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God's Blueprint for Time & Eternity

Tom Pennington • Ephesians 1:3-14

  • 2007-07-08 AM
  • Ephesians
  • Sermons

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Today we begin in earnest our study of Paul's letter to the Ephesians, and—as we learned last week—not only to the church there in Ephesus where he served and ministered for three years, but also to the surrounding churches in the region of Asia Minor. This, really—as we begin—we need to note, is a most unusual letter. Most of Paul's letters are written for one of three purposes: either to deal with problems in the church, a common occurrence. If you want an example of that you can certainly study the two letters to the Corinthian church, a church plagued with problems. And Paul's letters, therefore, are written to address those problems at various levels. A second purpose Paul wrote in the New Testament was to address some false teaching. An example of this would be the letter to the church in Colosse, where a heresy had begun to undermine the pure teaching of the gospel centered in Jesus Christ that Paul had taught them. A third reason that Paul writes, not only to deal with problems in the church, not only to address false teaching, but thirdly, Paul writes personal letters to friends. Both letters to Timothy, and the letter to Titus, as well as the letter to Philemon are all examples of those more personal letters, addressed to friends with specific concerns regarding that individual, to whom he wrote.

Now, none of those purposes or reasons are immediately obvious in this letter. Instead, like Romans, this letter tends to have a more lofty, sort of universal feel. In it, Paul takes what is really a unique approach. You can see that uniqueness even in the vocabulary he uses in this letter. If you were to look at the Greek text, you would discover that in this letter, Paul uses forty-two words that are found nowhere else in the New Testament. He uses thirty-nine words that he uses nowhere else in his writings. So, it's a very specific unique letter written not for the normal purposes for which Paul wrote. And so, that raises the question, what then is the theme or purpose of this letter to the Ephesians? If it's not to deal with problems, if it's not to address[cough] (excuse me—I will struggle today with a little bit of a cough because I've got

some allergies going on, as some of you do. Please forgive me in advance. I'll try to minimize it as much as I can.) But when you look at the purpose of this letter; if it's not for the normal purposes—that is, to deal with problems, to address false teaching, or to contact a personal friend, then why did he write? Well, there have been many suggestions. Some have suggested that he wrote to strengthen churches there in Asia Minor that were under the intense influence of the Domitian persecution. Others have suggested that he wrote to help Gentile believers appreciate their calling and to live up to that calling—to walk worthy of it. One man has suggested that it's to teach broad Christian principles—rather a vague and generic purpose. Others, to promote a genuine love for one another. The most common explanation of the purpose or theme of this letter is the theme of unity. And certainly, unity is a large part of what Paul wants to underscore in this letter, the unity that we have in Christ among the Jews and Gentiles who made up the churches there in Asia Minor.

I've come to agree with several commentators, however, that we really meet Paul's purpose for this letter in the first main sentence—the first paragraph. I believe that as Paul unfolds his purpose in writing, he does so in the very first paragraph that runs from chapter 1 verse 3 down through verse 14. That if you can examine that paragraph and understand its theme, then you will find the theme for the book itself. The theme of Ephesians 1 verses 3 through 14, and the theme of the entire letter then, I believe, are the same. And we'll hopefully work that out for you today and in the weeks that follow.

And the theme is this: "The Eternal Plan of Redemption." God's eternal plan of redemption. God has a plan. Now, that's obvious to those of us who are believers. We all embrace that. God has a plan, and He's working out that plan. While it may be obvious to us, most of the world rejects that very basic tenet of our faith. Many overtly deny that there is any plan behind the world—behind human history. There's no purpose in the cosmos. Carl Sagan was the leading popular scientific voice for naturalism until his recent death. Some of you will remember that he began each episode of his television series The Cosmos with these words: "The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be." In a book published near the end of his life, Sagan wrote: "Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe are challenged by this point of pale light." He was showing a picture of the universe with the earth as a tiny little pale speck. "Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." In Sagan's 1995 book Contact, which eventually was made into a major motion picture, one of the characters, Sol Hadden, expresses the core of Sagan's concern about God. Listen carefully because this is a concern that many in our world share. He says

If God is omnipotent and omniscient, why didn't He start the universe out in the first place so that it would come out the way He wants? Why is He constantly repairing and complaining? No, there is one thing the Bible makes clear. The biblical God is a sloppy manufacturer. He is not good at design. He's not good at execution. He'd be out of business if there was any competition.

