Join our mailing list

God Is Sovereign - Ephesians 1

A service plan for October leading up to Reformation Day focused on the Sovereignty of God in a four-week series on truths from the Reformation.

Worship Service
Also in this Series

Reformation Truths

This series of worship services explores the four main teachings of the Protestant Reformers

Theme of the Service

The Protestant Reformation in 1517 formed the beliefs and practices of a large part of the Christian church. Not only those churches which specifically call themselves "Reformed," but many others also, have been shaped by the work of the Protestant Reformers. Yet, as the years bring us farther from that historical event, we easily lose sight of what was at stake. The last Sunday in October is traditionally a time to mark our heritage of the Protestant Reformation in our worship.

This year, however, we will do so throughout the entire month of October with a series of four services that center on four of the main teachings of the Protestant Reformers. The title of the series is "Reformation Truths," and the individual sermons are

  • "God Is Sovereign!" Ephesians 1:1-10 (October 8)
  • "Let Scripture Speak!" John 10:35 (October 15)
  • "It Takes Grace!" 1 Corinthians 15:10 (October 22)
  • "We Live By Faith!" Romans 1:16,17 (October 29)

There are, of course, many other Christian doctrines that were central in the Reformation, but we will use these four as a way to hopefully represent them all. Each of these truths is expressed by a title that is formulated as a firm declaration to represent the strength of conviction that marked the Reformers.

The first focuses on the sovereignty of God. In both the sermon and the liturgy, God's sovereignty shapes this service of worship.


Prelude: "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" [see music notes]
or: "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

The Call to Worship [see liturgy notes]

*Song: "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" PH 142, PsH 471, RL 595, RN 45, TH 296, TWC 95, UMH 154, PH 143, TH 297, TWC 93, UMH 155; RL 594 [see music notes]
or: "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" PH 263, PsH 460, RL 7, RN 46, TH 38, TWC 62, UMH 103

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
People of God, where is your trust placed?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

*Song of Response: "Now Blessed Be the Lord Our God" PsH 630, TH 11


The Call to Confession

Our Prayer of Confession:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me. (Psalm 51:1-4, 6, 9-11, NRSV, TWS 2.2.8)

The Assurance of God's Pardon: Ephesians 2:8-10 [see liturgy notes]

*Song of Response: "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power" PsH 552 [see music notes]
or: "May the Mind of Christ, My Savior" PsH 291, RN 285, TH 644, TWC 560

*God's Will for Grateful Living:
Hear, O people of God, the law that the Lord speaks
in your hearing this day, that you may know his statutes
and walk according to his ordinances.
Teach us, O Lord, the grace of your law,
and give us life by your Word.
The God who saved us in Jesus Christ gave this law, saying:
I am the Lord your God! You shall have no other gods before me.
We will worship the Lord our God and serve only him.
You shall not make yourself an image of anything to worship it.
Living no more in bondage to earthly gods,
we will worship the Lord our God in spirit and in truth.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord.
We will use the holy name of God with reverence,
praising him in everything we do and say.
You shall observe the Sabbath by keeping it holy,
for in six days you shall labor and do all your work.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
You shall honor your father and mother, that you may live long
in the land the Lord your God is giving to you.
As children we will be obedient to our parents in the Lord;
as parents we will correct our children and guide them
in the training and instruction of the Lord;
we will respect the lawful authorities appointed by God.
You shall not murder.
We will be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave us.
You shall not commit adultery.
We will use our bodies in ways that are holy
and honorable, and abstain from immorality and impurity.
You shall not steal.
We will do what we can for our neighbor's good,
and work faithfully so that we may share with the poor.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
We will speak the truth with our neighbor in love,
render judgments that are true and make for peace,
and not devise in our hearts any evil against anyone.
You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.
We will be content whatever the circumstances
through the strength of Christ within us.
Thus we must love our neighbor as ourselves.
For the Lord requires of us to do justice, to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with our God. Amen! (Exodus 20, TWS 2.7.17)


*Song of Preparation: "Father, Long Before Creation" PsH 464, RL 353

The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Scripture: Ephesians 1:1-14
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: God Is Sovereign!
Reformation Truths #1

