What a wonderful, wonderful song that should promote in us all an adoration for who God is and what He's done on our behalf. If you would, turn in your Bibles again to Ephesians chapter 1. Ephesians chapter 1. And as I said, I'll have a lengthy introduction that will include some scripture just to set the stage for that which we're going to exposit tonight. The title of the message again is The Humility and Hope of Love-Driven Sovereign Grace. There's an old saying, seeing is believing.
And I think that the opposite can be true as well. If you come to believe in the love-driven sovereign grace of God and salvation, you'll see it throughout scripture. You won't be able to help but see it as I think we will notice tonight as we look at various passages. Ephesians was written when Paul was a prisoner in Rome. He begins by stating that he was an apostle by the will of God. His apostleship is preceded by a supernatural change in him. And you all know that that's recorded in Acts chapter 9. In Galatians 1, Paul spoke of how he persecuted the church beyond measure and tried to destroy it.
He spoke of being exemplary in Judaism and exceedingly zealous in the Jewish tradition. And then in Galatians 1, we come to verses 15 and 16. And he states this, it pleased God who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through his grace to reveal his son in me.
Why? That I might preach him among the Gentiles. According to Paul, the Galatians' collective response to his conversion was, he who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy and they glorified God in me. Paul's writing to saints who are in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus. I want you to notice verses 3 through 6 in chapter 1. In these verses, he speaks of the supernatural character of their own conversion of the Ephesians. Verse 3, blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to himself. According to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he has made us accepted in the beloved. And I have a question for you. Who has God blessed that they might be holy?
And the answer from scripture is the saints and faithful in Christ, those chosen before the foundation of the world and predestined to adoption and all of it for the glory of his grace. And beloved, at this point in my message, I want to make a critical observation. The English Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, the New International Version, several commentators that I consulted place a period after the pronoun him in verse 4. And John MacArthur explains that in love, the words in love belongs at the start of verse 5, and he gives the reason that introduces the divine motive for God's elective purpose. And that is the glory of his grace.
The significant difference this makes is consistent with other passages that I'm going to show you tonight. I'd like you to notice verses 4 through 6, and I'm going to read it this time with a period where these versions and commentators, including MacArthur, say it should be. Starting with verse 4, just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him. Verse 5, and love having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he has made us accepted in the beloved. Folks, this connects God's love with his predestination to the saints to adoption. God did not choose us because he foresaw that we would choose him.
He is not a reactor to our choice. He chose us so that we could and would choose him. He's the author, initiator of our choice. Salvation is not merely possible.
It's predestined by the glory of God. And let me give you an example of that. I'm not going to turn there, but in John chapter 10, Jesus said to some Jews that had surrounded him, I'm the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. But you do not believe because you are not of my sheep.
As I said to you, my sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. And I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. Neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand. My father who has given them to me is greater than all.
And no one is able to snatch them out of my father's hand. Our text, other texts, I should say, connect his love and his choice of his own. Listen to one that I want to share. First Thessalonians 2, 13 and 14. And again, notice how it connects his love with his choice of his own. We're bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth to which he called you by our gospel for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. And notice there again, Paul says that he called you by our gospel. Paul was evangelizing them.
That's the head and the tail of the coin. 1 John is written to believers and it's important to remember that as I read it. 1 John is written to believers.
John calls them my little children. And listen to chapter 4 verses 9 through 10. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, his little children, believers, manifested toward us that God has sent his only begotten son into the world.
Why? That we might live through him. In this his love, not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. If you were to drop down to verse 9, it says we love him because he first loved us. This love-driven predestination is consistent with Romans 8, 28 through 30.
And I'd ask you to keep your place in Ephesians and turn to Romans chapter 8. For years, I don't know if I want to say years, a long time, I believe that the word foreknowledge meant know before. And I struggle with that, to know before. I struggle with that and poured myself into studying that. Why would God predestine something that he knew ahead of time was going to happen?
And I struggle with that question. And I think I trust tonight you'll receive help as I did as I have studied through this passage. Paul is writing to those beloved of God called to be saints. And that's important for us yet he's writing to believers.
