The Spiritual Blessings for those who are in Christ
Blessed be (praise and honor and adoration be) to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because He has blessed us who are in Christ. Us, who have subjected ourselves to Christ, He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Like what? It is us who are in Christ that God chose before the foundation of the world when He decided that He wanted a family of like beings; sons and daughters. Foreseeing everything that would happen when He created the world, every creature and every person who would live, their every decision and every event from Adam and Eve all the way to the end, foreseeing all, He chose us who are in Christ, who believe in Him and follow Him, that He would adopt us. And He decided that He would work with us and shape us into the image of His Son Jesus, that He would make us holy and blameless. And for what in return? What does God get for choosing to adopt us and mold us and bless us? Just the praise of the glory of His grace. He gets us saying, “Father, thank you, thank you, thank you! Father, you are awesome! You are wonderful! Your grace is amazing! I love you with all my heart!”
Also in Christ we have redemption, paid for freedom through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins. He has just lavished His grace upon us who are in Christ. In Christ He has revealed to us His plans and purposes, what He’s doing in this world, the means by which He’s accomplishing His goals, stuff that He’s kept secret in all the ages past, not just from people but even from the angels of heaven. And He’s given us not just the privilege of knowing this stuff, but also of having a stewardship with this insight. We get to have the work of dispensing or administering this insight to others, allowing us to be a part of the salvation of souls. In Christ we also, as His sons and daughters, have reserved for us an inheritance. Like people of Israel when God brought them out of Egypt and through the wilderness to the land of Canaan and drove out the sinful inhabitants of that land and gave that land to Israel as their inheritance. God has an inheritance that He is bringing us into, though of course it’s much bigger and greater than the land of Canaan. And for what in return? Just the praise of His glory.
To qualify us for this inheritance His Spirit has sealed us, stamped us, impressed His image into us, changed our hearts, made us love God and love our neighbor. And to guarantee us that He will give us this inheritance He’s promised, He has given us as a pledge, as a down payment, His Holy Spirit. As His Spirit works in us and in our lives, helping us to know Him and to become like Him and gifting us for ministry and answering our prayers and working in our lives, it’s like we get a taste that assures us that there is much more to come. He’s given us a down payment to assure us that there is this inheritance to come. And for what in return? Just the praise of His glory, just lots of “thank you’s” and “I love you’s.”
That’s my amplified paraphrase of Ephesians 1:3-14.
Are all these spiritual blessings really yours and mine?
“Is it for me, dear Savior?”
Thy glory and Thy rest
For me, so weak and sinful!
O shall I be so blest?
Is it for me, Thy welcome,
Thy gracious “Enter in”
For me Thy “Come ye blessed,”
For me so full of sin?”
The apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, Paul, says if you are in Christ, all of these spiritual blessings are yours. And Paul believed that these people to whom he was writing were just that. They were in Christ. Why? Well, in the book of Acts we find that these people like many others in the book of Acts, when they heard the news of Jesus’ death for our sins and His resurrection and His Lordship, confirmed by the prophecies of ancient Scripture and by eyewitness testimony and by miracles performed in His name, they believed, they repented of their idolatry and their sinful lives to obey the Lord Jesus and they were baptized into Him. And here in Ephesians 1:15 Paul mentions two primary evidences that convinced him these folks have remained in Christ where they have all these spiritual blessings. “15 For this reason I too, having heard of [this is #1] the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and [this is #2] your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers“.
Does that sound like you? Have you, in response to the gospel, believed and decided, “I quit living my way, and I need to follow Jesus in my life, and have been baptized as He commands with that faith and commitment? And would Paul hear about you like what he heard about these Christians to whom he is writing? If we had visitors that came and interacted with us for a while and then went back to Paul, would they be able to tell Paul about your genuine faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, because you worship the Lord Jesus and you’re honesty trying to do things His way in your life and you’re regularly getting together with the saints to encourage them and help them on the path, and you pray for your fellow Christians and if one of them needs help and you can help, you’re there? That response to the gospel and that genuine faith in the Lord Jesus and love for the saints were indications to Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, that there’s someone who is in Christ and who has all of these spiritual blessings! This is for us!
