Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 7
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1999|
|The love of God is a continuing theme throughout the Bible. Dr. Barber explains what it implies for us.|
The Love of God – Part 1
Would you turn with me to Ephesians 1:5? I want to focus on the subject entitled “The Love of God.” Obviously that’s a subject that could be preached on from now until the Lord Jesus comes back. Love is all He is. But I want us to focus this understanding of His love to the passage that we’re looking at for it tells us in another way how God has loved us.
There was a song when I was growing up that I remember. We don’t sing it a lot anymore, but it still rings in my heart.
- The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell.
- It goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell.
- The guilty pair bogged down with care.
- God sent His son to win. His erring child
- He reconciled and pardoned from their sin.
Even from a child that song has meant so much to me. John 3:16 has also. You know we talk about that verse sometimes like it’s an old truth. May it never grow old. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God so loved the world.
If you’ll read verse 5 with me, we will find something that I think is very precious. Start with those last two words of verse 4, “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” As I was studying this verse this week the thing that overwhelmed me was that, before the foundation of the world, God loved me. Now sometimes I feel unloved, and you feel unloved. We always know we’re unworthy to be loved, especially by a Holy God. But the Scripture teaches us that God loved us before the foundation of the world, before He ever created it or anything else. In His foreknowledge He knew what would take place once He created mankind, and yet still He loved you and me. He loved us so much that He came up with a plan that would bring us into His family for all of eternity.
Have you noticed that, in Scripture, a man’s position by grace is sealed and taken care of, but a man’s practice does not automatically line up with that position? Abraham was counted as righteous before God, but was Abraham perfect? No. As a matter of fact, he turned right around and lied and said his wife was his sister. Job was a righteous man, it says, but we know Job had some very deep problems, especially with those three “friends” who came to give their advice. Job could not stand somebody to say he was in any way unrighteous in his character. God only freed him when he turned to pray for his three friends. And so we see all through Scripture the position that’s unchangeable. It is perfect, and it’s by grace. But we see a man’s practice seeking to line up with his position. We call that process sanctification. My position is sealed and assured and taken care of with the Lord Jesus by grace, but now I’m seeking to line my practice up with my position. Sometimes I do better than at other times, and I’ll never see it happen exactly on this earth. One day when I’m glorified, it will all be taken care of.
If “in love” is read in verse 4, it appears to say that’s the motive that a believer would pursue in making his practice and his position line up. I don’t have any trouble with that. We should be committed to God. We should be absolutely devoted to all that He’s done for us. And we should strive to love Him and to serve Him and to obey Him. But I want to remind you that verses 3 through 14 are not talking about man’s responsibility. Verses 3 through 14 are talking about what God has done for man. And so “in love” has to fit verse 5 as the New American Standard version has it.
Let me just give you a quick review of verses 3 through 14 and what we’ve already looked at. In verse 3 through 6a, God the Father looks back to the past, before the foundation of the world and speaks of our being chosen, elected. God does that, not man. Verses 6b through 11 speak of how God the Father bestowed His grace upon us in Jesus, and it looks at the present and our redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ. Then verses 12 through 14 speak of how God the Father sealed us in Christ by the Holy Spirit, and looks at our future and the inheritance that is to come. No where in there do we find man responsible for anything. But we find a gorgeous statement of our redemption, all the way back before the foundation of the world, having been predetermined, and the outworking of it, and the future and our inheritance which is to come.
I believe it fits verse 5 when it says “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons….” We have been blessed in Christ. We have been chosen in Christ. And now we find that in love we have been predestined to the adoption as sons. To me, by simple implication, it brings in the blessing and the choosing because that’s the loving nature of God the Father.
God loves you. Nobody in this world may love you, but God loves you, and He’s the only one that really counts. Before the foundation of the world He loved us, and He made a choice based on what He knew as God in order that we might be blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing chosen in Christ and then predestined to be sons of God Himself.
Well, I want us to look at verse 5, and I’m going to go very slow. I’m going to try my best to slow down and inch by inch go through this verse. Someone once asked, “How do you eat an elephant?” And the answer is, “One bite at a time.” We’re going to eat this elephant one bite at a time. I think the slower we go, the more impact it may have on our lives. We’re going to move through it phrase by phrase.
First of all, in verse 5, out of His love for us, He predestined us. Well, what does it mean to be predestined? Let’s make sure we understand it from God’s point of view. It comes from two Greek words. The word prohorizo. Pro means before, beforehand. So we see something happening beforehand. Then the second part of the word is horizo, from which we get the word “horizon,” and it means to determine. Something was determined beforehand.