Notice verses 28 through 30. We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose, for whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he predestined, these he also called, whom he called, these he also justified, and whom he justified, these he also glorified. The word foreknow is a major point of contention among believers. Did God simply know the choice that individuals would make and then ratify that choice by predestining their adoption and conformity to Christ? Whom he foreknew obviously refers to individuals. It doesn't refer to decisions.
The meaning of foreknow is to love before. It's consistent with what we read earlier in 1 John 4.19. We love him because he first loved us. Notice verse 33, if you would, of Romans 8. Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? And that word elect, as you know, means his chosen. Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.
Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us, God's elect, who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword?
As it is written, for your sake we are killed all day long. We're accounted as sheep for the slaughter, yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Beloved, God's love precedes God's predestination, calling, justification and glorification of his elect. The Reformation Study Bible gives an absolutely beautiful explanation of God's purpose and an overview of this.
Let's do it if you would. Quote, it is a plan of sovereign saving grace entitling all who now believe to trace their faith and salvation back to an eternal decision by God to bring them to glory and to look forward to that glory as a guaranteed certainty. The destiny appointed for believers, conformity to Christ and glorification with him, flows from divine foreknowledge. Here it is people, not facts or events that God has said to them no. God does foresee events, but Paul's point is that God has, of his own initiative, chosen the objects of his active saving love. The word no implies intimate personal relationship, not merely awareness of facts and circumstances. Thus the foreknown are the equivalent of elect, those whom God loved individually and personally even before they were created. I want to share two examples.
You could get numerous ones, but just two. As to this word no, meaning an intimate relationship. Genesis 4, 1 Old Testament, obviously now Adam knew Eve, his wife, she conceived and bore Cain.
Obviously the context is an intimate knowledge between husband and wife. New Testament, Matthew 1, 24 and 25. Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn son and he called his name Jesus. Turn back if you would now to Ephesians, but we'll be in chapter 2.
And I want to briefly consider three things. What believers were, what believers are, and what believers will be, all by the grace of God. First of all, what believers were, look at Ephesians 2, 1 through 3. And you he made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works, and the sons of disobedience. Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. Verse 1, we were by nature spiritual corpses, dead in trespasses and in sins. Listen to these verses. Psalm 51 verse 5, David wrote, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Charles Spurgeon on this verse makes this comment. It is as if, David said, not only have I sinned this once, but I am in my very nature a sinner. The fountain of my life has polluted as well as its dreams. In the core of who he was, David recognized himself as a corrupt, evil sinner.
And we all need to do that, O wretched men that we are. Genesis 8 21 states that the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth. Jeremiah 17 9, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked who can know it. And finally, Romans chapter 5 verse 12, Therefore, just as through one man, Adam, sin entered the world and death through sin, thus death spread to all men because all sin. In the Bible, death basically means separation. Not only physically as the spirit separated from the body, but also spiritually as the spirit separated from God. Listen Isaiah 59 verse two, Your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear. Beloved, when we take these verses together, they disclose that we were by nature spiritual corpses, dead and trespasses in sin, whose hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked.
That's who we were. Verse two goes on. We were by nature sons of disobedience. And you can see that in that text.
Don't turn there. But Ephesians five verse six says, Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things, the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Sons of disobedience describes people who habitually live in disobedient sin without repentance and thereby prove themselves to be children of the devil. Judas is a prime example.
He lived with Christ and the other disciples for three years, and he was called in John 17 12 the son of destruction. A common deception and I think this is critical for us. A common deception throughout church history has been the notion that professing Christians can live unrepentant sinful lives after conversion to Christ. Have you ever heard the term carnal Christian? To me, that makes as much sense as the term adulterous soulmate.
They just don't work. Do Christians sin? Certainly we do.
Certainly we do. But we do not maintain a lifestyle of sin, unrepentant sin. And that is a common deception throughout church history that this idea that professing Christians can simply make some decision and yet remain unrepentant and living lives as they want to. 1 Corinthians 2 14 is a critical and enlightening verse, and this did as much for me as any verse. We were talking about we weren't by nature sons of disobedience.
