[blockquote]Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 1:3)[/blockquote]
[dropcap3]T[/dropcap3]he opening of the Letter to the Ephesians expresses a deep joy and awe at the grandeur of God’s infinite generosity. This majestic sublimity undergirds the apostle Paul’s doxological praise. The very idea that all who are in Christ are secure in the approval of God the Father, chosen before time, adopted as children, and marked as co-inheritors with Christ (on the basis of Christ’s redemptive act), gives an occasion to the apostle to offer praise to God for His surpassing kindness to the saints.
Paul calls his audience “faithful” in Christ (v.1b). His customary greeting (“grace to you,” v. 2) precedes the extended paragraph of vv. 3-14. Paul glorifies God the Father, who has conferred all spiritual blessings on the saints in the heavenly places in Christ. This conferral was adoptive, by the Father’s choice, and motivated by love, antedating creation. God’s bestowal therefore supersedes earthly concerns, being found in Christ, who ascended and now sits on the Father’s throne (Paul’s language looks backward to God’s elective act and anticipates Eph. 2. 4-7). It pleased the Father to do this for the saints–that His glory might be praised for the marvelously free bestowal of His grace (vv. 3-6).
Paul is not just speaking of justification. His words are filled with expectation, referring directly to the final glorification of all Christians. The Father’s choice undergirds the gracious, rich redemption the saints possess through the blood of Christ–“the forgiveness of our trespasses.” The Father’s abundant grace is fully expressive of His “wisdom and insight”–somewhat reminiscent of the wisdom theme in the Old Testament (vv. 7-8: see, for example, Prov. 1:1-7, 29; 2:1-7; 8:12-31).
The mystery of the Father’s will and purpose in Jesus Christ is now revealed and has been expressed in their lives (because they believed the gospel). This was the Father’s good pleasure, intended in the preexistent Son before the very beginning of creation, encompassing and looking forward to the fullness of “all” appointed times and the inexorable accomplishment of divine purpose (vv. 9-10a). All things in heaven and earth would be united in the Son (v. 10 b-c), in whom all Christians possess an inheritance. The Father achieves His heavenly intention according to His predetermined will: the presentation of all (glorified) Christians before him in praise of His glory (vv. 11-12).
Paul’s audience had heard “the word of truth” (believed the gospel) and as a result were now sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise (v. 13 a-b), guaranteeing their (and our) inheritance. It was and is only a matter of time before the purchased possession would be redeemed (glorified) followed subsequently by praise of the Father’s glory (v. 14).
Our immediate practical application is perspectival. The scope of God’s plan and purpose for us is displayed: commencing with blessings that are primarily spiritual, found in the preexistent Son of God, having been decreed in the eternal inner relations of the Triune God, and continued in His glorious resurrection. This is a sure guarantee that Christians will be found “holy and blameless” before the Father. It ensures that we participate in the sonship of Christ as we relate to the Father in love. It assures our redemption, because the Son of God became incarnate and shed His blood as payment for our trespasses, and this was and is the (super)natural outworking of divine grace. It ensures a fuller, future participation in the sonship of the Lamb who was slain, with the only concrete, eternally necessary and inevitable limitation of our createdness, which will never cross the boundary of God’s uncreatedness. One is reminded of Paul’s doxology in Rom. 11.33: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!”
From this perspective, Christians may well be impelled to presently offer their lives in praise and heartfelt worship to God, in anticipation of the future praise of His glory that will arise because of the (then) fully accomplished redemption of our bodies, not to mention the redemption of God’s whole creation (Rom. 8.18-23).
All Scripture quotes taken from the English Standard version.
[framed_box]Dr. Victor Jacobs is an associate professor in the School of Bible and Ministry. He has been teaching at PBU since 1998. He can be reached by emailing email@example.com.