Our text this morning and next week will be Ephesians 1:3-6,
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 to himself as sons 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.
This week, as I began to read commentaries about our text, I was saddened to read by some commentators that many preachers have chosen not to preach Ephesians 1. They made the decision to do this because of the doctrines mentioned like: foreknowledge and predestination. Instead they choose to skip over these things and begin at some other point in this book. They failed to be the type of men that Paul encourages the Corinthians to be when he says, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Cor. 16:13)
Thankfully, there have been many preachers who have courageously taken the risk to consider Ephesians 1 with their congregations. I am sure that initially they may not have seen all the beauty that this opening chapter contains; but listen to how some of them came to describe this chapter:
We enter this epistle through a magnificent doorway.
This is a golden chain with many links.
This is a kaleidoscope of dazzling lights and shifting colors.
It is like a snowball tumbling downhill picking up volume as it descends.
It is a long winded race horse … careening on word at full speed.
It is like the preliminary flight of an eagle, rising and wheeling around, as though for a while uncertain what direction in his boundless freedom he shall take.
To be honest, I have not yet looked upon this text so much that I can see clearly all of these things. I still have many questions. There is much I am still trying to understand. But it is very encouraging to know what we may be able to see in the book of Ephesians if we will determine to look upon what is contained here in this letter.
Having determined together then that we are going to go through this book verse by verse, let me briefly give four things that we ought to do every time we come to it. These are four applications placed at the very beginning of this sermon instead of at the end of it.
First, as we come to Ephesians 1:3-14 we should recognize that we are considering the work of another Person. Let me explain. There are almost no imperatives given to you and I in the first three chapters of this book. It is God’s initiative is set forth plainly, for He is Himself is the subject of almost every main verb in these verses.
It is the Father who ‘has blessed us’ (v3),
It is the Father who ‘chose us’ (v4),
It is the Father who ‘destined us...to be His sons’ (v5),
It is the Father who ‘freely bestowed on us’ his his grace (v6),
It is the Farther who lavished His grace upon us (v8),
It is also the Father who ‘made known to us’ His will and purpose which He ‘set fourth in Christ...to unite all things (v9-10),
It is the Father who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will’ (v11).
Let us also consider the nouns in this passage and we will find that God is using divine materials to do all of this work. It is God’s love, His grace, His will, His purpose and His plan. From start to finish God the Father has been working to set His love upon us, poured out His grace upon us and is working out His eternal plan. He speaks of this plan when He uses words like: called, the elect, the chosen, predestined, foreknown, etc. Yet, we must humbly admit that these things are hard to understand.
When I was first beginning to learn the construction trade I would try to learn from what I was observing and from the information that I was told. Months would go by and I would become confident that I could do everything just as well as the experienced carpenters who were doing all of the thinking. There would be certain times when I would be sent off to do some project on my own. Inevitably I quickly learned that I did not know as much as I thought. Learning is a long hard process even when you are looking carefully at all of the things going on before you.
Should it be any different when we come to a text like this and begin to see all that the Lord is doing on our behalf. He is the potter and we are the clay. Therefore, we must be patient with ourselves as we look these things. (Be patient and humble in this process)
Secondly, we need to be praying that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened. Why must we do this? Because this is the very thing that Paul does for us after he opens with verses 3-14. It is as though Paul cannot contain his praise of God and for all of these things that He has done. He speaks freely in a moment of praise and then he stops and prays that we will be able to understand the things that he has just spoken about because they are spiritually discerned through the help of the Holy Spirit.
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. ( Ephesians 1:15-23)
Thirdly, we need to be joining with Paul in praising the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for their roles in executing this great plan of Salvation. We should not ignore these doctrines but consider them and praise the Lord for them. This is the reason why Paul has begun this letter with these words in Ephesians 1:3-14.
V6 - “...to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.”
v12 – “...so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory.”
v14 - “...who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.”
Fourthly, as we come to this letter to study it we ought to receive it by faith. Why is this so important?
Because any beautiful doctrine or promise will be despised by a person who will not receive it and respond in faith.
