Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:1-14
Sermon Title: The Magnificence of God’s Will – part 1
Sermon Text: Ephesians 1:1-14
I provide this manuscript as a courtesy. I do not follow the document word for word during the message. I also do not write the document with the intent of publication; there may be grammatical errors throughout. Unfortunately, there is not always time to proofread. I choose to use my available time for studying, finding ways to explain the truths of Scripture while keeping a balance of time for visiting and discipleship of people in the church. Thanks for understanding.
When you read someone’s books, you get the sense you know them in some way. You learn about how they think and their style of writing. We might learn of where they live or about what they prefer. We learn much about the person. We catch a glimpse of who they are and what is important to them.
We may feel this way about the Apostle Paul. After having spent many years studying the book of Romans, and in reading his other letters and the book of Acts, we might feel as though we know him personally. We know about his conversion. We know about his travels from city to city and the many trials he faced. We read about his fighting for truth at the Jerusalem council. We know his sermons before King Agrippa and on Mars Hill. We know about his willingness to preach Christ no matter the cost. Most of all, we know of his love for the church and his love for Christ.
The Apostle Paul writes:
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8)
Oh, how we love the Apostle Paul and are thankful for his ministry and his example. If we love the Apostle Paul, imagine being a first century Ephesian. We were a people worshipping a false god named Artemis. We studied and practiced magic with the hope it would give us jobs, heal sickness, and bring favor in our life. Paul came to our city at great risk and preached the gospel. He didn’t care that some rejected what he had to say. He preached, and we listened to the message of truth, and we believed. Our lives transform completely. Paul spent almost three years in our city to plant our church and so we might know God and live in a way that is honoring to Christ our Savior.
It has been around five years since Paul was in our church. The church has grown, and people are getting together to worship Christ. One day, down at the port, a man named Tychicus steps off a boat from Rome. He has in his hand a letter written to our church from the Apostle Paul. Imagine the joy in calling people of the church together and saying, “Paul wrote a letter to us.” Imagine the emotion and excitement of receiving the letter from Paul. Perhaps some in the church paid a scribe to make copies so they might take a copy of the letter home. The letter was likely a treasure in the church. We need to see the precious value of God’s word.
At the end of the letter, Paul says Tychicus will make everything known to us Ephesians regarding Paul’s circumstances. Tychicus tells us Paul is in prison. We learn of the story of Paul’s capture in Jerusalem and his appeals which brought him to house arrest in Rome. Tychicus tells us Paul has written two letters. One is for us, and the other letter is for the church inland at Colossae, about a 40-hour walk due east from Ephesus. The church in Colossae started around the same time as our church here in Ephesus.
There is no specific reason, occasion, or problem in our church causing Paul to write the letter. It is written to provide further teaching in the faith. As we examine the letter we see it gives a beautiful overview of the redemptive works of Christ and the unity of the church. It is almost evenly divided. The first half discusses the doctrine of salvation. And the second half teaches us how to live.
The main theme of Ephesians is God working His will in our salvation for the purpose of making much of Jesus Christ. The book is written to reveal the eternal plan and purpose of God in our salvation and how God’s plan, His will, forms the foundation of our Christian life. The church is an instrument of God’s will.
The opening of the letter is simple. It begins by stating it is from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. On hearing the words, apostle by the will of God, one can’t help but think of Paul’s conversion. Paul’s plans to persecute Christians were interrupted by God. God imposed His will upon Paul and he went from being in opposition to God’s will to being an agent of God’s will.
The letter is to the saints at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus. Paul is not saying, to those who are saints and the ones who are also faithful. He is greeting the faithful saints. It is a foregone conclusion. All saints are faithful in Christ Jesus. The letter is written for us as well. We are saints, and we are faithful in Christ Jesus. We may rejoice in the truth of this letter and follow it’s instructions.
Paul’s salutation begins with: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He is saying, Saints, I bring you tidings from the Creator God. You have received that which you do not deserve. You deserved God’s wrath to be poured out upon you, but instead you received grace. You deserved war and instead God grants you peace. All of Paul’s letters begin with a salutation of grace to you, and they all end with a salutation of grace be with you. From beginning to end, we may expect the letter to be about the glorious grace of God extended to every believer who is in Christ.
The body of the letter begins after verse two.
The first paragraph is a rich smorgasbord of truth. It is a densely packed, beautifully written, exposition of the will of God in our salvation. I have mentioned to some people that expositing this passage is like eating an elephant. The task seems overwhelming. But, the way you eat an elephant is one bite at a time.
