March 19, 2017
Christian unity is based not on shared experiences but on the profound truth that God has redeemed a people for His own. Alistair Begg explains that only those who have been redeemed by Christ and belong to God as adopted sons and daughters know God as “Father.” Through the Lord Jesus, our infinite God has made Himself known to save sinful men and women. It is the Christian’s greatest privilege to say, “I am a child of God.”
Sermon Transcript: Print
I invite you to turn again to Ephesians 4, to the passage that was read for us by Justin. And our focus now, today, is on verse 6: “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
To you, our Father, we come in Jesus’ name, having sung to you our prayer and asking for the help of the Holy Spirit now, that we might understand and believe the Bible and live in the light of its truth. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Well, Paul’s statement, which begins in verse 4 and runs to the end of verse 6, has been our focus now for some time. We have been purposefully delayed in this, as Paul has issued an exhortation to the believers to whom he writes, first in Ephesus and now to all who are the recipients of this letter, in reading it. He’s urged them to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” They’re going to have to rely on the Spirit of God to enable them to be humble and gentle and patient. How much we need that, don’t we? And then he says this unity in the Spirit is built on a kind of sevenfold foundation, and we’ve come now to the last aspect of it.
This unity, we’ve tried to say in each of our studies, is not a natural unity. In other words, he’s not describing here a unity that is on the basis of opinion or of shared interests or of mutual feelings—the kind of unity that can be created in all kinds of contexts if people try hard enough. But rather, he’s talking about a supernatural unity—a unity that is known by those who, as you look down at the text, have God as their Father, who have one Lord and Savior, who are indwelt by the one Holy Spirit, and who, in essence, have discovered that this unity is in Christ.
That’s why it’s important always to keep context in view—to remind ourselves every so often of those to whom he writes. Right at the very beginning, at the top of his letter, as it were, he’s not addressing just everybody and anybody in Ephesus, but, as you will see from the first verse of the letter, he’s addressing his letter “to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.” I think we all know by now that when the New Testament uses that word saint, it’s not referring to an elite group of people who’ve tried to live their lives as good as they possibly can and then finally are called saints when they’ve died, but rather, it is a description of those who believe in the Lord Jesus—if you like, the ordinary believers who have been set apart by God for his purposes. And so it is to these people who are part of this “one body,” indwelt by this “one Spirit,” that he reminds them that there is “one God and Father of all.”
Now, we’ll save the second half of the verse for this evening. But for now, let’s just try and tackle “one God and Father of all,” and try and tackle it by asking and answering three questions. First of all: To whom does the “all” refer? To whom does the “all” refer? Secondly: How are we to understand “one God”? And thirdly: What does it mean to call God “Father”?
So, I’ll give you these in turn.
First of all: To what does the “all” refer? It’s an important question, because we have to determine whether he’s making a statement similar to what he makes when, in speaking to the intelligentsia in Athens, he reminds them that God is the creator of “the world and everything in it.” So is this reference, then, to all that God has made, to everything in the world? He’s already made reference to that in 3:9, if you look at it there: he “bring[s] … light for everyone … the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things.” So is this, when it says “one God and Father of all”—does he mean he’s the Father of all things, that he is the Father of all men by way of creation? Which, of course, is true. But is that what he’s saying here?
Well, the way we understand that is by context, once again. Paul is addressing himself very clearly to those who are in Christ. He is not, then, all of a sudden giving voice to a kind of expression of the universal brotherhood of man: he’s the “God and Father of all”—a bit like the folk songs of the ’60s. Nor is he espousing a kind of liberal perspective—the kind of perspective that is found here, there, and everywhere—where theologians have decided that they don’t like the idea that only those who are in Christ may be addressing God as Father in this way. And so they’ll tell people as they listen to the Bible being taught, “Don’t worry about anything, or what you believe, or who you are, or where you’re from, because after all, it says in the Bible that there is ‘one God,’ the ‘Father of all.’ And since you are part of the ‘all,’ therefore, he must redemptively be your Father.”
Well, I hope you know your Bible better by now, so that you can understand that that can’t be the case. Because the New Testament is making clear to us, and Paul specifically here, that God is our Father only in and through Christ. Only in and through Christ. And not everyone is in Christ. Okay? So, to know God redemptively is to know him in Christ. So if we are not in Christ by grace through faith, then we do not know God as our Father, redemptively, and therefore, we are not part of this “all.”
