“I was brought to the conviction that mine was only an intellectual belief – a belief in which there was no life. It looked for salvation in the future after death; and consequently my soul had not ‘Passed from death unto life.'” Pandita Ramabai (India, 1858-1922)
Last week I had the privilege of hearing Dr. D.A. Carson, a man I have known and respected for many years, speak on Ephesians 1. As I was reading through my personal devotions for later that week I found the above listed quote. As I read this my mind was drawn back to the message on Ephesians and one particular phrase used. Already, but not yet. While this phrase was not new to me, I was compelled to examine it more closely and in so doing examine my own belief.
“How so?” you may ask. Let me begin by reading Ephesians 1:3 – 14:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.
In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
The Bible is very clear, every blessing I have, and I must stop to realize that I am truly blessed, comes from God. But I must realize that his greatest blessing is not found in material “blessings” but in a spiritual blessing. What is this blessing? This blessing is that despite my selfishness, despite my sin, despite my nature to turn away from God, He has chosen to reach out to me. He chose to send His Son, Jesus Christ, who carried the punishment I deserved for my rejection of a holy God, so that I would not have too. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.” This is the greatest blessing of all, but what does it mean? We may stand before God legally and relationally justified if we have put our trust in the “riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.” Simply put, by recognizing our sinfulness, accepting the forgiveness that Jesus Christ provided in our place and putting our trust in God, we are forgiven.
But not only forgiven, we are made part of God’s family. We had an “adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.” And this is not simply the adoption of a newborn child into a family, this is the adoption of one who has lived a life on their own being made part of a family with all the rights and privileges, and “In Him we have obtained an inheritance.” What is this inheritance? The truth is that it is many fold, it is the forgiveness of sins, it is the freedom to choose to follow Christ, it is being united with Christ, it is the right to stand in the presence of God, it is eternal life, it is being identified as part of God’s family. I could continue, but for the sake of this writing this will do. The point is that the blessings bestowed on us by God are but the beginning of our inheritance, and it is all “to the praise of His glory.”
So how does this bring me back to Already, but not yet. “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.” To often I find myself, as many Christians do, looking forward to What God will do. We look for his coming again. We look forward to eternity with him. We look to be made holy. We look to find ourselves in the heavenly places.
And while we should look forward to these, we miss what God is doing in our lives and the world around us today. We miss that he has sent the Holy Spirit: John 16:7 “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go I will send him to you.” We miss that we are already in his presence: Matthew 28:20 “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” We miss that we have already been made Holy (set apart): Hebrews 10:10 “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” We miss that we have already been placed in the heavenly places: Ephesians 2:6 “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
Yes it is true that we do not yet possess our full inheritance in Christ – we do not see him face to face, we are still surrounded by sin and death, we still face temptations, – we have, however, already obtained our inheritance in Christ, and it is guaranteed through the Holy Spirit. So I must ask myself, is this only intellectual and academic to me and I continue to live in the defeat of sin seeing only the “not yet”, or does this truth permeate my entire being and I live in the victory of Christ declaring “Already, but not yet.”