Welcome to Expositing Ephesians

THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED to one of the chief passions of my life and ministry, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. I believe this epistle is at the very core of the Christian life. I spent years in the study of it and then three and one half years expositing it from my pulpit. I hope this blog will be a blessing to you as I share that exposition. I also hope you will tell others about this blog. Please check for new posts each Monday .

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Sealing of the Holy Spirit (2)

Concluding our examination of the Sealing of the Holy Spirit (which occurs when we receive Christ as Savior and Lord) in Ephesians 1:13-14, we now look at the remaining two pictures that the ancient and modern customs of Sealing paint.

Third, sealing pictures Authenticity. A seal attests to the authenticity of a signature; likewise, a signature proves the genuineness of a letter.

Graphology, the scientific study of handwriting, is a fascinating subject. While some argue about whether handwriting reveals personality traits, “forensic graphology,” the technical study of handwriting, is consider to be reliable. It is often used, in fact, in judicial proceedings to determine the authenticity of a signature or document. Though someone might be able to copy your signature accurately, it’s highly improbable that they can copy the lines exactly or press on the paper with the same amount of pressure as you do.

The Spiritual parallel is obvious. The indwelling Holy Spirit proves that the believer is genuine. Think of it! The Spirit’s presence within us proves we are true Christians. Romans 8:9 is so very clear: “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” The words “Spirit of Christ” refer without question to the Holy Spirit Whom Christ sent (Jn. 14:26; 15:26; 16:7). This is the Holy Spirit of promise spoken of in our text. How many professing Christians today are merely a “close copy” instead of the “genuine article?” If they are genuine, people will be able to see the seal. They will be able to see the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23).

Fourth, sealing pictures Assurance. By “assurance” we mean that sealing pictures security. Matthew 27:62‑66 tells us of the Roman seal that was placed on Jesus’ tomb. No one in that day would have dared to break that seal as that would have re­sulted in certain death. So, that seal protected the contents; it made the contents secure by order of Rome. The same was true of the seals of King Darius and his nobles that they put on the stone placed over the entrance to lion’s den into which they threw Daniel (Dan. 6:17).

Today there is what is called a “registered letter.” The addressee and the sender of the letter are recorded in a book. On the back of the letter is what is called a “return receipt” which is re­moved, signed by the addressee, and returned to the sender. The letter is also hand delivered and signed for by the addressee. All this protects and secures the contents of the letter.

The spiritual application is clear: we are sealed eter­nally in Christ by the Holy Spirit’s sealing. One of the most important aspects of sealing is this one concerning assurance. All three New Testament references to sealing are Aorist Tense, that once-for-all Past Tense. As Ephesians 4:30 indicates, we are “sealed [once for all] unto the day of redemption.”

Another modern illustration is when you go down to the store and buy a large item, such as an appliance, we receive a piece of paper called a “Guarantee.” This is the manufacture’s promise of quality. Infinitely deeper, the Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee of quality. And we can also be thankful that God’s guarantee is not just 90 days parts and labor, but is forever.

One more illustration. I recall the days when my father-in-law owned and operated a little country story where he would buy food items in bulk and package them for resale. One item he carried was various cheeses, which he would buy in large blocks and then cut to a customer’s wishes. To perverse some blocks for aging purposes (and, oh, how good is a 12-year-old sharp cheddar!) he would seal a block in wax. So, in that case the substance of the seal was wax, and it was my father-in-law who did the actual act of sealing. Like­wise, God the Father has done the sealing with (or, by means of) the Spirit.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Sealing of the Holy Spirit (1)

Ephesians 1:13b-14 declares the last of eight great riches we have in Christ: After that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. The doctrine of “The Sealing of the Holy Spirit” is an extremely important one. It is, in fact, one of the most (if not the most) comforting and irrefutable doctrines in Scripture when it comes to the Christian Believer’s security in Christ. No other doctrine makes the Believer’s security so vivid and undeniable.

The concept of “sealing” is actually quite ancient. In fact, it can be traced back centuries before Christ. Herodotus, the first of the great Greek historians (5th and 6th centuries BC), wrote in his book, History, that ancient man possessed not only his staff but his seal.

The Greek verb for sealed (sphragizo, “to set a seal” or “to “mark with a seal”), comes from a similar word that refers to a signet ring that possess­ed a distinctive mark. There are many illustrations of a seal, both from ancient and modern times. We can see many of these by showing the four pictures sealing gives.

