Pentecost 8 – “In Him …!” Ephesians 1:3-14 (July 15,2018)
Pentecost 0818 (PR 10B) – “In Him …!” Ephesians 1:3-14
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for our sermon meditation is the Epistle of St Paul to the Ephesian Church, the 1st Chapter.
“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, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are in the midterm election cycle. Candidates are filing their petitions to be placed on ballots. Debates and conferences are being held to reveal the men and women best suited to lead their respective parties. All are vying for one of many top spots. They hope to be chosen to represent the people of the state, or their particular district. They hope to remain in congress or the senate for another term. They hope to unseat the incumbent and take the seat of leadership. It will all depend on the November elections as to who is chosen by the will of the people.
St Paul reminds us of another election or choosing which has far greater implications and blessings than any earthly office to which we may be chosen. St Paul speaks to us of God’s election of sinners to be His heirs of eternal life. St Paul speaks of God choosing sinners in Jesus Christ to be His holy and blameless people for the purpose of eternal life and salvation. It is good for us to remember this election and purpose that we live our lives in Him, that is, in Jesus Christ.
On earth only one person is chosen above all others. Only one person will be given the privilege of serving in any elected position. Only one person will receive the authority to exercise the duties of their elected office. While there are many offices, only one person may fill that office. Moreover, that elected office has a time limit to it.
When we think of God’s election we must understand that it is far different than the elections with which we are familiar. God elects or chooses us from eternity for eternity. This election is for all sinners whom God chooses regardless of popularity, power or platform. From the greatest to the least God’s choosing is the same. It matters little who you are or what you have done with your life. God chooses sinners in Christ to be His children and heirs of eternal life, forgiveness of sins and salvation.
If it is not dependent upon us for this election of God it is dependent upon another. Throughout this passage from St Paul’s epistle there is one word that is repeated eight times. That word has great importance for explaining the election of God. The word “in” is that word. The word “in” speaks of a relationship between two things. This relationship is personal and enduring. For God revealing His election of sinners, such election is in something or someone. As St Paul clearly says the sinner’s election by God is “in” Christ. St. Paul reinforces this saying “in Christ,” “in Him,” “in the Beloved.” Therefore the sinner’s election by God is also personal and enduring.
How does this election of God take place in us? What do we confess in the Third Article of the Creed? “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in my Lord Jesus Christ or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” Where does God tell us we come in contact with this Holy Spirit, but in His Means of Grace. Word and Water bring the sinner into contact with the saving work of Jesus Christ and the converting power of the Holy Spirit. Just as John writes in his Gospel account, “unless one is born from above of water and the Spirit ….”
The Spirit of God working through Word and water sets the sinner apart from the sinful world and give the sinner the very seed of salvation and the mark of God’s redemption in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God working through Word and Water takes what is dead in trespasses and sins and makes it alive in Jesus Christ. What was once covered in the uncleanness of sin and worthy only of God’s eternal judgement is made holy and declared to be blameless in Jesus Christ. Moreover, the Spirit of God comes to you and creates the means to become the adopted sons and daughters of eternal life. You receive the gift of saving faith in your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In Jesus Christ we are therefore, blessed by God through the riches and richness of His eternal grace. The blessings received are redemption in the blood of Jesus Christ and forgiveness of sins. This means that we are rescued from an empty way of life whose goals are self-serving and whose end is eternal judgment. Such was the way of life for the Israelites who broke God’s word. They wanted their own way of life apart from God. The prophet Amos very clearly warns of God’s judgment upon sinners in the imagery of the plumb-line of God’s righteousness. The People of Israel failed to measure themselves against this standard of their God and suffered the consequence of their rebellion. God withdrew His hand of mercy and replaced it with a rod of judgment and discipline. As Amos writes the word of the Lord, “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them; 9the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
The plumb-line today is the Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ. In Him, in Jesus Christ we have the future which God desires for all sinners. God desires to cover their sins in the blood of His Lamb and make them heirs of eternal life. St Paul speaks of this truth as the plan of God to unite all things in heaven and on earth in His son Jesus Christ. All people from every age in the past, and from every age in the time yet to come have this same promise in Jesus Christ.
The will of God for the salvation of sinners is eternal and never changing. God does not say, “I save this person and not save that person.” No, God’s salvation is for all sinners. God’s salvation is proclaimed to all sinners. God wants all sinners to repent and believe in His only begotten Son. We know this because St Paul writes this plan and purpose of God was in place before the foundation of the world.
“… before the foundation of the world….” Consider those words for a moment. What do those words tell you? What comfort do they offer you? What hope do those words give? What peace do those words bring you? Those few words are important for your faith and salvation. They make firm your confidence that the love of God is upon you and for you in Jesus Christ. God knew you in Jesus Christ before the world was created. God knew Adam Eve would give up their sinless lives and bring unrighteousness and judgment upon all mankind. God planned from the beginning to send His Son to redeem sinners the world-over and grant them faith, life and salvation. All this even before one day of our lives came to be.
What kind of people should you be? Perhaps you might ask what kind of people can you be? Never fear God’s love will stop. God’s love for you is shown in Jesus Christ. You need never doubt God’s plan for you. When you face hardship, disappointment, tragedy or even face death God still loves you. God guarantees you eternal life. God guarantees you strength of faith to bear such things. God gives you His Spirit as a guarantee of all His promises in Christ. As Paul says, “In Him we have obtained and inheritance having been predestined according to the purpose of [God.]”
Do you hear the certainty in those words? What is a guarantee? It is the assurance that what you receive will remain in working order for a period of time. When you buy a car it is guaranteed to work for perhaps 100 thousand miles. You can purchase an agreement to fix whatever is broken to make the car work.
The guarantee given by God is far better and more beneficial. There is no time limit to this eternal blessing from God. Your inheritance in Jesus Christ is always sure. It will never become empty. It will always be inforce for you. When you walk by faith in Jesus Christ your eternal life is guaranteed. When you stumble and fall into sin, despair or other shame and vice, and turn to the Lord with repentance and faith you still have eternal life. No one can rob you and take this gift from you. It remains forever as a gift of grace.
This is what those words “In Christ” mean for you as an heir of Jesus Christ. You are chosen by God in Jesus Christ to know and believe the saving work of God’s Son. You are appointed in Jesus Christ to be heirs of eternal life. You are empowered by the Spirit of God to live holy and blameless lives in the obedience of faith. You are sealed in Baptism as God’s Child in time for eternity.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.