Ephesians 1:5-6

Sermon preached on December 4, 2005 by Laurence W. Veinott. Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

Most of you know that I like
Macintosh computers. Actually, 'like' is too weak a term. I love them. Part of the reason the Macintosh exists is because many brilliant people worked long and hard to bring a revolutionary computer to the world. Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple Computer, was one of them. He's an absolute genius and he is one of the main people responsible for the Macintosh and also for the run away success of the iPod.

But as brilliant as Steve Jobs is—he has one fault. Or at least he had one fault. It seems that years ago he liked to take credit for other people's ideas. Software engineer Andy Hertzfeld tells of when he was first started to work for the Macintosh group in 1981. He said his manager took him aside and told him a few things about Steve Jobs. He said, (
www.folklore.org, see Reality Distortion Field)

"he's really funny about ideas. If you tell him a new idea, he'll usually tell you that he thinks it's stupid. But then, if he actually likes it, exactly one week later, he'll come back to you and propose your idea to you, as if he thought of it."

Some people are like that. It's a very common problem. Many people like to take credit for something that someone else thought of first. It's very sad to see someone who had a brilliant idea or creation not get credit for it—for someone else to steal the glory.

You would think that Christians would never do that when it comes to their salvation, but that's exactly what we see in some sections of Christianity today. If you ask people why they're in Christ, why they belong to God's family, why they're headed for glory—and many will tell you that it's because of something that they did. They chose Christ. They believed. They made a decision for Him.

To a certain extent, they're taking credit for their salvation when they should be giving all the credit to God. For the main thing of this section is that

Christians should be praising God because it is because of Him that we are in Christ.

Here in Ephesians 1:5 we are given the reason why are in God's family. And what Paul makes clear here is that it's because of God's choice. Paul wrote,

"In love he predestined us
to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ,
in accordance with his pleasure and will—
to the praise of his glorious grace,
which he has freely given us
in the One he loves."

Paul is here talking about why we are in God's family, the reason we have been adopted to be His sons and daughters. He gives all the glory and praise to God. There is not one ounce that is left for us to glory in ourselves.

The great truth that we see her is that

God predestined you to be adopted as His sons.

Predestination. That's a doctrine that is not popular is some Christian circles. But as I said about election last week, it is a doctrine that we should hold close to our hearts and be continually praising God for.

What does predestination mean? The Greek word means to, (BDAG)

"decide upon beforehand, predetermine"

But what's interesting about the word is that it's exclusively used of God. It's never used of men and their making decisions and plans. A probable reason for that is because a man can't make plans that are sure. There's a line from a John Lennon song that illustrates this,

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

Or as we read in Proverbs 19:21,

"Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails."

We make all sorts of plans that never come to pass. I remember seeing part of a speech that President Kennedy gave the very morning he was shot and killed. On the morning of November 22, 1963 the President attended a breakfast meeting hosted by the Forth Worth Chamber of Commerce. At that meeting they gave him a big Texas cowboy hat—a Shady Oak Western, as a gift from the city. He held it in his hands and at one point it looked like he was going to try it on. But he didn't' and then said he'd be glad to pose in it,

"If you come to the White House Monday morning."

But he never did. Tragically he was gunned down that very day.

Proverbs 16:9 says,

"In his heart a man plans his course,
but the LORD determines his steps."

So we make plans, but we don't and can't predestinate and predetermine in an absolute sense. Our best laid plans often come to naught.

But that's not the way it is with God's plans. He makes plans and nothing can thwart them. As we read in Psalm 33:11,

"But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations."

In Isaiah 46:10-11 God said,

"I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times,
what is still to come.
I say:
My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please…
What I have said,
that will I bring about;
what I have planned,
that will I do."

