PFOA: Ephesians 1:3-14
Both the Westminister and the Baptist Catechism explain that the chief end (or purpose) of man is “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”. For a long time, I could not quite understand or know how to glorify God. Do we glorify God by praising Him? Yes, but so often I find myself at a loss for words. Just saying “we praise you” or “we worship you” seems so inadequate.
On the other hand, after the usual greetings in this letter, Paul burst lyrical in his praise and worship. Ephesians 1:3-14 is an example of Paul’s long and sometimes convoluted sentences. Most translations have broken it into several sentences. As we read it we get a sense that as Paul began to praise God, he was so filled with praise and thanksgiving that the words just “gushed out” of his lips, thought tumbling out after thought.
He began, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.3, ESV). The NT reserved “blessed” for use only of God who alone is worthy to be blessed. Other translations use “praise” and he is indeed worthy of all our praise. Although “Trinity” is not used in the Bible, here in this passage Paul refered to all three persons of the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is to be praised. What did Paul praise God for?
“He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (v.3). Notice first that it is not “He will blessed us …” but “He has already blessed us in Christ”. Jesus Christ has every spiritual blessing and when we are in Christ, this spiritual blessing becomes ours. Christ is the source of this spiritual blessing and like a fountain, we have a continuous flow of blessing from him. Spiritual blessng need not exclude temporal material blessings in this world, but beyond that, we have blessing in the heavenly realm, for us to live in the spirit now and for eternity.
“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (v.4). So often our prayer and praise is about our lives today that we forget that God is eternal. Before Genesis 1:1, before the creation of the world, God had chosen us in Christ. This is divine election. Before we have done anything to merit his favour, or even utter a word of praise or thanksgiving, by His grace alone, God chose us to be holy, that is, He set us apart, so that we can stand blameless before Him in Christ.
“He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will” (v.5). In election God chose us before the foundation of the world, in predestination, He determined at some future time that we will become His children by adoption. God so manage the affairs of man and nations that in due time, each of His chosen ones will hear His call to faith and with the enabling of the Holy Spirit, respond to His love and grace in repentance and trust.
As Paul recalled his own conversion on the Damascus Road (Acts 9), he broke out in praise of God’s glorious grace. For while he was an enemy of the followers of “the Way”, Jesus Christ encountered him and revealed His purpose for him. While Paul was uttering threats against the church, God, by His grace and love, took the initiative to call Paul to a life of faith and service. Over the next years, when Paul was in the wilderness of Arabia, then serving in the churches, and eventually being sent out on his missionary journeys, God continued to direct him and clarify His purpose for him, as a teacher, an apostle, a church-planter and letter writer.
We too need to reflect from time to time, on our own conversion, and marvel at the love and grace of God in His purpose to choose us and adopt us into His family, with all the privileges of being joint-heirs with His only begotten Son. Although the old favourite hymn says “count your blessings, name them one by one”, v.3 reminds us that in Christ, we have every spiritual blessing (singular) – one unending flow of God’s love and favour – making an impact on who we are, our relationships with God and others, and in everything we think, say and do.