HE WANTS TO FORGIVE
Ephesians 1 3-14 NET
We learned from Psalm 130 that when we are in the depths of guilt and shame we can cry out to God because he is willing to forgive us. We learned from Mark 2 that Jesus has authority on earth to do what the Father is doing in heaven. We Christians should be like those four friends of the paralytic – always seeking ways to get our friends to Jesus.
But God’s message of forgiveness is not just for unbelievers. The fact that Jesus can forgive sins is a truth that we believers will have to come back to over and over again as we seek to live our lives today. The devil is going to work overtime finding ways to destroy our confidence. He wants to make us believe that God can forgive, but make us doubt that God wants to.
No one understood this more clearly than the apostle Paul. Paul had begun his life as a persecutor of Christians. He believed that God hated followers of Jesus, and felt it his obligation to destroy them and stop their gospel. Then he met Jesus on the Damascus road. Soon, this former hater of the church was proclaiming the same message that Peter proclaimed — forgiveness of sins through the name of Christ.
Peter: “About him, all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).
Paul: “Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by this one, everyone who believes is justified from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you” (Acts 13:38-39).
One God. One Christ. One gospel — and at the heart of that one gospel is the offer of forgiveness. Paul preached that gospel to unbelievers. But Paul also emphasizes forgiveness as one of the major truths by which believers live their lives.
Paul left us a treasury of biblical and theological truth in his letters to the churches that we find in the New Testament. Today we are going to look at a section of one of those letters. The title that has come down to us is “Ephesians.” The letter itself was probably sent by Paul and his team to several churches. It expresses two main themes: God offers forgiveness to the world through Christ, and God has established one church in Christ.
Given those two main themes, we would expect this first chapter of Ephesians to give us some teaching about God’s forgiveness.
God wants to forgive you because he plans to make you his holy and pure child (3-6).
3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. 4 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. 5 He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will — 6 to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son.
Paul told the Ephesians that forgiveness is not the end of the story. Forgiveness is just the first stage in the plan. God plans to adopt new children into his family. Forgiveness is essential in that plan because God is holy and pure, and he cannot have children who are defiled and corrupt. He cannot even choose a defiled and corrupt being to be part of his sacred family.
The problem is — as we all know — he does not have any holy and pure individuals to adopt. Paul taught the Romans that both Jews and Greeks alike are all under sin. “There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).
So, what is God going to do? He wants to adopt children into his family. It is a tremendous privilege to be part of God’s family. His children will experience eternity as he will. But he went to the adoption agency and filled out all the paperwork — and waited. He never got a call. None of the children in all his creation qualified to be a part of his eternal family.
God had only one Son who was holy and blameless like him. This Son did not need to be adopted because he had always been part of the eternal family.
So, the Father and the Son got together and they devised a plan. Since sin kept all human beings from becoming adopted into God’s family, the Son was going to atone for that sin by sacrificing his life on the cross. Then, the Father would be able to adopt children into his family as long as they identified with Christ.
Because of what Jesus did, we are now blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms IN CHRIST. He chose us IN CHRIST before the foundation of the world. He predestined us to be adopted as his sons THROUGH CHRIST. He has bestowed his glory and grace on us IN HIS DEARLY LOVED SON.
God wants to forgive you because he plans to make you his holy and pure child. Christ came to this earth for that. Christ died on the cross for that. The adoption papers will come through not because you are a good person. The adoption papers will come through because you have been redeemed by the blood of Christ!
God wants to forgive you because he has already bought your redemption (7-8).
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight.
Your redemption is IN HIM – that it, in Christ. It is THROUGH HIS BLOOD. His death on the cross bought forgiveness of your trespasses.
The reason Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to do that was that it came from a vast reservoir of grace. This passage calls it the riches of God’s grace. When I go down to the store to buy something, the clerk at the counter is not going to ask me who my parents were. The clerk is not going to ask me what church I attend. Nobody is going to ask me what political party I belong to. No, the only thing that matters when I am in that store wanting to buy something is how much money I’ve got. If I pick up something from the shelf and bring it to the counter, I’m going to need cash in my wallet, or a card from a bank. There has to be a reservoir of riches somewhere enabling me to make my purchase. If I don’t have enough, I’m going to be embarrassed, and I’m going to have to put that idem back on the shelf and shuffle on back to the house without it.
