Pardoned by the Cross

Sermon by James Baird on March 8, 1989

Ephesians 3:1-10

March 8, 1989

Ephesians 1:3-10
Pardoned by the Cross

Dr. James M. Baird

Let’s take our
Bibles and turn to the book of Ephesians, the first chapter of the book of
Ephesians. Soren
Kierkegaard
lived in the early part of the 1800’s. He likened the passion of the pagans as
they worshipped their idol to truth, and the coldness and the indifference of
the Christian as they worshipped the true God to error. And he introduced the
idea that there was more truth or at least there was truth, in the passion of
the pagan. He set passion and involvement against rationality, truth,
understanding, orthodoxy, knowing what the Scriptures teach. He did both a
service and a disservice to the Church for he opened the way for the existential
movement in this century. And we should never be put on the horns of that
dilemma. We should have both: it’s not either or.

Our text Sunday morning was the Apostle
Paul. Listen to the passion in this. The Apostle Paul says in Galatians
chapter 6 verse 17, “God forbid that I should glory save or accept in the cross
of Jesus Christ.” What passion! Now the difference between Paul and
Kierkegaard
is that Paul goes on and he explains the meaning of the cross. Our passion is
not simply that we are to get involved in the things of God and become excited,
as many would have in our day. It’s not that alone. It is excitement and
passion and commitment with knowledge.

So, why are we called to the cross?
What is the meaning of the cross? How can I experience the passion if I don’t
understand? We said Sunday morning that the cross is central to the biblical
message. Why is the cross central to the Christian faith and to the Christian?
It is because of what God accomplished on the cross. The God that we worship
did something for His people on the cross. Hear the word of God. I am going to
be continuing this series of sermons, and for the rest of this series of sermons
we’re going to be dealing with what has been accomplished at the cross that
makes it so passionate to us, why we are so desperate to continually come to the
cross and to believe in the faith of the Christ who is in the cross and who has
died and rose again to give us life and victory. What is it about the cross?
Our passage is in Ephesians chapter 1. I’m going to begin reading in verse 3.
This will be our text. And I’m going to give you a little background as we go
along here, and these are some of the things that God would have us understand
that lead to the cross. Verse 3, the first thing that you will understand from
this passage is that there is a great God. He is the governor. He is the
Lord. He is the King, the God of this Bible. We as Christians, we worship a
God who is the absolute governor of this world. Listen to it.

Ephesians 1:3-10:


3

Blessed
be

the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all
spiritual blessings in heavenly
places

in Christ: 4
According as he hath chosen us in him
before the foundation of the world.”

I want to stop
right there. Here is a God who creates the world, and who chooses before the
world is even brought into being. And the second thing about this great, kingly
God, is that He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. When Christ comes to
this earth, He will be the full representation; He will be God in the flesh.
The first thing we recognize is that there is a great, kingly God. Now this
kingly God has a great plan. He has a great plan for His people. He is going
to call a people unto Himself and He has a plan for their lives, and this
continues in the middle of that fourth verse. I’ll continue at the beginning of
that fourth verse.


4

That we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5

Having predestinated us unto the
adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure
of his will, 6
To the praise of the glory of his grace,
wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Now this great God, this is His plan:
He has a people that He is going to choose and bring unto Himself. This people
that He’s going to call unto Himself, He’s got a plan for their lives. The
first thing about that plan is they are to be holy. When He speaks about
holiness, God’s going to set forth the very structure of holiness in the Bible.
He sets forth the standard. He decides what is holy and what is not holy, and
He reveals it to us. He reveals it in what is called “His statutes,” “His
laws.” Sometimes it’s called “His Ways.” In the passage here it’s called “His
will.” He has a holy will for these people that He has called unto Himself.
And this is His plan for these people: that they’re going to be holy before
Him; they’re going to be blameless. That’s His plan for these people, that they
would be blameless. And the last thing is that these people would be adopted
into His family and they would literally become His children. He adopts these
people into His family all for His glory and all for His praise, the praise of
this great God and this great King. Now the next thing is, this great King
who’s got a plan for these people that He has called unto Himself, He has to do
something to bring these people unto Himself. It is called
redemption
.
Next verse, verse
7:


7

In whom we have redemption through his
blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
8

Wherein he hath abounded toward us in
all wisdom and prudence; 9
Having made known unto us the
mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in
himself.

