God-Centeredness of God in Salvation
The most important thing that we as church give emphasis on is the glory of God. We do this by proclaiming the God-centeredness of God in all that he does, but most especially in salvation. That is to say that God is for us by being for himself first. Or to put it negatively, God cannot be for us, if He is not first for himself. This is what we will see in Ephesians 1:3-14. This passage is just a long sentence in Greek giving reason why God is worthy of all praise. So what I’ll do for today is to survey the summits of the manifold glories of God in this passage. Then we will dive into its depths and valleys in the following weeks. Today I will just list all of the spiritual blessings given for us in order that His glory might be praised. I’ll do this without delving too much into the logical relationships of the spiritual blessings with each other—this is for the Sundays to come, Lord willing. So my brothers and sisters, may we stand in awe as we see God’s glory in our salvation.
Blessed Be The God(vv. 3)
The main point of this passage is clearly stated in verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” The word blessed here as it applies to God doesn’t mean that God is in need of blessing. Rather it means worthy of praise. Now the designation God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is Paul’s way of describing the unique relation of Jesus to God as his God and as his Father. On the one hand God is Jesus’ God because Jesus is also a man. So in his humanity, the Father is his God. On the other hand, God is also Jesus’ Father uniquely. In that Jesus is the only Son of God. We are not sons of God the same way Jesus is. The significance of this designation is seen in the fact that God’s work in salvation is made possible only through this unique relationship Jesus has with Father, that is it will be accomplished only through the incarnation of the Son of God.
Spiritual Blessings(vv. 3-14)
Then Paul goes on to explain who this God and Father of Lord Jesus Christ is. Verse 3b says, “who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Now Paul didn’t say that just to tell us whom he’s talking about. Grammatically, yes it is in apposition to God and Father, but we should ask why did Paul even mention it here? He mentioned it because it is the reason or the ground why God is worthy of praise. Blessed be the God… because he blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. It is quite remarkable that Paul used the εὐλογέω word group here just to show the relationship of God’s blessing us and our blessing Him. The word blessed in “blessed be the God” is an adjective, in Greek it’s “eulogētós”. God is blessed. Paul is proclaiming the innate blessedness of God. So when we bless God, we’re not giving to him what is not already His. On the other hand, when God blesses us, which is in Greek “eulogéō” with every Spiritual blessing(eulogía), we’re passively receiving from him. He is the fountain of blessings and in his blessing us, he is blessed, that is he is glorified. That’s why I said earlier that God is for us, only when He is for himself. Whatever God does as an act of condescension to bless us will always result in His praise and glory because it displays his fullness. Just as what Jonathan Edwards said , “Surely, it is no argument of [neediness] in God that he is inclined to communicate of his infinite fullness. It is no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain, that it is inclined to overflow.”
Then verse 4-14 is Paul’s exposition of every spiritual blessing that warrants praises to God. There are many ways to see how this sentence is structured . We can look at it syntactically, that is, each relative clause is subordinate after the other, serving to explain and highlight the centrality of Christ in salvation. Take note of the phrases “in Him” in this passage, all of which are further explanation of the clause in verse 3b, “who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” We can also look at it chronologically, meaning, God bestows to us these blessings in a progressive manner from eternity past to eternity future. We can also look at it theologically, noting the work of the three persons of the Trinity in bringing about these blessings. For the sake of time we’ll focus on the second one, yet still noting the works of the Godhead, but not in detail because each of the three Persons is worthy of separate expositions with an emphasis on the centrality of Christ.
Spiritual Blessings In The Eternity Past(vv. 4-6)
The first set of the spiritual blessings that God blessed us with, even before the beginning/creation of time, are the following: Election and Predestination.
- Election. Verse 4 says, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” That is, God’s choice of who will receive his blessings is solely based on his will. And that in itself is also one of the many blessings, that is to be chosen by God. This is what we call the doctrine of Election.
Predestination. Now, closely related to election is the doctrine of Predestination. We can see this in verse 5, “he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” Take note that the basis of this predestining to adoption as his sons is the pleasure of God’s will. It is not based on some foreseen work or faith from us, and from the word “predestination”, “proorízō”, it means to determine beforehand. This is simultaneous with election as seen in their tenses. That is, both are aorist tense.
