Summary: The first in a series on the riches of Christ in Ephesians, introducing the blessings won for us by Christ and the importance ofr them being ’in the heavenly places’
We have just read the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Church at the city of Ephesus, in Asia Minor, or the country that is today called Turkey, although some people think that it was orginally a circular letter sent around from Church to Church. This is the first in a series in which we will be looking at some of the wonderful things that this letter has to teach us. It is a letter full of blessings, showing us all that Christ has done for us.
We delight in wishing other peoiple God’s blessing. Even today even unbelivers often wish each other God’s blesings. For example text messaging and internet chatrooms tend to use many abbreviations. One of them is GBU, meaning ’God bless you’. But I think that we often wish each other "God bless you", with only a hazy idea of what we actually mean by that.
The first chapter of the book of Ephesians tells of blessings, blessings that are available to all of us. It also show us what these blessings actually are. Let’s look at them in more detail, particularly the first three verses.
Who the blessings are for
The Bible is full of different types of blessings. Not only are the blessings themselves different, but so are tehe recipients, they are given to different groups of people and individuals. For example Jacob called each of his sons before he died and gave them different blessings.. Many of the blessings in the Old Testament only applied to the Children of Israel, the Jewish people. They were not given to other nations or groups. We cannot claim blessings to which we are not entitled. Clearly then it is important to know to whom the blessings are addressed.
Fortunately we are told in verse 1 to whom these blessings are given,.
’to the saints which are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus’
Not to unbelievers, but to saints. These blessings are not for the world at large, they cannot be claimed by everybody but only by ‘saints’. Saints here simply means ’Holy People’. In the New Testament the word ’saint’ is not just used for a special breed of ’super-Christian’, but instead is applied to all believers in Christ, to everyone who has been saved by him.
It might sound as if it is only to those who lived in Ephesus, but later on, Paul, who was not at Ephesus, includes all believers by using the word ’us’ and not ’you’ in connection with the blessings. So the blessings are for everyone who has been saved and made holy by the Lord Jesus Christ and his spirit.
The type of blessings
So the blessings are for us who believe. But what type of blessing are they? What good thing do they do for us?
Many blessings in the Old Testament were promises of material success, of wealth, of political freedom, of health and long-life, of agricultural success or having plenty of children. Misappropriation of the blessings that God promised to Israel is the source of the heresy of prosperity theology. But the blessings of the New Testament are different. They are not material, but spiritual. Although they are not of things that can be physically touched, they are just as real.
Where the blessings are
My earliest memory of this passage was when as a child I heard a Methodist lay preacher preach on it. He came to the section of verse 3 that describes the spiritual blessings as being in ’the heavenly places’ and told us that originally he was going to say "It doesn’t matter where they are!" but then changed his mind and he said that it does matter where they are. I cannot remember what else he said, if I am honest I probably did not really listen, but I think he was right to change his mind. It does matter very much where these blessings are for us.
We are told that these blessings are ’in the heavenly places’ - where God’s throne is. The place where everything is permanent and eternal, where nothing, including promises and blessings, passes away. The opposite is true on earth. Here everything eventually dies, passes away or is changed. Blessings in the ’heavenly places’, therefore, will be ours for ever. We will never lose them, they willl never decay or lose their effectiveness, or be withdrawn or die.
The source of the blessings
So where do these blessings come from? Obviously from God, but how? Verse 3 tells us. We are told that the Father has blessed us with these spiritual blessings ’in Christ’. They come from our saviour, Jesus. He has won them for us through his death and his resurection,.
Christ, who is in the heavenly places now, seated at the right hand side of God the Father, giving those of us who believe in him everlasting spiritual blessings.