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Faith Bible Church, NY
May 26, 1996
The Blessing of God: Chosen in Him
This morning we begin our examination of the longest sentence in the New Testament. Turn with me to Ephesians 1. It does not appear that way in English translations because extra punctuation is added to break up the sentence into more digestible segments, but in Greek Ephesians 1:3-14 is all one sentence. It begins with a statement about the blessed nature of God and then explains in three subordinate clauses the blessings that God grants to His followers.
Paul is so excited about these truths that he runs each thought together into one sentence. He covers past, present, and future as well as each member of the trinity. It will take us three weeks to look at each aspect.
Verses 3-6 cover the past: God the Father gave us a great blessing choosing us in Him before the foundation of the World that we might be holy and blameless before Him. Verses 7-13 cover the present blessing from God in that we are redeemed through the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Vs 14-16 cover our future blessing in that God has sealed us by the Holy Spirit who is the pledge of our inheritance.
As I mentioned last week, Ephesians will explain our riches in Christ and then prod us to live according to them. We should not live in spiritual poverty when all the riches of Christ are already ours. The starting point of understanding our riches is understanding what God has already done for us, so this morning we are going to concentrate on vs 3-6. 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, just 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 to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
THE BLESSED ONE
The first phrase is a statement of fact. The verb “be” is added to try and give it sense in English (that is why it is in parentheses in your translations), but literally it says, “blessed the God and Father of the Lord of us, Jesus Christ.” The particular word “blessed” here is a noun, åõëïãçôïò that is only applied to God. It refers to someone that is blessed on the basis of personal merit, so it is not surprising that the New Testament never uses it of a man except Jesus Christ (Romans 9:5), which makes another good case for His deity.
What does it mean to be “blessed?” The basic meaning is to be “spoken well of,” or as used here, to be given praise and glory. As Luther has pointed out, “God is praised in Himself,” and so from that standpoint God stands eternally as blessed apart from man or any other creature. However, God is also due honor and praise from man and the rest of creation and so is also blessed in that sense.
When you find a man or woman being described “blessed” (like Mary in Luke 1:42) it is a different word and refers to a blessing received, not a blessing due. This difference is seen in the Greek translation of Gen. 14:19 where Melchizedek comes out to meet Abram and says, “Blessed (participle) be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and Blessed (noun) be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” Abram was receiving praise for his victory over his enemies, but God was due praise and honor because He was the one that actually brought the victory about.
God exists in a blessed state by the very nature of who He is and because of that He is also due our praise and honor. God is the blessed One.
Before we go on to talk about the blessings God extends to us, lets make sure we understand what Paul means when he refers to God as the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Some cults have used that to make Jesus into a being subordinate to God and not God Himself.
Paul’s uses the terminology in the same way that Jesus did. Jesus referred to Himself by that title and approved of others referring to Him by that title because it demonstrated His unique relationship with the Father. It was not a relationship man could have. Jesus pointed this out to Mary in John 20:17. The Jewish religious leaders of the time understood this and accused Jesus of blasphemy in John 5:18 where it says, For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. The designation “Father” points out the triune nature of God, the Trinity, and not any sort of superior character or nature. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all equal in nature but subordinate in function.
HIS BLESSINGS TO US
God is the blessed one, but He is also the blesser and He has blessed us “…who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” God is the blesser because He is the source of all blessings. He speaks good to us and gives us benefits. The “us” referred to are “all saints” as mentioned back in verse 1. God’s common grace extends to all His creatures and so all receive blessings in that sense, but Paul is marking out believers here as receiving special benefits.
The blessings given are noted as being “spiritual blessings.” This does not mean that God’s blessings to us are only mystical in nature. Certainly the abstract things such as wisdom, understanding, and knowledge come from God (Prov. 2:6) as does the ability to perform work including artistic design (Ex. 31:3-6), but God’s blessings also include all the physical ones. James 1:17 says, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” Every good thing includes the food you eat (Isa 55:10), the water you drink, and the clothes you wear (Matt. 6) all come from God. You cannot name anything good material or immaterial that does not come from God.
Paul’s use of “spiritual” blessing here refers to their divine source, the Holy Spirit. We often get shortsighted by looking at the material world around us and forget that there is a spiritual realm that is involved too and is actually the controlling sphere.
It should also be noted that Paul speaks of these blessings as already being ours. It is not that Paul does not recognize that God’s blessings arrive to us in a time sequence, but rather that Paul is stating that these things already belong to us though we may have to wait for their arrival. If you will, it is sort of like having everything you will ever need for life stored in a large warehouse. You already own it all and you can have it when you ask for it, but you do have to wait for their arrival from the warehouse.
