The Foundation of All Spiritual Blessings (Revive the Family, Revive the Church, Awaken the Nation, O Lord #142)
A series of homilies on Ephesians
A homily is “a short talk on a religious or moral topic; a usually short sermon; a lecture or discourse on or of a biblical theme.”
I am sharing a verse-by-verse series of short messages on Ephesians (as well as other passages of Scripture) specifically targeted at reviving families and encouraging and exhorting husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children to do what God has commanded them to do, for if the church is to be revived and the country is to be awakened, the family must be revived first.
TEXT: Ephesians 1:3-6:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
John R. Rice said, Those who speak of “Irresistible Grace” “mean that all who are elected to be saved will be saved, that they cannot resist this special grace limited to them but will be saved when God calls. It would necessarily follow, first, that those not elected are irresistibly damned, cannot be saved; and, second, that since God works irresistibly to save or damn, Christians cannot affect the salvation or damnation of sinners and need feel no responsibility or burden about it. But this is wrong, unscriptural, and no doubt Satan uses this doctrine of ‘Irresistible Grace’ to lull Christians to disobedience and lack of compassion and burden to get people saved.”
Leonard Ravenhill said, “I am very suspicious about people coming to the altar. The altar is about one of two things — death or sacrifice. These days, it’s cheap for people to come to the altar.”
In their book, The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever, Elmer Towns and Douglas Porter share with us: “In the capital of North Korea, a New Year’s Day evangelistic crusade drew 4,000 people to the meetings, 20 percent of the city’s entire population. A united evangelistic thrust in the nation’s capital, Seoul, resulted in 1,000 conversions. As had been their custom in recent years, the missionaries gathered at the capital of North Korea for a week of prayer and Bible study in August 1906. Speaker Dr. Howard Agnew Johnston told Korean missionaries of the Welsh Revival and other awakenings in India. Half of the missionaries then in the nation were Presbyterians and were deeply moved by accounts of revival among Welsh Presbyterians and Presbyterian missionaries in Asia. News of the other revivals motivated missionaries to intensify their prayer for a similar outpouring in Korea. Throughout the fall of 1907 and the following winter, missionaries gathered in the church each morning at five o’clock to pour out their hearts to God. During one week together, the missionaries studied the First Epistle of John, which later became their textbook for revival.”
As we continue looking at verses 3, 4, and 5 of Ephesians chapter 1, and it’s powerful theme, it is easy for some to think because salvation, in the words of Charles Spurgeon, “is all of grace,” that we as Christians do not have any responsibilities or obligations. But that is not the case. Yes, God calls us to salvation and to faith to be a part of His family, but once accepted into His beloved family, we must act like we belong in His family.
Paul writes, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
Allow me to share with you the foundation for this difficult passage. Dr. John Walvoord and Dr. Roy Zuck of Dallas Theological Seminary said, “Paul continued his discussion of believers’ spiritual blessings by showing that they are based on the work of the three Persons of the Trinity: the selection of the Father, the sacrifice of the Son, and the seal of the Spirit. The apostle first told when God’s work of election took place: before the Creation of the world. The word for at the beginning of this verse is not as literal a translation of the Greek adverb kathōs as ‘even as’ or ‘just as’. ‘As’ suggests that the way God blesses believers is through the threefold work of the Trinity. But the adverb can also have a causal sense, and may be rendered ‘since,’ ‘because,’ or ‘insofar as’. The idea is that spiritual blessings for believers are because of or on the basis of the work of the Trinity: God blesses believers because of the Father’s electing, the Son’s dying, and the Spirit’s sealing. Both concepts seem to be included: spiritual blessings are the work of the three Persons of the Trinity, and the work of the Trinity is the basis of all a believer’s spiritual blessings. Spiritual blessings begin with and are based on election, of which God is the subject and believers are the object. Election is God’s sovereign work of choosing some to believe. Salvation is God’s doing, not man’s. Though it is an act of grace, based on His will, a person is responsible to believe. ‘God chose you to be saved… through belief in the truth.’ In Him indicates the sphere of election, as He is the Head and Representative of spiritual humanity. The time of election is in eternity past, and the purpose of election is that believers will be holy and blameless in His sight for eternity. What God has begun in the past will be accomplished and completed in the future. Christians are “holy”, that is, set apart to God, which is the purpose of His electing grace. In addition, the purpose of His election is to make Christians ‘blameless.’ This word amōmous, ‘without blemish,’ is used eight times in the New Testament. In the Septuagint it is used of sacrificial animals; only those without blemish could be offered to God. What does the phrase in love modify? Some agree with the NIV that it modifies the word “predestined”. If so, then God’s love is seen in predestination. More likely, it modifies the words “to be holy and blameless in His sight” for these reasons: One, In this context the modifying phrases always follow the action words. Two, The other five occurrences of ‘in love’ in Ephesians refer to human love rather than divine love. Third, Love fits well with holiness and blamelessness, for this would denote a balance between holiness and love. God is love and believers, because of God’s electing love, should manifest love with holiness. The cause of election is God’s predestination of believers unto sonship. Predestined is from proorisas, ‘marked out beforehand.’ Thus the emphasis of predestination is more on the what than the who in that the believers’ predetermined destiny is their being adopted as full-fledged sons of God through Jesus Christ, the Agent of the adoption. In adoption a son is brought into a family and is given the same rights as a child who is born into that family.”
God did not save us just so we can be at ease because we are now saved. He saved us to make us more like himself. Dr. Warren Wiersbe said God “chose us for a purpose: to be holy and without blame. In the Bible, election is always UNTO something. It is a privilege that carries a great responsibility.”
Imagine a young person who is accepted into an Ivy League school. As soon as he is accepted into the school, he has all the rights and privileges that pertain to a student. But that does not mean he has no responsibilities. The school expects him to study hard and eventually to graduate, to become a student worthy of that school.
It is the same way with the Christian faith. When we receive Jesus Christ, our salvation is immediately complete, but the process of sanctification — the process of becoming more like Christ — is just beginning. In fact, the process of sanctification will not be complete until we are in Heaven. The goal of sanctification is that we might be “holy and without blame” before God. By the grace of God, and by the power of His Holy Spirit, we ought to live holy and Godly lives, for the praise of His glory.