Though Christmas has passed by, we are still considering the gifts that have come to us as a result of Christmas – the gifts of Christ. We have considered the gift of Christ himself and how all other gifts come through him. We have considered the gift of being chosen in Christ. The gift tonight is like the Christmas package I receive from my oldest sister each year. There are always multiple gifts. The salvation gift is three-fold. With it comes adoption, redemption, and forgiveness.
Purpose of Salvation
Before we get to the what, our passage takes us to the why of salvation. Why are we saved? What is God’s purpose?
We may think that the answer is too obvious. God saved us because he loved us and did not want us to suffer. As 2:4 expresses it: “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us” saved us. And that is true. Simply put, God took pity on us and saved us from the judgment that our sins brought on us.
But salvation fromsomething is not the ultimate goal of God. Rather, he saved us from sin that we might be saved for a good purpose. Verse 4 teaches what that good purpose is.
that we should be holy and blameless before him.
As with all New Testament concepts, they are taken from the Old Testament for the simple reason that they fulfill what the Old Testament has pointed to. The Old Testament version of the New Testament gospel is the exodus. That is the great event of salvation for the Jewish people. That is the event of being saved from bondage, just as the church speaks of being saved from bondage to sin. But being saved from bondage was not the whole story then. Yes, God sees the affliction of his people; he hears their cries, knows their sufferings and so sends Moses to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to deliver them safely to a land flowing with milk and honey.
However, as soon as they cross the Red Sea they are taken to Mt. Sinai where God makes a covenant with them and delivers to them the Ten Commandments and other laws. Here is what he says to them:
You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:4-6).
God’s purpose in saving his people from bondage was so that he could set them apart for himself as a holy nation. The premise of the law and of the religious structure with its temple and sacrifices was to this end – that they might truly become a holy people. Yes, he wants to bless them; he wants them to prosper and to be happy. But the blessing and prospering and the joy were to come out of the holiness by which they lived and glorified their God.
The ultimate end presented in Isaiah of the joy that would be theirs when they reach their glorious destiny is a depiction of holiness.
Say to the daughter of Zion,
“Behold, your salvation comes;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.”
And they shall be called The Holy People,
The Redeemed of the Lord;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
A City Not Forsaken (Isaiah 66:11-12).
With the same understanding, the apostle Paul presents the purpose of salvation – to “be holy and blameless before [the Lord].” What exactly is meant by that phrase? Does it speak of the standing that we have before God in our relationship to Jesus Christ – our justification? Or does it speak of what we are actually becoming and will become fully through sanctification? Is it the legal transfer of Christ’s righteousness to us or the infusion of real righteousness through the work of the Holy Spirit inside of us?
Commentators differ, but I cannot understand the need to make a distinction. The rest of Ephesians and all of the New Testament make no sense if we are not to be growing in sanctification. Though we are accepted now, justified now, in Christ, our very hope is to someday be transformed, to be fully like Christ. When we do appear before our God, what else would he want than a holy and blameless people?
But there is no hope of obtaining that end if we are not first justified in Christ, accounted now as holy and blameless in him. There is no sanctification without justification first taking place. However well we may do in accomplishing our resolutions to live holy lives, if we are not first justified in Christ and have our guilt removed – made blameless – the resolutions become mere covering of filthy sin that remains.
And so, God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be accounted holy and blameless in Christ before him, so that we should become holy and blameless on the day that we must appear before him.
To help understand, turn to 5:25-27:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
There is the same phrase. What are we taught? Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. He accomplished the work of redemption and cleansed her so that he might on the final day, when he returns as the Bridegroom, present her as his Bride, holy and without blemish. The process of sanctification – of being prepared as a bride cannot begin until the bride is first redeemed by the bridegroom. And so, we are set apart and accounted blameless, so that we might become holy and blameless within.
Now, let’s explore the terms used in describing our salvation gifts.
In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ
This first term, “adoption,” could also be described as a purpose. We are saved that we might belong to God. Or one could say, to be saved is to be adopted – to be made a child of God.
According to the gospel of man, we are all children of God. He is our heavenly Father and we his offspring whom he lovingly cares for. There is one reference to mankind in general as God’s offspring, but that is in the context of the apostle Paul quoting a Greek poet. God the Father, does in his mercy provide for all mankind but also for all creatures as well. It is true that we are as man made in the image of God, but the whole narrative of Scripture is the consequence of us marring that image. Yes, we were intended to be the children of God, reflecting his image, and experiencing the blessing of belonging to him.
The problem, however, is the fall; the problem is that we were cast out from God’s presence in consequence of the fall. We were kicked out of the family. We were disowned. This is our dilemma. We have lost our inheritance. We became “by nature children of wrath” (2:3). What is our hope? What can we do to get back into the good graces of our Father? The answer is “nothing.” The door has been shut. There is no going home.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,” because “In love he predestined us for adoption,” has taken us in. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are (1 John 3:1).
In Christ, through Christ, we have been adopted as the children of God. Take time to understand this. One can receive a favor without being a member of the family. We have heard the expression said of another:
“She is like a daughter to me.”
“He has been like a dad to me.”
“We treat him like he is part of the family.
But the very term “like” means he or she is not a real son or daughter or father or mother. He or she is not really a part of the family. As much love as there may be, as much good intention, when the time for dispersing an inheritance, there would have to be specific words in a will for the person who is like family to share in the family inheritance.
But when we became justified in Christ; when the exchange took place – our sin to Christ; Christ’s righteousness to us – when we exercised faith, then the adoption papers were signed and we became family. This is the point of Galatians 4:4-7:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
There is a reason Paul writes “sons” instead of “children” or “sons and daughters.” The son receives the inheritance. And whether you are male or female, regardless of your ethnicity, or anything that might seemed to have disqualified you, once you are redeemed through Christ, your inheritance is as legally secure as it can be. You belong to God, and you will receive your now rightful inheritance.
