God's Eternal Plan to Display His Glory (Ephesians Sermon 1 of 54)
April 12, 2015 | Andy Davis
Life in the Spirit, Glory of God, Book Overviews, Scripture Memory, God's Purpose for the World, Spiritual Warfare, The Purity and Unity of the Church
As I begin this series in Ephesians, I want to share with you a special moment in my life. I was on a mission trip in Kenya in June 1986, ministering on a 10-week mission trip. This was one of the turning points in my life. I was sitting on a bench waiting for a bus to come take me back to Nairobi. I asked a Kenyan brother who was also there when the bus would come. He said simply, “In the afternoon.” I remember thinking, “In the afternoon? What does that mean?” Being a typical, time-driven, Type-A American, I was there at 11:49 a.m., ready for the afternoon bus, which rolled in at 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon.
I had nothing except my little pocket Bible with me. After a while I got the sense that it was going to be a long wait. I didn’t know what to do. I had dabbled with scripture memorization but that day, I opened up to Ephesians and, beginning with Ephesians 1:1, memorized that book. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.” That day, I began a journey of scripture memorization that has continued for 29 years. I have memorized many entire books and portions of books in those 29 years, but this one is special for me, being the first one. I have recited this book to myself more than any other — hundreds and hundreds of times, with some portions of it approaching 1000 times. This is a precious book to me.
I want to commend the practice of Scripture memorization to all of you. The book of Ephesians is a great place to start. Those 155 verses address many deep doctrines that will take you a long time to ponder, as well as very practical issues of the Christian life. Today we begin a journey in one of the most astonishing books ever written in human history. If you think about it — 6 chapters, 155 verses — you may wonder, “How much could be in there?” It takes less than 15 minutes to recite the whole book but it covers the scope and magnitude of God’s working in this world in ways that no other book does. It has a high view over all of these things. Paul doesn’t write to specific situations in the Ephesian churches. He doesn’t address people by name or situations that he wants to try to solve. He is giving an amazing view of God’s overall plan and how it is lived out in life. Today I will give a grand overview of Ephesians 1-6.
A number of years ago, my son and I took a trip to the Grand Canyon. We had a breathtaking view of the whole thing from the South Rim. I have never forgotten my first sight of it, after driving along higher and higher, parking and walking through some trees — and suddenly, there it was. We walked along the South Rim, on the foot path, taking in the expanse of this thing, The Grand Canyon. It was hard to imagine the scope and magnitude of it. Since we spent a few days there, we wanted to get more of an experience with the Grand Canyon.
We had a number of options. We chose a white water raft ride along the Colorado River. We spent 2/3 of the day looking at the walls of the canyon, stopping for lunch and then coming back. It was a great time, but there were other options available to us if we wanted to get to know the canyon a little better. For example, there was a hot air balloon ride for $300.00 per person per hour. We weren’t going to do that, but we could imagine coasting very slowly and silently at 400 feet up, with breathtaking views. Then there was the possibility of a small plane ride, 5000 feet up, at $450 per person per hour, but covering a much more vast area. There was a helicopter ride, 1000 feet lower than the small plane, able to hover and study certain aspects and different parts from that altitude. The price was not listed for the helicopter ride; we were call for quotes, so I figured that was not going to happen. Then there was the donkey ride down to the Colorado River with overnight camping.
This morning we will take the airplane ride. We are going to fly over the book of Ephesians at 5000 feet to look at some of the grand and glorious themes in this book. Next week we will begin our donkey ride, going verse by verse to look more carefully at aspects of this incredible book.
Quick Overview of the Epistle
Let me begin with a quick overview of all of the book of Ephesians. I am going to break it into two main sections: Ephesians 1-3 and Ephesians 4-6. Ephesians 1-3 could be titled, “What God Has Done in Christ”. It is a picture of the saving work of God in Christ. Ephesians 4-6 could be titled, “What We Must Do in Christ”. It is more a picture of the Christian life and answers the question “How, then, shall we live?” given this great salvation.
