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Sermon #6[i] — Ephesians Sermons
Title: Measuring Mercy
Text: Ephesians 1:5
Subject: God’s Mercy Measured to His Elect
I want to talk to you about the mercy of God. How we rejoice in the fact that God’s covenant mercies are sure and everlasting mercies. — “His mercies are new every morning,” and “his mercy endureth forever!” The mercy of God is in Christ. As John Gill wrote, “Mercy is displayed only in and through Christ. God out of Christ is a consuming fire.” — It is only in Christ that God proclaims his name to be “gracious and merciful.” Christ is the Mercy-seat in whom sinners obtain mercy. If we would be saved, we must, like the publican, cast ourselves upon the mercy of God in Christ (Luke 18:13).
I’ll go to Jesus though my sin
Hath like a mountain rose;
I know His courts I’ll enter in
Whatever may oppose.
Prostrate I’ll lie before His throne
And there my guilt confess;
I’ll tell Him I’m a wretch undone
Without His sovereign grace.
I can but perish if I go;
I am resolved to try,
For if I stay away I know
I must forever die.
But if I die with mercy sought,
When I the King have tried,
This were to die (delightful thought!)
As sinner never died!
How can I describe the mercy of God in Christ? “Thy mercy is great unto the heavens” (Psalm 57:10). God’s mercy transcends our loftiest thoughts. “For as high as heaven is above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him” (Psalm 103:11). God’s mercy to sinners in Christ is infinite, beyond measure, and utterly indescribable. The Bible tells us that it is great mercy, rich mercy, abundant mercy, plenteous mercy, and that there is a multitude of mercies from God for sinners in Christ Jesus.
I cannot begin to describe the mercy of God. But I can tell you something of the mercy I have found in Christ. This is what I have experienced. God’s preventing, prevenient mercy (Psalm 59:10) preserved me unto the appointed time of love and brought me to the place where he saved me by his grace. His forbearing mercy (Romans 2:4) made him longsuffering with me in my rebellion and brought me to repentance. The Lord’s pardoning mercy (Isaiah 55:6) has put away my sins by the blood of Christ. His comforting mercy (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) sustains my soul in hope as he enables me to remember and trust his promises, his providence, his presence, and his propitiation. This is my soul’s comfort: — “Thy mercies are new every morning!”
The title of my message is Measuring Mercy.
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise!
But I can’t measure the mercy of God, and you can’t. — “Thy mercy is great unto the heavens” (Psalm 57:10). Yea, “thy mercy is great above the heavens” (Psalm 108:4). — “The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy” (Psalm 119:64).
A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing!
See, from Zion’s sacred mountain.
Streams of living water flow:
God has opened there a Fountain;
This supplies the plains below:
They are blessed, who its sovereign virtues know.
Through ten thousand channels flowing,
Streams of mercy find their way;
Life, and health, and joy bestowing,
Making bright our darkest day:
O, ye chosen! Mercy reigns, yes reigns today!
Gladdened by the flowing treasure.
All enriching as it goes:
Lo, the desert smiles with pleasure.
Buds and blossoms as the rose,
Every object sings for joy where’er it flows.
Trees of life the banks adorning.
Yield their fruit to all around;
Those who eat are saved from mourning.
Pleasure comes and hopes abound:
Mercy’s portion? — Endless life with glory crowned!
I can’t measure God’s mercy and you can’t; but God can and does! Let me show you. Let’s begin in Ephesians 1:5.
In this one chapter God the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to use the words “according” and “according to” six times to measure his great mercy toward us in Christ
· in all spiritual blessings,
· in predestination,
· in adoption,
· in redemption,
· in revelation,
· in providence,
· and in effectual calling.
(Ephesians 1:3-20) “Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly [places] in Christ: 4 (1) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, (2) according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, (3) 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, (4) 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: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated (5) according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
“15 ¶ Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what [is] the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, (6) according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set [him] at his own right hand in the heavenly [places].”
That word “according” is the word God uses to measure his mercy to us. The word “according” means “in agreement with,” “in harmony with,” “guided by,” and “measured by.”
Proposition: The Spirit of God uses this word “according” in the Book of God to teach us that every blessing we receive from the hand of God’s mercy is measured to us by the eternal, unalterable purpose and will of God in Christ our Savior.
Everything God does for poor sinners in time is measured, regulated, and guided by the sovereign, purpose and will of God in eternity. The heaven he prepares for us, the salvation he bestows upon us, the providence he brings to pass for us, everything God does for his chosen, is measured out and accomplished by the purpose of his grace and the will of his love!
