Ephesians 1:3-6 The Blessing of Our Election in Christ

Ephesians 1:3-6

The Blessing of our Election in Christ

 

Remember, our study in Ephesians is part of our study through the Pastoral Epistles so that we may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, the church, a pillar and buttress of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). We have a vision/mission: For the glory of God (Psalm 115:1 “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory…”) we will build the church (Matt. 16:18) both local and global (Matt. 26:19)(vision) by being and producing radical followers of Jesus Christ (John 15 abiding)(mission)(ethos not process).

 

To accomplish the vision God has given from Scripture for his glory in the building of the community of his Kingdom, Father has been mobilizing workers to this mission of being and producing radical followers of Jesus for 12 years now, and he has grown it and expanded it by pioneering work in our people group, mobilizing works to some 11 different nations, sending folks to plant a fellowship in Portland, engaging local evangelism, working with local ministries and weaving into the fabric of our community to be a kingdom agent in solving our challenges and making disciples. Now Father is growing it and expanding it still more.

 

And lest we loose sight of whose we are and what we are here to do, we keep our eyes in the Manual and make sure the Manual dictates what we believe and our application of it.

 

We remember that Ephesians explains what the Church’s cosmic role is as the Body of the Cosmic Christ. Ephesians reveals the position and job description of the church in effecting God’s new order (kingdom of God)[1]. It answers the question, what does it mean to be in Christ, and what does this demand of us?[2]

 

So, last week we saw the blessing of Father to transform servants like Paul. We saw the blessing of Father to give grace and peace to those who are saints and faithful in Christ because of Christ, and we saw how he has blessed us by placing us in Christ.

 

This week, Paul begins expounding on those remaining 33 times he uses “in Christ” (or its synonym) to make clear our blessings in Christ and our role in bringing about his kingdom and its demands of us. But Paul starts in a strange place for some.

 

No matter the glorious nature of this text and no matter the grace expounded in this text there is a weight and “cloud” that I personally feel in preaching through this text. That weight and “cloud” is not because the text causes me consternation or that I reject the notion of the text. I embrace the truth found in this text, understand it to the best of the capacity granted by the teaching of the Holy Spirit from his word, and I glory in it and taste the grace of God in it.

 

However, the way some fight and get angry over and refuse to have fellowship with me/us over such passages causes great weight and a “cloud”. Heck, I’ve even not been allowed to teach in some places because of our embracing of such texts and our fellowship with our beloved Presbyterian brothers and sisters who embrace the glorious reality of Father’s gracious election. That cloud really never goes away.

 

Just know there is nothing of ill will or intent on the part of TRCC or myself in preaching such texts. If you are a member, we have gone over this in our membership class and I know we don’t divide over this issue. But for some reason I feel the weight and “cloud” of the way some reject or get uncomfortable over such passages.

 

I wonder how many view Ephesians 1:3-6 as the spiritual blessing that Paul says it is. Many may secretly wish the bible never said such things, and seek to find passages that, when taken out of context, contradict these passages.

 

Many avoid passages like these in their devotional readings because having to think and adjust is not devotional, its difficult, and we all know that devotional readings should make me feel cozy inside not actually move me to Christ-likeness. Right? (Can you feel the sarcasm?)

 

The reality is that avoiding these passages helps us forget the garden and the deception that propagated the rebellion “you will be like God”. The reality is that avoiding such passages helps us forget the consequences of Adam’s folly “the day you eat of it you will die”. We just don’t want God to be God. We want to be him, not a creature made by him, and we sure don’t want to admit that we are broken and evil creatures under the wrath of God apart of the justifying work of Jesus Christ.

 

Perhaps we are like the tenants in Luke 20:9-18 who don’t want the owner of the vineyard to actually run the vineyard, so we beat and shame his servants and kill his son that he sends so that we can have the vineyard. But the truth is that “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

 

So, the challenge is not to exegete the texts. The texts are not complicated Greek with some crazy grammatical structure and multiple definitions to words that are determined by context. The text is quite straightforward.

 

The challenge is that Paul is operating off of a theological framework regarding the nature and state of man that he will expound some in chapter 2 that he assumes his readers know because he lived with them and taught them for 3 years in Ephesus. So, Paul just launches into our blessings in Christ believing the foundation of their state apart from Christ is laid well.

