God’s ways boggle our minds. His methods of accomplishing His will in each of our lives, and in the history of all of creation, are beyond our comprehension, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t interject our thoughts and opinions about what we think God can do, should do, or will do in any given situation. God has made it plain to us that His ways are not our ways. In Isaiah 55:8 we read,
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8 NIV)
When we are confronted with any situation in life, our immediate response should be, “What does God’s Word say?” Not, “What do I think about this situation?”
When it comes to the question of “how” we can relate to God our thoughts lead us way out into left field. For many people today, the path to God is paved by good works. If I can only be “good enough” then God will accept me, be pleased with me, and I will then be primed and ready for Heaven. This is the mindset of the majority of people today even though the Bible is clear that the path of good works is a dead-end road. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)
The reason why many cling to the hope of living a good enough life to catch God’s attention is because we simply don’t know what God has taught us in His Word. This morning we have a great opportunity to learn what God has to say about how you and I can enter into a relationship with the God of glory and enjoy the blessings of intimacy with the King of all creation. Let’s read our Scripture found in Ephesians 1:2-14.
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 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. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 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. 11 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, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:2-14 NIV)
We have spent several weeks taking a look at this passage of Scripture written by Paul and we could spend many more weeks examining all of the wonderful lessons contained in these verses. In the Greek New Testament verses 3-14 is one long sentence. Paul doesn’t stop to take a breath. He doesn’t place a comma or a period at any point. He simply erupts with praise to God for what He has done on our behalf. He has blessed us “with every spiritual blessing.” Today, I want us to take a look at the blessings with which God has blessed us. I find at least seven blessings found in these verses that I want us to take a closer look at this morning. They are:
1. God has chosen us. (vs 4)
2. God has adopted us as His very own. (vs 5)
3. God has redeemed us from slavery to sin. (vs 7)
4. God has forgiven us of our sins. (vs 7)
5. God has made known to us the revelation of His purpose in history. (vss 9-10)
6. God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit. (13)
7. God has guaranteed our inheritance by His Spirit. (vs 14)
I hope you noticed that in each of these seven blessings it is God who is active and not us. This is an amazing discovery for those of us who have believed or been taught that the only way for us to get to God is through good works. The truth of the matter is that none of us has, can, or ever will be able to get to God by our own effort. The Bible teaches that we are born spiritually dead. In Colossians 2:13, Paul wrote,
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins… (Colossians 2:13 NIV)
Did you notice that once again it was God who made us alive with Christ? “He forgave all of our sins…” In Ephesians 2:4-5, Paul tells the folks in Ephesus the same thing he told the people in Colosse.
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV)
Why has God done what He has done? It is because of His great love for us. Why does He love you and me? It’s not because of anything we’ve done, but it is because He has chosen to love us, He has chosen to shower us with His grace, and He has chosen to do things as He has chosen to do them. Let’s take a look at the first two blessings found in Ephesians 1.
The first blessing that Paul listed was God has chosen us. I was overwhelmed when I first really understood that God had chosen me. I don’t mean that I was like, “Gosh that’s cool.” I mean I was overwhelmed. I thought to myself, “Why would God choose me? I wouldn’t even choose myself.” Paul says,
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight… (Ephesians 1:4 NIV)
The word that Paul uses, which is translated, “chose,” in the NIV Bible means, “to choose or to select for oneself.” We can see illustrations of God’s choosing people throughout the Bible. God chose Abraham. God chose Moses. God chose the Children of Israel. Jesus chose His disciples. This is the way in which we see God working in the Scriptures.
Someone will say, “But didn’t I choose God? Didn’t I make the decision to become a follower of Jesus?” And the answer to that question is, “Yes you did, but before you ever chose to follow Jesus, God had chosen you before the foundation of the world—before you ever drew your first breath in this life.” God choosing us does not rule out our need to choose Him. Throughout the Bible we see time and time again that we are urged to choose God. In John 7:38, Jesus said,
38 “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:38 NIV)
All throughout the New Testament we find Jesus teaching and inviting people to trust in Him, believe in Him, and follow Him. Yet, Jesus was speaking to a crowd in John 5 when He said,
39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40 NIV)
So which is it? Does God choose us or do we choose God? The answer to that question is, “Yes!” God chose us before the creation of the world, while we were still dead in our sins He chose us, and it is only because of His choosing that we can choose Him. And yet, it is imperative that we make that choice. These two truths taught in God’s Word have confused many. Some say they just don’t make sense. John MacArthur writes,
God’s sovereign election and man’s exercise of responsibility in choosing Jesus Christ seem opposite and irreconcilable truths—and from our limited human perspective they are opposite and irreconcilable. That is why so many earnest, well-meaning Christians throughout the history of the church have floundered trying to reconcile them. Since the problem cannot be resolved by our finite minds, the result is always to compromise one truth in favor of the other or to weaken both by trying to take a position somewhere in between. We should let the antimony remain, believing both truths completely and leaving the harmonizing of them to God. (MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians. pg. 11)
Dr. MacArthur is so right. Most people let go of God’s choice and emphasize our choice or they let go of our choice and emphasize God’s sovereign choice. I want to urge you to hold on to both this morning.
