Now I go back to the first verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). When we contemplate this verse, the beginning and the origin, for a moment we are stopped in our tracks before the question: why has God loved the world, or in the English words “so loved” it, and to such a great degree? The Divine love existed before the Son’s sacrifice on the cross. It was in fact the reason for that sacrifice. Why? How? What is its meaning? These questions contain the mystery of the creation of the world and mankind, and even before that.
St. Paul reveals it in unique and promising verses that encompass the whole Gospel. St Paul in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians says:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having pre-destinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved, In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded to ward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself; That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being pre-destinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ” (Eph 1:3-12 KJV).
From this golden sequence of verses we clearly see the following:
1. God blessed us with a spiritual blessing in the heavens before founding the world in Christ.
2. God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.
3. God preceded and adopted us through Christ for Himself in accordance to the pleasure of His will.
4. God planned the salvation of mankind through the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins in accordance to the bounty of His grace.
5. God made known to us the mystery of His will that He had intended in accordance to His pleasure.
6. God had planned that the fulfillment of time on earth will finally end by everything, in the heavens and on earth, being gathering together in Christ.
7. Our inheritance from God, with Christ, had been established beforehand in accordance to His will.
8. Through the prophecies, God had previously established and made manifest all our hopes through Christ.
I will now go over these steps to give a summary of their meaning and interpretation in one, or a few, lines. Though they need a whole book, that would require the reader’s patience and time:
1. Christ is the blessed Son, the Word of the Father, living in Him and with Him as one whole. God created the world and mankind through the Word, i.e. in Christ and through Christ, and He found them good, very good. They therefore inevitably became blessed through Christ.
2. With Christ being the chosen Son before the creation of the world, it follows that having been created in Christ, we became chosen through Christ before the creation of the world.
3. With Christ being chosen as the only beloved Son of God before the foundation of the world, our creation inevitably gained for us the right to adoption by the Father. This without a doubt was in complete accordance to the pleasure of the Father’s will. We are the Father’s sons through adoption: first, by the inevitability of our creation in Christ i.e. our existence in Him and for Him, and second, by the pleasure of the Father’s will. Because it is impossible to gain the Father’s adoption except according to the complete pleasure of the Father’s will.
4. The result of 1+2+3 means that the timing of the Father plan for the redemption and forgiveness of sins was immediately following Adam’s first fall. His fall was considered a step made by creation, crossing from earthly materialism to heavenly spiritualism. This plan sprung from the bounty of the Father’s grace. It transported old mankind from dust, from below zero, to a state above the highest heavens and spirit, the new mankind.
5. Among the most amazing attributes of God is that he joyfully proclaimed the whole mystery of His will, that which He intended especially for Himself according to the verse: “Surely the Lord God does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
6. Working together, the times of salvation are within God’s plan, so that at the end everything will become united in Christ. As St Paul says in his Epistle to the Colossians: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col 1:15-20 NKJV). The human race will thus end with mankind perfect and complete, fulfilled in Christ: “Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13 NKJV).
7) Our inheritance from God with Christ is a precedent that proves the truth of the authenticity of God’s testament of adoption. As St. Paul says, “And if children then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17 NKJV). For this is the birthright of sons. The Spirit’s expressions and proclamations of God’s works and counsels are so precise! We have Christ’s blessing, then are chosen in Christ, adopted in Christ and given the inheritance with Christ and in Christ. This is the profoundly amazing sequence of paternal love that was completed with the resurrection from the dead!
8) God had previously established hope as a pledge, proclaimed by all the prophets. It resembles the steps of a heavbely staircase for man to climb, looking towards what is coming, so as to hold on to the eternal life he was invited to while on earth: “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim 6:12).
[Fr Matta El-Meskeen, Christ is Risen Truly He has Risen]