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A People for God's Own Possession

Back to all sermons Ephesians

Date: September 8, 2019

Speaker: Erik Raymond

Series: Ephesians

Category: Biblical Exposition

Scripture: Ephesians 1:11–1:14

Outline: 5 conclusions about the people of God

  1. They are diverse
  2. They were chosen  
  3. They believe the gospel
  4. They belong to God
  5. They exist for God’s glory

(1) They are diverse

The church is a diverse people. Depending upon your experience and context this statement has different connotations.

Living in Metro Boston, there is a great diversity of people and backgrounds. By God’s grace, Redeemer reflects this diversity. But if we were to travel to Fargo, ND or sections of Memphis, TN or East Los Angeles, CA there would likely be less diversity in churches. They would likely be reflective of their communities.

What if we were to go back to the first century?

If we traveled to Ephesus what would we find? We would encounter a city much like Boston; very multicultural. And as a result the church in Ephesus also reflected the community.

But, there was something else at play. At the time of Paul’s letter, we are just a few decades after the resurrection of Jesus. The church is in her infant stages. And it is coming out of a background that was primarily Jewish. The people of God were expanding out, moving, out, to include non-ethnically Jewish people. These were Gentiles.

But how would the Gentiles and Jews get along? How would they relate? The pagan Gentile culture was so foreign to the community of faith in the Old Testament. Now, they were coming to faith in Christ and being part of this new community, the church.

But they are doing so from a religious context where the Gentiles were so out there and had to basically conform to the Jewish way of thinking. It was not uncommon for people to think and even sometimes act like the Gentiles Christians were second class believers.

This is one thing that the letter of Paul to the Ephesians wants to address. He wants to show that the people of God may be from different backgrounds, but they share the same inheritance.

Let’s see how Paul does this here. What I want you to do is notice the shift in pronouns from verse 11 to verse 13.

Watch verse 11 “we” and verse 13, “you” (and by you, think you all—it’s plural).

Ephesians 1:11–13 — 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,

Paul is talking about himself (we) with reference to his Jewishness. There was always a priority to the Jews first. And so this is with reference to this Old Testament legacy and example.

But they didn’t see this coming. The Gentiles are fellow heirs alongside of them. This is the pivot to you also.

This is his point here. The gospel and our inheritance in the gospel are not restricted to one people group. But rather it includes people from all nations.

I just want to show you a couple of verses to help you see this.

The first is in Genesis 12.

Genesis 12:1–3 — 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

The second is in Revelation 7

Revelation 7:9–10 — 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

The third is in Matthew 28.

Matthew 28:19–20 — 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The fourth is in Galatians 3

Galatians 3:28–29 — 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

And finally, we’ll see in the coming weeks, in Ephesians 3

Ephesians 3:6 — 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The church may be made up of people from different backgrounds, but they share the same inheritance.

This is why a church that is centered on the gospel is, by necessity, entirely intolerant of any form of racism or classism. 

The gospel unites us in something that is far greater than flags, skin color, or balance sheets. We are united in and through heavens King, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

(2) They were chosen

We have seen this in previous weeks, but it is something that we should be regularly reminded of. If you are a Christian, the reason you are so, is not because you chose God but because he chose you.

Let’s see it in the text: Ephesians 1:11 — 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been,

It’s like Paul is reinforcing his statement by layering it. He says that his people were  “predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

Do you see the 3 layers? Predestined, purpose, counsel of his will. He is saying that the present experience of being part of his body has its origin in the eternal decree of God.

We saw this earlier in chapter 1:

Ephesians 1:4–5 — 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 to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

You may recall when we looked at this a couple of weeks ago that this ordaining work of God before the world was created is talked about in the Old Testament.

We read in Deut. 14:2, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”

God elected or chose a people for himself —from all of the nations of the earth. And, he did not do this because he saw something admirable in them nor was it because they might fulfill some emptiness or lack in him. Both assertions would be ridiculous. God saw no merit in Israel because Israel proves itself over and over again to be a sinful people.

And God did not choose them because he needed anything, for God himself is the only self-sufficient being in all of the world. He needs no one and everyone and everything relies upon him.

What then is the reason?

It was, according to verse 4, in love. God’s eternal decree to chose a people in himself, his decree was motivated by his love. That’s the sovereignty aspect of it. People are in Christ, they are part of his church because he has sovereignly predestined it to occur -even before the foundation of the world. But, wait for a second, one might say, I thought this was because I chose God, remember, I believed the gospel?

After stressing the divine sovereignty, Paul underlines the human responsibility in verse 13. Let’s look together at the 3rd conclusion about the people of God. They believe the gospel.

(3) They believe the gospel

How does someone become part of God’s family? What brings them into his body, the church?

Look at verse 13, In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,

While we have seen the sovereignty of God in his eternal decree, acting and willing before the creation of the World. God predestines his people for adoption. But now we are seeing how it plays out in real-time. The threshold everyone must cross in order to come into God’s house is laid out right here.

First, you must hear the word of truth, the gospel.

Second, you must believe in him.

Have you come to believe this gospel?

This is why we conduct membership interviews for those who want to join the church.

