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God Started Loving Us a Long, Long Time Ago

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Title:  GOD STARTED LOVING US A LONG, LONG TIME AGO

Text:  Ephesians 1:1-6

Introduction:

            He loves you.  He’s always loved you.  He never stopped loving you.  And greater yet, He loved you before your family name ever existed.  God has had an eternal love for you that began before this world was even formed.  Just think of it…He loved you before He performed the creation of this home we call earth, knowing how it would turn out, knowing man would mess up and He would have to send His own Son as the Savior for wretched, poor, blind, naked and undeserving people.  But I’m glad He did, because you and I are included in that plan.  Can you praise the Lord with me?  Amen!

            How you begin a letter is often given a lot of thought.  You have in mind the content for further on in a letter, but you want that “just right” opening paragraph.  Let’s take a look at how Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to open his letter to the Ephesians.  Read Text.

1.      Paul introduces himself as the author of this letter by stating that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.  What is the whole story behind those words “by the will of God” that you would miss if you just passed by them?  (God interrupted his life on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians and turned him around to be the greatest Apostle to the Gentiles of all time; God chose him, not the other way around.)     What would you call an apostle who became one not by the will of God?  (A false apostle.)

2.      What do you recall Apostles do according to the New Testament?  (Men God uniquely chose to be the foundation layers of the church and the receivers, teachers, and writers of His final revelation—the New Testament. The apostolic duties were to preach the gospel, teach and pray, work miracles, build up other leaders of the church, and write the Word of God.)  Acts 6:4; 14:23; 2 Cor. 12:12

3.      Since the other Apostles received their training from Jesus personally, how did Paul receive his?  (He was taught by the revelation of God in Arabia.)  Gal. 1:11-17 
Insight:  By mentioning his apostleship, Paul simply established his undeserved but divinely bestowed authority to speak in God’s behalf.

4.      Notice Paul addresses this letter to the saints at Ephesus and those who are faithful in Christ Jesus.  Is a saint an extra special Christian?  Who is a saint?  (Anyone redeemed by the blood of the Lamb is a saint.)  Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2
Insight:  If we are not saints, then we have no right to read and benefit from this letter, for it is addressed to the saints.

5.      “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Do you have any idea why Paul would open with a greeting like this?  (He wanted to address both the Greeks and the Hebrews who were in the church there.  “Grace to you” – charis, is a greeting the Greeks made to one another.  “Peace to you” – shalom, is a greeting the Hebrews made to one another.)
Insight:  Grace is the fountain of which peace is the stream…and both flow from God, whereby we are spiritually prosperous beyond measure.

6.      What’s the magnitude of the blessings that comes to mind when you read verse 3?  (You cannot number the blessings that come our way from our Heavenly Father.  There may even be blessings we have received that we never recognized when they came our way.)     Name some of the “spiritual blessings” that you are thinking of.

7.      Now we come to our theme verse for this lesson – verse 4.  Can you think of any reason why God chose you?     What does it do for your heart to know that He chose you before the foundation of the world?  Rev. 13:8     If God chose you that long ago, how long did it take (how many years of your life) for you to truly realize His love for you and respond to it?     How do you picture God watching you all those years and anxiously waiting for that moment when His love burst into heart and mind and responded to Him?     Do you think you have fully grasped the depth, height and breadth of His love for you?

8.      Notice that God chose you to be holy and blameless before Him.  Since when have we been holy and blameless?  How did we get that way?  Eph. 5:25-27; Col. 1:21-23

9.      Now we get to a sticky verse – verse 5 – where it says God predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.  What’s your view of the word “predestined”?  (Basically there are two views: 1) Calvin’s view where man has no free will and God chooses who will go to Heaven or Hell.  2) Armenia view where man has a free will to choose Christ, but that God’s omniscience knows who will choose Him and who will not.)
Rom. 8:28-30
Insight:
  God knows the consequences of our own choices…and He determined a long time ago what the consequences would be for those who choose or reject Him.
Insight:  One of my college students wrote in a paper: Predestination is entering the door of salvation by our response to the Gospel message, “whosoever will my come.”  On the inside of the door is written, “Chosen from the beginning of time.”

10.  I love the rest of verse 4 – “He adopted us as sons according to the kind intention of His will.”  We were out there lost in the world – He found us, and then took us into His home and adopted us into His family.  What is your heart feeling right now at that thought?
Insight:  What amazing compassion!  We are more than a pardoned convict…we are adopted sons and daughters of the Son of God, the King of Kings!

Conclusion:

            No wonder Paul concludes this first paragraph with, “to the praise of the glory of his grace which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”  Can you think of any better way to phrase the wonder of such love the Father has for us?  Indeed His grace towards us is to be praised because it is so glorious!  Indeed it is a wonderful love that the Father bestowed upon us!  Indeed we are loved…by the Beloved!

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