The Electing Love of the Father
June 18, 2006
You will remember a few weeks ago when I preached on Sunday night, that we began our study through Ephesians 1 to see the great truths that have been deposited for us there by the Apostle Paul by the agency of the Holy Spirit, noticing the theocentric worldview out of which Paul writes. We talked about the miraculous fact that Paul, the destroyer of the church, was writing this letter to the same church he tried to eradicate because of his hatred of her head, Jesus Christ. But now, by God's will, Paul is an apostle of that Christ, sent out by Him to do His work in the world. We talked about how we are all just as hateful toward Christ until He too saves us and sends us on our way to do His work in the world.
We also talked of the plight of the Christians in Ephesus and the surrounding cities in Asia Minor, that they were dealing with worship of false gods, sexual immorality, and the like, and that we in the present age in our Western culture deal with much of the same. We are just as affected by Paul's words as the original recipients of this Epistle.
We then talked of the extended sentence that began in vs. 3 and went through vs. 14. I told you these verses form a Berekah, which was an ancient formula to show the reasons why a god should be praised - "Blessed be God, who..." which was followed by all of the many and sundry reasons that God should be praised.
We then saw one of the reasons that God should be praised, because He has "blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ." We looked at the Christ-centeredness in which Paul approaches any kind of relationship to God. It is "in Him" that we have any spiritual blessing, let alone "every spiritual blessing." We, as those who are "in Christ", or who are truly saved from the just wrath of God, lack nothing in our salvation. God has bestowed on us his blessing in Christ! But what blessings? What spiritual blessing has He given us? Well, beginning in vs. 4, Paul begins to list the many spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ. We looked briefly at the first, God's choosing us in Christ before the foundations of the world to be holy and blameless before Him. We will further consider this spiritual blessing this week, as well as those that pour out of this one, divine, magnificent blessing.
But let us first read this beautiful passage of Ephesians 1:3-14, taking in, again, the intricate wording that Paul uses to express his praise to God, and the reasons thereof. As we read this passage, please note the four grand truths upon which we will concentrate today, all of which show Paul's continued theocentric worldview: The Reason to Praise God - Election in Christ (1:4a); The Purpose of Our Election in Christ - Sanctification (1:4b); The Manner of Our Election in Christ - Adoption as Sons (1:5); and The Purpose of Our Adoption in Christ - The Praise of God's Free Grace (1:6).
I. The Reason to Praise God - Election in Christ (1:4a)
As we have read this passage and consider our text this week, please note this first grand truth upon which we come in vs. 4 - that the reason we are to praise God is because of His Choosing/Electing us in Christ. But as we do this, we must always remember that when we are doing exegesis (i.e. interpretation of what is written in the Bible) we should always pay attention to every word, watching closely to how the author is connecting word with word, thought with thought. Paul is usually very helpful to us in this respect, because he loves to connect words and thoughts, giving us a map to understand not just how one doctrine fits with another doctrine, but also how doctrine fits with practice.
Here in vs. 4, we see Paul justifying his previous statement that God is to be praised because he gave us every spiritual blessing in Christ. He begins this justification or proof with what many of your translations will translate, "just as" or "even as" - the Greek kathos. With this translation of "even as," one may think that Paul is saying that God has chosen us "just as" He has given us every spiritual blessing, that being "in Christ." One may think Paul here is simply commenting on the fact that we are chosen in Christ in the same way we are blessed in Christ. This is not bad theology, or even bad exegesis, if that is what Paul is really meaning to say. But it is important to note that when this conjunction, kathos, is used at the beginning of a sentence, it is not used as a comparison, but as a cause. As unusual as it may sound, I actually agree with the way the NIV translates this verse - "For He chose us in Him." It designates the cause of our praising God. Paul is saying, "Praise be to God because He chose us in Him" or "Blessed be God to the degree that He has chosen us."
Our praise of God can, and should, come from our thankfulness that He has "chosen" us with the purpose that we will be holy and blameless before Him. Not simply thankful that we are saved from His wrath in an eternal hell, but that we will finally be at peace with God because we are holy (i.e. no longer having sin) and blameless (no longer justly condemned because of that sin) before Him (who will not pardon the unjust nor let the wicked go free). This is important. God has not 'overlooked' your sin. He is all-knowing. He is all-holy. He is all-just. He is all-powerful. He is able and willing to punish sin. It is not as though God is letting you off because you are a newfound friend of His Son. As Paul says in vs. 7, "In Him we have redemption through His blood." God does not overlook our sin - He looked at it fixedly, with intent wrath as He punished His Son for the sins that He bore - our sins. An infinite, eternal, and unchangeable Father punishing His infinite, eternal, and unchangeable Son as the substitute for those whom He chose before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him. Do not take this lightly. Do not 'overlook' this biblical truth. We must understand that if not for God's choosing us, then we would find little reason to praise God for His spiritual blessings to us. He would still be Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. But we would not apprise Him of that. If not for God's electing us, we would not praise Him for these attributes, but we would disdain Him for them. A sinful person does not want God to have these attributes. We want God to be good, but not in the way that He is good. We want Him to do good to us. But when it comes to the outcome of His true goodness, that He must punish sin, we balk. We want God to be just to those who do bad to us, but when it comes to the outcome of His justness against us because of our sin, we recoil. We want God to be powerful so that He can move heaven and earth to do us good, but when the outcome of His omnipotence means that He is able to move heaven and earth to punish our sin, we hate Him.
