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Why does the church exist? - Ephesians 1:1-14

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the Riverside Church service on 10th January 2016.

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Thelma Howard died in 1981, but for 20 years she had been the maid of Walt and Lillian Disney. Every Christmas Walt Disney would summon her to his office to give her a Christmas bonus of some sort. Every year for twenty years he would give her a piece of paper with some writing on it. Thelma Howard died in 1981 in dire poverty, a lonely old woman. But when her few possessions were being sorted out, it was discovered that she was worth an absolute fortune. She was actually a millionaire. Those bits of paper which Walt Disney had given her over the years were actually bonds and stocks and shares in the company. She was worth an estimated million. She had all the riches she could want and yet she never knew it.

 

This morning I want to talk about something similar in relation to being a Christian. We often don’t realise how privileged we are. This is relevant both for Christians and for those looking into the Christian faith.

 

The headline verse that states and summarises the big idea today is verse 3. Read verse 3.

 

Brief context of Ephesians. Probably a circular letter from Paul the apostle of Christ Jesus. In prison in Rome. To Christians in the area of Asia Minor.

 

He says to every one of them has been blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

 

Does God ever withhold anything from a Christian? Yes and no.

 

There are many many material blessings that God doesn’t give us - even if we want them.

How do you respond to this? Think about parents and children. Cultivate a heart where you trust your Heavenly Father isn’t doing you wrong. He will never damage you. He will deny you but only in order to delight you.

 

In the spiritual dimension, he holds nothing back. Every Christian has been given every spiritual blessing.

 

What are these spiritual blessings?

 

Paul doesn't mention every one of them in this section. I don’t have time to explain even the ones he does.

 

Let me focus on three.

 

First, adoption

 

Read verses 4-5.

 

Salvation from? But salvation for what?

 

What kind of relationship? Adopted as sons.

 

Not naturally children of God. We are born as creatures. We need to be born again as children.

 

Sons is about the inheritance. It’s not sexist.

 

Implications of this? Intimacy. Security. Motivation to change. A challenge to love other brothers and sisters.

 

Many Christians have been motivated by this truth to adopt children of their own.

 

Second, redemption.

 

To be released through payment of a price. To be bought.

 

Without this there could be no adoption.

 

We mustn’t minimise this. It was costly.

 

It is through the blood of Jesus.

 

Third, the presence of the Holy Spirit.

 

Read verse 13-14

 

It is not just about historical facts. But about ongoing change.

 

Even this will get even better. The Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our future inheritance.

 

Do you count your blessings? Which ones?

 

Do you counsel other Christians to count their blessings? Do you speak about these blessings as the most important?

 

Do you realise what you’ve got?

 

How does a Christian get these blessings?

 

 

The actions of God before we were born

 

We were chosen. Read verse 4.

 

God sees what will happen. And chooses those he wants to save. He could have chose all. He could have chose none. He chose to save some.

 

Not just that but he predestined us. He choose the end and he ordained the precise ways the end would occur.

 

God did this in such a way that we would all be making responsible choices.

 

The Bible says that at the same time we make choices and God is in sovereign control of all the detail.

 

 

The actions of God after we were born

 

Read verse 13.

 

You were included when you heard the gospel and then believed.

 

Actually this verse says we were included in Christ.

 

The second member of the Trinity is central to this whole section. 11 times in this section you’ll see reference to ‘in Christ’ or something similar).

 

The Father has purposed that all his plans will focus on Jesus.

 

Every blessing is given to us in Jesus. Not just because of Jesus but in Jesus. Adoption, forgiveness, presence of the Spirit.

 

These truths do not demotivate for evangelism. They should increase our expectations and desire.

 

They give us great confidence in our future perseverance.

 

 

 

Article XVII. Of Predestination and Election

 

Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only- begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.

 

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God

 

Why does a Christian get them?

 

  • Because of God’s pleasure

 

Read verse 5.

 

  • For God’s praise

 

Read verses 6, 12 and 15. To the praise of his glory.

 

God doesn’t need it. He is not deficient in any way.

 

He does it for us.

 

Outward praise completes our joy.

 

Talking about something you love increases your joy.

 

Praising God not simply because of who he is but also what he has done for us.

 

What is the mood of this section?

 

Unstoppable praise.

 

Imagine a parent who is away on business phoning home and hearing one of their children describe an amazing day. It will be brimming full of unstoppable joy.

 

This is how Paul wants us to respond to our spiritual blessings in Christ and the way we got them and why we got them.

 

Will you do this?

 

Regardless of the week you have had or the week you will have, will you praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for giving you every spiritual blessing in Christ?

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