Eighth Sunday after Trinity – August 2, 2020

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         SLIDE 1

Our scripture reading this afternoon is from the book of Ephesians, chapter 1, verses 3-12. Hear the word of the Lord:

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ, just as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him. In love, he predestined us to adoption through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will— to the praise of the glory of his grace, with which he has highly favored us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.


“He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Him, to be put into effect in the fullness of the times, to unite under one head all things in Christ, the things in heaven and on earth in him.

“In Him also we have been chosen by God as His inheritance, having been predestined according to the plan of the One who is working out all things according to the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be to the praise of His glory.”

   May the Lord add his blessing to His holy Word. SLIDE 3 -title slide


  1. Open bibles/apps to Eph 1.9-12
  2. Where is the world headed? Lots of people are asking that question these days, and not just religious people. Fear is causing many to wonder if COVID, economic distress, racial tensions and political craziness are a permanent part of our “new normal”. SLIDE 4
  3. The text we are looking at today will provide the ultimate answer to this question along with the answer to the more specific question: Where are you, individually, headed?
  4. So, I want to begin by asking the Lord to prepare our hearts for what he wants to teach us. Then we are going to revisit these four verses and take note of the two big ideas contained in them. Then we will unpack these two key concepts and close with a personal application. Sound good? 
  • Let’s prepare to hear from the Lord.
  • Alright, with that bit of introduction, let’s look at the first key idea contained in the first two verses:

Exposition of 1:9-12

“He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Him, to be put into effect in the fullness of the times, to unite under one head all things in Christ, the things in heaven and on earth in him.

  • The key idea in verses 9-10 is the Father’s utter and uncompromising resolve to bring everything in space-time—everything that He created in all ages and in all places—together under the dominion, the rule, the Kingship of Jesus Christ. We’ll look at that more closely in a minute.
  • Before we do that, we need to consider the different statements Paul makes leading up to this central claim. SLIDE 5 Note Paul begins with:

“He has made known to us the mystery of His will”

  • This connects us with what Paul said at the end of v.8, where we left off last week: God has lavished on us his grace, which includes all the spiritual wisdom and insight we could possibly ever need. As God does so, He reveals to us:
  • “the mystery of His will.” Mystery is mysterion, used 27x in NT. Paul probably used this term here to co-opt its more familiar usage in Roman society. Throughout the Mediterranean world, there were a number of so-called Mystery cults, dedicated to the worship of Dionysus, Cybele, Isis, Artemis and other gods. These were popular in the Roman world, especially in places like Ephesus, which was the leading commercial and religious hub in the province of Asia. The adherents would perform secret rituals known only to initiates where is was believed the deity would impart spiritual power or insight. SLIDE 6 The best contemporary examples would be our so called secret societies: the Masons, the Odd Fellows, Elks Lodge, and the Mormon Church with their temple rituals. SLIDE 7
  • In the NT, mysterion or “mystery” means a disclosure of something previously hidden in the inscrutable mind of God but now revealed by God’s Holy Spirit to Jesus’ apostles and through them, to the Church.
  • In ANE, the gods didn’t reveal their plans; they didn’t even have extensive plans because they, too, were subject to the whims of fate and the infighting that continually went on among the gods. By way of contrast, the God of the bible, in both OT and NT is sovereign over His creation; while giving a range of self-determining freedom to both the spiritual and material beings He created, He has a specific plan for his creation and He insures that his purposes are accomplished. And, this God is a talkative God, a gregarious God, a companionable God, who chooses to reveal his plans to his people, with whom he joyfully collaborates in the working out of history. SLIDE 8 Notice the next clause. He revealed the mystery of his will:
  • “according to His good pleasure.” IOW, He did it because He wanted to do it; it gave him great personal delight to bring us in on what we intends to do in the outworking and eventual fulfillment of human history.
  • Note too SLIDE 9 that God’s revelation of His mystery is something that:
  • “He purposed in Him [Jesus]”. In Him. That ought to sound really familiar by now. Yet again, Paul uses this language of Christological inclusion: everything good from the Father’s hand comes to us though our being relationally joined to Jesus Christ. We saw last week that Paul used “in Christ” or its cognates (in whom, in him, in the beloved) 5x in the first 7 verses. SLIDE 10 Now we have an additional 4x in these 2 verses.
    1. “in Him” (v9)
    2. “in Christ” (v10)
    3. “in Him” (v10)
    4. “in Him” (v11)
  • I hope that this is cementing an idea in our minds: salvation is not a thing. Salvation is a person. Jesus said in Jn 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (not, “I show you…). He prayed to the Father in John 17:3, “This is eternal life that they may know (experience) you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. Salvation is not an abstract concept but a living, active, pulsating, real-time relationship with the Father and the Son. If you are experiencing that on a regular basis, then you are experiencing salvation. If you are not experiencing that, you are not experiencing salvation.
  • Now, being in this kind of relationship with the Father and Son doesn’t always feel warm and fuzzy. Jesus told his followers: “in this world you will have trouble.” We will go through hard times, we will grieve losses, we will feel pain. These things are inevitable in a fallen world. But down beneath the layers of pain and conflict and confusion there is a deep reservoir of peace and joy and contentment and “rightness” that circumstances can’t destroy. There is a bedrock of joyful relatedness to the Father and Son in the Spirit that sustains us in hope. SLIDE 11
  • Now we come to Paul’s central claim: 

