Text: Ephesians 1:1-14
I remember teaching Sunday school some years ago and I asked the kids in my class what being in Christ meant to them. Some said happiness, others said joy but there was this one kid who said that being in Christ for her means blessings. She did not elaborate but just said that being in Christ means blessings.
And this is exactly what we are seeing in this passage we have read. In the passage, Apostle Paul is reminding us of the blessings we have in Christ. Of course, there are so many blessings that Apostle Paul highlights in the passage but we will dwell much on three blessings that have come to us Christians as a result of the life, death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
But before we can dwell on the blessings, the author of this Epistle we have read introduces himself to us and says, “Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” Paul was an apostle of Jesus. As an apostle of Jesus he was not there to advance his own interests or his own ideas but rather he was there to proclaim Jesus. He was made an apostle to proclaim the Cross of Jesus.
Similarly, we Christians are not on our own. We are of Jesus. We belong to Christ; therefore, our lives should proclaim Christ and glorify him because we are not of our own but of Christ by the will of God. This fact should also bring comfort to us as the Hilderberg Catechism Questions number 1 asks: “What is your comfort in life and death?” The answer in part reads: “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and death to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.” Friends, we are of Jesus. We belong to Jesus.
Then Apostle Paul goes on to introduces the recipients of the Epistle and says, “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.” Every believer or Christian is a saint. I remember attending a Bible Study on this passage this other day. Then the leader of the Bible study asked “Do you think, you are a saint?” Then somebody replied and said, “No, I am not a saint.”
“Why?” The leader asked. Then came a reply: “A saint is a very holy person.I mean he is very righteous….” I cut him and said, that’s what you if you are a Christian. In Christ we are righteous not basing on our own righteousness but on the righteousness of Christ which God gives to us when we believe in him for salvation. In Christ, every Christian is holy basing on the holiness of Christ.” Friends, every one who is saved is a saint. If Paul was writing to us here today, he would have definitely wrote to the “Saints at…” (put in your place there).” Of course, I don’t mean that you should address me as St. Confex. It is not that necessary although that’s what actually we are in Christ. We are saints.
Then Apostle Paul moves on to praise God for the spiritual blessings He has given us in Jesus. In verse 3 he says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places.” Paul has in mind here the risen Lord Jesus Christ. As the Scripture tells us, Jesus Christ has ascended into heaven and is sitting at the right hand of God the Father and from there he pours out blessings upon his Church, upon believers. We need to praise God for these blessings which he gives us through Christ.
Apostle Paul then lists the blessings. First he says, God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. For us to be saved. For us to be Christians today, it is not because we chose God but God chose us even before the world was created. So, you and I are Christians today not because we are smart or we are better or we made a right choice when we heard the gospel preached to us.
NO! It is God who chose us to be believers. Sometimes I know there is a temptation to think that we did something that moved God to save us. But according to this passage, God chose us even before we were born. Before God created the world, he saw us miserable in our sin. As a matter of fact, we were dead in our sin but in his grace and mercy, God chose to save us. Apostle Paul then continues to give us a reason why God chose to save us so that we should walk in a holy and blameless life. God desires his children to be holy just as he is holy. He desires us to be set apart from the world.
Then Apostle Paul mentions another blessing in verse 5 and says, God predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will. Two theological words here: predestination and adoption. Predestination basically means that before creation, God already foreordained or planned what will happen in our lives. And Adoption is an act whereby God after he has saved us, he goes on to take or adopt us as his children in his family. Oh, what a blessing!
God took us we who were his enemies because of sin and turned us into his children. Oh, what an amazing grace. This is why John1:12, 13 clearly tell us: “But to all who did receive him (meaning Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of the blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Oh, what a blessing we have in Christ! I would like now to move on and concentrate much on three of many blessings that are ours in Christ Jesus as we have read in the passage.
The first one is that We have the forgiveness of sins in Christ (v. 7)
In Jesus Christ we have the forgiveness of sin and this forgiveness leads to redemption and salvation. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has forgiven and delivered us from the slavery of sin. The blood of Christ that was shed on the cross cleanses us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 tells us: “If we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteouness .
And please mark the words all unrighteousness. In Jesus we do not only have partial forgiveness but full forgiveness of sins. In Christ we have forgiveness of our sins in the past, in the present and in the future. There is not limit in the forgiveness of Jesus. Christ does not tell us that I have forgiven you today but be careful because I won’t forgive you again. No, in Jesus we always have forgiveness of our sins if we approach his throne with a broken and repentant heart.
But here it is important to clarify about the consequences of sin and forgiveness of sin. If we sin we can face the consequences of sin although Christ has forgiven us. For instance, a Christian might cheat his or her partner and contract HIV/Aids Then this Christian might ask for forgiveness from Jesus after being convicted of his or her sin. Jesus will surely forgive but might not heal the disease. So, although forgiven in Christ, this Christian will still have to face the consequences or his or her sin.
Now, sometimes we are tempted to doubt if Jesus really forgave those sins we committed. Some times you can even hear the voice of the evil one whispering in your ear and say, “Do you really believe that Jesus forgave you those sins?” And you might doubt, but in the passage we have the assurance that in Christ we have forgiveness of all our sins. This is why the Word of God says in Romans 8:1 that “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ” because in Jesus we have full forgiveness of our sins.
