Ephesians 1:3-4; 2:8-10
I would like to say something tonight to believers. I say that because what I want to say is something that I would not tell you in the gospel. If you are not a believer in Christ, if you do not know Jesus as your Saviour, you are very welcome, and I hope you will hear something that is useful to you – but what I want to say is for believers.
Part of the reason for that is that I need you to think back to the time when you first believed. Each of us has come a different way to the Saviour. I first heard the gospel when I was too small to remember it now, and I heard it week by week for many years. I knew I was saved when I was about nineteen. That is a lot of preachings that I had heard. Before I was about twelve, I must have prayed a lot of times and asked God to forgive me my sins. When I was in my mid-teens, I hardly prayed at all. The only time I read my bible was probably when I was in a meeting.
Then, when I was in my late teens, I started to pray again. I cannot really tell you why. Eventually I knew that Jesus was alive. I knew that my sins were forgiven. I have talked to other Christians, and I know other people that have come to Christ like that.
But some people know the time and the date of their conversion – they can tell you the exact date they were saved. We have a brother who comes along to our meetings, who sometimes tells us, ‘If you are not sure when you were saved, you can just ask Jesus now! And you can make today the date.’ That is true, you can do that. The way we come to Christ is for each of us a bit different.
I have never forgotten reading about a man who was in a Bible class – I assume it was when he was a teenager, at a Sunday school or something similar – and the teacher must have been boring, and He thought the Scripture was boring. The teacher was talking to them from Romans 6. But this man said that somewhere between the teacher’s describing how Jesus went into the tomb and how He was raised, ‘it happened.’ He said, ‘The jewel of God’s grace turned,’ and he saw. He saw what Christ had done for the very first time. Later, he wrote and said that he was not sure whether his love had ever been so pure as in that first hour. Maybe some of you can relate to that. Maybe your love for Christ has never been quite so pure and as wonderful as in that first hour when you came to Him.
But the fundamentals of how we came are the same for all of us. We started in a place where we did not know Christ, and we ended in a place where we knew Him as our Saviour and Lord. The steps that we took in between may be a little different for each of us, but we have essentially come the same way, and we have come to the same Person.
And some of us have heard many preachings along the way. But there is something the gospel preachers never told you! Something I have never preached in a gospel preaching, nor do I expect that I ever will. But I can say it tonight because I am talking to you as a believer.
You turned, did you not, at some point, from not knowing Christ to knowing Him? At some point you turned. At some point – whether it took you a long time or you did it quickly – you made a decision for Christ. You needed your sins forgiven, and you wanted Him as a Saviour, and you made that decision.
But the thing is this, the thing that the preachers never told you – you were chosen. You were chosen! And you were not chosen at the moment that you turned. You were not chosen, either, when you first heard the gospel. Nor were you chosen when you were born. And, surprisingly, you were not chosen, either, when Christ died for your sins!
Paul is writing here to the Ephesians long ago, and he says, ‘You were chosen before the world’s foundation.’ You were chosen before the foundation of the world. Chosen! And just tonight I want you to think about three things, one after another. Firstly, can this be true? And secondly, if it is true that you were chosen, on what basis did God choose you? What criterion did He use to choose you as opposed to somebody else? And then, thirdly, I want you to think, before we finish, about why God did it this way.
Choosing is not hard to understand, is it? It might not apply to all of you, but this happened many times to me when I was small, in the playground at school, or on the playing field with a football: we lined up, everybody was put in a line, we had two captains, and they just picked out whom they wanted, one by one – they took it in turns. If you were standing in that line, you were waiting to be chosen. It is not hard to understand, is it?
Scripture tells you that God has done this on a magnificent scale. He has taken the billions of people that were going to be here on this earth, and He has looked across them all, and He has chosen you. He has chosen you!
