Running Out of Superlatives
Preaching and teaching from the Bible over many years sometimes leaves you
struggling to find adjectives and superlatives. When reading a familiar
passage for fresh insight, the beauty of the God’s Word can be overwhelming –
and you think, “this is the greatest text on this subject,” or “this is the
simplest description of this that I have found!” Then, you attempt to report
that to others. What words are left that you haven’t used before? “Amazing?”
“Rich?” “Valuable?” “Impressive?” (There is even a category of words sometimes
called “extreme adjectives” that fall short.)
I experienced this struggle to find the right word recently, when preparing to
teach again from Ephesians chapter one. I often end up using the same terms
I’ve used before when I say to an audience or class, “this is as valuable and
amazing as anything you will read in the Bible, about God’s abiding interests
in what is best for us, now and after death.”
In Ephesians one, we are able to “listen in” to Paul praying. He is praising
and thanking God for the blessings we can have in Jesus Christ. He is speaking
well of God, expressing his sincere appreciate for what we can have because of
what Jesus did.
This is one of those places in the Bible where you realize that all history,
from creation to Christ, was preparatory to Christ – and that this was all
perfectly planned by God before the foundation of the world. What word in our
language can describe this?
What are these spiritual blessings? He chose us, predestined us, adopted us,
redeemed us, forgave us, made wisdom abound toward us, made known the mystery
to us and gave us an inheritance we will fully embrace and receive in heaven.
All of this we can receive by obeying the gospel. After baptism, we can keep
these blessings and experience their fullness, through the activity of our
faith, “to the praise of His glory.” We are listening to Paul praise God for
what believers have. What a rich opportunity.
“He chose us.” God made a choice, long before humans existed, that He would
have as His people, those in Christ. This does not imply that God selected
individual people before or contrary to the exercise of their will. There is
no suggestion of that in this text or any scripture. This is simply God making
a choice to have as His people, those in Christ. When I was baptized into
Christ, I became a part of that choice.
He “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.” To
predestine is to set something up before, and put into place everything
essential to the plan. God pre-determined that His adopted children would be
those who are followers of Christ.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sin,
according to the riches of His grace.” If you have ever done anything wrong,
if you have any sin in your past or guilt in your present, you need
redemption, before you can become a child of God. The problem is you cannot
pay the ransom. Even if you turned over “a new leaf,” and never sinned again –
you have nothing to offer to pay for (atone for) the sins of your past. The
only way to be redeemed is to depend on and receive the value of the blood of
Christ, to have your sins forgiven. When you obey the gospel, you are
responding, to receive that benefit. And this is “according to the riches of
God’s grace,” since you had to depend upon heaven’s payment against your debt
(that you can never fully pay).
In addition to all of this resulting in “the praise of His glory,” and our
obtaining of an inheritance (the final redemption, v. 14), there is a present,
working benefit we enjoy in our character. As we participate in God’s plan and
become receivers of His grace, we are able to “be holy and without blame
before Him in love.” You see why we run out of superlatives?
So let us pray as Paul prayed, often: “Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the
heavenly places in Christ,” (Eph. 1:3).
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 19.6; June 2012