Ephesians 1:3


Sermon preached on November 20, 2005 by Laurence W. Veinott. Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.


Human nature is fascinating. We human beings are a strange bunch. It's amazing the way we are. Have you ever heard of the Broken Window Theory? The idea comes from an article and subsequent book about broken windows. (Broken Windows, by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, which appeared in the March 1982 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities by George L. Kelling and Catherine Coles 1996) The theory is simple. (From Wikipedia)

"Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars."



The authors of the book go on to suggest that a successful strategy for preventing vandalism is to fix things early and quickly.

Isn't that strange? It reveals a lot about human nature. It shows how we can be influenced by what others do and by our surroundings.

We need to put that idea to good use—the apostle Paul certainly did. Consider what he's doing here in Ephesians 1:3. Paul wrote,

"Praise be to the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ,"

John Calvin tells us that Paul extols the grace of God,

"to rouse their hearts to gratitude, to set them aflame, to occupy and fill them with this thought."



We see this in David as well. In Psalm 103. David wrote,

"Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being,
praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD,
O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."

We human beings don't praise God enough. We don't think enough about how good God has been to us. To help us do that—both Paul and David do it so that others may join in and so glorify God.

You are to bless God. You are to praise Him for what He has done for us.

This is what our passage is all about. This is the great lesson of our text. God has been so good to you that you should be praising Him and encouraging others to lift His name high as well.

Consider Paul words here. A literal translation of our passage would be,

"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."

Note Paul's triple use of the same Greek word- 'blessed'. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ." The same word is used three times in this one verse. We should bless God because He has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

We all know that
we should praise God because He is worthy of praise. Even if He didn't give us anything but strict justice and punishment for our sins, we would still owe Him praise and honor—because there is no one like Him. He is absolutely wonderful and glorious. Indeed, on the last day everyone is going to praise God—even those who will be cast away from His presence. In Philippians 2 we read that as a result of Jesus work of dying on the cross, (Philippians 2:9f)

"God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."

In a day to come, every knee is going to bow, every tongue is going to praise Jesus—even those that will not reap eternal life. God is intrinsically worthy of praise.

But in addition to that, Christians should be praising God for how He has blessed us. This is what our text is about. We should bless or praise Him, because He has blessed us—given us so many good things. We see this in both Psalm 103 and here in Ephesians 1:3. Psalm 103 urges us not to forget all his benefits, how he forgives us for our sins. We should bless God is because He,

"has blessed us
with every spiritual blessing
in the heavenly realms in Christ."

"Blessed be the God… who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ…" Eadie tells us that the words are in 'ideal contrast'.

"He makes us blessed, we pronounce Him blessed. We bless Him because He has blessed us."



We are to praise God for how He has blessed us. In summary,

God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.

Let's break this down and look at some of the parts of it.

The first thing to note about these spiritual blessings is that they are ours and not one of them is missing.

Charles Hodge writes,

"the apostle contemplates his readers as actually redeemed, and in present possession of the unspeakable blessings which Christ has procured."



In other words, these blessings were not ones that the Ephesians were going to be mostly received at some future point—but they had already been bestowed on them. They are essentially things are ours in Christ. Paul uses the Greek aorist tense which is like giving us a snapshot of what we have in Christ. These things are ours.

In
fact, much of what follows in the first three chapters of Ephesians is a delineation of the spiritual blessings that we have in Christ. Verse 4 begins "For He chose us…" The word 'for' ((Greek, kathos) has the sense of 'because' or 'in so far as'. Verse 4f lists some of the blessings that we have. We were chosen to be holy and blameless. We were predestined to be adopted as God's sons, in Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Paul then goes on to tell us how we were predestined so that we might be for the praise of His glory and that He has given us His Spirit, guaranteeing our inheritance. Paul then mentions how he wants the Ephesians to be able to grasp the great hope that we have, the riches of our inheritance, and God's incomparably great power for us who believe. All this is in the first chapter.

In the second chapter Paul extols the grace of God, how He did not treat us as our sins deserved, but made us alive in Christ and saved us by grace, even giving us the faith that we needed and preparing beforehand good works for us to do.

Then Paul talks about how God has made one people, bringing Jews and Gentiles together, making peace. In chapter 3 Paul speaks about how he prays that we would have power to grasp how wide and long and deep the love of Christ is, and how God is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or think. Then in chapter 4 he talks how we are part of the one body of Christ and how we all have a part to do in building the body up, until we all reach unity and maturity, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

What a sweep of grace! From being chosen before the foundation of the world to the fullness of Christ. What blessings are mentioned in Ephesians! We have been given every spiritual blessing in Christ. As John Eadie writes,

"No needed blessing is wanted—nothing that God has promised, or Christ has secured, or that is indispensable to the symmetry and perfection of the Christian character. And those blessings are all in the hand of the Spirit."



What we have here reminds me of 2 Peter 1:3 where Peter says,

"His divine power has given us
everything we need for life and godliness…"

God has blessed us in that He has given us every spiritual blessing.

The second thing we should note about these blessings is that they pertain to the life of the Spirit and are in the heavenly realms.

They are 'spiritual blessings'. Peter O'Brien writes,

"Here the adjective spiritual means 'pertaining to or belonging to the Spirit', and thus 'spiritual blessings' signify those which 'properly pertain to the life of the Spirit'."



Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, (God's Ultimate Purpose, p. 71)

"Here, I suggest, we see more clearly than anywhere else the profound change that one undergoes by becoming a Christian. It is not a mere superficial change, it is not merely that we don some robe of respectability or decency or morality, it is not some surface improvement or some temporal change. It is as profound as this, that we are taken from one realm and put into another."



