Ephesians 1:1 Introduction
The history of Christianity would be much impoverished were its stories of jails and incarcerations removed. Had Satan’s fury not been hurled against us, we would not have the stories of Daniel in the Lion’s den, and the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace. Had Potiphar not cast Joseph into jail, Jacob’s family would have perished in Canaan’s famine. Our precious Lord, by a criminal’s death, took away the sin of the world.
In Bedford jail, John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. From prison, Samuel Rutherford’s letters went forth. Charles Colson blessed our generation from a modern prison. Often could we echo to our tormenters the words of Joseph, “Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good” (GN 50:20).
Ephesians is another blessing from a “prison-sanctuary.” In jail at Rome, Paul was “an ambassador in bonds” (6:20). Uncertain as to whether his imprisonment will end in death or release, he begins to weigh life in light of eternity. Having no need to rush, with plenty of time to think, Paul was able to reflect on what really matters in life.
The year was about 61 A.D., a terrible time. In the suppression of a revolt in Britain, 70,000 Romans and 80,000 Britons were slain. The same year, a Roman senator was murdered by one of his slaves. As punishment, 400 slaves were put to death. The world at war, human life cheap–it was an era much like ours.
The world was in chaos, but Paul was serene. Taking pen in hand, he began to write what would be his most dignified book.
Ephesians is the Queen of Paul’s epistles. Coleridge called it “the divinest composition of man.” When John Knox was dying, the book most often read to him was Calvin’s Sermons on the Letter to the Ephesians.
The book divides itself into two sections. Chapters 1-3 deal with doctrine; chapters 4-6 with duty. The latter section can be subdivided into our dealings with the world (4:1-6:9), and our warfare against Satan (6:10-24). Ephesians helps us better understand our relationship to God, the world, and Satan.
Watchman Nee outlined Ephesians, using a key word from each of the three sections: Sit (2:6), Walk (4:1), Stand (6:11). “Sit”–let us first of all realize our position in Christ. We are far richer than we realize. We appropriate very little of what is ours, and need to enter into full possession of our inheritance. “Walk”–our lifestyle is watched by the world. Let us live a life worthy of our high calling. “Stand”–Satan hurls his forces against us, but we can withstand every assault.
As we begin our study of Ephesians, let us not be primarily concerned with how we will deal with it. Instead, ponder what it will do to us. “Lord, use Ephesians to change our lives.”
Ephesians 1:1a “Paul. . .”
The Bible is a divine book. The very fact it was written by men is astounding. Of even greater amazement is that this particular man contributed to holy writ. He who consented to the death of Stephen has his name at the beginning of thirteen books in the New Testament. “Paul”–the very appearance of his name as a writer of Scripture is a monument to grace.
The writer’s given name was Saul. He was a Benjamite, named for King Saul, the tallest of his tribe. Saul of Tarsus eventually became better known for his Latin name, Paul, which means “small.” Though named for a tall king, Saul was short.
Ephesians 1:1b “. . .an apostle. . .”
“Apostle” means one sent forth, or despatched. The word was used officially to refer to an ambassador or envoy. The Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jews, had men who carried their messages to Jews at large. These couriers were called apostles.
The early church used “apostle” as a technical term for the men God uniquely chose to be His first and primary envoys of the Gospel. The Apostles were the foundation layer of the Church. They and their immediate disciples wrote the New Testament.
Paul was different from the other Apostles. He was not one of the original twelve. He was called later, and given a special assignment, “He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles” (AC 9:15). When these words were spoken, gods in Asia, Europe, and Africa screamed. They were doomed. Jupiter felt a pain shoot through his chest; Mercury tripped in flight.
When God commissioned Saul to go to the Gentiles, our ancestors were in the Black Forest worshipping a goat god, our progenitors in Britain were offering children as sacrifices, others were eating babies’ hearts and drinking blood to pacify angry gods. God was tired of children dying, and sent Paul to stop it.
The remainder of his life, Paul was driven by a compulsion to tell the Gospel to all men. Each new acquaintance was a prospect, an opportunity to spread the Gospel. He was on a mission to tell every Gentile in the world about his master. . .
Ephesians 1:1c “. . .of Jesus Christ. . .”
An apostle belonged to someone else. Having no authority of his own, he only represented the one who commissioned him. Paul gave up fame, the respect of friends, and a blossoming career to become an errand-boy for Jesus Christ.
The first question Paul asked after he hit the ground near Damascus, was “Who art thou, Lord?” Paul instantly realized he belonged “lock, stock, and barrel” to another. All he needed to know was the name of his new owner. The Lord responded, “I am Jesus,” a name Paul cherished the rest of his life.
Being an “apostle” humbled Paul. To realize one has no authority or power of his own increases dependence on the source of power. Paul spent the rest of his life close to Jesus.
Ephesians 1:1d “. . .by the will of God,. . .”
Being an apostle was not a decision Paul made on his own. He did not decide this was a good way to spend his life. He was under the sway of forces originating above and beyond himself.
There is no pride here, just sheer amazement. It was a wonder to Paul he was chosen. Only a miracle could have made Pharisee Saul an Apostle Paul. There is never any room for boasting. All is based on the will of God. He alone deserves praise.
Ephesians 1:1e “. . .to the saints. . .”
“Saints” is a word we will never be able to retrieve. It is usually used to describe “super-heroes of the faith,” but in the Bible refers to all believers. Every Christian is a saint.
Ephesians was not written to exceptional people. It was directed not to scholars, theologians, or teachers, but to ordinary Gentile church members. What Paul said to the Ephesians applies to ordinary folks, to you and me.
To be called a saint is a privilege every Christian enjoys. To be set apart as a special treasure to God is an honor, especially for Gentiles. Jews had for centuries viewed themselves as God’s special people. Calling pagan-born believers “saints” was mind-boggling. “Hebrew detractors considered it a rape of sacred vocabulary” (Hughes). Too good to be true! but true anyway. God lifted us Gentiles up and made us part of His family.
Ephesians 1:1f “. . .which are at Ephesus,. . .”
Ephesus, capital of the Roman province of Asia, sat on the west coast of modern Turkey, 200 miles east of Athens, across the Aegean. Today the ruins of Ephesus are seven miles from the sea. Reckless deforestation choked the city’s harbor with topsoil.
