We are continuing to look at Paul’s description of who we are in Christ. Remember that the key phrase that we see throughout this first chapter of Ephesians is “in him” or “in Christ.” Our identity is found in Christ alone. Our worth is found in Christ alone. In our last lesson from the book of Ephesians we learned that we were predestined to adoption. God has called us into his family which would only be accomplished through Jesus. We are starting to learn that we have a problem. The need for adoption means that we were without a family. Adoption means we were separated from God. We are not children of God naturally but must be adopted. In the same way the next description about our identity reveals there is an issue with us that God has chosen to correct.
God tells us that through Christ we have redemption. We have been redeemed. Redemption has a picture of setting something free. Particularly, this word was used of setting someone free from a debt and was even used of setting a slave free. Someone has a debt and redemption is the setting free from the debt through a payment. So the picture for us is that we have a debt that we cannot be released from by our own actions. Our debt is sin. This is the problem that faces humanity that God has to teach us. We have a monstrous debt before the Lord because we all have committed sin. Not only having we committed sin, but we have committed numerous sins. This is why we do not read about Jesus in Genesis 3. God needed to spend thousands and thousands of years teaching us this critical truth: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Sin is accruing a debt.
Our sin deserves our physical death. We see this from time to time in the scriptures. We read about God killing Nadab and Abihu, Uzzah, Korah, Ananias and Sapphira, and others. God killed them for their rebellion against God. God tried to show this to the world by animals needing to be killed when sins were committed. God commanded for sacrifices for sins to be made. Animals were slaughtered and offered on the altar to God to show us that the wages of sin is death. No one deserves to live because we have committed sins against our Creator. But this is really not the weight of the meaning of redemption.
Sin has accrued a debt so that we are separated from God and cannot have a relationship with him. The scriptures call this “death” as well. It is spiritual death. Our sins isolate us from God. God is holy and pure and it not able to be relationship with anything that is wicked, evil, or dark. We must consider the extreme holy character of God for this to be true. Paul says in Romans 6:6 that we are “enslaved to sin.” God has decided to pay a price to set us free from that debt. I want us to stop right here and consider how great your debt is? It is so easy to forget the quantity of our debt. We have debts in life. We receive bills every month telling us our debt. These papers tell us how much we owe. How many bills do you have toward God? If every sin was a bill in the mail, how high a stack of bills would you owe God? Redemption is trying to teach us about the enormous, insurmountable debt we have with God.
These debts need to be forgiven. The debts are so great that there is nothing we can pay. There is nothing that we can give. We are completely helpless. We are completely hopeless. There is nothing you can do that will deal with the debt. We like to believe that there are things we can do that will fix the debt. We start talking about being good people and not doing bad stuff as if that will have any fixing of the debt. Think about the problem in our own legal system. Can a murderer fix his sin by never murdering again? Will this work with the judge if you simply try to never kill again? Is that a sufficient answer? Of course not. There is nothing we can do with this debt before God. All your good deeds cannot overcome or repair the sins we have committed. There is not one debt we can repay to God. We are hopeless, helpless, and without strength to do anything (cf. Romans 5:6). Do you know who we truly are? We are debtors. We are serious debtors with nothing to pay our debts.
So here is the good news. This is what the gospel is for the world. In Christ we have redemption. What does that mean for us? Verse 7 tells us that it means our debts have been forgiven. Redemption results in the canceling of our debts, obligations, and punishments that are due to us. God has cancelled our sins and necessary punishment that goes with those sins.
With His Blood (1:7)
What did God pay to redeem us from our debt? Verse 7 tells us that the redemption took place through his blood. The blood of Jesus is the price paid to forgive our trespasses against God. This is why we love Jesus so much! In the death of Christ, God came powerfully to rescue his people from the death, punishments, and debts that stood against them. This is why Jesus is central to everything we do and must be central to our lives. You can see how we insult the Lord when we take the gift of redemption and wonder how much we must do for him. You can see the slap in the face when we choose to do what we want to do and live according to our own comforts and desires. When we cannot be bothered with the commands of God, when we cannot be bothered to worship God, when we are not willing to give everything to love our Lord, you can see how insulting this is. It is unthinkable. All I can say is that we just don’t get it. You are swimming in debt. But God has forgiven your debt through the high price of Jesus’ death.
The Wealth of His Grace (1:7-8)
I love that Paul keeps telling us why God did this. God paid the debt with the blood of Christ because this action accords with the wealth of his grace. The present blessing of the forgiveness of sins results from the abundance of God’s grace. Redemption simply shows how good God is. Redemption shows how much God loves people. Notice in verse 8 that God lavished his grace upon us. His grace is pictured as being in abundance, being poured out over and above. His grace is pictured as fully sufficient. God gives overflowing grace. God did not hold back any of his grace. Our debt is never greater than his grace. Our sins are never more than his forgiveness. His grace is always sufficient. His forgiveness always removes the debt. We need to hear that hope and rest in that hope. Our hope is in his grace. This is why the last screen I put up on the projector is that phrase: “Our hope is in his grace.” Our hope is not in ourselves. Our hope is not in our good deeds. Our hope is not in having the least amount of sins. Our hope is completely in his grace for his grace is sufficient to cover our sins. Paul said it this way to the Romans: “But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20).
The Blessing of Wisdom and Insight (1:8-9)
But there is another great blessing in Christ. Remember that Paul began this letter by telling us that God is worthy of praise because he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. Here is another one of those blessings. God has made known to us the mystery of his will in all wisdom and insight. God not only forgives our debt, but gives us what we need to understand him and his will and to live life according that will. We can understand God’s will. Paul will explain how that came about in chapter 3. It is not the purpose of Paul to explain right now how we can understand the mystery of God’s will. Paul wants to know that it is possible. We can come to know God.
All Things In Christ (1:10)
These things have a glorious purpose. God has forgiven our trespasses and made known his will in all wisdom and insight to us. God delighted in laying out his plans, first to redeem his people and second to reveal to them the mystery of his will. All of this was according to his purpose in Christ. God’s delight and God’s glory are always for our good. This was all part of God’s glorious plan. What was the purpose? The purpose was “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” God redeems people in order to gather all things to himself. Before God made the heavens and earth, he developed a long range plan for humanity. Christ is the focal point of that plan. All things are summed up in Christ. Everything, whether on earth or in heaven, come together in Christ. Every being in heaven and earth is to willfully and joyfully submit to Christ.
God promised to his people that he would come to save them. Listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah. “I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44:22 ESV) You are redeemed! That is the good news of Jesus. If you belong to Jesus, you have your mountain of debt forgiven. What does it mean to you that your obligations, debts, and punishments have been forgiven? What will be your response to Jesus?