Lesson 3: The Basis of Salvation
Ephesians 1:2, 3
It seems that nearly everybody in the world today is concerned with identity, self worth and self acceptance. One author has accurately described this phenomenon as “The Search for Significance.” In fact, not only are adults concerned about this subject, in recent years they have even brought their children into it. In many schools today a major emphasis is on convincing the students that they are great; that they can achieve anything they set their minds to. And it has even gotten beyond the classroom and moved out onto the playgrounds and athletic fields. Many children’s’ athletic organizations don’t even keep score in their games because they don’t want the children to experience the disappointment of losing. And I’m sure that most of us have heard of sports teams in which everybody gets a trophy because the adults want every child to “feel like a winner.”
Dale Carnegie, with his seminars on “How to Win Friends and Influence People” pioneered this genre 50 years ago and he would probably be shocked to see how many others have followed his lead. One of the best selling books on the market a number of years ago was entitled “I’m Okay; Your Okay.” How profound! (And what a simple way to settle the whole matter.) But it should be no surprise, because most of these programs are just sophisticated ways of saying that whatever you want to do is all right after all!
But the problem with almost all of these seminars and books is that they are developed and taught by people who either don’t know, or deliberately ignore, the one true source of information on the subject. And that is a shocking oversight, because the information has been readily available from time immemorial. And the passage of scripture at which we are going to look in this installment of our study of Ephesians is going to tell us about the only way a person can achieve a true sense of self worth, meaning, and significance.
Many people find their significance in the people they know, or the company they work for, or the number of famous or important people they know. I even had a man tell me proudly how many names of important people he had on the “speed-dial” function of his cell phone! I mention that partly because it so sad, but also because the verses we are going to look at in this section of chapter one tells us about something that is the opposite of that man’s collection of important names.
The first section of the chapter gives us “an extension of salutations” (or greetings) in verses one and two. And thus far in our study we have talked about “the writer of the greetings” and “the recipients of the greetings.” Now in this section we are going to see
“the riches in the greetings.” Look at verse two:
“Grace to you, and peace, from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now if you are familiar with the New Testament you will recognize these words as the greetings that Paul frequently gives to his readers. But let’s not brush them off just because they are familiar to us, because they are very significant. They are significant, first of all from a theological standpoint. “Grace” is the foundation of all that God has given us. Some teacher whose name has been lost in history has summarized it (although it is only a summary) with an “acrostic” as “God’s Righteousness At Christ’s Expense.” Because Jesus Christ was willing to die for our sins we have a personal relationship with the God of the universe! And because of that we can have peace (the other word in the greeting) under all circumstances. But these two words are not just theological words, they are intensely practical words too. Interestingly enough both of these words were common greetings in Paul’s day. And in using both of them to address the recipients of this letter Paul is taking two words that were as common as one of our “slang” greetings such as “How are you?” Or “How’s it going?” And investing them with two of our most precious possessions as Christians – the peace that we have because all of our sins have been forgiven, and in addition, God himself has promised to meet all of our future needs of every kind. In fact, Romans 8:15 tells us that because of God’s grace we can call him “daddy!” and Hebrews 4:16 says that we can come boldly before his throne and ask for anything we need. Now that’s real grace! And it brings peace!
Now that completes “Paul’s extension of Salutations” in verses 1 and 2. But the second section of the chapter is more technical, but also very practical and important. It is “An examination of Salvation“, which we find in verses 3 through 14. An interesting thing about these verses is that they are all one sentence in the Greek text, and it is the longest sentence in the entire New Testament! And in that one long sentence we have the outline of God’s over-all purpose for the church, past present and future. Someone has said that history is “His Story” of the ages and the universe. Another interesting thing about these verses is that each section of the sentence deals with a specific person of the trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Verses 3 through 6a deal with the Father. He is the originator of the plan of salvation. Or to put it in more secular terms we might call it “the blueprint of salvation.” Then verses 6b through 12 deal with the Son. And he is “the basis of our salvation.” And verses 13 and 14 deal with the Holy Spirit, who is “the badge of our salvation.”
Now with that as a background of this section of the chapter, let’s look at “the blueprint of salvation,” which is detailed in verses 3 through 6:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed
us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (4) just as He
chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy
and without blame before Him in love. (5) Having predestined us to adoption
as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
(6) to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted
in the Beloved.”
