God's Glorious Plan of Salvation (Ephesians Sermon 4 of 54)
May 03, 2015 | Andy Davis
Salvation, Providence and Sovereignty of God
The Complexity of Our World
We live in a incredibly complex world, don't we? I mean, we look at the world around us, we think about the earthquake in Nepal, and we think about the complexities of plate tectonics, or the mountains, the earth beneath people's feet moving, and all of that and who can understand it? And so, just geology is complex, but we think that physics might be even more complex and we think about the laws of motion and of force and reactions, and we don't fully understand all of those things. And then above that, we have the science of chemistry, more complicated still, and we don't understand all that. I especially don't understand chemistry. I'm sorry, mom. I'm sorry for all the time you spent on that, but I never really did get it. I always looked on it as a bit smelly. That's why I love mechanics. It's just clean. But above that, then comes the complexity of biology, and who can really understand life? Who can understand living cells? Who can understand the most complex living creatures are human beings, and the Psalmist said, "I praise you Lord because I'm fearfully and wonderfully made." But I can tell you, above that is the complexity of human history and the interactions between human beings one to another. And history is a complex, intricate story that was thought of in detail in the mind of God before God said, "Let there be light" and has been unfolding for millennia, now. And it's complexities are far beyond anything we can begin to comprehend.
I love studying church history. I love studying the detailed stories of the ways by which our brothers and sisters were brought from darkness to light. I love hearing those stories. I especially love hearing stories of surprising providences. What some people would call lucky coincidences, unbelievers would, but we know that there's a sovereign hand behind all of that, don't we? Many of you know the story of how it was that Adoniram Judson was brought to faith in Christ. He is the first American missionary who served in India and Burma; led 7,000 Burmese to faith in Christ after a life of terrible suffering in which he buried loved ones, two wives, children, suffered greatly, but saw 7,000 come to faith in Christ. He was raised in a Christian home; he was brought up in a solid foundation, but when he went to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, he began to doubt his faith, especially under the influence of a friend, Jacob Eames, who was a deist, who was a philosopher, who was witty and urbane, and a scoffer of revealed religion, who mocked the Bible, who mocked the God of the Bible, used to ridicule and make jokes. And this onslaught from this intelligent witty, deist friend, Jacob Eames, just destroyed Adoniram Judson's faith. And he kept his rebellion against God, Adoniram Judson kept it private and secret from his family, but finally on his 20th birthday he declared himself openly to be an unbeliever.
He went to live in New York for a while; in the course of time, he was traveling in a small village and he stayed in an inn. And he tried to sleep, but in the adjacent room there was the sound of an individual dying. It was hideous and there were cries out of desperation and of fear and of pain and terror, really, terror of death. And he could not, Judson, couldn't sleep. And he began to wonder about his own soul, the state of his own soul. Was he ready to die? Was he ready to face the God of glory? And he began to fear for his soul, and then he could hear the humor, the wit of Jacob Eames coming in his mind and really rebuking his irrational fears. And in that way he somewhat made his way through the night, fitfully sleeping, waking, sleeping. Finally, the room next adjacent was quiet and he was able to get a few hours of sleep. And then the sunlight came through the windows and he awoke and felt better, heard the birds chirping and at that point was just ridiculing his own irrational fears. Went down to the front desk and was checking out, and he asked about the individual that had been crying out. He said, "Well, actually, he's deceased; he died." Said, "Oh, well I'm sorry to hear that. What was his name?" "Well, it was Jacob Eames." Now how in the world God contrived to have that individual die in the room right next to him is just one of those remarkable moments of providence in church history. I tell you, God does that kind of thing every single day, every single day. Now some of you look back at your own upbringing and it wasn't that complicated or spectacular or dramatic, but for Judson, he couldn't leave the inn that day; he was there for hours, thinking about his own soul. And eventually that process led him to a solid faith in Christ and to the salvation of 7,000 there in his lifetime and multiplication millions beyond.
