Blessings from the Father
Ephesians deals with what matters most – God, Jesus, the Spirit, the world, the church, salvation, faith & works, the Christian life, marriage & family, spiritual warfare, unity, relationships, truth, love, worship, prayer, and much more. It’s a high place in Scripture because it offers a magnificent view of God’s great plan for humanity.
Paul had spent three years in Ephesus teaching and ministering to people. They lived in a difficult place with its 50 gods and goddesses, the temple of Artemis, the emperor cult, the popularity of magic, and much more. Paul wanted these Christians to stay strong in their faith. Specifically, he wanted them to have a deeper understanding and experience of three realities:
New life we have in Christ;
New community we belong to as a result of our relationship with Christ;
New walk we are called to by Christ.
1:1-2 Introduction to the Letter
1:3-14 Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ
1:15-23 Prayer for Spiritual Understanding
2:1-10 New Life in Christ
2:11-3:21 New Community in Christ
2:11-22 The Creation of a New Community
3:1-13 Paul’s Unique Role in God’s Plan
3:14-21 Paul’s Prayer for the New Community
4:1-6:20 New Walk in Christ
4:1-16 Walk in Unity
4:17-32 Walk in Holiness
5:1-6 Walk in Love
5:7-14 Walk in Light
5:15-6:9 Walk in Wisdom
6:10-20 Walk in Strength
6:21-24 Conclusion to the Letter
Review of 1:1-2
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
► “apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”
Paul had been called, authorized, and sent on a mission by Jesus Christ. His letters carry Christ’s full authority. If we take Jesus’ words seriously, we must also take Paul’s words just as seriously because they come from Christ.
► “saints” = “faithful” (believing ones)
“Saints” are not an elite group of Christians who live extremely pious lives. The saints are people who belong to God because of their relationship with Jesus. Saints are Christians. Christians are also known as faithful ones—those who exercise faith in or believe in Jesus.
► “in Ephesus” and “in Christ”
We saw that Paul’s sense of geography places us both in the world (“in Ephesus”) and in a relationship with Christ. We should not pursue Christ and completely withdraw from the world or engage the world and forget about our Lord Jesus.
► “Grace and peace”
God’s grace (free and undeserved gift) produces our peace (deep contentment, calmness, and wholeness that comes from a harmonious relationship with God).
Letter explodes in Praise – 1:3
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, …
Blessed be the God who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.
Most often in Scripture God is praised because of what he has done for us. We worship God as a response to what he has done.
God has touched both the unrighteous and the self-righteous in Christ. Both were equally sinful and deserving of death. But both have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Both should respond in worship.
What are the blessings? – 1:4-14
|- chosen to be holy and blameless in love (1:4)- predestined to be adopted as children (1:5)|
|- redeemed through Jesus’ sacrifice (1:7)- forgiveness of sins (1:7)- knowledge of God’s plan in Christ (1:8-10)- an inheritance full of hope (1:11-12)|
|- sealed with the Holy Spirit (1:13)- the Spirit guarantees our future inheritance (1:14)|
Father – 1:4-6
Son – 1:7-12
Spirit – 1:13-14
Our response to all that God has done ? à “to the praise of his glory” (1:6, 12, 14).
As we realize what God has done, we want to praise him all the more.
That’s why the next section (Eph. 1:15-23) is a prayer that we might understand and grasp what God has done and all that we have in Christ. Why should the children of the king live like they were homeless orphans?
Blessings from the Father (1:4-6)
4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love, 5 having predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Blessings: (1) chosen to be holy and blameless in love
(2) predestined to be adopted (as children)
The Father’s blessing relates to the doctrine of election.
Election – a controversial doctrine
Election is certainly a biblical doctrine, but one that is often misunderstood. Some people lean so heavily on election in an attempt to build a theological system that they sometimes neglect other important biblical beliefs. Other people simply avoid the issue like the plague.
As we address this issue this morning, the first thing we should admit is that we are not followers of any one human teacher—be it John Calvin or John Piper or John Wesley or John Eldridge. We are followers of Jesus Christ. We are a body of believers because of our common faith in Christ. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.
Second, we need a bit of historical context. Historic, orthodox Christianity says …
Salvation = God’s Gift & Human Response
God’s grace & sovereignty & human freedom
Two unbiblical and unorthodox views of salvation:
1. Salvation by works (Pelagianism) – denial of God’s assisting grace (Holy Spirit’s calling, convicting, enabling, and assisting a person to respond freely to Christ).
2. Universalism – ultimate salvation of all humans
Biblical Christianity à Salvation = Gift + Response
Some emphasize Gift – Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterians, General Baptists and leaders such as John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and John Piper. Taken too far, this leads to a belief in fate where everything is predetermined ahead of time and humans have no freedom. This calls into question God’s very character, the worth of human beings, and seems to make God the author of evil.