Can that be true? Because you repented, did you not? You heard the gospel; you made your decision for Christ. How can it be that you were chosen? Well, what does the gospel say? I think of it this way. It is like walking up a path to a door. Jesus said, “I am the Door” (John 10:9). He is the Way in, and you came in. You walked up the path, step by step. Some, like me, came very slowly; some of you, perhaps, very, very quickly. And you came in through that Door. “I am the Door.” And then you looked back at the way that you had come, and you saw it differently. There was a time when you did not know Christ. What does the Bible say? Jesus says it, “No one can come to Me except the Father Who has sent Me draw him” (John 6:44). You were drawn!
You heard about Christ. Randomly? No. Whatever way it was, whether through reading or hearing or somebody speaking to you, you heard because God sent someone. He sent His word. You repented, did you not? Surely that was you. But the Scripture says it is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance (Romans 2:4). It says that God granted repentance (Acts 11:18). God granted you repentance! And then, that thing inside you that made you believe, what was that? Well, we call that faith. Here in Ephesians, we just read, “For ye are saved by grace, through faith; and this not of yourselves; it is God’s gift” (ch2:8). God gave you that faith.
Long ago, when you were not even thinking about God, according to the Scripture, He turned you and you were turned (Jer 31:18). He granted you repentance, although you did not know He was doing it, and you repented. He gave you the faith to believe, although you did not realise He was giving it. You were just calling out to Him in your helplessness and your need, but He gave you the faith. He gave you the Saviour, the basis on which your sins are forgiven – His own Son, on a Cross.
He put His Spirit in your heart so that you might understand. The Lord Jesus talks about this. When He was talking to Nicodemus, long, long ago now, He said this: “Except any one be born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God … Except any one be born of water and of Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5). You cannot make yourself be born anew. You could not even see the kingdom of God unless He started to work in your heart, and so He did!
Long ago He chose you, before the foundation of the world. At some point He gave your soul life and brought you into this world, and at some point He started to work in your heart and He brought you to be what you are.
Paul says to the Ephesians – I read it to you – “We are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus” (ch2:10). You are His workmanship. Think of God like a skilled craftsman making something. You are the thing, according to Paul, that He has made. You are God’s workmanship. How skilled a craftsman could you get? But you are the thing that He has made. He chose you, He worked in you, He brought you to Christ!
It is an issue and a topic that has caused controversy since the beginning of Christianity. If you doubt that, just try googling ‘chosen in Christ.’ You will see that people are not unanimous about this! But it is what the Scripture says. You are chosen before the foundation of the world: you are chosen in Him. And you are chosen to be holy and blameless. God has brought you to this point where you know that it is true.
So, if it is true, how did God choose? Why you? Why did He pick you? I am pretty sure you know some people that you do not think He has picked. So why you?
I do not know if this helps, but about six and a half years ago, we were walking up a path in Trowbridge. We walked up the path to the front door of a house and rang the doorbell. Somebody we did not know, and had never met, opened the door and invited us in. We walked down the hallway to the kitchen at the back and we turned left into a long, narrow utility room with a hard floor. In that room there were twelve six-week-old puppies! They all had brown eyes. They all looked gorgeous. We had come to choose one of them. Some of them were dozing on the floor. Some of them were messing around playing. Some of them came to see who we were. And somehow we had to choose just one. I found it quite easy to choose. I wanted one that was more subdued than the others – not too lively. There was one which snuggled down in my arms – now, I am not a ‘dog’ person, but I looked at her and I thought, ‘Yes, you will do.’ Somehow, the rest of the family came to the same decision, and we chose her. She did not choose us. She did not know who we were. She did not know where we would one day take her, where she would live. She did not know about hills and streams and woods and fields – and all the good things we had planned for her. She had no idea! She was just a bit fearful and maybe a bit worried, wondering who we were. But we chose her, and she was ours. We left her there for another three weeks, until she was a bit older, and then we came back and took her home.
You are not a pet that someone has chosen to live in some stranger’s house! God has chosen you to live in His home and to be His son. That is what God has chosen. God has chosen you – you – to be His son. God Himself! Have you ever understood the wonder of what He has done? Out of the billions alive on this earth, He has chosen a lot – although Scripture sometimes calls it a few, and sometimes many. But you are one of them. He has chosen you to take you home and adopt you as His son, to enjoy all the good things that He has planned for you. Even though, at the time that He chose you, you were not even alive, He chose you.
