts 1 5.14. The church has neither a worldly sanctuary nor carnal ordinances. Its sanctuary is heavenly and is entered not physically but in spirit, Heb. 8. 2; 10. 19-20. Israel with its sanctuary and ordinances, is associated with the earth and God's ways "from the foundation of the world." It has to do with that which is elementary, worldly, weak and beggarly. Gal. 4. 3, 9; Col. 2. 8. The church, on the other hand, is altogether heavenly in character and is associated with God's purpose "before the foundation of the world".
We saw in our first article that the church was in God's thoughts when He created all things, Eph. 3. 9-11. Let us now observe that He was likewise thinking of it when He made an helpmate for man in the garden, Gen. 2. 20-24. He then had in mind His undisclosed secret of providing a suited companion for His own Son, Eph. 5. 31-32. The divine comment, after Jehovah God had presented the woman to the man, is quoted by the apostle Paul, "because of this a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be united to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh", Gen. 2. 24; Eph. 5. 32. Paul adds significantly, "This mystery is great, but I speak as to Christ, and as to the assembly", Eph. 5. 32. We can therefore understand why God deviated in His ways of creation and went to such amazing lengths to provide an helpmate for man. By means of a spoken word, God had covered the face of the earth with living creatures, Gen. 1. 20-25; He had formed man directly out of the dust and had breathed into him the breath of life, Gen. 2. 7. Yet when Jehovah God provided man's helpmate He did not simply call her into being, nor did He form her from the dust. He caused a deep sleep to fait on Adam, removed one of his ribs and built it into a woman, Gen. 2. 21-22. Adam's immediate response was "this time it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh", v. 23. Paul enlightens us to the fact that," as Jehovah God was building the woman He was thinking of the church as a suited companion for His Son. "The mystery", Eph. 5. 32, is not Christ alone, nor is it the church alone, but Christ and the church, which is livingly and indivisibly united to Him. Again, we note that the creation narrative records that God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them (male and female) have dominion". Gen. 1. 26-27. Dominion over the earth was therefore given conjointly to the man and to the woman. Paul, in this connection, points out that universal dominion, which was forfeited by Adam, is fully recovered in Christ, Eph. 1. 20-23. "All things" are put under His feet. There is, however, one exception. It is the church! God has given Christ to be head over all things to the church. The church is His body and cannot therefore be put under His feet! The church, as Christ's body and the fulness of Him who fills all in all, will share in and with Christ His universal dominion.
In summary. God was thinking about the church when He created all things, when He created the woman in the manner He did, and when He afforded dominion to the woman along with the man.
When the heavens and earth have passed away and time has ceased to be, those distinctions among men which are related to God's dealings "from the foundation of the world" will cease. It is written concerning the eternal state, "the tabernacle of God is with men", Rev, 21. 3. That is, there will no longer be those distinctions among men which were the result of God's dealings in government as recorded in Genesis 11. Jew, Gentile, king, tribe and nation will no longer exist as such. The church only will retain its identity in eternity. John speaks of "the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of the heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband", Rev. 21. 2. That which was the subject of divine purpose "before the foundation of the world" will remain in all its distinctive glory!
The church is something completely new; it had neither place nor existence in Old Testament times, This was made abundantly clear by the Lord Himself, when, using the future tense He said, "/ will build my assembly", Matt. 16. 18. The church no longer belongs only to the future, and Paul can say, "in whom ye also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit", Eph. 2. 22. The apostle speaks of the church as "one new man", Eph. 2. 15. It is "one" in contrast to the "two", Jew and Gentile; it is "new" (the Greek suggesting not so much recent, as new in quality and character) to show that it is not a continuation of Israel but heavenly in its character; it is a "man" because the church is never seen as being anything other than complete.
Let us make no mistake. The church which is His body, stands unique. It is the masterpiece of divine wisdom. It is heavenly and eternal in its character. The marvel is that, by the free grace of God, we form part of it!
Adam and Christ. Out of love for Eve, Adam descended to where she was, to join her in her sin, Gen. 3. 6; 1 Tim. 2. 14. Out of love for the church, Christ descended to where she was, to raise her to where He is in glory, Eph. 5. 25-27.
We listen to the words of our beloved Lord, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart", Matt. 11. 29.
May the mind of Christ my Saviour, Live in me from day to day;
By His power and love controlling. All I do and say.