“to be put into effect in the fullness of the times, to unite under one head all things in Christ, the things in heaven and on earth in him.”

  • “to unite under one head” is the single compound Grk. word, Anakephalaioo, meaning “to sum up, to gather together as one”. It was used in rhetoric to describe the summing up of an oral argument. It is used only one other time in NT, in Rom 13:9, in which Paul refers to the law of love as “summing up” all the other laws of Moses: don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t covet.
  • What does this summing up of all things in Christ look like? SLIDE 12 The NT teaches us that the Lord Jesus will come to earth a second time, not in stealth as a baby swaddled in cloth, but as a conquering warrior king astride a war horse, accompanied by millions of angels and humans who have died before us, visible to the whole earth. SLIDE 13
  • This will set in motion a series of events—the establishment of Christ’s reign on earth, the defeat of all his enemies, the final judgment, the creation of a new heaven and earth where the Father, the Son, the spiritual beings currently in heaven and the redeemed human beings currently on earth all live together in shared space in harmony and peace and joy forever in a restored creation. All things will be summed up in Christ, united under his headship and kingly rule. SLIDE 14
  • In Isa 45, Yahweh had made a solemn vow to the Israelites:

Isa 45:23

“By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.”

  • SLIDE 15 In Phil 2, Paul quoted an early Christian hymn which made it clear that Isaiah’s prophesy referred to none other than the second person of the holy Trinity, Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2:9-11

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God.”

  • So, by summing up all things in Christ, SLIDE 16 Paul means that the whole of creation, in the heavens, on the earth, under the earth, will again recognize Jesus as the King of all Kings and bow before him. Redeemed humans and unfallen angles will do this enthusiastically as elated worshipers.
  • Unredeemed humans and fallen spiritual beings will also acknowledge Jesus as Lord of Lords, not as elated worshipers, but as defeated, humiliated rebels. SLIDE 17
    • Those spiritual beings that disobeyed God in the stories of Genesis 3, 6 and 11—who have been kept imprisoned in Tartarus in the underworld will be released in the final judgment, where they will declare that Jesus is Lord.
    • Those evil spirits that harass us in this life, and the dark principalities and powers that exert such terrible influence in the heavenly realms over the affairs on earth, they will be subdued and bow their knees before the Christ.
    • And every human who has rejected Him and all those notorious humans who have hated the true God and been responsible for such vast destruction on the earth, who are now kept in Sheol in the underworld—Adolph Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Genghis Khan, Osama Bin Laden—all of them will be released to face judgment, and they will declare publicly that Jesus Christ is Lord.
    • After this judgment, all spiritual and human beings who have opposed God and his plans and oppressed God’s people will be cast into the Lake of Fire, to exist forever in a terror of their own making. SLIDE 18 They will thus be given what they desire: to live life apart from God, seeking fruitlessly to gratify their own insatiable cravings, gods over their own miserable domains. They will be like sentient black holes: lonely solidarities, sucking in all light and life around them in abject narcissistic isolation; never satisfied, living in perpetual darkness and unappeased desire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  • Meanwhile, SLIDE 19 all spiritual and human beings who love the Lord and joyfully embrace His salvation and rule, will lovingly commune and justly reign with Christ over a repristinated, glorious and beautiful earth. As Rev 21 tells us:

Rev 21:3-4

 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is with people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

  • This is what Paul is referring to by the summing up of all things in Christ. It is the first key concept he articulates in these verses.
  • Let’s now look at the second key concept, SLIDE 20 contained in vv. 11-12:

“In Him also we have been chosen by God as His inheritance, having been predestined according to the plan of the One who is working out all things according to the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be to the praise of His glory.  