The riches of God’s grace are enough to redeem you through the blood of Christ. The riches of God’s grace are enough to forgive your trespasses. So, you can go to God’s store, pick out forgiveness from the shelf, take it to the counter, and when the clerk asks you for payment you can pull out your Ephesians 1:7 card. Forgiveness has been bought and paid for. You don’t have to work for it. You don’t have to beg for it. You don’t have to do penance for it. You can’t buy it with what’s in your wallet. But that’s okay. It has already been credited to your account. The purchase has already been made at Calvary.
God wants to forgive you because he wants you to be part of his permanent restoration of the universe (9-10).
9 He did this when he revealed to us the secret of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 toward the administration of the fullness of the times, to head up all things in Christ – the things in heaven and the things on earth.
We already learned that God has a plan to adopt children into his eternal family. We already learned that he can do that because he counts the holiness and purity of Christ and applies it to everyone who puts their trust in Christ. If you are IN CHRIST you can be adopted THROUGH CHRIST.
These verses tell us that God has revealed to us a secret — the secret of his will.
Many years ago, Penny and I consulted with a lawyer and drew up a will. We were going to be working overseas as missionaries, so we were advised to write up a will explaining who would have custody of our daughters in case we died on the field. We have not revised that will, but we need to. Right now, if we were to die, our daughters would be given to a pastor and his wife down in Florida to raise. This might be a problem since they are now adults, and two of our daughters now have husbands and children of their own!
Lots of families turn against each other when they read the will. They find out the secret in the will – who gets what – and the sparks start flying. Well, God has revealed to us the secret of his will, and it should come as no surprise that Jesus gets everything. The Father and the Son have decided to renew the universe – to make all things new, and so one day everything that is will be in Christ.
That is why we plead for people to come to Christ before it is too late. The times are marching toward their fullness. When the calendar reaches the point where Jesus comes back, the time of the gospel will be over. Anyone outside of Christ when he comes again will only experience condemnation, torment, and the second death. The time to seek forgiveness is now. The time for justification by faith is now. The time for reconciliation is now. The opportunity for redemption through the blood of Christ is now.
God wants to forgive you because he has claimed you as his possession (11-12).
11 In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, would be to the praise of his glory.
It’s not always clear what a person means when he uses the word “we.” Who is the “we” of these verses? Is it all believers? No, notice that Paul clarifies what he is saying in verse 12 when he says “we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ.” I think Paul’s “we” in Ephesians 1 includes all Christians alive in his time. The “we” included all the Christians who came to Christ during that first century in which the gospel was preached. Paul is speaking to all the believers alive that day and assuring them that God has claimed them as his possession.
That is what it means to be predestined. It means that if you believe in Christ today, God has claimed you for himself. If you still want to do what you want, instead of what God wants, you are not predestined. If you are God’s possession, yous sins have been forgiven, and you are free to concentrate on his purpose, his praise, and his glory.
Finally, God wants to forgive you because he has sealed you by his Holy Spirit (13-14).
13 And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation) – when you believed in Christ – you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.
The God who has claimed you as his possession has invested his Holy Spirit in you to mark you as belonging to him. The God who has forgiven you has given you the ability to walk in that forgiveness. The Spiritual Gifts he gives us empower us to begin manifesting the fact that God has claimed us for his own for eternity. That means that sometimes when we say something, it is God saying it through us. Sometimes when we pray for something, God is going to grant that prayer. Sometimes when we touch someone, healing is going to happen.
The temple that possesses God’s Holy Spirit must remain pure and uncorrupted. This is a challenge for all of us to keep seeking God’s forgiveness through the blood of Christ. God has given us his Spirit, and he has not told us to take a sip. He commanded us to “be filled by the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). A sanctuary filled with God’s Spirit manifests his holiness 24/7. Forgiveness reigns in such a temple. That’s the kind of life that God wants you and me to live.