Sovereign Grace On Display

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By Andy Woodfield

Hickman Community Church


Sovereign Grace on Display

Ephesians 1:13-16

The glory of the created reflects in measure the glory of the creator. The OT says the heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim His handiwork. As a young man I remember looking into the eyepiece of a powerful telescope to witness the beauty, majesty, and power that was bursting forth from THE planet Saturn as it carved a track through space. Its dazzling rings of iridescent gases reflected a beauty and glory I was not expecting and for the time THAT it took to cross the circumference of the telescope eyepiece I was transfixed, unable to take my eye away from such awesome splendor. In the same way the Apostle Paul is transfixed to the eyepiece of the unfolding revelation of the mystery of the church as God REVEALS it to him. As he gazes into her beauty and majesty he is dazzled by the glories he sees, glories that take his breath away, glories that cause him to burst forth with praise to God for His sovereign grace.

Beloved I want you to come with me to the letter to the Ephesians and join me in gazing into the matchless beauty of God’s sovereign grace as it is displayed in this living organism called the church of which you and I have been made a part. Beloved my prayer this morning is that you will grow in your understanding of who you are. That you will realize that what God is doing in the church is more glorious that a thousand Saturn’s spinning their way across the expansive space of the universe.   

Our text this morning is found in Ephesians 1:15-16 which is a part of another long sentence in the Greek, which starts at verse 15 and runs all the way through verse 23 - 169 words in total.

This long sentence divides into two major components:

- Thanksgiving for the evidence of Sovereign Grace 15-16

-  Intercession for the work of Sanctifying Grace – 17-23

This week we will consider the first part of this sentence: So you could title this message

I.                   God’s  Sovereign Grace on Display – 15-16

READ Eph. 1:15-16 –


It had been four long years since Paul had ministered in Ephesus and he is now in prison writing to these saints whom he had received information about. What he heard has made him thankful to God.

As we come to the text this morning we read "For this reason I too” For what reason? For the reason of God’s sovereign Grace, God’s sovereign will and God’s sovereign seal AS SEEN IN verses 3-14.

# God’s sovereign Grace: 

Paul is linking our minds back to what we have ALREADY looked at to vv. 3-14. In the two previous messages we saw the distinctiveness of the identity of the church. We saw that in the great plan of redemption God by sovereign grace was calling out a people for his own possession a people whom He identifies as the –

Called to be blessed - you are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (v.3), Called before Time – chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (v.4), Called to belong to God’s Family – predestined to adoption as sons (v.5), Called to glorify God – to the praise of His glory (v.6), Called out by Blood – having redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (vv.7-8), Called to know His Will – He made known to us the mystery of His will (v.9), Called to reign with Christ – that is the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things in the earth (v.10), and Called to glorification – to the end that we who were the first to hope in  Christ would be to the praise of His glory (vv.11-12).

This is who we are; make no mistake about it! We are not a man made institution for the good and wellbeing of mankind we are instead a holy temple in which the living God dwells. 

This is what fills Paul’s mind as he turns to this prayer of thanksgiving.

# God’s sovereign will:

Not only is the church unique as to her calling but we learnt that all of this was in accordance to the kind intention of God’s sovereign will (v.5) according to the kind intention of His will. And all this to the praise of His sovereign glorious grace (v.6,12,14). This is what Christianity is all about; it’s about God’s glory. Its about His work of salvation in our lives, its about His plans for eternity, its about the wonder that God who is self sufficient and not needing anything would choose to take sinful rebellious creatures like us and turn us into receptors of His grace and even more than that He would choose us to be the means by which he displays the wonders of His glory to all creation.

We who were poor have been made rich, from rags to riches, from sinners to saints, from the gutter to the glories of heaven.   

Those who belong to the church are there by sovereign grace alone through faith alone and not because of anything we have done, or anything we deserve. And as if to reassure the believers that all of this glorious reality is true he declares in vv.13-14 that they are sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit of promise [Read] – The HS is a down payment of good things to come for those who are now declared to be God’s very own possession.