Even in Paul’s day, Ephesus was having trouble with its harbor, but the city was still the highway into Asia from Rome and Greece. The city thrived on tourism. Multitudes from every corner of the globe traveled to Ephesus to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the temple to Diana (Greek: Artemis), twin of Apollo, daughter of Jupiter. Demetrius the silversmith was not exaggerating when he said “all Asia and the world” (AC 19:27) adored and revered Diana of the Ephesians.
After Alexander the Great took control of Ephesus at age 22, he began contributing huge sums to reconstruct the temple. The conqueror felt a kindred spirit with the temple; it had burned the very night he was born in distant Macedon.
The structure, which took 220 years to complete, was four times larger than Athens’ Parthenon. Its foundation measured 377 by 180 feet; 106 columns, each over forty feet high, graced the building. The structure was completely marble, except for its tile-covered roof. At the heart of the shrine, hidden by curtains, stood an image of Diana which reputedly fell from the sky.
This den of sin, the throne of iniquity, the headquarters of Satan, became a target of the Apostle Paul. In the abode of Jupiter’s own daughter, Paul kicked Satan, and kicked him hard.
Paul first visited Ephesus on his second missionary journey (AC 18:19), while hastening to Jerusalem. Paul could not tarry in Ephesus, but as he walked through the pagan city, he realized its potential as a center of vast influence. Traffic in and out of the city never stopped. Paul could not stay, but did ask his traveling companions, Aquila and Priscilla, to remain in the city. Their stay was providential, for Apollos soon came to town and received from them further instruction in the ways of God.
When Paul returned to Ephesus, he stayed some three years, more time than he spent in any other city. Paul’s work in Ephesus may have been the greatest local church ministry in history.
He started with twelve men who knew only the baptism of John the Baptist (AC 19:3). After their conversion, “he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months” (AC 19:8). When the Jews rejected him, he taught in a school daily for two years (AC 19:9-10). “Preaching the kingdom of God” (AC 20:25), Paul “ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (AC 20:31). He taught “publicly, and from house to house” (AC 20:20). Writing from Ephesus, he said, “A great door and effectual is opened unto me” (1 Cor. 16:9).
From this capital city, news of the Gospel spread throughout all the province, “so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (AC 19:10).
After Paul departed, believers continued to pound the evil spiritual forces centered in Ephesus. Timothy came to serve as pastor (1 TM 1:3). John the Beloved spent his final years of ministry here, influencing Polycarp and Ignatius. The Gospel of John, and his epistles, were probably written at Ephesus. Revelation was written on Patmos, sixty miles off the Ephesian coast.
Ephesus, a bastion of evil, yielded to the relentless Christian attacks. The city became a great center of Christianity and hosted a major church council as late as 431 A.D. Ephesus is now remembered, not for its magnificent pagan temple, but because of a letter bearing its name.
Ephesians 1:1g “. . .and to the faithful. . .”
”Saint” denotes privilege, and privilege brings responsibility. Even in a godless city like Ephesus, people set apart must act like the One who set them apart.
Outward righteousness is God’s stamp on an individual, His “mark” by which He says, “This person belongs to Me.” We write our names on our possessions; God also labels His property, and the name He uses is the likeness of His own character.
Ephesians 1:1h “. . .in Christ Jesus:. . .”
Every Christian has two addresses–one on earth, and one in heaven. We reside here, but live there. We are joined to Jesus, united with Him. As a root is in the soil, a branch in the vine, the Christian’s life is in Christ. We seek all livelihood and nourishment from Jesus. We may be surrounded by sin, but we are rooted in Christ. He is the saints’ natural resting place.
Ephesians 1:2a “Grace be to you,. . .”
Paul turned common greetings of his day into a distinctive Christian salutation. He replaced the Greek greeting, “Chaire” (Rejoice), with similarly sounding “Charis” (Grace). “Rejoice” implies, “I wish you my best.” “Grace” wishes one “God’s best.”
“Grace” is love flowing “downward” to the undeserving. No other word better describes God’s disposition toward man. We deserve nothing, but God offers us His all in Jesus Christ the Son.
Ephesians 1:2b “. . .and peace,. . .”
The usual Hebrew greeting, “Shalom” (Gk. eirene), was a wish for peace, for one’s best and highest good. By placing it with grace, Paul revealed the only source of peace. Grace is the spring, peace is the stream flowing from it. Only by receiving grace can one experience and manifest peace.
Man was created at peace with God, but sin brought war. By nature, men love their sin, and refuse to renounce it. They prefer rebellion to submission. God’s grace in Jesus Christ squelches the insurrection of man and brings peace.
Man was created at peace with nature, but sin brought carnage. We were originally tenders and keepers of a garden (GN 2:15), but selfish desires have caused us to exploit the environment, and scorch the earth. God’s grace in Jesus Christ calms raging selfishness, and puts man at peace with nature by making him see he is a steward of God’s creation.
Man was created with inner peace, but sin brought turmoil. Discontent with being human, we strove to be god. We were made to be dependent, but crave independence. What we are created to be conflicts with what we want to be. The result is war within one’s own self. Salvation causes one to renounce incorrect views of our purpose in life. God’s grace in Jesus Christ puts a man at peace with himself because he accepts his rightful role.
Man was created at peace with others, but sin brought enmity. Since men by nature have a god-wish, the battle is on to see who is the main god. We see ourselves as always right and others as always wrong. God’s grace in Jesus Christ gives us peace with others by making us want to serve, not lord over, them. The ones we previously hated are now pitied as victims. We feel sorry for those who lie in the arms of the evil one. Former enemies become people for whom we now pray.
Ephesians 1:2c “. . .from God our Father,. . .”
Grace and peace come from God. To believers God is “our Father,” not merely a Supreme Being, or the Ultimate Other. We do not philosophize about Him as much as we love Him. For us He is an ocean of love with no shore. “His love hath neither brim nor bottom. Oh that I had help to praise Him” (Rutherford).
Ephesians 1:2d “. . .and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Grace and peace come also from the Son. Paul regarded Jesus as Divine. The grace and peace provided at Calvary are the reason we can call God “Father.” “The Son of God became the Son of Man, that the sons of men might become the sons of God” (Calvin).