He is going to
redeem us. Do you know what it means
to redeem
?
Those of you who are involved in financial affairs, when you redeem bonds, you
redeem bonds by purchasing them back. Redemption is always bringing something
by paying a price. It was a word that was used for slaves. It was a day of
slavery and a slave would be purchased at a redemption price. Why does this
great God, who has a great will and plan for His people, have to redeem us?
Because we have been separated from Him. That separation comes because of
sins. Isaiah said, ‘Your sins, your iniquities have separated between you and
your God.’ That separation is the result of sins and that’s why redemption in
this passage and forgiveness of sins or forgiveness is linked together. We are
redeemed by being forgiven by God, but at a price. “We are purchased at a
price,” the Bible says. There are many folk who may not understand this
estrangement from God but I suggest to you that most of us do. Most of us have
known that there were times in our lives before we came to the cross when God
was a million miles from us.

I. The enormity of the consequences
of sin
Now
with that premise, let us make some understanding. We’re dealing with the
cross. Why is the Apostle Paul so passionate about the cross? Why is it the
central theme of the Scripture? Why so much space given to it? Because of
these reasons: one, two, three. Number one, when we read this passage of
scripture here we understand the enormity, the enormity of the consequences of
sin.

One who loved nature, Henry Thoreau, who
loved God’s creation and likened God’s creation unto God, in all probability he
would never have called himself this, but he was a pantheist. When he was on
his deathbed he had a Christian godly aunt who visited him and implored him to
make peace with God. “Have you made your peace with God?” And Thoreau’s answer
was, “My dear, I did not know that we had so much as quarreled.”

Now you can understand and have great
insight into Henry Thoreau. He had no knowledge of the fact that God had a
problem with him. Would there be anybody here who would come and stand where I
stand and suggest to all folk here, “I have never sinned. God has never had a
problem with me.” If I were to tell you that in the minds of most people who
are Christians, in the history of Christianity in the United States, there is
one sermon that is regarded as the most powerful sermon ever preached, and the
sermon probably that most people would say, ‘This is the sermon that has
received more interest and more fame than any other one sermon ever preached in
the history of the United States.’ What do you think that sermon would be?
“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards. To be separated
from God because of sin, and the enormous consequence of sin is that it
separates you from your God and as a consequence you are in the hands of a God
who is offended, in the hands of a God who is bound by His moral nature to deal
with sinners.

And somewhere along the way you will
hear folks say, ‘How could God love when His own Son died on the cross and He
did nothing?’ It was because He was to save us by Christ. It was not because
He did not love, but it did prove this: God is a hater of sin and when His own
Son becomes sin, He dies on the cross–not for His sins but for our sins. There
is an enormous consequence of sin. We live in a day and age which tends to make
light, like Henry Thoreau didn’t even know he had a quarrel.

II.
The enormous congregation of sinners

There is a second truth that comes out
of this passage, and that is this: there is an enormous congregation of
sinners. The Bible says in the book of Romans that “All have sinned and come
short of the glory of God”–not
some
.
Would you stand here and say, “I’ve never sinned”? You wouldn’t do that. Our
Catechism
teaches and the Bible teaches that there are two kinds of sins: there are the
negative sins, that which I have not done which I should have done…And the
opportunities go by day-after-day-after-day for us to do something, and you have
heard a number of opportunities right here tonight. ‘It is a sin,’ says James,
‘when a man knows to do something and doesn’t do it.’ The positive aspect of
sin is when we do those things that we know are wrong. To either leave some
things undone that should be done, or to do those things which are absolutely
wrong. And we know it. There is a great, great congregation of sinners. “All
have sinned.”

Did you recall the story that Charles
Sledge told, when he spoke about the people in Taiwan, beautiful and sweet
little children like you saw up here? And the veteran missionary asked, Are
they in effect sinners? And if their sin is not forgiven by Christ, what is
going to happen to them? …beautiful little children. “All have sinned.”
Charles Sledge said that he understood that in his mind, but till he went out as
a missionary to Taiwan he was a practicing
Universalist.
He just believed somehow in his head, but he never had that passion that the
Apostle Paul had that led to missions, that the people of this world and the
people who are your neighbors, if they have sinned, there is an enormous
consequence. We are separated form a holy God. There may be someone here on
this night who is thinking of some heinous sin that he has committed and
wondering. There would be many of us here who would say, ‘I have never been to
jail or this or that.’ But when you understand the consequences of Christ, when
He speaks about sin in the Sermon on the Mount, to even say, “I hate you” is
likened unto murder, there is an enormous consequence of sin. It separates from
God forever. There is an enormous congregation of sinners. The whole world,
everybody you meet. “All have sinned.”

