Main Point: The Father chose us to be His children because He loves us,so that we will fall in love with Him.
- Glory to the Father in the Timing of His Love
- Glory to the Father in the Justification of His love
- Glory to the Father in the Goal for His love
At a certain point in a person’s life he or she will start asking existential questions. Studies in the field of phycology have determined that the first question all of us will ask as children will be in the general area of: “Am I loved?” or “Will you reject me?” We ask these questions and they are answered usually through implicit communication. We also will ask questions about purpose; “Why am I here?” or questions of value: “Am I worth it?” or “Do I have what it takes?” Brothers, if we think that we are too manly to still be asking those questions I would encourage you to think again. Those QnA sessions happen all the time in your daily lives: when you receive your GPA, by your performance at work, when you are praised, when you feel disrespected by your wife, when your up here being evaluated in your preaching, or maybe sitting down when we compare our sermons to each other.
In this sermon we will discuss a doctrine that many Christians call unconditional election. This doctrine has created many disagreements between Christians but it has also affected Christendom in many marvelous ways. For example, it was one of the doctrines that the Lord used to allure me to Himself in my conversion from Islam to Christianity. Among us there may be people who are not familiar at all with this doctrine, who agree with it, or who disagree. I hope for 3 things from this sermon: one; is that you will be more informed about it, two; I want you to see how God is glorified by this doctrine, and three; during this sermon I want you all to have that QnA time I described earlier. I want you to ask God “Am I loved?” “Will you reject me?” “Why am I here?” “Am I worth it?” and I want you to hear His answer from our passage today, Ephesians 1:3-7.
3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,”
1. Glory to the Father in the timing of His love
Notice how here, and on the other points, I am focusing on the Father’s love for us, not specifically on Jesus’ love for us. We know that our God, three in one, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one yet three distinct persons. Here that main subject of this passage is God the Father, and not God the Son. Yes of course Jesus loves us, but in this passage Paul wants to highlight the Father’s love for His people. What can make this hard to spot is the use of the third person pronouns (he and him). At first glance we don’t really know who “he” and “him” is referring to. Lets do something that will make this clearer, I will re-read the passage and replace the third person pronouns (he and him), with the appropriate person it is referring to:
3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before the Father. In love 5 the Father predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of the Father’s will, 6 to the praise of the Father’s glorious grace, with which the Father has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In Christ we have redemption through Christ’s blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of the Father’s grace,”
Do you see the distinction here? My friends, yes Jesus loves you we know that. But Paul here is explaining another profound mystery, that the Father has loved you, since when? Since before the foundation of the earth. That He has planned for “us” (Christians) to be adopted as His sons before the world was ever made. Some would point out that this passages that say its not that God foreordained ones salvation but merely foreknew that one will receive Christ (1 Peter 1). They pretty much are saying that its an either or, either God knew they are to accept Christ or God made them accept Christ. What this passage is proposing with many other passages is that God first predestined, and therefore He also foreknew. Here are other passages that discuss this topic: 2 Tim 1:9: “Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,”. Acts 13:48: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Rom 8:29: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined.” It’s not an either or, before the foundations of the world God thought of you and said to Himself: my son! He will be mine!
Here are the implications, for God’s glory: He is an active sovereign God not an out of control passive one. He loves you too much to leave the possibility of spending eternity with you as your father up to chance. For our value: a commentary said better then I ever could; “Thus man is given transcendent meaning and worth, dignity and glory, in that he is made the willing instrumentality and agency of the life-activity of God.” But this decision had its consequences, the Father had to give up something very dear to Him to make your son-ship a reality. Which brings us to our second point…
2. Glory to the Father in the justification of His love
I chose the wording of this point carefully and I mean it just as I wrote it, the Father needs justification for His act of adopting us as children. Why does the Father need justification, can’t He just do whatever He wants whenever He wants. No He cannot, here are some things He cannot do: he cannot lie, cannot sin, be unfaithful, be unjust. In other words, He cannot conflict His own nature, He is accountable to Himself for God cannot be less than God. It would be conflicting for God to adopt sinners as His children while letting their sins go without punishment. The Father would be unjust to forgive sinners without paying the penalty for their sins.
So how does God navigate through this seemingly dilemma? Paul answers this in our passage with ecstatic joy. Every time Paul describes what the Father has done for believers he always includes the phrase “in Christ“ or “through Christ” in the same breath: blessed us in Christ, chose us in Christ, adopted us through Jesus Christ, blessed us in the beloved, in Him we have redemption, through His blood we are forgiven. See, the punishment that we deserved was paid by death of Christ, and the eternal life we got was given to us because of the perfect life of Christ. It was an exchange of status, if this pen represents all my sins, and this Bible represents the perfect life of Christ, it was switched so that we receive His righteousness and blessing, whereas He receives our sin and condemnation.
