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TEXT: Ephesians 1:3-14
SUBJECT: Ephesians #2: Praise God!
Today, with God's blessing, we'll get back to the study we began a few weeks on the Book of Ephesians. I chose this book, in part, for personal reasons-it's the Epistle of Paul I know best and love the most. But, chiefly, I chose it because of what it's about. Like other New Testament Letters, it touches on a great many things, but it's about one thing. And the one thing is: the unity of God's People (at church and in the home).
If, at the end of the series, we're better informed than we used to be-but no more united in Christ-something has failed, either my preaching or your hearing or both. I pray God will touch my lips and your ears, and, best of all, move our hearts and hands in loving His people, and putting this love it into practice.
Before I go on to today's text, I've got to ask a serious question: What are you doing to promote the unity of your church and your family? I didn't ask, 'What are you not doing?' We mustn't be satisfied with not being trouble-makers, divisive people, hard-to-get-along-withers! The unity of God's church and the Christian family demands positive attitudes and actions.
Things like hospitality and generosity; listening more than you speak; overlooking every fault you can; when you can't overlook the fault, correcting the person with patience and humility-and keeping it private! These are good ways to start-
Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
May God help us to do so-for Christ's sake. Amen.
THE PREACHING TEXT
The text of today's sermon is Ephesians 1:3-14. Several key doctrines can be isolated in the verses, explained, defended, and applied, but I won't do that because-as helpful as this might be in some ways-it would also defeat Paul's purpose for writing them. While the verses say a good deal about Election, Redemption, and the Sealing of the Spirit, they're not about these things. They're about what Ephesians is about: the unity of God's People, where it comes from, and what we must do to preserve it.
When these doctrines disrupt the unity of the church, break friendships, and promote a party spirit, it's only because we've got them wrong! Maybe we know what the Bible says, but we've ignored why it says what it says!
Lord forgive us for putting asunder what God has joined together!
What is today's passage? That's an easy one: you don't have to look past the first word of v.3. It's a blessing-
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
There are two words in the Greek New Testament for blessed. One means happy or favored. The Sermon on the Mount opens with seven of them-
Blessed are the poor in spirit.Blessed are those who mourn.Blessed are the meek.Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.Blessed are the merciful.Blessed are the pure in heart.Blessed are the peacemakers.Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake.
This is a very dear word to every believer, but it's not the word used here.
The blessed in v.3 means 'to speak well of'. It's where we get our word, eulogy. I've been to my share of funerals, but I've never heard the preacher say-He was a lousy man, and we're better off without him! Even if it's true, because eulogies say good things about dead men But Paul eulogizes the Living God!
What he says here-and many other places too-we ought to say, and not just to 'say', but to 'say from the heart'-
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me,
Bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits;
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from
Who crowns you with lovingkindness
And tender mercies.
Who satisfies your mouth with good
So that your youth is renewed like the
BE THE GOD AND FATHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
The object of our 'blessing' is-
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As a devout Jew and first-rate scholar, Paul knew many names for God, and in other places, he used some of them. But this is his favorite, the one he comes back to time and again. Why? Because it reveals the character of God more fully than any other. To be Christ's Father means they have a common nature, that the loving, patient, merciful Man who so happily received sinners, is no more loving, patient, and merciful than God is, and God is no less happy to receive sinners than Christ was and is!
No wonder Paul cannot bless God enough! And why we cannot overdo it either.
If God is the object of Paul's blessing, the reason for blessing Him is because God has first blessed us-
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.
When we 'bless' God we say good things to Him. When He blesses us, He says good things to us. So far, 'blessing' carries the same meaning. But there's also a great difference. Our words are empty, but His are full. They not only 'wish' good things for us; they give them! Back in the Book of Genesis, the Lord creates and orders all things, not with his hands or tools, as we do, but by the power of His Word. He speaks and it is done!
What has God blessed us with? In a word, everything. James says-
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation of shadow of turning.
All we have is from the Lord. This is true, not only of Christians, but even of people who have never heard the Lord's name. Paul accuses the Greek pagans of ingratitude because they never thanked or thought about the One-
In whom we live and move and have our being.
Everything we have is from God, including the things we earned by hard work, for even hard work is a gift, Deuteronomy 8:18-
And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth.
