Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 13, 2015
Turn with me in your Bibles to Ephesians 1:3-14. This month at Cornerstone we are focusing on the Incarnation of Christ. We are doing this with the intent that this focused attention will cause each of you to stand in awe of our God this Christmas season. As I stated last week, for so many of you, Christmas is a burden and not a joy. You have exchanged the glory of God for the glory of man made traditions, we call it Holiday cheer. However, the pursuit of cheer is not found in hot chocolate, Christmas lights, or a mountain of presents, it is found incarnate God, Jesus Christ.
It is my hope that the preaching of God’s Word by the power of the Holy Spirit will stir your hearts in such a way that you will overflow with joy as you ponder the eternal love of God manifested in the person of Jesus Christ this Christmas season. It is my hope that sugar plums do not dance in your head, but instead your thoughts are upon this child who became a man so that you may have abundance of life through is death.
As I stated last week, the incarnation of Christ is the essence of Christmas. That is what we are celebrating, God taking on flesh and dwelling among us. Last week it was my intent to cause you to marvel at what many of us tend to take for granted. That Jesus was no mere man. He was not some good teacher. He was not just another Prophet. He was not just a carpenter’s Son. He was and is God. Jesus, our God, who according to Hebrews 1:3 “upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Jesus, our God, who according to John 1:3, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Jesus, our God, who according to Colossians 1:16, “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
This is Jesus our God whom we sing about when we say, “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.” He is not just a baby, he is the Sovereign God of the Universe.
Today I want us to look at the Incarnation of Christ from another angle. One that is only possible through the revelation of God. Today my goal is for you to dwell upon the magnitude of that moment when Jesus took on flesh. In order to see how significant this event was we must put on the spectacles of Scripture, and we will begin in Ephesians 1:3-14.
Before the Foundation
I want to direct your attention to the staggering statements found in verse 4 and 5, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will”.
In this section of Scripture we are peering into eternity past. God is giving us a glimpse into the Trinity prior to Creation. The events that Paul is unpacking are pre-Genesis 1:1 stuff. In verse 4 its says “before the foundation of the world.”
Because we, as humanity, live inside this box we call space and time, we seldom think about existence outside the box. In fact, it is hard to wrap our heads around, and the reason for that is that we are finite in our thinking, and God is infinite in his.
But whether we can perfectly understand it or not, this does not change the truth of it. God existed as Father, Son, and Spirit before time began. As we saw last week in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.”
The question I want us to ponder is what were they doing? What was the all powerful, all knowing, all sufficient, all satisfied Tri-une God of the Universe doing before speaking the Universe into being?
A God Who Purposes
It appears that before the foundation of the earth was laid, God was purposing. Look at verse 5, we see the phrase, “according to the purpose of his will.” Likewise in verse 9, “making known to us the mystery of his will.” Then in verse 10, “as a plan”. Then again in verse 11, “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”
The picture we are given in Ephesians 1 is a picture of a God with a mind. A mind that has a will. A mind that has a purpose. A mind that has a plan. God is not some cosmic force with no intellect, and no order. He is a personal God.
Our God is a God who has a mind. Our God is a God who has thoughts. Are these thoughts the same as our thoughts? No. He is God and we are man. We are finite and he is infinite. But that does not mean he has no thoughts. It only means that the thoughts of God are perfect, complete, and unchanging. So what was on the mind of God, before the foundation of the world?
His Glorious Grace
It appears that his thoughts, his will, his purpose, his plan, is the sharing of His Glory. In verse 6 we see, “to the praise of his glorious grace.” Then again in verse 12, “to the praise of his glory.” And then again in verse 14, “to the praise of his glory.”
As the Tri-une God dwelt in eternity past and thought and purposed and planned, His mind was oriented ultimately to His glory. God who is glorious beyond all comprehension, whose weight of value is immeasurable, was focused upon His infinite worth. A worth that was all satisfying within Himself. Because of the magnitude and completeness of his Glory, he lacked nothing. But God’s will, His desire was to share is Glory. His will was to put his glory on display, so that something outside of himself can bask in the light of its worth.
