Chosen in Christ

Scriptures: Psalm 24; Ephesians 1:3-14

If I were to suggest any book to do a Bible study on, besides the Gospels, probably the one that I would promote the most is Ephesians. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians – and there are some that think it was actually a circular letter that went around to various churches, but it does have, in the very first verse, a greeting to the saints who are at Ephesus – the book of Ephesians contains some of the most wondrous theology, besides the book of Hebrews, that is in the New Testament.

Paul, in this short letter, covers everything from individual believers to the church, and even the family, and how we are to be in relationship with each other and with God, and what our purpose is, why we are to be who we are. And he starts at the very beginning.

Our passage today has a couple of phrases that I’m going to focus on, as we work through this. If you underline or you mark up your Bible – and I know that’s hard for some of us. It took over twenty years for me. I just couldn’t bring myself to mark up my Bible.

And I have to say that one of the people that I admire the most has a Bible that I’ve seen him bring, and it has not just underlines but it has highlights of multiple colors. There’s probably some organization to it, because the guy is an engineer. But what it tells me is that the Bible was read often, and the meaning to it was being pulled out.

I’m going to suggest to you to underline the words “chosen in Christ” or “in Christ” or “in Jesus.” This is, in this passage, one of the primary focuses of what Paul is looking at. There is a difference between “in Christ” and “through Christ” that I want to bring out today. Yes, we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and it is through Jesus Christ that we receive our salvation. But that is a mechanism of God’s grace.

When you are in Jesus Christ, there is a relationship. It goes beyond that salvation, that conversion moment, that point where you accept Christ as Savior. That was through Christ, what He did. But then you need to be in Christ. Paul is talking to believers here. He’s talking about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. In this, he addresses who we are, whose we are, and why we are.

He starts, even in verse 3, by mentioning the fact God the Father has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. So we receive blessings when we are in Christ, and we’ll touch on that a little later. Paul also notes in verse 4 that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.

He destined us for adoption as children through Christ, and it goes on that it was bestowed on us in the beloved – so in Christ. In Him, that is, in Christ, we have redemption. And he speaks of the mystery made known to use, set forth in Christ. And in Christ we have also received an inheritance.

Are you seeing a pattern here? In Christ … in Christ … in Christ … in Christ. So what does that mean, to be in Christ? This is also one of the thorniest sets of verses because of the stuff about being predestined that is in there, and about election. I alluded to that in my title, “Chosen in Christ.”

I want to bring forward an idea that many believers don’t know about, by a guy named Karl Barth, probably one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century (in my humble opinion). Regarding predestination, he had an idea in order to get rid of some of this struggle we have with God’s choosing. I mean, why did He choose us? Why did He choose me?

How many of you have asked, when there’s been trouble, “God, why did you choose me?” How many of you, when you’ve been especially amazed at God’s blessings, said, “God, why did you choose me?” Then you have the Arminians who say it wasn’t God who chose you, it was you who chose God.

Karl Barth had this idea that gets around the issue. He said the only one who was chosen was Christ. The only one who was predestined was Christ. God knew before the foundation of the earth that Christ would come, Christ would die, Christ would be raised again. Alleluia, amen! Then the rest of God’s choosing deals with what happens afterward.

Karl Barth was Reformed, although a little off the beaten path with that one. He believed in total depravity. He understood that none of us choose Christ on our own, so it requires the Holy Spirit moving in us, before we choose to live for God, and salvation.

But his concern was, if Christ was the one who was chosen by God, then who are we in Christ? If we could throw out “we’re the elect” in terms of individuals – “I’m special, I don’t know why, but God chose me.” No, Christ was the one who was special. Then who are we in Christ?

We are ones who receive blessings. We are children, destined and adopted. So we have adoption into a family. We have an inheritance. We have a future. This is who we are. As individuals, as a church, as the body of Christ, we are in Christ.

When we are being His bride, when we are reflecting His love, when we are showing and teaching the good news of the gospel. Why? Because it has been revealed to us. To us! It’s a mystery to the rest of the world, but it’s been revealed to us. That is who we are, as a people, as a church.

People who have a purpose. People who are the children of God. People who have authority, people who have an inheritance, people who have a future. People who are blessed by God. Why? Because we belong to Jesus Christ. That’s whose we are. And that’s why we are in Christ.

I know for us Americans in particular, but for a lot of the Western church, belonging to somebody is seen very negatively. We really don’t like that idea. At best, we’re partners. Co-equal partners. We don’t like the idea of belonging to someone. Even though sometimes in marriage, we talk about belonging to each other. Paul talks about serving one another. This whole concept of belonging shows up every time I do premarital counseling.

