June 7, 2010 David Balzer

Core Value 3: We value non-Christians hearing and responding to the gospel: Ephesians 1:1-14; 3:1-13

On the 29 January, 2003, the world woke to greet its newest BILLIONAIRE. Athina Onassis, the grand-daughter of Aristotle Onassis and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis turned 18.

Turning 18 means she’s inherited an estimated 1 BILLION AMERICAN DOLLARS. And makes her probably the world’s richest ager. And there’s more. There’s gold. The family art masterpieces. There’s property in France, in England, in Switzerland and in Argentina. As well as the private Greek island of Skorpios.

How would you feel?

As we come to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians this morning, there’s a similar thought. Welcome to the inheritance.

I wonder if Athina’s lawyer dropped round that morning to explain things a little. Here’s the bank account number. Here are the keys to your grandfather’s yacht. Here’s the title deed to the Island. Because here in Ephesians that’s exactly what’s happening. Explaining the inheritance. Have a quick glance down the page.

V3 We have EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING

V5 We’ve been adopted as sons

V6 Freely given

V7 riches of God’s grace LAVISHED on us

V14… the Holy Spirit, he says, is a guarantee of our inheritance.

And again in verse 18. I pray, says Paul, that you’ll know the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. Welcome… to the inheritance.

And as we come to Ephesians 1 this morning, I’m hoping we can do it with something like the ANTICIPATION Athina Onassis must have been feeling as she woke up to the ultimate birthday that morning.

Us and You

Before we go any further though, I want to hit the pause button for a minute. And think about two little words, that you don’t notice too much, but that’ll make a huge difference in how you understand Ephesians. US and YOU. Or WE and YOU.

To make sense of Ephesians it helps to notice it’s a letter written to TWO DISTINCT GROUPS. Us… and you.

The sort of small words you normally don’t notice. Unless it’s “WE’RE going to the movies. And YOU’RE not invited.” Unless it’s “WE’RE in the IN group. And YOU… we’ll, you’re NOT.”

And you’ll see as you just run your eye through Ephesians chapter 1, it’s we we we we all the way home. Or us, which is the same thing.

So notice in verse 2. God our Father. Verse 3. Our Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed us in the heavenly realms. For he chose us, verse 4; in him we have redemption verse 7, in accordance with the grace he lavished on us… It’s all over the place.

Verse 11. In him we have obtained an inheritance… In order that we who were the first to hope in Christ, verse 12, might be for the praise of his glory.

And then finally verse 13. In him YOU ALSO were included. You were marked in him with a seal.

And the pattern goes on in chapter 2. Verse 1. As for you, you were dead in your transgressions. Verse 5. We were in our transgressions too. And so it goes.

I want to suggest the two groups he’s talking about/ are two groups that were absolutely obvious in the Ephesian church. Because you read about them back in Acts 19. Paul’s in Ephesus. And he’s preaching to THE JEWS for three months in the synagogue. And then, v9, for two more years, he preaches to the GREEKS in the hall of Tyranus.

And so you’ve got a church there in Ephesus made up of BOTH those groups. former Jews like Paul. Who are the US he’s talking about in the letter. As well as non-Jews like you and me. Ex-idolaters. With no Jewish background at all. Who when Paul’s talking about, he calls YOU LOT. Or as Jeff Fenech would say YOUSE!

Us and you. we in the church who are Jews by birth. You who are Gentiles by birth.

And you can see that’s what Paul’s thinking when you get down to verse 11 in chapter 2. Where Paul says, “Therefore remember, that formerly YOU WHO ARE GENTILES BY BIRTH and on he goes to sum up the section.”

And then over in Ch 3 v1

(Eph 3:1 NIV)  For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of YOU GENTILES–

And finally down in Ch 3 v6.

(Eph 3:6 NIV)  This mystery is that through the gospel the GENTILES (YOU) are HEIRS TOGETHER with Israel (US), members TOGETHER of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

Why am I making such a big deal about it when we’re only looking at Ch 1? Because it’s a crucial part of the logic of this first section. The logic of the argument is all about SHARING THE INHERITANCE.

Here’s Paul writing to a group of people he knows well. After all, he’s spent the best part of three years there! And he pictures them listening to the letter being read. The two groups of Christians. The Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. Learning how to get on with each other. Learning how to overcome difficulties. How to eat the same food. How to let go of things that DON’T matter. And work out what things DO matter. Disagreements. Misunderstandings. Differences in emphasis.

