When I grew up in High School, one of my best friends is an orphan. Both his parents died in a car crash, leaving him the only survivor in the family. And he was very fortunate to have his uncle, whom he called “dad” to adopt him and raised him like his own son. Pretty much like Peter Parker in Spiderman, he was raised in an adopted family. And his “dad” loved him so much as his own son. To him, his adopted father is his real father. And do you know we also have a person who loves us so much like his own children? He is a loving Father who has adopted us who believe in Jesus as his own children. And our adopted Father is God, the Creator of this universe.
1) God’s blessing of adoption
In Ephesians 1, Paul begins with praises to God the Father of our Lord Jesus, for God has blessed us all who believes with not only one, not two, but every spiritual blessing in his Son Jesus Christ. Paul originally wrote this letter to Christians in Ephesus. Christians are saints today in the same sense of the word the Ephesian Christians were saints. Therefore, what Paul says of them also applies to us. We might not always feel spiritually blessed. However, Paul makes sure we do not misunderstand how gracious God is that he has given us every spiritual blessing.
But why did God bless us? Paul continues in verse 4, for God the Father chose us and adopted us as his spiritual children. We have received the blessing of being chosen by God to be his children. This marvellous divine choice makes us holy and blameless in his sight. It is God’s own doing, through his Son Jesus Christ who died on the Cross to take away all the sins we have. This is a true blessing, not by our works, but by God’s sovereign choice and doing through Christ. Because we have believed in Him and received Jesus as our Saviour, all our sins are forgiven in him. It does not mean that true Christians never sin. It means our sin is paid for by the death of Christ. Jesus was holy and blameless. But because now we are in Jesus; there, we are also holy and blameless in God’s sight.
What Jesus has done on the Cross takes us beyond our understanding. But the final consequence is easy to understand:
That is, in Christ, we have his righteousness imputed to us at the moment of salvation; and the day will come when, standing before God holy and blameless, we will be totally separated, freed, and redeemed from any sign of sin. This is the true love of God. He did it because he loves us. What a blessing! Praise our blessed Father, who shall be praised forever.
Look at the end of verse 4, “In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 4b-6)
God made us his children by formally adopting us into his spiritual family. In adoption, a child is brought into a family. He is given the same rights as a child born into that family. God did this through Jesus, and it pleased him.
Therefore we have received two spiritual blessings from God the Father: We have been chosen and adopted by him to be his spiritual children. He made this choice before the creation of the world before any one of us be born. So it is God’s choice that we believe in Christian, not our own decision, with the result that we will someday stand before Him holy and blameless. God, our Father, accomplished this through the work of his Son, Jesus, motivated by his desire to be kind to us and by his desire to receive praise for his grace. In Christ, we were chosen.
This is the truth, as John Stott, a reformed theologian wrote: “The doctrine of election is a divine revelation, not a human speculation.” It is not be set aside as the imagination of some overactive religious minds, but rather, humbly accepted as a revelation from God. We must never allow our subjective experience of choosing Christ water down the fact that we would not chosen God if he had not first chosen us.
As Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44)
The doctrine of election is a doctrine which lets God be God. It forms a foundation of confidence for the Christians. Our God is a God who chose you before time when only he existed, will not leave you, victim to the time and tides of life.
When I was nineteen years old, I was a former Buddhist and a person who just came out of demon possession. It was by God’s grace that he sent the founder of this church, Pastor Samuel Chan, to my home and saved me from the evil spirit. At that time, Pastor Samuel Chan told me that after God saved me, God has chosen me to be his children, all I need to do is to put my trust in Jesus and follow him, and God will use me for his kingdom. At that time, I would never imagine that today I would be a pastor in this church, proclaiming God’s Word.
So today, I tell you the same thing that Pastor Chan had told me 22 years ago, God has a plan for you. He will use you for His kingdom. And all you need to do is to put your trust in Jesus. And God will give you his blessings through Jesus.
