Sermon 1753 Ephesians 1.3-14 July 18, 2021
A lot of thought went into it. That is almost always a good thing. A hockey coach stews for a day and a half to figure out which goalie he should start to give his team the best shot at winning. A young man finds the first girl in his life he didn’t feel like he should be punching a time clock when he went out on a date with her and a year later pops the question, “Will you marry me?” A growing family moves mom and dad to figure out how they can juggle a bigger house payment and find just what they need within their price range. A lot of thought went into it. Good stuff. Good things happen when a lot of thought went into it.
A lot of thought went into our salvation. That’s good stuff, too. But before we put the cart before the horse and let our minds race, let’s hitch that wagon of thought to the Word of God and see how a lot of thought on the part of our God went into those who were
1. To be the blameless family of God (3-6).
2. To know the mystery of forgiveness (7-10)
3. As God planned all along (11).
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (3-6).”
This is the biblical teaching of election. God chose those who would end up in heaven. Before the creation of the world—that’s what Paul says, before the creation of the world God chose us. Because of that choice we enter into blessings on earth and will be blessed in the heavenly realms. Anything that detracts from God’s actions twists the biblical teaching of election. Anything that leads to something other than praise for God misunderstands the biblical teaching of election.
We are chosen to be the blameless family of God. It is now. It is here. God’s choice shows in our lives. In a way, this is nothing more or less than what Paul told the believers in Thessalonica. “We instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4.1, 7).” This is a life Paul displayed in his work among them. “You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed (2.10).” Yes, we know no one is perfect. We are all sinners. That is going to be covered in the next section of this sermon. Don’t let that distract us from what God is saying here. Those whom God has chosen show that choice in their lives. People, looking at the faith-filled lives the chosen lead, would generally say they are blameless and holy people. They are good people and it shows. God’s election is effective. God’s choice makes things happen in our lives.
In a way, it is perfectly natural. Each one of us is part of a family. We have family loyalty. There is a bond. Brothers and sisters may fight like cats and dogs, but when a parent steps in, they close ranks and stand up for each other. Don’t get between me and my sister. Don’t go talking dirt about my brother. Blood is thicker than water. Family ties show. We expect that so much many places will not let a manager hire a relative—nepotism we call it. We don’t like nepotism. Family ties can work against the pursuit of profit in a business or against the pursuit of justice in government.
God gave it a lot of thought and included us in his family. It shows. We are chips off the old block—people notice it and call us Christians. They expect us to be Christ-like in our dealings with others, fair, just, compassionate and willing to bend over backwards if we thought it had half a chance of succeeding. We expect Christ-like behavior of ourselves. That’s what makes life more difficult for us Christians. We have raised the bar. We expect to do better, to be better. All those success stories of hard-nosed principals going to down-and-out high schools, the ones where everyone expects to fail, all those success stories have the same story line: if you succeed in raising everyone’s expectations, you succeed. God succeeds through the holy and blameless lives of his family. Praise God!
Praise God that we were chosen to know the mystery of forgiveness.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ (7-10).”
When God chose us, a process was started. He chose us so that we would come into contact with the Gospel, that we would believe the Gospel message, that we would keep believing the Gospel message as long as we lived (and it would show by our Christian lives), so that, upon our death, we would enter into the heaven God had chosen us to inhabit from all eternity. It was not a bare choice or a choice that didn’t show itself. We reserve that sort of thing to the Pope in Rome who can secretly name a bishop or cardinal, but hold it in his heart, in pectore, and never tell anyone. Supposedly popes have died without revealing some of these choices. So I suppose, according to this thinking, there have been bishops and archbishops who never knew it.
God is not like the Pope. God has made his choice clear. The mystery of forgiveness has come to us. Now the Gospel comes to everyone. The Holy Spirit sees to it that the Word is spread as indiscriminately as one of those cheap seed spreaders from a lawn and garden store casts about grass seed. It falls on the rocks. It falls on the sidewalk. It falls in the flower bed. If falls on dirt crisscrossed with irrigation lines. God wants all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, so he spreads the Gospel to the ends of the earth. But it also comes to the chosen, to you and me.
The mystery of forgiveness is redemption. God bought us back from sin, death and the power of the devil. That’s what redemption really means, to buy back. When people go to the tables in the casinos, they buy chips. If they are good they have some left at the end of the evening. But they have to go back to the cage where the casino redeems the chips, buys them back! It was no poker game for Jesus. He bought us back, not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood and his innocent sufferings and death. Redemption through his blood. He died to make us children of God. His lifeblood was the price.
That in itself is a mystery. Why would God love us so? Why would God love the whole world so? For when Jesus died, he died for everyone, for those who would believe and for those who wouldn’t believe. Belief or unbelief was beside the point. The Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world. The sinful human nature, that flunky of the devil, will never, can never, understand that.
