Ephesians 1:3-14 is the longest sentence in the Bible, and is intended to be a run on phrase explaining God's incredible love for each of us. God gave according to His riches; there is no more to give to us. If any of us knows Jesus Christ, it is because He chose us, not because of anything we have done. However, we do not know whom He has chosen, so we must share His grace and forgiveness with everyone.
What He Has Done to Make Us One
Our Radical Problem... Our Right Response
But God... By Grace
I Pray You Believe It
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 5
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 4
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 3
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 2
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 1
Intro to Ephesians: The Call to Make a Difference in a Godless Culture
We could not have tried to pick, if we had planned it this way, a better place to be come Father's Day. This is an absolutely ideal passage to study on this day that we celebrate fathers in our nation. This morning when I woke up and got out of the shower, my wife and two daughters were sitting on the bed, and they had a couple of cards for me. I want to read one of them to you.
My little girls, my oldest is 26 months, and my youngest is 6 months. They cannot write, but through the wisdom of their mother… You'll see how brilliant she is when you find out how she interpreted the expressions of love and the few words that Ally could eek out to write me this card, but it's a run-on. It's one long sentence, so the grammar in it isn't exactly right, but you know, what my wife did in interpreting the love she saw in our daughters for me… The kids were so excited to express love for me that they weren't really concerned about punctuation. She just says this:
"Daddy you're the greatest!" Here comes the sentence. "Thank you for playing with us after a long day at work and before you start your work day, for tickling us, for being silly with us, swinging us, bathing us, feeding us, praying with us, reading to us, singing with us, walking us, taking us on errands, taking us to 'Donald's for hamburgers and french fries and ketchup, helping us be all that God intended us to be, loving us, caring for us, protecting us, holding us, hugging us, kissing us. Boy, you do a lot – there should be more than one day to celebrate how happy, proud, honored, humbled, excited, blessed we are that you are our daddy. Happy Father's Day!"
I have a bright wife, don't I? She just took all that from the love and the expression my little girls showed, and that's what they said. If you will, she was the inspiration behind the emotion that my little girls had for me.
We're going to look at a little passage in Scripture today that, if I could only have one sentence in my Bible, this would be it. If I had somebody come to me and say, "If you were only going to get to take one sentence the Holy Spirit inspired, what would it be?" I would take this one. Now it's a little bit of almost a trick that I'd play on the person who asked me that because the way we have translated our Bible in the English, we have lost one of the truths in what Paul wrote.
I got a letter a number of years ago from a friend of mine who was sharing with me just some neat things God had done in his life and also in the lives of others around him because of his changed life, and the letter was about three pages long and about half of it was one sentence. At the very end, he realized, you know, what he had been doing, and he stopped, and he put at the end of this long sentence another parenthetical, and he said, "So sorry that this is terrible grammar, but it's just hard to stop when you're sharing about what God is doing."
In effect, he said this. "It's hard to obey the law of grammar when you're sharing with somebody about how we've been freed from the law because of the grace of God." Now this guy didn't know me very well, or he would've realized that I'm not really concerned with punctuation in letters that I receive. I do not grade the letters that I get for proper grammar.
I'm one of those guys who used to resent when people would tell me I was using wrong English, you know teachers who, when you'd go up to when you're a kid, and you'd say, "Hey, can I go to the bathroom?" They'd go, "I don't know, can you?" I'd want to you look at them and say, "You know, in about five more seconds, I'm going to display to you that, in fact, I can go to the bathroom. As Lassie would to a tree, so I will to your desk if you do not free me."
I used to hate it when I'd say to somebody, "Where do you want to go eat dinner at?" They'd go, "Don't end a sentence with a preposition." I'd say, "Where do you want to go to dinner at, you jerk?" I'm not really concerned with grammar. What Paul has right here is a sentence that, if he would've written it and turned it in in his English class, he would've gotten an F on because it is a run-on, and it is meant to be a run-on. It is a sentence that is just supposed to be ridiculous in its descriptions about what God has done for us. It goes and goes and goes and goes.
I couldn't even read it for you in one breath, and Paul means for it to be hilarious as you try and read. It begins a description of his Father in heaven, and it's a run-on inspired by the Holy Spirit, so all of you illiterates out there, be encouraged because God sometimes isn't really concerned with grammar or with punctuation. He's concerned that you are overwhelmed with his love for you. You have that.
It is the answer to a trivia question. The longest sentence in your Bible is in Ephesians, chapter 1, verse 3. It begins with blessed, and it goes all the way down to verse 14, and it ends with to the praise of his glory, a little phrase that appears three times in this sentence. Now I want to tell you, we could spend, literally on this one sentence, a year. I'm not kidding you. We could take it piece by piece, phrase by phrase.
