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Author:Rev. David Stares
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Masterton
 New Zealand
Title:Every Blessing in Christ
Text:Ephesians 1:3-14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Scripture Readings: Ephesians 1

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

Ephesians 1:3-14 Manuscript

Well, as we continue our series in the book of Ephesians we are considering a bit of a larger section this week, and we are doing so because verses 3-14 are a unified thought. Some have described it as a ‘single sentence’ which I suppose is true enough, even though greek doesn’t have sentences the way we do. But nevertheless it is one unified thought that is expressed through all these verses. And I hope, as I tried to emphasize in my reading of the verses, the overarching theme of this section is the fact that we have so many spiritual blessings “in Christ” – a phrase that comes up over and over in this section.

Our theme will be that Because we have every heavenly blessing in Christ, we will praise his glory.

We see this in 3 points

1) Chosen in Christ

2) Redeemed in Christ

3) Inheriting in Christ

1) Chosen in Christ

He is beginning with a section in which he praises God for what he has done for us. And it is here that he says in verse 3 blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, you may be curious because it sounds like Paul is calling the Father Jesus’ God, but you thought Jesus was God, how can this be?

Well in John 20 Jesus says something similar to Mary, “Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” So Paul here is not saying anything other than what Jesus himself has said of himself. This phrase doesn’t deny the divinity of Jesus, though. What it does is express his humanity. That in having a fully human nature Christ was fully God and fully creature. This is the mystery of the incarnation and this is the mystery that allows the Son of God to address his father as God.

And so Paul praises the father because he has poured out his rich spiritual blessings on us, and the theme that comes up over and over is that these blessings have been poured out on us in Christ. And the first thing that has been done for us is that we have been chosen and predestined in him. That in his love God chose us that we would be the people of Christ. And this is valuable to notice, that the three persons of the Trinity are prominent here in their roles in redemption. And they are going to come up even more as we go on in this passage. But what we see in scripture is that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit fulfill different roles in redemption. What some have called the covenant of redemption. The father chooses a people for himself, the son redeems that people, and the Holy Spirit makes that redemption happen. This is why we were chosen ‘in Jesus.’ We were given a mediator before the foundations of the world, and we were chosen in him, we were predestined through him. Now, of course, he still had to come die, but the father chose his people before the foundations of the world.

And what did he choose them for?

That they would be holy, cleansed by the blood of Jesus to be the holy people, of God by faith, that they might be welcomed into his presence, so that we might be able to be holy as our father is holy. He chose them to be blameless, that in the blood of Christ his chosen people wouldn’t have their guilt held against them. You see, the beauty is that God did not choose people to earn their holiness and righteousness, he chose them that he would make them holy and righteous as a free gift. And this is expressed in verse 5, that he predestined us to adoption.

I’m not sure if anyone here is adopted, but this is a beautiful description of what God does for us in the Christian life. That he takes those who are not his children and, as our text says adopts us through Christ to himself. That he looks at you, with nothing of value to your name, and says ‘I want to bring that person to myself.’ I want them to have a relationship with me. I want them for my own, so I am adopting them.

And this is why this first section resounds to the praise of the father. Because his choice is purely in his love, as verse 4 says. And it was based entirely on his good pleasure, according to the kind intention of his will, and was freely given to us for the sake of Christ.

The result is the praise of the glory of his grace. You see, the person who does the work gets the glory. If there was a way that we could make ourselves holy, or if we could make ourselves blameless, or if we could be good enough to get ourselves adopted, Paul would be telling the Ephesians, “Great job! You guys worked hard and became the children of God!” But that’s not it at all. The praise goes to God, and his grace, because it was he who chose, and he who predestined, and because it was his work, which he worked in Christ we give thanks to him.

2) Redeemed in Christ

But as I mentioned, it was not enough for this to simply be left in the planning stages, but it actually had to be brought to bass in history. Jesus had to become incarnate, and he had to life as truly man and truly God. He had to do all that his father commanded him, and he had to go to the cross. It was in the cross that the salvation that was planned from eternity was made a reality. As peter says in Acts 2, it was according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God that Jesus was delivered up to be crucified, and was done so to give us the benefits that God had planned for us.

Here in our text we have a description of what that crucifixion does for us. Verse 7. We have redemption through the blood of Christ. As we heard last week when we looked at Romans 3, this is a word that comes from the world of the buying and selling of slaves. A slave’s family was able to buy them free from slavery by paying a ransom. And this is the imagery of what Christ does for the people that the father has given to him, that we are by nature in slavery to our father the devil, because in the beginning we chose to obey his commandments rather than those of our creator. We chose slavery to sin and now we have it. Until Christ pays the ransom price, and not a price of money. The price of his blood. And because he has paid that price we are no longer slaves, but are the redeemed people of God, bought back so that we might be free to serve him.

And how did that redemption work? The forgiveness of our sins. It was our sin and guilt that enslaved us to the devil, but when Jesus paid the price with his blood he wiped our slate clean, taking the punishment of the record against us and nailing it to the cross, and as a result, the devil has no claim on us any longer. Christ took the wrath against sin on himself and made his people right with God, righteous before God.

