Last week we saw that the Book of Ephesians was actually written by Paul, to a group of discouraged Christians on the verge of giving up on their faith, and assimilating into the surrounding culture (Ephesians 3:13).
The Apostle Paul is hence writing to encourage them, and he starts by worshipping God! Ephesians 1:3-14 is actually one long sustained sentence of praise, sans punctuations in the Greek, starting with “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” This was Paul worshipping in prison! And he was inviting the Ephesians to join him in worship, in spite of their circumstances. But, this was not some vacuous call to worship. Paul gave solid reasons for why he and they could worship in difficulty. God has “blessed” them, with “every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3).
This blessing was Trinitarian in shape. It came from the “Father” (1:3), was “in Christ” (1:3, 4, 7, 13) and was from “spiritual” (1:3, πνευματικοσ), meaning that it came from the Holy Spirit. And, they were experienced in the “heavenly places” referring to a dimension of existence”, that is unseen, but no less real, where God, and the spiritual powers of evil dwell (1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12).
All three persons of the eternal Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are working harmoniously to make sure that God’s people received the blessings he intended for them!
But, what are these blessings? They come in three parts.
Firstly, the blessing of being chosen by the Father (1:4-6, 11). God the Father, “chose us… before the foundation of the world… to be holy and blameless” (1:4), “predestined us for adoption” (1:5), and we have “obtained an inheritance, having been predestined” (1:11) or, even better, we have been “made heirs, because we were predestined” (1:11). Now, these raise a number of questions, but it does seem to be exactly what the Bible teaches. And, we aren’t at liberty to change that. At the same time, should it really surprise us that the Bible would say things that might perplex us, even frustrate us? If God really is who He says He is, the highest being in the universe, infinitely more wise and intelligent than anyone, and the Bible was His word, would it not be obvious that it said some things that seem strange to us? Incidentally, this isn’t an issue unique to Christians. Other religions also have their version of the freewill versus predestination debate, and even secular philosophers debate determinism. And the debates will continue. Interestingly, in this context, Paul did not bring this issue up to confuse the Ephesians, and us he brought it up, to encourage them! Rightly understood, predestination and election should be immensely encouraging.
Because it shows that God is intentional and purposeful in blessing His people (Ephesians 1:5, 11). Though life may seem random, chaotic and out of control at times, for the believer, he or she can draw comfort from the fact that it is not. God has intentionally, purposefully, and wisely chosen to bless. Additionally, what is often missed is that the goal of predestination is familial. You are chose in “in Him”, Christ his Son (1:4), predestined “for adoption” (1:5), and “made an heir, having been predestined” (1:11). Adoption was common in the Greco-Roman world. It referred to the legal practice by which a father of a family accepted as his heir a child that was not his own. And, this adopted child would enjoy the full rights of a natural born child! To be “holy and blameless” (1:4) was to share the family likeness! God is a loving Father, choosing someone, intentionally and purposefully to be His child!
Secondly, the blessing of being redeemed by the Son (1:7-10, 12). This theme of “redemption” actually comes from the slave markets, where in those days someone could buy the freedom of a slave or a captive by paying a ransom price. As the text implies, people have “trespassed” against God, and become captives or slaves to sin. And the ransom price is infinitely high because the trespass is infinitely heinous. Sin is trying to be God, to take His place, to grab His honour. It is very serious, and hence the penalty is high. Yet, God paid the penalty, He paid the ransom! It was costly. The “blood” of Jesus, that is the death of Jesus, was the price that had to be paid! This is a lavish blessing (Ephesians 1:8). God wasn’t being incredibly generous! He paid for you with the death of his very own Son! This is also an expansive blessing. Ephesians 1:9 says that in this redemption, God has made known to us the “mystery of his will”, that is, that God had “a plan… to unite all things in him (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10), through the Cross. Not only has Christ paid for individual sinners, His death has also paved the way for the entire universe, “all things in heaven… and on earth” to be restored! Through Christ’s blood, this broken world is being restored!
Thirdly, the blessing of being sealed by the Spirit (1:13-14). The third blessing is to be “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (1:13). Now, seals were used in those days, to guarantee the quality, authenticity or ownership of property or a legal document. It gave protection against tampering, and evidence against forgery. Believers have been “signed, sealed, delivered” by the Holy Spirit who lives in them! They were sealed for their “salvation” (Ephesians 1:13). This means they are being preserved from the coming judgement. They were sealed, kept safe, permanently, from God’s coming judgment, or as Ephesians 4:30, puts it “sealed for the day of redemption”. God is going to make sure, that they will make it to the end. He guarantees it, by His Spirit! It also means that they have been given a “downpayment” of their “inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14). The Holy Spirit is like a foretaste of what is to come. What is this “inheritance”? Nothing short of the entire world, and its structures, restored and renewed. Romans 4:13 says that “Abraham and his offspring”, would be heirs of “the world”, of the restored creation, of the new world! You see the Holy Spirit comes into your life, and he gives you a taste of what God’s restored creation will be like. It’s a down payment, it’s not the whole thing yet, but it resembles it. One way we can see this tangibly is how the Holy Spirit works in the church to create an alternative society, alike, yet different from the world, where her members treat each other like they would in a world free of sin! It’s not going to be perfect before Christ comes again, but He has promised a taste of it, a guarantee of it!
But, why has God blessed them the way He has?
It is “to the praise of his glory” (1:8, 12, 14). God is blessing so that God looks good, so that He is shown to be glorious, gracious and amazing! So that He gets the glory! Now, doesn’t that sound a bit narcissistic and self-centred?
Well, it would be for anyone other than God. He really is worthy of all honour because of who He is. Created things have been designed to give glory to God, while God, by His nature is worthy of glory. So, you and I are designed to give glory, not grab it! That’s why we have the urge to go “Wow”, when we see a glorious sunrise, or a vast mountain, or a fantastic piece of art. What are we doing? We are giving glory away. And what do we get? Joy and enjoyment. That’s how we were made!
And, God being the ultimate being in the universe, when He gets glory, the universe works, as it should! When some else grabs His glory, that’s when things get really bad! And that is why, the answer to Question 1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism which asks, “What is the chief end of man?” is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. We were made to give God glory. And, we get our fullest joy when we give God glory! We “enjoy Him forever”!
When God gets the glory, His attributes, what His character is like, is magnified. And one of the main attributes that is magnified, is the one that we most need from Him… 1:8 says that it is “to the praise of his glorious grace”. It’s his grace!
He chose you, redeemed you, and sealed you, not because you were very good, but precisely because we were so very bad! He did not choose, redeem and seal on the basis of your goodness, but on the basis of his grace!
God has blessed you with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” by His grace alone. He gets the glory. You get the joy. Amen.
 Frank Thielman Ephesians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Grand Rapids, M.I.: Baker Academic, 2010), 39.
 Thielman, 47.
 Thielman, 51.
 Thielman, 59-60; and John Stott The Message of Ephesians (Bible Speaks Today) (Downers Grove, I.L.: IVP, 1979), 34.
 Thielman, 80.