Perhaps more than at any other time of year, in December we consider gifts. You’ve already spent time racking your brain for what to get that difficult person to shop for, and you probably can’t wait to see the look on the face of that person for whom you found the perfect gift. Of course, we also remember at Christmas the gift of Immanuel, God with us. No longer was the Messiah a promise. Now He is a reality. Today, though, I want to consider some other gifts. To do so, we will look at one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture: Ephesians 1, where we learn that we have received all the gifts. Not spiritual gifts (Paul covers that in chapter 4). No, I’m talking about “spiritual blessings.”
Every. Single. One.
Paul begins a characteristically long and grammatically complex sentence in verse 3, one which the grammarian in me would like to diagram (but I’ll spare you). I don’t know Greek, but I’m told that in the original language, this sentence hops all over the place, as if Paul couldn’t hold himself back in sharing all of the spiritual blessings. He was too excited to be bothered with petty minutia like punctuation. While I could write an article (maybe an entire book) on each of these blessings, today I want to give a brief overview of these blessings and hopefully capture some of Paul’s excitement in sharing them with you. Forgive me if I ramble.
He begins by saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (v. 3). Every. Single. One. God hasn’t held back any blessing that He could possibly give you. It’s as if God picked up the box labeled “blessings,” turned it upside-down and dumped them all on our heads, and then shook it a little bit so to make sure nothing stuck to the bottom. Just knowing that God has not withheld a single one of these blessings should assure us that there are no second-rate Christians. God doesn’t give first pickin’s to the “really spiritual” people and the leftovers to the rest of us. No. Every one of us has received every one of the spiritual blessings. He couldn’t give more if He wanted to! Are you excited yet? Let’s dive into what these blessings actually are.
What Are They?
First, Paul tells us that we’ve been “chosen before the foundation of the world” (v.4). Right away he hits us with a mind bomb. I don’t know about you, but my mind does not do “before the beginning” very well. Yet, theologically we know that God has always existed in eternity past. What Paul’s telling us is that at some point in that everlasting before-ness, He chose you. He has had you picked literally forever. And He didn’t pick you because you were so great (sorry). He knew full well that, like me, you’d be a batch of hot mess. Yet, Paul goes on to tell us that God chose us with the goal of making us “holy and blameless.” We could point to other passages (1 Corinthians 1) that tell us that God chose us because we were so messed up, but here we learn that God chose us in order to make us holy, not because we already were.
He also “predestined us to adoption as sons” (v. 5) We’re not just God’s little “projects” or protegees that he picked out to make blameless. No, He chose us and predestined us (again, literally forever ago) that we would be His children. Romans 8 says that we are sons given the privilege of calling the Father “Abba” and made “fellow heirs with Christ” (vv. 15-17). Yes, we are God’s subjects and bondslaves, but we have also been adopted as sons.
Next, we are redeemed, forgiven, and lavished with grace (vv.7-8). In the next chapter of Ephesians, Paul will detail just how desperate we were for this forgiveness and grace, reminding us that we were “dead in our trespasses and sins,” that we “walked according to the course of this world” and “according to the prince of the power of the air” (Satan). We lived according to our lusts, constantly indulging them, doing whatever was right in our own eyes. We “were by nature children of wrath” (2:1-3). Hopeless, condemned rebels—that was us. Yet somehow God bestowed redemption on us and has forgiven us of every single one of our heinous, God-defying trespasses. He poured out the wrath that we deserved on His beloved Son so that we might receive lavish, over-the-top, button-bursting grace.
He’s also given us an inheritance (v. 11), which we will receive in full in eternity. However, for now, the Father has given us a guarantee of that inheritance, what the realty world might call “earnest money.” God calls Him the Holy Spirit (vv. 13-14). The Holy Spirit plays many roles in our lives, like leading us into truth and convicting us of sin (John 16:8, 13). However, He is also the “pledge of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:14). The day that you accepted Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked for all eternity as an heir of the King.
How Did We Get Them?
Now that we’ve looked, albeit far too briefly, at our cornucopia of spiritual blessings, let’s quickly consider two more questions. First, how did we come to receive these? Paul gives us the answer a couple times throughout the chapter (vv. 5, 9). The ESV simply says that He did it “according to His will” (v. 5). However, a few other translations capture it a bit better. For example, the NASB says, that it was “according to the kind intention of His will.” We’re getting there, but let’s let the New Living Translation take us home: “This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.” There it is. How did we end up with every spiritual blessing? Because God wanted to give them to us, and it gave Him great joy to do so. We understand this to a limited degree as we look forward to seeing someone we love open a gift on Christmas morning that we know they will enjoy. Likewise, bestowing these blessings on us gave the Father that same joy, but on a cosmic and infinite scale.
For What Purpose Did We Get Them?
Finally, for what purpose did the Father bequeath these gifts to us? As we just saw, it was for His own joy in Himself. However, Paul gives us one more answer as well. Again, this is a phrase repeated throughout the list (vv. 6, 12, 14). These gifts are “to the praise of God’s glorious grace.”
We ought to walk away from this passage feeling encouraged and loved. After all, we’ve received every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. That’s pretty amazing. However, this isn’t just a touchy-feely, warm-fuzzy passage. God gave us each of these wonderful gifts to trumpet loud and proud the glory of His grace. To put it another way, God intends to glorify Himself in giving these gifts by shining a spotlight on His wondrous grace. These gifts are intended to turn our eyes to the Giver and the glory of His infinite, matchless, amazing grace. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.