I'm going to take it phrase by phrase tonight, and we're only going to get a little way through it, but I could take it phrase by phrase and take an hour on each phrase and just teach it. There are some men who literally will preach to this book of Ephesians three, even four years. We're going to try and cover it in a couple of months, so we'll get through this sentence, this blessed sentence, in a couple of weeks.
We're going to begin. We're going to dive into this answer to a trivia question. Now there's a number of ways to take it. Even as there are a number of ways to outline Ephesians, this one sentence that, if you could only have one sentence out of your Bible, I would encourage you to choose this because it describes to you God's incredible love for you…
Ally and Kirby, later if they got this card, if they didn't know me personally, if something happened to me and their mom showed them this card a number of years later, they would have realized how much I love them just by reading this. They would've gone, "Boy, my dad really cared for me. I must be valuable to him because of the things he did, the sacrifices he made, the love he showed me."
Y'all, that is exactly what Paul intended for you to see today, how incredibly loving your heavenly Father is to you, as he just writes, if you will, a Father's Day card praising God. You are his child. He's going to mention that in there, and that should encourage you on this Father's Day, that if your Father is all these things and if your Father has done all these things for you, it ought to change your life.
There's so much that is out there today about how we can improve our self-image, our self-worth, our feelings of significance. There are books upon books upon books, and they're all hopeless when you take God out of the equation because ultimately you always leave man with man, and it always gets into a spiral of performance and a spiral of, "Am I okay? Am I pretty enough, powerful enough, rich enough, influential enough that my life matters?"
This book says it is not up to you whether or not your life matters. It is not up to you whether or not you're significant or loved. It is up to the one who created you, who spoke this world into existence. You're about to see how much your Father is to be blessed and praised and how much your Father thinks of you. Let's take a look. Let's dive right in.
There are a number of ways you can break this down. There's the Trinitarian way. You can go through, and you can look at the description for you of the way the Father loves you, the way the Son loves you, and the way the Spirit loves you. In verse 3 all the way down to the middle of verse 6 is a description of what the Father does for you, and we're going to try and make our way almost to there tonight, a description of what the Father has done.
If you will and you want to write something down, you can say the Father is the one who has planned what he wanted to do with you. He has plucked you out. He has picked you. If you wanted to take an S, he has selected you, and that is what is going to be displayed by Paul in chapter 1, verses 3-6.
After that, in what would be called 6b, where it begins to say, "…which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." Which is a reference to Jesus Christ. From there all the way down through, I guess verses 6-12, is a reference to what the Son has done for you, Christian. If the Father has plucked you, if the Father has picked you, if he has selected you, then it is the Son who has paid for you. If the Father has sovereignly selected you, then the Son sacrificially saved you, and that's what those verses are about.
Then you go from there, and verses 13-14 talk about the third part of the Trinity, which is the Spirit. If the Father picked you, if the Son paid for you, then the Spirit, it says, protects and preserves you. That's what 13 and 14 are about. If the Father sovereignly selected you, if the Son sacrificially saved you, then the Spirit certainly seals you is another way to summarize what he says in this long little bit of a letter, of a sentence.
You could take apart this thing in a Trinitarian way, and you could look at what the Father did, the Son did, and the Spirit did in saving you as a Christian. You could also do it in a temporal way. You could look and see how this happened in the past in order to save you. This is what's going on in the present, and this is what's going on in the future, and you can see it breaks down almost the same way.
Verse 3 through the middle part of verse 6 is the past that God shows you before the world was created, it says. Then you could go from 6b really all the way down now this time just to verse 11, and you see what the Son is doing presently for you. Then you could go from verse 12 all the way through verse 14 and see what is going to happen in the future.
You can study this passage that way, in a Trinitarian way or in a temporal way, what happened past, present, and future; all to tell you how wonderfully loved and valuable you are, or you can do it the way we're going to do it over the next couple of weeks, which is phrase by phrase. You'll cover in that the past, present, and future, and you'll cover in that what the Father did, what the Son did, and what the Spirit did, but you'll catch the full glory of it. It ought to absolutely shiver you to the core.
There's a story about Victoria who was a little girl in England. This little girl was from a royal lineage, and little Victoria was one day destined to be queen in England, but in order that she may not be spoiled, for a long time, they held that truth from her until, one day, the family decided it was time for Victoria to know she was going to be queen.
Her tutor took her into her room and showed her a chart of all the monarchs in English history. They started at the top, and he pointed to it, and Victoria would read the name. She went all the way down until finally it got her mom and her dad, and there was a little line that came down from that, and he pointed his finger on it, and she goes, "Victoria." Then she turned and looked at her tutor, and she went, "Victoria?" The guy went, "Victoria."
That little girl from that moment on, it is her testimony as she wrote that her life was changed because she understood she was no normal little English girl but that she was from a royal line. She had a heritage which destined her for a throne, and she said, "If I'm going to be a queen, I must begin to act like a queen."
