The Gospel Promises True Prosperity

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Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3–5)

Our Blessing and God’s Blessing

We’ll probably be here the rest of the evening. We’ll see. Paul, like Peter, begins exactly this way in 1 Peter: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” writes worshipfully (1 Peter 1:3). And that’s how you should read. There’s just so much. When was the last time you read a commentary that uses words like this? It isn’t done. Only Puritans write commentaries like this. Contemporary scholars feel like they are contradicting their calling to write like this. Paul writes worshipfully. He writes worshiping.

I want to preach worshiping. As I understand Sunday morning events, you sing worship and you preach worship. You don’t have worship and then teaching. We worship over the word. And if the pastor’s not worshiping over the word, he’s not preaching. That’s another seminar too.

Paul is worshiping as he writes, and if he is, can you get it if you don’t? Can you? “Blessed, blessed, blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us,” and immediately we’re struck with a problem. You just taught us to get the meanings of words from how they’re used in propositions. Well, these words are real close to each other and you’d think they’d have the same meaning here. Do they? They are the same word in Greek?

“Blessed be God who has worshiped us.” Ding-dong, little warning sign. Whoa, that’s not good. I doubt that he means that. And you poke around and find all over the Bible that this word, both in Hebrew and Greek and English — English uses it this way, Greek uses it this way, Hebrew uses it this way.

Sometimes as a worshipful ascription of good things to God: “You are great. You are good. You are holy. You are pure. You are just. You are wise. You are awesome.” You’re blessing God by speaking well of him. And when God turns around now and reciprocates, or actually he does it first, he’s not doing that. He’s speaking good into being. He’s not recognizing good and saying, “Whoa, I’m impressed. I’m so impressed.” That’s what we’re saying. “I’m impressed.” God’s not saying, “I’m really impressed.” God is making us impressive. God is doing things for us.

So, blessing has two different meanings here, and that’s necessary to see otherwise you become a heretic by saying either you do good for God and improve upon him, or he worships you and recognizes how wonderful you are, and you made his day that he recognized it. Those are two different kinds of heresies and they’re both alive. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3).

Paul is thinking of us as he talks about how rich we are with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. He’s thinking of us as being able to have these because we are in Christ, which must mean that he’s thinking of us as undeserving of these blessings, every spiritual blessing. So he blesses us with blessings and he only can do it because we have them in Christ, in relation to Christ.

Now, he hasn’t told us yet how that is. We’re going to see it very soon what Christ has done to make that possible. But what we need to see here is that before the foundation of the world, God is viewing us in relation to Christ so that we may have every blessing that heaven has to offer, though we don’t deserve them. That’s going to be confirmed later as we see that redemption had to happen in order for us to have these. But right here, we see it already in Christ Jesus.

Infralapsarianism, and Supralapsarianism

Now, I’ll just throw out some big language here, because there’s half a dozen of you who care about this. A few of you have heard of infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism. I see one person nodding. You do not need to know this vocabulary to go to heaven or to be a good Christian.

But I think, and I won’t explain it, but I think this teaches infralapsarianism, meaning that as God contemplates us in election, he’s viewing us as fallen. Otherwise, I don’t, and we’re going to see it elsewhere, but I don’t think he would need to say, “In Christ, we have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” You don’t have every spiritual blessing places because you’re so special, but because in union with Christ, you possess everything Christ has, your fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:29–30). And therefore, he’s seeing us as undeserving and therefore fallen. But that’s all I need to say.

The Purpose of Election

“Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). So, this election here, this is called election in typical language, typical theological language. This election — the doctrine of election — is being taught here. He chose us and that accords with, or is the basis of all these blessings that are coming to us. He chose us in him. There it is again. So we have the blessings in Christ and we’re chosen in Christ. This happens about six times in this passage if you go on a few more verses over and over; he’s stressing that all of these activities in heaven before you were born are done in relation to Christ.

So in Christ, he saw you in Christ, in union with Christ, and thus you have every spiritual blessing. And I didn’t say it clearly enough, but I think every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places means, take a deep breath, every possible benefit God has to give is yours. Every benefit in heaven that God has to give in relation to Christ is yours. Otherwise, I don’t know what every means here.

Every, every spiritual blessing, every what? Every in the heavenly places, everything heaven has to give you get in Christ because he chose you as he chose you in him before the foundation of the world. So you were in God’s mind for every spiritual blessing before the universe was created. God, before the universe was created, set his sights, his favor upon you for every spiritual blessing in heaven, and he chose you before anything existed for his own in relation to Christ. He saw you and he saw you in union with Christ, and he chose you for his own before the foundation of the world.