I think of another time in church history, in 1536. John Calvin was just beginning to be known. He had published his first edition of the Institutes, and it was well received. He was French and was fleeing for his life as a religious refugee from anti-Protestant France. He wanted to go to Strasbourg, where he was desirous to set himself up just in the life of a quiet ivory tower academic; that's all he wanted to be. But the road to Strasbourg was blocked because at that particular time, there was a war between Henry V, the Holy Roman Emperor, and Francis I. It was pretty obscure war, not many know that much about it, but as a result, the road, the straight road to Strasbourg was blocked by refugees and troop movements. So he couldn't get to Strasbourg directly.
So he had to go through Geneva, to get to Strasbourg. He was just going to be there one day, so he thought. And a reformer there, named William Farrell, heard that John Calvin was staying at an inn or whatever they had in Geneva, all the things that happened in inns; it's amazing. And he went and confronted him and urged him to join in the reformation of Geneva. Well, he had no interest in that. He's not going to go there. Calvin was a very strong-willed stubborn individual, and he's not going. Farrell called down, basically, fire and brimstone on his life of quiet academic study. "May God curse your studies. We need you here in Geneva," and he leaves. Well Calvin couldn't sleep all night, and he's in terror of his soul and his work and all that; he ends up staying in Geneva, effectively for the rest of his life, although he was evicted, he went back to the city. And that's where he was, it was God's will. And one individual, I remember reading about this, wondered if God orchestrated the war so that Calvin would end up in Geneva. Well, that's a little simplistic, but that at least was part of God's purpose. Could God do something like that? Can he orchestrate wars, big events, headline events for small details that will come to pass decades down the road? Yes, he does that kind of thing all the time.
God’s Sovereignty: Planning and Working Everything (vs. 11)
One Long, Majestic Sentence Continues
As a matter of fact, this kind of view called the "Doctrine of Providence" that God sovereignly rules over the events of this world for his purposes, but the most important of those purposes is the salvation of his elect, bringing the elect from darkness to light; that God orchestrates things to do that. Was ruminated on in a small book in the New Testament, called Philemon. You know the story there in Philemon was that Onesimus was a slave who had escaped, had run away, stolen some things it seems, and had run from his master Philemon and happened to bump into the Apostle Paul in Rome, in the big city of Rome. And Paul led him to Christ. And then [Paul] wrote Philemon, the letter, the Biblical letter that we have to put it in Onesimus' hands and send him back. And what he says in Philemon, verse 15, listen to this, "Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good, no longer as a slave, but now better than a slave, as a dear brother.” You hear what Paul's ruminating? Could it be that God orchestrated all of this for his salvation and for your eternal relationship. I think God orchestrates that kind of thing all the time. And the text we're going to look at today talks about it directly. It says effectively that that's what God does. Verse 11 in particular, "In Him, we have received an inheritance having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out all things,” or everything, “in conformity with the purpose of His will."
So there we have asserted very plainly the things I've been hinting at or saying right now. “God orchestrates everything according to the purpose of His will.” Now in Ephesians 1:3-14, we have one long amazing continuous sentence in the Greek. English breaks it up into several smaller sentences so we can just handle it. Preachers do the same because there's just so much truth in all of these verses, more than could be handled in any one sermon. So the third sermon now, in these 12 verses, we look in Verses 11-14. We'll have another one again next week, God willing.
What does Paul assert here in Verse 11? Well, he says, "In Him," in Christ, "we have... " I think the best translation would be "obtained an inheritance," obtained an inheritance, it's a difficult Greek expression and gives rise to different translations. NIV has "In Him we're also chosen," but the KJV and NAS, ESV all have, "In him we have obtained an inheritance." So God has sovereignly worked to give us an inheritance. The Holman says, "We were made God's inheritance," and I think that's a wonderful theme, but I don't think that's what's going on here. Because the focus here is on our inheritance and how the Holy Spirit, we'll be told in verse 14, “is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.” So that seems to be the focus.