And because he is the redeemer, he is also the king. V. 9-10. You see, there is more to that covenant of redemption, because the promise that the father gave to the son was that he, on accomplishing his mission would cause him to rule over all kingdoms, that every knee would bow and every tongue confess his lordship. That he would take the eternal throne of David and rule over all. This was the promise of the father to the son. As Hebrews 12 says, that for the joy set before him, he endured the cross and despised the shame. And what was the joy? That in the fullness of times all things would be summed up under his kingship, all things in heaven and on earth.

Now for sinners, that’s bad news. You know, it’s like if you have a gang and you find out that there’s a new sheriff in town, one who won’t be corrupted like the ones before him. Who will bring justice. Well this is what Christ’s rule will bring as well, and all who are rebels against him in that day will be judged and condemned. And there’s nowhere to hide from this judgement, because this will be a rule over all things in heaven and on earth. That is bad news for rebels against Christ.

But for those who believe, who have been chosen before the foundation of the world. For those who have been adopted into the royal family. For those who have been made holy and blameless by the forgiveness of sins in Christ, this is only good news. That our king, who purchased us, is the king of kings and the lord of lords. That the despised saviour who we cling to will reign forever and ever.

This is a perspective that we cannot lose in our Christian walk, especially as we come into contact with the world, that our destiny is to reign, not because of the power that we have established as a church or as individuals, but because we are named with Christ. And it is on that basis that we should not be ashamed to be named with him already! If we can keep reminding ourselves that ‘my master is the king of kings’ then we will be able to take our stand as his people before the world, before those who ask, and before those who attack. We have confidence in him.

3) Inheriting in Christ

Now there is a debated question here on how to translate the word here in verse 11. Here in the NASB we have ‘we have obtained an inheritance’ others translate it ‘were made a heritage.’ It’s a question of who receives: Us or God?

Well, I lean towards the latter here, but its helpful to see that in the last verses of our text it is both. V.14 We receive an inheritance and we are also God’s inheritance. And it is in Christ that we are made God’s possession, and it is in Christ that we receive our inheritance.

And that grace is extended to them because they are the first to hope in Christ v.12, they are the first generation after his death, the founding members of the new covenant community, and have been given access to the mystery hidden for long ages. And this is what Paul elaborates in verse 13. That they heard the message of the gospel, that they believed and they were sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Now, some of you might be thinking to ourselves, hold on a minute: I thought that the Holy Spirit comes before faith. But here Paul seems to be saying that first we have faith and then we receive the Holy Spirit.

Well, to answer that we need to know what a seal is. A seal in ancient times was a stamp that a king would make in wax on a letter. They didn’t have glue on envelopes like we do today, so if an important person had a message to send they would place their seal on it. This meant that, first, if the messenger tried to read the message and broke the seal, the recipient would know that the messenger had done so. And secondly, it assured the recipient that the message was genuine. The seal is a way to have confidence of the message.

And what is being identified here is a function that the HS plays in the life of the believer. That once you have faith, a faith produced by him in the first place, then he seals you. He assures you that you are God’s own possession, and that you are a pledge that he intends to get what he paid for. The Holy Spirit, then, is a down payment for our salvation.

And the HS is also an assurance to us about what we receive in Christ. Because we are the adopted children of God, we also look forward to our own inheritance. And as adoption is a beautiful image for what God does, so is inheritance. Because what does it mean to inherit something? It means that you get it as a gift. An inheritance is not something earned, but rather it is something that you are given freely, because you are a member of the family. And so, as the adopted children of God we receive an unearned inheritance on the basis of God’s free grace, his lavish grace.

And what is this inheritance? Verse 3 - Our inheritance is every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

And so what is the implication of this passage? That you can be assured of who you are in Christ by the seal of the Holy Spirit. And he assures you by his work in you. It is he who produces in you a sorrow for your sin and the desire to cling to Christ. It is he who motivates you to value and love his word, and it is he who motivates you and empowers you to holy living. And if you see evidence of that in your life then you must be assured that you, too have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Now someone here may say that they don’t find that in themselves, that they worry that they see no such fruit in their lives, and that they are just as sinful now as they have ever been. And to that I would ask: is it the same sin, or is it new sin that the Holy Spirit is showing you in his work of helping you fight it? But, it may be that the fruit that you are producing is still too small to see, and if so I have only one recommendation: turn yourself to God. Even in this you need to recognize that there is nothing you can do apart from his grace. Turn to him ion repentance and faith, depending on his promise and salvation in the cross of Christ, and if you find that you can do that, then however weak the other aspects of your life may be, the ability to humble oneself before God is in itself a testimony of the work of the Spirit.

And so, brothers and sisters who have been assured of their inheritance, consider all that you have been given, being chosen, predestined, redeemed, forgiven, adopted, inheriting and being sealed. All of these are in Christ, all of these are by grace, and all should cause us to say “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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

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