  • In one respect, Paul is reiterating what he had said in v.4-5, where he introduced the idea of God choosing and predestining us to be adopted as his own children. SLIDE 21 
  • But there is actually a slight twist. Here, the verb translated “chosen” is different from the one in v.4. There, the word was eklegomai; here in v.11, “chosen by God as His inheritance” is a phrase that translates a single compound verb, kleroo, which is what is known as a hapex legomenon (a word used just once in a body of literature). Since it’s the only place where this term is used in the bible, it makes it more challenging to determine its precise meaning. But by looking at the immediate context as well as the use of its connate terms (i.e., terms that share the same root), it is pretty clear that Paul is using the term to mean “to appoint or choose for oneself by lot”.
  • The idea, then, is that God chose the Ephesian Christians (and, by extension, us) to be the portion or the inheritance that He wanted for himself over against all other options. That’s pretty mind blowing. Ex: After my dad died… each of us chose those items that were most valuable to us and our families to be our inheritance.
  • I want you to have that image in mind when you think about the fact that, of all the things God could have desired for himself, He so valued and me that He hand picked us to be his own treasured possession. Isn’t that nuts? If that doesn’t mess with your head, you need check to see if you have a pulse. That should fry our circuits!
  • It’s an idea that Paul is going to return to in seven verses when, in Eph 1:18, Paul refers to: “The riches of [God’s] glorious inheritance in the saints”. You see what he is suggesting? We are God’s glorious inheritance, and He considers us to be His riches.
  • Now, this idea of being God’s handpicked inheritance was a concept readily recognizable to the Jewish people. SLIDE 22 Yahweh had told the nation in Deut 7:

Deut 7:6

“For you are a people holy to Yahweh your God. Yahweh your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”

  • What they didn’t know at the time—because it wasn’t fully revealed but was still mostly hidden—was that, when God would later send Messiah, Jesus, and still later, the Holy Spirit, He would make a concerted effort to target the nations (the Gentiles, the non-Jewish people) with the Gospel to enfold them in his treasured inheritance. The new covenant He would make with Israel, replacing the one made at Sinai, would include all people, not just the natural descendents of Abraham and Sarah.
  • This was the mystery Paul refers to here and in other contexts: SLIDE 23 that God’s decision to disinherit the nations after the incident in Genesis 11 we call the Tower of Babel was only temporary. His intent all along was to offer salvation to the entire world and He had chosen Israel to be His means of doing that.  SLIDE 24
  • In the Song of Moses in Deut 32, Moses says:

Deuteronomy 32:8-9

“When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance (nachal),
when he divided (parad) the sons of Adam,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God (beney eloihim).
But Yahweh’s portion (cheleq) is his people,
Jacob his allotted (chebel) heritage (nachalah).”

  • Do you see what Moses is saying here? The Jews of Jesus and Paul’s day understood this to be a reference to the Tower of Babel incident recorded in Genesis 11, which should be referred to as the Ziggurat of Balylon event.
  • After the flood, in Gen 9:7, God commanded the people to spread over the earth, as He had originally commanded Adam and Eve. Instead of doing this however, the people did exactly the opposite. In Gen 11:2, we’re told that the people gathered together on a plain in Shinar, present day Iraq, “to make a name” for themselves, by building a massive ziggurat, a stairway to heaven, so they could access the gods anytime they desire and manipulate them by various rituals and incantations to do their bidding.
  • The partially rebuilt ziggurat in the photo is in Ur, in southern Iraq. Another build in Babylon later, whose footprint still exists, was 300 feet tall.
  • As a result of their disobedience, God judged the people by confusing their languages, making it necessary for them to scatter and do what they had refused to do on their own. This is when God “divided” the sons of Adam in Deuteronomy 32:8. He then “fixed their borders” or assigned them geographical boundaries “according to the number of the sons of God” (beney elohim).
  • In the OT, this was the name given to the spiritual beings comprising God’s divine council. In the NT, they are called angeloi or angels.
  • What was the number of the “sons of God” making up God’s council? The Jews taught the number was seventy. Is it any wonder that the Jews in Moses’ day chose 70 elders to represent them? Or that the Jews of Jesus’ day had 70 members of their ruling council, the Sanhedrin. Now, how many nations are listed in the list of nations in Genesis 10? You probably can guess it by now: seventy.
  • So, the Jews taught that Yahweh judged the people by “giving them over” (in the language of Romans 1). After they tried to create their own manipulative religion he said to them, in effect: “Fine, you clearly don’t want to be in relationship with me, so I will put you under the authority of seventy members of my divine council. See how you like having them as gods. In the meantime, I will start over by creating a new nation from an infertile, elderly Mesopotamian couple by the names of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 12). They and their descendents will be “my portion”, my “allotted heritage”, a point God reiterates when He makes a covenant with their descendents, the nation of Israel, several hundred years later.
  • According to Jewish theology, those seventy divine council members later became corrupt and began ruling the nations violently and oppressively for their own selfish purposes. You can actually read God’s response to them in Psalm 82. They started seeking worship for themselves, a fact that accounts for the many detestable foreign gods worshipped among the non-Israelite nations in the ANE.
  • And as far as the Jews knew, God’s disinheriting of the nations was a permanent arrangement. God had rejected humankind outright and made Israel his sole inheritance.
  • So now maybe you can understand why it came as such a shock to Peter, Paul and the other apostles when they learned that God’s disinheritance of the nations was only temporary, until “the fullness of times”, when Israel and the world were ripe for the sending of Messiah, God’s Son, to clear the way for all humankind to be reconciled to God. This is why Paul called it a mystery. And this is why, as an aside, Jesus sent out 70 representatives through Israel during his ministry. It was a symbolic action: He was telegraphing to the rulers of the heavenly realms, the gods of the nations, that he was coming after them to judge them and rob them of their people. He was going to reclaim what was rightfully his. SLIDE 25
  • Now, just as was the case with Israel, God’s choosing of us was not made on the basis of our inherent worthiness. He didn’t choose us because we have some intrinsic virtue that makes us smarter or godlier or better than others.
  • He chose us not because we are worthy; he chose us to make us worthy, to qualify us to share his life and his sacred space, now and forever in a full, free exchange of fellowship and love, and to accomplish the work he gives us to do in this life and the life to come.
  • We are God’s inheritance. SLIDE 26 And it wasn’t random or accidental. Paul adds:

