Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus contains three wonderful strands of teaching; firstly God’s view of the believers’ exalted position in His presence, secondly, his divinely revealed understanding of the church as Christ’s body and thirdly, how the believer should live here on earth in the light of these sublime truths.
In the portion of the Epistle that we are considering this morning, we have a wonderful reminder of God’s eternal purpose revealed by the operations of His grace. In the general profession of Christianity there would appear to be a lack of understanding as to the full meaning and extent of God’s purpose. In many “Christian churches” today we hear a message of social improvement preached, the idea that Christianity makes unregenerate man a better person, a more productive member of the human race and therefore somehow more pleasing to God. This is error of the worst and most dangerous kind lulling guilty sinners into a fog of false security. In many Christian churches where the Gospel of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is truly preached, the message stops at the blessedness of the sinner’s need being met in the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, the efficacy of His precious blood and the power of His resurrection. In short it makes the meeting of the sinner’s need the great end of the Gospel message. I believe that this stops short of the revelation of God's purpose in freeing man from the bondage and burden of sin. When God’s purpose is mentioned it is often restricted in teaching to this result. For example many consider that God’s purpose relates to the working out of God’s ways of blessing, guidance and discipline in the believer’s life. We confine our thoughts of His purpose to the daily circumstances of life and our responsibilities to work out our salvation through the ups and downs of our testimonial pathway here. Our blessing becomes therefore the greatest part of our understanding of why God in His sovereign operations of grace has blessed us by the redemption available in Jesus Christ. I believe that we need to have a much greater understanding of the purpose of God. Our blessing, our salvation and our eternal assurance are wonderful concepts, but there is much more revealed in the word of God for us to feast upon and to be the basis of a deeper knowledge of God and an appreciation of what He expects from those that have been rescued from a lost eternity. When God showed His displeasure with Pharaoh in Exodus, at his treatment of the Jews, the repeated command came thus, “Let my people go that they may serve me!” We must note hear that the liberation of God’s earthly people was not only for their blessing and liberty, but that God should have an answer to His affections in the service of a redeemed people in the land of His promise.
The first three verses of our chapter remind us of the condition of helpless, godless iniquity that was our position before God as natural men and women in this sin-stricken world. Then the Apostle switches our attention to the amazing contrast to this hopeless condition in our salvation by His grace through faith. Note that we are reminded that this too has its source in God Himself. Everything began with God. The astonishing words that we read in verse six, however, take us far beyond our salvation from a lost estate and place us presently “in the heavenly places in Christ”. It is not presented as a future hope. It is presented to us as God's own view of his people while still here on earth. He views them as raised, ascended and at home in "heavenly places" with His own Son. We share now in Christ's resurrection by faith. We also share now in His present position in Heaven itself. That is how God views Christ’s church though still here on earth. The Apostle does not present this as a future blessing. He tells us that it is our present position before God, because that is our place in His eternal purpose, assured by the work of His Son. Christ's work is complete as regards the securing of our place in God's presence and by faith we can enjoy it now. We can do so by the Holy Spirit’s power and service towards us. There is no power in the universe that can interfere with the completion of God's purpose and so He presents it as an accomplished fact.
If we go back to chapter one, we read that we were chosen in Christ before the world’s foundation, we were predestined for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, we had made known to us the mystery of God’s will, purposed in Christ and we have now obtained an inheritance because of being chosen in Christ before the beginning of time. God Himself guarantees all this, and the assurance or pledge of that guarantee is the gift of the Holy Spirit of Promise. This wonderful title of the Holy Spirit reminds us that His service too is the assurance God's purposes of love being fulfilled. In Romans 11:29 we are reminded that God’s calling is irrevocable. It cannot be changed. These wonderful and blessed truths are as eternal as God Himself. We could refer to many other scriptures that reveal to us that our salvation in Christ was no after-thought, no rescue plan mounted to counter an unforeseen eruption of sin in God’s perfectly created world. John 17:24, Hebrews 1:3, 1 Peter 1:20 and Revelation 13:8 are among them. When we start to consider these tremendous glimpses into the heart of a God of love, we begin to realise much more deeply how profound the message is that is being presented to us by the Spirit of God, speaking through the Apostle Paul.
