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Ephesians - Part 2

"Praise The Lord! - Part 1"

by David Legge | Copyright © 2000 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com

Ephesians 1:3-6
  1. Praise The Lord For Blessings (verse 3)
  2. Praise The Lord For Election (verse 4)
  3. Praise The Lord For Predestination (verse 5)
  4. Praise The Lord For Christ (verse 6)
'Preach The Word'
Paul is homing in on the doctrine of what Christ has done, what God has done for His world through the Lord Jesus Christ

Now let's come to the word of God and turn with me to the book of Ephesians, we've studied two verses of this little book so far - and I'll confess to you before we begin that I intended studying verses 3 through to 14, because if you have a Bible that splits the passages up into sections with themes you will see that verses 3 to 14, is a theme, it's a section of itself. But I couldn't do that, and then I tried verses 3 to 6 and I intended up to today to doing that, but I couldn't do that either. We're only looking at verse 3 and 4 this evening, there is so much in this little book, so much in these verses, that I think it would be wrong of me to pass by the riches that we have in our Lord Jesus Christ.

So let's look at chapter 1 of the book of Ephesians and we'll take time reading the whole of this section together, beginning at verse 3: "Blessed be God the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the wellbeloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory".

Let's read those two verses again that we are going to study this evening, verses 3 and 4: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love".

We said at the first week of our study in the book of Ephesians that chapter 1 is split up into two sections, if you just look at it for a moment. You see in verses 3 to 14, the passage that we read together this evening, praise of spiritual possessions that we have in Christ. In other words Paul is writing here, and he is writing and there is an outflowing, an overflowing of praise to God for the possessions that we all possess in Christ if we're in Him by faith. And then in weeks to come we'll see, verses 15 to 23, look down at it, there's not praise for spiritual possession but there is prayer for spiritual perception - an overflowing of prayer. From Paul's spirit of an outpouring of praise, he falls on his knees before God and he asks God that in the light of all that he has in Christ that he would come into the realisation, the reality, of the riches of God's grace in Christ. Now, as in previous Pauline letters in the New Testament, we saw a few weeks ago in verses 1 and 2 that this letter starts in the same way as any letter in these days was written. It begins by the writer's name, then it says who he is writing to, then he gives a salutation in verse 2: 'Grace be to you and peace from God our Father'. And then in the line of the style of writing of those days of a letter, Paul continues and he writes, in verse 3, a blessing, a wish that he has for all the readers.

You see we are the primary movers in our world, everything centres around us and moves around us, and we think the world rotates around us - but, oh, that we would get our eyes off ourselves and get them fastened on Christ!

Now in those days, if it was an ordinary letter, the writer perhaps would wish for good health, for wealth, for whole well-being for the person receiving the letter. But we see in verse 3 that Paul is not writing about physical health, Paul is not writing about financial riches, but Paul is writing about the spiritual blessings that we all have in heavenly places in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Like all of Paul's letters the first section is doctrinal, and then the second section is practical and we're going to focus in this evening on the beginning of the section verse 3 to 14, where Paul is homing in on the doctrine of what Christ has done, what God has done for His world through the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 3 to 14 is a blessing. Verse 15 to 16 is a thanksgiving. Verse 17 to 20 is an intercessory prayer. But this section that we're going to look at this evening, verse 3 through to 14, it contains one of the most glorious and most symmetrical doxologies to be found in the Holy Scriptures.

If you have a Bible that breaks the passage up into paragraphs - and I would advise you to get one of those at least - you'll see that this section, verse 3 to 14, is split up into three poetical stanzas. Each concludes by a repetition of the phrase that we find in verse 6: 'To the praise of the glory of His grace'. Then look at verse 12: 'That we should be to the praise of the glory of His grace'. Verse 14: 'Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory'. And each of these sections emphasises a different reason that we, as the children of God in Christ, should praise our God. Each of these sections emphasises a different Person of the blessed holy Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In its scope it covers the entire sweep of redemption from the beginning, before time in the election of God, to the total consummation of redemption in the receiving of our inheritance, when the world is burnt up and a new world comes to pass.

