19 December 2007

Verse-by-verse through Ephesians (1:7-1:14)

Ephesians 1:7-14--

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

We saw in verses 1-6 that God is the blessed father over all things. That even before He laid the first foundation of the earth—in fact, before He even started on the blueprints—He chose those whom He would save. That we who are chosen may be holy and blameless before Him, "according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace…"

Now, in verses 7-14, we have a whole paragraph dealing with the "what" and the "why" of our salvation. And we see two phrases repeated over and over again. One is "In Him." In who? Christ, of course. The other phrase is "His good pleasure." We saw it in verse 5, answering the question of why He chose those whom He chose. So let's take a look at what we have "in Him", and "according to the good pleasure of God's will."

Verse 7. "…we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace…" If you were to put together a list of the most-used terms in all of Christendom, 'redemption' would be near—if not at—the top. That was Jesus' whole purpose for coming. To redeem those who were lost from the curse of the Law.

Luke 19:10for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

1st Timothy 1:15—This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

In fact, we have many prophecies showing us that God Himself will be our Redeemer. In Isaiah 44:6 we have a verse that shows that the Father and the Son are indeed ONE. Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.

Isaiah 44:22—I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.

Hosea 13:14—I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.

Ransom. Matthew 20:28the Son of Man came…to give His life as a ransom for many.

So, we throw that word 'redemption' around. They use it to talk about someone who committed some crime, or lost a football game, then years later they do something good, or win a big game, and people call that 'redemption.' Folks that is not redemption. Because even if they do something good, or they do win that ballgame, that does not change their past. The crime they committed when they were younger is still a part of their history. The game they lost is still on their record. But when we talk about the redemption we have "In Him", in Christ, it's like that verse, Isaiah 44:22. Look at it, and read it again. "I have blotted out thy transgressions." God has wiped them out, buried them, hidden them from His sight, and turned His back on them. Or, as Corrie Ten Boom said, He's thrown them in the Sea of Forgiveness and put up a "No Fishing" sign. To God, it is as if they never happened.

So what IS redemption? Let's look at that word. apolutrosis (apolutrosis). Webster's defines it as,

"the act of procuring the deliverance of persons or things from the possession and power of captors by the payment of an equivalent; ransom; release; as the redemption of prisoners taken in war; the redemption of a ship and cargo. Deliverance from bondage, distress, or from liability to any evil or forfeiture, either by money, labor or other means."

Look at that first sentence. "…by payment of an equivalent…" You had to be bought from Satan's possession by an equivalent. You were sinful. Jesus was not. There was no equivalency. In order for you to be declared a child of God, you had to be made righteous. Psalm 5:4—For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. We would not be able to dwell on His holy mountain if we still had the stain of sin upon us.

In order for us to be made righteous, God needed to give something of equal value. That thing was the blood of Christ. Our sins were put upon Him, and His righteousness was put upon us. Read 2nd Corinthians 5:21. But, ...in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Our freedom from the curse of the Law was paid for in full by the blood of Christ Jesus.

And what was it that led the LORD our God to pardon us by the blood of His precious Son? …the riches of His grace. Period. No amount of works, no amount of giving and serving could ever make us worthy enough to merit that salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 gets stamped on the forehead of every person who joins a Baptist church. And I say "AMEN!" That word "riches" is better translated "abundance." The abundance of His grace.

How much grace do we give others? We are not abundant in grace. We always expect something in return, money or some other such material thing. But grace—what is it? It's grace! God showing favor to us when we did not deserve it! God saves us for no other reason than this—He wants to. Romans 11:5-6—Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. If we have to earn it by our good works, it is not grace and God is a liar. Is God a liar? Read Romans 3:4.

Verses 8-9. I'm gonna give you my own version here. "…which He has lavished upon us, along with all wisdom and understanding, having made known to us the mystery of His will…" He has not only poured His grace upon us. He has also given us—remember verse 3, "all spiritual blessings?"—He has given us wisdom to understand the deep things of the LORD. 1st Corinthians 2:14—But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Why did Jesus speak in parables? Matthew 13:11He answered and said unto them, "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." We would know nothing of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven if God did not open our eyes to know them. Look at the last part of that verse in Matthew. "…to them it is not given." Should we not be falling on our face before Him, knowing that He could have shut up the kingdom of heaven to us? But instead He opened up the mystery of His will, He chose us out of this world, and has translated us from this kingdom to the kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:13), and has given us the mind of Christ (1st Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).

And what does this mean for us? You may be saying, "Well, OK, we have been given this wisdom, and prudence"—or intelligence or insight, depending on your translation—"…what do we do with it?" You know that whole "armor of God" thing in Ephesians chapter 6? Gird yourself with the belt of truth. Surround yourself with the truth, immerse yourself in it, so you will know the lies when you see them. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, one of the few justices on the Warren Court that had a brain, said it like this, "I shall not today attempt further to define [obscene materials]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it." I may not be able to list every false religion in the world, or every heresy, or every blasphemy. But, to borrow from Justice Potter, I know one when I see one.

