I’ve mentioned this many times over the years, but one of the defining mantras of our world today is this idea that nobody’s perfect. And in many ways, it’s a very good thing that most people believe that to be true. It would be a very scary world if we all believed that we were all perfect, even though we aren’t, and even though that’s another one of our world’s mantras, because if we actually believed that, we would all boldly sin in whatever ways we wanted, because we believed we could do no wrong.
There are many Christians who believe that once you become a Christian, you don’t sin anymore. What a ridiculous theology! I mean, certainly that’s the goal. We don’t want to sin. But Paul confessed to wrestling with evil even after being a believer for many years. He wrote in Romans 7:
For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. (Romans 7:18-19)
So Paul praised God that his salvation didn’t depend on his own efforts to remain sinless, as he wrote at the end of that chapter:
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25a)
So it’s actually a good thing that we all know that we’re not perfect, because then we can give all the glory to God for saving us. And yet, sometimes we can use it as an excuse. Out of laziness or just plain hopelessness, we can shrink back from doing the good we know we ought to do, because we say, “Eh, nobody’s perfect.”
Maybe many times in life, you’ve felt the weight of your own imperfection, and you’ve felt powerless to change, so rather than seeking to change, you’ve resigned yourself to hopelessness, ineffectiveness, and discontentment in your daily life.
But God calls us to do good things, and part of the good news is that God gives us His Holy Spirit so that we rise up and be holy and blameless, not being content to remain in our sin, not being content with our imperfection, but following Jesus, rejoicing in Him, and striving to be like Him as we rest in what He did for us.
So how do we do that? How do we go from knowing that we’re very much imperfect, even sinful to the core, to being blameless in the way that we live and work to the glory of God?
For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. (Ephesians 1:4)
Lord Jesus, You are truly holy and blameless. And even though we know we’ve all fallen short of that standard, You forgive us, and by Your Holy Spirit empower us to begin to be holy and blameless. Strengthen us when we fail, and help us to glorify You in following You in Your holiness. In Your name, Amen.
It seems like there’s always a lot of controversy about the show called The Chosen.
If you haven’t heard about the show, The Chosen is about the ministry of Jesus and His disciples when He walked on the earth. It’s had three seasons so far, with a fourth season of the show scheduled to come out in February. And even though the show definitely isn’t perfect, I really like The Chosen, but it seems like there are constantly more and more complaints from Christians about the show.
Have you noticed that? Some Christians think the show takes too much creative freedom, and I can see why they would say that. It definitely imagines many things that aren’t explicitly stated in the Bible. Some Christians say it’s just inaccurate, and I’ve definitely noticed many times when the show has strayed from the plain reading of Scripture. Depending on who you ask, some Christians think the show is influenced too much by Catholics, or by Mormons, or even by secularism, and I honestly think those criticisms are simply made by people just looking for ways to complain. Because while the show definitely needs to be watched with discernment, I think it’s one of the best shows about Jesus I’ve ever seen! So I encourage you to watch the show, and read your Bible. Definitely don’t trust the show; trust the Bible, but be encouraged by The Chosen to dive deeper into the Bible and into your faith in Jesus.
Anyway, I say all that just to bring up the question of who are “the chosen”? Some people say that only Israel is chosen, and that we’re chosen only as we also are grafted into the family of Israel, and I think that’s true. Others will say that only those who expressly place their faith in Jesus are chosen, so that even Israel needs to receive the Messiah in order to be saved, and I think that’s also true.
When Paul wrote at the beginning of verse 4 that “he chose us,” certainly the “us” that Paul was referring to included himself and all of the other Christians alive at the time, but, by extension, I think we intuitively and correctly know that “us” also includes us, and includes all who would eventually place their faith in Jesus. We who believe in Jesus as our Savior and Lord are the chosen.
So in this passage, we’re going to see Who chose us, when He chose us, and what the end result is of being chosen by Him.
First, we see Who chose us. At the beginning of verse 4, we read “for he chose us in him.” So we should ask, “Who is the ‘he,’ and who is the ‘him’?” And if we back up just one verse, we find out who it’s referring to. We read in verse 3:
Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)
So it’s God the Father who chose us in Christ. As we saw a couple weeks ago, every blessing that we have, we have in Christ. Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:16:
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16a)
The Bible indicates that before we did anything to demonstrate any love we have for God, God demonstrated His love for us. It was God’s choice, through Jesus’s death on the cross, to save us. So it’s important to remember both God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ when we think about who we are as the chosen.