Then in verse 6 we are told that these acts of God are to the praise of the glory of His grace. We can see here that ultimately election and predestination is for the glory of his grace. That is not to say God is not glorified in reprobation, the flip side of election and predestination to eternal happiness in God, or that there is no such thing. I mention this because some argue that election and predestination is single. They say that according to Ephesians 1:4-5, predestination is in love, that is, that’s how predestination is always used in scriptures and not predestination to wrath. I’ll deal with that last phrase “in love” in verse 4 next week. But for now, Romans 9:22-23 is very helpful on how we should view the levels of the purposes of God. Paul says in Romans 9:22, “God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,” God has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction for the purpose of showing his wrath and power. Here, God is the implied active agent of the participle “prepared” as is evident in the use of the passive voice, that is, the vessels are the one being acted upon. Meaning they are not the active agents of preparing. Also Paul already mentioned that God is the potter in Romans 9:21. He is the one doing the making of vessels for a specific purpose. To quote Dan Wallace, he wrote, “First, καταρτίζω (katartizw) is nowhere else used in the NT as a direct or reflexive middle (a usage which, in any event, is quite rare in the NT). Second, the lexical force of this verb, coupled with the perfect tense, suggests something of a “done deal” (against some commentaries that see these vessels as ready for destruction yet still able to avert disaster). Third, the potter-clay motif seems to have one point: The potter prepares the clay.”
So there is such a thing as double predestination. But what I want you to notice is that it is not ultimate in God’s purposes. It is only penultimate. Yes, God will be glorified in His wrath, but this too is only serving a greater purpose, namely the making known of the riches of his glory for the vessels of glory. We can see this in the purpose clause of Romans 9:23, “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” The height or the pinnacle of the glory of God is the glory of his grace and mercy. Hence, there is election and predestination to wrath, but it is only penultimate. What’s ultimate is God electing and predestining some for salvation for the praise of the glory of his grace.
Spiritual Blessings In The Historical Past Through The Redeeming Act of Christ(vv. 7-12)
Now let’s look at the second set of the spiritual blessings God blessed us with, but this time, blessings from the historical past, in the work of Christ.
- Redemption. In verse 7 we are told that in Him, that is, in Christ, we have redemption. Redemption is God’s plan executed in history, and the center piece of this act, is the cross. This redemption is through the blood of Jesus, which is to say, through His death on the cross.
Forgiveness. Verse 7 also tells us that there is forgiveness for our trespasses. Forgiveness is a way of reconciling sinners to a Holy God. Without which there is no redemption and vice versa, without redemption through Chirst blood there is no forgiveness of sin. So you cannot separate redemption from forgiveness.
Made a Heritage. In verse 11 we are told that in Christ, we are made a heritage. Meaning, that God claimed us as his own possession. This concept which is an allusion to an Old Testament concept of God making Israel his possession (cf. Deut 32:8-9) also implies that we have obtained an inheritance by being in Christ.
Then as we can see from verses 10b, 12 that our redemption, our obtaining of inheritance and hoping in Christ are for the purpose of showing the supremacy of Christ, and the praise of His glory.
Spiritual Blessings In The Historical Past Upto the Future Through The Work Of The Spirit(vv. 13-14)
Now, the last set of spiritual blessings is found in verses 13-14, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Like the second set, this spiritual blessings happened in history. But this time it is applied to us by the Holy Spirit during our conversion.
- Faith. I include faith as one of the spiritual blessings because as we will see later on in Ephesians 2:8-9, our salvation, including faith, is a gift of God. Paul also says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” In other words, what’s stopping them from seeing the glory of Christ in the gospel and so believe is that they’re blind. Then in Ephesians 1:16-18 we find this prayer of Paul, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” These are believers and yet Paul is still praying that they might be given the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, which can also be translated as spirtual wisdom and revelation by having the eyes of their hearts enlightened. The point is if a believer still needs illumination from the Spirirt, how much more the unbelievers, who are still blind and dead in their trespasses and sins.
Seal of the Holy Spirit. Lastly simultaneous with the receiving of the gospel of truth and believing in Christ, we were sealed in Christ with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit until our final redemption as pointed out in verse 14. That’s why even though the Spirit sealed us in the past during our conversion, nevertheless it implies the ongoing work of the Spirit in keeping us now until our final redemption. Hence this is both a blessing in the past, present and future.
Paul then ends the sentence with the phrase “to the praise of His glory.” Paul, in repeating the praise of God’s glory and grace three times is clearly emphasizing that all aspects of our salvation is for his praise.
Praise God Now
Now, we can see clearly how these two truths relate to each other, namely the praise and glory of God and His blessing us. From eternity past to eternity future, God is for God, and he does everything for his glory. But in doing so, God can be for us as demonstrated in the work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
These truths are not just theories and abstract. They are pointing to realities that really happened, is happening now, and will happen. So we are not just spectators looking from the outside into these blessings. We experienced them firsthand and we’re still experiencing their present effects now. Therefore brothers and sisters worship God. Praise Him and bless His name. And if you’re telling me that after hearing this, you’re still not feeling worhipping God, then keep on preaching these truths to your soul as you pray to God that He open your eyes to the manifold beauties of Him.