Ephesians 1:3 Introduction
As Paul began to write Ephesians, he was obviously in a spirit of worship and adoration toward the Lord. The Apostle was filled with God. Once the customary, formal introduction to the epistle was completed, Paul’s heart burst into song. Verses 3-14 are a one-sentence hymn of praise to our triune God.
Paul, hot with passion, popped the valve on a boiling steam engine. He wanted others to share his blazing zeal. The song is an effort to rouse hearts from apathy, to set us afire for Jesus.
In this song, Paul was not speaking with cool logic. As the 202 words poured forth like molten lava, the last thing on his mind was punctuation marks! As a result, verses 3-14 may be “the longest sentence of continued discourse in existence” (Wuest).
Excited about Jesus, Paul went through a door and started climbing a stairway to Heaven, his thoughts rising to mountain peak after mountain peak. Paul was ascending so fast that he seemed unable to slow down or begin a descent. He became so enraptured he almost forgot to come back down to the door.
Paul’s hot passion makes me ashamed of my coldness. Trying to follow Paul’s thoughts while preparing this message, I found myself repeating the words of Elizabeth Prentiss:
More love to thee, O Christ, More love to thee!
Hear thou the prayer I make on bended knee;
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to thee!
May Ephesians help spark in us a love like Paul’s for Jesus.
Ephesians 1:3a “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ,. . .”
“God of our Lord Jesus Christ” reminds us our Master truly was a man. “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” emphasizes our Savior’s divine nature. Of the same essence as the Father, Jesus is God’s Son in a unique way.
When we bless God we in essence acknowledge He is the one and only Blesser, the Source of all blessing and all blessedness. We do not bless God in the same way He blesses us. He blesses us with deeds, we bless Him with words.
The blessings we receive must be acknowledged. We must in some way “return” the blessing unto the Father. The cycle must not be broken. What comes from God should be “returned” to God. His blessings must be followed with our word-echoes.
Ephesians 1:3b “. . .who hath blessed us. . .”
The tense of this verb denotes completed action. All God’s blessings flow from a decision to bless which He made in the distant past. The following verses confirm Paul is referring to something which happened ages ago. The blessing was bestowed before the ones to be blessed were created to receive it.
Paul is not preparing to discuss things which will be ours in the distant future. He is relating blessings which have been ours since the distant past.
Ephesians 1:3c “. . .with all spiritual blessings. . .”
“Spiritual” refers to the work of the Holy Spirit. “Blessings” may denote benefits received in every aspect of our lives, but the following verses cause us to see it in the present context as primarily referring to details related to salvation.
“All” is a small word, but powerful. When the Father gives Christ, He gives all things. The Lord is never chintzy. When He gives, He gives amply. Whom the Lord hath blessed is blessed.
Salvation from origin to consummation, from eternity past to eternity future, and everything needed in between, has been given to us. Our predestination, our adoption, our acceptance, our redemption, our forgiveness, our inheritance, our being sealed by the Spirit–all these belong to every believer because of grace. The Father is an unlimited Source, the Son an unending Reservoir, the Spirit an untiring Supplier.
Included in “all spiritual blessings” is the assurance of, and power for, sanctification. “His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 P 1:3). In living the Christian life, our greatest need is “to have what we have, to possess what is ours. . .The limit of the gift is only in ourselves. All has been given, but the question remains how much has been taken” (Maclaren). We are rich, but do not seem to know it. Wealth abounds, yet we live like paupers.
We are not sure of ourselves, and reveal our insecurity by occasional “slips of the lip” in prayer. We sometimes pray as if our blessings were far away, kept from us by God who requires us to come begging for withheld benefits.
We pray, “Lord, be with us” though Christ has promised, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (MT 28:20). We say, “Father, give us love,” but the Bible teaches us “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts” (RM 5:5). We ask for peace, but Jesus said, “My peace I give to you” (JN 14:27).
Our resources are not far away. God does not dangle them before us and taunt us with them. They are ours. All we need is nearby and available. In prayer we are to ask God to mobilize within us what is already ours.
Never pray as if God has withheld something needful from us. Never pray as if God were the problem. Never pray as if victory over sin were doubtful. “Prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance, but taking hold of God’s willingness” (Phillips Brooks).
Never be content with anything less than absolute victory in any struggle against sin. This is your birthright!
Eph. 1:3d “. . .in heavenly places. . .”
This phrase presents one of the most important concepts in Ephesians, yea, in all of Scripture. The Greek adjective has no noun. Translators add the word “places” to clarify the meaning.
“Heavenly places” is used five times in Ephesians in a sense not found elsewhere in the Bible. It is the realm where believers are blessed (1:3), where Jesus sits beside the Father (1:20), where believers sit with Jesus (2:6), where God’s wisdom is made manifest (3:10), and where spiritual warfare is waged (6:12).
“Heavenly places” is the God-dimension, “the entire supernatural realm of God” (MacArthur), the unseen universe, the eternal order beyond the world perceived by our five senses. “Heavenly places” is the present, at hand, home of believers, a region neither remote nor faraway. It is not relegated to the future, or kept from us till after death. It is a present, at hand, realm.
”Heavenly places” describes the sphere to which Christians belong here and now. It is “the heaven which even now lies within and about the followers of Christ” (Eerdman). There is a way in which believers are already in Heaven before they arrive there bodily. This is a truth we need to be reminded of often.
No one has to remind us we live on earth. We know our bodies are trapped here, contending with Satan, the flesh, an old nature, and the world. Our five senses keep us quite conscious of our earthly connection, and keep us from any danger of forgetting where our bodies live.
However, it is easy to forget about our real home, Heaven. The world often so overwhelms our senses that Heaven is forced from our thoughts. Thus, we must often be reminded where our citizenship is, where the place of blessing and victory is.
If Paul were to find us discouraged and totally possessed with something of earth, he would not understand. He could not comprehend why we would be completely absorbed with a detail of this world when a part of us lives in heavenly places.
God’s power is stymied in a believer obsessed with the physical world. The power flourishes in “heavenly places.” We must take our seat, and see the conflict from our throne of victory.
Every believer has two addresses, one below the clouds, another above the clouds. When problems cloud the sun of life, we have the privilege to take a seat above the foggy troubles and to look down on them from the place of victory. If discouraged with others, if sick, in pain or agony, in financial trouble, whatever of earth assails us, we must mount our seat above the clouds.
