2. Our United Position: Blessed Together in Christ (Eph. 1:4-14)Related Media
In this article we are examining the first three foundational blessings that unite us in our common position in Christ:
1. The past blessings of our election and predestination (1:4 and 5-6)
2. The present blessing of our redemption (1:7-10)
3. The future blessing of our inheritance (1:11-14)
These blessings comprise our common spiritual “roots”. An aunt of mine in England traced our family roots. She found that we came from a line of Spanish Jews who came to England during the Spanish Armada. That’s my family’s “roots” according to her research. The family of God has its roots – our blessings “in Christ”.
The first foundational blessing, then, that we share as believers, and for which we praise God, is…
I. The Blessing Of Our Election (1:4)
He (God) chose (elected) us in Him (Christ) (4a).
When political elections are planned, nobody knows what the outcome will be until all the votes are in. In a past eternity God called an “election” and he knew exactly what the outcome would be. In fact, he guaranteed it because...
1. The Nature Of Election Is… God’s Sovereign Choice
God chose us. He selected us, picked us out for himself. That’s the nature of God’s election – it is his sovereign choice. There were no other voters; God was the only “voter”. It was his election. Nobody forced him to make the choice; he made it freely, sovereignly.
Do you remember when you used to pick sides at school to play a game? It always seemed cruel to me that the best players were picked first and as the choices got fewer and fewer it was obvious and embarrassing that nobody wanted the poor players. But God chose us without reference to our inadequacies and he made no distinction between us - we are all equally precious to him.
So, the nature of election is God’s sovereign choice, and…
2. The Subjects Of Election Are… God’s Special People
God chose us, not anybody or everybody but us, the “saints” (1) - those who have been set apart by God to glorify him; those who have embraced him by faith. Out of all the people of all history, God chose us to be his sanctified people, to live to his glory, to be his special people, his united coalition, his church.
How we should praise God that, of all the people, he chose us! C.H. Spurgeon said that this “ought to make us on our very dullest moments sing for joy.”1
3. The Foundation Of Election Is… God’s Beloved Son
God chose us in him, in Christ. Jesus Christ is the foundation of our election. Just as God has “blessed us” in Christ (3), so “he has elected (chosen) us” in Christ (4a).
Why and how did God choose us in Christ? What does this mean? It means that he didn’t choose us because of anything in us but because of everything we would have and be in our position in Christ. In ourselves, we were enemies of God by wicked works (wandering away from God; separated from him), but in Christ we are brought near to God, made acceptable to him.
Our election in Christ is founded on what God saw in a past eternity. He saw the work of Christ as complete and he saw us as righteous in Him. He saw Christ take our place, fulfilling the righteous claims of God against us. And it was on that basis that he could and did choose us.
To be in Christ means that God sees him as our surety. We are safe in him. Just as we might keep valuable documents in a safety deposit box which is all locked up and kept secure in the vault of a bank, so we are in Christ, our “safety deposit box.” We are inside him, safe and secure.
But there’s more about election in which we can and should rejoice…
4. The Time Of Election Was… God’s Past Eternity
God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (4b). Our election wasn’t an afterthought. It wasn’t something God decided to do when he saw what we were like. Nor is it a question of God foreseeing the spiritual choice we would make. Rather, our election was before the foundation of the world - when the plan of atonement was conceived in the chambers of eternity; when Christ said, “Here am I; send me” (Isa. 6:8; Heb. 10:7), and God declared, “I have found a ransom” (Job 23:34).
As one commentator has said: “If already before the foundation of the world those destined for everlasting life were elected…then all the glory for their salvation belongs to God and to him alone.”2
5. The Purpose Of Election Is… Our Present Holiness
… that we should be holy and without blame before him (4b). God did not simply choose us for salvation but to change us so that we could live in holiness before him. God did not choose us because we were already holy, but in order that we should be and could be holy. Holiness and blamelessness are the fruits of our election to salvation.
The immediate purpose of election is that we should be holy and that we should be blameless. To be holy means to be separated, morally and spiritually, to God; consecrated wholly to God. To be blameless means to be without blemish in character and conduct.
The measure of this holiness is not man’s, but God’s, to be examined by God and be found faultless before him. As Christians, we must give evidence of our spiritual standing before God. Because we have been saved doesn’t mean that we can live any way we want. There are ethical implications to the Gospel, you know.
