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Ephesians 1:3-6 - Homilies By R.m. Edgar

The electing and adopting love of God.

As soon as the salutation of the saints is over, Paul proceeds to speak about the blessings he and they have received from God. One curious expression meets us and constitutes the key of the whole passage; it is "the heavenly places" ( ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ) wherein the spiritual blessing is experienced. This cannot mean merely that out of the heavenly places the gracious Father pours his spiritual blessings upon selected souls; but, as a comparison of Ephesians 2:6 will show, it means that the adopted ones are elevated in spirit even to the heavenly places, where they as spiritually ascended ones can survey the Divine purposes and appreciate the Divine blessings in a way impossible otherwise. Let us, then, betake ourselves to these "heavenly places" by the blessing of the Spirit, and see how the Divine plan looks from such a vantage-ground. It is in this way we shall escape much of the obscure thinking which prevails upon the electing love of God. And we are here taught—

I. THE FOUNTAIN - HEAD OF BLESSING IS GOD THE FATHER . ( Ephesians 2:3 .) Paul puts "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" at the head of all things. Out of that paternal heart all spiritual blessing comes. The dispensation of grace is overshadowed by a Father. All the love which wells up out of parents' hearts for their children, all the love they lavish with varying success upon their prodigals, but faintly images the wondrous love that wells out of the heart of God. Yet the image, though but faint, is real, and we may climb by the firm footing of analogy up from human experience to some comprehension of the Divine love and plan. Just as earthly fathers plan blessings of all kinds for their children, and give them these on certain understandings, so is it with the infinite Father above. It is a Father with whom we have to deal, the "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

II. THE RULE OF BLESSING WAS THE GOOD PLEASURE OF HIS WILE . ( Ephesians 2:5 .) Now, when we get up in spirit to the heavenly places, we have no difficulty in seeing the truth and propriety of this arrangement. For the world above is one whose inhabitants have all learned to acquiesce in the good pleasure of the Father's will. They know that the pleasure of his will can be nothing else than good; they are content to abide by it. They assure themselves of everlasting blessedness in accepting of it as their rule and law. And we have only to get to their standpoint and to perceive how good God is, to acquiesce at once in the good pleasure of his will God is so good that be could not will anything but what is good. If he has to will vengeance against any of his creatures , it is because vengeance is better than impunity; it is better that he should strike home than that he should be still. Of course, it is hard for our natural hearts which are so opposed to God to acquiesce off-hand in such an arrangement. We think it hard to have to depend absolutely upon the good pleasure of God's will; but we have only to climb up a little by the Spirit's help and see how good he is, and then shall we gladly and gratefully adore his pleasure as always good.

III. THE FATHER PLANNED THE BLESSING OF HIS ADOPTED CHILDREN BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD . ( Ephesians 2:4 .) Starting from the sovereignty of the good God, as the rule of all blessing, we have next to notice that the blessing of his adopted children was deliberately planned from all eternity—"before the foundation of the world." The foresight of a father when carried into every detail of the children's needs glorifies him in our estimation. We would not honor an earthly father who left anything to haphazard, which he could have foreseen. Hence we conceive of the infinite Father as leaving nothing to chance, but arranging all down to the minutest details. He did not leave a loose thread in the whole arrangement. Why should he, if he is the omniscient and almighty God? What is contended for in predestination, therefore, is that the almighty Father left nothing to chance, but provided for everything in his plan. How this is compatible with human freedom is beyond our feeble comprehension; but that it is compatible we do most firmly believe. There are many problems of advanced mathematics which as rusty mathematicians we cannot now see how to solve, and there are many problems of science which are to the most splendid scientists still unsolved; but we should be foolish in the extreme to pronounce either insoluble. So is it with the Divine predestination and the freedom of the creature. There is a solution somewhere, but it is beyond our terrestrial calculus. We believe in both as Facts, and we leave the future to bring the reconciliation. And in the heavenly places to which the Spirit helps us to soar, we rejoice in the thought of that Divine plan which left nothing out, but embraced everything.

IV. THE ELECTION OF INDIVIDUALS WAS TO HOLINESS AND BLAMELESSNESS OF CHARACTER BEFORE HIM IN LOVE . ( Ephesians 2:4 .) Holiness and perfection are the ends aimed at in God's electing love. It is because this is lost sight of that we have so much confusion on this subject. God could not elect any soul to a salvation without holiness; the idea has no meaning in the Divine mind. Men may desire to separate salvation from holiness, to carry their sins with them into the heavenly world; but such desires are vain, and under God's government they can have no realization. The election is unto holiness. So long as a soul loves sin and hates holiness, he has no warrant to affirm any election. He may subsequently turn from sin to God , and thus receive the evidence within him; but a soul that loves sin and hates holiness has no business in dabbling with this doctrine of election. God saves no man except in the process he makes him holy. Hence we must remember "they were not chosen because they were viewed as holy, and therefore deserving to be distinguished as God's favorites, on account of their obedience or personal purity, but that they should be holy."

V. AND THESE INDIVIDUALS FIND THEMSELVES ADOPTED INTO THE DIVINE FAMILY AND ACCEPTED IN CHRIST THE BELOVED . ( Ephesians 2:5 , Ephesians 2:6 .) We have seen that the infinite Father is the Source of all blessing. But that Father has one only Son, the only begotten, in his Divine family. The eternal Father had an eternal Son, and they held fellowship from all eternity through the eternal Spirit. This Son was and is the well-beloved. He always did the things which pleased the Father ( John 8:29 ). But, blessed be his Name, he was content to have "joint-heirs" with himself in his inheritance ( Romans 8:17 ). Jesus showed no jealousy about enlarging the family circle and about an abundance of brethren. Hence the Father set about adopting children, bringing into the charmed circle those who had no claim to the position or to its rewards. But every adopted child is made to feel that he is accepted of the Father for the elder Brother's sake. Jesus as the Firstborn in the mighty family has so endeared himself to the Father that for his sake the Father accepts the persons of the prodigals who are adopted into his family. There is no reason in us for our adoption—there can never be; it is owing simply and entirely to Jesus Christ that we are accepted and adopted. Hence there is in the plan, as so far brought before us, no ground for boasting. Election and adoption alike rest on the good pleasure of God's will. They are sovereign acts. They have their root in sovereignty; and as we rise into the heavenly places, we see that this is exactly as it should be.—R.M.E.

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