The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 15, 2018
From Eternity to Eternity
Let Us Praise the Lord!
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
When I was a student at the Seminary I volunteered to be on a Travel Canvass Witness team. I was assigned to a team that was sent to help a congregation in Florida do some door-to-door canvassing. As we were making our way down to Florida my friends and I decided to stop in the Smokey Mountains and go hiking. We hiked up a mountain trail for what seemed like forever and then when the trail ended we found ourselves at a scenic outlook. I could hardly believe my eyes! The view was unlike anything this Minnesota kid had ever seen in his entire life! No matter what direction I looked I could see for miles and miles and miles. I thought that I would never again be able to see so far. Then I started traveling by airplane.
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that most of my trips by airplane have been to Seattle Washington. I quickly learned that flying into Seattle can be an absolutely breathtaking experience. I vividly recall flying into Seattle one day. It was an exceptionally clear day. As I looked out the window I was enthralled. The Cascade Mountains were carpeted with evergreen trees, laced with streams and dotted with lakes. Mount Rainier towered majestically far above all the other mountain peaks. Off in the distance I could see Mount St. Helen’s with her summit visibly missing. As we turned to make our approach into SeaTac airport I could see the Puget Sound and most of the city of Seattle— all at once!
I have learned from personal experience that the scope of what I am able to see is directly proportionate to my vantage point. As I stood at that scenic outlook in the Smokey Mountains I could see so much farther than when I was driving through those very same mountains. As I flew into the city of Seattle I could see vastly more than when I was driving the city streets. What a person can see, my friends, is indeed determined by their vantage point.
The portion of Scripture that we have before us today could be rather confusing. In fact, down through the ages many churches have misunderstood and misused what the Scriptures teach here in Ephesians concerning “election” or “predestination.” Why? Because they try to understand this teaching from man’s perspective, from a perspective that fits into their limited logical minds. So that I do not make that very same mistake and so that you do not lose the tremendous Gospel comfort contained in these words of our text, today our goal is to look at the Doctrine of Predestination from God’s perspective! With that in mind let’s study our text for today under the theme: From Eternity to Eternity Let Us Praise the Lord!
As the one and only true God the Lord our God lives in the eternal present. For the Lord there is no “past” and there is no “future.” He sees all things at all time. We, however, can not even begin to conceive of what that is like. Therefore, I would like you to imagine yourself standing on a majestic mountain peak this morning. Using these words of Scripture let’s see that no matter whether we turn and look into “eternity past” or whether we turn and look into “eternity future” we have every reason to praise the Lord!
As we turn to look into “eternity past” we focus our attention on verse 4-6 of our text. Paul writes, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Before you were born, my friends, before your parents were born, before anyone whose picture you have ever seen in your family album was born, even before the universe was born— God “chose” you, God “predestined” you, God “adopted” you to be His own dearly beloved child! Why? Why did the eternal God, the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, do this for you?
That is one of the questions that the Christian church as debated vigorously for centuries. Some branches of Christianity teach that God in His sovereignty elected some people to go to heaven and He elected some people to go to hell. Can that be true, my friends? Would God “predestine” someone to spend eternity suffering in hell? Not according to Scripture! Think of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Think of I John 2:2, “He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Think of I Timothy 2:3-4, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” When we look at what the holy Scriptures say, when we are willing to take God’s holy inspired Word at face value we can see that the Lord our God would never “predestine” someone to spend eternity in hell.