You say, “Well, that doesn’t seem very nice when we’re talking about unity in the Spirit. It sounds rather divisive to me.” Well, if I might say so reverently, take it up with the Lord Jesus. He is the one who made the distinction so very, very clear. And he did so not in order that he might exclude us but in order that he might call us to himself.
Now, Paul has made this clear all the way through. And I don’t want to work my way all back through it, but if you look, for example, at 2:11, where he says, “Remember that at one time…” “At one time.” And then again in verse 12: “Remember … you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated, … strangers to the covenants,” and so on. “That’s volume one,” he says. “That was your life. That described you. You were not in Christ.” Verse 13: “But now in Christ … you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of [Jesus] Christ.” So, volume one: “alienated” and outside of Christ. Volume two: “in Christ” and reconciled.
So let’s be very, very clear. Paul, when he writes in this way—“one God and Father of all”—is not discussing God’s relationship to the universe or to nature. He does that elsewhere, but he’s not doing it here. He is describing the relationship of the family of believers—those who come from both a far-off background as gentiles and those who come from a closer background as Jews. They have been “brought near,” he says in 2:18, “both having access in one Spirit to the Father. So you are no longer aliens and strangers, but you’re fellow citizens, you’re members of the household, you’re stones in the building.” You may recall when we went through all of that. In other words—and he says, “And it’s to you that I am writing this, calling you to unity. You who have come to bow beneath the one Lord, you who are indwelt by the one Spirit, you who have one hope, one calling, you folks are those who know that there is one God and Father of all.”
Now, Paul drives home the reality of what it means to be in Christ in all of his letters by using various pictures and metaphors. I want to reference just one with you in the hope that it will be of help. If you go back to 1:7, he says, “In him”—that is, again, in Jesus—“we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight,” and so on. He can’t hardly stop himself! It just goes on and on and on. It gets higher and higher and more wonderful.
Now, just think about this for a minute. You meet the average man in the street and say, “Do you know God?” He says, “Well, I’m not sure I do.” You meet somebody in the street; you say to him or to her, “Do you know God?” And he says to you, “Oh, yes. I know God. He’s my Father. In Jesus, I have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of my sins. He has forgiven my trespasses. He’s done it because of the riches of his grace which he has lavished upon me in Christ Jesus.” You say, “Well, I think you do know God. I guess you know God the way in which God has revealed himself.” So you see this idea of “There’s one God and Father of all; therefore, we all know God; therefore, we’re all fine; therefore, there’s nothing to worry about” is not what Paul is saying here. It’s not what the New Testament says. It’s very important we understand that.
Now, this redemption picture is a vital picture. Because what it teaches us… And the picture is in the Old Testament, of redemption—remember, the shedding of blood, bringing men and women out of the bondage of Egypt. That is used as a picture in the New Testament of what it means to be in Christ, being brought out from the bondage of our own rebellious hearts and sin. And by his death on the cross, Christ has purchased us back for God and has done so at the cost of his own blood. That’s the message.
When I was a boy in Scotland, our Sunday school teachers tried their best to teach us these kind of things—teach us about redemption. And I’ve never forgotten the attempt of one who told the story of a young boy who took a knife, took a piece of wood, and carved for himself a boat. He made it into a little sailboat. And he was proud of his boat. He loved his boat. He took it with him everywhere. And he put it on the river and watched it sail. And one day, it just sailed away completely and never came back, and he lost it. And from that time on, everywhere he went, he would look for it: “I wonder where my boat is. I made that boat. I loved that boat. I lost that boat. I want that boat.” And one day, as he’s walking in the street, he looks in the front window of a secondhand shop, and he sees his boat. “Oh!” he says. In he goes and says to the man, “That’s my boat in the front window. I want it back.” The man said, “It’ll cost you to have it back.” “Oh, but,” he said, “it’s my boat.” He said, “But it will still cost you.” So he paid the money, and he took the boat, and he walked out. And he kept the boat beside him, and he said to his boat, “Little boat, you are twice mine. I made you. I lost you. I searched for you. I found you. I bought you. You’re twice mine.”
Now, the analogy breaks down, doesn’t it? Because you’ve got nothing there of the bondage and so on. But nevertheless, I never forgot it. And it might be helpful to you, or to one of your children and your grandchildren. What does it mean that we have been redeemed? It means that in Christ, he is no longer simply a Father by creation, in a genetic sense, but he looks upon us and takes us to himself, and he says, “You are twice mine. I made you. I sought you. I bought you. You’re mine.” Now, this, you see, is what Paul is driving home here: “one God and Father of all.”