The Prayer of Application


*Song: "What God Ordains Is Always Right" PsH 451, TWC 82

*Our Corporate Profession of Faith:
As followers of Jesus Christ,
living in this world-
which some seek to control,
but which others view with despair-
we declare with joy and trust:
Our world belongs to God!
From the beginning,
through all the crises of our times,
until his kingdom fully comes,
God keeps covenant forever.
Our world belongs to him!
God is King!
Let the earth be glad!
Christ is Victor;
his rule has begun. Hallelujah!
The Spirit is at work, renewing the creation.
Praise the Lord! ("Our World Belongs to God," articles 1-2)

*Song: "Before the Lord We Bow" The Lutheran Hymnal 575
or: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" PH 259/260, PsH 469, RL 179, TH 92, TWC 43, UMH 110

The Pastoral Prayer

The Offertory:
The offering of music: Before the Lord We Bow"
or: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" [see music notes]
We offer our gifts for...


*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "How Vast the Benefits Divine" PsH 497, TH 470

Postlude: "Trumpet Tune," Purcell

* - You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

The introduction to this sermon should likely also include the introduction to this new series of four sermons on "Reformation Truths." If we explain the significance of the Protestant Reformation, point to some of its key elements, and introduce this series of four sermons (see above where the four are listed) we will have paved the way for better listening. In contrast to cheap theologies with a small god which are a dime a dozen, the Protestant Reformation begins with a deep theology of a powerful God who draws the whole world before him for the praise of his glory!

A sermon on the sovereignty of God will likely have two rather different, and even opposite, emotions associated with it. On the one hand, we feel the privilege of proclaiming the supreme sovereignty of God in a world that is adrift and feels like an orphan. Then it's easy to preach a stirring sermon on this subject! On the other hand, we feel the dilemma and confusion that many wrestle with when this subject comes up. They have been dealt some hard blows and disappointments in life, and their hearts cry out in lament about how a sovereign God could allow these difficulties! A helpful sermon on this subject will pay attention to both of these emotions. As a theologian, we proclaim sovereignty, but as a pastor, we are sensitive to life's struggles and mysteries. In the wisdom of God's Spirit we draw both of these concerns together.

Perhaps examples will help us see the sovereignty issue more clearly. In 1 Kings 20, Benhadad of Syria was defeated by Israel's armies. In their post-defeat analysis his advisors come up with the theory that they were fighting in the wrong location because "their gods are gods of the hills." (i.e. This is a very limited perspective of the sovereignty of a god.) In contrast, Nebuchadnezzar, who was at one time very impressed with himself (see Daniel 4:28-30) finally came to see himself as insignificant in the presence of a powerful God (see Daniel 4:34-35).

In Ephesians 1 Paul paints a theological word picture of a God who makes decisions unilaterally, who does so in grace, and who is able to carry them out effectively. God decides to be a redeemer, decides who will receive his redemption, and accomplishes all things as he desires. Note all the phrases in verses 4-10, and then note the sweeping statement that follows in verse 11 (".works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.."). Now add to that the amplifying information that Ephesians 2 provides. When we were dead, he made us alive (No action on our part!). This is by his rich mercy. It is by grace, not from ourselves, not from works. It is simply and solely a gift from God. (See Ephesians 2:1-10.) Paul's teachings in Romans 9-11 verify this.

It has been easy for people to hear this and picture God as an unemotional power-broker, but they find it impossible to reconcile a loving God with the pain and suffering of life. The Reformers intended that in this (1) we find hope for our future, (2) security in our salvation, (3) a vision for the glory of God, (4) a view of all life gathered under his influence, and finally (5) a reason to trust him totally for our salvation, our care, and our protection in those times when life seems to treat us harshly. While we proclaim him as sovereign, we do not make him the cause of evil. And while we suffer the hardships of life and we claim that life has dealt us hard blows, we are not free to blame God for doing so. His loving care is sufficiently deep that he sent his only Son for our redemption, the ultimately expression of his sovereignty. In sovereignty he puts his arm of grace around us for protection. A pastoral heart, combined with a clear theology, gives good news to God's people. And brings all glory to God!

