How are you doing on those New Year's resolutions? Some of us have made resolutions and most of us have failed. We all make plans whether they come to fruition is another story. Our plans change throughout our lives, we get married, we have children, we move different places, relationships with our families change, our jobs change, our tastes change and in the end what we planned at the beginning looks nothing like where we end up.
While our plans are constantly changing, God’s plan has not changed. God has one plan this year. This plan is not uncertain, but certain. It is not fleeting, but sure and definite and resolute. This is not a new plan but goes back to eternity past. This is a plan that was laid by one God and three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God really only has one plan. It’s the same plan not just for this year, but for the last 2,000 years, really for the last 6,000 years, no actually God has had only one plan from all eternity and that is as Paul says here in v. 10, “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Or if you want to put it another way, union with Christ. God’s plan never changes.
This plan is detailed and top secret and mysterious. However, we have been given the privilege of finding out the mystery of the ages here in Ephesians 1:3-14. This plan includes blessings in Christ, election, holiness, predestination, redemption in Christ's blood, forgiveness of sins, love, adoption, glorious grace, mystery, wisdom, insight, purpose, all things in heaven, all things on earth, God's will, truth, gospel, salvation, the Holy Spirit and eternal glory. Pretty exciting, right? Some have described this passage as summarizing the gospel or at least the indicatives of the gospel.
Now, of course we could spend a lifetime digging through each of these doctrines, but we’re going to simply skim the surface here. My wife teaches 8th grade English and perhaps if she was grading Paul’s writing here, there would be a lot of red marks. In the original language, the words contained in v. 3-14 are one sentence, definitely a run-on sentence. Nevertheless, this is one of the great, majestic, awe-inspiring portions of scripture.
Paul is not writing to the Ephesians as he did the Corinthians or Galatians to call them to repentance, though that is implied, but rather this is written to all Christians to build them up in their faith.
1. We should be thankful
The apostle Paul starts this epistle after his initial greeting with the word, “blessed” in v. 3. This word blessed is easily thrown around these days. We usually hear it when someone sneezes, “bless you.” It is a polite phrase to say. What we are saying in that polite phrase is not what Paul is saying here. Paul is saying we should be thankful for what God has done for us. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Essentially saying thank you. To bless God is to thank him.
We thank God for a lot of things, for our food, for our families, our health, our salvation. As Christians, we are thankful people. But have we thanked God like this? For every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. For everything that Christ has won for us, forgiveness of sins, eternal life, adoption into the family of God. God is our Father, because he is Christ’s Father. We can understand that easily enough as believers, because we are united to the Son, God is our Father. Many times, I will start my prayers thanking God that He is my Father. Have you ever thought about this, that God is also our God because he is Christ’s God. You see here in v. 3 “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We should thank God for what he does for us, for being our Father, but also more deeply for being our God. If you remember after the resurrection when Jesus says to Mary Magdalene, “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” This is what we do when we follow the first commandment. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. God is our God because he is Christ’s God and we are Christ’s people. We should be thankful that God is our Father, that he has blessed us, but also that God is our God.
2. We are chosen
This is a staggering verse (Ephesians 1:4). Before God created anything, he chose us. First of all, the us there is Christians. We can be sure that he did not choose everyone because it also says he chose us in him (in Christ). The doctrine of election here is clearly initiated by God the Father. God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are equally God and equally have part in the plan of God, but God the Father is the planner, the architect if you will of salvation. God chose us for a purpose and that is to be holy and blameless. He chose us that we should stand out in the world, our lives should look different, we should look holy because we have been chosen by God and we will be because holiness is the fruit of election as John Calvin says in his commentary. Though there was nothing that God saw in us that would be choosable. God loves us, but not because we are lovable.
This is why predestination is a joyful doctrine. That’s right. You heard that right. Predestination is a joyful doctrine.
