Good morning and welcome to worship! Today we begin a new sermon series through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Ephesus was on the western coast of Turkey and one of the principle cities of the Roman Empire. Paul lived in Ephesus for 3 years doing evangelism in the surrounding areas. He writes this letter from prison in Rome waiting trial before Caesar.
His purpose to is help this young church remember the truth about God’s love, his purpose, and the call he has given to them as his people in that place. Let’s pray before we open our Bibles to Ephesians chapter 1. “Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word, your Truth, given to us for the sake of our salvation. It is the bread of life and the spring of living water. It’s an anchor in the chaos and confusion spun by the Evil One. Teach us about yourself, about the world, and about your will for our lives. We ask in Jesus name.”
The letter begins in the usual way: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus”
So just how saintly were the saints in Ephesus? No more than we are I’m sure. Paul isn’t referring to how sinless they were. He’s referring to who they are in Jesus. Let’s read on! “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
So this isn’t about my circumstances on earth, this is about my position in heaven. This isn’t about what we do or don’t do, but what God has done for sinners like us! Paul makes a list!
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” The he is God and the in him is Jesus. Have you ever wondered “What’s God’s will for my life?” Here it is – “to be holy and blameless in his sight”
I guess we better get our act together! We better get our Bibles out. We better pray 6 hours a day! Actually, we better keep reading because nothing you or I could ever do will make us holy and blameless in his sight! That’s a miracle that only God can do! So let’s read on!
“In love he predestined us to be adopted as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
You mean it’s God’s purpose and pleasure and delight to adopt sinners like us to be his children? Sounds like it! That means that when the Lord said in Genesis 1, “Let’s create man in our image”, he did it with the intention of adopting as sons and daughters, just like Jesus!
How can a sinner like me that has lived my life in rebellion against him, ever hope that God would invite me to become a member of his forever family? Think about Paul. He murdered God’s people! He hated Jesus. How could God adopt a guy like that? Let’s ask Paul!
“In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” Eph 1:7-10
When we couldn’t get to him, God initiated a plan to bring us back to himself. He planned this from the beginning! Would you be open to being adopted by God himself?
Let’s go back and unpack the verbs Paul uses to describe what God has done for us.
He chose us – reminds me of Abraham. How God chose him. Abraham didn’t apply for the job. He never would have made it. God chose him and he chooses us.
He adopted us, made us brothers and sisters of Jesus, gave us the right to call him Father.
He redeemed us. That means to buy us back from slavery. What slavery? Our sinful nature! He forgave us. That means he paid our debt and washed us clean. What did we do to deserve such a thing? Nothing! It was put in place for us in heaven before we were born!
Look at the next one. “With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will.” That means he illuminated us! He revealed himself to us. These are truths that we could never discover, never understand, never comprehend, never value unless God revealed them to us. The reason we know anything about God is because God loves us enough to show himself to us and help us understand.
But how is all this amazing stuff possible? Why us? Good question! We certainly have done nothing to deserve this kind of grace and mercy and love. It’s a mystery why God loves us so. But there is a catch. This mercy and grace and forgiveness isn’t free. Our adoption came at a great cost. It wasn’t silver and gold, it was the blood of Jesus on a cross.
Let’s go through the list again and look for the means by which all this takes place. Vs 3 We’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. We’ve been chosen in him. We’ve been predestined for adoption through Jesus Christ. All this is given to us through the One he loves. That’s Jesus.
Through the blood of Jesus, we are redeemed and our sins are forgiven. The riches of God’s grace are poured out upon us through Jesus. The mystery of God’s will to bring all things together, things that were trashed, vandalized, separated by sin, are all possible through, in, by way of Jesus and his death on the cross.
What did you do to deserve such an incredible gift? Nothing. What could you ever do to pay God back for any of these things? Nothing. It is a gift only God has the power to give.
Vs 11 “In him (Jesus) we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”
What was that purpose? Vs 10 “To bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” The Lord is restoring the joy, the fellowship, the unity that was in the Garden of Eden before the fall when we were cast out of the Garden. God has made a way for the separation caused by sin an evil to be at last overcome.
How did that happen? He sent his Son out that gate of Eden and into the brokenness of our world to become one of us in the fullest sense of the word. He lived and suffered among us and he never sinned. Then he gave his life on a cross, he took the penalty of our sin upon himself and paid for it in full to open the door back to Paradise and full fellowship with God.
Not only that but he gave us a guarantee that we have been adopted and included in his family. He sent his Holy Spirit to live in our hearts. Imagine the Holy Spirit leaving the purity of heaven to move in and live in the uncleanness of our hearts. What kind of love is this?
It’s beyond my comprehension. How should we respond to a God like this? We worship him. We praise him. We adore him. We sing to him, pray to him, thank him, live for him.
Look at verse 16, “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Eph 1: 16-17
There is more to God than our finite minds can ever fathom, more to Jesus than we can ever fully know – but if we love him, our natural response should be to spend the rest of eternity growing in our knowledge of him and our love for him. We do need to grow in our relationship with him. How, we study his Word, we pray, we worship him.
Paul writes, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, his incomparable great power for us who believe.” Eph 1:18
And then Paul writes that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work within every believer. That power is above every rule, authority, power, dominion, title that surrounds us in this present age. If Jesus lives in you by faith, you don’t have to be afraid of anything in this world.
There’s far more to Jesus than we have yet to understand, far more to his power at work within us that we have yet accessed. Vs 22 says that God has placed all things under Jesus’ feet and we, Christians, his church, are his Body in the world.
That doesn’t mean we are better. It means we are servants, just as Jesus was. We are God’s agents at work in the world and he is using us to fulfill his purpose to bring all things back together again. Don’t be intimidated! Instead, rejoice. Worship, sing God’s praise, great things he has done, great things he is doing, great things he has yet to do!
Do you know what terrifies Satan most of all? It’s when God’s people sing. It makes no difference how well you sing. What matters is that you sing - that you lift your voice with your brothers and sisters and croak out your praise to God. That’s the first sign of the collapse of Satan’s dominion.
It’s a sign of that heaven is breaking out on earth. When God’s people open their mouths and sing his praise something happens in us and around us. We become one with the angels of heaven and the creation around us. Don’t let Satan stifle your praise. Lift your voice, worship the Lord, praise him without ceasing all the time, everywhere. And you will discover his power flowing through you in a way you may never have experienced before.