Summary: Paul teaches us how the doctrine of election gives us confidence for the present and the future.
Among the tech gadgets that sold well this Christmas were drones. Serious photographers and movie makers are snatching up these remote-controlled flying machines because they are a relatively inexpensive way to get a bird’s-eye view of things. I don’t suppose many of you received a drone for Christmas, but you already have something that gives better than a bird’s-eye view of things. Today we’re starting a sermon series on the New Testament book of Ephesians and we’ll learn how this letter by the Apostle Paul provides a God’s-eye view of things. With the book of Ephesians we’ll soar into God’s mind and learn what he sees. This God’s-eye view will allow us to see the past and the future. It gives us a good look at what sinful humans can’t normally see: the truth about spirituality. Today this God’s-eye view will reveal the truth about election.
The truth about election? Like why did Justin Trudeau get elected as prime minister? No, I’m talking about the Bible teaching which says that God elected, or chose those who would spend eternity with him in heaven. This is how Paul puts it in our text: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:3-5).
Before God created water and oxygen. Before he made pine trees and palm trees. Even before he created light, God thought about the people he would make and knew they would do a face-plant into sin. Adam and Eve and every sinner like us should have to spend an eternity in hell for this mess. But God didn’t want that. So he planned to send his Son to save sinners. Not only that, God also chose those who would come to believe in Jesus and therefore one day spend eternity with him in heaven. This is called the doctrine of election, or predestination.
Because the doctrine of election raises questions for which we are not given answers, we pastors often shy away from preaching on it. But that’s unfortunate. We should follow Paul’s example. He did not think that the doctrine of election was only for the seminary-trained Christian. No, he jumped right into it at the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians because the doctrine of election brings great comfort. We’ll see how when we get a God’s-eye view of things.
The biggest question connected with election is of course, “Am I one of the elect?” Paul was certain that he had been chosen in eternity by God and he was certain of this for his readers. Did he have a list of God’s elect, like the assistant coach who is given a list of which kids made the basketball team? No, Paul had no such list of names, but he did have a description of the elect. He said that the elect are holy and blameless in God’s sight.
OK. So how could Paul be certain that he was one of the elect? Before he had become a Christian he had persecuted believers and was responsible for many deaths. Paul was not unlike your average ISIS terrorist: wreaking havoc in God’s name. Our actions may not be as violent as Paul’s once were, but our thoughts are often of violence. Who hasn’t wanted to key the car of guy who took your parking spot and then smirked about it? Who hasn’t dreamed of silencing a sibling with a well-placed punch or slap? Although my actions might never be given a PG rating because they are not violent, they could be at least rated “P” for “phony.” Sure, I’m good at acting like a nice guy, but my thoughts about other people don’t often match my “happy” and “polite” actions towards them.
So how in the world was Paul certain that he was one of the elect, and how can we ever be certain of this? Look carefully again at our text and note how Paul did not say that God chose the elect BECAUSE they were holy and blameless. No. He chose the elect TO BE holy and blameless. And that’s exactly what God has declared us to be “in Christ.” Think back to the children’s devotion. How is it possible for many people to even think of tackling the job of cleaning the bin into which we throw organics like egg shells, potato peels, and fruit that has gone bad? Only after they’ve put on a pair of cleaning gloves. Well when God looked at the bin of humanity, he didn’t see a single person who wasn’t rotten with sin. The only way the holy God could pick us up without disgust is if he did so in Christ. Jesus became a like a pair of gloves with which the Father picked us up so that he could wash us off and then hold us close to his chest the way you love to hold a baby who has just been given a bath.