To the Praise of His Glory
Topic: Pauline Epistles Passage: Ephesians 1:7–1:14
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 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, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
In his classic book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer observed, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us...We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that compose the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.”
As I reflected upon that statement in preparing for this week’s message, I couldn’t help but wonder what comes into the collective mind of our church family when we think about God? I believe what Tozer was suggesting—at least in part—is that our concept of God is what determines the manner in which we live our lives.
When we began our study of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians two weeks ago, we made the observation that its purpose was to prevent doctrinal problems in the Church rather than to correct them. It is not surprising, therefore, that this is a document that is heavy on theology. But it is not merely a theological treatise. Its doctrinal instruction has practical implications. It is a letter that prods us toward becoming who we are in Christ. Correct doctrine implies corresponding duty, belief determines behavior, and our calling demands a conduct that matches it.
What’s more, because Ephesians blends theology and practice, it is also bathed in doxology...meaning that it abounds with praise to God. In fact, the epistle begins with a lengthy sentence of praise to God...one that extends from verses 3 through 14. Three times within that section—verses 6, 12, and 14—we find the repeated phrase, “to the praise of his glory.” That is a pretty clear indication of the author’s intent and where the message of this letter is taking us.
Last week we looked at verses 3 through 6, where we learned that God has elected and predestined those who would be his children “to the praise of his glorious grace.” As we move into verses 7 through 14 we will discover two more reasons that God is worthy to be praised. Although distinct, those two reasons are intimately related. The first is that we have become an inheritance, and the second is that we have received an inheritance. We will attempt to differentiate those two things without breaking the link that holds them together.
Verses 7 through 14 have been thought by some to be a primitive confession of faith on the order of the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed which we studied several Wednesday evenings ago. We might even compare it to a “church covenant,” not unlike our own. Structurally speaking, there seems to be some justification for this. Note for example the repeated “In him” introductions to verses 7, 11, and 13. In fact, I believe these “markers” provide the outline to this passage. So, having tipped my hand, let us begin with verses 7 through 10, where we observe that...
God is to be praised because we have redemption (verses 7-10)
We are able to identify the “In Him” in verse 7 by looking back at how verse 6 ends. There we see the phrase, “in the Beloved.” This is an obvious reference to Jesus, who on two occasions during His lifetime—at His baptism and at His transfiguration—is called by God the Father, “my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 and 17:5). Here we are told that “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
Before we begin probing into this verse, notice first of all that what Paul is describing here is a present tense possession for those who are “in Christ.” The text says, “We have redemption...(and) forgiveness.” This is the effect of being included among the elect of God.
“Redemption” is an important New Testament word as it relates to our salvation. The term basically refers to “the release of someone from that which binds him.” In other words, “to set free.” It was used of the emancipation of slaves, usually through the payment of a ransom price. In its soteriological sense, it means “to release from the penalty of sin”...something that required an infinite price—“his blood,” shed through His sacrifice on the cross—to “redeem” those who were His.
The parallel phrase, “the forgiveness of our trespasses,” delineates what the “redemption” purchased by the death of Christ provided. There are a number of words in the Scriptures used to describe sin. The one found here—“trespasses”—refers to “a deviation from the right path.” It conjures up images of Isaiah’s familiar words that so vividly describe our waywardness from God: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). And then the prophet adds those blessed words that prefigure what Paul tells us here: “And the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
All of this, Paul reminds us was “according to the riches of his grace.” Six times in Ephesians he speaks of God’s “riches” toward those who are His. I remind you that this reference is not to “material wealth,” but rather to the “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” mentioned in verse 3, which even now are the possession of God’s people.
Amazingly, such blessings are said to be “lavished upon us” in verse 8. That rarely used word means “to give in abundance,” “to profusely give”...holding nothing back. Our God is not “tight-fisted” when it comes to His giving to those who are His. And here we are told that He gives to us with “with all wisdom and insight.” What this suggests is that the Lord longs for us to understand just what it is that we possess. This implies that He wants us to see things as they really are and to order our thoughts, words, and behaviors in a discerning way. Further observe that this understanding is something that God gives to us as believers, but in order for it to be effective it must be cultivated. You don’t become knowledgeable of any subject apart from study and practice. The same is true when it comes to understanding the things of God. You don’t learn Scripture by purchasing a Bible. That Book has to be opened, read, studied, meditated upon, and prayed over before God’s thoughts begin to become your thoughts.