So, “In Him also, we have obtained an inheritance," and it says that God has purposed all of these things by His own counsel. It says we were predestined, “having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will." Now we've already discussed predestination once; it's been mentioned already, so we have the word predestined twice in this one long sentence here. We had it in verse 4 and 5, if you look, "In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons.” Now, as we talked about last week, the word means to predetermine, to set the boundary lines for ahead of time, to set the lines in advance. God sets up a destination for us before the foundation of the world, predestined. So God elects individuals by name and then predestines them for His purposes. That's what it's teaching here. And in Christ, He fixed our future for us that we will be with Him eternally in glory. That predestination of our final glory in Heaven is part of God's overall grand and glorious plan for His entire universe. So God has a plan. He's worked all of this out in His mind before any of it came to be; none of this was left haphazard or random or to chance. God has pondered every tiny detail before anything came to pass. The word plan is linked with the phrase, "The purpose or council of His will," in some translations. The image there normally would be of a set of royal advisors who are around the throne, speaking wisdom into the King's ear. Those are the plans, the counselors, they're giving wise counsel to the King.
But in God's case there are no such counselors. There is no one who can speak wisdom into God's mind that He didn't already think of Himself. It says in Romans 11:34, "Who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor." Implied answers are no one. He has no counselors outside of Himself and He needs none. There is no created being in the universe that can ever give to God any information He didn't already possess. We can never put things together in an analysis that He hadn't thought of before, and He hadn't seen that angle before and He says, "You know that's better than what I was going to do." That never happens, ever. God has thought through every detail of every aspect of His universe and of human history down to the subatomic level before any of it came to pass. God's plan is absolutely comprehensive. "In Him, we have also obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything,” or all things, “in conformity with the purpose of His will." Now you may think, "Well, you're over-blowing the significance of the phrase, 'all things’ or ‘everything.' The word "all” is frequently used to mean less than absolutely everything you could think of. I agree that that's true in the Scripture. But they're actually many other verses that testify to the comprehensive control of God over even the most insignificant details.
I mean, we see this again and again, don't we in the Bible? Like this one, Proverbs 16:33, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." Now, I don't know when was the last time you cast a lot into a lap. I don't think I've ever done that, but I have rolled some dice. And so what does that say? Well, in our language, the roll of the dice comes up exactly the way God willed it to in every case. I mean it comes up a five, a three, a two. I reminded myself when I said these numbers, "Don't go over six," because there aren't any numbers over six on a die. Every number that's ever come up on any dice that's ever been rolled is part of God's sovereign plan. There's no such thing as luck. There's no such things as random coincidences.
Jesus said it this way in Matthew 10:29, speaking to fearful messengers of the Gospel who were worried about what kind of persecution they're going to get, what kind of opposition. He's guaranteeing they're going to have persecution. He's guaranteeing they're going to have opposition, but he wants to comfort them and he says, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?" He says that because they're insignificant; they're of a very low value. "Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from the will of your Father." What does that mean? No sparrow dies on the surface of the earth apart from God's plan; that's what that means. And He goes beyond that. He says, "Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." Well, why would that be important? Well, you may not think it's important how many hairs there are on your head; actually some of you think it's very important how many hairs there are on your head, some of you. But the fact of the matter is, God knows exactly how many hairs there are on your head. He's very well aware. What is Jesus saying? Even the minutest details are part of God's plan. God has thought about all of that. The interconnectedness of both nonliving and living things on this planet is so pervasive; it's actually obvious to some non-Christian scientists who understand the massive effects of even the tiniest detail in the world.
There was a man named Edward Lorenz; he was at MIT. He was in the 1950s and '60s; he was an expert mathematician and a meteorologist, and he was working on early computer models of weather. And he noticed at one point, he was entering data into this... Back then, it was really, really hard to enter data. Things are just so much more advanced in the computer world now. But he had all these punch cards and these different things you had to work with and he didn't want to keep putting out decimals to the 7th decimal point, so he just truncated the decimals instead of putting .636417, he just put .636 in, .636. Everything changed in his weather model, everything. And he started to ponder that when it came to weather. And he coined a term called the "Butterfly Effect" that the details of a hurricane such as when the hurricane started, the exact path the hurricane would follow could be altered by the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly weeks before. So it became known as very famous as the “Butterfly Effect.”