Other branches of Christianity have taught that God “elected” certain people to be saved “in view of their faith.” By this they mean that God knew that this person or that person would one day “accept” Jesus and come to faith in Him as their Savior. Then on that basis, “in view of” that choice, they say that God elected that person to be saved. Can that be true? Not according to Scripture! According to Scripture we are all conceived and born in sin (Psalm 51:5). According to Scripture we are all born spiritually blind (I Corinthians 2:14), spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) and spiritually the enemies of God (Romans 8:7)! According to Scripture no one can “choose” to come to faith in Jesus on their own. (See 1 Corinthians 12:3; Titus 3:3-7)
What then is the basis of your “election”? Why did the Lord God “predestine” you to spend eternity with Him? Look at what Paul says, “He chose us in him…In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons…to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Your election is based purely on the amazing grace of the Lord your God! Stop to think of what that means for your daily life, my friends! From all of eternity God has loved you! From all of eternity God has loved you with a love that goes beyond measure! From all of eternity God has loved you with a love that you do not deserve to receive! And if ever— if ever— you begin to think that somehow you “deserve” God’s love, if ever you begin to think that perhaps you did do something to contribute to your own salvation then stand in front of the mirror of God’s holy perfect Law and finish this sentence: Remember when you…. No, my friends, as we stand on our mountain top this morning and turn to look into “eternity past” the undeserved love which led the Lord God to “elect” us to be “holy and blameless in his sight,” the undeserved love which led the Lord God to “adopt” us to be His own now daily leads us to say: Praise the Lord!
Let’s turn now and look into “eternity future” shall we? Here I want to focus your attention on the second half of verse 13 and all of verse 14 of our text. Paul writes, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession— to the praise of his glory.” Through the power of the Gospel working in Word and Sacrament God freely gave you the gift of His Holy Spirit when He created the gift of saving faith in your heart! This gift of the Holy Spirit is described here in our text as a “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.” We all know what a “deposit” is. If you put a “deposit” down on a house that house is yours! It can’t be sold or given to someone else. Yes, you may have to wait a little while before you actually move into that house, but that house is yours! That deposit guarantees it! On the other hand if someone gives you a “deposit” on your house you know that there is more to come— much more!
In much the same way, the gift of the Holy Spirit is God’s “deposit” to you. The gift of the Holy Spirit is God’s “guarantee” of your “inheritance.” And what exactly does your “inheritance” include? Look at the opening verse of our text, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” As a saved child of God your “inheritance” is nothing less than the glory and the perfection, the joy and the happiness of living in your heavenly Father’s house in His heavenly Kingdom— for all of eternity! Yes, it may be awhile yet before you actually “move in,” my friends— but in His grace God has already given you His Holy Spirit as a “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.” So as we stand on our mountain top this morning and turn to look into “eternity future” how can we not take a moment to say: Praise the Lord!
So what have we learned so far? We have learned that when we stand on our mountain top and turn to look into “eternity past,” when we turn to see that God’s love for us is so great that even before the creation of the world He “elected” us to eternal salvation we cannot help but say: Praise the Lord! We have also learned that when we stand on our mountain top and turn to look into “eternity future,” when we see the glorious inheritance that the good Lord has waiting for us in heaven above we cannot help but say: Praise the Lord! But before we can close today we also need to take a moment to stop and realize where we are standing! What is this mountain top from which we are able to see from eternity to eternity? Look at the opening words of verse 7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins….” The majestic mountain top on which you and I are standing this morning, the majestic mountain top on which you and I were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, the majestic mountain top where Jesus secured the complete forgiveness of all of our sins is none other than the mountain called Calvary. If we want to understand the Scriptural teaching of election properly, if we want to see the Scriptural teaching of predestination clearly we must view it from the perspective of the cross! (Pointing to the cross)
No matter how difficult our life here on this earth might be, no matter how mercilessly the winds and the waves of this world might beat and batter against us, when we are hanging on to the cross of Jesus Christ— better yet, when we realize that the nail-pierced hands of our Savior are hanging ton to us!— then no matter whether we are troubled by what has happened in the past, concerned about what may happen in the future or simply trying to get through today the amazing love of God proclaimed to us by the cross of His Son enables us and motivates us to say: Praise the Lord!
My prayer then this morning, my friends, is that you will indeed take home with you the tremendous Gospel comfort that is found in the Scriptural teaching of election or predestination. Let the cross of Jesus Christ (Pointing to the cross) be such a focal point of your life that no matter what direction you are looking— from eternity to eternity— you will always know that you have every reason to praise the Lord!
To God be the glory!