Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bethany Bullet - July 17, 2012

Handwritten notes and letters are becoming a thing of the past. Fortunately, this week, I received a wonderful note with some wonderful handwritten words of encouragement.  It uplifted my spirit and was a joy to read and will be something that I hold on to. Handwritten words of encouragement are of great value and starting today we will dive in to a handwritten letter written to all believers, by the Apostle Paul. His letter to the Ephesians contains some great words of advice and gives great courage to the church. In chapter 1, we will see the foundation of our life of faith.

Paul wrote the letter around 60 AD most likely when he was in prison in Rome. Paul knew the believers in Ephesus well.  The book of Acts tells us that he spent close to three years in Ephesus, working and witnessing. Paul’s main reason for sending the letter was to remind the Ephesians that they were one body, united in Christ and to warn against divisions in the church that would tear people apart.  Ephesus was a religious and commercial center of the province of Asia. The great temple of Artemis there drew tourists and worshipers, and dominated life in the city.  Easy access to waterways and roads made it truly cosmopolitan.  The religious climate of the city created difficulties for the spread of the Gospel, but its location made it ideal to get the message of Jesus to wide area of people in the region.

This text before us is really a doxology, a song of praise to God.  Written in the form of a Jewish prayer, it is all one sentence in the original text.

Here are some key concepts to look for:  
  • From eternity God has had a plan of salvation, 
  • This plan is fulfilled in and through Christ, 
  • Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God gives us unspeakably great and precious blessings and is our reason for praising Him.

While the words “triune” or “trinity” are not found in Scripture, the concepts are, and we will see this clearly in our text.

(3) 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.

What is “Praise?”

This word literally means “good words spoken of.”  We use this same word during a funeral or memorial service. The word is eulogy.  In the New Testament this word is reserved for God alone. 

Paul begins with praise (or good words spoken) of God not unlike worship…let’s continue.

Verse 3 literally says, “Good words be spoken to God the father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has spoken good words to us in the heavenly realms with every good word in Christ.”  It’s that eulogy word three times!

This is the foundational statement that God loved us so much to speak well of us in the Word made flesh, Jesus so that we would be able to say good words to God. 

(4) For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

God’s plan of salvation existed before the creation of the world. In Christ, God chose us to be holy and blameless.  It is not that we are holy or do good things and then for that reason God took a liking to us and chose us.  He chose us when we had no righteousness to offer.

Paul told the church in Rome this very thing when he wrote, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

He chose us before we were born, before the world existed.

He chose us not BECAUSE we were holy and blameless, but TO BE holy and blameless.

This happens, IN CHRIST.  Every spiritual blessing rests on Christ and His saving merit. This is not how God chooses, He chooses us all!! And then empowers us TO BE holy not because we ARE holy. 

In love (5) he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

We have to talk about this word “predestination.” 

It is a concept that has been misunderstood in Christian circles for a long time. 

Many use logic to try to understand God and that has its shortcomings.  We logically see that while there are many believers in the church, there are many who do not believe.  If God predestines us, then some people must be predestined for heaven and some for hell.  This is simply not the case when you look at scripture. 

The key in this text is the words prior, “In love.”  In love, God would not send His children to hell.  In love, He has adopted us into His family.  This is one of the spiritual blessings God has given us.  Remember, it was before the creation of the world God chose us to be holy and blameless.

That begs the question, “Why are some saved and some not?”  There is no great answer here but an analogy might help: We are unable to turn the light of faith on, God does that, but we do have the ability to turn it off.  The freewill that got us into the mess of sin, still effects humanity and its relationship with the Creator.

How did this adoption happen?  Through Jesus Christ! 

It was God’s plan to make us members of His family, to bring us into His house as sons and daughters; because of that we are in line for a full inheritance…more about that later.  In Christ, we are a “forever family!”  This is all IN CHRIST!

(7) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (8) that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (9) And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, (10) to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment —to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

Our greatest blessing comes here in verse seven, redemption and the forgiveness of sins:  
  • Redemption implies that someone is a slave or captive and needs to be ransomed. 
  • Forgiveness implies that someone has acted improperly toward another and in so doing has incurred guilt that needs to be covered or taken away.

Both require the payment of a heavy price.  This price should be paid by us, for “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) “But according with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us,” He did the unthinkable.  God Himself paid the price.  In a million years, we would not have devised such a plan.

This indeed is a mystery but not in a sense that it is incomprehensible but it is a mystery in the sense that we cannot understand it by ourselves.  This is done through the work of the Holy Spirit and proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

(11) In him 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, (12) in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

Once again we see that everything happens according to God’s plan.  This gives us hope and that hope is a lasting hope that will carry us on when things don’t go according to our plan.

(13) And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, (14) who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

We see that the grand plan Paul is setting forth involves all three persons of the Trinity.

In ancient times a seal was the sign of ownership.  For a Christian to bear the seal of the Holy Spirit is an indicator that he or she belongs to God.  That is a present blessing.

But Paul points to a future blessing as well.  The Spirit “is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.”

A deposit, a down payment, is the first installment of a transaction that guarantees the rest of the obligation will also be met.  When you make a deposit for vacation it is because you intend to go, not just because you think it might be nice.  The deposit makes it real.

The fact that God has given His Holy Spirit into our heart by faith, through baptism at the present time is an assurance that the rest of God’s real promise will also be forthcoming.

Jesus said, (1) “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. (2) My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

Once again Paul reminds us why God has showered all of these blessings on us, “to the praise of His glory.”

So, what does all of this mean?  Perhaps I can say it this way.

Our life of Faith was:
1.   Planned by the Father
       a. Who blesses us
       b. Who selected us
       c. Who adopted us
2.   Purchased by the Son
       a. Who redeemed us
       b. By Whom we are forgiven 
       c. Who gathers us
3.   Preserved by the Spirit
       a. Who seals us in baptism
       b. Who guarantees our inheritance

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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