Science fiction author, Ray Bradbury, actually used this concept in a short story a decade before Lorenz quoted it. He wrote a short story called, A Sound of Thunder, in which a man who loved hunting, was taken back in a time machine; all these time machine stories. And he gets to go back and hunt the biggest game of them all, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, but the rules of the game were that the company had somehow made a levitating path in the ancient world that you could never walk off, and you're only allowed to kill the specific Tyrannosaurus Rex that would have died anyway at that precise moment. The problem was that this individual, this hunter, stepped off the path. When they got back into their time, many significant things had changed and it was found that there was a dead butterfly on his boot. Now, this is 10 years before Lorenz had done the Butterfly Effect, but the death of a single butterfly changed everything. Now, I want you to think more kindly of Noah, and why he didn't kill mosquitoes or flies or anything else you wish he had killed. "That was your chance, why didn't you do it?" He was under strict orders probably, "Do not kill the ticks or the cockroaches or any of the things you hate. Let them be. They're part of the plan."
One poet put it this way, "For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of the shoe, the horse was lost. For want of the horse, the rider was lost. For want of the rider, the message was lost. For want of the message, the battle was lost. For want of the battle, the kingdom was lost. All for the want of a horseshoe nail." Well, non-Christians know these things. Seemingly insignificant tiny events can have actually a huge impact down the line. So if God's going to control big things, He must control tiny things; He knows that better than we do. If He's not going to control tiny things, He can't control big things. He's not just a big picture God; He has to be a God of the details.
The Infinite Complexity of the Sovereignty of Almighty God
This isn't just theory. God says he does control details. He actively asserts that he controls those details, whether by great kings sitting on thrones, or by peasants drawing water out of a well or plowing a field. Proverbs 19:21 says, "Many are the plans of a man's heart, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 21:1 says, "The king's heart in the hand of the Lord is a water course that He diverts whatever direction he chooses." Concerning the biggest event ever in history, the death of Jesus, we're told in Acts 4, as the church was praying, “Herod and Pontius Pilate and Annas and Caiaphas met together in this city to conspire against your holy servant, Jesus. They did what your power and will had determined beforehand should happen." That's the way they prayed in Acts 4. So in Verse 11, here we're told that we have been “predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” So the sovereign power of God acted in history to interact with people on a moment-by-moment basis and bring about His intentions is essential to His sovereign rule in the world. God doesn't just stand aloof like the deist would say and then swoop in at key moments. Every moment's a key moment; every instant is a key moment. Every interaction is key. All of it. So it says in Isaiah 14:26-27, the prophet there ruminating on the eminent invasion of Assyria into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. And he tells the Jewish people that this Assyrian army, this king, is under the direct sovereign act of God; that He is moving this Assyrian in, and He's going to move him out again. And he says this in Isaiah 14;26-27. “This is the plan determined for the whole world. This is the hand stretched out over all nations.” Do you hear that? This is the plan; this is the hand. This is the plan; this is the hand. "For the Lord Almighty has purposed and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out and who can turn it back?" Isaiah 14:26-27. So there's a purpose and a power; there's a plan in the hand. His heart loves, His mind plans, His hand brings about His wise and loving plan. Then He gets worshipped and praised and glorified for it. That's what's going on in the world. Friends, that includes earthquakes, that includes riots, that includes elections, that includes Supreme Court decisions, that includes everything. That includes who you happen to sit next to on a plane. It includes all of it. All of this then is applied to our salvation to bring the elect to faith in Christ, involve God moving the pieces on an incredibly complex, multi-dimensional chess board; more complex than you can possibly imagine.
God positions this person at this time to be ready to answer this specific question. And that's not enough to bring that person to salvation, but it's going to have an impact down the road. Others have done the hard labor. John 3, "You have entered into their labor." John 4. "Others have plowed, you get to be there to harvest... " We all want to be there at harvest time, don't we? I want to be there when that person comes over from darkness to light. I do too, that's great. But others did hard work in that person's life, long before they came to faith in Christ. And no, we're not robots. That's too easy. No, we're vastly more complicated, this whole thing's vastly more complicated than that.
“Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and Annas, and Caiaphas, and Judas,” all did exactly what they wanted to do. They follow the dictates of their own wicked hearts. They loved wickedness and did wickedness; that's what they did. They were not compelled; they were not forced; they were not robots. But God sovereignly overruled it. That's how that works. So this kind of detailed providential rule is going on all the time. Paul then addresses a marvelous aspect of that plan and how it moved from being Jew only to Jew plus Gentile. And that had all been part of his plan.