# and God’s sovereign seal: What does it mean to be sealed with the Holy Spirit? It means that God’s own Spirit has come to indwell the believer and as such secures and preserves his eternal salvation. This word “sealing” was used of an official mark of identification placed on a letter, contract, or other document. That document was thereby officially under the authority of the person whose stamp was on the seal. It stood for 1) security (cf. Dan. 6:17; Matt. 27:62–66); 2) authenticity (cf. 1 Kin. 21:6–16); 3) ownership (cf. Jer. 32:10); and 4) authority (cf. Est. 8:8–12). So the HS is God’s official seal of a future inheritance for each one who has trusted Jesus Christ.

"Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge." (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

Now as we look at these three verses you are going to see:

PROPOSITION: Three Remarkable Evidences of Sovereign Grace in the church that testify of genuine saving faith.


The first evidence of sovereign grace is that


1. You will Display a REMARKABLE FAITH in the Lord Jesus: v. 15a

“having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you:

Paul’s heart is excited as he considers the remarkable faith of these believers

Notice he doesn’t thank God for their faith or the object of their faith which is the Lord Jesus, but he thanks God for the faith that exists among them.

The point being that those who have TRUE saving faith show or prove that faith by their transformed lives (James 2 – faith without works is dead). The evidence of this remarkable faith points to the fact that life was far more to these believers than seeking the next temporary high or fleeting buzz, offered by the world. Life was more than the temporal, life had eternal significance, life was about pleasing the sovereign God who had saved them and they lived to lay up lasting treasure in heaven where moth and rust cannot corrupt and thieves cannot break in and steal.

Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

So this morning I ask you where is your treasure? Heaven or earth? In other words what takes up your time and energy? What do you pursue in this life? Because what you pursue in this life will reveal what you have faith in!

Second, notice that the object of their faith was not simply Jesus but the LORD Jesus. LORD is far more than a reference to the deity/godhood of Jesus it speaks of his sovereignty and lordship. In other words the one who is divine is the LORD. For faith to be genuine saving faith it must have the right object. Jesus is not only the Savior of sinners He is Lord of all Lords. He is the one whom every eye will one day see and every knee will one day bow and confess Him LORD. Do you know Him. These Ephesians knew Him as Lord and therefore submitted their lives and conduct to Him.

It is false teaching to say you can accept Jesus as your Savior and then live how you like.

The rich young ruler lacked genuine faith, which was evidenced by his failure to let Jesus be Lord over his life and possessions. He bowed to the rule of his money rather than the rule of Jesus Christ.

[Matt – Street kid who I thought was going to punch out my lights…] – 1 John 3:4-10.

It is an error taught by the false teachers of our day that you can come to Jesus as your Savior and later trust Him as your Lord. This teaching creates a two tier Christianity that does not exist in the Bible. This teaching is the result of those who have watered down the gospel message out of a motivation not to offend the unbeliever and driven by the desire to produce converts. Jesus know no such way of salvation.

" Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds." (Matthew 16:24-27)

"Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”" (Revelation 1:7-8) (C.f. 1:17-18; 21:3-7)

As Lord of all Lords His call to you to be saved is not a good suggestion it is a command. To fail to obey that command by humbling yourself and confessing your sin and repenting of your wicked ways is to stand in rebellion to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

If anyone here this morning thinks that no one is keeping an account of your sin then it is my duty to tell you that the Bible says that God knows every sin you have ever committed, every evil deed, every wicked thought and one day you will stand before Him and be called to give an account. However, as much as we know we sin there is no sin that will condemn you like the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ. I beg of you turn to Him today and you will find mercy and help.

The Bible says, “There is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”  

Saving faith trusts in the saving work of Christ on the cross, where He bore the sins of many, and trusts in His right to rule over our lives because He has risen from the dead and has been made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36)

(Romans 10:9) "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;"

So then let me ask you, “is the object of your faith the one who rules over your heart? Or is your faith mere intellectual assent to the facts of the gospel and you still sit as the possessor of the throne of your heart.

Can you honestly say you have surrendered your will to the will of God?”

This is the kind of faith Paul is commending these believers for. A faith that was the overflow of power of sovereign grace. Faith that led to transformed lives living for the glory of God.

The second evidence of sovereign grace is that

2. You will demonstrate a REMARKABLE LOVE for all the Saints: v15b

“and your love for all the saints,


Now we move from the vertical focus of faith in Christ Jesus to the horizontal relationship of loving other believers. This agapae love Paul speaks of is a love that seeks to give and not possess, further it is a love that seeks the highest good or the will of God in the one being loved.

