What stands out to you as you read the words of this text? I confess that there was a time when I read these words and thought about how God must really love me to do all this for me. I placed “me” at the center of the text. “I” and other lost souls were what God’s plan was all about. But a more careful examination reveals that there isn’t anything grand in this text that is ascribed to me. This text is not about me; it is about God. God’s primary purpose is not to make much of me, but to make much of him. In order to more fully understand this, we need a little prophetic history. Consider the following words written by Ezekiel as God revealed his purpose for his people who had profaned his name:
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.” (Ezek. 36:22–23 ESV)
Note that God pointedly accuses Israel of profaning his name among the nations. But before we point the finger at Israel, we should be looking at ourselves. We also have profaned his name. Israel’s condition is the condition of the whole world. Notice also that God was not acting “for your sake O house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name.” This is the same principle we should see in Ephesians. God is acting for the sake of his name, which has been profaned. What is especially amazing about the text is how God will vindicate his holy name. “The nations will know that I am the Lord when through you I vindicate my holiness…” Instead of casting his people off for their sins, God uses them to glorify his name.
This is exactly the reason Paul begins with, “Blessed be God.” God has chosen us, predestined us to adoption, and redeemed us, but not for our sake. In our text, Paul reveals God’ purpose in redeeming us:
Verse 6: “To the praise of his glorious grace.”
Verse 12: “so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”
Verse 14: “who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
Understanding this principle is incredibly important! When we think that all that God has done is about us, we become self-centered and tend to see our salvation as God’s end-goal. This causes us to relax once we have obtained our forgiveness and results in us not fully appreciating the significance of our subsequent life in Christ. God’s eternal purpose is that we glorify his name and so that even the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places will see his manifold wisdom (3:10).
Before the Foundation of the World
Fitting into the above purpose is the fact that God’s plan for us to be to the praise of his glory was determined before he created the world. In other words, he created us for this very purpose. This is where we begin to realize God’s intention goes beyond what is taking place in this world. There is a “heavenly battle” Satan initiated even before the world began. We see a glimpse of that battle when the Serpent blasphemed God’s goodness to Eve (Gen. 3:1, 5). We get another glimpse when Satan blasphemed faithful Job saying, “Does Job fear God for no reason?” (Job 1:9). In other words, “God, no one will serve you simply because you are good and wonderful; you have to bribe them!” The question is, can God re-create a people, dead in their trespasses and sins, who will freely love him and glorify his name for no other reason than he is truly worthy? If so, those people will be to the praise of his glory.
As a Plan for the Fullness of Time to Unite All Things in Him
This statement is further evidence that God has a purpose that goes beyond us. God’s purpose in Christ is to unite or reconcile all things, things in heaven and things on earth. If God needs to unite all things, then all things at present are not united; all things are in disarray. This is the purpose of the Messiah’s kingdom, to “destroy every rule and every authority and power” (1 Cor. 15:24). But God would not do that by instantly annihilating his enemies. He did it by proving himself truly worthy of all worship and praise and through his sacrificial love in Christ destroying the power of Satan and his armies.
Further, through God’s love in Christ that he “lavished upon us” (vs. 8), he has “caused us to loathe ourselves for our sins” (Ezek. 36:31) and be “holy and blameless before him” (vs. 4). When he “predestined us for adoption as sons” (vs. 5), he predetermined that we would reflect his glory by having the image of our Father. Therefore, through us God is “vindicating his holy name” (Ezek. 36:23).
This phrase permeates our text. Everything God did toward us and for us was done in Christ. But what does that mean? “In Christ” should not be simplified to speak of a location – if one is in Christ he or she will receive these blessings. The idea is that Christ did what we could not do so that we can have what he has. He leads the way. The Hebrew writer explains the principle:
“For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:8–11 NKJV)
This principle is also mentioned in prophecy:
“The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: ‘One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their sons also forever shall sit on your throne.’” (Psa. 132:11–12 ESV)
Sealed with the Promised Holy Spirit, Who Is the Guarantee of Our Inheritance
It is so special to know that God did not leave us without some evidence of what he has prepared for us. God sending his Spirit represents all the blessings that we have in Christ. Think of what we enjoy even before we have “acquired possession” of our inheritance. There is peace, security, the love of God, our relationship with God, the promises, and a life that is now filled with joy and hope instead of bondage to sin and an evil master. It is a wonderful down payment given through the ministry of the Spirit so that we can be to the praise of his glory!
For a sermon on the role of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s epistles, go to this link: http://brentwoodchurch.com/the-role-of-the-holy-spirit-in-pauls-epistles.php