Listen to this. But the natural man, man as he is born into this world, the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God for their foolishness to him, nor can he know them because they're spiritually discerned. As I said, natural man refers to our state as we're born into this world and as sons of disobedience. Natural men will not and they cannot receive the things of the Spirit.
And beloved, think for a second. Paul is telling us through the inspiration of the scripture, nor can he know them. That takes common grace out of the picture. He's saying you can't know them. And beyond that, you won't know them because they're foolishness unto him. 1 Corinthians 1 18 says for the preaching of the cross, the gospel is foolish to those who are perishing.
That's pretty cut and dry to me. As we are born into this world, we care nothing about the things of the Spirit. We can't know the things of the Spirit and we won't know the things of the Spirit. Verse three, we were by nature children of wrath. John 336 states, he who believes in the Son has everlasting life. And he who does not believe the Son shall not see life. But the wrath of God abides on him.
I think that motivates me as much as anything to pray and intercede for unsaved loved ones and to try to share the gospel with them whenever I can. The wrath of God abides on them if they're outside of Christ. Romans 2 5 speaks of those whose hard and penitent hearts are treasuring up wrath in the day of wrath. For us to get a sense, for us to get a sense of God's wrath upon sin, I want us to ponder the response of people who were accustomed to seeing crucifixion. They were accustomed to seeing crucifixion. And when they looked upon Christ crucified, Isaiah 52 14 says, just as many were astonished at you, so his visage or his appearance was marred more than any man and is formed more than the sons of men. The word astonished means to stun, to devastate, to make amazed, to wonder.
What are we saying? Well, Pastor Chris Anderson said it well in the hymn, His Roads for Mine, where the words Jesus is crushed and thus the Father is pleased. Jesus is crushed and thus the Father is pleased. Apart from the grace of God, folks, we are headed for the wrath of God. And if you want to get a picture of the wrath of God, look at Jesus on the cross. I thought if I were to see Jesus on the cross, I'd be speechless. I thought if I could look into his heart and hear him say, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? I would be crushed.
I would be crushed. We are by nature children of wrath, and apart from God's grace, we remain that way. What believers are, what are we?
We looked at what we were. We're spiritually alive in Christ. Look at verses four and five. But God, who is rich in mercy because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. By grace you've been saved. Drop down to verse eight.
We'll come back to six and seven in a minute. Verse eight, for by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves. It's a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. After he has quickened us to life, God gives us his spirit that radically changes our disinterest in spiritual things and our inability to understand them. We're a new creature in Christ, a new creation in Christ.
We're no longer natural men. First Corinthians chapter 2, 11 through 13 are verses that came just before telling us that the natural man understands not the things of the spirit of God nor can he. So these verses come just before that.
Keep that in mind as I read them. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of man which is in him? Stop there for a second. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of man which is in him? In other words, without the spirit of life, no one could respond to physical stimuli. If you see a physical corpse lying there, you can set off a firecracker.
You can do whatever. A dead person is not going to respond to physical stimuli. Now we go on. Even so, no one knows the things of God except the spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of God but the spirit who is from God.
Why? That we may know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. Now the context is the authors of scripture. That's who he's talking about, who have the spirit. But, beloved, if you were to turn to 1 Corinthians 3, 3.16, 1 Corinthians 6.19, they clearly state that those who place their faith in Christ have the indwelling Holy Spirit. So we're spiritually alive in Christ, but secondly, we're His workmanship.
We're His workmanship. To the saints in Christ Jesus, this is verse 10a. To the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, Paul wrote, being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Verse 10 of Ephesians, we are created in Christ Jesus for good works. MacArthur states good works cannot produce salvation, but they're the subsequent and resultant God-empowered fruits and evidences of it. We're not saved by works, but we demonstrate our salvation through works. Like His salvation, MacArthur goes on to say, a believer's sanctification and good works were foreordained before time began. We are predestined, Romans 8.29, to be conformed to the image of His Son. I thought about this, and I'm sure the other pastors are this way. You put hours in preparation for a sermon and get it done and think of something more. You know what I mean? And you've got to put a period somewhere.
