A little while ago I was thankful to be able to teach at the OBC Youth Group.
It was a tremendous blessing for me personally to be able to teach on Ephesians 1:3-7. It is a passage in which I have taken much joy in recently.
Here is what I said:
Let me start by telling you a story:
“One day the reformer Martin Luther was feeling rather down. The Pope was after him. His colleagues were bickering among themselves. He felt the heavy pressure that came with being a professor, pastor, and father. With all of his daily struggles and burdens, he was also in excruciating pain from kidney stones.
As he moped around the house muttering underneath his breath, his wife Katherine slipped out, put on a black dress and came back.
Upon seeing her, Luther asked, “Is there a funeral?”
Katherine replied in a solemn voice, “God is dead.”
Luther looked at his wife with puzzlement and replied, “God is not dead!”
Katherine continued, “Well, It sure seems like God is dead by the way you are acting!”
With that, Luther got the message and cheered up.
Like Luther, we as Christians, often forget to be joyful and to rejoice. However, we are going to look at a passage that gives us many, many reasons to be joyful and to have gladness in our hearts.
To do this, turn with me to the book of Ephesians.
We pick up our study in the third verse of the first chapter (1:3). It comes straight after the introduction (V1 – V2). And, if you know much about the Apostle Paul and how he writes, you know that his letters usually begin with declaring praise to God in a section that is usually called a “hymn” or “prayer of praise”. This is where we find ourselves – in this opening prayer of praise. This section stretches all the way from verse 3 to verse 14 and, in the original language, is one long sentence. There is no “full stop”; it is one thought. It is in these verses that we find that “the blessings listed come from God the Father, become ours in Jesus Christ, and are applied by the Holy Spirit.”1
Follow along with me as I read verses 3-7:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, …
In these verses, we’re looking at what it means to be blessed with every spiritual blessing so that we are stirred to praise God in our day-to-day lives. We’ll do this by asking the question “What does it mean to be blessed with “every spiritual blessing?” By answering this question, I’m convinced that we will be moved to worship God even more.
With our first text, verse 3, we see that it states the theme and also tells us what is to come in the following verses. Paul tells us God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing and then praises God for it. Likewise, as believers, we are to praise God because of these spiritual blessings. It is easy to see then, that the theme, in this passage, is “blessing”.
But, what are these blessings? This is a question I’ve often asked myself because, to be honest, I often feel like I receive more trials than I do blessings. But, this type of thinking obviously goes against what this verse is saying; for it says we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”.
So what are these blessings? What spiritual blessings do we receive as Christians?
To help answer this question, I’ve broken the passage we’re looking at down into three points. The Source. The Substance. The Specifics.
1 – The Source.
This one is very plain to see in the text:
” Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,”
Very clearly we see that it is God the Father that blesses us “in Christ”. The source of the blessings, of verse 3-14, come from God the Father and become ours through our union with Christ. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes: “If you leave out the ‘in Christ,’ you will never have any blessings at all. … Every blessing we enjoy as Christian people comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ”.2
2 – The Substance. (V3a)
Secondly, what does the word “spiritual” mean?
It could mean one of two things; that these blessings come from the Holy Spirit, or, it could mean that these blessings are spiritual rather than material.
Consider the following words: “in the heavenly places”. These words help us to know that these blessings are spiritual. So, it is safe to say that The Substance of these blessings is spiritual – rather than material. Also, note the word every. As believers in Christ, this verse says that we receive EVERY Spiritual blessing from God. We do not only receive the ones we need for salvation – but every spiritual blessing we could receive… we do!
Does this mean God only blesses us “Spiritually”? No, God does give material blessings as well. Elsewhere, we read “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
3 – The Specifics. (V3b)
Now that we know the source and the substance of these spiritual blessings let us know look at some of The Specific Spiritual blessings we receive as Christians.
As I said at the beginning, verse 3 introduces us to the theme, but then it also points forward. It is in the following verses that we find what some of the blessings are. We see a few Specifics.
1 – V4 – He chose us.
“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
God has chosen to make us holy and blameless! What a blessing that even while we were “dead in our sins” (Eph 2:5) God Chose to do this. First and foremost, we must never forget that we are blessed because God chose to bless us. Secondly, we must remember that we are blessed because God has made us “holy and blameless”. This type of talk echoes back to the Old Testament were God chose the Israelites for a special purpose – to be his instruments on the earth. Likewise, we are blessed because God has chosen us for a special purpose – to be special people to Him.
2 – V5 – He adopted us.
“In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,”
Not only has God chosen to bless us by making Christians holy and blameless he has also given us the privileged position of being in His family. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,”
When we believe the gospel, we receive full access to the Father. We can call out to Him as His children. Timothy Keller writes “The only person who dares wake up a king at 3:00 AM for a glass of water is a child. We have that access.”
3 – V7 – He Redeemed us.
“In him we have redemption through his blood,”
Redemption speaks of paying a ransom; Buying someone’s freedom from slavery. God purchased us from our slavery to sin through the payment of His Son’s blood. We no longer are owned by the kingdom of darkness but are rather owned by the King of Light, the king of all glory. What a blessing to be owned by the kindest King!
4 – V7 – He forgave us
“the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,”
The flip side of redemption is forgiveness. We are not only owned by a kind master, but we are also cleaned by our loving Lord. And, because of this, we are blessed to be able to come into in His presence with a clean slate.
There are many other spiritual blessings – we are talking about “Every Spiritual Blessing” after all – and as we continue working our way through Ephesians, we will get to see a few more. But, for now, we’ll leave it there.
On ending, notice that these four blessings all point to the Gospel, which is our greatest spiritual blessing. Because it is only through the Gospel that we can be made right with God. So what does this mean for us? To be reminded of specific spiritual blessings that we receive when we repent and believe the Gospel? How do we “use” these blessings? All good questions.
Hopefully, you would have noticed that all these blessings are things that are done to us. We are passive, and God is the doer. We don’t need to do anything to “use” these gifts. But, as I’ve already written, these belong only to those who are “in Christ”. We need to be saved to receive them. So, ARE YOU SAVED?
Are You Saved?
Are you alive,
You who confess wisdom
yet are living lies
Are you aware,
Oh cancerous mind?
You who confess knowledge
Yet live as if blind
Are you sure,
You who believe you’re accepted
yet rely on vain rituals
Are you saved,
Oh wretched soul?
You who confess Christ
yet deny Him control?
The answer to all these questions is to make sure that you have repented of your sins and believed the Gospel. Get right with God because if you are not right with Him – then these blessings are not yours.
Secondly, if you are saved – remember your blessings. Remember you have reason to be joyful. Don’t let your circumstances control your emotions – let God’s Word dictate how you feel.
Thirdly, remember that these blessings you have are to stir you to praise God all the more. Don’t forget God; you are blessed to bless Him.
And finally, remember that these blessings are only to those who are Christians. So, be moved to evangelise to those who do not have these blessings yet! Share the Gospel message with these people and pray that the Spirit would move to convict and regenerate them.
- James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library, 1988), 13.
- ibid. – Quoting D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.