Let me ask you, how do you measure up to God’s standard? Are you living before God in submission to him, allowing him to conform you to his Son, transforming you “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18)?
So, the first foundational blessing is that of our election. Closely associated with election is…
II. The Blessing Of Our Predestination (1:5-6)
As John Phillips explains it, “Election has to do with the past and predestination has to do with the future.” 3 God chose us for a purpose – that’s predestination.
1. We Were Predestined For A New Relationship (5)
… having in love predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ for himself (4b-5a). We were elected (chosen) for salvation and on that basis we were predestined for sonship. In his unfathomable love toward us, God predestined us to a new relationship with him, the relationship of “adopted” children. He chose us for himself, to be in his family because of what Christ has done, a place to which we had no right or title (cf. Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5).
Some families have both biological and adopted children. Sometimes, someone might ask, “Which one is adopted?” They make a distinction between the biological child and the adopted child. But God makes no such distinction. When God adopts us into his family, he treats us as his very own with no regard for the past.
Though we were born in sin and “were by nature children of wrath” (2:3), yet God takes us into his family and wipes out the past (Jer. 31:34). And further, he does something that no earthly adoptive parent can do - He gives us his own nature and character.
Thus, this new relationship is one which carries the dignity of sons and daughters. It imputes to us a new identification, a new status, a new family, a new appearance (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18), a new nature, a new character, and a new inheritance. That’s what it is to be adopted into God’s family. We have a new relationship with God and God’s people.
So, how does this adoption take place? It’s by Jesus Christ for himself (5a). Through Christ we are reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18, 20; Col. 1:21) and made part of his family, not because of any goodness on our part nor because of any obligation on God’s part, but because God predestined us to this relationship solely according to the good pleasure of his will (5b). It was a matter of God’s will and pleasure. God did what he wanted and delighted to do in us.
So, the question is: Is your behaviour consistent with your new relationship? Do you act like God’s adopted child? All parents want their children to exemplify their values and attitudes. Any child who does not do this misrepresents their parents and brings dishonour on the family. Let me challenge you to examine your lifestyle, your behaviour, your attitudes, your values and priorities in the light of your adoption into God’s family and in the light of your position of dignity as a son or daughter of God.
We were predestined for a new relationship and…
2. We Were Predestined For A New Occupation (6)
… to the praise of his glorious grace (6a). Our election by God coupled with his predestination of us to adoption is a summons to the praise of his glorious grace.
Surely, that should be our spontaneous response to God for his unmerited favour to us who are so undeserving. The final goal to which all of redemptive history points and to which we are predestined is the praise his glorious grace. This is the ultimate goal for which God has chosen us - to praise God for the excellence of his matchless grace by which he made us accepted in the Beloved (6b). Only by the glorious grace of God do we find favour before God and by which we are accepted in the Beloved. Our eternal standing before God is founded in his beloved Son, the one in whom the Father finds all his delight (cf. Matt. 3:17; Jn. 1:29; Matt. 17:5; 2 Pet. 1:17, 18).
III. The Blessing Of Our Redemption (1:7-10)
The first thing we notice is…
1. The Source Of Our Redemption Is… God’s Dear Son
In him (the Beloved) we have redemption (7a). Just as our election is in Christ, so our redemption is in him. He is the source and means of our redemption - it is in him. Because of what he has done and the relationship into which he has called us we have redemption in him. Redemption cannot be found in anyone else, “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”(Acts 4:12). Neither charitable deeds nor good living can earn your redemption. It has its sole source in the person and work of Christ - it is in him. And because our redemption is in him, no one can take it away.
We “have” redemption. It’s our present possession. If you have trusted Christ as your Saviour, you have redemption now – the present possession of eternal life. It isn’t future (not something we’re working for or hoping for) but something we now possess.
We didn’t and couldn’t do anything for it. It’s not “by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he saves us”(Tit. 3:5). We couldn’t pay for it nor earn it. God has freely provided it for us in Christ, who “gave himself a ransom for many”(Matt. 20:28). Redemption is the freedom obtained by payment of a ransom. It’s a term that was used primarily for the release of slaves. In spiritual terms, redemption refers to our ransom from the curse of sin, from sin’s power and penalty (cf. Jn. 8:34; Rom. 7:14; 1 Cor. 7:23; Gal. 3:13).
