Ephesians 1 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence
The first chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians can easily be broken up into three sections: Paul’s introduction and greetings, his praise to God for blessing his people in Christ Jesus, and his thanksgiving and prayers for God’s people in Ephesus. In the second section, in vv.3-14 Paul has written just one sentence, a very long sentence in the Greek language, praising God for all that He has already done in the past, all that He is doing in the present, and all that He will do in the future for the good of his people.
In v.3, Paul blesses the Lord for having “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” This divine blessing is the foundation to all that we are as Christians and to everything that we are called to do. If you remember, in the Old Testament, Jacob was a man constantly in search of God’s blessings. He lied, gimmicked, cheated and fought to get those blessings throughout his life. But it wasn’t until the angel of the Lord wrestled with him in the middle of the night and wounded him merely by touching the socket of his hip that Jacob realized how helpless he was to obtain God’s blessings through his own efforts. What he had failed to realize up to that point was that God had already blessed him and chosen him over Esau before he was even born.
Prior to this, God had promised Abraham many children and a great land. He blessed him by giving him flocks and herds, silver and gold, servants, camels and donkeys. He blessed Isaac and Jacob and their children in the same way. Later God promised blessings to the Israelites by giving them food, health, peace, children, grandchildren and even long life. He also blessed the work of their hands, the fruit of their wombs; he gave them riches, land and a great inheritance. Notice, carefully, that these are all physical blessings.
You might remember that was one of Satan’s complaints to God about Job. God had blessed him with ten children, 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 donkeys and a large number of servants. Satan believed that the only reason why Job honored God was because God had blessed him with so many physical blessings.
That’s not to say that God didn’t bless his people in the Old Testament with spiritual blessings as well. He did. There are numerous instances in the Psalms especially in which God blesses his people with spiritual blessings. He blessed his people by covering them with his favor, by making them glad with the joy of his presence, by being their shepherd and carrying them along the way, by giving them peace and strength, by forgiving their transgressions and covering theirs sins, by disciplining them, by redeeming them and crowing them with steadfast mercy and love, and by giving them wisdom and understanding, just to name a few.
But in the New Testament, God seems to be concerned primarily with blessing his people with spiritual blessings. Although Jesus did promise some material blessings in the New Testament such as food, clothing and shelter, telling his disciples not to be anxious about these things, he was more concerned with the kingdom of heaven and the spiritual blessings that accompany it.
William Hendricksen, a very good commentator on the New Testament, explained that when Israel was a child it needed this circumstantial description of earthly values in order that by means of these as symbols—earthly Canaan is the symbol of heaven—it might rise to the appreciation of the spiritual. The New Testament, on the other hand, while by no means belittling earthly blessings, places all the emphasis on the spiritual. For example, in 2 Corinthians 4.18, Paul says, “we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
And notice, in v.3 that Paul speaks of these spiritual blessings as being in the heavenly realms. In other words, they are not tangible blessings that we can always see. Nevertheless, they are true spiritual blessings that God has given us in Christ Jesus. But what does Paul mean that they are in the heavenly realms? There are a few other instances in this epistle in which Paul refers to the heavenly realms. In verse twenty Paul says that God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. Then in chapter two, verse six, Paul also says that God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
Notice that Paul doesn’t say that he will raise us up with Christ in the heavenly realms but that he has (already) raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms. This is what means to be “in Christ.” All those who have trusted in Christ and who have placed their faith in him, have died with him on the cross (already) and so we are now dead to sin, and we have been raised from the dead with Christ (already) and are now alive with Christ, and we also have been seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (already) receiving all the blessings that he has earned for us.
But how is that possible? There is an Old Testament text in Ex 20:24 that reads, “In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.” Because the name of Christ is remembered as the savior and because we have been united to him spiritually yet truly, he continues to come to us and bless us who are in Christ.
Yet in this text, Paul is using the aorist tense when he speaks of the blessings we have received. And the aorist suggests a completed action. He’s not saying that we will receive these blessings but that we have already received these blessings in Christ. And he doesn’t say that we have received just some spiritual blessings, but EVERY spiritual blessing in Christ in the heavenly realms. No blessing has been withheld from us who are “in Christ Jesus.”
Even the blessing of sanctification, and our growth in holiness, even our perseverance till the end, and our glorification, somehow, all of these are all ours through faith in Christ. Paul is saying in a sense that we have already received all these blessings in Christ because of our union with Jesus and because of God’s eternal plan for us in Christ. The good work that God has begun in us he will bring it to completion on the final day because, in God’s mind, it’s already a done deal, we have already been blessed in every way in Christ Jesus.
The reason that Paul starts out with these spiritual blessings indicating all that Christ has already accomplished on our behalf is so that we will trust the Lord by faith to know that we can grow in holiness, that we can learn to love, that we can fight against the schemes of the devil, and that we can overcome, because, in a sense, we already have. As the Scripture assures us in 1 John 5:4 “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”