The Christ Gift

Series: Our Gifts in Christ

by D. Marion Clark December 15, 2013 Scripture: Ephesians 1:1-3

Introduction

We are in the season of gift-giving or, depending on what excites you more, gift-receiving. We have the wonderful assistance of ads to help us with the process. Some gifts, we are told, are gifts “that keep on giving,” like the annual subscription for Sports Illustrated my brother gives me. There are practical gifts, gag gifts, sentimental gifts. There are gifts that are “just right” for the specific relationship. And then there is the “perfect gift.” That is the store card or general credit card that allows the recipient to purchase whatever he or she really wants. Of course, the greater the money amount on the card, the more perfect the perfect gift becomes!

For four Sunday evenings we will consider the gifts that God our Father considers to be the true perfect gifts that keep on giving blessing after blessing. This evening we begin with the gift through which all the other gifts come.

Text

Let me read our text, and you should not have difficulty understanding what that special gift is.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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,

The special gift is the Christ-gift. Consider how just in these three verses he impacts everything.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

Paul is an apostle in the church made that way by the will of God. But Paul is an apostle of Christ Jesus. If he is not an apostle of Christ Jesus, he is an apostle of nothing. It is the Lord Jesus who stopped him in the middle of the road to Emmaus, who gave Paul the commission to carry his name “before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel,” even to “suffer for the sake of [his] name” (Acts 9:15-16). Paul received the gospel not “from any man” but “through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). And that gospel was the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. An apostle is commissioned to carry a message. Without Christ, Paul has no commission and no message.

But it not just a matter for Paul of not having a career. Without Christ, Paul himself remains lost. He has no Savior, no redemption. Paul had considered himself an apostle before Christ; he was an apostle for the law. He was so zealous in his cause that he embarked on a journey beyond the bounds of Palestine so as to promote the law and arrest law-breakers. But his credentials as law-keeper and law-enforcer were but rubbish. Without Christ, all his attempts at having a righteousness of his own came to nothing. But God gave to him the gift of Christ, both to save him and to make him an apostle.

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Paul addresses his readers. They are saints, i.e. they are “agios,” people who “set apart” by God. That is the essential meaning of saint. The saints are made saints because they are set apart in Christ Jesus. As the verses will make clear, they are chosen by God in Christ (v. 4); they are adopted as God’s children through Christ (v. 5); they are redeemed by Christ’s blood and receive forgiveness of their trespasses in him (v. 7). Without Christ they were dead in their trespasses and children of wrath (2:1, 3). But they were made alive with Christ and shown kindness in Christ Jesus (2:4, 6).  It is in Christ Jesus that they are brought near to God by his blood (2:13). It is upon Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that they grow into an “agios” holy temple in the Lord (2:21). Without the gift of Christ they are not saints. If they are set apart for anything, it is for destruction.

“In Ephesus” may or may not be in the original. This could have been a letter intended to be circulated among churches that included Ephesus. The other main descriptor of the readers is that they are faithful. The saints are faithful, but they are faithful in Christ Jesus. They have faith in Christ, but that faith is not their own; it is a gift of God. The power that God the Father gives to us to be faithful is the power that he worked in Christ. We are filled with the fullness of God as we know the love of Christ. We were given grace and gifts by Christ. We grow into faith and knowledge of Christ. We live according to the way we “learned Christ.” We walk in love “as Christ loved us (5:2). We are light in the Lord (5:8). Whether we are wives or husbands or children or parents or even slaves, we live with Christ as our model. There is no sense of faithfulness if we are not faithful in Christ and to Christ.

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, we have seen Paul as he is in Christ. We have seen his readers (and us) as they are in Christ. What of Christ himself? Verse 2 sheds light on this. The greeting, which is the same in every epistle but one, places the Lord Jesus Christ on the same level as God our Father. It is from both that believers receive grace and peace.

This is different from saying that God our Father blesses us with grace and peace through Christ, although such a teaching is true and is the primary teaching of the epistle. As much as it is true that God our Father blesses us in and through Christ, we are not to understand that to mean Christ is merely an instrument which God the Father makes use of, such as he may do through angels and even fellow humans. There is no similar statement of anything coming from God the Father and from an angel or an apostle or anyone. To raise Christ on such a level is to equate him with the Father. Therefore to be connected with Christ as saints set apart for him, or to receive anything in and through him, is to be connected with God himself.

Verse 3 brings to clarity and fullness what the previous two verses have presented and which sets forth the premise of the first three chapters.

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,

God the Father is “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We who know Christ know God the Father as the Father of our Lord. That is how we know the first Person of the Trinity. Apart from Christ, we do not know him, we do not relate to him.

To give an example, in the context of Tenth Church, I have my own identity. You know me as Marion or as Pastor Clark or whatever it is you call me. When I am outside of Tenth, specifically when I am outside of Tenth and with my daughter, I am known as “Sarah’s dad.” “So, you are Sarah’s dad. Everybody, this is Sarah’s dad.” Take away Sarah and I am unknown and have no relationship, no connection with many people.

This type of identity is more fused between God the Father and the Son. Yes, there are two, even three distinct Persons in the godhead. Even so, none of the Persons exist or acts outside of the other. They act interdependently. I actually do have a life outside of and independent from my daughter. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are always working (mysteriously to us) together.

But also the point for us is that we cannot know God the Father except in relation to Christ, nor can we receive the blessings of redemption or the “spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” except in that relationship. Jesus’ words in John 14:6-10a is instructive.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?

We do not know God the Father apart from knowing him through God the Son, who is our Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we may not refer to him as God our Father if we do not know God the Son as our Lord Jesus Christ. The idea that we worship the same God as any other religion simply is not true. The Trinity is not how we conceive God from our Christian perspective; the Trinity is the one true God. If we do not worship God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we worship a false god.

