************ Sermon on Ephesians 1:3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 8, 2009
We have the privilege of celebrating the Lord's Supper today. What does it mean to celebrate the Lord's Supper? What, exactly, are we saying when we eat and drink from the Lord's Table?
In the Lord's Supper we proclaim the Lord's death. We proclaim that in the flesh Jesus bore the wrath of God on the cross for us.
In the Lord's Supper we proclaim that Jesus feeds and nourishes our soul.
In the Lord's Supper we proclaim our union and fellowship with one another.
In the Lord's Supper we proclaim that someday Jesus is going to come again.
In the Lord's Supper – and this is our focus today – we proclaim our union with Christ. This morning, we are not just eating bread and we are not just drinking grape juice. By faith and through the Holy Spirit, we are partaking of the body and blood of the Lord. We are being joined to Christ Himself. As my sermon title puts it, in the Lord's Supper we are proclaiming that we are "In Him!"
I Union with Christ
A Ephesians 1:3-14 is a Creed, a statement of belief, of the early church. In the Greek language it is one long and complicated sentence.
This one, long, complicated sentence teaches us a very important doctrine and fact of the Christian faith. A doctrine we don't think about often. A doctrine we don't hear preached often. A doctrine we might not even have learned about in Catechism or Church School. Yet, without this doctrine salvation is not possible.
What is this doctrine? Is it election, redemption and atonement, depravity, the virgin birth? What is this doctrine? It is our union with Christ. Or, as my sermon title puts it, we are "In Him!" Or, as the Lord's Supper shows us, we are "in Christ."
(Eph 1:3) 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.This idea of union with Christ permeates our Bible reading. In fact, our passage reminds us twelve times that we are "in Christ."
Listen to two Reformed theologians and what they have to say about the importance of this doctrine. John Calvin said:
First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from Him, all that He has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us ... As I have said, all that He possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with Him.Herman Bavinck expressed the same truth when he said:
There is no fellowship with the blessings of Christ except through fellowship with His persons ... Christ is never to be thought of apart from His people, nor His people apart from Christ.There you have it: if we are not united to Christ, we are not saved.
Union with Christ, my brothers and sisters, is one of the central truths of the whole doctrine of salvation. We are not saved until we have been made one with Christ, and we remain saved only as long as we remain in union with Christ. So, when we eat and drink in the Lord's Supper, remember that we proclaim our union with Christ.
B Not only does our Bible reading teach our union with Christ, it also tells us the benefits of our union with Christ.
(Eph 1:3) 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.Did you hear that? God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing "in Christ." In fact, our passage reminds us twelve times of the spiritual blessings that are ours "In Him!"
Think about this. This means that the Lord's Supper involves two kinds of proclamation about our union with Christ: first, we proclaim we are united with Christ; second, God proclaims that ours are every sort of spiritual blessing in Christ.
Now, a "spiritual blessing" is a blessing that is a result of and evidence of the presence of the Spirit. What Paul has in mind are such things as: regeneration (or being born again), faith, hope, love, the gifts of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit. A spiritual blessing is anyway in which the Spirit has touched our lives.
We receive these spiritual blessings "in the heavenly realms." Paul is not talking about a place or a space here. Rather, this is Paul's way of saying spiritual blessings come to us from the hands of God.
Right now, here on this earth and in this life and in this body all sorts of beautiful, wonderful spiritual blessings are ours. And, they are ours only "in Christ." It is only because we are in Christ, in union with Him, that we are so richly blessed. It is only because we are united with Christ that we receive any spiritual blessings from God. If we and Christ were not one, no spiritual blessings would come to us. If we and Christ were not one, regeneration and faith and hope and love would not be present in our lives. If we and Christ were not one, we cannot eat and drink from the Lord's Table.
When we take the Lord's Supper, then, we proclaim we are one with Christ. And, God proclaims that ours are every kind of spiritual blessings in Christ.
Let's take a closer look, then, at the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ. What blessings does God hold before us, what blessings do we claim for ourselves, when we take the bread and drink from the cup?
II The Benefits of Union with Christ
A The first blessing. Election. God's choosing. Predestination. This takes place only in union with Christ. Listen to verses 4, 5, 11:
(Eph 1:4-5,11) For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love (5) he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will ... (11) 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 ...
God does not choose anyone because He foresees their faith, that they will accept and believe Jesus. God does not choose those who are better, superior, smarter, or wiser than all others. God does not choose because of anything in a person but only on the basis of their connection to Jesus. No wonder Paul praises God – because all human merit is excluded; all praise is due to our sovereign and infinitely gracious God!
Election, my brothers and sisters, must never be thought of apart from Christ. The union between Christ and His people was planned by God from eternity and to eternity. There is no election apart from our union with Christ. We are chosen only in Christ. We are predestined only because we are one with Christ.
When we eat and drink we proclaim our union with Christ in the blessing of election, predestination, choosing.
B The second blessing. Grace, salvation, redemption. This too is ours only in union with Christ. Listen to verses 6 & 7:
(Eph 1:6-7) to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (7) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace ...
God has given us grace in Christ. Grace means we don't get what we deserve. We deserve hell and everlasting punishment. We deserve the judgment and anger of God. But instead God gives us grace in Christ. In Christ, God gives us redemption, the forgiveness of sins. We receive this in Christ. Which means we were in Christ when He suffered and died. We were in Christ when He took on our sin and our shame. We were in Christ when God laid on Him the punishment for us all.
When we eat and drink we proclaim our union with Christ in the blessing of grace, salvation, redemption.
C The third blessing. The Gospel message. The mystery of His will. This too is ours only in union with Christ. Listen to verses 9 & 10:
(Eph 1:9-10) And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, (10) 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 the Bible, a mystery is not something mysterious. It is not something to be solved by man. It is not a puzzle that man has to sort out. In the Bible, a mystery is something man cannot know unless God reveals it to him.
It is always a privilege to be entrusted with the deepest secrets of another. That is with God has done to us in Christ. In Christ, God has revealed to us His plan for the world. In Christ, God has revealed to us His eternal purposes and goals. In Christ, God has revealed His most secret desires and intentions. In Christ, God has entrusted us with His secret will.
What is this plan, this secret, of God? It is to bring all things together under Christ. God's plan is for every knee in heaven and earth and under the earth to bow before Christ and for every tongue to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil 2:10-11).
We have been entrusted with this secret, with this mystery.
What do you think God wants us to do with this secret, this mystery? Do you think He wants us to keep quiet about it, to keep our mouths shut? Of course not! He has revealed the mystery of His will to us so we will pass it on to others. Some secrets are meant for sharing. That certainly is the case with this one. So our calling in life is to spread the Good News about Christ. Our calling is to call every knee to bow and every tongue to confess.
When we eat and drink we proclaim our union with Christ in the blessing of Gospel message.
D The fourth blessing. The Holy Spirit. We have been given the Spirit only in union with Christ. Listen to verses 13b & 14:
(Eph 1:13b-14) Having believed, you were marked in him (that is, Christ) with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, (14) who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.
In Christ we have been given the Spirit. Paul calls the Spirit a "deposit." When you buy a car or a house or a business you have to put down a deposit. The deposit is earnest money. The deposit says you are real and sincere about your intentions. The deposit is your promise that more is coming and that you will complete the deal. The Holy Spirit that we receive in Christ is God's promise of more to come. The Holy Spirit that we receive in Christ is God's promise that someday all the blessings of salvation will be ours.
When we eat and drink we proclaim our union with Christ in the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
Ours is the privilege this morning to eat and drink from the Lord's Table. Our is the privilege this morning to celebrate our union with Christ and all His blessings.
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