The object of our redemption was to buy us back from sin’s slavery, to redeem us from Satan’s control and deception. The result of our redemption is our liberation. We’ve been emancipated - the price has been paid. We’ve been ransomed, and, as a result, set free from the bondage of sin - released from the tyranny of the law.
So, the source of our redemption is God’s dear Son…
2. The Means Of Our Redemption Is… Christ’s Blood
… we have redemption through his blood (7b). Christ has ransomed us from the slave market of sin. He paid the price to set us free by giving his life for us, by dying the death we deserved. And the evidence of the payment of that debt was the shedding of his precious blood. That was the mighty ransom price – his life, his blood. That was the utmost price that could be paid. It wasn’t the blood of a sacrificial animal as in the O. T. sacrifices (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). It was his blood, “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:19).
Dr. Paul Brand in his book, “God’s Forever Feast,” writes: “I used to think it strange that the Bible keeps talking about the cleansing power of the blood. It seemed to me that blood was messy stuff. I needed to wash my white lab coats if they became stained with blood. Today, I love the analogy; it is so true of the body. The blood is constantly cleansing every cell and washing away all the debris that accumulates all the time.”
No animal’s blood could ever cleanse us from sin. Only Christ’s blood was sufficient to remit our sins. “Not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of His own blood, thus securing eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12).
Have you ever thought about what this means, that God’s own Son shed his blood for your redemption, that he was willing to die to cleanse you from sin? “Scarcely for a righteous man will one die…yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates his love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7-8).
How often do you thank God for your redemption? This will be our wonderful theme in heaven, when we will say: “You are worthy…for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9-10). It is the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all our sins (1 Jn. 1:7).
The means of our redemption is his blood and…
3. The Result Of Our Redemption Is… Our Forgiveness
Redemption would not be complete without forgiveness. The grand object of redemption is our freedom and the key to freedom is forgiveness. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins (7c).
Forgiveness is the complete removal (remission) of our sins (Isa. 44:22; Jer. 3:34; 1 Jn. 1:9). Through faith in Christ, we are forgiven (cf. Col. 1:14). Once we were bound by sin. We were held hostage by it, completely absorbed by it, unable to help ourselves because of it. Such was the power of sin over us that we were its prisoner, incarcerated in trespasses and sins. But through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, we are set free because our sins are forgiven.
We know the source of redemption, the means, and the result, but what was the reason? Why did God redeem us?….
4. The Motivation For Our Redemption Is… God’s Grace
… according to the riches of his grace (7d). Forgiveness and grace go together. Forgiveness is only offered to us by God because of his grace. Notice that it does not say that forgiveness was given to us “out of” the riches of his grace, but according to (in the measure of) the riches of his grace. Something can be given “out of” someone’s riches, but it may not be necessarily lavish because they may have limited riches, or because they may hold some back. But God has provided our redemption to the full extent of the riches of his grace - he has held nothing back.
Our forgiveness is according to the riches of God’s grace of which there is no end. The enormity of what he has done is reflected in the fullness of our forgiveness and the inexhaustible supply of his grace.
The motivation for our redemption is God’s grace, which he lavished upon us (8a). His grace is no mere trickle, no puny supply. Rather, he lavished his grace upon us. This is extravagant grace, outrageous grace, exorbitant grace, superabundant grace from God’s inexhaustible riches.
How is this abundance of God’s grace made manifest to us? … in all wisdom and insight (8b). In his matchless unbounded grace, God ransoms us from our sin. That in itself would surely be enough, but no, there’s more. He pours into our souls wisdom and insight. Why does he give us wisdom and insight? So that we can understand what he has done for us in Christ and so that we can live in the good of it. He has redeemed us and forgiven our sins, and now he floods our souls with the wisdom and understanding that go along with our new position in Christ.
So, the sequence of thought here is this…
1. The source of our redemption is God’s dear Son.
2. The means of our redemption is Christ’s blood.
3. The result of our redemption is our forgiveness.
4. The motivation for our redemption is God’s grace.
5. The Consummation Of Redemption Is… Christ’s Headship
… making known to us the mystery of his will (9a). In God’s grace he has revealed the mystery of His will (which we can understand through the wisdom and insight he has given to us), that the consummation of redemption will be the universal and glorious headship of Christ.
What was formerly a mystery he has made known to us and he has given us the ability to understand it and appreciate it. That’s his grace!