You are a citizen of Heaven, you belong there. Your mansion is prepared, and will someday be fully inhabited by your glorified self. For the time being, visit your heavenly home regularly and sit on one of your pieces of furniture, a seat of victory.
Eph. 1:3e “. . .in Christ. . .”
The lofty eminence to which we have been lifted is ours only because of Christ. In spatial terms, we say the Holy Spirit has “come down” to dwell in us. We can also say our spirits have been “lifted up” to dwell in Jesus. With all who know Him, Jesus shares His environment, the supernatural realm of His blessings.
He is the head, we are the body. Vitality flows from Him to us, empowering us, and providing all our sustenance. “His position is our position: where He is, we are. His privilege is our privilege: what He is we are. His possession is our possession: what He has, we have” (MacArthur). Position, privilege, possession–the order is critical. After we contemplate our God-given position and privilege, only then do His possessions become ours.
Eph. 1:4a “According as he hath chosen us in him. . .”
We receive divine blessings because, based on Christ’s merit, God chose us to be the recipients of them. This is the doctrine of election. Some call it the “dreaded, controversial” doctrine of election. Few Scriptural teachings are more neglected among believers today. Some preachers avoid it at all cost, for any of several reasons.
Election is avoided because it is “laborious, tedious, difficult to teach with excitement.” This is a sinful attitude. It is wrong to say you believe in the inspiration of Scripture and then to skip parts of it because you find them boring. Any doctrine deemed important enough to be everlastingly recorded in holy writ had best be deemed exciting by us.
One advantage of preaching and teaching through all the Bible is it forces pastors to deal with the whole counsel of God. It causes one to confront “hard, unpleasant” verses, rather than allowing him to pick and choose passages most agreeable to us.
Some read the Bible every day, but read again and again the same parts (usually very comforting portions). Be thorough in your study of Scripture. Read it entirely. “All scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable” (2 TM 3:16).
Election is avoided because it is “impractical, unrelated to our everyday lives.” Properly understood, election is a powerful motivation for Christian living. Its message of unmerited love evokes response, and prompts a life of love from the saints.
Election, one of our most precious doctrines, is a gift reserved only for the saints. Someone said, “The truth of election is a family secret.” We do not proclaim it to the lost. They could not begin to grasp it. Election is a doctrine which “God loves to whisper in the ears of His beloved children” (Ironside). He caresses our hearts, reminding us how long He has loved us.
Election is avoided because it “makes God look capricious.” The truth is, no one has ever been predestined for Hell. God’s Word nowhere teaches predestination to damnation. God prepares men for Heaven, sinners prepare themselves for Hell. Election shuts no one out of Heaven. It only keeps God’s children in. Always blame lostness on men. They decide to reject Christ.
Election is avoided because it “nullifies free will.” The Bible presents sovereignty and free will with equal vigor. They form one of the paradoxes Scripture does not try to resolve. Consider a few. The Bible is written by men, yet is the Word of God. Jesus was fully man, yet fully God. God is One, yet Three. Salvation is eternal, yet believers must persevere to the end. If we remove the paradoxical from our faith, there will not be much faith left.
Sovereignty and free will can not be harmonized. They form part of the mystery which makes God God. John A. Broadus suggested one has to look at sovereignty and free will the same way one looks at a house. You can never see more than half of it at a time. You can walk around the house and see it all, but at any given time, half the house is hidden from view.
Election is avoided because it is “hard to understand.” Finite minds have trouble with infinity, especially infinite love. In weighing salvation, we would like to find at least an ounce of personal merit, but none exists in election. Thus we are left with infinite grace, a matter we find most difficult to grasp.
Trained in college as a mathematician, I like things to be analytical and orderly. Infinity eludes such safe arrangements. We never grasp infinity, we merely point in its direction with symbols. The number “8” laid on its side, graphs with parabolas trailing off in the distance, lines with arrows on both ends, repeating decimals, the phrase “nth degree”–these are all feeble attempts to delineate infinity once we have passed the limits of our ability to compute.
We never grasp infinity, we merely point in its direction. This is especially the case regarding the infinite love displayed in election. We never fully grasp it, we merely point in its direction with awe.
Election–infinite love, infinite grace, infinite God–was never was meant to be fully understood. Confronted with this doctrine, our response has to be adoration, not explanation. It is a source of sheer amazement.
We want everything to be logical; we desire rational explanations for everything. Reluctant to accept mystery, we hate to admit God is smarter than we are. We want to simplify God, but this cannot be done. “Great is the mystery of godliness” (1 TM 3:16), and nowhere is the mystery greater than in election.
Election has to have come from God. No man would ever concoct such a doctrine. Infinite grace is the last thing man would think of. Election is holy ground, an idea not conceived by man, a design not drawn by human hands, a plan not enacted by mortals.
Entering this dimension of holiness, we knock at the door of God’s soul, and place our finger on the pulse of His heart-beat. Contemplating election, we need to be humble, acknowledging the limits of our understanding. Approach with reverence, not dogmatism. Come to worship, not to pry. Put away idle curiosity.
Standing on holy ground, we need to remove our shoes, and lay down our merit. Proceed on your knees. Bow low before Him as you enter the heart of His Majesty, the Central Essence, the Beginning Element of His grace. In election we see and enjoy love in all its infinite beauty.
Eph. 1:4b “. . .before the foundation of the world. . .”
When does salvation begin? Some reply, “When one believes, repents, and receives Jesus.” Paul, in the first days of his Christian walk, might have agreed with this sentiment. Eventually, though, the Apostle realized he was chosen by God long before his dramatic encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (AC 9).
Paul came to know he had been chosen “before the foundation of the world.” This metaphor pictures the Universe as a building. Where nothing had existed before, God laid a material base, a foundation on which He forged the superstructure of creation.
By choosing us before He created us, God proved our salvation was based solely on absolute grace. Salvation was ours before we existed, and thus ours before we could do anything good. All honor and glory for salvation must be ascribed only to God.
God elected us when we were only a thought in His mind. The Potter selected us from a lump of clay before He made the lump of clay. Spurgeon wisely said, “I’m glad God chose me before I was born; He would not have liked me afterwards.”
Election before the creation should come as no surprise to believers. God is God; whatever He does in time has to have been decided on in eternity past. God can never surprise Himself.
