Today we continue our journey into Paul’s prayer life as we explore his Praise of God for the Gospel. You may be surprised that Ephesians 1:3-14 is included in a series on Paul’s prayers but really, it makes perfect sense. As we have seen over the past many weeks, Paul and his compatriots spent a lot of time thanking God for the good things God had done. And that is how Ephesians begins, albeit with some slightly different words.
Instead of saying, “We give thanks to God always for you all” as he does in 1Thessalonians 1:2; Paul begins with the words “Praise be to the God…who has blessed us…” Praise, exaltation, uplifting, extolling. Aren’t these the very concepts we have seen in Paul’s prayer life so far? Paul is enthralled at God’s work and so he expresses his gratitude to the Lord for his actions. The same is here, God has blessed us, how can we not, Praise him. This is a foundation of the life of prayer, recognizing all the good things that come from the hand of God and expressing our gratitude to God for them. This is the Jewish idea of worship being born out in Paul’s prayer life, God blesses us, and so we turn around and praise or bless God.
If we are to learn to pray as Paul did, with what has God blessed us? God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing, in the heavenly realms in Christ. That is huge; contemplate that statement for a moment. Just the words themselves are staggering. Every, that means that nothing has been withheld. Nothing is lacking, there isn’t anything else that can be gotten. Everything is already given. Every spiritual, so not only is nothing lacking, but nothing spiritual is lacking, all that we need in our spiritual lives, in our spiritual being is present and it is a blessing, that means it is good stuff. Blessings are gifts, declarations that the blesser, God, will ensure that blessee, us, achieves our best. In the heavenly realms, tells us that everything we need to achieve our ultimate aim as spiritual men and women, is also available to us in the heavenlies, at the footsteps of God, for us to be our best, we are not even hindered from approaching the very throne of God, and it is all in Christ.
This is the kicker, it is in Christ, not based on our merits, our abilities, our talents and desires, and the everything we have received is in Christ. This little phrase, in Christ, is central to Ephesians. Paul uses it some 30+ times of which 11 references are in our verses 3-14. That is once a verse on average. This tells us the blessing we have received is secured on the basis of Jesus Christ and him alone. There is no other way to receive every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies apart from union with Christ. That is a reason to praise God, that is a reason to pray to God, that is a reason to thank God.
As amazing as that is, Paul doesn’t stop there, he goes on to articulate more of precise content of the everything we have received. He begins by saying we are chosen in Christ. There is a lot of confusion on this topic in the Christian churches, some saying that there is free will, others that there is none, some saying election isn’t fair, or election hinders evangelism, while others reply free will turns salvation into a work, but man is saved by grace. All of that aside, what does Paul praise God for. What is the foundation of the spiritual blessing we have received in Christ?
We are chosen in Christ. That word chosen, in Greek has a very specific meaning. First it means that the chooser is pre-eminent and the chosen is secondary. Paul is refocusing salvation upon God and God alone, we are just objects of it, we are not the prime actors in the drama, God it. Secondly, to be chosen implies that there are several things to choose from. As individuals in the world, those who are united to Christ are chosen by God, hand selected by him, to the exclusion of others. Is that choice of God’s dictated by anything we do, certainly not. Is it determined by any inherent good we may have, any choices we might make, anything we contribute, absolutely not. For the third thing that choosing implies in the Greek, is that the person choosing is not constrained in any way, whatsoever in their choice. But rather they have the complete freedom to determine what they deem to be the most suitable object for their own purposes.
And does that align with the Word historical? Sure, “Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength,” (Deuteronomy 4:37). “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples” (Deuteronomy 7:7). “You must not sacrifice the Passover in any town the Lord your God gives you except in the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name. There you must sacrifice the Passover in the evening, when the sun goes down, on the anniversary of your departure from Egypt” (Deuteronomy 16:5-6 NIV-G/K).
We are picked, the gospel is, and we are picked before the creation of the world. Before the foundations of time as we know it, before there was good of evil, before there was sin, before we had even lived and could do right or wrong, God choose us from among the multitudes to be his people – To be before his face. ““Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:24). Christ sits at the right hand of God in his exalted state and he wants us to be with him, before God. Have you ever realized that your salvation was secured before history began? That is the reason for Paul’s praise. It was completed before the world was even uttered. “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast — all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). “Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world”
(Hebrews 4:3). “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:20).
Grace and peace were secured for every believer united to Christ, before the first words of creation were even uttered. We were saved to be hold and blameless, to be without defect, to be perfect, flawless are how other OT places translate the words. But I personally love these passages, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27). We were chosen to be clean, to be washed, to be radiant, without any irregularity, any flaw. God determined that was our purpose before your mamma and mine ever even had a twinkle in their eye. That is a destiny. Colossians says it in these words: “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation —” (Colossians 1:22).
This is the foundation of every spiritual blessing we have in Christ. It is God’s purpose to unite us to Christ and wash us, perfect us, clean us. And he does it freely, not because you manipulated it, coerced it, cajoled it or swindled it. He does it because he wants to, because he determined to. That is a spiritual blessing, because that means his purpose stands, it was from before creation. “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad — in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls — she was told, “The older will serve the younger” (Romans 9:11).
And it gets better, Paul says In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons in Jesus Christ. Again it was determined ahead of time, not only that we be prefect and flawless, but that we also be his children, on the same plane, in the same kind of relationship as Christ himself has with the Father. Not only are we chosen and perfected according to God’s plan, but also we get to call God “daddy”. We get tot run into the throne room with abandon and play on the lap of the king. We get to be even better than the children in the white house, running into the oval office to hug and kiss their father, the most powerful man in the free world. Imagine it again. That is the plan of God for you and that is the plan of God for me.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30). That is what the Word of God tells us, we get the complete package, cleanliness and adoption. Now we are God’s dearly beloved, his holy children, and the apple of his eye. We are inheritors of all that good things belonging to our heavenly Father. And it is all in accordance with God’s pleasure and will. God knew what he was getting into, he knew what he was getting in you and me, and he chose us anyways, he took us anyways, he loved us anyways, he died for us anyways and he rose for us anyways, all so that he can come back for us again and take us to our final home, the heavenly throne room of God.
And that is what the rest of the passage reiterates in other phrases, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished -” That is a great way of saying it isn’t it. His grace was lavished on us. It is more than enough, it is like bread spread 1 inch thick in jam, it is like cinnamon buns with an inch of fresh butter on top, it is like the cake slathered in icing. It is sweet, it is plenty and some, and it is luxuriously rich and elaborate. That is what his grace is. Do you know it? “Lavished on us.”
Here I disagree with the punctuation of the NIV, they have tied with all wisdom and understanding to that which God has lavished on us. However, I believe it makes more sense to tie With all wisdom and understanding to the next phrase, And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,” Can I do that you ask? Sure, there is no punctuation in Greek, everything is like a giant run on sentence, furthermore, the focus of the passage is all on God, so it makes more sense to say, With all wisdom and understanding God made know to us the mystery of his will.
And what is that mystery that all things be united under Christ. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
O that we would pray with a heart for the gospel, thanking God for his mighty acts of mercy and compassion. O that we worship with eyes constantly focused on Christ instead of our preferences and ourselves. O that our minds were stayed on the Father, and to him alone we came for our needs, for he has adopted us. What would these truths do to your prayer life? For me, I would find myself crying more and more
O “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Amen.