Second question: How are we then to understand “one God”? “One God and Father of all.” Well, we understand it humbly, hopefully properly, biblically. But that actually doesn’t really answer anything; it just gives us the attitude of approach. The Westminster Confession, part 1 of section 2: “There is [only] one … living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection.” There is only one living and true God. There is only one living and true God.
When Paul writes to the Thessalonians, he says to them, “I’m able to encourage you, because your faith has gone out. You’re like a sounding board, and the word has gone out concerning your faith, and people in your community are aware of the fact that you have turned to God from idols to serve the living and the true God.” It wasn’t that before, they were not into gods. It wasn’t that before, they were irreligious, they denied spirituality. No, their minds were filled with all kinds of notions. But when the light of the gospel shone into their hearts—showed them themselves, showed them Jesus as their Savior, brought them to the place whereby they were included in his family. And so they’re no longer chasing after all these other gods. Why? Because they have been embraced by the living and the true God. Paul does the same thing when he writes to the Corinthians, and they’re talking there about food offered to idols, in chapter 8. And he distinguishes, in that context, between the many “so-called gods” and the “one God” and “Father.”
Now, this rung true, for sure, in the context of Ephesus. After all, if you remember, one of the great brouhahas in Ephesus was where the apostles and his friends, they were caught up in this vast crowd that was shouting, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” So the Ephesians every day were aware of the fact that there were all kinds of deities that were open to them. There were gods that you could consult for this, gods you could consult for that, and so on. Findlay, the old commentator, says that they had a “swarm of motley deities,” that they had access to a “vulgar pantheon” of worthless idols that had unsettled them and left them unsatisfied. That’s one of the great tests, you see, of the reality of what it means to know God. There are all kinds of ways that we can embrace ideas and concepts of divinity.
“Ah, but,” you say, “Ephesus is a long way from here, and we are not going to go out this morning and be confronted immediately by all this kind of idolatry and this ‘motley pantheon’ and so on.” Well, don’t speak too soon. Because there is actually a significant continuity between first-century Ephesus and twenty-first-century Western culture.
From the second half of the twentieth century on, if not from before—in fact, from before, but at least from there, from about the 1950s—what we have witnessed is a vast, increased secularization of our culture, both in the British Isles and also now here in the United States of America. It would be hard to argue against it. But in the context of that, at the same time and parallel to it, we discover an increased interest in spirituality. It’s not difficult to have a conversation with somebody. Previously, our next-door neighbors might say—mine, from a scientific background, who’s now gone; bless his memory—but he would say, “Well, I’m a scientific rationalist. I don’t have any place for the kind of thing you’re talking about.” But before he died, he did. Because his scientific rationalism wasn’t an idol. It was not a deity that actually answered any of his questions. It just unsettled him and left him unsatisfied.
So, what do we find? That by nature, to quote Bob Dylan, “You gotta serve somebody. It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” So we construct spiritualities that fit us, tailor-made to our own hopes and aspirations, according to our own intuition about the meaning of life. And part of the framework of that, at least as I encounter it, is that in the embracing of the idea of the multi and the many, there is a wholesale rejection of the idea of the one—so that the idea of “There is one God and Father of all,” people say, “Well, that cannot be the case.” Why not? “Well, because we know that there are so many different possibilities,” and so on.
Well, read your Bible, and what do you discover? The Hebrews start out, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord [your] God, the Lord is one,” and “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” What do they do? They say, “Well, I don’t really want to do that. They’ve got a much more exciting program over here. They got a golden calf. There’s dancing. There’s all kinds of stuff. And what about these other pagan deities? What about these Baals? What about these Asherah poles?” And suddenly, those who know better begin to pursue false deities. And the role of the psalmist and the role of the prophet is to say to them, “Come on, now! You know better than that. You know that there is only one true and living God. Why would you chase after all of these substitute gods? Why would you try and bow down before them?” “Choose this day whom you will serve.” “If Baal is God, then serve him. But if God is God, then serve him.” “Do you want to serve the gods of our fathers on the other side, or do you want to serve the living and the true God?” Fast-forward into the New Testament, and what is Paul doing? He’s doing the exact same thing! He’s calling the people of his day to the one true and living God.
Now, to declare this—and I don’t mean in an unkind way, but just in an honest way—to declare with Paul that there is one true and living God (face up to this we must) is to reject the cultural spirituality of our time—a spirituality which is increasingly pantheistic; a spirituality which confuses God with nature, which contains God within nature. We could illustrate it all over the place. There’s no need to. I think we understand this fairly well. But when we declare with Paul here that there is “one God and Father of all”; that he is upholding the universe that he created; that he is omnipresent, that he is everywhere; that he pervades every corner of life and that he is, at the same time, tripersonal, then we realize that when people want to talk about God and knowing God and who God is, there’s a great need for us to be willing to take a stand.
