"God's Electing Love in Christ"- Ephesians 1:3-14
â€œGODâ€™S ELECTING LOVE IN CHRISTâ€
REV. CHARLES R. BIGGS
Part Two in a sermon series on Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians
Last week we learned from the Book of Ephesians that Grace and peace are the two main ingredients for life in the Christian community. Grace and peace should inform our ultimate identity in Jesus so that we can live worshiping and serving God as we are called to do.
Summary statement for today's sermon: Predestination and election (or being chosen) humbles and exalts Godâ€™s purposes, power and glory. The path of our apprehension of this Biblical teaching must begin at the foot of the cross. The cross is the realization of predestination and election and the beginning of the response of the true worship of God.
There was a real and radical change of the Apostle Paul by Godâ€™s grace from inside-out- -he was a new creation- -with a new identity in Jesus Christ: â€œPaul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God: (1:1b)
â€œAn Apostle of Christ Jesusâ€- No longer, a blasphemer and persecutor of the Church: Not â€œSaul, a Pharisee of Pharisee, self-righteous, proud, according to the â€œtraditions of the fathersâ€.
â€œBy the will of Godâ€- Not his own idea, but according to Christâ€™s call.
Paul now encourages the Ephesians who were part of a wicked worldly environment, that there greatest hope is in Godâ€™s electing love in Christ.
What had changed for the Ephesian Christians? The incomes, social status, and religious thought of the Ephesian Christians were all transformed through Christ; former witches, pagans, greedy business men, and greedy religious men were transformed by Christâ€™s grace and love. No longer did the Ephesians define themselves and their identities as mere Ephesians, but now were saints- -because of grace and peace.
The Book of Ephesians is to teach them (and us) how to live as Christians; that is, how to live out their new identity in Jesus Christ. The Book of Ephesians is how to make their identity of Christ primary, supreme, foundational, and to either to rid oneself of former identities, or submit oneâ€™s identity to the gospel of grace and peace.
Before the Ephesians believed, worldly identities, hopes, riches and dreams of power and riches controlled and consumed them. But the Ephesians were called to a new identity in Jesus.
The Christians were loved in Christ from the foundation of the world!
Three points of focus of sermon: (1) Reality of Election: â€œYou are chosen!â€ Eph. 1:4-5, 11; Romans 9:6-25; (2) Realization of Election in Christ: â€œYou are loved!â€ (Eph. 1:3-6, 11-12); (3) Response to Election: â€œYou are to worship and live gratefullyâ€
I. Reality of Election: â€œYou are chosen!â€ Eph. 1:4-5, 11; Romans 9:6-25
What is it? God chose us before the foundation of the world â€œin Christâ€:
ESV Ephesians 1:4-5: ...Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us1 for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will...
ESV Ephesians 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will...
ESV Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
ESV John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
a. Theological Teaching of Election: God predestined, chose, elected us in Christ because he loved us and for no other reason. God was pleased to choose us in Christ.
b. Focus on the teaching of Romans 9: Paulâ€™s argument in the larger context of Romans 9 is that although Israel was privileged to receive much special revelation from God (9:4-5), many had rejected the Gospel and did not believe. Even the Incarnation of the Son of God was Godâ€™s revealing himself in Israelite flesh, not many had believed the truth (â€œHe came to His own but His own received Him notâ€).
This problem was not because of something faulty in Godâ€™s revelation (in Word or Deed) but it was a result of unbelief. Why had many not believed? Because some were chosen and some were not (I realize the difficulty of this right away, especially in our modern individualistic context of thinking).
c. Redemptive-Historical Teaching of Election: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/ Israel
The revelation of God from earliest redemptive-history had always taught predestination and election. From the beginning of Godâ€™s making the good news of the Gospel known, it was always by faith in Godâ€™s promise.
Salvation throughout redemptive history was always through faith in Godâ€™s promise.
ESV Romans 9:7-8: â€¦And not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring (cf. Genesis 21:10).
This means that it was not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise who are counted as true offspring of God (cf. John 8:41ff).