God wasn’t forced to unveil this secret. He freely revealed it according to his good pleasure, which he set forth in Christ (9b). Just as it was the Father’s pleasure to predestine us to adoption in Christ (5), so it was his good pleasure to make known to us his eternal purpose (i.e. “the mystery of his will”) concerning the eschatological headship of Christ.
So, what is “the mystery of his will”? … that in the administration of the fullness of the times, he might unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (10). This is the consummation of God’s plan of redemption. The redemption that Christ effected on the cross will culminate in his universal headship over all creation. God’s plan of redemption had in view our salvation and Christ’s ultimate headship over all things.
The fullness of time began “when God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4). That’s when the fullness of time began and it will end with Christ’s return in power and glory and judgment. And God’s purpose in all of this mystery which he has revealed to us is to unite all things in / under Christ (Col. 1:20; Phil. 2:9-11).
Everything centers on Christ so that everything in heaven and earth will ultimately be brought under His headship (See Rev. 20:4-5). This is the consummation of redemption. This is the event to and for which all redemptive history points and waits - the universal headship of Christ, when “every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10-11).
IV. The Blessing Of Our Inheritance (1:11-14)
Paul continues to be overwhelmed by the wonder of God’s plan to unite both Jews and Gentiles into one people of God through the redemptive work of Christ. He continues to praise God for uniting us in Christ – a united position that is founded on our united blessings in Christ (the blessings of our election, predestination, and redemption), and now he turns to the blessing of our inheritance.
During the 1996 Major League Baseball season, Chad Kruder, a reserve catcher for the Chicago White Sox severely dislocated and fractured his left shoulder at a play at plate. After undergoing surgery, the White Sox placed him on the 60 day disabled list. That’s the kind of thing that makes a back-up player feel even less like part of the team. But quite the opposite happened.
Apparently, Chad’s team mates had a strong liking for him because each player put Chad’s # 12 on his baseball cap to show support for him. Chad was a member of the team whether he played or not. As you can imagine that meant a lot to Chad.
Later in the season, when he was able to suit up again, Chad showed his appreciation by putting the numbers of each of his team mates on his ball cap.
Unity is a beautiful thing on any team, especially the church team. That’s what Ephesians is all about – the unity of the church, that mysterious union that God has brought about, a union that is composed of some very different people.
The difference between “we” (11-12) and “you” (13) is a very important change in pronoun. Up to this point in the epistle, “we” has embraced all Christians. But now the “we” of v.11 are the Jewish Christians – those “who first trusted Christ” (12) – and the “you” of v.13 are the Gentile Christians who “also trusted” Christ.” Finally, v.14 embraces all Christians again, both Jew and Gentile.
This is the prelude to the elaboration in chapter 2, which shows how two entirely different, even adversarial people could be brought together as one body in Christ, into a “United Position in Christ” – one body (2:16), one family of God (2:19), one building of God (2:20). That such people can unite under one banner is nothing less than the work of God – hence the title of this series of articles: “United We Stand: The Mystery of the Church.”
Our “United Position in Christ” is based on “Our United Blessings in Christ”: The blessings of our election (3-4), our predestination (5-6), our redemption (7-10), and now the blessing of our inheritance (1:11-14).
Not only do we have spiritual blessings in Christ in the past (our election and predestination which God decreed in a past eternity), and in the present (our redemption which God effected in the present day of his grace), but also in the future (our inheritance which God has promised).
1. Our Inheritance Is Assigned To Us…By God’s Sovereign Plan (11)
After choosing us, God predestined us to adoption into his family and having been predestined, in him also we have obtained an inheritance according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will (11).
In him also we have obtained an inheritance (11a). An inheritance refers to the rights and privileges passed on to heirs. An heir is one who by virtue of his family status stands to inherit the rights and privileges related to that family by being named an heir. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). In him we have obtained an inheritance. Our position in Christ is the basis of our inheritance, just as it is the basis of our election and our redemption. Based on our predestined position in Christ, God laid up an inheritance for us as members of his family, before we ever existed.
Our inheritance is all part of God’s sovereign, eternal plan, just like our election and redemption. He made the plan and by his sovereign power he also carries it out. What God has planned, he has the power also to carry out and complete. He works out all things according to his own eternal purposes and will, according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. Our inheritance is all of God, not of us. There is nothing that God has ordained that will not come to pass. He is not only the architect, he is also the builder, and nothing will delay, change, or stop his plans because he is all-powerful.