“O Savior, my Redeemer,
What can I but adore,
And magnify and praise Thee,
And love Thee ever more?”
Is this for real?
The apostle Paul was fully convinced that all these spiritual blessings are real. God really does have this much love and grace for those who are in Christ and He’s going to come through on all His promises to us.
Paul knew it for many reasons.
He knew it because He knew that Jesus Christ really was resurrected from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God. He knew that because the risen Lord Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He knew these blessings were for real because of visions and revelations that he received from the Lord, especially the vision he wrote about in II Corinthians 12.
II Corinthians 12:2-4
In II Corinthians he was being forced into boasting about his credentials as an apostle of Christ, because there were some teachers who had come into the Corinthian church saying that “Paul is not a true apostle and you should quit listening to him and listen to us, because we’re much more apostle like. We’re better speakers, not to mention much better looking, and we have these letters of recommendation and we have this and that credential, and just all around far more impressive.” The Corinthians were starting to be deceived. So Paul felt he had to defend his apostleship to save the Corinthians. In chapter 12 after talking about how much he had suffered to serve Christ, he moved to talk about visions and revelations that he’d received. But he felt foolish boasting about himself. When he tells of this particular vision he received, he speaks of himself in the 3rd person, as though this happened to someone else. But context tells us he’s talking about himself. He tries to boast in the most humble way possible. He wrote, “2 I know a man in Christ [talking about himself] who fourteen years ago [just before his first missionary journey] — whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows — such a man was caught up to the third heaven [Not the first heaven where the clouds are and the birds fly. Not the second heaven where the sun and the moon and the stars are. But the third heaven, the unseen spirit realm.] 3 And I know how such a man — whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows — 4 was caught up into Paradise [the same place Jesus told a thief dying on a cross next to Him that they were going to go to later that day, paradise] and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak”. So the revelation, whatever Paul heard there, was for him alone. I suspect the reason Paul was given this glimpse of paradise and this unspeakable message was to give him the strength to endure all the things that God was going to have him endure in his ministry, all of the beatings, floggings, stoning, imprisonments, and hardship and yet just keep on in his ministry. This glimpse of where we’re going in the hereafter would give him the strength to persevere through all that. So Paul had total confidence that all the wonderful things that God has promised Christians are no joke.
And Paul wanted Christians to share his confidence in God’s promises and spiritual blessings. Paul tries to instill greater confidence in Christians in many of his letters. But I especially like what he says in…
“5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts [we’ve been changed, we love God now] through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” In other words here’s one of the reasons we can be sure that our hope is not going to be disappointed. When we were ungodly and sinners and enemies of God, God loved us enough to send Christ to die for us that we might be justified. So there is no doubt that now that we love God, now that we are His friends that God is going to save us ultimately. If He was that good for us when we were His enemies, then certainly He is going come through for us now that we are His friends who love Him. Our hope will not be disappointed!
Like when you want your dog to get in his cage, but Spot doesn’t want to go in his cage. So maybe you take a piece of steak and you wave it in front of him and say, “Come on, Spot. Come on. Come on”. And he follows and he goes in his cage because he’s hoping for the steak. And then you shut the door and go cook the steak and eat it yourself. God’s not going to do that. How do we know? Because, for one, He’s already given us a taste of the steak, a down payment, a pledge, the work of His Spirit in our hearts and lives. Not only that, but when we were a bad dog and we chewed up the furniture and knocked over the Christmas tree and ate the ornaments, He went out and He payed an extremely high price to buy us medicine for the tummy problems we had after we did that. We have a Master that paid such a high price for us, He’s not going to be the kind of Master that’s going to let you sniff the steak and then disappoint. He will give us the full entree.
