Eternally Secure in Christ
October 02, 2016 | Randy Smith
Eternally Secure In ChristEphesians 1:11-14
Sunday, October 2, 2016
Pastor Randy Smith
For the most part, people in this world are not happy. Many reveal it in their facial expressions. Others let it be known in their crabby attitudes. The rest convey it in conversation when they feel comfortable sharing with another the reality of their hearts.
Quite often Christians are not much better. We too are bombarded with disappointments, letdowns, failures, worries, fears and regrets. That's why it's hard to read about the expectation and command from Philippians 4:4. "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" How are we supposed to rejoice when all of us in this room deal with circumstances that bring us continual pain?
The answer is the Holy Spirit. All believers are given the Holy Spirit the very split-second they trust Jesus Christ for salvation (we'll learn about that today). The Holy Spirit produces spiritual fruit regardless of our circumstances - even when our world is crashing down around us. One of those fruits is joy - joy in the midst of sorrow. Joy is God's gift to His children, but only present when we abide in Christ and see things from His perspective.
Personally, in my fight for joy, it has helped me to understand this from two viewpoints. One is the truth that God is in control. He has sovereignly permitted the trial I am experiencing and in His love and wisdom has designed it for my ultimate good. I need to walk by faith that God has not forsaken me, but has a plan to accomplish my greatest spiritual benefit.
And two, it helps me to remember what I have in Christ. Health issues could knock off ten years of my life, but I am secure for eternity in heaven. Life may be hard now, but waiting for me is a place where there will be no pain or sorrow. Sure there are things that I would like that I do not get, but in reality God has given me everything I need.
That's why the opening verses of Ephesians 1 are so instructive in this regard. In this theological masterpiece, Paul begins by reminding the Christian of how good he or she really has it. Verse 3, we have been "blessedÉwith every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." You see, if we understand these blessings, specifically spelled out in verses 4-14, we will never complain and find sufficient reason to rejoice in the Lord always even when we are in deep sorrow.
If you are in Christ, you have been chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (verse 4). You have been adopted in love as His child (verse 5). You have redeemed through the blood of Christ (verse 7). You have been forgiven of all your sins through His grace (verse 7). You have been given God's plan (verse 9). And as we will learn today, you have been given an inheritance with God (verse 11) and you have been given the Holy Spirit as a pledge of your salvation (verse 13).
Now, what's bothering you? Why are you mad at God? You really want to go back to things as they were before Christ?
Our time is limited and the Lord's Table is awaiting us. This morning I would like to cover blessings six and seven mentioned in verses 11-14 and we wrap up the magnificent blessings we have in Christ.
1. Saved For An Inheritance
First, according to verse 11, "We have obtained an inheritance." Technically, Paul is referring to believing Jews, the "first to hope in Christ" (verse 12), but the verse has application to all Christians. God has given to all His children an inheritance.
We see it here in verse 11. In verse 14 we'll learn that the Spirit is a "pledge of our inheritance." And in verse 18, Paul prays we know "the riches of the glory of [this] inheritance."
Now we all know what an inheritance is. Perhaps it's the estate of our parents. Maybe we're blessed with a wealthy relative that's chosen to split her fortune with us. It could be upon the death of another we are given a house or art collection or piece of real estate.
Any way you slice it, the size of the material inheritance is often proportionate to wealth of its owner. So if this is the case, what does it mean when God, the owner of all resources, says that He has given us an in heritance, not from, but out of His infinite wealth?
Listen to Romans 8:17. "If children [of God], heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." We already learned in verse 5 that we have been adopted by God. Our heavenly Father has blessed us with His inheritance.
Now if we see this inheritance only from a material perspective, like we often do the inheritances given to us by people, we will run into trouble. Though material blessings are a gift from God, this is not the inheritance we are talking about. Look at the unbeliever. They ignore God and many still have tremendous material assets in this life. So the inheritance God is speaking of has to pertain to the life to come and the spiritual blessings we have at this present time.
This is what 2 Peter 1:3-4 teaches us: "His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness." There is nothing more you can need both in this life and in the life to come. Full inheritance! It's like you have a Learjet, Rolls Royce and million dollar house in Rumson and you are complaining about not getting the plastic shovel in the sandbox!
And it's interesting how Paul finishes verse 11 saying that God "works all things after the counsel of His will." In other words, God has a plan and everything in the world is working toward that plan. There is nothing that is frustrating Him or opposing Him. God's plan, which often permits evil for a purpose, is working together toward perfection.
And taken in the context of your inheritance, God's plan for you personally is a good plan and nothing, absolutely nothing, will ever be able to alter it. The plan is established and God second-by-second is intimately involved in the smallest details of the world to unfold it and accomplish His purposes for you to perfection. Again, if you are in Christ, that plan for you now and your future is in the eyes of God, perfection. We all love Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'" What an incredible inheritance!
