30-12-16 GOODWILL


By John Aldworth

Luke 2:10-14: And the angel said unto them, Fear not for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.

Whichever way you look at, it this is good news.  ‘Good tidings’ is the evangel, the proclamation of the gospel (thus the Greek) that should cause great joy.  Granted, the Saviour came first to save Israel but verse 10 makes clear this gospel, this Saviour ‘shall be to all people’. It was ‘necessary’ that Christ was sent first to Israel, but the glorious revelation given to the Apostle Paul is that the once slain now glorified Lord has come to preach ‘peace unto you which were afar off’ (Eph. 2:17) – and that means Gentiles like us.

Such proclamation is also foreshadowed in the angel’s statement that the gospel should be to all people. It is found again in in Luke 2:32 where Zechariah prophesies the one to be born will be: ‘A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of his people Israel’.

So why is this gospel universal? Because that is God’s will, his goodwill in fact. God will have all men to be saved, not just some, not just those of Israel. This is why his peace and goodwill here is not just ‘among men who please Him’, as most bibles wrongly have it, but on earth as a whole and toward all men.

You see, much as it hated Him, and still hates Him, ‘…God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever should believe on Him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16).

So, all people means all people just as in Col. 1:20-21 we learn that God the Father since then made peace through the blood of Christ’s cross in order to ‘by Him ‘reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things on earth or things in heaven’.

Many preachers and teachers would say all things doesn’t mean all things; it means some specially chosen, called and saved ‘some things’. But that is a distortion and denial of what scripture actually says. The great good news  of the mystery long hid but now revealed through the Apostle Paul is that God, for his great love wherewith He loved us … even when we were dead in sins hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved) (Eph. 2:5). And since all are dead in sin to start with (Eph. 2:1-2) that quickening applies to all.

Saving all men and recreating mankind in the image and likeness of God so that He can walk and talk with us and we can be his friend lies at the very heart of the gospel. This is why Jesus (in John 12:32) when signifying his death on the cross at Israel’s hands looked beyond that to the truth that eventually when He would universally save all:

                And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.

Yes, Jesus was lifted up on the cross but He was also lifted up (Eph. 1:20-223) when He was raised from the dead by the Father who”

… set Him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and might and dominion and every name that is named not only in this world but also in that which is to come. And hath put all things under his feet and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church which is body the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.

Whether we believe it or not, through the blood of Christ’s cross the Father has already made peace ‘to reconcile all things unto Himself’ (Col. 1:20,). And His will is ‘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’ (Eph. 1:10).

That will happen in the soon and coming Day of Christ, followed by the Day of the Lord and the Day of God. But we don’t have to wait for thousands of years to see all men saved. We can ‘redeem the times for the days are evil’ as Wesley and Whitefield did, see great awakenings and change the world for the better. We can ‘look for and haste unto the day’ as the Apostle Peter put it (2 Peter 3:12).

The key to doing so is knowing Christ more fully, more deeply, as a Person. Why? Because the gospel, whether that of Christ’s birth or the fuller and later revealed truth of ‘Christ in you’, a salvation in all and for all men (see Col. 1: 27-28), is always about a person. That person in Luke’s gospel is ‘Christ the Lord’, meaning the ‘Anointed of Jehovah’. Jesus was first sent to ‘save his people - meaning Israel - from their sins’ (Matt. 1:21). Lord meant even then that He was ‘Lord of all’, the great Creator and Ruler of the universe.

You see, real Christianity is always personal. It’s about receiving Christ in person whether then as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes – to signify to shepherds that this was God swathed in human flesh – or now as the Lord of all glory, the quickening Spirit which God now places in every living heart, the essence of the mystery revealed to and through the Apostle Paul.

Allow me to ask: How real is the person of Christ Jesus, in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily (Col. 2:9) to you right now? Is He talking to you? Are you hearing Him? Are you talking to Him, communing with Him through the day and night?

The Greek word for communion is koinonia. It means fellowship, a two-way conversation, as in ‘… our conversation is in heaven’ (Phil. 3:20). We are meant to be in constant conversation with Him.

Consider an example. Physically speaking, our brain constantly converses with every part of our body.  It is just so in the body of Christ. He is the Head and ‘we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones’ (Eph. 5:30). He is communicating with us all the time. What’s more He is speaking to and within everyone else. The problem is that they are not listening, they are asleep, and we, all too often, are not listening enough. We’re not living as though all that is real, that is lovely, that is good, that is beautiful and glorious is not alive in us and speaking to us in our every breath. But He is. He is ‘Christ in you the hope of glory’.

You and I, and everyone in the world, has been reconciled unto God through Christ (2 Cor. 5:19, Col. 1:20-21). Most don’t know it but you and I do know that:

You (that’s us and everyone else ) that were sometime alienated and enemies in (our) minds by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled, in the body of his flesh through death, to present (us) holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight IF …

Well, IF what?

If ye (we) continue in the faith grounded and settled and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul was made a minister.

To be ‘not moved away’ from someone you love means you talk to them all the time and in preference to anyone or anything else. Which is why the Apostle Paul urges us (Eph. 4:21-22):

                If … ye have heard Him (Jesus) and been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus … that ye put off the former conversation the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts and be renewed in the spirit of your mind. And that ye put on the new man which after God is created in in righteousness and true holiness.

It’s all about talking to the Lord, hearing Him and obeying Him when He says to quit acting like a half-saved sinner and instead act like the honest, righteous God-loving person He has made us to be.  It means putting Him and his will for our lives first.

And this message is not just for the so-called ‘saved’. It’s for everyone. This is a lesson the Catholic fathers can teach us. For sure they got many things wrong and added paganism to a wrongly ritualized mix of faith plus works but they did get one thing right. It is that the grace of God, his quickening of our spirits and his soon appearing is to all men not some.  One example is the ‘big picture’ of salvation seen by Irenaeus, the 1st century saint and Bible teacher. A commentator on his life wrote:

The wonder of Irenaeus is the largeness of his outlook. No theologian had arisen since St. Paul and St. John who had grasped so much of the purpose of God for his world. The ‘making of man’ by God (meaning mankind as a whole) is his constant theme.

Even though he was forced to be controversial he was never merely negative; and the last of his books, Against Heresies, ends on the keynote of the whole – that man shall at length be made ‘after the image and likeness of God’. This to Irenaeus is the meaning of all history and, for that reason, the incarnation is the centre point of history. 

So Christ came to ‘to link up the end with the beginning’, or in St. Paul’s words, which Irenaeus never tires of using, ‘to gather up into one all things’ in Himself.

Irenaeus wrote:

Thus then the Word of God in all things hath the pre-eminence; for that He is true man and the Wonderful Counsellor and Almighty God,  calling men anew to communion (and conversation) with God, that by communion with Him we may partake of incorruption.

Importantly, Irenaeus talked with ‘Christ within’, hoped for glory, believed in Christ’s appearing and knew that God’s will, plan and purpose was to save mankind as a whole through his grace. Do we walk and talk with Christ as well as he?