Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Spiritual Blessings

PRAISE TO GOD FOR SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS
EPHESIANS 1:3-14

Paul was not only a great theologian, who could write with deep meaning and complexity.  He was also one who had a great love for the Lord and could burst into praise while writing.  That is what we have in these verses today.   Paul bursts into praise to God for the spiritual blessings he has bestowed on us. 

Paul praises God’s wisdom, his forethought, and purpose.  He tells us we were not only saved for our own benefit, but also to exalt Christ and bring glory to God.  The end of God’s purpose is to bring everything together under Christ. 

Paul celebrates God’s accomplishment in Christ of his eternal purpose.  God incorporated Jews and Gentiles into one divine society.

Verses 3-14 are all one long sentence in the Greek.  Paul just poured it all out without stopping.  The English translations add punctuation to help us understand it.  

Most of us would separate theology from praise.  Baptists have often treated theology as boring or intellectual and, therefore, bothersome.  But, Paul’s praise here is built on theology.  He praises God for his purpose and his fulfillment of it, using theological terms so packed together it can take a long time to sort it all out and understand it. 

You could divide this passage into three sections.  In verses 3-6, the work of the Father is described; in 7-10, the work of the Son and in 11-14, the work of the Spirit.  I love it when we find a Trinitarian structure to Scripture.

What are the blessings for which Paul praises God?  They are:  election, adoption, redemption, forgiveness of sins, wisdom and understanding, unification of all things in Christ and the seal of the Holy Spirit.

So, think of this passage first as a doxology, a song of praise.  Remember the song we used to sing all the time in church that we just called “The Doxology”?  


1:3              Blessed Be God

Let’s look at verse 3, the first verse in this passage.  It has this nice repetition of the word “bless”, using it 3 times.  He says “Blessed be God” and “who has blessed us” and “with every spiritual blessing”.  

The first thing we should note is that it is different when we bless God than when he blesses us.  When he blesses us, he gives us something we need.  He blesses us with grace.  He blesses us with peace.  But, when we bless him, we do not add to him, since he is complete.  What we do is ascribe to him his character or the things he has done.  It is praise to him.  I think that is why the NIV says “praise be to God” rather than “blessed be God”.  It is conveying this very idea.  It just loses some of the poetry.

Second, these blessings all come in Christ.  God blesses us “in Christ”.  God has chosen to extend his blessings to the world through Christ.  Only those who are united with Christ receive them.  

Third, these are spiritual blessings.  Paul says God “blesses us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  I think what he means by “spiritual blessings” are in contrast to “material blessings”.  This new kingdom is spiritual.   

This spiritual blessing is in contrast to many of the promise of material blessings in the Old Testament.  For example, look at Deuteronomy 28:11.  If Old Testament Israel obeyed God and kept his covenant, he would make their crops and livestock increase.  God does not promise the church its members’ salaries will increase or their cars will multiply.  That is why prosperity preachers tend to quote Old Testament promises to Israel to say believers will receive wealth and health if they believe and give.

These blessings come in the “heavenly places” according to the ESV, or the “heavenly realms” in the NIV.  I take this to again mean the spiritual realm.  This phrase appears 5 times in Ephesians.  Christ ascended to the heavenly realm.  Later on, in verse 20, Paul speaks of Christ raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places.  Psalm 110:1 starts it off with a prophecy that the Lord would do this.  Jesus, in Matthew 22:44,  applied it to himself.  Several other New Testament verses speak of this. 

In Ephesians 2:6, Paul said God raised us up with Christ and seated us in the heavenly places in Christ.  So, even though we live here in this physical realm in our mortal bodies, in Christ we enter into spiritual life and blessings of God.     

1:4              He Chose Us

The first blessing for which Paul praises God is his choosing us.  He says God chose us in Christ.  God had a purpose.  He had a purpose for Christ and he had a purpose for us.  

His purpose for Christ was to redeem a people for himself.  1 Peter 1:18-20says “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”    Revelation 13:8 says “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast-all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” 

God chose us before the foundation of the world.  He chose us before creation.      So, before the world was created, the Father chose the Son to be the redeemer, and chose those who would be the redeemed, all to be his people.  Revelation 17:8 says “the inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast…”  

There are many passages that speak of God’s choosing.  Romans 9 is one of the major ones.  Paul says that God chose Jacob over Esau before they were born  and before they had done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose in election might stand (Romans 9:11). 

Not only did God choose us before the foundation of the world, he did it for a purpose.  The purpose was to be holy and blameless in his sight.  Peter put it this way:  “…just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:  Be holy, because I am holy.”  1 Peter 1:15.  Peter was quoting the words spoken to Israel in Leviticus 11:44-45.  This was totally an act of grace, because we, in our natural state were unholy and blameworthy.

Since God is holy, the only way we can witness to him is to be holy also.  When we do not appear holy to the world, we profane God’s name. 

The second spiritual blessing for which Paul praises God is that, in love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.  Paul says we were predestined for this privilege, meaning again that this was determined before hand.  Adoption means becoming God’s sons and daughters through Christ, becoming part of God’s family, with all the privileges of children.  Romans 8:17 says we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.  Romans 8:29says “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” 

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