The Riches of His Grace — Part Two
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player

The Riches of His Grace — Part Two

Ephesians 1:7–10  (ID: 3141)

The apostle Paul, gripped by the wonder of God’s love, wrote to the Ephesians about the spiritual riches lavished on those who are in Christ. Alistair Begg explores how the wisdom and insight granted to believers help to reveal the mystery of God’s will. When we perceive the affairs of time through an eternal perspective, we have a beautiful story to share with a lost and dying world.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Ephesians, Volume 1

The Believer’s Inheritance Ephesians 1:1–23 Series ID: 14901

Sermon Transcript: Print

Now we’ll be turning back again to Ephesians, as we said from this morning, but let’s read from Romans chapter 5. Romans chapter 5. And there is some logic in this, which I hope will become apparent.

Romans 5:1. And Paul has made this argument so far, and he builds on the strength of all that he’s said: that we’re all accountable before God, our mouths are stopped before him; we have nothing to give in our defense, but now a righteousness from God has been revealed. And then he illustrates that in the life of Abraham and says that that is ours in the same manner. And then 5:1:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, as one trespass led to [the] condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”


Father, grant now, as we turn to the Bible, that the Spirit of God will instruct and equip and change us, to the glory of Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Well, let’s come back to these verses that we tried to make an attempt at this morning. Ephesians 1:7–10.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses”—as we’ve been singing, he saves us from sin’s guilt, and as a result of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, he saves us from sin’s power —“according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

“In All Wisdom and Insight”

Well, as I said this morning, these verses almost defy one’s ability to create a structure around them, and I want again to follow the pattern of this morning and simply follow Paul’s line as it unfolds for us here. We ended with our thoughts dwelling on this wonder of “the riches of [God’s] grace” being “lavished upon us”—the torrential, extravagant grace and goodness of God showered out upon each of us who, by nature, is undeserving.

Not only is God the one who redeems and who forgives and who enriches, but he is also the one who grants wisdom.

When we finished there at that comma, we still had left, in verse 8, the little phrase “in all wisdom and insight.” And I suppose it is possible that that little phrase refers to God—that is, that God has done this in light of his wisdom and his insight. But I’m not inclined to that view, although it is held by some, because of the way it seems to flow directly into the notion of “making known … the mystery of his will.” And so I take it that the reference here, in terms of wisdom and insight, is referring to the believer in Christ, so that not only is God the one who redeems and who forgives and who enriches, but he is also the one who grants wisdom. The word in Greek is sophia; it’s a girl’s name, often, and it’s a good word. He uses it throughout his letters, and I think he does at the beginning of Colossians. I’m going to check. You can check as well, if you like. Yeah, Colossians 1:9: “From the day we heard, [we’ve] not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” And that, incidentally, is another reason why I think it refers to the believer; that is Paul’s normal usage of the terminology.

So, the wisdom that is granted to us is the wisdom concerning the things of God: God’s revelation and God’s plan and God’s purpose. In other words, the wisdom that is given to us takes us into, if you like, the realm of eternal verities. Even though we know that we only “see through a glass, darkly”[1] and that one day we will see things and understand them in all of their fullness, nevertheless, God enables his children to see things that are not seen by unbelievers.

Now, there were all kinds of notions swirling around in Ephesus and in Laodicea and in Colossae, and there were all kinds of concepts about mysteries and secrets and gnostic notions, in much the same way that they are present in our contemporary culture. And Paul is not tackling that, and he is not giving anything along these lines. Rather, what he’s talking about here is something that God enables us to understand by way of revelation—a revelation which ultimately, for us, is in the Bible itself.

So, for example, let’s say you go out tomorrow morning, and you just decide you’ll go through the community, and you’ll ask a simple question of friends or neighbors or work colleagues. And you’ll just say to them, “What is your life? What is your life?” And people say, “My life is my job. My life is my family. My life is my life, you know? My life!” You know, many people won’t know what to say at all.