Now, I want you to note that while most English translations don't show this, this section from verse 3 right through to verse 14 is an unusually long sentence. In the Greek New Testament there is no punctuation of a full stop, from verse 3 right through to 14 there is this glorious sentence full of rhythm, recurring phrases, exalted theology - making this doxology one of the greatest of Paul's writings and indeed in the word of God, totally. It is a hymn of exalted praise and majesty to God, the God of our salvation. Now I want you to notice this, that Paul's worship in verses 3 to 14 is theocentric. What does that mean? 'Theo' means God, 'centric' means central - and all of his worship, his praise and his adoration had God in focus, he was looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of his faith. He wasn't taken up with his problems, he wasn't taken up with his circumstances - and remember that, as Paul is writing here, he's in prison in Rome - but he is so taken up with God - and that is worship! - that he forgets about himself. He concentrates on Him and he worships Him. Oh, that we would get there - a change of perspective. You see we are the primary movers in our world, everything centres around us and moves around us, and we think the world rotates around us - but, oh, that we would get our eyes off ourselves and get them fastened on Christ! I hope that as we study this book that we'll go out with such a Damascus road vision of the Saviour that we will sing as we go in worship and praise and adoration to His name.

Can you not see it? Can you not see Paul on his knees, with the chains around his arms and his feet, crying to God?

Genesis, the first book in the Bible, is a book of beginnings. Matthew is the book of the Kingdom. Galatians is the book of freedom. But Ephesians is the book of the Christian's riches in Christ Jesus. I want you to see this, that lovely figure of a man, bruised and beaten, hanging upon a Roman gibbet, expiring on the tree, in agony, in sweat and blood, the God-man dying for sins - and when He bows His head and gives up the ghost, He leaves a will for you and for me. I believe the book of Ephesians is that written will of the dying Son of God. All the riches, the blessings, the treasures that we have in Him!

Let's look at them this evening. Verse 3 is the first thing that we're going to look at. I've entitled my message, 'Praise the Lord!' - and we're going to praise the Lord for the blessings that we find in verse 3. Let's read it slowly together, and look at every word as you're reading it: 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ'. Verse 3, it's the phrase, it's the part of this passage that the rest of the chapter revolves around. Someone has said that in its structure, its poetical structure, it is a state of controlled ecstasy. Can you not see it? Can you not see Paul on his knees, with the chains around his arms and his feet, crying to God? 'Blessed be God for the blessings that He has given to me in Christ Jesus our Lord, praise Him!'

Notice it says: 'Blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ'. Now this blessing, 'Blessed be God', in Old Testament days was used exclusively of God the Father. You might find it in the Old Testament, and the Jews even today use it: 'Blessed be God, blessed be God'. It's a typical introduction to a Jewish ascription of praise to God Almighty. But here look at it: 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ'. Distinctively Paul, as he gives this blessing, makes it a Christian blessing. The God who blesses the Jews in the past is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you were to look at a Hebrew version of the book of Ephesians you would find that it's written in the form of a Jewish blessing, this passage that we're looking at, a Jewish beracah. And here Paul is taking the form of a song and a prayer of praise that the Jews used to 'blessed God' and he uses it to 'blessed God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ'. And if you go into the book of Deuteronomy you will find that the beracah, the Jewish blessing, 'blessed be God', is used usually and primarily for material blessings and possessions. It was used for material blessings such as long life, abundant crops, protection from enemies. But Paul here, in his overflow and outflow of praise, exclusively praises God for all spiritual blessings in Christ - blessings that were achieved by the death and by the resurrection of our glorious Lord. Now I want you to see this: God blesses us with all spiritual blessings! And because God blessed Paul with everything that he talks about in this chapter in the book, he turns around and responds to bless God!

There is a deficiency of praise in our world today, in our church...but, oh, if we are receiving from God blessings from heaven itself, should we not praise Him? Should we not bless Him?

