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Divine Purpose

Date: Mar. 14, 2021

Author: Michael Mark

Ephesians 1:1-14

Key Verse: Ephesians 1:10

to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment – to bring to unity all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Welcome to our study to the book of Ephesians!  As you can see from the title slide, the theme we have chosen for this series is “Divine Purpose,” which also summarizes the theme of the letter itself.  Have you ever thought about the Divine Purpose?  What is the purpose of God?  Can we actually know it?  There is a poem written in the 18th century by the great poet and hymn writer William Cowper (pronounced coo-per) that is the source of the popular phrase, “God moves in a mysterious way.”  And in a sense he does, by his invisible hand.  But in this letter to the Ephesians, we can see that God has revealed his purpose to us, in very clear and distinct terms, so we can know quite specifically the purpose of God.  This can be helpful to finding our purpose, by seeing how we fit in to God’s purpose.  As we are a college ministry, there may be students now figuring out what their purpose is.  I pray that through this study of Ephesians we may know and understand more and more the Divine Purpose of God.

The letter to the Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul sometime around the year 61 AD.  Ephesus was one of the largest cities in Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey.  It had a population of around 200,000 to 250,000, and was a major center for trade.  It is known also for the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world, so it was also a major city for paganism.  The gospel was brought there by Priscilla and Acquilla, and later Paul pastored the church for a few years during his third missionary journey.  It was around 5 years after that, Paul was now in house arrest in Rome awaiting trial with Caesar, that Paul writes this letter to the Ephesians.  My Bible has a short note saying that this is his most optimistic and encouraging correspondence to the young churches.  Keep in mind that Paul is writing from prison, but it contains that same joy as in Philippians.  Because of the great themes in the letter, it has been called the “Queen of the Epistles,” a “commentary on the Pauline letters,” and “the crown of Paulism.”  The letter can be divided into 2 halves; the first 3 chapters are theological, and the last 3 practical.

The passage we will look at today can hopefully set the tone for the letter; one of encouragement and optimism.  It is here in this passage that the overview of the Divine Purpose is described, and v.3-14 are really one unbroken sentence in the original Greek text.  That might be why you may see some strange verse divisions, as interpreters varied on how to divide the sentences.  But knowing that, you can think of it as one long poem of praise Paul writes to exalt the Divine Purpose of God.  We will subdivide it into 3 parts: 1) The Divine Choice of God (v.3-6), 2) The Divine Purpose in Christ (v.7-12), and 3) The Divine Promise by the Holy Spirit (v.13-14).  Even from this you can see how the Trinity works together to accomplish the will of God.

 Paul opens with a standard greeting in many of his letters in v.1-2, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  In some of your Bibles, you might see a footnote on v.1 – Some early manuscripts do not have “in Ephesus,” so it’s possible that this letter might have been intended to be passed around from church to church, so that all of the other churches might also read it.  Now, let’s move on to poetry of the Divine Purpose starting from v.3.

First, The Divine Choice of God – look at v.3, “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.”  Paul begins immediately with praise to God for blessing us.  Here we see the origin and type of blessing that God gives us.  The origin of his blessings are from heaven: these types of blessings are from above, they are not of this world, and they are higher and better than what this world has to offer.  These types of blessings are spiritual, for example, a new heart is better than a new car, daily bread is better than the choicest steak, and an eternal inheritance is better than acres of property.  As Jesus said, “What good is it to gain the whole world, but forfeit your soul?”  Notice also the last two words “in Christ.”  True spiritual blessings only come through one channel, and that is in Christ.  The rest of this passage will show us more spiritual blessings that we receive from God in Christ.

Look at v.4, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”  This, believer, describes you.  How and when did you come to know God?  You were chosen by God, and you were chosen before the beginning of the world.  This is called predestination.  Your destiny was determined before the world was even created.  How can this be possible?  Didn’t you have to come to believe?  Doesn’t Jesus say, “Repent and believe the good news!” in Mark 1:15?  But in John 15:16 Jesus says “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit...”  If God did the choosing, why do I have to take responsibility?  Suffice it to say, this is not an “either or,” but a “both and.”  It’s two sides of the same coin, or as another illustration describes it, it’s two sides of the same door.  When you enter into heaven, as you go, you see a sign above the door “Whosoever will may come,”  and after you enter, and look back, you see the sign now says, “Chosen before the foundation of the world.”