“having been predestined according to the plan of the One who is working out all things according to the purpose of His will”

  • In this single clause, Paul uses no less than three words to describe God’s intelligent choice of us:
    • “Plan”, prothesis
    • “Purpose”, boule
    • “Will”, thelema
  • Together, they construct an airtight case against any form of doubt. They describe God’s deliberate and decisive resolve, His intelligent and premeditated decision to make us His own. As Clint Arnold observes: “God is not responding to events as they unfold with various countermeasures, but he has a carefully designed plan that he is revealing and fulfilling, especially as it relates to the choosing and redeeming of His people.”
  • You can see why Paul’s teaching would be immensely reassuring to the Ephesian Christians. These guys had believed their fates were determined by the impersonal movement of stars and the conniving of unloving gods.
  • Paul comes along and says: “Baloney! The truth is, before God laid foundation of the earth or made the stars or the spiritual beings you used to worship as gods, He chose you guys together with Jewish believers to be His very own, and has been active throughout the course of your lives to protect you, provide for you and draw you to himself in Christ, so that for the rest of eternity you might share in his incomparable love, joy and fellowship”. No wonder they began calling this message “good news!”
  • And God’s ultimate plan will not be thwarted. As FF Bruce noted, God’s “will may be disobeyed, but his ultimate purpose cannot be frustrated”.
  • This gives us believers enormous assurance. We can say in the midst of COVID, racial problems, economic woes and political extremism: “He’s got this”. What was true in the first century is true today: “God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). That’s a good place to end. SLIDE 27

Take away

  • Here’s our take away. Where’s the world headed? Ultimately, it is headed toward its predetermined end: to come under the rightful, just and loving rule of its Creator, Jesus Christ. And where are you headed? You are a prince or princess in this life and in the life to come: a child of the Heavenly Father and royal consort to the King of Kings, Jesus, with whom you will reign over a recreated earth forever SLIDE 28, one about which Habakkuk 2:14 says, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
  • As a child of the King, you now have in part, and will later have in full, all the authority, honor, rank and glory for which you were created along with God’s blessings of peace, purpose and incomparable joy. You will have important and enjoyable employment in the coming age. And your whole existence will be characterized by a profound and loving communion and rich intimacy with God and all creation which you cannot even now imagine. That’s where you’re headed. SLIDE 29
  • As the Apostle Paul summarized it so well in 1 Cor 2:9:

1 Corinthians 2:9

“As it is written: “Things that the eye has not seen, the ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the hearts of man, all this God has prepared for those who love Him’.”

  • Let’s pray. SLIDE 30

Reminders – Tom

  1. Tuesday night 7-8 SLIDE 31
  2. Giving
  3. Next week SLIDE 32

Benediction – Lynn

I bless you in the Name that is above every name: the Name of Jesus, to which every knee will one day bow in heaven, on earth and under the earth. May you bow before Him in reverence, humility and love each day of your life.

I bless you in the Name of the Father, who has kindly chosen us to be His own personal inheritance forever. May you delight yourself in His fellowship always, creating space to commune with Him in solitude each day.

I bless you in the Name of the Spirit, who seals us with His power and pours into our hearts the Father’s great love. May you walk consciously in His steps, taking care not to grieve Him or quench His work.

Go this week in the strength and blessing of the triune God, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.