But God chose us to know the mystery of forgiveness, to believe it, to receive it. When he poured out his forgiveness, his grace, his undeserved gift of love, upon us, he also gave wisdom and understanding. Paul’s words are not describing God’s attributes, although he is certainly wise and understanding, but when God brought us to faith he gave us wisdom and understanding to believe, receive, understand the Gospel. That’s why Paul, in the very next section of chapter 1, prays for the Ephesians, that they keep knowing God better and that “your heart may keep being enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.” To have the Gospel preached to you but not received in faith is like teaching Greek to a herd of Holsteins. The sound reaches their ears, but that’s as far as it goes. We know the mystery. We understand that Jesus died for all. We trust our sins have been forgiven. Even when a guilty conscience accuses us, we know we stand forgiven, redeemed by Jesus’ blood.
And now we can unravel that holy and blameless part I promised you. In God’s sight we are holy and blameless. We are forgiven. As Paul wrote to these same Ephesians, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (5.25-27).” If you want to say Christ’s death, giving himself, accomplished nothing, if you want to say baptism, “the washing with water through the word,” accomplished nothing, if you want to say the bride of Christ, that “radiant church” is a fraud, nothing more than a pig with lipstick, well, let me leave the room before you finish making your points. I do not want to be under the same roof as you in case the world ends. The angels might make a mistake separating the chosen from the blasphemers!
Praise God! We were chosen to know the mystery of forgiveness!
Praise God! It was as God planned all along!
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (11).”
Oh, don’t let that word “predestined” throw you. That word means nothing more than marking out beforehand. Look at any of these housing tracts under construction. What’s the first thing that happens? The surveyors go through and stake the property. They mark where the grade should be, where the lines should fall. They are not concerned where the lines don’t fall. They are not concerned about the grade of the vacant parcel next to theirs. That’s none of their concern. They are to make sure their land is staked according to plan so everything that comes next will be according to plan. This is Henderson, after all, not Houston. We care where the rainwater drains.
God marked out our lives ahead of time so that everything happened according to his plan. Everything matched the blueprint he had for us.
This is a great comfort to us. In so many things, we wonder, “What if I am wrong?” What if it wasn’t such a good idea to buy that timeshare? What if believing the claims about that diesel car wasn’t such a wise thing to do? What if getting non-refundable tickets for a vacation when the wife would be eight months pregnant wasn’t the smartest thing we ever did?
What if our believing in Jesus was like that? What if it was our choice to believe in Jesus?
At one time (when I sat for my senior class pictures in high school) I thought blue plaid bell bottom pants, a cranberry shirt with puffed sleeves, a blue blazer and a snow white on white patterned tie were really sharp. At one time I thought I should learn how to play the guitar. At one time I thought that girl would go out on a date with me. At one time I thought I’d stay young forever. And you have all had times like that, too. It’s a good thing we can change our mind.
Believing in Jesus is not like choosing those trends that embarrass us now. Believing in Jesus wasn’t my choice. It wasn’t your choice, either. It was God’s choice. And though we, at times, fought against his plans tooth and nail, even appearing to be no Christian at all for periods in our life, forgetting our prayers at every meal, falling asleep without an “Amen” on our lips, God’s choice held us fast. He saw to it that our parents brought us to baptism or that we, later on in life, were baptized. He saw to it that the Word of God, the Gospel of our salvation, kept coming back to us. He saw to it that we got to a point and time in our lives where that faith could flourish because that Word of God came into our hearts again in full measure. Oh, life could have been so much easier if we had always done it God’s way, but you know what they say. Three lefts makes a right. When you reach your destination the detours are forgotten. God got us to where he wanted us to be all along. We were safe all the way. The Holy Spirit kept us, shielded us, held us.
I can’t say this is the Gospel truth, but I used to hear people say, “When I get to heaven, Jesus has some explaining to do!” We are going to put the Lord of lords and King of kings on the spot? We are going to accuse him of malpractice in the journey of our life? We are going to verbally triumph over the one to whom wise Job admitted he spoke about things too wonderful for him and repented in dust and ashes? Hardly! I can’t even win an argument against the computer’s Alexa! No, I like what our retired Professor Daniel Deutschlander once told a group of us pastors. The first thing he would say when he got to heaven was, “Oh.” He would immediately know why his life turned out the way it did. He could clearly see why this or that happened. He would instantly grasp how the Lord pulled him through. It would all be so clear, as clear as the wife telling you the measuring cup is right there in front of you on the countertop. “Oh.”
It’s not up to me. It’s not up to you. It never was. It was always in God’s hands, as he planned all along.
1. To be the blameless family of God (3-6).
2. To know the mystery of forgiveness (7-10)
3. As God planned all along (11).
A lot of thought went into our salvation. God’s plan on getting us to heaven wasn’t a contingency plan. It wasn’t Plan B. It was always what he had planned before this world started. We are safe in his hands, both now and forever. We can doubt our choice about what we put on this morning. But we never have to doubt our Lord’s choices. Praise God!