If you will, the tutor took her to her lineage, took her to her father and mother and showed her how significant she was, how much wealth she had. I told you before that this book really is the place Christians can go to see the incredible wealth we have in a relationship with God. This is the book that's called by some the Christian's checkbook or the bankbook of the believer, the title some people gave Ephesians.
You're going to see why when you read this sentence Paul gave us in verses 3-14. You're going to find out, Christian, when you read verses 3-14 that, as it comes down, there's an inspired finger that's going to point to your name, and that lineage is going to go from God the Father through God the Son to God the Spirt, and it's going to end with Christian. You're going to go, "That's me?" The answer's going to be, "That is you," and it should change the way you live.
This book says, "You are no normal human being. You are from a royal lineage. You have been chosen to be a saint of the people of God, one holy race. You are destined for a throne." This is the means by which you may act upon it. It's interesting. I told you a little bit about Ephesus, which was called the bank of Asia. It is, again, an emporium, a way in, the Greeks would call it, that is on kind of the southwest coast of Asia.
When the Greeks would to there, they took this city that was already great and made it greater, and it was the way in. The marble way led to this great amphitheater which held 20,000 to 25,000 people, and from there, it would lead into all of Asia. It was there in Ephesus that they called Ephesus the bank of Asia.
As I told, there was the Seventh Wonder of the World, the temple of Artemis, and in the temple of Artemis were stored all the great treasures of the world. What Paul is going to do is do a little play on that. He's going to say, "This, Christian, is your bank, and this, Christian, God is going to build not a temple of stone that's a wonder of the world but a temple he himself is the author of, the foundation of, and the builder of.
He is going to deposit into that all riches that are not temporal riches but riches that are heavenly riches that are far greater than the riches about a mile and a half up the road at Artemis' temple." Paul is saying, "This is your bank, believer. This is your checkbook, Christian. Find out that your name is at the bottom and draw from it. It should make a difference in how you live."
Look at verse 3. It says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…" That's a mouthful already, and you go, "There's one word that jumped out of there three times. The word is blessing." Now let me just give you a little bit of stuff right here. The word blessing, or eulogētos, comes from two Greek words, eu and logos.
When you look at eulogētos, eu means well, and logos means word, so you have well word. We have at funerals a thing called a eulogy, which we get from eulogētos, which means it's a time you stand up and you speak well of somebody. You mention all their admirable traits. You commend them for the life they lived.
The eulogētos in the Greek is only used an adjective in reference to one person in your New Testament. Guess who it is? It's God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, because there is only one who is truly worthy of being well spoken of. That's exactly what the word means as the adjective. It means to be well spoken of.
It's just like in Mark 10:17, when the rich young ruler came to Jesus, and he started the entire conversation with Jesus by saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Do you remember what Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good?" That's kind of a funny question.
Did Jesus think he was good? Yes, Jesus knew he was good, but what that gentleman did not know is that he called Jesus good, and only Jesus alone was good, and if he had an understanding of what he'd just said, he'd would already have found the key to eternal life. Jesus' response was, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone." He did not say, "You shouldn't call me good." He just said, "Do you know what you're saying?" What Jesus is saying right here is, "Nobody should have this adjective attached to their name in the truest sense except me."
Paul uses it for nobody. The New Testament uses it for nobody except for our Father, blessed. It literally means praised, to speak extremely well of. He is our everything, our all in all. We cannot say enough of him. We could not eulogize him if we began now and ended at eternity, which is an oxymoron because he is the one who to praise him is inexhaustible in our efforts to do it.
It says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…" He is the blessed one. Then it says this. We go from the blessed one to the one who he has blessed. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us…" See, you have the blessed one and the one that the blessed one blesses. It's you and me. We're about to see right now that this is the vault beginning to swing open, and you're going to see that we are, indeed, in the money, in fact far better than in the money.
It's interesting, too, when you look, it says, "…who has blessed…" That should bother you because one of the things we did to start this whole thing off is made fun of grammar, but the other thing you want to do now is pay attention to grammar because it says, "…has blessed…" That is the perfect tense, the past perfect tense, which simply means it is an act which has been done in the past which has been completely completed.
He has blessed. It is a done deal. There's nothing more he can do for us. He's the blessed one. We're the blessed people who he has blessed. We're going to find out, "Well, when did he do this? When did we receive all these great riches?" This blessed one you could not eulogize if you started now and did not end forever has given us a gift, and it's a done deal. It's not something we have to continually work for. It looks as if it's been given.
It says, "This God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has blessed us." What has he blessed us with? It says here, "…with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…" Every spiritual blessing.We're going to spend just a little bit of time on this. Do you understand this? When he blessed us with what he blessed us with that Paul is beginning to talk about right here, he said, "He went as far as he could go. He could not go beyond Calvary. He could not go beyond Jesus Christ. That is all he could do in giving it with us."
