Summary: Like a real, jaw-dropping surprise birthday party, Paul writes about the loving, behind-the-scenes preparations of God in foreordaining that, one day, we would be ’surprised by His grace!"
Preface: Today, I will be starting a sermon series on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. I’ve entitled it, Highlights from Ephesians, and it is what I term a “broad-stroke” series. As the implies it is not verse-by verse but rather a look a some of the most significant verses from each chapter.
One scholar has referred to this letter as “The quintessence of Paulinism” and, regarding the first three chapters, The profoundest thing ever written”.
Let me set the background for you. The letter was written by Paul while in prison in Rome about 63 AD. He is writing to believers in Ephesus, which was the capital of the Roman providence and an important commercial city in what is now modern day Turkey.
It was also a center for pagan worship. There was a large and beautiful temple to the goddess Diana, considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. In Acts 18:18 through 19:40 we have recorded Paul’s visits to Ephesus. During his third journey he stayed 2 years. During that time Paul had an encounter with Demetrius the silversmith. Making silver idols of the goddess was a profitable business. But, it seems that Paul’s preaching of the gospel message, that salvation was in Christ alone, was bad for business. In Acts 19:26 we read, “Moreover you see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.” Paul was definite. He did not think it was all right to worship other gods or that there were many roads to heaven. For Paul believed the words which Jesus spoke, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one come to the Father except through me.” Jn. 14:6. For Paul there was but one way, there was but one name, and it was not Diana. That name was JESUS!
As was typical of Paul’s writing, this letter can be divided into two sections. The first, up to Chapter 3:21 is mainly doctrinal in which Paul seeks to remind the believers of the tremendous blessings of God’s grace. The second section deals with the practical outworking, the “So what” results. It was typical of Paul to first address orthodoxy (right belief) and then orthopraxy (right living) which should flow from that belief. So let us begin our journey together.
Introduction: When the planning is done right, you remain unaware. Oh, you may notice the family acting a little stranger that usual. People rush to the phone just before you pick it up. (Although, if you have teenagers that may not seem strange at all and it’s usually not for you anyway.) People seem to leave you alone more. But considering all the work you have to do that may be appreciated.
Then one day you head out to dinner with the family for a distant Aunt’s retirement which your wife claims you can’t miss. But because there was a “problem” with the reservations you end up at some unfamiliar destination. And as you walk in with a perplexed look on your face, still trying to picture who this aunt is, you are suddenly surrounded by an army of family and friends shouting, “SURPRISE!” And with shock and gladness you remember it’s your birthday!
And as you catch you breath and make the rounds greeting and kissing everyone, you even find that your best friend has flown in from Bora-Bora for the occasion.
As the impact of the evening settles in, as you look over the people and gifts you feel compelled to seek out your spouse, the one who orchestrated the whole thing. Suddenly the crowd parts, like the Red Sea, and you see her or him, and with misty eyes you hug her for all their hard work, secrecy, and planning and say, “Thanks so much!” And your spouse in return says, “I love you so, I wanted to do something special”. Yes, one of the most pleasant experiences is that of a surprise party that is truly a surprise.
In light of reading Chapter one, I want you to realize, if you trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have experienced being SURPRISED BY GRACE!
You see, one day you stood as an alien to the Kingdom of God, and the next day you were a citizen! You were surprised by grace!
One day you stood as an orphan, the next day you were an adopted child of the King! You were surprised by grace!
One day you stood as an enemy of the cross of Christ, the next you were beloved in Christ! Surprised by grace!
The day the Holy Spirit lead you to faith in Christ was your surprise “new birth” day and you were showered with new blessings and new relationships.