To love God is the greatest of virtues; to be loved by God the greatest of blessings.
Ephesians 1:3 says, “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.”
I love this verse! The threefold repetition of the word ‘blessed’ make it a standout verse! From the word ‘blessed’ we get the English word eulogy. A eulogy is a speech written in praise of a person. From Ephesians 1:3-14 Paul writes in praise of the God who has saved us. On a day like today, Good Friday, on a weekend like Easter weekend, I praise the God who has saved me.
What follows is my praise of a God who has truly blessed me in Christ. As I join with millions of others who will attend church this weekend, I pray that this knowledge of God’s blessing in Christ will be their experience too. This isn’t a wish but my fervent prayer…
The ESV translates verse 3 as “Blessed be” but the blessing of God is never expressed as a wish but always a declaration – “God is blessed!” Our God is blessed whether we wish that for Him or not. Our God is blessed whether our churches are full or empty. Our God is blessed whether the people in our churches understand the blessing of Christ or not. Our God is blessed because our God is!
The good news for us is that this God who is blessed, blesses us. Throughout the Old Testament God is blessed or praised for His generous, merciful gifts to His people. I have come to think of the praise of God that followed God’s blessing as people writing a “Thank You CARD” to God. In this CARD the OT faithful praise God for His:
C = Care
God has taken excellent care of His people (Psalm 68:19, 35; 72:18; 119:12; 144:1; Zechariah 11:5).
A = Abundance
God has richly provided for His children, even when they don’t deserve it (Ruth 4:14; 1 Kings 1:48; 5:7; 8:56; 1 Chronicles 29:10; 2 Chronicles 2:12).
R = Responsiveness
God has graciously responded to the sincere prayers of His people (Genesis 24:27; 1 Kings 8:15/2 Chronicles 6:4; Psalm 28:6; 66:20).
D = Deliverance
God has delivered His people from their enemies (Genesis 14:20; Exodus 18:10; 2 Samuel 18:28; Psalm 41:13; 124:6) and from evil (1 Samuel 25:32, 39).
This week I have both received and wrote thank you cards. Common to both the cards that I received and the cards that I wrote were thoughts of abundant, gracious provision from people whose needs had been met. This response demonstrated care and compassion that led me and others to express their thanks.
Growing up in Wales a number of people used to send Easter Cards to friends and relatives to let them know that they were appreciated and loved. The thank you CARD is a helpful analogy for us to appreciate the components of an OT saint’s blessing of God. They thank Him for His care, His abundant provision, His response to their prayers and His deliverance.
In the NT, blessing takes on many forms, three of which are found in Ephesians 1:3.
Blessed,” the first Word of verse 3, is never used of people but only of God the Father and Christ.
This week I thanked, praised people within our congregation. If I were to do that in Greek I would not use the first word of verse 3. That word is the word ‘eulogeetos’. The ending of that word, “tos”, makes the word mean, “inherently worthy to be praised.” I may have praised some members of our congregation but God is not just worthy of praise, He is inherently worthy of praise. That is never true of us. I would never use this word of another person, no matter what they’d done.
Mark 14:61 helps us appreciate the value of the word:
“Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”
At Jesus’ trial the high priest used the word instead of speaking the name of “God.” Jews went to great lengths to avoid speaking the name of God. So the high priest used a word that referred to God alone. God is the one who is blessed and is deserving of praise.
The next part of Ephesians 1:3 reads: who has blessed us in Christ. Note the wording. It does not say, “Because” but “who.”
That word here is eulogeo (NT2127) not eulogeetos (NT2128), the first word in the verse. The word means that God blesses us by intervening in our lives.
The preaching of the early church was that God intervened by sending Jesus. Acts 2:36 says:
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
God intervened by sending Jesus. All blessing is procured through Him. In Ephesians 1:3 God intervenes for the express reason of our spirits being conformed to His Spirit, the result of which is obtaining every blessing.
With that as a foundation we are better positioned to appreciate the significance of the word ‘who’ rather than ‘because’.
Hebrews 6:13-14 says:
“For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.””
In verse 14 God literally says, “Surely blessing I will bless you.” In Hebrews 6:14 the word eulogeo (NT2127), the second word for bless in Ephesians 1:4, occurs twice, right next to each other.
This is huge! This explains why Paul writes, “Blessed is God who blessed us” rather than “Blessed is God because he blessed us.”
