Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Hope In Christ - July 12, 2015 - Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10) - Text: Ephesians 1:3-14
This morning our text addresses the topic of predestination. The difficult part of the topic of predestination is that the Bible leaves us in a tension, a paradox and it does not resolve that tension. Unfortunately, there are too many who attempt to resolve the paradox of predestination, but in so doing, in using human logic, they fall off into one false understanding or another. God is not necessarily logical, as we might think in terms of human logic. Yet, God has given us His Word and even when He leaves us with His Word in tension, sometimes we simply have to leave it in tension as well.
Paul begins by telling us that we are blessed by God. We begin at verse three, “3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (v. 3-10).
What great and wonderful words of Gospel Paul lays out for us this morning. Paul tells us that it is God who has chosen us and He has chosen us before the creation of the world. In other words, before God even began creating the world, He chose us. He chose us to create us, to love us, and to save us. Notice how this takes away any thought we might have that we are the one’s doing the choosing. As a matter of fact, our Lord constantly reminds us that if we had the choice, we would not choose Him, rather we would reject Him and we see how true this is each and every day as we absent ourselves from reading God’s Word, having personal and family devotions and as we see on many Sundays when we absent ourselves being in Divine Service and Bible class. God never asks us to choose Him, instead He comforts us with the Word that He has chosen us, and He has chosen us even before He began creating the very world in which we live.
God’s will is not that anyone is condemned, even though that is a reality, that is that not all people are saved. Notice here is where, if we use our own human logic, we can fall off into the pit of false teaching. We are not told and Bible never says that anyone has been chosen to eternal spiritual death. Our logic would be to deduce that if God chose us to be saved and we know some are condemned, then, logically to us, He must also have chosen some to be condemned, but this is not what He tells us. He simply tells us that He has chosen us to be saved. In other words, His will is to adopt us as His children and He does this through Jesus Christ, through faith in Jesus, faith which He gives to us.
And so we have this mystery. Interestingly enough, this word “mystery” is a word which has a connection with the word proclamation. And although Paul uses this word, which is a word the Gnostics also used, instead of using it in terms of a secret, “I’ve got a secret that you don’t know,” which is how the Gnostics used it, Paul connects this mystery with the cross of Christ. And the cross of Christ is a mystery, especially to those who do not believe. It is a mystery why God would do what He did and does. It is a mystery why Jesus would allow Himself to be crucified for us. It is a mystery why God would save His creation as bad as His creation had become.
As Paul continues to tell us, God’s plan was accomplished in Christ, at His death and resurrection. And keep in mind, this was all known by God, even before He began the very first day of creation. We call this God’s foreknowledge. That is, because God lives in the eternal present, He knew that Adam and Eve would disobey and bring sin and a curse. God knew we would be a rebellious people. God knew what was going to need to be done for His creation even before He began creating and because of His great love for us, He created the world and us anyway. This is quite a mystery indeed.
God’s plan will be further accomplished on the day of Judgement. On the day of Judgement all things will come to a just and righteous end. No matter how sinful the world seems to be getting and is getting, no matter how difficult it may be to be a Christian, no matter how unfair and unfairly treated we are as Christians, in the end we know for sure that God’s just judgement will be meted out. And fortunately for us, we will not get what we justly deserve, eternal spiritual death, but, because of our faith in Jesus, faith which He has given to us, we will get what He has earned, eternal life in heaven.
But Paul is not through. We continue in our text with even more blessings from God. We pick up at verse eleven, “11In 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, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13In 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, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (v. 11-14).
Getting back to this mystery, why would a perfect God do what He did, give His life and the life of His Son for His imperfect creation? Paul tells us, He saved us to His glory, not in order that we might praise Him as such, but that the world would praise Him as they recognize His work in saving us. In other words, God does not do what He does in order for us to praise Him, as if He needs our praise, but He does what He does in order that the world, His creation, might recognize that He is God and that He is the Savior of the world.
How does God communicate His message with His world, with His creation, with His creatures today? It is the Holy Spirit working through the hearing and reading of the Word which work and give faith. Here again, as always, we see the importance of the means of grace; the importance of hearing and reading the Word of God; the importance of remembering our baptism; the importance of confession and absolution; the importance of partaking of the Lord’s Supper. God works through these means, the means of grace. When we absent ourselves from these means, then we absent ourselves from the gifts God has to give through these means. When we make regular and diligent use of the means then we open ourselves to the Lord having His way with us, giving us the gifts He has to give.
