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"Wanted: YOU! Chosen for God’s Praiseworthy Purpose"

Sept.23/18 Eph.1:3-14


Why are we starting a series on the book of Ephesians today? When I first discussed it with Pastor Mark a few weeks ago, I had planned to do a short overview of the book of Job. But then he resigned at the beginning of the month and suddenly it didn’t seem the best idea to plunge us into a study of suffering!

               The Elders’ statement at the Farewell / Appreciation Potluck last Sunday acknowledged with regret the “conflicts and tensions” that have plagued our congregation in recent months. Part of me wanted to do a series on the book of 1Corinthians. There in the very first chapter the Apostle Paul rebukes them for their own internal schisms over personality preferences. 1Cor 1:10-12 “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."”

               It might be tempting to substitute some names from our own congregation: but we won’t...Paul’s point is that there are clearly factions in the congregation over petty allegiances to various personalities and preaching styles etc, but there shouldn’t be. He responds rhetorically in v13, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?”

               As if to say: “Seriously, church?! How can you possibly get so hung up on these different ministers? Aren’t you forgetting something? Who died for you after all, to bring you to God? Into whose name were you baptized? Do you belong to Peter? Did Apollos bleed and die on the cross so your sins could be forgiven? You’ve lost all perspective! You belong to Jesus Christ! Through baptism in faith you are plunged into identity with Him. Give up your petty preferences and squabbles. Start agreeing with each other, get together united in your thinking. It’s Jesus you belong to, HE’s the One you’re to be living for!”

               BUT - on further reflection - I decided that might be a bit too blunt, so I’m not preaching on Corinthians today. (!)

               Instead, a wise and godly colleague whose opinion I respect pointed out Ephesians gets around to somewhat the same subject, talking in chapter 2 about how Jesus has brought together Jews and Gentiles, destroying “the dividing wall of hostility” (2:14). But in this letter Paul lays a more thorough groundwork. It’s a more complete unwrapping and explanation of our Christian faith. Ephesians isn’t an issue-driven letter like several of the other epistles, written in almost ‘emergency’ mode to get those “foolish bewitched Galatians” (for example) back on track from the brink of heresy.

               For background to this series, what do we know about the city of Ephesus? It was the most important city in the Roman province of Asia, on the west coast of what is now Asiatic Turkey. It was a sizable city, about a third of a million, the greatest commercial city in the province. The great theatre built into a mountain in the centre of the city could hold about 25,000 people. But there was a slow yet significant problem for this port town: its harbour was silting up (today the sea is 10 km away from downtown!). Its economy gradually shifted from the trade routes to its tourism industry.

             It was home to an ancient Anatolian fertility goddess, given the Greek name “Artemis” and later the Roman name “Diana”. Pictorial Bible Dictionary notes, “Grotesquely represented with turreted head and many breasts, the goddess and her cult found expression in the famous temple, served...by a host of priestess courtesans.”

             Magic also flourished at Ephesus – there was even one kind of magic formula called Ephesia grammata. Luke tells us after Paul’s preaching in Acts 19:19, “A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.” (A drachma was worth a day’s wages, so maybe around $600K today total.)

             Can we see parallels to Ephesus in our society today? Important commercially? – North America is one of the more affluent places on the planet. Multi-breasted goddess? Fashion and the entertainment industry make much of marketed sexuality. Human trafficking for sexual purposes is a problem even in our area. Popularity of magic? A certain Festival of Wizardry this weekend not far from us could be evidence of that. The supremacy of Jesus Christ calls into question our fascination with lesser idols.

             With that as background, let’s hop into our text. We go D-C-B-A: Dust off your glasses; Chosen to be His; Blessed out of our Boots; and, Agenda - Advancing God’s ultimate Aim.


What kind of glasses do you wear when you look at the world? How tinted are your lenses, do they focus near or far?

             Much of modern society is built upon the theory of Darwinistic naturalism – what you can see or measure scientifically is all there is. Or to put it another way, God is superfluous: He did not create us: we are all simply products of time + chance + matter.

             Paul’s language in the opening verses (3-5) challenge this view and nudge us to dust off our worldview glasses. MATTER - v3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” This phrase “in the heavenly realms” (lit.‘in the heavenlies’) – where IS that? You can’t locate it spatially with our normal GPS co-ordinates. The earliest disciples watched Jesus ascend into the sky out of view (Acts 1:9). Stephen just before he was martyred had a vision of the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55f). Seems there is a whole ‘nother dimension out there that even the Hubble Space Telescope can’t probe.

             TIME - v4 “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Science understands time to be part of 4-dimensional ‘space-time’. But here Paul seems to be referring to something completely outside of space-time, before creation of matter or anything. There is more to existence than meets the eye – ever.

               CHANCE – evolutionism holds that random forces alone select the configuration of future generations, without any intervention by some superior intelligence. But Paul asserts God ‘predestines’ things, His overarching “pleasure and will” are active in saving and guiding us.

               So it seems, inadvertently, Paul is casting doubt on the ‘sacred cows’ worshipped by naturalistic atheists today – that all we see can be explained as a simple product of time + chance + matter. He has another narrative to offer. One that offers hope and purpose instead of meaninglessness and despair.


