Our text from Ephesians is a run on sentence long enough to curl the hair of your English teacher and earn you a D- in your 6th grade composition class. But this wasn’t originally written in English but in Greek. And it wasn’t written by some sixth grader, but by the apostle Paul to the churches of Asia minor including Ephesus. The translators have spared us and broken it up into bite sized pieces. One huge run on sentence beginning with our blessing in Christ in the heavenly realms and ending in the water of our Baptism as a down payment of the inheritance to come. While run on sentences make for difficult reading, they do drive home the point: You can’t stop anywhere in the middle because God’s grace in Christ that begins in the mind and will of God doesn’t stop until it reaches you.
Seven times, at least, Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” to locate where the action is. Not in you nor in me. We’re dead in trespasses and sin. Paul will get to that in chapter 2. But here, it’s all in Christ, and that’s where our faith-attention needs to be focused. In Christ, not in ourselves. Take away the “in Christs” and “in Hims” and the whole sentence crashes in on itself and makes no sense. Let’s go through them, and you’ll see what I mean. Seven blessing of our being in Christ.
“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.” That’s where your blessings are. Not in your selves, but in Christ. Not in the earthly places, but in the heavenly places. The earthly places are temporal, where things rust, rot, and decay, including you. The heavenly places are eternal. Your blessings are there for you, in Christ. You can have blessings apart from Christ, as unbelievers do. They get the rain and sunshine just as you do. But they can’t keep them forever. “You can’t take it with you,” as they say when they put you in a box. No you can’t. But your spiritual treasures are eternal, kept safely in heavenly places, in Christ. The way to enjoy them now is to be in Christ, baptized into Him, trusting in Him. More on that in a moment.
In Christ you were chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him. In Him, not in your selves. You are not simply chosen, but chosen in Christ. There is a difference. Here’s the difference. You were chosen in love. It’s the only kind of choosing God does. He chooses in love, and in that love He destined you for adoptions through His Son to be adopted sons and daughters of God. You are loved in the Beloved Son. Not in your selves. There’s nothing lovable in there. In Christ Jesus, the beloved Son. Only Jesus is beloved in Himself as the Beloved Son. You are beloved in Him. And being loved in Him, you have a destiny established before you even came into existence. You are predestined in Christ to be adopted as one of God’s children.
Notice something. This “predestination” is in love and in Christ. There is no predestination in wrath. If anyone goes to hell, it is entirely against the will and purpose of God. You can tell that to your Calvinist friends. Predestination is a one-way deal – in love, in Christ, to become God’s child. This is God’s plan from eternity in Christ. From before the foundation of the world, you were elect in the Elect Son, chosen in the Chosen One, loved in the Beloved Son. That means you had nothing to do with it, which is why it is by faith alone apart from works. It’s all already a done deal in Jesus. Or as Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.” What can you possibly add to that?
In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the blood He shed on the cross to save the world, the blood He puts in your mouths as wine for the forgiveness of your sins. This is His rich and lavish grace, undeserved kindness. You think you deserve any of this? Think again. You’re dead and trespasses and sin. His blood buys you back, covers yours sin, cleans up the mess you’ve made of your already messed up life. This is not simply a kind attitude in the heart of God. Grace is covered with blood, sacrificial, redemptive blood.
And it’s not just about forgiveness. The plan is even bigger, the implications are cosmic. God’s purpose is to unite all things, in heaven and earth, all things, in Christ. Literally, God wants to bring everything in heaven and on earth, the whole creation under one Head, that is, the lordship of Jesus Christ. Adam as head failed, and plunged the whole cosmic order into sin, death, decay, and chaos. We add our part as children of Adam. Each of us is a little chaos factory, wreaking our own divisive disorder where we go. It’s manifested with our families, our friends, our neighbors, and coworkers; in our dealings with strangers, with the world. The master plan is to recreate and bring all things under Christ whether in heaven or on earth. As Jesus said, “I am making all things new.”
