Growing Our Spiritual Bank Account (Part 2)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Ephesians 1:8a (Holman) . . .that He lavished on us. . .
“Lavished” pictures a liquid overflowing its container and streaming in every direction. We do not have to pry God’s abundant mercies loose. His grace flows freely of its own accord. God cannot give grudgingly. Being love, He can act in only one way toward us. His ocean of love flows toward us in wave upon wave.
His generous “legal” forgiveness pictures how generous He wants to be in ongoing “personal” forgiveness. The flow of God’s provision toward us is thwarted only by our refusal to receive what is ours. Never forget; grace was God’s idea.
There is as much joy in His heart when He forgives, as in our hearts when we are forgiven. God loves to give forgiveness as much as we love to receive it.
Ephesians 1:8b . . .with all wisdom and understanding.
God gives not only redemption and forgiveness, but also wisdom and understanding of what to do with them. Wisdom and understanding help us to put into action what we know, to apply to our daily lives the cosmic matters of right and wrong, time and eternity, Heaven and Hell. We receive wisdom and understanding not to be academic, but to respond and act aright. God lets us see the ultimate truths of eternity, and then helps us solve the problems of each moment of time (Barclay).
Ephesians 1:9-10 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him for the administration of the days of fulfilment—to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.
“Mystery” refers to a truth that God hid until He chose to reveal it to us. Let me illustrate the New Testament meaning of “mystery.” Before this service, I stepped in a room and did something. Unless I tell you, you can’t know what I did. The deed is a “mystery,” impossible to be known unless told. In the room, I took my pen out of my pocket, and put it back in. Now you know what I did. The “mystery” is revealed.
The Gospel is a “mystery”; we could never figure it out on our own. Without a revelation, we would know nothing certain about God’s salvation; all speculation of His ways would be unreliable. Fortunately, the mystery of God’s will has been made known to all. The Gospel is not a closely-guarded secret, a cryptic message revealed to few select initiates. The Bible hides nothing. All we need has been revealed to all.
Since believers know the mystery, we are obligated to tell it to others. We are “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 C 4:1). God did not keep it a secret, nor should we. We must go everywhere telling everyone about this wondrous Gospel we heard.
The Gospel, conceived in eternity past in God’s heart, has been revealed to us in time not because we deserve it, but because it pleased God to do so. In salvation, everything can be traced to God’s “good pleasure.” Stop trying to buy off God. Enjoy grace. Do not try to earn God’s favor, before or after salvation. Come always as a suppliant, never as an achiever. Do come, but always come as one undeserving.
We never deserve to come. Our attitude must ever be like the one expressed by my friend Dave Eggers. He said at the Judgment he will say in defense of his life lived on earth, “No excuses, Sir.” Always display this spirit. We have no merit to stand on. We come because His blood was shed for us, and He invites us to come.
Our message to sinners is; Someone cares and wants to forgive. “At the heart of the Universe there is a heart” (Maclaren). God forgives. What else would we expect from One who decided to endure the penalty for sin instead of inflicting it?
Ephesians 1:11-12 We have also received an inheritance in Him, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.
We “received an inheritance.” An inheritance is not earned, but received due to a parent/child link. God treats us as if we truly are His children, and we are. As full-fledged family members, our honor is not one whit inferior to that possessed by angels who never rebelled. Grace totally reverses the disgrace the Fall affixed to us.
Predestination assures us God not only had a plan, but also included us in it. Without it, none would ever be saved. None on their own decides to receive Christ. Only God can call us to Him, and He does so because He decided ages ago to do so.
“Decision” denotes deliberation. God moves logically to secure ends worthy of Himself. He is Sovereign, but never arbitrary. He does not work at random or blindly. God has legitimate, coherent reasons for what He does. We cannot see or understand all now, but “by and by” we shall see how logical everything was.
Ephesians 1:13 When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.