First, sealing pictures Acquisition. By this we mean that first and foremost, sealing paints a legal picture, the completion of a legal transaction. The Ephesian believers understood this since Ephesus was a seaport and supported a large lumber trade. A raft of logs would be brought from the Black Sea and notice sent to the various lumber firms that the raft had arrived. A lumber merchant would come, purchase his timber, and than stamp it with his seal. Usually he would leave his purchase in the harbor, sometimes for several weeks, and would send a trustworthy agent later to identify the master’s seal and take away the purchased property.

This is actually true in more modern times. Beloved pastor Harry Ironside recounted an incident in his own experience here in America around 1930: “I was standing on a high bridge at St. Cloud Minn., watching a lumber jam, and as I saw the men working I said to my friend, ‘Do all these logs belong to one firm?’ ‘Oh, no,’ he said; ‘there are representatives from many different firms working here in the Minnesota woods.’ ‘Well,’ I asked, ‘how on earth can they distinguish between the logs?’ He showed me from the bridge how they were marked, so that when they reached their destination down the river, the various firms would be able to select their own logs.”

The spiritual parallel is that we have been “bought with a price” (I Cor. 6:19‑20), and we have been redeemed by Christ (Eph. 1:7). The indwelling Holy Spirit is now proof of that finished transaction. Again, as Ironside put it, “Though you and I are still tossing about on the waters of this poor scene we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.”

Second, Sealing pictures Absolute Ownership. The ancients would put their seal on animals and even slaves to prove ownership. In fact, the branding of animals, which we still do today, is thought to have been as early as 2000 B.C. A brand is registered with the particular state in which the owner lives and that brand shows legal ownership. The same is true today of a copyright. The words, “All rights reserved” mean that only the copyright holder is entitled to the benefits of the sale of the book.

This carries over into the spiritual parallel. The in­dwelling Holy Spirit shows that we belong to Christ. “All rights are reserved” to Him; only He is entitled to the benefits of ownership. As II Timothy 2:19 declares, “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His.” We do not belong to ourselves. Man today wants to “pull his own strings,” “be his own boss,” and “do his own thing.” But the believer belongs to the Lord, for He purchased us with His own blood.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Our Inheritance in Christ

Ephesians 1:11 declares the seventh of eight great riches we have in Christ: we have obtained an inheritance being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. The words we have obtained an inheritance actually translate a single word in the Greek (eklerothemen). In Classical Greek, from the time of Homer (8th Century BC Greek poet), the noun root klēros referred to “the fragment of stone or piece of wood which was used as a lot.” Lots were drawn to discover the will of the gods. Since land was divided by lot, probably in the framework of common use of the fields, klēros came to mean a share, land received by lot, plot of land, and finally inheritance. Similarly, in the Old Testament, the same basic concept of casting lots (the Urim and Thummin) was used to discover God’s will (Num. 27:21, I Chron. 24:5f, etc.) and to divide land (I Chron. 6:54-81).

So the idea Paul conveys here is that the lot of inheritance has fallen upon us, not by chance, but by the sovereign will of God. His point in the entire passage (vs. 3-14) is to outline our riches in Christ. Specifically, the idea of inheritance really carries us back to being predestined to adoption in verse 5; the believer cannot be predestined to sonship without being predestined to inheritance. Inheritance was, in fact, a primary reason a sonship. Paul also says in Romans 8:17, we are “joint-heirs with Christ.” As Theologian Charles Hodge put it: “We have not only been made sharers of the knowledge of redemption, but are actually heirs of its blessings.”

There’s a beautiful picture of this from 17th Century Scotland. The Presbyterian Covenanters wished to worship the way they wanted but were persecuted by the Scottish dragoons—heavily armed mounted soldiers—empowered by the Anglican regime of King Charles II. One day a Scottish lass was making her way to one of the secret meetings of the Covenanters and was caught by a troop of dragoons. The leader demanded to know where she was going so early on a Sunday morning. She knew the danger she was in and the danger she would cause her fellow Believers if she revealed the location of the meeting. Also knowing she couldn’t lie, she finally said, “My Elder Brother has died and they’re reading his will. I want to be there to see what he has left for me.” Indeed, what a wonderful truth to know that we are joint-heirs with our Elder Brother.

From whence does this inheritance come? We note here two things that Paul reemphasizes from earlier in the chapter.