So now we got purpose, that, what’s the purpose of the election? “That we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4). Holy. Blameless. This appears to be, I would say this is a positive, and this is a negative here.

This is, “My chosen people are chosen so that they will have zero defect someday in due time. I’m doing everything to bring them to a defectless existence. I chose them before the foundation of the world. And I am going to so work in redemptive history so that in union with Christ, they will one day be without any blame or defect.” And to put it positively: “They’re going to be holy. So, no defect and full of beauty.”

I think God’s holiness is his, or as Paul says, his transcendent purity. I think holiness gets its idea from being set apart for something or someone and you set apart something as precious. So he sets us apart or he himself is set apart from all that is impure or unholy as infinitely valuable.

And we come to share his holiness, that is, his preciousness, his beauty, his purity, his transcendent perfections. That’s what’s in this word, that’s a purpose of the choosing. So he chose us purposefully, that we should be holy and blameless before him, not far away from him. He didn’t create that we’d be a nice colony of holy and blameless people over there, and he’s way over here. But there in his presence before him, that’s his purpose in election.

In Holy Love

Now this little phrase “in love,” both in Greek and in English, may be attached to what goes before or what follows. And you can see that the ESV, by putting the period here, has chosen to relate it to predestination. So the ESV says, “In love he predestined us” (Ephesians 1:4–5). If you have the King James Version or others, it will say that we should be holy and blameless before him in love. And both are totally legitimate grammatically and totally legitimate theologically.

And frankly, I would not die for one of these. That is, I would not die to say one is absolutely true. I love them both because I can point to other texts like 1 Thessalonians 5:13, where we are holy in love. Holiness is love in 1 Thessalonians 5:13. So that would mean that love should go this way. We are holy and blaming us before him. And the way it shows itself is that we love him, we love each other.

Love is the very essence of holiness. Love, when it’s in its full, its perfection, is blameless. Amen. Put the period here. However, over in Ephesians 2:5, it says, “In great love he caused us to be born again,” which means before we had done anything, God moved in on us with love and made us alive according to the fact that he chose to do it before the foundation of the world. So it works perfectly to say, in love he predestined us for adoption.

So I don’t know, they’re both true theologically in the Bible, and I won’t force you to choose. Just enjoy them both. I have argued in the past that the period should go here and that should go here because of how frequently a preposition with love comes at the end of propositions in Ephesians. But that would be too complicated to prove here.

Predestined for Adoption Through Christ

“He predestined us.” Now this is a participle in Greek, and I think it simply unpacks the intentionality of the election. So he chose us, predestining or having predestined or in predestining. The temporal relationship between these two is not specifiable, I don’t think, by the Greek tenses. Big argument about Greek tenses these days and how they work. But I think this is simply getting inside, this is getting inside this and drawing out the intentionality of it, namely predestined for adoption of sons.

So I’ve got two ways. There are two ways that Paul talks about the intentionality of the election. One is that we should be holy and blameless. So in that word, there’s intentionality, and then right here he predestined us for adoption. That’s another intention of what’s going on in the fact that he chose us. So election means “You’re mine,” and nothing is said yet about why. What am I supposed to be? What am I supposed to do? Just “You’re mine. I choose you for my own.” And then this predestination word turns around and says, “For this, your destiny is this.” That’s what predestination does. And the destiny of those whom God chooses, the destiny of them is adoption as sons. Here it is again: “through Jesus Christ.”

So in Christ here, in him here, through him here, Jesus is never ever far away when God is making these decisions before the foundation of the world. He’s going to do it, he’s going to adopt us through Jesus Christ. And we know from what’s coming later that the only reason a sinner like us can be brought into the infinitely holy, pure family of God is because of Jesus, through Jesus and his redeeming works. So he adopted us. Let’s linger over that word for a moment. Just want to give you a taste of the wonder of that word. We adopted a little girl 19 years ago whom I just referred to. So we’ve tasted some of what it is like to be in the process or in the act and in the life of adoption.

“All who are led by the Spirit,” this is Romans 8:14–17. “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). That’s the mark of being a child of God. You’re led by the Spirit. He’s in you. So it means be a child of God and he’s leading you. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons.” That’s what we are predestined for, according to Ephesians 1:4, received adoption as sons.

God gave us a Spirit of adoption as sons “by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15). So now we got a second mark of the children of God, the adopted children. One, they’re led by the Spirit of God and two, they find welling up in their hearts by the Spirit, an authentic childlike address to God, Father with an “Abba” on the front, connoting warmth, intimacy, tenderness, authenticity, dependence, childlikeness, a daddy-like affection for our great father, or a childlike affection for our daddy-like Father.