If God is to be praised by man, it is only for the reason that we are no longer condemned by Him. And for us to no longer be condemned, it must only be because of His choosing us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, not based on our attempt at good works, not based on our choosing Him first. No, if it were up to us, we would wallow in the mire of sin. If it were up to us, we would seek to nail our coffins shut from the inside. If it were up to us, we would seek to have God serve us individually and spurn what He demands of every person - to walk holy and blameless before Him. And that is what we do. We spurn Him. We resist Him. Until, we don't. And then, at that point, we see this doctrine proving true. At one moment we are children of wrath; the next, we are children of God. This process of change, or conversion, owes all of its power and ability to the election of God through the work of Christ.
And remember, this election is not apart from the work of Christ. Paul tells us it is "in Him" we have been chosen. Election without redemption would be unjust and powerless. But God is just. He chose us, even though we would be sinners, and was just to do so because of the work of Jesus in living obediently to God's Law and bearing God's wrath against the sins of those who would believe. This is not a corporate election, such as some would have you believe. Paul does not say that God chose the church as a corporate entity here. This is what some who have issues with the word "election" would have us think. That God chose the Church, and so all who become part of the Church become part of the elect. We do not have time to take on the entirety of this question in this sermon, but I do think this text in Ephesians 1 does speak to it. Paul uses 1st person personal pronoun - "we" & "us" - when referring to the objects of God's election. Paul has in mind the make up of the whole, the individuals of the Church, when speaking of whom God elects. And furthermore, in vs. 7, it is not the Church as a corporate body for whose sin Christ shed His blood. Though those in the Church have sinned, even in official capacity as the Church, Paul is speaking here of individual's sins.
You may be thinking, "Why does this matter?!" It does matter, and you will see why in the next verse with regards to our adoption as sons. But before we get to the next verse, let us look to the next truth that Paul has written in this verse, namely, that the purpose of our election in Christ is our sanctification.
II. The Purpose of Our Election in Christ - Sanctification (1:4b)
Do you ever wonder why God would have chosen anyone to be saved? I do. Why not wipe us off the face of the earth and start over. Here, though, Paul tells us why He has not destroyed us immediately, by telling us the purpose that God chose anybody, and that is so that we would be holy and blameless before Him. "OK," you say, "but why this way? Couldn't He have just made us holy and blameless when He started? Why all of this trouble of creation, law, fall, curse, grace, redeemer, when He could have merely made all of mankind holy and blameless to begin with?" Good question, and the best answer is that this is the way that it pleased Him to do it. We see in the next verse that it was according to the good pleasure of His will that we were predestined to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ. In vs. 11 we see that, "In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will." If the almighty and wise God has chosen to allow things to happen this way, who are we to argue with Him?
But what was God's purpose in election? Here in vs. 4 we see the purpose of God's choosing people is so that they would be holy and blameless before Him. As we read responsively earlier in John 17, the Father gave a gift to the Son, and the Son prayed that we would be one with Him and with the Father, both of whom are holy and without blame. Later here in Ephesians, we see the picture of the Church as the bride of Christ. And notice the words used in 5:25-27:
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and blameless."
Why does Christ give Himself for the Church? So that she will become holy and blameless as His bride.
Similarly in 1:4, the reason that we were chosen in Christ is so that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In John 17, this gift from the Father is to the Son, who shared glory with the Father before creation (i.e., before the foundations of the world). A holy and blameless bride made up of holy and blameless people.
Let me ask you: Are you holy and blameless? Do your actions reverberate throughout creation the work of God in your life? No? Why not? Well, in a sense, we are holy and blameless before God already because of Christ. Christ is our substitute, both positively and negatively. He bore our sins, but He also shares His righteousness with us. This transaction of justification refers to our legal declaration of innocence before the Father - this is justification.
But our justification will result in our sanctification. It may be slowly progressive. It will not be complete in this lifetime. But it will be complete. We will be holy and blameless before the Father. We will be the pure bride before Christ.
