Redemption in Christ
August 27, 2006
I want to begin this morning
by asking you all a question: What is standing between you and God? What keeps
you from communing with your Creator? Maybe you’ve never thought about it
before, but it is an important question to ask. He created us in His image. And
even after the human race’s fall into sin, He continually provides for our
needs. He causes the sun to rise on the just and the unjust alike. But there is
something there, something stopping us all from fully enjoying our God, isn’t
there. I want us all to think about this question as we go through our text this
You will remember two times ago when I preached from Ephesians 1, we looked at the beginning of this Eulogy to God, this praise of Him, and noticed that we, those have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, (believers), were chosen from before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before God. But any student of the Bible, let alone any observant student of themselves, knows that there is a problem with this. We are not holy, nor are we blameless. We sin against others, ourselves, but most importantly against God. We take the Law that He has written on our consciences and distort it into being more a law of our own making than of His. So how do we get to holiness and blamelessness from sin and derision? How do we overcome the gulf of guilt that separates us from the most loving and awesome, yet powerful and just being in or outside of the created order? Can creation be regained? Well, our answer is found in our text this week, Ephesians 1:7-10, and the solution to the problem is redemption in Christ.
Let us again read this Eulogy and re-familiarize ourselves with what Paul has been saying, focusing especially on our text for this week, vss. 7-10.
As we read, we remember what we have studied in Ephesians thus far: we’ve noticed this long sentence that in the Greek begins in vs 3 and goes all the way through vs. 14 – this eulogy – this blessing that Paul bestows upon God. Paul begins praising God because He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. What are the spiritual blessings with which we’ve been blessed? He goes on to tell us: we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, we were chosen so that we would be holy and blameless before Him; we were predestined for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ; and He has given us grace in Christ.
This week, we will look at two more reasons that Paul has chosen to praise God, two more spiritual blessings that we have as those who trust in Christ: 1. We have been redeemed through Jesus’ Blood, and 2. the Mystery of God’s Will has been Made Known to Us.
I. We have been redeemed through Jesus’ blood
At the end of our text from last time, we remember that Paul was speaking of the praise of the glory of God’s grace that was freely bestowed on us in the beloved. Picking up from that last phrase, Paul now gives us another spiritual blessing because of which we should praise God, and that is that In Him we have been redeemed through Jesus’ blood. We see again the repetition of the “In Him” phrase, pointing to the union that we as Christians have with Christ. We are blessed in Christ; we are elected in Christ; We are adopted as sons in Christ. We experience this union with Christ on many different levels, but here Paul speaks to our being in union with Christ with regards to our redemption.
Well, a good question to ask, then, is, “What is redemption?” It’s a very churchy word, isn’t it? We hear the word tossed around a lot, but do we really know what it means? In the Old Testament, redemption is used to speak primarily of the act of God in bringing the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. In the same way, Jesus has redeemed us from a foreign country, one in which we as those predestined to be adopted as sons should not be living – the metaphorical land of sin, facing the wrath of God against our sin.
But even further, the idea of redemption often has the meaning of paying a price, or ransom, to bring about the redemption. Paul asserts in 1 Cor. 6:19-20, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” In Galatians 3:13, Paul tells us that, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” A price was paid for those who were redeemed. Think back to Jesus’ own words in Matt. 20:28, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Well, this is the problem with much of what the world thinks of Jesus today. Jesus is said to have been a good teacher, a strong leader, a good listener, and while He may have been all of these things and much more, we can never have a complete view of Jesus unless we see Him as redeemer. This was the goal of His life. Even John the Baptist at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry recognized that the purpose of Jesus’ life was to take away the sins of the world, which is how Paul here defines redemption for us at the end of verse 7 – the forgiveness of sins.