It would be one thing to know that we have all these spiritual blessings, but what good would they be if they don’t come to fruition? Sometimes people invest in schemes that never come to pass such as the scandal of “Greater Ministries Int’l Church”. This organization promised to double its donors’ investments in 17 months from profits in gold and diamond mines in Liberia and international trading in precious metals. The amazing thing is not that they made the promise but that people actually believed them! At least $100 million was reportedly invested in the scheme by over 15,000 Christians.
Sometimes people put deposits on things that they never receive. Either the company went out of business or they were “fly-by-nighters” who had no intention of delivering the goods. Older people are often ripped off by con artists masquerading as legitimate business people. Sometimes people lose money by investing in schemes that are fraudulent to start with. Other times the opportunity was genuine and the intentions were good but the other party just could not deliver on those good intentions.
But God will deliver our inheritance according to his purpose and will. Though my wife and I have taken great care to spell out clearly in our wills what is to happen to our assets, such as they are, in the event of our death, we cannot guarantee that our wishes will be carried out. Things may change between now and then; other people to whom we entrust the settling of our affairs may not act honourably; or, they may misunderstand what we want. But God himself settles his own affairs. He does not assign that responsibility to others.
Do you have implicit trust in God’s sovereign will? Do you believe that what God has promised he is able also to do? If you don’t trust God for the future, can you trust him for the past? Faith in the sovereign will and power of God is mandatory if you want to enter into the good of God’s promises and blessings now.
Our inheritance is assigned to us by God's sovereign plan…and…
2. Our Inheritance Is Secured To Us…With All God’s Chosen People (12-14)
The first persons whom God chose to trust in Christ were Jewish believers, we who first trusted in Christ (12a), that is, before the Gentiles trusted in Christ. “We,” Paul says (including himself) “have obtained an inheritance to which God has predestined us, not because of our national heritage, ancestry, or personal merit but because of his sovereign will.”
He says, “By God’s sovereign choice, he chose us, Jewish believers, as his very own people to live before him in holiness and blamelessness, and, in love, he predestined us to the relationship of adopted sons and daughters. As his children, we are his heirs with a glorious inheritance ahead of us. And the purpose of having been predestined to this inheritance,” he says, “is that we might be to the praise of his glory (12b). God’s purpose for our redeemed lives is to be living praises of his glory in our thoughts, words, desires, and actions. Just as predestination to adoption summons the praises of his people (5), so their predestined inheritance calls forth his glorious praise. It is part of God’s all-embracing, eternal, sovereign plan that his people should praise him.
But is this inheritance, then, only for Jewish believers? No! God’s chosen people also includes the Gentile believers. The Jewish believers were the first in order of time to trust in Christ (12a) – to have hope in Christ - and then the Gentiles were brought into the church (Rom. 1:16). In whom you (the Gentile believers in Ephesus) also trusted (13a). The Greek doesn’t finish the sentence here – “you also” what? Some think it is “in him you also obtained an inheritance.” Others think it is “in him you also trusted” (NKJV). Or, it could be “in him you also were sealed by the Holy Spirit” (ESV). Grammatically, any of these options are possible but “in whom you also trusted (or, hoped),” referring back to v. 12, seems to make the most sense.
On what basis were the Gentiles brought into the church? On the same basis as the Jewish believers, who first trusted in Christ. We have the same salvation and inheritance on the same basis as they do. What is that? Trusting Christ by hearing the word of truth, believing it, and being sealed with the Holy Spirit.
These Ephesian believers heard the word of truth (13a) from Paul. He visited them on his second missionary journey (Acts 19:1-10), only to find that they were still O. T. believers, who only knew John the Baptist’s baptism. They didn’t know that the One to whom John pointed had come and in whose name they ought to be baptized. As soon as Paul explained this to them, they were baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5) and became Christians, as evidenced by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This was when they first heard the word of truth.
Like them, we also have “heard the word of truth” which is the gospel of your salvation. There are many false gospels in the world. The true gospel is the word of truth, not the word of error (1 Jn. 4:6). There are many voices in the world (1 Cor.14:10) all clamouring for our attention, all trying to convince us that they are telling the truth. The word of truth is the gospel - the gospel that reveals the truth about the human condition, that proclaims the consequences of rejecting Christ, that promises the only way of escape from judgement, that urges sinners to avail themselves of salvation now. It’s the gospel that Christ died for our sins, rose again the third day, and is coming back again.
The word of truth is the gospel of your salvation, “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16). Hearing the word of truth is not enough. They also believed in Him (13b). Hearing the gospel precedes faith in the gospel (Col. 1:5; Rom. 10:14, 17). If, after hearing, you believe the message of the gospel and place your trust for eternity in the person and work of Christ, then you are saved and brought into the church!
Some people hear in faith; others hear in unbelief. It is our responsibility to believe. God doesn’t do that for us. God sovereignly chooses some for salvation because if he did not choose some, no one would be saved, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23. “No one is righteous, no not one”(Rom. 3:10). For that reason, God exercises his sovereignty and chooses some to be saved.
But, there is another side to the equation – human responsibility. God has provided the means by which you may be saved – i.e. the atoning, substitutionary death of Christ. And God has appointed the means by which you can know this salvation in Christ – through the preaching of “the word of truth,” for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). When you hear the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, you are responsible for how you respond to it. God isn’t responsible for that – you are. So, if you reject the gospel of salvation and, by doing so, reject Christ, you will be held responsible for that on the day of judgment. And Christ, who has been ordained to judge the world (Acts 17:31), will righteously condemn you to hell for your decision.
Some of you today might have become immune to the truth. You’ve heard the Gospel so many times that it’s just an old wives fable to you. Your conscience has been “seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2). You are totally insensitive to the truth of the Gospel. You have no spiritual feeling.
Jesus said: “He who has ears to hear let him hear” (Matt. 11:15). Jesus’ message of the gospel of salvation is to those who hear in faith and believe: “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (Jn. 5:24).
Have you heard the truth of the Gospel and believed? Is you ear open today to the truth of God’s word? Are you ready to receive Christ? Don’t turn away today without trusting Christ. It is all rooted in him and his finished work at Calvary. It isn’t a matter of head knowledge - that won’t suffice on its own. It’s a matter of faith. Do you have faith in him? Have you trusted Christ? Have you taken what you have heard and made it the object of your faith? Have you recognized that you cannot save yourself and that Jesus Christ is the only One who could pay the debt of sin for you? Have you trusted him by receiving him as your Saviour?
Well, when we hear the word of truth and trust Christ for salvation, God in turn secures us for eternity. We are secured by the sealing of the Spirit: …“having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (13c). Our salvation is based on Christ’s finished work of atonement and secured by the indwelling (sealing) of the Holy Spirit. This is an allusion to the ancient practice of sealing documents to identify them, to secure them, and to authenticate them.
Sealing is similar to branding or engraving today which identifies the owner. Legal documents and ancient letters used to be sealed by impressing a symbol or name into hot wax, usually with a ring. Today, documents are sealed by embossing a corporation’s or individual’s name on the paper with a die-cut seal. Personal possession may be engraved with some sort of identification in case they are stolen or lost.
Sealing declares the document as valid, authorized and original. It ensures that only the person to whom it is addressed opens it. If the seal is broken an unauthorized person has opened it. Today shipments of cargo are sometimes sealed with a special tag. Only the customs inspector is authorized to break the seal. This ensures that the cargo is not tampered with while in transit. Animals sometimes have seals put in their ears or around their legs as a mark of identification.
Sealing, then, is a mark of identification, authority, and security. The Holy Spirit seals Christians. God the Holy Spirit himself indwells us to form a seal that cannot be broken. Sealing takes place when you believe: Having believed you were sealed. At the moment of genuine faith, the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised (cf. Jn. 14:16, 17; 15:26), takes up residence in us and seals us.
The Holy Spirit is the seal that identifies us as God’s people, as genuine believers, authorizes us to speak God’s word, assures us of our salvation through His inner witness (Rom. 8:16), and secures for us our salvation for eternity by indwelling us (1 Jn. 3:24).
The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance (14a). He guarantees (insures) our inheritance in Christ. God has “given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 1:22). He is the down payment guaranteeing our inheritance. He is the first installment, the security deposit, of what’s to come. A security deposit, or pledge, makes an agreement valid and obligates the purchaser to complete his commitments.
The Holy Spirit is God’s “security deposit,” a sign of his pledge, his surety that he will keep his promise and deliver our inheritance (2 Cor. 5:5). What a God we have that he would give us such a guarantee!
