We join with Paul in praising God for including us in His plan of salvation by choosing us in Christ by His glorious grace.
Some of you may remember the action TV series back in the mid-80s called The A-Team. It was a show about a fictional group of ex-US Army Special Forces who now had become soldiers of fortune while on the run after being labeled as war criminals for a “crime they did not commit”. The 5-man team had names like Hannibal and Murdock and B.A. and Faceman, and, of course, Mr. T. Hannibal was the leader of the team and he always seemed to have the perfect plan for getting them out of any situation they got into. His favorite catch phrase, if you remember, was "I love it when a plan comes together".
I was reminded of that show while I was working on these words of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. You are I were once members of a team of war criminals. We were guilty as charged of rebelling against our holy God – not only because of what we were by nature but also because of the many times we still violate His holy will in our lives by our sinful words and actions.
But God be praised that He had a plan. In love His plan included rescuing you and me from the team of the enemy and making us members of His team. And like the A-Team, the Lord’s plan came together to get you and me out of a terrible mess.
Today, then, let us see that we have good reason to “PRAISE GOD FOR HIS AMAZING GRACE”
First of all, we praise God that already in eternity He included you and me in His amazing plan.
Our text here is one of the major sections in the Bible from which we get the doctrine of “election” or “predestination”. This teaching is found in several other places in the Bible, but this is the longest and most thorough presentation of this teaching.
If we could sum up the teaching on election in a few sentences, it might go something like this: election is the teaching that God already before the creation of the world chose certain people to be saved. He chose them, not because of anything He saw in them, but because of His grace and mercy alone and in view of what Jesus would do for all people.
We can see this very clearly here in our lesson. Paul begins by praising God for blessing us with every spiritual blessing that He sends down to us from “the heavenly realms”. Day after day He literally showers us with His many good things.
And then Paul tells us the reason why: “For He chose us in Him (Christ) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight”. In a little more than three months the people of our country will be choosing the person they want to serve as our president the next four years from two or more candidates on the ballot. Only one of them, of course, is going to be elected. That’s the purpose of an election – only certain ones are chosen.
What Paul is saying, then, is that God has elected you and me out of all the people in this world to be His chosen ones. And then he adds: “In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One He loves.”
Can you imagine that? God chose you! God chose me! Why would He do that? Was it because He saw there would be something good about us that He liked? Did He see that we would be better than most other people? Did He see that we would be more like the kind of the people He was looking for? No, no, and no – absolutely not! We are no different and no better than anyone else. What David said about himself in Psalm 51 also applies to all of us: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” And it is still true of us what Paul once wrote about all people: “There is no one who does good, not even one… All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
You see, there is only one reason God chose you and me. And Paul tells us what that is: because of “His pleasure and will”. What that simply means is that God chose you and me for no other reason than the fact that He wanted to. And the only thing that prompted God to want to choose us was His great love for us. That’s it. God chose us to be saved so that we might be “holy and blameless in His sight”. It’s not that you and I were “holy and blameless” by nature, but that’s what God Himself would declare us to be “in His sight”.
Likewise God chose us so that we might adopt us as His sons. Only sons received the inheritance of the father. So you and I are in line to receive an inheritance that is beyond our fondest imagination. Yes, how truly blessed we are that God included us in His amazing plan.
But God’s plan for us could only come together because of Jesus.
Does God simply overlook who we are and what we are like? Does He simply ignore and disregard the seriousness of our sin and pre-tend it doesn’t exist? No again. God cannot and will not do that. God is holy and He hates sin with a passion. All sin must be punished.
But you see, that is exactly what God did - He punished all sin – our sins and the sins of all people of all time. Only He did not take out His anger over our sin on us. No, in love He punished His own dear Son in our place. That doesn’t seem fair, does it? And it wasn’t fair. Jesus did not deserve to be punished. Jesus was holy and blameless, without sin. Even His own Father testified to that when He said: “This is My Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased”.
But you see, punishing Jesus was all a part of God’s amazing plan to save us. God’s plan could only come together “in Christ Jesus”. No one can be or ever will be saved without Jesus. Ten times here in these 12 verses of our lesson Paul uses the expression “in Christ” or “in Him” or the equivalent.
We have already mentioned two of the greatest blessings God has given us. One is that He has declared us to be “holy and blameless in His sight”. And the other is that He has “adopted us” to receive a glorious inheritance. But where do these blessings come from? And again Paul here gives us the answer: “In Him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” That says it all, doesn’t it? In Jesus we have redemption. “Redemption” means that a ransom payment was made to set us free from the guilt of our sin and from a well-deserved eternity in hell. And the ransom He had to pay? “His blood”, Paul says. Yes, Jesus shed His holy and precious blood on Calvary’s terrible cross as the sacrificial payment for all our sins.
And now, Paul adds, we have “the forgiveness of sins”. The word “forgiveness” basically means that all our sins which have offended our holy God have all been removed – they have been taken away forever. And in their place God has given us the “righteousness” or perfection of Jesus. His perfect life is now our perfect life so that you and I are “holy and blameless in His sight”. All of this is only because of “the riches of God’s grace”. Yes, how truly blessed you and I are - but only because of Jesus, our Savior.
But Paul also shows us here that God’s amazing plan had a purpose for our lives here and now.
The good news about Jesus is called the gospel. Paul here also calls it “a mystery”. The gospel is a mystery in the sense that God’s plan to save us would be hidden or unknown if God Himself had not revealed it to us in His Word. Paul speaks about God pouring out “the riches of His grace on us with all wisdom and understanding”.
A part of the teaching on election is the fact that all those God has chosen from eternity are the same ones He has called by the gospel to believe here in time. God has seen to it that you and I, in our lifetimes, have heard the good news about Jesus and now believe it with all our hearts. And yet, even that is not our doing, is it? That is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. God saw to it that we heard about Jesus and what He did for us. And the Holy Spirit used that gospel message to bring us to faith in Jesus as our Savior. Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit as a “seal” of ownership, showing that we now belong to God. The Holy Spirit is God’s “deposit” or down payment that guarantees us that there is a lot more to come when this life is over.
And all this is “to the praise of His glory”. You see, God chose you and me to be His own so that we might live for Him. “We love because He first loved us”. We thank and praise God for His great love toward us by the love we show toward others, especially those who are members of our own family and our church family. We thank and praise God as we produce the fruits of our faith in our daily lives and as we carry out our Savior’s mission by sharing His saving gospel with others through our personal witness, our invitation to the unchurched, and our generous gifts and offerings.
You and I don’t know all those people out there in the world whom God has chosen from eternity to be His elect. That is why Jesus said that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come”. Until the end of time comes when the last of God’s elect have heard about Jesus and been saved, you and I are God’s chosen ones – chosen and called to be His witnesses in this sinful and corrupt generation. That, too, is truly a great honor and privilege if we realize just how blessed we really are to be a part of God’s amazing plan – a plan that has all come together in Jesus for our eternal salvation. Amen