Jeremy Sarber

Marvel at the death of God’s Son

Redemption is a greater work even than creation, and especially when we consider the way in which God has achieved it, even through the sending of His only Begotten Son into this world in all the marvel and the wonder and the miracle of the Incarnation, but above all in delivering Him up to the Death upon the Cross. This is the supreme thing—that sinful fallen man can be redeemed and restored, and ultimately the whole of creation also. (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure)

In Ephesians 1, Paul uses a unique phrase at the end of verse 6 which moves him from the subject of God’s election to Christ’s redemption. It creates a bridge between those two aspects of our salvation. The phrase is this: He has blessed us in the Beloved (Eph 1:6).

By definition, beloved is a word which refers to one who is loved. In context, it means one who is loved, in particular, by God. At the baptism of Jesus, God spoke from heaven and said, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). Paul is suggesting that those whom God has chosen to adopt into his family are elevated to a status equal with Christ his Son. We are blessed in the Beloved. In other words, God has brought us into the same everlasting love which he has for his own Son.

It should be understood, however, our elevation as illegitimate children to the beloved sons and daughters of God in heaven is not something we deserve. It is the result of God’s glorious grace (Eph 1:6). Paul says, To the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. God brings us into his family on the basis of unconditional love and undeserved mercy. He sovereignly chose us and predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ (Eph 1:4-5).

We are adopted through Jesus Christ. We are blessed in the Beloved. Verse 3 says that God has blessed us in Christ (Eph 1:3). The temptation of Calvinistic believers is to become so enamored by the doctrine of election that God’s initial decree before the foundation of the world becomes the gospel itself to us (Eph 1:4). We may very well stress election and predestination to the neglect of Christ’s atoning work and even our justification by faith in Christ.

I’ll give you an example. In the early-19th century, a Baptist preacher by the name of Daniel Parker started an anti-missions movement that swept the country. He took the doctrine of election to such an extreme that he not only believed evangelism was unnecessary—why evangelize if God has already chosen his people?—but he also claimed it was unbiblical. The death of Christ, though necessary, became little more than a footnote in God’s plan of redemption, and justification by faith was altogether irrelevant.

Needless to say, neither Paul nor the rest of the Bible shares Parker’s convictions. The thrust of the gospel message is never that God simply chose a people for salvation. Rather, it is that Christ died for our sins and that God accepts us only through him. We are blessed in the Beloved because Christ, the Beloved Son of God, has redeemed us by his blood, and we are united with him through faith.

In Ephesians 1:3-14, Paul rolls all of the various aspects of our salvation into one seamless declaration of both theology and doxology. Frankly, if our theology doesn’t lead to worship, then either our theology is wrong, or there is something critically lacking within ourselves. Perhaps we’ve abandoned the love we had at first just as the Ephesians eventually did (Rev 2:4). As Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, we should marvel at the incarnation of God’s Son and even more so at his death on the cross which procured our redemption.