I find that a lot of people aren’t opposed to the idea of God, even a good God who loves to bless people, but they are totally opposed to the idea of a God who requires a sacrifice for their sin, as if their sin is so offensive that it couldn’t just be forgiven without such a bloody, horrific sacrifice.
But God hates sin. He hates evil. And the Bible even goes so far as to say that God hates all evildoers. That’s us. We’ve all offended God because we’ve disobeyed His commands, and therefore we all rightly deserve death and hell.
But God also loves us. In fact, He loved us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die in our place. And through Jesus, all of our sins are forgiven. And because of the doctrine of the Trinity, we understand that this was not the heartless act of an unloving Father, ruthlessly showing wrath to His Son in our place, but rather the selfless act of God Himself dying for our sins.
It would be like if a judge passed a sentence on a man for breaking the law, but then stepped down from the judge’s bench so that he could pay the man’s fine himself. That’s what God did for us. Because we sinned against God, we all rightly deserve judgment. And because God is the just judge, He passes judgment on us. But then He came down from heaven in the form of a man, Jesus, and took the penalty of our sin upon Himself, dying on the cross.
And it was through this loving action that God in Christ showed His love toward us sinners, rescuing us from our condemnation.
Now, Jesus did that for us nearly 2,000 years ago, and yet our verse this morning seems to indicate that God made up His mind to do that for us long before that. It goes on to say when we were chosen. And this is crazy. It says: “for he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world.”
Isn’t that crazy? Before we made a decision to follow Christ, before Jesus died on the cross, before we sinned, and before the world was even made, God chose to save us in Christ.
Jesus dying on the cross was not plan B. It’s not like God made this world and then we messed it up, so God had to figure out how to fix things. No! Jesus dying on the cross was the plan from the very beginning. God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world!
Before we sinned or even existed, God had a plan to rescue us. Knowing that we would rebel against Him and offend Him, knowing that we would all rightly deserve hell, knowing that He Himself would need to make the first move because we were dead in our sin, God still wanted to create us, and save us, and allow us to know Him so that we would experience His love for us.
It’s like how every parent thinks about having children. Before we even have them, we know that they’re not going to be perfect. We know that they’re going to cause us headaches, and heartaches, and we know that we’d even give our lives for our children. And yet, we still love to love them.
So why would God do this? God didn’t have to make us at all. Why did God choose to choose us, even before the foundation of the world? We read at the end of verse 4: “to be holy and blameless in love before him.”
As parents, we don’t have the power to make our children perfect, because we’re imperfect ourselves. But God has that power.
God chose to save us not just so that we would be forgiven, but so that we would be transformed. In the beginning, God created us in His image. But then Adam and Eve sinned, and in time, we all sinned, so that the image of God in us is often very difficult to see. But in Christ, God restored and is restoring His image in us so that we are holy and blameless in love before Him.
As with many things in the Christian life, there’s an “already” and “not yet” when it comes to being holy and blameless. We have already been made holy and blameless in the sense that God sees us as such. God declares us holy and blameless, because when Jesus died for our sin, all of our sins have been washed away. We have been made perfect.
But we’re also called to be holy and blameless in the way that we live. And we all know, or should know, that we have not yet perfectly walked in this.
So what does that look like?
The word “holy” in this verse is actually the same word that we saw a few weeks back when we saw the word “saints” in verse 1. It’s the word hagios, which means sacred. To be holy is to be a saint. It’s to be set apart. It’s to live according to a purpose: God’s purpose.
Talking about this word in his Daily Study Bible, William Barclay wrote:
It should be possible to identify the Christian in the school, the shop, the factory, the office, the hospital ward, everywhere. And the difference is that the Christian behaves not as any human laws compel him to do but as the law of Christ compels him to do. A Christian teacher is out to satisfy the regulations not of an education authority or a headmaster but of Christ; and that will almost certainly mean a very different attitude to the pupils under his charge. A Christian workman is out to satisfy the regulations not of a Trades Union but of Jesus Christ; and that will certainly make him a very different kind of workman, which may well end in him being so different that he is expelled from his union. A Christian doctor will never regard a sick person as a case, but always as a person. A Christian employer will be concerned with far more than the payment of minimum wages or the creation of minimum working conditions. It is the simple fact of the matter that if enough Christians became hagios, different, they would revolutionize society. -William Barclay, Daily Study Bible
God calls us to be holy! And that’s going to stand out in contrast to the very unholy world that we live in.