Now, on what basis did He choose you? He certainly did not choose you because you were cute and cuddly! He did not choose you because you were lovely, either. I think this Scripture in Deuteronomy helps me to understand why God chose me. Maybe it will help you understand why God chose you.
It is not a passage of Scripture about Christians. It is a passage of Scripture which talks about the children of Israel. It was written by Moses, probably in the last few weeks of his life. He had lived through those forty years in Egypt, and then those forty years as a shepherd, and those forty years leading Israel through the wilderness. He was one hundred and twenty years old, and his eye was not dimmed and his strength had not gone. This was a man in the full vigour of life at one hundred and twenty years old (Deut 34:7). But he had only a few weeks left. The children of Israel were going to cross the Jordan and go into that promised land, and he was not going to go with them. He was going to die up on the mountain, and be buried by God. I do not know how much of that he realised, but he had a few weeks left, and recorded in Deuteronomy are the things that he had still to say, or had said in the past, to the children of Israel, which it was considered important that they should know. Amongst the many commandments and instructions that he left them, amongst the prophecies that you will find in these books, he left them this reminder that they, too, had been chosen by Jehovah.
They had been chosen to be a special, unique and holy people. They may not have lived up to it – that is not my point. But they had been chosen. And on what basis did God choose them? Moses says it, “Not because ye were more in number than all the peoples, hath Jehovah … chosen you” (v7). It was not because they were the biggest people that He chose them. It was not because they were the best people that He chose them!
Paul writes about this a little in Romans 9. He is speaking not so much about the children of Israel, but about Israel himself – about Jacob, who is later called Israel. And he says of him, “Rebecca having conceived by one, Isaac our father, the children indeed being not yet born, or having done anything good or worthless (that the purpose of God according to election might abide, not of works, but of Him that calls), it was said to her, The greater shall serve the less: according as it is written, I have loved Jacob, and I have hated Esau” (vv10-13). God chose Jacob before Jacob was born, and He told Rebecca that He had done so – told his mother before Jacob was born, before Jacob had done anything good or bad. He was not chosen because he had done, or was going to do, anything good or anything worthless. The choice was not about Jacob himself. There was nothing in what Jacob was going to be that made God choose him. That is what Paul is saying. And in Deuteronomy, Moses was saying the same about Jacob’s descendants. It is the same logic, the same argument. God had not chosen Israel because of what Jacob was going to be, or because of what they would one day be. That was irrelevant to why God was choosing. The choice was not about them – the choice was all about God.
Moses gives you two reasons for the choice. On what basis did God choose the children of Israel? The first reason – what does he say? “Not because ye were more in number than all the peoples, hath Jehovah been attached to you and chosen you, for ye are the fewest of all the peoples; but because Jehovah loved you.” Because Jehovah loved you! There is no suggestion there that there was something lovable about them. It does not say that. It does not say that they were going to be very faithful or very beautiful, or that there was something attractive morally about them. It does not say anything like that. It was not because of anything to do with the children of Israel that He chose them. It was because Jehovah loved.
Do you understand that? It is important. There were two parties to this: there was Jehovah, and there were the children of Israel. And Jehovah loved. They did not deserve it, but He loved them. The first reason that they were chosen was just because Jehovah loved!
And then Moses gives a second reason why they were chosen. It was because Jehovah “would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers.” When did He swear that oath? Think about it. It was to Abraham. It was not when He first called Abraham, although He did give him a promise then. God said that He called Abraham “when he was alone” (Isaiah 51:2). Now, you can read that two ways, but I think the main way you are meant to read it is that He called Abraham before Abraham had any children or any descendants. There were no millions of the children of Israel at the time Abraham was called; there was just Abraham. “I called him,” He said, “when he was alone.” And when God called him, God promised him (you can read about it in Genesis) that He was going to make his descendants a great nation. A great nation!