The promise of God did not include every Israelite â€“ but all those who would believe Godâ€™s promise of salvation (like Father Abraham). Ishmael was the oldest son and would have naturally (â€œaccording to the worldâ€™s way of doing thingsâ€) would have been made heir. But Godâ€™s election is realized through promise- -through grace â€“ Not Ishmael, but Isaac.
Not only is the truth of Godâ€™s election revealed in Father Abraham, but also in Isaac â€œson of the promiseâ€. Not Esau, but Jacob:
ESV Romans 9:10-12: And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad - in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call - 12 she was told, "The older will serve the younger."
God shows this throughout redemptive-history by showing his affection for the â€œunderdogâ€: the poor, the lame, the barren or infertile, the younger who would not have been heir, etc.
(1) Election before Esau and Jacob were born; (2) Election before they showed faith or unbelief (â€œhad done anything good or badâ€ v. 11); (3) Election according to Godâ€™s purpose (v. 11b). What is Godâ€™s purpose revealed here? To save by grace, to humble and reverse the worldâ€™s way of thinking and doing things; (4) Election by grace alone.
The focus in Ephesians 1:3-14 as well as Romans 9 is not on a personâ€™s faith or unbelief but on God and His purpose (Eph. 1:4-5, 11).
Paul goes on to write a summary statement of Godâ€™s election: â€œI will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassionâ€ (Romans 9:14).
The purpose of election is to be further studied in our next sermon (D.V.) but it is to encourage Christians of every age that those who believe in Christ, were first loved by God â€˜in Christâ€™ long before God created anything- - long before they were born, and this was to bring encouragement, assurance, confidence in Godâ€™s love for them that would lead to great praise and thanksgiving!
d. Problems with Election:
i. â€œUnjust and Unfairâ€ (Romans 9:14, 19)
In order to have a truly Biblical view of what is being taught in predestination and election, a sinner must initially respond with: â€œIs God unjust?â€ (Rom. 9:14) and/or â€œThat doesnâ€™t seem fairâ€ (Rom. 9:19). If you respond in this way, you are beginning to understand both God and the Biblical teaching.
This is how Paul assumes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Romans 9 that you will respond!
ii. â€œWhat about manâ€™s free will?â€ (Eph. 2:1-3; Romans 3:10-23)
â€œMan is free; God is free-erâ€, because God is God.
This fails first to understand God: God is a great and loving God who saves. God is a supreme God who shows mercy to undeserving sinners! God has a purpose, or a will to accomplish something eternal according to his divine brilliance (â€œaccording to His counselâ€ or â€œaccording to his purposeâ€- Eph. 1:3-14):
â€¦according to the purpose of his will... (1:5b)
â€¦according to the riches of his grace... (1:7b)
â€¦according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ...(1:8b)
having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will... (1:11b)
If we were not sinful, we would desire Godâ€™s will over our own; we would not be troubled by this if we could think and see clearly without sin.
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 9:16 very clearly: â€œSo then (salvation) depends not on human will or exertion (â€œrunsâ€), but on God, who has mercy.â€
Whether we realize it or not our focus as Christians is either on Godâ€™s purposes in election, or our purpose in choosing.
In other words, we either exalt the sovereignty of God and HIS PURPOSE and Free will, or we exalt the sovereignty of man and HIS PURPOSE and Free will. These cannot both be right. If those who focus on manâ€™s free will were right, they could consistently and logically pray a prayer like this (although they would notâ€”hopefully!):
"Lord, I thank thee I am not like those poor presumptuous Calvinists. Lord, I was born with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee of myself; I have improved my grace. If everybody had done the same with their grace that I have, they might all have been saved. Lord, I know thou dost not make us willing if we are not willing ourselves. Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but I do. There are many that will go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as I am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did notâ€”that is the difference between me and them." - Charles Spurgeon
If we are too busy trying to figure out the fairness of God, we may be blinded to His mercy to us as sinners.
II. Realization of Election in Christ: â€œYou are loved!â€ (Eph. 1:3-6, 11-12)
a. Predestination and Pride: â€œI see in Christ my sin of unbeliefâ€
We must be willing to admit that our questions of Godâ€™s injustice and the unfairness of God from our perspective may be tainted with sinful pride and arrogance.
