Sunday January 3 2021

Ephesians 1:3-14

1:3 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,

1:4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.

1:5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will,

1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

1:8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight

1:9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ,

1:10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

1:11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will,

1:12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

1:13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;

1:14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

Sermon

This reading in Ephesians is so beautiful that you could just read it and soak it in. As you read, you can almost feel the joy and praise in Paul’s heart as he wrote this letter to the church at Ephesus. So this morning I want to unpack some of this letter, but I hope that you will go back and just read it through to yourself at some point and substitute your name for the words “us” and “our” as you read it. Just to get a little perspective.

So let’s look at these verses because there is a lot of theology in here. Just to break it into pieces we will look at verses 3 through 6 as being the work of God the Father.

3-6 Work of God the Father

The Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. What kind of blessings? Where are they? We are thankful for so many things. For our family, for our home. For food on our table. But those are all earthly things. They are external and can be lost. But how much more thankful for a new heart? How much better than earthly food is to be filled with Christ, something that is never fattening, will not raise your Cholesterol, and you will never need to eat again! And it cannot burn up, be stolen, or be broken. We can have it always and forever!

There was a story that I heard once about an elderly couple who were found dead in their apartment. An autopsy was done and it was discovered that the couple died from malnutrition. What a sad story, a poor couple, with nothing to eat. What is even sadder is that they later found over 40,000 dollars squirrelled away in a closet in their apartment. They had all the resources they needed but they lived as though those resources didn’t exist!

We are blessed by God, chosen, adopted and redeemed! Not someday when we get to heaven but right now, it was done before the foundation of the world! 

Some of us may be dying of spiritual malnutrition, not because we don’t have resources, but because we have left them in a closet! We take them out on Sunday for church or when something catastrophic happens. But the resources are always there 24-7.

Paul wanted the church at Ephesus to understand that these blessings were available to them as they are to us, and they and us are to apply them to our lives every day, all the time! To apply them, We need to understand them. Paul says we need to know who we are in Christ. The first thing that Pauls says we are is:

Chosen! 

Some of you may have been athletic when you were young. The only athletic thing I could do was run. I was 5’ 10’ in Junior high school and a lot like an Irish Setter puppy. My limbs grew too fast for me to get the hang of using them. When it came to playing games that included choosing sides, I was often the last one picked. Everyone knew I was a klutz. For a kid, that is painfully humiliating. The few times that someone was kind enough to choose me, I was so very grateful. So, what does this mean to us? I would love to say that being chosen gave me that extra boost of self-confidence and I played the kickball game of my life but while I certainly tried harder because I didn’t want to disappoint my friends, I was still a klutz. But I was in the game.  

It doesn’t matter how many times you have messed up, you were picked by God. It doesn’t matter if you think you have nothing to offer that God can use, God picked you! It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, how much money you have or don’t have, how smart you are, how old you are, or even how clumsy you are. God picked you!! The only time I can remember being picked first, it was because my best friend was one of the team captains and when she picked me first, I knew that I mattered more to her than winning the game. I was valued. I was important to her and it had nothing to do with how athletic I was. God picked us. You are valued by God. It wasn’t because of you. It wasn’t because you earned it. YOU are in the game! Now once I was chosen to be on the team, I still had to actually play. I was picked but my response was to participate. I had to participate in what the team was doing. 

What did God choose us for? It wasn’t for kickball. What did the letter to Ephesus tell us? “tto be holy and without blame before Him in loveAnd here is where it gets a little confusing. Maybe confusing isn’t the right word. Mystery. This is part of the mystery. On the one hand, you were chosen for no reason. Yet, you were also chosen for a reason – to be holy and blameless. Now I know personally that there is no way I can be holy and blameless on my own. Far far from it. But we will talk more about that a little later. 

First, let’s see who else does Paul say we are in Christ? 

We are adopted

In biblical times, when Romans adopted someone, they first had to free them so they were a citizen. Sometimes there would be no heir so adoption was the only way to continue the family line. Once adopted, they brought all their possessions and descendents with them and they became heirs with full access to all that being a member of the family included. As a parent, you know that whatever you are doing, your kids have access to you, like no one else does. It doesn’t matter what you have going on in your life, if your kids need you, you will drop what you are doing and get to them. That is the kind of access we have. We are not just on the team, we are in the family! Paul tells us in Galations 4:7 “Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” Just think about that for a minute. You have the ear of the creator of the universe! Abba, papa, daddy, you have His heart, you are on His mind. He picked you, He adopted you, and you are family!

