The Letter to the Ephesians – 03 (“New Life Through Christ Jesus – The Role of the Son and the Holy Spirit”)
(Message by Kobus van der Walt, Three Rivers Baptist Church – 28 February 2016 – Please visit our Website: http://3riversbaptist.co.za)
- SCRIPTURE READING:
In our text tonight, we will see the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our election, as well as a description of God’s blessings to His people which is a result of the election. We will find some of these blessings in vv.7-14 of Eph.1 and this will then be our text for tonight, but for completeness, let’s read from v.3 up to v.14.
Ephesians 1:3-14 ~ “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In 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, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
- BLESSINGS (vv.7-14):
Last Sunday we focused on God the Father’s role in the election of His adopted sons (us as saved sinners). We saw that the Father elected us in Him (v.4); that we were chosen before time (v.4); that we were chosen to be holy (v.4); that we were chosen to be without blame (v.4). In v.5 we saw that the Father has elected us, to be His adopted sons and that happened to the purpose of His will. In v.6 it was clearly stated that we were chosen for Him.
We also saw (and we know it) that the Holy God – the Pure God, adopted the impure – us the elect, as His sons. The question is, how is it possible that the Holy, Pure and Sinless God can and wants to adopt us as His children? He did it because of two blessings from the past.
- Redemption and Forgiveness (v.7): The first two blessing from the past that made it possible for the Holy and Pure God to adopt us to become holy sons of Him, is through, what we call, redemption and forgiveness.
Redemption is a very interesting and significant word in Greek [ἀπολύτρωσις (apolytrosis)] – it means to “buy back” or to “repurchase”. In the Old Testament, if a man raised money by selling his land, he had a God-given right to “redeem” it, or to buy it back when he had sufficient funds to do so. It is similar to our Pawn Shops, where someone can leave an article with the Pawnbroker in exchange for a sum of money, and after a specified time, the person can get his article back, if he gives the money back to the Pawnbroker (with interest). The same was applicable to men and women who sold themselves into slavery – they could be redeemed by someone else who paid the required sum of money. It is therefore clear, that freedom came from paying a price.
We have several examples in the Old Testament of “redemption” – e.g. Israel that was rescued from the Egyptian bondage. In each and every situation, the powerless Israelites, who could not liberate themselves, were delivered or set free from a man, country or situation.
Simirarily, Christ Jesus delivered and set us free from the shackles of sin; from enslavement to Satan, and from all the misery attendant on such enslavement.
The ransom price, the means by which this release has been effected, is according to v.7, His (Christ’s) blood, or as v.7 clearly states ~ “…according to the riches of his grace”.
Our Lord Jesus came to redeem us. He Himself declared in Mark 10:45 ~ “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus drew attenion to the same concept when, at the Last Supper, He spoke of His blood being poured out for redemption ~ “…Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt.26:28).
Apart from this letter to the Ephesians, Paul also makes it clear to the Galatians that Christ came to redeem us ~ “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…” (Gal.3:13a).
To the idea of redemption, Paul adds that of “the forgiveness of sins.” Forgiveness” means literally, “a dismissal”, or “a sending away”. Ps.103:11-12 describes it beautifully ~ “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
Israel’s greatest holy day was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On that day the High Priest selected two unblemished sacrificial goats. One goat was killed, and his blood was sprinkled on the altar as a sacrifice. The High Priest then placed his hands on the head of the other goat, symbolically laying the sins of the people on the animal. The goat was then taken out, deep into the wilderness (desert), so far that it could never find its way back. In symbol, the sins of the people went with the goat, never to return to them again (Lev.16:7-10).
That enactment, beautiful and meaningful as it was, did not actually remove the Israelite’s sins, as they well knew. It was but an example of what only God Himself in Christ could do. Through the shedding of Hs own blood, Jesus Christ actually took the sins of the world upon Him, as it were, and carried it for an infinite distance away from where it could never return. That is the extent of forgiveness of our trespasses.
The measure of redemption is expressed in the phrase “…according to the riches of his grace” (v.7). God’s gracious gift of redemption and forgiveness is in proportion of His treasures. He does not give in a stinted fashion, but with unbounded liberty. If redemption and forgiveness was according to the measure of man’s merit, there would be no redemption. But who can measure the wealth of God’s grace?
Our own debt to God cannot be measured, and we cannot pay it. But God does not cancel our debt by a wave of the hand. Justice demands that the debt be paid. And it has! God’s abounding love paid it, when the Saviour, Jesus Christ died in our place. Justice will not demand that the same debt be paid twice. I am forgiven! You are forgiven! What God has done in the past guarantees the blessings we enjoy in the present. Adopted, accepted, there is nothing to pay!
- Wisdom and Insight (v.8-10):
We have now seen that God has adopted us as His sons and we saw in v.7 that he did it because of two blessings from the past, namely redemption and forgiveness. We can and must ask, what does the future holds for us? We find the answer to this question in vv.8-10.