I was talking to my next door neighbor and he knew I was a Christian and he was telling me about where he went to church. He went on to say that he’s glad that his church doesn’t go on about predestination. He said can you believe people actually believe that? That God chose some and not others. I said well, that’s what I believe because that’s what the Bible says. Unfortunately, our conversation didn’t go much further. But, I felt sad for my neighbor and have prayed for him since, because this doctrine is not one to be afraid, but instead we should rejoice at this doctrine of predestination. All that is to be accomplished for us has been planned before the world began. I can rest in knowing that God chose me because I now believe. Now, God did not choose me because he knew I would choose him, but I chose him because he first chose me. And here is where the Bible talks about that doctrine in a glorious, joyous way. Paul says here, “In love he predestined us…”
This also is a good point to prove the trinity. God cannot love before the creation of the world if he is just one person, because one person cannot love.
C.S. Lewis says, "All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that "God is love." But they seem not to notice that the words 'God is love' have no real meaning unless God contains at least two persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love.” God the Father is the one who is choosing a people for himself, but also as a gift to his Son.
He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. God’s will is always done through Christ. Christ accomplishes our adoption. A husband and wife may choose to adopt a child, but the child is not really theirs until they sign the proper documents and the child goes home with the family. Our adoption is not accomplished until Christ redeems us and this is all for God’s glory.
3. We are redeemed
Our redemption is not just for us, much like the adoption of a child is not just for the good of the child but for the joy of the parents as well. Our redemption is for God’s glory. Redemption is a financial term. There must be a payment made for sin and the price of that is nothing less than the blood of Jesus. I think Paul links up redemption as a financial term at the beginning of verse 7 with “riches” at the end. It cost Christ everything to redeem us, therefore we are given all his riches, wisdom, insight, as Paul goes on to say in v. 8. God’s grace is not cheap. The cost was infinite and the reward is infinite.
As I said earlier, God plan has not changed. His plan was always for Christ to be the redeemer. God the Son implemented and accomplished this plan in real time and space on the cross at Calvary. This is the mystery of the ages that was held from God’s people until the New Testament was written. God’s unfolding plan is summarized here in Ephesians 1. As you see Paul uses the phrase “for the fullness of time…” in v. 10.
We are always in such a hurry to get things done, to plan things and accomplish our plans quickly, even if they are long-term plans. God is not in a hurry. God made plans for the fulness of time, before perhaps there was time. God made these plans at some point in eternity past. This has always been the plan and it has not changed. Our redemption is paid by Christ, we receive the riches of his grace, wisdom, insight. We get an inside look at the mystery of God’s will to unite all things in Christ in heaven and earth.
There’s really no appropriate word to describe this other than glorious or majestic, spectacular. Human language fails us where God’s Word takes us here. The only way to accurately describe what the Holy Spirit is saying here is to go to Romans 8. This passage of scripture has a Romans 8 flavor to it. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God.” That’s always a verse that people who are suffering lean on and rightly so, but I think Paul is talking about the same things here. All things work together, meaning God is using all things for the salvation of his people and the praise of his glory.
4. The Holy Spirit is the guarantee
God’s plan is not made by one person, but by three persons. The Father plans, the Son accomplishes. So, what role does the Holy Spirit have? He is the guarantee. Christ purchased our redemption and while it has begun it is not finished yet. So, Paul says we have obtained an inheritance. Another financial term. Some inheritances come to us while we are unaware. Say, a rich uncle dies. You haven’t seen this uncle for 20 years, but he leaves you with a million dollars. This is kind of what Paul is getting at here. Except we know that we have an inheritance and also what that inheritance includes. Part of our inheritance, is in the fact that when we believe we receive the Holy Spirit. He changes us, makes us new people in Christ. He makes us Holy as God is Holy and seals us when we believe (Ephesians 1:13).
The Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives is what guarantees our inheritance. Salvation from eternity past to eternity future is 100% a work of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our plans may seem to get in the way of God’s plans, because our plans are sinful at times and not lined up with God’s will. But if we are his, God will accomplish his plan.
Our plans change, but God’s plan never changes. His plan to save a people for himself and unite us to Christ sealing us by the Holy Spirit. Here’s another thing… you can’t mess it up. You will sin because you are a sinner even after you have believed, but you can’t mess up God’s plan, as much as you fail you can’t mess it up because it is certain and has always been certain. That does not mean you have permission to sin (Romans 6:15). You might mess up your own plans, but never God’s plan. It is always the same and will never change because God is God and He never changes.