The last half of verse 3 brings us to the clear, all-encompassing point: who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. It is in Christ that God our Father blesses us with every spiritual blessing.

What are these spiritual blessings? That is what the first chapters present, and what the remaining chapters are based upon. We will look at some of them in more detail over three weeks, but let’s list them all now.

There is the blessing of being personally chosen by God to belong to him; there is the blessing of being changed from sinners before him to becoming holy and blameless. We who objects of wrath are adopted as his beloved children. We receive his glorious grace. We are redeemed, forgiven of our trespasses. We are given an inheritance of glory which is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. We are awakened to hope; we are given power. We were dead in our trespasses and have been raised to life. We are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. We have been given faith and re-created to do good works, which themselves are gifts for us.

We who are gentiles were brought near to God. We have been united with believing Jews, being made one with them in God’s covenant. We are with them fellow citizens in God’s kingdom. We are united as a temple for God. We now have boldness and access to God.

These gifts, which are of immeasurable value, are poured out on us. God’s grace is lavished upon us. He gives them all of out of his love for us, a love that he has because he is rich in mercy. Our primary challenge is to comprehend the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us, to know the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love that actually surpasses knowledge. Our great Giver is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. In other words, God blows out of the water any wish list we might come up with.

These are all spiritual gifts, gifts which flow from God the Father, are found in Christ, and come by way of the Holy Spirit. But they also include what may be called the common grace gifts – gifts which are distributed to and among those without Christ.

First of all, if that promise had never been made in Genesis 3, that there would come one day a Redeemer who would crush Satan and redeem God’s people, there would be no purpose in letting the history of the world proceed – a history that includes much good along with the evil; a world that contains much beauty and pleasure along with ugliness and pain. There would be no common grace gifts without the promise of the Christ-gift.

And though the unregenerate surely enjoy common grace blessings, they cannot share in the same joy that we possess who know the Giver because we are in Christ. You have experienced this, perhaps even this past Thanksgiving. However much thankfulness is expressed (and usually little or none is), you have felt sadness that they could not/would not give thanks to God whom they know in Christ. Whatever it is they make express delight in – be it nature or relationships or good fortune – they cannot give thanks and praise where it is due; they do not know the Giver; they miss the point of it all, as they do every Christmas season. Indeed, the very attempt to manufacture a season of joy reveals the emptiness of an unregenerate people who do not know Christ, who cannot receive gifts from God through the Christ-gift. Somehow the season all on its own magically unites families, creates romantic love, fulfills the desires of children, whatever it is that we are aching for. But that is the wishful thinking needed for a world that does know the Giver of the Christ-gift.

Lessons

What about you who do know the Giver. You know the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you feel blessed? As you enter into the season of joy, do you count your uncountable blessings that you have in Christ? Do you bless God for blessing you?

It is easy, so easy as to be expected, that we allow the cares of living to crowd out reflection and thanksgiving for the spiritual blessings we possess. What we see and experience in the flesh is more real to us than what we know by faith. But now you have that opportunity to reflect on what is the greater reality, to give thanks for the gift you have received from your Father.

Do you feel alone? Do you have no family or are estranged from your family? That is painful, but don’t forget the spiritual blessing and reality that you have been adopted in Christ into the family of God your Father. You will not be estranged from him, never be cast out; the one relationship that matters most is the most secured, because it is sealed by God the Holy Spirit.

Do you feel poor? You have lost your job or stuck in a job that doesn’t pay enough? That is worrying, to be sure, but don’t forget that your are the richest person in the world. You possess the riches of God’s glorious inheritance in the saints. You possess every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. And you will not lose of penny of what you possess. Your inheritance is kept safe and you are kept safe until the day you receive your heavenly, glorious reward.

Do you feel threatened or despised? You have been redeemed from slavery, from death, from anything that has held you in bondage and would seek to harm you. Your sins are forgive…your sins are forgiven. You were dead; you have been raised to new life. And all this has taken place because God your Father is rich in mercy; because in his mercy he loves you with a great love. Who then, what then, should you fear?

Yes, life is difficult; it is painful, filled with grief. And yet the trials of life all the more should stir in us hope, desire, pleasure, thanksgiving for the spiritual blessings we have, blessings that cannot be taken away, blessings that are assured of coming to full fruition in glory. Blessings that are ours in Christ because we possess the blessing of Christ himself. We possess the Christ-gift.

We possess Christ. He is ours. It was unto us that this Savior was born. He is our Redeemer. He is our Light who shined in the darkness of our sinful hearts, who still shines for us as we make our way through a dark world. It was to us that a child, a son was given to be our Ruler, to sit on the throne as our King. He has won our forgiveness and has claimed us as his own. He is our good Shepherd who cares for us and knows us by name. He protects us, he feeds us. He is our High Priest who intercedes for us. He abides in us and we in him. He is our Friend, our Brother. He is not ashamed of us; he loves us and is merciful to us. He will not let us go, never cast us away.

To you who do not possess such a gift, would you not now receive it, receive him? Christ is not being withheld from you. You may be on the naughty list, but all the more then will he freely become yours. As Jesus himself said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). It is only when you refuse to accept that you are a sinner that he does not become your Christ-gift. Will you let pride prevent you from receiving the gift that brings with it every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places? Is your intellect offended? Your moral character? Your sense of independence? Will you be the kind of person who refuses good gifts because they are not given on your terms?

All you need is a humbled heart, a meek heart to receive him, and Christ will enter in. To all who receive this gift, who receive Christ, let us delight in him and bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

© 2019 Tenth Presbyterian Church.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By D. Marion Clark. ©2019 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org