But what will you say? You’ve been given spiritual wisdom. Well, you’d say that your life is “a [vapor] that appears for a little [while] and then vanishes.”[2] You’ll say that your life was planned, that you don’t exist as a result of chance, but the Creator made you exactly as you. You’ll be able to say that your life was purchased by his redeeming grace.[3] In fact, you’ll be able to say all kinds of things. And people will say, “Where do you get that stuff from?” And you’ll say, “Because of the riches of God’s grace, which he has lavished upon us, in all wisdom.”

Now, we could do it in other ways. We could ask the question, “How do you think everything’s going to end in this world? How do you think it will all come to an end?” And once again, you’ll get all kinds of notions and answers and ideas. And you’ll be able to say that it’s going to end when the Lord Jesus comes back in power and in great glory.[4] And they will say, “Where do you get that from?” And you will say, “From the riches of his grace, which he has lavished upon me, granting to me wisdom.”

If you look down—if your Bible is open—you look down at verse 18, this is the very same thing that he’s talking about: “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory”—he’s praying for them now—“may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened.” It’s an interesting phrase, isn’t it? Your heart doesn’t have eyes; it’s a metaphor. “…the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you”—and here we go again, one of his favorites—“what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”[5] And then he starts again, and he starts to build on it more and more—the eyes of our hearts being enlightened, that you might know. Not only does God enable us to see these spiritual realities, but he also provides, along with the wisdom, you will see, “insight.” The word here is phronesei, which is translated in the King James Version, at least, “prudence”—prudence—which, of course, is, in certain circles, another girl’s name.

Now, what is Paul saying here? Well, he’s saying that that which is the wisdom of God that enables us, if you like, to see something of the vast sweep of God’s eternal plan is then translated into the everyday experience of our lives, because he also grants to us insight or prudence or understanding. So that we are enabled by the Spirit of God to take these truths, which may seem in certain senses to be rather esoteric or arm’s-length, and understand that they then are transferred into action in the everyday events of our lives.

So it is very, very necessary that the people of God would be granted this so that they’re not just completely clueless. And if you think about it, when we get into chapters 4, 5, and 6, what do we need in order to live united in the body of Christ? We need wisdom. We need insight. How are you going to love your wife as Christ loved the church?[6] Well, you’re gonna need wisdom and insight—understanding. How are you going to submit to your own husband?[7] Why would you even do that? You’re gonna need divine wisdom and understanding. It is all provided for us, “lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.”

“The Mystery of His Will”

Into verse 9: in order that we might know “the mystery of his will”—“making known the mystery of his will.” In biblical language, a mystery isn’t a puzzle that’s waiting to be solved; it’s a secret that can only be known when God reveals it. All right? It’s a secret that can only be known when God reveals it. Now, if you think about the Old Testament—the unfolding drama of the Old Testament, and all the little pointers and bits and pieces that are going on there, even as the prophets themselves, under the inspiration of God, are prophesying concerning this one who is to come, this Suffering Servant, this Great Prophet, this Triumphant King whose kingdom will never come to an end—all of these little secrets, all these little clues, all these little hints that are running all the way through the Bible, that finally will be revealed in their fullness in the Lord Jesus Christ. Or if we put it another way, the mystery is not something incomprehensible to a human mind but something that is undiscoverable to the unaided human mind. It is undiscoverable to the unaided human mind. And where does the help come from? Our help comes from the Lord, the Spirit of God.

In chapter 3—in fact, throughout the book—Paul is on about this. Chapter 3: “For this reason,” it begins, “I, Paul, a prisoner [for] Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly…”

That’s actually a quite wonderful picture, isn’t it? Those of you who’ve been watching the construction of the Truth For Life building have pointed out to us on a number of occasions that it looks to be something of a mystery, especially in its early stages. After all, there it was with scaffolding and Tyvek, and there is the obvious indication that something is taking shape underneath there—and something is taking shape underneath there, and what is taking shape underneath there is known exactly to the mind of the architect and is unfolding according to the plan and purpose of the architect, and what has been taking place and formed in that way will ultimately be clear. In much the same way, in the Old Testament, the mystery of God’s will is, if you like, covered by scaffolding. It’s covered over by certain elements. But when Christ comes, the scaffolding is taken down. It is no longer necessary, because it is all then unfolded and revealed in God’s plan in Jesus.