God’s Order: We, First, the You Also (vs. 12-13)
Lots of Debate about “We” and “You”
Look at Verses 11-13. We're going to expand out a little bit now. "In Him also, we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will," verse 12, "in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ, when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation." Well, there's lots of debate about the "we” and “you also." What is this? Could be as simple as just "we the evangelistic missionary team" that brought the Gospel to you in Asia Minor, that's fine, and I don't have any problem with that, but I think it's bigger than that. In chapter 2, we're going to get to the issue of Jew, Gentile, unity. We're going to get to the talk, because the Ephesians are Gentiles and we're going to talk about how God has worked to destroy the barrier, “the dividing wall of hostility” between Jew and Gentile, and to remove it by the death of Christ. And how in the death of Jesus we Gentiles who were aliens, and strangers, and uncircumcised, and outsiders “have been brought near through the blood of Christ,” and how the barrier, the “dividing wall of hostility” has been removed by the death of Jesus. Ephesians 2:11-14.
God’s Beautiful Order: To the Jew First
I think that's what's going on here in Chapter 1. Just a little hint, "We who were the first to hope in Christ might be for the praise of his glory.” And now you also, you Gentiles, have been brought into Christ, when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation. “To the Jew first and then to the Gentile," we're told in Romans 1. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, "Salvation is from the Jews." God said, millennia before that, to Abraham when he was still Abram Ur of the Chaldeans. He says, "I will make you a blessing and you will be a blessing and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you." We're told in Galatians 3, that Gentile Christians have become sons of Abraham, by faith in Christ. And so that's what I think is going on with the “we who are the first,” and then “you also were brought in.” God had a sovereign time and place for all of that. He orchestrated a time when Peter the Apostle to the Jews saw a vision and then was mobilized to go to Cornelius' house, and as he preaches the Gospel, Cornelius' house filled with friends and family and all that, and they're hearing the Gospel and they're believing the Gospel and the Holy Spirit comes down and they speak in tongues as a clear display of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and they're brought in. And in Christ, there is now one new man not this division anymore, but this unity in Christ. And so God has this amazing plan, overarching plan, and He's got this hand that stretched out, and He uses means to achieve His end. He's got an end in mind, and that is for all the elect to be in the New Heavens and the New Earth in resurrection bodies together in perfect unity. Glory, Hallelujah, praising Him, that's the end. How's He going to get there? Well He's worked out the means too.
God’s Means: The Gospel and the Spirit (vs. 13)
God’s Eternal Plan Comes Into Time
And the means that he mentions here is the Gospel message and the Holy Spirit. So look at Verse 13, "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." So, that's God's eternal plan, coming down into time, in Ephesus. Sovereignty doesn't destroy evangelism, it empowers it; it unleashes it. Some people say, "Well if the elect are predestined, then we don't need to do anything." Man, that's crazy. I mean, who says those kinds of things? It's amazing to me, "God will do it Himself." Others say in a similar vein, "A strong emphasis on the sovereignty of God sucks the life out of evangelism because then people won't share the Gospel because there's no need." Look, the more you meditate on these things the more excited you're going to be to share the Gospel; you want to see God at work, and there's nothing that's going to stop it. It's empowering actually. As a matter of fact in all of church history, there is no one that was stronger on the sovereignty of God over all things, and especially over the salvation, than the Apostle Paul, and there was no one who worked harder in evangelism and missions than the Apostle Paul. He didn't have any problem harmonizing those things at all. As a matter of fact, it's exactly because God had chosen the elect; he was going to go work hard and suffer for them. He says in 1 Corinthians 15:10, "By the grace of God, I am what I am. And his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them, yet, not I, but the grace of God that was in me." The Doctrines of Grace empower the people of God, and give us energy, and willingness to suffer, and to work hard. And so Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:10, "Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ with eternal glory." Same idea, the elect are out there I'm going to go, and I'm willing to be beaten, imprisoned, suffer, even to die if that might bring the elect to faith in Christ. So God ordains the means by which the elect are saved.