Then we take the breastplate of righteousness, and guard our hearts—our emotions and desires—from being influenced by worldly things. We walk on the truth, using His word as a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). We take the shield of faith, knowing that no matter what situation we find ourselves in, God will make a way for us to endure, and He will deliver us on the other side. We use the helmet of salvation—the knowledge that we have been bought with a price, which is the blood of Christ—to guide our thoughts, that we may not sin against Him. Finally, we take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (rhema (rhema) not logos (logos); a specific message, not just general knowledge) so that when the enemy does attack, we may say, as did our Lord to Satan, "It is written…"

Now, getting back to Ephesians 1:9, we come across that little phrase again. "…according to his good pleasure…" Why did He do it? Because He wanted to. Anybody wanna argue with that? No? Good. You see, every single thing God does is geared toward one goal, and only one goal—His will. Why were you born? It's His will. Why does He allow so much suffering in this world? It's His will. There's a lot of misunderstanding about the will of God. Some people say, "God willing..." a certain thing will happen. They say it without even thinking about it. Well, maybe God isn't willing for that thing to happen. Maybe it's God's will that you die tonight. Are you really ready for God's will to be done? 1st Peter 3:17— For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. You may have to suffer for doing good. That may very well be God's will.

Verse 10. In other words, "When time's up, He 's going to bring every one of His children—those who are in Heaven, and those who are still on earth—into one kingdom, ruled over by His beloved Son." How cool is that? When that day comes when God says, "OK, that's it! Today is the end of all things!" He will make an end of this world that we live in—a world of corruption, sickness, disease, death—and all things will be put under the feet of our Glorious Redeemer, our Beloved Savior, and as the joyous strains of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" remind us every year at this time—

And He shall reign for ever and ever and ever! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
King of Kings! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
And Lord of Lords! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Now, I'll admit this much—I have not studied very deeply the exact sequence of events that will happen in those end times. And I sure wouldn’t look to the Left Behind series of books and movies to build any eschatological doctrines about the end times. But I do know this: There will be a literal, physical rapture of all the saints of God. You'd have to do some pretty wild mental gymnastics to read 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 any other way. Of course, there are people who will say, "Well, the word 'rapture' isn't in the Bible." Neither is the phrase "Fall of Man." Or "Virgin Birth." The word "Beatitudes" isn't in the Bible. And do you know the term "Millennial Kingdom" is not in the Bible! But, the fall of man is recorded in Genesis chapter 3. The virgin birth is recorded in Matthew and Luke, as are the Beatitudes. The Millennial Kingdom is prophesied in the Revelation. But to use some people's logic, these things never occurred because the writers didn’t use the right words to describe what was happening.

But we do know this: one day, "…in the dispensation of the fullness of the times…" everything we know will end. The works of man will be burned, and only the things of God will remain. And we won't ever have to worry about sin, or death, or sickness, or anything else ever again. "For God shall wipe all tears from their eyes." (Revelation 7:17)

Verse 11. Inheritance. Want to turn the most loving, most caring family into a bunch of hateful, selfish, bitter animals? Leave them a will. Other than a wedding, nothing will forever split apart a family as quickly and as fully as a will. Someone got more than their cousin thinks they should have gotten. "Why did Lenny get more than me?" "Hey, I was supposed to get Aunt Gertrude's antique table!" I've seen it in my own family after our dad died. But that hatchet is buried, and I ain't lookin' for a shovel! This is nothing new. Jesus had to deal with the same thing. Luke 12:13-15And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. We want what's ours.

Solomon, looking back over his wasted life, learned too late that heaping up treasures isn't good for anybody—except the person who comes after you. Ecclesiastes 2:18-19— Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? Yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.

But we have an inheritance we don’t have to split three different ways. Each one of us, as children of the Living God, who have obtained this inheritance of righteousness, are promised our own part in the kingdom of God. We don’t have to worry about somebody hiring a shady lawyer to try and weasel it away from us. We don’t have to worry about it depreciating. We don’t have to worry about whether the trust fund that was set up for us is going to go dry. Because our inheritance is not of this world. so why worry about the things of this world, that are just going to pass away like dust, like a vapor (James 4:14). That's why Jesus instructed us to lay up our treasures in Heaven, where rust and moths cannot corrupt them, and where thieves cannot steal them (Matthew 6:19-21). Because that is, indeed, where your heart should be.

Then we get to that word "predestined." Before He went about building a house, and establishing a kingdom around His glory, He decided who would inhabit that kingdom. Before He created this earth, He knew that mankind would fall into sin, and that all of mankind would be in danger of His wrath and judgment. So before He did anything else, He chose those who would be saved. The Arminian reading this will disagree. And we can. We can discuss. But it's not a doctrine that is essential to salvation. The Arminian is my brother in Christ just as much as the Calvinist. I may disagree with some of John Wesley's theology, but I will go to my grave defending him as one of the godliest men who ever walked the face of the earth.