There is a deficiency of praise in our world today, in our church. You don't hear the 'hallelujahs' as much, you don't hear the 'praise the Lords' and the 'Amens'. But, oh, if we are receiving from God blessings from heaven itself, should we not praise Him? Should we not bless Him? 'Blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ', now see the next bit, 'Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places' - He has blessed us with blessings. John Paul Geddy (sp?) is one of the richest men in the world. Do you know how much he's worth? 1.3 billion. The weekly income of some of the oil sheiks runs into the millions week after week. Yet all those are pennies compared to the riches that Paul exhorts us to praise God for that we have in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Harry Ironside was asked on one occasion, 'Have you got the second blessing?', and he answered saying this: 'My friend, I'm into the tens and the hundreds of thousands of blessings'. Because we are in Christ, and our God when He sees Christ He doesn't give us little, He doesn't give us a bit now and a little bit later, but He gives everything, because He gives us Christ. Now it's one thing to have the blessings and it's another thing, an entirely different thing, to make those blessings yours. Think of it, the robe of righteousness, that  when God looks at you - and once you were full of sin, covered from head to toe with sores putrefying, oozing, before the face of a holy God because of your iniquity and your transgression - now when He looks on you in Christ, you're as pure as the driven white snow. Praise be to God for the robe of righteousness in our Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to God for our heavenly citizenship that we have. Praise be to God that we don't need to get entangled with all the nonsense in Ulster and the world, because we're of another country! Our citizenship is in heaven, in glory. Think of it, we have a place, we have a purpose and we ought to have a practice, within the body of the living Christ, the church. What a blessing to be heirs with all the riches that are in Christ Jesus our Lord, yet some of us - me included - live like paupers when we should be like millionaires.

Look at the verse again. What kind of blessings are these? 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places', or better translated, 'heavenly realms'. Do you know where your proper home is? If you're in Christ your proper home is heaven. Hard to think of it sometimes, isn't it? But you will never be at home until you are in heaven, for wherever Christ is, wherever God is, that is your home. It might seem strange because we've never seen it - but do you know what God has done? One of His greatest spiritual blessings in Christ is: He has come in, and He has implanted within the depths of our being, a new nature - a new person in Christ Jesus that can never ever be at home in this awful world. Isn't that why, when you walk along life's path, and when you look at the television, and when you read the newspaper and you see things that turn your stomach and there's like a tug at the string of your heart heavenward, because there is someone in you, a nature that you have, that can never be at home here.

If you look at the book of Ephesians, you see that this subject of the heavenly realms is intrinsic to the whole of the message, you see it in verse 3. Look at verse 20 of chapter 1, talking of the blessings and the power of His greatness towards us: 'Which he wrought', verse 20, 'in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places'. What blessings do we have in Christ in heavenly places? The blessing of a resurrected, eternal life with Christ - sure we could spend all night on that! In chapter 2 and verse 6 you see another one: 'And [he] hath raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus' - that we have actually a citizenship and by our spirits we can rise heavenward, though we don't do it in body, we can be there in fellowship with Christ. Look at chapter 3 and verse 10: 'To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God', we have victory over the demons and the devil because we are in heavenly places with Christ. Chapter 6 and verse 12: 'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high', or heavenly, 'places'. Our battle, our war, our struggle is in the heavenlies, but praise God we have Christ on our side!

Our battle, our war, our struggle is in the heavenlies, but praise God we have Christ on our side!

Do you remember the Lord in the upper room? In John chapter 14, and He looked into the disciples that He loved and what did He say? 'I go to prepare a place for you'. I've heard it said: 'That place is being prepared now for us. If God took six days to create the world what's that place going to be like when He's taken 2000 years to prepare heaven for us?'. But, my friend, that's not the case, you see the Lord said to those disciples: 'I go to prepare a place for you', and that place is not being prepared, but that place today is ready - because the Lord Jesus was saying: 'I go the way of death and resurrection to prepare a place for you'. And now He has died, and now He has risen again and that place is prepared, as it ever will be, because our place is where Christ is.