The fact salvation comes from the outer recesses of time clothes it in a garb of nobleness. Our salvation is neither coincidental nor an afterthought of God. Through all history a divine purpose for each of us has continued unabated. The fact we are part of an eternal strategy of God should encourage us.
Eph. 1:4c “. . .that we should be holy and without blame. . .”
One of the charges made against the doctrine of election and its corollary, eternal security, is that these teachings promote moral laxness. The exact opposite is true. The very purpose of election is “that we should be holy and without blame.”
It is a poverty-stricken view of election to see in it only Justification, or deliverance from Hell. Election is not only to everlasting life in Heaven, but also to Godly life on Earth.
God chose us to “be holy and without blame.” Election includes Sanctification. We can thus test our election by discerning whether or not we are growing in holiness and blamelessness.
Sanctification not only gives ongoing assurance God has done a past work for us, but also provides ongoing evidence He will do a future work for us. We cannot completely “be holy and without blame” in this life, but God’s ultimate purpose in election is nothing short of absolute perfection in these matters. Thus, election can be ultimately fulfilled only in Heaven.
Election does not take one only half-way to the goal. It carries a believer all the way home. Election brings us not only to conversion on Earth, but also to perfection in Heaven.
This is the basis of eternal security. We believe in the preservation and perseverance of the saints. A born again believer can never be lost again, and gives evidence of his salvation by living a faithful life.
God’s election in eternity is accomplished in time by the act of justification, the process of sanctification, and the climax of glorification. It is wrong to divorce any of these three from the other two. They are a trinity, each interlocked with the other. None ever exists without the other two.
Eph. 1:4d “. . .before him in love. . .”
“Before Him in love” implies special nearness and dearness. We dwell in God’s presence now, with love in our hearts.
God wants us nearby. “He had a whole heaven to Himself, myriads of angels to do His bidding, but these could not satisfy Him. He must have sinners to share it with Him” (John Bunyan).
God chose us to love Him. In heavenly places, we love and enjoy God. Our life is not mechanical conformity to law. We are not merely moralists. We are “in love.” We hunger and thirst after the Righteous One. Our hearts pant for God.
God chose us to be with Him and to love Him. We must desire more and more to fulfill our purpose in election, even on Earth.
Eph. 1:5a “Having predestinated us. . .”
Here is another word to emphasize that God’s plan for His people existed before time began. “Predestinated,” or foreordained, means “marked out, determined, or decreed beforehand.”
The truth in verse five is not a mere repetition of what is said in verse four. A new, complementary thought is now before us. Do not read these verses casually and quickly, as if they repeat the same thing over and over again.
Every word in the Word is precious and important. Each term bears unique connotations and yields distinct nuances of meaning.
Eph. 1:5b “. . .unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ. . .”
Adoption bespeaks dignity, and emphasizes the position given us in election. Due to merit gained by God’s only begotten Son, we become God’s adopted children. We are made full members of His family, with all rights and privileges appertaining thereto.
Election calls for Godly living (1:4c). Adoption helps make this goal possible. Adoption provides the privilege of access to heavenly places, where one receives the blessing (1:3), wisdom (3:10), and power (6:12) essential to promote Godliness.
Adoption provides us the right of access to God’s presence. Whenever you approach your heavenly seat (2:6), always plead your adoption. Say “Father” often. If Satan tries to block your entry to heavenly places, do not be intimidated. If he asks your claim to enter, say, “I come as neither a servant nor a subject, but as a child of the Father. This is my home. I belong here.”
Eph. 1:5c “. . .to himself. . .”
The preposition “to” indicates we had to be brought to God from a distance. The fact we are adopted implies we are not His children naturally. We all “were by nature the children of wrath” (EP 2:3). Jesus described His antagonists as being “of your father the devil” (JN 8:44).
Adoption is God’s way of retrieving His elect, and returning them to what He meant for man in the first place. The purpose of adoption is to undo the consequences of history’s most disastrous event. The most tragic occurrence of all time was the one we call the Fall, when man rebelled against God and cast Him off.
We were children of wrath and Satan by birth and by choice, but God adopted us. This is extraordinary. If a king were to adopt a son, one would assume the new heir would be taken from “respectable” stock, from a loyal family of nobles or lords.
God, however, chose as His heirs the seed and imitators of one who rebelled against God directly, even in Eden. We are the descendants and copiers of a thief, one who reached forth his hand and stole from his Master’s garden.
“When God passed by the field in which we were lying, he saw no tears in our eyes till he put them there himself; he saw no contrition in us until he had given us repentance; and there was no beauty in us that could induce him to adopt us–on the contrary, we were everything that was repulsive; and if he had said, when he passed by, “Thou art cursed, be lost for ever,” it would have been nothing but what we might have expected. . . .But no; he found a rebellious child, a filthy, frightful, ugly child; (and) took it to his bosom” (Spurgeon). Why?. . .
Eph. 1:5d “. . .according to the good pleasure of his will. . .”
Adoption must be attributed solely to God’s glad grace. The act of adoption was one of love and sheer delight. God has always loved to save sinners. He chose us because it pleased Him to do so. He wanted to adopt us.
The ground of His choosing can not be found in us. Human merit finds no place in this scheme. No outward cause moved upon God. His choice was free, unforced, and spontaneous.
Humans love one another often because we perceive lovable traits in each other. God loves us because He loves us. His love flows like an artesian well. Nothing on the outside prompts it.
Eph. 1:6a “To the praise of the glory of his grace. . .”
“Glory” denotes manifest excellence, magnificence, splendor. Used of God, “glory” refers to an extraordinary revelation of a certain attribute, so that it captures the attention of, and impressively overwhelms, all beholders.
The giving of the law at Sinai was a “glory” of God’s holiness. The miracles at Pentecost were a “glory” of the Spirit’s power. The heavens declare the “glory” of God as creator.
The greatest “glory” of God’s grace is the salvation of sinners. A born again believer is the ultimate triumph of grace, the best monument and finest trophy to unmerited favor. We are mankind’s hope of seeing God’s grace in action. Others should be able to see in our lives the results of miraculous regeneration.
“Christ in you” truly is “the hope of glory” (CL 1:27), the best hope of God being revealed to the world. We bring “glory” to God when the God we know is the God we show.
