Glory and Praise in Trials
Glory and Praise in Trials
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
I’d like to get down now to serious study of Ephesians over these next weeks and so I’ll expect you to stay awake and I won’t spend too much time trying to keep you awake. But, since I’m Irish and can’t abide anybody sleeping, I’ll probably try to waken you. But really, what I’d like you to do is just give yourself to the truth, and let me concentrate on sensible exegesis of scripture.
The verse that we’re studying this morning is Ephesians 1:6, and you see the way it runs there in the Revised Standard Version translation, “To the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” And beyond just confirming with you the actual Greek and the literal translation, that’s all we’ll do until nearly the end of the presentation. But the Greek in it is like this, it’s “eis” (and I hope some of you will begin to get to know Greek a little) and that’s to or into. And “epainos” is really the word for praise and it has that smooth breathing sound. Then “doxa” is the word for glory. I don’t know where that appears in English but certainly doxology, comes from “doxa”. But “to praise of glory” and notice there is no article in front of glory. It’s just “to praise of glory”. So it really has the effect of drawing these two together as you’ll see when we end the study.
“Teis” is simply “of the” and “charis” (sounds like Pastor is saying CARE I TOS) is the word for grace. And I think you can see cara mia from that. I’ve told you about Cara mi mine, the words that come from “charis” and Cheri dear is in French my dear, my darling, and to care I suppose comes from the same root of “charis”. To praise of and “outos” is actually “of him”. So, it’s to praise. This is the word for ‘the’ and this is the word for ‘grace’, and this is the word for ‘his’. In Greek you always put ‘the’ and ‘his’ even though it really is translated ‘to his’. So “to praise of glory of his grace” and then the word really to express the relative pronoun is “heis e karitos” and you can see it’s the same kind of word really, it’s the same root. “Karit” — which he bestowed on us and this is the word “for us”, “haymas”. Then the last important one is “en to” which is in the Beloved “agapetemo”, “in the Beloved”.
So it’s, “to praise of his glory which he”, and then this word is translated at times “freely bestowed”. At times it’s translated the same as that word that every Catholic knows, you know, the address of the angel to the Virgin Mary, “You whom the Lord has highly favored.” And that can be translated, “to praise of his glory with which he has highly favored us in the Beloved.”
So that’s the literal translation of it and the RSV version is quite good, “To the praise of his glorious grace,” as it does try to join glory and grace. It doesn’t do it exactly correct but it does try to make the point that these have no article and therefore it’s almost to the glory praise of his grace. You’ll see the point of that towards the end of our study. “To glory praise of his grace which he has highly favored us with in the Beloved.” So that’s really the translation of the verse.
A square circle is an impossible concept for us to grasp because of the limitations of our human language and presumably the limitations in our own intellect. And it’s similarly quiet difficult to grasp what Eric Sauer talks about. He says, “What did God do before he created the world?” It’s quite difficult for us to grasp that. Now, what was it like before he created the world? We’ve
been gathering some clues about it in our study of Jesus himself and who he really was. One of those verses is important in this regard. It’s John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” And of course you can see who is at this moment, in the bosom of the Father.
That we do know about Jesus, he was and is now in the bosom of the Father. I think most of us know that bosom is not so much the sense of breast as much as it is heart. He was in God’s own heart. And we think of Jesus that way. We are in God’s arms but we feel Jesus is the only begotten Son; he’s in the bosom of the Father. He’s in the Father’s own heart. And that’s where Jesus was before the foundation of the world. He was in God’s own heart. So, there’s a way in which we are created that Jesus isn’t. The creeds always put it, “The eternal generation of the Son.” This implies that the Son is eternally generated from the Father. He’s eternally born of the Father.
Some put it in Greek, “there was no time when he was not”. And of course, all we can say is that there is no time that we can conceive of with our limited minds when Jesus did not exist. As far as we understand he was there all the time. We’re getting into a realm that we cannot explain and so we say, “Yes, Jesus was in the bosom of the Father, as far as we know, forever.” So he was very intimately part of his own Father.
Then you remember, John 17:24 explains it a little further. John 17:24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom thou has given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world.” And that’s that verse that teaches Jesus’ preexistence so clearly. Jesus says that, “They may behold the glory that you gave to me in love from before the foundation of the world,” implying that Jesus obviously was with the Father and they had a whole life together before the world was ever created.