God had an eternal purpose in His heart of love. It was there before time was and its fulfilment will be when time is no more but its concept is to be enjoyed now as well as in eternity! He has, as it were, dipped down into time, made known His love and the eternal purpose of that love, to creatures designed to be His companions eternally and the amazing wonder is that every one will bear the likeness of His Only Begotten Son. "When we see Him we shall be like Him.." (1 John 3:2). In Hebrews 2:10, the author, who may well have been Paul, reminds us that the dip into time requiring the suffering and humbling of Jesus on the cross and in the grave, was to “bring many sons to glory”. Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, that is our divinely conferred status. We are sons of God. No earthly distinction or title comes close. God has adopted us as His sons and to do that He has to turn His face away from the cry of His only begotten Son on the cross of shame, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” He was forsaken for our eternal blessing, not only to be sinners saved by grace, wonderful as that is, but to be before God and with God eternally as His adopted sons! Paul’s ministry took place under Roman law. If a young man was adopted as a son into a Roman family he could never be disinherited. The head of the family had entered into a legal covenant that could not be annulled. A natural son was not so protected. His father could legally disinherit him. Christ, God’s only begotten Son was disinherited for the three hours of darkness on the cross in order that you and I could be adopted as sons of God according to His eternal purposes of love! That is the answer to the terrible cry, "Why have you forsaken me?"
And there’s more! As we proceed through this wonderful passage of God’s word, we come to the greatest thought of all. Paul deals with Jew and Gentile, their respective positions before God and brings out the amazing truth that in that final never-ending eternal state of unassailable perfection both will be brought into one common blessing. Just as Jew and Gentile today, if blessed in the faith of Christ, have both access to God by one Spirit to the Father (v.18), so in eternity, all divisions and differences forever removed, both will comprise God’s eternal dwelling in that heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, centre of a new eternal creation that can never be invaded by sin. The Jews have not been replaced by the church in God's great eternal purpose. In a coming day, when Christ returns to the earth they will be brought under the glorious rule of the Messiah they once rejected, but that is not the eternal state. Paul tells us (1 Cor. 15:24) "then comes the end when He (Christ) hands over the kingdom to the God and Father...".
The work of the Holy Spirit at the present time is the formation of the church. Putting together this mysterious building, fitting every component in place and encouraging its spiritual growth is God's own work in the person of the Holy Spirit. This dear brothers and sisters in Christ is why it is so important to grasp that the church of God, the bride of Christ is a living organism, not some earthly organisation for the improvement of the human race. In Genesis ch.2 we read that God caused a deep sleep to fall upon man. From that sleep, undoubtedly a shadow or type of the death of Christ, the woman was fashioned. The church is the fruit of the death of Jesus. It was purposed so from the beginning and you and I, through amazing grace are part of it. The origin of our blessing was in the eternal purpose of a God of love. Our destiny as God’s dwelling place is in an eternity yet to be revealed. Our blessing, our redemption, our eternal assurance is part of it. The fact that we can say, like Paul, “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me,” is most blessed and will be our eternal song but the greatest truth is that God Himself will find His eternal rest in the affections of those He has redeemed by the precious blood of His Son.
In the limitless, unmeasurable ages of eternity God will rest in the perfection of the work of Christ, secured in His heavenly people, the church, the bride of Christ, and in His earthly people the nation of Israel. All will be brought into the glorious perfection of divinely purposed relationship, conceived before the foundation of the world. That, I believe is the eternal purpose of God revealed through His word. Our blessing is an integral part of it and that is why we can only bow in worship to this Glorious God whose love is as great as his power and whose purpose is the result of both..