7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:7–10)
Paul has been exalting in the spiritual blessings given to the believer. In the last part, he said how we have “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” One of those blessings is that he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. He also predestinated us unto adoption by Jesus Christ.
Here in the next several verses, we again see more spiritual blessings.
I. WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US
Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption [ἀπολύτρωσιν] through his blood, the forgiveness [ἄφεσιν] of sins [παραπτωμάτων], according to the riches of his grace;
In Christ “we have redemption through his blood,” Redemption is a word that has lost a lot of usage in modern times, but it is an important Biblical word that Christians ought to reclaim.
What does redemption mean? The word has much to do with the days of slaves in biblical times. During New Testament times, the Roman Empire had as many as six million slaves (out of something like 50 million people). These were people of all races and social classes…some were captives from war; others were people who had fallen into debt.
Redemption had to do with the freeing of a slave by paying a ransom. If someone wanted to free a friend who was a slave, they would pay a ransom. Now, that’s the idea when it comes to what Jesus did for us on the cross.
Why would Jesus have to redeem us? Jesus explained why in John 8—
30 As he spake these words, many believed on him. 31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 33 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? 34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant [slave] of sin. (John 8:30–34)
Every human being has committed sin (Romans 3:23) and therefore is in bondage to sin. What does that mean? It means that we cannot not sin. Every activity, every thought that we have as humans—even the good ones—is somehow marred and tainted by sin.
6 But we are all as an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…(Isaiah 64:6)
What’s more, the price of freedom from our sin is quite high—it’s death.
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)
This high price is why we can only have “redemption through his blood.” Now, today, talking about having our sins forgiven through blood is a foreign concept to many and is even repulsive. Modern man views the need for sacrifice as something from the stone age; something that only primitive people on remote islands in the Pacific would do.
But sacrifice and blood is a very important biblical concept, and cannot be shoved aside because we think it is beneath us.
In the Old Testament, God demonstrated the need for blood and death for the forgiveness of sins by requiring sacrifices of animals—many animals were slaughtered on a constant basis. The temple was a bloody place, primarily to give people an object lesson about the high cost of sin.
The New Testament put an end to these bloody sacrifices, through the death of Jesus. If you look at the last hours of Jesus’ life, you will see that they are hours covered in blood.
At the Last Supper, for instance, Jesus says:
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:28)
And then, after he betrayed Jesus, Judas remorsefully said:
4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. (Matthew 27:4)
What does Pilate do?
24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. (Matthew 27:24)
Then, of course, there was the bloody crucifixion scene. And after Jesus was dead, remember what the Roman soldier did to make sure he was dead?
34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. (John 19:34)
Jesus’ blood bought our redemption. Jesus’ death pays the penalty for our sin when we believe in him.
By the way, this is why there can only be salvation in Jesus Christ. Did Buddha pay for our sins? Did Muhammad die for our sins? No and no. It’s not a matter of who you think has the best philosophy, or the best tradition, or what you grew up with. Only Jesus has died for our sins and so only through Jesus can we find salvation. “The gospel destroys pride, because it tells us we are so lost that Jesus had to die for us” (Tim Keller). Only Jesus can offer redemption.
Redemption leads to…“the forgiveness [ἄφεσιν] of sins [παραπτωμάτων], according to the riches of his grace;”
What is forgiveness? What does it mean to forgive? To forgive means to let go, pardon, or release someone from a debt. A bank might forgive a overdraft fee from your checking account. A person might let go, or forgive, an offense that someone else had committed against them.
In this case, it’s talking about God forgiving—pardoning—a person of their “sins.” What are “sins”? Sins are the trespasses that we make against God’s law—they are the individual acts of rebellion and defiance we make against God and his commands.
And since our sins are against the infinite God, there’s nothing we can do to earn ourselves pardon. Pardon must come from the one who was offended—God.
Other religions either have no concept of forgiveness, or deemphasize forgiveness. But in Christianity, forgiveness is front and center. It’s what the gospel is all about. It’s why a person needs Jesus—so that he or she can be forgiven of their sins.
God stands ready to forgive you, you just have to come to Jesus. Jesus illustrated the openness of God’s forgiveness in the story of the prodigal son.
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. (Luke 15:12–13)
In asking for his inheritance before his father died, the son was saying that he wished his father was dead. In short, he rejected his father, the same that every human being does with God. Like the son, we prefer to waste our lives by living for our own pleasure and not for God.
The son hit, as we say today, rock bottom, when he wasted all his money and found himself broke:
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! (Luke 15:15–17)
I love that phrase, “when he came to himself,” because it indicates that his pride and self-centeredness had been broken. He saw that he had been wrong. He knew what he had done. He knew he must repent. He knew that he needed forgiveness.
Notice how he dares not to presume on his father’s forgiveness, but watch how generously his father forgives.
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. (Luke 15:18–20)
Folks, God stands ready to forgive you with eagerness. Nothing will stop him from running to a repentant sinner.
