{Grace Window}

Our Spiritual Blessings

Ephesians 1:3-23

Grace Community Fellowship

Winter 2001-02

I.                 The Spiritual Blessings of the Believer (1:3-14)

After a brief salutation, Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians with a lengthy description of the spiritual blessings we have in Christ. These blessings, covered in verses 3 to 14, are all one sentence in the original Greek.

Paul begins by blessing God for the blessings he has given us. He describes these blessings as “spiritual” blessings, and blessings that are in “heavenly places,” meaning the blessings are not physical or material.

There are a number of teachers today who will tell you that God’s “blessing” is physical or even monetary. However, if the blessings of God are material, God has nothing to offer me more than what a good mutual fund. God’s blessing is a blessing of hope, peace, well being, and an abundant life. These are far better blessings than just money or health.

That is not to say that the blessing of God does not include material or physical things. God does provide for our physical needs. But when he meets our needs, those blessings were not merely physical blessings. First, usually when God has miraculously given, it has been to meet needs, not to provide for a new BMW. Secondly, the blessing wasn’t the actual material item, but the blessing was the sense of security, the sense of hope knowing that God cares and meets our needs.

God the Father grants these blessings “in Christ.” This is a continual theme we will see throughout these verses.

A.                 What are these blessings?

1.                 We are adopted as sons (v. 5).

Adoption grants non-physically related children all the privileges of a natural born child. We are not God’s children naturally. Our spiritual nature makes us enemies of God. But because of the forgiveness of God and the redemption he gives us through Christ, we become God’s adopted children, part of His family.

2.                 We have redemption and forgiveness of our trespasses (v. 7).

Our sinful nature made us enemies of God and  a slave to sin. God has forgiven the believer of these sins and redeemed us from our sinful captivity.

3.                 We know the mystery of His will (v. 9).

The mystery of his will discussed here is the mystery that God sent Christ in “the fullness of times.” Those who followed God before Christ longed to see and understand the fullness of God’s salvation plan (John 8:56). We have the privilege and blessing of being on this side of Christ, and thus be able to see the details of how God has redeemed us.

4.                 We have obtained an inheritance (v. 11).

Because we are adopted children of God, we also are heirs of God’s estate (Romans 8:17). My children are heirs to my estate. But that really is not much of a source of hope for them, for my estate pretty much consists of a house with a mortgage on it, a car on which I owe money, some furniture, and a small amount of savings. But what is God’s estate? What does God own? God owns everything (Psalm 50:10-12), and we are the heirs to this estate.

5.                 We are sealed with the Holy Spirit (v. 13).

In centuries past, letters were sealed with wax and then stamped with the signet ring of the sender. When someone received a letter with the seal intact, they knew the letter had not been tampered with. Furthermore, the seal assured them that the letter had not been forged. The Holy Spirit seals these blessings, assuring us that we aren’t going to be tampered with and assuring us that these blessings are genuine. More on this in point III.

The term pledge is like an earnest money agreement. It is a down payment guaranteeing the intention of one party to fulfill the contract. The Holy Spirit is the guarantee, warranty, or pledge that our salvation (justification and sanctification) will lead to the riches of heaven and our inheritance. There does not seem to be any escape clause mentioned here by which this guarantee can be revoked.

B.                 How does God give the blessings?

1.                 He decides by His will (v. 4-5, 11).

God chooses and predestined to whom he will give these blessings. More on this in point II.

2.                 He gives through Jesus Christ (v. 5).

Notice the repeated use of the phrase “In Him” and “In Christ.” Jesus is the mechanism through which God grants the Father all the spiritual blessings we receive. Jesus is the agent of the blessing.

3.                 He gives through Christ’s blood (v. 7).

Paul details the work of Christ through which these blessings are possible. It is Christ’s death on the cross that facilitates the passing of God’s blessings to us. Specifically, Christ’s blood provides redemption or the satisfactory payment for our sins. That redemption gives us forgiveness, and is what allows us to be adopted, etc.

C.                 Why does God give these blessings?

1.                 He gives because it suits Him (v. 5, 9, 11).

·      It is according to his will, not our will (v. 5).

·      It suits his purposes, not our purposes (v. 9)

·      He does it on purpose, not by accident. It is part of a greater plan of God (v. 11).

2.                 He gives because of His grace (v. 6, 7).

Grace is defined as “the unmerited favor of God.” In other words, “getting something we don’t deserve.” This is distinct from mercy, which is a pardon for consequences we do deserve, or “not getting what we do deserve.”

Salvation is not just avoiding punishment, but receiving a whole litany of amazing blessings and gifts from God. It means more than just not going to hell, but becoming an adopted son of God who will fully inherit all that is God’s.

3.                 He gives so we would praise Him (v. 6, 12, 14).

Ultimately, all God does is for his glory. God wants to show us his great, loving, and forgiving character. He wants all of creation to see and understand who He is. So gives us abundantly to amaze all of creation. And, he wants us to proclaim that to all.

D.                 Who can receive these blessings?

Blessings are given to those who listen and those who believe(v. 13).

II.             The Doctrine of Election (or “Predestination and You”)

A.                 The Doctrine Defined

Ephesians 1:4-5 states that God “chose us before the foundation of the world,” and that He “predestined us” to adoption as sons. Before the foundation of the world, in His love, God decided who would believe in Him, and by omission, those who would not believe in Him.

B.                 Objections to the Doctrine

1.                 It seems unjust

a)    None would choose without God

Election seems unjust because if God doesn’t choose someone for salvation, than that person cannot be saved. However, this presumes that we would choose to follow God without his choosing us. Without God, none of us would choose Him.

By ourselves, we are depraved people who want nothing to do with God (Romans 3:11). There is no one knocking on the gates of heaven asking for entrance. In fact, a desire to see and know God is, in itself, evidence that one has been chosen by God for salvation.

b)    All that God does is just

Who are we to say that God is or isn’t just? He is God and he defines justice, not us. He chooses for his purposes and for his intentions (see point I.C.i above). See Romans 9:14-21.

2.                 It denies any human responsibility

Election seems to deny humans any responsibility in the act of salvation. If God chose us, then we are either saved or were not and there is nothing we can do about it. However scripture clearly teaches that we have a responsibility in salvation. Not that we earn our salvation, but we must respond to God’s grace (Romans 10:9-15).

To be saved, we must still confess and believe in the gospel. We can not sit idly by and hope we are chosen. If we do not confess and believe we are not saved.

For others to be saved, we must share the gospel. If we don’t go and share, they will not be saved.

This introduces a dichotomy. That is, two principles that are equally true, but seemingly irreconcilable in our minds. Both God’s election and our free will are scriptural concepts, so the dichotomy doesn’t mean that these concepts are untrue. Rather that God’s mind is greater than ours.

C.                 Importance of the Doctrine

There is importance in both of these doctrines. To emphasize one over the other has dangerous ramifications:

·         If one emphasizes election over free will, then we deny our responsibility to believe and our responsibility to share the gospel.

·         If one emphasizes free will over election, then we presume that we have in some way “earned” our salvation, and deny the grace and sovereignty of God. However, there is nothing we can do to be saved. Even our faith is a gift from God. God deserves all the credit for our salvation. We can do nothing to be saved ourselves, least we should boast (Eph. 2:8-9).

This study in the book of Ephesians was originally presented in November 2001 through January 2002 at Grace Community Fellowship's Young Adults Bible Study. The teacher was Ken Carson, an Elder at Grace Community Fellowship.
Back to The Grace Institute Home Page.
Back to the Grace Community Fellowship Home Page.