Paul’s prayer for “the Ephesians”
Now, Paul knew when he wrote Ephesians that he was writing to some Christians who are like us. We hear about all these spiritual blessings we have in Christ (chosen, adoption, redemption, grace lavished upon, inheritance, Holy Spirit), and we think, “That sounds neat.” We might hear about that stuff and think of clouds and bright lights when we die and seeing people in white with wings and floating around and singing. But we don’t really understand and appreciate what Paul is talking about. It doesn’t really register with us how wonderful, how magnificent these blessings are that we have in Christ. So we are not nearly as excited as we should be to be Christians. We are not nearly as grateful and zealous for the Lord and joyful and unselfish as we should be, because we’re not seeing what we have in Christ like Paul could see it. And so here’s what Paul was praying for for the Christians to whom he wrote, Ephesians 1:17, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom [insight that is] and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe”.
So He’s praying that they might know, gain insight, understand, appreciate some things. And there are 3 things in particular here that he’s praying their heart will be enlightened to see: (1) what is the hope of His calling, (2) what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and (3) what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Because he knows if they could really see it, it would thrill their souls and make them faithful and zealous for the Lord to the end their days.
So let’s talk a little about each of those. First –
What is the hope of His calling?
In Colossians 1:5 he says it is “the hope laid up for us in the heavens”. He is talking about what awaits us ultimately as those who have obeyed God’s call in the gospel. There are numerous passages about it, but I really like Romans 8.
In Romans 8:18-23 we have some brief descriptions of the hope we have: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time [all the persecutions, all the cancer and aches and pains and bereavement of loved ones and loneliness and oppressions, even all of Paul’s sufferings] are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us”. That’s one way of describing the hope that we have in Christ. It is so glorious that it will make all the suffering of this life seem as nothing. “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God”. “The revealing of the sons of God”: that’s talking about when Christ comes back and gathers us to Himself and it’s revealed who is and who is not a child of God. Creation is personified as longing and yearning for that day. Why? “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it.”. Genesis tells us that in the very beginning all of creation was very good, until man sinned. It was not just man affected by sin, but also the creation, the earth was cursed. The creation was like a well-oiled machine, perfectly designed, running beautifully, and then Adam and Eve took a piece of gravel and dropped it into the inner workings of the machine, and the whole machine was thrown off kilter by the sin of man. The ground then produced thorns and thistles abundantly and death entered the world and then disease. And this creation has continued to suffer because of the sinfulness of man. And it’s being polluted and growing old and wearing out like our bodies are. But the creation in longing; it can’t wait for this day that is coming. Why? Because it’s been subjected to futility, Paul says, “in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God”. The creation is going to be set free from its slavery to corruption. No more death and decay and weeds and disease and wearing out. It is going to have the same freedom that will characterize the glorified state of the children of God. We are going to be set free from these aging decaying bodies and glorified. And so also creation is going to be set free from its slavery to corruption and glorified. Creation is going to be redeemed. Peter called it in Acts 3 “the restoration of all things”. And in II Peter 3 he explained that this present heavens and earth are going to be burned up and then there’s going to be a new heavens and a new earth. Paul further explains, “22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. [The creation is like a woman in labor longing for it to be over and for the relief what’s coming.] And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body”. Creation is getting a new body and we’re getting new bodies. I Corinthians 15 explains that these bodies we have now are perishable, not so honorable, weak and natural, but they will be raised imperishable, glorious, powerful and spiritual and like the body that the Lord Jesus has now.
May God enlighten the eyes of our hearts that we may know what is the hope of His calling.
What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance among the saints?
Do you have some inkling of how rich, how wonderful, how awesome the inheritance is that God has in store for the saints? Can you imagine not having to grow old and frail? Can you imagine no sickness or disease or pollution? Can you imagine never having to say good bye to the people you love? Can you imagine living in a world without evil, without crime, without hate, a world where everyone loves one another and is good to each other?
