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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:The Indispensable Christ
Text:Ephesians 1:3-14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 18:1,2                                                                                        

Ps 25:9,10                                                                                                      

Reading – Colossians 1:1-23

Ps 23:1,2,3

Sermon – Ephesians 1:3-14, part 2

Hy 28:1,4,5

Hy 64:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in Christ, it’s a humbling truth that nobody is indispensable. That is to say, there’s no human on this planet who cannot be replaced, whose job couldn’t be done by someone else—there’s nobody absolutely essential to the life and well-being of other people. We like to think that we’re the glue holding everything together, at the workplace, in the household, or even in the church, that we’re the hub of the wheel—but the truth is, if we were gone, life would still continue and things would still get done. That’s humbling.

But it’s not true for Christ. He is indispensable, for He is absolutely essential to our life and well-being. His crucial importance is seen clearly in our text, where again and again our salvation is rooted in Christ, where even the destiny of the entire universe itself is wrapped up in him.

In his letters Paul has a favourite phrase, that short phrase “in Christ.” Particularly in this outburst of praise at the beginning of Ephesians, Paul can’t stop speaking about how we are “in Christ,” or how God purposes and performs all things “in him.” If you remove Jesus Christ the action of from Ephesians 1, you don’t have much left.

So today we’re going to take another look at Paul’s doxology in Ephesians 1. There’s attention here for each person of the Trinity, glorifying them for their gracious work in the saving of sinners. This text reveals how God the Father chose us, and He adopted us, and He calls us—today we’ll consider the redeeming and restoring work of God the Son. I preach the gospel to you from Ephesians 1:3-14,

We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ:

            1) as the Mediator of God’s great works

            2) as the Renewer of heaven and earth

            3) as the Saviour who is worthy of trust


1) as the Mediator of God’s great works: God has a plan for this world. That comes out loud and clear in our passage, like when Paul speaks of God working out “all things according to the counsel of his will” (1:11). Now, I suspect that many of us have made plans for the coming week—for the next six days we have some intentions and goals. God has a plan too, but unlike the plans that we make, God’s plans are always fulfilled.

And the way that God’s eternal purpose is achieved is through Christ. He’s the project manager—the Father puts his plans into effect through the Son. In the Trinity, we see that the three divine persons take on different roles. The Father is generally the person who makes decrees, who sets out his will, and gives commands. He initiates. And within the Trinity, it’s often the Son who accomplishes these things and carries them out.

For this reason, the Son has been called the Father’s agent on earth. The Son goes between the Father up in heaven and the world below, and He puts the Father’s plan directly into action. All that God does for his people is achieved in and through Christ.

Let’s look at some examples. Verse 4 is about election: “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” The Father did the choosing, but He did it “in him”—in Christ. He decided that our salvation would be accomplished, and at the same time He set out how it would be accomplished. He left nothing to chance, but He said that only by being joined to his Son could the elect be saved.

Now, those two words “in him” (v 4) are a small drop in this flood of praise—you can easily read over them. Yet without “him,” without “Christ,” God would have no basis to choose us in his electing love. Because of Christ and him alone, the Father has decided to show grace. And now we’ve been entrusted to Jesus, so that we might be his possession. As Jesus says in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives to me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

So our election is through Christ. So is our adoption. Look again at verse 5, which says that God “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to himself.” You know which words to underline. We used to be children of wrath, “sons of disobedience” (as we’re called in 2:2), but through Christ we’ve been brought a personal and intimate relationship with God the Father.

By his rich mercy we’ve been granted all the privileges of being his family: God the Father loves you, in his mighty power He protects you, in his fatherly generosity He provides for you, in his wisdom He teaches you, while He also disciplines and shapes you so that you mature in faith and holiness. And God the Father does all this on the basis of who his Son is. Truly, the Son is indispensable to the whole project. Listen to what John writes, “To all who received Christ, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (1:12). It’s a marvel of grace that God, the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is our Father too.