So what are the implications of this?  Because God chose you, before the world was created, he did not choose you because of what you did, or because you were born to a certain family, or in a certain place.  Now you might say, well, maybe God knew some were good and some were bad, and he chose them like that.  But to that I say, no, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  If God knows anything, it’s that all of us are sinful.  God chose you because of his own pleasure, and grace.  And when you are chosen by God, since there was nothing you did to be chosen, and that before the foundation of the world, there is nothing you can do to be unchosen.  This shows the eternal nature of God.  But this is not a license to sin, or live a life of sinfulness.  Actually that lifestyle might reveal more that you were not chosen.  Look how the chosen are described in v.4 – first, they are chosen “in Christ.”  Christ is the only way.  And what else: you were chosen to be holy and blameless in his sight.  Though none of us will be perfect, our holiness and blamelessness are not in us, but in Christ – you see how that works?  So while you may stumble, a life of discipline and keeping in repentance is an indication of being chosen.

We continue in v.4b-5, “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”  We are chosen to be holy.  We are also chosen, predestined for adoption to sonship, through Jesus Christ.  Here you also begin to see more of God’s motive.  He didn’t predestine us randomly, he predestined us in love.  As he knows the stars by name, he knows you by name.  God loves.  He is not some impersonal thing or force, God is personal – and not that he has our attributes, rather, we derive our attributes from Him.  We love because he is love.  And he operates in love.  He chose us to be adopted to sonship.  We know of many types of adoption in our modern day.  You can adopt a pet.  You can even adopt a street in Chicago, I think that means you commit to cleaning it.  But Paul doesn’t just say he predestined us for adoption – Paul says he predestined us for adoption to sonship.  Sonship refers to having all of the legal rights of an inheritance, and considered as part of a new family.  Even your old debts and obligations belonging to the old family are not carried over.  Just as Abraham was called out of the world to be God’s chosen person, so we are called out of the world, and into the family of God.  Only one group of people in all the earth can claim this status, and that is the true church.

Verse 6 says, “to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”  Whatever God does is to his praise, and even his grace is praised.  When you think about his love, and his blessings, you cannot help but to praise his grace.  And again, this comes through Jesus – in no other way is this grace: the grace of being chosen to holiness, the grace of being chosen to adoption – in no other way is it given to us, except in Christ.  And it’s free.  Note also, that Paul calls Jesus “the One he loves.”  The reason God is doing all this, is because God loves his son.

That’s also because the son does the will of His Father.  In Part 2, we will see the Divine Purpose by Christ.  Look at v.7, “In him we have the redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Redemption is such a redeeming word.  Redemption should lift your hearts, and in Christ, we have it.  Redemption is how we become holy and blameless.  Redemption is the key to adoption to sonship.  Redemption is the release of a captive by the payment of a ransom.  Our sins required payment.  Our sins required blood.  Romans tells us the wages of sin is death.  But Jesus paid it for us; Jesus paid it all.  He shed his blood on the cross, and he died in our place, so that we could be set free from the wrath of God.  He offered himself as a sacrifice for sins once for all, so that in Him and in Him alone we could receive the forgiveness of sins.  Your sins were forgiven at a great cost; it cost God his one and only Son, and so Paul could say your sins are forgiven, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace, as v.8a says, “that he lavished on us.”

Look at v.8b-9, “With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,”  The sacrifice of his Son was not some haphazard occurrence.  It wasn’t like God created mankind, and then they sinned, and then he was caught in a pickle, and had no other choice.  The offering of Christ was done with all wisdom and understanding – it was a part of the carefully thought out, planned and executed will of God to do what he did.  And this is our great privilege – not just to get an insight but to know the mystery of his will.  The word mystery does not mean anything mystical or strange.  The word mystery means something that was not revealed before, but revealed now.  Peter writes about how the prophets searched intently with the greatest care trying to find out the time and circumstances of the sufferings of the Messiah and the following glories, things which even angels longed to look into (1 Pet 4:10-12), but are plain to us now.  Nobody, not even the Jews to this day, could think that salvation would come through the death of the incarnate Son of God.

The choosing of sinners to holiness and sonship, the redemption of sinners by the blood of Christ, had this purpose in mind, and this is what the Divine Purpose is.  This is what one commentator calls the great keynote of the whole epistle, in v.10 – the UNITY OF ALL IN CHRIST.  Let’s look at v.10, “to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”  When God created the heavens and the earth, and the plants, animals and mankind, he saw that all was good, and he walked among Adam and Eve in the garden.  Then sin entered in, and corrupted everything.  God could not look upon sin and not punish it.  He had to separate himself from the world, and the world was given over to corruption, to sin and to death.  Even the soil on the ground would not produce a crop without extra hard labor.  When men got together to plot evil, God scattered them all with different languages so that they would be divided.