That is a view that many in the culture share. You see, Sagan rejected the idea that God has a workable plan, and that that plan is in process, and is working out exactly as God has chosen. Instead, his perspective was that you and I are just drifting through the universe on a pale blue dot—a universe that has absolutely no design and no purpose. To Sagan, and to millions of others who still inhabit the planet, time and eternity have no plan. There is no blueprint. Sir George Clark, historian and poet, in his first lecture at Oxford, said this "There is no secret, and there's no plan in history to be discovered. I do not believe that any future consummation could make sense of all the irrationalities of the preceding ages. If it could not explain them, still less could it justify them." H. Fisher, in his introduction to his book The History of Europe writes "Men wiser and more learned than I, have discovered in history a plot, a rhythm, a pre-determined pattern. These harmonies are concealed from me. I see only one emergency following another, as wave follows upon wave." One French novelist and biographer said this "The universe is indifferent. Who created it? Why are we here on this puny, mud heap, spinning in infinite space? I have not the slightest idea, and I am quite convinced that no one has the least idea." Instead, to all these men—to Sagan—human history is merely the random scribbles of chance across the pages of time.

Apparently, Sagan never read Ephesians chapter 1, because in this monumental chapter, the omniscient, omnipotent God makes it clear that He does have a plan. A plan that He determined in eternity past. A perfect plan. A plan from which He has never once wavered; not one single event in the history of the cosmos, or in your history, has ever wavered from God's perfect, eternal plan. He is relentlessly, moment after moment, day after day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, millennia after millennia, working out His great eternal plan. And in His time, it will all come to a perfect end. In one of the most amazing passages in all of scripture, God explains His eternal plan to us. It's in Ephesians chapter 1. It's in twelve short verses. In English text that's what it is. In the Greek text, it's only 202 words—one very long sentence. Our English translators, for our sakes, have broken it up into various sentences, but in the Greek text it's one sentence beginning in verse 3 and running through verse 14. But in this one sentence is contained the eternal plan of God for His Son and for His people, which, if you're in Christ, includes you. This plan stretches back into eternity past, into what theologians call the covenant of redemption. That is, there was a pact between the members of the Trinity in eternity past in which the Son would come and give of Himself to redeem a people. It stretches forward to the end of time, when we will receive our eternal inheritance. But it even reaches beyond the end of time into eternity future, as Ephesians 2 verse 7 describes the ages to come; in which God will lavish His grace upon us. Last week, we just got our feet wet on the shore, if you will, of Ephesians, in verses 1 and 2; but today, beginning with verse 3 Paul plunges us immediately into the fathomless ocean of the mind of God. Last week we went back to the first century—to AD 60. Today we rush back into eternity, into the eternal purposes of God Himself.

Let me read this amazing text to you. Today, Lord willing, we'll just look at an overview of it—get the big picture—and next week we'll begin to look at it in much more detail. But let me read it to you. Ephesians chapter 1 beginning in verse 3.

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, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons to Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens, and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

A remarkable sentence. Phillip Schaff, the great church historian said that this one sentence rises like a thick cloud of incense, higher and higher to the very throne of God Himself. There is a very real sense in which the entire message of Ephesians is introduced to us and exegeted in those verses. So, our goal this morning is to try to understand this passage—the major theme of this passage—so that we can then understand where Paul is taking us in the rest of this great letter.

We could reduce the theme of the verses that I've just read to you to this: Thanksgiving for God's Eternal Plan of Redemption. Thanksgiving for God's eternal plan of redemption. God has a great eternal plan that He is working out in time. He has a blueprint for time and eternity.