Paul teaches in vv.8-10 that not only has God’s grace brought redemption and forgiveness; it also overwhemed us with the gifts of wisdom and insight. We read in v.8 ~ “…which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.” In other words, God has blessed us with the riches of His grace.
Wisdom (Greek: σοφία – sophia) emphasises “understanding of ultimate things” – such as life and death, God and man, righteousness and sin, heaven and hell, eternity and time. Here in v.8, Paul is speaking of wisdom concerning the things of God.
Insight (Greek: φρόνησις – phronesis) on the other hand, emphasises “practical understanding, comprehension of the needs, problems, and principles of everyday living”. It is in other words, spiritual prudence (insight) in the handling of daily affairs.
Wisdom therefore, is the intellectual knowledge, whilst insight, or prudence, is the practical understanding. One satisfies the mind; the other leads to correct conduct.
Why do we need insight and wisdom? Paul gives the answer to us in v.9 ~ “…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ.” The ancient people used the word “mystery” of anything hidden or secret, but in the New Testament this word (Greek: μυστήριον – mysterion) has special meaning. It signifies Divine Truth that has now been fully made known in the Gospel. The word occurs six times in Ephesians (here; 3:3, 4, 9; 5:32; 6:19) and twenty-one times elsewhere in the New Testament. Paul’s writings contain the majority of these, he uses it to explain or show the thoughts and plans of God. These are hidden from human reason and comprehension and must be Divinely revealed, if they are to be known at all. Perhaps the word “secret” best expresses the meaning. It is a secret, however, that has been made an open secret in the Gospel, we are therefore “in on the secret.”
V.10 explains that the mystery (or secret) with which Christians have been entrusted is nothing less than the Truth about the ultimate destiny of the universe – v.10b ~ “…to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” God controls history, and when His time is ripe, He will bring to pass what He has always intended to do. In short, God’s purpose is the “establishment of a new order, a new creation, of which Christ shall be the everlasting Head. We know according to Eph.1:22, that Christ is “…head over all things to the church”, but v.10 declares that it is God’s intent that He shall be Head of a regathered, recreated and reunited universe. The universe, thrown into disorientation through man’s sin, will be brought back to its original order and unity as everything, everywhere, submits to Christ.
This off course does not mean that everyone is, at last, going to be saved. But it does mean that those who have mocked Him will see Him elevated. No other name will be honoured – Phil.2:10-11 ~ “…so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The irony of this is that unsaved men and women do not even think of this reality, but the secret was revealed to us and we know that this event will take place, anytime from now!
Just one remark about v.10 and the expression “fullness of time”, when all things in the universe will be united in Christ. As we’ve seen, this expression speaks of the time when God’s purpose will be fully realised. Paul speaks of “the fulness of time” When will this be?The NKJV is correct and therefore a better translation for v.10 than the ESV. In the NKJV the text reads as follow ~ “…that in the dispensation of the fullness of times.” The Greek word behind “dispensation” (Greek: οἰκονομία – oikonomia) is understood in different ways. Literally, it meant ‘management of a household’. It later came to describe any kind of ‘adminstration’, or the ‘working out of a plan’. The ‘fullness of times’ suggests a particular point of time that completes a long prior period. The “dispensation of the fullness of times” speaks, then, of the carrying out (or administration) of the purpose of God when the time is right. The NIV translates it, “…to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment.” So, when the time is right in God’s eyes, this dispensation will be over and Christ will, according to God’s intent, become the Head of a regathered, recreated and reunited universe – Christ’s Kingdom, which will last forever (into eternity).
- The Holy Spirit and our Heritage (v.11-14):
When we look at vv.11-12, we must consider three matters. First, we must notice the use of the first person pronoun in vv.11-12 (“we who were the first to hope in Christ”) and the change to the second person in v.13 ~ “…you also.” The conclusion to be drawn from this is that in vv.11-12, Paul had especially in mind Jewish believers whose hope was fixed on the Messiah before He came (e.g. Abraham), and who believed in Him, or recognised Him immediately, like the disciples, or after an interval. like Paul himself.
The conversion of the Jews who before hoped for the Messiah was therefore the first realisation of God’s purpose to bring all the subjects of redemption into one harmonious body (v.10). The second stage is implied in vv.13-14, where Paul shows that Gentile Christians are included in that same comprehensive purpose.
A second matter to consider is the meaning of the expression in v.11 “in him we have obtained an inheritance.” This expression suggests that God has not only imparted to believers a knowledge of His redemptive purpose, but has actually made them heirs of its blessings. When we understand this verse in this way, the passage perhaps contains an allusion to the experience of ancient Israel in obtaining an inheritance in the Promised Land. Just as each Israelite had his share of that inheritance, so each believer becomes a partaker of the heavenly inheritance Christ has secured for His people. When we see this passage in this way, the thought of the passage is quite similar to that in Col.1:12 ~ “…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
After Paul described the spiritual blessings which God gives to His people in Christ, he adds a further paragraph to emphasise that the blessings belong equally to Jewish- and Gentile believers. Vv.11-14 can be understand then as follows: “11In him we (the Jews) have obtained an inheritance, … 13In him you (the Gentiles) also, … believed…, …the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our (both Jews and Gentiles) inheritance…” From this, it is clear, that Christ is the reconciler, and that it is through union with Christ that the people of God are one.