That is why, I think, when Jesus has the opportunity to address the disconsolate folks who were on the road to Emmaus—and we’ve said this before, but it bears saying again—that when, in that amazing, ironic conversation with the two folks who say to him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”[8]—if that is not, perhaps, the greatest dramatic irony in the whole New Testament, I don’t know what is. They say to Jesus, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know what we’ve just been through?” And Jesus says, “What things?”[9] That in itself is fantastic. But it’s not just a gesture on his part. He’s drawing them out: “Tell me.”

“Well,” they said, “it was about Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet; he was mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. Our chief priests and the rulers, they delivered him up to be condemned to death, and they crucified him, and frankly, we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it’s now the third day since these things happened. And there were some women who went to the tomb this morning and found his body, but they didn’t see him.”[10]

The confidence of heaven is in the Scriptures.

“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!’” Do you not understand the mystery here? “‘Was it not necessary that … Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”[11]

What did they need, in order that they might understand the mystery of his will? They needed his written Word. It is quite amazing, isn’t it, that Christ took them to the Bible. He is the Living Word. He could have said, “Listen, you obviously don’t get me. I am the Messiah! I’m Jesus! I mean, shake yourselves, fellows! Listen. Here, look. Here I am!” He could have done that; he did it on other occasions. He revealed himself in that way. But he does a Bible study. Why? Because the confidence of heaven is in the Scriptures.

“The mystery of his will” in order that you might know it, as Paul puts it here, “according to [the] purpose”—according to the Father’s purpose—“[that] he [has] set forth in Christ.” Ultimately, as we’re about to see, in order that he might “unite all things in him.”

“For the Fullness of Time”

But the next phrase in verse 10 is “as a plan for the fullness of time.” “For the fullness of time.” What does this mean? Well, what Paul is saying is that when all the times and the seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority have run their course, then all of this will come to fruition.

I hope you already haven’t forgotten the way Daniel tells the king concerning the God whom he worships, in Daniel 2:20. And Daniel went to his house and he prayed to God and

the mystery was revealed to Daniel in [the] vision of the night. [And] Daniel blessed the God of heaven. [And] Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
 to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
 he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
 and knowledge to those who have understanding;
he reveals [the] deep and [the] hidden things;
 [and] he knows what is in the darkness,
 and the light dwells with him.”[12]

And here Paul, who was well aware of these Old Testament pictures, says, “All that is unfolding here, as God in his grace has redeemed, has provided forgiveness, has granted wisdom and insight, has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose that he set forth ultimately and finally in Jesus as a plan for the fullness of time…”

Now, he uses that phrase “fullness of time” elsewhere—Paul does. In fact, back in Galatians and in chapter 4 is probably where you’re most familiar with it—where he says in Galatians 4:3, “In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law”—to do what?—“to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God”—“according to the riches of his grace,” to cross-reference it with our section here in Ephesians 1—“has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you[’re] no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” You see how these things grip the apostle, and how, every time he wrote, he was writing of them again and again. What an amazing thing it is that God would redeem us and forgive us and provide for us and adopt us into his family. And “at [just] the right time Christ died for [us].”[13] And the point that is being made there in Galatians, of course, is that the coming of the Lord Jesus ushered in—ushered in the end, ushered in the last days. As we know, “God has spoken of old in the prophets in different ways, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son.”[14]

Taking that same notion, Paul now, in addressing the Ephesians, says just as the coming of Christ brought, if you like, the division of time once and forever, so we look forward to a day when God’s plan from all of eternity will be consummated. So that every day when we awaken, and every time that we reflect on human history, and every occasion when we’re tempted to be paralyzed by the forces of a world that is increasingly chaotic and apparently opposed to the kingdom of Christ, it is to the Scriptures we must return in order to retain our equilibrium, in order not to go nuts, in order not to lose our way.