We are given statements about it in Scripture, but they don’t really explain it in detail. We’re given some figurative descriptions of it, like at the end of Revelation, streets of gold and a river of the water of life and the tree of life yielding fruit 12 months out of the year. We have these figurative descriptions that tell us it will be great and awesome. But it’s not really explained to us in detail. And I think it’s beyond human vocabulary to really reveal.
It’s like a story I heard about a little girl. A few months after she was born her parents started to notice that she had problems with her vision. They brought her to an eye doctor, and he told them, “Your daughter is almost blind, but with her condition there is an operation we can do when she gets a little bit older that could possibly give her almost normal vision”. So the parents waited a few years and then arranged for the leading eye surgeon in the country to do the surgery. The surgery was done, and eventually it came time to remove the bandages from her eyes and see if the operation worked. There were several people in the room… the doctors, the nurse, mom and dad and little brother. The doctor placed her near a window. And mom and dad were shedding tears fearing that the operation may not have worked. But when the bandages were removed, she saw God’s beautiful sunlight for the first time. She looked down and saw green grass and beautiful flowers. Then she saw trees and birds in the trees, heard the birds singing and knew they were birds. She turned to her mother in tears and said, “Momma, why didn’t you tell me how beautiful this world was? Why didn’t you tell me how beautiful the flowers and the birds are?” About that time her little brother spoke. It was then that she recognized that he was, her little brother, because she hadn’t ever actually seen him before. She ran and hugged him and said to her mother, “Momma, why didn’t you tell me what a beautiful little brother I had?” Her mother came to her, put her arms around her and said, “Honey, your father and I did the best we could to tell you how beautiful these things were, but we just couldn’t put it in words. It’s just something you have to see for yourself”. When you and I reach our inheritance we may ask God, “God, why didn’t you tell us how beautiful and wonderful this is?” And maybe He’ll say “It couldn’t be put it in words. It’s something you have to see for yourself”.
But may the eyes of our heart be enlightened to get some inkling, to just grasp the hem of the garment on how wonderful it will be.
And #3 Paul prays that Christians may know…
What is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe?
His prayer is not that they would know how powerful God is. That’s not his prayer. His prayer is that they might come to know how great His power is toward us (who believe), the power He is willing to exert in us, through us, for us. When I think of that I think of Philippians 2:13, “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure,” God working to get us willing and working for His good pleasure, shaping us into the image of His Son. I think of I Corinthians 12, God gifting us for ministries. I think of His protecting us from Satan. I think of His hearing and responding to our prayers. We probably don’t realize the power we can tap into by prayer. Paul may have had all that in mind. But Paul also had something much bigger in mind.
He expounds a little bit on this power toward us who believe in Ephesians 1. At the end of v19 he says this power toward us who believe is “in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things for the church [in the interest of the church], 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all”. I hear him saying that the same power that God exerted to raised Jesus from the dead and exalt Him over every king, over every ruler, over the living and the dead, over the angels and demons, that same power God is willing to exert for us, the church, the body of Christ. All that power God exerted for Jesus, God is willing to exert for you and me.
I understand Scripture to say that when we Christians depart this life, even before the resurrection where we get our new bodies, God exalts us to be with Christ and to be a part of the royal court of the universe, and we get to share the rule of creation with Christ. Listen to these Scriptures:
- Luke 22:28-30, Jesus said to His disciples, “You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel“.
- I Corinthians 6:3, “Do you not know that we will judge angels?“
- Revelation 2:26-27, “He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end [Christians like you and me who are faithful until death], TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; 27 AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father“.
- Revelation 3:21, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne”.
That’s in this age. But then when this age comes to an end and it’s time for the age to come, for the restoration of all things, for the enemies of God to be destroyed, for the new heavens and new earth, we will be raised with bodies like that of the Lord Jesus. And we will inherit the new heavens and the new earth (Rev 21:1-7) and we will reign forever and ever (Rev 22:5).
May God open the eyes of our hearts to see our hope and the riches of the inheritance and the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.
– James Williams