Similarly, Paul writes that we are called to be blameless.
The Greek word amomos refers to being absolutely faultless, or unblameable. In Christ, because of Christ’s righteousness, we are completely without blame. God forgives all our sin in Christ.
But God also calls us to live unblameable lives in the world. As holy saints, God calls us to live blameless before others, dealing with others with fairness and compassion, so that no one can accuse us of anything.
William Barclay wrote about this word:
This word does not mean that the Christian must be respectable; it means that he must be perfect. To say that the Christian must be amomos) is to banish contentment with second bests; it means that the Christian standard is nothing less than perfection. -William Barclay, Daily Study Bible
That’s the ideal for Christians. We ought to make glorifying God with excellence our priority in everything. And we can only live this way if we’re resting in Christ, and walking in His love. As Paul wrote, once again, in verse 4:
He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before Him. (Ephesians 1:4)
That means that as we walk in such a way as to please God, we always have an awareness of His loving presence upon our lives. We walk in love, His love, and we walk before Him, in His presence. Because we know that our relationship with God relies not on our faithfulness to Him, but on His loving actions in Christ toward us, we can be confident that what God has started in us, He will carry on to completion in Christ Jesus. Because God chose us, we can be sure that we cannot lose what He has given to us.
As we’ll see later in Ephesians chapter 2, salvation is a gift. And God doesn’t take back His gifts.
Imagine a child getting an expensive bicycle for his birthday, but then the parents taking it back because they needed the money. God would never do that!
Or imagine getting a gift from your spouse, and they tell you that you can only keep it if you use it everyday. God would never do that!
God gives us the gift of salvation, not because we’re awesome, but because He’s awesome. And He’s not going to stop being awesome, and He’s not going to suddenly expect us to earn what we could never earn to begin with. God blesses us and chooses us out of the abundance of His love for us, because God is love.
So we’ve talking a bit about this term “chosen” this morning, and for many Christians, this terms deals with concepts such as predestination, and Calvinism versus Arminianism, and whether there’s such a thing as free will, and we’re going to talk about some of that next week, but for now, I simply want to point out that when Paul talks about being chosen in this passage, it’s all about being thankful for what God our Father has done for us, so that we then begin to live in a way that glorifies Him.
And it’s not to pay God back for what He’s done for us, and it’s not to attempt to keep what God gave to us, as if it’s up to us. It’s simply rejoicing in God’s good gift.
You see, we’re not called to be the frozen chosen. God doesn’t save us so that we can huddle together and show little to no fervor in displaying our faith. No! God calls us to be holy and blameless. He calls us to be active in our faith. He calls us to love our neighbor and share the gospel, and invite the lost to see that they’re found in Christ.
It’s funny how the word “salty” has changed. Young people say that someone is salty when they’re a negative person, or at the very least acting negatively or upset. But the Bible uses the word “salty” as a good thing. Jesus says that if you’re a believer, you’re the salt of the earth!
Salt was such an important thing in the first century. It preserved food. It added flavor. It was used as a medicine to reduce inflammation. It was used as a form of currency; since everyone needed it, it was easy to trade with, and some people even used it to pay their taxes! In fact, the Romans soldiers were even paid, in part, with salt, which is where we get the word “salary” today.
Of course, we all know that the oceans are salty, but did you know that there are about 70 quintillion kilograms of salt in the ocean?
If you were to take all of the salt from the ocean, and spread it out on the land, it would cover all the land of the earth 500 feet deep! And yet the Bible says that WE are the salt of the earth! Christians, make it your aim to cover the whole earth with the goodness of God, healing the wounds of the hurting, adding the flavor of God’s love to all of your interactions with others, and even seeking to bury the planet under 500 feet of God’s love and grace, so that it would be undeniable that God is good and blesses the whole world in Christ.