Spiritual Blessing: More than Just a Nice Feeling

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This post is adapted from Alive in Him: How Being Embraced by the Love of Christ Changes Everything by Gloria Furman:

Real Blessings from the Triune God

The blessings we have in Christ are more than social niceties like saying “Gesundheit” after someone sneezes. Paul is describing how we have been blessed “with every spiritual blessing.” Often, when we hear of these blessings, we just smile and nod and utter a polite “Thanks,” as though someone has just blessed a sneezing fit. “Spiritual blessings” sounds fake, like a warranty for an appliance that expires the moment you open the package and use the machine. That warranty was never meant to benefit you, the consumer.

But God’s blessings are utterly real. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the one who mediates these blessings to us; he brings them to us and applies them to our lives. In the first fourteen verses of Ephesians, Paul writes to unwrap these blessings in a massive sentence that spreads from verses 3–14 in the original Greek (202 words!).

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, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

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, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 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, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3–14)

This lengthy sentence at first seems like a flourish of random ideas, but Paul is actually quite intentional. Have you ever noticed that in all the other major world religions it is polite and common to ask for “God’s” blessings or to say, “Praise God”? Notice in this passage how Paul moves through each person of the Holy Trinity and repeats certain phrases. He notes that God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, a notation that highlights this as a distinctly Christian composition of praise to God.

The Fulfillment of the Sanguine Psalm 103

This opening passage in Ephesians echoes Psalm 103, where God calls us to trust him as we walk in this fallen world. This psalm anticipates what we have been given through Christ, which is “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). Bless the Lord, oh my soul! Don’t forget a single one of these blessings! These blessings find their origin in him, and their bestowment upon us is entirely of God’s own initiative. It is he who blessed us, chose us, predestined us, lavished his grace on us, made known his purposes to us, and accomplishes all these things for us. All this he has done “to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6).

The blessings of Psalm 103, which are specifically fulfilled through Jesus and described in Ephesians 1:3–14, are both wrought of God’s glory in his Son and bestowed through the gleaming mercy shown to us at the cross. God’s saving purposes are from eternity past in the council of the Trinity, and “in all wisdom and insight” (v. 8) he lavishes his grace on all those he chooses.

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I am currently serving churches and colleges as a bible teacher, overseas and in the UK.