We have to say to ourselves, “But wait a minute. It is on account of the riches of his grace that he has granted to me wisdom. I have been given wisdom—wisdom enough to see my house built upon a rock and not upon sand.[15] Christ has become for me my wisdom, as he says to the Corinthians, and my righteousness.[16] It is there. He has given to me this wisdom, and he has granted me this understanding, and I know what my friends don’t know: that in the fullness of time, he will accomplish and fulfill the mystery of his will, and he will unite all things in heaven and on earth underneath the headship of Jesus.”

Now again, it’s gonna be divine wisdom that brings a person to those convictions—not as a result of simply reading history books or, certainly, studying sociology or anthropology. As beneficial as they will be on all sorts of levels, they will not answer these questions. You do not come to this by way of intellect; you come to this by way of revelation, as we said to one another this morning.

“To Unite All Things in Him”

Well, what is this going to be, the uniting of “all things in him”? If you know anything about this verse, you will know that is it pressed into service by those who espouse universalism. This is one of their key jumping-off verses. They’ll come to you and say, “Well, I know that you’ve got this notion about Jesus being the only way and that there is only salvation in him, but have you never read in Ephesians chapter 1 that at the end of the day the plan for the fullness of time is to unite all things in him? And therefore, everybody will finally be united in him.” And what they mean by that is, all of the distinctions that have been propounded, all of these biblical idiosyncrasies, all of this attempt to say that there is salvation in no one else but only in Jesus—all of that will finally be wiped away when finally we realize that it wasn’t right in the first place at all.

Well, in order to substantiate that, of course, the universalist has to turn his back on just vast swathes of the Bible and very clear statements on the part of Jesus. It is an untenable position. It is a position that I understand, in this respect: I have never done a funeral for someone that I knew to be a non-Christian without somehow wishing that I could be a universalist—that I could say, “You know, it doesn’t really matter. Everything is okay.” But I have a Bible, and I have a Lord, and he said there is a broad road that leads to destruction, and there is a narrow road that leads to life.[17] John says that “[he who] has the Son has life; [he who] does not have the Son of God does not have life,”[18] but the wrath of God rests upon him. So we know that despite the attempts of the universalist to press this into service, it clearly can’t and doesn’t mean that.

The Christian, of all people, is concerned about the universe, about the planet, about life, oxygen, health, and well-being and that concern is focused within divine wisdom.

What, then, is being said here? Well, we can’t exhaust it, and certainly not with the time that remains to us. But we should probably read this in light of what we just read in Romans chapter 5 concerning Adam—that’s why we read it—and also in light of Romans chapter 8, a small section I’ll draw your attention to just for a moment. Romans 8: “For I consider that the sufferings of [the] present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”[19] You see, this is different from “Life is tough and then you die.” See? When people say, “Look at the sufferings of the present time. Look at the mess of our world. Look at the chaos and the heartache and the brokenness.” Divine wisdom says, “The sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.” Divine wisdom makes that known, and prudence enables us to bring that truth to bear in the context of time and relationships with wisdom and skill and kindness and sensitivity and compassion. It’s not some big hammer to go banging around with. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”[20] That’s not the same as an emphasis on global warming, whatever you think about global warming. It is a far deeper, wider, larger, stronger perspective about a universe that God fashioned by his own eternal counsel and will. The Christian, of all people, is concerned about the universe, is concerned about the planet, is concerned about life and oxygen and health and well-being. And that concern is focused within the divine wisdom which says that “the creation [is groaning and waiting and] … longing for the revealing of the sons of God” because it “was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation…”[21]

How do you know that? What do you mean, “We know that the whole creation…”? Where do you get this from? Because of “the riches of his grace, [that] he [has] lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.”

…that the creation itself will be set free …. For we know that [it] has been groaning … in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for [the] adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we [are] saved. [22]

And he goes on from there. It’s quite fantastic.

