Praise for the Work of the Trinity in the Gospel of Grace. These verses are an outburst of descriptive eloquence that even the ample resources of the Greek language seem too meagre to adequately express. The grandeur and variety of ideas, and the necessary vagueness of the phrases by which those ideas are conveyed in this paragraph, create a difficulty in putting the subject into a practical homiletic form. It may help us if we regard the passage as an outpouring of praise for the work of the Trinity in the gospel of grace, the part of each person in the Trinity being distinctly recognised as contributing to the unity of the whole.
I. The gospel of grace originated in the love of the Father.—
- 1. He hath chosen us to holiness.– “Blessed be the God and Father … who hath chosen us … that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:3-4). The love of God the Father gave Christ to the world, and in Him the human race is dowered with “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.” The blessings from heaven link us to heaven, and will by-and-by bring us to heaven, where those blessings will be enjoyed in unrestricted fulness. Before time began, in the free play of His infinite love, God the Father, foreseeing the sin and misery that would come to pass, resolved to save man, and to save him in His own way and for His own purpose. Man was to be saved in Christ, and by believingly receiving Christ; and his salvation was not to free him from moral obligation, but to plant in Him principles of holiness by which he could live a blameless life before God. He chose us for Himself that we might love Him, and find our satisfaction in the perpetual discovery of His great love to us. The true progression of the Christian life is a growth of the ever-widening knowledge of the love of God. Love is the essence and the crown of holiness.
- 2. He hath ordained us to sonship.—“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Christ Jesus Himself” (Eph. 1:5). The sonship is not by natural right of inheritance, but by adoption. It is an act of divine grace, undeserved and unexpected. It is said that, after the battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon adopted the children of the soldiers who had fallen. They were supported and educated by the State, and, as belonging to the family of the emperor, were allowed to attach the name of Napoleon to their own. This was not the adoption of love, but as a recognition of service rendered by their fathers. None can adopt into the family of God but God Himself, and it is an act on His part of pure, unmerited love. He raises us to the highest dignity, and endows us with unspeakable privileges, when He makes us His children; and our lives should be in harmony with so distinguished a relationship.
- 3. He hath accepted us in Christ.—“Wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). Christ, the beloved One, is the special object of the Father’s love, and all who are united to Christ by faith become sharers in the love with which the divine Father regards His Son. It is only in and through Christ that we are admitted into the divine family. God loves us in Christ, and the more so because we love Christ. We are accepted to a life of holiness and a service of love. Christ is the pattern of our sonship and the means of our adoption. The love of God to the race finds an outlet through the person and gracious intervention of His Son.
II. The gospel of grace was wrought out by the sufferings of the Son.—
- 1. In Him we have forgiveness of sins. — “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Eph. 1:7). How little do we realise the greatness and blessedness of the pardon of sin! It may seem difficult to explain how the forgiveness of sins is connected with the sufferings and death of Christ; but there is no fact in the New Testament writings more clearly revealed or more emphatically repeated than this. “The death of Christ was an act of submission on behalf of mankind to the justice of the penalties of violating the eternal law of righteousness—an act in which our own submission not only received a transcendent expression, but was really and vitally included; it was an act which secured the destruction of sin in all who, through faith, are restored to union with Christ; it was an act in which there was a revelation of the righteousness of God which must otherwise have been revealed in the infliction of the penalty of sin on the human race. Instead of inflicting suffering God has elected to endure it, that those who repent of sin may receive forgiveness, and may inherit eternal glory. It was greater to endure suffering than to inflict it” (Dale). The forgiveness is free, full, and complete.
- 2. In Him we have the revelation of the mystery of the divine will.—“Wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known to us the mystery of His will” (Eph. 1:8-9). The will of God is to advance the ultimate glorious destiny of the whole creation. This sublime purpose was for ages an unrevealed mystery, unknown to the prophets, psalmists, and saints of earlier times. In the depths of the divine counsels this purpose was to be carried out by Christ, and it is revealed only through and in Him. The believer in Christ discovers in Him, not only his own blessedness, but also the ultimate glory of all who are savingly united to the great Redeemer. The abounding grace of God bestows wisdom to apprehend a larger knowledge of the ways and will of God, and prudence to practically apply that knowledge in the conduct of life.
- 3. In Him we enjoy the unity and grandeur of the heavenly inheritance.—“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, … in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, … that we should be to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:10-12). The fulness of times must refer to the gospel age and the glorious ages to follow, in which the accomplishment of the divine purpose will become more apparent. That purpose is to heal up the estrangement of man from God, and to restore moral harmony to the universe, which has been disordered by the introduction of sin. The great agent in the unifying and harmonising of all things is Christ, who is the centre and circumference of all. The angels who never sinned, and the saints who are made such by redeeming mercy, will share together the inheritance of bliss provided by the suffering and triumphant Christ. “Our final glory will consist, not in the restoration of the solitary soul to solitary communion with God, but in the fellowship of all the blessed with the blessedness of the universe as well as with the blessedness of God.”
III. The gospel of grace is confirmed and realised by the operation of the Holy Spirit.—
- 1. By Him we hear and understand the word of truth. — “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13). The gospel is emphatically the word of truth; it is reliable history, not romance—a revelation of truths essential to salvation. It is the function of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the mind by the instrumentality of the truth, to apply the word to the conscience, and to regenerate the heart. He takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us, and the vision leads on to a spiritual transformation.
- 2. By Him we are sealed as an earnest of possessing the full inheritance of blessing.—“Ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13-14). The work of the Spirit broke down all class distinctions. The Jewish Christians discovered that the exclusive privileges of their race had passed away. All believers in Christ Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile, received the assurance of the Spirit that all the prerogatives and blessings of God’s eternal kingdom were theirs. The seal of the Spirit is the divine attestation to the believing soul of its admission into the favour of God, and the guarantee of ultimately entering into the full possession and enjoyment of the heavenly inheritance.