March 15/16

Main Text: Ephesians 1:3-14

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, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons 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 Blesses You

Paul begins his letter to Ephesians with a huge, majestic doxology. He starts his letter off, not with a thanksgiving to the church like he does in many his other letters, but instead with a declaration of praise to God. We must remember that Paul is in prison when he is writing this letter. Just imagine that when he thinks about these dears ones in Ephesus, his heart swells with love for God because of the work that God did in his midst in this very popular city.

During Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 19:23-34), he stayed in Ephesus for three years preaching the Gospel. One particular gentleman, named Demetrius, did not appreciate what Paul was saying, because Paul was saying that gods that are made with human hands weren’t really god. This was not only offensive to the culture of the city that worshipped to a false deity named Artemis, but it also had a negative effect on the economy, because local business was established through the making of idols. The crowds listened to Demetrius and rioted against Paul.

The spiritual forces that were at work in Ephesus had been deceiving the people of the city for generations. When the Gospel came, the truth of God shed light on this deception and it caused friction to exist between the society in Ephesus and the church in Ephesus. You can imagine the importance of this letter to the church in Ephesus.

There were certain things that the church in that region of the world needed to understand with crystal clarity. They needed to know the strength and awesome power of God, who is not a mute idol, but rather the one true God, worthy of their worship. In the face of a society bent against them, they needed to be prepared to be God’s people, for the sake of their city.

God Chooses You

This portion of Scripture is rich with the idea of God’s predestinating power in choosing his adopted family, or His Church. This has been the cause of much tension in the church over the past 2,000 years. The main question centers around the two ideas of predestination and human free will. What are these two concepts? Are they opposed to each other? Are they harmonious?

We probably won’t solve this tension today.

However, it is important for us to have biblical handles, so that we know what schools of thought can be supported from Scripture. This discussion is on the level of conviction. Whether you would call yourself a Calvinist or Arminian is not an essential piece to your justification, but rather is a conviction point that you hold based on what has been revealed to you in Scripture. Is it important for us to note that both predestination and free will exist in both Calvinism and Arminianism.

Predestination in both
Calvinism states that God determines who will trust in Jesus for salvation based on His will. Arminianism states that God determines who will trust in Jesus for salvation based on our choice. It is important to note that in both instances, predestination occurs–God chooses His Church. The distinguishing place between the two concepts centers on one question: “What does God base his choice on?”

It is unbiblical to say that God does not choose His Church (James 1:18; Romans 9:14-21; John 3:5-8; John 5:21; Luke 10:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15).

Free will in both
Calvinism states that human beings are free to choose according to their desires, however, our desires are in bondage to sin, so that we do not have the ability to choose as we ought without God’s intervention. Arminianism states that human beings are able to choose as they ought because of grace that God has given to each person, enabling anyone to choose God.

Whether you are a Calvinist or Arminian, both sit well within the bounds of evangelical Christianity. Both are unified on the essentials of the faith. We need to be careful not to demonize the other.

The bottom line to this is that we ought to marvel at our salvation. We ought to stand in wonder at God giving us the ability to serve him and worship him with our lives. He has chosen you. Your salvation is not a result of your whim, but of God’s eternal decision.

God Adopts You

The reality of adoption is something to really consider. As fallen man, we have become enemies with God because of our rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Instead of joyful fellowship with our Creator, we’ve chosen to worship creation (Romans 1:18-32). This reality means that there is now separation between us and God (Isaiah 59:1-2).

God has not only chosen to save you, but to adopt you into his family (Romans 8:14-15). There is a reason why we respond emotionally to stories of a forgotten child being adopted into a loving family. Those stories move us perhaps because of our personal history, or that of someone we know, but at a much deeper level, our connection with adoption exists because on a spiritual level, we are all orphans. We desperately need adoption. We need to know the love of our Father.

This is something a Christian can articulate, but an unbeliever can still sense. This longing is universal to the human heart. There is something missing. There is something broken. God makes his enemies his friends. He then brings his friends into his own family! Paul elaborates on this in Romans 5:6-11.

God Redeems You

In Christ, we are redeemed. We have been brought back from death to life (Romans 5:12-21). We have been made new. This plan of redemption is something that has existed before the world was even created. It has really always existed because God has always existed. Furthermore, it exists because it is part of God’s character. It is aligned perfectly with his attributes. We serve a redeeming God.

Redemption means that we are restored to the purpose of our design. It means that we experience the shalom (a Hebrew word signifying the peaceful wholeness of relationship existing between creation and Creator) marked in the Garden of Eden that was lost. Right now, we live in a stage called “Already, Not Yet” meaning that we can experience a taste of what is to come in God’s Kingdom, but we haven’t tasted the fullness of our reward. We have not yet fully arrived into this place of perfect peace or shalom.

Our privilege as a church is that we get to give our city a foretaste of this shalom, this redemption, this peace, prior to the arrival of God’s Kingdom. You have been made new by God, so that you can live in a way that seeks to show the world around you what it is to be in Christ.

God Guarantees yOur Inheritance

This marvelous salvation that Paul is speaking of comes with a guarantee. God himself–unlike the fickle pagan gods, who left people to their own devices and were capricious and unstable–communicates that his plan for redemption goes before time. This word of truth has come to us and we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, showing us that this reality will come to pass (Romans 8:16-17). One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to seal us in Christ, and guarantee our final redemption (1 Corinthians 1:21-22; 1 Peter 1:5).

Apply to Life

This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section as an aid in discussions that may be planned or unplanned during your week.  Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing and fellowship as you open God’s Word together.


DISCUSS THE MESSAGE

Read: Acts 19:23-34

Take a moment to recap what is happening in this portion of Paul’s three year stay in Ephesus.

Why was this crowd so outraged with Paul? What was the offense? In verse 34, the crowds started to chant with one voice “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” for two hours. What do you imagine this was like? Have you ever experienced anything similar to this?

We discover a similar account to this when Elijah is with the prophets of Baal and those prophets are crying out to Baal, 1 Kings 18:26 says, “from morning until noon” and there was no answer. What were these prophets crying out for Baal to do?

Jesus addresses this pagan practice when he is telling his disciples how they are to pray. He says in Matthew 6:7, “do not heap up empty phrases” … “they think that they will be heard for their many words.” Why do you suppose Jesus commands us not to pray like this?

In what ways is serving the God of the Bible vastly different than the gods of other religions?

As people who have been radically transformed by the Gospel of Jesus, how should our society be affected by our transformation? Describe ways that the power of Gospel changes society today.

In Ephesians 1:3-10, Paul points their attention to God choosing them and predestining them. How do you understand this idea in the light of Scripture? What other passages do you look to that guide your thinking on this subject?

When you think about what it means to be “in Christ”, what comes to mind? Why is being in Christ essential to our salvation and ultimate redemption?