Now, just so you don't take my word for it, let me walk you through this passage and show you how often Paul refers to God's purpose or plan. Notice in verse 1—of course you see the will of God—but that's common in all of Paul's letters. In verse 4, we really begin to see it in earnest. God chose us in order that, or for the purpose that, we would be. That speaks of divine purpose. Verse 5, "He predestined us to adoption." Verse 5 also speaks of "the kind intention of His will." Verse 6, to, or in order that, "the praise of the glory of His grace" might be seen in us. For this purpose. Verse 8, "in all wisdom and insight," speaking of the wisdom and planning of God. Verse 9, "the mystery of His will." Also, in verse 9, "His kind intention which He purposed in Him." Verse 10 speaks of "the fullness of time," which implies a plan—a purpose. Verse 11, "having been predestined, according to his purpose." And God is described at the end of verse 11 as the one "who works all things after the counsel of His will." Verse 12, to the end that we "would be to the praise of His glory." You see purpose in that as well. God had a distinct purpose and plan in mind. Verse 13, "you were sealed." In other words, God has some end goal in mind, and to punctuate that, He sealed us. Verse 14, the Spirit was "given as a pledge of our inheritance." Verse 14 also—with a view, or for the purpose of, the redemption of God's own possession. And finally, to the praise of His glory. Now, I've walked you through all of that on purpose because I wanted you to see that this sentence is filled with language underscoring God's purpose, or God's plan. That's what it's about. That's why I believe this epistle is about God's purpose and plan—God's great eternal plan— as well as this passage. James Montgomery Boice puts it like this. He said, "Ephesians deals with the most fundamental Christian doctrines, but even more, it stresses the sovereignty of God in salvation, and the eternal sweep of God's great plan, by which believers are lifted from the depths of sin's depravity and curse, to the heights of eternal joy and communion with God". That's what this letter is about. The theme of Ephesians is that great eternal plan of redemption. That determines the structure of the book. For example, the first three chapters of this letter are the plan explained. Chapters 4 through 6 are the plan applied. Chapters 1 through 3—the doctrine—what we need to know. Chapters 4 through 6—the application—what we need to do. In fact, this is an interesting little observation. If you were to read through the first three chapters of Ephesians and look for all of the commands—look for all of the imperatives—you would only find, in your English text, one imperative—one command—in all three chapters. It's found in chapter 2 verse 11. And it's a command not to do something, as much as to know something. "But remember," Paul says. So, the first three chapters are not about what we need to do. Isn't that where we always start? Just tell me what to do. Tell me what I need to do. Give me the goals. I'll move forward. We're very Roman in our thinking. I don't need to know the theory. That's pointless. Just teach me how to do it. But that's not Paul. And that's not our God. The first three chapters of this book are about what we know—what we need to know—in order to do what's right. We're going to be a long time studying together simply the truth about God and His plan, and what He's doing, before we ever get to the application. Why? Because our problem is primarily a lack of knowledge. You say, "Well, we're in a Bible church. I mean, we don't have a lack of knowledge." Oh, yes, we do. Often, it's a lack of knowledge of the truth of the doctrine of God. Other times it's a lack of the ability to apply that knowledge properly—to do the right thing with it. We don't know it in the right way—in a life-transforming way. Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" in John chapter 8. He was speaking to the Pharisees, and He was saying, listen, the Christian life begins with the truth—understanding and knowing the truth. And guess how the Christian life advances. By knowing and understanding the truth. Isn't that what Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts chapter 20? At the end of that little address, as we saw last week, he says, but I'm going to commend you, now, after three years of ministering with you; I'm going to commend you to the word of His grace, that is, to the word of God; which dispenses God's grace to you. It is through the word of God that you are built up, he says, and you are sanctified. It's an understanding and a knowledge of the truth. Paul underscores that even here in Ephesians. Look down at Ephesians chapter 1, verse 15. He begins a prayer for them, and after he gives thanks for them, verse 16, he says, I'm "making mention of you in my prayers," and here's what I'm praying, "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him." Paul says, listen, here's my prayer. Your knowledge needs to be shaken up. You need to understand something. He goes on to say, verse 18: "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe." You need to know this. Have you

ever thought about this? That your Christian life and maturity is directly tied to what you know about God and His ways and His purpose and what He's accomplishing in you, and the depth of His love, and the depth and the breadth of His power manifested in your life? Understanding those things is the first step toward growth. So, the first three chapters here are about what you and I need to know.

