Ephesians 1:3-10 God’s purpose in election

Sermon preached on 8th January 2012

(please note these are notes!)

God’s purpose in election

Christogram (labarum) with Jesus Prayer in Rom...

It’s the beginning of a New Year and it’s hard to believe it is 2012 – Olympic year!  I believe this year God wants to bless you, which is why I come to Ephesians 1.

v3 “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.”

I can’t promise you every material blessing in 2012 – though God may bless you in that way.  But I can promise you every spiritual blessing, so that whatever trials you go through, you will know the riches of Christ’s blessings in your life.

Of course, the idea of a God outside of ourselves who blesses us and does us good is outside the thinking of most people in society these days.  Secular people think we should get rid of all ideas of God, or the gods – medieval ideas – so we can be free from fear, and enjoy ourselves in pleasures.  However, this philosophy doesn’t seem to be working very well – the beginning of 2012 is marked by fear in many ways – will I be able to pay the bills, will I have a job?

This morning, as we re-commit ourselves to the LORD and to one another (covenant service,) the good news is that God – that is, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – doesn’t want us to be afraid; he wants to bless us, as this passage teaches.

v3 is a summary of what follows – an exposition of the blessings Christ has given us.

4a “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world.”

“He chose us.”   The first thing I want you to notice is that God is a God who makes sovereign choices.  In his exposition Paul cannot separate the spiritual blessings of Christ from God’s sovereignty.  The only way we will experience the blessings in our lives is when we acknowledge God’s sovereignty in all things – Jesus is Lord – that God is God.

Jonathan Edwards, the puritan preacher, (not the triple jumper or BU general secretary,) had great difficulty as a young man accepting the sovereignty of God. He once wrote, “From my childhood up my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty… It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me.” However, in 1721 he came to the conviction, one he called a “delightful conviction.” He was meditating on 1 Timothy 1:17, and later remarked, “As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before… I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was, and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be rapt up to him in heaven; and be as it were swallowed up in him for ever!” From that point on, Edwards delighted in the sovereignty of God. Edwards later recognized this as his conversion to Christ.

God’s sovereignty – his choosing – is inseparable from his blessings.

“In him we were chosen before the creation of the world.”

God’s choosing was not only before you were born, it was before anyone was born or anything had even been created.  To think about things like this stretches the imagination, but perhaps we can imagine God was doing a lot of dreaming.

My daughter had a presentation ceremony for her A ’levels this week at her old school, and there was a poem in the program called “Follow your Dream”:

Follow your dream,

Take one step at a time and don’t settle for less,

Just continue to climb.

Follow your dream.

If you stumble, don’t stop and lose sight of your goal

Press to the top.

For only on top can we see the whole view,

Can we see what we’ve done and what we can do;

Cane we then have the vision to seek something new,

Press on.

Follow your dream.

Before we do something we dream about it!  I can imagine God dreaming before the beginning of time, dreaming about the world and all the people he was going to bring into existence – including you.  When He could keep it in no longer, in an outburst creative energy he created the world and all that is in it. And at just the right time, in the right place, you are born, planned by God.

Why does this matter? First because it shows that you are not a mistake, or an accident – you were planned.  Second, it shows that the life we have is a gift.

Calvin said, “The very time of election shows it to be free; for what could we have deserved, or in what did our merit consist, before the world was made.”

Paul continues in v4, “In love he predestined us.”

In other words, God didn’t do his choosing in a random way; he didn’t throw a great celestial dice, or spin a roulette wheel in heaven.  His will wasn’t arbitrary, his choices were loving choices.

Nothing is outside of God’s loving will. And because it’s love, it involves emotions and pleasure.  In v5 Paul expands on this idea, “in accordance with his pleasure and will.”  There’s a warmth and a joy in these words, which brings warmth and joy into our lives.  God is smiling on you just because he loves you!

