Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Bible - Book of Ages

Ephesians 3:8-11 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Introduction - The Bible's Message
Yesterday we looked over two main themes that Bible teachers have suggested to be central themes that the Bible is built around: Dispensations and Covenants.  Dispensations are God's Administration of history through successive periods of time in which He governs the world and redemption like a Master running a house.  Covenants are the binding agreements that God has chosen to enter into with His people throughout redemptive history.  This Blogger would like to suggest that one does not have to choose between either/or, since both ideas have positively contributed their share to understanding the message of the Bible. 

Beginning to piece together the biblical puzzle
With that said I would like to consider today how the Bible's overall message is framed around the idea of God's administration of our world and redemption.  Think of a large puzzle.  Whenever you put together a puzzle, where do you begin?  With the edge pieces.  Why? Because it is the edge pieces that have the straight edges, corners and "frame" the boundaries of the puzzle.  How does God run His world? How does He administrate his plans and purposes? All of these questions are answered when we consider the concept of "dispensations".

God's Upper Story Plan for the ages
Authors Randy Frazee and Max Lucado have developed a marvelous study the features a two-story view of biblical history called "The Story".  In the study, the suggestion is made that God has an "Upper Story" plan while we here on earth are in the "Lower Story".  Max Lucado defines these two ideas as follows: "God's Upper Story plan is simply referring to His Eternal plans, whereas the lower story is our daily working out of life.  It is in our daily working out of life that we aim to adapt and conform our lower story to God's upper story." 1

Clearly such an idea of viewing history and the Bible in a bi-level way finds precedent in scripture.  Philippians 2:12-13 tells us to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" (lower story), for it is God who is working in you His perfect and pleasing will" (upper story).  Or how about Colossians 3:1-3, where we are instructed to "seek those things above where Christ is (upper story).  For only then can we prioritize "lower story life" in the right way. (Matthew 6:33)

It is this Upper story plan that occupies our attention today.  The term "dispensation" (KJV) or "Administration" is defined in Ephesians 3:1-10 as referring to God's Upper Story plan for the Ages.  What does the Bible reveal about God's Administrative Reign? How do the dispensations bear out the frame work of the Bible's message? Consider the thoughts below:

1. Plan of the Ages. Ephesians 3:1-4
Paul writes in Ephesians 3:1-2 1"For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; 3that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief."   Now what is this "mystery" of which Paul already spoke about in Ephesians? We read these words in Ephesians 1:9-10 "made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him"

God's plan of the ages is administrated by Him and for Him.  Furthermore, we discover that God has given a measure of stewardship of the revelation of that plan to His people.  The mystery refers to something previously hidden or unknown that required revelation.  What is the mystery?  That the Gentiles would have a share in the promises given originally to Israel in the Old Testament.  While not negating God's plan for Israel, this new stage in God's plan for the ages would be called "The Church". (Ephesians 3:10) 

The first two main ages of scripture did not fully reveal this revelation (namely the Beginning Age and the Old Testament Age), however it was to be in this current age, the "Church Age", that the full bloom of this truth, hinted at but not ever revealed in the Old Testament, was to be revealed.  The Church age, this current age, is the "middle age" of the five ages of the Book of ages, with the last two being the "Kingdom Age" (Millenial reign of Jesus Christ) bridging into the Age to come, the New Heavens and New Earth. 

2. The Progressive Revelation of God's Message of the Scripture Ephesians 3:5-6
God's "Upper Story Plan", His Administrative reign over the household of His creation and redemption was certainly His plan for the ages.  But the nature of this plan was to be progressive revelation.  The Bible was written over a period of 1500 years, by forty different authors, writing in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, living on Europe, Asia and Africa.  In Ephesians 3:5-6 we get a taste of the progress of this revelation of the mystery of the Gospel to which Paul speaks.  He tells us that it was hidden for "previous generations".  That takes us back through the former age, the Old Testament.  According to Ephesians 1:10 God had conceived of this plan in eternity, and began speaking of it to Adam and Eve right after creation.  Not even the fall into sin could disrupt God's marvelous plan.

As time and history progressed, God revealed each piece of the biblical puzzle to the prophets, then through the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  In Hebrews 2:1-2 we read that in various times, places and ways God spoke to the fore fathers, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.  The Apostles and the New Testament roundout the objective revelation of God through words.

We have the full revelation of God, and now are charged by Christ and His Spirit to carry forth this gospel, progressively revealed to the ages, in these last days.  From the beginning age, through the Old Testament age, into this church age, we are to tell the whole world about Christ.  We are to tell them that Christ is coming again to set up His kingdom - the Kingdom age.  We're to tell them to be ready, to escape the wrath to come.  Eternity, the Age to Come, will come to pass.  What men must do is repent and believe on Jesus in this current age. 

3. The Person of Christ - the central Person of God's message of the Bible - Ephesians 3:11-12
Ephesians 3:11-12 states - "11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him."
The Bible is God's Book of the Ages because it tells us about Jesus Christ - the King of the Ages.  Christ is indeed the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  The Plan of the Ages, progressively revealed, in each successive dispensation or administration of God, is to set for the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  God's glory in Christ is the wonderful purpose of scripture.  As we consider the Bible, the book of the ages, may we be a people who have by grace, through faith, believe on Him and live ever for Him. 

End Notes____________
1. Frazee Randy and max Lucado - The Story: Getting to the Heart of God's Story DVD - Session 1. Zondervan Publishing. 2011 

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