Halim Suh speaks on Ephesians 1:1-3
Series: Raised to Life
The Apostle Paul wrote the Book of Ephesians while he was imprisoned in Rome around 61 AD. He wrote it to the church of Ephesus and other churches in Asia Minor. One of the major themes is the idea of the heavenly places, the heavenlies. Paul used the phrase five times throughout the book to show us our salvation as believers from the vantage point of the heavenly places. He was trying to give us a fifty thousand foot view, a panoramic view, of our salvation and redemption.
The Book of Ephesians doesn’t really deal with everyday controversies and problems. When you’re looking at your life through the perspective of the heavenlies, through how God has saved and redeemed you by sending His Son to die on the cross and has made you His child in order to know and enjoy Him forever, then your everyday problems seem to dim and disappear.
We Must Have An Eternal Perspective
My wife and I met in college at Texas A&M. We were best friends spending nearly everyday together. After a time, I began to like her. So I sat her down and said, “Hey, I like you.” She looked at me and said, “Well, I don’t really like you like that,” to which I responded, “Well…I really think you should pray about it.” So she did and to my pleasant surprise she returned and said, “Yes, I think we should date.” That is our great story.
However, it was actually terrible. I found out later she felt like God was telling her she should date me, but still didn’t like me like that. So in her brilliance she thought to herself she would just be mean to me and be a bad girlfriend so I’d break up with her and she wouldn’t have to feel guilty about it. Eventually, with all my mad game and skills I did win her over. She likes me now. But for a long time, it was terrible.
Every time I tell this story, she says to me, “Enough already! I married you,” and she’s exactly right. She’s pointing to the panoramic view of our relationship. Yes, if you look at our relationship from the day-to-day perspective, there were some terrible days. But, if you step back and look at our relationship as a whole, those terrible days seem to dim. Now we remember and can laugh at it.
Some of you aren’t sure there’s going to be such a happily ever after for you. If you’re in Christ, God promises you a happily ever after. It may not seem like it now, but that’s what God promises us. Living the day-to-day life as Christians in this world is hard and painful sometimes. Jesus said it would be.
Through the Book of Ephesians, God wants us to know that if we’re going to make it through the hard days, we have to have a heavenly and eternal perspective. I wonder what it’ll look like when it’s all said and done and we’re sitting around with Jesus, and we’ve been able to see with our own eyes God’s plan of salvation unfold and fulfilled, and finally see that God truly does work out everything, including our most terrible days, for our good and His glory. Every tear will be wiped away. There will be no more pain or sorrow, only joy, happiness and satisfaction. I wonder how we will see our most terrible days.
God promises there’s coming a day when those days and the pain of it will have completely dimmed and disappeared. There is a happily ever after coming.
We’ve Been Given All The Spiritual Blessings
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:1-2 (ESV)
Paul gives his familiar greeting in verses 1-2. Then in verses 3-14, he has one long single sentence.
3 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… Ephesians 1:3 (ESV)
Paul is trying to give us an eternal, heavenly perspective to help us through our everyday messiness, pain and sorrow. We’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing. You’re not missing a single blessing. Of all the spiritual blessings available, you have them all.
Spiritual blessings are the blessings we need in order to be saved.
We just went through the seven sayings of Jesus on the cross. Spiritual blessings are what Jesus accomplished for us and purchased for us through His perfect life, His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. Everything we need in order to be saved, Jesus bought for us.
Paul also says we have all of these blessings right now. “Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us.” This is past tense. It’s already done. He didn’t say God intends to bless us sometime in the future. He said He has blessed us already. We have it all right now.
Some of us don’t feel blessed like this, with every spiritual blessing. We don’t see this in our life. We’re not millionaires; there are still bills to pay. We were sick this week and could barely get out of bed. Or it’s more serious than that; you’ve been sick for a while, or you’re single and desperately lonely, or you want a child and can’t seem to get pregnant.
We mainly have an understanding that blessings are physical.
But Paul was in prison while writing this letter. Death seemed imminent to him. Yet, he wrote, “We have been blessed.” Clearly, Paul had a different understanding of blessing than we do today.
