2004-08-10 - Spiritual Blessings
Ephesians 1:1-3 "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places."
Words such as these are likely to charm us, like a cobra, so that we do not pay attention to anything but the surface and general understanding that the text has for us. We must remember that in verse one, Paul has reminded the Ephesians who he is and who they are. In verse two, he says a little prayer and reminds them of the things that they have, should have, or can have in Christ. Now in verse three, he is reminding them how it is possible that they enjoy this grace and peace mentioned in verse two. These blessings come from God.
One thing we can take from verse three is the mention of spiritual blessings in Christ. Notice that Paul does not say that God has blessed us with every material blessing in Christ. His focus is upon the things that are spiritual, that are in Christ. If we look back to Deuteronomy 28:1-14, we can see a tie in between spiritual blessings and obedience. We see these blessing are given in Deut. 28:1,2 as a direct result of obedience to God. We would be negligent if we did not also see here that these blessings are spoken of as future. They are blessings "in the heavenly places." However, Paul will still remind the Ephesians that even while we dwell in our mortal bodies, we can still enjoy these heavenly blessings. In Ephesians 1:13,14 Paul talks about the Spirit giving us a pledge of our heavenly inheritance even now.
I say that we enjoy these blessings today and in the future, because it really is both, and the text can as easily be translated "heavenly places," as it is here, or "heavenly benefits," which would imply these blessings also being present today. It really is a question of which one you would like to emphasize, because the text allows for either translation, and either understanding. Both are true theologically, and so we have no controversy regardless as to how we look at this verse.
We also see, in these words at the end of verse three, that there is no such thing as a theoretical Christian. The Christian is to be faithful and holy, and we fool ourselves when we think that we can live in such a way that dwells or focuses in the earthly realm, as opposed to the heavenly places. It is possible for us to attend church and give visual assent to the truths of Christ, but never dwell in the heavenly places. This is why Paul first speaks of being faithful in verse one. It is crucial that we are faithful, before we prance about as if we were saints in Christ. William Temple says it well, "No one is a believer who is not holy, and no one is holy who is not a believer."
Believing truth is an eminently practical thing to do, but if you are looking for some homework, I would suggest you set aside some time and write down some of the spiritual blessings that you now have through Christ. What blessings has Christ brought into your life, that you did not and could not have had without Christ? You might even begin a list, let it sit for a few days - and every time you think of one of the spiritual blessings you have in Christ, add it to the list.
Soli Deo Gloria,