If God is the Source of each and every blessing, Paul has something a bit narrower in mind. He's thinking of the blessings that are.spiritual.
What does this mean-spiritual? I think it is shorthand for the blessings of the Gospel. In other words, not the benefits of good health, a long life, a nice family, bills paid, warm friends, and so on, but the favors of Salvation.
We should be thankful for our daily bread, for physical healing, for a loving spouse, and the like, but more than these, we must be ever praising God for rescuing us from our sin and misery.
Let us not just feel these things, but make our feelings known-
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with all benefits-
Even the God of our salvation!
THE FATHER'S BLESSING
Having praised God in general for the blessings of salvation, Paul gets down to the particulars. In vv. 3-6 he blesses God the Father. What has He done for us?
[He has] chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.
To 'choose' means just that: to select, to pick out of a group. This means, if we are saved, it is not because we have chosen God, but that He has chosen us. Or, to be more precise, it means, we choose Him because He chose us.
When did He choose us? Before the foundation of the world. This means it cannot be any kind of payment for works done. I've done a few good things since I was born, and during my mother's pregnancy, I'm sure I helped her develop patience and pray more! But whatever I did in the world-or in the womb-I'm quite sure I never did anything in eternity! But that's when God chose us, and therefore, it-like the rest of our salvation-is by grace alone.
What has God chosen us for? Some say, He has chosen us for heaven-and that's true, but it is also misleading. While we are not chosen because of faith, repentance or holiness (real or foreseen), we are chosen for faith, repentance, and holiness.
In other words, God has chosen us to make us holy.
And this is not all He has chosen us for. He has an even more glorious design for us. To make us His children-
In love, He predestined us to the adoption of children. Holiness qualifies us to be His servants, but adoption puts us in His family!
This is all well and good, but it creates a problem, too. How can we be sure God's purpose to save us will be fulfilled? While Election guarantees the salvation of everyone chosen, it does not save. We must hear the Gospel, repent, believe and persevere to be saved. How can we be sure we will do all these things?
I already told you. In love He predestined us. To 'predestine' means to 'plan'. The Lord had not only chosen to save us but has also chosen the way to do it. This includes the big cosmic things, you might say, like the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Christ, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Mission of the Church, and so on, and also the more personal things, the little things that exposed you to the Gospel, that made you sorry for your sins, that caused you to believe in Christ, and gave you the power to trust Him as your Savior.
All of these things-that seem like 'good luck' to us-or accidents-are, in fact, God's Eternal Purpose, as it unfolds in time and space.
This gives us a perspective on our lives, and in particular, on the things we wish hadn't occurred. The brutal husband makes his wife look to Christ as her Refuge. This does not absolve him in the least, but it explains (in part) why a loving God would allow him to do what he does to her. It's not to break her bones, which are very dear to the Lord, but to mend her soul.
What is our Father's final goal in choosing us for holiness, and planning our lives so we will have it? His own reputation-
To the praise of the glory of His grace.
Which is so great and worthy of praise because it makes us-sinners by nature and choice-
Accepted in the Beloved.
That is, as acceptable to God as Christ is. And, that's pretty acceptable!
THE SON'S BLESSINGS
In vv.7-12, Paul turns from naming the blessings we have in God the Father, to the ones gotten for us by God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Speaking of Him, he says-
In whom we have.redemption.
This is a word familiar to the first readers of the Book, and especially to the Jews who found it many times in the Old Testament. The word means to buy out of slavery or debt or a prisoner of war camp. It's likely some people in the church had been redeemed in one or more of these ways.
But Paul is not thinking of buying a man back from a human captor, but from a captivity far worse than any man can impose on his prisoner. What he's thinking of is being captive to God's Justice. God is just and at Mount Sinai He said He will-
In no wise clear the guilty.
Though He is supremely merciful, the Lord will not pardon anyone at the expense of His justice. It also has to be satisfied. And it has been, for Christ has taken our place and died the death we had coming. And so, it is through-
His blood, we have the forgiveness of sin, according to the riches of His of His grace.
Is this all there is to Redemption-the forgiveness of sin? No, there's far more to it than that, freedom being the one most dear to Paul, as he says in other places. So, why doesn't he mention 'freedom' or some other benefit here? It's because of what the Book is about.
