Ephesians 1:3-14 2nd Sunday after Christmas, January 4, 2020
A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far, far away – in fact it was here – your father and mother stood before God and a bunch of people – perhaps even in this church – and made promises to one another. They promised that they would love and cherish one another and be faithful. To symbolize those promises and vows they exchanged rings – visible reminder of their love and commitment to one another.
In Ephesians chapter 5, the great chapter on marriage, Paul tells us that marriage is a symbol, a picture of the mystery that is Christ’s union with his bride the church. So’s not surprising that God says to his bride – he says to each one of us and ever believer: “In him you also…were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (vv 13-14).
Like a ring, God gives you his pledge, his promise to love, cherish, and be with his beloved. But rather than a ring, God seals his pledge by pouring out his Holy Spirit on you in Baptism, the guarantee of your present and future life together with God, forever.
What’s really amazing is that God made his pledge to adopt you before you drew your very first breath. “He chose us in him” we read in verse 4,“before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (vv 4-5). Just consider that for a moment. Before mountains and hills, lakes and oceans were formed – even before time and space – God chose you to be his very own.
Three times in our Epistle lesson, Paul repeatedly emphasizes that God chose you – not because of who you are or because of what you have done – but solely because of who God is and his great love!
God chose you, “according to the purpose of his will” verse 5 tells us. He chose you from all eternity “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (v 6). God chose you, verses 7 and 9 continue, “according to the riches of his grace, which he has lavished upon us…according to his good pleasure” (vv 7, 9).
Revelation 21 tells us that God has chosen the Church of all believers in Jesus to be his bride (cf. Rev 21:2, 9). At the same time, today’s Epistle reminds us that God has chosen each individual Christian – God has chosen you – to be his own beloved child, adopted in Christ: “[you] were chosen,” St. Paul testifies in verse 11, “having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”
Anyone who has ever adopted a child can tell you it’s a difficult process and it’s costly. For example, the average cost of adoption in the US is amazingly $43,000! So it’s none too surprising of the cost it took for the Lord of the universe to adopt us and make us his own. Some travel to the other side of the globe to adopt. A lot farther than say Minnesota to China, the Father sent his only begotten Son, Jesus, to make the trip all the way from heaven to earth. Jesus came to live on this planet so that you might be adopted as sons and daughter of the king. During the time he was here Jesus spent every cent he had – not gold or silver – but his holy, innocent, and righteous blood – to pay the price for your adoption by our Father who is in heaven.
You see, you, me and all people were born without hope – alienated, the Scriptures tell us, “having no hope and without God in the world” (2:12). And being without hope is not a good place to be. I’m reminded of the story of Howard Rutledge. Howard Rutledge was an American fighter pilot who shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese in 1965. The North Vietnamese threw him into a prison in Hanoi, North Vietnam. The prison was called “Heartbreak Hotel.” Howard Rutledge writes, “When the door slammed shut a feeling of utter loneliness swept over me. I was locked in a six by six cell. It’s hard to describe what solitary confinement can do to defeat a person. There are no books, no magazines and no newspapers. The only colors you see are drab gray and dirt brown. You’re locked in your filthy cell, trying to keep your sanity.” Howard Rutledge was without hope.
But “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” (v 3). Howard Rutledge has more to say about his prison, Heartbreak Hotel. He writes, “I prayed for strength to make it through the ongoing night. Then, one day, a glimmer of light dawned through the bottom of my prison door. I knew that God would set me free. And he did!” He had hope – and so do we.
Today, even as we battle with sin, death, and the devil, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has already blessed you and me with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Even when everything seems to be going to pot, God has nevertheless already given to us an inheritance of eternal life and joys with him in heaven!
And that life begins now!
While we live in world of death, destruction, and decay it can be hard to remember that all the blessings of heaven already belong to us in Jesus Christ. And that’s what brings us here this morning. God doesn’t want us to forget. God, who makes us his very own, doesn’t ever want us to forget the glorious inheritance that is already ours, both now in this life and even more clear, joyous, and real in the life to come! We gather together around God’s Word and Sacraments here in this place each week to remember the blessed pledge of God’s own Holy Spirit, “who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, praise of His glory” (v 14).
God’s pledge is ours because he chose us! God’s redemption, blessing, and inheritance are all ours only in Jesus. Apart from him there is no blessing, no inheritance, no good thing in all the universe apart from Christ. And all this becomes yours and mine through hearing and believing the Gospel.
This very Gospel was poured out upon each of you: “when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,” we read in Titus 3, “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (vv 4-6).
It is through this Gospel made visible in the water of Holy Baptism that you, me, and all believers are all sealed with God’s own Holy Spirit of promise (v 3).
But the Gospel doesn’t end with verse 13!
In the very next verse, God tells us that we are his purchased possession, given the sure and certain inheritance of eternal life with him – for a purpose. That purpose is for the praise of God’s glory. In other words, you and I have been given all the treasures of heaven and an eternity so that our lives may be spent to the glory of God!
You and I together with all believers in the risen Christ bring God glory when we praise him in worship, when we gather to hear his Word, when we proclaim the death of his Son for the sins of the world by our participation in the Lord’s Supper.
And you and me and all believers glorify God when we tell others of his wonderful love that chose us, saved us, and eternally blesses us through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. We share so they too may believe and receive God’s eternal blessing and add their voices to ours, spending their lives to the praise and glory of God who is your Father and theirs, forever and ever. Amen.