An aspect of what the Lord wants us to know is called in verse 9, “the mystery of his will.” Paul refers to “the mystery” some fifteen times in his epistles, nearly half of those in Ephesians. He speaks of it as a sacred truth that was previously unknown but has now been made known. With regard to “the mystery” referred to here, we are informed that it is “according to his purpose (or ‘good pleasure,’ a phrase we find frequently in Ephesians), which he set forth (or ‘purposed’) in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” There is a lot to observe here.
First, God is now revealing something of His eternal plan that even the Old Testament prophets could only see dimly.
Secondly, with the advent of Jesus Christ, the revelation of that aspect of God’s plan was set in motion.
Third, the “purpose” and “plan” of God—including the revelation of “the mystery”—encompasses what is referred to as “the fullness of time.” Paul employed a similar phrase in Galatians 4:4 in reference to the birth of Christ. In both places, the meaning seems to have reference to the precise timing and nature of God’s plan for the ages. In other words, He providentially determines the “what’s” and “when’s” of history—including its climax—according to His sovereign purpose.
But it is the fourth observation that provides clarity in understanding “the mystery,” as well as gives us its ultimate purpose. We see in verse 10 that it is “to unite all things in him (that is, in Christ), things in heaven and things on the earth.” Because we live in an age of exaggerated hyperbole, let me try and explain what God wants us to understand.
The word “unite” literally means “to gather together under one head.” The only other place it is found in Scripture is in Romans 13:9, where Paul says that all of the commandments of God “are summed up” (that’s the term) in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Here in Ephesians 1:10, Paul is proclaiming that God is bringing “all things...things in heaven and things on earth” under the headship of Jesus Christ. The “summing up” of the totality of “all things” will take place on that coming day when we will discover that there is nothing over which Jesus does not reign as “King of kings and Lord of Lords” (1 Timothy 6:15 and Revelation 17:14, and 19:16). Or, as Abraham Kuyper was fond of saying, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”
That means that you and I fit into this glorious picture today. From all of eternity it has been the purpose of God to bring into being a company of men and women who would be in a particular sense His own possession. The assured fulfillment of that Divine purpose was accomplished when Jesus, “through his blood,” purchased the “redemption” of God’s elect. Therefore, you and I should be living every day of our lives with the perspective that history is running its course and one day—perhaps soon—eternity will dawn. And on that day, “all things” with be brought together with Jesus Christ as Head.
Oh, that we were able to see this with the clarity with which Paul saw. If we could, then we would not be able to contain ourselves in declaring “the praise of his glory.”
In addition to Him being praised because we have redemption,
God is to be praised because we have been made His inheritance (verses 11-12)
There is some disagreement as to how the first phrase of verse 11 should be translated. Most versions—including the English Standard—read, “In him we have obtained an inheritance.” But a number of them—such as the King James and the New American Standard versions—include a marginal readings that reflect what I believe to be the more accurate understanding. A preferred reading is, “In Him we were chosen to become an inheritance.” In other words, the emphasis in this verse is not on what we have obtained, but on what we have been designated to be: “We have been made His heirs.” This, I believe, is more in keeping with both the context and literary structure of this lengthy sentence, which began in verse 3. The nuance may seem minor, but it is significant because it emphasizes what accrues to God—rather than on what we receive—as a result of His choice of us.
I do not mean to belabor this point, but I do want to support biblically what I am suggesting, first with a New Testament example and then one from the Old Testament. In 1 Peter 2:9, we are told in similar language that the followers of Christ are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” And centuries earlier, the Lord spoke through Malachi the prophet saying, “They shall be mine...in the days when I make up my treasured possession” (Malachi 3:17). While it is true that Christians have received an inheritance—a fact that Paul will make direct reference to in verse 14—the emphasis here is on what God receives. To put it in concise terms, the Church has become His purchased possession. In a very real sense, we have become His “legacy.”
Stories of the early Moravian missionaries are both inspiring and challenging. Two young men sold themselves into slavery for the sole purpose of taking the Gospel to the West Indies. Family and friends attempted to dissuade them and stood at the dock with tears in their eyes as their loved ones boarded a ship that would take them to a destination from which they would never return. As the ship set sail, the young men were heard to say, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.” Would any among us deny that such selfless devotion to God was a rich and glorious heritage?
Such an “inheritance” is said to have been “predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” This is what might be referred to as “divine sovereignty on display in human history.” Whenever a person repents and turns to Christ in saving faith and wherever a new evangelical church is planted, God’s “inheritance” is enlarged and made visible. It is all part and parcel of His predetermined plan to gain “a people for his name” from among all nations (cf. Acts 15:14).