Cause of Rejoicing
If that doesn’t sail your boat, I don’t know what will! Here is a cause for unceasing joy in our souls. — “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice! Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand!” That the thrice holy God should save any of us is a wonder of his sovereign mercy. That he should make such great and glorious provisions for our souls’ everlasting welfare is a cause for unceasing joy and praise. That he should save sinners like us at such a great price (the price of his own dear Son’s precious blood) should inspire in our souls the greatest possible humility, gratitude, and devotion.
All Spiritual Blessings
First, we are told that every spiritual blessing of grace, every heavenly mercy is bestowed upon needy sinners according to, by the measure of, God’s sovereign election (Ephesians 1:3-4).
(Ephesians 1:3-4) “Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly [places] in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”
God’s choice and election of his people is not the result of something we do, but the cause of everything he does for us in Christ. It was the fact of his election by God unto salvation and eternal life in Christ that sustained David’s heart in the trials and troubles of life, and rejoiced his soul as he lay upon his deathbed. Indeed, this is a doctrine full of joy and comfort to every child of God.
(Psalms 65:4) “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.”
(2 Samuel 23:5) “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.”
“`Twas with an everlasting love
That God His own elect embraced,
Before He made the worlds above,
Or earth on her huge columns placed.
O love, how high thy glories swell,
How great, immutable, and free!
Ten thousand sins, as black as hell,
Are swallowed up, O love, in thee!
Loved when a wretch defiled with sin,
At war with heaven, in league with hell,
A slave to every lust obscene,
Who, living, lived but to rebel.
Believer, here thy comfort stands,
From first to last salvation’s free;
And everlasting love demands
An everlasting song from thee.”
— John Kent
Predestination and Adoption
Second, we are told that predestination and adoption are mercies measured to us “according to the good pleasure of his will” (Ephesians 1:5).
(Ephesians 1:5) “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
What does that mean? It means no unexpected children are ever brought into God’s family! When children are unexpected, parents are unprepared. But when a couple has been married a while they plan and prepare themselves to bring a child into the world. When the young couple gets the doctor’s report and the rabbit is dead, they start preparing their home for a baby. — Nursery — Crib — Clothes, etc. Everything is done beforehand. Even the baby’s name is selected with care.
So it is with all who are born into the family of God in time. Preparations were made for us by our heavenly Father before the world was made. Sometimes you and are surprised by the conversion of a person. We have been praying for Joe, but God saves Sammy. Well, Sammy’s salvation may take us by surprise; but not God. His heavenly Father wrote his name in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the world began! He was chosen in Christ in eternity.
(Acts 13:48) “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”
And the Lord God, the Almighty, Sammy’s all-wise, good and gracious heavenly Father predestined everything that comes to pass in time just for Sammy! He performs all things just for Sammy! And that makes Sammy mighty happy.
Redemption and Forgiveness
Third, God the Holy Spirit tells us that our redemption by the precious blood of Christ and the forgiveness of our sins by his blood is measured to us “according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Imagine that!
(Ephesians 1:7) “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
Redemption is “through his blood.” All who are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, all for whom the Son of God obtained eternal redemption, have “the forgiveness of sins.” And the measure of these companion mercies, redemption and forgiveness, is “the riches of his grace!”
C. D. Cole wrote, “Poor sinners need a wealth of grace; and God is wealthy in grace. Our forgiveness is commensurate with or measured by the riches of his grace.”
Grace! Grace! Marvelous grace!
Grace that is greater than all my sins!
(Hebrews 4:16) “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
Effectual Calling and Faith
Fourth, our effectual calling by God the Holy Spirit and the gift of faith in Christ, that by which chosen, redeemed sinners experience God’s saving grace are mercies measured to us by the power of God and the will of God (Ephesians 1:19; Romans 8:28; 2 Timothy 1:9).
(Ephesians 1:19) “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.”
(Romans 8:28) “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
(2 Timothy 1:9-11) God “hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: 11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.”
· God ordained that we should be called.
· God ordained the time of our call. — “The Time of Love!”
· God ordained the means by which we must be called. — Gospel Preaching!
· And God performed the call!
There is a purpose in God’s call; and the call is on purpose. We are “called according to his purpose.” None are called accidentally. God meant to call us. He called us for the purpose of making us like his dear Son, the Lord Jesus, and in calling us made us “partakers of the divine nature.” By irresistible grace and omnipotent mercy the Lord God has made us new creatures in Christ, men and women with a new nature “created in righteousness and true holiness.”