God Ordains Means by Which the Elect Are Saved
Now the end is that 100% of them will end up in Heaven, the means is explained, and that is the message of the Gospel. Now you need messengers to go out, they've got to go out, got to have messengers because it says in Romans 10, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." This is Verses 13-15. "But how can they call on the one they've not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have never heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?" The sent ones are the evangelists; the sent ones are the missionaries. We are sent out from this room when we're done here into a world that we're surrounded by people who are without hope and without God in the world. We are sent out and some of them are elect and we're going to witness to them. And what are we going to do, we're going to proclaim “the word of truth, the Gospel of their salvation.” What is that? Well, we're going to tell them that there is a Sovereign God who rules over all things, who made laws by which we are to live our lives. Like the Ten Commandments for example or the Two Great Commandments, to love God and love your neighbor. But we don't live up to those laws; we have broken those laws. And so it says plainly in Romans 3, "There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God, all have turned away. They've together become worthless. There is no one who does good, not even one." So you heard “the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation.” Salvation from what? From sin, from all of that, and from the wrath to come.
Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come. There's a coming wrath. God in judgment is going to judge the world, and every one of us is going to stand before Him and give an account of our lives. Are you ready? Do you know that you're forgiven? Do you know that your sins have been atoned for? "There is no other name under heaven given to men, by which we must be saved,” than Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus as His only begotten Son who took on a human body, who lived a sinless life, did all these incredible miracles, showed his deity and his humanity, for He went to the cross and He shed His blood, and He died in our place. This is the Gospel, the word of truth, the Gospel of our salvation. God raised Him up on the third day and seated Him at the right hand of God in the heavenly realms, and everyone who repents and believes in Him receives the gift of the forgiveness of sins. That's what happened, the Ephesians heard the “word of truth, the Gospel of their salvation” and they believed it. Well, that's the means to the end, but I tell you that the word of truth is not enough; the Gospel is not enough; the proclamation is not enough. We need also the ministry and the working of the Holy Spirit of God, and without Him no one will be converted.
The Spirit must move in hearts. The Spirit must remove the heart of stone and put in the heart of flesh. The Spirit must bring the dead sinner, spiritually dead sinner, to life. Something only the Spirit can do. And so, we have mentioned here plainly the work of these Spirit of God, “the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.” Now, the sermon here continues for five or six more pages, but I'm not going to do that because I already plan next week to talk about the sealing of the Spirit. So this part, I'm saying, "Well next week we'll talk more about... " Let's just do all that next week. The Holy Spirit of God comes in and seals the individual. We're going to talk about what does it mean the promised Holy Spirit? And how does He seal us?
If you want to know ahead of time what I think about the Holy Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity, and what the sealing of the Spirit is, think of a proclamation from a king. And you want to know if it's valid, if it's authentic. And so, they would seal it with the authoritative kingly seal. And then you knew that was from the king. So the sealing of the Spirit is authenticating proof. How can I know I'm elect? How can I know I'm predestined? How can I know I'm going to go to Heaven when I die? The sealing of the Spirit is the answer. We're going to talk about that next week. So, God willing, please come and listen more.
Why does God do all of this? Well, as we've seen, again and again, and we can't stop saying it, He does it all for the praise of His glory. That's the ultimate end. And isn't it beautiful how we see the trinitarian work here. We see the work of the Father; we see the work of the Son, and we see the work of the Holy Spirit. And it's interesting that the Father's section goes from 1:3-6 and it ends with, "To the praise of His glory." And then you've got the Son's section, picking up and it goes up to verse 12 and it ends, "To the praise of His glory," and then you've got the Spirit's section and it goes verse 13 and 14, and it ends the same way, "To the praise of His glory.” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together working on our individual salvation, why? “To the praise of His glory.”
We're going to be up in Heaven and we're going to see it; we're going to talk to all our brothers and sisters. We're going to hear so many stories like that. One about Judson and Jacob Eames; we're going to find out how God saved people. You guys are all going to be super PhDs in church history by the time 10,000 years have passed in Heaven, and you've still got millennia more to study. You're going to learn about brothers and sisters, in every generation, and how God worked by His sovereign grace, and how awesome, and you're going to say, "To God be the glory." And you're going to see your own story in a new light more than you've ever seen it before, and you'll see that none of it was accidental, that God had orchestrated everything to bring you to salvation; and it's all for the praise of His glory.