 

This may not be the case for modern readers of Paul.

 

So, let me tell you my story with some of the Passages of the Old Testament and from Paul telling my story for me. This is Jesus’ story of redemption, and everyone who as believed the gospel shares this story if we will be honest.

 

Everyone’s story who is “in Christ” Ephesians 1:3-5

 

Here’s our story from the text of Scripture:

 

Genesis 6:5

The Lord knew that my wickedness was great and that the intentions of my heart were only evil continually.

 

Psalm 14:1-3

The Lord looked down on me and saw that I didn’t understand my state and that I was not seeking after him. I was not doing good just like everyone else.

 

Psalm 51:5

Not only was I not good, even in sin did my mother conceive me.

 

Its not like I just learned bad behavior. I was conceived in a sinful state.

 

Romans 5:12-14

I was conceived in sin because of Adam and the resultant counting of Adam’s rebellion to my account.

 

That is what Adam’s exercise of volition got me. Adam got me death. “The day you eat of it you will die”. Cain will kill Abel. Rebellion against God would be the normal default for all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. The ground will break. The sky will break. Everything will be at odds with its Creator. Including his image bearers.

 

 

Ephesians 2:1-3

I was dead toward God and walking according to the Prince of the power of the air who is at work in the sons of disobedience. I was the walking dead! I was not in a neutral state. I was a servant of my master, the Devil. My soul was unfeeling and incapable of doing good and deciding ultimate good. I was, in my dead state, a willing participant in the rebellion.

 

2 Corinthians 4:1-6

I was blinded by the rebellion and the active work of my master, Satan, and I couldn’t see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, so I walked in blindness groping around for what ever I can find that I thought may satisfy me.

 

Jeremiah 17:1, 9

Sin was written on my heart with a diamond point and my heart was, as a result, desperately sick and it couldn’t be tamed by me or any other man.

 

Ezekiel 36:24-27

But God being rich in mercy would take me from my wandering and sprinkle clean water on me and clean me up from my idols and give me a new heart and a new spirit by removing my heart of stone and putting in me a heart of flesh and placing his Spirit in me and causing me to walk in his way and obey his rules.

 

John 1:12-13

By a response of faith to the action of Father to take me from my wandering and cause me to be born again, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. He has made me his child!

 

The rebellion caused my death and gave me my sentence to death. I was deserving of nothing but the death promised to my parents and all of their decedents if they rebelled. All of us were dead and in our sin that we inherited from our dad, Adam.

 

But we learn in our text today that Father, desiring to be merciful to highlight his grace as well as his justice blessed us in Christ with our election to life to rescue us from the just sentence of death in order that he may be praised for his glorious grace (1:6).

 

These texts tell my story. These texts tell your story.

 

Father, in his grace, chose us before time 1:4

“…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…”

 

Father’s grace to us to rescue us from the rebellion took place before time and antedated human need. This makes Father’s work free of influence by any decision he would foresee me making because I would not be capable of making it due to my rebellious state.

 

This truth changes my worship. I don’t worship because it’s good for me. I don’t worship because I made a good decision and my lost friends just couldn’t see the logic in the whole thing and remain, due to their folly, in sin. I worship because that is what is due Father for rescuing me from the rebellion when I could not or even would not rescue myself.

 

Listen to the words of one of my favorite songs we sing:

 

Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul

Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole

Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God

Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load

 

These guilty hands are raised; filthy rags are all I bring

And I have come to hide beneath your wings

These holy hands are raised, washed in the fountain of your grace

And now I wear your righteousness.

 

Thy work alone O Christ can ease this weight of sin

Thy blood alone O Lamb of God can give me peace within

Thy love to me O God not mine O Lord to thee

Can rid me of this dark unrest and set my spirit free

 

These guilty hands are raised; filthy rags are all I bring

And I have come to hide beneath your wings

These holy hands are raised, washed in the fountain of your grace

And now I wear your righteousness.

