Salvation for God’s Glory
Why does God receive glory by saving sinners? One might think God dishonors himself, and tarnishes his glory by rescuing sinners from their sins. To the contrary, Paul says throughout Ephesians that God’s salvation of sinners brings him glory. In fact, Paul explicitly states the reason God chose to save sinners from their sins was for the praise of his glorious grace.
But the question is why? Here’s my answer: God’s act to save some sinners brings him glory, because he chose to redeem them in Christ before the foundation of the world for the purpose of satisfying his good pleasure.
To state the point more precisely, the salvation of sinners brings God glory, because God wanted to glorify himself by saving some sinners whom he predestined for salvation before the foundation of the world.
Paul begins this section praising God in for blessing “us” (namely, Jewish and Gentile sinners) with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (v. 3).
In verses 4-14, Paul lists some of those spiritual blessings for which he praises God:
- Election in Christ before the foundation of the world and predestination for the purpose of adoption in love (4-5; cf. Deut 7)
- Redemption = Forgiveness of Trespasses (5)
- Insight into the mystery of his will = the unification of all things in Christ (9-10)
- Heirs of salvation, because we were predestined that we would believe (11)
- The seal of the Holy Spirit after hearing and believing the gospel of our salvation (13-14)
God blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, because he desired to glorify himself by means of richly displaying his saving grace upon those whom he chose to be his people.
For example, Paul asserts God predestined us in love to be his children through Jesus Christ, so that he would receive praise and glory and honor because of his electing grace (v. 4-6). He redeemed us in Christ according to his free and abundant grace (7-8). He made us heirs of salvation because he predestined us in accordance with his will so we would believe for the praise of his glory.
He gave us the Holy Spirit as a seal of the inheritance of salvation as the redeemed, so that we would praise and worship him (14). These truths reveal why in fact Paul begins this section with praise. But what are some practical applications of God’s rich grace displayed through his sovereign election?
- Christian Obedience: God has chosen us for his glory to be saved because he wants us to live holy and distinct lives as his people in community (e.g. v. 4; cf. 4:1-6:23). Election guarantees a conversion experience. And obedience to Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, is one of the reasons for which God chose us to be saved: namely, to be holy and blameless. Paul says God prepared us in advance to walk in good works (Eph. 2:10).
- Evangelism: We know the elect are the elect when they repent, believe, and respond in faithful obedience to the gospel. Therefore, we preach the gospel to everybody and to anybody who will listen to us. And we call them to repent and believe, while trusting by faith that the Holy Spirit will, quicken the hearts of the elect and bring them to faith in Jesus Christ.
This frees Christians up to evangelize and liberates us from the false assumption that we must resurrect dead hearts. Christians don’t need gimmicks, a seminary degree, or brilliance to be a faithful witness for the Lord. Rather, we simply need to preach the gospel with clarity and simplicity and pray and trust the Spirit to work in the hearts of dead sinners (Eph. 2:1-10).
- Justification by Faith in Christ: All sinners, (black, brown, red, yellow, white, etc.) are justified by faith in Christ. The elect are children of wrath, until the Spirit works in their hearts and they respond to the preaching of the gospel by faith (Eph. 2:1-10). Therefore, Christians must call sinners to believe in the gospel by proclaiming that Jesus is Lord, that he died for sins, and that God raised him from the dead so that sinners and the cosmos would be saved from his future wrath. We do not ask them to consider whether they are elect. We ask them to consider Jesus as the solution to their sin and separation from God.