It may also mean that He called him literally when he was on his own, that there was no one else there to hear. He does that to you and to me, does He not? Even when you are sitting in a crowded room, God can still call you ‘when you are alone,’ in that room – so that it is just you and your God. I know what that is like; I am sure most of you do. He called him “when he was alone.”
But what is this oath? Jehovah chose the children of Israel “because He would keep the oath which He had sworn” to their fathers. So what is that then? That was sworn when Abraham took his son Isaac and sacrificed him on that mountain. God held Abraham back at the very last moment, and God provided a sacrifice, and, at that point, the Scripture says, God swore – He swore by Himself, it says in the New Testament, because there was no greater – that Abraham’s descendants would be like the sand on the seashore and like the stars in the heaven (Gen 22:16 17, Hebrews 6:13). God swore by Himself, He made an oath, that He would bless Abraham’s descendants, the children of Israel. And now we also know that He would bless those who come by faith (Romans 4:16). God swore by Himself because there was none greater.
And Moses says, ‘On what basis were the children of Israel chosen? One: simply because God loved. Two: because God is true to Himself.’ He had given His word. He had sworn by Himself. God is true to Himself. He will not go back on His word. What He has decided and what He has promised in His own name, He will do.
And so they were chosen. You can see quite easily that the choosing of the children of Israel was everything to do with God, and nothing to do with them. It is not hard to see. And, on the same basis, He chose you and He chose me.
It is very, very hard to accept that we were not lovable. It is not as if God chose us before the foundation of the world, and later we unexpectedly turned out bad. God knew. He knew all the sins you were going to commit: He knew all the things you were going to think – He knew. And He hated them: God hates sin.
Something inside me clings to the idea that God knew I would be useful to Him, and so He chose me for that reason. Or, that God knew that there would be something morally slightly better about me than about some other people, and so He chose me for that reason. That is not what Scripture says!
Something inside me clings to the idea that He knew I was going to repent – that I was slightly better than somebody else for that reason, because they were not going to repent. Scripture does not say that either. It says things about you and me which are not nice. Jeremiah 17:9 – true in Jeremiah’s day, true now – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and incurable; who can know it? I Jehovah search the heart.” He knew your heart would be deceitful, and He also knew your heart would be incurable.
In Romans 3, Paul is talking about Jews and Gentiles, and through this is talking to everyone: “There is not a righteous man, not even one; there is not the man that understands, there is not one that seeks after God. All have gone out of the way, they have together become unprofitable; there is not one that practises goodness, there is not so much as one” (vv10 12). And so he goes on, and you think, ‘How can that be true? I am good some of the time. Even before I was saved, some of my thoughts were quite good. I was kind.’ But there is that troubling verse which says, “Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Rom 14:23).
You and I, even as believers, do not really understand what we were like, soaked in sin, drenched in sin, in the thing God hates. God says, ‘I have chosen you to be holy and blameless – the opposite of everything that you were.’ You were not holy and you were not blameless. You were incredibly unholy and guilty. But He says, ‘I have chosen you to be this other thing.’ You are His workmanship. He has taken something which was not holy and blameless, and He has made it into something which is perfectly holy and blameless. And that ‘something’ is you! You are His workmanship in Christ Jesus.
But there was worse than that. It is not just that you were not righteous: you were completely unlovable, as far as I can see from Scripture. There was not anything in you that God could love, or think was cute or cuddly or sweet like a puppy – nothing like that, although you tend to think that way!
There is a very obscure Scripture – and sometimes the obscure little Scriptures are the most interesting – in the Psalms, which is not very pleasant. Think of this: if you could take a handful of mud in your hands. Not a nice idea; we tend to wear gloves if we are doing that. Take a handful of mud in your hands, slightly smelly, horrible mud. What does the prophet say? “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be” – like what? “As white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Could you take a handful of slimy, smelly mud and turn it into snow? No, you cannot. God did something far greater than that: He took you as you were, and He turned you into something which is holy and blameless. But what the psalm says is, you were not mud; it says in Psalm 113 – and the psalmist appears to be quoting from the prayer of Hannah when she took Samuel and gave him to Eli at the tabernacle (1 Sam 2:8) – that there were some people who were taken from the dunghill and set amongst nobles (or “princes,” I prefer, as in the Authorised Version) (vv7 8). If you do not know what a dunghill is, look it up afterwards!