Being “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” is the essence of our security. We must begin by believing in Jesus. Faith has to come first. Once we make this choice, our loving God wants all of us to be absolutely certain of our salvation.
This can happen only in the context of grace. Any who believe in salvation by works cannot enjoy assurance. They may be true and loyal for a lifetime, and work hard for the Master, yet never be sure of Heaven. This is sad, but explainable.
Where works are advocated for salvation, assurance is impossible to possess. We can never know if “enough” works have been done. Assurance is meant for every believer, but is found only in the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith.
Seals officially identified possessions, letters, contracts, bills of sale, and other important documents. A seal consisted of hot wax or soft clay which, after being placed on an object, was stamped with one’s own unique signet ring. Seals performed at least three significant functions.
One, seals authenticated a completed transaction. Once the agreeing parties affixed their seals to a document, there was no turning back. The transaction was finished, complete, impossible to nullify or reverse. The indwelling Holy Spirit proves a great transaction has been completed in a believer’s life.
God the Father planned the salvation of all believers, Jesus purchased our salvation at Calvary, the Holy Spirit is the seal within us, proving salvation has been applied to a particular person. Sealing personalizes God’s great cosmic plan, and applies it to lone, solitary individuals, one heart at a time.
Two, seals marked ownership. Unique, personalized seals settled ownership disputes. The Holy Spirit’s presence in believers proves we belong to God.
By sealing us, God says loud and clear, “Mine!” The Spirit in us is God’s public assertion before Heaven, Earth, and Hell we are His. Since seals were applied only to things highly valued, we believers celebrate the fact we are precious to God.
Three, seals provided security. They assured a package arrived intact, guaranteed a message arrived untampered with, or protected property. Pilate sealed the stone on Jesus’ tomb (MT 27:66). Any person who dared break or disturb a seal bearing authority of Rome would quickly forfeit their life. The seal was a safeguard.
The Holy Spirit in us is God’s seal of everlasting security. The bond between God and a believer cannot be broken. God’s royal seal is inviolable.
Worry not, dear believer. We are sealed, and the very purpose of a seal is to remove doubt and provide security. We will reach our ultimate destination.
Ephesians 1:14 He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.
God’s seal in believers is “the down payment”, proof He owns us, but His purchased people on Earth are strangers in a pilgrim land, a world whose god is Satan. Redemption began in us when Jesus freed us from sin’s everlasting penalty (1:7), but will not be completed until we are removed from sin’s annoying presence.
Our everlasting destinies are secure in Jesus, but our bodies are subject to temptation. We are harassed by the world, hampered by the flesh, and harangued by a roaring lion. The divine seed sown in us is good, but many competitors viciously vie for our allegiance here. Motives other than love for God constantly bombard us.
I look forward to bringing God unmingled bliss. Love’s deepest wound is to hurt the Beloved. In Heaven we will do this no more.
The result of it all will be “the praise of His glory”. We can undervalue Paul’s emphasis on praise if we do not love Jesus as much as he did. A lover enjoys talking about the beloved more than the ambivalent want to hear. When my cousin Rod fell in love with his wife-to-be, he talked of her incessantly. He drove me to distraction. The final blow came when I laid down on the bed and saw, glued to the ceiling above me in huge, red letters, “G-a-i-l G-a-m-b-i-l-l.” Love loves to speak of the beloved.
In this life, we cannot find language adequate to express praise. Even our best words, and most prolific speeches, fall far below the vastness of the subject, but someday we will bring Him adequate praise and glory. We will voice aloud His praise, and show forth His glory. For this moment we were created and re-created.
God will receive all praise and glory. When we sinners are made beautiful and clean, all creation will be agog, amazed at God’s redeeming ability. When God decks us in white robes, we will be awed. Even angels will gasp in astonishment when they see how well we redeemed sinners “clean up.” The Universe will be enthralled, spellbound. For sure, no one will give us sinners credit for such a wonderful transformation. “The praise of His glory” shall encompass all in all.