We are very likely to hide our true condition before God (and even ourselves) behind what seems to be an innocent â€œphilosophical questionâ€ of how God works. â€œI want answers from God!â€ you say. â€œI demand of God to help me to understand what seems to be â€œinjusticeâ€ and â€œunfairness!!â€
But you (we) ask these questions not with a neutral heart and rational mind. We aks these questions with sinful and unbelieving hearts. We are to distrust even our most rational questions because the Bible says our hearts and minds are tainted by sin; we should expect to NOT see things Godâ€™s way.
You (I) need mercy- -first- -not answers. The answers may come as we get a better apprehension and appreciation for Godâ€™s mysterious revelation to man. But first- -
We need grace!!! We need to understand Godâ€™s grace to us in Christ.
If we want to talk about what seems to be unjust and unfair, letâ€™s take a look at the cross of Jesus Christ! The very King of kings and Lord of lords, the Son of God and Son of man, innocent of all original sin, actual sin, and unbelief before God- -yet tortured, brutally beaten, tormented, mocked, ridiculed, crying out in anguish crucified- -by both sinful men and women!
You want to talk about what seem unjust and unfair, then you must begin first at the crucifixion.
You want to talk about â€œunfairâ€?? Go to the cross of Christ Jesus! If at the cross your hearts are not melted into compassion, love, and humbled by Godâ€™s grace, then you will never understand election. Election is â€œin Christâ€ (that is Paulâ€™s point in Ephesians 1:3-14).
Until you realize that your sinfulness against God placed Christ on the cross, you will never be able to fathom Godâ€™s purpose of mercy and compassion in election.
Predestination and election will remain for you a mere philosophical game to hide your sins and unwillingness to repent before God. Why? Because you think youâ€™re smarter than God; you think youâ€™re smarter than others who believe this Biblical teaching.
You will carry on your game in this way: â€œAm I elect, or not elect, that is the question?!â€
But what the truth of Godâ€™s revelation calls you to first is the lavish grace that we see revealed in the love of the Son of God for sinners (Eph. 1:7-8):
ESV Ephesians 1:7-8: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insightâ€¦
Sin likes to hide as a â€œlegitimate philosophical and reasonable question.â€
God gives clear reasons in Scripture as I gave your before to explain his electing mercy to some and not all (here in Ephesians 1:3-14, and more fully and redemptive-historically in Romans 9).
God says clearly: â€œSo then God has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he willsâ€ (Romans 9:18). This is the clear theological reason for election and we donâ€™t like it because of pride. This exalts Godâ€™s will, Godâ€™s purpose above our own (and until we stand at the foot of the cross in humility we will never realize this!).
If we recognize our sins before God at the foot of the cross, then we should realize in humility that we have no right to speak again, or even questions Godâ€™s purposes and will! I (you) have to right to speak before God: In your original sin, actual sins, and even best righteousness- -you are guilty:
ESV Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
We must all stop in humility and ask: â€œWhat right do I have to question God?â€
ESV Romans 9:20-24: But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory - 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
This is the clear and â€œstraight upâ€ theological reason for election- -but we will never like it in our sinfulness.
b. Predestination and Perspective: â€œI see in Christ Godâ€™s Wisdom!â€
But, can you gaze at the foot of the cross and ask your philosophical questions about the injustice and unfairness of Godâ€™s grace? Can you?!
Predestination and election only make sense in Christ. Paulâ€™s emphasis in Ephesians 1:3-14 is â€œin Christâ€/ â€œchosen in Himâ€/ â€œin loveâ€ etc. God chooses us â€œin Christâ€ and so in Christ we must begin to understand election.
We need the right perspective. We need to understand that we will only begin to apprehend Godâ€™s beauty and love in predestination when we are so fully humbled to the ground because our sins caused Jesus to be crucified. Only when we understand Godâ€™s beauty and love in predestination when we are so fully lifted up by Godâ€™s grace to know that we were chosen â€œin Himâ€!
If this is the right perspective, then what would be the wrong perspective? What are our other options other than being elected, chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4)?