The first, immediate purpose of our calling is to be “holy and without blame before him in love” (v. 4). The final, ultimate goal is that God’s grace might be displayed and adored. We are to “be holy and without blame before him in love” in order that we and all around us might adoringly recognize the manifest excellence of God’s unmerited favor.
Eph. 1:6b “. . .wherein he hath made us accepted. . .”
This phrase is a triple allusion to grace. The adverb “wherein” modifies the word “grace” mentioned immediately before.
“He hath made us” positions saints as recipients only. God does all the work in saving us. Salvation is of God, not of man.
“Accepted” means “highly favored.” The same word is used of the virgin Mary in Luke 1:28. We do not worship Mary, but do respect her. When Gabriel spoke to her, she was special to God, “highly favored.” Paul uses the same word here to refer to all believers. Like Mary, we have been “accepted” by God. He highly favored Mary by putting His Son in her body physically. He highly favors us by putting His Son in our bodies spiritually.
Believers are “accepted,” “highly favored,” objects of divine delight. God looks upon us with pleasure. He likes us.
We need to pause and dwell on this thought a moment. Worms, mortals, sinners, accepted–the latter word seems inconsistent with the former three, and interrupts the logical sequence.
To pity us, or show mercy to us, might be understandable; to accept us makes no sense. We are not merely justified, pardoned, and forgiven, but accepted, highly favored, received into the very heart of God.
When kings marry commoners, the world marvels, but what is this? God has wed sinners unto Himself. This is amazing! Never lose the “surprise” of your salvation. Always be astonished.
We have to confess sins constantly. We begin every day asking for forgiveness, and end each day the same way. Nevertheless, God accepts us, highly favors us. “I could not believe that if it were not in my Bible” (Ironside).
Eph. 1:6c “. . .in the beloved.”
Here we find the Person of grace. Acceptance is found only in “the beloved.” This golden name for Jesus describes the Father’s attitude toward His only begotten Son.
Of all Adam’s race, Jesus alone is loveable in Himself. He is special to the Father. In a unique way, the Father’s love has ever been, is, and evermore shall be, focused, centered, and intensely concentrated on the Son.
Jesus rested in the bosom of the Father from eternity past. When Jesus took on flesh, He slipped from the glory, from the magnificence, and more astoundingly, from the Father’s bosom. Leaving the former was nothing compared to leaving the latter.
When the Son left Heaven, His Father’s love went with Him. In the incarnation, Jesus was still “the beloved” (LK 3:22). According to our text, Jesus remains “the beloved.”
No one begins to understand the love of God until he has begun to comprehend the meaning of Jesus as “the beloved.” Universalists bank on the love of God to save all. Such reasoning betrays improper understanding of being “in the beloved.” We the unlovable are accepted only because of, and in, the beloved.
Through Jesus alone could a holy God find the fitting channel for His love to man. Every blessing man ever enjoys comes from Heaven, and is always bestowed in and through Jesus Christ.
All mankind enjoys God’s common mercies and blessings because of Jesus, but salvation comes only to those who are “in the beloved.” God’s general love extends to all humanity, but His salvation-love, love which manifests itself as grace bestowing salvation, extends only to Jesus. To receive salvation-love, one must come into Jesus, for He alone is the conveyor of it.
No man outside Christ can be saved. On the other hand, no man in Christ can be lost.
The believer’s safety is found in the truth nothing can destroy the Father’s love for the Son. As long as Christ is God’s, the believer is God’s, for the believer is in Christ.
Our eternal security is in Jesus, not in us. Those who believe one can fall from grace see security as partly resting on themselves and their own ability to endure.
No! Do not put that burden on me! I want to lean wholly on Jesus. I desire not one ounce of responsibility for my salvation. If salvation depends on me, I might as well quit right now. I have no hope. If security hangs on my righteousness, I will be lost by sunset. “Father, view me in the beloved.”
Pity those who seek righteousness by works. They never feel secure. They always feel unsafe, fearing they might slip at any moment. They are ever faced with making the agonizing choice of distinguishing between bad and not-so-bad sins. They do not use the Catholic terms “venial” and “mortal,” but in essence believe the same thing.
We reject such notions. Sin is sin, each is horrible, from the least evil thought in the mind to the grossest deed in the flesh. Any and all make us unable in and of ourselves to begin or maintain salvation. Our only hope is to be hidden in, totally enveloped in, the beloved.
If we are not secure here in the beloved, what is to make us think we will be secure in Heaven in the Beloved? Angels fell away in Heaven. If we are safe in Heaven, but not on earth, we are saved essentially by a place rather than by a person. This can never be. All credit for salvation belongs to the beloved.
This verse six sings to us of grace. Grace is the lead soloist. In the background a quartet echoes the strain in four-part harmony: “wherein,” “He hath made us,” “accepted,” “in the beloved.”
The Bible has to repeat this chorus almost to the point of redundancy to get the doctrine of grace into our feeble, sinful minds. The Fall made us proud. Grace galls our old nature. We desperately want to do something to merit salvation, but God will not allow it.
Grace is a marvelous paradox, too good to be true, but true anyway. Every excuse I conjure up to explain why God should not save me seems to become in the mind of God the very reason He wants to save me.
I say, “I do not know why you want me, Lord, I am ugly.” He replies, “I want you to be ugly so that I can make you pretty.”
“I am dirty.” “I enjoy making you clean.”
“I am empty.” “The perfect match for fullness.”
“I am ragged.” “I delight in clothing you in the robes of my Son’s righteousness.”
“I am ignorant.” “It is my pleasure to give you the mind of Christ.”
“I am evil.” “I know. I love making you holy.”
I surrender. Lord, you win. My mind does not comprehend. My heart overflows.
We cannot sing adequately about such grace as this. Tell the saints in Heaven to sing a little louder in our stead. We cannot preach adequately about this. Tell Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones to do it for us in Heaven.
Eph. 1:7a “In whom. . .”
The preposition used here is important. Redemption is “in” Jesus, not only “through” Jesus. A man’s only hope is to live in Jesus, to connect one’s life in vital union with Christ’s.
Eph. 1:7b “. . .we have redemption. . .”
“Redemption” meant paying a ransom to free a slave. It is another word to emphasize our security. A redeemed slave could not be bought again. Otherwise, his redemption was meaningless. The very purpose of redemption is to remove from slavery forever.
