“The Grace He Lavished on Us”
January 31, 2016
In Christ, God lavishes grace that we might be to the praise of his glory.
I. In Him — redemption (Ephesians 1:7-10)
II. In Him — an inheritance (Ephesians 1:11-12)
III. In Him — the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Once upon a time there was a little boy growing up in mean poverty. He was himself mean and impoverished in spirit. He attended a poor school where he was the class bully. Every day he threatened those of his classmates who were poorer than he was. He gave them scorn and beatings if they did not give him a part of their meagre lunches. If one had a coat or a rare pair of shoes the bully coveted, he would overpower them and take it. Thus he grew fat and strong and the poor among his classmates even thinner and weaker.
In a distant city lived a wise king, who wasn’t the ruler of that poor land, but cared about it. He had a son who was growing up, and despite the risk, he sent his son to experience the life of that distant land, so that he too would sympathize with their needs. Dressed like the poorest, the son was assigned to the same class as the bully. He saw what the bully did to the other students and tried to speak up for them. Immediately he became the bully’s favorite target. If he brought as much as a crust of bread, the bully took it, and beat him for spite. If he wore a slightly new jacket, the bully tore it from him and wore it himself.
One snowy day the son brought a warmloaf of bread to school and began to distribute it among the boys. The bully stepped in immediately, grabbed away the loaf and flung it in the wet snow. In jealous rage he beat the son mercilessly and left him bleeding outside the gate. The king, receiving word, sent a royal carriage to bring his wounded son home. But three days later, recovering from his wounds, the son returned. He drew the royal carriage up to the gate and in his best robe with a full company of his father’s elite soldiers went into the classroom. The bully cowered, sure the son had come back to get vengeance.
But the boy announced that his father had given him leave, because of his suffering, to come rescue a whole carriage-load of the poorest and neediest. A clamor arose as the thin children cried out and rejoiced to be rescued. The bully boy, incredulous, stood and watched. He knew that after what he had done he could never be chosen, and part of him raged with jealousy over the good fortune of the other boys. Then he saw that the son still bore bruises on his face from the beating he had given, and suddenly a pang of regret washed over him. He turned away from the scene, knowing that his sympathy would soon pass.
Moments later he felt a small hand on his shoulder, and a familiar voice said “Friend, are you not the poorest and neediest person in this room? Turn around. Come with me. I’ve saved a seat for you in my carriage.”
This morning we’re going to explore the grace of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and the blessings that are poured out on us, though entirely undeserved. We’re in Ephesians 1, but grace will run strongly all through chapters 1 to 3, and the response fueled by that grace will dominate chapters 4-6. Last week we began our study with the introduction to the book and the first few verses of the long, run-on sentence which is Paul’s blessing to a God who has so richly blessed us. Today we’ll look at the rest of that sentence, verses 7-14, and we’ll see that in Christ, God lavishes grace that we might be to the praise of his glory. We’ll see that in him we have redemption, in him we have an inheritance and in him we have received the Holy Spirit, to the praise of his glorious grace.
Before we read the text, let me talk about the structure of this long sentence. In a sense it’s a shame we’re covering it in two weeks, because it’s actually a three-in-one, Trinitarian. It’s held together by two phrases, ‘in him,’ or ‘in Christ’ and ‘to the praise of his glory.’ That phrase occurs three times at the end of the three sections. The first talks about the Father, his choosing and adopting us ‘in Christ,’ to the praise of his glorious grace. The second section is about the Son, that in Him we have redemption and an inheritance, to the praise of his glory. In the third section it is the Holy Spirit, who is in us, a deposit guaranteeing the inheritance, ‘to the praise of his glory.’ It’s an amazing Trinitarian structure. But today we’re only looking at the last two sections, our redemption and inheritance in Christ and the Holy Spirit he gives.