Music Notes:
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

The music suggested for prelude is based on the opening hymn. Because many hymnals pair this text with a variety of tunes, we have included resources for the most frequently used tunes. Notice also the alternative harmonization suggestions. If you choose to sing "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" to the tune CORONATION, you may wish to select particular verses as the song of response is also paired with this tune. Six verses could seem like a lot to open up the service. The alternate suggestion for prelude and opening hymn on "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" also represents the theme of the sovereignty of God well.

CORONATION ["All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name"]
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 1. AMSI OR1 [1980] (E-M)
Fields, Tim. All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name. Augsburg 11-11006 [1999] (E-M)
Hancock, Gerre. Variations on Coronation. Paraclete PPM00037 [2000] (M)
Harris, David S. Ten Hymn Preludes in Trio Style. H. W. Grey GB632 [1974] (E)
Jordan, Alice. A Joyful Noise. Broadman 4570-62 [1984] (E-M)
Jordan, Alice. All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (ed. Sharron Lyon) Broadman 4570-31
[1976] (E-M)
Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 2. SMP KK235 [1982] (adaptable to piano; E)
Langlais, Jean. Augsburg Organ Library - Autumn. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7579-7 [2003] (M)
Whitford, Homer. Five Choral Paraphrases, set 2. H. W. Grey GB 355 [1949] (E-M)
Wold, Wayne L. Partita on Coronation. Selah 160-645 [2001] (E-M)

Hayes, Mark. Lord Be Glorified, vol. 3. Word 301 0084 315 [1995] (M)
Wilson, John F. This Is the Day. Hope 243 [1992] (E-M)

Alternative Harmonizations for Organ:
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Maynard, Lynette. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

DIADEM ["All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name"]
Bish, Diane. The Diane Bish Organ Book, vol. 1. Fred Bock B-G0548 [1980] (E-M)
Jordan, Alice. All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (ed. Sharron Lyon) Broadman 4570-31
[1976] (E-M)
Linker, Janet. Sunday Morning Suite. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7560-6 [2002] (M)

Schubert, Myra. Give Him Praise. Lillenas MB-511 [1983] (M)
Wilson, John F. This Is the Day. Hope 243 [1992] (E-M)

Sherman, Arnold B. Crown Him Lord of All. Agape 1891 [1997] (3-5 octaves, level 3)

MILES LANE ["All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name"]
Jordan, Alice. All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (ed. Sharron Lyon) Broadman 4570-31 [1976]
Peeters, Flor. Hymn Preludes for the Liturgical Year, vol. 6. Peters 6406 [1966] (M)
Rowley, Alec. Choral Preludes based on Famous Hymn Tunes, vol. 2. Ashdown [1952] (M)
Whitney, Maurice C. Improvisation on Miles' Lane. H. W. Grey. GSTC 811 (POP) [1955] (E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

ST. DENIO ["Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise"]
Thomas, David Evan. Augsburg Organ Library - Autumn. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7579-7 [2003]
Carlson, J. Bert. (1995) Augsburg Organ Library - Epiphany. Augsburg 11-11073 [2001] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-753 [1990] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Six General Hymn Improvisations, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-534 [1999]
Haan, Raymond H. Welsh Hymn Tune Preludes. SMP KK426 [1989] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. Those Wonderful Welsh, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-842 [1992] (E-M)
Willams, Ronald R. Three Hymn Tunes from the British Isles. Shawnee HF-24 [1967] (E-M)

Wagner, Douglas E. Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise. Agape 1238 [1986] (3 octaves, E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Helvey, Howard. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

The song of response following the assurance of pardon can be sung congregationally or in as an anthem setting. Anthems based on these two suggestions are as follows:

"The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power" arranged for SATB voices with piano accompaniment by Carl Seal, published by Manna M-91 [1966] (E-M).