The preceding verses emphasize events prior to creation. We were in God’s plan from eternity, but the Divine process was disturbed, complicated, by sin. A glitch occurred in Eden. Lloyd-Jones said, dealing with our sins is the only problem with which God has ever been confronted. To bring us to our predestined position, Jesus entered time to correct what went wrong in time.
Redemption bears directly on the plight men suffer due to the intrusion of sin. The ones God created, including those chosen as His elect, fell into a bondage of their own making.
Men became slaves to sin and to Satan. We are by nature, by choice, and by habit, pawns in a slave-market. Unable to control our own desires, we love and hate our sins at the same time. We fail to live up to our own standards, much less God’s. A man honest with himself will echo the despairing cry of Seneca, “What men need is a hand let down to lift them up.”
This exactly describes “redemption.” It is a ransom paid to liberate from bondage people powerless to help themselves. God not only created us, He redeemed us from our self-induced slavery. God wrought us in creation, sought us when astray, bought us with a ransom, and brought us back to Himself again.
Kent Hughes tells of a boy who spent months making a model sailboat, the joy of his life. He enjoyed playing with it by the hour. One day the wind carried his treasure out to sea. The boy waited, but his boat was gone. Distraught, he went home sobbing. Daily he walked the shore, looking in vain for his boat. One day he was walking downtown and saw his boat in a store window. He claimed the boat, but the store owner had paid good money to a fisherman to buy it. To own the boat, the lad would have to pay the price. He went to work immediately, doing anything to make money. Once he earned enough to buy back his boat, he took it in his arms and lovingly said, “You are twice mine now–because I made you, and because I bought you.” God says the same of us.
Eph. 1:7c “. . .through his blood. . .”
Redemption required the substitutionary death of one perfect life for countless imperfect ones. The ransom required to secure our redemption was nothing less than the precious blood of Jesus the Beloved. His blood is the immeasurably costly stream whereby God’s redemption flows to us. If a lesser price could have sufficed, God would have avoided shedding His Beloved’s blood. However, there was no other way. Sin is no trifle. Sin is a crime so severe that only the shedding of Christ’s blood could overcome it. The cross says loud and clear, “Sin is heinous and huge.”
“Sin had to be punished because it carried guilt with it” (Lloyd-Jones). Sin created a debt which had to be paid. Only Jesus had enough intrinsic worth, sufficient value in Himself, to offer his life as a price large enough to cover the debt.
God could not merely “speak the word” and redeem us. He could not tell His wayward elect, “All is well. We will ignore sin. Come back home.” God is God, not Santa Claus. God is holy. God is righteous; He has to do things right. He is just, and cannot act contrary to His own self. To treat sin lightly and loosely would be wrong. Such an attitude would encourage people to continue in wrong-doing, in “anti-God” activity.
Eph. 1:7d “. . .the forgiveness of sins. . .”
A vital result of redemption is the “forgiveness” of sins. “Aphesis” refers to loosing a person from that which binds him. Before redemption, men know only bondage of mind and will. Forgiveness entails freedom.
Note the progression: redemption is the paying of a ransom, Jesus’ blood is the price paid, Forgiveness is the resulting loosing of the shackles and chains which bind us. Forgiveness is walking away from the bondage of the slave-market as an adopted child of the king. Imagine! Me–a slave turned prince.
Our text pictures slaves laying down heavy and burdensome shackles of sin, never to wear them again. The context leads us to think the reference is to God’s “legal” forgiveness, not His “personal” forgiveness. We seek the latter repeatedly. Being a Person, “personal,” God is hurt each time we sin. We offend God, but want His smile, thus much of our Christian lives is spent in repeatedly asking God for His “personal” forgiveness.
Our text refers to God’s “legal” forgiveness, whereby He removes from us forever the threat of everlasting punishment. Redemption provides legal forgiveness for all our sins–past, present, and future. Every believer enjoys complete emancipation from the everlasting consequences of sin. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (RM 8:1). We are forever released from any danger of Hell.
We do not begin to appreciate our legal forgiveness until we comprehend the extent of our guilt, the full weight of the “ball and chain” God loosed from us. When God saved us, Hell fell from our ledger. We received total and absolute freedom from any worry of damnation. Viewed in this light, “freedom” takes on an extraordinarily meaningful hue for believers.
Slaves who escaped via the blessed underground railroad usually arrived in Canada with only rags on their backs. Nevertheless, they often kissed the soil, clapped their hands, and danced for joy, for though they had few things, in being free they had all. As they crossed the border, they laid down a burden. No one had to tell them what it meant to be released from a shackle.
We, too, were in the bondage of slavery before Christ redeemed us. We have some here to whom cursing was a habit, drunkenness an instinct, and immorality a way of life. We have stories of grace among us which would make the saints in heaven sing louder. Not everyone, though, has been a public, flagrant violator. Nevertheless, we all were equally in need of legal forgiveness. In light of eternity, no sin is particularly worse than any other. All sin damns. Each sin has Hell in it. Thus we all have had an infinitely heavy weight lifted from us.
We were all like Bunyan’s Pilgrim. Standing in rags while reading the Bible he wept because it told him of his lostness. He had a huge burden on his back, the weight of his sins. It is this everlasting drag of sin which Jesus takes away forever at conversion. Sing it with conviction, “At the cross, where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away.”
Do you remember the burden, the shackle, the full weight of your chain? T. DeWitt Talmadge was one of the greatest preachers ever. The story of how his family became Christians dramatically pictures the “burden.” His grandparents went to hear Charles Finney preach and were wonderfully converted. They came home seeking to win their adolescent children to Jesus, but the children smiled and went off to a party. As they left, Mother said, “I’m going to stay on my knees, praying for your salvation until you come back.” When they returned from the party, their dear mother, a new Christian, was down on her knees, praying for them.
The next morning the daughter was heard sobbing in her room. Her parents found her under the “burden” of deep conviction. She sobbed out the fact that her brother Elijah was in the barn, and David her other brother was in the wagon shed, both weeping under the “burden.” Mom and Dad ran to the barn. Elijah, who later became a preacher, was completely bowed down before God under conviction. In the wagon shed, David, who became the father of T. DeWitt, was also weighted with the heaviness of sin. News of these five conversions spread like wildfire. The next Sunday, two hundred people in their town were saved.