The epistle begins with Paul’s standard greeting, Ephesians 1:1-2, which I’ve already quoted to you. He emphasizes his call as an apostle “by the will of God” and he writes to give God’s people grace through the epistle.
God’s Eternal Purpose in Redemption: 1:3-14
In Ephesians 1:3-14, we have God’s eternal purpose in redemption. Paul, in these incredible 12 verses, traces out in astonishing terms God’s eternal salvation plan, beginning with election and predestination —“before the foundation of the world”; carried out by the redeeming work of Christ on the cross, the redemption by His blood; and then applied to the sealing work of the Holy Spirit. We see the Trinity at work, Father, Son and Spirit, which we will come back to later in this message.
In Ephesians 1:4-7, it says,“For He [God the Father] chose us in Him [that is, in Christ] before the creation of the world that we should be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us to be adopted as His sons 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 1:7] “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”
I can’t help but stop there and make an appeal to any that are here, outside of Christ, who are lost. Perhaps you have been invited by someone and this is your first or second week here, and you know that you are not a Christian. Ephesians 1:7 speaks to you. It speaks of redemption through the blood of Christ. Christ shed His blood. Christ is God’s eternal Son who became incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit, who lived a sinless life and who died on the cross in the place of sinners like you and me. He has worked a redemption through His shed blood. Ephesians 1:7: “…redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sin”. Oh, how we yearn for that, don’t we? We need forgiveness of sins, and it is available for us through faith in Christ.
Paul’s First Prayer for the Ephesians: To Know God’s Power: 1:15-23
Then Paul, having traced out the work of the Father, the Son and the Spirit, prays for the Ephesian Christians in Ephesians 1:15-23. This is the first of many prayers you see in Paul’s epistles and the first of two incredible prayers here in Ephesians.
Paul reveals his prayer life for them. He prays in verses 18-19 for them to know God better, that they would have a deeper knowledge of God and that they would also “know the hope to which he has called [them], the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for those who believe” so that they would know God better. This is my prayer for this sermon as well, that, as a result of this study in Ephesians, you will know God better, that you will have a deeper sense of the knowledge of God. Beyond that, for you who are Christians, that you would know the hope to which you are called, your heavenly hope, and how rich you are as Christians. You are infinitely wealthy in Christ. Also that you would have a sense of the immeasurable power that is at work in your life and in the world around you to get you to your heavenly inheritance.
Paul is praying for you to know these things, and he says the power that is at work in your life is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. That power raised Christ from the dead out of that tomb and ascended Him through the clouds, through the heavenly realms, up to the very highest place at the right hand of God. There He sits at the right hand of God. He is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the Church which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.” That is Ephesians 1. Paul wants you to have a sense of that same power that raised Jesus to that lofty place, and a sense that Christ is ruling over heaven and earth for you, for your benefit. That power is at work in your life. It is breathtaking.
The Ephesians’ Journey from Dead in Sin to Raised in Christ: 2:1-10
In Chapter 2, Paul transitions to say, “Do you understand what your condition was? You also were dead.” “You were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live.” He wants us to realize just how desperate the condition was. We were the living dead. We were biologically alive, but apart from Christ, we were spiritually dead. God has taken every Christian and raised him or her from the dead by the power of the gospel, by the power of the Spirit, by His grace. God has raised us up from the dead and now we are alive and we will live forever and ever by the sovereign power of God. We need to understand this grace. Paul celebrates grace in very familiar verses, probably the most famous in the epistle, Ephesians 2:8-9 (the first that I memorized a few years before I memorized the whole book): “For by grace, you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast.” We have this incredible grace at work in our lives, and God has raised us up that He might put that grace on display.
Now in Ephesians 2:10, we see that we have a glorious life of good works to live, and those good works are worth doing. Our good works, which God has “prepared in advance that we should walk in them”, are not done in vain. All of these good works are tending toward the end of God’s glory and the building of His Church. We have a role to play. Life is worth living for the Christian. How beautiful is that?