First, predestinated according to God’s purpose. As we recall, predestination has to do with FINAL DESTINY; it involves the final destiny of believers. Our final destiny has been “predetermined” or “foreordained.” We have been “foreordained” to final adoption (1:5), and “foreordained” to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). With this in mind, we can now understand the use here in verse 11. Paul said in verse 10 that everything would be united in Christ. So, following that flow of thought, our final destiny is to receive an inheritance.

Second, all this is according to the counsel of [God’s] own will. This, too, points back to verse 5. There we discovered adoption was motivated out of “the good pleasure of his will.”

This brings us back to consider once again one of the most important thoughts of our study of Ephesians, namely, What is God’s ultimate purpose? What is His ultimate purpose in human history? This purpose is re­vealed in verses 3‑14, but in short: God’s ultimate purpose is to restore the unity be­tween man and god so that man can glorify Him.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Knowledge and Insight

Ephesians 1:8b-10 declares the sixth of eight great riches we have in Christ—Revelation: in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.

French philosopher André Maurois (1885-1967) said, “The universe is indifferent. Who created it? Why are we on this puny mud-heap, spinning in infinite space? I have not the slightest idea, and I am convinced that no one has the least idea.” Countless other philosophers have either directly or indirectly mocked God with such comments. French philosopher, Voltaire (1694-1778) who held up a Bible and said, “In 50 years I’ll have this book in the morgue.” Well, in 50 years he was in the morgue and the Geneva Bible Society owned his house and used it as a place to store Bibles that they first printed on his press.

We should also mention the empty ramblings of existentialist Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980). In his book Being and Nothingness (1943), what has been called his “monumental philosophical treatise,” he presents the main tenets of his existentialist thought. In it he “delves into the nature of existence, rejects the supernatural as well as any preconceived notion of humanity or morality, and argues that existence is pointless, ‘contingent,’ and absurd. Each object simply is and has a ‘being-in-itself,’ and, by virtue of their abundance, all objects encroach upon people. The human being is distinguished from the rest of the universe by consciousness, ‘being-for-itself,’ and by the freedom to form an identity” (Grolier Encyclopedia).

And so it has gone for centuries. Man has blathered on about “nothingness” and has been “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Tim. 3:7). Man refuses the notion that even Shakespeare recognized, as Hamlet said to Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

In contrast, to man’s empty philosophies, the Apostle Paul declares that the second result of redemption is that God, through Christ, has given us wisdom and prudence—or, “knowledge and insight.” How profound this is! Only through Jesus Christ can we have true knowledge and insight. Men have been groping for millennia for these, when all they have to do is open the pages of God’s Word.

The idea behind wisdom (sophia) is a deep knowledge of the things that really matter, that is, the truths of God, truths such as: life and death, God and man, righteousness and sin, heaven and hell, and so on. Does the world have knowledge of such subjects? No, but the true Christian Believer does. The idea, then, behind prudence (phronesis) is insight, emphasizing how to make knowledge practical for everyday living. Paul, therefore, uses these two terms to show that the believer has been given both knowledge and insight to thoroughly equip him for life.

But God does not just give us knowledge and insight “in general,” rather He gives both in specific ways. First, He makes known the mystery of His will, which refers to His explaining to us the incredible miracle of bring­ing man back into fellowship with God through the redemption in Jesus Christ. Second, he also shows us the dispensation of the fulness of times, a term that speaks of God’s working in History. History and current events will seem meaningless until we realize that God is in control and is ultimately bringing together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him. And for what purpose? His glory and our good.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Forgiveness of Sins

Ephesians 1:7-8 declares the fifth of eight great riches we have in Christ: the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us.

Back in 1981, shortly before his death, Nazi leader Albert Speer, the architect who built Nuremberg Stadium and other Nazi monuments, and who was made Hitler’s minister of armaments and directed Hitler’s war production using slave labor, was interviewed on the Good Morning America program as a promotion for his then new book, Infiltrator. Of the twenty-four war criminals convicted at the Nuremberg Trials, Speer was the only one to admit his guilt and spent twenty years in Spandau Prison. The interviewer read a passage from one of Speer’s earlier books: “You have said the guilt can never be forgiven or shouldn’t be. Do you still feel that way?” A profound look of sorrow came on Speer’s face as he responded, “I served a sentence of twenty years, and I could say, ‘I’m a free man, my conscience has been cleared by serving the whole time as punishment.’ But I can’t get rid of it. This new book is part of my atoning, of clearing my conscience.” The interviewer pressed the point: “You really don’t think you’ll be able to clear it totally?” Speer shook his head and said, “I don’t think it will be possible.”

