GOD’S PLAN OF SALVATION – II
by Bob Wheeler
Christ our Redeemer
As we saw in our last blog post God is to be praised because He “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3; NKJV), and we saw how that our salvation was rooted in a plan that God had even before He created the world. But a plan is nothing but an unfulfilled wish unless something happens to bring it to fruition.
It was Jesus who made it happen. God “made us accepted in the Beloved [i.e. Christ]” (v. 6). “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (v. 7). “Redemption” involves the payment of a price which has the effect of securing the release of prisoner or slave. In our case the problem was our sin which had alienated us from God. We by nature are sinners and we routinely break God’s law. As a result we are under God’s wrath and condemnation. To remedy that problem Christ came into the world and shed His own blood on the cross. In that way He paid the ransom and set us free from the penalty of our sins. And thus we receive “the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (v. 7).
To the forgiven sinner this is the most wonderful blessing of all. To know oneself to be a sinner, to have inexcusably broken God’s law, is to feel the despair of divine judgment. And then to have that sin forgiven, to be treated as though you had not sinned at all, is a relief beyond all measure. I was a sinner hopelessly lost; and yet now I am forgiven! That is grace indeed.
“Guilty, vile and helpless, we;
Spotless Lamb of God was he;
Full Atonement! Can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!”
Philip P. Bliss
But more than that our text tells us that “we have obtained an inheritance” (v. 11). An inheritance is something that you receive upon the death of the testator, the person who made the will. Paul doesn’t tell us here exactly what this inheritance is, but Peter describes “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Pet. 1:4). Here on earth we may not have much at all. But for the redeemed there is the prospect of eternal glory in the age to come. As Paul himself would say in another context, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).
For Paul when Christ came into the world it was even more than the accomplishment of redemption; it was the decisive turning point in human history. For Paul was preeminently the Apostle to the Gentiles; and in his letter to the Ephesians he was writing to a church that was largely made up of believers from Gentile backgrounds. What was striking about this is that prior to the coming of Christ God’s dealings with the human race were confined almost exclusively to one small nation, the nation of Israel. But now the offer of salvation has been extended to the entire human race. And so Paul could speak in this passage of God “having made know to us the mystery of His will . . . that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ . . .” (vv. 9,10). He goes on to explain in Chapter 3 that the “mystery’ which has now been revealed is that “the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).
Here we see God’s grace in full display. God’s grace and mercy would now extend to the darkest corners of the earth. Persons of every station and walk in life would be brought to Christ. And the church, the mystical body of Christ, would be made up of persons from every nation and language. To someone from a Jewish background prior to the time of Christ this was virtually inconceivable. It was an unprecedented display of God’s grace and love.
Here again Paul emphasizes that this is all a part of God’s eternal plan. It was all “according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself” (1:9), and we were “predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (v. 11). The text does not go into detail about how God can control events while preserving human responsibility, but it is nonetheless true that God is in control and achieves His purposes in history, and that includes our predestination unto salvation. We cannot claim any credit for ourselves for the blessing we receive – it is all of God’s unmerited favor. And it is also that “we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (v. 12).