But imagine if God had not chosen anyone to be holy and blameless. What would he see "before Him?" Imagine Christ presenting His wife this way: "Look at my wife everyone. My adulterous corpse of a wife - maggot eaten and stinking." That is not a nice picture. But this is what it would be if God had not chosen us to be holy and blameless before Him. Instead, we are beautiful. Why? Because of Christ. He washes us with the water of the word, His word, so that we will stand in splendor before Him, holy and blameless.
But you may notice the next step that Paul makes here regarding election, and thus we find a third great truth in this passage. How did God choose us in Christ? By adopting us as Sons.
III. The Manner of Our Election in Christ - Adoption as Sons (1:5)
Your translations may demarcate the text differently, here. Some will have "in love" going with the previous verse, so that we are "holy and blameless before Him in love." With this choice, it shows the character of our holiness and blamelessness before God to be that of love. Another option is to put "in love" with what follows, showing the heartfelt work of God in adopting us as sons. It is difficult to decide which is the original intent of Paul. Remember, in the original, there were no chapters and verses, nor was there punctuation - just one long string of Greek letters. Personally, I think it fits better with what comes after. I'm not sure how "in love" fits with being holy and blameless.
But I can defiantly see why "in love" fits with our adoption. This shows the character of God as He predestined us to be adopted as sons. Look again to John 17:23-24:
"I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world."
The love of the Father shines forth for His Son through the presence of those whom the Father has given the Son. This is love. The father loves those who are his children.
And continuing the thought from earlier in vs. 2, it is a magnificent consideration to think through the implications that "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" is now "our Father," as individuals. Each person who is adopted as a son now has the omnipotent creator of the universe as his or her Father. What love the Father has for His children!
But maybe you skipped over this phrase, "in love," because of this other pesky word that pops us in the text in vs. 5. You know, "predestination," the word that can make a Baptist jump from a mile away. Simply say it and watch the room clear, or erupt - you never know. "Surely," you say, "this is just one of many possible translations." Well, no, this is the word. Proorisas. Pro - before, and orizw - to decide. Together, "to decide beforehand," or simply, "to predestine." God decided beforehand (i.e. before the foundation of the world) to adopt us as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself. Before creation. Before our works. Before we could try to endear God to us by our "good works."
Think of this adoption of which Paul speaks. Some of you may have had experiences of going to an orphanage to look for a child to adopt. You walk in, and there is a room full of kids trying to show you how great it would be if you would take them home. They show you their intelligence, their athleticism, their good looks. How your heart breaks for them all. Now, imagine God being the Father looking for a child to adopt. He doesn't go for the best and the brightest. He doesn't go for those wise by the world's standards. He goes for the dead one, there in the back on a stretcher with the sheet pulled over him. This one has nothing to give. This one had no potential to be a good child. This one had no potential to make his Father proud. This one would do nothing but get more dead. But it is this one that God has predestined to adopt because it is the good pleasure of His will. This is the point of election, for us to become holy and blameless, and the subsequent predestining to be adopted as sons. We are unloveable, but God has chosen to make us loveable. We are unable to clean ourselves up, but God has chosen for us to be holy and without blemish. We are unable to make a claim on a Father, but God has chosen to predestine us for adoption as sons. We are fellow-heirs with Christ. It has been "bestowed freely upon us in the beloved," as Paul says in the next verse.
But what of this "adoption as sons." Some of your translations may simply say, "adoption." Others, "adoption as children." But the word here is clearly "adoption as sons." Are you ladies upset with the prospect of being called "sons of the living God?" Why is this even important? Well, if you were a girl in the culture in which Paul is writing, and you were adopted, then you would not receive much of an inheritance. But to be adopted as a son, you would have received the full inheritance, to which Paul points in vs. 11.
And Paul says more to this idea of "adoption as sons." Look in Galatians 4:4-7, where Paul again links our redemption in Christ with adoption as sons and an inheritance.
"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!' So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God."
And how do you know of your sonship? The Spirit is sent into your heart, crying Abba! Father!
Look also in Romans 8:15:
"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 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, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."
See the similar themes: adoption as sons, led by the Spirit to cry 'Abba! Father!', being heirs of God with Christ. This act of adoption should cause us all to wither with humbleness before our Father. We do not deserve this treatment! Christ did; we do not!
Think of the contrast Paul is making here. Look forward to 2:2-3, where we were "sons of disobedience" and "children of wrath" before God worked in us. But God has "predestined" or "decided beforehand" that some will be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ. Paul again brings up the fact that God is the one to be praised, because He is the one who worked to make us His children, His adopted sons.
