Halim Suh speaks on Ephesians 1:7-8.
Series: Raised to Life
In Ephesians 1:3-14 we have one long run-on sentence in the Greek. The idea is that you, the Church of God, have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Before the foundations of the world, the Church of God was blessed by being chosen to be His. We’ve been blessed by being made blameless and holy in His sight. In Christ, God blesses us by bringing us into His family, adopting us as sons and daughters. Now God, the King of the Universe, is our Father. In today’s passage, verses 7-8, we learn of two more blessings in addition to the ones above.
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 love 5 he predestined us for adoption 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. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight. Ephesians 1:3-8 (ESV, emphasis added)
We’ve been blessed with redemption and forgiveness. The Church of God is a redeemed and forgiven people.
Paul’s whole point with this long sentence is for us to contemplate how blessed we are. When you see these lavish blessings, there ought to be a stirring in your heart, a praise of His glorious grace. In light of all God is for us in Christ Jesus, we should be a people who are awe struck and overwhelmed by His glorious grace towards us.
Yet, if many of us were honest, we don’t quite feel that. We struggle to feel blessed by God, to feel the desire to worship Him with our everything. In regards to God’s grace toward us, we’re thankful and glad, but there’s not amazement or astonishment at what Jesus has done for us.
Why is that?
I think the main reason is because we don’t realize the depth of our own sinfulness. We haven’t truly realized the extent of our rebellion and the deadness we were in when God called us up and raised us to life. We just don’t think we’re that sinful. We’re not that bad. Sure, we have some flaws and sin like everyone else, but there are plenty of people who are a lot worse. So relatively speaking, we’re pretty good people. So when we hear we’ve been redeemed and forgiven we say, “Ok God, thank you,” but there’s no amazement or astonishment.
Jesus said if you’ve been forgiven much, you will love much. You will only be able to worship to the extent you realize how much you’ve been forgiven. We don’t think we’ve been forgiven all that much, so our worship is little.
Understanding our sinfulness is key.
We don’t feel we’re that bad, but we can’t measure how sinful we are simply by how we feel.
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
Our hearts lie to us. Therefore, we have to measure the depth of our sinfulness by what the Bible says.
Paul tells us we were so sinful we needed redemption.
The word for redemption in the Greek is apolutron, which also means ransom. The only time you’d be in a position where a ransom has to be paid for you would be if you were in captivity, bondage or slavery. Paul is saying when it came to our sin, we needed redemption, meaning sin held us in captivity, bondage and slavery. It refused to let us go unless a ransom was paid.
The Bible often uses this slavery language when talking about the depths of our sinfulness, but today we use the language of addiction. The idea of slavery is a bit foreign, but we can better understand addiction to communicate the same concept. Addiction and slavery parallel each other. Addiction is not just when you have a problem, but when the problem has you. It’s not just drinking here and there or looking at pornography when your wife is out of town, addiction is when the drinking or the pornography has you.
When it comes to the depth of our sinfulness before Christ, before God saved us, the Bible is saying sin wasn’t just something you had, sin was something that had you. Sin wasn’t something you did every now and then and needed help from. It was something that held you in captivity, refusing to let you go. You didn’t have control over it; it had control over you.
If sin was just something you had, then we could get rid of it with enough remorse, or feeling bad, or blaming others, or behavior modification. However, sin wasn’t something we had, it had us and refused to let us go without a ransom.
Some of you feel it even now, that old master still pulling you in and demanding you bow down and obey it. You realize telling yourself you’re not that bad is the way you found to deal with how truly bad you actually are. A crushing guilt sets in if we stop telling ourselves we’re not that bad. Because we’re created in God’s image, when we sin, whether we’ll admit it or not, deep inside we know it ought not to be this way. So the crushing guilt comes and we have to find a way to deal with it. Here are some ways we try to deal with the guilt of our sin:
· You can deny it altogether, saying there’s no such thing as sin.
· You blame somebody else; it’s their fault.
· You can excuse it; there were extenuating circumstances.
· You can diminish it; saying it’s not that big of a deal, you know people who have done a lot worse.