We sometimes forget the cosmic effects of our sin. We think sin is some little private thing between us and God. We think sin is isolated and doesn’t have any far-reaching effects. And if you think that, you are dead wrong. One act of disobedience on the part of Adam, one little, solitary, isolated act against the Word of God brought devastation to what was a “very good” creation. Every sin adds to the disaster. It doesn’t matter how small – the petty theft, the white lie, that juicy bit of gossip. Oh, the big ones have big consequences but the little ones add up to one rebellious humanity and cosmos load of death.
But Jesus absorbed it all. Like a magnet, He drew all to Himself in His death. “It is finished.” For you, for me, for the world. Finished. Done to death. The plan is executed. The Son of God becomes the Son of Man and as Man takes the law’s sting in our place. In Christ you are forgiven, you are justified, you are sanctified and glorified. It’s all done, even as we sit you. You are glorified in Christ at the right hand of God. Your life, that is, your true life as you truly are in the eyes of God is now hidden with Christ in God. You can’t see it, touch it, taste it, or smell it. You must believe it, trust it, take Christ at His Word that He holds your life even now.
There’s more. We’re not done yet. In Christ we have obtained an inheritance. That’s a great Gospel, gift word – inheritance. How do you get an inheritance? You don’t earn it like wages. Someone has to die and he leaves it to you because you were in his good graces. That’s how you get an inheritance. But what would happen if no one told you that you were an heir? Imagine someone dying and leaving you ten million dollars but no one bothered to inform you. You would still be an heir, and there would be ten million bucks with your name on it, but if you don’t know it, you won’t claim it, and you’ll go on living as though you had nothing.
Listen to how Luther puts it in the Large Catechism. He’s right in line with this. He says, “The work is finished and completed, Christ has acquired and won the treasure for us by his sufferings, death, and resurrection, etc. But if the work remained hidden and no one knew of it, it would have been all in vain, all lost. In order that this treasure might not be buried but put to use and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to be published and proclaimed, in which he has given the Holy Spirit to offer and apply to us this treasure of salvation.” (Large Catechism III,38).
How are you going to enjoy an inheritance unless you know about it and claim it as your own? How are you going to enjoy salvation, life, forgiveness, peace with God unless you know about it? Now you see the purpose of the church: to broadcast salvation, to herald the good news of Jesus, to tell people they have an inheritance in heaven waiting for them in Christ Jesus who died and rose for them.
Paul, speaking on behalf of that first band of believers that God worked all things according to His good and gracious will that those who believed first would be to the praise of His glory. In Christ, they had an inheritance and were destined to serve the purpose of broadcasting the good news of Jesus to the world.
And now it gets to you, my friends. This run on sentence which runs on like a river having its source in the heavenlies now comes to you. “In Christ, you also, when you heard the Word of truth, the gospel of salvation, and believed in Him were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.”
You heard it for yourselves. Christ died for you. His death is your death; His life is your life. The inheritance is yours. You heard it, and by the grace of God, you believed it. You are baptized, “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,” the promise that is to you and to your children, as St. Peter said on Pentecost. That baptismal Spirit is God’s down payment on your inheritance. The first installment. The first check with much more to come.
You can’t have it all just yet. It would be nice, I know, but you can’t handle it. It’s like a sixteen year old inheriting a million dollars. He doesn’t get it all it once because he’s not ready for a million bucks. He thinks he is, but everyone else knows he isn’t. It’s put in a trust fund and he gets a little bit but the rest is held in trust until he comes of age. Our flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. It is hopelessly soiled with sin; it is subject to decay. It can only die. But the inheritance that Jesus won for us is still ours. “The kingdom ours remaineth.” And we will “come of age” one day, in the resurrection, when the trumpet will sound, the dead will rise, and what you have heard and believed you will see for yourselves and acquire possession of what you now have by faith, all to the praise of His glory.
It is all in Christ and in no one else. Christ alone, as the youth group heard all last week at the youth conference Christ alone. In Him we are blessed eternally in the heavenly realms. In Him we are loved and destined to become the children of God. In Him we have redemption through His blood. In Him all things are united and come together as a new creation under His headship. In Him we have an inheritance that will never fade away. In Him we are marked as God’s dear children, baptized into His death – crucified with Jesus, buried with Jesus, raised with Jesus, glorified with Jesus.
All to the praise of His glory.
In the name of Jesus,