The second blessing is that God has adopted us as His very own. There is a dear friend who has been part of Britton Christian Church for many, many years named Ruth Ross. Some of you have heard Ruth’s story. She and her sister were both orphans. Ruth was a sickly baby and the folks at the orphanage tried to discourage folks from adopting her because of how weak and feeble she was as a child. Yet, there came the day when a man and woman came to the orphanage and they adopted her. They took her home, loved her as their own, and Ruth has been forever grateful for the love she was shown.
That is an amazing story, but I can tell you an even more amazing story. You and I were chosen by God, we have been adopted by God, as His very own, through His Son Jesus. We were not feeble and frail, we were spiritually dead, powerless, and we were enemies of God, and yet He chose us. You may think that is harsh. Well, I’m just repeating what God’s Word teaches. In Romans 5:6, Paul writes,
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6 NIV)
We were powerless. There was nothing we could do about our situation and yet God chose for Christ to die for us. Not only were we powerless, but we were enemies of God, as Paul tells us in Romans 5:10.
10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:10 NIV)
Back in Ephesians 1, we learn that “He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ…” That word, “predestined,” tells us that we are not an accidents, we are not without purpose in this life, we are people who have the assurance of our destiny and it is found in the family of God. He has adopted us as His very own.
Along about now you and I should be overwhelmed with what God has done on our behalf. He has chosen us before the foundation of the world, before we ever drew our first breath. He has adopted us as His sons and daughters; we are not orphans wandering aimlessly with no direction or purpose in this life. And why has God done this? Well, there are two reasons that I find in the verses that we are studying this morning. First of all, in Ephesians 1:5-6 we read,
5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:5-6 NIV)
What God has done, He has done “in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace…” It pleased God to choose us. It pleased God to adopt us into His family, to make us His very own. What God has done so far has been part of His perfect plan which He planned before a day was ever created, before light ever lit the morning sky, and before a person ever took their first breath. He has accomplished all of this through Jesus, our Savior, our Redeemer, and King. Knowing what has taken place, our having been chosen by God and adopted by Him into His family, should give us great confidence that everything else that will happen in our lives is part of His perfect plan. God is at work! If He has chosen you, if He has claimed you as His own, placed you in His family as His child, then you can be assured that He is able to lead you through this life.
What God has done is in perfect accordance with His pleasure and will and it is to the praise of His glorious grace which has come to us through Jesus. As we learn what God has done it should stir a reaction in each and every one of us and that reaction should be worshipful praise. We should be astounded by His grace lavished on us. We should bubble over with continuous praise for what He has done, and is doing, in each of our lives through Jesus’ life, death, and glorious resurrection. We should spend far less time trying to figure out the logic of what God has done and why He has done it in the way He has done it and far more time praising Him for what He has done. It is the greatest story in the history of the world!
There is a second reason why God has acted in this way on our behalf and it is found in Ephesians 1:4. Read that passage of Scripture with me.
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight in love… (Ephesians 1:4 NIV)
“God has chosen us to be holy and blameless in his sight.” This will, one day, be God’s completed work in each of our lives, for all of those who are followers of Jesus. We are already declared “holy” by God because He has set us apart as His very own. That is what “holy” means—it means to be set apart for a special purpose. Our purpose is to live for our King and not for ourselves. Our purpose is to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. Peter put it best. In 1 Peter 2:9, he writes,
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)
We are called by God, chosen by God, and set apart by God to make Him known to this world in which we live. We are to declare His praises by the way we live, by the things we say, and in the way in which we interact with those around us. Peter also wrote, 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; (1 Peter 1:15 NIV) In all we do we are to be holy, we are to be distinctively God’s people, in all we do. Are you a business person? Then conduct your business as His business. Are you a teacher? Then teach your students as Jesus would have you teach them. Are you a plumber? Then practice your trade in a way that distinguishes you from all of the other plumbers in town. Are you a husband or wife? Then love your family with the love of God, forgive them in the way that you have been forgiven, and allow them to see the Lord through the way you interact with them. Are you a student in school? Then set yourself apart from your classmates with your character, integrity, and grace. We are chosen people, but we are chosen for a purpose.
