Expository Sermon on Ephesians 1
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 10/17/2020
©2020 by Maylan Schurch
(To watch the entire YouTube version of this worship service, click the link just below.)
Please open your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 1.
Once in a great while, a song comes along which has a deep emotional impact on me. One of these songs was written by folk singer and songwriter Greg Brown. I heard it sung years ago by Garrison Keillor on his radio program “A Prairie Home Companion.”
Here are the lyrics to the first verse and chorus.
We travelled Kansas and Missouri spreading the good news
A preachers family in our pressed clothes and worn out polished shoes
Momma fixed us soup beans and served them up by candlelight
She tucked us in at night
Oh she worried through many a sleepless night
Dad and me would stop by the store when the day was done
Standin’ at the counter he said “I forgot to get the peaches, son.”
“What kind should I get?” I said to him there where he stood in line
And he answered just like I knew he would “Go and get the cheapest kind”
But the love, the love, the love
It was not the cheapest kind
It was rich as, rich as, rich as, rich as, rich as
Any you could ever find
As I say, that song hits me right in the heart. My parents grew up in the 1930s Depression, and prairie people who grew up then knew that money didn’t come easily. So when my Dad and Mom started a family, they made do with the day-old bread from the bakery, because it was cheaper.
From that same bakery – and it seemed to me it was on Sunday mornings Dad did this – he could go in and get a large cardboard flat of pastries which had gone past their sell date. They were perfectly good – if you can call lots of flour and lots of sugar good – and he would bring home maple bars, regular doughnuts, sugar-sprinkled doughnuts, jelly-filled doughnuts, doughnut holes, and all sorts of other good things. The cheapest kind.
Out of necessity-–my folks were putting four kids putting through Adventist church school – we often had to do things the cheapest way. But like the song said, our love was not the cheapest kind. Our love contained riches you can’t buy.
And in Ephesians chapter 1, Paul joyously introduces those Christians at Ephesus to a God whose love and whose gifts are not the cheapest kind.
Those gifts are magnanimous. In fact, that’s the title of today’s sermon: “God’s Magnanimous Way.”
One of the facts you pick up strongly in the book of Acts and in other New Testament books is that Christians back then often seemed to be financially strapped. Part of this was because of the famines which seem to be really frequent back then. One of the things Paul did as he went on his missionary travels was collect funds for famine-stricken Christians back home.
Another reason Christians at Ephesus might’ve had a challenging life is reflected by something that happened in Acts chapter 19. At one point Paul came there to preach, which probably would’ve been fine until people discovered what he was preaching – that there was only one God, and that Jesus Christ was His Son.
This of course meant that the Christians believed that there was no such goddess as Diana, who was also called Artemis. Ephesus pretty much claimed Diana as their patron-saint goddess. There was a huge temple there built in her honor, a temple which at that time was considered one of the seven “wonders of the world.”
But as people listened to Paul, an growing number of them started believing what he said. And this meant that they promptly stopped buying silver statuettes of the goddess Diana. So the town’s silversmiths whipped up the crowds into a frenzy, and got them shouting “Great is Diana of Ephesus!” And Paul and his traveling companions decided that it would be best if they left town.
So after that, if you were a Christian in Ephesus, you were probably despised, and discriminated against, as someone who was dangerously disrespectful to the goddess whose worship kept the local economy going.
Also, I would imagine that it was kind of a personal challenge for those recently-converted Ephesus Christians to walk to work every day past that towering temple, and watch all the Diana-worshipers flooding in. Maybe these new converts wondered once in a while if their own faith was of a cheaper kind. After all, Christianity had no towering temple in Ephesus, or anywhere else on earth. On Sabbath morning, the Creator of the universe was probably worshiped in the humble living room of somebody’s house. Christianity had no pomp, no pageants, no parades, no glittering images, no white-robed priests.
If any of these Christians was suspecting that they were in a second-class, “cheapest kind” of faith, I’m sure that the first chapter of Paul’s letter to them must have roused them to reality. Their God, the true God, provided many things Diana never could.
By the way, Ephesians chapter 1 is famous for Paul’s long, classical Greek sentences. If you use Microsoft Word, you can evaluate the readability of what you write by submitting it to the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Scale, which is built right into Microsoft Word.
According to this readability scale, it’s ideal for you to write at a 5th-grade reading level. That’s true for newspaper articles and features, and internet content. It’s not that we should remain at the fifth-grade level in our learning. It’s a matter of readability. The ideal is to use shorter sentences, and words which don’t have too many syllables in them. I didn’t take the time to check, but I would imagine that the Sermon on the Mount is at the fifth-grade level or somewhere near that.
Well, as you can imagine, Paul is not writing at the fifth grade level. After I let the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Scale churn its way through Ephesians 1:3-13, it announced that the readability was on a Grade-21 level. This is way beyond grade school, way beyond high school, way beyond college level, and into the Masters and Doctoral level.