B. Through His Blood
But first, notice what is in between these two appositional phrases about redemption and forgiveness – the phrase “through His blood.” To understand redemption, to understand the role of Jesus in the history of the creation, we must understand that it is through His blood that we are redeemed. Jesus could not have simply joined Himself with flesh for eternity, lived a perfect life according to the Law, His Law, and then impute that righteousness to us for our righteousness but do nothing about our sins. Our sins had to be dealt with. We could not have been redeemed without Christ’s payment of His blood.
We see this idea of the necessity of bloodshed throughout the Old Testament Law. When Jesus said that He came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it, this bloodshed was partly what He was speaking about. The sacrificial laws of the Old Testament were very clear on the necessity for the blood to be shed for the forgiveness of sins. You see, the Levitical high-priest in the OT entered once a year into the holy of holies to make atonement for the people, taking with him the blood of a sacrificed bull and goat to sprinkle on the mercy seat before the LORD. Every year, the cycle had to be repeated if Israel was to be obedient to and in covenant with their God. The author of Hebrews comments that, “Indeed, under the Law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (9:22). But he says further, “He (that is Jesus) entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (9:12). The blood of bulls and goats, even then entire sacrificial system, were all pointing to one, biblical, humbling truth – the price for sin was blood, and for every sin, blood was required.
But we see that Jesus became the sacrifice for us. Our blood was that which was due, but in order to procure a people for Himself (those predestined for adoption), He gave His blood for the ransom. It was His blood that propitiated our sins, that is, His blood took away the wrath of God from us.
C. Forgiveness of Trespasses
And we see that Paul equates this redemption through blood to the forgiveness of trespasses. Why the OT sacrificial system? Sins. Why the continual presentation of offerings before the LORD – sins. They just don’t stop. Sin, abounding all the more. Think about it, has there ever been a time that you can remember when sin was not in your life? Is there ever a day that you could honestly say, “I don’t need redemption today?” There is no such day, even if you don’t recognize it. And we are worthy of eternal death because we sin.
But it is Jesus’ blood through which our sins are forgiven. Notice here the language that is used. Jesus did not only become the means by which sin was forgiven, but sins. And this forgiveness of sins is the reason Jesus came to be joined with human flesh forever, as we saw earlier in John the Baptist’s declaration about the role of Jesus – He came to take away sins.
D. Riches of His Grace
And this redemption, this forgiveness that we are given is not something that goes against the nature of God, something He was constrained to do. No, we see here in the last part of vs. 7 that it is “in accordance with the riches of His grace.” Grace by definition is getting what we don’t deserve. We must never think that God is poor in grace, that it is a strain on His character to dispense grace to His creation. If we come to the point that we see God as stingy with grace, we have come to a point that we have ceased to understand the true nature and character of God. Look here in vs. 8 at how Paul speaks of God’s grace – He is rich in grace, so much so that He lavishes it on us. Does this sound like a God who doesn’t have the resources of grace? God’s grace is like the water of an over flowing fountain, constantly pouring out grace onto His creation.
E. Wisdom and Insight
And He gives us this grace “with all wisdom and insight.” Some of your translations have this phrase “with wisdom and insight” paired with the next verse, speaking to God’s wisdom and insight in making known to us the mystery of His will; but it seems best to keep it with vs. 8, speaking to God’s gift in lavishing grace on us, part of which was wisdom and insight. How do we decide between these two translation possibilities? Well, the Epistle to the Colossians is very closely related to Ephesians, and in a parallel passage in Col. 1:9, we see clearly that Paul desired for the church at Colosse to be filled with wisdom and understanding, a closely related phrase to this one in Eph. 1:8. It seems, then, that Paul says that wisdom and insight are lavished on us by God.
This idea of “wisdom and insight” constitutes what grammarians call a hendiadys – a fancy word from the Greek phrase “one through two.” You get one idea through the use of two words. Wisdom and insight (understanding) has been given to us when we are lavished with God’s grace. And more than that, Paul says all wisdom and insight has been lavished on us in God’s grace.