We are also chosen by God to be blameless. I would venture to say that there isn’t one person who is here this morning who would describe themselves as “blameless.” For most of us, deep in our hearts, we know how far from blameless we really are, we struggle with sins of all kinds, and we know it. Yet, we are called to be blameless.
You need to know that these two adjectives, “holy” and “blameless,” used by Paul, have a history and their history is found in the Hebrew Bible. These words were used to describe the unblemished animals that were set apart for sacrifices to God. In Numbers 19:2 we read,
2 “This is a requirement of the law that the LORD has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke. (Numbers 19:2 NIV)
The words weren’t limited to describing animals that were going to be sacrificed to God. They also were used to describe the moral and ethical purity of people. In Psalm 15:1-2 we read,
1 A psalm of David. LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? 2 He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart… (Psalm 15:1-2 NIV)
The same words are used in many places in the New Testament. Though none of us would describe ourselves as “blameless,” we need to recognize that there is a work of sanctification that God is doing in us, and will continue to work in us, throughout our lives. The process of sanctification is a process of purification; it is a refining process in which God molds us into the image of His Son. It is God’s desire to rid us of all that is ungodly. Anything that is ungodly, that is not a perfect reflection of His character and holiness, He wants to remove from us. God does this work in us in many and various ways. He uses His Word to convict us. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.
Let’s say that I was raised in a family that was prejudiced against other races. I was taught that other races were inferior to white people. I was taught that they were to be used to do the work that we didn’t want to do, they were the butt of jokes, but they were not like “us.” Then, one day I read in God’s Word,
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 NIV)
At that point I have a decision to make don’t I? I can either cling to what I was taught by my family or I can reject what my family taught me and begin to pray for the grace to love all people. This is God’s process of sanctification. This is one of the ways that God molds us into the image of His Son.
God also uses trials and heartache to purify us, to mold us into the image of His Son. In James 1:2-4 we read,
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV)
I was talking to a friend of mine this past week who told me about two friends who have come through cancer. They have both told my friend that they miss cancer. How can you miss cancer? Well, they shared with my friend that when they were battling cancer they felt so close to the Lord, they were dependent upon Him for everything, and now that they have come through cancer they miss the intimacy they had with the Lord in the midst of their trial. The trials that we encounter in life are meant to draw us into His arms of comfort and grace.
There are so many ways that the Lord works in our lives for the purpose of sanctification, so that we will grow increasingly “blameless” until that day when we are presented perfectly holy and blameless when Christ comes for us.
This is as far as we will go in our study of Ephesians 1 for today, but what we have studied this morning should so stir our hearts that the rest of our day will be filled with worshipful praise. As I said earlier, I want us to spend less time trying to figure out the logic of it all and more time in worshipful praise to the God who has done these great things on our behalf. David Darnell wrote,
It is a puzzling question: ‘Why has God done what He has done in Jesus? Why have things happened in this way, and not in some other?’ Of course that question could be asked about many other things, such as ‘why gravity? Why does light travel at the speed it does? Why does water climb up straws, or tree trunks by ‘capillary action?’ Why are we alive?’ Many such questions defy our answers. Paul’s answer, and the answer which resounds at the heart of the early Christian’s worship, is simply this: God has so chosen! And best of all, God has chosen, He has chosen us! We are not nobodies, we are somebodies, indeed! We are the chosen people of God! (Darnell, David, Commentary on Ephesians.)
Look what God has done! How could He love us so? If you are looking for answers to that question then I’m sure you can find many folks who will give you plenty of answers, but I’ll be honest with you, I really don’t understand why He has done what He has done. Not logically anyway. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s just not in my nature to love those who reject me. I don’t think I could bring my enemy into my home, make them a part of my family, and give him or her the keys to everything I have. Yet, this is exactly what God has done for you and me. He has chosen us, adopted us, and loved us with an everlasting love. I hope that this morning you have had your eyes opened to the wonderful truth of God’s love and purpose for you. If you are a follower of Jesus then you never have to wonder about “who you are” or “why you are here.” You are His! If you are here this morning and you have never accepted Jesus as Lord of your life won’t you do that this very morning? God has chosen you, but the question is, “Have you chosen Him?” Won’t you do that this morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
October 2, 2011