Easter Four, Sunday May 12, 2019 — Ephesians 1:3-6 — Chosen…before we were ever choosers
Sermon for Easter Four – 7/17/11 -- Sunday May 12, 2019
Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
In the Name of Jesus Christ,
In Whom God has elected us,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
When I was a kid, the highlight of Vacation Bible School was recess…which meant kickball or softball. We would walk over to the ball field on the other side of Sandy Knoll, and line up against the fence. After two captains were chosen, they commenced to choose sides. Who was picked depended on the captains.
When the captains were girls they tended to pick their friends…not necessarily people who were good at kickball or softball.
When the captains were boys…they picked based on their ability to play the game.
Then as the teams were chosen, there were always a few left, the very young and the uncoordinated. They were also chosen and included because they were there to play.
Isn’t that the way it is with human beings? We choose based on how people look or what they have to offer!
It’s different with God.
We continue our journey through the books of the Bible, this morning stopping in the Letter to the Ephesian Christians. This morning we meditate upon these words and take a look at what is referred to as the Doctrine of Election.
The Doctrine of Election has nothing to do with the political process. On the contrary, it has to do with God’s choosing of human beings and determining to save them. God is always and only the chooser, and His grace, a quality in God, His undeserved love is the determining factor.
Election is often misunderstood because people want to believe that there is something of value in them that moved God to choose them. Election is also misunderstood because some attempt to enter the hidden mind of God and answer questions that God has not answered by means of fallen human reason and logic. It is always unwise to depart from Scripture and allow the fallen human mind to rule.
Instead, may God grant us His grace that we stand in awe of the Word of God and see that our understanding is always in agreement with it.
For while human beings may choose people based on their looks or ability or what they bring to the table…God chooses us of His grace, not because we have something attractive to offer Him. In fact, we are reminded this morning that God chose us before we were even choosers, long before we could choose Him. He chose to save us of His grace and mercy before the foundation of the world. Thus we consider yet another aspect of God’s amazing grace.
May God the Holy Spirit take captive our hearts and minds that we may hear, comprehend and grow from the Word of the Living God. Therefore we pray: “Sanctify us through the Truth, O Lord, Your Word is Truth. Amen.”
“Why do some believe and are saved…while others do not?” This basic question has been asked by countless people. If we say no more and no less than Scripture does, the answer is fairly simple. Unfortunately, many aren’t satisfied to stick to God’s Word.
Let’s summarize what we can say based on the Word of God:
If a person hears the Gospel of Christ and believes in Jesus -- God the Holy Spirit is to be credited and glorified…not the individual.
If a person hears the Gospel of Christ and does not believe – then the individual is at fault.
This isn’t a conclusion based on logic, but on plain Scripture. We know that God wants everyone to hear the Good News of what Christ has done and believe in Him through the work of the Holy Spirit. God’s Word states simply (1 Timothy 2:3-4):
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Therefore, we can say with all certainty that if a person DOES NOT believe in Christ…it is NOT because God didn’t desire it. If someone does not believe, it’s because they have rejected the message in unbelief. Human beings do have free will to choose evil and to oppose God’s Will. The Bible clearly teaches that we have only the natural inclination to disregard and reject God’s invitation to trust in Christ.
Consequently, it wasn’t that Jesus didn’t want the people of Jerusalem to believe in Him…it was rather that they rejected Him. The Savior’s own words bear that out (Matthew 23:37):
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
Yes, but didn’t God know it was going to happen…beforehand?
Yes, of course.
But when we discuss the Biblical teaching of Election, it’s important to distinguish it from what we call God’s Foreknowledge. It is true that God knows all things that will happen before they ever occur (cf. e.g. Psalm 139:1-4, 16). But that doesn’t mean that God approves of evil nor is He the cause of it. God knows in advance when you are going to hit your sister or be unkind to your wife…but you can be sure that He doesn’t approve of it neither is He to blame.
God certainly knew in advance that the Martyr Stephen would be stoned to death outside Jerusalem. Yet, He certainly did not approve of the sinful actions of those who murdered Stephen, because God’s unchanging will is unmistakably expressed in the 5th Commandment – “You shall not murder.”
However, God certainly used the event that He knew would take place, for the eternal good of Stephen.
We should be very careful that we don’t imply that because God foreknew a thing would happen that it is always God’s will and that He always delights in and approves of it.