And so, that’s the way we think of Christ himself, as the only begotten Son of God who is intimately part of God in a way that no one else can ever be. And yet of course, we’ve in recent months, we’ve seen that an unbelievable event took place. It’s the one outlined in Colossians 1:15 — that incredible verse that sends you back on your heels. Colossians 1:15, “He,” Jesus, “IS the image of the invisible God.” That’s virtually what we’ve been saying. He is the only begotten of the Father. He is the image of the invisible God, but then the next phrase just bewilders you, “The first-born of all creation.” You suddenly realize that God, at some point, turned to his Son and said, “My Son, will you be the first man? Will you be the first human being? Will you be the one in whom I can create all kinds of other beings like you?” That’s the only explanation of it, to say that Jesus is the first-born of all creation.
It wouldn’t be so bad if it were just saying, “Jesus is the first-born”. We could then say, “Oh yes, he’s the only begotten Son of the Father. He dwells in the bosom of the Father; he’s been with the Father from before the foundation of the world, so obviously he’s the first-born.” Except that the following phrase makes that impossible as an explanation. That’s because it says “the first-born of all creation”. Creation is something that we essentially think of as connected with the things that God has made, the universe itself. And so you’re driven into an explanation that is only further confirmed as you go on in scripture. Jesus was not only God’s only begotten Son who dwelled in the bosom of the Father from before the foundation of the world, but he also was the first-born of the new creation that God made when he made the universe.
And then the next step is in Ephesians 2:10 which runs, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God then,
inside his Son who was the first-born of all creation, who was the first great human being, inside him God made all these little ants, made all these little beings, all of us. He created us inside his Son Jesus. And that’s confirmed in other verses like John 1:3. “Without him was not anything made that was made and anything that has life was originally life in him.” This implies that all of us who exist here originally existed inside Jesus as part of his life and so we were created in him.
The reason for that is in Romans 8:29. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.” That was it. God made us in Jesus so that Jesus would be the first-born among many brethren. It’s in that sense that we wretched people are in some ways brothers and sisters to our Savior, even though we are reluctant to use the term brother. We were created in him.
We often feel closer or further from our brothers and sisters as the years go by but there always remains a sense where we still feel that we were once tucked up in the same bad, a time where we were very close together and in some ways you can’t forget that. And it’s like that.
God cannot forget that and we if we’re facing reality, cannot forget that. We are in a deep way, flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone. We are made out of his life. We are created in him. We are some of the brethren of whom he is the first-born. And there’s no way in which you can get away from that. That’s the truth of it. We were created in Jesus and this all happened from before the foundation of the world.
I agree with you, Christ was conscience all that time. We obviously were not. We were not conscious, yet we were obviously created in him. Ephesians emphasizes that if you glance at those first verses that we’ve already looked at.
They are some of the strongest declarations of what happened before the foundation of the world and what God planned ahead of time in Verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” He chose us in him, “That we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ.” All that fits in with what we’ve just outlined.
Now, Verse 3 is, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” In other words, that states that God has provided everything in Jesus that we need. How did he do that? We are dealing with God who sees all the ages in one single moment, who sees the end from the beginning. Look at Psalms 139:13, “For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance.” We’re not talking about the embryo or the little baby inside the mother’s womb. It’s not that, it’s before that. “Thy eyes behold my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
When I put the knife on the table, I can pretty well assure you that that knife is not going to move unless I move it. If I had a little ball bearing and put it on the table I could tell you, “Well, that may move.” And if I knew that the table was sloping that way I could say, “That ball bearing
is going to move that way.” So even a limited human being is able to foresee what a certain object will do in the light of the knowledge he has of its attributes. You can see how much more with God who makes every vein, every artery, every little piece of flesh, every nerve, and every cell in every body of every human being whom he creates inside his only begotten Son.
Well obviously, the Father is able in a moment to see the whole thing. He doesn’t have to make us and then wonder what we will do. He knows. He knows what we will do and his one desire is that we will become free beings who love him because we want to. And that is the mystery of the miracle that he performed. He did in fact make beings with free wills and then maintained their free will while he, at the same time, held together the world that they set about destroying. That is the miracle of what God had to bring about. That’s why he foresaw all that would be needed to bring that about and he foresaw what had to be done in his Son Jesus. He foresaw what his Son Jesus would have to bear that we could not bear and he provided all that at that moment.