Now, it happens all the time. I was in conversation this past week with a group of people around a table from different religious backgrounds. You know the temptation to just go with the flow, just sort of go with the vague spirituality? Because you know what happens if you don’t: they may remove you from the restaurant. They may remove you from the circle of friendship. They may simply say, “The fellow’s a clown. I always knew he was, and now we know. We’ve got firsthand evidence.”
But you see, I’m sitting with my Jewish friends. And I say to them, “You say that Jesus is not the Messiah. I say he is. We can’t both be right. You left at halftime in a two-act play, and that’s why you don’t know who your Messiah is. If you would wait for the second half, you would understand all the lines that were pointing forward.” Pause. “Well, we all know God in our own way. After all, there’s only one God. He’s the God.” Now, what are you going to do at that point? Are you going to go, “No, he’s not; I just told you”? Or are you just going to have to say, “Father, you’re the only one that opens blind eyes and softens hard hearts”? But the illustrations abound in the attempts of those, even from that context, who are struggling with this very question.
My favorite lyricist of the twentieth century is? Paul Simon. Thank you. I just want to make sure that people say, “I learned something at Parkside: his favorite lyricist is Paul Simon.” So, I managed to finish this book this week—a book—and I’m studying this passage, and I’m reading this book. I’m not looking for illustrations. I don’t look for illustrations. Illustrations come and find me.
This is 1980. To give you context, “Bridge over Troubled Water” was at its zenith in 1970. So it’s ten years after “Bridge over Troubled Water.” Paul Simon is in a funk. He can’t write anything. He’s convinced himself that he can’t do it anymore. He’s done. He’s finished. So he gets on a plane, he flies to Los Angeles, gets a rental car, and he drives to UCLA, to the office of a psychiatrist who’s been recommended to him called Dr. Gorney—described here as “a lanky, gentle-natured man in his midfifties.” He sits down with the doctor, and the doctor gives him the first question: “Why had he come to see him?” “Why’d you come to see me?”
It didn’t take Paul long to answer: it was all he’d been able to think about for weeks. His problem was that his spirit was so very detached from his circumstances. He was young, healthy, talented, rich, and famous. He was free to do whatever he wanted, nearly all the time. So why was he still so very unhappy? And why couldn’t he do the one thing that gave him the most pleasure?
That’s 1980. You say, “Well, did he help him?” Momentarily.
Fast-forward another nine years. He and Carrie Fisher are hanging by a thread in their marriage, for all kinds of reasons we don’t need to go into. They decide perhaps a trip down the Amazon will help them. Off they go down the Amazon. And as he’s talking to the people on the boat, some of the workers on the boat explain to him that they’re going “through a village” that is “close to a … spiritual healer,” who, apparently, in Portuguese is known as a brujo, b-r-u-j-o. I need to check pronunciation. And since Simon realizes that they’re going to be within the proximity of this brujo’s house, he wants off the boat to go there. He wants to go find this spiritual healer. So
[he] and Carrie set out in the late afternoon and arrive to find the doctor tending to other clients with his tribal cures, applying herbs, speaking incantations, praying to the gods in the air and in the bush. After dark, the brujo began an ayahuasca ceremony, a spiritual cleansing ritual that begins with a long icaros, a song-like incantation meant to enhance the visionary effect of the thick, brown tea he was brewing from a combination of caapi vine and the leaves of psychedelic plants known only to the brujo. Once they’d consumed the tea, the doctor, speaking through an interpreter, prepared his patients for the visionary experience they would encounter that evening. “The anaconda [snake] will appear to you in a vision,” he said. “But don’t be alarmed—it’s a vision.” The appearance of the snake would herald hours of seeing into their deepest spiritual selves, and communing with a higher power, a divine, all-knowing presence that would reveal the essence of their souls and uncover where they[’d] been broken and perhaps, if they were lucky, how they might dispel the bad energy that had fixed itself to their spirits.
And a Jewish carpenter walks into the community, and he says, “Come to me, all [you] who [are weary] and … heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [And] take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle, and [I’m] lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” “Oh, no. I couldn’t possibly do that.” But you’ll trudge through the Amazon jungle to drink a really bad cup of tea and look to a snake to reveal your deepest spiritual longings? No. Hopefully, before he dies, I finally get to talk to this dear little guy that I love so much. It broke my heart to read this.