How then do we get adopted? Many couples and individuals would like to adopt children, but it is not simple. There are laws to observe, costs to bear. And if someone else has a claim on a child, good intentions cannot release him from those claims.
That is our problem. Someone has a claim on us. Satan claims us. Remember? We got kicked out of the house, and when we did, he claimed us. We are in bondage now – bondage to our own sin, which has no intention of letting us go. And the law is on their side. We are lawbreakers. We cannot be let go without paying our penalty, and our penalty is death. What is our hope? What can we do to satisfy the law and make ourselves available for adoption? The answer is “nothing.” “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,” sent us his Son so that
In him we have redemption through his blood, (v. 7).
The term for “redemption” means to pay a ransom, to pay a price. Kidnappers will release their captives for a price. Slaves can be released if a high enough price is paid for them. To redeem a person is to pay a price to satisfy the owner or captor.
We must be careful in our understanding. I have spoken of Satan having a claim on us, of sin being our captor. Are we to understand, then, that God had to pay a ransom to Satan, or in some way satisfy the claims of sin? It is neither Satan nor sin that holds the papers for us; it is the law, which we have broken. A criminal can lead you astray and even put you under duress to commit crime. But if you are caught and sent to jail, it is not the criminal who must be satisfied but the keepers of the law.
God owes nothing to Satan but condemnation. And Satan, by the way, does not want to give us up for any price. Nor does sin. But we have broken the law and justice demands our punishment. And even should we want to redeem ourselves, sin maintains such a hold on us that we are in even greater bondage to it than the bars placed around us by the law.
What is our hope? What can we do to redeem ourselves so that we are freed from both the righteous punishment of the law and the cruel bonds of sin? The answer is, “nothing.” “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,” sent his Only Begotten Son to die on the cross and so redeem us from our guilt and from the bondage to sin. “You were ransomed…, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
The price has been paid. The ransom has been delivered. Sin has no claim on us; the law no longer has a record of us as law-breakers. God has redeemed us through Jesus Christ.
But then, we ask, how can we face God who had to pay such a price? Do we not at times feel guilty about this? We look at the cross; we see the price paid to redeem us; and then we look at ourselves and see so many sins committed by a person who supposedly has been redeemed from the bondage of sin. What is our hope? What can we do to prove ourselves worthy of this redemption so that God will approve of us? The answer is “nothing.” “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,” through the redemption of his Son provided for
the forgiveness of our trespasses (v. 7)
Understand that redemption is not bail. A price is not paid for us simply to be released until judgment comes. God is not the angry father who posts bail to get his foolish son out of jail. We are not the son walking out of the jail cell with our head hung low, ashamed to meet the eyes of our father.
We are justified. Christ did not merely buy us with his blood; he cleansed us with his blood. We are released from prison, not because Christ paid off officials and not merely because Christ completed our sentence. Our sentence has been stricken from the records. The case against us has been dismissed. This is what “the forgiveness of our trespasses” entail.
This is what infuriates Satan, our accuser, who is foiled by Jesus, our advocate.
Satan: Judge, you cannot release this prisoner! He has not paid for his crimes!
Jesus: Honor, there are no crimes on the prisoner’s record. He must be released.
Satan: Of course there are crimes. Let the records be read. Where are the records? Who has tampered with the records? This prisoner belongs to me!
Jesus: The only records we have are adoption papers, which show that he belongs to God his Father.
Satan: But that could not have happened. The law forbids it!
Jesus: The law would have forbidden it, but its demands for justice have been satisfied. This prisoner was redeemed.
Satan: By whom?
Jesus: By me.
Jesus: By my blood.
Judge: The prisoner’s trespasses are forgiven. His record is expunged. He may go home to his Father.
These are our salvation gifts – we have been adopted; we have been redeemed; we have been forgiven. And the despair that we could never change; that we could never aspire to be holy and blameless is now turned to a very real hope. For he began a good work in us will carry it to completion. We have been sealed by the Holy Spirit; our Lord abides in us; we have been reconciled to God our Father.
This passage strikes just the right balance for how we are to live as Christians. We are not to live in fear of rejection. We have been adopted into God’s family. He is our Father. We are not considered part of the family as long as we keep up appearances. Nor are we considered the black sheep of the family. Our sins are forgiven, and to be forgiven by God means that our sins are forgotten. Jesus is not ashamed to be called our brother; God does not begrudge having brought us in. And so we can live with assurance of belonging and not being cast out.
But because God has saved us for the purpose of being holy and blameless before him, we have a noble purpose for living. We do not use our freedom to be self-indulgence, to sin freely. Rather, we use our freedom to live lives that are pleasing to our holy Father. Without Christ, we were not free to live such lives; with Christ we may now do so. And so, our freedom compels us all the more to be concerned with living righteously.
Do you not want such a life, you who have not yielded to Christ? Do you not want to belong, to be adopted into God’s family, ever secure in his love? Do you not want to be redeemed, to be freed from the claims of the sins that bound you? Do you not want to know forgiveness – real forgiveness, a forgiveness that does not hold your past, your failings over your head but removes them completely? Do you not want to live with purpose, knowing that you are living for the God who created you and this world? Do you not want to know your Creator as your Redeemer?
Then receive the gift of salvation. Jesus Christ offers it to you. Will you not accept?
© 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church.
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page, or embed the entire material hosted on Tenth channels. You may not re-upload the material in its entirety. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Tenth Presbyterian Church.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By D. Marion Clark. © 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org