God's Plan Series
  • We live in a culture that constantly tells us that our identity is found in what we have or have not done; what job we have or what career we are hoping for; how we have succeeded or how we have failed. This however is not God's plan for our lives. The Gospel says that the identity we all need is one that cannot be taken away by our failure or circumstances. The identity that we need is found only in Christ.
1b. Eternal Life: God's Plan Revealed (Ephesians 1:11-14)
  • God planned for the Church from the beginning, and has let us in on it!
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • God has a grand plan which He has now revealed. (Ephesians 1:4 & 5, 9 & 10)
  • God has brought us into His family as part of His grand plan. (Ephesians 1:4 & 5, 7, 14)
  • God's grand plan is fully implemented in Christ and that implementation as to us is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:4-7, 11 & 13)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • What is God's grand plan?
  • How did God bring us (and bring you) into His grand plan?
  • What does it mean to be “in Christ” and how is our place “guaranteed?”
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Why is God worthy of blessing ?
  • How are we spiritually blessed? List the ways as set forth in this passage.
  • What does it mean to be “chosen?” What does it mean to be “adopted?” What does it mean to be “redeemed?”
  • What is the “mystery of his will? (Ephesians 1:9)
  • What is God's grand plan?
  • What is our inheritance?
  • What is God's grace and why is it glorious?
  • What does it mean that something (whatever it is) will be “to the praise of His glory?” (Ephesians 1:12, 14)
  • What does it mean to be sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What does it mean to you to be blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places?”
  • What does it mean to you that God's plan is from “before the foundation of the world?”
  • How is God working out His grand plan?
  • How does it make you feel knowing what God's grand plan is? How does that knowledge affect you n the living of your life?
  • How is Jesus Christ a part of God's grand plan?
  • What is your relationship with Jesus Christ as it is part of God's grand plan?
  • What does it mean to you that you have been chosen, predestined, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, given an inheritance, and sealed?
  • How do these verses affect you in the living of your life day to day? What is their impact on you? 
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
These Notes are the first in a Series entitled “God's Plan” taken from the book of Ephesians. In this study, we will get a glimpse of the “big picture” of what God is doing and the place of the Church of Jesus Christ in this big picture of God's will. In many ways, this study will give us a view from 30,000 feet, though in the second half of the study, covering Ephesians chapters 4, 5 and 6, the view will also be from the ground. In all, it will provide us with understanding of what it means to be a part of the Church, what God expects of us, and what the life of the believer as part of the Church is to look like as the Church carries out His purposes.

By way of background, Ephesians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome (his first such imprisonment there. Acts 28:16-30). It was a “circular” letter, meaning that it was intended to be circulated among multiple churches, in this case churches in the province of Asia for which Ephesus was the capital city. Paul had first visited the city when he arrived there with Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:18 & 19). He stayed there a short time, reasoning with the Jews but left with the promise that he would come back if God willed it. Meantime, a man named Apollos preached and ministered in the city along with Priscilla and Aquila. Paul eventually returned to the city and shared the gospel in the local synagogue for three months (Acts 19:1, 8). When he encountered resistance from the Jews, Paul left the synagogue and spent the next two years leading daily discussions in the local lecture hall. As a result of his daily teaching and discussions, the miracles he did, and his interaction with so many people in the city, including travelers and merchants constantly coming and going, the Scripture tells us that “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:10) Thus this letter was intended for the churches and believers in the entire region, starting with those in Ephesus. As such, it was not written to deal with specific problems in a particular church (as, for example, the letters to the church at Corinth were), but was meant to provide these believers, and especially new Gentile believers, with teaching about the Church and God's grand plan and purpose of bringing together and completing the body of Christ on earth. In so doing, Paul touches on the make-up and function of the Church as part of “God's overall design for his church and for his world” (Ephesians,by Skevington Wood, in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 11 at p. 17), as well as the function and responsibility of individual believers in the Church as the great vision relates “to the practical demands of Christian living in a hostile society.” (Ibid) The letter, once written, was delivered to its intended recipients via Paul's partner in ministry, Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21 & 22).

