Ephesians 1: 3–14
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ* before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance,* having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, lines 155–157 (Complete download)
WE BELIEVE IN . . . ONE LORD, JESUS CHRIST
[NICENE CREED 1.1–1.2]
It pleased God to come to us in Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. God did not simply show us a path to follow, but lived among us as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Although we have done nothing to deserve the free gift of God, in Jesus Christ we receive new life, know the truth about God and ourselves, and are set upon God’s way in the world. Jesus Christ was and is the path, for Jesus Christ was and is:
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
one in Being with the Father [Nicene Creed, 1.2]
Jesus Christ came to us as one of us, sharing our joy and sorrow. He proclaimed God’s love, healed the sick, and was a friend of sinners. He continues to reveal God’s gracious love, he is among us now to make us whole, and he is still the friend of sinners. Jesus Christ was and is one with us in life; Jesus Christ was and is one with us in suffering and death. The Lord and Savior is Christ crucified, in whom God’s weakness is stronger than human strength and God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation . . .
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or heaven,
by making peace through the blood of his cross [Colossians 1:15, 19–20].
The cross of Christ is at the heart of our faith, for it is through the Lord’s death that we receive new life. The gospel of Christ crucified is a treasure that surpasses the limits of human language, and so the Bible displays a wealth of expression that leads us to thankful knowledge and grateful faith.
God’s reconciling act in Jesus Christ is a mystery which the Scriptures describe in various ways.
It is called the sacrifice of a lamb, a shepherd’s life given for his sheep, atonement by a priest;
again it is ransom of a slave, payment of debt, vicarious satisfaction of a legal penalty,
and victory over the powers of evil.
These are expressions of a truth which remains beyond the reach of all theory
in the depths of God’s love for humankind.
They reveal the gravity, cost, and sure achievement of God’s reconciling work [The Confession of 1967, 9.09].
Jesus Christ is with us in life and death. But death is not the last word, for God has raised him from the dead and exalted him above all rule and authority and power and dominion. The risen Christ is the living Lord of the cosmos. “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself” [2 Corinthians 5:19]. For the sake of the world, the Word became flesh, for the sake of the world Jesus Christ lived among us, was crucified and raised from the dead. For the sake of the world Christ ascended to heaven, and for the sake of the world Christ will come again. All of this is God’s good
pleasure set forth in Christ “as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” [Ephesians 1:10].
For we teach and believe that this Jesus Christ our Lord
is the unique and eternal Savior of the human race,
and thus of the whole world,
in whom by faith are saved all who before the law,
under the law, and under the Gospel were saved,
and however many will be saved
at the end of the world [The Second Helvetic Confession, 5.077].
Jesus Christ is the only Savior and Lord, and all people everywhere are called to place their faith, hope, and love in him. No one is saved by virtue of inherent goodness or admirable living, for “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the
gift of God” [Ephesians 2:8]. No one is saved apart from God’s gracious redemption in Jesus Christ. Yet we do not presume to limit the sovereign freedom of “God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” [1 Timothy 2:4]. Thus, we neither restrict the grace of God to those who profess explicit faith in Christ nor assume that all people are saved regardless of faith. Grace, love, and communion belong to God, and are not ours to determine.
Paul, after a beautiful development of his thought,
in Rom. 10:17 at length comes to the conclusion,
“So faith comes from hearing,
and hearing from the Word of God by the preaching of Christ.”
At the same time we recognize that God can illuminate whom and when he will,
even without the external ministry, for that is in his power
[The Second Helvetic Confession, 5.006, 007].
Book of Confessions, 5.107 – 5.110
WE ARE JUSTIFIED ON ACCOUNT OF CHRIST. Now it is most certain that all of us are by nature sinners and godless, and before God's judgment-seat are convicted of godlessness and are guilty of death, but that, solely by the grace of Christ and not from any merit of ours or consideration for us, we are justified, that is, absolved from sin and death by God the Judge. For what is clearer than what Paul said: "Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23 f.).
IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS. For Christ took upon himself and bore the sins of the world, and satisfied divine justice. Therefore, solely on account of Christ's sufferings and resurrection God is propitious with respect to our sins and does not impute them to us, but imputes Christ's righteousness to us as our own (II Cor. 5:19 ff.; Rom. 4:25), so that now we are not only cleansed and purged from sins or are holy, but also, granted the righteousness of Christ, and so absolved from sin, death and condemnation, are at last righteous and heirs of eternal life. Properly speaking, therefore, God alone justifies us, and justifies only on account of Christ, not imputing sins to us but imputing his righteousness to us.
WE ARE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH ALONE. But because we receive this justification, not through any works, but through faith in the mercy of God and in Christ, we therefore teach and believe with the apostle that sinful man is justified by faith alone in Christ, not by the law or any works. For the apostle says: "We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (Rom. 3:28). Also: "If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. . . . And to one who does not work but believes in him who justified the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom. 4:2 ff.; Gen. 15:6). And again: "By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God--not because of works, lest any man should boast," etc. (Eph. 2:8 f.). Therefore, because faith receives Christ our righteousness and attributes everything to the grace of God in Christ, on that account justification is attributed to faith, chiefly because of Christ and not therefore because it is our work. For it is the gift of God.
WE RECEIVE CHRIST BY FAITH. Moreover, the Lord abundantly shows that we receive Christ by faith, in John, ch. 6, where he puts eating for believing, and believing for eating. For as we receive food by eating, so we participate in Christ by believing. JUSTIFICATION IS NOT ATTRIBUTED PARTLY TO CHRIST OR TO FAITH, PARTLY TO US. Therefore, we do not share in the benefit of justification partly because of the grace of God or Christ, and partly because of ourselves, our love, works or merit, but we attribute it wholly to the grace of God in Christ through faith. For our love and our works could not please God if performed by unrighteous men. Therefore, it is necessary for us to be righteous before we may love and do good works. We are made truly righteous, as we have said, by faith in Christ purely by the grace of God, who does not impute to us our sins, but the righteousness of Christ, or rather, he imputes faith in Christ to us for righteousness. Moreover, the apostle very clearly derives love from faith when he says: "The aim of our command is love that issues from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith" (I Tim. 1:5).