Do you remember when God created the world? The Lord Jesus Christ, who was His instrument and indeed the Person who created all that we see around us, in His creation Christ fitted His creatures for the environment that they were to inhabit. He gave the birds of the air feathers and wings so that they could fly. He gave the fish of the sea scales and gills so that they could breathe. But God - Ephesians says - God is doing and has done a new thing, for He is able by His grace to take the filthy, vile sinner out of his environment and change him miraculously inside to take him to a new environment! How we are blessed. And we are called by Paul, and I call each of you - I hope by the Spirit of God - to this evening rise and every day from now on, rise by our spirits to our heavenly citizenships and draw upon the resources there for you and I to conquer day by day.

Have you ever heard it said after a great prayer meeting, maybe the man that's closing the meeting will pray and say, 'Lord, we thank You that we were in heavenly places this evening and we felt that we were there!'. That man knows little about it. You see we consider ourselves in heavenly places when we feel that we're in heavenly places. But, friends this evening, it's got nothing to do with feeling. Paul says, 'We are, God hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings'. It's not a question of feeling, it's a question of fact. You might say, 'David I don't feel like I'm in heavenly places, I feel like I'm in hell!'. It doesn't matter what you feel, what matters is this: that if God the Father has given His only begotten Son at the cross at Calvary for you to save you, how much more shall He not freely give us all things! And one of the things that He gives you is this: everything! There is not a thing that He will or He can withhold from you.

Now I want you to see that the apostles as they wrote the New Testament, they were men and they were men inspired by God. But I wonder whether Paul in this cell, was groping in his vocabulary and language for a phrase that would describe what it was to have such a rich relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We would have come up with all the theological phrases of the day, maybe we couldn't have come up with anything, maybe wrote a book on it. Look what he calls it: 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ'. Doesn't that epitomize it all? It sums it all up. That we can have nothing, nothing in this Christian life without Christ. God has blessed us by giving us and by putting us in Christ. There's no stronger identification than to say that we are in Christ. Because it means that Christ is our environment. Like Patrick of old could say, 'Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ beside me, Christ above me, Christ beneath me, Christ in me, Christ outside me'. You see it's more than the indwelling Christ. It's more than the Christ the size of an inch that fits in your heart - but it means that your whole being, your whole existence, your whole environment is Christ.

Can I ask you are you living as Christ is your environment? Do the things that you do fit in with Christ around you?

If you're sure you're in Christ this evening, can I ask you are you living as Christ is your environment? Do the things that you do fit in with Christ around you? With Christ above you? With Christ behind you and before you, seeing all that you - and bringing, as Paul says in Corinthians, Christ into what you are doing? But let us not look at that. Let us look at the security and the controlled ecstasy of knowing that because I am saved, I am anchored in Christ. Praise the Lord! Let's hear it. Praise the Lord for His blessings!

Well here's a strange one: praise the Lord for election. I don't know what all the smiling's about, but verse 4, look at it: 'According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love'. This, believe it or not, is one of the spiritual blessings that we have in Christ. But when you read that, perhaps as a Christian, you wince at the word 'election' - because in our language, election conjures up some ideas in our mind. It suggests merit to us, it suggests value, it maybe even suggests votes - that the person that achieves more will be the person that will be elected. It suggests accomplishment. Well, in the Greek language and within the context of the Old and the New Testament, this word 'chose' in the Greek language is in the aorist tense. That means this: it means that what God is talking about here, how He hath chosen us in Christ, that it is a once for all action, never to be repealed. It has before it in the New Testament in Greek, a prefix, preposition the word 'ek' (sp?), it means 'out of'. So if you put the two together you have this sense, 'chosen once for all out of' - and it is in the middle voice in Greek, which has the sense of choosing for ones self. Put it all together and you get this: chosen out of the world, chosen once for all, chosen to be God's own as a peculiar treasure.