If you want one other cross-reference—and whether you want to or not, I’m going to give it to you—it’s in 1 Corinthians and in 15. The same emphasis again; he is speaking about the wonder of the resurrection. He says, “There’s a glory of the sun. There’s another glory of the moon.”[23] And what a glorious moon it was last night, if you happened to see it—a spectacular moon. You know, what a shame, you know, to be a humanist and look up at that and just say, “Wow, what is that?” You see? But to be a believer, we look up and say, “God—God who made the sun, the moon, the stars—is he who, when life collapses, cares for me.”

“There’s a glory of the sun. There’s a glory of the moon. There’s a glory of the stars. The stars differ from the star in glory. So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.”[24] And then, of course, you know the section from there, and you can read it for yourself.

Now, what is all this about? What is it that’s going to happen here, these things in heaven and the things on earth? Those who have now been taken into the presence of Jesus, those of us who are left, will we see each other again? How will we get back together again? Who’s gonna put it all together again? Can I meet you in heaven? Will you meet me? Will there be a place, a clock? Is there some place we can go? I’ll find you, don’t worry! What are we going to do? How will we get it all put together?

Listen, listen, listen! He’s gonna unite all things in him. Don’t worry about it. He’ll get it fixed. It’s in the plan. It’s the mystery of his will from all of eternity to unite all these things.

The first Adam sinned, and death and chaos followed. A second Adam comes to the fight to undo what Adam did and to accomplish what Adam failed to do. We live tonight, says the Bible, in a fallen world—alienation, frustration, disintegration. Where is the answer? We understand why the world is the way it is. We understand why every day in our newspapers, we’re asking the same questions: How would we fix this? What can be done? Who will go here for this area of peace?

Yesterday morning when I took the Wall Street and just scanned it, this was my first scan: “Islamist Extremists Kill at Least Fourteen in Somalia.” “Five Dead in Canada Shooting.” “Volatile Stocks Confound the Investors.” The murder of Alexander Litvinenko is tied, now, to the highest in the Russian leadership. And that’s just a smattering of it, and you go all the way down it, of course you understand why the whole world is going, “Somebody’s going to have to fix this.” You understand why it would be that eventually the world would come under the domination of one great Antichrist who said, “I can fix this for you. I’ll fix it. Watch this.”

The longing is understandable—the longing to put it back together. That’s why people love fairy stories; that’s what Tolkien says, isn’t it? Because in fairy stories, it all gets fixed. You know, there’s the combination of nature, and it’s just great! There’s wee fairies and things at the bottom of your garden, and they’re all happy and nice and everything. It’s smashing! And even if you’re old, you like these stories. And Tolkien says in his great essay on that, he says there’s a reason that people long after these things. Because they’re longing for the very things that are answered in Christ who will unite all things, who will restore all things, who will make the garden absolutely, perfectly beautiful, the way that it was originally given before Adam in his rebellion spoiled it. He will fix it all.[25]

And here’s the point. Paul is saying to these Ephesian believers, “Here you are, and you’ve got all of the folks all around you in Ephesus. You’re a minority. You are oppressed. They scream, ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians!’ They would crucify you if they could. But you need to know this: that this God has loved you before he even made the world. That he has reached out to you and redeemed you in his Son. That he has forgiven your sins, and he has put them as far from him as the east is from the west,[26] and he remembers them no more.[27] And he has granted to you wisdom and insight by the riches of his grace, in order that you might get the grasp of something of the big picture and then bring that to bear upon the individual details of your life.” How do I bring up my children? What will happen to them in the future? What am I going to do now? All of these obvious questions, answered in Christ. Because we look forward to a day “when sufferings cease and sorrows die, and every longing [is] satisfied.”[28]

You see, what Paul is saying is this: If you get ahold of what is ultimate, then you can deal with what is immediate in light of what is ultimate. If you focus only on what is immediate and leave off the reality of what is ultimate, you will never actually be able to deal with the issues that face you.

