Summary: The first chapter of Ephesians is one long sentence in the Greek, packed with numerous blessings from above. God chose us, God forgives us, God seals us. We are his...forever.
Blessings from Above
Today we launch a new series through a tiny book of the Bible called “Ephesians.” The Apostle Paul wrote this six-chapter letter to the church in Ephesus while he was imprisoned in Rome. Most scholars believe it was meant to be a form letter, something that the churches circulated around all of Asia Minor. It makes sense, because Paul doesn’t address any specific problems in this book like he does elsewhere.
In many of Paul’s letters, he spends the first half talking about who we are in Christ, and then the second half talking about how that identity should affect our lives. That layout is certainly evident in Ephesians. The first three chapters talk about who we are and the last three about how we should live.
Chapter 1 is all about blessings God sends from heaven. Verse 3 says, “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.” We tend to think of blessings in terms of money, stuff, or things we get to do. Paul instead talks about blessings like salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life. Today I want to focus in on three things that God does for you, the believer, that are absolutely mind-boggling when you really give them some thought. You’ll see them on your outline. First, consider that ...
1. God chose you (vv.4-6, 11)
Do you know how long you’ve been on God’s mind? Listen to verse 4: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world.” That’s a long time! God has had you on his radar since even before creation! And think about the word “chose.” It reminds me of middle school PE, when the coach picks two team captains for softball, and they start choosing people for each team. Am I the only one here that was always chosen LAST? Yet, in God’s plan, he chose you FIRST! Verse 4 says he chose you “to be holy and blameless in his sight.” God is holy and blameless, and he chose us to be the same. He chose us to be in relationship with him.
Another word that’s used here to talk about God choosing us is “adoption.” Verse 5 says, “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ...” Ladies, don’t be offended by the word “sonship.” It includes the idea of “daughtership” as well. The phrase, “adoption to sonship,” was a legal term in the Roman Empire. If you chose to “adopt to sonship,” you made your adopted child your legal heir in all senses of the word. In the eyes of the government, it was as if the adopted child had always been your biological child.
Paul writes about this in his letter to the Romans. He says, in Romans 8:15, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” Abba is not a rock band here; it is the Aramaic word for "daddy." We don’t live in fear as God’s slaves. We live in joy as God’s children. He has adopted us into his family, and in a way as if we were always in his family: adoption to sonship.
I heard a story about a child who was bummed to learn that he had been adopted. His father called him aside, apart from the other kids, and said, “Son, do you really know what adoption means? It means we didn’t just have you; we chose you!” Adoption is another word signifying that God chose us to be in his family.
Sometimes people get upset about the word “predestined,” which means to set the boundaries in advance. God knew from the very start of creation who all would be in his family. Does that mean we don’t have a choice? Does God force us into his family? No. I can’t explain it, but the Bible carries a holy tension between God’s choosing us (God always takes the initiative) and our responding freely to God. Even though God knows in advance, we are still held accountable for choosing or rejecting him. We choose him, even though he first chose us. Both statements are true. We may not fully understand how, but that doesn’t make them any less true. Just know that God chose you. That’s a good thing. That’s something worth responding to by choosing him! And then...
2. God forgives you (v. 7)
Even though God chose us from before the beginning of creation, and even though we responded to his call and entered his family, we still sin. Adam and Eve sinned, and God wasn’t taken by surprise. God knows everything. God knows we will sin, like our first parents. We fail our Father God, who longs for relationship with us above all. It’s a sad story.