III.
The enormous cost to redeem sinners

There is an enormous cost to redeem
sinners, an enormous cost. Our text tells us that we are redeemed from the
consequences of sin by the blood of Jesus Christ. Now when you speak of the
blood of Jesus Christ, we are speaking of that which is a rather distasteful
subject. There are folk who are led into medicine who for the first time as
interns watch an operation and choose not to practice medicine. The blood of
Jesus Christ is associated with the cross of Jesus Christ, and the cross is just
as distasteful as the word the
blood

of Jesus Christ. The cross was an
instrument of torture, the most inhumane thing that had ever been invented by
man.

The price of redemption is at an
enormous cost. That enormous cost is the life of God Himself on Calvary’s
cross. That’s why the cross is central.
If there is any other way for a sinner
to come to a holy God, then let us preach it. It is not even mentioned in any
other religion
. It is not
even mentioned in anybody else’s. The only time that people talk about sin is
in terms of how it may be corrected by your own self-efforts. The Apostle Paul
therefore screams out in passion, “God forbid that I should glory save in the
cross of Jesus Christ.” Because it was by that enormous price that he who was a
murderer of Christians and was associated with sinners was redeemed and brought
into the family of God. And his murder was washed away in the blood of the
Lamb, and he was made a child of God, and he entered into a state of holiness.
And so it is with you, and so it is with me. “The blood of Jesus Christ
cleanses us from all sin.” That’s God’s way.

Now I want to close with two stories.
We are dealing here with the passion of the cross, the centrality of the
cross–tonight only “pardoned by the cross.” We are going to be dealing with
peace by the cross, purity by the cross, the possibilities by the cross, the
promises of the cross, but just one here tonight, pardoned by the cross. A
pardon is a payment for penalty–all of our sins.

Now here’s where the passion comes in.
When I was in seminary there was a Methodist minister, a bishop; his name was
Bishop Moore. He would come to our Presbyterian seminary once a year and
preach. And I can remember some of that man, and I remember his passion and I
remember this story that he told. I admired the man. He was a great, old-time
Methodist. As a child, his family had a vacation home up in the mountains at the
side of a lake. And one day when he was swimming by himself, as about a
ten-year-old boy, he had a cramp and he found himself in deep trouble. And a
man who was passing by, walking along the edge of the lake, ran out onto the
pier, jumped in the water and saved this little boy and brought him up on the
pier. And when he saw that he was all right, the little boy (Bishop Moore to
be) said, “I told that man, ‘Thank you for saving my life.’” And the man who
never identified himself. He never saw that man again. And the ten-year-old
boy said, “Thank you for saving my life.” And the man said, “Son, may your life
be worth saving.” Our Savior saved us. It’s not the best of theology if you
work it all the way through, but I tell you anyway. He didn’t save us so that
we would just go on into unholy living. The passion of the cross is that we
better, we better be made worthy of salvation. And that’s going to come in some
other sermons.

Here’s the second story, apparently
another true story. I heard this from an English preacher about some event that
happened in England years ago. A famous military officer who had the honor of
the nation, he had a brother who was tried for murder, convicted and was
sentenced to death. And his military brother pleaded with the British
government for his life and in an unheard of act, because of what he’d done for
the nation, he was given a pardon for his brother. He went into his brother,
never mentioned the pardon but said to him, “Brother, if you were to be set
free, what would you do?” And the brother with glint in his eye said, “I would
kill that judge and kill the man who witnessed against me.” And the officer
left and tore up the pardon.
We’re not pardoned to go on in our ways; we are pardoned at an enormous cost.
And we praise God for that,
glory in what God has done for us, are amazed at what He’s done for us on the
cross: that He has forgiven all our sin and adopted us into His family through
the cross of Jesus, but not that we would kill judges if we were set free and
those who witnessed against us. As we pray together.


Our God and heavenly Father, we thank
Thee for the fact that there is passion in others’ religion and even as they
worship pagan gods they sometimes cause us to take note of ourselves, that we
come to Thee not as those who are in an existential passion of worship, but we
come to Thee as those who know the meaning of the cross, who understand. And it
is because of our understanding that we sing praises, that we glory in the cross
of Christ, that we say too with the Apostle Paul, that there would be no hope
for me if it were not for the cross of Christ. Now therefore glory in that
cross, and all of the things pale into insignificance. We thank Thee, Lord
Jesus. Now we would be worthy and live for Thee and pray as you taught us to
pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into
temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom and the power and
the glory forever. Amen.

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