2) All things united in Christ through the redemption
In verse 7 onward, Paul lists four spiritual blessings that come to us through Jesus. In Christ, we are redeemed, forgiven, enlightened, and enriched. Paul wrote in his letter, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding”. (Ephesians 1:7-8)
To be redeemed means to be “bought back” with a sense of being released from slavery. By being redeemed by Christ, our redeemer, we are freed from sin – from both the penalty and the enslaving power that it carries. This redemption was accomplished by the death of Jesus on the cross, where he shed his blood and died to secure our redemption. His death paid the price for our release from sin and death. Forgiveness goes hand in hand with redemption. WE cannot have one without the other. To forgive means to give up the right to punish someone for a transgression. Making forgiveness possible was a major accomplishment in God’s eyes since it required the sacrifice of blood and the death of his Son, Jesus.
This is all God’s doing. It is his gift for us to send His Only Son Jesus Christ to die on our behalf, talking all the penalty of sins, so that his grace will be poured upon us and we have received forgiveness of sins and salvation of eternal life through Him. This is God’s wisdom and true understanding from heaven. Only those who have received the Holy Spirit can truly grasp what God is doing by sending Jesus to the Cross. And when we have received this knowledge and wisdom and understanding, our only response that is acceptable to God and turns away from sins and put our trust in His Son Jesus Christ. As the passage follows, “He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ.”(Ephesians 1:9) This mystery knows to believers but unknown and not understood by unbelievers is that when the time is right, God will bring all things in heaven and on earth to a fitting conclusion in Christ who will be the ruler of all things.
3) Our spiritual inheritance
And what’s more, is that we were also chosen by God from the beginning of time, and predestinated according to God’s plan to receive an inheritance which all of us will possess in full and enjoy when we stand before him in heaven. This inheritance is not an accident or a whim. It is in keeping with God’s plan for us from the beginning. And why? Paul tells us in verse 12, “in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. “
The result of all these blessings and redemption under God’s plan is that God shall be praised, forever. But how do we know that our salvation is guaranteed? How do we know that God chooses us for redemption?
God did it by sealing us with his Holy Spirit, making us secure in Christ, so the Holy Spirit guarantees the completion of our redemption. Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of our triune God. The Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God, there is only one God. Begotten, not made. The spiritual blessing of Sonship and guarantee of redemption is through the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, by whom were made spiritual secure. When we believe in Jesus Christ, God sent his advocate the Holy Spirit to live in us. God is with us since the day when we first believed. So, we are marked by the Spirit with a seal.
As it is written in verse 13, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit”. (Ephesians 1:13) The seal indicates God’s authority, authenticity, and security. It is a validation of ownership as God’s children. God seals his children with the Holy Spirit, indicating that we are his, that we are authentic spiritual children, the faithful followers of Christ, not fakes or impostors, and that we are under God’s protection and redemption.
I remember a few years back when my family was spending a week at a farm in northern NSW; we witnessed how the farmers tagged their cattle to mark the animals with the ownership of the farm. Once the farm animals are sealed with the tag on the ear and sealed with farm’s seal in hot iron, they are authentically owned by the farm. The farmer was the fourth generation of the farm since the European settlement in Australia, and he saw the farm’s seal with pride of his family heritage.
When we look to God with his seal of the Holy Spirit, we should also feel thankful for God has taken his ownership and responsibility as the owner and chief shepherd of us – His church the flock. We are his people. We are His sheep in His sheepfold. Our God will protect us and guide us with the seal of the Spirit, marked for our inheritance in his pasture of heaven.
In terms of the transaction, like when you buy a property, you need to put down 10% of the payment upfront as the deposit of our ownership of the asset. God has given us his Holy Spirit too as a deposit, or a down payment, guaranteeing our inheritance in Christ. We are sealed until the day of redemption guaranteeing our final release from sin when we stand before God in heaven. This will either be after we die or, for those believers still alive at that time, at Christ’s return. It is done to bring praises to God for his grace in our lives, for our spiritual inheritance “until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:14b) So that Yahweh will be our God, and we are his people, as he has spoken back in Exodus and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament. God’s plan and his goal for us have not changed. Praise God for what he has done for us and the great plan he has for our future. All we need to do is trust Him, receive his guarantee of the Holy Spirit.
I hope today’s passage can help you all to understand God’s love, mercy and grace for you better. Let’s wrap up by praying to our awesome God with thanksgiving and praise.