Of course, the greatest gift is the gift of Jesus’ giving Himself on the cross and this is the guarantee of our inheritance. Remember, a person is saved by being perfect which is God’s demand that we are perfect as He is perfect. We know that we cannot be perfect so we must find another way to be saved. We are not perfect and this is seen in the fact that not only do we break every commandment, we tend to break them several times each day. We sin in thought, word and deed. We sin sins of omission and commission. We sin what we perceive to be little sins as well as big sins. Indeed the point is that we sin. We cannot be perfect. The only other way to get to heaven, then, is through forgiveness which removes our sin and guilt. Thus, we see that forgiveness is so important and is our greatest need. To not be forgiven is to remain in our sin and if we remain in our sin, that would mean eternal spiritual death. And so we see how important our confession and absolution is every Sunday and every day.
What does this mean? God is indeed praised and will be praised, especially in heaven. Notice that this praise is not an earthly thing as if He needs our praise. And also, it is interesting that the word for “bless” here in this text is the Greek word “eulogy” which literally means “good word.” God has literally “good worded” us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Remembering that God’s Word is efficacious, that is that God’s Word does what it says, how wonderful it is to know that we are “good worded” by God. We are good worded so that His Word does for us what it says. We are good worded with faith, forgiveness and eternal life.
Paul speaks words of predestination that is that God had all things planned, even knowing we would be His before the creation of the world. How wonderful to know that this is all in God’s hands. We spoke earlier about the fact that human logic is that if God had determined that we would be saved and that if we know some are not saved then certainly God must have determined that some would not be saved and although that might be logical to the human mind that is not what God tell us. Here we would add to the tension that no where does God ask us to choose Him, instead, as we heard, it is God who has chosen us. There are passages of the Word which tell us we can refuse and reject God. And here we have our second tension, that is that in logical human thinking, if we can reject God, then certainly we can accept or choose Him, yet that is not what God tells us, in other words, God tells us we cannot accept or choose Him, but we can reject Him, and so we are, again, left in this tension. I believe this is a good tension, a Godly tension and a tension which we should not attempt to resolve, lest we fall off into the ditch of false teaching. Thus, the tension is that God has predestined us to be saved and our only option is that we can reject Him. To state anything else is to go beyond what God tells us.
And so, the story goes. God created the world. He created it perfect and holy. He created a perfect man and a perfect woman and placed them in a perfect garden and even gave them perfect work to do in the garden. Then, the man and the woman God created fell into sin. God immediately stepped in and promised to send a Savior.
Because the price for the sin of Adam and Eve was death, eternal spiritual death, they could not pay that price themselves. Thus, God’s perfect plan and solution was to send His only Son, even Himself in human flesh. God, in the person of Jesus is the ransom for our sins and for the sins of all. What mystery, that God could, would and did love His creation so much that He would offer such a great sacrifice for us.
And now, the Holy Spirit works to point to Jesus. The Holy Spirit works through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments to give, strengthen and keep us in faith. The Holy Spirit works through the Word to continue daily to “good word” us with the Word which does and gives what it says.
And what is our part? Since we do not choose Jesus. Since we do not need to praise the Lord. Since we do not have to do anything, what is our part? Our part is simply to respond. We respond, first and foremost by begin given to, by remembering our Baptism, by reading His Word, having personal and family devotions, by being in Divine Service and Bible Class as often as offered, confessing our sins and being given forgiveness, and partaking of the Lord’s body and blood in His Holy Meal for forgiveness of sins. We respond by not refusing and rejecting the gifts God has to give. And we may indeed, by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace, working through us, acknowledge and give praise to the Lord by saying, to God be the glory.
What a great God we have. A God who is above all other gods. A God who has created all things and who has created us. He has created us for a purpose, in order to love us and He loves us and shows His love for us especially in the giving of His Son and the life of His Son for us. He loves us and He has redeemed us. He has redeemed us for a purpose, in order that, with the help of the Holy Spirit working in and through us, we may do the good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.