It’s a futile exercise to try, as some do in light of that, to persuade nonbelieving people to live by Christian principles. To do that is to display a colossal ignorance about the endemic nature of sin.

Globally, nationally, personally, what are we going to do? We’re going to stay with our Bibles, because our Bible is our sole and final authority on these matters. The Holy Spirit is our indispensable enabler to understand what is in our Bibles. And here in our Bibles, at this juncture, here, in these verses, is a statement concerning God’s final purpose for the world.

I’m not a statesman, and I’m not sure that any of you are. I’m not qualified in matters of state or in international affairs. I don’t have any idea about the immediate future. Will there be war or peace, terrorism, totalitarianism, socialism, capitalism? It’s a futile exercise to try, as some do in light of that, to persuade nonbelieving people to live by Christian principles. To do that is to display a colossal ignorance about the endemic nature of sin.

So what are we to do? Well, we have to bring an eternal perspective to the affairs of time. Because in this, there is both security and a story to tell. It doesn’t yet appear what we will be, but we know that when we see him, we’ll be made like him.[29] That’s John. Peter says we’ve been “born again to a living hope [by] the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”[30] And Paul says, “Ultimately, according to the mystery of his will, he will unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

See, Jesus is the church’s one foundation, isn’t he?

The church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ, [our] Lord;
She is his new creation
By water and the Word:
From heav’n he came and sought her
To be his holy bride;
With his own blood he bought her,
And for her life he died.

[And] … she on earth hath …
Mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won.[31]

I’m not sure all that that means, but I really, really, really like that verse—that those who have been taken as people in an earlier age were said to have been taken “into the nearer presence of Jesus”; those of us who are in this presence of Jesus enjoy “mystic sweet communion.” Has to be, because ultimately, when he fulfills the mystery of his will, what for us right now seems like, “I don’t know how that works,” will become apparent. And maybe I’ll see you, and you can say, “Well, that must be what that was about. I only wish you’d known then.”

Well, we pray together:

Father, we are infants before you. We are children before you. We are tiny and you are great. We are needy, and your resources are unlimited. We pray for ourselves as individuals, that you will bring us to really deepened and secure convictions concerning your Word and your Son and what it means for you to have laid hold upon us and adopted us into your family. We pray that you will look upon us as a congregation and find us faithful enough, suitable enough—a kind of suitable enough place to entrust other adoptees to—that you will give to us many, many new believing followers of Jesus, and that you will increase within us a renewed sense of what it means to have been born again to this living hope. For we humbly pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

[1] 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV).

[2] James 4:14 (ESV).

[3] See 1 Corinthians 6:20.

[4] See Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27.

[5] Ephesians 1:17–18 (ESV).

[6] See Ephesians 5:25.

[7] See Ephesians 5:22.

[8] Luke 24:18 (ESV).

[9] Luke 24:19 (ESV).

[10] Luke 24:19–24 (paraphrased).

[11] Luke 24:25–26 (ESV).

[12] Daniel 2:19–22 (ESV).

[13] Romans 5:6 (ESV).

[14] Hebrews 1:1–2 (paraphrased).

[15] See Matthew 7:24–27.

[16] See 1 Corinthians 1:30.

[17] See Matthew 7:13–14.

[18] 1 John 5:12 (ESV).

[19] Romans 8:18 (ESV).

[20] Romans 8:19 (ESV).

[21] Romans 8:19–22 (ESV)

[22] Romans 8:21–24 (ESV).

[23] 1 Corinthians 15:41 (paraphrased).

[24] 1 Corinthians 15:41–42 (paraphrased).

[25] See J. R. R. Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories.”

[26] See Psalm 103:12.

[27] See Isaiah 43:25 and Hebrews 8:12.

[28] Stuart Townend, “There Is a Hope” (2007).

[29] See 1 John 3:2.

[30] 1 Peter 1:3 (ESV).

[31] S. J. Stone, “The Church’s One Foundation” (1866).

Copyright © 2024, 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.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.