God’s Purpose in Jew-Gentile Unity: 2:11-22
Paul then talks about the mystery of God’s purpose in making Jew and Gentile Christians one in Christ. In Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul reveals this mysterious purpose, that Jewish believers in Christ and Gentile believers in Christ are now one in Him and that God has created in Christ one new humanity —“one new man out of the two” — no longer Jew or Gentile, but now Christian. We have an amazing unity in Christ. God has taken the barrier,“the dividing wall of hostility” between Jew and Gentile, and destroyed it, eradicated, it through the death of Jesus on the cross. Circumcision, dietary regulations and other laws that separated Jew from Gentile have been removed in Jesus. He has made Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians perfectly one. He is building us together into a structure, a kind of spiritual building. There is an architecture, a foundation that has been laid. There is this rising building, rising up through the workings of the body of Christ, rising up through the power of the Spirit, rising to become a holy temple in which God will dwell by His Spirit, eternally. This, the gospel of Jesus Christ, really is the only answer to racism and racial divisions and disharmony in the world.
Paul’s Ministry for the Gentiles: 3:1-13
In Ephesians 3:1-13, Paul talks about his own ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. He is in prison for the Gospel, as he frequently was, and he writes to them about the administration of his ministry and what a special and unique individual he is. He says this not because he is arrogant or boastful, but because God has set him apart as apostle to the Gentiles. God has sent him to show His saving purpose to the Gentiles by revealing at last this mystery which, in ages past, stayed hidden in God, but has now been made known, as God intends Jews and Gentiles together in Christ to be one.
This is an incredible mystery but it has now come into time. There is a lavish bumper crop of Gentiles coming to faith in Jesus, and Paul, as an apostle to the Gentiles, is there at the dawning of that age to do ministry to bring them in, that they might have a sense of the magnitude of this work. Ephesians 3:6-7: “This mystery is that through the gospel, the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” He says in verse 13, “Don’t be discouraged because of my sufferings. Don’t be discouraged because I am in prison. It is not a shameful thing for me. I am not ashamed of this work. This is a glorious, mysterious thing that God is doing. My sufferings really are your glory. Because of my sufferings, this is how the gospel advances.” Ephesians 3:1-13.
Paul’s Second Prayer for the Ephesians: To Know Christ’s Love: 3:14-21
Now we come to what, for me, is the best part of whole book. I love the prayer that Paul prays in Ephesians 3:14-21. It is the kind of thing that moves me emotionally. It is the kind of thing that I pray for myself, for my family, for our church, frequently. In it, God speaks through the apostle Paul of a yearning and a desire that Paul has of a special work of grace in the heart of the Ephesian Christians. Look at verses 16-19. It says,“I pray that out of His glorious riches, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” — I can’t hear those words without thinking about the Grand Canyon — “[that you would have a sense of the magnitude, the dimensions of Christ’s love for you. That you would have] power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, [and that you would] know this love that surpasses knowledge.” It goes beyond cognitive knowledge. It goes into a whole different level of knowledge — that you would have an ever-expanding sense of Christ’s love for you so that you would “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Wow! It is breathtaking — that you would “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” I would say that this is not the common experience of most Christians. As a matter of fact, I would say that many Christians go their whole lives without really approaching the dimensions which Paul prays for here. My desire is that the ministry of the word and a regular beseeching on your part will lead to an incredible expansion of the work of the Spirit in your heart, that you would have a sense of just how much Jesus loves you — how dearly and deeply loved you are — and that you would be empowered by the Spirit to do those good works that He has for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we [could] ask or imagine, [to Him that is at work in you and in the church around the world], to Him be glory in the church … throughout all generations [now and forever].” Ephesians 1-3: that is the scope and magnitude of what God has done for us in Christ.