And Paul wants them to know first, and most importantly of all, that they’re SHARING AN INHERITANCE.

And for some of his readers, maybe the word sharing is quite a shock. Because if you want to stick with the picture we started with, imagine when Athina Onassis woke up on her birthday, she didn’t just wake up to the worlds biggest inheritance… but to the news her LONG-LOST SISTER had just turned up. Who’d been discovered in ANOTHER COUNTRY. But was her flesh and . And who’s going to SHARE it. 50-50.

There’s plenty to go round. But how would you feel? “Athina, congratulations you’re rich. But the sister you never knew… is going to share it with you.”

(And ly, you’d rejoice, wouldn’t you? At having a sister again.)

That’s the situation the JEWISH Christians are in. They’ve had the privilege of being God’s chosen people. All on their own. Out of ALL THE NATIONS. Their whole focus has been about staying SEPARATE from Gentiles. And now, they’re following God’s promised Messiah.

And this Jesus Messiah has called out people from THE NATIONS to share in his promises.

And as happy as they are for the Gentiles. It …. Just TAKES SOME GETTING USED TO. Perhaps like white Christians after apartheid ended in South Africa. Sitting next to their black brothers in church.

Knowing with their heads and hearts this was God’s choice. But it just seemed so FOREIGN, and STRANGE. WANTING to accept, and live with, and tolerate, and love, But not sure how to DO IT.

That was the situation for the Jewish Christians.

And there were similar doubts from the Gentile Christians. All this talk of being A CHOSEN PEOPLE was new to them. To be God’s adopted children. Forgiven, washed, set apart. It was all too good to be true. Did they BELONG? Were they a fish out of water? Had they hopped on the right train?

The Inheritance (3-12)

And it’s with this sort of background – of Jewish and Gentile Christian – sitting uncomfortably beside each other – that Paul launches into reading the will. The lawyer outlining THE EXTENT OF THE INHERITANCE. V3.

(Eph 1:3 NIV)  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING in Christ.

This is the SUMMARY STATEMENT. God deserves to be blessed because he’s blessed US – with every spiritual blessing. Every spiritual benefit we have comes from God. Because we’re IN Christ – belong to him.

(pause) But immediately, it’s not clear who Paul’s referring to. He says “blessed US” – but is that US JEWS, or ALL of US – Jews AND Gentiles. It’s not clear!

Paul SEEMS to be addressing the letter to everyone. V1. To the SAINTS IN EPHESUS – the faithful in Christ Jesus.

It’s certainly clear by the END of this section, and into Chapters 2 and 3. But here at the start, it’s not clear. Perhaps he MEANS to be unclear. Perhaps as he outlines all the wonderful blessings that God’s people have been blessed with, some of the Gentiles will assume he’s talking about THE JEWS. And so they squirm in their seat a bit more, fidget. Feel more and more out-of-place. As Paul piles blessings on top of blessings.

Until he gets to v13. The sucker punch. “And YOU GENTILES ALSO WERE INCLUDED IN CHRIST”. Everything I’ve just been saying is describing YOU TOO, you silly old sausages! Lift your heads up! You’re IN Christ – so God has blessed YOU TOO with every spiritual blessing.

He’s PROBABLY talking to ALL the Christians – but it’s ALSO possible he’s just got the Jewish Christians in mind.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. So far, Paul’s summarised the inheritance TO US, as being EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING.

i) Chosen

But now he gets more specific. V4. What ARE the spiritual blessings for those who are IN CHRIST? First, we’ve been CHOSEN. But unlike being chosen for a sporting team, this selection had nothing at all to do with YOU. Because v4 tells us that God chose us BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD.

You’re abilities, or qualities, or successes, were irrelevant.

There’s a sense in which if someone were to ask you WHEN you became a Christian, you’d be CORRECT if you said Before the creation of the world. That’s when God CHOSE you.

ii) Predestined

And you’ve been chosen FOR A PURPOSE. Chosen to be holy and blameless. Set apart. Different. Pure. Washed clean.

God had a goal in sight when he chose you. He had a destination picked out. That’s what PRE-DESTINED means there in v5. God not only CHOSE you, but had a GOAL for that election. It was God’s destiny for you that you be sitting right there this morning, hearing these words.