We understand Paul to be saying this because He speaks of these blessings as being “in the heavenlies” (or heavenly places) “in Christ.” The “heavenly places” encompass all of God’s supernatural and natural realm. Paul speaks of our blessings being located there because true Christians are already citizens of God’s kingdom in Christ and we receive them because we are “in Christ.”
Because we are “in Christ”, we are in union with Him and will be with Him as His fellow heirs (Rom. 8:16-17). That is why the Christian awaits Christ’s return, or as Phil. 3:20 puts it, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory…”.
It is because of our union with Christ that we receive all these spiritual blessings, and that includes the mind of Christ so that we can understand what the spiritual blessings are (2 Cor. 2:14-16)! God has given to us everything that we need to live the life that He calls us too. The apostle Peter put it this way in 2 Peter 1:3 “…His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us…”
We are to bless God, give honor and praise to Him. It is due Him by His very nature and because He has blessed us, spoken well to us, given us His gracious benefits. Those who are in Christ have been given everything they will need to live a godly life on this earth. We lack nothing. Paul is absolutely confident in this and so speaks in the past tense of even things that are still in the future. Why can Paul be so confident? Because our being in Christ is not based on anything changeable or transitory. If it was, then the future would be uncertain.
THE REASON FOR HIS BLESSINGS
God’s reason for giving all these rich blessings to us (and I have not even scratched the surface of all of them!) is because of His own sovereign choice, or as one commentator put it, because of its personal connotation: God’s sovereign “selection.” “…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”
The words, “just as,” introduces the amplification and explanation of Paul’s thoughts in verse 3. God’s blessings come to us because He chose / selected us.
A lot of people balk at this idea of God choosing us. They do not like the doctrine of election. They want to fight for what is often called “man’s free will.” It is man’s choice they say and they will point out all the verses in which sinners are called to repentance and salvation is offered to those who will choose it (“whosoever will” – John 3:16, 11:26, etc.) The fact that God commands all men to repent is clear in the Bible (Acts 17;30, etc.), and so is the fact that God has offered salvation to all men and women. What could be more clear then Romans 10:17,18 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same [Lord] is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; 13 for “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
I certainly cannot and will not argue against these doctrines because they are plainly taught in the Scriptures. However, we cannot magnify one doctrine and its inferences over another doctrine that is equally, and in this case, even more plainly taught in the Bible. One cannot argue against salvation being by God’s sovereign choice without doing great damage to the Bible. Here are some examples:
Eph. 1:4 – He chose us in Him… The verb tense making the case even stronger- aorist, middle reflexive. An independent choice. God chose by Himself for Himself.
Mt. 24:31 – those gathered at the end – “His elect.”
Acts 13:48 – as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Romans 8:30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified
2 Thess 2:13 “…because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”
2 Tim 2:10 For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus [and] with [it] eternal glory.
Part of the tension with this doctrine is that there is confusion about man’s “free will.” Man’s will is not free. It is in bondage to sin (Rom. 6). The unsaved “walk in the futility of their mind” and are “darkened in their understanding” (Eph. 4:17,18). The offer is made that “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved,” but the reality is that no one will call for the Lord on their own. Ps. 14 as quoted in Rom. 3:11 says it plainly, “There is note who understands, There is none who seeks for God…”. That is why John 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”
The doctrine of election, that God by His sovereign choice chooses who will be saved, in no way violates what He also says about His commandments to repent or His offer of salvation to whoever will come. The sinner that responds to the call of salvation does not violate his own will, instead it is the sovereign grace of God that makes him willing to respond. The relationship of Divine Sovereignty and human responsibility is a mystery to us and will not be solved this side of heaven. As Warren Wiesrbe quotes, “Try to explain election and you may lose your mind, but try to explain it away and you may lose your soul!” Both are true and both are essential. Notice as well the time marker as to when God made his choice of who would be saved: “before the foundation of the world.” God’s plan of salvation was mapped out before the world began. Rev. 13:8 and 17:8 both point out that the names in the Lamb’s book of life were written from “the foundation of the world.” Matthew 25:34 tells us that our inheritance in Christ was prepared from the foundation of the world.
THE PURPOSE OF HIS BLESSINGS
God’s choosing is not haphazard or arbitrary. God’s choices are always with a purpose in view, and here the purpose is plainly stated: “that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” You were not saved so that you could escape hell, you were saved so that you could live a holy and blameless life. This covers both the positive and negative aspects.