When we heard Moses Cho’s prayer earlier at the end, he prayed for peace, unity, and healing among the nations.  Unity is something we all long for, it is something we all want.  And it is something we can and should pray for.  Not a tyrannical forced unity, but we want a unity born out of love, respect and understanding.  Our nation looks as if it’s becoming more and more divided.  A major campaign promise was based on unity.  There was record voting on both sides as each party wanted their voices heard.  James 4:1 says “What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”  The world is at enmity with God, sin is becoming once again more open publicly, where in some cases it’s very uncomfortable to live by your Christian convictions.  But here in Ephesians we learn to stand firm and be strong in the Lord, for a time is coming when all will be made right.

Again v.10 says, “to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment” – this is the day when Christ comes again, this is the last day of the Last Days, and when Christ comes, he will “bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”  What will this unity look like?  It is the unity to all things in heaven and on earth.  It is when we experience the final redemption and transformation of our bodies, to be revealed as the sons and daughters of God.  Romans says the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed to be liberated from its bondage to decay.  It is the revelation of the church.  The church is not an organization, but it’s an organism, it is the body of Christ, made up of people from every tongue, tribe and nation, all with a common bond, united under Christ.  It is the new heavens and the new earth, where the old order of things will pass away.  Heaven and earth will be merged; there will be no more separation between God and man, as Revelations tells us, God will make his dwelling among man.  We may even see and interact with angels, whom we cannot see now.  And all things will be under Christ.  Christ will be the reigning King over the visible new heavens and earth.  True justice will be served: sinners will meet their judgment that they thought they got away with, those who are justified in Christ will enter into the glory given to them by God’s grace.  Jesus will rule with righteousness, wisdom and love, the same love that the Father had for him, and that he has for us.  And the universe will once again be stewarded in accordance to God’s will.  And we will all be united, as one body, as the bride of Christ, as we are now, the church, under Christ, redeemed, holy and spotless.

Paul now foreshadows this unity in v.11-12, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.”  In v.1-10, the “we” was the church.  Here, in v.11-12, the “we,” are those who first put their hope in Christ – he refers to the Jews.  Specifically Christian Jews who were the first to hope in Christ.  The Jews, as you may know, were the covenant people of God, descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to whom God promised to bless and make a blessing.  To them were given the Law and the prophets.  But here, Paul is saying that they were not chosen because of their ancestry, or their law keeping traditions, but also because of predestination. He is saying God also chose them out of his grace, so that he would get all of the glory.

In verse 13a, he refers to “you,” which are the Gentiles, and are the majority that make up the church in Ephesus and all over Asia Minor, Greece and Rome.  See v.13, “And you also were included in Christ, when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.”  This is our unity: our inclusion in Christ.  And this is the means of our salvation – by hearing and believing the message of truth, the gospel of salvation.

So lastly and briefly we have Part 3: The Divine Promise by the Holy Spirit.  Look now at v.13b-14 “When you 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 – to the praise of his glory.”  These are such wonderful blessings for the believer!  When we believe, we are marked with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.  A seal was like a signature stamp, and it proves authenticity, authority, ownership and security of a document.  The Holy Spirit marks us as a possession of God, as one belonging to God, and also serves as a deposit, a down payment guaranteeing that God will repay us in full – not that he owed us anything, but that he poured out his grace so abundantly on us through Christ.

The Holy Spirit is not like an inactive spiritual object within us, but is the Spirit of God Himself, the Third person of the Trinity.  God didn’t just give us a token as a deposit, he gave us himself to give us that assurance that he will redeem us.  And that redemption starts even now, when we first believed and received the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit that opens the hearts of our eyes to see our sin, and to look to the Savior.  It is the Holy Spirit that illuminate the Scriptures to us and gives us faith.  It is the Holy Spirit that prays on our behalf with groans we cannot understand.  It is the Holy Spirit that causes us to cry out, Abba, Father!  It is the Holy Spirit that conforms us to the character of Christ.  The Holy Spirit applies the blood of Christ to us, so that while we are still sinners, we are blameless and guiltless in the sight of God.  Who can bring a charge against us?!  No one, when we are in Christ.  And the Holy Spirit empowers us to do God’s will, until the day Jesus comes again, the day of our redemption; and from this day to that and forevermore, we will praise the glory of God.

We learned today about the Divine Choice of God: in his own good pleasure and will, consistent with his love, he chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy, and adopted to sonship in Christ.  We learned about the ultimate plan, the Divine Purpose in Christ, the keynote of the epistle – to bring all things to unity under Christ.  And we learned about the Divine Promise by the Holy Spirit, guaranteeing all of these things in Christ.  In accordance with His Purpose, what should be ours?  If you have not believed in the good news that Christ died for you to redeem you from this life of sin, God desires you to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  The Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts,” but put your trust in Christ.  If you have believed, then your great purpose is to serve the living God.  As it says in Heb 9:14, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”  To serve God – this can give us purpose, meaning and satisfaction, for we do not serve a hard taskmaster, but one who Himself did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.

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