This is another mark of genuine saving faith. One of the signs of a true Christian is that he loves other Christians.

Why is loving other Christians a sign of genuine faith?

Because not all Christians are lovable. God doesn’t choose the most lovable people to be His, in fact God doesn’t choose any of us because of any good quality we might possess – He chooses us freely and with out cause.

Thus love of the brethren is a manifestation of the love of God which dwells in us. We love because He first loved us. In fact by our love for one another we know we have passed out of death to life - 1 John 3:11-19; 4:7-12, 19-21; 5:1.

It is this kind of love that shows the world that we are Christ’s disciples - John 13:35

This is the sort of love the Ephesian Believers had for each other.

Yet notice also that they not only loved the saints but they loved ALL the saints, there was no favoritism. It’s a sad thing to watch a family where the mother or the father have favorites and love one child more than another. This spirit of partiality flows from selfish and evil motives. This kind of attitude is addressed by James in James 2:1-11

When we start to draw up lines as to who we will love and who we will avoid amongst true Christians we have become partners with our evil motives and are no longer living for the glory of God.

In fact to bring this theme of love into full focus read with me 1 Cor 13:1-3 -         nothing to others

-          nothing to myself

-          nothing is gained

We must remember that as important as sound theology is it is no substitute for love. Without love the best doctrine in the world is nothing but a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Cor 1:13). Both these things jar me and make me want to get as far away from them as possible.

So then the evidence of true sovereign grace is a deep love for one another. As you sit here this morning maybe your conscience is being pricked by the Holy Spirit about a particular brother or sister whom you have had trouble loving. There is nothing that will thrill and encourage the heart of a pastor more than to see you submit that attitude to God’s grace and love them solely because God has first loved you. Why don’t you seek this week to show that love to that person in a practical way.


The third evidence of sovereign grace is that


3. You will determine REMARKABLE PRAYERS from your Leaders: v. 16

Look down at verse 16 with me. Because of the evidence of God’s sovereign grace as seen in these believers remarkable faith and remarkable love Paul could say I

“…do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers”


There is nothing that excites and thrills the heart of a pastor more than to hear that those whom he is ministering too are demonstrating faith in God and growing in love for one another. Lives like this cause remarkable prayers. These are prayers that bring glory to God because of the glory of God being manifest through the preaching of the Word.

Paul was not blind to the Ephesian believer’s faults and issues but the overriding attitude of his prayers was thanks to God for them. He loved them deeply and they gave him reason to express that love in praying for them.

[Weldon Southern Baptist – failed to obey the Lord and submit to the Word / division in the eldership] – it is hard to give thanks for a church who are not walking under sovereign grace.


Paul believed in the purpose and power of prayer as seen in his unceasing thanksgiving which simply means that he mentioned them personally in his prayers to God at his regular prayer times. His thanks was coupled with his prayers which speak of the things he was interceding before the throne of God on their behalf.

You might be saying well if God is sovereign in everything then why do we need to pray. I mean if God has purposed it won’t it just happen whether I pray or not?  I mean Phil 1:6 says that God will complete what he starts so why pray?  The answer is because; GOD SOVEREIGNLY DEGREES THE MEANS AND THE ENDS.


So this morning we have see that remarkable faith, remarkable love and remarkable prayers are the evidence of God’s sovereign grace and testify to the true nature of our faith.

As you evaluate your life in light of these truths are you able to honestly say that God’s sovereign grace is evident in your life.

Is your faith founded firmly in the Lord Jesus Christ and visible through the things you do and don’t do? Fathers are you by faith training your children to fear God, husbands are you leading, loving and learning your wives, mothers are you nurturing your children and managing your homes in a faithful way, wives are you willingly placing yourselves under your husbands as the helpmeet without fear.

Is your love for the saints an impartial love or is there a need this week to make some changes and open your life up to another saint who you perhaps have not truly loved the way Christ would have you love. Can you say you seek the highest good of others, can you say you are more ready to give than receive.

Finally, could it be said of Hickman Community Church today that outworking of sovereign grace causes those who shepherd and teach among you to intercede on your behalf and be thankful to the Lord for all He is doing in your lives.


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