A sermon based on Ephesians 1:3-14
Sunday, July 19, 2015 – Pentecost 8B
It seemed like I had to wait a really long time. But it finally arrived. There was the big cardboard box sitting on my porch. It was a special delivery for me: My new inflatable hot tub! (By the way, it's even more awesome than it sounds.)
How exciting it can be to get a package delivered to you in the mail. Whether it's something you ordered off the web or a gift from a distant relative, whether it's a new gadget or an article of clothing, how fun it is to get a special delivery 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 a 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.
This morning we get a quick review of the work of each person of the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—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
Now I don't think any delivery—and I don't care where it's from, even from Best Buy—is as exciting as a delivery in a hospital. To hold your baby in your arms for the first time is truly a special delivery. But not every couple is able to conceive. So some, like Pastor and Becky Strong in Fairbanks, choose to adopt. They save their money, they pray often, and if all goes well, they choose their child who is eventually delivered into their home. And they love that child more anything in the world. What a special delivery!
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 son or daughter—to be delivered into his family. And just as an adopted baby 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 because of your works—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 hefty 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 into his family. It cost 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 so he sent his Son to rescue us. And the Son volunteered to deliver us from the enemy! And he did redeem us—that is, ransomed us, or bought us back from the hostage situation we were in. And what a special delivery that was!
"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…" Ah, what a special delivery!
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, where he delivers God's grace to your doorstep each day…
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 bringing the Word of God's grace right to us wherever we are.
"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 revealed 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 his Word in the Bible. He delivers his cleansing and the creation of faith right to Brooklynne and to all who come to the font through his Word attached to the waters of Baptism. He delivers Jesus' very body and blood right to your mouth to nourish your soul with forgiveness as you come to receive him in the Lord's Supper.
How foolish would it be if the UPS guy brought me a package and I signed for it, but then left it unopened laying on the porch?! How dumb of me if I never opened the inflatable hot tub! 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! It's way better than even a hot tub! 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!