THE PLAN AND THE WORK OF THE TRIUNE GOD. Ephesians 1:3 to 14.
After our study of the opening verses of this epistle, we are now ready to meditate upon one of the most wonderful portions of the Word of God. What a different atmosphere is here found to that in Galatians. There it is a battlefield, here it is a heart meditation. There we find the strife of controversy, here the blessedness of a heaven-born unity.
Here, in a single sentence of two hundred and sixty-four words, the greatest sentence in all the literature of the world, is woven the plan and work of the God-head. These verses (Ephesians 1:3 to 14), must be taken in their entirety, so that the completeness of the truth before us is not broken. There is no stopping place in the way, because the persons of the God-head are inseparable, both in their being and activity. The message is clear: that which was essentially ours by the will of God the Father (Ephesians 1:3 to 6), and instrumentally ours by the blood of the Son (Ephesians 1:7 to 12), is now experimentally ours by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13 and 14). This is the best answer I know of to Unitarianism; for we see here that a Unitarian God never did or could save man. Man only knows redeeming grace as it is worked out for him by the three persons of the God-head: Not to be ignored are these words, Ephesians 1:6, “To the praise of the glory of his grace”, Ephesians 1:12, “that we should be to the praise of his glory”, Ephesians 1:14, “unto the praise of his glory”. These quotations come in proper sequence following the separate mention of Father, Son and Spirit. Notice the scope of this truth: from, “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4), to the “redemption of the purchased possession” (Ephesians 1:14). Who can begin to sound the full richness of this profound word, which begins with a doxology and ends on a note sounding “the praise of his glory?” Yet is not this glorious passage much like the entire epistle, scaling heights and spanning breadths unknown? The key to the instruction and construction of this marvelous sentence is found in the word “according” which occurs five times (Ephesians 1:4, 5, 7, 9 and 11). After some glorious truth or fact has been declared, the consequences and issues are made known and the word, “according”, ties the verses together. It is the link in the chain that keeps the theme in progressive revelation till the plan of the God-head is worked out.
THE DOXOLOGY. Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”
We are going to take time to examine this verse, so please read it very carefully and study its contents, for it is a bud that gradually unfolds in succeeding revelation. Notice first that the Father, Son and Spirit are all here in anticipation of the unfolding to follow. God the Father is given as the Author and Source of all blessings. These blessings are ours “In Christ”, and they are spiritual, that is, they are bestowed by the Spirit of God. This verse is a doxology. In Ephesians 1:2, we had a ‘benediction’. A benediction comes down from the heart of God in His goodness and kindness toward us. A doxology goes up from the heart of man in praise and thankfulness toward God We are the objects of His grace, He is the object of our praise.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The word “blessed” from the Greek “eulogetus” literally means “well spoken of”. There is much eulogizing of men that is empty and meaningless. But as we contemplate the wonders of God’s redeeming grace, surely this exultant outburst of praise should come from overflowing hearts and be on the lips of all the redeemed, especially those who by the illumination of the Spirit of God, have come to a more intimate realization of their calling and hope. Notice next, that it is not “the God of Abraham, and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers,” (Acts 3:13). There is a vast difference between truth linked up with the “God of our fathers” and the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”, for this is not a covenant relationship such as He bears with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for Israel’s national blessing on the earth, but here the risen Saviour is given His full title and He is called “OUR” Lord Jesus Christ, and in Him, the God and, Father hath blessed “US”. Take note of these pronouns, for to know the meaning of these little words is to understand much of the interpretation of the epistle, and the “OUR” and “US” in this passage has reference to the Jew and Gentile as they are united in one body in Christ, for this is the theme of the Ephesian letter.
“Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Heavenly places.”
Oh, how distinct is our calling in Christ from that of Israel. Israel indeed has a glorious expectation, a hope that will be realized in a material way upon the earth when “the times of refreshing” shall be ushered in, when the spirit shall be poured upon all flesh, when Messiah the King shall reign in righteousness. Have not all the prophets foretold of “these days”? Israel then has material blessings related to the earth but the Church which is His body has spiritual blessings related to the heavenlies. We have no prophetic forecast such as is given to Israel, and our affections are not to be centered on the earth but in the heavenlies, where Christ is Who is our life, for this is where our hope is actually going to be realized—“in the Glory”. The term “in heavenly places”, literally “in the heavenlies”, occurs five times (Ephesians 1:3, 20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12) and has definite reference to a locality. The Father is there, the Lord Jesus came from there, the Spirit came from there, and the best of all, Christ has gone back there and my citizenship is there, for my standing by grace is “in Christ”. So already, positionally, I am “in the heavenlies in Christ”, and the same power that brought again the Lord; Jesus from the dead and carried Him through the heavens to that blest abode, will one day bring the members of “His Body” to “The Head” in the glory. When the hope of Israel is realized in the land of promise, surely the people will be able to say, blessed be God who hath blessed us with all “earthly” blessings; and when members of the Church which is His Body once realize the character and sphere of their own blessings in contrast, they will not want to go around robbing Israel of her glory.
“ALL” (EVERY) SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS
Not blessings that are conditioned and restricted, depending upon my works of righteousness or faithfulness, but blessings secured for me by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ in Whom I have all things, thank God. All the riches of glory are at my disposal, and He will supply all my needs according to those riches by Christ Jesus (Philippians 5:19). This is just a glimpse of the fulness of the grace of our God.
“IN CHRIST”. This is the sum of it all: in two words, “In Christ”, we have the explanation of all that we are in the sight of God and all that we hope to be in the ages to come; for by identification with Christ we are “accepted” by the Father and all spiritual blessings are ours. “In Christ” explains our transition by faith from death to life. We died in Him, we were buried and rose in Him, we ascended in Him, and when He appears, transformed in His likeness, we shall appear with Him in His glory.
When the tabernacle was still standing the high priest entered the Holy of Holies as the representative of the people, bearing upon his person the breast-plate with its twelve precious stones on which were engraved the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, thus carrying them into the presence of God. “In Christ” we are not only “presented” but veritably “present”, for He has “made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ”. As we continue our study we shall find that this great teaching of our mystical union with Christ finds in this epistle its clearest enunciation.