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Sep 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 14, 2014 – Ephesians 1:3-6

A List of Spiritual Blessings

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to His pleasure, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:4-6

Intro: The first two words of verse 4, “just as,” indicate a link with the previous verseT

There we learned we have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”
– so we can read verse 4 as the first example of our spiritual blessings

This week I’ve been trying to grasp what it means to be blessed in heavenly places in Christ
– it occurred to me that Jesus joins us in our earthly places to lift us up to heavenly places
• in fact, he joins us in our hellish places, our toughest situations and deepest griefs (Ep. 4:9-10)
• but, of course, that is just scratching the surface of what he is saying
– what is the experiential reality of being in Christ in “heavenly places”? (cf. Ep. 2:6)
• about 3:00 this morning it dawned on me that I’d never find the answer with my rational mind
◦ it is something God’s Spirit communicates to our spirit (Ro. 8:16)
• when the truth of it enters us, it takes us by surprise because it doesn’t enter through our intellect or feelings
– somehow we already belong to the heavenly realm (Col. 3:1-2)
• we straddle two realms, living in one with our heart and soul in the other (Mt. 6:19-21)
• “spiritual” blessings may not show up in our circumstances
◦ think of how the Lord’s “blessings” look more like disadvantages or disabilities (Mt. 5:3-11)
◦ nevertheless, spiritual blessings eventually show up in us as they yield the fruit of  love, joy, peace, etc. (Gal. 5:22-23)

Another important factor to keep in mind regarding spiritual blessings:
– what Paul describes is the view from within — he produced this list from inside the experience
• it doesn’t look the same from the outside (or if examined with the mind alone, cf. v. 17)
– we want to get inside the experience too (or discover or be with the blessings from inside the experience)
• otherwise we are only Christian because of our beliefs, behavior, and membership in a church
– as far as Paul is concerned, we already have these spiritual blessings
• he isn’t telling us what we must acquire, but what we already have

The first example of a spiritual blessing: “He chose us”

We don’t want to get drawn away from the central point
– but the words “chose” and “predestined” (vv. 5 & 11) raise two difficulties”

  1. A logical difficulty: if God predestined some people to be “in,” he predestined others to be “out”
    – there is no way around this
  2. A theological difficulty: an inflexible concept of predestination eliminates free will
    – throughout scripture and in every generation God presses people to make a choice for or against him
    • it is his desire that everyone chooses him and places their trust in him
    • the call to choose would be absurd and meaningless if it were already made for everyone
    – many Christians follow St. Augustine and John Calvin
    • they are not at all concerned with eliminating free will
    • or with people being consigned to hell before they were born

I’m going to suggest a resolve, though I’m would not say it’s bullet-proof
– this is simply a way of thinking about the way God’s previous thoughts and actions influence us today
∙ first, what God “predetermined” was a plan for humankind with the goal of reconciling us to himself
◦ the plan entails how our reconciliation would be accomplished and “administrated” (v. 10 & 3:9)
∙ the plan is actualized in our lives “through Christ”
∙ every human person is an intended recipient of God’s work
∙ though offered to all, neither the plan nor reconciliation are forced on anyone–everyone must choose
∙ those who choose God and surrender to his will are fully vested in his plan — all of it!
∙ even then, the working out of God’s plan in individual lives is a process–sight comes gradually (v. 18)
– as the Spirit moves us forward, grace opens doors and that is how we progress in God

What Paul does in this passage is to  personalize God’s plan from the foundation of the world
– Paul can say God chose “us” because we are onboard with his plan
– So this is exactly what we must do – personalize the plan; i.e., these spiritual blessings
• we can begin by saying, “God chose me

For what did God choose us?

First, “to be holy and blameless before Him”
– we have attached a moral meaning to “holy” – this is exactly what leads to the self-focus of Pharisaism
• we need to understand holy in its spiritual and relational context
• it has to do with God’s nature and the sacredness of all that belongs to God
◦ people and things are not sacred for any inherent qualities or achievements, but for their connection with God
– “blameless” is not to say we’ve never done wrong
• but we are absolved from past wrongs
◦ this is a blessing David recognized (Ps. 32:1-2)
• we’re given a new start and we are empowered to improve
– basically, God chose to work into us the traits that qualify us to live close to him

Where to place “in love”? (at the end of verse 4 or beginning of verse 5?)
– it’s enough to know love is God’s motivation for what he has prepared for us (and for what he has prepared us)

Thomas Merton, “There are so many Christians who have practically no idea of the immense love God has for them, and of the power of that love to do them good, to bring them happiness.”

Second, “adoption as sons”
– it is difficult to define exact nature of our relationship with God
• it is a oneness without erasing the distinction of God and each personal human self
• it is a participation in his divine nature (2 Pe. 1:2-4)
• adoption is one of the metaphors the New Testament uses to represent our relationship with God
◦ we become his – with all the related privileges and responsibilities
◦ he becomes ours

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Ga. 4:6)
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God (Ro. 8:15-16)

Why? Why would God adopt us? Paul says it is “according to His pleasure
– God’s “will” is a force that sets things in motion and moves them in a particular direction
• this force is at work in your circumstances
– God has willed to adopt us because it gives him pleasure
• If we ask why, he replies, “I would not do this if I did not want to”

The outcome of God’s work in us

“To the praise of the glory of His grace”
– glory is the recognition of an obvious excellence
• in this instance, the excellence is God’s grace
◦ that it does everything we can’t do for ourselves
◦ that it makes spiritual blessings possible for folks like us
– “freely bestowed” or “graced” on us (in Greek “bestowed” contains the word for grace within it)
• God has graced us with grace

“In the Beloved” – note, “in Him,” “through Jesus Christ” and “in the Beloved”
– we saw this last week — that Christian spirituality is entirely focused on the person of Jesus Christ

A. Schweitzer, “. . . Christianity is a Christ-Mysticism, that is to say, a ‘belonging together’ with Christ as our Lord, grasped in thought and realized in experience.”

Conc: Something about this passage unsettles me

Paul is not saying, “Here are blessings that can be yours”
– rather, “These are the blessings that are already yours. This is your lived-experience in Christ”
– so it is one challenge to grasp all that Paul is saying
• and another challenge to respond to it – to experience it

To move into the experience of these spiritual blessings, prayer exercises can be helpful
– we might try sitting restfully in God’s presence and ask: What does it feel like to be adopted by God?
• then let our body and soul absorb that feeling
◦ it may feel like we’re no longer alone in our struggles
(I love it when my kids come to me for insight and counsel — I’m sure God does too)
◦ it may feel like we are loved, connected and that we belong
– What is the experience of being in Christ?
• pause, breathe and say it, “I am in Christ” — perhaps say it until you feel shrouded in his presence

We want to let this sink into our entire being
When it does:
– we’ll begin to see through the world to its emptiness
– we’ll begin to see through the earthly to the the divine
– and we’ll begin to catches glimpses of the Eternal in the transient

These blessings will not nice thoughts — they will become the pulse and rhythm of our very lives

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