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But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Cor. 4:7 NIV)

Ephesians: Spiritual Blessings (1:3-14)

There is an old song that I used to hear and sing a lot called ‘Count Your Blessings’.  Paul never heard this song, but he takes its message to heart at the beginning of Ephesians by offering a note of praise to God for his blessings and then shares some of them with us.  One of the things I find interesting about Paul’s list of blessings is that it bears so little resemblance to what most of us would likely come up with: sunshine, good health, recovery from sickness, great spouse, good job, pleasant experience, and most anything else that one finds to be positive.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

God Has Blessed Us

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realm with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

Ephesians 1:3 NIV

Paul’s praise to God is for spiritual blessings rather than the physical things we generally identify as blessings.  And these blessings are in the ‘heavenly realm’ rather than in the physical world we see around us. While family, home, health, and job can indeed be blessings, Paul is interested here in something even greater. Blessings that are unseen, but eternal. Those are the blessings he cares about. And maybe I should also learn to praise God for them.  

Spiritual Blessings

Over the next 11 verses, Paul identifies at least some of these spiritual blessings.  It is hard for me to know for sure just where to divide these verses up into specific blessings, and you may list them a bit differently, but I see at least the following:

Chosen In Christ

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Ephesians 1:4 NIV

God chose us to be in Christ. Peter says that Christ was chosen before the creation (1 Pet. 1:20), and we were chosen to be in him; it is in Christ that we are chosen. And being in Christ, when God sees us, it is as holy and blameless. I am far from holy and blameless in myself. But I am not judged on my own merits, but on my place in Christ.

Predestined To Adoption

In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Ephesians 1:5-6 NIV

God has predestined me to be adopted as his child. Why? Because he wanted to. It pleased him. This thought so thrilled Paul that it filled him with praise for God’s grace that he has freely given us in Christ. God owes me nothing. His actions toward me are based on his love and grace; and his desire.

Redemption and Forgiveness

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.

Ephesians 1:6-7a NIV

It is because I am in Christ that I have redemption and forgiveness. Apart from my inclusion in Christ, there is no forgiveness. And this redemption and forgiveness come to me because of God’s grace. Not grudgingly doled out to me, but lavished upon me. This reminds me of the old hymn Marvelous Grace.

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, 
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! 
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, 
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled. 

Marvelous Grace

God’s Will Made Known

With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Ephesians 1:8b-10 NIV

Mystery is a word that Paul uses often (Rom. 11:25, Rom. 16:25, 1 Cor. 2:7, 1 Cor. 15:51, Eph. 1:9, Eph. 3:3, 4, 6, 9, Eph. 5:32, Eph. 6:19, Col. 1:26, 27, Col. 2:2, Col. 4:3, 1 Tim. 3:16). He is referring to something that God had planned all along but had not yet revealed to us. But now he has. God has revealed his purpose in creation to us. And that purpose is centered in Christ. It was to bring all things together under Christ. This is a major theme of this letter to the Ephesians, bringing Jew and Gentile together under one head; under Christ.

Chosen and Included in Christ

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.

Ephesians 1:11-13a NIV

At first glance, this seems like somewhat of a repeat of the first blessing. But I believe Paul is getting at something different here. He, and the other earliest believers, were not simply chosen in Christ. They were chosen for a specific purpose. To take the gospel to the limits of the known world (Acts 9:15). To establish the church. And in doing that, they brought praise to God.

But Paul is careful to also include those who came after him, through his faithfulness to God’s calling. We also were included in Christ when we heard the gospel message. Hearing the gospel is an essential step before belief is possible (Rom. 10:14-15). 

Marked With A Seal

When you 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 1:13b-14 NIV

While we were chosen to be in Christ before the creation of the world, it is when we believe that we are included. And when we are included, we are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit. The seal was a guarantee of authenticity, and proof against tampering. The Holy Spirit is also a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. This is similar to earnest money put down when buying a house. The deposit is a guarantee to the seller that the buyer will go through with the transaction. Both of these symbols illustrate the security we have when we are in Christ. And our redemption, that the Spirit secures, is drawing nigh. Praise God!

In Christ

Repeatedly through this passage, Paul uses the expression “in Christ“, or some variant of it. We are blessed in Christ, chosen in Christ, have redemption in Christ, and are included in Christ. All of these happen, not because we follow Christ, but because we are in him. We are in Christ because of God’s action (v. 4) and our belief (v. 13). And being in Christ, his experience becomes my experience. In him, I have been crucified, buried, and resurrected (Rom. 6:1-10), and have been seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6).

Throughout these 12 verses, Christ is central to all that God is doing. He is everything. We are nothing. But God was pleased to include us in Christ. And that makes all the difference in the world.

I join with Paul in praising God for the indescribable spiritual blessings that God has given to us in Christ.

Some Questions to Consider

  • How often are you guilty of limiting the thought of blessings to just physical ones?
  • Which of these spiritual blessings is the most meaningful to you? Why is that?

You are welcome to respond to these questions in the comment section below. If you do, be sure to check the “Notify me” checkbox just above the Post Comment button so you can get any feedback. Note that all comments are moderated. Only respectful comments relevant to the topic will be posted.

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The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.

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