The Third in a Series of Sermons on Ephesians
Paul has a well-defined concept of history. While God ordains all things and reveals his will through the unfolding events of human history, Paul is especially concerned with the redemption of God’s people. Redemptive history refers to God’s plan of salvation as it unfolds in those historical events recorded in Genesis through Revelation. In verses 3-14 of Ephesians 1, Paul’s redemptive-historical panorama takes us from eternity past (when the Father chooses to save a multitude of sinners so vast they cannot be counted), to the historical work of Christ (who redeems those chosen by the Father through his shed blood), to that moment in time when we were called to faith by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel. Paul states that we were sealed by the Holy Spirit until the end of the age when our bodies will be raised in the resurrection. In our passage this morning (verses 15-23 of Ephesians 1), Paul focuses upon the center-point in redemptive history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For Paul, Jesus’ resurrection marks the dawn of the new creation and is that critical turning-point when God begins to undo the effects of human sin. Occurring at the mid-point of Paul’s redemptive-historical panorama, the resurrection of Jesus defines how we as Christians are to view the balance of human history from the moment Jesus was raised until our own resurrection at the end of the age. It is in our Lord’s triumph over death and the grave that we find our hope as we await that day when the story of redemption is finally complete and we receive that glorious inheritance promised to us “in Christ.”
We are continuing our series on Ephesians and now make our way to the concluding verses of Ephesians chapter 1. Building upon the sweeping Trinitarian panorama of redemption he has set forth in verses 3-14, Paul now prays for those who will read this letter, and in doing so, points us to the importance of Jesus Christ’s resurrection as the foundation for the Christian life. Jesus not only shed his blood to redeem us from our sins, but his resurrection and ascension are a defining moment of the redemptive drama. All those who read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians presently live in that period in redemptive history after Jesus has actually accomplished redemption for all those whom the Father had chosen from eternity past. This is why we speak of particular redemption (or definite atonement). Jesus does not merely make salvation possible for whomever wishes to be saved. Who among Adam’s fallen children actually wishes to be saved? Rather, Jesus actually redeems all those given to him by the Father. Jesus’ resurrection is the proof that Jesus definitely accomplished our redemption, and as surely as Christ “died for us,” it is certain that Jesus was “raised for us,” ensuring our own resurrection at the time of the end.
When Paul wrote this letter in the early 60's of the first century, Christianity was spreading rapidly throughout the Roman world. As we read this letter today, people are still coming to faith in Christ. It has been argued by some that the course of history will reach its end when the last elect sinner comes to faith in Jesus and the full number of those chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and called by the Holy Spirit is realized. Now, since we don’t know when that will be, we must prepare as though human history will continue to roll along just as it has been doing, long after we are dead and gone.
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