The Redemption of the Son
October 15, 2017 sermon
By John Ulrich, Lead Pastor
Did you ever wonder if there was enough forgiveness or grace or mercy for the type or number of your sins? Have you ever wondered if God will stop forgiving when you continue in your sin? Ephesians 1:7-10, located in the middle of a long sentence giving thanks for spiritual blessings in Christ, addresses these questions.
I. What Christ did for us: Christ Redeemed Us! (Ephesians 1:7)
- The New Testament Greek meaning of “redeemed” is to secure the release of someone by paying a ransom. Someone is released from a situation because of the payment of a price.
- Redemption in the Old Testament world was a big deal, especially when first born sons automatically belonged to God and had to be bought back to the family with the sacrifice of a lamb. Ultimately, God was going to give His first born Son in exchange for our lives.
- Jesus has released us from slavery to sin and God’s judgment (Col.1:13-14) by paying with His human blood (Eph.1:7), handing over His life for ours and bearing all the wrath of God for our sins.
II. Benefits of Redemption (Ephesians 1:7-10)
- There is enough Grace for ALL our sin. Through Christ’s redemption we have “the forgiveness of sins, in accordance [proportion] with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.” (Eph.1:8) The riches of His grace are infinite: overflowing, overwhelming, pouring down all around us. As the accuser, Satan, fights to keep us in slavery to our sins (Rev.12), Jesus offers freedom…from our miserable choices, our secret addictions, pride, lies, sexual sins, self condemnation, etc.
No matter what the size of the sin, its continuance, or its lasting consequences, Jesus offers forgiveness because His death is enough. It is finished. Because He was a man, with moral goodness and authority, Christ could die in our place; because He was God, He could die in everyone’s place with enough grace for all our sins.
- All Creation will discover its purpose in Christ’s redemption. (Ephesians 1:8-10) God did not just forgive us, but He gave us insight and understanding as well (Eph.1:8). The “mystery of His will” was hidden and is now revealed: Christ has come, died and rose again, and sent us His Holy Spirit. We can now understand what God intentioned in Christ: that all of Creation will find its purpose [how it fits together] in Christ’s redemption. Christ is everything! Historically, all Scripture points to Christ; now we can be redeemed from our brokenness (Rom.8) by Christ’s death for our sins; and “when the times reach fulfillment” (Eph.1:10) everything in heaven and earth will find headship and purpose in Christ.
Prayer: May we celebrate our purpose in Christ’s redemption, thanking God for our forgiveness/healing from slavery to sin, and move forward to live for Him. As He shows us more of what Jesus has done for us personally and for Creation, may we turn to Him with open, humble hearts and be transformed.
- Is it really true that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) Do you experience this? Is God’s grace sufficient for your sins?
- If Jesus’ redemption releases us and pays for our sins, what does He expect of us?
- Could you explain to a seeker how Jesus is both fully God and fully human, and why that is necessary for Him to be able to redeem all of us who accept Him as our Savior?
- Why must God’s grace be infinite for Jesus to be everything?
- Is everything now in your life and in Creation in a meaningful relationship under the headship of Christ? (Eph.1:10)
I want to start our sermon today by reading an email that someone sent me Sunday night in response to last week’s sermon. Last week as we started our series on Ephesians we talked about God, the Father’s, love for us – how he chose us and adopted us into his family. We talked about those times when we need to feel God’s love.
In response to that sermon, someone sent me an email – actually a poem they had written – about the times when they don’t feel God’s love. It’s called “Hollow Prayers,” and I thought I would read it to you this morning. Here’s what it says:
I bow my head, clasp my hands and Start out “Dear Lord”
All prayers start with good intentions, but are they the prayers of my heart? For those I care for, and those I Love, and those who I know need it, I have my deepest thoughts and will in them all just as I know I should.
After all these are the people I am reaching to our Lord to help.
So I pray with intent, and focus, and I am totally sincere.
I finish these prayers and know that my prayers are heard and received. What a wonderful feeling knowing that the Lord has heard my prayers, and knowing each and every one came from true belief. In short: Prayer As It Should Be.
Then I come to prayers for my own strength, guidance, wants and needs. I start with “Lord, Please help me with .” And then I pause. Every sin I have ever done comes to mind. How can I be so selfish to ask for help when I have sinned the very same sins I had already asked forgiveness for? My concentration on the prayer fades and my mind becomes clouded with my wrongs.
