24 May The Trinitarian Gospel: Delighting in salvation
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Tonight, I have a simple goal. I want to expand your heart capacity for the gospel. I want you to grow in your love for God. And as a result, I want you to erupt in praises to God. All of us were made to praise. We always praise what we delight in. Did you realise that? What do you do when you find a delicious new restaurant, has huge portions and cheap? You tell everyone about it. That’s praise. Guys, what do you do when your favourite team won the league? You can’t stop talking about how awesome your team is. Girls, what do you do when you go to Bieber’s concert? You scream at the top of your lung. We talk about the new Netflix series that we love; we talk about our favourite store; we talk about our newborn baby; we talk about our favourite coffee shop. Those are different expressions of praise. We praise different things but the one thing we have in common is that we always praise what we delight in. We praise what we love. But we cannot love what we do not know. With another word, in order to praise God, we need to love God. And in order to love God, we need to know God. The heart cannot love what the mind does not know. We cannot separate the love of God from the knowledge of God. We cannot separate doxology from theology.
Here is why it is important. I have been in church long enough to know that there are many Christians who do not care about theology. The word theology means the study of God. They said things like, “We don’t need theology and doctrines. What we need is to love God. Theology and doctrines only fill your brain and make you proud. What is important is that we love God.” I understand why they say it. Yes, it is true that the right knowledge of God does not guarantee the right love for God. But how can you love someone that you do not know? Are you sure you are loving the God of the Bible or are you loving the god of your own making? Because that is the mistake that the Israelites made. They wanted to worship the God who brought them out of Egypt but they made a golden calf. They had their own conception of God that was not in line with the God of the Bible. And this is the problem with many Christians today. They love worship but they do not worship the God of the Bible. They worship a god of their own making. They do not want deep theology. They thought that God is pleased with their worship while the truth is God is offended by their worship. You cannot escape theology. Everyone has some understanding of God, which means that everyone has a theology. The question is not whether you have theology or not but whether your theology is good or bad. Theology is extremely crucial. You can only love what you know. And to know God rightly, you need good theology. Nothing is more practical for your life than good theology.
Why am I telling you all these? Because tonight I want to give you deep theology. I want to give you reasons to praise God in every circumstance. I have no idea what kind of circumstances you are facing right now. You might be frustrated because of the quarantine. You might lose your job because of COVID19. You might be on the verge of a breakdown. You might face challenges in your family, work, study, and life. Or you might in one of those seasons where you just don’t know what to do anymore and you are ready to quit anytime. Here is what I want to do. I want to tell you about the blessings that you already have in Christ. I want to fill your heart with joy and gladness. I want to expand your mind and heart capacity for the gospel. And I want your mouth to erupt in praises to God. And I want to do that by giving you the Trinitarian gospel.
Let me explain. Ephesians is a letter written by apostle Paul while he was imprisoned. And after Paul said his greetings in verse 1 and 2, Paul suddenly erupted in praise. And that is our passage. It is extremely beautiful and complex at the same time. In Greek, verses 3 to 14 are one long complex sentence that consists of 202 words. Theologians love it. English teachers hate it. There is no English translation that tries to translate it in one sentence. It is impossible. But the whole sentence is Paul’s praises to God. Paul praises God for all the spiritual blessings that God has given to Christians. Spiritual blessings are another term for the blessings of salvation. And these spiritual blessings are Trinitarian. The word Trinity means that God is three and one at the same time. There is God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. They are all different, yet they are one. If you are confused, you can message Edrick after the service. He would love to explain the Trinity to you. So Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus that they have Trinitarian blessings. The gospel is Trinitarian. Our salvation is the works of the Triune God. It is blessings that are planned by God the Father, purchased by God the Son, and applied by God the Spirit. Or, another way of saying it is, salvation is initiated by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and sealed by the Spirit. And these blessings are also given to every Christian. That is why Paul erupted in praises to God. And my hope is that when you know the Trinitarian gospel, you will join Paul in lifting your praise to God.
