INTRO: When God gave us children Gail allowed me to agree to the names she had chosen. She had her reasons. Both of our children have family names. In the Bible we see how names are important-they often speak of a person’s character and work.
The angel of the Lord had this message for Joseph about Mary: She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matt. 1:21 Jesus (Yeshua, Joshua) means the Lord saves. Note the specificity of the language; he will save…he will save his people. God makes it clear to us that we cannot save ourselves and salvation is His Sovereign work in us to our everlasting good and His everlasting fame. This is what the passage from Ephesians teaches us.
WHAT DOES THIS TEXT SAY?
This is the most important thing. Let God’s word be understood and believed! So let’s look at our verses and phrases one by one.
In verse 3 God is to be praised for his blessings to us in Christ. And those blessings are unfolded in verses 4-14 as: the Father’s electing love, the Son’s redeeming love and the Spirit’s guaranteeing love.
Today we look at the Father’s electing love.
Vs. 4 This word “For” begins the verse as Paul begins to unfold our blessings in Christ.
He (God the Father) chose us The verb chose is in the middle voice, which means He chose us for Himself. Chose can also be translated “elect”. Sometimes it is said that God has a vote, the devil has a vote and you have a vote. This is not what the Bible says. We would vote with the devil! We had our vote and we squandered it. And we really aren’t eligible to vote by the way. He chose us for Himself.
Who is the “us”? Paul and the Ephesian Church, Paul includes himself and those in the Ephesian Church. Not every person in Ephesus but every believer! He says in verse 1: To the saints in Ephesus,the faithfulin Christ Jesus… And we believe that it also applies to us who have trusted in Christ!
Chose us in him The “him” is clearly Christ. All our blessings are found in Him. Remember this phrase, in him, in Christ, is one of Paul’s favorites and most used.
before the creation of the world answers when we were chosen. Before we had done anything good or bad! Consider Romans 9 and Jacob and Esau.
Paul writes to Timothy speaking of both God’s sovereign work in saving us and his free choice not based on anything in us:
…who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, (I Timothy 1:9)
Note: Not because of anything we have done must include not because of foreseen faith in us. Not anything. Before we existed necessarily means before we had believed. Though we must believe, more on that later.
to be holy and blameless in his sight…Answers, at least in part, while we were chosen. He did not choose us because we were holy and blameless, but the reverse. While we were still sinners Christ died for us! Romans 5 What a perversion of the good news to speak as if God chooses the good guys! Not the righteous, but sinners Jesus came to call.
Now vs 5 actually begins (the sentence begins) at the end of vs 4 with: In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons…
In love He predestined us. Predestined means, well, predestined. That is what he Bible very plainly says. The word is from two Greek words “pro” which means before and “horizo” which means to define or determine.
As we have read both Peter and Paul agree that God has acted in grace toward us before time began.
Predestined to be adopted as his sons….So here again purpose is spoken of. It is often said of adopted persons that they were chosen, though that isn’t so much the case in human adoption, like looking over which head of lettuce seems most fresh! No! We were chosen as broken babies, not perfect ones!! God says you will be mine in spite of yourself. My love for you will never end. You will sit as my sons and my daughters at my table always. In love, everlasting and unchanging covenant love, I have adopted you.
DOES THIS TEXT SQUARE WITH THE REST OF SCRIPTURE?
Scripture must interpret Scripture.
Think first about the whole idea of God being Sovereign, He acts upon his own initiative alone.
He made Adam and Eve, his choice, obviously not theirs! Creation and the stars he called into being. Light which shines when he calls it to existence cannot refuse his command but shines willingly for him.
He chose Abraham, a man with a faulty character to father a family and a nation from who would come Jesus. It was God’s free choice to choose this liar and idol worshiper for his own purposes and glory.
He chose Israel telling them that his choice of them was not based on anything in them: The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. Duet. 7
Salvation must be from God’s sovereign will and choice because we are not able to come to Him apart from Him:
Eph. 2:1-5 1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Sin isn’t a bad cold but a fatal illness that requires not an aspirin but a resurrection!
God calls the prophet Ezekiel to preach to dry bones and see them live! Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! (Ezekiel 37) God brings to life that which is dead! He does not consult with the bones whether or not they want life, he commands life! Then later God speaks to his people as they are like dry bones needing life: 4 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”
This is who God is. He is sovereign. He must alone be God. He is to be worshiped by all His creatures.
God says he will put his Spirit in his people and they will live! Jesus says the same thing to Nicodomus in John 3: 3…Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. 4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spiritgives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘Youmust be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
So God gives us life that we may believe. John 3 Note: Jesus did not tell Nicodemus to “born himself again!!” We don’t birth ourselves physically or spiritually. Born of the Spirit. And he is sovereign in that! He is like the wind that blows where it will.