In other words, it’s our limited little minds that think, “Well, the suffering for God began on that day when Jesus was arrested in the garden.” Well, it didn’t. God foresaw all this agony that would go on down through the centuries in the world. He foresaw all that in one moment. And at that moment, he and his Son bore all the pain and the agony of that. And so that’s part of what it means that God provided every spiritual blessing in Christ way back then. It is all already done.
How does it work out? Well, here’s the way I tried to put it. Some things I write because I think they’re important to express very carefully. In effect, in Ephesians 1:3, he gave us in Christ all that we needed to reverse the effects of our and other selfish free wills. Not a day of our lives has past that Christ himself did not live and bear for us providing the antidote of his own generous life. He has borne countless mortal diseases that have appeared to us as mild sicknesses.
You know the way we say, “Oh, I can’t tell all the accidents I could have had.” Especially after a close accident we say, “It comes to me how much God must save me from that I don’t know about.” Well of course he does and I’ll show you why that is so in a moment. He has borne countless mortal diseases that have appeared to us as mild sicknesses. He has turned away thousands of death dealing accidents, balanced hundreds of payables and receivables that we don’t know about, and set up numerous chance meetings.
Have you ever thought about how anything orderly can ever happen in your life? When you stand back, it’s just miraculous. How could anything orderly happen? How could you get a sequence of events going along in an ordered way in this chaotic world? Even in an ordered world, how could you ensure when you think of the chain of events that make up your life (how little control you have had of them and how many of them have just happened to you), how on earth has there come an order of any kind in your life? Because, there is someone who bore the chaos that our free wills created.
Someone has balanced hundreds of payables and receivables, set up numerous chance meetings, and smoothed our path years ahead. Why did he have to bear all those things? It’s because you’ve been angry with your brother. I’m sure at some time you’ve been angry at somebody and you’re guilty of the judgment. And I’m sure you’ve probably said “raca” fool to your brother and that makes you guilty of hell fire.
The Father had to set up an ordered series of cause and event that would produce the ordered world and the heaven that he wanted for us. And that meant that sin had to be dealt with when it occurred. But if your sin and my sin had been dealt with when it occurred we wouldn’t exist now
because death is the consequence of most of the things that we have done.
Look at Deuteronomy 28. It’s terrifying actually when you look at it. It’s alright if you don’t think you’ve been guilty of any sin. But Deuteronomy 28:15 says, “But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading-trough. Cursed shall be the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your cattle, and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. The LORD will send upon you curses, confusions, and frustration, in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly, on account of the evil of your doings, because you have forsaken me. The LORD will make the pestilence cleave to you until he has consumed you off the land which you are entering to take possession of it. The LORD will smite you with consumption, and with fever, inflammation, and fiery heat, and with drought, and with blasting, and with mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish. And the heaves over your head shall be brass, and the earth under you shall be iron. The LORD will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down upon you until you are destroyed.”
And it just goes on like that. That is what we deserve. That’s the only way God could stop the destruction of our selfish wills, utterly destroying his universe. He could not withdraw that without making foolishness of the whole thing. I think you can see that. God can’t say, “This is who I am and this is what I must do against anything that would destroy the truth that I have.” He can’t swing around and then say, “No, no, forget it. Forget it I was just fooling you.” It can’t be. If that is real then we have to cease to exist, or the one in whom we were created has to cease to exist. But something has to be done. God and his Son committed themselves to that. That’s part of what we mean when we say everything has been provided in Christ. The only reason our lives have any sense to them at all is that Christ himself has borne and is bearing for us things that would utterly destroy us.
So that’s part of what Ephesians is saying. God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places so that all of that is taken care of. And actually, he has done more than that because in Ephesians 2 he states that he has not only provided the antidote for the chaos that our selfish wills introduced into our lives, but in Verse 5, “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ.” He destined us in love to be his sons. The word in Greek is adoption. He destined us to adopt us as his sons through Jesus Christ so that we inherit everything that Jesus has. We inherit all that Christ himself has. We inherit his home, and his heaven. We inherit his powers, and we inherit his joy. We inherit his confidence that all has been reconciled to his Father and everything has been done to make this world heaven. We are heirs to that and we inherit that. That’s why this verse follows, “To glory praise of his grace which he has highly favored us with in the Beloved.”