"Song of Aspiration" for SATB voices and keyboard by Craig Courtney, published by Beckenhorst BP1361 [1990] (M)

You may wish to consider using "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God " as a theme hymn for this Reformation series. Suggestions for alternative accompaniments and offertory music on "Before the Lord We Bow" and "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" are as follows:

DARWALL'S 148TH ["Before the Lord We Bow"]
Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Thiman, Eric. Varied Accompaniments to Thirty-Four Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Oxford ISBN 0
19 323210 3 [1937]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Carlson, J. Bert. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

Callahan, Charles. Partita on Darwall's 148th. Morningstar MSM-10-848 [1992] (E-M)
Harbach, Barbara. (2002) Augsburg Organ Library - Autumn. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7579-7
[2003] (M)
Jordan, Alice. A Joyful Noise. Broadman 4570-62 [1984] (E-M)
Wold, Wayne L. Prelude, Meditation and Finale on Darwall's 148th. Augsburg 11-10809 [1997]

Kinyon, Barbara B. Rejoice, the Lord Is King. Agape 1931 [1998] (3 octaves, level 3)
Page, Anna Laura. Rejoice, the Lord Is King. Alfred 16460 [1996] (3-5 octaves, level 2)

EIN' FESTE BURG ["A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"]
Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Busarow, Donald. Thirty More Accompaniments for Hymns in Canon. Augsburg 11-10163
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 2. Ludwig O-07 [1983]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Organ, Anne Krentz. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

Bach, Johann Christoph. Music for a Celebration, set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-579 [2005] (E-M)
Bender, Jan. Festival Preludes on Six Chorales. Concordia 97-4608 [1963] (M)
Bish, Diane. The Diane Bish Organ Book, vol. 1. Fred Bock B-G0548 [1980] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 1. AMSI OR1 [1980] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. Hymn Preludes for the Autumn Festivals. Concordia 97-5360 [1976] ( E-M)
Helman, Michael. Five for Autumn. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7671-8 [2004] (E-M)
Hobby, Robert A. For All the Saints. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7537-1 [2002] (E-M)
Johnson, David N. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Augsburg 11-822 [1965] ( M-D)
Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 2. SMP KK235 [1982] (adaptable for piano; E-M)
Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (M)
Marpurg, Friedrich Wilhelm. Music for a Celebration, set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-579 [2005]
Marpurg, Friedrich Wilhelm. Twenty-one Chorale Preludes. Augsburg 11-9506 [1967] (E-M)
Walcha, H. Chorale Preludes, bk. 1. Peters 4850 ( M)
Whitford, Homer. Five Choral Paraphrases, set 1. H. W. Grey [1941] (E-M)
Young, Gordon. Organ Album. SMP KK 280 [1983] (E-M)
Young, Gordon. Seven Hymn Voluntaries. Presser 413-41118-21 [1965] (E-M)

Gerig, Reginald. Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales. Hope 251 [1959] (M)
Wilhelmi, Teresa. Hymns.Light Jazz Style. Word 301 0136 315 [1997] (M)

Tucker, Margaret. Variations on "A Mighty Fortress". Morningstar MSM-30-800 [1987]
(3-5 octaves, M-D)
Wagner, Douglas E. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Agape 1256 [1986] (3-4 octaves, E-M)

The organ postlude "Trumpet Tune" by Henry Purcell can be found in the collection "Album of Trumpet Tunes," published by Boosey and Hawkes E.A.36412 (E-M). You may wish to include a solo trumpet on the melody line.

Liturgy Notes:

1. Let the theme of this service and the new series be readily apparent from the opening words so that all will know "We're thinking Reformation!"

2. In the theology of the Reformers, particularly Calvin, the confession of sin was an essential part of Christian worship. Though Calvin was not free, as the priests were, to declare the absolution from sin as though it were within his personal power, he was convinced that the Christian pastor must clearly declare the promises of the Gospel which give the assurance of pardon. This pardoning is followed by instruction from the Law of God for grateful living.

3. In the response section of worship, we have included a profession from "Our World Belongs to God," a contemporary testimony of the Christian Reformed Church. Including this contemporary expression of our faith is a healthy blend with the remembrance of an event more than 450 years ago. The entire text of this testimony is available. To reprint for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.