Sermon Theme: God’s perfect, glorious gift is salvation to be his children in Christ.
Text: Ephesians 1:3–14
Other Lessons: 1 Kings 3:4–15; Psalm 119:97–104; Luke 2:40–52
Goal: That hearers will rejoice in their salvation with its eternal, temporal, and present foundation in Jesus Christ.
Rev. Mark T. Buetow, pastor, Bethel Lutheran Church, Du Quoin, Illinois
The Sundays after Christmas take us through the early life of Jesus, beginning with his presentation and temple redemption and this week the story of revisiting the temple at age 12. These Sundays serve as transition from Christmas to the Epiphany season, when the Child is soon manifested to Israel. The Old Testament Reading dovetails with the Gospel in that the son of David (Solomon) is given the gift of wisdom, just as the greater Son of David (Jesus) “grew in wisdom and in stature.” Thus Jesus is identified as the Son of David. The Epistle ties it together: Paul rejoices that the same gifts given to God’s Son, Jesus, are given to us who in Christ are made children of God.
Ephesians was written as a general letter of encouragement to the Church at Ephesus, not to any specific problem. It extols the many gifts Christians have in Christ as well as how it is through Christ that we live toward others and love them in good works. Today’s section serves as an introduction to all of what God has done for us in Christ. After greetings, Paul goes into dense and jam-packed rejoicing in what we have been given in Christ.
V 3: God is blessed, and he is the Father of Christ; therefore we are blessed by God with every blessing in Jesus. Who God is is also what he does, namely, he is blessed and so he blesses—all of which is centered in Christ.
V 5: Perhaps the heart of the text, as it shows the purpose: that we be adopted, have sonship, huiothesian.
V 6: That was for the praise of God’s glory and grace, by which he favored us in the One who is loved (Christ). That word echaritōsen, favored, is the same used by the angel speaking to Mary in the annunciation. Mary was favored because the Lord chose her that Christ would dwell in her.
V 7: Fullness of his grace means that in Christ we have redemption, apolytrōsin, or “ransom” (used of slaves). Note the contrast with sonship in the previous verses.
V 8: That grace was multiplied, made to abound on us in all wisdom and insight (those being references to the Spirit’s work).
V 9: God makes known to us the mystery of his will, which is according to his good pleasure, his plan in Christ. Note that all of this revealing and adopting and so forth is taking place in Christ. That’s baptismal language as well, the “in Christ” of Baptism.
V 10: This happened for the whole world at the right time when he brought all things in heaven and earth together in Christ. Here is a reference also to Christ’s incarnation by which are joined the divine and human natures (heaven and earth) for the purpose of reconciling God and sinful man (heaven and earth).
V 11: Again the “in him,” referring to Christ, in whom we were called, predestined according to the plan of the One who is working all things out according to the plan of his will. That is, our calling in Christ is the will of God, which he has been working out through the ages.
V 12: This all happened to make us “the praise of his glory”; God’s glory is manifested in our trusting in Christ.
V 13: In Christ, those who heard the Word of truth, the Gospel of salvation (the preaching of Christ), were sealed by the promised Holy Spirit.
V 14: The Spirit is himself the guarantee (down payment, pledge) of the ransom for us who have been purchased/obtained, all to the praise of God’s glory.
The phrase eis epainon tēs doxēs autou, “the praise of his glory,” appears three times in these verses (in 6, 12, and 14). In v 6, it includes his grace, thus, “the praise of his glorious grace.” According to BDAG, epainon is a reference to the act of giving admiration or praise to something, in this case, God’s glory. Each use of these phrases is anchored in what Paul has just said, so a generic “God is good!” is not meant. Rather, a specific manifestation of God’s glory, worthy of honor and praise, is given in what he is doing. In v 6, the “praise of his glorious grace” is that we have been called in Christ. In v 12, it is that we have been forgiven in Christ and that all things in heaven and earth (the incarnation and reconciling work of Christ) are brought together in him. In v 14, praiseworthy glory is in the Gospel heard and the Spirit’s sealing in Baptism.