To understand the passage, we will take a summary statement and look at the verses using the summary statement as a guide. (You may read the statement on the sermon notes handout in the bulletin.) The statement is: God wills our salvation in Christ for the praise of His glory.
There are four separate teachings in the statement. Each teaching looks at God’s will from a different perspective.
The first teaching is “GOD WILLS.” The title of the teaching is “The magnificence of God’s will”.
The second teaching focuses on the next two words of the statement, “OUR SALVATION”. The title of that teaching is: “The blessings of God’s will”.
Next, we will look at the phrase, “IN CHRIST”. The title of that message is, “The mediator of God’s will”.
Last, we will look at the end of the statement, “FOR THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY”. The title of that message will be, “The response to God’s will.”
God wills our salvation in Christ for the praise of His glory.
Before we start, let’s take a moment and ask God to help us not just to understand this passage, but to find enjoyment, encouragement, and hope in our salvation and the result of it all will bring us to worship God in spirit and truth.
The Apostle Paul, from prison in Rome, writes to our church in Ephesus and this is what is on his mind!
Verse three begins by saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
The most important phrase in the first paragraph is the phrase “in Christ”. Sometimes Paul says, “in Him” and once it is written, “in the Beloved”. Noticing the frequency of the phrase is our clue to understanding what Paul intends to teach.
Listen to how times in the paragraph the phrase “in Christ” is mentioned:
Everything God does is purposed and centered in Christ. Anybody reading the Bible may easily understand the Bible is about Jesus. It should not be a surprise for us to read that Jesus is the center of God’s holy and magnificent will, and everything God is doing is in Christ.
We are blessed because we are in Christ. We are blessed not because of any good we have done or because we deserve to be blessed. We are blessed by God because we believe the gospel of Christ and we place our hope in Him, and therefore, we are in Christ.
God’s will from the beginning of time is the exaltation of Jesus Christ. Verse 9 can be understood as God purposed all He desires to accomplish to be accomplished in Christ (v.9). God is orchestrating everything, all events of the Universe, to arrive at a goal. The goal God is as verse 10 states, “an administration suitable to the fullness of the times.” The word administration means under management or overseen. We are to understand the word in the same way as we would understand the Obama, Bush, Clinton, or Reagan administration. God has in view an administration and He is working everything in the universe towards this administration and that administration is suitable for the fullness of time; in other words, suitable for eternity. We see in verse 10, the administration which God sees as being suitable for all times is that in which Jesus Christ has all things summed up in Christ; things in the heavens and things on the earth.
When Christ walked out of the tomb, that administration reached a significant point because that is when Jesus Christ ascended to heaven and took His seat of power. Right now, Jesus Christ is exalted and sitting at the right hand of God.
Look at the end of chapter 1 beginning at verse 20. Before verse 20, Paul talks about God working according to the strength of His might in us. He then says God is working in us with the same power which he brought about in Christ when:
He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:20-23)
We hear of this referred to in a few ways in the Bible. Here are a few examples:
It is Jesus testimony while He is on trial before the Sanhedrin. They said, if you are the Christ, tell us. Jesus said, “From now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” (Luke 22:69). Jesus quoted the prophet, Daniel.
“I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; aand His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
Jesus said to the elders of Jerusalem, I am Him, it is my dominion of which Daniel speaks. When Jesus said this, the high priest tore his clothes, signifying grief and anger. This was blasphemy; Jesus was as good as dead to the high priest for saying He will sit at the right hand of God.
After His resurrection, and as He was ascending into heaven on a cloud, Jesus said to His disciples, “All authority is given to me.”
In many of Paul’s letters, we may read of the exaltation of Jesus Christ.
… He will come to have first place in everything. (Colossians 1:18)
God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
The book of Revelation has several references to the Lordship of Christ. Here is one from chapter 19:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)
God’s magnificent will is to establish Jesus as Lord of all.
The question which should be on our mind at this point is, so what? How does this affect me? As I walk out of the church and go home and have lunch, when I go to work, should my life be impacted? How does knowing this impact my life?
Before we talk about how this may impact our life, let’s get a few things straight first.
First, whether or not we accept this truth does not determine its outcome. In other words, Jesus as King of the universe is not up for a vote. He is King. He became King when He walked out of the tomb. God highly exalted Jesus Christ. We do not have a say in the matter. It already is in place.
The second thing we need to understand is Jesus has no need for me or anyone else to stand and defend His rightful place as Lord of the universe. I am not His advocate, and neither are you. He defends Himself rather well.