And that plan will succeed. F.F. Bruce has written that God’s “will may be disobeyed, but His ultimate purpose cannot be frustrated, for He overrules the disobedience of His creatures in such a way that it subserves His purpose.” God is zealous for His own glory, and nothing will keep “the counsel of his will” from being fulfilled.
So again we might ask how this specifically relates to us. The answer is given in verse 12, which begins with a purpose clause. God is working “all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” For a second time we are told that the ultimate purpose for all that God does is “the praise of his glory.” And here Paul is saying that those “who were the first to hope in Christ” contribute to the fulfillment of that goal.
The “we” in verse 12 stands in contrast with the “you also” in verse 13. We need to keep in mind that Paul, as a Jew, was writing to a group that would have been largely Gentile. Therefore, the “we,” in all likelihood refers to the Jews...those who were the first to receive the Gospel. The “you also,” then, would refer to Gentiles to whom the Gospel had come. We’ll explore that momentarily. Here in verse 12, the emphasis is upon the predetermined pattern by which God chose to call those from every people group to Himself. As Paul has written elsewhere, and as the Book of Acts demonstrates, “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16 cf. 2:9, 10).
The “grand narrative of Scripture” bears consistent witness to God’s sovereign oversight of His preordained plan. It is, therefore, no wonder that we are directed once again “to the praise of his glory.”
God is to be praised because we have redemption in Him. He is further to be praised because we have been made His heritage. Paul will conclude this section—this doxology of praise that began in verse 3—by reminding us that...
God is to be praised because we have received an inheritance (verses 13-14)
As we have just seen in verses 11 and 12, we have become God’s heritage. But here in verses 13 and 14 we learn also that we have obtained an “inheritance” in Him. To put it succinctly, not only have we become God’s “inheritance,” He has become ours!
Let’s read those two verses again: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
There are a number of things to note. As we have already observed, this “inheritance” cuts across ethnic lines. It is not just the possession of Jewish believers, but for men and women of every racial spectrum who are among the elect of God.
In addition, the terms “the word of truth” and “the gospel of your salvation” are parallel in meaning. To refer to one is to refer to the offer. In other words, “the gospel” is “the word of truth.” To “believe” that “word,” we are told, results in our being “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” The word “seal” denotes “authenticity,” “ownership,” and “authority. In ancient times, kings and other reigning officials would affix “seals” to documents in order to distinguish them from fakes and counterfeits. In a similar way, farmers and ranchers still “brand” their animals with a distinguishing mark to assure—should they wander off onto someone else’s land—their proper ownership.
For the believer, that “brand” or “seal” is the Holy Spirit. He is the distinguishing mark of every child of God. Indeed, as Paul writes in Romans 8:9, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” We would be deviating from Paul’s main point in this passage were we to expound further upon this topic this morning. Suffice it to say that the Scriptures teach that in a marvelous and incomprehensible way, the Spirit of God takes up residence and makes His home in the life of every person who comes to faith in Jesus Christ. His presence is “proof-positive” of true salvation. There is no such thing as a genuine believer who does not possess the Holy Spirit.
That being said, the Bible is clear that sinners who are redeemed by the blood of Christ can never lose their salvation. They are “sealed for the day of redemption,” as Paul will later tell us in chapter 4 (verse 30). “Sealed,” we might say, so that the new life He grants to them can never “leak out.” What this means practically is that those who are genuinely the elect of God will live lives of submissive obedience to His authority. They will consistently turn from sinful behaviors and manifest “the fruit of the Spirit,” of which Paul writes in Galatians 5(:22 and 23). That is the “proof” of salvation.
This assurance is further expanded upon in verse 14, where the Holy Spirit is referred to as “the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.” While the “inheritance” is “already” ours by virtue of our position “in Christ,” it is not yet ours to possess in full. That awaits “the day of redemption,” of which we earlier spoke. The term “acquire” is identical in Greek to the word translated “redemption” in verse 7. The “acquisition” or “redemption” of the “possession,” therefore, refers to our full release from the presence, power, and penalty of sin. Such a state, therefore, becomes our “inheritance.”
And what’s more, this “inheritance” is “guaranteed” to us by God Himself. The original word means “pledge,” “deposit,” or “downpayment,” assuring that the full amount will be “paid in full.” God’s gift of the Holy Spirit is the pledge and first payment for the full and final “inheritance” that will be granted to every one of His children.
