For The Praise Of God
1. "That God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ might be praised!," (verse three). This is the message God has for us on this first Sunday in the year 2000 of the Christian era. We have assembled in order to worship God. We have assembled in order to praise God. We praise the Lord with singing voices of adoration. But, that's just the beginning. We will praise the Lord with our lives all week starting now and also we will praise the Lord with our lives through out the year that has just begun. We are granted life through another year only so that another year for the praise of God is added to our lives. The reason one year after the other is added to our lives like that is so we would praise God all our lives long.
2. In order for us to offer praise to God, it is expected then that, we must know him who is worthy to receive our praise. We can't praise someone we don't know. According to this definition, our praise begins and ends with God. God has shown himself to us through Christ, and in response to God and [his revelation] we pray to him, worship him, and praise him. And for that reason, Paul does not only say, "That God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ might be praised!," but tells us why [God] is worthy to be praised. And for that reason, while we are at the beginning of the year which has been added to our life for the praise of God, we too should want to think of what kind of being God is who first receives our praise.
God The Father's Choice
3. To begin, let's read from verses three to six.
"That God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ might be praised! In Christ God has filled us with every heavenly spiritual blessing. Before creation God loved us and chose us in Christ to make us holy and stainless people before him. He determined beforehand according to his will to make us children of God through Jesus Christ so that we would praise his glorious grace which God gave us through his beloved son," (verses three through six).
4. The God we praise, if put in a single phrase, is the God who has blessed us in Christ. He is the God who has blessed us with every sort of heavenly spiritual blessing. The phrase "every sort of spiritual blessing of heaven" indicates that this is something that completely belongs to God. God is the one who blesses us with things that belong to heaven, spiritual things, that is, with things only God can give. Don't confuse where the text says "spiritual" with the word "psychological, mental." Because if it meant only something "psychological," then even a human being could give that to somebody. What we really need is not anything that humanity can give us. We need something heavenly, something spiritual, something only God can give us.
5. The reason God has so blessed us is he has chosen us. In verse four it reads, "Before creation, ... he chose us in Christ." This word "choose" is easily taken for an appearance of an elite mentality. But, when Paul talks about "choice/election" it is nothing except, "even though [we] have participated in God's blessings, its basis does not lie in [what we did]." Thus, the strange phrase of "before creation" is added [to show that]. If we said, "God chose us before we were born," that would be like saying "it is not based on my works or achievements" because it was "before we were born." If we take this all the way, it would be "before the creation of the heavens and the earth, or before creation." Regardless of the expression, in sum, it means "we have no achievements [worthy of making us an elite choice]." Instead, it says, "In Christ he chose" those who were neither holy nor stainless "to make [them] holy and stainless before him." He did not chose [them] because they were already perfect.
6. In verse five it is put another way such as to make those who are not children of God as children of God. What is being used here is a phrase that expresses adoption. It's about being adopted as a child of God. God is "God the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ." But, in the relationship between Christ and God the Father we believers in Christ are accepted in. As the Lord Jesus prayed "Abba, o father," we too are allowed to call this one who is creator of heaven and earth as "Abba, o father." And we are included into the family that sees the son as the eldest child. The reasons and basis for this have nothing to do with humankind as far as "man's" part goes. Paul says that it is because God "determined it beforehand according to his will."
7. In truth, the phrase translated as "according to his will" is also translated as "according to what makes God happy." This is surprising. In other words, this means our being made children of God is based on the simple reason that "it is for God's happiness and pleasure." What does this say to us? If we honestly put a value on ourselves, aren't we unfit to be truly made children of God? We can't even manage ourselves on our own, can we? But, the Bible teaches us that it is happiness for God to make us children of God like that. It is joy to God when we start to call him "Abba, o my father."
Redemption Based On The Blood Of His Son
8. Next, let's read verse seven.
"In the son we are redeemed by his blood and forgiven for our sins. This comes by God's rich grace. God has flooded us with this grace, given us all wisdom and understanding, and made us know his hidden plans. This comes according to the will of God which he determined beforehand in Christ. Thus, it will happen when the time is full, when the work of salvation is completed, everything will be brought into one under Christ the head. Everything in heaven and on earth is brought into one under Christ," (verses seven through ten).
