Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Epistle, which was read earlier.
As a young kid in school, gym class could be a good thing or a bad thing. The reason why came down to whether or not you were chosen by a particular team. When you played dodge ball, were you the first one chosen or were you the last? How you were chosen marked your value to the team: the higher you were chosen, the better the team valued you. If you were the last one chosen, then it reflected what the team thought of your playing skills. Everything for that brief amount of time came down to being chosen and what that meant for you.
As Paul sets out to write his letter to the Ephesians, he focuses on being chosen by God. Paul wants the Ephesian church to know just how much God loves them and what they mean to God. The Ephesians were very important to God and Paul wanted them to know that. What was so special about the Ephesians? What was it that set them apart from everyone else? What made the Ephesians so special had nothing to do with them. Rather, it had everything to do with God. Paul says, “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ….” You see, what made the Ephesians so special was that God had chosen them, not that they had chosen God. What made them special was the love that God has for them through Jesus Christ.
In Christ, God chose us to be holy and blameless. It is not that we were holy and blameless to begin with, and for that reason God took a liking to us and chose us. Rather, He chose us when we had no righteousness to offer. In fact, He chose us before we were born, before the world even existed. God chose us, Paul says, not because we were holy and blameless, but He chose us “that we should be holy and blameless.” He chose us, the sinners that we are, in order to make us righteous in Christ. Every spiritual blessing rests on Christ and His saving merit.
Just think what Paul is saying here in our text. From eternity, before time began, God’s plan was to make us members of His family, to bring us into His household as His sons and daughters! One has to ask themself this question: why? Why does God do all that He does? Paul tells us exactly why: “In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will….” In other words: He did it because He wanted to, not because He had to. He did it because He wanted to, not because we deserve it. He did it because He wanted to, not because we earn it. These spiritual blessings that come as God’s children are totally underserved. They come purely as a gift of God’s grace.
As we look at what we are, chosen and holy and blameless, we must remember that this did not come without a cost. You and I do not bear that cost, for it is beyond what you and I could ever pay. The cost was paid in full and the cost was not what you would expect it to be. Luther writes that Jesus Christ “purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” It wasn’t anything that you and I paid for that won our salvation. It wasn’t anything in this world that paid for our salvation. It was Jesus Christ and His blood, His death, His resurrection that earned for us our salvation.
The greatest blessing that you and I receive is the forgiveness of sins we have in Christ. Nothing else that we have in this world or could ever have means anything when compared to what we receive from God.
It is such a wonderful thing to know that God did all of this for me and not because of me. You might be wondering what difference there is between God doing this for me and God doing this because of me. There is quite a difference between the two and only one is the correct understanding of God’s love for you.
What God has done through the saving work of Jesus Christ has all been for you. The saving work of Christ was done out of the love He has for the Father. In creation, it was meant to be perfect, that is, without sin. But through the fall of sin came death. In order to restore creation to what it was intended to be, God sent Christ to redeem it. That meant that Christ was sent to redeem you. Everything that was done was done by Christ, the One who made salvation for you possible. God’s eternal plan, fulfilled in Christ, for our good and blessing, was so that you and I would have the restored relationship with God our heavenly Father, and that we would be able to stand before Him as His beloved children with sins forgiven.
That is how this relationship is meant to be. However, for many, the relationship is often skewed, in that we think that what God has done is because of me. In this thinking, God sends His Son Jesus Christ to save us because we’re such good and loving people. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is not how God’s plan of salvation works. God does not send Jesus into this world because of us and who we are or what we’ve done. The only thing about us is that we are damned sinners. Paul says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There is nothing redeemable in that statement, yet there are many that think that their works or other qualities about them make God love them and redeem them.
What does this thinking do to Jesus and the blessings God lavishes upon you for Jesus’ sake? As far as Jesus goes, it robs Him of glory: it says that He did His part to save you, and that you do your part to save yourself by choosing to believe in Him. It takes the focus off of Him, and puts it on your decision, your commitment, and your dedication. As far as the blessings go, it makes them uncertain again: they’re yours, if you really believe in Jesus enough. If you’ve truly chosen Him and made a decision for Him, then salvation and all those blessings are yours. But if your decision wasn’t sincere enough—if you’re only fooling yourself, then you’re lost. You can’t be sure if you’re truly committed.
Those are too many “what ifs” for salvation. All the work is placed on my shoulder and I know that I can never do enough to earn my salvation. Left to my own vices, I would continue to remain a damned and condemned sinner, and so would you. But thanks be to God, our salvation does not depend upon our own work but what has been accomplished for us by Jesus Christ.
That is your joy today: from the foundation of the world, God purposed that His Son would come and redeem you by His blood, so that He might seal you with His Spirit and lavish His grace upon you today. There is no doubt to these blessings beyond reason: for Christ’s sake, most certainly, you are forgiven for all of your sins. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.