The “burden” may not always be sensed as dramatically as it was by the Talmadge children, but it must be acknowledged before one can be forgiven. A man highly revered once gained a pardon for his brother, a murderer. The honorable man went to ask his brother what he would do if he received a pardon. With hatred glaring from his eyes, he launched a verbal tirade, “I would kill the judge who sentenced me, and then kill the main witness.” The good brother rightly never took the pardon out of his pocket. A man with no sense of slavery to sin, should not be forgiven, and will not be forgiven by God.
The needed spirit was shown by one for whom Dr. Doddridge secured a pardon. As the saintly preacher presented it to the prisoner in his cell, the convict fell at Dr. Doddridge’s feet, crying, “Sir, I am yours ever; every drop of my blood is yours; it thanks you for having mercy on me; all my life is yours!” The man knew he had received a forgiveness he did not deserve.
Is this your attitude? Do you remember the burden? Are you thankful for God’s redemption and forgiveness?
Eph. 1:7e “. . .according to the riches of his grace. . .”
Believers enjoy a “legal” forgiveness of sins (1:7d) which removes them forever from the threat of everlasting punishment. All our sins–past, present, future–are legally dealt with in redemption. We are forever released from any danger of Hell.
This should not surprise us, for God forgives “according to the riches of his grace.” No one expects a millionaire to donate only fifty cents to charity. Similarly, we should expect God to give royally, in accordance with His abundant supplies of grace.
Ours is not a God of little grace. Jesus said, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (JN 4:14).
God’s mercy is never in short supply. His heart harbors more than enough grace to keep each of us saved for eternity. The Lord cannot give a small pardon or a chintzy forgiveness.
A Christian should never feel deprived, for God has chosen to deal with us “according to the riches of his grace.” Riches!–infinitely beyond our ability to comprehend. Efforts to understand it are attempts to search out the unsearchable.
Riches!–absolute, complete, and abundant. Riches!–enough to save a dying thief on a cross; enough left to save a Saul of Tarsus; millions of conversions later we ask with Charles Wesley,
Depth of mercy! can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Yes, enough is reserved for us. God’s riches are inexhaustible, all that has been taken out of it has not diminished it one whit.
Relish it. “According to the riches of his grace,” we are redeemed and forgiven, forever! Never cease to be amazed.
Eph. 1:8a “Wherein he hath abounded toward us. . .”
The word “abounded” pictures a liquid overflowing the capacity of its container and streaming freely in every direction. We do not have to pry God’s abundant mercies loose. His grace is a pump no one has to prime. It flows freely of its own accord.
God cannot give grudgingly. He has to be liberal. Being love, He can act in only one way toward the elect. His ocean of love flows toward us in wave upon wave.
His generous “legal” forgiveness pictures how liberal He is in ongoing “personal” forgiveness. The crimson flood can be blocked only by our own hesitation to receive what is ours. The measure of God’s gift is thwarted if we bring a little cup of faith. “According to thy faith, be it unto thee.” Our finite cups of faith frustrate God’s flow of infinite grace. When repentant, always expect full forgiveness.
Never forget, this whole plan of redemption and forgiveness was God’s idea. There is as much joy in His heart when He forgives, as there is in our hearts when we are forgiven. When the shepherd finds his lost sheep, “he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing” (LK 15:5). When the prodigal son came home, the father cried, “Let us eat, and be merry” (LK 15:23). God loves to give forgiveness as much as we love to receive it.
Eph. 1:8b “. . .in all wisdom and prudence. . .”
God gives not only redemption and forgiveness, but also provides understanding of what to do with them. “Wisdom,” the highest and noblest form of knowledge, sees into the heart of things, and perceives them as they really are. Wisdom understands the cosmic matters of God and man, right and wrong, life and death, time and eternity, Heaven and Hell.
“Prudence” applies this wisdom to our everyday lives. Prudence, by planning proper deeds, puts into action what we know. We receive wisdom not only to be academic or philosophical. We are made wise in order to be prudent, to act aright.
God gives us wisdom to grasp the divine purpose of the ages, to understand the place we occupy in it. He then gives us prudence to live our daily lives accordingly. “Christ gives to men the ability to see the great ultimate truths of eternity and to solve the problems of each moment of time” (Barclay).
We know God, His redemption, His forgiveness, and also know how to live. The Psalmist revelled in the latter. “Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts” (PS 119:98-100).
Eph. 1:9a “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will,”
“Mystery” refers to a truth which was hidden in God’s counsels until He chose to reveal it to mankind. It is “something that is undiscoverable by the unaided human mind” (Lloyd-Jones).
Let me illustrate the New Testament meaning of “mystery.” Before this service, I stepped into a room and did something. Unless I tell you, you cannot 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,” something men could never figure out on their own. Without a straightforward and authoritative revelation, men would know nothing certain about God’s salvation, all knowledge of God’s ways would be unreliable speculation.
The mystery of God’s will is, made known to all. The Gospel is not a closely-guarded secret, a cryptic message revealed only to a few select initiates. No, a thousand times, no. Christianity hides nothing. The Bible holds nothing back. It heralds abroad its message. All that is needful is revealed.
Because it has been revealed to believers, they are under obligation to tell it to others. We are “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 C 4:1). God would not keep it a secret, neither should we. We must go everywhere telling everyone about this wondrous Gospel we have heard.
Eph. 1:9b “. . .according to his good pleasure which he hath
purposed in himself:”
The Gospel, conceived in eternity past in the heart of God, has been revealed in time to men not because we deserve any such thing, but because it pleased God to do so. In salvation, everything can be traced to God’s “good pleasure.”
Therefore, I urge you, stop trying to buy off God. Enjoy grace. Do not try to earn God’s favor, before or after salvation. Come always as suppliant, never as achiever; as a beggar, not a commander. Do come, but always come as one undeserving.
We never come because we deserve to come. We come “without one plea” made in our behalf. Our attitude must ever be like the one expressed this week by my friend Dave Eggers. He said at the Judgment he will say in defense of his life lived on earth, “No excuses, Sir.” We must always display this spirit. We have not one leg of merit to stand on. We come to Him because His blood was shed for us, and because He bids us come (Charlotte Elliott).
Nothing in my hand I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.
Our message to sinners lost and sinners saved is, forgiveness can be found. 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 “purposed in himself” to endure the penalty for sin instead of inflicting it?