But look at chapter 4 verse 1. Here marks the transition. The first three chapters—one imperative in chapter 2 verse 11—remember! Bring something to mind. Enter something into your head. But when we come to chapter 4 verse 1, he says, "Therefore, in light of all that I've taught you, I, the prisoner of the Lord implore you to walk." Now, we get to the practice. In Paul's terms, to walk speaks of habits of life. It speaks of lifestyle, behavior. He says, "I want you to live in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called." Now, he's going to apply all that he's taught us in the first three chapters—all of the doctrine. So, chapters 4 through 6 are primarily about what we are to do with what we now know.

Now, with that in mind, turn back to Ephesians chapter 1. Paul begins teaching us what we need to know in this sentence that I've just read to you. And this sentence is an amazing one. It is, after the greeting, it comes to us as the very first thing off the pen of the apostle, and it is a majestic summary of God's eternal plan. It's been described in some interesting ways. It's been described as a snowball that gathers up everything in its path as it rolls. It's been described as a musical overture that provides brief snatches of the music that we will hear throughout the rest of this letter. Commentators have called it a golden chain of many links—a kaleidoscope of dazzling lights and shifting colors. But my favorite description of this sentence is this: a magnificent gateway to the epistle. That's really what it is. It's like the opening door where you get your first glimpse of the greatness of what we will learn. It leads us into the truth that Paul intends to teach us in the rest of this letter. It sets forth the theme of all that Paul will say. So, you have one sentence, verses 3 through 14. And that one sentence is an expression of Paul's thanksgiving to God— but it's specific thanksgiving. It is thanksgiving to God for His great eternal plan. Now, how do you structure this sentence? Even as I read it, you can sense that there's some struggle trying to get it together in the right way. How do you look at organizing this, at structuring it? Well, Harold Hohner, in his commentary on the letter, documents some eighteen different ways that commentators have outlined or structured this passage. But there's one that sort of keeps coming up, and it seems pretty clear to me as well. This is not actually a hymn. Don't hear me saying that. It's prose, not poetry. But certainly, its content is like a hymn of praise. And so we could say that this hymn of praise and thanksgiving has three stanzas. Those stanzas are marked out for us by the repetition of a refrain or a chorus like we have in our music. Notice in chapter 1 verse 6 "to the praise of the glory of His grace". The end of verse 12 "to the praise of His glory," and the end of verse 14, "to the praise of His glory." There's the refrain. That's the chorus that marks the end of each stanza. So then, we can outline this sentence—this outburst of thanksgiving— around those three expressions of praise. And each of those sections focuses on one member of the Trinity. Verses 4 through 6 explain the Father's role in the eternal plan of redemption. The Father is the one who blesses. Isn't that where verse 3 begins, and verse 4 explains that. Verses 7 through 12 are the Son's role in the eternal plan of redemption. The Son is not the one who blesses. The Son is the one by whom the blessings are purchased. And verses 13 and 14 explain the Spirit's role in this great plan of redemption. The Spirit is the one by whom the blessings are personally applied. You understand that all three persons of the Trinity are involved in this great plan. The Father blesses, the Son purchases the blessings, and the Spirit applies them to us. And they are praised for this great amazing plan. Now in the weeks ahead, I hope, word by word, to plumb the depths and scale the heights of this amazing sentence, but in the few minutes that we have remaining this morning, I want us to summarize what this sentence teaches us about God's eternal blueprint for time and eternity. So, let me give you a summary. That summary comes to us—that plan comes to us with two distinct purposes. There's the purpose, the eternal purpose and plan of God for His people, and there's the eternal purpose and plan of God for His Son. Both of those weave their way through this sentence. God's plan for His people and God's plan for His Son. Let's look at those two distinct purposes together.