Let me just show you something. Slide down to verse 7. We're not going to make it there this week, but there's something you need to see. Read it with me. It says, "In Him…" That is Jesus, the beloved who came out of verse 6. "…we have redemption…" We'll talk about that. "…through His blood…" We'll talk about that. "…the forgiveness of our trespasses…" We'll talk about that. "…according to the riches of His grace…"
Now notice what it does not say. It does not say they're out of the riches of his grace. Out of would mean this. If you're walking along the road, and Hetty Green was reincarnated because she was hanging around and had plenty of money leftover because all she did was spend money on cold oatmeal and skim milk, as we studied last week, and Hetty Green and her $100 million was walking down the road, and she saw you kind of down and depressed, and you looked at her.
Then Hetty said to you, "What's wrong?" and you said, "Well, I'll tell you what's wrong. I'm a little bit late in my payments, you know, to Visa to Mastercard to Discover to my landlord. You name it, I owe it." She said, "Well, what is it?" You said, "Well, Hetty, you don't even want to know. It's in the thousands."
She said, "In the thousands?" You said, "Yes," and she wrote you a check for all your debt. Let's say it was $35,000, and she covered it right there. If she had written you a check for $35,000 when she had $100 million, that would have been a gift out of her riches. If she would've, though, dealt with your need according to her riches, that means she gave every last cent she had according to her ability.
That, my friends, is what Paul is saying there in verse 7. That is what it says in verse 3 when it says that he gave you "…every spiritual blessing…" There is no more. He gave to you according to his riches. All of it was shoved your way. See, there are a lot of people right now who are going to tell you that, when you trust Christ, what you need later is a second blessing.
They asked J. Vernon McGee one time, "Have you received the second blessing?" His response was this. "Second blessing? My friend, I'm working way up in the hundreds—in fact, up in the thousands." He's basically saying, "I need no more blessing. I've been given every spiritual blessing in Jesus Christ."
Turn with me to 2 Peter really quickly. Just flip to your right. Let's read not Paul's opinion of this but Peter's. You'll go past Hebrews. You'll go past James, and you'll come to 1 Peter. Say, "Hello" to him and swing over to 2 Peter, chapter 1, verse 2. Look what it says. "Grace and peace be multiplied…" Familiar, by the way, with the grace and peace? "…be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord…"
In other words, begin to understand what my buddy, Paul, wrote about in that long sentence in Ephesians, chapter 1, verses 3-14, if you only begin to realize he gave to you according to his riches. He says, "Right now, I want you to know this. I want this piece to be multiplied to you in the knowledge, not in extra things given but in the knowledge of what you have." "…the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted…" If you were going to call that a certain part of English, what would you call it?
How about the past perfect tense? It is something that is done in the past that is perfectly completed, that God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given. "…granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." He goes on, and he goes on, and he goes on.
He says, "Listen, you have been given everything pertaining to life and godliness. You do not lack anything." Like I already said. Go back to Ephesians. You cannot receive more. There is no need for a second blessing. That is one of the problems.
I really have a problem with that theology because what it does is mocks Jesus Christ, and it mocks God's gift to us through Jesus Christ. When I trusted Jesus Christ, I got everything God had to give. He gave to me according to his riches. I did not lack. I did not need more. I needed to only withdraw from that which he has already granted me in Christ.
That is my way of reading it and going, "Man, this God loves me," and I could read on and on and on, even as Alex went on and on and on about the way I try and love Kirby and Ally. In fact, it's a terrible analogy. You're going to find that, you know, Christians are so guilty. I just got a little thing here that I ripped out. You know, Christians are constantly asking God for things he's already given us.
We ask that God would make it more possible for us to love. It says this in Romans 5:5. "…the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." That is a done deal. We pray to God for peace. It says this in John 14. "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you…" You pray for peace, you've got it.
See, you don't need to go get it. You need to just withdraw of what you already have. This is the Christian's checkbook. Your account is full. We pray for happiness and joy, it says in John 15. "These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." We ask God for strength. There's a familiar verse in Philippians which says that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. You've already been given everything you need in terms of strength for God to give it to you.
It's a lot like, if you will… You don't need to turn there, but I'll flip back and read you a passage from Joshua, when Moses had died and Joshua was the one who was left who was going to take them into Cana, take them into the Promised Land. I don't think the Promised Land is necessarily a picture of heaven because, when you get into Cana, you find that they still war. When we get to the heavens, we're not going to war anymore. We'll be delivered from all heartache and war.
The Promised Land is a place we are to go and to live a way God has ordained that we should live that we might be a people set aside for him, saints everyone, who have been blessed and prospered by him that others would cock their heads and go, "What is the secret to you guys making it through this hellacious world we live in in the Middle East?