It is thus consistent that God is worthy of all praise (1) from before the foundation of the world, since he has called and predestined us, (2) in the accomplishing of our salvation in time in Christ, and (3) in the delivery of that salvation to us in Word and Baptism. God is to be praised not merely because he is great or glorious, but also because everything he is about is for our salvation in and through Christ—before time, before our birth, and during our lives.
Introduction: So Jesus says to Mary and Joseph when they find him in the temple, “Did you not know that I had to be about my Father’s business?” What can this mean? His Father? Well, God is his Father. Jesus is there because he is the eternal Son of God. But it’s also his father David’s house. King David’s son Solomon built the first temple. So this also reminds us that Jesus, because he is a man, a human being, is also the Son of David. But what’s the big deal about Jesus being God’s Son? Well, at Christmastime, the Son of God is born. He is Mary’s Son. He is God’s Son. He is both by blood (through Mary) and adoption (by Joseph) the Son of David. And, yes, this all matters because . . . it all happens for this reason: That you will be adopted as God’s son, a child of God in Jesus Christ.
St. Paul lays this out for us in today’s Epistle from Ephesians. He tells us that
God’s Perfect, Glorious Gift
Is Salvation to Be His Children in Christ.
Ever thought about how getting someone a Christmas gift is a three-part process? The gift of your salvation is too.
I. The glory of the Lord’s salvation is in his calling us before the foundation of the world.
A. What’s the first thing you do to get a gift for someone? You have to find the perfect gift. That might involve some looking around in stores or online. It means finding just the right present that your recipient will like and enjoy.
B. So it was that your salvation was planned by God long before you were even born. In fact, says Paul, “before the foundation of the world” (v 4).
1. Before anything was even made, God had chosen to call you in Jesus Christ to be his child.
2. Jesus has always been the Son of God. And it was always what God planned to do.
3. Thus your salvation rests completely on Jesus, even before you were born or had even sinned or done anything!
4. Before anything was made, the Father had the perfect gift in mind: “he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (v 5).
C. Jesus is about the Father’s business because that was always the way it was going to be.
II. The glory of the Lord’s salvation is in Jesus coming in time to save us.
A. The second part of that Christmas gift-giving is the wrapping of the present. Just the right paper and bow to grab attention. A tag to show to whom the gift is given. And then place it there under the tree until it’s time to open the presents.
B. Just so, the gift was wrapped and put on the tree for you in Christ.
1. Jesus, true God in the flesh, is born, wrapped in flesh and swaddling cloths.
2. He became man so that we can see God in him. So that he could go to the cross and pay for all your sins. So that he can be the price paid to redeem and ransom you from sin and death.
3. Not the price of gold or silver or even wrapping and bow. The ransom price is his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.
4. And it is in him, says Paul, that you have been chosen, literally, favored, just as Mary was “highly favored” when Gabriel spoke to her.
C. Jesus stands in the temple going about his Father’s business because of Good Friday and the gift given that day: his blood to earn your forgiveness, life, and salvation.
III. The glory of the Lord’s salvation is in its delivery to us.
A. Well, then, of course, the gift is given. The person receives the gift, opens the wrapped box, and is happy to receive this great gift you put so much thought into. All the planning and wrapping does no good if the gift isn’t received.
B. So, Paul says, we have believed the Good News of Christ and been given the Spirit in Baptism.
1. In other words, the gift God planned for you, that gift he wrapped and put on the tree of the cross for you, is now delivered to you! Jesus, his forgiveness, salvation, eternal life are yours.
2. How do you know? You’ve received the down payment of that ransom. It’s the Holy Spirit, given to you when you hear the Word and are baptized by water and the Word at the font.
3. Baptism and the Good News of the Gospel—along with Absolution and the Supper—are the proof that all of God’s saving gifts are for you.
Conclusion: God has been planning this since before he created everything. He has been accomplishing it and carrying it out in Jesus Christ. He has given it to you in his Holy Church. His Son is born so that you will be born from above, a son and child of God. As Jesus is God’s Son, so you have been adopted in him to be God’s child. As Jesus was in the temple about the Father’s business, so you are in church, in the Father’s house, a child of God about his business—which is all about saving you, forgiving you, giving you eternal life. Don’t for a moment doubt that everything God has been doing is for you in Christ. You, who are his beloved child with every possible blessing. Happy tenth day of Christmas in Jesus’ name. Amen.