Regeneration and Conversion
Fifth, turn to Titus chapter 3. Here we see that regeneration and conversion, this new creation work of grace is performed in God’s elect according to the measure of God’s infinite mercy.
(Titus 3:4-7) “After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
(Ephesians 2:1-10) “And you [hath he quickened], who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
“4 ¶ But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
What kind of love chose us to salvation in Christ? Free love! — What kind of grace contrived the scheme of salvation? — Eternal grace! Why does God show mercy to such sinful creatures of abject misery as we are? — Because of “his great love wherewith he loved us” God “who is rich in mercy” saved us by his grace!
Strength for the Day
Sixth, the Lord God in great mercy gives us strength for every day, strength for every trial, strength for every trouble, strength for every burden, as it is needed by the measure of his own glorious power (Colossians 1:11).
(Colossians 1:9-11) “For this cause we also, since the day we heard [it], do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9) “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Here God’s elect are assured of his grace in Christ and of the absolute sufficiency of it always and in all things. One of the names of our great God is El-Shaddai, which means God All Sufficient! The grace of God in Christ and that alone is our sufficiency.
It is sufficient grace because it is effectual grace. Today there is much talk about grace; but those who talk about it talk about a grace that lacks efficacy. That is not the grace of our God. God’s grace is effectual grace. It is always sufficient because it is always effectual. Let us ever remember that God’s grace in Christ is sufficient for us for everything and at all times.
· Sufficient to Accomplish All His Saving Purposes!
· Sufficient to Pardon, Justify, Regenerate, Sanctify, and Preserve Us!
· Sufficient in Every Time of Need!
· Sufficient in Health and Sufficient in Sickness!
· Sufficient in Joy and Sufficient in Sorrow!
· Sufficient Life and Sufficient in Death!
· Sufficient in Judgment!
· Sufficient to Present Us Faultless Before the Presence of His Glory Forever!
The strength we have as believers to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, the strength we have to be fruitful in every good work, increasing in the knowledge of God is according to his power. We have no more strength in ourselves to trust Christ and serve him than we do to save ourselves. He says, “without me ye can do nothing!” Child of God, hear what God your Savior says to you: — “My grace is sufficient for thee!” If we are strong, we are made strong by his grace in the experience of our weakness, made “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1).
Supply for the Way
God’s mercy is measured to us by the love of God, by the will and purpose of God, by the grace of God, and by the glorious power of God. Now, turn to Philippians 4:19. Let me show you one more great boon of mercy and its measure. Our supply for the way is measured to us day by day according to the riches of the glory of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:19) “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
Our daily supplies, all our temporal and eternal needs, all our carnal and spiritual needs, are met and supplied to us “according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus!” What a statement! What a promise! — If that doesn’t ring your bell, your clacker’s broke. God’s coffers are infinite; and God’s coffers are full! His riches are untold. No famine, no depression, no panic, no disease, no discomfort, no drought, no pestilence can diminish his supply!
Illustration: Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:1-14) — “The barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the Word of the Lord!”
All these boons of mercy are ours by faith in Christ. Let me show you that, and I will be done (Matthew 9:29).
(Matthew 9:27-31) “And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, [Thou] Son of David, have mercy on us. 28 And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. 29 Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. 30 And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See [that] no man know [it]. 31 But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country.”
Thank God, these boons of mercy are not measured to us by the measure of our faith. They are measured to us by Christ, the Object of our faith. All God’s blessings are in Christ. We were not present when he deposited them in him. That was done before the world began. So the blessings do not depend on us. Trust Christ. In all things, look away from yourself to Christ. Trust him. Depend on him. Believe him. — “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him!”
Illustration: A Chinese woman tried to do something of merit in the eyes of her heathen gods. She once dug a well for someone with her hands and a crude shovel, twenty-five feet deep and fifteen feet wide. When she was an old woman, God saved her by His grace. When she was eighty years old, she held out the crippled hands with which she had labored all her life and sang…
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s commands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.”
That’s what I’m talking about. God’s mercy is measured to us according to the riches of his grace, the riches of his power, and the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Trust him, and you will find it so!
[i] Danville — Sunday Evening — March 22, 2015
Readings: Cody Henson and Merle Hart
Ephesians 1:1-2:10 or 1 Kings 17:1-16