The initiative of the Father
Ephesians 1:3-6 – 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Paul begins by saying that God the Father is the source of every blessing we enjoy. God is the subject of almost every verb in these verses. And not only that, but the blessing of God is not something that we need to earn. It is something that is already given to us. Verse 3. God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.” It is in a perfect tense. God has blessed us not with some spiritual blessings, not a lot of spiritual blessings, but every spiritual blessing. That means you and I are not lacking anything. God does not withhold any of his blessings from you and me. As Christians, we live every single moment of everyday life with all the spiritual blessing of God at our disposal. It does not mean that we are already perfect. We still must grow in maturity but every blessing that we need to grow is already ours. It’s like a newborn baby. Every healthy baby has everything he needs to grow. Hands, feet, lungs, brain, and everything else. As the baby grows, he will learn how to use his hands and feet properly. But the baby already has everything he needs to grow. In the same way, God has given us every spiritual blessing that we need. It is already ours. It reminds me of the scene from the movie Bruce Almighty. Do you remember the scene where Bruce just received his power from “god”? He walks around with a swagger, singing “I’ve got the power” and he points his finger at water hose, and it explodes. That’s a picture of you and me. We can walk our Christian life with confidence, singing “I’ve got the blessing!”
The next part is mind-blowing. Verse 4. Paul says that God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” It means that before the sun was shining, before the stars were put in the sky, before the mountains were laid on the land, before the oceans were poured across the earth, before there was anything but God, God already loved you. From the eternity past, God had set his sight on you and said, “I choose you.” This is massive. It means that what sets you apart from others has nothing to do with how awesome you are, how smart you are, where you were born or what you have achieved. Paul tells us that before you do anything good or bad, before you sang your first Christian song, before you committed your first sin, before you took your first breath, God had already set his affection on you. It’s like watching the voice. In that show, the coaches cannot see the participants. They must evaluate the participants based on their voice alone. And if they like what they hear, they would hit the button, the chair would turn, they would face the participant and say, “I choose you.” But what God did, before he even heard your voice, he hit the button, turned his chair, looked at you through the corridor of history and said, “I want you. You are mine.” And God’s decision is definite. No one can undo it. So when your eyes finally see the beauty of God, when you confess with your mouth and believe with your heart that Jesus Christ is Lord, God is not in heaven saying, “Oh, I didn’t see that coming.” No. He knew the exact time and place when faith comes alive in you. He orchestrated your salvation from the very beginning.
And do not think for one second that God chose you because he saw something good in you. God did not choose you because he saw what you could be in the future. God also did not choose you because he saw that you will choose him. He did not consult the crystal ball and said, “Crystal ball, show me who will put their faith in me in the future so that I can choose them.” This is a false understanding. Paul says that God chose you “according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.” That means God did not choose you because of your race, family background, accomplishment, or wealth. He chose you based on his sovereign grace and sovereign purpose alone. God’s condition in choosing you is based on God alone. That is why no one can be proud that they are chosen. I love this quote by Charles Spurgeon. “I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen him; and I am sure he chose me before I was born, or else he never would have chosen me afterwards; and he must have chosen me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why he should have looked upon me with a special love.”
So, does that mean that you don’t have to choose God? No. The Bible clearly tells you that you have the responsibility to choose God. Paul speaks of both God choosing of you and your choosing of God. These two truths are inseparable best friend. You still have the responsibility to choose God and put your faith in Jesus. But when you do put your faith in Christ, you realise that you have been chosen. With another word, if you trust in Jesus, you owe it to God. You chose God because God in the eternity past had first chosen you. This is called the doctrine of election. Let me confess that there is a mystery to the doctrine of election. We can’t fully understand it. But just because we can’t fully understand it does not mean that it is not true. Think of it like this. Imagine explaining calculus to a four years old boy. What happens? It does not matter how hard you try, the boy will only look at you with a blank face. It is beyond his comprehension. It does not make calculus untrue but there is a gap of understanding between you and that boy. Now, which one has a greater gap? The gap of understanding between you and that boy, or you and the infinite God?
However, even though there are some things we do not understand about election, we can know for sure the purpose of election. Paul says that God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Again, don’t misread it. Paul does not say that God chose us because we are holy and blameless but to make us holy and blameless. Those whom God chose are predestined to be like Christ. One of the questions that I often received is, “how do I know that I am chosen?” It is simple. You know that you have been chosen by God by your desire to grow in Christlikeness. You begin to desire what Christ desire. You begin to walk like Christ; talk like Christ; live like Christ. There is a purpose to election. And Paul goes on, “In love, he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ.” If God has chosen you, you are predestined for adoption as sons. So, God of the universe is not only your King, but he is also your Father. In love, he predestined you to be his children. He is committed to your growth. He will discipline you. He will correct what needs to be corrected. But at the same time, there is a sense of security in your relationship with God. Because you are not God’s servants but God’s children.
Do you know the difference in a relationship between a boss and an employee and a father and a son? Let’s say that you work for the church and my dad is your boss and you mess up big time. You are extremely lazy and careless and do something stupid that costs the church millions of dollars. What would happen to you? You will be fired. Astalavista. Right? My dad would only go so far for an employee. But let’s say I work for my dad and I am lazy and careless and mess up big time. How far would my dad put up with me? Definitely a lot more than toward you. Maybe that’s why I still have a job. There is a sense of security in knowing that God is your Father. Get this. If you are never good enough for God to choose you in the first place, you can never be bad enough for God to let go of you. You have been adopted into his family. You are his children. He is committed to your growth as his children. We need to get this right. God does not love the future version of you where your life is perfect. God loved you before there were you. That means that God loves you in all your brokenness and mess right now. The doctrine of election both humbles us and exalts us at the same time. It humbles us knowing that God’s election is free and has nothing to do with us, and it exalts us knowing that we have been adopted as sons by the God of the universe. Before anyone ever loved us, God the Father already loved us and made a plan for us to delight in our salvation. This is the doctrine of election. It is not a doctrine for us to debate on but a doctrine that makes our heart sing to God.
The accomplishment of the Son
Ephesians 1:7-10 – 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
This is the blessing that we received from God the Son, the blessing of “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” God the Father initiated and planned our salvation, but it is God the Son who purchased and accomplished our salvation. For us to be adopted into the family of God, we first need to be redeemed. The word redeem means a payment for ransom. Get this right. We were not sweet innocent cute orphans waiting to be adopted. That’s not the picture the Bible gives us. We were extremely problematic orphans with a lot of issues who rejected God. All of us rebelled against God. Ever since the fall in Genesis 3, all of us were born in sin. We were naked and ashamed. And we tried everything we can to cover ourselves, to prove to ourselves that we are somebody and to redeem ourselves. We knew that there is something wrong with us and we want to fix it ourselves. So, we think that if we are rich enough, powerful enough, loved enough, then we will be okay. But it does not work. Then we think if we can just be a good father, a good mother, a good person, a good Christian, or a good pastor, then we will be okay. And it does not work.
Let me tell you a secret. Do you know what gives me a sleepless night? It is ministry. I think it is normal for me to be sad if I did not do a good job in my ministry. Let’s say that I preach a really bad sermon and half of the church fall asleep during the sermon. It is normal for me to be sad. It is normal for me to go home feeling anxious and start thinking of a way to improve my sermon next time. This is good. You don’t want your pastor to be your sleeping pill. That’s not good. But let’s say I preach a really bad sermon, and I go home convinced that I am useless, that I am nobody. And I could not sleep the whole night and I resign from being your pastor the next day because I am paralysed with fear about preaching my next sermon. Do you know what my problem is? I am not serving God. I am serving myself using my pastoral ministry. My ministry is a way for me to prove myself, to cover myself, to redeem myself. I am serving myself using my ministry and it is killing me. That’s what sin is. It might look different to different people, but sin is the desire to redeem yourself. It is whatever you desire and love more than God. It can be your job, career, spouse, family etc. It is what gives meaning to your life. We try to redeem ourselves through it, but we cannot. We need someone else to redeem us.
And Paul says that we have redemption through the blood of Christ. Jesus has come and paid the price of our ransom. And Jesus does not purchase us with gold or silver; he purchased us with his blood. The precious blood of Jesus is shed for our redemption. Now we are no longer bound to sin. Now we no longer have to prove ourselves. We are covered by the blood of Jesus. We have been forgiven of all our sins. And we have been adopted into God’s family because of Jesus. And all of this is done to us according to the riches of God’s grace. Here is where we need to be clear. Grace means that it is free. It is unmerited. You cannot earn it. But grace is not cheap. Grace is extremely costly. Grace is free for us because it costs Jesus his blood. We are the recipient of God’s extravagant goodness and kindness because Christ has paid the price of our redemption.