The heavenly life of Christs come into our lives through the Spirit. We belong to the heavenly realm. As the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20f,

"But our citizenship is in heaven.
And we eagerly await a Savior from there,
the Lord Jesus Christ…"

As Paul said in Colossians 3:1f,

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,
set your hearts on things above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above,
not on earthly things.
For you died,
and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."

We are citizens of heaven. We have been raised with Christ. Our life is hidden with Christ in God. This is all because the Spirit was poured out on the church by Jesus on the Day of Pentecost. As Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. writes, (Perspectives on Pentecost, p. 19)

"Pentecost is Christ's personal coming to the church as the life-giving Spirit. The Spirit of Pentecost is the resurrection life of Christ, the life of the exalted Christ."



He continues and tells us that the outpouring of the Spirit by was,

"is his coming in exaltation to the church in the power of the Spirit."



Thus we share in the resurrection life of Christ—the life of the age to come. We have that now. These blessings relate to that.

This is confirmed by what Paul writes next. He says that Christ has blessed us with every spiritual blessing,

"in the heavenly realms in Christ."

This phrase 'in heavenly realms' is only used in the letter to the Ephesians. It's not found anywhere else in the New Testament. But it's found five times here in Ephesians. We have it here in 1:3 and then in Ephesians 1:20 which reads,

"which he exerted in Christ
when he raised him from the dead
and seated him at his right hand
in the heavenly realms,"

Then it occurs in Ephesians 2:6 where Paul wrote,

"And God raised us up with Christ
and seated us with him
in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,"

Then in chapter 3 and verse 10 Paul wrote,

"His intent was that now,
through the church,
the manifold wisdom of God
should be made known
to the rulers and authorities
in the heavenly realms,"

Then finally in Ephesians 6:12 we read,

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers,
against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil
in the heavenly realms."

Peter O'Brien writes,

"Surprisingly… the phrase is employed for both the sphere of God or Christ (1:3, 20; 2:6) and the location of the evil 'principalities and powers' (3:10; 6:12)."



In all of them, 'the idea of locality is expressly implied'. (Hodge, Eadie) But there is obviously a difference of place between the dwelling of God and the location of evil principalities and powers. Both can obviously be referred to as the 'heavenly realms' – but one is the dwelling of God and the other alludes to the fact that Satan and the other spiritual forces of evil are not mere earthly figures but are spiritual beings who dwell in a realm which is located above the earth.

But the first three occurrences relate to the dwelling of God. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly realms. God raised us up and seated us with Christ in the heavenly realms.

What Paul says reminds me of
1 Peter 1:3-4 where Peter wrote,

"Praise be to the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us
new birth into 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,"

This means that the blessings that we have in Christ, these present blessings, are not transitory and passing. They are sure. They are permanent and enduring. They are given by the Spirit and are in heavenly places. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, (God's Ultimate Purpose, p. 71)

"The Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, is already in that realm in His glorified body, as we are reminded in the 20th verse. What the Apostle is saying, therefore, is that all we have, and all we enjoy as Christians, comes from Him and through Him in that realm. More than that, by the new birth, by our regeneration, we are joined to the Lord Jesus Christ, and we become sharers and participators in His life and in all the blessings that come from Him. The Apostle's teaching is that we are 'in Christ'. We are part of Christ; we are so bound to Him by this organic mystical union that whatever is true of Him is true of us spiritually. As He is in the heavenly places so are we in the heavenly places also."



I also believe there's a connection between us being blessed with our being in heavenly places and our being objects of display for God's glory. Paul seems to make this connection in both chapter 1 and chapter 2. In 1:3 he mentions how we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. Then in verses 11-14 we read,

"In him we were also chosen,
having been predestined
according to the plan of him
who works out everything in conformity
with the purpose of his will,
in order that we,
who were the first to hope in Christ,
might be
for the praise of his glory.
And you also were included in Christ
when you heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation.
Having believed,
you were marked in him with a seal,
the promised Holy Spirit,
who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance
until the redemption of those
who are God's possession—
to the praise of his glory."

We also see this theme in Ephesians 2:6-7, where it again mentions the heavenly realms and us being objects of display. We read,

"And God raised us up with Christ
and seated us with him
in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
in order that in the coming ages
he might show
the incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."

Do you see how these concepts are tied together? We are in the heavenly realms—to the praise of God's glory. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms—and this means that we are, and are going to be forever—to the praise of God's glory. Our salvation is sure.

Now this has very practical applications for us.

First, Christians, live as those who have ascended to the heavenly realms.

This is actually an application that Paul makes in chapters 4 and 5. We are to live as children of the light. There has been a dramatic change. We belong to the heavenly realm. Live accordingly. Since you have been raised with Christ, seek those things which are above.

Secondly, Christians be assured of your salvation.

God has blessed you with every spiritual blessing. You are safe. Jesus, the Good Shepherd is the exalted King, the ruler of all things. Trust Him. John Calvin writes,

"The aim of the apostle, therefore, in asserting the greatness of divine grace toward the Ephesians, to arm them, lest they should let their faith be shaken by false apostles, as if their calling were doubtful, or salvation were to be sought in some other way." "so that they may know that they were saved, not by any accidental or unforeseen occurrence, but by the eternal and unchangeable decree of God."



Thirdly, Christians, be continually praising God for how He has blessed you.

Psalm 103 again,

"Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being,
praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD,
O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."

Lastly, unbelievers, I ask you to see that you don't have any of these spiritual blessings—and to realize that more than anything else—

they are what you need.

You're missing out on the greatest blessings in the world. You aren't a member of God's family. You don't have the forgiveness of sins. You haven't been made alive in Christ. You're lost as you are.

Unless you go to Jesus—you'll miss out forever. These blessings are 'in Christ', only in Him. Go to Jesus now. Find life, life to the full—in Him. Go to Him. He will accept you. He will receive you with open arms.