In Ephesians 1.3–14, Paul praises God because he has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” What are those spiritual blessings? Paul gives several examples.
First, election: “[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (verse 4). When we give our testimonies, we speak of what led us to choose to follow Christ. But in reality, long before we had made a choice for God, God made a choice for us. Our salvation is the result of God’s initiative, not our own. As 1 John 4.10 puts it: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Second, adoption: “he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ” (verse 5). In the biblical portrait of human existence, we are spiritual orphans. As orphans, we have no spiritual safety net, and are thus find ourselves victim to the depredations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Through Christ, God adopts us into his heavenly family, gives us a spiritual home, and provides us an inheritance of eternal life. What a joy to know that our loving heavenly Father refuses to leave us alone!
Third, redemption and forgiveness: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (verse 7). Redemption and forgiveness are economic metaphors of salvation. Redemption is the price paid in order to emancipate a slave. Forgiveness is what a creditor does for his debtor when he releases him from the obligation of repaying a loan. In the biblical portrait of human existence, we are slaves and debtors to sin. But God is the Great Liberator and Debt Cancelor!
Fourth, enlightenment: “in all wisdom and insight [God is] making known to us the mystery of his will…to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (verses 9–10). Dante Alighieri begins his Divine Comedy with these words: “Midway upon the journey of our life / I found myself within a forest dark, / For the straightforward pathway had been lost.” Having reached middle age, I can testify to the fact that I have sometimes felt a bit lost about what my future holds. But even if I—or you—do not know all the details of what the future holds, we know its ultimate end: the union of “all things in him.” That is God’s “plan for the fullness of time” (verse 10).
Fifth, inheritance: “In him we have obtained an inheritance” (verse 11). That inheritance is eternal life in God’s presence. In eternity, “[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21.4).
Finally, the Holy Spirit: “[you] were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (verses 13–14). First-century authors stamped a seal on their letters as a symbol of its authenticity. The Holy Spirit is God’s stamp on our lives, signifying that we are truly his. And first-century homebuyers offered a down payment as the guarantee of future payments. So also, the Holy Spirit is God’s down payment on our life. As Paul writes in Philippians 1.6: “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”