When I worked in business most of the transactions I did, totaling large sums of money, were verbal. We accepted our customers’ word as true and that they would do what they said. Only in some instances did we require a deposit to guarantee that they would complete the transaction. God could have just given us his word and that would have been enough. But the One who cannot lie (Heb. 6:18) not only gave us his word, He also gave us his Spirit as the demonstration of his good and reliable intentions toward us.
Furthermore, God’s guarantee is unconditional. His guarantee is good until our redemption is complete: …until the redemption of God’s purchased possession (14b). Sometimes a down payment is conditional - if the conditions are not met the deposit is returned and the deal is off. Sometimes new products come with a guarantee. But they are usually conditional. For example, a new car guarantee is limited to a certain mileage or a length of time and usually excludes defects related to normal wear and tear. But God’s guarantee is not limited to time or conditions. It’s good until our redemption is complete at the coming of Jesus Christ.
Not only are we a marked people (marked by the Holy Spirit’s seal), but we are a redeemed people (1 Cor. 3:23; Rom. 14:8; 1 Pet. 2:9), redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). But our redemption is not yet complete. We are still waiting for our bodies to be changed, to be glorified, to be redeemed body, soul, and spirit, to be translated into his presence, to be perfectly like Him. While we are waiting the Holy Spirit bridges the gap. He bridges the gap between what we already have in Christ (new life; spiritual blessings) and what we still anticipate (the fulfillment of all these blessings at Christ’s second coming).
So, the sealing of the Holy Spirit points to that future day (Eph. 4:30; Rom. 8:23) when faith will be replaced by sight, when our bodies will be transformed, when we will be freed not only from the power and penalty of sin but also from the presence of sin, and when we will express our gratitude to the praise of his glory (14c).
God’s ultimate purpose is wrapped up in this phrase, the praise of his glory” (or, his glorious praise). We were chosen in Christ “to the praise of his glorious grace” (6). We trusted Christ “to the praise of his glory” (12). And we are sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption to the praise of his glory (14).
Thus, the apex of Paul’s introductory doxology is reached. God has blessed us in the past, the present, and the future. In a past eternity God sovereignly decreed the election of his own special people. Down through the ages, he has been calling them to himself. Now he has chosen and called you and me through faith in Christ. Having chosen us, God also predestined us to adoption as his children.
In the present era of his grace, God put into effect his great plan of redemption through Christ’s work on the cross. And he has made known to us “the mystery of his will”, that at end, the consummation of the age, he will unite all things under Christ’s headship.
Finally, and most importantly, in the future, God will bring us into our eternal inheritance, the realization of all his promises and blessings, having been kept by the Holy Spirit for this very thing, even the eternal praise of God.
And those whom he has chosen and called he has unified into one body, the church. We are a part of his holy coalition that has been called out to worship him and that has been marshalled to serve him.
Let us never lose sight of what God has done for us in Christ. In Christ He has chosen us and predestined us to be his children. In Christ He has redeemed us, forgiven our sins. In Christ He has predestined us to an eternal inheritance. In Christ He has sealed us by the Holy Spirit until the completion of our redemption.
These are our common blessings in Christ which we enjoy together. How appropriate, then, that we should express our gratitude that, of all the people of the world, he chose us to salvation and adoption, to be part of his special people, the church; that in order to make this choice possible his Son had to die; and that all of this marvelous plan was conceived in eternity. May this challenge us to live “holy and blameless lives before him”, living as children of our heavenly Father ought to live, praising him for his “glorious grace”.
Don’t you find God’s grace amazing? That God would care about us? That he would plan for our salvation in a past eternity? That he would choose us to be the beneficiaries of his redemption. And that now he has given us the ability to understand the grand scheme of things, the grand finale to which history is headed and for which everything was planned, namely, the pre-eminence of his beloved Son. No wonder Paul started this doxology by blessing “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.”
What is your response today? Out of a heart that has been touched by his grace, will you respond with a burst of praise for his glorious grace which he has made known to us in the Lord Jesus Christ? Together let us say with Paul: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (3). Together we must respond to the praise of his glory for he is worthy.
1 C. H. Spurgeon, Quoting Spurgeon, ed. Raspantini, 45.
2 William Hendriksen, Exposition of Ephesians, New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 77.
3 John Phillips, Exploring Ephesians, An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1995), 33-34.
Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church)