Having all wisdom and insight would have been important in Paul’s day, as in ours, because there were, and are, many groups trying to infiltrate the church, claiming to have special knowledge and wisdom that led to ultimate truth. They lead people away from the truth by promising them special knowledge of God. Paul here is encouraging the Ephesian church, as he did the Colossian church, and as should be done in our curch, that wisdom and insight about God comes from God. And though we who have been adopted have it already lavished on us, we still pray that it becomes ever increasing and valuable to us as we live in our day to day life, so that we will be able to be ever more effective in the kingdom of God.
But we see that this lavishing of grace with all wisdom and insight serves an even more important purpose in Paul’s mind, and that is that by it, God has made known to us the mystery of His will. And this is the second spiritual blessing in our passage today – The mystery of God’s will has been made known to us.
II. The mystery of God’s will has been made known to us
Do you ever get stuck on the idea that “there are just some things about God we can’t know?” That there is hidden knowledge out there, and though Scripture speaks to us about it, it seems confusing and we can’t understand it? Many people do, and they look at the usage of words like “mystery” here in our text and say, “see, there is a mystery to it.” Well friends, I hate to burst your bubble, but that kind of argument will not work here. Paul makes clear that while there at one time was a mystery, it has been divulged to those who are redeemed in Christ, who have grace, as well as all wisdom and insight lavished on them. And I would like to call our attention to three important notes about the mystery of God’s will this morning: 1. That the mystery has been made known to us, 2. That the mystery is in accord with God’s good pleasure, and 3. that the content of the mystery is that all of the created order is summed up (or culminated) in Christ.
A. The Knowledge of the Mystery
First, we see that another way in which God has lavished His grace on us, even the reason that He has given us wisdom and insight, is that he has made known to us the mystery of his will. There is much in the world that we don’t know, but if we put our minds to it, and if we were especially gifted intellectually, we could probably figure out a lot of the “mysteries” of creation. But there are other areas of knowledge, such as the mystery of God’s will, about which we cannot ever know without some special revelation giving us the knowledge that we could not have any other way.
But God has made known to us the mystery of His will. This word, mysterion in the Greek, speaks of disclosure of knowledge previously hidden. We see in Colossians 1:26-27 that the mystery was revealed to the saints, though it was hidden for ages and generations, and that the content of the mystery was “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” While the focus of the content of the mystery in Ephesians is a bit different than in Colossians (as we will see in a moment), we still see that there is knowledge that has not been revealed to all men, and for that knowledge to be known, it must be made known to us – until it is, it is a mystery.
B. The Conformity of the Mystery
It is important to note, though, that this “making known” of the mystery of God’s will is in full accord with God’s good pleasure. We’ve seen this word, good pleasure, already in this passage in vs. 5, when referring to God’s good pleasure in predestining us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. God delights in all that He does. There is never a time that God is constrained to do something. So when God has good pleasure in doing something, it is a glorious reminder to us that He is Sovereign; that He is watching over the universe that He created and takes pleasure still in His working in it.
Here in verses 9-10, we see that He takes pleasure in making known the mystery of His will. Imagine watching a great movie with the writer and director of it, and as the movie goes on, you begin wondering if there is a point to it. But the writer tells you to hold on, it will all become clear in a moment. And then, at the climax of the movie, it finally becomes clear to you what everything else that happened in the movie was about – and it was a magnificent story! The writer and director should be acknowledged for such a great work of art. You would praise them.
It is no less the case with God. The movie of human history plays out before us, and it is tempting to give up on trying to recognize any kind of meaning in it. We have to work. We get tired. Wars happen. People die. Is there a point to any of it? Well God, the divine writer and director of human history, for millennia was working in building up to this one single climactic culmination that would explain the rest of history, that would cause all beings everywhere to glory in the majestic wisdom of His purposes. And it finally happened. The climax of history happened, and it happened in the coming of Christ!
And it happened, as we see here in vs. 10, under the administration of God at the fullness of times. As Paul says in Romans 5:6, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” When it was the appointed time for reconciliation to occur, Christ died for the ungodly. And here in Eph. 1:10, we see that God was behind the scenes, administrating history, in accordance with His good pleasure, for one reason – to sum up all things in Christ.
