Every Spiritual Blessing (Ephesians 1.3–14)


valentin_paul_writing1800x1337

SCRIPTURE READING

Ephesians 1.3–14

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

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.”

Of God, By God, For God (Ephesians 1.3–14)


valentin_paul_writing1800x1337

SCRIPTURE READING

Ephesians 1.3–14

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

After I proposed to Tiffany, we called everyone we knew to share our good news. We couldn’t stop talking about our engagement. After we got married, we couldn’t stop talking about how enjoyable our wedding and reception were. To this day, any mention of our wedding will spark a long, excited conversation between us. And why not? Good experiences should be talked about.

In Ephesians 1.3–14, Paul writes about salvation. But his words are not dry or academic. They are a Niagara Falls of praise, gushing forth excitedly and spilling over the boundaries of grammar and punctuation. The English Standard Version divides verses 3–14 into five complete sentences, the New International Version into eight, and the New Living Translation into fifteen. In Greek, verses 3–14 are one long sentence with 202 words. Paul simply cannot stop praising God, “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

Tomorrow, I will write about “every spiritual blessing,” but today I would like to keep your attention focused on God. Why? Because we are constantly in danger of losing sight of the Giver for the gift. In verses 3–14, Paul mentions numerous spiritual blessings: We have been chosen by God, adopted into his family, forgiven of our sins, enlightened regarding God’s plan for the ages, given an eternal inheritance, and sealed with the Holy Spirit. It is easy to focus on these wonderful gifts. But isn’t the Giver most important? The wedding ring Tiffany gave me is quite valuable, but she’s the real prize. Just so, “every spiritual blessing” is good news, but God himself is the gospel. Paul keeps our attention focused on the Giver of “every spiritual blessing” in three ways.

First, he emphasizes that God initiates our salvation. In verse 4 we read, “He chose us…before the foundation of the world.” In verse 5, Paul writes, “He predestined us…according to the purpose of his will.” Verse 10 speaks of his “plan for the fullness of time.” And verse 11 mentions “having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” The language of choice, predestination, purpose, plan, counsel, and will reinforce the fact that our salvation is God’s decision.

Second, God accomplishes our salvation through his Son. Pay attention to these prepositional phrases: “in Christ” (verses 3, 9, 12), “in him” (verses 4, 7, 10, 11, 13), “through Jesus Christ” (verse 5), “in the Beloved” (verse 6), and “through his blood” (verse 7). Nearly every verse of Paul’s doxology points to Jesus Christ and his cross as the means of our salvation.

Third, God’s ultimate purpose in our salvation is his own glory. Notice the language of verse 6: “to the praise of his glorious grace.” And of verses 12 and 14: “to the praise of his glory.” At first glance, God’s ultimate purpose seems self-centered, as if he saves us so that we might toot his horn. But in reality, it is self-giving, for what God offers us is eternal joy with him. Always remember, God himself—and not merely his spiritual blessings—is the real gift of the gospel.

Our salvation is of God, by God, and for God, so let us praise him!

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