We have no idea, do we, how unpleasant we were? And yet God loved us. He chose us to be holy and blameless, and on what basis did He choose? You may have other ideas, and I would be interested to hear them, but I think He chose us for the same reasons that He chose the children of Israel. One: because God loves. God just loves. He chooses whom and what He loves, but you have the same thing that Moses told Israel. You have God and you have us – nothing lovable, and yet He loved us. So it is due to what? It is due entirely to Him.
God loves! You are on the receiving end of love that you do not deserve, and if you are a believer you probably know it. That is the main reason He chose us. But I think there is a second reason.
When He chose the children of Israel, He chose them for two reasons, according to Moses. He chose them because He loved them, and He chose them because He was true to Himself. I am not aware of any oath being sworn about you, exactly. Certainly not back before the foundation of the world. But there are some things that the Scripture says happened before the foundation of the world, and one of those, according to Peter in his first Epistle, is that the Christ was foreknown before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20). Just think about that!
It means that Calvary was known, it means that the cross was known. It means that the price that was to be paid, the blood of Christ, was known before the worlds were made. Jesus said to His Father, “Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). He was loved, and yet His sacrifice was known!
There is an answer to Calvary. There always was to be an answer. The answer is made up of millions of souls like you and me, who have come to Christ and found Him as the Saviour. They are being formed into a Church, into a bride; into an answer, in part, to what Christ has done at Calvary. There was always going to be an answer to the blood of Christ, Who was foreknown before the foundation of the world.
And so God chose you and me, not because of anything to do with us, but because there was going to be an answer to what His Son was going to do. You were chosen by Him – the word there in Ephesians also means you were chosen ‘for’ Him. You were chosen to be part of the answer to God’s Son. And it is true!
So that brings me to my last question, which in a way is the most interesting: why has God done it this way? You see, because He has chosen you before the foundation of the world, and because it is not really a secret – it is written in the Scriptures – it leaves you with a lot of questions as soon as you start to think about it. If God has chosen who is going to believe, before the foundation of the world, why bother to preach? Why bother? It is a lot of effort. Sometimes people do not listen – you can see that when you are preaching! And God is going to save those He has chosen anyway, so why bother? These are not new questions. People were asking them roughly two thousand years ago.
Paul says in Romans, “How then shall they call upon Him in Whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe on Him of Whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without one who preaches?” (Romans 10:14). “How shall they hear?” Paul said. Did Paul not know that he was chosen before the foundation of the world? Of course he knew. He wrote that Epistle to the Ephesians – he knew! And yet he still thinks it is worth preaching. If you read what Paul did, it becomes very obvious that Paul did not know who was chosen.
He did not know whom God had chosen before the foundation of the world. And he went and preached so that they might come to the gospel and come to the Saviour. He preached the gospel to people like this, and he would expect that God would work, and the reason that God would work was because He had chosen those souls before the foundation of the world. Those souls would hear the gospel and they would come to Christ!
He pretty much says that in the beginning of Thessalonians. I am going to join two sentences together, but I make no apology for that; there was no punctuation in the original. He says, “Knowing, brethren” (the Thessalonians) – “Knowing, brethren beloved by God, your election,” by which he means, ‘Knowing that you were chosen,’ “for our glad tidings were not with you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance” (1 Thessalonians 1:4 5). He is saying, ‘We knew you were chosen, we knew you were the elect, when we preached to you and the Holy Spirit worked in power and in assurance and you were saved – then we could see that God had chosen you.’
It is God’s way. The gospel goes from person to person, and has done since Pentecost. Somebody speaks, somebody hears, they understand, they turn to Christ. Somebody writes, somebody reads it, they understand, they turn to Christ. That is pretty much how it has gone through; it is God’s way of spreading the gospel. From soul to soul, we are to preach. It has a purpose.