So, in Him we have redemption. Ephesians 1:7-10. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
My dictionary says to redeem is to recover ownership by paying a specified sum. 2. To pay off (a loan, for example). 3. To turn in (coupons, for example) and receive something in exchange, and 4. To set free; rescue or ransom. The Hebrews used this word of paying the price to free a person or a property that had been sold, often sold into slavery. For example, an enemy country could pay to redeem a prisoner of war. Or if you’d sold yourself into slavery because of debt, a relative could pay the price to buy you and redeem you from your slavery. So redemption means to be set free by the payment of a price.
It’s illustrated by the story of a little boy who built a sailboat. He rigged the sail and had it all fixed up, took it to the lake and put it in. Sure enough a breeze filled the little sail and it billowed and the boat went rippling along the waves.
Suddenly, before the little boy knew it, the boat was out of his reach, even though he waded in and tried to grab it. As it floated away, he hoped the breeze would shift. Instead, heartbroken, he watched it disappear. But some time later, in town, he walked past a second-hand shop. There in the window, unmistakably, was his boat. He went in and said, "That's my boat." But the owner said, "Sorry, Sonny. That's my boat. I bought it from someone." The boy said, "But I made it." The man said, "I can hold it for you, but you have to buy it."
The little guy ran home and counted his money. Then he saved and worked a long time until all he had and all he’d earned was just enough to buy the little boat. As he left the store holding the boat close to him, he was heard saying, “Now you’re twice mine. First I made you and now I bought you.” So it is with us. In Christ, God who created us also bought us with a price. We are twice his. And since the bondage and slavery we were in was bondage and slavery to sin, the price paid was his blood, and the result was forgiveness. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.
This is the key victory of grace. It speaks to our basic problem and God’s solution. Our problem is sin: each of us has fallen short of God’s standard. We have done wrong in the way we’ve related to him, and in the way we’ve related to others. To see this, you may only need to ask: “Is my relationship with God perfect? Perfect love between us, no rebellion, no disobedience, no anger?” If that doesn’t bring sin to mind sin, ask: “Are my relationships with others perfect? Again, perfect love, no anger, no bullying, no failing those I love, no selfishness.” If you think you’ve always cared for others with no selfishness, this text probably won’t speak to you. But for those of us who recognize our sin, we see a profound and appropriate guilt. We’ve done wrong, and by that wrongdoing we have pushed ourselves away from others and from God. We are separated, and unless the distance is bridged, no relationship is possible. We are sold to bondage in sin, and must be rescued, bought back, redeemed.
God’s solution is Jesus. Paul says the price Jesus paid for our rescue, release and forgiveness was his own blood. God had taught Israel that sacrifice was necessary for sin, that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Christ’s death means the price has been paid, men and women have been released from sin’s bondage. In fact, the Greek word used for forgiveness implies the loosing of a person from that which binds. This should be a profoundly freeing truth for all who put their faith in Jesus. I like the personal words Kent Hughes includes in his commentary: “I remember my first experience of God’s forgiveness, and how his Holy Spirit gave me the assurance that my sins were totally forgiven. The burden was so consciously lifted that I felt I could float.” As we trust him he redeems and forgives.
And it is a free gift. It is God’s lavish grace that leads to the praise his glory. Verse 7: “the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” God, with a wisdom human beings can hardly begin to grasp, saw that the fallen sinful condition of people was so bad, they would never in their own effort earn forgiveness. So he gave it as a free gift. It wasn’t free to him. It cost him the life his Son. But, free to us, it is undeserved forgiveness, unearned forgiveness, unmerited forgiveness. It’s a grace system, the riches of grace lavished on us.
So by grace we receive redemption. And that redemption has universal implications, as Jesus unites all things in heaven and on earth. Verses 9-10 And he made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
The middle of these verses is hard to translate, but because the important phrases are at the beginning and the end, the meaning is clear. First, as His redeemed, he’s revealed to us the mystery of his will. Paul likes the term “mystery,” and uses it consistently: A mystery is something of God’s plan which was once hidden and is now revealed. In Colossians 1:26 Paul says “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, is now disclosed to the saints.” Paul is going to talk about a mystery in this letter, the truth once hidden, now revealed, that Jews and Gentiles are united by Christ in the church, his body.