 

Thy grace a lone O God to me can pardon speak

Thy power alone O Lamb of God can this sore bondage break

No other work save Thine, no other blood will do

No strength save that which is divine can bear me safely through

 

These guilty hands are raised; filthy rags are all I bring

And I have come to hide beneath your wings

These holy hands are raised, washed in the fountain of your grace

And now I wear your righteousness.

 

I praise the God of grace I trust His truth and might

He calls me His I call Him mine my God, my joy, my light

Tis He who saveth me and freely pardon gives

I love because He loveth me I live be cause He lives

 

These guilty hands are raised; filthy rags are all I bring

And I have come to hide beneath your wings

These holy hands are raised, washed in the fountain of your grace

And now I wear your righteousness.

 

Thanks be to Father, Son and Spirit for his work to rescue us when we could not and would not rescue ourselves.

 

Father’s reasons for choosing his people are in himself and full of love 1:5b

“…in love he predestined us…according to the purpose of his will…”

 

Father is love as well as rightly doing justice. Far from arbitrary and cold, Father’s rescue of a redeemed humanity as a gift to the Son is full of love for us and love for the Son[3].

 

What are the stated purposes of Father’s election of a redeemed humanity?

 

The Purposes of Election v. 4-6

 

Sanctification v. 4

One of the false notions about the doctrine of election is that if people are chosen then they can do whatever they want and it does not matter. That argument sounds good if Father operated off of fallen human logic, but he does not operate on faulty and fallen logic. Father operates off of truth and he is the source of truth and the word is our record of Father’s truth.

 

The Scriptures here tell us that “…he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that (purpose clause) we should be holy and blameless before him.”

 

In other words Father’s choosing of a redeemed humanity has, as one of his stated reasons, to take an unholy and reproachful 20-year-old unregenerate mission-less guy like me and make me holy and blameless.

 

One of the glorious facets of the Gospel is that Father takes sinners and, as we talked about last week, he turns them into saints and then proceeds to actually cause their behavior to come in line with his truth.

 

Exodus 20:2 – The indicative comes before the imperative and you can never reverse the order.

 

Father graciously chose Abraham when Abraham was not looking for him, and when his people were later rescued from Egypt and brought in to the desert to worship this is what Father told them as he gave them the Law. “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…”

 

Then, and only then, does Father give them the law. The Law does not precede the indicative. They are his people because he chose them to be his people and therefore he gives them the law not to become his people if they can keep it, but because they are his people and need to learn what it is to imitate him in holiness (and of course to reveal the truth of the Gospel through the law and the need for the Christ to come and keep the law, die for sinners, rise for their salvation and empower the completion of the Abrahamic Covenant in the Great Commission through the preaching of the gospel to all nations).

 

If the imperative came before the indicative then we would have to keep a standard to become his people. But thanks be to Jesus Christ that he chose us before the foundation of the world and the imperative came after the indicative to train me to be a son.

 

Ezekiel 36:24-27 – We get justified, receive a new heart of flesh in place of a heart of stone, we get a new spirit, and we get the Holy Spirit all of which causes us to walk in the way of the Lord Jesus in delight not duty.

 

This glorious new covenant promise that Ezekiel preaches about helps us to see Father’s action of cleaning up his people.

 

When Jesus saved us he justified us and gave us a transformed soul that now delights to follow Father’s way. This new “us” now combats our fallen flesh to bring it into line and action with the standards of being one of Father’s beloved children. The bible calls this “sanctification”, and it is the precious gift of those who are in Christ.

 

What else does Paul say is a purpose for Father’s elective work?

 

Adoption v. 5

In all of the Old Testament God is only referred to as “Father” 14 times, and according to some OT scholars these references are rather impersonal.[4]

 

But the gospels record Jesus using “Father” more than 60 times in reference to God. This was Jesus’ “go to” when referencing the Father. The lone exception is when on the cross he teaches about the happening moment through the Messianic passage of Psalm 22 which begins “My God, My God…”.

 

Jesus used the common Aramaic word that a child would use to address their daddy, “Abba”. This was huge. Jesus was, by example, living the reality of what he came to make a reality for all who would repent and believe the gospel.

 

This became the understanding of those who wrote under inspiration the New Testament. Listen to Paul’s words:

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” (Romans 8:15, 16)

 

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:4-6)

 

J.I. Packer is the reason you will often hear me say “Father” when most just simply say “God”.