I feel unworthy, undeserving, and ashamed. I know right from wrong. I know what I am supposed to do. Yet I do things even though I know they are wrong. And I want to pray for help? So, as I say these prayers I have very little focus on the prayer itself. I am merely going through the motions so I can consciously say that I have prayed. My mind replays the wrongs I have done; my heart feeling the guilt and my words going into a hollow prayer I am lost!
Let me ask you a question: Have you ever felt—either a little or a lot—like the person that wrote that poem feels? Have you ever felt that there really wasn’t enough forgiveness – enough grace – for your sin? Maybe you feel that way because you did something that was a big sin. Maybe you did something that everyone around you would agree was a really, really bad thing to do. There are times when it seems like too big of a sin for God to forgive. Or maybe you feel that way because of a repeated sin. Maybe like the poem said you know it’s wrong you know God tells you not to, you’ve confessed it a hundred times, you’re embarrassed to come to God afterwards, but you just keep doing it. Again and again. You wonder when God’s going to get fed up and stop forgiving.
Or maybe it’s wasn’t a big willful or repeated sin. Maybe it was kind of a small sin – a little choice – but it had really big consequences. Every time you wade through those lasting consequences you wish you could have that moment back, and you’re right back in the land of unforgiveness. Is there enough grace for sins? Is there enough for big sins? For repeated sins? For your sins? Today we are going to look at a passage that addresses that. Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to Ephesians 1:7-10.
Today we are continuing in our study of Ephesians called “Foreign to Familiar.” As we come to verse 7 of chapter 1, we are in the middle of an 11 verse sentence, 202 words all in one sentence in the Greek! It’s a doxology that Paul wrote, a prayer that praises God for all the blessings that we as Christians have received from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Last week, we looked at the blessings of the Father – how he turned the heavenly realms into a place of blessing and chose us and adopted us to be in his family. Next week, we will look at the blessings we have received from the Holy Spirit.
Today we are going to look at the blessings we have received from Christ himself from God the Son. As we look at these blessings, we’re going to see two things today:
- Paul’s going to tell us what Christ did to bless us.
- Paul will show us two results of what Christ did.
One of those results is going to relate to forgiveness. We’ll see if there’s really enough grace for our sin and spoiler alert. There is! But we’re going to see why.
Here’s my goal today: For some of you, I want you to let go of the sin and to let go of the self-condemnation that has become your constant companion. I want you to really believe that God has all the grace you need in Christ. That’s for some of us. But for all of us, I want us to worship.
I want to see us recognize the excellence of Christ and praise him for who he really is and to let that shape our minds and our lives this week. I want us to see the excellence of the Son as we look at the blessings he has provided. So let’s read our passage. Today we are going to look at verses 7-10, but let’s start our reading in verse 3 where Paul’s prayer begins. Paul says this:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
Now here’s our passage for today
In him (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
– Ephesians 1:3-10.
We are going to start this morning with what Christ did for us, and here’s what he did
Christ Redeemed Us
Paul begins the verse with a very simple statement. He says
In Him (that is in Christ) we have redemption through his blood
– Ephesians 1:7
It’s a little statement, but it’s so powerful. Jesus redeemed us. Now in Modern English “redeemed” is not a word that we use a lot, and when we do use it, it’s fairly casual. We may talk about redeeming a coupon when we cash it in. Or we may talk about redeeming a mistake when we get something wrong the first time and right the second time. Like a football player that redeems himself by catching a pass that he dropped earlier. We use that word “redeemed” in a general sense and for small things. So when we read that Christ redeemed us, it might not seem like that big of a deal.
But the New Testament Greek word “redeem” is very specific: It means to secure the release of someone by paying a ransom. Notice that there are two concepts in the way the word is used:
- There is release: someone is released from a bad situation.
- There’s payment: they are released because of the payment of a price.
So there’s release and there’s payment.
In the Greek world, in the New Testament world that Paul lived in, the word was used to describe the purchase of someone: Soldiers that had been taken captive in battle could be redeemed. Their release could be purchased with a sum of money. Slaves could be redeemed and released from slavery.
So the Greek world was familiar with this concept, and it meant more to them than just cashing in a coupon or fixing a mistake. But the place where it really shows up is in Jewish world of the Old Testament. This concept of redemption is all throughout the Old Testament. The Old Testament gave regulations for how a relative could be redeemed from slavery. It talked about redeeming people from certain punishments when they had done certain things wrong: you could spare their life with payment.