Lets look first at the Father; the giver of the blueprint, in verse three. And the very first thing mentioned about Him is “the praise” which should be given to Him. The word “blessed” is a
translation of a Greek word from which we get the English word Eulogy, which means “to speak well of, to praise or commend.” Unfortunately we tend to think of this word only in terms of a funeral. But it is perfectly legitimate to give a “eulogy” to a living person (and we don’t do it often enough.) And that is exactly what Paul is doing here. Goodness is God’s very nature. He not only does what is good, He is good in a way that human beings cannot be. As a result it is a natural thing for Godly men from Genesis to Revelation to praise Him. In Genesis 14:20 a priest by the name of Melchizadek said “blessed be God most high.” And Revelation 5:13 says that in heaven every created being will say “to Him who sits on the throne, and to the lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” Nothing is more appropriate for God’s people than to bless Him for His great goodness. Ray Steadman has said, “In all things, whether difficult or easy, pleasant or unpleasant we are to praise him, because He is good in the midst of it all.
Verse 3 not only brings out “His praise,” but in the last part of the verse and going on through verse 5, we read of “His provision.” First notice the summary of His provisions that is given in the last part of verse 3:
[Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ] “Who has blessed
us with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
Notice particularly the word “spiritual” in this verse. When we speak of blessings, our tendency is to think in terms of material blessings. But while God does give us material blessings the most important blessings that He can give us are in the area of spiritual blessings. Let’s think for a moment about some of these “spiritual blessings”: Romans 5:5 says that the “love” of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. And John14:27 says “My peace” I give unto you. And in John 15:11 Jesus said “These things I have spoken to you that my joy might be in you and that your “joy” might be full.”
In a similar vein Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” In fact Second Peter 1:13 says that God’s divine power has given to us “all things that pertain to godliness.” Now think about this: The most abundant physical and material blessings would not mean anything if we didn’t have love and joy and strength, would they? So the real blessings in life are the spiritual ones. Then at the end of the verse there are two qualifying phrases: first the phrase “in heavenly places” and then “in Christ.” Some have said, “Well then, those blessings won’t do me any good until I get to heaven.” But you need to know that the word “heavenly” is not in the best manuscripts, so literally it should read “in the heavenlies.” And that is an adjective describing the blessings: they are blessings related to heaven. So the point is the same as the one above: spiritual blessings are what make any material blessings that we have worthwhile. The giving of material blessings differs from person to person and situation to situation, and God has His perfect reasons for giving them as He does. And He gives them to the poorest believer and the wealthiest; to the most highly educated and to the most illiterate. But the bottom line is that God is allowing us to enjoy some of the blessings of heaven in advance!
Now I said that there are two qualifying phrases to these blessings. We have just been talking about the first one, they are “heavenly blessings.” But the second qualifying phrase is perhaps the
most important: it is the phrase “in Christ.” These blessings come to us when we take Him as our savior.
One of the funniest movies I ever saw was about a builder who was offering three bedroom, two bathroom houses for $1,000. Customers couldn’t believe it. They flocked to his development. But the excitement would die down when a salesman would give a tour of the model homes on display. The houses had no windows! To which the salesman would say, “Oh, you wanted windows? No problem! We can install as many windows as you want for only $500 apiece. And the tour went on like that throughout the house. “Oh, you wanted doors?”; “No problem!” “Oh, you wanted a sink in the bathrooms and the kitchen? You wanted electricity? No problem!” What a wonderful contrast to our salvation. All of these blessings we have been talking about come with our salvation at no extra charge” as advertisers like to say. They are “in Christ.”
This little phrase “in Christ” occurs 87 times in the New Testament. And almost every time it is in reference to some blessing that is “in Him.” And nine of those blessings are right here in Ephesians. They include: (1) The unity of believers in 1:10; (2) “Exceeding great power,” in 1:19,20 (3) A seat in heavenly places; 2:6 (4)”Divine kindness towards us” in 2:7; (5) Being His workmanship in 2:10; (6) made near to God in 2:13 (7) Fellow heirs with Gentiles in 3:6 (8) An eternal purpose for us in 3:11; and (9) Forgiveness of sin in 4:32.
So many people have the idea that God is some far away, distant being who is a total mystery. And it is true that our human minds cannot begin to picture the holiness and the majesty that surround Him. But what is even more amazing is that in reality these verses tell us that He is our loving Father who welcomes us into His presence!