All planned, there in v4, because he LOVES us.

iii) Adopted

And what was the PURPOSE of the plan? To ADOPT us. To make us HIS CHILDREN. Members of HIS FAMILY.

It’s probably not an idea that means a lot to us. Unless you’re AN ORPHAN. Being a member of a family is something we mostly take for granted. Perhaps even don’t appreciate.

And yet, if you think about it, as much as you might bicker and argue, there’s a wonderful SECURITY about being a member of a family. Knowing that your family will LOVE you and ACCEPT you and BE THERE for you.

And if there’s security from an EARTHLY family, how much more is that feeling of acceptance and security and love from your HEAVENLY Father? Who’s ADOPTED you.

iv) Grace

And not just because he LOVES us. Here’s ANOTHER reason God chose us. It’s there in v6. To show off how good his GRACE is.

he predestined us to be adopted …{ (Eph 1:6 NIV)  to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us (lit. graced us) in the One he loves.

In v8 it’s the RICHES of grace. That he’s LAVISHED on us. It’s WONDERFUL, it’s RICH, it’s COMPLETE.

In fact it’s SO great, God loves to show it off. He shows people GRACE, because he loves people to PRAISE his grace. It’s so fantastic, he loves to share it, and for others to recognise it.

You see, a pleasure SHARED is a pleasure DOUBLED. There’s a fantastic catch on the cricket on the TV, or someone smashes a six. And you want to SHARE the excitement with someone else. Or there’s a really funny youtube video. And you’ve just got to share it. Sharing the pleasure, DOUBLES it. Or a beautiful sunrise – much more enjoyable if there’s someone there to SHARE it with.

And sharing GRACE increases the JOY of grace, and the PRAISE for grace. God wants to share his grace, so that OTHERS can praise it too. That’s what he LOVES.

vi) Redemption,

And the essence of that gift – that grace. Is seen in v7.

(Eph 1:7 NIV)  In him we have REDEMPTION through his , the FORGIVENESS of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace

Paul’s already used ONE picture of what God does. Adoption. Here’s ANOTHER one. Redemption. Redemption involves the buying back of something that’s in slavery, or in hock – like at a pawnbrokers.

In this case, it’s US. God buys us back, sets us free.

vii) Forgiveness.

And once the price is paid, He FORGIVES our sin. Wipes the slate clean. Removes the barrier. Makes us friends.

And the redemption price he pays/ is the of his Son. The acceptable punishment for our rebellion is the of his Son.

In fact, EVERYTHING we’ve seen so far comes only through Jesus. V3. Every spiritual blessing comes IN Christ.

We were chosen IN CHRIST. God predestined us to be adopted THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.

God’s glorious grace is only freely given to us IN THE ONE HE LOVES – that’s Jesus too!

And then down to 9. The mystery of God’s will was PURPOSED IN CHRIST. Christ was the agent for achieving God’s plans.

But not only that. V10. He was the GOAL of the plan too. He’s the TRAIN that TAKES us there, AND the train station that’s the END DESTINATION. The fulfillment of the plan was that all things in heaven and on earth would be brought together under King Jesus.

Jew and Gentile TOGETHER bowing the knee before King Jesus. That’s the GOAL of the plan. V11

(Eph 1:11-12 NIV)  In him we were also chosen, having been predestined ACCORDING TO THE PLAN OF HIM WHO WORKS OUT EVERYTHING IN CONFORMITY WITH THE PURPOSE OF HIS WILL, {12} (what’s his will – his plan?) in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, MIGHT BE FOR THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY.

A life of purpose. Bringing glory to God. That’s what you’re here for. That’s where you’re headed. That’s why things happen the way they do – so that YOU CAN CAUSE PEOPLE TO PRAISE GOD’S GLORY.

(pause)

  • That’s why God gives you SUCCESS – so you can direct people to praising God’s glory.The new movie Invictus is about the South African rugby team who won the world cup in SA in 1995. And my lasting memory of that time was at fulltime, And the captain of the victorious Sth African rugby team, Francois Pienaar, calling his team together and they knelt down on the pitch, in front of millions of people. And prayed.