The letter follows the usual letter-writing practice of Paul's day as distinctively employed by him, namely salutation, thanksgiving, doctrinal exposition, moral appeal, final words, and benediction. In verse 1, Paul states that the letter is from him, and he underscores his authority as an apostle of Jesus by God's will (Ephesians 1:1). Paul, then, is not just any apostle (the word literally means “messenger” sent on a mission), but is one through the divine appointment of Jesus Himself (cf. Acts 9:15; 22:14 & 15; 26:15-18), called to play a part in carrying out God's plan concerning which Paul is about to write. So, Paul the apostle writes to “the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 1:1b) The “saints” are those set apart to God in Christ for His service to carry out God's plan, which they are doing faithfully in fidelity to their Lord and calling. To all these, Paul extends grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:2), these two things being a standard greeting used by Paul as a reminder that God is a God of kindness and the undisturbed spiritual welfare which can only come from Him and which is to be extended by His children one to another.

The next verses of the text, specifically 3-14, actually form a single sentence in the original Greek. The sentence begins with a blessing of God (Ephesians 1:3) and ends with His glory (Ephesians 1:14). In this single sentence of blessing, Paul covers God's entire plan from eternity past into eternity future, writing of how God brought people into the Church (Ephesians 1: 4 & 5), what God plans for the Church (Ephesians 1: 9 & 10, 12), who is the focus of the Church (Ephesians 1:10), the positions of individuals in the Church (Ephesians 1:4, 7, 11, 13 & 14), and God's sovereignty and power over the Church (Ephesians 1:10 & 14). In the context of the working out of His plan, God has blessed the “saints” with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3b), which tells us that God is rich, is a giving God, and is generous. God has held back nothing (“every” spiritual blessing) in putting together the Church of Jesus Christ; each individual saint is blessed by being chosen (Ephesians 1:4, 11), predestined (Ephesians 1:5), redeemed (Ephesians 1:7), forgiven (Ephesians 1:7), let in on God's plan (Ephesians 1:9), given an inheritance (Ephesians 1:14), and sealed in Christ (Ephesians 1:13b & 14). All these things were mediated by and fulfilled in Jesus and Him alone (Ephesians 1:3-7, 9-13), all as indicated by Paul's use of the phrase “in Him,” “in Christ,” or “in the Beloved” a total of ten times in these verses. Thus is Jesus Christ the focus of the Church and the saints in God’s grand plan.

From “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4), God set His plan in motion, and it included us; in fact, He “chose” us (compare John 15:16 & 19; Colossians 3:12 and II Thessalonians 2:13 for uses of the same word), meaning that we are “hand-picked” to be His people, and meaning that God took the initiative. Theologian and New Testament scholar, F. F. Bruce, wrote the following of this concept: “Time belongs to the created order: believers' present experience of the blessings bestowed by God is the fulfillment on the temporal plane of his purpose of grace toward them conceived in eternity.” God has “predetermined” that His will would be done and would include human beings brought into His family (“adopted.” Ephesians 1:5). He did this in love (Ephesians 1:4b), through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5), according to the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:5b), and to the praise of his glorious grace (Ephesians 1:6). Thus, our being brought into God's family is not by our own work, but by God's grace, freely bestowed, though unmerited by us, through the payment of a ransom whereby He redeemed us from the bondage of sin (Ephesians 1:7, 14). In short, God’s plan from the beginning was to create a people for Himself (Ephesians 1:4 & 5), to do so through His Son’s purchase of that people by His death (Ephesians 1:7), and to seal those people as His own with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), all to the end that God would receive all the glory (Ephesians 1:14).

