Saved For A Purpose

Ephesians 1:1-14; 2:1-10

The Reverend Bryn MacPhail / April 3, 2005


            The text before us this morning is one of the more remarkable texts of the entire Bible. Ephesians, chapters 1 and 2, represents one of the most thorough treatments of the subject of salvation. Paul begins this letter by launching, almost immediately, into a lengthy doxology. In the original Greek, verses 3 through 14 read as a single sentence; it is written like a hymn, and is aimed at ascribing praise to all three members of the Trinity for the work of salvation.


            This hymn has three discernable strands running throughout. First, there is the origin of salvation; second, there is the means of salvation; and, third, there is the destination of salvation.


            Or, to use an analogy of a tree, we have a view of the root and the processes within that root, which bring about the fruit.


            Since our proposed sermon series relates more closely with the destination of salvation, or the fruit of salvation, the emphasis of this sermon will be placed there. We must, however, be nonetheless mindful of the root of salvation. For, by understanding the nature of the root, we will become better acquainted with our ability to bear the necessary fruit.


            I confess to you that a careful inspection of the root of salvation has precipitated much debate over the centuries. My intention is not to revisit those debates here, but simply to acknowledge them as we consider questions relating to the origin of our salvation.


The origin of salvation addresses questions like, ‘Why are we saved?’ and ‘On what basis are we saved?’ The complexity, and, perhaps, the controversy, of this study has to do with the relationship between God’s sovereignty, and human responsibility. How does the human will relate to God’s will? Where, in the process of salvation, does our will lead us to Christ? According to the apostle Paul, at the root of salvation, man’s will has no part.


            Paul tells us that the Christian is chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (1:4). He restates the same saying that “(God) predestined us to adoption as Sons” (1:5). And if we seek to know the basis of this adoption, Paul replies that it is “according to the kind intention of (God’s) will” (1:5). That is, the reason, or the basis, for salvation does not lie with us, but it lies entirely with God.


            Again, in verse 7, Paul says that “we have redemption . . . according to the riches of (God’s grace).  In verse 9, we are told that redemption is “according to (God’s) kind intention which (God) purposed in Him(self)”—and, just in case we missed it the fifth time, verse 11: “we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to (God’s) purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.


            In short, the basis of our salvation is bound up in God, and in His eternal purposes. There is great comfort in this doctrine. We would not want it any other way. For example, if I had a role to play in the origin of my salvation, if my will was at the root of my salvation, then the stability of the entire structure would lie, at least in part, on me. And, if my will is responsible for the ongoing health of the primary structure, then the perpetuation of my good standing before God would be tenuous, at best.


            If, however, God’s will alone is at the root; if the primary structure of salvation is entirely bound up in Him, then the likelihood of me bearing spiritual fruit is certain. What I will have a hand in is determining how much spiritual fruit I bear.


            A person may ask, ‘For what purpose are we to be bearing spiritual fruit? And, what does bearing spiritual fruit even look like?’ As we seek to answer these questions, we now move into the emphasis of our study. The apostle Paul tells us that, indeed, God has an end, God has a purpose, God has a destination in view when He saves us.


            Too often, I fear, the purposes of salvation are framed in terms of what we are saved from—we hear how we are saved from our sins, and how we are saved from wrath. But, if the purposes of salvation stop here, we have little more than a ‘get-out-of-hell-for-free card’. Salvation, of course, involves much more than simply escaping punishment, and, for this reason, we need to make ourselves attentive to the positive benefits of salvation.


            Following his initial greeting to the Ephesians, Paul launches immediately into praise for these positive benefits, exclaiming the fact that, in Christ, we have been “blessed with every spiritual blessing” (1:3). In other words, salvation is accompanied, not only by heavenly rewards, but also, by heavenly resources. And, as we move along in the passage we begin to see the purpose for which these heavenly resources are given.


            The destination God has in mind for those He redeems is given in verse 4: “that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” Salvation then, is not merely about the removal of my sin, but it also has a view towards my growth in holiness.


            And what end does God have for our growth in holiness? Why is it important for us to be holy? The answer is given in the oft-repeated phrase, “to the praise of His glory” (1:6, 12, 14).


