Eph. 3:16-21; Know Who You Are in Christ: Perfected in Love
9-27-15 by the Rev. Bob Gochenour
Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying:
2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.
3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.
4Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business…
8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’
10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe,
12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.
13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 24:1-14)
John Wesley preached a provocative sermon on this text entitled “The Wedding Garment.”
Wesley saw that the Wedding Banquet was an invitation to enjoy a new LIFE IN CHRIST.
This is a parable that describes our salvation experience.
God gives an invitation to all people—some refuse and some accept.
This invitation is the gift of Justifying Grace: God offers us the righteousness of Jesus Christ to atone for our sins.
Through God’s great love and mercy: God wipes away our sins and gives us the Righteousness of Jesus Christ.
This wedding invitation = “Imputed righteousness”
We have described this term in the last two weeks as God’s free gift that saves us from our sins/inclination to follow darkness.
Wesley described this as a relative change: God turns around.
We reject the evil forces of this world and start walking towards God’s light.
We confess our faith in Christ Jesus and start the journey of faith.
Wesley states that the wedding invitation ENTITLES us for the wedding banquet:
We are welcomed to God’s heavenly banquet feast;
We experience the blessings of the fatted calf;
We experience the joy of this celebration;
We drink deeply the abundance of God’s wine.
Wesley notes from the parable: We must have wedding clothes!
Every single guest at the banquet had a wedding invitation that entitled him to be there.
One guest did not have the proper clothes that QUALIFIED him to be there.
The King found this guest and cast him out of the great banquet.
Jesus said: “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24:13)
Wesley: the wedding clothes= “Imparted Righteousness.”
Imparted Righteousness: being in Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ gives us our own righteousness by transforming us by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in our inner persons and makes us Holy, Complete, righteous.
This is the work of Sanctifying grace: we spend the rest of our lives growing in faith, love, and righteousness.
John Wesley’s point:
Wedding invitation ENTITLES you for the Banquet of God.
The Wedding Garment QUALIFIES you for God’s banquet.
Wesley concludes: imputed righteousness MUST become imparted righteousness.
God gives us the righteousness of Jesus Christ to cover our sinfulness!
God expects us to develop personal righteousness to make us like Christ.
NO ONE CAN AFFORD TO STOP THEIR CHRISTIAN JOURNEY WITH JUSTIFICATION!
NO ONE CAN STOP THEIR CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE AT THE NEW BIRTH!
YOU MUST CONTINUE TO GROW IN GRACE!
SANCTIFICATION IS A REQUIREMENT!
God expects you to continue your Christian journey every day.
You can rejoice: God has given you an invitation to His banquet!
You must respond appropriately: put on the wedding garments of holiness and righteousness to qualify for God’s banquet.
John Wesley: Wedding Garment = Christian Perfection
This is the message of Ephesians 3: Paul prays for all Christians.
“I pray that... you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Every Christian is encouraged to press onto this goal:
“the fullness of God.”
THE FULLNESS OF GOD = LOVE DEVOID OF SELF INTEREST.
This is the most important commandment:
“Love the Lord your God…and your neighbor as yourself.”
This is the model of Jesus: who loved the world so much that he gave himself as a sacrifice for all to find salvation.
This is the Christian ethic: live a life of love in all things.
Wesley describes Christian Perfection as the journey of perfect love: love with no concern for self, no hidden motives, and no self-serving agendas.
Christian perfection = A love that is a beautiful expression of care, compassion, giving and service to others.
Perfect love = a child who gives flowers to her mommy.
Mother doesn’t care if they are picked from mommy’s garden;
Mother doesn’t care if they are picked from a neighbor’s garden;
Mother doesn’t care if they are just a clump of weeds.
Mother accepts the gift because they are given with perfect love.
Wesley: this is how we are to live every day: love for all.
Paul: this is his prayer for us—experience this type of love.
THE FULLNESS OF GOD= POWER OVER SIN.
We need to know who we are in Christ Jesus!
Christ Jesus has given us power over our sin—it no longer reigns.
The Holy Spirit gives us the power to overcome temptations/sin.
Grace is greater than the lure of sin.
Christ has broken the power of sin over us.
We never need to sin again!
Perfect love casts out all sin.
Wesley preached: “If we settled the issue of sin by a previous commitment to love God and neighbor, then when actual temptations come, we will have power to overcome.”
In other words: God changes our appetites!
We no longer want to eat the fruits of sin.
My son Timothy is allergic to shrimp.
You may feel sorry for him.
You may feel like he is deprived from one of the great pleasures of life.
He doesn’t feel that way at all.
He has learned the hard way: if he eats shrimp he must go to the hospital and get an emergency breath treatment.
He has learned: even if he touches a dirty plate that had shrimp on it—he gets a negative reaction.
He has learned: he has no appetite for shrimp.
It is no longer a temptation, desire, or a disappointment.
Wesley says it is the same way with sin: God takes away our appetite.
THE FULLNESS OF GOD = PROCESS OF A LIFETIME
Wesley insisted that Christian perfection was not a static experience.
It is not a one-time experience: it is a process that lasts a lifetime
It is the continuing endeavor of the Christian life.
We are all called to press on towards Christian perfection.
We are all called to press on towards perfect love.
We are all called to love God with all our hearts.
We are all called to love our neighbors as ourselves.
It is a real experience for real people in real life.
Each day offers the opportunity to reach perfect love.
The next day requires the same effort.
No one can remain in the past—you have to love each day!
For example, a 4 year old child may be perfect in development.
He may be in the perfect range for physical development;
He may know the alphabet, numbers, reading;
He may know how to dress himself, be potty trained, feed himself
He may know how to get along with friends and family.
We might say that this child is perfect for a 4 year old.
His age implies the need for growth.
He needs to achieve the abilities of a 5 year old, 10 year old, a 21 year old, a 50 year old, and beyond.
If he was a 50 year old and only knows his 4 year old skills—sad.
So it is with Christian perfection: we must continue to grow each day.
Paul instructs us on how to obtain this goal: IN CHRIST.
1. Receive God’s grace
“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit…” (Ephesians 3:16)
2. Be established in love
“I pray… that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:17)
Rooted in love: like a tree firmly established in the soil; when temptations blow against the tree, it stands fast in God’s love.
Grounded in love: like a house built on a strong foundation; when the storms blow against the house; it remains strong.
3. Grasp God’s Love
“I pray… that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,…” (Ephesians 3:18-19)
Ancient Christians translated this as a picture of the cross.
breadth=left cross; length=right; height=top; depth=bottom;
Cross represents the totality of Christ’s love for humanity.
Jesus on the cross stretched out his arms of love to all.
Modern Christians may translate this:
Breadth: God’s love includes all humanity;
Length: salvation lasts for eternity;
Height: God exalts us to the heavenly realms;
Depth: God’s love reaches to the lowest of sinners.
This is why Paul prays for you to KNOW God’s love.
He invites us all to experience the love of Christ first hand.
You must know who you are in Christ Jesus!
Justified by Grace: you have received an invitation to the wedding banquet. You are entitled to go.
Sanctified by Grace: you are receiving the wedding garments to qualify you to go to God’s banquet.
Perfected by Grace: you are called to receive God’s love each day so that you may practice Christian perfection—love devoid of self-interest.
Remember Paul’s final word of encouragement:
“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)