Living Out Our Unity in Christ by the Spirit: 4:1-6
Then Paul turns the corner in Ephesians 4-6, and says in effect, as Francis Schaeffer said, “How, then, shall we live?” “How shall we live in light of these incredible teachings?” He wants us to live out our unity in Christ. Ephesians 4:1-6 is how he starts. He talks about unity, the oneness that we have. Not merely Jew/Gentile, but every individual Christian with every other individual Christian and every individual local congregation with other local congregations and the worldwide work of unity of the Spirit. This unity is under constant assault. It is constantly barraged by the world, the flesh and the devil. We’ll get to that in a moment. But this unity is something that we have to defend and so he says in Ephesians 4, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” One, one, one, one, this work of unity which we have to defend and fight for.
Working for Our Unity by the Gifts of the Spirit: 4:7-16
Then in verses 7-16, he talks about diversity. He has gone from unity to diversity. Verse 7 begins with the word “but”: “We have been talking about unity and I’m going to go in a different direction.” “But to each one of us, grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” We have a sense of the special working of the Spirit in each individual Christian’s life, and so we come to the doctrine of spiritual gifts. The concept of spiritual gifts is clearly taught in Ephesians 4:7-16, that we have different gifts that God has given to us by the Spirit according to the measurement of Christ by the power of the Spirit — different gifts.“He gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service.”
There are those works again (as in Ephesians 2:10) — “to prepare God’s people for works of service,” so that by those works of service, the body of Christ might be built up into full maturity in Christ. That means we have a role to play to get the body of Christ to the level of full maturity. You might be an evangelist, or a missionary. You might be a pastor or a teacher. You might be an administrator. You might have the gift of giving or the gift of serving. You might have the gift of prayer or the gift of faith. You might have a variety of gifts. Those gifts are given to you by Christ through the Spirit for the building up of the body so that (verse 13) “we [will] all reach unity in the faith in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” [Verses 15 and 16] “Speaking the truth in love we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him, the whole body joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work.” We have a role to play in the body of Christ; everyone does. We have a spiritual gift ministry that God has given to us to get the body of Christ to full maturity.
Protecting Our Unity by Fighting Sin by the Spirit: 4:17-5:21
Now we come back to what I mentioned before: We must protect our unity because it is under constant assault. In 4:17-5:21, Paul addresses the issues of the assault of the unity and what it is that divides Christians. The root of the issue is sin, and if we are going to be one as the Father and the Son intend, if we’re going to be one as the Father and the Son are themselves one, we are going to have to fight sin in every way. Paul begins by focusing on the mind: it all starts in how you think. He says in verses 17-24, “I tell you this and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” [Do you hear all of those mental/mind words?] “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” That is the overarching battle we must have against sin. We must be a holy people, and it begins with how we think and what we love with our hearts and our minds. We must be pure.
In the next section, Paul goes back and forth between what we’ll call negative sanctification and positive sanctification. What we must not do or be and what we must do or be, back and forth; both of those are valid aspects of sanctification, of growth and of maturity. So he says that we must not lie; we must put off falsehood, but rather we must speak truth. Thieves must stop their stealing, but instead they “must work, doing something useful with [their] own hands so that [they] may have something to share with those in need. [We should not say unwholesome things, but rather we should speak what is useful for] building others up according to their needs. [We should not be sexually impure, but instead we should be holy with our bodies and our minds. We should not speak obscenity, but rather, we should speak words of thanksgiving. We should not live as children of darkness, but rather we should live as children of the light. We should not live a foolish life, but rather we should] find out what pleases the Lord [and do it. We should] not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery, [but] instead [we should] be filled with the Spirit.” This is going to be a big theme in Ephesians, the Spirit-filled life: to be being filled with the Holy Spirit, to be empowered with the Spirit. Only by the Spirit can we defeat the world, the flesh and the devil.