(1) God chooses on the basis of our foreseen faith. a. If this were true why does Paul in Romans 9 use Jacob and Esau as examples of election before they were born, or before they had the chance to exercise either faith or unbelief? (Rom. 9:12-13); b. If God chooses on the basis of my foreseen faith, that seems perfectly reasonable and fair to me. Why then does the Apostle Paul presume that sinful man will say or suggest â€œinjusticeâ€ or â€œunfairnessâ€ on Godâ€™s part? (Rom. 9:14,19). c. If we are dead in trespasses and sins, and no one seeks after God, then how would God see any faith whatsoever? (Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 3:11ff).
(2) God gives all men free will because he doesnâ€™t want automatons or robots. a. Why does Paul purposely focus on Godâ€™s will and Godâ€™s purposes in both Ephesians 1 and Romans 9? And emphasize specifically that election is NOT based on â€œhuman will and/or exertionâ€ (Rom. 10:16)? b. Why does Paul stress that predestination is â€œin Christâ€ before the foundation of the world because manâ€™s will is in bondage to sin and death? (Eph. 2:1-3). [Clarification: Man does freely choose whatever he wants or most desires; but he will never freely want, and most desire the Trinitarian God of Scripture until God works in him by grace alone, Eph. 2:4-10)].
Could it possibly be that at the end of the day the reason why we discount Godâ€™s predestination and election in Christ is because at least theses reasons:
1. We donâ€™t know the true God.
2. We donâ€™t understand our sins as deeply as we should and how our sins deceive our minds and hearts.
3. We donâ€™t understand grace as fully as we should.
4. We really want some credit and glory for our choice to live for Christ. As sinners, we love to boast.
I realize more clearly now in my life that when I first became a Christian many years ago, I boasted in my ability to believe and serve God (over others who did not). When I believed that I cooperated with Godâ€™s grace, I was still too proud, and yet God still loved me.
When I believed that God had elected me based on a foreseen faith, I was at my most arrogant and proudâ€”as well as at my most fragile.
How? (1) I was proud because I thought I could glory of my contribution for what I had done in Godâ€™s saving me; (2) I was fragile because Godâ€™s love for me was only as good as my strongest act of faith (which was often- -and still is- -very weak).
(1) I was proud because I thought I could glory of my contribution- This is not to suggest that all men who believe that they are saved because God foresaw their faith and elected them that they are necessarily eaten up with arrogance and pride (that would make me extremely proud, too!).
But it is quite true that the basic sinful condition is pride (for both believer and unbeliever!). If pride and self-reliance are the foundation of manâ€™s sinfulness, why would God arrange the salvation of sinners in such a way that would exalt manâ€™s choice and exertion? This is contrary to the way God reveals himself throughout scripture.
Why would God elect based on foreseen faith when he knows how proud we are and how likely we are to boast before him and others of our accomplishments?
If I realize that pride and self-reliance are the foundation, biblically and experientially, of all our sinfulness, then I should probably realize that the doctrine that most offends me- -the doctrine that most exalts Godâ€™s and humbles my arrogance- -is probably the correct one.
The doctrine of Godâ€™s way in salvation that I least understand is probably the correct one.
The predestination and election that is revealed in Ephesians 1 and Romans 9 are consistent with how God humbles sinners. As Jesus says:
ESV John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
If it were up to me, God and man would cooperate for salvation to be achieved; if man was interested in Godâ€™s offer, then that would be great! It would be terrific if God elected based on manâ€™s willingness to combine efforts with God and â€œjoin his teamâ€!
I would not have thought that God would elect sinners who wouldnâ€™t want grace, couldnâ€™t get grace if they wanted it, and if they ever wanted it and got it would never keep it!
But thereâ€™s a lot of stuff God does, that I wouldnâ€™t have done. For instance, for the display of Godâ€™s power and glory, I would never have chosen a stable. I would never have chosen some of the disciples who were chosen.
I wouldnâ€™t have chosen a donkey to make my entrance into Jerusalem. I wouldnâ€™t have made the transfiguration of my glory on a mountain at night with only three people.
I would not have chosen crucifixion as a way to life everlasting.
I would not have forgiven Peter and chose him to be a pastor, I would not have chosen Paul after he had murdered and persecuted my people.