Tragically, Speer never knew that forgiveness is possible in Jesus Christ. While there certainly would still have been consequences for that sin, even something as horrendous as the Holocaust could be forgiven. The first and foremost result of our redemption in Christ is that our sins are forgiven. Primarily, redemption brings forgiveness.

The Greek word Paul uses here for forgiveness (aphesis) literally means “release, pardon, or cancellation.” It means “the voluntary release of a person or thing over which one has legal or actual control.” Ponder a moment three aspects of our forgiveness.

First, in legal terms, forgiveness is a judicial release from the guilt and punishment of sin, which is death. Primarily, forgiveness is a legal transaction. This is a vitally important point, for we who were under the legal sentence of death according to the Law, are now forgiven by legal transaction. The Law can never save; it can only reveal guilt and condemn us, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20), and “no man is justified by the law” (Gal. 3:11). This is, in fact, Paul’s thrust throughout the first half of the Epistle to the Romans, to first show man’s quilt and then show God’s grace.

Second, in ethical terms, forgiveness is a release from the terribleness of sin that affects the conscience. In other words, salvation changes the sinner ethically. The Christian no longer desires the things he or she used to desire.

Third, in personal terms, forgiveness is a cessation of God’s intended wrath upon the sinner. A vivid illustration of this is in the Old Testament scapegoat in Leviticus 16. That was The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The High Priest chose two unblemished goats, one of which he killed and sprinkled its blood on the Mercy Seat. With the other goat, Aaron the High Priest, then “[laid] both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess[ed] over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and [sent] him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat [boar] upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited.”

That is the thrust of Psalm 103:12, which declares that God has removed our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west,” which is, of course, a symbol of infinity. If you travel north, you will eventually round the pole and start going south. But if you travel west, you can continue on forever going west and will never go east.

That is what it means to have forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Price of Redemption

Ephesians 1:7—In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins—makes a controversial statement: that redemption is by blood.

Many in our day advocate Jesus as “a good example to follow” or speak of Him as “a good moral compass.” They tell us that Adam was the bad example and Jesus was the good example and then conclude that by following Jesus’ good example we can be “rescued” from sin. “If we just follow Jesus’ moral example and live a good life,” they say, “we will be delivered from our shortcomings, frailties, and low self-esteem.”

To demonstrate how long this trend has been developing, I read an incident that Martyn Lloyd-Jones recounted back in 1954, as he was preaching on this subject. He tells of reading an article in an evangelical magazine several years before titled “The Message of the Gospel.” He observed that “the death of the Lord Jesus Christ was literally not mentioned at all. He was depicted as Saviour, but only as the risen, resurrected Lord. According to that message it is Christ’s life that delivers us: the Cross was not mentioned. There was no mention of our Lord’s death, still less of His blood. The Cross was by-passed. The writer went directly to the risen resurrected Lord. The atoning, sacrificial, substitutionary death was absent from the article. But that is not the truth taught in Scripture. I will go further; that is not salvation.”

In contrast, Paul specifically speaks of the blood of Christ, that is, not His life but His death that redeems us. It was His blood that paid the purchase price. Here, indeed, is the epicenter of our salvation.

Granted, no one likes to talk about blood. It truly is a sticky, messy, graphic thing. Most people abhor the picture of a bloody Savior. Occasionally they are willing to speak of His death but never His blood. They do not want to think of a Savior hanging on a cross with blood pouring out of His body and dripping into puddles on the ground.

Many decades ago a stately widow came up to the late Dr. G. Campbell Morgan. Holding a lorgnette (eyeglasses mounted on the end of a stick), she looked at Morgan and said, “Dr. Morgan, I don’t like to hear about the blood. It is repulsive to me and offends my esthetic nature.” Dr. Morgan replied, “I agree with you that it is repulsive, but the only thing repulsive about it is your sin and mine.” Indeed, sin is the thing that is repulsive about the blood redemption.

Some hymnbooks even remove the hymns that speak of His blood. Some modern Bible translations do the same. Good News for Modern Man (Today’s English Version), for example, mistranslates haima (or haimatos) as “death” when it means “blood.” This Greek word, in fact, forms the basis for several English medical terms, such as, hemoglobin, hemorrhage, hemostat, and others, all of which relate to blood.

In contrast, Paul specifically speaks of the Savior’s blood as the redemptive price, and does so quite often. “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Rom. 3:25). “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). Peter also reminds us: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:18-19).