Any Good News that we hear from the Scriptures will be of no benefit if we do not respond to it with faith.
Consider Hebrews 4:2, “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.”
Consider Psalm 106:24, “Then they (Israel) despised the pleasant land, having no faith in His promise.”
Having put forward these four applications for us to do as we proceed we can now begin to look at this text. Because of the limited amount of time that we have left here this morning I would like to begin by looking at verse five, “In love, He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will...”.
I wondered if it would be appropriate to begin with adoption; rather than discussing the things that have preceded it?
I think that it is ok to begin by looking at adoption first. Typically we are more aware of the fruit than we are of the underlying truths and doctrines that support and establish them. I can also see some verses where the scripture writer intermingles these things together beautifully. Consider Psalm 106:4-5, “Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them, that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation, that I may glory with your inheritance.” The psalmist is fully aware of Israel’s special relationship with the LORD and he understands that this relationship is founded upon God’s choice and the covenant that He made with them. (Deuteronomy 7:7 – It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.)
As I was contemplating adoption this week I found myself wishing that I knew of someone in our congregation who was adopted. A day later, Joe Wyka came into the office and mentioned that he was adopted and that his family later started an adoption agency. I asked if he would share for about 5-7 minutes about adoption and how he sees similarities in our text today. (Joe Wyka Testimonial)
With our remaining time together this morning I would like to give five ways in which our adoption as Christians is different than the adoption that Joe and others have experienced.
First, a child may be adopted to fill some sort of void that the parents have. Perhaps they cannot have kids for some reason so they adopt. Perhaps they cannot have as many kids as they would like too so they choose to adopt. God had no such void or emptiness in Him that made Him adopt us into His family.
The Trinity was perfectly complete and the choice to adopt was out of perfect love.
Paul Washer - “We were adopted out of the overflow of the superabundance of His person.”
Because this adoption is not to fill a need in God, He does not become angry when we fail to measure up or fail to meet a need that God supposedly would have.
Secondly, a child can be adopted because the child does not have a parent. This is not the case with God. God adopts the children of His greatest enemy – Satan. And when God adopts these children they share in the nature of Satan. Consider John 8:44 – You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Thirdly, we may adopt a child because we see some beauty, merit or virtue in the child. God adopts us when we had no beauty, merit or virtue. We want to believe that God saw something good in us; something that drew Him to us. As a result, we struggle to appreciate the glorious grace (6) that found nothing in us that obligated Him to respond towards us.
Consider Ezekiel 16:4-6, “And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling clothes. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day you were born. And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’”
Since our virtue, merit and beauty did not draw the Father to us then we can have great confidence. The Lord showed to us mercy and He will continue to do so. Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Fourthly, we do not adopt criminals whose debt we have to assume at the cost of giving our own dear son for their freedom. Yet, that is what God has done for us. We were criminals, traitors, at war with God, enemies, lawbreakers; yet God chose us in Christ to be in His family. He assumed our debt and liability and paid it off and granted to us an unimaginable inheritance.
Romans 5:6-8, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one might dare even to die – but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Fifthly, when we adopt children we can give them our name, make them part of our family, provide for them and grant to them an inheritance. We can seek to invest in them personally, train them, teach them, inspire them and give them countless opportunities and benefits. But God gives to His adopted children His Spirit, His nature and His very life. He puts His law upon their hearts, changes their disposition, seals them with the Holy Spirit, and gives to them every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.
Consider Ephesians 2:1-4a, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of the world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God...”
Having considered five characteristics of our adoption to the Lord, I will close with these words for John Bunyan as he contemplated the Spirit of Adoption that a Christian has been given.
“Child of God, you who has awe and reverence for God, mercy is always close to you, plenty of mercy, for it will live longer than your sin, longer than temptation. It will live longer than your sorrows, and longer than all the things that bother you now. This mercy has lived from before the beginning of time to work your salvation, and this mercy lives eternally to conquer all your enemies. What can hell and death do to the person who is covered with God’ s mercy? This mercy belongs to us if we reverence the Lord.”