How should this impact our life? Each and every one of us needs to make a choice. Our choice has two options.
The first option is to do nothing or do little. With this option, we ignore the truth Jesus Christ is King of the Universe, and He has first place in all things. We choose to live our lives without little or no regard for Jesus. The fact Jesus is Lord does not impact our relationships, our work or home life, or any other aspect of life. To do nothing or to do little is not a good choice. The Bible teaches doing nothing or not completely investing ourselves in God’s will results in negative consequences, and those consequences are very severe.
The second option is to say we are all-in; we are fully invested. We choose to arrange our thinking, our actions, and our desires, so we are in alignment with God’s will. We proclaim Jesus is Lord of the Universe, and we live our lives in such a way so as to be in complete alignment with God’s will. If we do this, the Bible promises we will find our joy, purpose, comfort, satisfaction, and blessing.
I will give you three reasons as to why completely submitting ourselves to Jesus’ lordship is the best choice of the two options.
Jesus has proven Himself as worthy. John’s gospel states there are many things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, even the world would not contain the books that would be written.
All things have been created through Jesus and for Jesus. He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together. As Creator, He proves Himself to be very good. He is the creator, who else should govern the stars and the planets and set them on their course? He understands all sciences, mathematics, government, and beauty. He has no one worthy to be His counselor. He is all-knowing about every intimate detail. Should any circumstance arise, Jesus proves He has the answer. Should there be a storm, He has proven capable of telling the storm to be still.
Though He is all-powerful and worthy of all glory, He clothes Himself with humility and grace. He chose to be born in a humble setting of a manger. He lived a perfect life having never sinned. There is no deceit on His lips. He is kind to children, and He ministers to the poor, outcast, and broken-hearted. He faces the proud and arrogant and puts them in their place.
The greatest and most convincing demonstration of His worthiness is He died for our sins and bore the wrath of God on our behalf. He laid down His life for us even though we are undeserving. He calls us His friends.
On the cross He disarmed the rulers and authorities who were our enemies and made a public display of them, having triumphed over them. Then, in an amazing display of power, He walked out of the tomb. He defeated enemies who seemed invincible, sin and death.
Jesus is the one who says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 10:28-30)
Jesus is fitting for all people because He is the desire of all nations (Haggai 2:7). He is able to stop all war and conflict because He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). With Jesus, we never have to experience darkness because He is the Light of the world (John 8:12). We never have to hunger or thirst because He is the Bread of life (John 6:35) and all satisfying for our thirst (John 4:14).
He is completely Faithful, so we never have to worry He will change from being good to being evil. He will protect and defend us because He is our advocate (1 John 2:1). He promises to care for our deepest needs because He is our Good Shepherd (John 10:14) and the Overseer of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).
Submit to Jesus because of Who He is. He is the great I AM.
Jesus promises in His Kingdom; swords become plowshares. The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf with the young lion (Isaiah 11:6). He promises His Kingdom will have no evil doers because they are left outside the gate.
He promises to bring us into His Kingdom as people who are holy, spotless, and above reproach. He promises we are His children, joint-heirs, and He will freely give us all things. He promises we will enjoy Him forever.
His word spoken by Isaiah promises:
The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine. And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:6-8)
He promises to swallow up death for all time. In His Kingdom, we will never hunger, thirst, cry, or be unsafe. Has anyone else made such a promise?
He makes promises and He has proven He is able to fulfill them all.
As we contemplate these glorious truths and as we choose to invest completely in God’s will we must remember professing Jesus as Lord and living by His commands is not easy. It is like swimming upstream. Everything in our culture teaches us to do live otherwise. Following the commandments of Jesus will appear outdated, irrelevant, and intolerant to everyone but those in the church. We cannot let our faith be shaken and we must hold fast and fight the good fight of faith.
Find grace and peace in the magnificence of God’s will
Find grace in that we have received undeserved favor to be a part of God’s Holy will. We did nothing to earn it or deserve it. It is because of grace. Because God has magnified Christ and has seated Jesus at His right hand, we receive every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Find grace in the magnificence of God’s will.
Find peace in the magnificence of God’s will. The world around us is full of turmoil, war, unrest, and confusion. We may look at the world and find peace because we know God is bringing about a new order to the universe. He is working all things according to the counsel of His will. God has a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of all time, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ.
Wae need to keep our eyes on Christ. It is in Him we place our hope.
Worship God and praise Him for the magnificence of His will.