“In Christ: Chosen, Redeemed, and Sealed” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
July 11, 2021

“In Christ: Chosen, Redeemed, and Sealed” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Picture in your mind a great treasure chest–a big, heavy box, with one of those curved lids on it, like you’d see in a pirate movie. The lid is closed, and there’s a large lock hanging on the front. Inside this treasure chest, so you’ve been told, are all sorts of wonderful things–gems, rubies, diamonds, gold and silver coins–a fortune beyond your wildest dreams. And all these valuable treasures are yours for the taking. The only thing is, you need the key. Without that key, the treasure chest will simply remain a locked box. But if you have the key, then all the wonderful contents inside are opened up for you.

Now with that picture in mind, we come to our text for today, the Epistle reading from Ephesians chapter 1. This grand passage is like a magnificent treasure chest. It contains within it all sorts of wonderful treasures that God has for us. St. Paul begins by saying that God has blessed us “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” And then he goes on to tell us what those blessings are–things like grace, redemption, forgiveness, salvation. These are great treasures indeed, but unless we have the key, they would all remain inaccessible to us, locked away in a box.

Think of Adam and Eve, after they fell into sin. Remember what happened when they were driven out of the Garden of Eden? Mighty angels with flaming swords stood guard at the entrance to the garden, to make sure that they could not get back in. Likewise, our sin keeps us from the great treasures that would otherwise be ours. We do not have access to them. By nature, we do not have a right relationship with God. We do not have the assurance that God is for us, no matter what. We do not have a life that can carry us beyond the grave. These are treasures of God that are off-limits to us. It’s like they’re in like a locked box, and we don’t have the key.

But the good news today is that the treasure chest of God is no longer a locked box. For along with the treasures, we have also been given the key that opens up all the treasures of God. In our text, there is one “key phrase” that stands out, and it is this: “in Christ.” This little phrase, “in Christ,” or “in him,” etc., St. Paul uses a total of ten times in just twelve verses. Right off the bat, he says that God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” “In Christ,” that’s the key. “In Christ” means “in connection with Christ,” “in union with him.” This vital connection with Christ is what gives us access to all of God’s blessings. Without that connection to Christ, the treasures remain locked in a box. With that key, though–being in Christ–everything is ours.

That “in Christ” connection is faith. Faith in Christ connects us to him, unites us with him, and so gives us access to what Christ has won for us. Faith comes by means of the gospel, through Word and Sacrament. The Holy Spirit works through the gospel to create and nourish faith in our hearts. And so we believe. We trust in Christ as our Savior. That’s what it means to be “in Christ.” Faith–the work of the Spirit through the gospel–faith is what completes the connection. It links us to Christ. By faith we are “in Christ.”

And so the message is clear: In Christ–in union with him, in connection with him–all the treasures and blessings of God are opened up for us. “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.”

Now that we have the key, let’s open the treasure chest and look at a few of those blessings. Today we’ll focus on three. In Christ we have been chosen, redeemed, and sealed.

First, in Christ we have been chosen. Our text continues: “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

Have you ever tried out for an athletic team or for a part in a play? You ended up being either chosen or not chosen. And in that kind of a situation, being chosen or not chosen depended on your abilities, on how well you performed. Well, here in our text, we’re told that we have been chosen by God. Only in this situation, our being chosen did not depend on us. God did not choose us on the basis of our abilities, on how well we performed–or even on how well we would perform. No, if that were the case, we never would have been chosen. Our total inability to please God, according to our sinful nature, would always keep us from being chosen. Even as Christians, our works are still marred by sin and would be unacceptable to God, were it not for his forgiveness in Christ. No, it’s not because of anything in us that God chose us. Rather, as our text says, “he chose us in him,” that is, in Christ. This choosing that God does is totally by grace. It’s a gift freely given, undeserved, based solely on the merits of Christ. In theology this is what’s called “the doctrine of election,” election by grace–that God elected us, he chose us, ahead of time to be his own and that it is totally by grace, his free grace in Christ.

God did choose us ahead of time, before time began. “Before the foundation of the world” this choosing took place. God’s plan from eternity was to save you through Christ. That’s why you can rest secure now, knowing that your salvation is entirely God’s doing, from beginning to end. If it were up to you and me–if it depended on how fervent I was when I made my “decision for Jesus”–then I could never be sure. I would always be in doubt as to whether I did it right or if I believed strongly enough. But if it is all God’s work–and it is–then there’s no doubt about it. It’s a sure thing. Remember what Jesus said: “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Take comfort in the fact that, in Christ, God chose you to be his own before the foundation of the world.

The second treasure we see is that in Christ we have been redeemed. Paul writes: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” “In him we have redemption.” The word “redemption” means release, a being set free, by means of a payment, a price that is paid. Release by means of payment. In the ancient world, the word “redemption” was used to refer to a slave or a prisoner of war being ransomed, set free, by means of a price being paid. So here we have both ideas: the release from bondage and the payment of a price. “In him we have redemption,” it says. And first it states the price, “through his blood,” and then the release, “the forgiveness of our trespasses.” We have been set free. Our sins have been forgiven, removed from us. And this release has come at a cost: “through his blood.” Jesus paid the price that sets us free when he poured out his blood on the cross.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” As we say in the catechism: “who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.” Yes, through the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, you have been redeemed.

First, in Christ you have been chosen. Second, in Christ, you have been redeemed. Now third, in Christ you have been sealed: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” You were sealed, that is, you were marked with a seal. In the old days a seal was used to mark something as belonging to a certain person. The owner would press his signet ring into wax to make the seal. It was an identifying mark, indicating ownership. Here we are told that in Christ we have been sealed. You were “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” This is baptismal language. And it applies to you. For in your baptism, you had placed upon you the name of the one to whom you belong, “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In baptism, you received the sign of the holy cross, to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. And you were sealed with the Holy Spirit, who now is at work in you to strengthen your faith in Christ.

The Holy Spirit, given us in baptism, is also called “the guarantee of our inheritance.” The image here is of a down payment, an earnest that guarantees that the rest is on its way. The presence of the Spirit in our lives here and now is a deposit, a down payment, that assures us we will indeed receive the whole amount, the full amount of our inheritance. This glorious inheritance is waiting for us in heaven: eternal life in the kingdom of God’s glory.

So today thank God that you are part of the “in” crowd–the “in Christ” crowd! In Christ you have been chosen, redeemed, and sealed. Before the foundation of the world, God chose you to be his own. At a certain point in history, Jesus Christ redeemed you by his blood, giving you the forgiveness of your trespasses. And in your own lifetime, in your baptism, you have been sealed with the Spirit, marking you as belonging to God and guaranteeing your inheritance in heaven. All these blessings, all these treasures, are yours “in Christ,” the key who is himself the treasure. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the treasure chest is open. Look and see the treasures you have been given: In Christ, you have been chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Published in: on July 10, 2021 at 12:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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