We've noticed you are a nation that is not great in number, and there are seven nations who have occupied this land that are greater and stronger than you are, yet you've driven them out. How'd you do it? We noticed that your agricultural program prospers like none we've ever seen. How do you do it?"
The response was not to be, "We are wise. We are witty. We study at Harvard." The response was to be, "We know Yahweh. We know the Lord God, and because of our relationship with him, we are just drawing on his promises to us, and you, my friends, can know him. He's not only to be our God. He's to be the God that all the nations of the earth are to be blessed by as they see the way God relates to his chosen people," which was Israel, the theocratic nation.
God in the Old Testament… In fact, we're going to come across the word chosen here in a little bit. Let me tell you. There are three ways God chooses people in the Bible. He chose the nation of Israel. In a theocratic sense, he chose them to do a special work to the nation of Israel. Now catch this. Not everybody who was among the people of Israel was saved, but they as a people were chosen, and God wanted to do something special with them, so there's election unto being a chosen nation.
There's another kind of election. There's an election to vocation, an election to an office, that God chose some, it says, to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be teachers, so some were chosen by God to do a certain thing, a vocational election. Then there's a third. There is an election, a choosing unto salvation. All who were chosen to be apostles…were they saved? No. There was one of the 12 who was chosen to be an apostle who was not chosen to be saved. His name was Judas.
Were there some among the theocratic nation that was chosen by God who were not among the elect? You bet there were. See Korah and his boys who rebelled in the desert, and the earth split and swallowed them up. There were many among the nation of Israel who were not a part of what we'll call the elect, the saved, the chosen in the New Testament.
There were some, and continue to be some, of the theocratic nation and God will fulfill his promises to who will indeed become part of his chosen people which he calls the elect, the church. You're going to find that's one of the great mysteries of the New Testament, that there is no longer division between Jew and Gentile, but he brings them together. What you have here…
Where was I going with that whole thing? I was talking about being chosen, and we kind of got off on that a little bit, didn't we? God has chosen, if you will, like I said, to bless us in Jesus Christ and that we can pull from that, and all who know him and are chosen in him can pull from what he's given us. There is no more that he can give us.
You look and you watch. See, here's what happened. We have been made co-heirs with Jesus Christ. Christ died and conquered sin. What's going to happen? When we die, we'll conquer sin. Christ is without sin. What happens? We're declared holy and blameless. Christ is one who is holy. We're declared righteous. Christ is seated at the right hand of God in the heavenlies.
What happens with us? It says in Colossians, chapter 3, "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ…seated at the right hand of God [in the heavenlies] . Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." We're seated at the right hand of God and the heavenlies. That's where we are positionally. Practically, we're right here, but we have a wealth of things that God has given us according to what Paul wrote, and so many of us are caught up in asking for things God has already given us.
One guy wrote, "What the believer's need is not to receive something more but to do something more with what he has." Now there are some of you in this room who are genuinely ignorant, that you do not know all you have been given. There are others of us, though, who have studied the Scriptures, who have been through, and we've seen all we've been given.
We're just like that couple we studied last week who died of malnutrition, even though they had $40,000 in garbage bags stuck in their closet. We're just too ignorant to walk over there and pull from it and have our needs met. This is the believer's bank, the Christian's checkbook, and you need to know all God has given you. You lack nothing pertaining to life and godliness. He has given you every spiritual blessing.
He has not given you earthly blessing. He's given you spiritual blessing. If you trust Christ tonight, you are not going to lose 20 pounds, as one person has said. If you trust Christ tonight and you're poor, you might continue to be poor. If you trust Christ tonight and you're stupid, your IQ is below 40, you'll probably be a saved stupid person.
God doesn't waste a lot of time with temporal things. He goes right to the heavenlies. He wants you to have a part of the things that matter, not the temporal things that will dissipate and that will go away, like what's stuck in Artemis' temple, but what's in the heavenlies that never perish, where rust and thieves do not destroy and they're never lost.
Where I was going with that chosen thing is with Joshua, part of that theocratic nation. When Joshua went there in Joshua, chapter 1, verses 3 and 4, God said this to Joshua. "Listen, Joshua, I have chosen you to do something." Verse 3: "Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites…" And on and on and on.
What he's saying is, "I've already given it to you. All you have to do is go in and claim it. Don't ask. Just go, because I've chosen you to have this." That's exactly what he says to us as believers. He has chosen us to have this, and that gets us right through this to verse 4 in Ephesians. It says, "…who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…"
It says he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.I like what Spurgeon said. "The reason that he had to choose me before the foundation of the world is because, if he would've waited until I was here to choose me, he would not have chosen me." Some of you guys are going to have a real problem with this.
I have a friend that, when he teaches this book… When you come across what is taught in the Scriptures and it is clear, it is called election. It is called sovereign choosing. It is called predestination. If you have a problem with that, the way he handles it is this way. He says, "Tough," because that's exactly what Scriptures teach.