Well, in looking up the word and wanting to understand it, I found that the word horizo is the most important part of the word prohorizo. I discovered horizo is used about eight times in the New Testament. Luke uses it six of those eight times. We can look at horizo to get an understanding of what he’s saying. Something has happened beforehand. What was it? In Luke 22:22, Jesus, speaking to His disciples just before His betrayal at the last supper said, “For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed.” Now you must understand that it was predetermined that Jesus would go to the cross. Jesus was not crucified by accident. It was not something that happened that God was not aware of. It was predetermined that He would come to this earth and would die upon the cross. That was something that was already sealed.
It was what God had planned.
In Acts 2:23 Peter uses the word in his great sermon as Luke records. He says, “This Man delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” Jesus went to the cross as a predetermined plan.
In Acts 10:42, again Peter is preaching and Luke records, “And he ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.” Why is He appointed by God? Because God predetermined it that way.
In Acts 11:29, it is used of the believers at Antioch, and to me this really draws a picture for us. It says this, “And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.” They knew something about a need, therefore they determined to do something about it. That’s the word horizo, a determination based on what you know.
In Acts 17:26-27 Paul is speaking on Mars Hill. He had been so distressed by all the idolatry there in Athens. He says this, “And He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God….” There is an appointed time. That word “predestined time” or “destined time,” is horizo.
Then in Acts 17:31, the same sermon, he says, “…because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
Paul uses it again in Romans 1:4, and it’s translated this way, “…who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.” You see that word “predestined”, “destined”, the word horizo, used many times.
The author of Hebrews uses it in Hebrews 4:7 and notice how it’s translated. “He again fixes a certain day, ‘Today,’ saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, ‘Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.’” He speaks of the believer’s rest.
Now I wanted to labor through that because I want you to see something. Horizo, part of the word that we’re looking at, means to determine and simply means to be based on knowledge that one has. I think the clearest example of that was the believers in Antioch when they found out about the needs that others had. They determined to send their money. So horizo means to determine based on something that you know.
Well, prohorizo, which is our word, means to determine something beforehand based on something that you know. Now that word is found five times. Look in Acts 4:27-28. This is a prayer of the believers after the release of Peter and John. Look what they say: “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur.” In other words, a decision was made by the counsel of the Trinity before the foundations of the world, based on what they already knew, that Jesus would come into this world and be placed into the hands of sinners and be allowed to be crucified on a cross. It was predetermined based on the knowledge, the foreknowledge of the Godhead.
In Romans 8:28-30, we find it again. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” God predetermined before the foundation of the world that His family, the church, the body of Christ, would be formed into the likeness of Christ. How? By calling them, by justifying them and by one day glorifying them. We are to be conformed into the image of Christ Jesus. This is predetermined based on knowledge that God had before the foundation of the world.
Well, in I Corinthians 2:7, Paul says, “but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory.” What Paul is saying is I have the wonderful, wonderful privilege of being able to reveal to you something that has been a mystery throughout all the ages even before the foundation of the world. God made a decision based upon what He knew before the foundation of the world.
Ephesians 1:11 is the last time it’s used other than our text. It says, “Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” Not only did God make a decision that somehow brings us into His family, a decision to send Jesus to this earth to die for us, but He also made a decision to give to each of us who are believers an inheritance one day.
Some people say, “I’m waiting for my ship to come in.” But you know, we ought not be looking down here because before the foundation of the world God predetermined an inheritance that is waiting for us in heaven. We don’t belong to this world. We’re a part of a heavenly family. We’re looking for a city, not built by human hands and a place that Jesus has been preparing for us for 2000 years. All of this was by the predetermined decision of God based on what He knew before the foundation of the world.
So it is my understanding that for God to predestine something means God made a determination before the foundation of the world based on all that He, as God, knew. Now I don’t know if that does anything to you at all, but it does a lot for me to realize I have nothing to worry about. It’s already finished as far as He is concerned. I’m just a recipient of what He’s already planned and predetermined long before I ever came on the scene. Out of love God predestined us.
The second thing that I want us to see is He predestined us to adoption as sons. I had the privilege recently of doing a Bible Conference with Dr. John Phillips. He’s written a lot of commentaries on the Bible. As I was talking to him. I said, “Dr. Phillips, when you study, what is something neat that you do that perhaps you would like to share with me?” And he said to me, “Well, Wayne, I spend 4 to 5 hours a day simply meditating on what God’s Word has to say.”