Displaying Unity in Christian Marriage: 5:22-33
Beyond that Paul talks about significant roles in the body of Christ and how submission works in those roles. He says in verse 21, as a subset of the Spirit-filled life, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” When I get to that, God willing, I will talk about how I believe that this is not teaching a universal mutual submission of every Christian to every other Christian, which would vacate the word submission of its meaning. Submission always has to do with recognition of God ordained authority. He is saying, “Category 1 is going to submit to Category 2 in the way I am about to describe to you. So this group is going to submit to this group, but this group — the one submitted to — should carry themselves in a certain way as Christians who have that authority.”
Paul goes through the marriage relationship, husband and wife. He goes through the parenting relationship, child and father, and he goes through the master and slave relationship, slave and master. It is always the one who is commanded to submit first (the wife, the children, the slave), and then the one who is receiving the submission, how they should carry themselves (the husband, the father, the master). Then immediately, Paul goes into the most important and most significant human relationship on earth, which is marriage. Christian marriages should be putting the unity of the gospel on display. So he says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which He is the Savior.” [The husband is then told,] “Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” We get this beautiful picture of Christian marriage. If husbands and wives were living that out, what an incredible effect it would have on our church and on the nation.
Displaying Unity in Godly Submission: 6:1-9
Then Paul goes to the parenting relationship. Children are to submit to their parents, to obey them in everything. But fathers are not to “exasperate [their] children, [but rather] bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”. The same thing with the master and slave relationship: first slaves are to submit to their masters, to obey them as if they were obeying Christ, not only when the master’s eye is on them, but all the time. Then, for their part, the masters should not dominate and be tyrannical and evil toward their slaves, but realize that they have a master too, and they are going to have to give him an account on judgement day.
Protecting Our Unity by Standing Firm Against the Devil: 6:10-18
Having presented the issues of unity, and struggling with sin, and key relationships, Paul then talks about the main, central attack on the church and on our unity. This is the work of Satan and his minions. Ephesians 6 is probably the clearest, most detailed teaching on spiritual warfare in the Bible. We are told to stand firm in the Lord because we have enemies. We have, as Peter called it, “an adversary, the devil.” Paul says in Ephesians 6 that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.” “So, stand firm and put on your spiritual armor.” He goes through the articles of spiritual armor; they are impenetrable, they are powerful: “the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, which is able to extinguish 100% of Satan’s flaming arrows. So we are thoroughly equipped. We have in our hand the sword of the Spirit with which we can make advances for the kingdom of God.” We can call down God’s sovereign power in prayer — some liken it to a walkie-talkie, calling down artillery fire on our enemies. We are going to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests … and keep on praying for all the saints.”
Standing Together in Prayer: 6:19-24
Paul ends up by saying, “Stand together with me in prayer. Pray for my mission, pray for my work, pray that I would declare the gospel” “fearlessly, as I should. … Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”
So that is Ephesians 1-6. Now I want to draw out some main, significant themes. Pretend that we are not in the airplane anymore; we are now in the helicopter. We are going to hover for awhile to look at these main ideas, these themes.
I. God’s Ultimate End: “The Praise of His Glory”
The first is God’s ultimate end in all of this. Why is God doing all this? What is His purpose? I would say few, if any, books in the Bible, are so clear on what God’s ultimate end and purpose is, as is the book of Ephesians. God does everything “for the praise of His glory.” It is a simple answer coming to us three different times in Ephesians 1:3-14. Again and again we have this. God does everything for the praise of His glory or the praise of His glorious grace. Look at Ephesians 1:4-6: “In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will, [here is this phrase, verse 6] to the praise of His glorious grace.” Or perhaps, to the praise of the glory of His grace. In other words, God predestined us for salvation before the world began, so that after world history had ended, we “might be for the praise of His glory” as revealed in His grace.
He says it again in Ephesians 1:11-12: “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be for the praise of His glory.”
We have it again in verse 14. In verses 13-14, Paul says of the Ephesians,“Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession [here is that phrase again] to the praise of His glory.”
What is God’s Glory? How Will His Glory Be Praised?
What does that mean? What is God’s glory? God’s glory, I believe, is the radiant display of His attributes, of His nature, the shining brightness of His wisdom, His power, His love, His patience, His kindness, His wrath, His justice; there are various attributes.
