“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”. Albert Einstein.
Attempting to simplify the gospel is critical to understanding it, which in a way paves the way for believing it. However, the gospel deals with the complex issue of finite man finding peace with the infinite God. It also provides mankind with the only solution to the vexing issues of man’s origins, sin, suffering, death and destiny. So, in an attempt to understand the gospel, many try to simplify it to the extent that the essence of the gospel is lost. In Ephesians 1:11-14, Paul captures the essence of the Christian gospel and describes the many-splendored beauty of a loving God reaching out to man.
- Chosen and predestined: ‘In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him, who works out everything——-’ (v11). No man can reach God and find him lest God takes the first step. Every person who comes to know God through Christ comes away with the impression that it was God who opened the doors of heaven to him and drew him to eternity. And so it makes sense that the all-knowing God, infinite God chooses and predestines everyone who eventually finds salvation. If God were finite like us, predestination would make no sense, but if he were infinite as he is, nothing else would make sense either.
- Heard the gospel: ‘And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation—’ (v13). No one is born saved. No one becomes a Christian by birth. Every person who accepts Jesus and the salvation he brings does so by hearing the gospel and coming to a point where he accepts the truth. This process can be facilitated from early childhood for those born into Christian homes or else later on in life by well meaning believers, who share the gospel of Christ with their neighbors.
- Believed the truth: ‘—–the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, ——’ (v13). Believing the truth of the gospel is an active step that a person takes to make salvation his own. Predestination does not mean that man has no role in this process. It is man’s inadequate finite knowledge that prevents him from being able to reconcile predestination with human choice, but the reality is both co-exist. Man can choose not to believe as well as you can choose to either stop reading this article or to continue to read it. That active step of faith and belief is anything but easy, but critical to pivot man from the realm of death to the realm of life.
- Indwelling of the Holy Spirit: ‘— Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,——–’ (v13). The Spirit of God comes into the heart of a believer, not by waiting, not by tarrying, not by asking, but the moment a person chooses to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ as his own. The manifestations of the Spirit within a person become more evident as he lives out a life of obedience, submitting to Christ, in all things. Waiting for the ‘anointing of the Spirit’ after salvation is not scriptural. Being led by the Spirit who already lives within a believer’s heart is what you are called to do.
- Awaiting hope of eternal life: ‘guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession’ (14). The life of a pilgrim is one of living the earthly life in expectation of the life to come. When the future is known, the present becomes livable. The certainty of eternal life puts the temporal life in perspective. When the treasure of eternal life dawns upon a man, the greatest treasures of this earth pale in comparison. For one who becomes saved, the presence of God within guarantees what is to come and provides orientation for life thereafter here on earth.
To borrow the words of the famous hymn, ‘Heaven came down and glory filled my soul, when at the cross the Savior made me whole’.
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