Adapted from a sermon by Sherman Malachi Tjiong

What do we praise God for?

For the food, for good weather, for a good day and good health? We give thanks for peace of mind and a meaningful life. We may thank God for our salvation but that’s only because of our well-being. I can escape hell and reunite with my friends and family in heaven. First world countries all over the world focus on stability and therapy. That’s success. There are churches today who present God as a life coach helping you towards success.

This goes against the bible. The bible teaches that God is sovereign and we share in Christ’s suffering. Many true believers who sincerely want to praise God are not getting good teaching from these false teachers or confused pastors. As Christians we should constantly move from focusing on ourselves to focusing on God. 

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 1:1–2). 

All Christians must be saints; and, if they come not under that character on earth, they will never be saints in glory. He calls them the faithful in Christ Jesus, believers in him, and firm and constant in their adherence to him and to his truths and ways (Matthew Henry)

Paul writes a letter not just to the saints but those that are faithful.[1] Saints means Holy ones. This refers to every true Christian. Every true Christian is also a faithful follower. Ephesians may mean little to you if you are not a faithful follower of Jesus. If you are not seeking God’s glory you will reject the very message of Paul in Ephesians. Here are some reasons to praise God for.


3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him (Eph 1:3-4).

“Blessed is God” is like singing “Blessed be your name” or “Your name deserves highest praise”. God deserves praise simply because he is worthy. However, God does not leave us to imagine why he is worthy. In fact, Paul explains WHY we should praise Him. Here is one example: we praise God for union with Christ and His spiritual blessings in the heavenlies.

Scholars tell us that v.4 to 14 is one long sentence in the Greek. And there is only one main verb. All else depends on this one word. This means you can’t understand anything in v4 to 14 correctly without looking back to this one word. And that one word is “chose” (v.4). God chose us before he made the world. Which means before God created everything, he loved us and chose us. God’s choosing us has nothing to do with anything we would ever do.

God does not choose us because we will choose him. A boy may choose a girl to marry him but the girl can reject him. But God has a plan and no one can stop Him. His plan is for the chosen ones to be holy and blameless. But people are born sinners. Like we have seen in our sermons on Bible Doctrines. We were dead in sin. Unable to love God.

you were dead in the trespasses and sins … …like the rest of mankind. (Eph 2:1–3). the mind that is set on the flesh…does not submit to God’s law.. it cannot. (Ro 8:7).  

But how do people who are unable to please God end up holy and blameless if it depends on them choosing God? How is it that people who don’t want God please God? We are all born with black hearts. We lived for our own desires. We cannot please him, let alone choose Him. Yet God regenerated us to so that we can trust Him. So it is obviously not God looking into the future to see who will choose him.

11 My glory I will not give to another. (Is 48: 11). For by grace you have been saved…this is not your own doing.. so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8–9).
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined…And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Ro 8:29–30).

There are many Christians who will tell you that God helps those that will help themselves. They will also tell you that God will choose those who will choose God. They say that salvation is a partnership. That is what the Roman Catholics teach – a little grace and the rest is up to you. God does not share his glory, salvation belongs to the Lord.

When a student does well, the teachers, parents and student share the glory. The student is praised for his intelligence and diligence, the teachers for their skills and the parent for their motivating. This is shared glory. God does not share his glory. And we praise God because.. 


‘in love’, v.5 having predestined us (decided in advance, NLT) to adoption through Jesus Christ to himself (Eph 1:4–5).

Christians always think of the word “predestine” as a difficult word. But Paul simply meant ‘decide in advance’. v.4 says we were chosen before we were created. Paul makes clear in v.5 that he decided in advance to adopt us. In the Greek, it says “he decided for himself”. The intention is clear. He chose us for his possession. Possess means to own the object.

who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (2 Ti 1:9).  gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession (Tt 2:14).

It’s like if I am an artist, I plan to make 100 statues but I plan only to keep 3 and sell the rest.  The 3 will be for my possession and the rest will not be mine anymore. This has nothing to do with whether my art pieces are good or bad. I just chose to keep these 3. In the same way, when God chose us it was not because of our good or bad deeds. It’s just his gracious choice.


according to the good pleasure of his will 6 to the praise of the glory of his grace that he bestowed on us in the beloved, (Eph 1:5–6).

He also makes it clear that it is according to the good pleasure of his will. Simply put, God really likes what he wants. And what he wants is what he will do. What’s there not to enjoy about His desires? After all, they are perfect. His desire leads to his praise. We are praising him because his grace is glorious. The Father chose us before creation, He chose the Son to take our place to redeem us and He sends the Spirit to make sure we are blessed.

None of us deserved to be chosen. So in his grace, we see his character (that’s what glory is about – who God is). We see his generosity and his goodness and his power and control. The more you know that salvation is about God and not about us the more you will praise Him. God chose us for his own happiness. He chose us for his possession, purpose and praise. God is a happy God because He has a happy plan to bring about his own happiness.



The words “in Christ”, “in him”, “in whom” all tie to Christ. It appears 11 times here. God the Father will not achieve his own glory without Christ. You should know that you are part of something really big. The church is all about Christ. Christ is its head. We are part of something really big together with every believer. This should correct the way many Christians think. We tend to focus on what Christ has done for me. But yet Ephesians is about what God has done in Christ. The gospel is God centred – 100%.

