Summary: The analysis of the Father's plan of salvation in Ephesians 1:4-6 shows us seven elements in that plan.
We are currently in a series of sermons on Ephesians 1 that I am calling, “God’s Supreme Purpose.” The Apostle Paul’s emphasis in chapter 1 is not on what we must do for salvation, but rather on what God has done for us in Christ. Ephesians 1:3-14 shows us how each Person of the Trinity is involved in the salvation of God’s people. Our salvation was planned by the Father (1:4-6), purchased by the Son (1:7-12), and sealed by the Holy Spirit (1:13-14).
Let’s read about the Father’s plan of salvation in Ephesians 1:4-6. For the sake of context, we shall begin reading at verse 3:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)
Dr. J. I. Packer wrote a famous introductory essay to John Owen’s (1616-1683) Death of Death in the Death of Christ. In the essay, Dr. Packer suggests that the statement, “God saves sinners,” is a summary of the gospel. Here is what Packer wrote:
God saves sinners. God – the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing. Saves – does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners – men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, blind, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot.
We would be hard pressed to find a better summary of the gospel. “God saves sinners” is a simple and short statement but, properly understood, a deep and profound statement.
The Apostle Paul also gave a deep and profound statement of the gospel in Ephesians 1:3-14. It is not a simple and short statement. In fact, Ephesians 1:3-14 is one, long, complex sentence in the original Greek. However, as we unpack that sentence, we learn how each Person of the Trinity is actively involved in our salvation. And it all begins with God the Father’s plan of salvation.
The analysis of the Father’s plan of salvation in Ephesians 1:4-6 shows us seven elements in that plan.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Method in the Father’s Plan of Salvation Is Election (1:4a)
2. The Object in the Father’s Plan of Salvation Is the Elect (1:4b)
3. The Time in the Father’s Plan of Salvation Is Eternity Past (1:4c)
4. The Purpose in the Father’s Plan of Salvation Is Holiness (1:4d)
5. The Motive in the Father’s Plan of Salvation Is Love (1:4e)
6. The Result in the Father’s Plan of Salvation Is Sonship (1:5a)
7. The Goal in the Father’s Plan of Salvation Is Glory (1:5b-6)
I. The Method in the Father’s Plan of Salvation Is Election (1:4a)
First, the method in the Father’s plan of salvation is election.
Paul said of God in verse 4a: “. . . even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” This passage teaches us about the doctrine of election. It is one of several passages that teach that God elects sinners to salvation, and it is one of the clearest. However, many people struggle with the doctrine of election. So, let me address a few objections to the doctrine of election.
First, some believe that the Bible does not teach election. People who hold this view say that God has revealed himself and has provided a way of salvation to people through the sacrificial death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. That demonstrates his grace, they say. But, that is as far as God’s grace goes. He has done everything on his part to save sinners. The rest, however, is up to us. God is a gentleman and he offers salvation to all people. And people, who have free will, must choose – or reject – the salvation offered by God. That is how salvation works, they say, and election simply does not factor in to the plan of salvation at all.
The problem with this position is that the Bible does in fact teach the Father’s sovereign election of sinners! John Stott says, “The doctrine of election is a divine revelation, not a human speculation.” And he goes on to say, “It was not invented by Augustine of Hippo or Calvin of Geneva. On the contrary, it is without question a biblical doctrine, and no biblical Christian can ignore it.”