But there are other questions. If God has chosen since before the foundation of the world those who are to be saved, then He has not chosen those that are lost. Is that fair? Is God righteous? Well, that is not a new question. You can find the answer to that written in Romans. But think about this for a moment. If Christ had not come, is there anybody who has ever lived who does not deserve to go to hell? The answer is that there is no one. We have all sinned. We all come short of the glory of God. We all deserve hell, including you and me. We all deserve to be there!
Think of the angels. There are many angels who still serve God – many angels, more than twelve legions of angels – thousands upon thousands of angels that God has at His bidding! But there are other angels who rebelled with Satan. Is it fair that they end in hell? There is no hope for them. Is it fair? Is it right? They have rebelled against God. They have contaminated the world with sin. They have done their utmost to spoil what Christ has done – and have failed. Is it right that there is no hope for them? Yes, it is.
The only reason you are not going to hell is the pure grace of God that chose you when you did not deserve it! It is the only reason. Paul says, “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God?” And his answer is simply this: “Far be the thought. For He says to Moses, I will shew mercy to whom I will shew mercy, and I will feel compassion for whom I will feel compassion. So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shews mercy” (Romans 9:14-16).
Why does God still find fault with those that sin, if they have not been chosen and He has not worked in their hearts? Why does He still find fault with them? That is not a new question. This is what Paul says: “Thou wilt say to me then, Why does He yet find fault? for who resists His purpose?” And again, Paul’s answer is difficult. Paul says, “Aye, but thou, O man, who art thou that answerest again to God? Shall the thing formed say to him that has formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Or has not the potter authority over the clay, out of the same lump to make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour?” (Rom 9:19 21).
“Shall the thing formed say to him that has formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” Was Paul right to say that? You have to remember, when you read what Paul writes in the Scriptures, that it is written down by the apostle Paul, but the Author is God Himself. These are the Spirit of God’s words to explain God’s answers to our questions. If we do not like the answers, remember – they are God’s answers. These are His Scriptures. If there were a better answer, would He not have given it?
But if you are sitting there with questions in your mind like these, there is something else you ought to think of. If God has stirred your heart and your mind so much that you are asking if it is fair; if He has stirred your heart and your mind so much that you are wondering if you can trust a God Who has not chosen some people; if He has stirred your heart and mind to think of things like that, you will probably find He is working in your heart, and if He is working in your heart, He wants to complete that work!
You can come! This is not a gospel preaching, but you can come. There is nothing that you need to wait for to come to Christ. Do you not know whether you are chosen or whether you are not chosen? It does not matter. The gospel says, ‘Come! Come to Christ!’ When you come in through that Door, when you trust Him for the forgiveness of your sins, you will look back, and you will give thanks for what He has done to you. You are His workmanship.
But if you are sitting there not sure, if you are sitting there wondering whether God is fair, if you are sitting there wondering whether what I am saying is right, here is my answer: just let go, and come to the Saviour!
Why has God done it this way? Because God can do anything, can He not? He is God. He is not limited like you or me. He did not have to make the world. He did not have to make humans. He did not have to do anything. He could have done something else. I do not know what, but He could have done. He is God. But He chose to do all this that we see in the Bible.
But specifically, on the point of why God chose those who would be saved – why did He do that? Because the alternative, if you think about it, is this: God could have sent His Son, Christ could have died at Calvary just as He has done, and then God could have sent people out to preach. We could have preached that there is forgiveness in the name of Christ, just as we do, ‘if you will just come to the Saviour’ – and then God could have left it to you and to me to decide whether or not to come. You probably thought He had left it to you to decide whether or not to come. Think what would have happened. Just follow that through. What would have happened if God had done that? One day you would have found yourself in heaven (if you are a believer, one day you are going to find yourself in heaven) and you would have been there – for what reason? You would have been there because of what Christ had done on the Cross, because He had died for your sins, and washed you in His blood; and you would have been there because you had decided to repent.
It will not do! There is no ‘and’ in what God has done. Every single soul that will be in heaven will be there because of Christ, and Christ alone! There will not be a single soul in heaven who will be there because of something they have done. It is not possible. It will not happen. It is not how God has designed it. He has made sure that every single soul will be there because of Christ, and Christ alone. As a believer, the more you think about it, the more right it is.
