Praise to our Saving God

  • JR Vassar
  • Apr 26, 2009
  • Series: Wealth Redefined

Eph 1:1-14. Paul is writing this letter to those who are in the Church at Ephesus. They are full of faith in Jesus Christ and have been set apart to belong to God (saints). They have heard the message of Jesus and how he saves us from our sins and reconciles us to God and they have believed that message and received Jesus as Savior and Lord (v13). He is writing to Christians and what he says to these Christians applies to any who have faith in Jesus and have received him as Savior and Lord. The text: 202 words in one sentence. Paul begins his letter to this band of Christ followers by erupting in praise to God. Berakah (blessing); doxology (word of glory). Worship: we come every week to gather for worship. What is worship? It is a joyful response to who God is and what he has done for us in Jesus. blessed us with every spiritual blessing. There is a difference between the blessings of common grace and the blessings of special grace. Paul invites us to contemplate these blessings of special grace and to Praise this God, to bless Him in response to the great blessings he has given us, namely this great salvation he has provided in Jesus. As Paul begins this letter he is overwhelmed by the blessings that God has given us in Jesus. Reflecting on these blessings fill him with joy, peace, hope and praise. He is not giving God thanks for all the material blessings he has. He is actually in prison while he writes this. He has nothing to his name. He has been shamed by the world and stripped of his possessions and has the threat of death hanging over his head. And yet, there is no depression, despair, fear. He celebrates the riches, the blessings that are his because of Jesus and the blessings that have been lavished upon him. So, when our circumstances beat us down, rob us of joy, destroy our peace, fill us with despair… we have to consider the blessings that have been given us in Jesus. We have to remember what God has done to bless us with every spiritual blessing, and rejoice in it. These blessings are identity defining and give shape to our praxis and determine our destiny.

He chose us before the foundation of the world. Paul says to these Christ followers and to us who follow Christ, before the foundation of the world, God had you on his heart. You were the object of divine love and the intended recipient of his grace that for all eternity he might bless you. He wanted you and sent his Son from his side to make you His. Don’t miss the big idea here because you want to swim in the intricate theological complications of this. God is always the pursuer; God comes after us with mercy and grace. He always initiates; we don’t. The Scriptures says in Romans 3:11 that no one seeks for God; Ephesians 2 says that we are dead in our sin without any inclination toward God. God comes after us. He seeks us. He stirs us. He awakens us and brings us to life. The Scripture is clear that we do not initiate anything with God. 1John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.” We do not choose him; He chose us and calls us to himself. CS Lewis in Christian Reflections: “I never had the experience of looking for God. It was the other way round; He was the hunter (or so it seemed to me) and I was the deer. He stalked me…took unerring aim, and fired.” This is great news. He chooses us for himself. And, not when we have done enough to prove our worth to him. He chose us before the foundation of the world. We will look at this more next week and probably hurt our minds thinking about it, but for now here is what you need to hear: If you believe in Jesus today, it is because God chose you for himself. He wants you and has gone to great lengths to bring you to himself. Left to ourselves we would never give ourselves completely to Him. It is his doing that we know Him. We don’t convince God to take us, he convinces us to come to Him. We don’t desire him and then melt his resistance to us; He desires us and melts our resistance to Him. We don’t overcome his unwillingness; He overcomes ours. We don’t win him over with our works; He wins us over with his grace. It is his doing. You don’t have to perceive him as a resistant God who is cold to you, distant from you, unwilling to listen and speak to you. I wonder how many of you have tried to pray this week and perceived God as disinterested in you or unwilling to listen and fellowship with you, and closed off to you. I wonder how many of you did not crack open the Scriptures because you thought God would certainly not speak to you through them – he is unwilling and his heart is not inclined to you. But the Scripture says, He chose you. Before the world began, you were on his mind. Before the world began he was determined to set his love on you and have you as his own – that you might know him and be known by him. His heart is opened wide to you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ because he has chose us for himself.

