On Sep 28, 2014, pastor Darin continued the series in Ephesians with a sermon from Eph 1:3-13 entitled Predestined to the Praise of His Glory. To help us get our minds around some of the lofty concepts in this text, it is helpful to see how Paul basically concludes his thought from the first 3 chapters about our identity in Christ. So, why does Paul belabor this whole thing about divine election and predestination? Paul summarizes in Eph 3:18-19 where he prays that his readers might comprehend and know “… the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” 2 key things here: 1) Paul prays for us to comprehend the incomprehensible: the depth of Christ’s love! God’s love is beyond our ability to fully understand., 2) The result of our comprehending more (albeit not exhaustively) God’s love toward us is that we might be filled with the fullness of God. With these things in mind, the sermon focused on verses 3-6. The key idea is that God’s sovereign choice and acceptance of us is designed to lead us to humble worship. 3 main points:
1. God abundantly blesses His people in Christ:
Verse 3 “…blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing…”
a. A persistent point of unbelief is believing that God is favorable toward you in Christ. Psalm 84:11 says that “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Jesus tell us that our heavenly Father gives good things to His children (Matt 7:11). Then in Rom 8:31b-32 Paul says “...He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” The fundamental character of God then is that He withholds nothing that is ultimately and truly good from His children.
b. Thus, Eph 1:5 says we are predestined to the adoption of sons. We have a sure inheritance in Christ the true Son through whom every spiritual blessing is ours, and through His perfect life, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead, we will inherit glorified bodies, the new heavens, earth, and kingdom of God (Rom 8:17-23; Matt 5:5; Rev 21:1-7).
c. How is it that God gives us all blessings in light of our difficult circumstances? They are blessings in the heavenly places. This idea is central to the letter (see also Eph 2:6, 3:10, and 6:12). Paul describes a realm that is real and has consequences to us. OT example: Satan asks to come against Job. While Job does not curse God, he does question God, and essentially accuses God of injustice toward him. Job repents after God rebukes him. NT example Peter: Satan asks to sift him as wheat. 2 key points about this heavenly realm: a) What happens there has a huge impact on our lives here and now., b) Reality does not consist solely of what we can experience by our senses.
1) Dig Deeper: As you struggle in life, realize that what you are experiencing is not the sum total of reality. One day God will pull back the curtain, and you will give Him praise for all you went through. There is suffering, but God is for you in Christ, who suffered for us on the cross so that we could inherit these infinite spiritual blessings in Him (see Isa 53:4-12).
2) Dig Deeper: When thoughts of unbelief cause you to doubt God’s goodness toward you, remember what God says about you in Christ. You are His adopted son, and in Christ all of the blessings are always “yes!” (2 Cor 1:18-20). Set your mind on His promises, not your unbelieving doubts (read and pray through these texts: Col 3:1-4, Heb 12:1-3).
2. God’s sovereign choice of His people in Christ:
Verse 4 “…he chose us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world…”
a. Why does Paul speak of election? To comprehend the love of Christ (3:18-19) we must understand God’s sovereign choice of us in Christ.
1) When did this choice occur? Before the cosmic cement was poured—before the world ever was. Therefore, it is not based on your performance. Dig Deeper: read and reflect on Rom 9:9-16.
2) Why then did God choose you? In verse 5-6 Paul says God “predestined us (chose us beforehand)...to the praise of his glorious grace… in the Beloved.” God’s choosing of sinners in Christ unto salvation is owing to His grace (undeserved favor) alone. To know the depth of Christ’s love, you must know that God’s acceptance of you is not dependent on what you do: it is free. God loves you because you are in Christ, and you were chosen in Christ purely as an act of sovereign grace according to the kind intention of His will.
b. Dig Deeper: These are complex truths, but Scripture won’t bend on this. Because of His grace, God’s love for you in Christ is free. God is preeminently a God of grace.
1) When you are overwhelmed by guilt and shame, or given to a judgmental/superior attitude toward others, you need to go back to this truth about God’s acceptance of you in Christ by grace alone.
2) Does election/predestination mean we are robots? No, because God says that we make real choices in accordance with our nature. Those choices are real choices because God says they are (See WCF chapters 3, 5, and 9). Ultimately, like the love of Christ, this is beyond our ability to fully comprehend (see Psalm 139:18-19; Isa 55:9)
3. God’s grace moves to live lives of humble worship.
a. In chapter 4:1–3, Paul exhorts us to walk in a manner worthy of this calling with all humility. But what is humility? Tim Keller, reflecting on thoughts from C.S. Lewis, says, “the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”
(http://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/tim-keller-on-gospel-humility/). See also John Piper’s brief article here: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-humility.
God wants us to walk humbly, and this can only be realized when we understand His grace.
b. Dig Deeper: God is eager to bring us to a place of humble worship. Rejoice in the fact that God’s ways are higher than ours, and His grace in your election is meant to lead us to humble worship.
Conclusion: Whatever your circumstances, ask God to take away every thought from you that says that your acceptance is based on your performance. God’s acceptance of you is dependent upon His grace alone, and who you are in Christ. And Christ came and lived the perfect life you could never live, and died the death you deserved to die, so that you could be adopted as God’s son and inherit the infinite blessings that are found in Christ alone. Let us then fix our eyes on Christ, in whom alone we are accepted by God, and in whom we are loved with an everlasting, incomprehensible love.
For more information on election and predestination, see: