The Church in Christ
Some people have called Ephesians “God’s love letter to the church.” So, since God is still God, and we are His church, I can’t wait to see what He has to say to us. I feel just like the little boy who has just gotten a letter from his best friend who moved away. Picture him running back from the mailbox waiving the letter in his hand. He runs in the house yelling, “I got a letter, I got a letter!” Then he carefully tears open the envelope and pulls out the letter inside. Think of his excitement as he slowly and carefully pores over each word. That’s the way I feel today.
Within the next few weeks, our political leaders will be delivering some very important speeches to the American public. I heard on the radio the other day that the governor’s office is hard at work finalizing his annual State of the State address. With the new congress and the new Iraq policy, it will be interesting to hear President Bush’s annual State of the Union address. We all know how messed up government can be. But can you imagine having to give an annual State of the Church address? What would we say? Would we talk about all the ways we mess up? Or the church leaders across the country who have fallen to immorality? Would we focus on conflicts within churches? Or instead, would we talk about how blessed we are? Would we talk about what Jesus Christ has done for us? That’s where Paul started. He started his letter to the churches in Ephesus by reminding them of the tremendous blessings they have in Jesus. In the passage we’re looking at today, Paul starts by getting the church’s focus back where it needs to be. Before he goes on to talk about the way they should live and worship and treat each other, he refocuses them on what’s important. He refocuses them on the Lord Jesus Christ by pointing out the tremendous blessings they have in Him. Let’s spend this first Sunday morning of the New Year refocusing on Jesus Christ. As we look into this text this morning, I want each of us to see the blessings God has given us in Christ Jesus. And when we see those blessings, I want each of us to leave this place this morning praising His name for them. In order to do that, we’re going to look at four blessings God has given His church in Jesus Christ. The first blessing is that God has a plan for His church in Christ.
God has a plan for His church in Christ. Have you ever worked on a project that it seemed like whoever was in charge didn’t have a clue what they were doing? It’s absolutely miserable to work on a project like that. But what a blessing it is to be part of something that’s organized and well planned. At the watchnight service, we saw some slides of when the new addition was being built on the church. As we looked at those pictures, it was obvious there was a plan for what the building was supposed to look like when it was finished. If there hadn’t been a plan, who knows what it would have turned out like. That’s the same way that God builds His church. He has had a plan for His people since before the beginning of time. His plan has always been to bless us. So many times, we get confused when we think about being blessed. But what is Paul talking about here when he talks about blessing? He says we’re blessed with every spiritual blessing. Paul was sitting in prison in Rome when he wrote this letter, so I can guarantee you he’s not talking about material things. The blessings he’s talking about aren’t material—they’re spiritual. And God planned them for us from eternity past. He planned to bless us. He planned to bless us by making us holy. The passage says that, “He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Before the foundation of the world, God planned that we should live free from the bondage and power of sin. Not out of obligation—out of love. God planned to bless us and make us holy. But the biggest blessing of all is that He planned to adopt us as sons. Verse 5 says, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” He didn’t have to—there was nothing in us that compelled Him to accept us. He accepts us purely and simply out of His eternal love for us—a love that He has had for us since even before He created us. That was His plan all along. His plan was to take us as rebellious, selfish creatures and adopt us as sons through the shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ. He planned to bless us in Christ. Bless us by adopting us and bless us by making us holy. The first blessing God has given His church is that He has a plan in Christ. But not only does God have a plan in Christ, He also makes provision for His church in Christ. The second blessing God has given His church is that He makes provision in Christ.
God makes provision for His church in Christ. From before the beginning of time, God knew that His creation would rebel against Him. My wife and I have three wonderful kids who I love with all my heart and would not trade for the world. But can you imagine if somehow God revealed to a young couple that if they had a child, that child would grow up to curse them, spit on them, abuse them, and eventually brutally murder them? Do you think they would go ahead and get pregnant? Or do you think they would use the best birth control they could find to prevent the baby’s conception? God knew His creation would rebel. He knew we would curse Him. He knew we would put His Son to death on a cruel Roman cross. He knew that, but He loved us enough to create us anyway. He loved us enough not only to create us, but when we rebelled, He loved us enough to provide a way to restore our relationship with Him. In our rebellion, it is as if we are enslaved by sin. But God made provision for us—He purchased us back. That’s what that word redeemed means. It means that God bought us back from the master of sin and rebellion we had chosen. His provision for us cost Him a lot. As a matter of fact, it cost Him everything. Jesus loved us so much that He temporarily gave up His power and position in heaven. Philippians 2:7 says, “He made himself of no reputation.” That literally means that He emptied Himself. He emptied Himself and came to earth to walk in the dirt for 33 years. He came to be rejected, abused, mocked, and eventually killed. And He did it for one reason—to make provision for us. He did it that we might, as verse 7 says, “have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” God provides redemption for us through the shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ. God has a plan for His church in Christ and He makes provision for His church in Christ. He also fulfils a purpose for His church in Christ.
