As Paul opens the letter, he launches into a statement of praise for God that is one of the richest descriptions in the entire New Testament of what the believer has in Christ. In fact, as has often been noted, v3-14 are a single sentence in Greek and feels like a massive outpouring of praise.
As this is the first sermon of the series, it would be good to kick off by setting a bit of context and perhaps referring to Paul’s planting of the church in Acts 19 (don’t spend too long on this though). It would also be good to touch on some of the themes in the greeting. Whilst these greetings follow a similar form in many of the Epistles, they should not be overlooked and this one lays out how Paul saw himself, how he thought of this group of believers and what he desired for them.
In the main body of the passage, Paul uses a string of different words to show what God has done for us. Whilst the division is not neat or exact, there does seem to be a flow of thought that moves from how the Father has blessed us (chosen before the foundation of the world, predestined to adoption) to how the Son has blessed us (redemption through his blood, forgiveness of our sins), to how the Spirit has blessed us (seal of salvation, guarantee of inheritance).
This is one of the passages where the New Testament mentions predestination most directly. Resist the temptation to be side-tracked into philosophical discussions about how this works and instead use it like Paul does, as a truth to celebrate and rejoice in.
In describing the blessing that we have from God, there are a couple of points to note from how Paul frames it that set up a lot of what the letter is about. The first is the frequent use of the word ‘us.’ This is not an individualistic salvation that is being described here, but rather through Christ God is saving himself a people. The second is that we receive these blessings ‘in Christ.’ God is bringing all things together in him, and it is through our union with him that we come to share in the blessings that God has given to him.
Some Key Points:
- God has blessed us in many ways. The Father has chosen us, Christ has redeemed us and the Spirit has sealed us.
- These blessings are given to ‘us’ as the church, not just individuals.
- All the blessings are given to us in Christ, and God is bringing all things together in him.
- Rejoice and Give Praise – This whole passage is an outpouring of praise for what God has done. We should join Paul in this heartfelt praise of him.
- Security in Salvation – Sometimes we can worry about ‘losing our salvation.’ In these verses we see the full extent of God’s commitment to us being saved, from his choosing us before the world was made, to the price paid on the cross, to our inheritance being guaranteed by the Spirit.
- Challenge to Individualism – Understanding how God is bringing all things together in Christ and that we are part of this challenges the ‘me-centred’ view we have in the West, and even in Western Christianity.