Now we're going to spend a little bit of time understanding this doctrine. What does it mean to be chosen? I've already said that I've tried to deal with too many verses this evening, so what I did was, I took out of the twelve or so verses - eleven - I took two verses, and we're now looking at one verse out of the passage, and that is the literal meaning, that one has been taken out of the many - chosen. Now don't think of this word negatively, because Paul in the language and in the context, literally speaking, of this verse is speaking positively, because he says: 'we are chosen in Him'. He is speaking positionally. We are rooted and grounded in Christ. He speaks chronologically of this choosing: that this choosing was before the foundation of the world. And he also speaks of the purpose of this choosing: that we that are chosen should be holy and without blame in the sight of God.

Now, I want you to praise the Lord for election. And therefore I want you to see this: that the person perhaps you are sitting beside, or the person that has gone on to glory before you, you're life's companion, that is a person that you have chosen to be with you, to go with you all the way of this life. But think of it - wonder of wonders, God has chosen us! He has chosen us to have the atmosphere of love, the atmosphere of kindness, compassion, the atmosphere of His love. And whatever you do - and you may go away this evening not agreeing with what I'm going to teach on this - but whatever you do, go away rejoicing in this fact: that somehow, no matter what way you want to put it, God has chosen you...and you are special to God. You are valued to God, you mean something to God!

God has chosen you...and you are special to God. You are valued to God, you mean something to God!

But we must deal with the problems that this doctrine portrays for us. If you were to turn - and we haven't time to look at these verses - but if you were to turn to 1 Thessalonians 2 verse 13, you would find this: that the Bible teaches that God chooses men for salvation. That is in the word of God, 1 Thessalonians 2:13. It also teaches that we are elect according to the foreknowledge of God, 1 Peter 1 verse 2. It then goes on to teach that those who fear and believe the Gospel can know for sure that they are the elect of God in the Christ of God, 1 Thessalonians 1 verse 4 to 7. You can't refute it. You can't get around it, it is there, it may be uncomfortable for our puny minds to think about it, but it's there. But let me say this, the Bible never and nowhere teaches that God chose men to be lost. God never condemns men that deserve to be saved. Did you get that? God never condemns men who deserve to be saved, because there are none.

If I had half a dozen eggs and I got one of the brethren to go up to the choir box there, and he opened a box of eggs and I came below - now many of you might love to do this - but, I came below, and he threw all the half dozen eggs over the choir box and I caught two. What way would you describe what has happened? Would you say David Legge broke four eggs? Did he? David Legge saved two. And in the same way we can never say that God chooses to condemn men, because we are all condemned! We'll all done under sin, lost, all on our way to hell, but God saves some in His mercy.

Now we have to understand this. Let's turn to Romans chapter 9 - looks like I'm not even going to get through these two verses - Romans chapter 9 and verse 22: 'What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction' - speaking of lost Israel - 'and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory', notice the difference verse 22, verse 23. He says that the vessels prepared unto glory were prepared afore time. He doesn't say that of those fitted for destruction. He may choose those that are saved, God prepares them for glory, that is true. But if they're damned, they fitted themselves for it.

Can I say this? Do you see election as a blessing? Now be honest. Because Paul saw it as a blessing, that's why he was coming in praise within this book, he saw it so much. Someone has said that election is one of the most hated doctrines and words of the whole Bible. But the hymnwriters could praise about election, listen to some of them:-

'Tis not that I did choose Thee,
For Lord that could not be.
This heart would still refuse Thee,
But Thou hast chosen me'.

'Jesus sought me, when a stranger
Wandering far from the fold of God.
He to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood'.

What is the doctrine of election? Two little boys were talking in the playground and one came up to the other and said, 'Have you found Jesus yet?'. And the reply from the other boy was this, 'I didn't know He was lost. But I was and Jesus found me'.