Why emphasize the blood of Christ so often? Why not speak more of His life than His graphic death? Because, as Hebrews 9:22 declares: “Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” That is a dogmatic statement, indeed. The Greek for “remission” is the same word translated forgiveness in our text. Because of sin and guilt, blood must be shed for forgiveness. In the words of our Savior Himself: “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). As in the Old Testament sacrifices, blood must be shed for sin.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Redeemed By Christ (3)

We contemplate Ephesians 1:7 once more—In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins—because it is a subject that is just hard to leave behind. The words in whom immediately draw our attention to the one who obtained our salvation, The Lord Jesus Christ. These words connect verse 7 to the words “in the Beloved” in verse 6.

All this reminds us never to forget one principle, namely, Christianity is Christ. This sounds obvious, but in our day is really not obvious at all. Christianity is not the teachings of Christ. Christianity is not creeds or doctrines. Christianity is Christ. It is the only faith in the world that rests solely upon the person of its founder. Other faiths might be named after their founder, but they have nothing to do with the person the founder was. A person can be a Moslem, for example, and believe the teachings of it without having to concern himself with the person of Mohammed. The same is true of other faiths. People can believe all the teachings but ignore the founder. In fact, in some cases, the last thing the followers want to be reminded of is the shortcomings of their founder.

But again, Christianity is Christ. It has to do with a personal, even intimate, relationship with the founder. The sum total of Christianity is in Christ’s person—not His ideas, His concepts, His philosophies, or His teachings—but Him, His person. For example, how can we possibly possess and live the “fruit of the spirit” (or the “Christian Graces”) in Galatians 5:22-23? Because they are found only in the person of Jesus Christ. Because of His indwelling Sprit, we are becoming more like Him—not more like some philosophy or ethical code—rather more like our Redeemer.

I used to teach New Testament history at a local community college and discussed in detail the subject of who Jesus was. As does Josh McDowell, I present that there are only three possibilities: Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. Contrary to the teaching of many, Jesus did claim to be God (Mk. 2:1-12; 14:60-64; Jn. 5:16-18; 10:31-33; etc.). If He wasn’t God, then He was either the most despicable liar who ever lived, or He was the most deluded lunatic that ever lived because He ultimately died for His claims. The only other alternative, which is the truth, is that Jesus Christ was precisely Who He said He was. And because of that, every person must answer that all-important, personal question: “What think ye of Christ?” (Matt. 22:42).

Finally, what a humbling, staggering thought it is to see that we are the recipients of redemption. Why is this so humbling and staggering? Because of what we read in chapters 2 and 4 of Ephesians: we were dead in trespasses and sins (2:1); we walked according to the course of this world (2:2); we walked according to the prince of the power of the air (2:2); we conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh (2:3); we fulfilled the desires of the flesh and of the mind (2:3); we were by nature children of wrath (2:3); we were without hope and without God (2:12); we were far off from God (2:13); we lived in complete futility (4:17); we were ignorant, blind, and without understanding (4:18); we were past feeling, beyond conscience (4:19); and we were lewd, unclean, and greedy (4:19).

That is why His redemption is so humbling and staggering. That is what He came to redeem. When we go down to the store, do we not buy things that have worth, things that in and of themselves have value? But think of it! Our Lord redeemed that which was worthless! Yes, He latter makes us “able ministers” (II Cor. 3:6) and gives us spiritual gifts to use in His service. But before that, we were worthless. Recall the words of our Lord in Mark 2:17: “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Why didn’t our Lord come to call the righteous to repentance? Because there were none!

So, we could easily paraphrase our text using an amazed tone of voice: “Think of it! In Whom we have redemption, in Whom even I have redemption.” We are, indeed, the recipients of a staggering redemption.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Redeemed By Christ (2)

Continuing our thoughts on Ephesians 1:7—In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins—an interesting illustration of redemption appears in the Old Testament. As one expositor explains: “In the Old Testament there were two means of redemption—by power and by purchase. The book of Exodus illustrates redemption by power; the book of Ruth illustrates redemption by purchase. It is significant that the first time the kinsman-redeemer Boaz is introduced in the story of Ruth, we are told that he was ‘a mighty man of wealth’ (Ruth 2:1). Only a rich man could redeem. Redemption is a costly business.” What a wonderful truth! The only way to redeem man in His sin was by purchasing him, and the only One wealthy enough to pay that ransom price was God thorough His Son.

