Summary: The blessings we have in Christ help make up our spiritual identity.
“I Am Blessed”
We can read our passage today and it reads like any good section of the New Testament, very nice introduction to the letter he writes to the Ephesian church. But what you can’t get from just reading the English written word here is how absolutely giddy Paul is in writing it. This is one long sentence in the Greek, and to appreciate it we need to understand how we all kind of ramble on without taking a breath when we are really excited.
Paul is so excited in writing this that he just goes on without a breath and doesn’t even worry about punctuation, and he’s a pretty educated guy. In fact verses 15 to 23 are also one long sentence. And this has caused some scholars over time to question if Paul even wrote this letter. But don’t worry, there is overwhelming evidence that he did.
Why is Paul so excited as he sits imprisoned in Rome? Well that’s what we’re going to talk about today. He is feeling so blessed and in awe of God, that he can’t contain it even in writing though he sits in prison. Let me try to give you an idea of how this part begins in a modern kind of way. It might go something like this:
“Praise the Lord, can you believe that he has actually blessed us in Christ with every single spiritual blessing in the heavenly places!” Paul knows who he is and who we are and who God is, and he is utterly amazed by the fact that God would bless us in this way, that this was his plan even before he created the world, can you even fathom that?
So that’s how this letter begins. Now let’s back up a little.
After God created Adam and Eve, he blessed them (Gen. 1:27–28; 5:2). The fact that this blessing was freely given and not earned is something unique to the God of the Bible among other “gods” of other religions. This blessing also gives us a unique view into God’s character and how we don’t have to “manipulate” or “coerce” God for him to approve of or bless us. In fact he gives himself to us, the ultimate blessing.
Actually, Paul says in contrast that we should be blessing God, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing”. “We are to praise God for the unmerited favor he shows us.” As we know from last week, again we must be in Christ in order to receive these blessings.
Just meditate on that for a moment. God has blessed us, favoured us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. There is nothing more he can bless us with spiritually. Of course all of that includes eternal life. Yet is it not true that we often forget those blessings that are forever, and as we get caught up in life, we tend to focus on what He isn’t giving us here in this short blip of an earthly life.
Now I think most Christians truly see what he has given us as superior to anything we could ask or imagine in this life. But more and more in the church, the consumer prosperity gospel is infiltrating people’s minds sometimes very subtly. Jesus is seen more and more as a celestial sugar daddy who we expect to make this life better, and to bless us in worldly ways. And the church as his body is expected to meet our desires rather than to be a place that helps us grow and serve Him.
He does promise that if we live as directed we will have better lives here on earth, but these are not unconditional and they don’t necessarily refer to typical earthly or material blessings, in fact he more often promises the opposite, that as Christians, our earthly life will be more difficult because of our association with Christ, and the hope he speaks of here is not about this life but about the spiritual blessings awaiting us in the heavenly realm, and those that help us get through difficulty in this life. Would anyone really prefer to get all their blessings in this life and then have just death or worse, eternal torment apart from God? Would we forfeit the spiritual and heavenly blessings that await us to have a little more health, a better children’s program, happiness, and money in this life?
So what are these blessings? Paul lists them in the next several verses. The first I want to address is:
1. The Blessing of Holiness (v.4)
Essentially here Paul is saying again that it is God that makes us saints, not ourselves. This means he has made us set apart, pure, morally blameless, and chosen by him. Can we be any of those things on our own merit? Of course not.