D.L. Moody used to say in his own quaint way: 'The whosoever will are the elect and the whosoever won'ts are the non-elect'

Isn't that what it is? Like He said to the disciples: 'Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you'. If it wasn't for God we'd still be in our sins. He was the first mover in all of redemption. Spurgeon said, 'God certainly must have chosen me before I came into this world or He never would have done it afterwards'. Bunyan said this - boy, he rejoiced in it! - 'Oh, the Lamb of God! He had a whole Heaven to Himself, myriads of angels to do His bidding, but those could not satisfy Him, He must have sinners to share it with Him'.

You say, I don't understand this doctrine, well neither do I. But do you know what God says to you and to me? He says, 'My thoughts are not your thoughts. And your ways, Christian - no matter how intelligent you are - are not My ways'. Someone has said that the truth of election - what we're looking at this evening - is a family secret within the church of Jesus Christ. It's not something that you present to the world. The Lord said, 'Don't cast your pearls before swine', you're not to proclaim it as part of the Gospel in that sense. But it's something that God whispers into the ears of His beloved: 'You were Mine before the world was'.

Let me illustrate it for you. It may seem like a contradiction, it may seem that it doesn't make sense at all. But I want you to see this, in all that we study in election throughout this book, throughout the word of God, I want to say this categorically: the same Bible that teaches the sovereign election of God of His saints, is the Bible that teaches human responsibility. No one can use - and I know some people that do use the doctrine of election as an excuse that they're not saved. No church or Christian can use the doctrine of election for not preaching the Gospel of God's grace, because God makes a bona fide offer of salvation to all men everywhere, every man can be saved by repenting from his sins and believing the Gospel - and if he is lost, he is lost because he chooses to be so. Now I believe the both of them and you might say how can I - I don't know how I can, but I believe them. If you think for a moment of a broad road and it leads to destruction and they're all going down it on their way to hell and there's one man Evangelist, he's standing with his hands clasped. He is shouting, 'Repent!'. He shouts, 'Whosoever will may be saved, whosoever will let him drink of the water of life freely. Whosoever will let him come'. But they all go headlong into hell and they are responsible and most of them don't come, and he shouts 'Ye will not come that ye might have life'. But then there's one or two and they turn and they walk through that door that says: 'If any man', whosoever will may come through that door. But you see them going in and then when they go in through that door and they shut the door behind them, they find written inside the door: 'Chosen, before the foundation of the world'. You see he couldn't see it until he got inside.

D.L. Moody used to say in his own quaint way: 'The whosoever will are the elect and the whosoever won'ts are the non-elect'. And if you trust Christ you can know, you can know that you're chosen of God. Never use it as an excuse not to be saved. But as we sit here as Christians, looking at the riches that we have in Christ, I implore to you, I plead to you, that you believe the both. Warren Wiersbe was given good advice by his professor when he said this: 'Try and explain election and you'll lose your mind. Try to explain it away and you'll lose your soul'.

Believe election! Believe it, it's in the word of God. Believe it and rejoice in it and realize that, although you don't understand it, it's a fact

I want us quickly - and we're going to take time to do this - Acts chapter 27 is a great illustration of how we must believe that God chooses men for salvation - how we know we cannot tell, we cannot work it out. Yet on the same, on the other hand, the other side of the coin, we have responsibility for trusting Christ. We haven't time to give the context and the background of the story here, but you'll know in Acts 27 Paul is sailing to Rome. He's about to be put in prison, the same prison that we're talking about in the book of Ephesians. But as he goes there's a great storm erupts in the sea and in verse 22 we see this, that Paul was given a word from the Lord and he turned to the men in the boat and he said: 'Now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee'. Now that was God's sovereign divinity speaking, that these men all in this boat would be saved and there's nothing that anything could do about it. The wind and the waves couldn't stop it. Paul's hand or their hands couldn't stop it. I understand that, don't you?