So if it’s a little tough to read some of what Paul wrote, that’s one reason why. Even Peter, in 2 Peter 3:16, said that Paul wrote some things which are hard to understand!
However, as we simply slow down and walk carefully through Ephesians 1 this morning, we’ll get Paul’s points. We’re going to learn some amazing and very encouraging things about what God has in store for us.
You see, God is not cheap. God is magnanimous. The word “magnanimous” is made up of two Latin words, magna (which means “great,”) and animus which means “soul” or “mind.”) Its definition is “showing kindness or forgiveness, as in overlooking insults or not seeking revenge.” God is generously forgiving, because He has a great soul. He is magnanimous.
And in this chapter I’m going to show you three of the many ways God is magnanimous to us. So let’s take a deep breath and dive into some postgraduate-level reading.
Paul starts with a version of his usual greeting.
Ephesians 1:1 – 2 [NKJV]: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
And now, with a certain amount of high-flown theological language, he is going to introduce us to the first magnanimous act of God.
Verses 3 – 6: 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 made us accepted in the Beloved.
Were you able to wade your way through those phrases and clauses and discover God’s first magnanimous act toward us? Here’s what I think it is – and it’s what you could call Sermon Point One:
God offers to adopt me.
And not only does God offer to adopt me, but Paul says that it is the “good pleasure of His [God’s] will” to do this. In other words, God does not do this grudgingly, but with great pleasure.
So why does God need to arrange for my adoption? Didn’t He create me to start with? He did, but the Bible contains many verses which talk about how sin has separated us from God. That’s exactly what Isaiah 59:2 says: “your iniquities have separated you from your God.” Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden of Eden. Later, Israelites were shielded from the presence of God by sanctuary curtains. In Romans 3:23, Paul tells us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
So God knows that we need to be adopted back into His family. And He is overjoyed to make this possible. Paul says it is “the good pleasure of His will.” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son . . . .
It’s like the little family who lives across the street from us. They have two boys and a girl. The oldest boy is about 14, the other boy is about seven or eight, and the little girl is maybe three.
A few weeks ago, we started hearing little yapping sounds across the street. Sure enough, one day we saw the kids out in the yard playing with a little dog. When we had a chance to see it up close, the kids told us that it was a Shih Tzu puppy. His name is Benny.
You know how sometimes when you go into the grocery store, you see one of the staff pushing one of those flat dust mops across the floor? Well, Benny looks like a tiny version of one of those dust mops. His legs are short, and he’s right down there close to the ground.
Benny has taken a liking to me, and when he’s on his lawn, and sees me come out of my house, he promptly runs across the street and clusters himself around my feet. Whichever boy is closest to the dog hastily runs after him and scoops him up. But once in a while the boy and I just stand there talking, and that little dog roves in and out between my legs and around my feet. I always have to keep my feet planted firmly on the ground, otherwise I might absentmindedly step on him.
But it is such a joy to see those kids playing with that dog. It’s obvious that they adore him, and are glad dad or mom brought him home. And of course mom and dad are glad that their children get that much joy out of that dog. That dog has been adopted into that family, and – unless I’m missing something – it’s probably a win-win for everybody.
And of course when a magnanimous God decided – early on – to spare no effort to adopt us back into His family, this has brought Him the greatest possible joy. Because God did not show a “cheapest kind” of love. God showed magnanimous love.
So what do I do, knowing that God loves me and wants to adopt me? It’s simple. I say yes. And I don’t wriggle out from that adoption. Even though Benny is glad to see me across the street, he knows who his family is. He knows who loves him enough to feed him and play with him. And the better he gets to know them, the more he will realize that he really is a part of the family.
Now let’s look at the second magnanimous thing God has done for us. Let’s start with verse seven.
Verses 7 – 10: In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.
Again, that writing style is classic Paul. Those sentences of his go on and on. But let’s summarize God’s second magnanimous gift this way. Here comes Sermon Point Two.
God not only offers to adopt me, but He offers me His “redemption package.”
What’s a redemption package? Well, glance back over this passage. Verse seven says that we have redemption – but that redemption includes the forgiveness of sins, and in verse 10 it says that God is going to gather together everybody into one unified group.
So it’s not just redemption God offers us, but forgiveness, and a gathering together. (And of course many other things Paul mentions in his other letters.) You don’t need me to tell you that the pandemic has gotten us pretty lonely for each other. God’s redemption package has everything it needs, including the togetherness we all long for.
It’s so nice when everything you need comes in one package. Over the last several months, at least, our kitchen faucet has been dripping. It hasn’t been a major drip, maybe once every thirty or forty seconds. And sometimes when the handle is in a certain position it didn’t drip.
But on Sunday I decided to bite the bullet and fix that leak. When I think of doing minor plumbing repairs like this, a sense of despair fills me. I dread this. But fortunately, we have an Ace Hardware close by, so I went over, told them the brand of the faucet we had, and they cheerfully gave me a replacement cartridge for it.