And I got to thinking about this as I was studying this particular phrase “to adoption as sons.” You can take the word “adoption” and spend weeks on what you can see in that word. Automatically it tells you that it must be by grace. Adoption is not by right. Adoption is by grace. We’re beginning to see unfolding before us that our plan of redemption is something God knew about before He ever spoke the world into existence. The phrase “adopted as sons” is really one Greek word, huiothesia. It comes from two Greek words. The first part is huios which means son. The word “son” doesn’t just mean son in the sense of a male child. It’s more than that. As a matter of fact, Jesus is never called the teknon of God, which means little child. He’s always called the huios of God. It’s a mature son, one who has identified himself with the will of his father. And it tells you something immediately. We’re adopted not just to be in the family, but to grow up and mature as sons of the family so that we might be shining examples of what God wants us to be. Just the word “son” is enough to look at. But it also comes from the word tithemi, which means to place, to place a son. In other words, to adopt.
Now Paul is writing to the church of Ephesus, which is on the western coast there of Asia Minor, and he appeals to their Greek understanding and their Roman understanding. He uses a legal term that is found in Roman culture when he says adopted as sons. In Roman law an adopted son, even though brought into the family by grace, had every privilege of a true son in that family.
Now when I read that I thought, “Oh my goodness.” See, I’m the first born child in my family. My mother and father are in heaven now, but I’m their first born. Let’s just say my parents, before they died, decided to bring another child into the family. And they went through the courts, and through the adoption process, and brought another child in. He would legally have every privilege as any true son of my family.
Now that ought to mean something to you. He is an heir just like a regular son would be an heir. When you come in as a son you become an heir. Look in Romans 8:17. He’s talking about children of God. Look what he says here. “And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” In other words, you don’t just say you’re possessed, you live as if you’re possessed. And if it shows in your life, then truly you are a child of God. You are a joint heir with the Lord Jesus Christ. God predetermined, based on knowledge that He had beforehand, that we might be brought into the adoption as sons through the Lord Jesus.
Now why would God have to adopt His own creation? I mean, I thought if you created something it was yours. Well, we all know the story, don’t we? Isn’t it amazing how you can’t go through Ephesians without going back and reexamining what God did for us to begin with? If that truth is beginning to get stale in your life, if it no longer thrills you to hear about the crucifixion of Jesus and what God did for you, do you realize how callous you have grown? This truth ought to continue to overwhelm us until Jesus comes back. The fact is, He was willing to bring us back into His family. Not just back into His family, but also eternally to allow us to be His children. Why did God have to adopt His own creation? Well, man was created for fellowship with God. But in Genesis 3 man chose to disengage himself from God. By choosing to do what he wanted and not what God wanted, he had to reap the consequence of being separated from God. In Genesis 2 it says, “In the day that you eat from it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you shall surely die.”
Now a lot of skeptics say, “Well, in the day that he ate of the tree he didn’t die.” Oh yes he did. He died spiritually. You didn’t see that right off. He began to die mentally, and you see immediately a murder committed. They became a people who had been disengaged from fellowship and oneness with God. And then we see him later dying physically. Romans 5:12 says in that one man sinned, this sin of rebellion against God, the depraved nature, has festered, and every person born of the human race is born with this nature within him to sin against God, to rebel against God.
Well, this is what Paul is referring to in Ephesians 2:1-2. He says, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” Did you ever try to explain that to somebody? “How can I be dead, and I’m alive?” The only way you can explain it is you’re dead spiritually, and one day you will die twice. You not only die physically, you’ll be dead spiritually forever. And so we begin to help them understand the state that they’re in because of Adam. Verse 2 says, “…in which you formally walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” That’s the way we used to be. He said you were formally that way. But now something has happened to you. You’ve been brought back into the family, the family that was disengaged by Adam’s sin. Now God goes through a process of adopting them back into His family. Only this time what He does is a better covenant. It is for all of eternity.
You know, some people doubt the total depravity of man. They have the feeling that Adam was a type of man. Have you heard that? “Well, Adam had his chance, and Adam failed. Every man born is like a type of Adam.” That’s not true, folks. If you believe that you would have to cut half the Bible out. Man is depraved.
I wish we could have taken you on the team to Krakow, Poland. We visited the Auschwitz death camp while we were there. I had read about that. My son did a report on it while he was in school. If you want to see the depravity of man, go there. I’ve never seen anything like it. We were having a great time on the bus because it was a free afternoon during the conference we were attending. But when we got to the camp they asked us to be solemn in what we did. They didn’t have to ask us. The moment we walked in those buildings everybody got very quiet and very sober. We saw the effects of the depravity of man.