· You can hide it, hoping you don’t get caught
· You can punish yourself; you’ll feel really bad for it and pay your penance.
· You can try to earn yourself out of it, you’ll do a bunch of good things and pay God back for the bad things you’ve done.
Isn’t it exhausting? We’ve tried all of these things. It’s exhausting because we’re trying to be our own redeemer and pay our own ransom.
7 In him we have redemption through his blood… Ephesians 1:7 (ESV, emphasis added)
In Christ, not in us, there is redemption. Redemption is not possible in you covering it up, or in blaming others, or trying to do better the next time. In fact, redemption can’t be found in you at all.
Redemption can only be found in Christ, through His blood in what He has done.
Jesus’ blood, His life, was the ransom paid for your redemption. Nothing less than the blood of Jesus could set the captives free.
So how do we deal with the depth of your own sinfulness? Well, in all kinds of ways that at the end of the day will fail us and exhaust us because we’re making ourselves out to be the redeemer. There is another way, the bible tells us: You can be forgiven.
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses… Ephesians 1:7 (ESV, emphasis added)
Forgiveness is another way we can realize the depth of our sinfulness.
Martin Lloyd Jones, a great British pastor and theologian, once said the problem of forgiveness was the greatest problem God had ever faced. Think about some of the greatest problems God has faced in human history:
· Darkness, no light. God dealt with it by simply saying, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
· No plants or vegetation. God dealt with it by simply saying, “Let the earth sprout vegetation,” and it was so.
· No animals. God dealt with it by simply saying, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures,” and it was so.
· Loneliness of man, Adam all alone. God dealt with it by putting him to sleep, taking one of his ribs and making woman.
With all these problems God faced, all He did was speak or take a quick little action. Yet, when it came to the problem of our sin He couldn’t just say, “Let there be forgiveness.” The problem was too great. The depth of sin ran too deep. So God had to do the unthinkable and unimaginable and tell His Son that the problem was so big that the ransom has to be so great and that He had to go to the cross and die. There was no other way.
The cross of Jesus, the blood of Jesus being the only possible solution, shows the depth of the problem right? The greatness of the solution shows the greatness of the problem.
So both, our need for redemption and forgiveness, serve to show us the depth of our sinfulness. But when you see the lengths to which God has gone, how Jesus had to voluntarily be tormented and killed, all because sin was so great a problem that it couldn’t just be solved with a “let it be,” we might ask why God even went through with all of it. It’s good for us and we benefit from it, but why did He do it? It cost Him so much.
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. Ephesians 1:7 (ESV, emphasis added)
God went through all of it because of the riches of His grace. Because of the riches of His holiness, God demanded the payment of sin. But because of the riches of His grace, He Himself provided the payment for sin.
The greatest problem our sin brought to God was answering how the riches of His Holiness could coexist with the riches of His grace? How could it? How could God both demand the payment for sin because He’s so holy, yet also provide forgiveness for our sin because He’s so gracious? How could He do that? Let’s read our text again:
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight. Ephesians 1:7-8 (ESV, emphasis added)
He planned a way, determining the most wise and insightful way, in which the holiness of God would not consume the sinfulness of His people. He planned a way in which He could offer forgiveness, salvation and redemption to us in the wisest and most insightful way possible.
The way of the cross.
When we look at the cross, we see God’s wisdom and insight. There was no better way than the cross in which we received redemption and forgiveness.
No Forgiveness Without Redemption
It’s important to know that forgiveness and redemption are two different things, but inseparable. In God’s wisdom and insight, He saw we needed both in order to be saved. Paul puts them right next to each other, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,” all in one breath.
Yet, in the depth of our sinfulness we desperately want to separate the two. We want the forgiveness, but not the redemption. You have sin in your life that’s making you miserable. You’re trying all kinds of ways to deal with the guilt, but it’s exhausting. You hear God offers forgiveness, so you want it. Forgiveness means the lifting of the guilt; you won’t have to feel bad anymore. Redemption means the ransom is being paid for you, it’s buying you out of slavery from sin. But if you are bought then that means you no longer belong to yourself. 1 Corinthians 6 states we have been bought with a price, we are not our own.