He has made us His Sons and Daughters (v. 5). God wanted us as sons and daughters. He adopted us into his family. It was his joy and his plan to make us his children and lavish all the rights of sons and daughters upon us. We were not his children. We were sons of disobedience, children of wrath, having the Devil as our Father, under his reign and belonging to his kingdom 2:1-3. But he has freed us from that and given us a new identity as sons and daughters of God, no longer children of wrath and sons of disobedience. Paul uses the language of a Roman adoption. An adopted child was given all the rights and privileges of a biological child and made an heir. In Roman adoption, the subjects of adoption were not normal children, “but young men who had shown themselves fit and able to carry on a family name in a worthy way.” Illus: Designer Babies. From “With rapid advances in scientific knowledge of the human genome and our increasing ability to modify and change genes, this scenario of "designing" your baby could well be possible in the near future.” But not with God. He does not audition us; he adopts us. He adopts undeserving people who are not fit for God’s family but are sinners who bring nothing to Him but sin, guilt, rebellion, brokenness and shame. Yet, out of his great love and in accordance with his grace, he adopts us as his children and makes us his heirs. God’s adoption of us is his free choice; he is not under any obligation to choose us as his sons and daughters. He does it in accordance with the purpose of his will, for the sake of magnifying his grace by bestowing love and sonship on us. This explodes in Paul’s heart as he writes this. That God would have us as his kids. Rom 8.15-17 ESV “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16) The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17) and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,” We no longer fear God as our Judge, we enjoy him as a Father to whom we can cry out “Abba.” We do not live in slavery to fear of God as judge. We live in the freedom of approaching God as our Father and enjoying a relationship with him. He has brought us into such an intimate relationship with him that we could actually call him Abba.

“If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayer and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught...everything that is distinctively summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God.” JI Packer  in Knowing God.

We have a picture of the kind of Father God is to us. God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 1:3) and he has become our Father. We only have to see the kind of Father he was to Jesus and know that he is that kind of Father to us. He has made us his sons and daughters and loves us with the same kind of perfect and faithful love with which he loves Jesus. The same love that God has for Jesus, he has for us.  We are just as fully loved by the Father as Jesus is loved by the Father. He is ever present ready to give us help, comfort, wisdom, provision, and every thing we need.)

He has redeemed and forgiven us. The word redemption sums up our salvation. It means to be set free. There were 6 million slaves in the Roman world at that time. If you had a loved one that was a slave, you could purchase them and then set them free. Redemption is God freeing us from the bondage of sin. We are enslaved to sin - to its penalty (owing a great debt to God for our sins) and to its power (under sins control). Redemption is God freeing us from the bondage of sin by forgiving us. Redemption comes to us through forgiveness. We are set free by being forgiven. Forgiveness is key. We cannot have the favor of God until we have the forgiveness of God. We must be reconciled to God to enjoy fellowship with God. To experience his help in our lives, we need to be restored to Him. If we are going to belong to him, be his sons and daughters, we have to have forgiveness. We must be pardoned and made right with God to be fit for his family. But, Forgiveness is difficult. He can create the world with a word, “Let there be...” but he cannot simply say, “let there be forgiveness.” Forgiveness is the dillema of God. Sin mertis punishment. Justice demands a penalty. A ransom has to be paid for the slave to be set free. So forgiveness must come at an expense to God. The text says we are redeemed through his blood. Christ satisfied God’s justice so that the sin could be forgiven, the debt canceled. In Christ, we can have full pardon. The forgiveness of our trespasses, plural. All our sin forgiven. We desperately need this and want this.
“My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, And every tongue brings in a several tale, And every tale condemns me for a villain.” Shakespeare’s: King Richard III.

We have all felt the pain of a condemning conscience. We can be forgiven for every sin through Jesus who has paid for all the sins of those who believe in him. And, he not only sets us free from the penalty of those sins, but the controlling power of those sins. Can you be different? Can you stop losing your temper? Can you have victory over your lust? Can the sins that easily entangle you lose their grip on you? Yes, in Christ. In Him you are set free. As you come to know him more and experience his power in your life, you know this freedom. And we will know this freedom one day in its fullness.