Folks, listen, a person apart from God cares not about life. It is God who cares about life. That’s why He sent His Son to die for this world. But a man apart from God does not care about life. He only cares about himself.
You see, when World War II ended they couldn’t blow it all up, they had to leave it there. It stands as a reminder of the depravity of man, of what man can do apart from God. There were rooms that were filled with little eyeglasses, little wire rimmed things, and there were thousands upon thousands of them. Folks, these were people like you and me. They had families. They had love for one another. They had little children. They had toys for the children. They were just like us. They were told at the death camps that they had come there to work in order to make a better nation. But when they got there, they were put into gas chambers, and they were killed. They didn’t know that it was a death camp.
This is what the depravity of man does in people’s lives. In one room there was nothing but suitcases. They didn’t have very much when they came to the camp. The names on them were what really grabbed me. They were names like ours. And I stood there thinking, “I was born in America, and I’ve never even stopped to thank God that I wasn’t born in that time, in that world, as one of those people.” Only by the grace of God I wasn’t a part of it. And on those little suitcases were names like ours. Sarah, I remember was on one of them. And Rebecca was on one of them. They had written their name so when they left, they could reclaim their belongings, not knowing they would never leave that camp.
The people were killed in such a brutal way. They were told they were going to take a shower. We went into those stalls where they had gassed the people. They would turn the gas on instead of water, and they would die in those stalls. Then we saw the incinerators, not regular ovens. They were made about six or seven feet long so they could put a dead body in there and incinerate it. We saw that. People did this to one another.
Oh friend, apart from Jesus that’s exactly what your life, and that’s exactly what my life is like. We may have somehow morally trained our senses to act a certain way in certain cultures, but man without Jesus Christ has every bit of that depraved nature in him. That was the nature that caused Cain to kill his brother, Abel. And it has been in man ever since. That’s why man is no longer, even though he’s God’s creation, automatically part of God’s family. He has to be adopted again, reborn, re-bought into the family of God before he can stand as God’s own child.
Every man on this universe is not God’s child. In a sense he is, in the fact that he’s God’s creation, but he’s separated from God. This idea of universal salvation is ridiculous because, as the verse says, “we are adopted to sons through the Lord Jesus Christ.”
There is no other way through which we might be adopted back into the family of God. You see a person without Christ has no desire or care about life that’s around him.
We only saw Auschwitz. We didn’t get a chance to go over to another camp which is about a half hour from Auschwitz. It was thirty times the size of Auschwitz. The gas chambers were thirty times the size. Ten thousand pounds of gold was taken from the mouths of those precious people and taken to Germany and sold on the street for street value. That was the concern man, without Christ, had for other human beings.
Folks, we wonder why we fight abortion today? Every time I bring that up I hear a voice speak to me. “Wayne, there may be somebody who has made that awful choice.” Listen, God’s grace is sufficient for you, my dear friend. But don’t ever hold me hostage that I cannot teach the absolute, inerrant truth of God about that. You know God hates that. As a matter of fact, if you’ve been through it, you know better than anybody else how God hates it because, in reaping the consequences, you have had to consistently plead for God’s mercy. And aren’t you glad it’s there? He didn’t kick you out of the kingdom if you made that choice. But my friend, the reason people do that is because people’s nature apart from God cares about nothing but themselves.
Folks, “adoption” is not being a part of a family by right. There’s no man depraved by the nature of Adam that has a right to be a part of God’s family. The word “adoption” is a word of grace. And it’s grace found in the Lord Jesus Christ. Can you imagine an eternal God–omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent–who looks down the road and sees when He creates creation–and it’s going to be from the dust of the ground– and He realizes that creation is going to rebel against Him, and He makes a predetermined choice based on His nature of unconditional love, and He says, “I love life. I love my creation.” And in the predetermined counsel of the Trinity they decide that Jesus would be the lamb slain before the foundation of the world. He would come into this world and man, with that cruel nature, will put Him on a cross. He would die for our sins so that God might adopt us once again into His family. “Predestined to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ.”
When you wake up in the morning, nobody may love you, as far as you know, but if you’ll trust what God says, even though you may not feel like it, He says He loved you before the foundations of this world. And if you’ll come to Him He offers something to you that is life, and it’s eternal, and it’s secure, blessed assurance of what He wants us to know about.