But I thought about this later, and I want to inject it here. The thought is we are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. Recall back at the start of the message in Galatians 1 where Paul said, God separated me from my mother's womb and ordained me that he should preach to the Gentiles. What went on between him being born and the Damascus Road? A mess of stuff, and it all wasn't good. Killing Christians, hunting them down. Did God know about that?
Yes. And that comes down to the heading mystery because Paul, from birth to that Damascus Road confrontation, was being developed into the Paul that we know of. And I think you'd agree with me, the greatest New Testament Christian that there was. When you think about that, and beloved, by the same token, look back at your own life. Look back at your own life, and you see these mile markers of how God is bringing different things into your life to make you who you are now. I would tell the young people often, and still say this, you are now becoming who you will one day be. You are now becoming who you will one day be. And I look back at my life, and I see how God has used different things, some of them very hard things, to knock off rough edges in my life and make me, for better or for worse, who I am today.
And the same was true with Paul. We are, like Paul, we are his workmanship. And God is standing on us and shaping us into an instrument that can be used of him. And then finally, what believers will one day be. What we will one day be. We've looked at what we were, and it wasn't pretty. We looked at what we are, and it is by the grace of God alone.
Now what will we one day be? Look back now at Ephesians 2, 6, and 7. In addition to making us spiritually alive in his workmanship, God has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace and his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
When you think back of Romans chapter 8, Paul uses the past tense of glorified. That's something that's going to happen in the future, but it is so sure in the promise of God that it's used as though it's already happened. And when you look at these verses I just read, let me read them again. God has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace and his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Now we're not actually, obviously, sitting together with him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, but just the thought of that, just the thought of that ought to make us rejoice. John Piper puts it this way, what once happened to Jesus will one day happen to believers at his return.
For the present there's a new mind, a new identity as God's children, and a new ability to live free from the control of Satan. These realities are all part of what it means that the believer is united to Jesus Christ in his resurrection. The ground of our salvation is God's love and mercy, and its goal is the promotion of his grace and kindness. God saves us, as was said earlier, fundamentally for his glory. God saves us fundamentally for his glory, and certainly it is for our good. When God glorifies a human being, he grants that person the privilege of beholding his infinite beauty and becoming like him as much as a creature can. Piper ends by saying this, it begins now as a process of becoming holy, and it ends at the resurrection when we receive our new and glorious bodies. You know, you think back to Romans 8 that we shared earlier, whom he foreknew, whom he loved intimately, he predestined to be conformed to the image of his son. Salvation is all of grace, and it flows from the love of God for his own. And he is going to make certain that he uses different circumstances in our lives.
He predestines these circumstances will make us more like his son. And for each of us, it's a different road. For each of us, it's a different road. Someone said recently, as they were trying to encourage another person going through a tough time, I'm being vague on purpose, but they made this statement. You know, sometimes God calls some of us through hard times. Sometimes God calls some of us to go through hard times. And you could list names of believers who have gone through some mighty tough times. But look at folks, it's the going through the tough times in a way that glorifies God, that magnifies the impact that you can have.
It magnifies the impact that you can have. It's fine to be a good Christian when the sun is shining, but what about when the wind is blowing and the rain is blowing, if you get my drift. God ordains the very steps. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delights in his way.
Piper ends. It begins now as a process of becoming holy, sanctification, and it ends at the resurrection when we receive our new and glorious bodies. I'm going to read one more text to you before we make application, but I want to ask you this question. Can you pinpoint areas in your life where you have grown in the Lord? I mean, it's obvious in your life that you have grown in the Lord. I want to be careful in saying this, very careful in saying this, but one area that God is growing me is sensitivity. Whether it's reading scripture, how can it be? How can it be that God would love a soul like me? I mean, that ought to grip us, folks, the reality of it.
And if it doesn't, you think too much of yourself and I think too much of myself. How can it be? How can it be that God would save a wretch like me? And how did he do it? By pouring his wrath upon his own son. And as I've told the young people in the past, the fear of God is a reverent frame of mind whereby the child of God guards and guides his or her thoughts, words and deeds by the word of God for the glory of God. Do you fear God? And we know that that fear of God is a healthy, positive thing and it's enveloped in love for him, for who he is and for what he's done on our behalf. Listen to 1 John 3, 2 through 3, and this comes under the area of what we will one day be.