First of all, God's eternal plan for His people. This is you. If you're in Christ, if you have come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then this describes God's plan for you. Notice in verse 3 there's a summary of what God's purpose is, for His people, for you. It's to bless us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Think about that for a moment. In eternity past, God created a plan. And that plan involved you if you're in Christ, or if you will come to Christ in faith. And that plan was to pour out every conceivable spiritual blessing on you. That was God's plan. And notice the list of the blessings that occurs here. The list of the blessings that have been poured out upon us flow through this passage. Verse 4, He chose us—speaking of electing love. God chose you in eternity past. Verse 5, He predestined us to the adoption of sons to Himself. God decided in eternity past to make you His own child. To legally adopt you. To pluck you out of the family of Satan and to make you one of His own family. Verse 6, He bestowed grace. A better translation of that word bestowed is lavished. This is one of the spiritual blessings that comes to us from God. He lavished us with grace. And He continues to—and you know what? He will continue to. I love the verse in chapter 2 that says that in the ages to come, He might show us the surpassing riches of His grace. You'll always enjoy grace. Verse 7, He redeemed us. Here's another spiritual blessing that's ours. He redeemed us from the penalty and power of sin. He bought us back from His own wrath, and from the sin that was enslaving us. Verse 7, He forgave our sins. And it uses an interesting word there. He forgave our trespasses. That is, He forgave our individual acts of rebellion against Him. What an incredible spiritual blessing. Verse 9, He has made known to us the mystery of His will. God has let us in on His great eternal plan. Verse 11, He's given us an inheritance. There's so much included in that, we'll talk about it. But it includes the kingdom. It includes heaven. It includes eternal life. It includes all things. It includes God Himself. Our inheritance. Verse 13, He has sealed us with the Spirit. Guaranteed, by giving us the Spirit as a down payment, that we will get a future inheritance. Those are the spiritual blessings that are ours. Take a look at that list. If you're in Christ, God determined in eternity past to pour out all those things upon you. Why? Why would God do that? Well, look at His ultimate purpose for us as His people. Verse 6, "to the praise of the glory of His grace." Verse 12, "to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory." Verse 14 ends with "to the praise of His glory." Listen, the reason in eternity past, God decided to pour out all of those blessings upon you was not primarily about you; although certainly God did love you with an undying love; but ultimately it was also about His glory. That God would so act that praise would result. Charles Hodge writes "the purpose of God is to exhibit His grace in such [I love this] a conspicuous manner as to fill all hearts with wonder and all lips with praise." If you're honest about your life, as I certainly look at my own life, and I see what God redeemed me from—I see what He has forgiven me of—and I am to the praise of the glory of His grace. That was God's intention. That was God's eternal plan—for you, if you're in Christ, or if you, today, will come in faith and repentance to Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior.