            Paul begins his hymn with the words, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3), and he ends the hymn on precisely the same note, explaining that the destination of salvation is “the praise of (God’s) glory” (1:14). In other words, from beginning to end, salvation is God-centred. The root of salvation is God’s will, and the fruit of salvation is God glorified in the life of the believer. And while, we could not participate in the former, we must participate in the latter.


            In the second chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul qualifies, and expands upon, this point. Lest we think that our participation in God’s purposes earns us salvation, Paul writes, “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as the result of works, that no one should boast” (2:8, 9).


            The qualification has to do with the role of works, or, what we might call, ‘good deeds’. Paul is adamant: Good deeds cannot save anyone. And yet, in the very next sentence, Paul teaches about the necessity of good deeds.


            This two-pronged message teaches us that our good deeds are not the ground of salvation and, in no way, are good deeds the means of salvation, but they should be the overflow of salvation.


            In order for us to live “to the praise of (God’s) glory” it is necessary for us to participate in certain good works that God has designed for us to do.


            This requires serious reflection on our part: ‘What good works, what kind of spiritual service, has God ordained for me to engage in, that I might live “to the praise of His glory”?’


            Most of us lack this kind of intentionality. Most of us are going about the business of life hoping that God will see that ‘we mean well’ and that ‘we are doing the best we can’. But how many of us manage our household like this? Do we not plan, and schedule, how to best serve the interests of our family? Do we not make careful calculations with our resources and time as they relate to our family?


            Then why would we not give the same attention to how we apportion our time and resources for God? Because, after all, we have been redeemed for the purpose of living primarily for Him.


            This past Wednesday, during our children’s program, I was startled by a question asked me by one of the children. The question put to me was: “Did Jesus have any fun during His time on earth?”


            “What prompted that question?” I asked the young boy. He then pointed to one of the catechism questions we were studying. The catechism question asks: “What kind of life did Christ live?” Answer: “A life of obedience, service, and suffering”.


            Granted, suffering is not fun but, evidently, this nine-year-old boy had grouped “obedience” and “service” in the same category as “suffering”. I began to think to myself, wondering, “What might prompt a nine-year-old boy to think that obeying and serving God was not fun?”


            Jesus told His disciples that it was His “food” to do the Father’s will (Jn. 4:34). Jesus delighted in obeying God the Father; Jesus enjoyed serving His Father’s purposes. What then, might cause a nine-year-old boy to think that obeying and serving God was not fun?


            Could it be that the nine-year-old boy has not sufficiently witnessed Christians who are enjoying their service to God? Could it be that this nine-year-old boy has be unable to detect Christian adults having “fun” while living in obedience to Christ?


            Beloved, it would be commendable if you left here today determined to serve Christ by “walking” in “good works” (2:10). And yet, it would be a travesty if engaging in such service did not maximize your joy.


            Paul says we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works”. Worshipping Christ, obeying Christ, is not intended to be a once-a-week pit stop before we resume what really matters. Obeying Christ is what really matters. It is what we have been designed to do.


            As you can probably imagine, when I lived in Beeton, Ontario, I got to spend some time on farms. I got to see, first hand, what I had learned in school: Pigs enjoy lying in the mud, and horses love to run in open fields. Now, picture this: Picture a horse spending the day lying in the mud, and picture pigs running for hours in open fields on a hot, and sunny, day.


            Difficult to imagine, isn’t it? That’s because the scenario runs contrary to natural design. Pigs haven’t been designed to go for long runs in the sun, and horses haven’t been designed to roll in mud.


            Why then, do Christians so often contradict the design of their salvation?


            Paul insists that we have been saved for a purpose. God “chose us in (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (1:4). “We have obtained an inheritance . . . to the end that we . . . should (live) to the praise of His glory” (1:11, 12). “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (2:10).


            The Scriptures do not require us to be something that is beyond our capacity. The Scriptures require us to do that which we were designed from all eternity to do.


            We have been saved in order to serve Christ, and to reflect back to Him His own glory.


            Let’s commit ourselves to doing that; let’s commit ourselves to doing that together, and let’s expect to have some fun in the process. Amen.