We go through Ephesians 5 – I do it on purpose. It talks about “wives, submit to your husbands,” as head of the family as Christ is head of the church. Submission – it brings up ideas of oppression and abuse. But I tell people that’s not the way God intended it, and that’s not what Paul is talking about here. Because have you read what’s required of the husbands?

If you read what’s required of the husbands, they are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, giving up even his very life for them. And I ask, “Is it so hard to accept the leadership of someone who is willing to give up their pride, their ego, their opportunities, their very life, to make sure that you are cared for and your needs are met?”

Is it that hard to belong to each other? Paul calls himself a bondslave of Jesus Christ. The marriage is between Christ and the church, as the whole body. But for each of us individually, we belong to Jesus Christ. He bought us. He bought us with his blood. He bought us with his pain and his suffering. He paid the price for our sin and our redemption, our reconciliation with God. We are his, his to own, as hard as that may be for you to accept.

And I want for you to think of it in terms of a marriage. That person you believe you belong to and you serve, what do you do to that person that you serve? You look for their needs. What they need, what they want, what their will is, what their plan is. You give them praise. You give them glory. You make them happy and joyful.

It’s not any different for belonging to Christ. When we are in Christ, then we should be seeking him first, his will in our lives, his Spirit in ourselves. What is his plan? What is his desire? What is his purpose for us?

All of that is described here in verses 3 through 14 of Ephesians 1. So look at it again, in depth, after we’re done with the worship today, while it’s still fresh in your brains.

We know who we are. We know whose we are. Now we need to explore why we are, because that is also put in here. God has destined us for something. He destined us to receive an inheritance, a legacy of eternal life. He destined for us to share the revelation of who He is.

As Calvinists, believing in election and the sovereignty of God, there is a tendency for some people to say if God already chose them, then it doesn’t matter what I do, God will take care of bringing them to Himself, because God is all-powerful. But God has given us a purpose, and part of that purpose is to share that gospel and that good news. God can be using you as the means for giving them the message, giving them the challenge.

We are to share the good news. If you believe in salvation by Jesus Christ alone, if you believe this is a matter of eternal separation from God or eternal life with God, if you believe that this is a matter of joy and happiness because we now have purpose and a future … wouldn’t you want to share it with other people?

Christ said to come to him as a little child. He’s not talking about an infant getting baptized, or a five-year-old or six-year-old saying a prayer come to Jesus. He’s talking about in a spirit of trust and a heart of trust. And I think also an enthusiasm like a child. I know none of us are children anymore. But I want you to think back to your children and your grandchildren, when they were four or five years old.

I read a story this week about a woman who had three kids, ranging in age from five down to a year and a half, and they had a surprise for Dad that they had put together. Mom told them, “You cannot tell Daddy what’s going on. You can’t tell Daddy, or it won’t be a surprise. You can’t tell Daddy.” They all said, “OK. I won’t tell Daddy, I promise. I promise.”

Then Daddy comes home from work. The five-year-old puts his hands behind his back, and he looks up at his daddy and he says, “Daddy, guess what?” And Mom said “Shhhh!” And his younger sister said, “Shh! Mommy told us not to tell Daddy.” The boy turned around and looked at them, and he said, “I was just going to ask Daddy if he knew what we weren’t supposed to tell him.”

They can’t keep a secret. It’s just too exciting, too much. It just overflows. And so should the gospel, in our lives. So should God’s love, in our lives, if we are in Christ. As individuals, and even as a church as we love one another, that love will overflow into the greater community and into the people, so that they look at that and they say, “Wow! What is this good news, that leads them to be like this?”

Finally, we are to live to the praise of His glory. That’s mentioned in there three times, the praise of His glory. Now what does that mean? I could spend another whole sermon on that. And I might someday. But for today, let me summarize it in this way: we live to the praise of His glory when we honor God with everything we do.

When we put God first. When we try to give God praise in all of our actions, all of our relationships, all of our lives. We do that as we study His Word. As we love as He loved. As we reach out to serve, first one another in the church, and then in the greater community. This is to the praise of His glory.

The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism – you all know it, my favorite one – What is the chief end of mankind? [People in congregation answer “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”] Amen! Amen! I’m so glad that many of you know it now.

That’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re chosen in Christ. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Christ gained our salvation. God gave it to us as a free gift. But after that, after you have understood and accepted that, then you want to be in Christ. That rest is up to you. May you live in Christ, and give God praise and glory with all of your life, each and every day.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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