But one place in Jewish life where this concept of redemption was very important and would be very unexpected to us was in redeeming your firstborn Son. In the Old Testament Law, if you were a Jew all of your “firsts” belonged to God. The first of your harvest was given to God, the first four years of fruit from your fruit trees, the first of your sheep, the first of your cattle and donkeys, the first part of your increase – all of this belonged to God. But one thing that especially belonged to God was your first born son. God decreed that the life of the first born son belonged to him. Not that God wanted to kill him. He never instructed Israel to do that, but he made it clear that he wanted them to acknowledge that that first born son belonged to Him.
So when you had a son, you had to redeem him. You had to buy back his life with the life of a lamb. The lamb was sacrificed, so that your son could live. He was redeemed. We’ll talk about that more later, but I want you to see that there was this rich Old Testament heritage behind this concept of redemption. It was a big deal!
Now notice that in all these usages both elements of redemption are present. There is:
- Release from a bad situation, and there is
- The price that was paid to secure that release.
It’s the same with Jesus’ redemption of us.
- There is a release. Jesus has secured our release. Colossians 1:13-14 tells us that God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption. We have been released from slavery to sin. We no longer have to live and move according to the power structures of this fallen world, and we have been released from God’s judgment.
- There is payment. Our release required payment. Paul tells us what the payment is in verse 7. He says we have been redeemed through his blood. Jesus – the second person of the Trinity, fully God – chose to become human. He became deliberately, permanently human. He altered his nature forever. He lived among us on this dusty, fallen earth. Not only did he die, but he died a violent death, bearing all of the wrath of God for all our sin. He paid the price so we wouldn’t have to. He redeemed us.
There is a true story told of two prisoners in Auschwitz Concentration Camp in 1941. In the summer of that year, some prisoners escaped from the camp. The Nazi guards, who were furious about the escape, announced that they were going to take vengeance by randomly choosing ten prisoners and starving them to death. When they read the names that had been selected, one of the condemned men – a Polish sergeant named Francis Gajowiniczek – begged for mercy. He pleaded for his life, so that he might see his wife and children again. The Nazis had no sympathy, but one of his fellow prisoners – a Catholic Priest named Max Kolbe – stepped forward and volunteered to take his place. Over the next several days not only did Max Kolbe willingly, silently accept the punishment, but he ministered to the other condemned prisoners as they starved one by one. Then he died. Sergeant Gajowiniczek survived Auschwitz and lived to see his Grandchildren grow up, because Max Kolbe gave his life.
Paul is saying that’s one of the many things that Jesus did for us. He traded his life for ours. Christ redeemed us. So Jesus redeemed us. That’s what he did.
Benefits of Redemption
Now in the next three verses Paul lists a couple of benefits of that redemption. They are amazing! I hope that they are a great encouragement to you, so let me give them to you one at a time. The first one is:
1. There is enough grace for all our sins in Christ’s redemption
We’ve looked at the beginning of verse 7. Now if we read the rest of it, Paul lists an incredible blessing for us look at what he says:
In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
– Ephesians 1:7
That is an awesome statement, because Paul is pointing out here that there is enough grace – there is more than enough grace – for all our sin. Notice he doesn’t just say we have the forgiveness of sins. He says “we have the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” He goes on in verse 8 to say that that God lavished that grace on us. The idea is that through the redemption of Christ God showered his grace on us. He poured it on us. His grace is overflowing us, overwhelming us. We have more grace than we could ever need.
The other day Kelley got the privilege of being in the garage while I changed the oil on my truck. It was wonderful, wasn’t it dear? Let me say, in general, I hate working on cars. My definition of success is having enough money to make someone else fix your car! I hate it! There is one moment in an oil change that I especially hate. Does anyone know what moment that is? The oil filter! That moment between when you loosen the oil filter and when you get it into the pan, when oil is leaking everywhere and running down your arm! For some reason, the oil filter on my truck was especially fun that day! They had put the wrong filter on it, and it was in a super tight space As soon as I loosened it up, hot oil just started bubbling out of the filter and down my wrist and my arm. It turned half my shirt black. It was in my hair, in my pores, all over the garage floor. It was everywhere! Now at a moment like that I’m thinking one thing to myself: Where does this come from? How can there be that much oil in this little filter? How can there be that much oil in the world?