One of the paradoxes of our time is people’s increasing sense of isolation and loneliness despite the multiplied means and relative ease of communication. This week HuronTel hooked up our church to fibre optic. Download speeds of about 34 mbps – about 700 times what we used to get years ago on dial-up! Yet smartphones and social networks can get in the way of genuine person-to-person interaction. Dad’s watching sports, Mom’s enjoying a show on Netflix, while daughter is Snapping with a friend and son is engrossed in a videogame with 3 buddies from whoknowswhere on the planet. A couple in the restaurant waiting for their meal resort to their smartphones to catch up on their feeds instead of actually talking.

               Sin and selfishness separate: God’s grace brings us together, in Christ. Paul describes how we are chosen to be part of God’s people. Vv4f “For he chose us in him [Christ] before the creation of the world...In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ...” Also v11 “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will...” V13 says we “were marked in him with a seal”; v14, “those who are God’s possession”. For Christians coming to trust in Jesus, God has chosen us to be HIS. We are adopted as His very own sons and daughters, receiving His divine nature imparted to us through the Holy Spirit, born-again / born-from-above. God picked you for Himself! What a privilege to be able to call Him our loving heavenly Father, our “Abba” or Papa. The Greek verb behind ‘predestined’ has the sense of determining, designing, setting limits or marking boundaries. The “seal” is like a branding, a mark of ownership.

               Think of the postage stamp. They used to have the image of the Queen. You applied the stamp to the envelope, marking it as officially endorsed by the Crown to be taken to its destination. Then at the Post Office another ‘stamp’ is applied marking it so the stamp can’t be re-used. John MacArthur comments, “Four primary truths are signified by the seal: 1) security, 2) authenticity, 3) ownership, and 4) authority.”

               God has chosen us for Himself, to be His holy people. 1Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Belonging - ownership - warrants obedience. Obedience means we submit all OUR choices to the sovereignty of Jesus as Lord. Whether it’s what channel on TV or what show on Netflix, or our opinion of how things are being run at church, all our choices and opinions should be submitted to Jesus. Like at the airport when you submit your carry-on at the security check: it goes through the scanner and the officials determine if there’s something in there that doesn’t belong, like an explosive or weapon. Do we have uncaring dangerous daggers in our attitude?

             One time I neglected to double-check Yvonne’s purse and the officials found she had a nail file inside. Just a nail file, but sharp and pointy enough to be dangerous in the wrong hands. Not hers, of course – but still we had to leave it behind. 2Cor 10:5 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”


Sometimes this fallen world can get you down. Things pile up and can start to seem pretty negative. However Paul’s emphasis in this passage is all the positives, the blessings God has for us – it’s a super-uplifting read.

             V3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” The believer is a citizen of heaven: in 2:6 Paul pictures them as already seated with Jesus in the heavenlies – note the past tense: Eph 2:6 “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus...”

             In these 12 verses Paul identifies at least half a dozen “blessings” that are ours. V4 We are “holy and blameless in his sight” – no criminal record! All is clean, spotless, as Holy God views us cloaked in Christ’s righteousness. 2Cor 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Also Col 1:22 carries a similar idea - “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation...”

             The last bit of v4 briefly mentions a huge blessing: love! Eph 1:4 “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons...” NLT “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ...” How do we know God loves us? We point to the cross. Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s “I love you” valentine is printed in red.

             In v7 the blessing Paul mentions is that of redemption, forgiveness, grace LAVISHED upon us. Eph 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” In those times humans were bought and sold at the slave market; a ‘ransom’ had to be paid in order to buy a person out of their slavery. Jesus paid that ransom (at the cost of His own life) to buy you out of your bondage to sin. Now we who have been forgiven so much are to forgive others in turn. Don’t be like the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18(21-35) who, having been forgiven by the king of a huge debt of millions of dollars he could never begin to repay, nevertheless went out and threw his fellow servant who owed just a few dollars into prison. The master was outraged and turned him over to be tortured until he paid all he owed (as if!!). Jesus concluded, Mt 18:35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

               Was thinking this week...How many FORGIVEN humans will be in heaven? ALL of them that qualify to be there by faith in Christ. How many UNFORGIVING humans will be in heaven? NONE of them! In the church, we who have benefited from Christ’s grace are COMPELLED to be gracious to those who have offended us. Jesus was point-blank about it right after the Lord’s Prayer: Mt 6:15 “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

               Another blessing we find in vv8-9, “[God’s grace] that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will...” God has blessed us with minds to love Him with, and doesn’t leave us in the dark trying to guess what He’s about. He blesses us with wisdom, understanding, revelation (making-known), unpacking the mystery of His will. You get to read the coach’s game-plan before the team carries out the next play! The Creator of the Universe has let you in on the big picture. You are in on the secret, He’s unravelled the mystery for you. That’s why we assemble weekly to hear sermons, read our Bibles and pray hopefully daily, get together in small groups to compare notes and group-think-explore together His truth.