God fulfils a purpose for his church in Christ. There is a lot of talk these days about purpose. It seems that people today are spending a lot of time seeking their purpose in life. The quest throughout the second half of the twentieth century was to go for the American Dream. The goal was to have a nice house, a couple of cars, and lots of stuff. But that wasn’t enough. When we had enough, we had to have more. We had to have more, but it still didn’t give us a sense of purpose. That’s why our inheritance isn’t a material inheritance—our inheritance is in Jesus Christ. Because our inheritance is in Jesus Christ, He gives us purpose. He gives us purpose because verse 11 says, we are, “predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Now, we don’t have to get into some big debate about predestination. I feel the same way that Charles Haddon Spurgeon did. Spurgeon was one of the greatest Baptist preachers of all time and was known as the “Prince of Preachers.” Somebody once asked him how he reconciled the concept of predestination and the sovereignty of God with the notion that man has a free will to choose his eternal destination. His answer was classic. He said, “I see no need to reconcile between friends.” In other words, the Bible teaches that God is sovereign. The Bible also teaches that man is responsible for his actions. We are responsible to act in accordance with God’s will. And because God is in control, we are responsible to obey Him—that is our purpose. Our purpose is to obey Him. Even when it is uncomfortable. Even when it is unpopular. Even when it doesn’t seem to make sense. We are to obey Him because He is in control. He is in control and will work all things according to the counsel of His will. His promise is to work all things together for our good. Verse 12 tells us why—it says, “That we should be to the praise of His glory.” You see, it’s not about us. Our salvation is not about us. It’s about God. It’s about bringing honor and glory and praise to the God who saved us. That’s our purpose. He works all things together for our good in order that we might recognize He’s the one who did it. He does it. He’s the one who deserves the praise. God gives us a purpose to praise Him for what He has done for us in His Son Jesus Christ. God has a plan for His church in Christ. He makes provision for His church in Christ. And He fulfils a purpose for His church in Christ. But that’s not all. He blesses us with one more spiritual blessing. He keeps a promise for His church in Christ.
God keeps a promise for His church in Christ. When God blesses us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, He seals His blessing with His Holy Spirit of promise. For hundreds of years before Paul wrote this letter, kings would write down their decrees. They would then seal the decree with a wax seal. The seal of the king signified four things. It signified security. When the king placed his seal on a document, it could not be broken. Even the king himself could not break it. It was the word of the King and could not be violated or revoked. It signified authenticity. Everyone that saw that seal instantly knew the decree was from the king, not from anyone else. Since the design was unique to the king, counterfeits were easily recognizable. It signified ownership. If the king placed his seal on a decree, it showed people who it belonged to. The king would use his seal to mark land and property deeds. If it had his seal, it belonged to him—forever. Finally, it signified authority. A decree with the king’s seal on it was as good as if the king himself was standing there commanding it. That was the kind of seal Paul had in mind when he wrote this. In verse 13, Paul says that after hearing the Word of truth and trusting in Christ, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Just like the king’s seal Paul was thinking about, God’s seal is one of a kind. It is instantly recognizable as His personal seal. The Holy Spirit’s seal cannot be broken. It cannot be violated or revoked. Counterfeits will quickly be found out. The Holy Spirit’s seal means we belong to the king. We are His possession, and as His possession, the things we say and do should represent Him. When we do represent Him and speak His Word, we speak it with the same authority as if it came from His very own mouth. But not only does God bless us with the Holy Spirit of promise for a seal, He blesses us with the Holy Spirit of promise for a guarantee. When we are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and sealed by His Holy Spirit, God guarantees us a place with Him eternal in the heavens. Paul put it this way in Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of redemption.” God will finish what He starts in our lives. He’s promised it. He’s sealed it with His Holy Spirit of promise and He’s guaranteed it. Not for our glory--but as our passage says, “unto the praise of His glory.” We started off today talking about getting our focus back on Christ. Where is your focus? Is your focus on you and your feelings and your needs? Is it on how busy you are and how much stuff you’ve got to do? Is it on some personal disappointment or hurt you’ve gone through? Is it time you got your focus back on Jesus this morning? Is it time you praised God and thanked Him for the blessings He’s given you in Jesus Christ? Do you need to praise Him for His plan for you in Christ? For His provision for you in Christ? For His purpose for you in Christ? And for His promise for you in Christ? Jesus has a plan, provision, purpose, and promise for you today—all you have to do is focus on Him.