“…prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21 NIV)
The part of the Holy Spirit’s Word that we meditate on today comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Christians. In this letter Paul is writing to encourage Christians that he knew. Paul had himself started the church in Ephesus on his third missionary journey.
In Paul’s time, Ephesus was an important city for commerce and was also home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the magnificent Temple of the goddess Diana. It was claimed that Diana’s image had fallen from the sky. This was no small cult, the worship of Diana was known throughout the world.
In his letter to the Ephesian Christians, Paul reminds them that it is God the Father who should be praised, not Diana. And for much better reasons.
Because our modern world remains full things and people that can be worshipped, Paul’s message remains meaningful for us even today. The theme for our meditation today is, “Praise the Glory of the Father’s Grace”.
Ephesians 1:3-14 (NKJV)
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
13In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Grace and peace be Yours from our Heavenly Father, from our Risen Master, Jesus Christ and from the quiet and unpretentious Holy Spirit that moves among us even now.
PREDESTINED TO ADOPTION
One Christian teaching that stands out of this section is the teaching of predestination. Predestination says that before humans fell into sin, before they were even created, before the world was created – God chose individuals to be adopted into His Family through faith in His Son.
This teaching takes faith out of the sinner’s hands. Faith isn’t something that comes from our focused attempt. It isn’t our choice. We can’t will ourselves into trusting in Jesus as our Savior from sin.
God the Father is the reason that we have come to trust in Jesus. He decided to make us His own long ago.
This is a comforting thought, because if faith were up to us, we sinners would never have believed.
Predestination also showcases God’s unexplainable love. God selected us, knowing that we would be broken and worthless. Knowing that we would be sinful through and through. He selected us knowing that we would have no redeeming qualities, and that He’d have to save us from our sin first, and then totally remake us if we would be fit to live in His house.
God’s choosing us from eternity doesn’t make logical sense to us, but that is the way with love isn’t it? Quite often love seems to make no sense at all.
Verse five Paul tells us why God predestined us.
“having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,” (Ephesians 1:5 NKJV).
Brothers and sisters in Christ, God predestined us to become part of His family because it pleased Him to do so. It made Him happy to save us. Great is the God who loved us when we did not deserve it, and who chose us in that love.
Redeemed Through Christ’s Blood
Predestination is followed by redemption. Verse seven says,
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7 NKJV).
We usually define the word “redemption” as “buying back”. But the Greek word is a little more picturesque. It comes from the idea of “loosening” something up so that it can be free.
If you’ve ever had your car impounded you’ll understand this concept. There your car sits in the dusty impound lot. Just on the other side of a chain-link fence. But it’s not going anywhere unless a fee is paid.
Without Christ’s blood being spilled, without His suffering of body and soul, without His Hell, sinners could never have escaped theirs. But along came Jesus, and by His blood He dissolved the bonds of sin, loosened them from our wrists and set us free.
In verse eleven it says…
“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance…” (Ephesians 1:11a NKJV).
Redemption comes with adoption. We have became part of the Father’s family through faith in Christ. And that means more than having His Name. What belongs to the Father will one day be ours. A sinless existence. A perfect body. An eternity of painlessness. And these are just part of the fortune that is ours because of Christ Jesus our Redeemer.
Imagine for a second that you found out that you were heir to a multi-billion dollar fortune. Your fortune had to pass through some legal hoops first, but it was just a matter of time before you got it. How would that change your life?
Maybe you’d actually make that loan to your brother in law? Maybe you’d quit worrying about those credit card debts. Maybe your days would seem a little lighter knowing the big payoff was coming soon.
This is the power that Christ’s redemption holds for our lives. We have been redeemed by Him. Loosened from our sins. Freed from the punishment for them. Loosened from the stupid sinful ways of this world’s thinking. Freed to live to Christ. Freed even from fear of death.
How will this change us? When the inheritance that is ours in Christ is held front and center in our minds, we have the power to do what Christ commands. To love our enemies. To do good with no need of appreciation. To lend without hoping to be paid back.
If Heaven is our inheritance than we can afford to be rich to all those around us. Rich in love. In kindness. In patience. Rich in prayer. In thoughtfulness. In forgiveness.
When we live like this God’s glory is praised - by our lives. And others begin to praise Him too.
Jesus once said to His followers:
“14“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV).
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus redeemed from sin so that we might then also live a life like His – one full of love and truth and goodness. Great is the God who has redeemed us by His blood!
SEALED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
Before Jesus ascended back to His Father’s side, He told His disciples,
“25“All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:25-26 NKJV).
“…Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5).
On the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to the followers of Christ in a dramatic way. The sound of a mighty wind was heard. Flames of fire appeared above their heads. They began to speak in languages they had never studied.
But the greater miracle was this – three thousand pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem to worship came to trust in Jesus on that day. The Holy Spirit came not only to the disciples of Christ to fulfill prophesy and promise, but He also came to sinners through the Good News proclaimed on that day. And through that message faith in Jesus as the Savor sent from God was ignited in their hearts.
And the same Holy Spirit had come to the Ephesian Christians. In verses 13-14 Paul wrote,
“13In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14 NKJV).
Paul describes the Holy Spirit as a “seal”. We might think of the stamp that you get when you’re going to a fair, or the bracelet that gets you into a water-park or a concert. When we reach heaven’s gates, the seal of the Holy Spirit will ensure our entrance.
Or, Paul says, think about it like this. The Holy Spirit is God’s down-payment on your heavenly fortune. The first part of the treasure that is yours NOW. The Holy Spirit now accompanies your soul and will enable you to travel down the road of life until you receive the whole inheritance.
You see what the God is saying in all this?
By predestination God says, “I chose you, not the other way around.”
By redemption God says, “My Son redeemed you, you didn’t redeem yourself.”
By the seal of the Spirit God says, “Never will I leave your side, throughout your walk of faith my Spirit is in you.”
The citizens of Ephesus that worshipped at Diana’s temple did so for many reasons. But now that temple is only ruins. A man made goddess, temporary, empty. All but forgotten now. Certainly not worthy of our praise.
But, our God is worthy of our worship. For He’s done it all for us, and because of a love that we did not deserve.
Meditate on His eternal love. Think of His selfless sacrifice. And may God fill your mind with the Holy Spirit’s peace and your heart with a song of praise.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.