 

Listen to Packer’s summation on God’s Fatherhood through our adoption as sons and daughters:

“If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God.”[5]

 

Do you have the “Spirit of Adoption”? Do you sense that God is your Father? Do you think of him and address him as Father or distant and unfeeling God?

 

Hear John 1:12-13 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

 

If we can’t come to him as Father, we may not have him as our Father. He is Father, and if you have not believed in the gospel that makes God, Father, then repent of the lie of the rebellion keeping you from knowing Father as “Abba”, and believe the good news.

 

One of our glorious blessings in Christ and being seated with Christ in the heavenly places is that we are adopted as children and brought into the family and thus have all of the family resources to do the family work of subduing all nations with the good news of the family, Jesus.

 

One final purpose Paul states for Father’s good elective work is found in verse 6.

 

Worship v. 6

“…to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the beloved.”

 

Our election for sanctification and adoption is “to” the praise of his glorious grace.

 

If these passages don’t bring us to praise, which Paul here says they are to do, then the problem lies with us not the bible or the clarity of Scripture. But we must understand that the text here is not ambiguous.  

 

The “to” here in verse 6 is the over-arching purpose clause for verses 4 and 5. That is its grammatical purpose. He chose us to sanctify us. He predestined us to adopt us. He sanctifies us and adopts us so that we might praise him for his glorious grace.

 

Father’s ultimate purpose in our sanctification and adoption is that holy children may worship him for his glorious grace.

 

Remember, our status due to Adam’s rebellion is that we are dead. But in Christ we have been made alive that we my sing of his grace and offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship.

 

Conclusion:

If passages like this cause consternation I have one application for you that will give you a framework to make it all come together.

 

  1. The completion of the Great Commission is guaranteed through the work of the kingdom in the community of his kingdom, the church.

 

We do not have to wonder if Father will call forth his church from the nations as we go. It will happen. There is no failure in our actions to make Jesus big globally and locally. We may have temporary set backs, but the kingdom is not set back.

 

Actually engage in evangelism by meeting people cold and going gospel on them. Be observant and take note of the eyes and the emotive and physical response to the gospel. Take note of who, when and how transformation takes place.

 

Actually get in front of a hardened and died in the wool Muslim and befriend them and watch Holy Spirit stir the conversation to the gospel. Take note of who, when and how transformation takes place.

 

You will quickly become aware of Who is actually providentially guiding this glorious gospel work. You will quickly come to agreement with Paul in Ephesians 2 that people are alive but truly spiritually dead.

 

You will be amazed at the ones who believe and under what circumstances they believe. It will be backward of what you think about how and who.

 

You will discover the freaky reality that Holy Spirit sometimes gives dreams to them before you meet them about you coming with the “book” and sure enough you end up there with the “book” and they believe.

 

Do you really think that is because we are driving some process?

 

Some of my heroes, the Moravians, understood this well. These guys sold themselves to the new world to preach the gospel and watch the Spirit call forth the elect from the new world.

 

I am a great, great, great, great, great grandson of their gospel labor.

 

These gospel believing, doctrine of election loving missionaries would indiscriminately preach the gospel and simply take the fruit that the Holy Spirit gave and begin walking them through the bible in their language. At some point Chief John Jolly heard and believed because of the work of Moravians like Anna Kleist Gambold who is memorialized in Chatsworth, Georgia at “Spring Place Mission”.

 

And then Father does really cool things like allowing the fruit of Moravian missionary labor to sit down and eat dinner with a Moravian descendant who happened to be in the capital that evening and through providential networks got to come have dinner with us that particular evening. And we ate together, shed a tear or two in joy together and worshiped together because Father, apart from any good thing we did, saved us in Christ Jesus, sent us out to the nations and we providentially end up worshiping together among the nations.

 

Father, Son and Spirit are worthy of our worship.

[1] Parenthesis mine

[2] Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Ephesians, (Wheaton; Crossway, 1990), p. 15.

[3] (See John 6:37, 39; 10:29; 17:2, 6, 9, 12 and the use of the perfect tense verb and the theme of Father giving the Son a redeemed humanity)

[4] Kent Hughes particularly

[5] J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), p. 182. 

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