There was a time in history where God expressed His blessing through physical things. In the Old Testament, His blessing was largely in the material and temporal sense. The way you would calculate the amount of blessing a man had received from God would be to count the number of sheep, goats and cattle he owned. You’d look at the amount of land he possessed or count how many children he had. The way God dealt with His people in the Old Testament was more elementary, as dealing with children. He would bless and teach them by using physical things. Often times, it was external and obvious blessings.
The Old Testament was about physical pictures of things pointing to the spiritual reality of things. In the New Testament, God begins to show us the spiritual blessings themselves.
18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (ESV)
If we’re going to have an eternal, heavenly perspective, we have to know the difference between the physical and spiritual. We have to treasure the eternal over the temporal.
Spiritual blessings are better, but sometimes we don’t feel it. We want our blessings to be tangible, something we can see, touch and embrace. If we were honest, many of us would be willing to trade and give up some of our spiritual blessings in order to get some physical blessings.
We’d be willing to believe a little less if it meant we could have more money. Or trade in a little sanctification looking a little less like Jesus, to have health or healing from a sickness for ourselves or loved ones. We’d be willing to trade a little of our understanding of God’s word, if it meant we could get a spouse, or children, or more power and prestige at work, or some physical beauty and so on. All these valuable, precious spiritual blessings we desperately need that God has provided for us through Jesus, we’d be willing to trade in.
Physical blessings are not evil. Yet, spiritual blessings are better in countless ways.
Some of you have a mentality that God is out to get you. You think things are too good and peaceful, so you get ready for what terrible thing God has waiting for you around the corner. God is blessing you with amazing physical blessings, but you’re not enjoying them or thanking Him for them. You’re waiting for Him to do a bait and switch.
Our God is good. He is a heavenly Father who knows how to give good and perfect blessings, including physical ones. It’s okay to enjoy them and thank God for them. But, don’t keep them to yourself.
If God has physically blessed you with healthy kids, don’t just keep that time to yourself. Instead, use it as an opportunity to serve people with sick children. If He’s blessed you with money, don’t just spend it on yourself. Use it as an opportunity to bear the burden of those who are poor.
God blesses His people that they might be a blessing. So whatever that physical blessing is, don’t keep it to yourself. Find ways to be a blessing to other people and point them to Jesus.
Spiritual blessings are better in countless ways. However, let’s just focus on a couple.
1. Spiritual blessings give you assurance that you’re in Christ.
2. Spiritual blessings produce worship in us that physical blessings cannot.
Spiritual Blessings Give Assurance
Many of us struggle with whether we’re actually saved, but the presence of spiritual blessings in your life act as a constant reminder that you are saved, you do belong to God.
3 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, Ephesians 1:3 (ESV, emphasis added)
The only place spiritual blessings can be found are in Jesus. So the only way we could have spiritual blessings is if we’re in Jesus. Do you see the evidence of spiritual blessings in your life? Do you see a new heart and a tender conscience? Do you see faith, love, hope, or patience? Do you see the spiritual blessings of adoption, forgiveness of sins, or redemption?
These things are evidences that you are in fact in Christ and saved. Spiritual blessings, if you have them, let you know for sure that you are in Christ. Physical blessings can’t do that.
Of all the physical blessings available, which one would you want to see come true? What if you had all the money in the world, were born beautiful and everybody loved you, had perfect health, had all the physical blessings you could ever want and died at the age of 120, not looking a day over 60. Lying in your deathbed, could you say, “Wow, look at all the ways God has blessed me, I must be His,” concluding you are definitely going to heaven? No, you couldn’t.
God gives physical blessings to both believers and unbelievers alike. The Bible says God causes the sun to rise on both the wicked and the righteous. There are plenty of millionaires, beautiful people, accomplished people, people who are well liked and powerful who will not be with Jesus when they die. They will see Jesus and He will say, “Depart from me, for I never knew you.”