Ephesians is about the unity of God's People, and nothing will unify us more than to know we are forgiven. If I am forgiven, I cannot look down on you and your sins because.well, what is forgiven? I am, for what I have done and for what I am! And, if you're forgiven too, then I can correct you when you go wrong, but I cannot be harsh and heavy handed, because, for all your folly, you too have been forgiven.
What's true of wrong deeds is also true of wrong doctrine. Suppose you're wrong on Election. Unlike what I said a few minutes ago, you think you did the choosing, and God 'confirmed' your choice by choosing you. What does this make you? It makes you the same thing I am: a sinner who has been forgiven! While I cannot agree with you and I won't say, 'It doesn't matter', I can still love you and respect you-even if you never get it right!
If Christ is our Redeemer, this is not all He is. Vv.8-10 say He is also the Revealer of God's Great Purpose. Speaking of the riches of His grace, it says-
Which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and knowledge, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to the good pleasure that He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, which are in heaven and which are on earth, in Him.
Wow! A lot of doctrine packed into very few words! Here's what it means: The Gospel discloses the plan of God to unite all believers and angels under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In context, this includes (and chiefly means) the people who were least likely to make friends on their own: Jews and Gentiles.
If this is God's Big Plan and a major reason Christ went to the cross, how can we allow petty differences, or bigger ones for that matter, to divide us? In other words, how can I stay mad at my wife if God's Eternal Purpose is for me to forgive her her wrongs and to love her more than I love myself?
The third thing Christ is to us is the Giver of our inheritance, v.11-
In whom we have an inheritance.
What do believers in Christ inherit? Everything. I take the Beatitude with complete literalness-
The meek shall inherit the earth.
But not only 'the earth', for I also see a reference to the priesthood of Israel and the Levites who assisted them in their holy work. While the other Tribes got a piece of property, which you can look up on a Bible map, you won't find Levi. Were they shortchanged? They may have thought so, but the opposite is true, Numbers 18:20-
Then the Lord said to Aaron, 'You shall nave no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them: I am your portion and inheritance among the children of Israel!'
If this is what we have, it is also what we all have. You can have more money than I have, I can have more knowledge, somebody else can have more talents, but nobody can have more inheritance than any other because all Christians have God, and I mean all of God!
Like the Father, the Son doesn't do all this for nothing, He does it-
To the praise of His glory.
Which He will one day receive in full. But, for now, He doesn't receive nearly the praise He deserves. It is our duty, therefore, to praise Christ for what He's done-and what He's done for us.
THE SPIRIT'S BLESSING
If God the Father gets Paul's blessing, and Jesus Christ gets it, too, it should not surprise us to find the Holy Spirit receiving His share as well, vv.13b-14-
Having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise who is the guarantee of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
The Holy Spirit, Paul says, is two things to us: our Seal and our Guarantee (or 'earnest' in the KJV). What do these mean? A Seal was a way of authenticating a document; we would say, 'notarize'. This is what the Spirit is, proof that we belong to God. When a sinner trusts Christ, the Holy Spirit is given to him, to indwell him. His abiding Presence means we're the genuine article, we truly belong to God. This is true of every Christian, even the ones who lack assurance and who wonder if the Spirit is in them or not. God knows He is, and this matters far more than us knowing it.
If the first word is dear, the second is even dearer. The Holy Spirit is also the guarantee of our inheritance. He is God's Down payment or Security Deposit. Some people put a down payment on a house only to renege on the loan and lose it.
God isn't some people! He is the Lord who cannot lie, and does not repent. Because He doesn't need to. He has the wisdom, the power, the mercy, and everything else He needs to both begin saving us.and see the job through to the end.
Which for us is heaven, and for Him-
The praise of His glory.
If there are many details in our passage, there is only one message: The People of God are tied together by the Trinity! By the Father's purpose, by the Son's passion, and by the Spirit's possession. And, to quote from the Wise Man-
A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
If we are truly united, the Lord wants us to live up to what we are. We do this, in part, by remembering what we truly are. We are chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This is not true of some Christians, but all, including the ones you're looking down on right now or want nothing to do with.
Let us, therefore, remember and become what we are! And all to God's Eternal Praise! Amen.
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