Christ paid the price. It did not cost you anything – a bit of pride, perhaps, when you had to repent, not much. He paid the price. He is God’s Son. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but there was a day on which He gave His blood – a horrible and terrible day when God’s Son died, and died for you. You have no part in that day. You were not there – your sins were there, but you were not there. There was no one else there, either. In those hours on the Cross it was Christ, and only Christ. Christ alone!
Now I want to look at Ephesians 1 again. Turn to it. Ephesians 1 starts with a long list of your blessings. It tells you at the beginning that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. It is a long list of blessings. When you believe, you do not realise this – you find out as you go along – but when you believe, you find yourself on the receiving end of a tidal wave of spiritual blessings! There is no end to the spiritual blessings that God has for you, the good things that He planned.
But look at them. It is “every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ.” “He has chosen us in Him.” He has “marked us out beforehand for adoption through Jesus Christ” (v5). He has “taken us into favour in the Beloved” (v6). “We have redemption through His blood” (v7). And so it goes on. Every single blessing that you have is through Christ, or in Christ, or because of Christ. He is in them all. God has drenched your blessings with Christ.
If this were music, we could say that Paul is reaching up to some kind of crescendo. You are in Christ, and through Christ, and blessed in Him, until he gets to verse 10, where he says God is going to “head up all things in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth; in Him.” All things in Christ!
And then in verse 20, “He set Him down at His right hand in the heavenlies, above every principality, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name named, not only in this age, but also in that to come; and has put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the assembly, which is His body, the fulness of Him Who fills all in all.” It is all about Christ! Just as, when He chose Israel, it was not about them, it was all about Jehovah; so, when you come to the New Testament, it is not about you, it is all about Christ.
You are brought into blessing because He loved you. You are brought into blessing because of Christ, and through Christ, and in Christ, and God intends to fill heaven and earth with Christ until He is all in all. But then Paul goes on, and he goes back to where we started, and he reminds these Ephesian believers then, just as he reminds us now: he says, ‘But you were dead,’ “dead in your offences and sins” – ‘although you were alive, morally you were dead. You were not living at all.’ It is right: before you came to the Saviour, you were dead, lost in your offences and sins! (Ephesians 2:1.)
And now, in verse 3, you had your conversation – that means your walk, your manner of life, your way of life – you had your way of life, he says, in the lusts of the flesh, and you did what the flesh and the thoughts willed to do. And as a result you were children, by nature, of wrath, and you were destined for hell. That is what he means. You were utterly lost. But what does he say to them? “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love wherewith He loved us, … has quickened us with the Christ, … and has raised us up together, and has made us sit down together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, that He might display in the coming ages the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus” (vv4 7).
What does he mean? He means this – he means you are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus. Think about it! He chose you before the beginning of the world, the foundation of the world. He chose something which was the absolute opposite of holy and blameless, and He chose it, as it says, to be holy and blameless. And He worked on you, and He worked and worked and worked. The work was done at Calvary – that work was done by Christ alone. The work was done by the shedding of blood, and by suffering, and by a horror that we do not understand. Then the work was done in you by the Spirit in new birth. He led you to repentance. He gave you faith. He opened your eyes so that you could see. You are God’s workmanship in Christ Jesus. You are the thing that He loved for no reason to do with you. And He has made you holy and blameless in Christ Jesus.
This choosing is nothing to do with you. It is everything to do with Him. And so you are left with just that one last verse, verse 8: “Ye are saved,” Paul says, “by grace, through faith; and this not of yourselves; it is God’s gift: not on the principle of works, that no one might boast.” You are not saved on the principle of anything that you have done – not your decision, nothing that you have done. You are saved, he says, on the principle of grace, through faith, and it is God’s gift.
You will be in heaven because God chose you to be there and did everything needed to bring you there. You will be in heaven through something we call grace. There will be no other reason that you will be there. You will be there because of grace, pure grace!
21 November 2015