You know, people make a big deal about whether you're a Calvinist or an Arminian, and I would agree with what one man has said. He said, "You're not a Calvinist. You're a Paulist." A Paulist was one who followed Christ. He was a Christian. Christ is one who quoted Moses. He was Mosaic. Moses was one who quoted God, and that settles it.
It says right here in Ephesians 1, verse 4, that you have been chosen by God before the foundation of the world. Now let me tell you something. As I go out and share this, and as I go and teach a non-Christian group of people, I know some of you out there right now are really wrestling with this, and you go, "Wait a minute. Did he just tell me that, if I know Christ, it's only because I was chosen?"
I want to tell you, "No. That's not what I just told you. That is what I just read from God's inspired Word." It says right there, again, in verse 4, "…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…" That's before you could do anything good, before you would do anything good. Because you would not do anything good, you could not do anything good, it says. Jesus in John 6 says, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…" He says it's impossible for you to come.
Paul wrote in Romans 3 that there is none who does good, none who seeks righteousness. Calvin when he looked and he wrote and said, "Well, wait a minute. What I really think happened, and a lot of people do this with predestination and foreknowledge. They say that, what really foreknowledge is, is that God looked ahead, saw who would trust him because God is not limited by time. He could see who would receive him in the future, and those are the ones he chose."
God did not just take your opinion of him and rubber stamp it and call it election. He did not just shoot a bunch of arrows around a barn and circle them and say, "Bull's-eye!" It says in this Scripture that he chose you. Period. See, I would like to stand here before you tonight and tell you that I kind of figured it out, that God maybe looked down and saw Todd Wagner and goes, "You know, there is a brilliant mind. I want to get him in heaven. I think we'll let Wagner in heaven."
I'd like to tell you that I studied the Scriptures and, basically, because I'm just kind of a guy who has a bent toward right and away from wrong, I eventually realized there had to be a better way to live and I chose to seek him, but I'd be lying to you. You know, J. Vernon McGee also said this, and others have quoted it, and you've heard me say my version of it before. "If you knew about me what I know about me, you wouldn't be in here tonight, but again, if I knew about you what you know about yourself, we wouldn't have let you in."
That's exactly what this book is saying. It's saying, "Listen, you need to be aware of this. There is nothing that you have done. He chose you." Now why he chose you, I don't know. It is not because of justice that he chose you. A lot of people struggle with this and say, "Wait a minute. It's not just that God would choose some and not choose others."
It's not because of justice that he chose you. It is because of mercy, it says. Let me kill your only begotten Son and see who you determine you want to save. You see, it says in Romans 9 this. It says, "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs…" Not man's will or not man's work. "…but on God who has mercy."
I cannot explain this to you, but all I can do is say it's in Scripture, and it's true, and it humbles me. It blows me away. It says, "By grace, I was taught to fear, and by grace, I was brought home." It's grace upon grace. There's nothing in Todd Wagner that attracts him to Jesus Christ. I would love to tell you that I was drawn to him, but I wasn't.
There was a group of elders who went and asked a little colored boy in Memphis, Tennessee, one time what he did or to tell them about his salvation, and the little black boy answered this way. He said, "I did my part, and God did his part." The elders kind of snickered and said, "We thought so. Tell us, what was your part?" He said, "My part was I sinned, and then these little rebellious legs ran as far and as fast as they could away from God, and he found me and took me home." See, that is what this teaches you, and it humbles you.
Some of you out there have a problem tonight, and you go, "Wait a minute. I came to God. God didn't work in my life," and this Scripture strips you of that right. Don't take the fangs out of the goodness of God. Don't take away the glory of what he's done for you. This Scripture says, "If you know him, if you're his son, if you responded in faith, if you have come to him, it is because he loved you and he chose you, period."
Now some of you ask the immediate question. You go, "Wait a minute. Why would he choose me and not somebody else?" To that, I say, "That's the wrong question. The question is not…why does he not choose everybody? The question is…why does he choose one?" Do you understand what he did? Read this. It says right there at the end of verse 5. It says he did it, "…according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace…" That's why he did it.
It would be as if an alien came here, and he walked up, and he said to me, "Hey, Todd. Look at these people. Who are they? Why are the balding? I notice that a lot of them are losing hair." I said, "They're balding because they're dying." He'd look at some of the older ones, and he'd say, "You know, why are they getting soft around the middle?" I said, "They're getting soft around the middle because they're dying." "Why are some of them limping and breathing kind of heavily?" I said, "Because they're dying."
He said, "Well, where are they going?" I'd say, "They're going to go and they're going to spend eternity in heaven." He'd say, "Oh, what a wonderful thing, and why will they be there? Are they a good people?" I'll say, "No, they're a wicked people, but they're going to spend eternity in heaven because God loved them and sent his only Son to die on the cross that they might know him and find favor with him forever."