– Sealed with the Holy Spirit: But take note! None of this could have happened without the wonderful and gracious work of the Holy Spirit, by bringing believing Jew and Gentile into the Body of Christ.
Paul describes the Holy Spirit’s work in the second part of v.13 and the first part of v.14 ~ “…and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance.” We find two very interesting, but also powerful expressions in these two verses. What does it mean when Paul says ~ “…sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” and the Holy Spirit is ~ “…the guarantee of our inheritance”?
In the ancient world an owner portrayed his ownership of something by putting his personal seal on his possession (think of cattle farmers who burn their initials on the cattle’s skin). That is exactly what God has done for us – He has “tagged” us – His “initials are permanently burnt into our skins” – it is unremovable. What is more, we who are “tagged” by Him, know it because according to Rom.8:16-17 ~ “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
We must also note that this sealing or working of the Holy Spirit never goes without the Word of God – it is not to be separated it. That is why Paul says in v.13 ~ “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” – …when you heard the Word of Truth, the Gospel of your salvation. James Montgomery Boice says: “This was one great discovery of the Protestant Reformers. Luther, Calvin, and others had a strong belief in the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing men and women to faith and in leading and preserving them in that faith once they had believed. They rejoiced in such verses as Joh.3:8 ~ ‘The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’”
– The guarantee of our inheritance:
What guarantee do we as believers have that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit? The Greek word for guarantee here, is ἀρραβών (arrabon). In Paul’s day, it was customary under the Greeks and Romans to make a deposit when buying something and that deposit was called an “arrabon”, which was a legal promise that the rest of the money will come. In the same way, the life that the Holy Spirit gives, is an “arrabon” – a “legal promise” that the rest will come.
The question that we must ask ourselves is whether an “arrobon” was given on our behalf – Are we tagged? How can we know? Gal.2:16 ~ “…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” Do you believe in Jesus Christ? If yes, then you did receive an “arrobon”.
Apart from Gal.2:16 (and obviously other verses as well), John MacArthur gives the following 11 Biblical Tests for genuine salvation in his book “Is it Real?” – I’m not going to expand on it now (to read the complete extract from this book – visit our Church’s website: http://3riversbaptist.co.za/2016/02/25/11-biblical-tests-of-genuine-salvation/). Remember, is a mere check list. It is however, based on the Word and we know that we belong to Him, primarily due to the change that is brought into life, especially love. Change is both the work of the Spirit and the evidence of the Spirit – let’s look at MacArthur’s list of change:
- Have You Enjoyed Fellowship with Christ and the Father (1 John 1:2-3)?
- Are You Sensitive to Sin (1 John.1:5-10)?
- Do You Obey God’s Word (1 John 2:3)?
- Do You Reject This Evil World (1 John 2:15)?
- Do You Eagerly Await Christ’s Return (1 John 3:2-3)?
- Do You See a Decreasing Pattern of Sin in Your Life (1 John 3:4-10)?
- Do You Love Other Christians (1 John 3:10)?
- Do You Experience Answered Prayer (1 John 3:22)?
- Do You Experience the Ministry of the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:13)?
- Can You Discern between Spiritual Truth and Error (1 John 4:1-3)?
- Have You Suffered Rejection Because of Your Faith (1 John 3:13)?
Is my salvation – your salvation real? Is my “arrabon” – your arrabon real? Again… ~ “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom.8:16).
As already explained last Sunday, this letter to the Ephesians is a doxology and we also saw that it is very difficult – actually not possible, to apply the text directly to our lives, because this text, in fact the whole letter to the Ephesians, is a doxology and if we want to apply this text (which we must do), we must imitate Paul, by also worshiping God as a God in our midst and that we must live IN Christ and that we must expect spiritual blessings in our lives (v.3).
The passage that we have focussed on this past week, focuses on the Father and the Son’s role in our election and salvation, but it also focuses on the Holy Spirit as the verification that we belong to God and that God will complete His promise to us. Passages like this show that the gift of the Holy Spirit is not some second blessing or higher stage of the Christian faith and life – something for the spiritually elite. Rather, the Spirit is the possession – the necessary possession – of all Christians. He is God’s gift to us, showing that we are His, and He bestows on us a sense of God’s presence and involvement in our lives and we receive the Holy Spirit, the moment we are saved – there is no such thing as a “second blessing” as the Charismatic and Pentecostal groups teach.
Furthermore, the Spirit’s dwelling in us is a pledge from God that He will complete His plan and that one day we will truly live with God. For this we owe God praise.