Predestination is about God deciding to make us His sons and daughters. But it's more than just making a decision—it's about making it and setting it in stone. It's about foreordination. God chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in Christ, and He foreordained that we would be His sons. He decided it and determined that it would be with a resolve that can not be changed or thwarted. As the Westminster Confession of Faith tells us, predestination has to do with God's eternal decree. Chapter 3 deals with it and begins with these words, (III:1)

"God from all eternity did by the most and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass…"

It is very wide—as wide as you can get. The church testified to this in Acts 4. After he and John were released by the Jewish authorities, and they told the Christians what had happened, the Christians together prayed to God and said, (verses 25f)

"You spoke by the Holy Spirit
through the mouth of your servant,
our father David:
'Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the Lord and against his Anointed One.'
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together
with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city
to conspire against your holy servant Jesus,
whom you anointed.
They did what your power and will
had decided beforehand should happen."

The Westminster Confession then goes on to say something that is a parallel to our passage, (III:3)

"By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life…"

Predestination has to do with God's eternal, unchangeable decree. God determined that we would be His Sons before He chose to create.

The second thing we see in our text is that

Christians were predestined to be adopted by God into His family.

Predestination is very broad but the specific thing that our text relates to is being predestined to be adopted as God's sons—our inclusion into God's family.

What is adoption? John Murray writes, (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p. 134)

"Adoption… is an act of transfer from an alien family into the family of God himself."

Adoption is an judicial act of God that bestows a status, a standing upon us—in adoption we are brought into God's family.

Adoption is an
absolutely amazing act of love on God's part. Notice how our text begins,

"In love he predestined us…

We see something of the wonder of adoption in 1 John 3:1 where the apostle John wrote,

"How great is the love
the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!"

Adoption has to do with our relationship to God as our Father. But it also has other implications. Because we have been adopted into God's family, we have Jesus as our brother. In Hebrews 2:11 we read,

"Both the one who makes men holy
and those who are made holy
are of the same family.
So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers."

There's also a special relationship that we have with the Spirit through adoption. In Romans 8:14f the apostle Paul wrote, (ESV)

"For all who are led by the Spirit of God
are sons of God.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery
to fall back into fear,
but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons,
by whom we cry,
'Abba! Father!'
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,"

In adoption we become members of God's family and are brought into a most intimate and caring relationship with God. In adoption we become His sons and daughters, members of His family.

One thing we should understand about our adoption is that

God could have saved us without bringing us into His family.

He could have forgiven our sins and declared us righteous without making us His children. He could have given us new life without bringing us into His family. James Montgomery Boice writes, (Foundations of the Christian Faith, p. 443)

"Having justified us, God could still have left us on a much inferior level of status and privilege. Instead, he took us into his own family giving us the status and privilege of daughters and sons."

God has given us more than regeneration and justification. He has adopted us to be His sons and daughters and with that comes many special privileges. Wayne Grudem writes, (Systematic Theology, p. 739)

"in adoption we are given many of the greatest blessings that we will know for all eternity."

John Murray tells us that adoption, (p. 134)

"is surely the apex of grace and privilege. We would not dare to conceive of such grace far less to claim it apart from God's own revelation and assurance. It staggers imagination because of its amazing condescension and love."

We not only have our sins forgiven. We not only have a good legal standing before God because of Jesus—but God has brought us into His family. We are now heirs with Christ. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:17,

"Now if we are children,
then we are heirs—
heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,
if indeed we share in his sufferings
in order that we may also share in his glory."

We have been brought close to God, into His family through Jesus Christ. We are going to share in His glory.

The second thing we should note about our adoption is that

it was totally on the basis of God's pleasure and will.

There are two things here that emphasize that the reason we were adopted was something in God, not something in us.

The first is the word '
predestined', which we have already looked at. Peter O'Brien tells us that the word,

"serves to emphasize his [God's] sole initiative and authority in our salvation."

John Calvin writes,

"In the word predestinate we must again attend to the order. We were not then in existence, and therefore there was no merit of ours. The cause of our salvation did not proceed from us, but from God alone."

This is made evident in what follows. We were predestined,

"in accordance with his pleasure and will"

Why did God choose to adopt us as His sons? It was something in Him—something to do with His pleasure and will.

