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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:The glory of God's grace in Christ
Text:Ephesians 1:3 - 6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Added:2013-11-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

(Old Book of Praise)

Ps. 9: 1, 4, 5 

Ps. 14: 1, 2, 5

Ps. 118: 1, 6, 8

Hymn 27: 1 – 4

Ps. 150: 1 – 3

 

Scripture reading:       Eph. 1: 1 – 23

Text:                         Eph. 1: 3 – 6

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


The glory of God’s grace in Christ    

Ps. 9: 1, 4, 5

Ps. 14: 1, 2, 5

Ps. 118: 1, 6, 8

Hymn 27: 1 – 4

Ps. 150: 1 – 3

 

Scripture reading:       Eph. 1: 1 – 23

Text:                         Eph. 1: 3 – 6

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

In Christ God has blessed us with every blessing.   In Christ God has given us all things.

God has blessed us and made us infinitely rich.

 

Here and now in this life we do not yet experience this, except for a small foretaste.

And even the small foretaste of glory we experience only by faith.

Yes, we live by faith and not by sight.

This life still remains a life of sorrow (LD 9).   And the words of Psalm 90 still apply:

 

“The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labour and sorrow…” – Ps. 90: 10

 

Even the best of our life is only labour and sorrow.  

Therefore the apostle Paul says that if our hope in Christ would only be for this life here and now, we would have been the most pitiable of all men (1 Cor. 15: 19).

 

The fullness of the glory of God’s blessings in Christ is yet to be revealed.

And yet it has already been given to us!

In Christ God has already adopted us as sons, and He has already made as co-heirs with Christ of every spiritual blessing in the heavens!

Yes, in Christ He has blessed us with every blessing; and He has done this to us who deserves nothing but eternal condemnation.

 

Dear congregation, when we see the glory of God’s grace to us in Christ we cannot but join the apostle in thanksgiving and praise for the riches of God’s mercy towards us.

I proclaim the gospel to you with the theme…

The glory of God’s grace in Christ

 

We will note…

  1. That God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing
  2. That God elected us in Christ to be His sons
  3. That to God alone belongs all praise for the glory of His grace

In the first place we note that…

God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing

 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

 

The praise and thanksgiving for our salvation is directed to God the Father.   It is the Father who blessed us with all blessings.   But now the Father is identified as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.   It is only through Christ that we know God and receive His blessings.  

 

Now, the blessings with which the Father blessed us are here called “spiritual blessings”.  

What then are these spiritual blessings?

It is to be holy and without blame.

It is to live in true covenant communion with God and with all the saints, united in love.

It is to be adopted as sons of God, to be accepted and favoured by God, to be redeemed from sin and death, to be co-heir with Christ of His kingdom, and to have all these riches in Christ sealed by the Holy Spirit who was given to us as a guarantee of our redemption and eternal inheritance.

These are the main blessings mentioned here in our text.

 

Much more detail can be added to this list of blessings.   In Christ we are blessed with every possible blessing in heaven and on earth.   No blessing is excluded.

But we have to note more carefully the description of these blessings when the apostle describes all blessings in Christ as spiritual blessings, and adds that these are all laid up for us in heavenly places.

 

That our blessings in Christ are called spiritual does not mean that the blessings relate only to the inner life of our soul.   In this context we may translate the word “Spiritual” with a capital letter.   That is: blessings communicated by the Spirit of God. 

That does not exclude physical blessings.  

Our salvation includes a glorified body and a new earth.   These are physical and material blessings, and yet they are called spiritual to contrast them with all that is natural and earthly.   The spiritual blessings are holy and divine blessings; blessings that will last for all eternity, over against the temporal and defiled enjoyments of this world.

 

Furthermore, all the blessings which Christ imparts to us by His Holy Spirit are stored up for us “in the heavenly places”.  

This reminds us of another passage where the apostle Peter says that God is reserving our inheritance for us in heaven – 1 Peter 1: 4.

This inheritance will indeed be enjoyed on a new earth, but presently this treasure is being preserved for us in heaven in Christ.   Our treasure is where He is.

That all our blessings are found in Christ in heaven also means that it is out of the reach of devils and all enemies.   No one can touch our inheritance, for it is laid up in God’s treasure room, even in His own Son, seated at His right hand.

 

Now, the apostle says that we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.   And these words, in Christ, are crucial.  

Here in this doxology, starting with verse 3 through to verse 14, the words in Christ are repeated over and over again.

We receive every blessing in Christ – verse 3

We were chosen in Him – verse 4

We are accepted in the Beloved – verse 6

We have our redemption in Him – verse 7

God unites all things in Him – verse 10

Our inheritance is in Him – verse 11

And He is the One in whom we are sealed with the Holy Spirit – verse 13

 

All these blessings, indeed, every blessing, have been given us in Christ.

