Unfolding the Mystery of God’s Blessing
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, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
(ESV, Ephesians 1:3-14)
Verses 3-14 form one sentence.
The word blessing in the Greek (eulogia) means to “speak well” or “to speak well of someone” and originated in the theater. Paul uses the Greek word but actually infuses it with a Hebrew meaning. The word blessing in Hebrew (barak) captures a whole concept about life. A father can give his son a blessing. The blessing can only be given once and it is irrevocable. The blessing was believed to embody a powerful force affecting everything in the son’s life. The Hebrews come to understand blessing as a power that proceeds from YHWH alone. God’s blessing cannot be thwarted, thus those who live under God’s blessing cannot be cursed.
God blesses humans by speaking well of them. His words carry creative power that manifests in a blessed life.
1. A Trinitarian Blessing (Who?)
Throughout this passage, Paul suggests that the blessing of God is a Trinitarian act. We are blessing by the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. In one sense, the passage might be read in a Trinitarian manner:
The will of the Father (3-6)
The action of the Son (7-12)
The sealing of the Spirit (13-14)
We know from Galatians that the actual blessing is in fact the promised Holy Spirit. (Galatians 3:14)
Why is it important to understand the blessing is Trinitarian?
The more we meditate and reflect upon the Triune nature of God, the more we come to realize the mystery of our own relation to God, other humans and this world. Jesus is loved by the Father before the creation of the world. This love between Father, Son and Spirit precedes all things.
In the creation of the world, we see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit working as one in perfect harmony. Thus the source of all people and all things is the love of Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The origin of all life is a loving relation between Father, Son and Spirit. Within the Godhead, there is a continual fullness of joy.
We are created out from a loving relationship, and we all sense this longing for perfect relationship in our hearts. We may compete with others, we may fight, we may grow angry with God and others, but we were not created to be alone. And we cannot live in isolation. We are created to live in love with God and one another.
2. A Covenantal Blessing (What?)
The Hebrew concept for “covenant” comes from a word that means to “bind.” God binds us to himself for His glory.
Blessing His People
Sin does not presuppose God’s action toward man. His intention was always to pour out blessing upon humans. The blessing mentioned in Ephesians reaches all the way back to the Garden of Eden and God’s covenant with man. (See Genesis 2).
In the Garden, man was sinless but not perfect (complete). Testing is part of the process of completion. Man has a priestly, kingly and prophetic function. The tree of life represented his priestly function. According to James Jordan, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents his kingly purpose. Before he could function in his rightful kingly authority, man had to develop his priestly role.
Communion with God (life/zoe) would prepare him to rule (take dominion) in the proper way. For then his rule would proceed from and to love. But man interrupts the developmental process and eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This gives on wisdom to rule. But without the properly formed priestly heart, the kingly function of man corrupts man. His rule is not based on love.
Throughout history, one of the curses of man is to rule too early. Thus most of our kings and leaders did not establish their rule in love. This is why David is such an important king. He becomes a lover before he is a king.
The Ephesians blessing, suggests that God has restored man back to the proper position so that he can serve properly and prophet, priest and king. Each person functions as a part of the people of God in a particular way. (the mystery of particularity and universality)
Ephesians reveals that man plays a role in the deification of all creation, meaning that all things reach their fullness in Christ as man’s function in his proper rule. We al play a role in proclaiming the glory of God through all things. Spiritual blessing is not an abstract otherworldy blessing but a blessing entering the here and now, the physical realm of humans by the power of the Spirit. It is a blessing that is sustained and made real through the Holy Spirit.
How can man bless God? It is impossible for man to add anything to God and yet Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
The blessing of God flows into man and as it completes its work in man—God is blessed. God is blessed when his blessing attains its purpose.
“To the praise of His glorious grace” (vs 6)
“…according to the riches of his grace” (vs 7)
“…to the praise of his glory”(vs. 12, 14)
“So long and intensively does he shower grace upon them that finally they cannot help but sing paeans to his splendid grace. His joy and pleasure in doing good is only fulfilled when they show themselves utterly please pleased.” (Markus Barth)
God creates the Jews as minstrels of God. Not simply by given times of worship but their very existence become a hymn of praise to the creator. In their singing, praying, dancing, crying, longing and struggling, they are emblems of his mercy and grace. They proclaim his glory. Ephesians suggests that the Gentiles have now also been grafted into this special calling.
3. An Effectual Blessing (When?)
The unfolding blessing of God in His people.
Past – Before the Foundation of the World (3-6)
Future – The Summation of All Things in Christ (7-12)
Present – The Seal of the Spirit (13-14)