So, God's eternal plan involves us, but it also involves Christ. God has an eternal plan for us as His people, but He also has an eternal plan for Christ as a part of that sweeping plan of redemption. So, let's look secondly at God's eternal plan for His Son. We could say that God really has two purposes for His Son, in this passage. One of them is that He would be the mediator. The mediator. The one between—the reconciler—the one through whom God bestows these blessings. You see, throughout this passage you will notice the expressions "in Christ" or "in Him" or "in whom," meaning Christ. About 160 times in Paul's writings he uses those expressions or similar ones. Eleven times in this sentence alone. Look at verse 3, "in Christ"; verse 4, "in Him"; verse 5, "through Christ Jesus"; verse 6, "in the beloved"; verse 7, "in Him"; verse 9, "in Him"; verse 10, "in Christ" and "in Him"; verse 12, "in Christ"; verse 13, twice he says, "in Him." Do you get the picture? What God determined to do, He determined to do in Jesus Christ. It's only because of our connection to Christ that we enjoy all of those things, and that was God's plan and purpose. This is one of the most important concepts in all of scripture, and we'll study it in depth together, but today I just want you to get the big picture. God has determined that all of the spiritual blessings that are ours come to us only in and through Jesus Christ. He's the fountainhead. He's the mediator. As Paul told Timothy, "there's one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." It's God's great plan to funnel every spiritual blessing we enjoy to us through His Son. This has always been God's plan. Go all the way back to the garden of Eden. Who was it that walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the garden? It was the second person of the Trinity. Who was it that created all things? Who was there at creation making all things, and without whom was nothing made that was made? John tells us in his gospel that it was Jesus Christ. Who met Moses on that mountain and called him into ministry? Who was it that was the rock that followed them according to 1 Corinthians 10? It was Jesus Christ. Who was the captain of the Lord's army? It was Jesus Christ. Who was the one who was in the spirit of the prophets, speaking to the people of the Old Testament? It was Jesus Christ. And then, when you come to the New Testament, He comes now not in those Old Testament ways, but He comes fully incarnated, fully in flesh, as one of us. And He lives among us, and He dies, and He's raised again the third day, and now He's ascended back into the presence of His Father. And today, He intercedes for us. You see, it was always God's plan that Jesus Christ, that the second person of the Trinity, His eternal Son, would be the connection between the Father and us. He would be the channel through which all spiritual blessings would flow.

Why? Why would God do that? Why is that so important to God? Well, that leads us to the second purpose He has for His Son. Not only Christ is the mediator, but for lack of a better expression, Christ is the center. He is the pre-eminent one, the supreme one. He's the one to whom all attention should be paid. You see this buried in the heart of this sentence. Look at verse 9. What many agree, in verses 9 and 10, are the heart of this sentence. Verse 9 begins "He made known to us [that is, God has made known to us] the mystery of His will." Now what does this mean? Well, in New Testament terms, a mystery was something that you could not know on your own, and that had not been revealed in the past, but now, has been revealed. To be a mystery, that's what had to be true, something you could not know on your own, something that had not previously been revealed, but had now been revealed. So, Paul says "He has made known to us the mystery of His will according to His kind intention, which He purposed in Him." That is, in Christ. In other words, this purpose, this mystery, has to do with Christ. Now, the NAS translates verse 10 in what I think is an awkward and unhelpful way. I mean, did you understand what it means "with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ"? We get a little snatch of it, but I don't think we get the full picture of what it means. Let me give you another translation. This is from J. B. Phillips' translation—really commentary as much as anything else—on the New Testament. He writes this and I think he captures the heart of it. "God has allowed us to know the secret of His plan, and it is this. He purposed long ago in His sovereign will that all human history should be consummated in Christ, and that everything that exists in heaven or earth should find its perfection and its fulfillment in Him." Amen. That's the point that Paul is making. Another translation puts it like this, "God's secret plan has now been revealed to us. It's a plan centered on Christ, designed long ago according to His good pleasure, and this is His plan. At the right time, he will bring everything together under the authority of Jesus Christ." This was the climax of God's purpose. Christ is to be the acknowledged head of the universe. Everything is to be brought under Him. He is to be pre-eminent. He is to be the supreme one. He is to be the center, the focus, of our hearts and our lives and our worship and our praise. Let me show you how Paul expresses this same idea in different ways in a couple of other letters that were written during this same Roman imprisonment. Turn to Colossians chapter 1. This letter was probably delivered by Tychicus at the same time that the Ephesian letter was. And notice what he writes to the church at Colosse. Chapter 1 verse 15. He makes the same point in different language. Notice verse 15, "He is the image [speaking of Christ] of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." That is the pre-eminent one over creation, and then he explains himself: "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities." So, in other words, everything that you see or all those things you don't see, even the authorities—the angelic authorities—"all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." In other words, Jesus Christ created everything, and He sustains everything. Now, verse 18,

He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything, For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness of deity to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