Now, what does that mean?

It means that we are not blessed in ourselves, but only in Christ. 

Apart from Christ no man is blessed.

And apart from Christ no blessing can be found.

Apart from Christ no man is chosen or adopted.

Apart from Christ there is no redemption.

Yes, apart from Christ there is no grace and no glory and no possession to be inherited.

Apart from Christ all men are cursed and rejected.

The glory of God’s grace towards us is only found in Christ.

Only in Christ we are blessed.

 

We were chosen in Christ, and that means that we were not chosen because of ourselves.

God favours only His Son and those who are in His Son.

That He chose us in Christ means that He decided to give us to Christ, and to join us to Christ, in order that He may adopt us as children, for in ourselves we were totally rejectable.

 

Dear congregation, we can only rightly appreciate the glory of God’s grace towards us when we realise that we deserve the exact opposite.   We deserve nothing but God’s wrath and indignation.   We truly deserve to be hated by God, and to be rejected forever.  

Of ourselves we are no better than those who will be cast into the lake of fire.

 

God does not love us because we are so loveable.   We were not loveable at all.   God loves us only in Christ; and only in Christ He chose us.  

He did not choose us because of any worth in ourselves.

In fact, He chose us in spite of ourselves.  

Yes, that we are chosen in Christ excludes all merits or worthiness of man.

 

In Christ we receive the fountain of life; in Him we are blessed with every blessing.

 

But, not all men are in Christ.   Our union with Christ is the result of God’s gracious election before the foundation of the world.  

God’s eternal decree of election is the foundation and first cause of all the blessings that we receive in Christ.

 

We note that in the second place, that…

God elected us in Christ to be His sons

 

When Adam sinned we sinned.    In Adam we all died.   And thus each man is born spiritually dead.   We are not spiritually weak or sick by nature, but dead – as the apostle continues to explain in the following chapter.

Of ourselves we are not even able to believe the gospel.

No one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him (John 6: 44).

Not even our faith is of ourselves, it’s a gift of God (Eph. 2: 8).

 

And thus it is an error to say that God elected those whom He foresaw would believe in Christ.  If God did not decide to give us faith, none of us would have believed the gospel.

God’s election is not based on foreseen faith.   God did not choose us because He saw that we would choose Him!   Instead, our faith in Christ is the fruit of God’s gracious election.

He elected us in Christ and therefore He joins us to Christ by a true faith which He works in us.

 

On the basis of God’s Word we confess that God, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His will, out of mere grace, chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of specific persons.   Those whom He chose were neither better nor more worthy than others, but all equally damnable.   God powerfully and effectively calls and draws them into communion with Himself through His Word and Spirit.   He decreed to give them true faith in Him, to justify them, to sanctify them and to preserve them in the fellowship of His Son, and finally to glorify them, and to do all this to the praise of the glory of His grace (compare Canons of Dort, chapter 1, art. 7).

 

Yes, our whole salvation in Christ flows forth from God’s gracious election before the foundation of the world.  

So then, this election is not based on anything in us.   In ourselves we are no better than those who will perish eternally.   There was nothing worthy in us, nor did we do anything to be chosen.   The only difference between us and those who will perish in hell is the electing grace of God.  

 

If it was not for this undeserved and gracious election we would have perished eternally.

 

Dear congregation, it is then not our good or strong faith that saves us.   It is not we who chose God; He chose us while we deserved nothing but rejection just as the rest of mankind.

 

Brothers and sisters, this gospel strips us of all pride.   My salvation is not in the least caused by anything in me, or of me.   It is from beginning to end God’s work of grace only.

 

God’s gracious election in Christ preceded the creation of this world.

“Before the foundation of the world” means: before God even started with creation.

It also means that our election in Christ is firm and sure, established in God’s eternal decree.

 

Now, He chose us with a purpose.   He chose us to be holy and without blame.

That is not the ultimate purpose; as we will see shortly the ultimate purpose of our salvation is that God may be praised for the glory of His grace. 

But the way in which God’s grace will be praised is when His grace will be seen in the restoration of our lives, when sinners are redeemed and restored and made holy and without blame, and start to live a new life unto God.  

 

Note that the Father did not choose us because we were holy and without blame, but in order to make us holy and without blame.

Note also the perfection unto which He restores us.   He makes us holy and without blame before Him – that is: before His eyes.

He predestined us to be perfectly holy so that we may stand without fault in the presence of His holiness.     