So if you have that in you, if you have that authentic childlike dependent, helpless, I need you daddy feeling, good evidence you’re a child of God. But if you’re self-sufficient and you’ve never used language like that and you strut around and then you better get saved because when you have the Holy Spirit in you, you cry, daddy, I can’t make it without you. I don’t even know what to do today.

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). And I think the way he bears witness is precisely those two ways. If you honor what is the witness of the Holy Spirit, he bears witness, he witnesses by leading us into warfare with sin because that’s what the preceding context was. Namely, we are led into battle with sin. If you’re led to hate your sin by the Spirit, you’re a child of God. If you’re led to be deeply childlike, dependent on your Father, you’re a child of God. And those are the witnesses of the Holy Spirit.

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs” — we’re getting back into every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Ephesians — “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16–17). So the reality of adoption, of being taken into God’s family, means being given God’s Spirit, to be given the sweet blessing of assurance. He wants us to know we’re children.

That’s why he gave us the Spirit of adoption. He doesn’t want you to go to bed tonight, lie down on the pillow and say, “I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m a child of God.” None of his children should have to go to bed that way. Many do. And I think you can be generally converted and not yet have assurance. Don’t be satisfied that way.

Fellow Heir with Christ

A lot of people live that way. It’s a sad way to live. It’s a really sad way to live as a Christian, to not break through by the Spirit to assurance. So he wants you to have assurance. He wants you to know you are an heir of the universe because you’re a fellow heir with Christ who owns the universe. He made it, he runs it, he owns it, and he can give it to whom he pleases. And everybody who is his will share it. We’re going to see tomorrow. It’s an absolutely staggering statement like when Jesus says in Revelation: “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 3:21).

What? “Sit with me on the throne of the universe.” This is a big, big reality. To be a fellow heir with the Creator of the universe is a big deal. This is why I said at the front end people say, “Okay, now I’ve got it here. How am I supposed to have emotions that correspond to that? I’m going to share the rule of the universe.” You will, you will. You’re going to judge angels for starters. So it’s a big deal. That’s why I draw in that text.

Adoption Through Atonement and Faith

Through Jesus Christ, it says in Ephesians 1, we are adopted. Through in two ways, atonement, and then we’re going to see faith. So let’s just take them one at a time. Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. And I think that “bring us to God” is a manifold coming to God in many ways, including adoption.

We are brought out. We’re found by a foundling on the steps, dirty, ugly, bloody, it says in Ezekiel 16, rejected and he takes us, he washes us off, brings us into his family, and he does that because he suffered. So atonement when it says in Ephesians “through Jesus Christ,” I’m arguing now it’s through his suffering. “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God,” including in adoption (1 Peter 3:18). And the other way is it’s through Jesus Christ because of faith. Here’s John 1:11:

[[Jesus] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man. (John 1:11–13)

And the metaphors of new birth and adoption flow in and out of each other in the New Testament. They are two metaphorical ways of talking about a similar reality. You can be adopted into God’s family, you can be born into God’s family and you must be both. They’re the same. The Spirit of adoption that goes into you is the Spirit that causes you to be born again.

And the reason I think Paul and others use both images is because there are glories, distinct glories in both. There are a lot of legal issues involved in adoption and there are a lot of nature issues involved in new birth. If today we would talk about DNA, you have God’s DNA. Yes, you do. That’s what it means to be born again and have the Holy Spirit, the seed of God in you, and has he become legally all of you so nobody can take you to court and get you taken away from your father. Nobody. No, you can’t because legally Jesus has done that deal. The papers are all duly signed in blood. So there’s glories of security and preciousness and identity in the two different images, but they’re both describing the same kind of belonging to God.

For Himself

So adoption, let’s go back to the verses, get the next phrase. So “in love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ,” his atonement and his bringing us to faith according to the purpose of his will. The ESV leaves a phrase out, where does it belong? For himself he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. I think right here. I think it belongs here too or for himself. Anyone have that in your text? You’re all looking at my text.

So I wrote to the ESV translation committee last week and I said, “Where’s eis auton? Where is it?” And they wrote back. Because I’m a good friend with the chairman, he wrote back right away and he said, “We just met to finalize the 2016 edition, which will not be changed for 25 years because we want this to be settled in. And we put it back in. It was inadvertently omitted.” So that for himself in the ESV will be added next year when the new edition, final edition for the next 25 years comes out.

And I love it. And it was sorry to see it missing because what God predestined us to adoption for himself, this is both, remember in Isaiah 55 we’re going to go forth with joy, we’re going to go forth in peace. The hills are going to jump up and down and dance and sing and the trees are going to clap their hands because we’re so happy.

