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Last week we marked Ascension Sunday, the crown of the objective gospel. When we point to the objective gospel, we are talking about those elements of the gospel that would have been true had you or I never been born. But an objective gospel by itself saves no man—there has to be application. And when we are talking about application, we are talking about the two great elements of Pentecost, which are the Spirit and the Word.
“That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:12–14).
Summary of the Text:
There are too many blessings crammed into the first chapter of Ephesians to be able to deal with them adequately. But suffice it to say that God has blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (v. 3). This includes election (v. 4), and predestination to our adoption as sons (v. 5). This is a purpose that lines up with His good purpose and will (v. 5). Our salvation results in praise for the glory of His grace (v. 6). We have redemption in accordance with His riches, not in accordance with our poverty (v. 7). In this God abounds toward us (v. 8), delighting to reveal the mystery of His will (v. 9). The point is the unification and unity of all things everywhere (v. 10). We were predestined to be included in all of this (v. 11), those believing first being to the praise of His glory (v. 12). And what is the catalyst that makes all of this take shape in the world? Hearing the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and trusting (v. 13). Having trusted, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of God, which is the earnest of our inheritance (v. 14).
Higher Than I:
In order for us to be saved from our sins, there has to be a transcendent and immovable place that is extra nos, outside of us. Lead me, the psalmist cries, to a rock that is higher than I (Ps. 61:2). We live in a therapeutic age, where everyone wants deliverance to be whatever happens when drowning sinners clutch at each other.
And so it is. Your salvation is anchored outside human history entirely. It is fastened to the eternal counsels of God, counsels that settled on you and your salvation before the first atom was created. It is not bolted to the good pleasure of God—that would not be secure enough. It is the good pleasure of God.
There are two halves of realized salvation—the objective message, which is about Jesus, His birth, perfect life, spotless sacrifice, silent burial, explosive resurrection, and glorious coronation. That is gospel. Jesus is Lord. But what is that to you? How does it engage? What is it that causes it to plug into a sinner’s life and there to begin its transformative work?
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:1–2).
In this place, Paul begins by noting the subjective response, and then goes on to declare the objective elements of objective gospel—death, burial, resurrection.
In This Room:
The work of the Father was before all worlds. The work of the Son was outside Jerusalem, two thousand years ago. The work of the Spirit is here and now, in this room. The Spirit’s work in all of this began on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out in Jerusalem, and the words about Christ were preached in the streets of Jerusalem. Keep in mind what God is doing—He is saving the world. The earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Two thousand years ago, the Spirit was poured out in the streets of the city of man, and the gutters have been wet ever since. Some places we are already ankle deep, but oceanic glory is coming. Are you trying to avoid it? What are you going to do, stand on your chair?
So Put Out Your Hand:
This gospel reality exists independently of you. But you are summoned. You are invited. You are called. The gospel is objective forgiveness that God would place in your hand. What are you called to do? You are called to extend your hand, palm up. That is faith, and faith is the sole instrument for receiving the blessings of the gospel.
Do not dispute. Do not wrangle. Do not carp at words. Just extend your hand. Do not imitate those amateur high Calvinists who claim they cannot extend their hand. In defense of the prerogatives of the Potter, they tell the Potter not to tell them what to do.
The Praise of His Glory:
When grimy sinners are cleansed, all the glory goes to God. Philosophy can’t do this. Renewal projects cannot do it. Legislation cannot fix it. What can restore a drunk and drug addict? What can free men and women from the chains of lust? What can liberate us from churchy self-righteousness? The answer is, of course, exactly what the old gospel song said, which is nothing but the blood of Jesus.
When a sinner is saved, the sinner gets the forgiveness and joy. But who gets the glory? Paul was at pains to emphasize this in the passage surrounding our text. What He does results in praise of the glory of His grace (v. 6). He hauled us out of the mire so that we might be to the praise of His glory (v. 12). The culmination of our salvation is to the praise of His glory (v. 14). We are talking about God’s glory, but never forget that in this context we are talking about the glory of His grace.
What could possibly glorify the glory of God? The answer is porn addicts, drunks, liars, thieves, abortionists, sodomites, gluttons, and whores. The mines of God are deep, and He brings up the most unlikely ore. But when the propitiatory smelting is done, and the Craftsman of God is finished with us in His workshop, the crown that results is true glory added to infinite glory.