In Hebrews 6:14 God says, “Since it is in my nature to bless or to act in people’s lives, I will bless or act in your life as well.”
Blessing us is in God’s nature as the Blessed. Hebrews 6:14 tells us that God can not act in individual cases contrary to His nature. Since it is in His nature to bless, he blesses us.
We bless the God who blesses us! However, even if He didn’t he’d still be worthy of blessing because He is blessed. Galatians 3:8-9 further emphasizes this point:
“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
In verse 8 we have a subtle variation of eulogeo (NT2127). The blessing of God is His intervention in people’s lives to bring them into the desired relationship with Himself through faith. God does bless but His blessings come in Christ through faith; Christ is the one through whom ‘every spiritual blessing’ flows.
This is the third time blessing occurs in verse 3 and it is a different form of eulogee, namely eulogia (NT2129). This word speaks of the blessing that flows from God to us. In Romans 15:29 this blessing is stated as receiving it fully:
“I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.”
Again in Galatians 3:14 we read:
“… in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”
The Gentiles receive fully of the promise given to Abraham. The idea in these verses is that the blessing of God moved out to the Gentiles from Abraham to others.
We are not only recipients of the blessing then, but carriers of it. There is a subtle twist to the bestowing of blessing. We don’t just receive it, we pass it on.
This weekend we have an incredible opportunity to pass on the blessing. This weekend the Gospel will be shared and the blessing of God passed on! What a privilege!
We bring the blessing not just by sharing the Gospel however, but also through prayer.
In 1 Peter 3:9 we read that we,
“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless (NT2127, same word as blessed us in Christ), for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing (NT2129, every spiritual blessing).”
In other words, when someone does evil to us or reviles us, we are to bless them and blessings flow to us are a result.
What form does the blessing we give take?
Contrary to popular opinion we are not being challenged to say good things about them. No, we are in fact being challenged to invoke God’s blessing upon them by praying that they may be turned from their ways through God’s intervention in their lives.
That’s what blessing a person who persecutes you means. It means praying for God to intervene in their lives. When we do this we experience God’s blessing.
What is that blessing? It is the assurance that God is with us. That we are with Christ. When we are opposed, reviled, mocked we often feel overwhelmed and abandoned. Do you remember what Jesus promised His disciples? Prior to His ascension Jesus said that He was going to be acting in their lives after His departure. He said that he was not going to forsake them but would always be with them. He would still intervene. That was His assurance to them and it is His assurance to us.
So the blessing of 1 Peter 3:9 is associated with relationship not material things. This is true in Ephesians 1:3 also something brought home by the next phrase in the verse, “in heavenly places.”
The blessings of God that we receive are connected with two lofty words: ‘spiritual’ and ‘heavenly’. “Spiritual” blessings are benefits that relate to our spiritual life in contrast to our physical life. In Israel God’s promised blessings were, often, physical. He blessed them with the land, the temple, the prophets, the kings, the priests, deliverance, and provision. Of course, He blessed them with Himself. Where He is there is blessing.
Yet all too often in the OT they missed that point. They prioritized the external; the tangible; the visible. In the church however, the blessings of God set a clear priority on the spiritual. Our blessings in this age are not primarily earthly but spiritual. To emphasize this aspect of blessing Paul adds the phrase, “in the heavenly places.”
The spiritual benefits given to believers who are in Christ come from God from heaven. They come from the place to which the Christ who died, was buried and rose has ascended (1:20; 2:6). In other words, the phrase ‘heavenly places’ has a positional dimension to it. The Ephesians were physically on the earth but spiritually they were in the heavenlies with the Lord. Through the Holy Spirit, God had united them with Jesus Christ and consequently they were in a sense where He was.
From this place, we have been blessed with every blessing because we are ‘in Christ’. Christians bless God because He has blessed them fully in Christ. We have been adopted, redeemed and are being sanctified. Paul will emphasize these truths and many more in verses 3-14 of Ephesians 1.
God has already given us these spiritual things, we do not need to ask for them. They are ours because God has intervened.
On Good Friday we all do well to remind ourselves of the source of God’s many blessings. Romans 4:7-8 tells us clearly how God’s blessings are received:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
The blessing of God is received through Christ. This weekend let us all bless the God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. We may not write the Lord a thank you card but we will have an opportunity to join with the masses in praising the God who loved us so much that He was willing to send His Son into the world to pay the price for our sin. Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven and covered!