I just heard of a church that renovated their building because the older members sa that they want to leave the church building for the next generation. There are also churches who pay a lot of money to have an expensive church building, claiming that it honours God. The fact is that “God does not live in temples built by human hands.” So it is wrong to emphasize that this is the “house of the Lord” or “his temple”. Because when you do that, the focus goes to the people who build the temple building. This passage speaks against such a mentality.

7 in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace, 8 that he caused to abound to us in all wisdom and insight[2], 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in him, (Eph 1:7–9).  

Church is all about Christ, never about us. The way we come to know the mystery of his will or how the gospel is revealed is by His grace. He caused us to be filled with wisdom and insight to understand the gospel. Redemption and forgiveness of sin may benefit us, but the true aim is to show the riches of his grace. It’s not about insurance or reunion. We are part of the picture only by grace. God’s grace leads to His praise.

What does he want us to know about his grace?


10 for the administration of the fullness of times, to bring together all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth in Him (Eph 1:10)

Let’s look at the word “administration” (or “plan” in the ESV). In the Greek, it means “household program”. Paul is saying creation is like God’s household and this is how he runs it. God has a timetable for the universe. Everything that has happened from the time of creation until the time of Jesus’ return is like a timetable. And the whole timetable is about Jesus.

All things are “brought together” or “add up” to Christ.[3] Just as 1 + 1 = 2, everything that has happened will equal Christ. All of creation, the invisible world of heavenly beings, and the visible world of mankind will come together again like in the garden of Eden. Sin will be no more. Redeemed mankind will rule with God. Now Christ is only seen in the church. One day he will be everyone’s focus. One scholar says he is the “main point” of history.

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, (Eph 1:22). “God has put all things in subjection under his feet…then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Co 15:27–28).

God gives all control to Christ. In turn, Christ will give up everything to the Father, so that the Father will be glorified. This is how the Son glorifies the Father. We are part of something huge. Together with Christ we bring glory to the father. If the church was a social club then there is no good reason to keep praising God. But because we are a part of what God is doing in history, we surely must praise him. Our salvation leads to God’s glory. This changes the mindset of health and wealth and security and comfort.


11 in whom also we were chosen, having been predestined according to the purpose of the One who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 that we who hoped beforehand in Christ should be for the praise of his glory, 13 in whom also you, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also when you believed you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory. (Eph 1:11–14).

We are part of something huge. And he makes sure we understand it. These verses summarize everything we just read. We were chosen because God has decided beforehand. Here, to clearly show that our decision has nothing to do with his choice, Paul uses the words “according to the counsel of his will”. The Greek literally says, “the decision of his wish”. God decided to save us according to his wish. Another way to translate the word is delight.

So God chose us according to His happiness. God does things to the praise of his glory. He redeems us so that we become his possession again. No longer are we his enemies, now we are His people. In the same way, we are his inheritance. We belong to him.

That is why we can be certain that if we have the Spirit we have eternal life. Because our eternal life brings God praise. God makes sure he will give us everything he promised by giving us the Holy Spirit. When he secures our salvation, God is securing his own happiness. The Holy Spirit functions as a down payment. It’s like when you buy a car, you give part of the total price. The Holy Spirit is God’s promise to Himself [4]. that he will redeem us body and soul and get all the blessings. Like in the OT, God swears by Himself because he does not lie and does not fail.

The Holy Spirit is our assurance. When the Holy Spirit bears fruit, we praise God. For that is the purpose of our salvation: the praise of his glory that comes through his grace. So we praise God because he chose us for his own happiness and not because of our own merits. We praise God because he chose Christ to be our saviour. And we praise Him because He has chosen to give us His Holy Spirit to bear fruit in us and assure us.

If any part of our salvation depends on us, there is no hope for us. But praise be to God that salvation is by Grace alone, through Christ alone, for the glory of God.

[1] “Grace and peace” comes to those who are saints and faithful. Otherwise, the opposite is true.

[2] Caused to abound in us all wisdom and insight(my translation). We are filled with wisdom and understanding

[3] the plural appears to point to the fullness or totality of the times or epochs of history (Hoehner, 219). 

[4] “we” does not exist in the Greek. Moreover “acquire” is actually a noun (accusative), which is better translated as “acquisition”. Also, “acquisition” should translate the genitive which is translated as “possession” in the ESV. But it is probably glossed over because of the sense. However, that reduces the impact of the preceding word apolutrosis. This word means to release from captivity. This word does not mean acquire. In short, it should be translated, “redemption/release of acquisition”. I have provided an illustration in my sermon on Eph 2:11-22. See the following:

“When a company takes over another company which is not doing very well, it now owns all its assets, liabilities and people but it also owns its problems. Things need to be done to revitalize the company. For example, the accounts must be cleaned up, debts settled properly, good legal procedures put in place and importantly firing incompetent people holding on to their positions but not contributing. This will then regain the faith of the people using the goods and services of the company (be it businesses, consumers or investors).

Similarly, we ALREADY belong to him but we are still not YET how he wants us to be. God has already owned us but he is still is the process of cleaning us up and making us suited and worthy of the heavenly lifestyle that we will be in forever.”

Praising God, The Father Who Elects

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