We read, Beloved, there's that word again, that word of intimate love. Beloved, now we are children of God and yet it has not yet been revealed what we shall be. But we know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in himself purifies himself just as he is pure.
That goes back to what we said earlier. We're not saved to live in the fast lane. We're saved to serve. Philippians 3, 20 states that upon Christ's return, he will transform our lowly body to be conformed to his glorious body.
I close with this. Once you come to believe in the love-driven sovereign grace of God and salvation, you will see it throughout Scripture. You will see it throughout Scripture, and many of you, if not the majority of you, know exactly what I mean. And you don't strain to see it, folks. You have to be blind not to see it, and I don't say that condescendingly.
I don't say that condescendingly. There was a time when I did not see the sovereignty of God and salvation the way I see it now. And it has not changed my love for unsaved relatives.
As a matter of fact, it's emboldened, and I'll explain that as I make this application. If you are saved, you should be profoundly and humbly grateful for God's everlasting love and grace. With the hymn writer, you should proclaim, My hope is in the Lord, who gave himself from me and paid the price for all my sin at Calvary. If you're burdened for loved ones who show little or no interest in spiritual things, go before the throne of grace with the glad assurance that salvation is of the Lord. And brothers and sisters, we honor God by our persistent intercessory prayer on their behalf. Do you remember the parable of the widow lady who went to the judge, and the judge says, I fear no man.
I certainly don't fear this widow, but her persistent pestering me to get what she wants, I'm going to give it to her and get her out of here. And here's the thing, Jesus was saying that in a commendable way. That we, in a sense, when we go before the throne of grace, pleading for God to be gracious to our unsaved loved ones, we are honoring him because we are admitting, we are acknowledging that salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord.
Daily, and I'm not going to do it tonight, because sure, shoot, and I would blow it. But daily, I pray, beginning with Caleb, and going down to Sarah, for my grandchildren by name, and include Mattie, Logan, and Caleb, another Caleb. And he's just someone that one of our granddaughters is very interested in, and I pray for him now. And I pray that God in his grace will bring a Christian mate into the lives of all our grandchildren. But my prayer is this, Lord, those whom you have quickened to life, those whom you have quickened to life, grow in the grace and knowledge of thee.
Cause them to want to publicly identify with you. Those who are not yet saved in your grace and mercy, quicken to life and grant repentant faith. That should be something that we pray for, not just once or twice, but whenever the Holy Spirit brings it to our minds. And finally, if you are not, if you are here tonight and you are not placing your trust in who Jesus is and what he accomplished in his perfect life, substitutionary death, victorious resurrection, and faithful intercession before the throne of God, flee to him.
Flee to him. I want to read this to you. And then Greg is going to come and lead us in the song that's on your handout. I'm not going to read the poem that's on the back of it. This is different, but if you are here tonight and you are, you're not certain you're saved, you have very little interest in spiritual things at all.
Would you please lock into this? In God's eternal plan there lies the time when time shall cease, when that which is shall always be as judgment is released. No time for that which might have been. No time to see Christ's face for those who spurn the gospel call and shun God's means of grace. Boast not that you may come someday to kneel before the cross, that you may yield your rebel will avoiding endless loss. The breath that you presume will voice repentant faith in him may never come and you will die in trespass and in sin. This is the day to flee by faith to Christ who has atoned for scarlet sins of all who trust in his shed blood alone.
Tis at the cross they are justified with rast red wages paid that you, redeemed and reconciled, will find your debt is laid. No more estranged as enemy, but now God's child by choice. Saved by his wondrous grace through faith, love drew you to his voice. You may invest with gratitude the time that God may give and know true peace and purpose.
If you look to Christ and live. Father, I pray that you take that which I've shared tonight with an emphasis upon salvation being love driven and burn it into our hearts to make us more grateful for the tremendous gift that you've given those who are in him. And Lord, those who are not in Christ who may be here tonight or who are listening, I pray, Father, that you do a work of grace in their hearts. Show them their desperate need in your provision in him. And we'll praise you for it in Jesus' name. Amen.
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