But that revealed truth is only part of the larger truth Paul sees here, that everything in heaven and on earth is going to be united under the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ, who is head over all. This is the ultimate goal of redemption - the reign of Christ. When the end of the ages comes this Jesus, whose blood has bought our forgiveness will reign over everything in heaven and on earth.
He is and will be Lord of all. Let me share a few Scriptures which give you a feel for the majesty of this truth. First, Daniel’s vision. Daniel 7:13-14 "I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” This eternal reign of Jesus is celebrated at the other end of the Bible. In Revelation 5 the multitude of angels sings to ‘the Lamb who was slain, Jesus, saying: "by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
In Revelation 11 they say “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever." Jesus shall reign. The redeemer will come once again to the redeemed, all things will be united in him, and he will reign forever. This is redemption’s triumph.
So in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of his grace. And because he will unite all thing in himself, we become part of his inheritance. Verses 11-12 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, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
That phrase ‘we obtained an inheritance’ is hard to translate. It might be better to say ‘in him we became an inheritance.’ The word has the idea of choosing your portion of an inheritance. The Jews were first chosen as God’s portion. Deuteronomy 32:9 “But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.” In the same way, in Ephesians 1:14, the Gentiles are ‘those who are God’s acquired possession.” So the Jews are his original portion, we Gentiles are those he has acquired. All this is “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” It’s not an afterthought. The Jews were part of God’s plan. The Gentiles, the rest of the nations, were part of God’s plan, as we saw in Daniel 7. And we individually were part of God’s plan, chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.
And all this is to his glory. Look at verse 12: “So that we who were the first to hope in Christ, might be to the praise of his glory.” God redeems a people for his praise, that his character and nature might be revealed, honored and rejoiced in. Now notice that the verse does not simply say that we will praise his glory, though I’m sure that’s implied. As we look at the overwhelming wonder of God’s lavish, redeeming grace there is response as appropriate as praise.
But that’s not all Paul is saying. He says we should be for the praise of his glory. That verb ‘to be’ opens up whole vistas of meaning. To be for the praise of his glory means to live, to exist, for his glory. The gospel changes everything. It resets our very reason for existence. I love the song we sang “Glory Will Cover the Earth,” especially the line that says ‘I will tell of your mercy and your unfailing love, I will be to the glory of your name.” This will be my existence, not only the reason for my existence but lived out reality of my existence. Paul will later command us “to walk in a manner worthy of our calling.” We are to be living witnesses to the glory of God, mirrors that reflect his glory, or to go use another metaphor, prisms, through which his brilliance can shine, so that those around us may see the glory of God.
But mostly this isn’t about us, it’s about God glorifying himself in Christ. Our very existence as those redeemed from sin shouts God’s glory to all of creation. Our ‘being’, once sinful and now holy, is a declaration to all creation of his unfathomable love and grace. And in the spiritual realm, of principalities and powers and created spiritual beings, the presence of the redeemed, those created by God and bought by him at the cost of His Son’s life, is a cause for wonder and praise, or for fear and hatred, depending on whether the spiritual beings are righteous or fallen. Paul says in chapter 3 that God’s wisdom is being made known to these rulers and authorities in the heavenly realm.
Finally, in verses 13 and 14 we are introduced to the work of the Holy Spirit, the last and maybe the best evidence in this long sentence of God’s lavish grace, of the reasons to praise his glory. 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, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.
Paul switches from the universal story to the Ephesian story: You too were included in Christ, included in redemption when you heard the word of truth, the good news of salvation, and believed. Hearing the gospel, hearing the truth is very important. That’s why I try to include at least the basic elements of the Gospel every time I stand up here and preach, the bad news of sin and separation and the good news of redemption, the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ.