They'd say, "What an incredible thing that that must happen! They must have prayed for centuries for God to send his Son to deal with their sin," and I'd say, "No. They blasphemed him, and they took his name in vain, but despite that, God died for them, that according to the kind intention of his will, according to the glory of his grace he might draw them to him." Do you know what the alien would say? "Great is the God of the Christian. Great is the God of the Christian."
That's exactly what this passage is saying to you. What a great dad to worship on Father's Day! Are you somebody who's trusted in Jesus Christ? It should humble you that God chose you. I don't know why he didn't choose somebody else. The problem is not: Why does he not choose my lost friends? The problem is: Why did he choose me?
It throws me before him, and it just spins my head, and it makes me go, "God, if it is true that you are God and you died for me, then no sacrifice is too great. There's nothing I could ever do to repay you. I don't seek to repay you, but I want to respond in love." That's all Paul does. Do you know there's not a single command in the first three chapters of this book? It's all lavishing love, talking about what your Father has done for you.
It is to the point that you should get to the point at the end of chapter 3 where you go, "Enough already! What can I do to reciprocate this great love? What can I do to express love to my Father on this day?" There's not a child in this country who has his wits about him that gave his dad a tie today who thought that tie was enough to pay that father. There's not a child in this country who has become a millionaire who bought that father a home who thought that buying that home was enough to pay that dad back.
You know what those sons and daughters did? They did it because they love their dad, and it was a small expression, a reciprocation of the love they have for him because they saw according to the kind intention of his will, to the praise of his glorious name, that he loved them, nurtured and protected them, trained them, that they might be a righteous man or woman.
This passage talks about the fact that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are committed to redeeming you. We're going to study it some more. I want to tell you, in your being born again, you have about as much to do with it as you did with being born the first time. You'll find that there's a tension in the Scripture. Don't walk out of here thinking, "All right, there's not some human responsibility." There is.
You'll say, "Well how does that mesh with divine sovereignty?" We'll try and wrestle with that, but I'll tell you right now. There is no answer. The only thing the Scriptures say is, "Do not take away what the truth of God's Word says. It is divine election, and God chooses those who come to him." When I would preach, I would preach like it's up to you to respond, because that's what the Scriptures tell me to do.
Someone once said to Spurgeon, "Spurgeon, if I believed what you believe, I would not preach the way you preach." Spurgeon said, "Well, if I could walk around and untuck people's shirts and find a divine E emblazoned on the back of the elect, I would only walk around untucking shirts and looking for an E and telling them the gospel, that they might come to him, but God does not do that for me. He tells me to express grace to all, and I know that all who respond were called and chosen by him and were predestined." We'll look at that word next week.
I want to tell you what. Your father, your mother, and your doctor have gotten you born the first time. Your father conceived you in love. Even as Christ labored that you might be born again, your mother labored that you might be born. Then the doctor, who I will equate with the Holy Spirit, all he did was slap you on the butt and wake you up, so you started crying and realized your need to breathe.
That is exactly what happened when you were saved. Your Father conceived you in love. Jesus Christ labored that you might be born again, and the Holy Spirit convicted you, slapped you on the butt that you might come to your senses, and go, "I need to know that God who conceived me in love."
See, all you did is a lot of you just started crying when you came to this truth, when you realized that, for reasons that are inexpressible, he needed you. In 1979, I went to a camp up in Minnesota called Castaway. It was a Young Life camp, and this little Young Life camp… Young Life does a great job of reaching kids where they are, and they played songs and songs that were familiar to us as kids of the day. The song they played when I got off that bus was Billy Joel, Only the Good Die Young. You've heard it.
Then another song they played was one by Anne Murray. They played it all week long. It's a song about a person who is overwhelmed that somebody loved them, that they "put me high upon a pedestal," the song says, "So high that I could almost see eternity," and they kind of drew a parallel from that song to showing us how much God loves us.
It doesn't make any sense. Why he needed me is beyond me, but I have to tell you this. Because of that little time in my life, every time I hear Anne Murray sing "You Needed Me" on the radio, I don't think of some spaced-out little junior high cheerleader who can't believe the Varsity quarterback loves her. I think about some rebellious little kid that all he ever did to be loved by God was sin. I think of Ephesians, chapter 1, verses 3-14.
I just go, "Lord, it doesn't make sense to me why you chose me. It doesn't make sense to me why you needed me. I know you didn't need me like that insecure teenage girl needed the quarterback of the football team, but you desired me. I don't know why you desired me, except that you say, 'according to the kind intention of your will to the praise of his glorious name.'" Every time I hear that song, I think about his glorious name. I want you to have that same privilege. I want you to equate that song with Ephesians, chapter 1, verses 3-14. Pray with me.