C. The Content of the Mystery
And we see here that the content of the mystery that has been made known to us is the summing up of all things in Christ. All that has happened in history is because of Christ. Why are you here on the earth today? Because of Christ. Why did God not kill Adam and Eve upon their first sin? Because of Christ. Why did God desire to save Noah and his family instead of wiping them out with the rest of the world because of their sin? Because of Christ. Why did God choose a nation unto Himself, give them Laws that they could not keep, and even when they sinned against Him, not wipe them off of the face of the earth? Because of Christ. He is the summation, the climax, of all of human history. The Creator joining Himself with the creation. The one who upholds all matter by the word of His power, taking on matter.
Notice Paul’s further explanation of the all things that are the summation in Christ – “things in the heavens, and things on the earth in Him.” Does this phraseology sound familiar? Think back to Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” So, to go back even further in our reasoning for why God acts in history, back before the fall – A primary question that we all should ask, “Why did God create in the first place?” Because of Christ. The mystery of God’s will was to climax the history of creation by summing it all up in the Son.
Notice then the implications that this has for us. God summed up all of creation in Christ. God did not sum up all of creation in His Law, or in family, or even in a political party – He summed it up in Christ. In our day, we are so busy trying to make the non-climactic things the climax, when God has already written and produced the climax into history.
Not that we shouldn’t be about the honoring of the Law of God, or the dignity of the family, or even responsible political action, but we must never mistake the goals of these things. We honor God’s Law because we have been redeemed in Christ and seek to honor Him by keeping His Law. Keeping it is not the climax – honoring Christ is. We uphold our families and attempt to lead them in godly ways because in doing so we better show forth the picture of Christ and His bride, the Church. Rejoicing in Family is not the climax – rejoicing in our union with Christ is. We seek to involve ourselves in responsible political action because Christ is our king, and we want the government to allow us to honor Him in that capacity. Wielding power is not the climax, submitting to Christ is.
You see, God’s Law may fall into disrepute with the world, and the family system as we know it may come apart, and governments will come into power that do terrible things of which we could never support, but even if all of this happens, Christ will still be the summation of all things. All things point to Christ, and we must recognize that if we are to live a Christ-honoring life while we are here, we must see Him as the reason for creation.
In conclusion, let’s remember the question that I asked at the beginning of the sermon, “What keeps you from God?” As we’ve seen, for those who are in Christ, there is nothing that does or can ever keep us from God, because we have been brought near by the blood of Christ. We have forgiveness of our sins against Him. We have had grace showered upon us. We know the mystery of God’s will, that all things have been summed up in Christ.
But for those here who are not in Christ, who do not care about the redemption that is in Him, who do not seek to honor God, who trust in their own merits before the eyes of God, for you there is a great chasm between you and your Creator, and that chasm is full of the guilt of your sins. You have not had the proper regard for the One who made you. As we have seen, God has set Jesus up as the greatest, most praiseworthy being in the universe, but you do not recognize Him as such, at least not to the degree that you should.
You see, we all fail at living according to God’s Law, both Christian and non-Christian alike. We all have trespasses against His Law. The difference is that Christ has redeemed those whom are His. He has taken on their sins in His death, healed them by His blood, and raised them up with Him in the heavenly places in Himself; not because they are so great, but because He is and He has chosen to do so. But you have not been redeemed who care nothing for Christ and His ways. But the call of the Gospel goes out to you, “Repent and Believe.” Cease from your continual, conscious sinning and trust in the work of Christ on the cross, bearing the penalty for sins, for your salvation.
I ask you, then, “What will you do with this Christ.” We here today as Christ’s church pray that you will seek Him, and that God’s Spirit will fill you with repentance and grace; and for those who seek, they will find Him. Fall before Him and trust Him as your Lord – He is a good and loving King. Have confidence in Him, that He has redeemed from sins those who trust Him, and you will be saved.
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