Delivered by God's Grace
A sermon based on Ephesians 1:3-14
Sunday, July 22, 2012 – Pentecost 8B
The brown truck pulls up in front of your house and someone walks to your front door. "Please sign here," he says, as he hands you a large box. Now, whether it was a surprise from someone who loves you, or it's something you ordered and knew was coming, you can't tell me that you're not at least a little bit excited when there's a package delivered just for you.
Well this morning, I hope you're more than just a little bit excited to hear that God has a delivery just for you. And it's not just something from Amazon or Ebay. It's not just some gadget or new pair of shoes. God delivers to you something that is absolutely priceless. God gives you a special delivery as he gives you his grace.
Last week we finished our review of the Apostles' Creed (and again, you can listen to any of that series by visiting GraceLutheranKenai.com and clicking the podcast link). But in that series had opportunity to get excited at God's grace given to us by each person of the one Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And this morning we get a quick review of the entire series as we get excited again about God's special delivery to us by his grace. The Father delivered us into his family. The Son delivered us through his blood. The Holy Spirit delivered the message to our door. And because of the grace of our triune God, we are saved. And we have every reason to be excited. Listen now to Paul's description of God's grace to us in each person of the triune God as we are delivered by God's grace. Paul describes it in one long, excited run-on sentence in Ephesians 1:3-14…
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. 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 to be adopted as his sons 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. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.
I. The Father Delivered Us Into His Family
A young couple had tried to conceive, but God hadn't blessed them with children of their own. So they decided that this was an opportunity from the Lord to bring a child into the Kingdom who might not otherwise have a chance. They would adopt. So they worked through an agency. They saved the money and they hand-picked the little girl that would be their own. They chose their daughter and they adopted her. And they loved her more than anything in the world.
That's the way that God describes what he's done for you. Though not in a natural way, God delivered you into his family. "He chose us in him before the creation of the world… In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will… In him we were… chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will…"
God chose you to be his own. He hand-picked you to be delivered into his family. And just as an adopted kid gets no credit for being brought into a loving family, so, you too get no credit for being a part of God's family. It's by his grace that he chose you—hand-picked you to be his own. And he chose you, not because of anything good you did, not because you were better than others—for you, like all the rest, were a sinful rebel against God by nature! But he chose you to be his adopted child only by his love for you.
Rejoice that God chose you. Not by your merit—for if that were the case he wouldn't have chosen you—but by his grace! You are his own dear child! Enjoy the security that your adoption by God brings. And look at your baptismal certificate as your adoption papers. For you have been adopted by God the Father and are dearly loved by him.
But, as you may know, an adoption isn't cheap. There's a lot of work that needs to be done to make it happen. There's usually a big trip that needs to be made. And there's also a heft cost of the paperwork and legal fees to adopt a child and bring him or her into your family. And that's certainly the case with God bringing you int his family. It cast a lot—not for the kids, who could never pay the cost, but for the parent. God paid all it cost to make us his own. He gave his one and only natural son…
II. The Son Delivered Us though His Blood
You see, you and I were once stuck in our ways. We were enslaved to sin. We were doomed to die. We were damned to hell. And we were imprisoned—doomed to die forever because of our rebellion against God. But God loved us too much to let us die. He sent his son to rescue us! And the Son volunteered to deliver us from the enemy! And he did redeem us—that is, ransom us, or buy us back from the hostage situation we were in.
"He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ… In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins…"
We were stuck in sin. We were prisoners of hell, with no way out. But God the Son volunteered to go on a rescue mission to deliver us and rescue us. And he did it by his blood. That is, he was damned to hell in our place. As a part of his rescue mission, he lived a perfect life in our place and gave us credit for his perfection. Then he took on the sin of the whole world and wrestled it on the cross. He took on our guilt and all our shame and fought it head on. And then, when he died for our sin, suffering the torment of hell, he took on death. And dueling with the enemy he defeated death itself. Our Savior, Jesus, delivered us from sin, death, and hell, by his sacrifice. So that, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins…"
Now rejoice in God's rescue and don't go back into slavery. Don't play with the enemy. But steer clear! And stay strong against the temptation to fall back to the other side by the work of the Holy Spirit, who strengthens you by the Means of Grace…
III. The Spirit Delivered the Message to Us
You know, on our own, we could never know what God has done for us in his grace, delivering us as his adopted child into his family, delivering us from sin, death, and hell, by his sacrifice for us. We couldn't know of his election or of his rescue unless he delivered to us the news. And the Holy Spirit has delivered that message right to our doorstep, just like the UPS or FedEx, by brining the Word of God's grace to us.
"He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ… And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance…"
God calls the Gospel a mystery because it's something we couldn't know on our own. It had to be revealed to us. And it has been by the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God. And he has become a seal that marks us and is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.
When you find a home you like, when you want to buy a car or an RV, you put down a deposit. The house or the vehicle isn't yours—not yet—and won't be until you make that final payment to the dealer or to the bank that really owns the title. But that initial payment, that deposit, guarantees that the house, or the car, or the RV is yours. No one else can buy it. No one else can take it away.
"You were marked in [Christ] with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance…"
The Holy Spirit has created faith in you by delivering the message to your door, just like the UPS or FedEx delivery guy. And not only that, but he's created your faith that puts your trust in that message. Do you believe that Jesus paid for your sins on the cross? Then you have faith. You have the Holy Spirit. And you are guaranteed a place in heaven!
And now the Holy Spirit keeps us in the faith by continually delivering the message of God's grace right at our feet. He delivers God's message of Grace to you, right into your homes, through the Word of his Scriptures. He delivers his cleansing and the creation of faith through the waters of Baptism. He delivers Jesus' very body and blood right to your mouth as you come to receive him in the Sacrament.
How foolish would it be if the UPS guy brought me a package and I signed for it, but then left it unopened?! Don't leave the package of the Holy Spirit—the Word of God that he's delivered to you—unopened! Read the Word daily! Remember your Baptism! Take the Lord's Supper as often as you're able and receive that grace that the Spirit delivers to you!
And get excited about that package he delivers! For God the Father has delivered you into his family, adopting you to be his own! God the Son has delivered you from the enemy, rescuing you from sin, death and hell! And God the Holy Spirit has delivered that message to you, creating the very faith in your heart that clings to his gracious promises!
Now, stay strong in your faith by the Word that he delivers. Rejoice in the work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and live to the praise of his glory until he gives us the full inheritance of his glory in heaven. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.