Saturday, October 07, 2006

Reading Ephesians... with Lloyd-Jones & Calvin

This Sunday I have the privilege of opening up Eph. 2:1-10 to the saints at FBC. What a tremendous passage! Though I've had occassion to preach this text before, I feel my poverty as a preacher. There's so much that could be said and so much that brings glory to the Father and the Son!

Well... I've had a couple of friends helping me think about the passage. Lloyd-Jones, commenting on Eph. 2:3 and the wrath of God, dropped by for a while to say:
Why should we examine these things? Someone may well ask that question. Why spend our time on a subject like this, a difficult subject? There are so many other things that are interesting at the present time and attracting attention. Why not deal with them? and in any case, amid all the problems that confront the world, why turn to something like this?

Well, lest there be someone who is harbouring some such idea, and is provoked to put such a question, let me suggest certain reasons why it behoves us to consider this matter. The first is that it is part of Scripture. It is here in the Bible and, as we shall see, it is everywhere in the Bible. And if we regard the Bible as the Word of God, and our authority in all matters of faith and conduct, we cannot pick and choose; we must take it as it is and consider its every part and portion.

Secondly, we must do so because what we are told here is, after all, a question of fact. It is not theory, it is a statement of fact. If the biblical doctrine of the wrath of God is true, then it is the most important fact confronting every one of us at this moment; infinitely more important than whether there is to be a third world war or not. If this doctrine is true, then we are all involved in it, and our eternal destiny depends upon it. And the Bible states everywhere that it is a fact.

Another reason for considering it is this: that the apostle's whole argument is that we can never understand the love of God until we understand this doctrine. It is the way in which we measure the love of God. There is a great deal of talk today about the love of God, and yet were we truly to love God, we would express it, we would show it. To love God is not merely to talk about it; to love God, as He Himself points out constantly in His Word, is to keep His commandments and to live for His glory. The argument here is that we really cannot understand the love of God unless we see it in the light of this other doctrine which we are now considering. So it is essential from that standpoint.

Let me put it in this way. I suggest that we can never truly understand why it is that the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, had to come into this world unless we understand this doctrine of the wrath of God and the judgment of God. As Christians we believe that the Son of God came into this world, that He laid aside the isignia of His eternal glory, was born as a babe in Bethlehem, and endured all that He endured, because that was essential for our salvation. But the question is, Why was it essential to our salvation? Why did all that have to take place before we could be saved? I defy anyone to answer that question adequately without bringing in this doctrine of the judgment of God and of the wrath of God. This is still more true when you look at the great doctrine of the cross and the death of our blessed Lord and Saviour. Why did Christ die? Why had He to die? If we say that we are saved by His blood, why are we saved by His blood? Why was it essential that He should die on that cross and be buried and rise again before we could be saved? There is only one adequate answer to these questions, and that is this doctrine of the wrath of God. The death of our Lord upon the cross is not absolutely necessary unless this doctrine is true. So, you see, it is a vital matter for us to consider.

Lastly, I would put it in a very practical form. This doctrine is essential from the standpint of a true evangelism. Why is it that people do not believein the Lord Jesus Christ? Why is it that people are not Christians and not members of the Christian church? Why does the Lord Jesus Christ not come into their calculations at all? In the last analysis there is only one answer to that question: they do not believe in Him because they have never seen any need of Him. And they have never seen any need of Him because they have never realised that they are sinners. and they have never realised that they are sinners because they have never realised the truth about the holiness of God and the justice and the righteousness of God; they have never known anything about God as the Judge eternal and about the wrath of God against the sin of man. So you see this doctrine is essential in evangelism. If we really believe in salvation and in our absolute need of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must start with this doctrine. There, then, are the reasons for considering it. The apostle supplies them; I am simpy repeating them. (God's Way of Reconciliation: An Exposition of Ephesians 2, Baker Books, pp48-50)

Calvin appreciated the Doctor's answer, and helpfully added:
If we have some small portion of virtue, or even a touch of it, we are given to exalting it above all the mountains of the world. But if there are any vices in us, though they are utterly gross and obvious, yet we make only very light faults of them.

The reason why men cannot humble themselves before God as is necessary, is that they flatter themselves…. For we see that hypocrisy is in us, since we would make ourselves believe that black was white, and never find ourselves at fault, as long as our misdeeds are not exposed to our faces, and as long as nobody pronounces testimony so clear that it closes our mouths. We were all by nature children of wrath. That's a helpful doctrine for making great the grace of God in salvation and magnifying the love of God through Jesus Christ His Son. (Sermons on Ephesians)

1 comment:

William E. Turner Jr. said...

I do not yet have the privilege of preaching on a regular basis but I have preached this passage while visiting a church once. I love it because I believe it is one of the best texts which sums up the gospel.

Guilt (Eph. 2:1-3)- our guilt and sinfulness before God.
Grace (Eph. 2:4-7)- God's grace in making dead sinners alive.
Gratitude (Eph. 8-10)- our response to his grace, doing good works.

It also parallels in many ways the 1st & 2nd questions of the Heidelberg Catechism. Or I should say the catechism parallels this passage.