The body of Christ is made up of those who have heard and believed the gospel. Though we may have different backgrounds we who are in Christ all have this shared experience. God brought the gospel to us and we believed it.

If you are a Christian, it should be a cause of great joy for you not only that God has predestined you to become a believer but that he also brought the gospel to you in such a way that he caused you to believe it and trust in Jesus.

(4) They belong to God

We continue on with these observations about the church, the people of God, and we find here throughout these verses that the church, the people of God belong to God. And the way we see this is idea of God’s people being his possession. We are his inheritance. His church is his treasured possession. We can see this in verse 14 where we read in the English Standard Version, “who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

But, you’ll notice, there is a footnote on verse 14. This is because there is another way you could render that sentence in translation from the original. The footnote reads, "Or until God redeems his possession.” The idea here is that expression of inheritance is referring to God’s possession rather than the promised inheritance. And in fact, this is how many of the other English translations render it.

The NASB says, “with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession.”

The NIV says, “until he redemption of those who are God’s possession”

The NKJV says, “until the redemption of the purchased possession”

I think this line of thinking is best. The verse is bringing with it an Old Testament background that reiterates the fact that the people of God belong to God.

We can read about God calling Israel ‘my own possession from among all peoples’ (Exod. 19:5; cf. Deut. 14:2; 26:18, and especially Mal. 3:17, ‘ “They will be mine”, says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession” ’).

This term occurs in the same sense in 1 Peter 2:9, where believers are called ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s own] possession’.

So the reality of the church, the body of Christ, is that we have a great inheritance.

This includes all of the blessings of salvation -enjoyed now and in eternity. But also that we are God’s inheritance; his people. Both are true, we have an inheritance and we are an inheritance. The emphasis here though is upon the fact that this church the body is God’s inheritance.

This is what it means to be God’s people. Paul thought it of great significance that God had acquired a people, especially a people that included Gentiles.

But there is another sign of this possession. Look with me at the end of verse 13

Ephesians 1:13 — 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,

The text says that believers, after hearing and believing the gospel, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

What does this mean? The seal is communicating the reality of ownership and protection. The seal demonstrates the authenticity of the relationship. A seal would be an identifying mark often placed on a letter, contract, or another document. It showed that what was in the letter came from the person who’s seal was on the outside. In the ancient world, cattle and even slaves were branded with a seal to show who they belonged to.

This would deter people from stealing them because they had the seal upon them. In the Old Testament God set a sign on his chosen ones to mark them out or set them apart as his own possession and to keep them from destruction (Ezek. 9:4–6). Here is also has the idea not only of marking but preserving until the end, the final redemption.

But what is the seal here?

The seal is not a “what” but a “who” - Look at v.13, again, [you] were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit seals his people. God’s own Spirit comes to indwell or take up residence in the believer. And he secures and preserves his eternal salvation.

The Holy Spirit is the Christian’s seal. The experience of the Holy Spirit in their lives is the final proof to them, and indeed a demonstration to others, of the genuineness of what they have believed, and provides the inward assurance that they belong to God as children (cf. Rom. 8:15–16; Gal. 4:6).

Romans 8:15–16 — 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

Galatians 4:4–6 — 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

2 Corinthians 1:22— 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Ephesians 4:30 — 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

By giving us the Holy Spirit, God seals or stamps us as his own at our conversion. And then the Holy Spirit continues to testify, authenticating the reality of this relationship by making us more and more like Jesus. And he most certainly will protect us through the trials and difficulties of our lives until he takes final possession of us, his inheritance, on the day of redemption, which is at the end.

The experience of the Holy Spirit in the lives of his people is a great proof to us and a demonstration to others of the genuineness of what you’ve believed. It provides the inward assurance that you really belong to God.

  • Conviction of sin
  • Love for Christ in worship
  • Prayer
  • Spiritual growth
  • Longing for God and heaven
  • Hatred of sin
  • Sacrifice and service for others
  • Love for the Word
  • Burden for the lost

This giving of the Holy Spirit is called a guarantee or a pledge. What does this mean? The word was used in a similar way that an earnest deposit might be used today. If you were going to buy something you would give a down payment or an initial deposit in view of the full payment to come.

The Holy Spirit given to the church is a pledge of the full and future redemption to come.

2 Corinthians 5:1–5 — 1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

But the Holy Spirit not only provides the guarantee of this future glorious life, he provides a taste of it. He provides the foretaste of glory. We have already begun to taste the flavors and seasonings of the age to come. The Holy Spirit has broken through and given us a taste of glory. The church, the people of God are God’s possession, sealed or marked out by the Holy Spirit, and have him as the pledge of the age to come.

 

(5) They exist for God’s glory

Finally, the church exists for the glory of God.

Look with me at verse 14, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

This is the whole point of the whole thing.

Isaiah 43:20–21 — 20 The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21 the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.

1 Peter 2:9— 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Philippians 2:15 — 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

It is all over Ephesians,

Ephesians 1:6 — 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:14 — 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 3:21 — 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

 

God made us to be part of his family for his glory and praise. Therefore, it should be our response also.