Jesus said: I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. John 5 This is the only hope for those dead in sin and trespasses. Those who need a little help, a hand up, don’t need Jesus. Dead sinners do not live apart from his life giving voice. Unless Jesus speaks the preacher, the servant, the witnessing Christian, all speak in vain.
Compare that with: John 1: 1 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent,nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
So we must believe but we cannot believe apart from the new birth from God and not from ourselves. But don’t we have free will? Great have your free will. What good does it do a spiritually dead person to have a spiritual choice presented to them? Does a dead man choose right or wrong? Can we who accustomed to doing evil choose the highest good that our nature runs from? John has just told us that this does not come from “human decision.”
When Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ Jesus tells him: blessed are you Simon son of Jonah for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my father in heaven.
You may say you have free will, fine, do you have the ability? My friend says his cat is free to write a concerto. But does he have the ability? And so we cannot take the first step in our salvation but God has taken all of that upon himself in his grace to us!
He saves his people. This is not a potential salvation but a one that is full, complete, free and ever secure in Christ:
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” John 6
So who comes to Jesus? (And yes, we must come to Jesus!) All the Father gives me. Consider this with our text and how we were chosen in Him. And Jesus says of those he will lose none but raise them on the last day! His name is Jesus, he saves his people!!
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. II Peter 1
When the Bible says Jesus saves his people it is not simply speaking of our justification, but it is an all inclusive thing! Everything we need for life and godliness… as we just read from II Peter. God isn’t like the man who gave someone a car, but the car had neither engine nor transmission.
What a travesty it would be for the Son of God to die and then the results rest in the hand of those who were at the time enemies and rebels and spiritually dead. He is our Surety and our salvation is and must be sure! On that cross he said: IT IS FINISHED and he means what he says!
Note: Repentance and faith are gifts God gives. They are part of the everything we need for life and godliness. He has given everything we need. We respond in faith, we respond to God’s call because he makes it effectual by his powerful grace and the inward working of the Spirit. We hear and respond to the call because he gives us ears that are open. As a child knows his mother’s voice so Jesus’ sheep hear His voice.
Acts 5: God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. Repentance is the gift of God not the conjuring of man.
Acts 11 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
Eph. 2 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— Just as Simon’s confession of faith was the gift he was blessed with and not the fruit of his great wisdom or character so is everyone’s.
Cf. Romans 8: 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. This is the golden and unbreakable chain of grace.
So is God unfair?
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy Romans 9
What if there are 10 on death row and the governor pardons 5. Is she unfair? To whom is she unfair? We reflexively say she is unfair to the 5 not pardoned. The truth is the opposite. The five not pardoned receive justice, the five pardoned receive mercy that they do not deserve. And God is unfair to himself. For he takes the punishment of all He chooses to pardon. He is just and gracious in full measure:
The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. Psalm 33:5
Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Psalm 85:10 Is this not the cross!
WHAT DOES THIS SOVEREIGN CHOICE OF GRACE LEAD US TO DO? HOW OUGHT WE TO RESPOND?
Two things here:
1. Share the word: But won’t this doctrine cause me to forego evangelism? No! It makes evangelism possible and successful!!
Let me ask you a question: Was Paul, who speaks much about this truth, slack in bringing the word to others? Did he think it was a waste of time?? The call of the gospel is effective because God’s sovereign power is behind it! The truth of the Father’s electing love is a motivation to bring the word, not an excuse to avoid it. The Master has told us to preach the word.
Cf. Acts 18 9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
Those dry bones will live, the sheep will hear the call, the dead will hear the voice of the son of God, the spiritually dead will be born of the spirit, the hard of heart will be given a heart of flesh, the gifts of repentance and faith. God’s people in this place will come to Jesus and live! None of the family will be lost!
2. Worship and Give all praise to God Ephesians 1:6 To the praise of His glorious grace …His name is Jesus, he saves his people from their sins!
Let him who boast boast in the Lord
William Hendriksen said: “When men are confronted with this manifestation of amazing grace their only proper response is adoration, not explanation.”
When I was about 12 or 13 my family went to he beach. My mom, sister, and younger brother were on the beach. My sister got too far out and began to call for help. I was able, somehow, to pull her in. What if she had drowned and was already dead when I got to her? I could not have saved her. I could have pulled her to shore, but could not have saved her neither could she have saved herself nor helped me save her. But Jesus calls the dead to life! He breaths life into a soul dead in trespasses and sin. And consider: It’s now me in the water. I’m going under and begin to call for help. I see a mighty lifeguard jump up. It’s Jesus. Jesus is coming to save me, but I gather all the strength I have and swim straight AWAY from him!! But I’m no match for Him. He takes hold of me, places his strong and loving hand on my rebel shoulder, He gives me a new heart and I am filled with joy and begin to swim toward him!!
I am so glad that God is sovereign over my rebel heart. I have no other hope I need no other hope.