Christ Covenant Church
Rev. Marq Toombs
10 February 2019
[ sketch notes ]
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mini-series on the Holy Trinity: One God, Three Persons
Today we focus on the Father and his glorious grace.
The glory of the Father’s grace is revealed in election and predestination in Christ.
A Personal Anecdote from 2008: Calvin and Hobbes cartoon (see below)
Start with a few Caveats
John Calvin: “Human curiosity renders the discussion of predestination, already somewhat difficult of itself, very confusing and even dangerous.”
Two extremes — a ditch on both sides of the road
On the one hand, are those people who rush into the doctrine of predestination carelessly and recklessly:
“If anyone with carefree assurance breaks into this place, he will not succeed in satisfying his curiosity and he will enter a labyrinth from which he can find no exit.”
On the other hand, are those people who avoid the doctrine of predestination as much as possible:
“Although their moderation is commendable in thinking that such mysteries should be treated with moderation, yet because they keep too far within the proper measure, they have little influence over the human mind…The danger which they dread is not so great that we ought on account of it to turn away our minds from the oracles of God.”
WCF 3.8 = “The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care.”
We know how mysterious and controversial these doctrines are. We might wish to shrink away from election and predestination, but here they are in the text right in front of us. So what are we to do?
Calvin offers this sound pastoral counsel:
Scripture is the school of the Holy Spirit, in which, as nothing that is useful and necessary to be known has been omitted, so nothing is taught but what it is of importance to know. Therefore, every thing delivered in Scripture on the subject of predestination, we must beware of keeping from the faithful, lest we seem either maliciously to deprive them of the blessing of God, or to accuse and scoff at the Spirit, as having divulged what ought on any account to be suppressed.
Today we focus on the Father and his glorious grace.
I don’t want to us to get lost in a maze. Nor do I want us to hide our heads in the sand. I simply want to draw our attention to the glory of the Father’s grace as it is revealed in Christ — that is, as it is revealed in election and predestination in Christ — that we may praise God for his glorious grace.
Let us Stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word:
Sermon Text: Ephesians 1:3-6
3 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,4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love5 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.
Word of the Lord.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
God is blessed / praised by those whom he has blessed
The Father blessed us in Christ.
(who) The Father (what) blessed us (who) in Christ (how) with every spiritual blessing (where) in the heavenly places
The Father = he is the source of all things “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15) and he is the shelter and support around all things “who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:6)
blessed = eulogized
Us = not a special, elite class of people, but a sinful people like all the rest.
As Paul says later on in Ephesians:
We were dead in the trespasses and sinsin which we once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Eph. 2:1-3; 4:17-19)
in Christ = the focus next week – suffice to say for now that the Father’s election of sinners in Christ is truly personal and deeply relational. Rightly understood, the Father’s election of sinners in Christ removes any notion of cold-hearted fatalism or mechanistic determinism.
every spiritual blessing = more this next week
heavenly places =
The Father elected us in Christ.
(who) The Father (what) chose us in Christ (when) before the foundation of the world, (why) that we should be holy and blameless (where) before him [before his face / in his presence].
Chose = ἐκλέγομαι eklegomai selected / while we were sinners = unconditional election — not based on anything in us but only on the pleasure and love in God our Triune Savior. God’s elect people are nothing more than sinners chosen by grace for salvation in Christ.
before the foundation of the world = eternity past, before the beginning, when God made the heavens and the earth
holy and blameless = sanctification— a work of God’s free grace / the goal is to conform us to the image of Christ
Note: God’s sovereignty in election establishes our responsibility in sanctification, it does not excuse or eradicate it:
Ephesians 5:1-6 “Be imitators of God, as beloved children.And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous — that is, an idolater — has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”
before his face = in his presence / “without holiness no one will see God” / as Isaiah learned by experience, no one may stand in the presence of the Holy, Holy, Holy Triune God unless he is holy and blameless, unless his sins have been cleansed and purified.
The Father predestined us in Christ.
(who) The Father (what) predestined us (why) for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ,
Predestined = fore-horizoned; set the boundary; established his purpose and plan for us
Mars Hill / Areopagus = “God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Acts 17:26-28
adoption = a word unique to Paul / Gk. υἱοθεσία huiothesía = son + set / heir + placing
Many Evangelicals and Catholics (Arminians / Semi-Pelagians) misunderstand the Father’s gracious act of adoption. They treat it more like a foster care program than a legal adoption. (Motive: To make sense of apostasy, people seemingly coming to faith and then falling away.)
On their view, the Father welcomes children of wrath into his home one day, but might send them away the next. The children never truly become members of God’s family. This robs God’s people of assurance and confidence before the face of God.
On Paul’s view, by inspiration of the Spirit, the Father welcomes children of wrath into family, and they become his sons and daughters by grace through faith in love.
Baptism is the formal adoption ceremony, in which God brings us out of the world into the church; in which he takes children of wrath and makes them children of mercy; in which he puts his name on his children: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
Thus, God becomes the Father of the fatherless and settles the solitary in his holy habitation.
This reassures God’s people that they belong in God’s house as members of his family.
according to the purpose of his will = εὐδοκία eudokía = good + pleasure / God the Father desires children and delights to adopt children into his family.
to the praise of his glorious grace
Jonathan Edwards: The end for which the Father does anything is the praise of his glorious grace.
This is the proper response to the Father’s grace and love.
Speaking of love, Paul says that everything the Father purposed and planned for his sons and daughters, everything he is pleased to do for them, is based on his own divine love.
The crux of the matter:
The Father blessed us, elected us, predestined us, adopted us in love. And not just some abstract, ethereal love. But love incarnate, love embodied in Jesus Christ, the Beloved One.
The Father loves you. Jesus is on your side. The Spirit is for you.
God is relentless in his pursuit of you.*
“Now let us fall down before the majesty of our good God in prayer” (Calvin):
O God, Father of glory, I give you thanks for Christ Covenant Church, and I pray that you may give us all the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Father-God,having the eyes of our hearts enlightened, that we may know — what is the hope to which you have called us, what are the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints,and what is the immeasurable greatness of your power toward us who believe, according to the working of your great might,hat you worked in Christ when you raised him from the dead and seated him at your right hand in the heavenly places,far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. Eph. 1:16-21