Or you could be lying in your deathbed considering you life and see it wasn’t particularly filled with physical blessings. You were never really rich, but your heart was struck by God’s generosity by giving you His Son, so you found ways to be generous yourself, even when things were tight. You were never really powerful or accomplished, but your heart was struck by Jesus coming into this world to served, not be served, so you always found a way to serve others. There were plenty of aches and pains in your life, but you knew that while your outer man was decaying the work of the Holy Spirit was renewing your inner man. You lost precious things and people, but with each loss came an understanding and joy that Jesus is better than anything this world had to offer. Now, having a life like that, not filled with many physical blessings, but abundantly overflowing with spiritual ones, could you conclude that you must be saved? Absolutely!
God has given you every spiritual blessing in Christ in the heavenly places. Everything you need for your eternity to be secured, to be with Him, forever has been done. You’ve been blessed. Spiritual blessings are better, because they give proof to our salvation and relationship with Jesus in ways physical blessings can’t.
Spiritual Blessings Produce Worship
Spiritual blessings produce a worship in us that physical blessings can’t.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:3a (ESV)
While Paul looked at all these spiritual blessings, it produced worship in his heart.
Think about all the spiritual blessings we needed for our salvation to be secured. Consider everything that needed to be accomplished so we could be saved. Paul discusses a lot of them.
· We needed the spiritual blessing of being chosen before the foundations of the world to be His.
· We needed the spiritual blessing of being made holy and blameless.
· We needed the spiritual blessing of being adopted so that we could no longer be His enemies, but His children (verse 5-6).
· We needed the spiritual blessing of redemption, the forgiveness of our sins, the blood of Jesus and to know it’s through Jesus that God is fulfilling all of His plans for our salvation (verse 7-10).
· We needed the spiritual blessing of the word of truth, the gospel, to be made to believe, the Holy Spirit (verses 11-14).
We needed all of these things in order to be saved. In Christ, we have them all.
We should feel blessed by this. When we truly stop to consider all of it, the only proper response is to say along with Paul, “Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I praise you and worship You and You alone.”
Spiritual blessings produce worship, but it’s not always so with physical blessings. While spiritual blessings make God out to be the prize, so we worship Him, physical blessings have the tendency to make themselves the prize, so we worship them.
When it comes to having an eternal, heavenly perspective, worship is absolutely the key. Without worship we will never be able to have an eternal perspective. There is nothing like worship that can give us a taste of the heavenlies and eternity. Worship is what we’ve been created to do; we were created to worship God, being happy and fully satisfied in Him alone.
The Psalmist of Psalm 73
There was a psalmist captured by his day-to-day. All he could see was his own suffering as he tried to live a life of obedience and worship. He looked around to see those who were not worshipping or trying to obey and all he could see was their prosperity.
1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. 3 For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. 5 They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. Psalm 73:1-5 (ESV)
12 Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. 13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. Psalm 73:12-13 (ESV)
Can you feel where the psalmist was coming from? You’ve been trying to obey and worship God and some suffering has come into your life because of it. Yet, as you watch those who don’t care about God, all you see is how they’ve been abundantly physically blessed. You’re tempted to conclude you must have worshipped and sought to obey God in vain.
16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Psalm 73:16-19 (ESV)
He began to have an eternal perspective, realizing that physical blessings are only temporary, fleeting and often end in destruction.
21 When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22 I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. 23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Psalm 73:21-24 (ESV)
He realized all of his spiritual blessings were better. Being continually with God, God holding his right hand, being guided and receiving counsel from Him was better. Better than any physical blessings. This realization made a once embittered heart into a worshipping heart.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. 28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. Psalm 73:25-28 (ESV)
This is worship. The psalmist, almost overcome with his daily worries and anxiety, sought refuge by going into God’s sanctuary. He honestly brought God all of his complaints and worries. Instead of God striking him for questioning Him, He lifted him up into the heavenlies and showed him all the ways he had been blessed spiritually. In the end, his once embittered heart was worshipping God. He concluded the nearness of God was his good. Not the nearness of wealth, health, comfort or ease, a spouse or children or any other physical blessing, but the nearness of God.
Do you believe that?
If you’ve never known Jesus to be better than anything this world has to offer, ask God to show you. Let us ask God to be gracious to us like He was with the psalmist and take us out of our day-to-day and place us in the heavenlies. Even if it’s for a moment, ask that He allow us to get a taste for eternity, that He would move in our hearts and produce worship in such a way that we will worship now like we will then.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25-26 (ESV)