And then the apostle adds that God predestined us to this perfect state of holiness “in love”.   Our new life in Christ is characterised by love.    Love is the fulfilment of the law.   Love is the fruit of our salvation.   God’s grace is seen in our lives when we start to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

The apostle continues to say that God has…

 

“…predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will…”

 

From our election in Christ flows our adoption as sons.

He predestined us to adoption as sons.   That means: He decided and determined beforehand in His eternal counsel that He will adopt us as His sons in and through Christ.

God was not moved by any reason outside of Himself.   It was the sovereign and good pleasure of His will to be merciful to us, to choose and to adopt us in Christ, in spite of ourselves.

 

This gospel strips us of all boasting in order that God may receive all honour and praise for the riches and the glory of His grace.

We note that in the third place…

To God alone belongs all praise for the glory of His grace

 

Our text began in verse 3 with a doxology:

 

“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…”

 

To bless God means, in this context, to praise and thank Him.  

The apostle is praising God for the glory and the riches of His grace.

And then the doxology continues through to verse 14.   In these verses the praise of God is repeated over and again like a refrain.

God elected us in Christ and predestined us to become His sons through adoption “to the praise of the glory of His grace” – verse 6.

He made us co-heirs with Christ that we should be “to the praise of His glory” – verse 12.

He also gave us His Holy Spirit as a guarantee to seal our inheritance in Christ “to the praise of His glory” – verse 14.

 

God must be praised for the glory of His grace.

 

This is the ultimate purpose of our salvation.   God saved us that we may be, yes, that we may exist and live to praise His glory.

 

Dear congregation, the ultimate goal of our salvation is not that we may be happy, but that God’s glory may be praised.  

Our salvation is God-centered; not man-centered.  

God in His free and sovereign grace decided to save us, not in the first place for our sake, but for the glory of His Name.

In the last analysis the sole and ultimate reason for our very existence is to glorify God.   That is the purpose and goal of all of creation as the apostle says in another place:

 

“…of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever...” – Rom. 11: 36

 

In heaven all the creatures worship God and the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

 

“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” – Rev. 4: 11

 

All of creation is created for the sake of its Creator to glorify Him.  

 

But then there is also a second reason why our whole life should be directed to God’s glory.

The first reason is that He created us for His glory; the second reason is that He saved us for His glory.

Yes, also our salvation is directed to His glory alone.

 

Where this basic knowledge is missing, no true religion is possible.  

Whenever religion becomes man-centered it has become a false religion.   

 

Congregation, we are a congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we exist with one purpose: to glorify God.   We do not exist for our own sake.   Neither do we exist for the sake of man.   Neither do we exist for the sake of the world.   Yes, we are to do good to each other and to all men, but even our love towards our neighbour should be exercised with one ultimate purpose and goal: to glorify our Creator who in Christ became our Saviour.

 

Brothers and sisters, it is only when we see the glory of God’s grace in Christ that we truly become thankful.   True praise and thanksgiving will only proceed from our mouths and from our lives when we see the riches of God’s love and mercy which He bestowed on us in Christ Jesus.

 

In order that we may join the apostle in praising the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us consider the glory of God’s grace towards us in Christ His Son.

 

What does it mean that we are adopted as sons?

The apostle John exclaims in wonder:

            “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be   called children of God! ...” (1 John 3: 1)

 

And then continues to say:

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be…” – 1 John 3: 2

 

The full glory of our sonship has not yet been revealed, but the very title: sons of God, is filled with promise.   What higher privilege and glory can we desire than to be made sons of God?

Does it not mean that we will be fully conformed to His image so that He will not be ashamed to call us His children?  

 

The expression to be adopted as sons also implies an inheritance.

Our sonship in and through Christ is connected to the promise that we will inherit the kingdom of Christ and will reign with Him forever.   If we are sons of God, then we are also heirs of God – as the apostle says in Gal. 4: 7

And also here in Ephesians 1 the apostle proceeds to speak of our inheritance in Christ, saying: “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance…” – verse 11.

 

It is an eternal inheritance so rich and glorious that it transcends our minds.

 

Yes, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

 

Brothers and sisters, in Christ God has given us everything.   By grace alone!

 

Let us pray with the apostle that God may enlighten our understanding to know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of the promised inheritance for all the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe – as he prays in verse 18.

 

Lord, open our eyes to see the riches of Your grace towards us in Christ Your Son, that we may praise and thank You for the riches of Your grace as long as we live.   Open our eyes to see the glory of Your grace in Christ, that we may honour and praise You – not only with our lips, but with our whole life. 

For to You, Father, and to Your Son Jesus Christ belong all glory and honour and thanksgiving forever.

 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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