Scripture: Ephesians 1:3-14 (text at bottom of post)
We have talked about the core message of Ephesians 1:3-14 being “praise be to God who blesses us with every spiritual blessing.” Next we are going to look at the long part of the sentence. Before that, let us visit the core sentence again and compare it with v. 3:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Eph 1:3 TNIV)
Spiritual Blessing through Christ
Comparing the verse to our condensed sentence, we see that we have taken out a few phrases: “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, “heavenly realms,” and “in Christ.” While we have taken out these phrases for clarity sake, they are by no means just ornaments or embellishments to the sentence. They carry true significance! With “our Lord Jesus Christ” and “in Christ,” Paul brings to our attention that our blessing came through Jesus Christ. With “heavenly realms” he clarifies that he is talking about spiritual blessing and not earthly or material blessing (although such blessing is not bad in itself, as we have seen in Psalm 103).
As blog articles are meant to be short, it is impossible to go through every word and every phrase in details, so we will leave those phrases now. Hopefully seeing the overall structure will help us in understanding of the overall flow / force of the sentence. One can always come back to study the details.
Spiritual Blessing Described
Now let us move on to the long description of the blessing we have received. Bible scholars agree that it is difficult to see a clear division as there are clauses after clauses. Different approaches have been used to provide a division.1 Here I am using division based on content.2 Again, we condensed the clauses for the purpose of clarity, and the long sentence can be structured this way:
Praise be to God who blesses us with every spiritual blessing, namely
God the Father chose us before the creation of the world.
God the Son redeemed us through His blood.
God the Spirit marked us to guarantee our inheritance.
Of course, structure by itself cannot bring us to full appreciation of God’s blessing, so let us also take a quick look at some of the elements mentioned:
God loves us. Verse 4 says he chose us in love to be (become) holy and blameless before him.3 The book further describes that because of his great love, God made us alive with Christ (2:4), and Paul’s prayer is that we truly grasp how deep the love of Christ is (3:18).
God has an overall plan for us, including plan when we make mistakes and fail. Note that God has planned for salvation before the creating of the world; the carrying out of the plan peaked with Christ’s death on the cross; and the plan is guaranteed to succeed by the seal of the Holy Spirit.
God sees us as precious. Note how the three persons of the Triune God all participate in bringing the salvation plan to completion: the Father predestined it; the Son executed it; the Holy Spirit protected it. Although indirect, it shows how special we are before God.
Now, an honest question for us is, are we excited when we hear all these? Are we praising God after reading vv. 3-14? Paul wrote this long sentence as a praise to God and a reminder for the Ephesians4 to praise God. Most likely, the Ephesians responded with “yes, Amen, praise be to God indeed!” Are we responding the same way (and I don’t mean just reading the statement out but a genuine resonance to Paul’s call)?
If we are, great! If we are not, should we not ask what seems to be the problem? Should we not look deep into our mind and our heart? In our next article, we will look at the background of Paul and his recipients which will perhaps provide some answer or explanation. At the same, we will have to look into ourselves too!
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. 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. 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. 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. 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 word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. 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 1:3-14 TNIV)
- Some saw that perhaps Paul was using and modifying a preexisting hymn, but that could not be confirmed. Others tried to use rhythm and meter to divide the the long sentence, but different authors came up with different divisions. Yet some others, realizing that literary division is hard to confirm, divide the sentence according to content. ↩
- Divisions based on content fall into 2 major categories. One is temporal, dividing God’s work of redemption into that in the past, present, and future. Another one is dividing the content according to the work of the Triune God. I am using the later here. These two types of divisions do not contradict each other, however. They just see the long sentence from slightly different perspectives. ↩
- Since Biblical (Koine) Greek does not use punctuation, the phrase “in love” can go with the verb “chose” in v. 4 or “predestined” in v. 5, but it does not make any significant difference theologically as the sentence is describing God’s acts for us in love. Also, some commentators think “in love” modifies “holy and blameless.” ↩
- From now on, when I say Ephesians I mean Ephesians and/or believers from nearby Churches; see the “Additional Information” section in the other article, “Praise be to God: A Call to Praise.” ↩