Listen Paul is saying “that’s what God’s grace is like.” It’s a lot more pleasant experience than the oil, but that’s what it’s like it’s pouring down. It’s covering you. There’s no containing it. There’s no controlling it. There’s no defense.” His grace and his forgiveness is everywhere! Like you’re going: “Where does this come from? I didn’t think there was this much grace in the world.” There’s more than enough to cover you and your sin.
You have to believe this! You have to! If you are going to live a productive Christian life, you have to believe that there is enough grace to cover your sin – even if you’ve committed big sins, even if you have sinned repeatedly when you knew better, even if your sin had really big consequences. There’s enough grace. There’s enough to cover those words you spoke that you can never take back. There’s enough to cover the awful choice you made. There’s enough to cover your secret addiction. There’s enough to cover your sexual sin. There’s enough. You have to believe that.
I mean think about that poem I read a few minutes ago in the introduction that basically says “I can’t pray for myself because as soon as I try, I’m overwhelmed by my sin.” Can I tell you something: That’s exactly where Satan wants you! I’ve said it before “Satan’s main goal is simple: He wants to take you out of the game.” He wants you sidelined sitting on the bench. He’ll do that any way he can – through pride, through distraction, through conflict, through busy-ness – any way he can.
One of Satan’s absolute favorite weapons is self-condemnation. Satan loves it when he can convince you that you are so sinful, so fallen, so spiritually weak that you cannot offer meaningful service to God. He loves that. That’s why in Revelation 12 he is called “the accuser of the brethren, who accused them day and night before our God.” Satan loves to get us thinking about our sin, because if he does that we’ll never enter into the fight. But listen – there’s enough grace. Look at what Paul says in the verse again:
In Him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
– Ephesians 1:7
Jesus’ redemption has given us forgiveness – not just out of the riches of God’s grace, but according to, corresponding to, in proportion to, the riches of his grace.
Let me tell you what that means: Let’s say that you had a friend who was really rich, a multi-millionaire, and you were getting ready to start a ministry. You went to them and asked them to support you. If that person gave $100, they would be giving out of their riches. But if he gave $100,000, they would be giving according to their riches. Well that’s our forgiveness. It’s according to the riches of God’s grace.
Here’s the part that’s really great: The riches of God’s grace are infinite. Did you know that? That’s why only Christ could be our redeemer – only Christ, only one who was fully man and fully God. Because he was man, he could truly die in my place. Scripture tells us the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin for true redemption to occur. It has to be like for like: human for human. Because Jesus was man, he could die in my place. But because he was God, he could die in everyone’s place. Because Jesus was divine, his death has infinite value. There’s no limit to what it’s worth. He could die in everyone’s place. So believe me when I say there’s enough grace!
The first blessing of Christ’s redemption is this: There is enough grace for all our sins – that is, the payment side of redemption. Remember we said there is a payment side and a release side to redemption. The payment side is this: The payment is big enough that there is enough grace for all our sins. Now the second blessing we want to look at relates to the release side of redemption, and it’s this:
2. All Creation will discover its purpose in Christ’s redemption
Paul makes a somewhat confusing statement. Look at what he says there:
God lavished his grace on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
– Ephesians 1:8-10.
Now that is a mouthful! It is even more confusing when you are looking at the Greek and trying to understand the details of what Paul is saying and knowing that you have to preach a sermon about it in a few days! This thing has had me tied up in knots all week! Paul and I are going to have a talk about these verses when I get to heaven! Let’s just walk through it, so that we get the gist of what Paul is saying.
First of all, in verse 8 Paul says God lavished his grace on us with all wisdom and understanding. That is, he didn’t just give us forgiveness. He also gave us insight and understanding, as well.
Then in verse 9, Paul explains what he means: God made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ. A mystery in Biblical terms is not just something that is mysterious r hard to understand. Rather, it is something that was hidden that God has now revealed.