The Ephesian Christians were just like us. In other words, they were born of sinful parents, just like us. They were born spiritually dead to God and His Will, and it showed in the way they lived. Since they were spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins, they were powerless to change anything, much less their status with God.
So GOD mercifully intervened, even as He has in our lives. He sent Paul and others to speak to them of what His Son had done by His Living, Dying and Rising to life again. The Holy Spirit granted them faith through the message to trust in Jesus. God thus made them spiritually alive. In fact, God saved them without their approval, agreement or help in any way, shape or form.
They had every reason to praise God.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
We understand why the Apostle Paul urged the Ephesians (and us) to bless God…but it still sounds a little strange, doesn’t it? It sounds strange because the same word (Bless) is used of two different things, of two different activities.
On the one hand, when we ‘bless’ God we praise Him. The only thing that He receives is the words of our mouths, and the thoughts of our hearts.
On the other hand, when God ‘blesses’ us we receive more than words, we receive every needful spiritual blessing. He gives through faith in Christ Jesus, blessings that enable us to stand before Him. They are mentioned in the verse that follows, the 7th verse:
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace…
In fact, God determined to give us these gifts and to choose, to select, to elect us out of this world of sinners already in eternity. We can be sure of it because it is here written:
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
When we hear Evolutionists speak in terms of millions of years and prehistoric times and eras…we snicker inwardly because we know from Holy Scripture that these assertions are not based in fact. We are certain because we rely upon God’s Word to understand how this world was created and how the universe came to exist as it does today.
When we hear these words we should indeed rejoice. For here we are told of God’s truly prehistoric mercy. God didn’t wait for you to be born to determine to choose you to be his own child and heir. In fact, He chose you to be his own before the foundation of the world.
The Lord Jesus confirms this comforting truth in Matthew 25:34, when He reveals what He will say to Believers on the Last Day –
“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…”
Could it be clearer that God alone is to be praised for our salvation?
Jesus calls it an inheritance, something freely given by a gracious father.
It’s said to have been prepared in advance for us from the foundation of the world.
It’s said that God chose us in Christ long before we existed, long before we could do anything.
The Scripture credits God’s Grace, His undeserved love.
Notice that this doesn’t say anything about earning, deserving or helping in any way, shape or form. This doesn’t say a word about those who don’t believe….because the purpose of these words is to comfort those who, by God’s grace and election, do believe.
Why did God choose us? Please notice that God didn’t choose us because of what we had to offer. He didn’t choose us because of who or what we were…but because of what He had determined to make of us. He chose us --
…that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
The Almighty wanted to see a holy and blameless people on earth. He wanted people who would live in the midst of a sinful world and not fit in and conform, but who would stand out and live in a way that proclaims his glory.
We weren’t that when God chose us. We weren’t that when we were born into this world. God sent Christ to make that a reality. The Father sent His Son to be born into the human race, to be holy and blameless. He was perfect according to God’s Law. God credits Jesus perfect life to our account by faith in Him. None of this is dependent on us, but on Christ. Notice the words, “in Christ” and “in Him,” and “by Jesus Christ.”
We are not God’s Children by nature. God chose us…to adopt us as His Children through Jesus Christ.
…having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
God chose us…to be His own personal property, by adoption. Christ has by His death purchased our release from Satan, from sin and death. God reckons and declares us His children by faith in Christ.
What was said of the Galatians is also true of all who believe in Jesus (Galatians 3:26):
“…you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
The Biblical teaching on Election is simply this, that –
Long before we were born, before the creation of the world, God thought on us and with a gracious purpose chose us and claimed us as His own. He determined that we should be and remain His for all eternity.
Furthermore, those whom God has elected in Christ cannot be forcibly taken from Him. Our Savior Jesus leaves no doubt in that regard, when He says (John 10:27-29):
27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.
While we can’t be forcibly taken from Christ…we can choose to turn from Him. This is why we are warned in Scripture not to take pride in ourselves or our perceived strength of faith. We are soberly urged (1 Corinthians 10:12):
12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
Moreover, we are urged to continue in the Word while we live in this world. We are urged in Scripture to (2 Peter 1:10):
“…be even more diligent to make your call and election sure…”
We do that by making the strengthening of our faith a priority by regularly hearing the Word and making use of the Sacrament. This is what God wants for us. This is why God has given us these spiritual gifts. May God grant us the spiritual wisdom and maturity to make regular use of these spiritual gifts, of both Word and Sacrament.
May the Spirit of God lead us to praise God that He chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world.
Yes, He chose us before we were ever “choosers”.