9. God sent Christ into the world in order to make the unfit persons we are into children of God according to his pleasure. The phrase in verse five "in Jesus Christ" points out this truth. In verse six it calls this "the glorious grace that God gave us by his beloved son." It is clarified in verse seven what this grace is. God redeemed us in his son by his blood, that is, he gave us forgiveness of sin.
10. "Redemption" is a word used when a slave is bought back out and set free. When it says that we're redeemed, it points out that we used to be slaves. It is exactly as though [we] became slaves due to debts of a large sum of money. We were slaves due to the debt of sin. The Japanese often say "Sins flow into the water [Let bygones be bygones]." It sounds like if you can forget past sins, then it is settled. But, in actual practice, everyone knows that sins aren't really washed out by the water or that nothing is forgotten or settled. Unless we have received forgiveness for our sin, it is not settled. And God is ultimately the only one able to forgive sin. Then, God paid the price for our sin with the blood of his son and with his life. Our debt was paid in full by the blood of his son. We were bought up by the blood of the son and then forgiven. This is "redemption." We could not become children of God as long as we carried the debt of our sin on our own. We received it when we got our sins fully paid and when we became children of God through the work of Christ's redemption.
11. Also, God flooded us with his grace and made us know his hidden plan. Our getting our sins forgiven, being made children of God and thus being assembled in the son have nothing to do with us our own selves. God made clear his plans for this world through his son. As we are thus assembled in Christ it means that before too long the world will be made one under Christ the head. No, instead, the Bible tells us the things in heaven and on earth are brought into one under Christ.
12. If we look around, this world is really split and torn. It's a world where people compete against each other, are antagonistic and cruel, fight and kill each other. We have, even in places we are familiar with, the every day reality of people unable to live with others. But, we don't ever need to despair because God has one plan and because he has a plan that is revealed in Christ. Also, in the history of this world, in our specific every day world, God is alive and at work and leading it all to the completion of salvation. What God does may not appear too clearly to our eyes. Instead, there may be times [things] seem to go backwards. But, that's not what counts most. Because the text certainly speaks [to us] as follows in verse ten. "Thus, it will happen when the time is full, when the work of salvation is completed, everything will be brought into one under Christ the head." That's how time will soon be full. God's promise will be fulfilled.
The Holy Spirit As The Deposit
13. Finally, please look at verses eleven and so on.
"In Christ we were made heirs of what was promised and determined beforehand according to the plan of him who carries out everything according to his will. It is so that we, who have placed our hopes in Christ before, will praise the glory of God. You in Christ have also heard and believed the gospel that brings you the word of truth and salvation and have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit is a guarantee that we will inherit the kingdom and thus be redeemed and become God's and come to praise the glory of God," (verses eleven through fourteen).
14. Soon both the things in heaven and the things on earth will be brought into one under Christ. The world Christ rules is coming. It is none other than the world where only God's grace rules. There is where the completion of salvation lies. If that's true, then it means that already being united to Christ is to be made a sure partaker in the completion of salvation. It's about the fact we are made heirs of what's been promised. This hope can never be robbed by anything. Neither can it be plundered by death. Whether dead or alive, we are in God's promise. We are heirs. We're heading for the perfection of salvation.
15. Also, the perfection of the salvation we are supposed to inherit is not in some far away place apart from us as we just live like this in the real world. Now, while we're here doing what we do, we are already allowed to taste and know a part of salvation's abundance.
16. In verse thirteen Paul addresses them as "You too." These are the Gentile Christians of Ephesus. They heard the gospel and believed and are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. By saying seal of the Holy Spirit Paul might have been thinking specifically of baptism. Regardless of that, that they confessed Jesus as Lord, worshipped in unison, and formed a church was all indeed the work of none but the Holy Spirit. Also, he says this very same Holy Spirit "is a guarantee that we will inherit the kingdom," (verse fourteen). This "guarantee," if said another way, is "a deposit, a security, a down payment." We receive some of the deposit that we will soon receive in full. He says it is the Holy Spirit. This is the faith life we are given by the Holy Spirit. We not only live in hope as people heading for the perfection of salvation, but we receive a part of it in deposit and we are permitted to live while we now at this time taste the gift of salvation. In addition, through the down payment we are furthermore made into persons who live in a sure hope.
17. Well, that's how God has blessed us with all sorts of spiritual blessings of heaven. That's the kind of person he is who is to receive our praise. We should want to praise him with our singing voices and through our daily lives. Let us offer up anew and afresh the whole year that thus has begun as praise to God.