Friends, I don’t know what sins you have committed but I know there are sins or evil things we have done which we, human beings, might find hard to forgive but t Christ alone forgives all sins. Therefore, let’s lift our eyes to the cross of Jesus where the forgiveness of all sin is. As we sing in that famous hymn, There is a Fountain Filled with Blood.
There is a fountain filled with blood
drawn from Emmanuel's veins;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains.
Secondly, in the passage, we see that We have eternal life in Christ (v. 11)
Apostle Paul is telling us that in Christ we have obtained an inheritance. The inheritance that Paul is talking about in this verse is the gift of eternal life as well as all the benefits that belong to those who are in Christ. And note the way the Bible puts it. It says we have obtained an inheritance in Jesus. The gift of eternal life is a present reality. Every believer has eternal life right now.
It is sad that some people think that eternal life is what we will get in the future when we go to heaven. When you ask them, “Do you have eternal life?” They will reply and say, “I can’t tell. We will see when we get there in heaven.” It might sound spiritual but it is not biblical because in verse 11 Apostle Paul assures us that we have eternal life right now if we are in Christ.
It is very important for every believer to know that they have eternal life right now because this realization determines how we live our daily lives. If we do not know that we have eternal life, we are likely to live any how and like anybody without purpose. However, when we know that we have eternal life, we start looking at things differently.
When we realize that we have eternal life, we can confidently sing:
This world is not my home
I am just passing through
When we realize that we have eternal life, we also realize that we are strangers and a pilgrims in this world and our eternal home is where our Father is and that is heaven. As a stranger in the world you do not conform to the standards of the world because you know that your citizenship is not here but in heaven.
Furthermore, knowing that we have eternal life in Christ comforts us when our fellow believers depart from us and go to be with the Lord. We get comforted because although they have died physically, they still have life in Jesus Christ.
As Christians who have believed in Christ we should always know that we have eternal life right now. Apostle John writing to us in 1 John 5:13 says: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” So, eternal life is a gift we receive when we believe in Christ not when we will go to heaven.
Friends, we have eternal life in Christ and this truth does not depend on how we feel or think. But if we have this risen Lord in our lives. If he is controlling our lives, then for sure we have eternal life.
Thirdly and lastly, We have a guarantee of our salvation in Christ (v. 13, 14).
Paul tells us that we when we heard the gospel and believed in Christ as our Lord and Savior, in him we received a guarantee of our salvation who is the Holy Spirit.
English is my second language. So when I saw the word guarantee I consulted my dictionary and according to Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, the word ‘guarantee’ means ‘a promise that something will definitely happen.’ It goes on to say, ‘if something is guaranteed, it means that you will definitely get it or have it.”
So when the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our salvation, it means that no matter what, eternal life is ours in Christ Jesus. Nothing and no one can take it away from us. We cannot also lose it because it is guaranteed.
Jesus Christ in John 10:28 says, “I give (every believer) eternal life and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” This is the guarantee we have in Christ through his death, burial and resurrection. In Christ, we are safe and secure. There is nothing or any one who can snatch us away from the hand of Christ.
Apostle Paul also in Romans 8:37-39 assures us: “For I am sure that neither death nor things present nor things to come… nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Apostle Paul again writes in Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” In other ways, Paul here is saying: “He who saved you, will make sure that you remain saved, saved, and saved to the end.”
Now, for sure our salvation is guaranteed in Christ. But does this mean that we should deliberately sin more and more? God forbid! As the Bible says, God has given us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our salvation and eternal life. Now the work of the Holy Spirit is to sanctify or make us holy or make us become more and more like Jesus. The Holy Spirit who is a guarantee of our salvation convicts us of sin and helps us to live a holy life that is pleasing to God.
Furthermore, knowing what God has freely done to me in Christ can never make me sin against him deliberately. Instead, knowing all the good things that God has done in Christ for me provokes thanksgiving to God. Naturally, when somebody has done good to us, we don’t repay them back with evil. We pay back with good as well.
The fact that God loves us so much and that he allowed his son to die for our sins. The fact that God has given us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our salvation does not mean that we should sin deliberately against him. Instead, those who have truly experienced his love and grace live a life of obedience to him out of love and appreciation for what God has done to them.
And Christ in John 14:15 says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” We show our love and appreciation for all that God has done to us in Christ by keep his commandments.” Not out of fear but out of love and appreciation for what he has done to us.
Therefore, let this assurance from God’s Word that in Christ our salvation is secure comfort us always. We do not need any other form of assurance more than this.
A story is told of an elderly man who came to a preacher by the name of H.A. Ironside. “I struggle with assurance of my salvation. How can I be sure about it?”
Ironside replied, “Suppose you had a vision of an angel who told you your sins were forgiven. Would that be enough assurance?”
“Yes, I think it would. An angel should be right.”
Ironside continued, “But suppose on your deathbed Satan came and said, ‘I was that angel, transformed to deceive you.’ What would you say?”
The man was speechless. Ironside then told him that God has given us something more dependable than the voice of an angel. He has given the Holy Spirit who is assurance of our salvation and this was made possible through the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this Christ we have forgiveness of our sins; in this Christ we have eternal life and in this Christ we have a guarantee of our salvation.