I don’t use it as an illustration to, you know, like, “Pfft! Look at Paul Simon.” He’s just representative of so many in our culture.
This “one God and Father” is also, says Paul, tripersonal. Because if we’ve been reading this—and even as we’ve been singing! We’ve sung about
O Father, who sustained them,
O Spirit, who inspired,
Savior, whose love constrained them.
That sounds a bit like three gods, doesn’t it? But of course, it isn’t. And so what Paul is doing here is he’s actually underscoring what we find elsewhere in the Bible—namely, that this God, this one God, is three-in-one. He is, as we’ve sung in our opening hymn, holy and thricefold.
We read from the Nicene Creed. It doesn’t quite close the gap on what is a profound mystery, but it is also a profound truth. So we have to wait until the fifth century, for the Athanasian Creed, where those fellows sit down and say, “We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got this Trinity thing completely defined and declared.” And so they write it in credal form. Let me give you just a bit of it:
We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is all one. … So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet there are not three Gods but one.
How are you doing with that? Yeah. I read it about four times, and I said, “Okay. That was nice work.” It is at best a formulation. It’s not an explanation, is it? How do you explain it? So I went looking for other people to explain it to me. And I go to my friends—you know, the people who’ve died that I still respect, like Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I go to Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and what does he say? “Do not try to understand this. No one can understand this. It is ultimately a mystery.” I said, “Good! So I’ll just leave it there.” And so may you.
Listen: the gospel is simple enough for a child to understand and embrace, but the gospel is not simplistic. The truth of the gospel is profound. You can search for your whole life, and you will be standing, as it were, on the shoreline, watching the waves come and go, but you will never see beyond the horizon. “Now we see through a glass, darkly”; one day we will see “face to face.” Anyone who “come[s] to God must believe that he is, … that he is [the] rewarder of [those who] diligently seek him.” Therefore, we will not play around with vague spiritualities. We will have to say what the Bible says, at the risk of offense, at the possibility of the loss of friendship.
Jesus himself, when confronted by his fellow Jews in John chapter 8, who came to him to say to him, “We have one Father [forever]—[namely,] God”—remember what Jesus said to them? He said, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came [out] from God,” speaking to the fact that he has come from God, from eternity. And they then, of course, reviled him for this. And Jesus said to them, “Well, let me tell you just as clearly as I can: you do have a father, and your father is the devil.” Well, that was very nice, wasn’t it? Why did Jesus say that? To condemn? No. To confront the reality that when we say there is “one God and Father of all,” he is the Father of all who are in Christ.
That brings me to my final question. I’ll just give you the outline for it. What do we actually mean to call God “Father”? To call God “Father.” I’ve already alluded to the fact that the average person does not call God “Father.” You can meet people who will talk about God in an intellectual way. They will speak of him and so on. It is distinctly Christian to call God “Father.”
In fact, Jim Packer, in his book Knowing God, says that it distinguishes, if you like, the Jew from the Christian. “‘Father,’” he says, “is the Christian name for God.” It’s “the Christian name for God.” He’s begun by saying, “In love he predestined us for adoption … as [his] sons.” This is where he started from. So when he gets to “There is … one God and Father of all,” he hasn’t gone off on a tangent. He says, “Let me remind you of what I said at the beginning of my letter: that in love, the Father predestined you to be adopted as his sons. And this is what you actually are.” It’s not that he’s like a father. He is our Father. In Thessalonians, Paul says, you know, that “God was gentle with you, like a mother with her children.” That’s a metaphor. This is not a metaphor. This is a reality. John says, “What kind of love [is this] the Father has given … us, that we should be called [his] children …; and so we are.”
In Galatians, Paul puts it wonderfully. He says,
When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem [here we are at redemption again] those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave [which is what you once were], but a son, and if a son, then an heir [of] God.
I mean, it’s fantastic! God sends his Son as a Savior. He sends his Spirit to indwell our hearts, creating within us a whole different understanding of who God is. Think of this: Abba, translated “dearest Father,” where do we find it? On the lips of Jesus in Gethsemane: “Dearest Father, if you are willing, could you take this cup from me?”