And why does God adopt us as sons? Because, Paul tells us in the last part of vs. 5, it accords with the good pleasure of His will. Is this not great?! God takes pleasure, good pleasure, in the fact that He has predestined to adopt as sons those He does. All that God does, God takes pleasure in doing. One may say that the chief end of God is to glorify Himself and enjoy Himself forever. Bringing pleasure to Himself is of God's utmost attention, and we, as those who trust Christ for salvation, are part of pleasing God! But remember, it is not because you are somehow worthy of this treatment. Before you were able to show yourself adoptable, you were adopted. It is all of God's good pleasure.
But you may be asking yourself, "Why adoption as sons? Why would God not be content to simply spare us from His wrath and leave us as a mere creation as we once were?" It is to this that we now turn, seeing the final grand truth that the Purpose of our Adoption in Christ is the Praise of God's Free Grace.
IV. The Purpose of Our Adoption in Christ - The Praise of God's Free Grace (1:6)
Why has God chosen to adopt us as sons? I've spoken briefly about a result of adoption, that of inheritance, at which we look in a few sermons, probably in October. But besides the result, what was the purpose that God had planned when in His decree before the foundation of the world He predestined to adopt us as sons? Paul tells us here but one reason. "The praise of the glory of His grace."
You are brought into the filial relationship that you have with God for the purpose of praising Him. At the consummation of all things, God's praise will be magnified because of the work that He has done in making us holy and blameless, as well as for bringing us into His family. How gracious is our God! Giving to those who deserve nothing! The Son suffering the wrath of the Father for the express purpose of satisfying His divine wrath against the sins of those who would be given as a gift to the Son. And His death being necessary to accomplish the goal of God's choosing a people and predestining them to adoption. God was willing to do all of this, with the intended result being His praise. Why were you adopted by God? So that God's praise would resound even more.
Your translations may have, "to the praise of His glorious grace." A more literal translation is, "to the praise of the glory of His grace." What will be praised as a result of our adoption? The glory of God's grace. God's grace is a glorious thing. To see grace for what it truly is, sinners getting what they don't deserve (i.e. adoption), it is hard not to see the glory in grace. It is a splendid thing! We can live in relationship with God, who we spurned, who we hated, who we continue to find ways to buck up under His Law. But because of His grace to us, He is praised because of His glorious grace!
But if you are thinking that this grace is somehow earned, totally going against what "grace" is by definition, Paul, as he does many places, cuts off that option before you can begin. Look at what he says: "Grace has been bestowed freely on us in the beloved." Freely bestowed. This verb is a cognate of the word "grace." Literally, God "graced" us in the beloved. By definition to receive grace is to get what you don't deserve. So go ahead, try to earn God's favor. Do lots and lots of good works. They could be the best works, but they will still not earn you grace. Grace is given, not earned.
Are you hearing this passage today and thinking to yourself that you've been a basically good person. You've been true to yourself, and of course God has to think well of that. If this is how you think of God, then I implore you to read through the Scriptures. Read through the first few chapters of the book of Romans. Find out that even your good works are as dirty rags to a perfect and just God. You are not perfect. You have sinned, against others, even against yourself, but primarily against God and His perfect Law. You deserve eternal condemnation by an eternal God because of your sin. Yes God is love, but He is also wrathful and holy. You must understand that He cannot simply overlook your sin.
But God does give grace. He gives that which you don't deserve. Where is this grace? Paul concludes vs. 6 with telling us where grace is to be found - "in the beloved," or "in the one having been loved." It is in Jesus that you will find grace. It was in Him that sins were punished. Go to Him. Trust in His payment for sins and His abundance of righteousness. Beg God for the change in you that only He can bring - repentance from sins. Praise God for the glory of His grace.
Believer, have you praised and thanked God lately for your being chosen in Christ? Have you shown signs of holiness? Have you prayed to your Father in heaven as His adopted son? Have you praised the glorious grace of our God? It is for this reason that you were chosen and adopted! Humble yourself before your creator and worship Him. I don't mean going through the motions: standing, sitting, speaking prayers, listening to sermons. Throw yourself prostrate before your God in your heart and thank Him sincerely for His work in Christ on your behalf! This is why you were brought into relationship to Him!
As we begin to pray, ask yourself if you have trusted in the grace of God for salvation. Do you know God as your Father? If not, throw yourself on the mercy of God.
If you are trusting in God for salvation, ask yourself another question: Are you becoming more holy as a result of God's work in your life? As we have seen that is the purpose of why He chose you, if you are His. Examine your life. What are the ways that the Spirit through the Word is convicting you of sins, public and hidden, with which you are entangled? Repent from them, believer. You do not need them. You were not recreated for them, but for God.
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