Thursday, May 19, 2011

Blessings

Ephesians is one of my favorite books in the Bible.  Paul packs an awful lot of material into such a short letter, and its hard to fully comprehend all that he is saying.  I started reading it through again a few days ago, this time spending time meditating on what it is that Paul had to say to me.  And it didn't take long before it struck me with a new freshness.

There is an old song that I used to hear and sing a lot called 'Count Your Blessings'.  I am sure Paul never heard this song, but he takes its message to heart at the beginning of Ephesians by offering a note of praise to God for his blessings and then shares some of them with us.  One of the things I find interesting about Paul's list of blessings is that it bears so little resemblance to what most of us would likely come up with: sunshine, good health, recovery from sickness, great spouse, good job, pleasant experience, and most anything else that one finds to be positive.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realm with every spiritual blessing in Christ." - Ephesians 1:3 NIV

Paul's praise to God is for spiritual blessings rather than the physical things we generally identify as blessings.  And these blessings are in the 'heavenly realm' rather than in the physical world we see around us.  Those are the blessings he cares about, and maybe I should also learn to praise God for them.  Over the next 11 verses Paul identifies at least some of these blessings.  It is hard for me to know for sure just were to divide these verses up into specific blessings, and you may list them a bit differently, but I see at least the following:

  • Chosen to be holy and blameless in God's sight.  God chose me, before creation, to be set apart for his purposes and he sees me as blameless.
  • Predestined to be adopted as God's children.  Not only did he chose me to be holy and blameless, he planned on adopting me as his child.
  • Grace freely given to us in Christ.  God expresses his grace, or favor, to me freely in Christ.  I do not have to earn it, he freely gives it.
  • Redemption and forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ.  My brokenness and separation from God are dealt with through the blood of Christ.  It is not something I can earn; only accept through faith.
  • Grace lavished on us with wisdom and understanding.  God's grace is not given sparingly, but is lavished on me.  And it comes along with wisdom and understanding to enable me to understand what God has done and now I can respond.
  • Revelation of his will; to bring all of us together under the headship of Christ.  God is not keeping his purpose in creation a secret; he has made it known to us.  He is creating a new body with Christ as its head.  And since his purpose is know to me, I can participate alongside of him.
  • Chosen according to the plan of God, a plan that will be fully executed.  While individuals may chose not to participate in God's plan, his plan for creation will be fully brought to fruition.  We can trust God that he has been, is currently, and will continue to work out his plan, a plan that includes all who have trusted in him.
  • Being included in Christ.  To be 'in Christ': where he is, I am also; his experience is my experience; his future is my future.  What could be better?
  • Marked with a seal, the indwelling Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit is God's seal, or mark of ownership, on me.  The Holy Spirit is proof that I belong to God and am a part of his purpose.  
I join with Paul is praising God for his indescribable spiritual blessings that he has given to us in Christ.

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