This is what we’ve explained up to the moment. This is the grace that he has bestowed us in Jesus. The Savior has borne all the agony and we have borne the crown. Why? For this reason. “For this glory praise.” It’s not praise, “That’s a good boy,” or in our case, “Good dog Choux”. So often we think of it that way. Or, maybe we elevate it a little and we think of the teacher who knows that praise is encouraging for students. And that’s a more dignified thing, but it’s not even that. Can you praise God? Can you say, “Not bad, pretty good, very good?” The lesser cannot praise the greater.
What’s that mean then? Glory is this, “Earth hath not anything to show more fair; Dull would he be of soul who could pass by, A sight so touching in his majesty:” (This is Wordsworth standing on Westminster Bridge in London.)
“This city now doth, like a garment, wear The beauty of the morning; silent, bare, Ships, towers, domes, theaters, and temples lie Open unto the fields, and to the sky; All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. Never did sun more beautifully steep In its first splendour, valley, rock, or hill; Ne’er saw I, never felt a calm so deep! The river glideth at his own sweet will: Dear God! the very houses seem asleep; And all that mighty heart is lying still!”
Even a city like London in the early morning expresses a beauty that’s part of glory. Glory is the beauty of God shining through.
Here’s a different poem entirely, “Daffodils” by Wordsworth, “I wandered lonely as a cloud, That floats on high o’re vails and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd,— A host, of golden daffodils, Besides the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the Milky Way, They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”
That’s glory. That’s God’s glory. That’s what this means.
We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. We have received God’s grace. We have been highly favored with his generosity in Jesus so that his glory would shine out from us in his praise. When? When the espresso machine breaks in the restaurant. Greet it as pure joy when you enter into various trails. At that moment we can say, “Lord, thank you that you foresaw this. Thank you that you provided for this a million years ago. Thank you Lord, that you have this under control.” That’s the glory praise shining out. That’s to God’s glorious praise. That’s it.
Yes, our words are good. Praise him, praise him, hallelujah. Yes, the words are good but what is best of all is glory shining out from our lives. Glory expresses the truth that we have received every spiritual blessing in Jesus and that he has already borne everything that needed to be borne. He has already reconciled the whole world to God his Father, and he in fact has done what he said he
He said, “You may have peace in me. I want you to know this so that you may have peace in me because I have overcome the world.” And similarly in the business, when you come to four o’clock and you have 100 pounds sales at that moment, glory praise breaks out as you look up to the Father and you say, “Lord, I thank you that this is all I deserve myself but it is not what you have given me. I thank you that you have taken this day too and you have reconciled it in Christ. Lord Jesus, you have overcome the effects of this day and I thank you for that. I have confidence that you will express that in your own good time.”
That’s the glory praise. It’s never reacting to the world that has been crucified in Christ, but always responding to the truth that we ourselves have been raised up in Jesus and made to sit at the Father’s right hand out of God’s sheer generous grace. And it’s not because of our faith or because we’ve made a decision for Christ. It’s because from the foundation of the world God created us in his Son. From the foundation of the world his Son was crucified as the lamb slain, and from that early time the world was overcome by God. And all our crooked paths were made straight and our rough places were made plain. And that is what this means, this is how the glory praise shines out from us. So it’s really a very realistic life activity of ours that happens moment-by-moment as the day goes by. Let us pray.
Dear Father, we thank you that you have not put us here to make the best of it. You have not set some hurdles up here for us to leap over. You have not given us a competition or an obstacle race. Instead, you have laid out before us a smooth and a plain road that has been prepared by our blessed Savior. He has borne all that we deserve to have borne and has overcome it. He has given us back our lives unstained, unbent, free from twists, free from crooked corners. You have given us back our lives clean and clear and victorious with all the powers that you Lord Jesus yourself have. And above all we have the great liberty and freedom of taking everything that comes in this world with joy and delight because we know that it has already been dealt with by you in Calvary.
So Lord, we thank you for the chance to live out practical lives in victory every moment of every day. Now the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each one of us now and ever more.