When a human couple decide to adopt a child, it's usually because they can't have any children of their own. They perhaps have a heart-felt need. This was not the reason God adopted us. Before He created God was absolutely blessed and happy. When God decided to adopt us as sons, (John Eadie, p. 35)

"it was not because His nature necessitates it, but because He wills it."

It was according to His will. But even more than that, it was according to His good pleasure.

When a human couple adopt, if they have a choice,
they will pick the best, the healthiest, the most intelligent, the best looking child. Their choice is based, to some degree, on something external to them.

But that's not the way it is with God.
F. F. Bruce writes,

"Since God is God, his purpose and activity have no ultimate cause outside his own being."

Or as Martin Luther said,

"God's will has no 'Why'."

God's good pleasure very often in Scripture refers to what God's free and sovereign purpose. (Hodge). We see this in Matthew 11:25-26, in Jesus prayer. He said,

"I praise you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
because you have hidden these things
from the wise and learned,
and revealed them to little children.
Yes, Father,
for this was your good pleasure."

Again, that shows that God didn't see something in us that caused Him to choose us. Charles Hodge points out that, (Ephesians, p. 37)

"it is not the predestined that are the objects of eudokia, [good pleasure] but the act of predestination itself. God chose to have that purpose. It seemed good to him."

Calvin writes,

"The word will was enough, for Paul very frequently contrasts it with all outward causes by which men are apt to imagine that the mind of God is influenced. But that no doubt may remain, he employs the word good pleasure, which expressly sets aside all merit. In adopting us, therefore, God does not inquire what we are, and is not reconciled to us by any personal worth. His single motive is the eternal good pleasure, by which He predestined us."

The third thing to note about God's predestining us is that it is through Jesus Christ.

This grace of adoption is given to us in Jesus Christ. Twice in our text we are told this. In verse 5 we are told that we were predestined to be adopted as his sons,

"through Jesus Christ,"

and in verse 6 we are told that this grace has been,

"freely given us
in the One he loves."

Salvation is only through Jesus. As Peter said in Acts 4:10-12,

"know this, you and all the people of Israel:
It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
whom you crucified
but whom God raised from the dead,
that this man stands before you healed.
He is 'the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the capstone.'
Salvation is found in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven
given to men by which we must be saved."

Fourthly, we see that you were predestination has a goal.

You were predestined to the praise of His glorious grace.

Paul wrote,

"In love he predestined us
to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ,
in accordance with his pleasure and will—
to the praise of his glorious grace,
which he has freely given us
in the One he loves."

Forever and ever God's grace is going to be praised. As Paul put it in Ephesians 2:6-7,

"And God raised us up with Christ
and seated us with him
in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the coming ages
he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."

Charles Hodge writes, (Ephesians, p.38)

"The design of redemption, therefore, is to exhibit the grace of God in such a conspicuous manner as to fill all hearts with wonder and all lips with praise."

Peter O'Brien adds,

"It was God's intention that his free and glad choice of men and women to be his sons and daughters might redound to the praise of his glorious grace."

Christians, every day you ought to be praising God for His grace. You are what you are through grace. The incomparable gift of adoption into God's family—the gift that is so wonderful, so precious—is something that should lift your hearts in praise and glory to God. May it always be so.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

go to Jesus for this incomparable gift.

There is nothing like being a member of God's family. The way you are to picture God is as a loving Father who loves sinners. In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus spoke about the father, who longed for his son to return. When the son came to his senses, he started home. In Luke 15:14f we read,

"But while he was still a long way off,
his father saw him
and was filled with compassion for him;
he ran to his son,
threw his arms around him and kissed him.
The son said to him,
'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
But the father said to his servants,
'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him.
Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Bring the fattened calf and kill it.
Let's have a feast and celebrate.
For this son of mine was dead and is alive again;
he was lost and is found.'
So they began to celebrate."

That's how you are to picture God and His love. Go to Him for salvation.