And that’s all God’s name and God’s big sign. That’s who I am to say for himself here means he loves to do this. He delights to do this. God is not gritting his teeth to elect his children, predestine his children and adopt his children and give them every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. This makes God’s day, God delights to be generous. God delights to have mercy. And I think that would be implied in that phrase for himself. According to the purpose of his will. Another translation, according to the good pleasure, eudokian, the good pleasure of his will.

And my question for you would be, this occurs a lot in Ephesians, these piled up prepositional phrases. Is there a difference in your mind if he had said, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ for himself according to his will, instead of according to the purpose of his will, wouldn’t be any necessary difference. Would there? I mean if it accords with his will it accords with his will? If it accords with the good pleasure of his will or purpose of his will it accords with his will?

So my question is what’s added by that whole phrase? What is added? Why does Paul multiply a phrase like this? Why does he add that? And here’s my attempt at an answer. When you add a phrase like according to the purpose of his will or the good pleasure of his will or the counsel of his will, which we’re going to later in Ephesians 1:11, when you add a phrase like that, what does it heighten? And I think it heightens God’s freedom in doing it. No constraints.

This is coming from him, not anybody coercing, constraining, requiring because you can do something according to your will that you don’t particularly want to do. I do stuff that I don’t. I know I’m supposed to do them. I don’t really want to do them, but I do do them for various kinds of reasons. Not a great way to live, but we do it. So that’s not the way God did predestination. Like, “Well, I see that the universe is going to not go the way I wanted it and I’m going to have to do some redemptive work. And it means my Son’s going to have to die. Shoot.”

I don’t mean to be cavalier, but I’m painting a bad picture. So it’s a laughable picture. It’s okay. That’s not the way he went about it. This predestination before the foundation of the world for our adoption through Jesus Christ on the cross through faith, was totally from inside God.

Happy God

This is according to the good pleasure of his will, not just his will. Good pleasure. He’s all in. All in to this. God runs the world the way he wants to run the world. The big picture of the world is the big plan, and it’s all in from God. That’s big. We do not have a gloomy God. We do not have a God wringing his hands in heaven like “I did not expect it to go this bad, especially the crucifixion of my Beloved Son.” That’s heresy to think that God’s thinking that way because he planned it that way.

He sent him to die the death of Jesus, which is the worst thing that’s ever happened in the universe than thousand times worse than the AIDS academic or abortion or so-called gay marriage or anything else. Ten thousand times worse than any of that was the murder of Jesus. And it was totally planned down to the rolling of dice for his shirt scripted in the Old Testament.

So this is not done half-heartedly. According to the good pleasure’s will, to the praise of the glory of his grace. You’re going to see that phrase in Ephesians 1:6. You’re going to see it in Ephesians 1:12. You’re going to see it in Ephesians 1:14. And I have had a lot of people over the years when they see this threefold repetition of to the praise of the glory of grace, to the praise of his glory, to the praise of his glory, everything in their life changes.

Because what they see is the ultimate purpose of history, redemptive history, secular history, and thus the universe is that you would spend eternity praising the beauty of grace. That’s why you’re here and why he’s working on you the way he is. You’re going to spend eternity praising. And what is praise? Is the happy overflow of admiration. Praise is not sad, it’s happy.

The happy overflow of internal admiration, just going public with you are amazing. You are amazing. It’s what bubbles out of you when you see the Alps for the first time, when you see the Grand Canyon for the first time, or when you see earth from the satellite for the first time, your heart spontaneously does admiration and out of your mouth comes something. If you’re poetic, it’ll be good. If you’re not, you’ll say wow.

And most of us are just wow people. And that’s okay. God is just fine with wow if it’s from the heart. We’ll pick it up there tomorrow. So what you should see is that what it’s all building to here as he elects us in Christ, predestines us for adoption through Jesus Christ, by redemption, by faith, totally from his free will. It is all going somewhere. And where it’s going is praise of glory of grace. So we’ll pick it up right there tomorrow.

And just to give you a little more enticement to be here tomorrow, I’ve passed over the doctrine of election really quick. I haven’t said much about it. And what I want to do is step back in the next 10 or 15 minutes tomorrow and ask, what is the doctrine of election? And I think it’s unconditional. I’ll try to explain that tomorrow.

What is that supposed to do for us? Is that just problems? Is that just something to fight about with people? Can you even talk about that with unbelievers? What about a counseling situation where somebody tells you, I don’t think God has chosen me and there’s no way he ever could choose me, because you don’t know what I’ve done. What about those kinds of situations? I’ve got five, I think, five precious, glorious reasons why the doctrine of election is valuable beyond measure.