Call to Repentance
So, applications for me, very powerfully. First and foremost, I've already said it, I can't bear the thought that any of you would leave here unregenerate. I can't bear that thought. I've been thinking about it. Don't leave here lost. You've heard twice probably maybe three times the Gospel already. Trust in Christ, trust in Him. Cast yourself in full abandonment of faith on Jesus. Say, "I'm a sinner, I have no hope, I'm not ready to die. Probably, I'd be just like Jacob Eames. If I knew I was about to die in an hour or two, I'd know I wasn't ready and I'd be terrified of the flames of Hell. I'd be terrified of hearing from God, the judge, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' I'd be terrified of that, and I know I'm not ready." Today is a day salvation. You can be delivered. You hear “the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation,” trust in Christ.
Trust in Providence
And then for the rest of us, let's trust in providence, shall we? Let's celebrate it; let's embrace it. Let's just say, "Isn't it incredible that God rules over everything, after the council of his will. There's nothing I need to fear. There are nothing but ministry opportunities here even in the midst of the greatest suffering," and I'm not minimizing the emotions of all of this. We do “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.” We go to misery, and we go to suffering, and we say, "Can we share with these people? Can we bring them out of darkness into light? Whether it's in Kathmandu or in Baltimore or wherever it is, where light needs to be shining?” So I was talking in our BFL class a few minutes ago. Just celebrate Ephesians 2:10. Just realize how explosive all this is. Let's put Ephesians 1:11 together with Ephesians 2:10. Ephesians 2:10 says, "We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance, that you should walk in them." What does that mean that God prepared in advance? Means, the days ahead of time, weeks ahead of time, months, thousand years ahead of time. He went ahead of you and got things ready. BFL folks, do you mind if I give that same hokey illustration about the bird feeder? Hope you don't mind, I'm just going to go head and do it.
You know, you got to Lowe's, and they teach you how to make a bird feeder out of a kit and you can make a bird feeder in 21 minutes. How? Because everything's been cut, sanded, pre-drilled, the glues ready, everything's ready. Bird feeder. That's your day. God went ahead of you and laid out the kit for the good work. And He didn't tell you what the good works are. It could be with another Christian. It could be with a non-Christian. Could be with a relative, a total stranger. You don't know. Just say, "Oh God, make me ready for the good works. You got them ready for me, make me ready for them." Life is exciting that way. Let's do those good works. Let's praise Him for the praise of His glorious grace, and let's not shrink back from this doctrine. I don't understand why people do that. It plainly says it. Do you really want to live in a universe where God's saying, "I don't know. I've no idea what's going to happen next, but we'll be fine. We know how to make lemonade out of lemons. Been doing it for thousands of years, and... Well, an earthquake. I'm reacting to this. What can we do with this?" That's not the God of the Bible. You may struggle with aspects of free will, or God's goodness and suffering and all that, struggle away, but know this, everything to the detail is part of God's sovereign plan. Let's celebrate it and let's go out and prove that a church that believes these kind of doctrines is more evangelistic than it's ever been before because we're willing to “suffer anything for the sake of the elect.” We're not afraid of martyrdom, or losing your job, or losing a friendship. We're not afraid of anything; we just want to find out who the elect are. We want more people to get baptized. We're willing to suffer for these things
These doctrines have power to unleash this. And let's realize that God, the we, and they... We're going to talk more about this, but this is an opportune moment to say it. The only answer to racism is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The only answer to racial divides and disharmony that there is in the world is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It's the same thing in Kathmandu, the only answer to the grave and people dying is the Gospel of Jesus Christ; so let's shine the light. Let's look forward to the barrier, “the dividing wall of hostility” being completely removed and delighting in the friendship that we have with one another in Christ.
Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for the time that we've had to study today. It's been an awesome, powerful time to learn how pervasive is the plan of God. How you are orchestrating things all the time; good works, and the spread of the Gospel all the time. Help us to celebrate it and to step out in faith and to delight in it. Oh, God, give us more evangelistic fruit; give us more missions fruit. Give us more laborers for the harvest field. Help us not to be cowardly, but be like Paul was in 2 Timothy 2, “to be willing to endure everything, anything for the sake of the elect.” And Lord, please bring your elect from darkness to light, even now if there's somebody just teetering, holding back, work on his or her heart and bring them over from darkness to light, in Jesus' name, Amen.