God wanted to put His own glory on display and He has done that in creation, but He does it even more in redemption. He does it even more in the salvation of the elect from every tribe and language and people and nation. He shines through us and He will do so for all eternity. He does everything for “the praise of His glory.”
II. God’s Eternal Plan: “To Bring All Things Together into One in Christ”
Secondly, in order to achieve this end of the praise of His glory, God has worked out a meticulous plan. He has actually planned out everything, and I mean everything. Not just grand overarching themes, like in this sermon, but details — down to the tiniest detail. We will get a chance to look at that when we get to verses 11 and 12, but God has worked out His plan in great detail. He had a plan, clearly, in these verses that I just read: “He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless.” That is purpose language. He has a plan, and this plan is mentioned plainly in verse 11. It speaks of us having been “predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.”
The Final End of this Plan: Unity
Now what is the final end of this plan? What is He getting to? What is happening in history? Verses 9 and 10 answer the question very powerfully and well. Verse 9 says, “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, [verse 10] to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment — to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” I picture God in perfect unity before He created the universe, before He created anything — perfect unity. Then He willed to create heaven and earth and he created them, saying, “Let there be light.” He did all this work in Genesis 1, and God pronounced everything “very good.” Creation and Creator were in perfect unity, perfect harmony.
But then sin entered the universe — wickedness and evil entered the universe — and it behaved like a fragmentation grenade. It blew everything apart into bits, hurtling away from the true center. The disunity between the human race and God, vertically, has led to a disunity between human beings, one with another. From individual to individual, group to group, nation to nation, we see this every day on CNN or MSN or wherever you go. You see the evidence of this fragmentation and this brokenness. God is willing to reverse this and to bring everything back together under one head, Christ. This is His purpose in all of these things. He is going to bring together the elect and make them one. One new man, one new people, together, with no disunity at all. Central to that is the redemptive work of Christ.
III. God’s Plan Effected: By Christ, by the Spirit, by the Gospel, by the Gifts
The third theme is how God’s plan is effected: by Christ, by the Spirit, by the gospel and by the gifts. These things are given to bring the plan about, so it will happen. He sent His Son, and in Christ we have redemption through His blood. God the Father made the plan. God the Son worked it out, paid for it in His blood. God the Spirit moves throughout all of the world, throughout all of history to apply the plan, the saving work of Jesus Christ to individual people and to groups. By Christ, by the Spirit, by the gospel message, as it says, “In Him you were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything, conforming to the purpose of His will. … You heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were then marked with a seal.”
The gospel is out there, the word of truth is out there, powerful. People are hearing it. By the Spirit, they are believing and they are marked, sealed with the Spirit. That is the unfolding of God’s plan that is applied by the Spirit. Spiritual gifts — given to and used by gifted individuals, human beings, Christians — are instrumental to that plan. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers take the work of God out to the ends of the earth. They settle in and they shepherd churches. They prepare the body of Christ to do those works of service and then the gifted Christians use their gifts and the whole building of Ephesians 2 or body of Ephesians 4 grows up to perfection and finality. That is what is happening. That is what is going on in the world today.
IV. God’s Plan on Display: Unity in the Heart, in the Church, in Marriage
Now God’s plan is put on display. It is a unity in the heart through holiness, it is a unity in the church, Jew and Gentile, together one. It is made one through the Spirit. It is a unity in marriage, in parenting and in the master/slave relationship as each group does what it needs to do. This unity is put on display perfectly and beautifully. That is God’s purpose of all of this.
V. God’s Plan Opposed: By Satan, by the World, by Sin
God’s plan is going to be opposed, as I’ve said, by the world, the flesh and the devil. We should not expect an easy ride. It is going to be hard, but we are going to win. Isn’t that awesome? The church, the elect, will be saved and glorified and radiant with God’s glory for all eternity in heaven.
