In this sermon Tim Giovanelli unpacks the next part of Ephesians as Paul talks about how we receive every spiritual blessing in Jesus Christ, how we are adopted into God’s family and Tim also tackles the subject of predestination!
Sermon by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday February 14 2021.
Ephesians Week 2
Last week we kicked off our new series in Ephesians… as Dan Field texted the Dad’s… “bring on the next
25 weeks!” Haha! So we looked at…
- Who were the Ephesians?
- Who was Paul? And his remarkable conversion story and ministry to the Ephesians.
- Finally, what was this impartation of grace and peace about that he greets them with in this letter?
- And I have heard of lots of great discussions in the Life Groups.
This week we are going to venture 4 more verses into Ephesians… we are really flying people!
- Handout… this is where we are.
- Consider: What does it mean to be blessed “in Christ”?
- What does it mean to be chosen and predestined (yep – we are going there)
- Finally I want to explore this theme of adoption… which is one of the greatest gifts we are given as
the children of God
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with
every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and
blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in
accordance with his pleasure and will—6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in
the One he loves.
Firstly a word about reading Paul and this amazing passage…
After Paul’s opening greeting to the church in Ephesus, written from a prison cell in Rome, he launches
into his magnum opus or masterpiece description of the good news…
- These are the blessings of the gospel in a believers life.
- He has one, long, crafted sentence that is full of the gospel. We are going to take two weeks…
- So Ephesians 1:3-14… is one sentence…
- And to be honest, it is a hard sentence to read in English because it is so packed with ideas,
thoughts, themes and clauses…
- The old joke about Paul is that he thinks in paragraphs while we mere humans think in sentences…
So in the original Greek Eph 1:3-14 is one long sentence… 202 words… opening up every blessing we
have as those who are in Christ…
- Scholar Andrew Lincoln… suggests each thought builds on the previous one…
- And it is all reasons for us to join Paul in verse 3 in saying “Praise be to God…”
- Everything God does for the world in Jesus Christ leads to worship…
- As my old Professor JI Packer used to say… theology leads to doxology. Knowing God leads to
worship of God!
- So Paul in this one sentence is caught up in the riches of the gospel…
So firstly, he reminds us, we are blessed to be “In Christ”
Verse 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly
realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Now we are just 3 verses into the letter and we already have this phrase “in Christ” for the second time.
- Paul wants us to know that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing because of where we
are now located!
- Are you with me?
Now we live in a city, do we not, where location matters… in fact many are obsessed with location.
- As a general rule, we want to be near the water, or near the city…
- Or in Todd’s case he just wanted to be near me and moved 6 houses up the street…
- We know that location matters because you pay through the nose for your proximity to things.
- And where we are located often shapes how we see and interact with the world.
Well in 62 AD, from a prison cell, Paul reminds the Christian church in this letter that they live “in
- But more importantly, on a deeper level, they now live “in Christ”
- That is why they praise God. That’s their new address.
- Indeed Paul may be in a prison cell, but on a deeper level, he lives “in Christ”
- And he will say this to the Ephesians in this letter a further 34 times.
- Possibly the defining phrase of Paul’s life… he was convinced that there was a spiritual, or heavenly
world that was breaking into the brokenness of this existence
- And so no matter what he was going through or where he was located…
- His deepest identity and address was “in Christ”
And it is the same for us… no matter what our circumstances might be… no matter where we live
- We are in Sydney, each with different challenges and stories… but that does not define us.
- Our true location is in the heavenly places “in Christ.”
- It is why later in Ephesains 2:19 he says “you are… fellow citizens with God’s people and also
members of his household.”
- That is your deepest citizenship, your deepest household.
In the bible reality is multi layered…
- Authors of the bible would tell us… that beyond what we experience as reality… there is more.
- In the secular world there are only 2 dimensions… our consciousness (thought life) and the
environment (everything physical around us).
- When things go wrong… it must be solved through our minds or the environment.
- For Paul though there was the spiritual reality… the heavenly realms or dimensions…
- And Jesus talked about this as the Kingdom of heaven, or the Kingdom of God.
John Lennon famously sung “imagine there’s no heaven, imagine there’s no hell…”
- That is the main stream of thought running through much of modern Western culture and society…
called secular materialism.
- And even as Christians many of us live with no reference to spiritual things… we can easily become
practical atheists. Right? We don’t live like there is a spiritual realm.
- But when Paul speaks of the heavenly realms he talks of another reality that surrounds and
permeates what we experience…
- He knows this because of his conversion on the Damascus road,
- He experienced heaven break in all around him. As he did through the rest of his life.
And so we “in Christ” also experience and live in that dimension… in our minds, in the natural
environment and also in the spiritual realm.
You may have heard the phrase that some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.
- But I would suggest that those with heaven on their minds are the most useful
- Because we see things clearly… we know there is spiritual light and darkness…
- We know that there is spiritual powers and evil activity in this world
- But we also know there is a kingdom of heaven to which we belong that is breaking in around us.
- That’s why we pray “your kingdom come”.