We should also note that while it doesn’t appear in our English translation, the definite article (“the”) precedes redemption in the Greek¾In Him we have [the] redemption. This emphasizes two truths: there is only one redemption for sin, and there is ownership by the redeeming person. Many have the mistaken idea that as Christians we’ve been freed from sin and that our life is now ours to live. But the very opposite is true. Redemption always implies ownership. Jesus bought us and now owns us. We, therefore, live the way He wills, as Gal. 2:20 declares: “I am [i.e., have been] crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Our dear Savior did not merely “rescue” us as liberal theology says, that is, “rescue us from ignorance, superstition, and social backwardness.” No, our Lord redeemed us. He bought us. We belong to Him. When you go to the store and purchase an item, does the item belong to itself? No, it belongs to you. You purchased it and own the right to use it in the way that you wish. Likewise, our dear Savior redeemed us and now owns us.

This thought is brought out wonderfully by a particular story that has been around for many years. “In a city on the shore of a great lake lived a small boy who loved the water and sailing. So deep was his fascination that he, with the help of his father, spent months making a beautiful model boat, which he began to sail at the water’s edge. One day a sudden gust of wind caught the tiny boat and carried it far out into the lake and out of sight. Distraught, the boy returned home inconsolable. Day after day he would walk the shores in search of his treasure, but always in vain. Then one day as he was walking through town he saw his beautiful boat — in a store window! He approached the proprietor and announced his ownership, only to be told that it was not his, for the owner had paid a local fisherman good money for the boat. If the boy wanted the boat, he would have to pay the price. And so the lad set himself to work doing anything and everything until finally he returned to the store with the money. At last, holding his precious boat in his arms, he said with great joy, “You are twice mine now — because I made you, and because I bought you.”

Likewise, but infinitely greater, what a wonderful redemption we have in Christ! First He made us, and then he bought us.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Redeemed By Christ (1)

Ephesians 1:7 declares the fourth of eight great riches we have in Christ: In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. In only eight words, this statement summarizes the entire essence of the Chris­tian message—redemption.

Tragically, however, this central truth is actually in decline in our day. As one commentator observes: “We are living in a time when there has been a wholesale attempt to reconstruct Christianity apart from its central focus on personal salvation. That is to say, it seems as if people today want a Christianity without redemption. But we cannot avoid the fact that at the heart of the teaching of Jesus and of the apostolic message is a God who redeems his people.” In other words, if you remove redemption, you no longer have Christianity. All you have is another religion, another philosophy, another creed, but you do not have Christianity. Neither do you have any hope of salvation. Redemption is at the center of the Christian message. And what a word it is! Indeed, as we saw back in verses 4-6, when we think of “election” and “adoption,” we rejoice. But even more overwhelming is this word redemption. It is in this word our salvation lies. It is this word that is, indeed, the heart of our salvation.

In the days before Princeton Theological Seminary spiraled into the abyss of liberalism, professor and scholar Benjamin B. Warfield spoke the following in an address delivered in Miller Chapel in 1915: “There is no one of the titles of Christ which is more precious to Christian hearts than “Redeemer.” . . . [It] is a title of more intimate revelation than either “Lord” or Saviour.” It gives expression not merely to our sense that we have received salvation from Him, but also to our appreciation of what it cost Him to procure this salvation for us. It is the name specifically of the Christ of the cross. Whenever we pronounce it, the cross is placarded before our eyes and our hearts are filled with loving remembrance not only that Christ has given us salvation, but that He paid a might price for it.” Much of the address that followed was not phrased in lofty theological terms, nor was it comprised of scholarly argumentation. Much of it consisted of quoting some of the great hymns of the faith that proclaim our Redeemer. How right Warfield was! Redemption should be the most precious truth that the Christian embraces.

There are several words used in the Greek for redemption, and all of them picture paying the price from something. They all graphically picture the ancient agora (above), the open-air market place in ancient cities where goods were bought and sold. Paul used this concept very deliberately to picture where we were outside of Christ¾in the marketplace, the slave market of sin. He wanted to demonstrate that we were “bought at a price,” and therefore no longer belong to ourselves or our father the Devil, but are to “glorify God in [our] body and in [our] spirit, which are God’s (I Cor. 6:19-20).” Just like the some six million slaves that were bought and sold in ancient Rome, we too were slaves to sin and even dead in sin (Eph. 2:1-3), but He bought us and we will never be slaves again. We’ll continue this thought next time.