Again, pride gets in the way of us accepting God’s offer of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. We don’t think that we need forgiven, not by God anyway. He’s so loving that he’ll accept us the way we are or we believe that somehow we can earn God’s forgiveness.
But what does it say here? Redemption and forgiveness are “according to the riches of his grace;” Grace is giving to someone something good that they don’t deserve.
Our pride always makes us think that we deserve more. Advertising knows this and plays on our pride: “You deserve comfort.” “You deserve a big cash settlement.” “You deserve this or that.”
God says, “Set aside your pride and you’ll receive the riches of my grace.”
Now what does it mean that God gives forgiveness “according to the riches of his grace”? It means that God is ready to give grace and forgiveness and redemption in abundance. He is generous.
Sometimes you see a rich man give to a cause or to a needy person a paltry sum. John D. Rockefeller, one of the wealthiest men who ever lived, would often give boys a dime. He loved to have photographers take pictures of this, perhaps because he thought he was being generous.
He was giving from his riches, but he was not giving according to his riches. If he had given according to his riches, he would have given each boy he met a much greater sum, perhaps even a job, or a way of making a living.
God’s grace is according to his riches. The redemption and forgiveness he gives are from from his unlimited riches. Just look at how God’s forgiveness is described in the Bible:
12 As far as the east is from the west, So far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)
19 …And thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)
22 I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, And, as a cloud, thy sins: Return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. (Isaiah 44:22)
Our pride makes us like Rockefeller giving a dime. We hope to approach God and say, “Look, Lord, I did pretty well. I was nice most of the time. I made up for the mistakes that I made the best I could.”
God will look at our efforts and say, “That was worth about a dime. You could have had my unlimited riches of grace and forgiveness. Why did you reject it?”
The reason that many people reject God’s grace in favor of their own efforts is because of their pride and the fact, that as unbelievers, they do not have the capacity of spiritual discernment.
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
In addition to redemption and forgiveness, God has given the believer…
C. SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT
Ephesians 1:8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence [φρονήσει];
When we are saved by receiving in faith the forgiveness and redemption that God offers us in grace in Christ, he gives us “all wisdom and prudence [insight].” In other words, he gives the believer spiritual discernment.
25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. (Matthew 11:25)
Christians understand what the world cannot: that we are sinners; that we need forgiveness, that Jesus bought our redemption through his blood and that it is given by grace to those who have faith.
II. THE REASON GOD HAS DONE THIS FOR US
God did not need to redeem and forgive anyone. He simply could have started over, like with what he did with the great flood, but on even a larger scale. So why did he seek to redeem us?
First, we learn that redemption was not a last minute decision to contain the damage Adam and Eve started when they first sinned. It wasn’t damage control, redemption and forgiveness was the plan.
A. THE MYSTERY OF HIS PLAN REVEALED
Ephesians 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery [μυστήριον] of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
Ephesians 1:10a That in the dispensation [οἰκονομίαν, the plan] of the fulness of times…
“the mystery [μυστήριον] of his will”—When you see the word “mystery” in the Bible you shouldn’t think of Sherlock Holmes or The Hardy Boys. In the Bible “mystery” means a truth that was not known until God decided to make it known.
In this case, the truth, the mystery, that God made known was something about “his will,” “his good pleasure,” something “which he hath purposed in himself:”
We learn here that this mystery was “the dispensation”—the plan—that God made known when the time was just right, “the fulness of times.” Paul says in Galatians,
4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4–5)
The central figure of God’s plan is Christ Jesus, his only Son. The plan of action was to redeem us through Christ’s blood, so that God could adopt us as sons and daughters. But there’s more. The end result of God’s plan was…
B. TO GATHER TOGETHER IN ONE ALL THINGS IN CHRIST
Ephesians 1:10 …he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
God’s plan to redeem mankind was not just so we as individuals could be saved and go to Heaven. No, he had a much larger purpose: “to gather together in all things [in Heaven and on Earth] in Christ.”
Does this mean that all the unsaved will be saved? No, we know from other scriptures that that isn’t so. Many Bible scholars take the “all things” to refer only the redeemed, or the redeemed and the Creation itself.
At the very least, it means everyone and everything will finally recognize Christ Jesus as King, even those who are doomed to an eternity in hell. We see this great event in Revelation 20—
11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. 1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. (Revelation 20:11–21:1)
I overheard a conversation in a restaurant the other day—two men were mocking the second coming of Christ. It hurts to hear the Lord mocked. I imagined all the reasons these two men could give for not believing, but I reminded myself that the history is, in fact, His-Story.
The Lord’s plan to redeem—begun in eternity past, activated at the cross of Jesus by his blood, and scheduled for conclusion at the Great White Throne—will come to pass.
Those two men believed themselves to be smart, but they were natural men, lacking spiritual discernment, not even understanding that they have two real choices:
(1) Receive the redemption and forgiveness that God has bought for us in Christ Jesus.
(2) Receive the judgment that God will deliver at the Great White Throne.