AND IF THE TRUTH BE KNOWN, I WOULDNâ€™T HAVE CHOSEN ME!!
But God did! He chose me and you who believe â€œin Christâ€ (Eph. 1:3-11). Thatâ€™s the glory and beauty and humility of Godâ€™s electing love in Jesus.
The foolish, the poor, the lame, the blind, the dirty, the diseased, the dead! God chose these so that no man would boast in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ!
God doesnâ€™t choose men with one eye, he chooses blind men; God doesnâ€™t choose men who can limp with one leg to him, but chooses men who have no legs at all. God doesnâ€™t choose men who can hear with one ear, but God chooses men who cannot hear.
God doesnâ€™t choose men who are a little sick, God chooses men who are dead (Eph. 2:1-3).
Why? Because he has a purpose to humble sinful man and exalt and give glory to Jesus Christ!
God chooses sinners so that no man would boast, except in Christ alone! We wouldnâ€™t even boast of our understanding predestination and election! Even in the understanding of this rich and humbling doctrine, men have been known to pridefully think more highly of themselves than they should.
But it is all of grace.
â€œIn loveâ€ God chose me (1:4b-5). â€œThe trickâ€ to understanding predestination and election is â€œin Christâ€. God chose me because of his love for me. I realize that I was chosen because of Godâ€™s love and this love for me is not based on anything I have ever done.
In fact, this love is in spite of my sinful pride. I must realize that even my best faith is filthy in his sight! My best â€œexertion and running to willâ€ stinks of self-righteousness!
GOD CHOSE ME IN CHRIST!!
Assurance of Godâ€™s love (Romans 8:31-39)
In Christ, I find a righteousness not in myself, but in Christ alone! Not in my faith, or my belief, or my unbelief- -but in Christ â€“ alone, by grace alone.
How could such a great and gracious God love a sinner like me?
(2) When I believed that God had chosen me based on foreseen faith, I was fragile because Godâ€™s love for me was only as good as my strongest act of faith (which was often- -and still is- -very weak).
If God chose us because of foreseen faith, our realization of Godâ€™s love will only be as great and strong as our faith!
Love that is stronger and greater than you best faith!
Illustration: â€œHoney, I love you for ________.â€ The love expressed is only as great as the ability to come through and deliver. Love must be love for loveâ€™s sake- -and nothing more.
God says: â€œI love you because of your foreseen faith.â€ Godâ€™s love for me will be only as great as the faith I have for him!
â€¦"For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathersâ€¦
Then assurance and confidence and Godâ€™s love fill us full and we stand at the foot of the cross believing in Christ, knowing that his blood has washed away our sins (Eph. 1:7). Christâ€™s righteousness is granted to me because of Godâ€™s love for me from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3).
Then I turn around, and look backward throughout redemptive-history and I see Godâ€™s purpose and will for His glory- -I get a vision of â€œbefore the foundation of the worldâ€ and I understand by faith.
Then I rejoice and give thanks for Godâ€™s grace to me simply by grace alone- -and I realize how loved I am, and yet I am humbled. I am humbled, yet I am more confident in Christ of that God has chosen me and more assured of what Christ has done for me so that I might live joyfully in Godâ€™s presence for eternity!
III. Response to Election: â€œYou are to worship and live gratefullyâ€
a. Ephesians 1:3-14 is the longest sentence of â€œGreek gloryâ€!
b. â€œInfiniteâ€ blessings in Christ
c. Not taking grace for granted/ no Antinomianism
d. If youâ€™re worshipping, youâ€™re not boasting!
We rejoice, we give thanks in response to this Great and Gracious Savior! We are humbled and thankful! That is the purpose of Godâ€™s revealing his electing mercy in Jesus: Humility leading to thankfulness before God.
Unjust? Cross (he died for me!); Unfair? Cross (shut your mouth, he died for you! Rom. 9:20-24).
Do you really have anything to boast about- -except Jesus Christ?
ESV 1 Corinthians 1:28-31: God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being1 might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
â€œTo the praise of His glorious grace!â€ (1:6) â€œTo the praise of His glory!â€ (1:12, 14).
Also available as audio at www.sermonaudio.com/kcpc