Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:3-4)
St. Paul’s letter to the churches at Ephesus begins with what could only be described as an “outburst of glory”!
For twelve amazing verses Paul plunges into the ocean of blessings given to the believer. He surveys the scope of the glorious future of the believer and the definitive work of God. This definitive work of God, as we shall see, is to save the believer from coming wrath, to make the sinner righteous, and to fit him for readmission to paradise.
The starting point for Paul is praise – which is the natural response of any heart that has been properly brought into the light of Christ.Offering to God thanks and praise is the supreme duty of every human creature. For this end we were created. For this purpose we were saved, that we might evermore show forth the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9).
The man was formed with a mouth and eyes, ears and a mind so that he could indeed “shout to the Lord” in ceaseless joy and thanksgiving. Given the high point of man’s origin, it is a dreadful indictment on the human condition that these instruments that should have been wholly given to praise, are debased and misused. The world abounds in eyes that long to look upon iniquity; ears that delight in gossip and slander; mouths that frame lies and profanity; minds that contemplate evil. Indeed, one of the evidences of salvation is that the man begins to use his very being for praise and thanksgiving again.
Paul tells the Ephesian Christians that they have been given “every spiritual blessing in Christ“.
Immediately, this phrase brings a division between the believer and unbeliever.
To the person dead in trespasses and sins and estranged from God, this is not an impressive statement. “Spiritual blessings,” says the unbeliever, “sound theoretical, abstract and not real. They are second class blessings. I want earthly blessings. I want the blessings of prosperity, and health, and fame, and a big house, and my morning cup of coffee. These are what I consider real blessings. You can take these so-called spiritual blessings and keep them!”
An unredeemed person cannot begin to understand the motives of the great saints who were put to the sword, lived in caves and holes in the ground, who went about in animal skins, were sawed in half, and wandered through the earth in “order that they might obtain a better resurrection” (Heb 11:35). What madness is this! To live a life of misery solely to obtain some ethereal spiritual blessing in the hereafter? Insanity! I’ll take my pleasures here and now, thank you very much!
But to those who know the reality of God, these blessings are not second class, neither are they insubstantial. Rather the spiritual blessings are the best blessings of all.
These are not abstractions. Not in the slightest. Rather these blessings have tangible and concrete outworkings in a person’s life. Everything is affected. The manner in which a man chooses, thinks, loves, desires, dreams, labours, prays, spends his time, and reckons. The blessed believer lives on a wholly different plane of life flowing with divine life and glory.
What does God offer through these blessings? Nothing less than readmission to paradise. Our first parents were expelled from Eden in Genesis 3 and every human being since then has lived in a shadow world that is a pathetic parody of what we were created to experience. But in Revelation 22, the redeemed reenter paradise. There they take up eternal residence where the river of life, the tree of life, and the city of God exist in the endless illumination provided by Christ himself.
This is what these spiritual blessings point to: to gaining a sinless condition where there are no longer any barriers between man and his Creator. And, in losing his sin, man looses the plague and curse of sin. He is freed from death, sorrow, separation, loneliness, sickness, and misery. He is renewed and can look forward to endless trillions of years of life. Elevated into a world of love.
In the fourth verse, St. Paul takes us on a journey – soaring through space and time – back past Bethlehem, back past the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, past Moses, Abraham, Noah, and even back beyond Adam himself. Paul launches us into the time before Genesis 1:1, when, before the creation of the world, “God chose us in Christ“. Before the universe was called into existence; before Christ formed the spiralling galaxies; before the stars began to shine and the sun rose on the first day, God selected a people for paradise.
A select people! Therefore anyone who savingly meets with Christ is operating under a principle that is more ancient than the ground beneath their feet. To be lifted into glory – not because the sinner is better than anyone else, or had a particular upbringing, or some special exposure – but because God ordained an eternity ago that the sinner would meet with Jesus. And not only meet with him, but to behold his glory and love – like Moses, to “see him who is invisible” – and be brought into communion with him forever.