So here we see the difference of roles again between the Father and the Son. The Father blessed us in Christ, the Father forgave us in Christ, the Father adopted us through Jesus Christ. See, it is right to say that Jesus died to forgive us for our sins, but it is more accurate to say that Jesus died, so that the act of the Father forgiving us may be justified. Just as a judge would be justified in his act of releasing a broke criminal, because someone else has paid their bail for them. That is how people who were born before Christ can experience this forgiveness and adoption as well. Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness, The Father can forgive and adopt Abraham because the just payment is to come in and through the death of Christ. See, the innocent Son of God was condemned guilty by a human court of law, so that guilty people like us can be adopted as innocent children by a heavenly court of law. The cross is where God’s love and justice meets.
Now, if you’ve been paying attention you should be a little confused at this point, because it would seem that my first point and second point is contradicting. I said earlier that God has always seen us as His children, but now I’m saying that we are adopted as children when we receive Christ. Which one is true? Well both. Paul addresses this same confusion in Gal 4:6: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” See, here it says because you are sons, God sent the spirit of His Son into your heart crying Abba Father. The prerequisite for the Father adopting you in Christ is that He first has declared you already a son. There is an old Jewish practice that may make this clearer to us, this practice is called redeeming the firstborn. Rabbinic records accounts that if a Jew is to marry a woman who is not a Jew, or a woman who is divorced, their firstborn son is not an heir until the father literally adopts him with a payment when the child reaches maturity. The son has been his son since conception, but legally his heir when there is payment for his adoption. The same concept applies here, notice Paul did not say in Galatians “that in order to make us sons”… but “because we are sons.” This is what solidified the Gospel to me when I was a Muslim because it implies something about His glory, namely that God gets all the glory for our salvation. I cannot say to an unbeliever in judgment day, “you should have believed in Jesus Christ like I did.” (Eph 2:8). It also implies something about our value because here we see that Jesus did not die on the cross to make you valuable (lovable) to the Father, but that He died on the cross because you have been valuable (loved) to (by) the Father. We can end here and dwell on so many things already, but we would have not done the topic of predestination justice if we only talk about the pre, and not the destination. See this doctrine that discusses the eternal beginnings of God’s children, implies the eternal end for all God’s children. Which brings us to our last point…
3. Glory to the Father in the goal for His love
Look at verse 4 of our passage; “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Here we see two end goals of the Father’s eternal love for us; namely to be holy and blameless. However if you look at the Greek, there is a small difference with ESV. The full stop does not appear before the word in love, but after the word in love. The NRSV agrees with many other commentaries, that the “in love” should be in the end of verse 4 and not in the beginning of verse 5. So a more accurate translation would be: “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love.” A commentary states that the thought here is that: “”In love” should rather be seen as part of the goal election is intended to achieve in those it embraces – a life before God which is holy and blameless and lived in love.”
So there are 3 things that constitute the goal of the Father’s love, for Christians to be holy, blameless, and in love. Paul actually also prays that these things would characterize the believers life before the Father in 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13: “and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father.” The goal of His election is so that we will be holy, blameless, and in love with Him and His children for eternity.
He is not content with the mere objective status of being holy and blameless, He hopes for you to respond with a subjective emotional reaction out of the truth of predestination; that we would be in love with Him. So that we will study this doctrine deeper not just so we can win arguments, but so that there will be an emotional response to our Father. How can an emotional response come out of this doctrine? Because He is screaming to us here: don’t let the world determine your worth, don’t let the world determine your value, don’t let the world tell you what your purpose is, don’t let the world tell you how lovable you are, ask me! Those who are in Christ were predetermined to be in a loving relationship with the Father and He will never stop being lavished with His love. Jeremiah 31:3: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Geerhardus Vos perfectly said it: “The reason God will never stop loving you, is because He never began.”
So how it that QnA time going? How valuable? What is your worth? Enough for the Father to crush His Son! How lovable are you? You have been loved from before the beginning of time. What is your primary purpose?” To be God’s object of love for eternity, and in response glorify and enjoy Him forever. But as we close there is one question left unanswered; “Why did He choose you?” I don’t know… But in that question lies the splendor of it all. Why did He choose you to be the recipient, what about you made Him call out in eternity past “my son?” I don’t know. Brothers and sisters, let that question mark guide you and bless you for the rest of your Christian walk. That you may sing with the rest of His chosen children; “Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer. But this I know with all my heart. His wounds have paid my ransom.”