We are saved to walk in good works and Paul is concerned with us walking worthily of our calling. He looks at this in detail and talks about our walk in love, in light and in wisdom in Ephesians 5.
Ephesians 1:3 (ESV) Paul writes “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…” The apostle then continues to mention the spiritual blessings Christ has purchased for the believer: adoption (v. 5), redemption (v.6), forgiveness (v.7) and an inheritance in verses 11-14.
What does the term “blessed” mean? Most would say that it means “happy”. So we would reread this verse to be “Happy be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has made us happy in Christ with every spiritual happiness in the heavenly places…”
I suppose that is possible but then again, it seems a little weak. A little trite and it raises the question, “did Christ come to make me happy?”
If we turn to another passage in Galatians we read Paul saying, “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 (happy?).” So then, those who are of faith are blessed (happy?) along with Abraham, the man of faith…so that in Christ Jesus the blessing (happiness?) of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (Gal. 3:8,9,14). The term “bless” here is the opposite of “curse” in this context.
What about Psalm 1? “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…” Surely he would be happy if he avoided wicked counsel!
Perhaps mere word studies are dangerous, perhaps there is a wide range of meanings for this one word. Yet it seems that there is something deeper, covenantal, relational, lifegiving to the word “bless” than just merely “happy”. When Esau begged his father Isaac to be blessed, was he merely asking for happiness?
When we read the beatitudes in Matthew 5 or 1 Peter 1:3 we need to pause and consider this word, what does “bless” mean? What does it mean that God Himself is blessed and what does it mean that I as a believer have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places?
As a heads up, if I could outline Ephesians, chapter one would be redemption, chapter two would be reconciliation, chapter three would be revelation. Its a broad brush I know but hopefully we will begin to see this unfold.
Before we really dive in it would be irresponsible to give only a cursory glance to verse 2 as if it remains solely in the “address” category. Yes, this is typically how Paul begins his letters but have you ever stopped to wonder why he begins his letters in this way?
“Grace and peace to you” is more than just a nice thought or an old fashioned way to begin a letter. Paul sees these two blessings as foundational, as necessary and that without them, the rest of his letter will fall on deaf ears.
Grace is not only amazing and a nice old fashioned song. Its God’s favor to the undeserving. A lot has been written on it. Paul doesn’t define what it is but he demonstrates it by setting forth the Savior and what he has accomplished on our behalf.
Similarly we see the word “peace”. In our culture we want peace. Beauty contestants may even state a desire for “world peace”.
Paul doesn’t assume grace and peace exists. He knows they do not. Why not? Why is grace needed? Why is peace needed? Whatever happened in the world that such an admonition or basic request would even be deemed necessary? Why is their evil and war and hatred in the world?
There was a time when a man and a woman had peaceful, blessed fellowship with God and “walked in the garden alone” with him. Then rebellion, war, one simple choice, one act of defiance, one usurpation of authority, one attempt to debase God and exalt man and the rest of human history was set into action.
God has shown sinful men and women grace (theologians call it common grace) for centuries. We certainly don’t deserve it and we all too often presume upon it.
Peace gave way to war between God and man and between each other. Then in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son. The Prince of Peace came but he brought peace in a most unusual way.
But what is this peace exactly? Why does it still seem to allude us? Why can’t we grasp it and bottle it and sell it for a profit at convenience stores world wide? Because the Gospel doesn’t come like that. It doesn’t come through media or through self-esteem efforts or through Washington D.C. or walking in the woods of Maine. How it came, Paul is about to let us know.
Join me and Paul as we look deeper into the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Paul begins his letter by asserting his apostleship, his authority. He was an authorized messenger with an authoritative message sent my the King. An apostle is an ambassador for the King of kings. We don’t have apostles today. We also see that Paul says that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ. This reminds us of a couple of things.
- Paul wasn’t always Paul and he certainly wasn’t always an apostle. Recall that Paul had once been a Pharisee, a ruthless persecutor or terrorizer of the early church. He was no friends to Christians and was going door to door to arrest Christian men and women. It was while he was doing this that this individual was arrested and blinded by the risen and exalted Lord Jesus Christ. He was dramatically converted.
- Perhaps obviously, this wasn’t Paul’s own doing. Saul of Tarsus was not seeking God, he wasn’t asking questions about Christianity and he was in desperate need of God’s saving grace. He had no peace with God or of God but he didn’t know it. So Paul became an apostle by the will of God.
It has been said that God doesn’t call the equipped but that he equips the called. The calling of Paul to be a Christian was of the sovereign will and intervening grace of God in Christ. The calling of Paul to be an apostle was also of the sovereign will and grace of God. Our conversion is of grace, it is God’s doing, not our own lest anyone should boast (ch.2). Our callings, whatever it might be (coal miner, fireman, pastor etc.) are also of God. He gives us the wisdom and the inclinations to pursue our callings.
Lets seek God’s glory where He has placed us and thank Him for His amazing grace.