Perhaps the best illustration I can give for this—and it is altogether appropriate because the Church is called “the Bride of Christ”—is an engagement ring. When a man asks for a woman’s hand in marriage, he is in essence pledging himself exclusively to her. The ring he gives to her, like the wedding band that will later follow, is a “pledge” or a “token” that he faithfully fulfill the vow he is making to her. That illustration, of course, breaks down if we extend it far enough. Human commitments are frequently broken, but God is faithful to fully carry out the commitment to those with whom He binds Himself.
Therefore, once again, we declare “ the praise of His glory”...meaning this: the glory of God is the final goal in the unfolding plan of redemption.
The period at the end of verse 14 marks the end of the lengthy single sentence that began in verse 3. As we noted last week, it is an extended eulogy or doxology to God which begins with an outburst of praise for all the blessings that He has bestowed on His chosen ones in Christ Jesus. That note of praise is sustained throughout this section by means of the recurring phrase, “to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:6, 12, and 14), which provides the “heart and soul” of the entire epistle.
It has been observed that every member of the Trinity is singled out in this passage. So, when we speak of “the praise of his glory,” we must of necessity include all three.
- Redemption, for example, is the work of the Son. It is “through his blood (His sacrificial death, that we have received), the forgiveness of our trespasses.” Therefore, we praise Him.
- The granting of the inheritance is the work of the Father. It is He “who works all things according to the counsel of his (own) will.” It is He who elected, predestined, and adopted us as sons. Therefore, we praise Him.
- And the sealing or “the guarantee of our inheritance” is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is He who first drew us to Christ and imparted new life to our dead hearts and sight to our spiritually blind eyes. Therefore, we praise Him.
One of the lesser known works of Charles Spurgeon is a book entitled Chequebook on the Bank of Faith. In it Spurgeon shares brief devotional thoughts for everyday of the year, each one drawing on a promise of God. He implores the reader to consider each promise as a “blank check,” waiting to be endorsed by faith.
In today’s text, I find no fewer than six “checks” that are present realities for every follower of Jesus Christ, just waiting to be cashed any and every day at the “bank of heaven.”
- “In him we have redemption through his blood.”
- In Him we have “the forgiveness of our trespasses.”
- In Him we have “all wisdom and insight...(to know) the mystery of his will.”
- “In him we have obtained (and become) an inheritance.”
- In Him we have been “sealed” and secured with the mark of His ownership.
- And in Him we have been given His “guarantee” that we will fully possess all the He has promised.
It is a known fact that banks, brokerage firms, life insurance companies, employers, and government agencies are holding billions of dollars that have gone unclaimed by lawful heirs entitled to inherit them. In December 2012 the body of a homeless man named Timothy Henry Gray was found under a railroad bridge in Evanston, Wyoming by a group of children who were sled-riding. The cause of death was hypothermia. What no one realized at the time was that Mr. Gray had been a long-searched for heir to a family fortune worth nearly 300 million dollars. No one in the family had heard from him in more than twenty years. He had lived each day hand-to-mouth, unaware that He had stood to inherit millions.
As regrettable as that story is, it is even more tragic how many go through life oblivious to the fact that God has provided an eternal inheritance to those who receive the gift of “redemption” and “forgiveness” from sin through faith in Jesus Christ. God doesn’t want any of us to fail to claim our “inheritance” “in Christ.”
Paul doesn’t actually move into the application part of this letter until chapter 4, but it is not too early for you and I to assess our position as His heirs. So, let’s step back for and ask whether we are ordering our lives each day with our “inheritance” in mind.
How much time do you spend each week saturating yourself in the Scriptures, communing with the Lord in prayer, and building into the lives of your fellow church members, as well as those outside of Christ? To say you “don’t have time” just may indicate where your priorities lie. Could it be that your priorities need to be restructured?
How much of your income are you investing in the Kingdom? Are you aware that the “bank of heaven” pays out a much higher interest rate than any earthly financial institution or enterprise? Are you truly laying up treasures in heaven, or are you instead content to give God “what’s left” after you have taken care of your own needs and wants?
And finally, how much of your energy and compassion are going toward you personally telling others of the inheritance that can be theirs by turning from sin and embracing the Christ who has redeemed us by His blood? Were we honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that we let opportunities to make Him known slip between our fingers everyday. Soon the day of opportunity will be past and the “inheritance” will be divided among God’s heirs. Fellow saints, you and I have no time to waste. Now is the time to live “to the praise of his glory.”