If I were to say God was offering you forgiveness, no matter what you’ve done, would your heart leap? But if I tell you at the cross God bought you and now He owns you, how would you feel?
Many of you want forgiveness, but not redemption.
You want to be freed from the guilt of your sin, but you don’t want to be told what to do. You don’t like the idea of being owned, but you want your sins to be forgiven. You want to go to heaven, but you want to stay in control of your life.
Either Jesus is King or He isn’t.
Either He is King and has the authority to forgive you, but then He also has the authority to tell you what to do, telling you to bow down, demanding everything from you. Or He is not King and doesn’t have the authority so go live your life the way you want. Quit wasting your time here. Either way, we can’t just pick and choose what He is. He’s either King or He isn’t.
We see this in the Old Testament with the Israelites being in bondage, enslaved to Egypt. Often times the Old Testament is a physical picture of our spiritual reality. God was delivering the Israelites out of a physical slavery, showing us the kind of spiritual slavery He is delivering us out of. God sent Moses to set them free. We all know the famous quote Moses told Pharaoh, “Let my people go,” but that’s not all he said.
God commanded Moses to say, “Let me people go, so that they may serve me, and worship me.”
God wasn’t saying, “Let my people go,” so they could go and do whatever they wanted, even though that’s what we desperately want. This is the modern view of salvation. The modern view of freedom is not to have any lord at all, choosing whatever you want; being your own boss and doing whatever pleases you. God does want you to be free, but not just so that you no longer have to obey the slave masters in Egypt, but so that you can obey and worship Him.
Some think that’s not really good news at all, trading in one master for another. But sin no longer being your master and now God being your master makes all the difference in the world.
He is a good master. If God rescued Israel out of Egypt and then turned them over to themselves, He wouldn’t have really rescued them. He would have just replaced one terrible master for another. You doing what you want, obeying only yourself for the rest of your life would only end in a horrific life. Do you want to live in a world where you’re the king? That’s a terrible world. That’s not the kind of salvation God has in mind.
Forgiveness without redemption is no salvation at all.
We can’t have the freedom of forgiveness without giving the worship that redemption demands. It’s not just, “Let me people go,” it’s, “Let my people go so that they may worship me.”
To The Praise Of His Glorious Grace
Why is the Bible so bent on showing us the depth of our sinfulness? Why does it talk about sin so much? Why do we have to preach about sin so much?
Do you remember the first day you met Jesus? There was some sense of your sinfulness and your need for Him and the cross. You had sense enough that you cried out asking Him to save you. Our wishful thinking at that time was that we would grow in Christ, learning to love Him in such a way that we would sin less and less so we would feel better about our sinfulness.
Yet, that’s not what the gospel commands of us. The cross isn’t demanding that we glance quickly at it only on the day of our salvation. The cross is demanding we survey it, pondering and meditating on it, that we serve every square inch of it, and then see the very depth of our sinfulness by seeing the solution that was needed to deliver and forgive us from our sins.
Many of us want to skip the crucifixion and go straight to the resurrection, but we have to first be condemned by the cross before we can be saved it.
There is no resurrection apart from the crucifixion.
If you look at the cross long enough, you’ll see a paradox set in your life. As you walk with Jesus for a period of time, you’ll begin to see Him change you. You will sin less, but you’ll feel more like a sinner than ever before, because you see how perfect Jesus actually is. In light of Jesus, you will realize you’re a greater sinner than you ever thought, but you will also see Jesus is a greater savior than you ever dreamed.
We didn’t know the depth of our own sinfulness, but He knew and still went to the cross for us. You’ll never see him to be a great savior if you don’t see yourself to be a great sinner.
Let’s make our goal and application to look to the cross and walk with Jesus in such a way that ten years from now, we will have a greater sense of our sinfulness than we do today. Then on our dying day, we’ll have the greatest sense of our sinfulness, but we’ll also have the greatest sense of Jesus and of God’s glorious grace.
.  Mark Driscoll, “I am Blessed”