But it is not enough to hear. I can talk until I’m orange in the face, yell until I’m hoarse, strain until I pop, and you will still not be saved. The Ephesians were not saved by what they heard, they were saved when they believed. “you heard, and believed in him.” You have to make the decision at some point that Jesus is real, that what he did is real, that your need is real and that you trust him, put your faith in him. You hear the good news and turn to Jesus in faith.
Then what happens? “When you believed in him,” Paul says, “you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” You received, in your own body and soul, the presence of God the Holy Spirit, who thus marked you as his, as with a seal. This is the kind of seal put on a letter or a package or even a doorway to protect the contents from tampering, and to show whose the package is. In the ancient world cattle and even slaves, were marked, branded, to show who the owner was. Such is the seal of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit in us shows us whose we are. Kent Hughes says: “He has tagged us, he has left his mark on us in our hearts, and we who have the seal know it. ‘The Spirit himself,’ says Paul in Romans “testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirsheirs of God and coheirs with Christ.’
But Paul does not stop by telling us that the Holy Spirit marks God’s ownership. He also describes the Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. The word translated deposit is “Arrabon.” The word came from the Hebrew into the Greek by means of Phoenician traders. In ancient commercial transactions it signified a first installment, a down payment, a pledge that pays part of the purchase price in advance. The ancient usage makes a beautiful picture for us, because the deposit is in fact a portion of the final payment, the first installment. So it is with the Holy Spirit. In giving him to us, God is not just promising us our final inheritance, but actually giving us a foretaste of it. In other words, the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is the guarantee and first experience of all the other things that God has promised.
The modern Greek word Arrabona is the word for engagement ring. The beauty of that image is not only that the engagement ring is given as a promise to the loved one, a promise of ongoing and continuing love, but that it is the gift of the bridegroom to the bride: and the relationship between bridegroom and bride is the exact relationship that we see in Ephesians between Christ and the church. He is the bridegroom, we the bride, the Holy Spirit is the engagement ring, and the wedding is coming. It may be today. It’s not far off. The promise has been made, the jewel given, the pledge will be fulfilled.
When will that time come? Oddly enough, at the time of our redemption. Look at verse 14: “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.” Wait a second: I thought we were already redeemed? We were redeemed as a present reality, a present blessing way back in verse 7. How can we be still waiting for redemption? Maybe it’s a different word in Greek, so it doesn’t mean the same thing? Sorry: exact same word, same everything. Maybe it’s translated badly, not really talking about a future redemption? Sorry again - this is clearly future.
Maybe this is one of those ‘now and not yet’ things? Bingo - you got it. For those of you who don’t know what a ‘now and not yet’ is, it’s a kind of a short hand description of how God works. Some of the things which we have begun to receive, we will not fully experience until Jesus returns. Salvation itself is ‘now and not yet.’ We experience salvation when we put our faith and trust in Christ - it’s a wonderful present reality. But we won’t fully receive it until Jesus comes and takes us out of this broken world, until there is a new heaven and a new earth where we live in holiness. So Paul can say later in Ephesians that it is by grace you have been saved. But he can say in 1 Corinthians that you are being saved, and he can say in Romans 13 that “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” It’s now, but it’s on the way.
Redemption is similar. It is a present reality: I have been redeemed. But it is also a future hope: though I have been bought back from sin, still I look forward to a time when I don’t have to dwell in the land of sin, where I don’t have to face these temptations, and deal with a sin nature within. That will be glory. That will be final redemption. Paul says in Romans 8 “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies,” “to the praise of his glory.”
So what have we seen? That God lavishes grace on us. Us Gentiles. Us sinners. Us bullies. We who are poor and impoverished in spirit and who have used our poverty to harm others, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins according to the riches of his grace which he lavished on us. We have an eternal kingdom promised when Christ gathers all things and all people in unity under his headship. We are an inheritance, having been chosen in him before the foundation of the world, and we have, thank you Jesus, an inheritance, God the Holy Spirit alive in us, the down payment in this imperfect fallen world of the perfect life of God in us that will be ours for for eternity. His lavish grace is poured out on us to the praise of his glory.