- That’s why we are motivated to act for good and justice and compassion in this world. HOHI…
- We may live in Sydney, we may face all kinds of circumstances and challenges… but we, on a much
deeper level now live “in the heavenly realms in Christ.”
So Paul goes on to say in praising God that we are Chosen
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In
love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ
So Paul reminds those who live “in Christ” that the grounds for their salvation is not in ourselves, but is
the gift and initiative of God. He chose us!
- The Greek word translated as chosen is “exel-ex-ato” which in our language we get the word
- So he elected us, he chose us to be his people.
Now of course, as soon as we see words like chosen and predestined it brings up all kinds of questions…
- Does that mean God chose some to be saved and some to be condemned?
- And how would that square with free will and all the verses that suggest that we need to choose as
to whether we confess Jesus as Lord
- Romans 10:9 is typical of this “if you declare with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your
heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
- So that verse and so much of the scripture seems to suggest we need to use our free will to follow
Jesus… it is not just a pre-known inevitability..
So it raises all kinds of questions… predestination.
- Now a third of you are probably scratching your heads… a third of you are probably thinking… don’t
go there… and third of you probably think this is the greatest moment of your life in church!
- We are going to discuss predestination!!!
- Well let me just make one or two comments, fully aware that greater minds than mine have
wrestled and argued with this… and disagree.
- That is ok!
So I would simply say, that I think, we read these verses in an overly individualist way.
- We think… God has chosen me…
- You know… “Maybe I thought I chose to follow God, but in his sovereignty… maybe it was God all
along who from before creation knew I would accept him.”
- And conspired all along that I would be a believer…
- While so and so down the road wasn’t chosen.
But of course the language of chosen goes back to the Old Testament when God chose a people.
- And of course there were disobedient people within the chosen people who didn’t follow God.
- But collectively, they were chosen to be God’s special people.
- And I think in the same way we can read this passage, not individually, but as the church.
- We are his chosen people, but we still have the free will to respond to his love or to turn away.
Think of it this way… we run family movie nights up here and I think I chose Sing for the last one.
- But on the day many of you had to respond to the invitation and either come to the movie night or
reject the invitation.
- But if you came, you could say “well Tim predestined 3 months ago that we would watch Sing”
- But notice that I didn’t predestine you individually to watch Sing.
- What I predestined is that whoever shows up at this family movie night would watch Sing.
- Now that you decided (even on the day) to be a part of the movie night, what was predestined for
the whole, becomes predestined for you!
Greg Boyd, and American theologian and Pastor puts it this way;
“So too, from the foundation of the world God predestined that whoever is in Christ would become holy
and blameless in his sight. But he didn’t predestine certain individuals — as opposed to other unfortunate
individuals — to be in Christ. This is left up to our choice. Now that you’ve chosen to be in Christ, what was
predestined for the group becomes predestined for you. You, with Paul, can say “In Christ WE (who have
chosen to believe) were predestined to be holy and blameless…”
Right? That is how I read it… and its ok if you disagree.
- But I do take passages like 1 Timothy 2:3-4 seriously. It says;
- “This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a
knowledge of the truth.”
- Right, I could never believe that God chooses some to be condemned when he wants all to be
- So some Christians believe more in free will, some believe more in sovereignty and individual
- But I really believe we need to read the scriptures like 1 st century Jews and gentiles and less like 16 th
century Calvinists in Geneva…
- We need to believe. We need to choose… but then we join what has always been predestined by
God. That he would form a people, saved through his Son Jesus!
So final thing today…
God chooses us to become holy and blameless as we are adopted into his family!
Verse 5 “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ”
In the Roman world when this letter was written, a wealthy man would want to pass on their riches…
- If they had no son of their own, or if the relationship was broken
- They would select out of their trusty servants, one they would adopt for themselves as an heir.
- Can you imagine how a servant would feel about that?
- From rags to riches overnight.
- No longer a servant… but now an heir. It would be like winning the lotto… from a place outside the
family… to now destined to inherit all the blessings of being in the family.
In listing the riches of the gospel. In declaring the reasons to give praise to God.
- Paul wants us to know, that we, entering into God’s plan to save the world and create a people for
- A people that would be heirs to all the riches of God’s family.
- A people who would be transformed into becoming holy and blameless…
- That this happens through the gift of adoption!
And this happens out of sheer grace, God chooses broken humanity and brings them into his family.
- JI Packer in his book Knowing God: Adoption is the highest privilege the gospel affords us.
- Adoption is a higher privilege than even justification in which God declares that we are not liable to
the punishment that we deserve.
- Packer: “to be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the
Father is greater.”
- In adoption, God establishes us as heirs, as his beloved children!
- And in that, we find a closeness, affection and generosity that are at the heart of any good family.
I love the Alpha Course… which you are still so welcome to join us at this Wednesday night.
- But there is this clip I want to show to finish, that to me sums up the richness of adoption.
- Let’s watch it… Gemma is just starting to talk about the nature of our relationship with God…
- Show clip…
Greetings of grace and peace. Praise God we now live “in Christ”. Chosen to be a part of God’s eternal
plan to form a family and adopted in out of the sheer riches of his generosity.