However, the scope of Christ’s redemption is not only to purchase us from the slavery of sin. It is not only for personal redemption. The blood of Jesus also paid the price for cosmic redemption. Ephesians 1:9-10 – 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. This is a mouthful. Let me explain. God the Father had a plan from the eternity past. And that plan involved your salvation and adoption into his family. But that is not the end of the plan. The plan of God the Father from the eternity past is to unite all things in heaven and on earth in Christ. Because here is what happened. In the beginning, when God created the world, everything was good and beautiful. But the moment Adam and Eve sinned against God, sin entered the world and created cosmic fracture. Everything in this world is falling apart because of it. Let me give you an example. Let’s say I cook a very nice fried chicken. It smells and tastes awesome. I call it Yosi fried chicken (YFC). Then, I leave it in the kitchen for a month. What happens? That delicious Yosi fried chicken turns into yuck fried chicken (YFC). It is falling apart. It does not matter how beautiful you look right now, you are in the process of falling apart. It won’t be long before your size 6 turns to size 10. Because of sin that separated us from God, everything in our life also falls apart. Every relationship falls apart. At the present time, there is still a cosmic fracture in the universe because of sin.
However, in the fullness of time, the world as we know it will be redeemed. There will be a cosmic renewal where nothing will fall apart. Where Christ will return as the King of the universe and everything will be beautiful and good under his kingship. It is like what happened in the third episode of the Lord of the Ring, the return of the king. Throughout the series, there is something wrong with the kingdom of Gondor because the rightful king is not on his throne. There is chaos, strive, war, and everything falls apart. But when Aragorn, the rightful heir of the throne, returns and reigns over the kingdom, the kingdom is restored. Everything wrong is made right. That is exactly what will happen at the fullness of time. The blood of Jesus has paid the price for both our personal redemption and the cosmic redemption. That means that history is not a random occurrence. There is a purpose to history. In the eternity past, before the foundations of the world, God had planned your salvation and the reign of Christ over all things. In the eternity future, every knee will bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and those who put their faith in Jesus will reign with him in the eternal kingdom. From the eternity past to the eternity future, God is in sovereign control. And at the centre of history is the story of the gospel, the story of redemption through the blood of Jesus.
The sealing of the Spirit
Ephesians 1:11-14 – 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
So, God the Father initiated our salvation and God the Son accomplished our salvation. But it did not stop there. God the Spirit sealed our salvation. There are two ways you can translate verse 11 from the Greek. One is to translate it as we have an inheritance from God, which is the way ESV translates it, or two, that we are God’s inheritance. Both options are Biblical. In many elsewhere, Paul does speak of us receiving an inheritance from God. But I don’t think that is what Paul is saying here. Most commentators agree that what Paul is saying here is that we are God’s inheritance. This is massive. Do you know what it means to be God’s inheritance? Imagine that you are invited to Bill Gates’ birthday party. I know it is very unlikely that you are invited to Bill’s birthday bash but imagination is free. So, you are invited to Bill Gates’ birthday party. You are excited. You tell everyone about it. And you want to make a good impression. My question is, what would you get Bill for a present? The kind of present that makes him say, “I really wanted this. Thank you.” The answer is nothing. Whatever you get for him, he owns a better one. You buy him clothes, he owns malls. You buy him a house, he owns islands. You buy him a car, he owns private jets. You buy him a laptop, he owns Windows. You buy him an iPad, he throws you out of the party. But Paul is saying, “There is one thing that excites God. There is one thing that the God of the universe called his inheritance.” Think about it. He owns the universe. He owns every star in existence. He created them. What gift can you give this God that will excite him? Paul’s answer is you. It’s me. It’s the Christians. Out of everything in the universe, God looks at us and say, “You are my inheritance. I am excited about you and I want you.”
So here is what God did. Verse 13. You “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” What is a seal? A seal is a mark of ownership and authority. In those days, slaves and cattle were branded with the seal of their master to indicate to whom they belong. And this is what God did to you. He put his mark of ownership on you by sealing you with the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit is a mark that you belong exclusively to God. No one can steal you from God. You are his. And what’s amazing about this seal is that it is unbreakable. Remember the story of Daniel in Lion’s den? Darius the king loved Daniel. He did not want to harm Daniel. But there was nothing he could do to save Daniel because he had signed the document with his seal. In the same way, your seal and my seal are unbreakable. God will never change his mind about us.