Now notice Paul's making the exact same points here. In verse 18, he tells us Jesus Christ is to be the center. He is to have pre-eminence in everything—first place in everything. And in verses 19 and 20, he tells us that Jesus is to be the mediator. He is the one who's to reconcile man to God. He's the contact point between God and man. Same basic point Paul is making in different language. Turn back to Philippians. Philippians chapter 2. Here Paul makes the same point. I won't read you the entire passage, but in verses 5 through 8 Paul describes our Lord's humiliation; our Lord's humbling of Himself; of His coming and taking on the form that we have, without sin; His becoming man in every sense without sin—in order to die on a cross. That is His role as mediator. His role as providing reconciliation. But then, notice His role as the center of everything beginning in verse 9, "For this reason," because of His humiliation, "For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee" should bow, or will bow, and every tongue "confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

He gave Him the name above every name. What is it? The name "Lord." Every knee will bow and every tongue confess. This is Jesus as the center, as Lord, as pre-eminent one. This is God's plan. So, God had an eternal plan for us, and He had an eternal plan for His Son. And that's what's unfolded in this amazing sentence.

God's eternal plan for you is that you would enter into a relationship with Him through His Son. You see, God is holy. He has a perfect holy law. We are sinners, and we have violated that law and our sin deserves the wrath and curse of God eternally. But God, because He is gracious and loving, sent His own Son to become one of us, to live a perfect life, and to die a death He didn't deserve, but to die as the substitute for those who would believe, who would come to faith in Him. So that if you are willing to repent of your sins and to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, God will impute or credit to your account the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He will forgive your sin. He'll make you His own. But all of that is only through Jesus Christ. That's the only way. But if you will repent and believe in Christ—or if you have already repented and believed in Christ—God's plan for you is to pour out on you every spiritual blessing conceivable in this life and in eternity. It's amazing, isn't it? Why? So that you would bring praise to the glory of His grace. And God's plan for Christ is that He would be the conduit through which all of those blessings would flow into your life. That everything in the universe would eventually center in Jesus Christ as sovereign and Lord.

Let me ask you. That's God's plan. Is that true of your own heart today? Is He really your sovereign? Is He your Lord? Is He the center? But don't miss Paul's main point in this first sentence. Paul's main point is, he wants you to know that your salvation is not an accident. It's not by chance—a casual act of randomness on this pale blue dot—as Sagan said. No, nor is it because you were more intelligent than other people and you were bright enough to choose Christ. No, you're part of much more than that. You are here today because God created a plan in eternity past to save you, so that your life would center in Jesus, His Son, and bring praise to the glory of His grace. You are part of God's eternal plan—a shocking, shocking truth. In the first three chapters, Paul says, understand the plan, and in the last three chapters he says, get with the plan. You are in God's blueprint for time and eternity, but only as you are properly related to His Son. How do you respond to that? How do you respond to the fact that God had you in mind in the eternal counsels of eternity, to set His love upon you, and to draw you to Himself, and to make you His own? How do you respond? You can only respond as Paul does in verse 3. Blessed be God. "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 Jesus." You can only respond with love and praise and adoration. And if you aren't motivated right now to do that, in spite of my poor—as the hymn writer says—poor stammering tongue, then there's something wrong at the deepest levels of your spiritual life, because this is what God has done for you. God has a plan—and amazing wonder of wonders, you're in it.

Let's pray together. Our Father, what can we say except to respond with Paul, may You be forever blessed, adored, magnified, exalted, praised. Father, our hearts cry out. We want to express ourselves in greater ways to say thank you for what You have done for us in Jesus Christ. Thank You, Father, that You have allowed us by grace to glimpse Your great eternal plan of the ages, Your great eternal plan of redemption for Your people and for Your Son. Father, I pray that You would deepen our knowledge. I pray with Paul that You would help us to come to know and understand these things, that You would root us in these things, that You would open the eyes of our understanding to grasp how important these things are to our spiritual lives so that we can grow in that knowledge into the fullness of the stature which belongs to Christ so that we may perfectly resemble Him to His glory, to the praise of the glory of His grace. We pray it in Jesus' name. Amen.

Ephesians