YOU AND I
by John Aldworth
A simple question but it came as a bolt from the blue. “What are you saved for?” the preacher asked.
“Is it just to be spared God’s wrath and go to heaven?” Nods from the hearers. “Is it just so you can tell others about Christ?” Smiles from many. “Even when few, if any, want to listen?” he persisted. Frowns and downcast faces.
Good questions then and good questions now. Just what are we saved for? Just to live a better life on earth? Many believe so. To know Christ better? Certainly. To spend years in church attendance, prayer and perhaps Bible study? Most think so. To serve the Lord in ministry? For not a few perhaps the ultimate reason.
Yet the Apostle Paul didn’t think so. After 30 years of the most stunning, far reaching ministry the world had seen, he knew he had yet to grasp the purpose for which Christ saved him.
“Brethren I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before …” (Phil. 3:13).
Tens of thousands were saved under Paul’s ministry. He founded churches believing in the risen Messiah as Saviour in key centres of the world. Doctrinally, he established righteousness by faith and complete atonement through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
By the time he wrote Philippians much new truth had been revealed to Paul. He now knew by revelation that the risen, glorified Lord had brought in the dispensation of the grace of God. He had learned God was revealing the Mystery among the Gentiles, that of “Christ in you the hope of glory”. He had pronounced that, Israel having been set aside, “salvation is sent unto the Gentiles and they will hear it” (Acts 28: 28). More than that, the Apostle knew Christ was now saving men specifically to take them to the highest heaven, a truth never revealed or preached before then.
He could now tell Gentile believers saved by grace through faith that “the present truth” (2 Peter 1:12) for them was that they had been “raised together (with Christ) and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). Yet believing even this sublime truth was not enough. Paul had still not attained, he had not yet “won Christ” (Phil. 3:8), he had not yet apprehended “…that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12). In the same verse he plainly admits that he had not “already attained, either were already perfect”.
In Phil. 3:14 Paul declares: “I press toward the mark for the price of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus and urges “… as many as be perfect (to also be) thus minded”.
This “high calling”, or calling up to be on high where Christ sits at the right hand of God the Father, is the real purpose for every saint truly called and saved by God. It is the goal of our faith, the hope of our eternal heavenly future. As Paul tells us, it is to heaven that we should look, not minding “earthly things” As he reminds us:
“… our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body…” (Phil. 3:20-21).
Ah, now we touch on the purpose of God for which we have been saved. It is that we might set our eyes on heaven, forget about earth, and focus on sitting with Christ in his heavenly kingdom. Instead most Christians see only themselves and the benefits of forgiveness grace and mercy they receive as the reason for salvation. God’s reason for saving them eludes them. Actually, the Father and his wonderful Son have great and high purposes in mind. But these are only revealed to those who “press on the upward way” by following and believing Paul’s teaching, particularly that of his later epistles.
This is why in Phil. 3:17 Paul urges believers to “be followers of me and mark them which walk so that ye have us for an ensample”. It is why in Col. 3:1-4 Paul urges:
"If ye be risen with Christ see those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead and your life is hiod with Christ in God. When Christ who is our lifge shall appear then ye shall also appear with Him in glory".
But, I hear someone say, surely the blessings of grace we receive now are enough, aren’t they? Well, yes, they are; they are all sufficient. But let’s not ignore the purpose for which such matchless grace is given. It’s to focus our eyes on heaven; then set our feet walking to get there, one step at a time, as we learn truth upon truth from Paul about our eternal destiny and home.
Sadly, Paul is persona non grata to many Christians. The revelation of truth about the mystery and our heavenly calling is deliberately ignored by Christendom. If you don’t believe me, allow me to ask: When did you last hear a series of messages devoted to heavenly truth as found exclusively in Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and the pastoral epistles?
Grace in fact teaches us to look for something so wonderful, so beautifully good that indeed, except top the eye of faith, it seems to good be true. It is in short, the appearing of the man Christ Jesus as the great God and our Saviour. It is the blazing forth of his glory in his kingdom; it is his shining out in glory in his own day, the Day of Christ (see 2 Thess. 2:2, 1 Cor. 1:18, 1 Cor. 5:5, 2 Cor. 1:14, Phil. 1:6, 1:10, 2:16).
Subsequent articles will set forth these truths in more detail but for now let’s see the real purpose of grace, as set out in Titus 2:11-14:
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world:
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
Grace would have us LOOK for his appearing in glory. Grace would redeem us from all sin and unrighteous living. Indeed it only as we are thus redeemed that we can look for his appearing. If grace is our teacher (through the writings of the Apostle Paul) then we will be brought to know the “hope of our calling” (Eph. 4:4).
That calling is indeed the appearing in glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.