So because of God’s will to share his Glory He creates. He creates the heavens for his glory. He creates the angles for his glory. He creates the earth for his glory. He creates mankind for his glory. He creates, and puts his glory on display to be seen and to be treasured.
But there is more. The glory of God can take on many forms, such as the glory of his knowledge, and the glory of his power, and the glory of his providence. But the pinnacle of the glory of God is the grace of God. I am paraphrasing, but John Piper says it this way, “If the glory of God is a mountain, the peak is God’s grace.” All of God’s glory supports or upholds the apex of his glory, and that is His grace. The reason we say this, is verse 6 where it says, “to the praise of his glorious grace.”
God, before time begins, in His mind is planning, purposing, predestining all things to stand in awe of His glorious grace. This is God’s will. This is the answer to why did God created God created the World? For the praise of His glorious grace.
Full of Grace and Truth
So what does this have to do with the Incarnation of Christ? Everything. Look at verse 9, “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ.” The means by which God plans to display and receive praise is through the incarnation of His Son. Christ is the substance of God's eternal plan. If you read through this section in Ephesians you will see over and over again the central focus of Jesus Christ. Jesus is mentioned in every single verse except for verse 14. God's will to receive praise for His glorious grace is achieved only through His Son.
But that is not it, not only through His Son, but through the incarnation of His Son. Look at verse 7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” God does not have blood. Creatures have blood. For Jesus to have blood means that he has to become a man.
So feel the weight of what is going on. Before man existed, before the earth existed, before time existed, God has this plan, whereby he will display his glory, specifically the apex of his glory, His grace, and he will do so through Jesus becoming a man. So the entire purpose of creation is ultimately about the incarnation of Jesus. Listen to what it says in Hebrews 10:5
As history played out through Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and all the prophets, it was never about sacrifices and offerings, the plan was always that Jesus would have a body, that Jesus would become a man.
This is why Jesus calls himself the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, for Jesus is the reason why all things exist. Everything was created so that the man Jesus Christ could have a platform in which to manifest his glorious grace, and he would do so in the flesh.
So is Christmas just about the birth of Jesus? No, Christmas is about the moment that the Universe had been waiting for. Christmas is the execution of the eternal plan of God. Everything single moment in all of history was flowing towards the incarnation of Christ.
The Glorious Grace of the Blood of Jesus
This leaves us with one last lose end to tie up. How is the incarnation of Christ a display of the glorious grace of God? What is so gracious about Jesus becoming a man? Ultimately, it is not the birth of Christ that is the apex of God's glory, it is the death of Christ that is the apex of God's glory.
Therefore, Christmas has no joy, without Easter. If when you dwell upon the birth of Christ, you do not likewise dwell upon the cross of Christ, then you are missing the point. Christmas is a means to an end. Jesus had to be born so that he could die.
This was the eternal plan of God, to send his Son into the world as a man so that he would die, but not just die, but to die for a people. To die for those who in Ephesians 1:4 were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. To die for those who in verse 5 were destined to be adopted through the sacrifice of Christ, who would be forgiven according to the riches of His grace that he lavishes upon us.
So the question is, is what we have unpacked today upon our minds during the Christmas season? Are we dwelling upon the eternal plan of God in the midst of our shopping frenzies, and holiday parties? Are our thought the thoughts of God as laid out in Ephesians 1? Are we praising the glorious grace of God in the manifestation of Christ? Are we meditating on the eternal love of God that he has for us and his grace that he lavishes upon through Jesus Christ?
For most of us, the answer is no. And then we wonder why Christmas is so bland, so lacking, so empty, so depressing. So few people understand the magnitude of the event of the Incarnation of Christ.
So What is Christmas About?
So what is Christmas about? It is about what we sang about earlier, Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery. So today, I would like us to end by singing that song one more time. If the praise team would come up, and while they do I want to read the first part of the song to you:
Come behold the wondrous mystery In the dawning of the King
He the theme of heaven's praises Robed in frail humanity
In our longing, in our darkness Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended Took on flesh to ransom us