Paul is saying that – now that Christ has come, now that he has died and rose again, now that he has instructed his Apostles and sent the Holy Spirit, now that all that has happened – we can understand what God purposed in Christ. What God purposed in Christ was this:
to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
– Ephesians 1:10
In that verse, Paul uses a very special word. See that phrase “to bring all things together under one head?” That’s all one word in the Greek – the word “anakefalaiosasqai.” That’s a great word, isn’t it? John and Sarah, that may be the name you’ve been looking for for your daughter: anakefalaiosasqai. That is a word that is not used very often in the Greek, only one other time in all of the New Testament. It’s just loaded with meaning. This word is basically impossible to translate into English, because it has so many connotations. It literally means, just like the New International Version says here, to put something under someone’s headship or control. But it also means to “sum things up – to explain things in a way that shows how they fit together.” This word was used to describe closing arguments in a court case. The other time it’s used in the New Testament is where Paul says “All the commands, do not steal, do not murder, do not covet are summed up (anakefalaiosasqai) in the command ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.” So it means not only to put something under someone’s leadership, but it also means that in that leadership it finds its purpose. It fits together. It makes sense. Paul is saying that all of creation will find its purpose in Christ’s redemption.
Listen: Christ is everything! The longer I’m a believer the more I find that to be true. The more I think about my Christian life the less it is about rules, and traditions, and the more it is about Christ. Christ is everything!
All of Scripture finds its purpose in Christ and his redemption. All of it! Jesus is literally the point of the Bible. That’s obvious in the New Testament, but it’s also true of the Old Testament. All the prophecies of the Old Testament ultimately point toward Christ. All the stories of the Old Testament find their meaning in Jesus. I’ve just finished about four months of having my devotions in the stories of the Old Testament Kings. It’s interesting as you read the story of king after king. One thought keeps coming to your mind. They need a better king! Seriously even as you read the story of David, the greatest King of Israel, when you get to the end, you’re like “This guy had serious problems. They need a righteous, powerful King.” Well, that King is Jesus! He is the point of those stories! All the laws of the Old Testament point to Christ. All the temple regulations, all the feasts and Holy Days, like Passover, and the Day of Atonement – they all find their meaning in Jesus. Even that strange custom that I mentioned earlier of redeeming the firstborn. It makes sense and finds its purpose in Christ and only in Christ. Why would God have Israel do this crazy thing and redeem their firstborn? He was teaching them that life could be exchanged for life., and that there was something special about the firstborn son because he was going to give his firstborn Son in exchange for our life. The Bible isn’t just a rule-book. It’s a story that has its meaning, its punch line, in Jesus. He’s the purpose of Scripture.
But it’s not just Scripture. Paul says that everything – things in heaven and things on earth – everything will find its headship and its purpose in Christ. Paul talks about this in Romans 8, one of my favorite Bible passages. He talks about how creation is broken. It’s fractured. It’s fallen. God put Adam over creation. He gave him dominion over all of the earth. But when Adam sinned and fell, all creation fell with him. It became fractured. Paul says it was subjected to futility. It is unable to achieve the ends for which it was made. That’s why we have weeds in our gardens, and mosquitoes that bite ,and bees that sting, and liver for food! It’s evil.
Seriously, creation is fractured, and we are fractured. But creation is going to be released from its bondage to decay and brokenness, and it is going to be brought into what the Bible calls “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” We are all going to be repaired from our brokenness and released from our slavery to this fallen world, and creation is going to be released with us. All of this comes about through the redemption of Christ.
Notice Paul doesn’t just say this is true here in our passage. He says that God has revealed it to us! He has let us in on the plan! Do you know that not even the Old Testament prophets – I’m talking about the prophets who prophesied the coming of Christ – understood what I’m telling you today? The Bible says they searched diligently to understand what God was moving them to predict, but they couldn’t understand it. Do you know that not even angels understood what I’m telling you today? The Bible says “Angels long to look into these things,” but God has revealed them to us through Christ.
We, who live after the coming of Jesus, are especially blessed through him, because we realize that all things will come under his headship and will find their meaning through Christ. All because he redeemed us.
Again, this could only be Christ. Only the one who was fully God and fully man could do this. He had to be God to have the moral goodness to rescue this world from sin. He had to be man to have the authority to do it. Not that God’s authority is limited, but God gave dominion of this world to man. It was through a man that the world fell. So it’s through Christ, as a man, that this world had to be redeemed.
What I’m telling you this morning is this you have incredible blessings in Christ. It is in him that we have redemption. Jesus died on the cross to take your place. He died to redeem you. In doing that, he gave you all the forgiveness you will ever need – grace for big sins, grace for repeated sins, grace for sins with lasting consequences. You have all the grace you need in Christ. The price for your redemption was paid.
In Christ and his redemption everything will find its purpose. Creation was meant to serve him. You were meant not just to be forgiven by him, but to live for him. He has released you from slavery, so that you could find your healing, and your purpose in him. Are you living day to day in worship of him?