I brought the cartridge back home, and discovered that the faucet was too old for that kind of cartridge. So I drove back to Ace, and luckily they did have the older type of cartridge. I inserted it, tightened everything up, but the faucet still leaked. So I went to Home Depot asking for cartridge of the same brand as the faucet, and they didn’t have it. I went to McClendon hardware, and they didn’t have it.
Then I went back to Ace to see if they had another cartridge like the one they’d sold me, and they did not. The nice young man who helped me, who had been a plumber’s assistant before coming to Ace, tactfully told me it might be time to get a new kitchen faucet.
And that’s when my mild despair intensified. I had worked on similar minor plumbing projects, and most of them had eventually leaked, and then I had to expend a certain amount of emotional energy trying to decide how hard to tighten the fittings without overtightening them and really causing a disaster.
At some point along the way I had been introduced to plumber’s tape, and that took care of most problems, especially since I tended to use about three times the amount I needed to. But I discovered that nowadays you shouldn’t really use plumber’s tape, because compression nut sleeves take care of the problem.
To make a long story short, I did buy a new faucet. It came in a box along with some other things beside the faucet. I took it home, and cautiously read the instructions. As usual, I found them incomprehensible. So I sat there, reading those instructions over and over again, gloomily worrying that this was not going to end well.
I know people who fear public speaking. I myself don’t have that fear. But my fear of plumbing is probably like that—the terror of the unknown. With me and kitchen faucets, there’s not only the leaks, but there is also the knowledge that somehow, when you’ve got that faucet installed, you had to wriggle your way under the kitchen sink, and up past the garbage disposal unit, past the water hoses, and past the pipes coming down from the sink, and somehow tighten the nut ‘way up there tightly enough to make sure that the faucet plate on top doesn’t wiggle. Our current faucet—which I had also installed–had not only leaked but also wiggled.
Let me pause in this story – because there is a happy ending – and suggest that now that God has offered you His redemption package, take it. Through Jesus’ blood, your sins can be forgiven. You will be happy as God gathers you together with others who accept this package. There is joy, and relief, and safety, and security because God magnanimously provides His redemption.
Now let’s look at what else our magnanimous God gives us. Make that “Who else.”
Verses 13 – 14: In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Here comes Sermon Point Three:
God not only offers to adopt me, but and not only offers me His “redemption package,” but God offers me His Holy Spirit.
You know, God could have gone an easier route–we could even call it “the cheaper way.” But it wouldn’t have been effective. God is unfailingly magnanimous. It was excruciatingly costly to provide His Son to become one of us and redeem us, and it is certain that the Holy Spirit has had other duties besides shepherding and guiding and appealing to the hearts of billions of human beings for thousands of years.
But God provides me His Holy Spirit. A couple of weeks ago I spent quite a bit of time talking about the Holy Spirit, how He is the one who is “called beside” us to guide us and help us grow spiritually.
So it’s no accident that Paul mentions the Holy Spirit right here. After all, the “redemption package” is nothing without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reaches out to us and makes us hungry for God. The Holy Spirit convinces us that we are sinners and need forgiveness. And the Holy Spirit strengthens us and is always present to help us.
Now back to the drama of the kitchen faucet. As I say, I bought the new faucet assembly, and everything was nicely boxed in a beautiful package. But even as I read the instructions, I suspected that since I am a plumbing klutz, I would probably miss a step that a seasoned plumber would take without thinking. And even though I might not end up with a leaky faucet – after all, this was a new faucet (it better not leak!) – even so, I would probably end up with leaks underneath the sink. And before long, that faucet base would probably start to wiggle.
But suddenly I saw something deeply encouraging. On the side of the box was printed a link for an online instructional video! And as soon as I saw that link, I pulled it up on the computer and watched it.
A warm, friendly professional announcer’s voice, filled with encouragement, first congratulated me on purchasing this particular brand of faucet. And then, step-by-step, slowly, using actual pipes, and covering every tiny step I needed to take, this announcer talked me through installing that faucet. I transferred the link to my cell phone, took it downstairs to the kitchen, and played and paused it step by step.
And joy of joys, the announcer informed me that the package contents included a plastic tube which was actually a wrench which fit around that normally inaccessible nut up under the sink. And he told me that if I put a screwdriver into that plastic tube, I could tighten that nut to within an inch of its life, so that my faucet base will never wiggle again.
I hope the Holy Spirit does not mind my comparing him to a friendly announcer giving faucet installation instructions. But that’s what Paul, and Jesus, and other Bible people say the Holy Spirit does. He comforts us, He counsels us, He helps us, He guides us, and does whatever else He needs to prepare us for Jesus’ return.
How about you?
God offers to adopt you. Will you behave like little Benny the puppy, and cavort with joy in response to His love?
God offers you His “redemption package.” Will you take it, and open it, and allow it to completely cleanse you and grow you into a citizen of heaven?
And to help you do this, God offers you His Holy Spirit.
Will you open your heart to Him and give Him permission to be your Friend?