A few verses later Paul returns to the blessings we can claim because we’ve been brought into God’s family. Verse 11: “In him also we have obtained an inheritance.” An inheritance is something else that children expect from loving parents. We shouldn’t think about it too much, and it’s probably unwise to count on it, but one day our parents are going to leave an inheritance to us: a few dollars perhaps, family treasures, property.

As the adopted sons of daughters of God, we too, have obtained an inheritance, and it is ours “in him” (1:11). Through Christ, we can expect an inheritance—we’re even allowed to count on it, so confident of receiving the treasures of heaven and eternal life! It’s like how all the tribes and families of Israel were guaranteed an inheritance in the land: crossing the Jordan, they knew this was God’s gift to them, their permanent portion and share. Such is our blessing in Christ from the Father, “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet 1:4).

Chosen in Christ, adopted in Christ, and accepted in Christ. Look at verse 6, “[God] made us accepted in the Beloved.” Christ is the beloved one of God, and He is beloved (or precious) for two good reasons. First, He is loved because He is God himself, and there exists a perfect love among the persons of the Trinity—the Son is loved for who He is. Second, the Son is loved for what He did: when He was on earth, He carried out his mission faithfully, and obeyed the Father in everything.

If the Son is so deeply loved by God—eternally and unchangeably loved—envision for a moment how that changes our status when we are joined to Christ by faith. If you are in Christ, then everything that is Christ’s is also yours by faith. When the Father looks at his Son, He sees you. You’ve been joined to Christ, so his righteousness is your righteousness, his holiness is your holiness. In him you are loved; or as Paul says, in him you are “accepted.”

There’s no example that can illustrate this miracle, but take the relationship of a Dad and Mom with the young man or woman who marries their child. It’s probably true that parents will never love everything about their child’s partner, but they’re willing to overlook these shortcomings. That’s because in marriage there is the creation of a profound unity; the love that parents have for their beloved daughter or son, they’re willing to show to their new son- or daughter-in-law. The parents will share their gifts, their time, and even the inheritance. So for our union with Christ: when we are joined to him by faith, the Father overlooks our sins and He treats us as his own. His love isn’t divided, it’s multiplied. Because of our unity with him, everything that is Christ’s is also ours!

Now for a final spiritual blessing granted through Jesus, in verse 7: “In him we have redemption through his blood.” Redemption is delivering a person by paying a ransom or a price for him. For example, in the Roman world the only way that a slave could enjoy freedom is when someone redeemed him—set him free, by paying his value to the master.

That’s not far from our own situation. We used to be slaves to sin, subject to Satan’s cruelty, doomed to confinement and death. We had no hope of release, because our price was completely beyond us to cover. We needed a redeemer, and God gave us one in Christ. He paid for us: “In him we have redemption through his blood” (1:7). That’s the cost, the ransom paid: the pouring out of Jesus’ life at the cross.

This was the turning point of history, the critical moment of God’s eternal plan—and it was enough to set sinners free. As Peter writes, “It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed… but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). You’ve been set free from sin, from the power of the devil, from eternal torment.

Now the Redeemer claims us, for now that He’s paid the price, Christ says that we’re his possession, in body and soul. That has some aftereffects, of course. If you’ve been redeemed through Christ, you listen when He orders. When He directs us, we follow. Paul says in another place, “You are not your own, for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor 6:19-20). Does your life show that Jesus has redeemed you? What do you do with your body? What are meditations of your spirit? Are you glorifying God for the great works of his Son?

That’s true for each aspect of his work: you are chosen in Christ, adopted in Christ, accepted in Christ, eternally rich in Christ—given so much, what is your answer? What can be our only response? “Lord, I thank you. Help me to live to the praise of your glory!”


2) as the Renewer of all things: Paul might be rushing from one blessing to the next, but he’s got direction here, a target. He reaches it in verse 10, “that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in him.” This is the climax of Paul’s praise. He’s still going to mention other blessings, but this is the high point.