Peter Fitzsimons, the Herald journalist and noted atheist, ridicules this. He says, :Why would God, if he existed, be more interested in Sth Africa winning than any other team? He says the same thing when the Christian golfer Aaron Baddely wins a tournament, and thanks his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Or soccer player Kaka who scores a goal and takes of his shirt to reveal a singlet with Jn 3:16 written on it.

It’s not that success is a reason to thank God. But success gives you the opportunity to shine the spotlight onto HIM, and not YOU. And, I think, sometimes God DOES enable people to win sporting events that don’t really matter, so that the much more IMPORTANT thing can happen. Of glory being given to Jesus.

All things for his Glory.

  • That’s why he brings you SUFFERING AND TRIALS – so that you trusting and patient response can cause people to wonder at the glory of God.
  • That’s why he gives you non-Christians who ask those tricky questions, so that you can be ready to give a reason for your hope, and give glory to God.
  • That’s why they persecute and ridicule you, so that in your gracious response, you can cause them to recognize God’s love and grace in you.

Everything working out in conformity with his will – that we might all be for the praise of his glory.

Sharing the Inheritance (13-14)

(pause) But did you notice the little qualifier there in v12? Up until now there’s been no hint of any distinction between Jew and Gentile. It’s all WE and US. Until NOW.

{12} in order that WE, WHO WERE THE FIRST TO HOPE IN CHRIST, might be for the praise of his glory.

Now it’s clear he’s talking about his fellow-Jews. The gospel always went to the JEWS first and then the Gentiles. Romans 1:16.

But does that mean that none of what Paul’s been talking about has related to the Gentiles? Is it all about the JEWS. You can imagine their faces falling. Slumping down in their chairs. “You mean WE/ DON’T have a purpose, or a future, or an inheritance?”

Perhaps the Jewish Christians sit up a bit straighter, with Cheshire Cat grins on their faces.

There’s a big pause at the end of v12.

(Eph 1:12-13 NIV)  we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory…. {13} And YOU ALSO were INCLUDED IN CHRIST when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.

The drama of the argument is that everything that’s available to the Jews is available to the Gentiles. YOU TOO. It’s about SHARING THE INHERITANCE.

Everything Paul’s just mentioned is for the GENTILES TOO, because they’ve been included IN Christ.

Chosen, Predestined, Adopted, Grace, Redemption, Forgiveness. Every blessing is connected with Christ. So the Gentiles get it all TOO.

(pause) And how did the sharing of the inheritance happen? The Gentiles HEARD THE WORD OF TRUTH, THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION.

Telling others the gospel is about SHARING OUR INHERITANCE.

And what’s the proof? The same proof God gave in Acts. Peter just shared the gospel with Gentiles for the first time. And God’s Spirit had fallen on them, making them born again. Acts 10.47. Peter reaches the obvious conclusion.

(Acts 10:47-48 NIV)  “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”

(Acts 11:17 NIV)  …if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”

The Holy Spirit – God’s gift to ALL his people. The seal of his ownership. The affirmation of a deal completed. Nothing to be added. The deposit of full inheritance still coming. See it there halfway through v13 in Eph 1?

Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession-to the praise of his glory.

The presence of God himself gives the Gentiles confidence that THEY TOO have a share in the inheritance.

An inheritance that only came as those FIRST Jewish Christians SHARED THEIR INHERITANCE by proclaiming the word of truth.

(pause) You’re sitting here today. Only because OTHER CHRISTIANS shared their inheritance with you. It might have been your parents, or a friend, or someone at Uni, or a Sunday School teacher.

You’re one of God’s people, because Jews shared their inheritance with US GENTILES.

And if the JEWS could cross the cultural boundaries with GENTILES. Then WE should be able to cross OUR boundaries TOO.

Cross the boundaries of EDUCATION. Cross the boundaries of UPBRINGING. Of SOCIAL CLASS. Cross the boundaries of AGE. Of Ethical standards.

Or outside Australia. We should be able to cross the boundaries of DISTANCE, and CULTURE, and LANGUAGE.

God has ELECTED people from EVERY TRIBE and NATION AND TONGUE. Their names were written in the Lamb’s book of life before the creation of the world.

And it’s our job to tell them the word of truth to them. So that having believed, God would give them his Holy Spirit – the seal, the deposit guaranteeing their inheritance.

We Value non-Christians hearing and responding to the gospel. Because we value our inheritance, and we value SHARING it with OTHERS.

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