2. Sealed With The Holy Spirit
Let move to the seventh and final blessing found in verses 13 and 14.
Initially, Paul sees the necessity to specify his audience. Again, these blessings are not for all people universally and received indiscriminately. They are only found, start of verse 13, "In Him." These blessings are won only in Christ and they are received only by those who have received Christ as their Lord and Savior. Look at the progression in verse 13 - listening and then believing.
Let's break that down. There is, verse 13, "the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation." This is the "good news." This is what you must believe to receive Christ and be saved. This is the promise that God loves the world and provided for all humans salvation from hell. This is, as Paul says, the "message of truth" that Jesus Christ died for sinners and when people trust Him for their salvation they can have full forgiveness, the hope of everlasting life with Him in heaven. This is, as Paul says, the "gospel of your salvation."
So as verse 13 says, there is no salvation until you first listen to this "message of truth" and then after understanding this "message of truth" you must personally believe this "message of truth" for "your salvation" (Rom. 10:17). Salvation, my friends, is a free gift given to us by God in Christ. It's a message entirely of grace. And it's a message received entirely by faith. It is God work received as your own.
There obviously comes a point in the lives of all true Christians when they came to Christ by putting their faith in Him and His work, also known as "the gospel of your salvation" or "the message of truth." Do you personally know this message? You just heard it. Have you believed it?
I love Paul's balance in this section. He presents both God's electing grace and the responsibility of man to believe. We can't understand this paradox, but it's presented in Scripture and despite the tension must give both sides their proper attention.
John MacArthur puts God's electing grace and man's responsibility to believe together very well in this statement. He said, "Faith is man's response to God's elective purpose. God's choice of men is election; men's choice of God is faith. In election God gives His promises, and by faith men receive them" (Ephesians, p. 33).
Or think of the divine and human sides this way. When you look toward heaven you begin to see a sign that reads, "Whosoever will may come," and after you enter heaven you look back and see the same sign and read on the other side, "Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world."
And when we receive Christ, God promises to give us the greatest gift, and that Being Himself. He gives us the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, that takes up full residence in our lives. According to Scripture, our bodies literally become the temple of God.
The Holy Spirit brings many blessings, but here Paul chooses to focus on two. In verse 13, he says the Holy Spirit "seals" us. And in verse 14, he says the Holy Spirit is a "pledge." This is fascinating and encouraging. Let's look at these and then we'll break for Communion.
The end of verse 13 reads, "You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise" (2 Cor. 1:22). The best way to think of this sealing is to consider how the word was used in the common language of when Paul wrote Ephesians. It was used of cattle and slaves that were often branded by their master. The intention of the seal was to show ownership. The same principle applies here. By giving us the Holy Spirit, God has sealed us as His own possession as the end of verse 14 declares.
This should give all of us great assurance that God will keep the great truths that He has promised to His children in verses 3-14. Quite often the promises made by man are meaningless. That's why we have sworn affidavits and surety bonds. That's why we are provided with guarantees and warranties when we purchase a product. Obviously God will always keep His word. But to remove any doubt, He has promised us the Holy Spirit and one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit is to seal us as His very possession and guarantee the delivery of every promised spiritual blessing in the heavenly places to His children.
Then the beginning of verse 14 we are also told the Holy Spirit "is given [to us] as a pledge of our inheritance." We learned about the inheritance earlier. How do I know the fullness of it will come to pass? Here it says we have been given the Holy Spirit as a pledge.
The word used by Paul for pledge is the Greek word, "arrabon." It was used to refer to a down payment, earnest money, to secure a purchase.
Another way to think of it is an engagement ring. The engagement ring is not the wedding band. That comes once you are married. But the engagement ring in a sense seals the deal. It illustrates the promise. It's a first installment, signifying a greater reality yet to come.
Likewise in Christ, the best is still yet to come for believers. Much of what we will ultimately enjoy has not yet been received. How can we be assured that we will receive it? How can we be sure that God will not abandon us? God has given us a significant down payment. God has given us Himself in the Holy Spirit.
As we transition to the Lord's Table, I can't help, but again, point out how God-centered these verses are. Sure, we are the ones that are blessed, but those blessings are directly from God and solely through Jesus Christ. The end over verse 10, "In Him." Verse 11, "Predestined according to His purpose." End of verse 11, we learned that God "works all things after the counsel of His will." The start of verse 13, "In Him."
We don't pat ourselves on the back. We contribute nothing to salvation but our sins. From beginning to end, it is all of His divine grace including the faith we need to believe. And therefore all the glory and praise goes to Him. Verse 12, that we "would be to the praise of His glory." And again the same in verse 14, that we would be "to the praise of His glory."