Furthermore, God’s plan includes people from all races and backgrounds, not just Jewish people. Verses 4 through 12 seem to refer to the Jews and what God has done for them in making them His own. Note that Paul uses the words “us” and “we” throughout these verses, indicating Jews who have come to Christ. But in verse 13, Paul refers to the Gentiles by saying “you also” who have believed have been “sealed in Him,” and then notes it was to the same end as what He did for the Jews, namely to “the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:12, 14). In his letter to the Colossian church, Paul referred to this reality, namely the inclusion of Jews and Gentiles in the Church through Christ, as God's mystery, meaning secret, which He has now revealed (Colossians 1:25-27). He will refer to the mystery later in this letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:2-6). It is hard for us in today’s world to appreciate how mind-blowing this concept was to the people of Paul’s world. To them, the Jews were God’s people and non-Jews were not welcomed into that family unless they became like a Jew through conversion, and even then, then were somehow second-class as they were not born Jewish. But in Christ, both Jew and Gentile (which by the way covers all people not Jewish!) are included in God’s family, fully adopted as part of God’s plan which was conceived from before time and put in motion on earth through the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11) with the objective of all things being summed up in Christ (Ephesians 1:10) in the end, and with His united people being to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:12, 14). And now, God has made known this mystery and His grand plan (Ephesians 1:9). Thus, God's grand plan and purpose is not unknowable, or, as some other religions in New Testament times might have argued, known only by a select few; it is rather revealed now; His secret is told to all and it is out in the open, so that all the glory might come to Him. And a part of the meaning of His grace is that He did in fact reveal His plan, otherwise unknowable by us, according to His kind intention (Ephesians 1:5, 9). God has made known His will so that His people can understand His greatness and have the ability to apply our knowing of Him to our living on earth and carrying out His plan of proclaiming Him and sharing the good news of His grace.

So God's grand plan is that everything is to be summed up in Jesus Christ resulting in His getting all the glory from His creation, and that glory includes the Church made up of people adopted from all peoples as His possession which reflects Him as His holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4) children. And the wonderful part of this grand plan is that we have done nothing to earn it or deserve it; it is entirely of God's doing from before time and is played out on the stage of created history. And it is entirely wrapped up in Jesus Christ through whom God has effected and will complete His plan and in the process blessed us “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3). In Christ, then, we are blessed by having been chosen (Ephesians 1:4), predestined (Ephesians 1:5, 11), adopted (Ephesians 1:5), redeemed (Ephesians 1:7), forgiven (Ephesians 1:7), given an inheritance (Ephesians 1:11, 14), and sealed in His promise (Ephesians 1:13). These are truly a seven-fold blessing! God has “hand-picked” us to be His own (compare Luke 6:13 in which the same word is used in reference to Jesus picking the Twelve). He has determined the boundaries and effects of His plan from before time and included us in that plan. He has made us a part of His family (In Roman law, as in the law of states of the United States in our day, no one has the right to be adopted, but must be selected; and once adopted, the adoptee becomes the same as, and with the same rights and privileges as, a biological child, including inheritance rights.). He has purchased us from and therefore released us out of the slavery of sin. He has forgiven us from sin by His grace lavished (i.e., poured out on us in overflowing abundance and extravagance). He has given us an inheritance which is the rights and privileges of, and participation in, all He has, or literally a “share” in His kingdom of which the most complete expression is a permanent, eternal relationship with God Himself (In another sense, we are also the inheritance of Christ in that He has “inherited” us through His obedience to the Father's will in going to death on the cross. As such, we are the “property” of Christ and subject to His command, will and purpose.). He has sealed us in the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance; we have His “mark of ownership” (The seal in Paul's day was literally putting a mark or a brand or a certificate of authenticity, on something or someone to mark it as owned by another. For example, a king would “seal” a document with his signet ring stamped in wax; a brand would be put on an animal and so forth. In these cases, sealing something would indicate both ownership and genuineness.) The fact that the Holy Spirit resides in us is proof of our being a child of God who belongs to Him; at the same time, the Holy Spirit is a security deposit, or a pledge, which guarantees that God will perform on His promise of our present and our future with Him (Not that God would ever not perform on His promises!).

What a wonderful reality that in Christ we know what life is about and are part of God's grand plan to bring glory to Himself. Living with such revealed knowledge allows us to live confidently and walk in His blessing, knowing that we are His now and forever, carrying out our responsibility to show forth who He is by our very existence, and being part of His family. What a way to live!