Some emphasize Response – Greek Orthodox, Anglicans, Anabaptists, Assembly of God, Pentecostals, Methodists, Particular Baptists and leaders such as Erasmus, Jacob Arminius, John Wesley, NT. Wright, Stanley Grenz. Taken too far this belief results in salvation by works where everything depends on what we do or fail to do. This calls into question God’s sovereignty and power as well as salvation itself.
Almost any good thing taken too far can become a bad thing.
If you say S = G & R, you are a biblical Christian. It is extremely dangerous to say that someone who embraces S = G & R is not a biblical Christian.
A common approach to Ephesians 1 is to emphasize Gift so much that Response gets ignored. This approach says that before “the foundation of the world” God decided which individuals would be saved (the elect) and which ones would be damned (everyone else).
There is another biblical view of election held by many evangelicals, myself included. It is known as corporate election. This view has no public champion such as John Piper and no speakers holding to this view will likely be invited to Passion Conferences. This view attempts, in my opinion, to balance Gift and Response in a way that is more faithful to all aspects of the biblical text. I offer this reading of Ephesians 1 as one option. It’s not the only option, but it is an evangelical option.
Election is Corporate
As we look at Ephesians 1:4-6 you will notice that all the pronouns referring to believers are plural. God has chosen “us” (not “me”) that “we” (not “I”) should be holy and blameless before him in love. God has predestined “us” (not “me”) to adoption as children. Nothing in Ephesians 1 focuses on the individual believer. Election is primarily a corporate or community concept. Paul is not saying that God chose one individual for heaven and another for hell before they were even born. Rather, he is saying that God’s eternal plan included having a people, a community to call his own. In his sovereignty God determined that he would save a people. God decided that those who respond to his call and receive his gift would be “holy and blameless before him in love.” He decided that those who respond would be his adopted children.
Some may object and say that you would expect plural pronouns since Paul is writing to a church. But in my mind that only makes the view stronger. He is writing to a community. There are ways in Greek of singling out individuals within a group (words like “each” or “every”), but that doesn’t happen here. Not only in Ephesians, but elsewhere in Paul’s letters he primarily speaks of election in corporate terms. Before the foundation of the world God determined that he would rescue a people so that they could enjoy the divine community and worship him for eternity.
Election is “in Christ”
Election is “in Christ.” We have been chosen “in him” (1:4) and predestined for adoption “through Jesus” (1:5) and these blessings are bestowed upon us “in the Beloved” (1:6).
Notice how many times Christ is mentioned in this passage.
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love, 5 having predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 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, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
God decided he would save a people and those who respond by faith in Christ become members of that community. The order is important—“Individuals are not elected and then put in Christ. They are in Christ [by grace through faith] and therefore elect” (Snodgrass, Ephesians, 49). God graciously invites all to become part of this people.
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
1 Tim. 2:3-4 – This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
2 Pet. 3:9 – The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
The invitation goes to all (that is the purpose of missions), but only those who respond to his grace by faith in Christ will join his community. Salvation is both gift and response. Throughout Ephesians 1, faith in Christ is clearly emphasized as essential to a relationship with God:
1:1 - To the saints who are in Ephesus—the faithful [believing ones] in Christ Jesus
1:12 - we who were the first to hope in Christ
1:13 - when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him,
1:15 - I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus
1:19 - the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe
Election is Transformational
Election is corporate and in Christ. The purpose of election is transformational.
God determined before the foundation of the world that his people would be “holy and blameless before him in love” and he predestined this people for adoption as his children.
Election brings privilege (adoption), but also responsibility (holy and blameless in love).
God wants us and he wants us to become something. He wants us to become like Jesus (Rom. 8:29). God’s goal is that his people should be not only pure and holy, but also loving toward one another. When holiness forsakes love, then it ceases to be true holiness. God calls us to holy love and loving holiness—both flow out of the character of God. We will not be completely holy and blameless in love until we appear “before him” at his Second Coming. Until then God continues the project of transforming us into the image of Jesus.
God’s chosen people have been adopted as his children through the work of Christ. Under Roman law being adopted was an incredible privilege that brought all the rights of a natural child.
God did all this because he wanted to – his will.
ILLN àPandy doll in John Ortberg, Love Beyond Reason, 11-14
God loves us and he has come to our rescue in Christ. The Gift is God himself. He wants us to join him in community. He offers the Gift and then works hard to persuade us. The Spirit convicts, draws, woos us (often in response to the prayers of God’s people). If we respond in faith and receive him, God says “I have great plans for you.” You have been chosen to be holy and blameless in love before me. You have adopted and are Christ’s younger brother or sister—a true member of the family.
Blessed be the God who has blessed us … to the praise of his glorious grace
When we think about the Father’s plan to save a people, and when we think about the privilege of receiving the gift and being included in his community, we praise him for his grace.