And not only that. We are not only sealed with the Holy Spirit, but in verse 14, the Holy Spirit is also “the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.” The word guarantee is actually the word deposit or first instalment. Some illustrate it like an engagement ring. You are not married but you give the engagement ring as a sign that you have the intention to marry that person. But that’s not a correct analogy. That is not a deposit. An engagement ring is not part of the marriage. It is only a temporary promise that will be replaced with another. The word deposit is more like buying an off-plan apartment. What do you do? You have yet to see the actual apartment. It is still in the process of building. But you put your deposit in the apartment. And your deposit is the first instalment toward the purchase price. So that $50,00 deposit is part of the total price you will have to pay for the apartment. With another word, the sealing of the Holy Spirit is not a temporary promise that will be replaced with another. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is the deposit that God has paid to make you his inheritance. God is already invested and working to make you his inheritance right now. God is not just telling you about something that he will do in the future, but he is bringing the future into the present so that you may have a foretaste of what the future is like. Which means that you don’t have to wait for the eternity future to see the work of God in your life. At this very moment, in all your weakness, the Holy Spirit is shaping you for future glory. You are God’s inheritance. He will not fail.
So here is what Paul tells us in this passage. God the Father initiated your salvation. God the Son accomplished your salvation. God the Spirit sealed your salvation. It is the work of Triune God from beginning to the end. That is why Paul erupted in praise again and again. In verse 6, he says this is all to the praise of God’s glorious grace. In verse 12, he says this is for the praise of God’s glory. And in verse 14, he repeats to the praise of God’s glory. The ultimate goal of our salvation is that God will receive the highest praise. And if you understand your salvation, you will not be able to contain your praise.
Just think about it. Paul was in prison when he penned this letter. But listen. Paul’s body might be in prison, but his mind and heart were on eternity. Paul looked back to the eternity past and he looked forward to the eternity future, and he erupted in praises to God. And the same can happen to you. When you look at life through the lens of eternity, life becomes a theatre of praise. You look at your life and say, “How did I become the children of God? I am chosen by God. It has nothing to do with me. I am chosen according to the purpose of God’s will. I am loved before the universe came to be. God the Father initiated my salvation. And God the Son accomplished my salvation. He redeemed me with his blood. He forgave me of all my sin. And he also redeemed the whole creation and one day everything will be united in him. And God the Spirit sealed my salvation. I am marked as God’s possession, and nothing can steal me from him. God has paid the down payment for my future glory through the Holy Spirit.” If you know this, it does not matter what you are going through right now, you can wake up with confidence knowing that your life has a purpose. There are no unimportant days in your life. In whatever you are going through, God is loving you as his child and he is shaping you to be like Christ. And the end of all things is already set. All things in heaven and on earth will be united in Christ and you will reign forever with him. That is your destiny, and nothing can change that. Your salvation is initiated by God the Father, it’s been accomplished by God the Son and it is sealed by God the Spirit. It is done. So now, you can look at the brokenness of the world and say, “This is not the end of me. I may not like what I see and feel right now. I may feel weak. I may be sick. I might be hurting. But I know my destiny. I am destined to reign with Christ and therefore I will praise him today!” My friend, this is the gospel. The gospel is not just a doctrine that you believe. The gospel is a song you sing. It is gloriously beautiful, and it creates wonder and awe in your heart. The gospel is the reason you praise God’s glorious grace.
There is one more thing that I want you to see in this passage. This passage tells us about every spiritual blessing that you have been blessed with. Here is the question. How do you receive all these blessings from God? Paul repeats two words 11 times in this passage. And those two words are “in Christ.” With another word, when God initiated your salvation, he initiated it in Christ. When God accomplished your salvation, he accomplished it in Christ. When God sealed your salvation, he sealed it in Christ. You receive every spiritual blessing in Christ. So, you only have two options. You are either in Christ or you are not. There is no middle ground. It is like marriage. You are either married or you are not. You either saved forever or you are not saved at all. And if you are not in Christ, tonight there is an invitation for you to be in Christ. All you have to do is believe in Christ and every spiritual blessing is yours. The doctrine of election does not remove human responsibility. The same Paul that tells us about God’s unconditional election in verse 4, tells us to believe in Christ in verse 13. So, come to Jesus. Believe in him. And when you come, praise him for choosing you.
- Explain why good theology is very important and practical for our life.
- How does knowing that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing changes the way we live our daily life? Give examples from your own life.
- Why is the doctrine of unconditional election is not a doctrine to be debated but to make our hearts sing to God?
- Everything in this world is falling apart because of sin. List out some examples that you see in your own life.
- What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our salvation?
- Is the promised Holy Spirit someone we received at our moment of salvation, or someone we received after our salvation? Explain. (verse 13-14).
- “Your salvation is initiated by the Father, accomplished by the Son, sealed by the Spirit.” How does understanding the work of the Triune God in your salvation enable you to praise God in every circumstance?