“Now,” he says, “God has sent his Son in order to adopt you, in order to put his Spirit within you, enabling you not just to go out into the street and say, ‘I know there is a God,’ or ‘I know that God is this,’ but on your knees, in your bedroom, to say, ‘Dearest Father!’” That’s how you know, you see. It’s not some great expression when the band is playing and everybody’s marching and “Abba! Father!” No, I don’t think it’s that at all. I think it’s often in the same place Jesus was. In the prospect of this, in my fear, in my failure, in my disappointment, I kneel down on the floor and I say, “Dearest Father…” What is that? It’s surely an indication of the truth of what he’s saying here: that he has sent his Son to save you and he has sent his Spirit to indwell you in order that you might know that this is what is true of you.
You see, some of us have had fathers who let us down. Some of us, when we think about fathers, we only think disappointment. We think pain. We think all kinds of things. We need to disavow that when we view God. Because God is not an approximation of our earthly fathers. We have a heavenly Father. He’ll never renege on his love. He’ll never leave us in the dark. He’ll never forget our birthdays. He will never ditch us, even when everyone else has turned their backs on us. He’s promised this. He’s promised it! And some of us have tested his patience to limits beyond extreme, and yet still he comes, again and again, calling out, “My son. My son. I predestined to adopt you into my family. I made you. I lost you. I sought you. I bought you.”
Oh, you see, this is the thing that is the great thing. The great thing about all of our lives is not the things we think is great. There is nothing greater—nothing greater that can be known, nothing greater that can be said—than this: that God is my Father, and I am his child; that I can say, “I belong to him. I am loved by him. I can come to him. I can run to him. I can unburden myself to him.”
Jim Packer says make it a plan in your life, every morning and every night and when you’re waiting for the bus, to say, “I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Saviour is my brother; every Christian is my brother [and sister] too.”
And this “one God and Father of all” is “over all,” and he’s “through all,” and he’s “in all.” But we don’t have time for that. That’s for this evening.
There’s a lovely picture in Hebrews chapter 2, where the writer of Hebrews, taking the words of the Old Testament and ascribing them to Jesus, in whom they are fulfilled, pictures Jesus coming to the Father and saying, “Behold, I and the children [you have] given me.” “Behold, I and the children.” It’s an amazing picture of the Lord Jesus Christ entering, as it were, into the presence of the Father and saying, “Come on, kids. Come on. We’re all together here.”
You see, to be included in that day is to bow before him now. To refuse to bow before him now is to face the prospect of being excluded on that day. That’s why Jesus is so warm and gracious in his entreaties.
Now, Father, we thank you that your Word is as we proclaimed it to be: alive. It’s like a two-edged sword; it cuts to the heart of things. We’re not interested in a man’s ability to talk about it, but we are deeply concerned that we might hear your voice, and not simply in a way that increases our understanding but one that actually brings about a life-changing encounter with you. We pray, gracious God, that we might just exult in the truth of your Word: that you loved the world so much that you gave your only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.
So, may the grace of the Lord Jesus draw us to him. May the love of the Lord Jesus fill us with a renewed zeal to live for him. May the peace of the Lord Jesus guard and keep our hearts and minds, now and until Christ comes or calls us to himself, and then forevermore. Amen.
 Ephesians 4:3 (ESV).
 See Ephesians 4:2.
 Ephesians 1:1 (ESV).
 Ephesians 4:4 (ESV).
 Acts 17:24 (ESV).
 Ephesians 2:18–22 (paraphrased).
 1 Thessalonians 1:9 (paraphrased).
 1 Corinthians 8:5–6 (ESV).
 Acts 19:34 (ESV).
 G. G. Findlay, The Epistle to the Ephesians, The Expositor’s Bible (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1898), 226.
 Bob Dylan, “Gotta Serve Somebody” (1979). Lyrics lightly altered.
 Deuteronomy 6:4 (ESV).
 Deuteronomy 6:5 (paraphrased).
 Joshua 24:15 (ESV).
 1 Kings 18:21 (paraphrased).
 Joshua 24:15 (paraphrased).
 Peter Ames Carlin, Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon (London: Constable, 2016), 253.
 Carlin, 316.
 Matthew 11:28–30 (ESV).
 Frank Houghton, “Facing a Task Unfinished” (1931).
 The Athanasian Creed. Paraphrased.
 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV).
 Hebrews 11:6 (KJV).
 John 8:41–42 (ESV).
 See John 8:44.
 J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), 182.
 Ephesians 1:4–5 (ESV).
 1 Thessalonians 2:7 (paraphrased).
 1 John 3:1 (ESV).
 Galatians 4:4–7 (ESV).
 See Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42.
 Packer, Knowing God, 207.
 Hebrews 2:13 (ESV).
 See Hebrews 4:12.
 See John 3:16.
Copyright © 2023, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.