               Paul describes the role of the Holy Spirit helping us unpack God’s mystery and develop wisdom in 1Cor 2:12, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” Then he adds something absolutely mind-boggling. V16, “‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”

               Another blessing is mentioned briefly in v12, “we, who were the first to hope in Christ...” The logical consequence of an atheistic materialistic worldview is despair and cynicism; by contrast, Christianity offers HOPE. As Paul characterized the former in 1Cor 15:32b, “If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."” By contrast, Peter wrote - 1Peter 1:21 “Through [Christ] you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” Hope makes SUCH a difference in day-to-day life. Knowing Him gives meaning and purpose, a reason to live, to get out of bed in the morning regardless of how you feel.

               And one more blessing is the Holy Spirit, token of our coming inheritance. V13b “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit...” Remarkable - the third member of the Trinity, the Paraclete / Counselor / Helper, God’s own Spirit right inside us! Blooming His fruit and gifts, different for each person. Giving us a spiritual hotline to the Father when we pray. Shaping and grooming our character to seem like Jesus to other people.

               And the Spirit is a down payment assuring us of better things yet to come. V14 “...who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession...” The word in the Greek for ‘deposit’ actually is a transliterated word from the Hebrew [arrabon] for “pledge”, or “earnest” as some older versions put it (I like that!). The Holy Spirit you as a Christian have NOW is a down-payment, a pledge, warranting that in eternity you will enjoy the full privileges of God’s heritage waiting for you.


If we can begin to wrap our minds around it, Paul’s saying in this passage God has an overarching purpose, a final game plan, in view that He is actively working and superintending to bring about. Here’s a wee hint: It’s not about you! (Sorry if that disappoints you.) God has rigged us from the get-go, He has secretly wired us in such a way that when we are most satisfied in Him (not our own goals or pleasures), He is most glorified in us. (with apologies to John Piper)

             What’s the underlying battle-plan of the universe? V5 We’re predestined to be adopted as His sons “in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace...” Vv9f God made known His will to us “according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment— to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” The term behind “bring all things together” is that used in adding up a sum of numbers. God aims to ultimately make Christ the heading or title of the paragraph, or (in business terms) “the bottom line”.

             Do you have things in your life that don’t make sense right now? Things just don’t add up? Eventually, at the end of time, they will. In Jesus, the Crucified Saviour who gave Himself for you in such pain, it will all make sense. When it comes to the meaning of life, Jesus is the Bottom Line.

             Look at the parallel in verses 12 and 14 (alongside v6): “in order that we...might be for the praise of his glory.” “...who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.” (V6) “...to the praise of his glorious grace...”

             You are here, on this planet, breathing this oxygen, for the praise of God’s glory. For the display of His goodness and excellence. You are here to show Him off, make Him look good before others, magnify His greatness so others see. It’s not about you. Funny thing is, He has secretly wired us in such a way that, when our actions result in Him being praised and honoured for the good God He is, we somehow become most fulfilled. ‘Cuz that’s what we’re made for!


How do we take the first step? By believing, trusting, committing ourselves to Him. Get out of yourself, stop your petty catfights / elbowing others aside (as if you’re still in the big-fish-eat-little-fish mentality), repent and acknowledge your need of Him. V13 “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. HAVING BELIEVED, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit...”

             We barely touched on predestination, though this is one of the key passages about it in the Bible. Faith is essential: grace enables human participation; God opens our spiritual eyes so we can recognize our need of Him. Dr Richard Boytim at Crestwicke Baptist in Guelph once described salvation as an archway over our heads. Before we become a Christian, one one side of the arch it reads, “Whosoever will may come” - as Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, Ac 2:21 (Joel 2:32) “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But once you believe and are saved, you walk through the arch and you turn around and see another inscription overhead on the other side: “Chosen in him before the creation of the world.” (Eph 1:4) This is a mystery. But faith - the calling on His name - is essential.

               If you’d like to ponder predestination more deeply, take some time to meditate on Acts 4:27-28. Here, the early church at prayer, prays: Acts 4:27f “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” (Same Greek verb as in vv5,11) Remarkable. The church is saying God (who is not the author of evil) was superintending even the most evil events of all time, the plot to crucify His innocent Son Jesus. Do you have a category in your mind for this? It does not absolve humans of their responsibility – if you’d asked Herod or Pilate or Judas whether they felt they were exercising their ‘free will’ in what they did, they would likely insist they WERE. Yet God was orchestrating actions and timings behind the scenes in accord with prophecies from centuries before. There is an interplay between God’s sovereignty and human willing that is truly mysterious.

               Back to our main point: human willingness – exercised in faith – is essential for salvation. If you haven’t been tracking with Jesus – has God brought you to the point where you are ready to call on Him, to turn your life over to His control?

               During Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s eight years in Russian camps, his parents died and his wife divorced him. Upon his release from prison he was dying of a cancer that was growing in him so rapidly that he could feel the difference in a span of twelve hours. It was at that point that he abandoned himself to God, so beautifully illustrated in three lines of the incredible prayer that came in that dark hour: “Oh God, how easy it is for me to believe in You. You created a path for me through despair...O God, You have used me, and where You cannot use me, You have appointed others. Thank You.” Let’s pray.