This is Ephesians 1-6. This is the book of Ephesians. Now, God willing, if He gives us time, we will get a chance to go through it verse by verse. If He doesn’t, we will get to see it with our own eyes, the glory of God in heaven. Amen?
What applications can we take from this?
Get a sense of the scope of salvation history through this. We will have a chance again next week and in subsequent weeks to see how meticulously God has put history together. This is not thrown together, but this has been meticulously planned. Get a sense of that and feel secure in that. Don’t feel like every time you watch the news or go onto a website which tells you some of the things that are happening like we are going off the rails or the wheels are falling off. No, this is exactly what we would expect to happen. This is the disunity and fragmentation that Satan has worked, but there is a secret power at work in the world called the Gospel, the power of the Spirit, that is changing everything. Be confident as you look at world history. Be confident that God knows exactly what He is doing.
How God’s Commitment to His Own Glory Affects Us
And how should God’s commitment to His own glory affect us? Live for God’s glory. Away with your selfish plans. Away with living for your own glory. Away with living for you own purposes. Say, “God, what is your plan for me? What is your purpose for my life? How have you gifted me? How have You prepared me? What am I to do? How can I live for your glory?” It is such a powerful idea, isn’t it? Husbands and wives, say, “I want our marriage to be for the praise of God’s glory. How can we do that?” “I want our parenting to be for the praise of God’s glory. How can we have a household that will be for the praise of God’s glory? How can I do my employment? How can I be an employer or an employee for the praise of God’s glory and putting God on display? How can I do that?”
The Greatness of Christ
Thirdly, how can we see in Ephesians the greatness of Christ? I want to zero in on one thing. There are so many things about the greatness of Christ, but as Paul prays at the end of Ephesians 3, I will be praying for you every day, through this series, that “you would have power together will all the saints” to get the sense of the scope and magnitude of Christ’s love for you. You are greatly underestimating it right now. You are greatly underestimating, and I am too, how much Christ loves you and me. It will be unbelievably empowering and liberating for you to improve even by 10% the sense of the magnitude of Christ’s love for you. So I am going to be praying that you would have a sense together with all the saints of how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
And what about unity? Pray for the unity of our church. Pray that our church would put on display supernatural unity. First of all, just two sinners getting along in Christ is supernatural. Amen? We are so selfish, wicked and carnal — that we could actually genuinely love each other from the heart is supernatural. I want to see racial reconciliation on display through this church. I want to see surprising unity. I want to see a unity that makes people, like in John 17, sit up and say, “What could have caused this? Only the Gospel.” Let’s see what God can do in a supernatural work of unity in FBC Durham, right here in this city.
Satan’s Work vs. Our Work
Finally, how can you be exhorted to be about the Master’s business, covered with the armor of God, aware that Satan is opposing you? How can you be exhorted to be active in evangelism and missions? Satan is going to be attacking, especially the more we get fruitful here, but God has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5). Ephesians makes very plain that only by putting on the spiritual armor of God with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace will we be able to make progress in the external journey of evangelism and missions. I would ask that you present yourself to God as ready to serve Him. Invite people to church. Talk to lost people about their faith and about the Gospel. Be instrumental. Then internally, within the walls of the church, use your spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ until it reaches full maturity in Christ.
Close with me in prayer, if you would. Father, we thank you for this very quick fly over we’ve had in Ephesians. It has been rich. I look forward, almost can’t wait, to get into the section next week in Ephesians 1. I pray that you would teach us, instruct us and prepare us, oh Lord, for that. I pray that the things we’ve already learned now from Ephesians would be so ingrained in our hearts and our minds that we would want to live them out. Oh, God, I pray for your Christians that are here now. Fill us with the Holy Spirit of God. I pray that we would be Spirit-filled. And Lord, for lost people, one more time, I pray that they would not leave this place lost, but that they would see, by faith, Christ crucified for their sins, risen from the dead by the power of God, and that full forgiveness could be theirs if they will just trust in Him. In Jesus’ name. Amen.