Now let's confuse ourselves a bit - verse 31. What happened was simply this: some of the men in the boat, some of the crew decided that they would have to save their lives and they got a little lifeboat, if you like, to escape with their lives and with their possessions. But Paul said to them in verse 31, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, 'Except these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved'. Now, work that one out! God said, 'There's not one of them going to be lost', and that's what God said to Christ, and that's what Christ said to God. 'All that the Father giveth Me will come to Me'. Now that's God's part. But then Paul turned to them and he said 'If you get out of this boat, like Christ is the vessel, if you ignore the way, you're responsible, God'll not save you'. Just like John 6, 'All that the Father giveth Me, will come to Me; and him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out'.

Oh, it's hard to explain, because you can't explain it. Well let me ask you, do you believe the Trinity? Do you? The mystery of the Trinity's on our side, isn't it? It's not on God's side. He understands it. So believe election! Believe it, it's in the word of God. Believe it and rejoice in it and realize that, although you don't understand it, it's a fact. And we need balance in this issue - how do you get balance? You're in the playground and there's a seesaw, or in physics you call it a fulcrum, there's a wee triangle in the middle and then there's the plank along it - how do you get balance? The wee child maybe you say, now you get balanced and she'll go up to the middle, the middle and sit on top of the middle, is that balance? No, you need one on either side of the same weight. And balance, in the relation to God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, is not meeting somewhere in the middle and denying both, it's believing both extremes and rejoicing in them. Like Spurgeon said, it's like a train track and the two lines run beside one another, God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. They run parallel, but they never ever meet, they never come together, you can't make sense out of them, but you need both of them for the train to run - and you need both of them for the Gospel to work.

Look quickly, that this election, it's in Him. And you're chosen, my friend, because God sees you in Christ. Because He has placed you in Christ. It's all of Him and because He is accepted, we are accepted and this is the mighty thing that I want to bring to your attention this evening: that we are chosen, elected to be holy and blameless in His sight. There might have been a time when somebody came up to you and said: 'You can be holy in God's sight', and you would've said: 'Come on! That's a quare laugh, me holy in God's sight?' Yes.

If you claim to be elected of God, are you beginning to live a holy and a blameless life?

The word used for 'blameless' in the Greek here is the word that was used of the Old Testament lamb, without blemish and without spot. It's the word used of Christ, the Lamb of God in the book of Peter, that He was a lamb without blemish and without spot. It's the word used in Ephesians chapter 5:27 where it describes the church being handed to Christ in the end of times, being handed without blemish and without spot. And one day we will be without blemish and without spot. But here's the thing that Paul is bringing to us now: that we can be without blemish in the sight of men and women today. That's what he said in Philippians 2:15, 'That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world'.

Now here's the catch: if you claim to be elected of God, are you beginning to live a holy and a blameless life? You can't have both, this talk about, 'Well, I can do what I like because God's elected me and saved me and I can live like a reprobate now', that's not in the word of God. Because you find in 2 Peter chapter 1 and verse 10 these words: 'Make your calling and election sure'. Make sure that you're saved, by the works that you do.

When young Victoria, when she was a child she was shielded from the fact that one day she would be the next monarch. And when she was let discover the fact for herself by her teachers and her parents, this is what she said: 'Then I must be good'. Her life from then on would be controlled by her position and by who she was. Brethren and sisters, you are children of the King, you're joint heirs with Christ. And even though you haven't entered into the heavenly throne room - just like the queen of England: even when she's absent from her throne, she's still the queen of England - and you are still blessed in heavenly places, even though you haven't got there yet!

Can you not say, 'Praise the Lord for election'. What love, what love. We often say it's a love that has no end, but you know it is a love that had no beginning because it was before the world began. An everlasting love and, as the word of God says, as high as the heavens are above the earth - and the astronomer is still trying to probe the limits of space, you can't make a scale model of the universe - no one knows the distance of the farthest star - and you can never use up the love of God.

'Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scrolls contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky'.

Don't miss Part 3 of 'Ephesians': "Praise The Lord! - Part 2"

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Transcribed by:
Judith Watkins
Preach The Word.
October 2000
www.preachtheword.com

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the second tape in his Ephesians series, titled "Praise The Lord - Part 1" - Transcribed by Judith Watkins, Preach The Word.

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