He has given us Assurance that all of this is ours forever. We have seen how quickly wealth and possessions can disappear.  So the big question we face is, “how long are these blessings ours? What if we fail as his children? Can we commit a sin that takes us past our quota? Will God ever decide against us? Will he disown us? Will he refuse to forgive us? Will he condemn us in the end if we don’t perform well? Answer is found in vv.13-14. He has given us his Spirit as a seal and as a deposit. A seal communicates two key things: ownership and protection. For someone to put their seal on something meant they owned it and that it was protected by them. You seal a letter to assure that it cannot be opened until it reaches it recipient. The text is saying that God has given his Spirit to his chosen sons and daughters as a mark of his ownership of us and his commitment to keep us and protect us and bring us safely to heaven.

The Spirit is a deposit. He is the initial deposit that there is so much more waiting for us. This is experiential. The Spirit wants to give us the experience of assurance – a very real sense that we belong to God as his forgiven and chosen sons and daughters who have received his grace. How do we experience this? What is this experience like? Illus: The deposit is the same currency as the final payment. Packer, “what makes the actual relationship with the Father and the Son that is perfected there.” Here is the point: Heaven will be an ever increasing experience of the Kindness of God in saving us by grace that fills us with ever increasing joy for all eternity (Eph 2:7), like an endless tide that keeps rolling in on us for all eternity. In heaven, we will not be omniscient. We will be free from error, but not omniscient. We will be continually discovering, experiencing, tasting the love and kindness of God in increasing measure and intensity. The Spirit is given to us now as an initial deposit of that. The Spirit wants to give us a foretaste of that even now. He is given to us so that we might experience in increasing measure here and now what we will experience in increasing measure for all eternity, namely the intense and joy giving love, grace and kindness of God in choosing us, sinful, damnable, undeserving sinners, to be the objects of his eternal love and his forgiven sons and daughters, and offering up his Son to make it happen. The Holy Spirit wants to deepen our awareness of that moment by moment even now, a first deposit. This is what Paul meant in Romans 8:16-17. The Holy Spirit is at work in our lives to press deep upon our hearts that we belong to God as his children and have an eternity with Him to look forward to where we will experience the surpassing greatness of his kindness to us who believe.  This experience gives us assurance that all of this is ours for eternity. It is a initial deposit of something that will be given in its entirety at a later date.

There is a Trinitarian Structure: vv4-6 (Father has planned this salvation for us before the world began. He is the subject of the verbs in this passage – he has blessed us, chose us, adopted us, redeemed us, forgave us, lavished grace on us, revealed his will to us, predestined us for an inheritance, and works all things after the counsel of his will. God the Father is at work to bless us.); vv.7-12 (The Son has secured this salvation through his incarnation, death, and resurrection. All of these blessings that we are going to take a closer look at are In Christ. Christ is referred to 15x in this passage. He is called the Lord Jesus, The Christ or Messiah or Anointed One, the Son of God the Father; the Beloved (meaning the one deeply loved by God the Father. The words “in him, or in whom, or in Christ or through Christ are used 11x in this passage – we are blessed in him, chosen in him, adopted through him, have redemption in him, forgiveness in him, over and over we see that all these spiritual blessings are in Jesus. In other words, if you do not have Christ, you are outside of the blessing and favor of God. You don’t have God as your father, you don’t have freedom from sin and the forgiveness of sins, you don’t have the promised Holy Spirit. In fact we will see that without Christ you have just the opposite of these things. Christ has secured all of these things for all who believe in Him. Only in Him do you have these blessings.); vv.13-14 (The Spirit has applied this great salvation to us. These are spiritual blessings, mediated to us by God’s Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us eyes to see it and moves our hearts to receive it with faith; he seals this in us). In other words, the Godhead, the divine community from all eternity has determined to do good to you forever.