Here we’re allowed to look behind the curtain and catch a glimpse of the grand purpose of God’s eternal plan. God isn’t interested simply in saving individual sinners, rescuing you and me from our earthly troubles. God isn’t even concerned merely with the church as a whole—the elect, altogether. But God wants to restore all things in the entire universe to how they were meant to be in the beginning, under him. And He’ll achieve this renewal through his Son.

In fact, Paul says that this is what God has been working on for a long time now: “In the dispensation of the fullness of the times.” That’s a tough phrase, but it helps to know that the Greek word translated “dispensation” often means something like “household management.” Mothers will know that an orderly household doesn’t just happen, but it results from careful organization and hands-on managing. In the same way, Paul says, God has been managing all of history, running the world according to a divine programme. God has planned and arranged everything to reach his goal of perfect harmony and unity.

This plan, our text says, is now approaching the decisive moment: the times are “full.” In fact, the critical event has already happened, when the Son of God poured out his blood. Now we’re just waiting for the final phase.

And what’s going to happen? What’s the last chapter of God’s great salvation plan? It’s when “He [gathers] together in one all things in Christ.” The word for “gathering together” has the sense of collecting a whole heap of different things and making them a unity—like taking a long column of numbers, adding them up, and putting down the sum. By adding, they’ve been gathered together and made one. That’s what God wants to do: to take all things in the universe, to restore them, and to unify them in Christ.

Now, this is how things used to be—there was peace on earth, wholeness and blessing— because that’s how God made it: “He saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” And the perfection of the beginning came about through the Son of God. As Colossians 1:16 says about Christ, “By him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible.” Once again here’s the idea of Christ as the agent, the manager of God’s great works—even his work of creation: “All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3).

Everything once held together, but now it’s everywhere a divided world. Since the fall into sin, there is disorder and disintegration. For instance, there’s division between the nations, like in Paul’s time, where there was a deep separation between Jew and Gentile, between Greek and barbarian. In our time too, we see it in the brutal wars between nations, among ethnic groups and tribes. Humanity is separated into groups tightly defined by the colour of a person’s skin, their religion, and the events of history.

In the creation too, there is hostility and violence. Think of how wild animals will sometimes attack and kill humans. Think of how weather patterns can destroy livelihoods and property, through droughts and floods. Or the earth can suddenly shake, or suddenly erupt, and hundreds can die. Even our bodies can seem like they’re turning against us, when there is cancer, or dementia, or the ravages of some other disease. Even among the angels God created, there is division, warfare between the evil spirits and good.

The good harmony of the beginning has been torn apart, and the ugly effects are seen everywhere: think of divisions among families, and marriage breakdowns, schisms in the church, or disputes between young and old, male and female. So often, it’s “us against them.” Worst of all, there’s discord between God and mankind. He created us to walk with him in love, but by sin we’ve been estranged from the God of our life. We’ve rebelled against him, so we deserve the sentence of death, the ultimate separation from the LORD.

But now this is what Christ came to do: “to gather together in one all things.” He came to wipe out the divisions, to resolve the tensions and violence, to restore wholeness and to create a new unity. He did it through his work on the cross, when He made peace between God and man. As 2 Corinthians says, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (5:19).

This is a powerful peace. It means that we have a restored bond to God, as we saw in the first point. It also means there can be a new harmony in every relationship that used to be broken and hostile. Particularly in the church of Christ we see the gathering of diverse people together, Jews and Gentiles and those who formerly hated each other. This is what we’ll learn about in Ephesians 2, how Jesus has broken down “the middle wall of separation” (v 14). The diverse body of believers in the church—people of different backgrounds and characters and viewpoints—we have a unity through him, our only Head.

That’s not just theory, but reality. It’s now the task and calling of the church to work out our unity, and to show that unity through our life together. If Christ has “gathered all things together in one,” then we must live as one.