This is what the Bible teaches, but it is very different from the stereotype of God we sometimes have in our minds of a God who is to be feared – so let’s just get rid of all notions of God from our minds.  But God’s choosing is a loving choice.

4a “For he chose us in him

It’s entirely fitting that God would choose us to be “in Him” when we realise who He is.  Christ is not just a man who a few people believe died for sins, and a few people follow.  He is far more than that.

Paul elaborates on the greatness of Christ in Colossians: “For by him all things were created, both in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created by him and for Him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Col 1:16-17

Christ is divine. All things are from Him, and all things were created for Him.  If we want to be at one with creation, if we want peace and harmony in our lives and families, even if we want to solve the problem of global warming, the first step is to make sure we are “in Him.”

The Bible also tells us that not only was creation through and for Him, but, in 10, Paul tells us God’s overall plan for the future is to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.  In other words, everything will ultimately find its fulfilment and consummation in Him.  This is the true unity of humanity and the true utopia. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, so it is quite fitting that God has chosen us to be “in Him.”

We live in a world spoiled by sin but, v7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”  Jesus when he died on the cross and was raised to life again so that we might be in Him and have peace with Him.

I remember clearly when I decided to accept Christ.  But, I realise now that it wasn’t really me doing the choosing – the only choice I had was to respond to the work of the Spirit.

People object to this idea of God’s choice (doctrine of election.) “It’s not fair!

“How can you say some people are chosen but others are not chosen?”  But, “How do you know who is chosen, or do you have some sort of special inside knowledge?”   I personally believe that God gives everyone an opportunity to respond to him according to the light they have.  The problem is that we deliberately reject Him from our lives.   But even if God does choose some and not others, that’s His choice.  Our main problem with election is that it presents us with a God who is God.  We want to manage God and control God, but election doesn’t allow us to do that.

Paul explains some of God’s purposes in choosing. God’s first purpose is sanctification – to clean up our lives.

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

God is holy, so to be holy is to be like him.  It is a lifelong process of sanctification, the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.

God has chosen us, not to remain as sinners, but to be holy in Him. But if your life is characterised by conscious sin, and you don’t feel bad about it, it is possible you are not yet a Christian.  If you are determined not to forgive someone who hurt you, ever, and you justify yourself – “why should I ever forgive what he did to me” – it is quite possible you are not yet a Christian.  If you fill your mind with pornography and believe there is nothing wrong with it?  It is very possible you are not a Christian.  Why? It is because election leads to holiness and we should be growing in holiness.

Another reason people object to the idea of election is because they think it means some people regard themselves as superior to others.  If God’s election does that for you, it’s not election – it’s just pride, which God hates.  When we understand we have not chosen Him but he has chosen us, when we see the extent of Christ’s sacrifice and forgiveness – it humbles us.

The second purpose God has in election is adoption.

5 “He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

If we are sons/daughters, God is our Father.  Jesus called God Father and taught us to do the same.  What is even more remarkable is that the word Jesus used was the common word with which a child would call his/her father: Abba. Like Papa.

“And you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry ‘Abba, Father.’  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:15,16

The true living God does not bring fear and anxiety into our lives – respect yes, but fear and terror, no.  Understanding the Fatherhood of God is essential for a healthy spiritual life.

J.I.Packer said,

“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.”

Through adoption, we belong to God.  When things get tough, it’s at those times we need to know who we belong to.  This should cause a song to rise in our hearts, and to praise the Lord.

“to the praise of his glorious grace.”

This is “glorious grace.”  This is the undeserved riches which are ours in Christ which fill our lives: his righteousness, his power, his love, joy and peace, and things like that.

The emphasis here is on the bounty and abundance of it.  It is glorious grace. He has given it to you freely and liberally in the one He loves – Jesus – because God is a bountiful, generous, overflowing God.

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2 Responses to Ephesians 1:3-10 God’s purpose in election

  1. Pingback: 120120–George Hach’s Journal–Friday | George Hach's Blog

  2. Moges says:

    I like it

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