“Holy” means “set apart” to God. It is the same word as “saints” in verse 1. Holiness takes in three aspects: past, present, and future. We were set apart to God when He chooses us, we are being set apart in the present as we more faithfully live for Him, and we will be set apart in fullness in the future when we dwell with Him in heaven. Blameless means “without blemish,” or “spotless.” The stain of sin is washed away and we no longer seek to play in its mudhole.
In Christ we are made holy and blameless before God and the striving of the Christian is to live that truth out practically in day to day life. The believer desires daily life to match his position before God.
When God chose us for salvation He also “In love… predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself.” “Predestined” means “to mark out beforehand.” God did not look down the road of future history to see who would believe and then choose them for salvation or predestine them for adoption as sons. The simple fact is that one would not believe apart from Holy Spirit working in the individuals life, and apart from God there is nothing in man to desire. God’s only motivation was love. In God’s sovereign choice operating completely out of love that is extended in grace he selects some out of the human race for salvation and marks them out as His children.
There is no predestination for hell as there is for heaven. The ultimate consequence of sin is eternity in hell and that is the destination of all men except those that God lovingly and graciously chooses to save. Immediately some accuse God of being unfair because He chooses some and not others. If God was fair, He would chose none and all mankind would be lost. Instead He is loving and gracious and He chooses whom He wills. Never ask God to be fair for that would result in His judgement and His just condemnation. Always ask Him to be gracious and merciful.
God’s love is not the marshmellowy, sentimental feeling advocated by our culture as love. God’s love is agape love. The love that chooses and sacrifices itself for the benefit of the one chosen. God poured His love to mankind not because of anything in mankind but according to the kind intention of His will. That boggles our minds, but it is true. Rom. 5:8 states it this way, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Out of God’s love also comes His adoption of us as sons. This speaks of the relationship He has called us too. God could have saved us from sin without making us His children, but in His love He also marked us out in eternity past to be His sons and daughters. In addition, adoption grants the privileges and responsibilities of a grown son. Our adoption, just as our salvation, comes through Jesus Christ.
The grand purpose of all this is stated in verse 6, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” Paul repeats this thought at the end of each section of this sentence, vs. 12 and 14: “To the praise of His glory.”
I wonder how many people who profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ understand that salvation is for the express purpose of bringing glory to God. My guess would be that a large majority are ignorant of this fact because they continue to live their lives for themselves without thought to how what they do or what they say may reflect on God’s glory. How different the lives of so many professing Christians would be if they simply understood the purpose of their salvation. I have a great concern for the professing church in America because the gospel is for the most part not being proclaimed in our land any longer, it is being marketed. People are wooed and enticed to “make a decision for Christ” without the whole story being told. It seems so important to get the person “saved” that we fail to really tell them what they are being saved from and saved to. Striving to get spiritual scalps the message is watered down and Jesus is sold as a commodity to boost self-esteem and take care of all problems. Generally people are not told the purpose of their salvation, only what benefits they might expect if they pray to receive Christ.
I trust that you who are here are clear when you talk to people about the Lord and that you make sure you give out the whole gospel. Salvation is from sin and certainly that carries with it deliverance from its temporal consequence of ruined lives and ultimate consequence of eternal condemnation by God in hell. But primarily salvation is from sin and its consequence of a broken relationship with God and the inability to function properly in fulling the very purpose of your existence, bringing glory to God. Salvation is to a reconciled relationship with God and being able to properly bring glory to His name.
A simple way to see if you are fulfilling the purpose of your existence is to ask yourself of our life is bring praise and glory to God? You can check your actions by asking yourself, “Can I do that and it bring glory to God at the same time?” Curb your tongue by asking, “Can I praise God and say what I am thinking about saying at the same time?”
If your life is not being lived in a way that can glorify God in action, word, and thought, then something needs to change, and change quickly. If you already know the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior, then you need to keep striving to make your life match what you are supposed to be. Make sure you have someone alongside you praying for you and holding you accountable. The Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation.
If you do not know if you are saved, then you need to plead with God that He would extend His grace and mercy to you and save you, then you come see me or one of the Elders. You don’t need to worry or even think about whether you are one of the elect or not. God knows and that is what counts. Your very willingness to seek Him is a demonstration that the Holy Spirit is working on your heart.
God, the Blessed One, has blessed us by choosing us in Him and adopting us as His sons. This is one of the great riches we have in Jesus Christ. Let’s live according to it.
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