For example, it’s his will that there is peace between parents and children. In the home children must not take an attitude of defiance toward Mom and Dad, nor should parents create a sense of exasperation by being harsh or by making endless rules. Aim for the peace of Christ in your home, by loving, and submitting, and honouring each other.

It’s also the will of Christ that there is peace among husbands and wives. In a marriage, it’s easy to constantly squabble over a whole lot of petty things, to criticise your spouse endlessly because he or she is not more like you. But remember that Christ’s will for us is peace.

It’s the Lord’s will too, that there is peace among members of the church. Because of sin, there are bad histories with each other, old resentments and divisions, but Christ came to reconcile. Remember: He came to gather all things together in himself. If disagreeing people share his gift of salvation, there should be every motivation to reconcile.

Diverse and sinful and broken people are being gathered together as one in the church, but there’s more to be done. As we said, the universe itself needs restoring! Verse 10 says that “all things” will be brought together, “both which are in heaven and which are on earth.” The entire universe is under the curse of sin, so God wants to restore all of creation: the spiritual and material, the heavenly beings and earthly realities. Restoring “all things” doesn’t mean that everyone will be saved. But it does mean that all people will be brought under the authority of Christ, and to him every knee will bow.

Listen to what the Spirit reveals in Colossians 1, “It pleased the Father that in [Christ] all the fullness should dwell, and by him to reconcile all things to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of his cross” (vv 19-20). One day Christ is going to repair creation’s fundamental disorder. He will put an end to wars and diseases and disasters, and end to fighting and struggling and dying, and He will remove sin’s curse once and for all. This is why we hear Jesus say in Revelation 21, “Behold, I make all things new” (v 5). Heaven and earth made new, body and soul made new, God and mankind restored to face-to-face communion.

This is our hope: Christ gathering together into one all things! Pray for that day. Be ready for that day, by being reconciled to God through faith in Christ. Be ready for that day, by being reconciled with one another. Be ready, by living to the praise of his glory.


3) as the Saviour who is worthy of trust: If Christ is so indispensable, so essential to life itself, then we must not neglect to do this one important thing—trust in him! As Paul recounts the blessings available in Christ, he underlines the need for a living faith: “that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of his glory” (v 12). It’s only through faith that we are joined to Christ and granted our inheritance.

Notice Paul writes about “we,” and mentions that we were “first” to trust in Christ. He’s speaking about himself and his fellow Jewish believers. Because God revealed the gospel to them already centuries before, they were the first to believe in the coming Messiah. They had looked to him for a long time, so when He finally came, at least some were ready to receive him.

But then Paul writes about “you,” in verse 13: “In him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” Here he is addressing the Gentiles in the Ephesian congregation, reminding them of the great gift of salvation granted to them also. They too are incorporated into Christ’s people—they’re in no way less than Jewish Christians, for all the blessings are also theirs by grace. That’s the unity we mentioned before: all who trust in Christ are joined to him.

The Gentiles believe, and that includes us, for we have heard “the word of truth.” God has spoken his word to us, telling us the truth about himself, and the truth about mankind. It means we can trust in him, for God’s word is consistent with his character. The LORD is utterly reliable and dependable and trustworthy.

We believe, for we also heard the word of truth, “the gospel of… salvation.” You probably know that gospel means “good news,” for it’s a message about the love and the grace of God in Christ. This gospel is announced to us in Scripture, and it’s announced in the preaching, a life-changing message about the glories of Christ.

There’s no need to doubt, because you’ve heard the word of truth. It’s true, genuine and authentic and guaranteed by the Lord himself. It’s glorious truth can give you stability and assurance and hope, now and always. Read this Word of truth about Saviour, and be confident in him! And there’s also no need to be discouraged, because you’ve been given this wondrous gospel—the good news—of salvation. It’s good news, a message to cheer you, to encourage you, to fill your vision with light and your heart with joy.

Beloved, you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. He’s the Mediator of God’s great works, He’s the Renewer of heaven and earth, He’s the glorious Saviour—and you can trust in him!  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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