Now, I do need to make something clear about this predestination. There is a doctrine which has been floating around for thousands of years called "Antinomianism." Wikipedia says this about it:

Antinomianism (from the Greek anti, "against" + nomos, "law"), or lawlessness (in the Greek Bible: anomia which is "unlawful"), in theology, is the idea that members of a particular religious group are under no obligation to obey the laws of ethics or morality as presented by religious authorities. Antinomianism is the polar opposite of legalism, the notion that obedience to a code of religious law is necessary for salvation. The term has become a point of contention among opposed religious authorities. Few groups or sects explicitly call themselves "antinomian", but the charge is often leveled by some sects against competing sects.

Antinomianism is not Calvinism! Calvinism is not Antinomianism! Antinomianism is a perversion of the doctrines of grace. If anyone tries telling you that we Calvinists subscribe to a doctrine of "greasy grace," do not believe them.

Antinomianism is unbiblical. Now, does this mean that we are still under the Law? No. Then what does it mean? It means that God's elect are saved forever by the good pleasure of His will. We have the promise of an inheritance that we will be given because of our faith in Christ. Paul said in Galatians 3:17-18, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. The promise God made to Abraham was confirmed in Christ even as it was made to Abraham! (Caveat: Your translation may not read the same. This is one place the Wescott-Hort differs from the Textus Receptus and Byzantine readings.) This verse is the strongest evidence that even Old Testament saints were saved through faith in Christ. Now, you may say, "Well, hold your horses there preacher. They didn’t even know about Christ." Yes, I'm well aware of that. Those who believed in God, though the promise had not yet come, were saved by the blood of Christ. Pastor MacArthur says it quite well:

You ask, "Were Old Testament saints in Christ?" Yes. In the sense that when Jesus died on the cross, He bore also the sins of Moses. Have you ever thought about that? Abraham, everyone in the Old Testament, He gathered the sins from before and after the cross, didn't He? All of history goes like this: the Old Testament goes to the Cross, the New Testament comes from the Cross. It peaks out at the Cross. He died for the sins of the whole world, right? Could the blood of bulls and goats take away sin? Were the Old Testament saints sanctified by the blood of bulls and goats? They were sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ not yet shed, right? But when it was shed, it covered the sins from both sides of the Cross. It is only as a man, by faith, accepting God, is placed by God in a divine miracle, in Christ, that he will ever be blessed. That's what Paul is saying.

So, we don’t need to worry about the righteous requirements of the Law, right? Wrong! In the very same letter, Paul says in Galatians 5:13, For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only [use] not liberty for an occasion to the flesh… He also says in Ephesians 4:1, walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called

And Ephesians 5:15-16, See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Our freedom, our liberty in Christ is not an excuse to go about indulging every fleshly desire. If it was, then Jesus would not have uttered those famous words, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). And what of those times when He commanded people to "Go forth and sin no more." The Antinomian is not a follower of Christ—yet they surround us today, they sit in our churches, they claim the name of Christ—to their own eternal detriment.

And why do we have this inheritance we have been predestined for? Once again, say it with me: according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will… It's His will. That's the way He wants it, and as Paul says in verse 12, that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.

Last part of verse 13, all of verse 14. Now, we get to one of those places where we see the goodness and faithfulness of God. That He does not make us go around wondering if we are saved one day and lost the next. Let me make this abundantly clear: A saved person can not be lost! Period. And if someone says they "used to be saved," they were never saved to begin with. This was probably the most difficult thing for me to grasp when I first came to Christ. I always thought that saying a person like that was "never saved to begin with" sounded like a cop-out. An excuse the Calvinist would throw out there to deflect any arguments against the Perseverance of the Saints.

But the more I have read, the more real it has become. And here, Paul makes it clear that faith—true, lasting, enduring, saving faith—is not the product of the will of man, but is the gift of the will of God. We were sealed by the Holy Spirit. God has put His stamp on us, and no one can break it. You may say, "Well, if we fall away, God will break that seal." But watch closely. Verse 14—that word 'guarantee' (KJV—'earnest') is a word that describes "money which, in purchases, is given as a pledge or down payment that the full amount will subsequently be paid." This is not a down payment we make to God—for what could we possibly give Him for our salvation than the blood that our Savior has shed? This 'guarantee' is a down payment God makes to us. He gives us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us (1st Corinthians 6:19) as a promise that He will keep us until the day when He redeems His purchased possession.

After all, did Paul not also write in Ephesians 4:30, And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Look at that! "…ye are sealed until the day of redemption." How much clearer does he have to be?

Philippians 1:6— he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ…

Hebrews 10:14— For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

If you are saved, and you continue grounded and steadfast in Christ, if you make your calling and election sure, if you work out your salvation with fear and trembling, if your faith produces good works, then my friend you are in Christ, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit of God, you will follow the Good Shepherd and not follow the voice of a stranger, you are a branch of the Vine, you will enter in through the Door of the sheep, and you will one day hear those most wonderful words of our Lord, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" If all these things are true of you, then blessed are you for the sake of Christ Jesus!

He didn’t have to do it. He didn’t have to call us, or save us. He didn’t have to send His Son to die for us. But He did. He chose us, He adopted us, He sanctified us, He justified us, and He has glorified us. To the praise of His glory.

Amen.

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