Ephesians 1:3 - "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." Read Ephesians 1:3-14.
A beautiful way to start off the new year is to begin with a doxology--an expression of praise to God. How much better this is than to begin 1978 with a hangover! Only when persons are in a proper relationship to their Creator can they have a happy year. Ephesians 1:3-14 is a doxology. It is a response of praise to God for the many spiritual blessings He has given us. A number of spiritual blessings are listed in this doxology and it is important for the growing Christian to understand them. When these blessings are properly appreciated, they go a long way towards making the new year a happy one. Spiritual blessings can only be seen by faith because they are spiritual. That is, they are not material blessings like a good job or a healthy body. They are blessings that cannot be physically seen or touched--they are spiritual. But being spiritual does not make them any less real. They are as real as any physical reality, but their existence and effect must be entered into by faith. Verse 3 tells us that every spiritual blessing is ours in Christ. Because of our relationship and association with Christ, God has given us all the blessings that heaven ever knew! God does not withhold a single spiritual blessing from any Christian! Appreciating and appropriating these blessings, however, is a different matter. Let us not blame God for our little faith. These spiritual blessings are said to be in "heavenly places", which further emphasizes the fact that they are not earthly and physical. The idea in the phrase "heavenly places" is not a location in space somewhere (note that the word "places" is in italics in your Bible) but rather the realm of spiritual experience and activity into which we are brought because of our identification with the risen Christ. Thus we do not enjoy our spiritual blessings by some kind of mystical "space trip" or TM experience, but rather by simply believing that what the Bible says about our blessed position in Christ is true. The first spiritual blessing that is mentioned in this doxology is our election. Verse 4 tells us that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. God "rubber-stamped" us for heaven way back in eternity past! We must admit that this is a mind-blower of a concept, but any attempt to water it down (for example: God chose only those whom He foresaw would choose Him) infringes on the sovereignty of God. To limit God's omniscience (all-knowing and knowing all) some time in the past is to limit God. Now the Bible also teaches that every human being is responsible to choose God and that God has given every person enough data in order to make that choice (see Romans 1:18-20). No one has an excuse for not choosing God and no one is "rubber-stamped" for hell. It is beyond our finite minds to fully grasp how these two seemingly contradictory truths harmonize. However, they are not logically contradictory. If the Bible said that God both chose and did not choose or that man is both responsible and not responsible, then we would have a contradiction in logic. But no, the Bible teaches that God chooses the saved while the lost do not choose God. No person in heaven will be able to brag, "I'm here because I chose God." And no person in hell will have as an excuse, "I'm here because God didn't choose me." Yes, this is difficult to understand--but then we have finite minds which cannot completely fathom all truths. The important point here in Ephesians 3 is that God wants me to appreciate the fact that He handpicked me (with all my problems and hangups and sin which He forever knew) to become holy and blameless before Him forever. And there was no good thing or merit within me (see Romans 3:10-18) to cause Him to do it--this is a spiritual blessing indeed! A second spiritual blessing is mentioned in verse 5. We are predestined to sonship in the family of God. The word predestined not only emphasizes the sovereignty of God once again but also indicates that the subjects are foredained for something--in this case, the adoption as sons. Adoption in New Testament days was an official act by which a boy was placed in the position of an adult son. No longer was he treated as a mere child or servant. He now had all the privileges and responsibilities and dignity associated with sonship. When we become Christians we are not only born into the family of God; we are placed in a position of full privilege in the family. The manifestation of our sonship awaits the resurrection, but it is a fact now. Think of this tremendous spiritual blessing. Out of the kindness of His heart, God picked usindividually as sons--not slaves, but sons! (See also Romans 8:15-17 and Galatians 4:4-7.) Redemption and forgiveness are two more spiritual blessings that come to our attention in verse 7. Before salvation we were in bondage to sin and slaves of Satan. (This was actually true whether we realized it or not!) But the Son of God came down to the slave market and redeemed us. The ransom price was high. He bought us back at the cost of His own life. Now Satan has no claim on us. The price has been paid and we are free to follow our Saviour. The Lord Jesus is not a slave-driver, He is the Lord of love. He has not only redeemed us but He has completely forgiven us for running away. What a Redeemer! No wonder the Scripture goes on to say that all this was according to theriches of His grace which He lavished on us. Another spiritual blessing is that we now have the capacity to understand God's eternal purpose for the universe (vs9-10). What is this purpose? It is to put all things (people, places, powers, planets--and even professors!) under the visible authority of Christ at His second coming. The plan was not fully revealed to the Old Testament saints. That is why it is referred to as the "mystery of His will"--not mysterious, but previously secret. But now this eternal purpose of God has been made known. Christians have been given insight and discernment into God's program for the future. This is a spiritual blessing. Think of the unbelievers all around us who are struggling for security and peace of mind in a world they see as chaotic and futile and up for grabs. Little do they know that present powers and politics are programmed for complete change. What a blessing it is for the believer to know that his future does not depend on the selfish plans of a power-hungry politician or the itchy fingers of a future push-button war machine. The fact that we are going to share in God's glorious program for the future is another spiritual blessing (vs11-12). When our Lord comes back to claim this world for His own, we will be with Him and will be part of His visible and eternal kingdom. What an inheritance! And we will actually participate in the everlasting glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Can it really all be true? Look at us now--a bunch of Bible-believing and Jesus-preaching "dummies"! As far as the world is concerned we are duped and to be pitied with our "wishful thinking". By faith we continue to hold onto our spiritual blessing because the Word of God says it is true. We have been "born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:3-4). In verses 13-14 the Holy Spirit is mentioned as another spiritual blessing. Two facts are stated here about the work of the Holy Spirit. We are sealed with the Spirit and given the Spirit as a pledge of our inheritance. A first century seal on a letter or container indicated ownership and security. In the same way God has sealed every Christian with the Holy Spirit. He owns us because of the finished transaction at the cross. We are stamped secure in Christ. And God won't take His seal back or permit it to be broken. What a blessing to know that our salvation is sure and secure! As a pledge, the Holy Spirit is like a downpayment or an engagement ring. He is a guarantee of what's to come for us in the future. We look forward to the redemption of our bodies as part of our inheritance. As God's own possession, not only is the salvation of our souls secure (the seal) but the complete redemption of our bodies is guaranteed (the pledge). Some day we are going to have new bodies which will be immune to suffering and sickness and sin---forever. (See Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 2 Corinthians 5:1-8; Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2.) This magnificent doxology comes to a close with verse 14. Perhaps you noticed that the doxology is in three stanzas: verses 3-6, verses 7-12 and verse 13-14. Each stanza concludes with a note of praise to the glory of God. Although the main emphasis of the doxology is on the spiritual blessings of the Christian, it is interesting to note that in each stanza our attention is drawn to a different Person of the Trinity: God the Father in the first stanza, God the Son in the second stanza, and God the Holy Spirit in the third stanza. Such is the beauty of the structure of Scripture. Our spiritual blessings are from the triune God. By faith let us claim every spiritual blessing that God has given us and enjoy a happy new year.