So are you spending time with Him? Like a family member? Are you submitting to what He has for you? Because God is always doing something, and you are on the team. When you are family, you pay attention! You think about your family. You are in the family. You are invited to participate in what the creator of the world is doing! 

Something else to think about. That person that cut you off in traffic? They too are chosen. That person who doesn’t look like you, dress like you, live like you? They too are adopted. That makes them your family. Your brother or sister. They too are invited to participate in kingdom living! Maybe part of that holy and blameless stuff has to do with that…how we treat our family.

Why did God adopt us? Paul says because it pleased Him. God chose you and adopted you just because it pleased Him!

What is the next thing Paul says we are in Christ?

We are accepted

Not only are you in the family. You are not the black sheep of the family! 

See, I think that some of us think that God sees us as that person no one wants to pick for the team. Some of us think that God sees us as that one family member, who when they walk in on a holiday, everyone inwardly groans.. That perhaps God sees us as that one annoying neighbor, who when their number shows up on caller ID, everyone acts like they had their phone turned off.  We may think even when we pray, that we are heard as that great aunt that tells the same stories over and over. No! 

That may be hard for some of us to really take in. Maybe you feel like you have let Him down one too many times. Maybe you think you made too many wrong choices. Maybe you have been lonely and you are starting to wonder if He is even there! But precious people ,we are clothed in Christ. God sees us as acceptable because of Jesus.

You may think, “I am a sinner, how can God love me?” But there is another thing that Paul says we are in Christ! And that brings us to verses 7 and 8.

7-8 The work of God the Son

We are redeemed

Remember earlier, I said that in Roman adoption, a slave had to be freed before they could be adopted? A Roman would have to purchase a slave and go through the legal process of freeing that slave in order to adopt them. Redemption comes from the Latin word redimere, a combination of re(d)-, meaning “back,” and emere, meaning “buy.” Paul uses the word redeem to describe what God the Son did for us.We were slaves to sin and God went through the legal process to buy us to set us free!

These verses tell us what He bought us with.  We are told in the old testament that the punishment for sin is death. In the old testament it was the sacrifice of animals but that only covered sin. It was temporary. People had to sacrifice every year. In the new testament, we learn of the Messiah, who went to the cross to pay for the sins of all of us, once and for all. We are set free, but not to do whatever we want. We are set free from the bondage of sin. We are set free from the Law and guilt. We don’t have to try to work our way into heaven, never knowing for sure if we have done enough, never knowing for sure that there isn’t some sin that we forgot about. Never knowing for sure if we have pleased God. God the Father chose you! God the Father adopted you! God the Father accepted you! And through God the Son, He redeemed you!

13-14 The work of the Holy Spirit

We Have help!

All the way back to creation, we see that God steps into chaos and creates something beautiful – “the world was without form and void and then  the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water.” That same spirit of God that moved upon the face of the water is moving in our world and that Spirit steps into our chaos, and makes us into something beautiful. Through His grace, we trade ashes for beauty! That same spirit, when you first believed, when you heard this gospel, this good news about your salvation, you were sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit, now lives within us and is our helper, our comforter. The work of God, the Holy Spirit, active in the world, active in us, present right now, not in some distant future, not when we all get to heaven, not somewhere beyond the clouds, but right here, right now, in you, in me. We are all chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed. God loves us so much that He didn’t leave us standing alone, waiting to be picked. Waiting to be part of a family. 

Verse 14 says “this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” 

Romans 5: 6-8 NIV Version says it like this:

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  

We were powerless. But God….God demonstrated – He acted! He did something!  

In Hebrews 13:5 we are told “I will never leave you nor forsake you” 

Because of Jesus we don’t have to wonder if we are good enough. We don’t have to wonder if God loves us. We don’t have to wonder about our salvation. This is the promise of God. Through God’s grace and for His glory, God the Son, Jesus Christ is our reassurance from our Father, that with the very present help of God the Holy Spirit, the kingdom is here and we are a part of it, He will not leave us, and that my friends, is very Good News! Glory to God our Creator, Father, Savior, and Comforter!

Amen? Amen!

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