Below is part 2 of 4 of a sermon I preached on 7/22/07 on Ephesians 1-3The glory of God displayed in the past
So how has God done this? How has He displayed His glory through the Church? We’re going to walk through Ephesians 1 and 2 and we’re going to look at what God has done in the past, what he is doing in the present, and what He promises to do in the future. So first, let’s look at what God has done in the past. Look with me in chapter 1, beginning in verse 3:
Eph. 1:3 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, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Eph. 1:11 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
Here we see that God’s actions towards the church didn’t simply begin at Genesis 1 in the creation of the world, but rather, God chose us “before the foundation of the world”. This is what verse 5 is referring to when it talks about how “in love, [God] predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ”. In other words, before the world even existed, God had freely decided those whom He would adopt into His family, simply because of His love for them.
Now this is a difficult teaching isn’t it? This teaching of God’s unconditional choosing runs counter to our most basic human instinct. Human instinct teaches us, “God loves you if you are a good person. God is angry at you if you’re not.” We are naturally wired to want to work for God’s approval. But fundamentally, what is at the root of this instinct is our desire to be in control of our destiny, to be our own masters, our own gods. But friends, we are not our own gods. We are creatures, created by God. Now, I’m not saying that our actions or our decisions don’t matter… they absolutely do matter, and we’re going to see very soon that they matter a lot! But along with that, I also want to affirm what this passage seems to be affirming, namely that at the end of the day, when we get to the very bottom of things, it is God who has chosen us. It is God who has acted first.
Now, I have to confess that so much of this is still a mystery to me and I don’t claim to understand everything about all that works, (and if you have any questions about this, I would love to talk to you more afterwards). But even though I don’t understand everything, I want to be careful to affirm everything that Scripture seems to affirm, and not limit my understanding of God simply to the things that I can understand with my brain.
Well, we can be pretty sure that this is what Paul is getting at when we ask the question: What attribute is God looking to magnify in all this? Verse 6: “to the praise of His glorious grace”. As we said earlier, the reason why God has decided to make our adoption ultimately dependent on His love, rather than our worth or our decision, is because His ultimate goal in all this is to display just how amazing His grace is. If there is any thought process that we can rightly imagine in the mind of God in His predestining, it’s probably the question, “Whom can I predestine that will most display just how generous and gracious I am?” Therefore, it’s no wonder that Paul writes in 1 Cor. 1:26-28:
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
Another indicator that God’s predestining was based on grace and not on anything we do is the phrase “in him”: vs. 4 – “He chose us in him”. This is clearly referring to Jesus Christ in verse 3. What this means is that if there was any good that God saw when he chose us, it was not any good in us, but in Christ. When God chose undeserving sinners to be adopted into His family, He did so with an eye to what Christ accomplished on the cross. This is why our adoption in verse 5 is “through Jesus Christ”. How did Jesus Christ make our adoption possible? Look at verse 7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
What are these trespasses that we see here? They refer to the fact that all of us here are sinners. All of us have rebelled against God and refused His Lordship over our lives, and instead, have lived according to our own ideas of what is good and right. As a result, not only have our lives been corrupted, but this entire world has fallen into a corrupt and wicked state, and what used to be a beautiful and clear reflection of God’s glory, has now become a muddy, filthy cesspool of evil that brings insult to the glory of its Creator. So what will God do? Will He look the other way and allow His glory to be trampled on? Or will He vindicate Himself and bring destruction to these rebels?
Well, like we saw earlier, God is committed to His glory and He will not let sin go unpunished. But instead of simply obliterating all of His enemies at once, God did something really amazing. God Himself stepped into human history, by sending His Son Jesus Christ into the world. Jesus Christ was born into this world and grew up, and lived a life of perfect obedience and love to God and man. He was the only perfect, sinless human that has ever lived on this earth (the kind of people that we should’ve been). And yet, at the end of his life, instead of receiving the honor and reward he should have received, he was falsely condemned and crucified on a cross. And there, on the cross, God laid on him the sins of His people, and Jesus Christ received the punishment and death that our sins deserved. On the cross, we see the full display of God’s hatred for evil and sin, in the fact that the only sacrifice sufficient to satisfy God’s judgment of sin was the death of the infinitely worthy Son of God.
But Christ did not remain dead. Three days after His death, God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, proving that the punishment of sin has been fully paid by Christ’s sacrifice. Death has been defeated. God’s wrath has been spent. And now to those who will repent of their sins, and place their trust in Christ by faith, God promises to count Christ’s work as accomplished on their behalf, to forgive them of their sins and adopt them into His family.
If you are a non-Christian here this morning, if you understand nothing else in this sermon, I hope you’ll understand this message. Jesus Christ has come to save sinners from the wrath of God by suffering in their place. And the way you are connected to this gracious work is not by your efforts, or your own self-righteousness, but simply by turning away from your sin and trusting in Christ by faith. If you have any questions about what that means, please make it your business to talk to me or someone here today.
And if you are a Christian here, as we think about all the ways that our salvation is rooted in what God has done for us in the past, do you see what an awesome foundation this is? The next time you are wavering with doubts, or struggling with sins and unsure of whether or not God really loves you, rather than looking to yourself for comfort, place your hope and your trust in God and recognize that your salvation is ultimately not rooted in what you have done, but in what God has done for you. This is what it means to rest in God and to hope in God.