Based on: Ephesians 1:3-14
When I was deciding which portion of God’s Word to base the sermon on for today, I didn’t realize it would end up this way, but today’s sermon text from Ephesians 1 is really an excellent continuation of the topic from the New Year’s Eve sermon. On New Year’s Eve we talked about how God has put his name on us and that he will bless us in this new year. That is his promise according to his gracious wisdom.
Now in Ephesians 1, Paul expands on that wonderful thought – God blesses us. With magnificent and rich spiritual blessings, God blesses us! All of these blessings come to us through the one whose birth we just celebrated, Jesus Christ. We can not help but respond to our God with praise.
As Paul writes this letter to the Christians in Ephesus he is sitting in prison in Rome. In spite of his earthly problems, Paul talks in glowing terms about his spiritual blessings. This whole section is really one sentence in Greek. I’m convinced that the ancient Greeks could more easily follow the intricate logic of Paul’s long sentence. For us, it helps that our translation has broken it down into shorter sentences for us to understand. Let’s take a closer look at the blessings that are ours in Christ.
They come from God, don’t they. “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.” Yes, they come from God the Father and they are blessings in the “heavenly realms”.What does that mean? Well, it means that these blessings come to us in God’s rule over us, not from Satan’s. If they are in the “heavenly realms” does that mean they are of no use to us on earth? No, but it does mean that the people of this world will not see them as the blessings they truly are.
We will certainly talk more about these blessings, but notice that God gives us every spiritual blessing. There is not one blessing that God holds back. This was God’s plan from the beginning. Paul says it in two different ways: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”
Before God even created the world, he already knew what he was going to do. He chose you. Even though you and I are not even close to being holy and blameless, even though there is no reason that he should pick us over someone else, he chose us so that he could make us holy and blameless. He decided in advance that even though we were children of Satan, he would make us his children. It pleased him to do it.
How do these blessings come to us? God gives to us freely in the One he loves – in Jesus Christ. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” There it is – the blessing God planned to give us from the creation of the world – the blood of Christ. Through that blood, through Christ paying for our sins on the cross, God has redeemed us. He has repurchased us for himself from our previous masters: sin, death, and Satan. He has forgiven the debt of our sins – the debt we could never repay. He did all of this because the treasure stores of his grace are endless.
From this one blessing flows every other blessing we could think of: heaven, peace with God, protection from Satan on this earth, comfort in difficult times, joy in doing God’s will, and so on.
Not only did he give us Jesus Christ and so give us the huge wonderful package of every spiritual blessing, but he gave us these blessings “with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,” Get it? He gave us even the understanding of this tremendous blessing. This plan that God was pleased to carry out from the beginning to send his Son to live and die in our place and rise again, this plan was not something we could have ever thought up on our own. Our sinful human minds could never have comprehended it, but God changed us. He has given us a heavenly wisdom and understanding. Now the mystery that we could not have known has been revealed to us in Christ, and Christ is revealed to us in his Word.
This understanding and wisdom makes us special. We are a part of God’s church. We are a part of the body of Christ. By revealing this mystery to others through us, God builds his church. It is a part of bringing “all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”
Revealing that mystery to us was part of God’s plan from the beginning. When he chose you to be his own before he created you, he also planned that the Gospel message, the truth about God’s blessings for you in Christ, would reach you, that you would read it with your eyes, that someone would speak it in your hearing. That was also God’s plan. He knew before he created the universe that he would send the Holy Spirit into your heart to hold on to God’s promises. Hearing the Word, that’s how God fulfills his plan for you – that’s how God fulfilled his plan for the Ephesians. Paul told them, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.”
God also gives you a guarantee that all of this is true, that all of God’s blessings are indeed yours. “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.”
The very fact that you have faith, that you trust God’s promises, is the assurance that you have the Holy Spirit. In Biblical times a seal was a mark of property. It was a sign that this thing belonged to this person. The Holy Spirit working in us is God’s mark of ownership upon us. We belong to him. And if we belong to him, he will certainly not let any harm come to us. He will certainly not lose us. The Holy Spirit is also the deposit, a down payment in a sense, of all the blessings that will find their fulfillment in us on the last day.
There is one more thing, one word that has appeared three times in these verses and I have not mentioned it yet. It is the word “praise”. Praise is the natural response of the Christian to the blessings God has blessed us with. Praise is the heart of the Christian saying, “Jesus died and came back to life for me. I want to share this good news.” You know that every time we say what great things God has done, we are praising him? Praise also says, “God has made me holy and blameless in his sight. I want to do my best to live that way even in this sinful world.”
Our blessings are in the heavenly realms. Our praise takes place among those who exist in the earthly realms.
God planned all along to make you and me a part of his church by redeeming us, taking away our sins by his Son, Jesus Christ. He worked through history to make sure you heard that Gospel message and he sent his Holy Spirit to work in your heart. That is the gift of Christmas. That is the blessings that comes again with every New Year. I can’t help but respond, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”