The Messenger 6
The little town of Knysna where my wife and I live can have some really beautiful sunsets, especially during the winter months. On a perfect evening it is something to see. The dark tranquil waters of the Knysna lagoon in the foreground, the silhouette of the Outeniqua Mountain range in the background, and then those incredible colours of the sunset splashed across the evening sky. It has this tremendous, what I like to call, wow-factor. It evokes a spontaneous, “Wow! That’s amazing. Oh God, you are amazing.” And if Jill, my wife, is inside the house I will inevitably call out to her: “Come outside and look at the sunset. Quickly! Don’t miss it.”
In Ephesians 1 vs. 3 Paul writes:
“Blessed be (praise be) the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
Paul also had something to get excited about. For him, however, the wow-factor was not in a sunset – it was in something infinitely more profound. It was found in the overwhelming greatness and generosity of God’s grace. That grace was demonstrated in all that He had so freely given us in Christ. The result for Paul? This spontaneous praise of God and an imperative to share the good news with others.
The 3-dimensions of salvation
In the original Greek, verse 3 is the start of what must surely be the longest sentence in the Bible. It runs all the way down to verse 14 as words seem simply to pour out in a torrent of revelation. Taken as a whole, those 12 verses provide us not only with an insight into the grace of God, but also with this panoramic view of salvation. From that long sentence, we are given an insight into salvation as something that was planned in eternity, executed in history through Jesus Christ, and is to be consummated in the future. We will be exploring those 3-dimensions of salvation further in a later study of Ephesians.
Exhorted to praise
Paul’s “wow” as he reflects on God’s grace towards us is actually a Greek adjective eulogetos – “Blessed be.” It comes from the verb eulogeo which, as Vine tells us in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, means “to praise, to celebrate with praises.” In the New Testament it is applied only to our praising God.
Speaking out our appreciation in praise always has this wonderful effect of completing our enjoyment of God. No wonder we are frequently urged in the Scriptures to praise God.
“Blessed be the God and Father …….”
A glimpse of the Trinity
A superficial reading of verse 3 may not initially suggest that there is in that verse a reference to the Trinity. But read it carefully. I want to draw your attention to an interesting phrase in verse 3 – spiritual blessings. Take note of it. Spiritual blessings writes Paul, are given from the Father and come to the believer through his or her union with Jesus Christ (“in Christ”). What makes this verse so interesting, however, is the Greek word for the English phrase spiritual blessings. It is pneumatikos. Now pneuma is the Greek word in the New Testament for the Holy Spirit. Spiritual blessings, therefore, are blessings imparted by the Holy Spirit.
So the blessings with which the believer has been blessed (note the tense) come to him or her from the Father, given through the Jesus Christ and imparted by the Holy Spirit. The Trinity in action!
What we discover in the Scriptures is that everything God does involves the Trinity – from creation to salvation. And everything we do as unto God involves the Trinity – from prayer to our service.
In the heavenlies
There is one further phrase in that verse 3 that deserves some closer inspection. It is the phrase in the heavenlies. John Stott, in his commentary on Ephesians, refers to the heavenlies as “the unseen world of spiritual reality.”
When Paul speaks of ‘the heavenlies’ and John Stott refers to it as ‘the unseen world of spiritual reality, what is God’s Word saying to us? Simply this – that God operates from a dimension of space that is beyond those dimensions of our world. Strange? Not really. Even scientists tell us there were other dimensions of space at the beginning of our Universe.
But just because we cannot see Him or touch Him doesn’t mean that God isn’t there. His presence and His love are everywhere around us. He knows everything about you and loves you just the same. He is able to speak to you through His word, and in the deepest parts of your inner being He is able to reveal His truth to you. He may be unseen simply because He dwells on another dimension. But that, however, doesn’t make you inaccessible to Him nor Him inaccessible to you. You can talk to Him, listen to Him, find inner strength in His peace and grace towards you.
The Lord and heaven are separated from us only by a dimension of space. Jesus, therefore, can be in Heaven with his Father and yet still say, “Lo, I am with you always.”
The psalmist captured this thought of the Lord unseen yet ever present in that well-known psalm:
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)
In union with Jesus Christ (“in Christ”) we have access to that unseen world of spiritual reality. We have access to it by coming in prayer to the Father through Jesus the Son. We have access to it by relying on the Holy Spirit to write God’s Word on our heart and reveal its truth to us. We have access to it by asking the Holy Spirit to make the lovely things of Jesus Christ real to us and through us.
“The Father has blessed in the heavenlies with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” But just what is involved in every spiritual blessing. This is something we will look at in our next session.
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