Father, it is unbelievable on a Father's Day to study the portrait of our Father and to see how much you must love us, that we were born into a family that we had nothing to do with. All that we were was a little kid who was slapped, convicted, and we began to see truth. We thank you that you predestined (we'll study it), that you had arranged things in our lives and ordered them in such a way that we would come to our senses, that we would be moved to call sin sin.
We thank you that we would be moved to realize that we were lost and now we are found and that a gracious God; blessed, praised, eulogized for eternity God loved us enough to give his only begotten Son who himself was God to die a death that was nonsensical, to die a death that was unjust that those of us who deserved that death might be made free. I don't know why you needed me. I don't know why you chose me.
I don't know why you desired to have a relationship with this person who rebelled against you, but you did, and it changed my life. Not just on Father's Day but every day of the year, I'm moved to live in obedience for you, and I pray that my brothers and sisters in Christ would be moved in the same way and that others who are in this room tonight who don't know him would long to have a Father like we have and that we could introduce them to him, even as we were introduced. We thank you that you needed us. In Christ's name.
I can't explain it. All I can tell is it's what is says, and I can tell you it changed this rebellious boy's life forever. Somehow, the God who died for us, the God who spoke this world into existence, that God chooses us and suffers for us to redeem us to set us high upon a pedestal, so high that we could share with him eternity beginning this day.
You know, there are some of you out there who have never made that decision, that have never entered into that faith transaction with Christ that you could say, "That's my bank account that I can pull from." You have that opportunity, even as I did in 1979 in listening to that song and people talk about it saying, "You know, this God loves you. He wants to turn your lives back into truth again, and he can do it, if you come to him and you confess your need, your complete lack of self-sufficiency, and realize that your need, your debt, your poverty is met in Jesus Christ."
We'll give you that opportunity to do that now quietly in your heart, and we'd love to visit with you afterward. Then, we just need to shut it down right there. Let me give you an opportunity to trust Christ, to come to him and say, "I want to have that relationship with that Father and be a child." In your coming, it is evidence that you were chosen. I can't explain it. It's just the way he says it.
The glory is his, and it should make you cock your head and go, "Why did he choose me?" Tonight, he gives you an opportunity to respond. "All that come to me," he says, "I will no wise turn you out." You don't have to sit there. There is no opportunity for you to say you are not one of the elect. The Scriptures do not give you that privilege. It just says, "Come, all who are weary, and I will give you rest."
Father, there are truths that are hidden from us that we will never understand until we are with you, until that which we see now dimly we'll see fully. What we do know is that we have a need to have our lives dealt with, our rebellious, impoverished lives.
We need somebody to come along and give to us, not out of their riches but according to their riches and to find that someone would be you, that you would offer that. The God who doesn't just have earthly, temporal riches but who has heavenly riches, eternal riches, riches that give us everything pertaining to life and godliness, offers us that through the sacrifice of his only begotten Son, not because of justice but because of mercy. We don't will to be saved. We don't work to be saved.
We cling to your offer of love, and we say, "God, if it is possible through Jesus, and your Word says it is, that his sacrifice would be the payment that I deserve as a sinner, if his death would be the payment for my sins (and I ask that it would be tonight), then I want to respond to that payment you have made, that offer of love for me by giving myself back to you. I thank you that you alone could be my Savior, that you alone have given provision for me, so I call you what you have been and always will be, whether the words come from my lips or not. It is Lord.
You alone are to be blessed because you have done so awesome a thing. I thank you for that, Father, that you've dealt with my sin in Jesus Christ who was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God and me seated there with him now by faith that I might withdraw from him all the riches of the godhead and live a life that is different and that I would live according to how Christ would live that others might see that my live is changed and be curious about who does my banking and I could introduce them to you."
We thank you for Jesus. We thank you for being that loving Father and for having the chance to know you tonight and be humbled that you've chosen us before the earth was ever put into existence. How humbling and how encouraging! May I go forward in right response to that tonight. In Christ's name, amen.
Most people are desperately looking for answers to such age-old human dilemmas as violence, greed and racism; not to mention personal pain and disappointment with our own duplicity and lack of fulfillment. In this series on the book of Ephesians, Todd Wagner challenges us to open our eyes to the truth that Christ has called us to be part of a completely new society called the Church. Our highest calling then is to be men and women whose lives have been regenerated and empowered through faith in Christ. Our 21st century challenges are not unlike those faced by followers of Christ in first century Ephesus. The Apostle Paul, author of this letter to the Ephesians, emphasizes that the problem with the Church then and today is not that God hasn't given it everything necessary to be successful in its mission. Rather, our problem is like that of a wealthy miser who dies of starvation rather than dip into the abundance of resources at his disposal. Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged by this ancient letter that adroitly analyzes the plight of Christ's bride, the Church, and then paints a vivid portrait of what we can - and indeed do - look like as His redeemed people. This volume covers Ephesians 1:1 through Ephesians 2:22.