Rev. Hanko is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.

Ephesians 1:3

Blessed! That is the keynote of the apostle’s greeting to the church of Ephesus, even as the theme of the epistle is the blessedness of the church in Christ. Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blesses us, His church, with every spiritual blessing in the midst of this present evil world.

God is the triune, covenant God who is blessed in Himself, the fullness of all infinite perfections, who lives His own eternally blessed life of covenant fellowship within His own glorious Being as the three persons of the holy Trinity.

Jesus Christ is the Son, the second person of the divine three, who is the Word, God’s revelation outside of Himself. He is Jesus, Jehovah-salvation, eternally ordained to bring salvation to all those chosen in Him from before the foundation of the earth. He is the Christ, anointed of God as Head and Mediator of His church, to redeem her and bring her into glory through His Self-surrender and His sacrificial death of the cross.

Christ is presented here as He is exalted at the Father’s right hand with a name above all names, entrusted with all power in heaven and on earth. He is Lord of His church, eternally appointed to rule over her and bless her in love. Therefore He is sovereign Lord over all the works of God’s hands. The angels are at His service, also deeply involved in His work of salvation. The devils are subject to His will and tremble before Him. The whole universe, with every living creature, including the wicked, is under His command, that all may serve to our salvation and God’s glory.

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ made the heavens and the earth and all that they contain by Jesus Christ. The creation account focuses our attention on our first parents in the garden of Eden as friend-servants of God, on Adam as our covenant head and representative. Christ already stands in the background, since “all things were created by him, and for him” (Col. 1:16). And thus God in Christ made all things with a view to His church.

God in Christ made the myriad of angels according to their ranks as ministering spirits. He created the sun, the moon, and the billions upon billions of stars and set them in their courses. He called forth the great variety of birds of the air, the many sea monsters and all sorts of fishes in the sea, and a large assortment of beasts and animals. And last of all He made man as king of the earthly creation, serving his Maker.

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ also upholds and governs all things by His eternal counsel and providence, so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, all things come to us by His Father-hand. Thus all things must serve for the salvation of the church to His glory.

Adam and Eve as our first parents experienced intimate communion with God as He talked with them in the garden of Eden. They were called to devote themselves to Him in love, to care for the garden as His friends, and therefore also to reject all evil by refusing to eat of the forbidden tree.

When they sinned they fell by the mercy of God, as it were, into the arms of Christ. According to God’s eternal purpose He gave to them and us His covenant promise that He would put enmity between the Seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The former would crush the head of the latter.

At the time of the flood the seed of the serpent, the reprobate world, had become ripe for judgment. God preserved the seed of the woman, His church, in the ark by the waters of the flood. The covenant line continued in Shem. To Abraham came the promise that God would be his God and the God of his seed after him, in the line of generations, for an everlasting covenant. Galatians tells us that this Seed is Christ, and adds: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:16, 29).

The twelve sons of Jacob became the twelve tribes of Israel that were separated from the nations of the world as the typical people of God. For within them was the true Israel, the elect, spiritual Israel to whom God promised the land of Canaan as a land flowing with milk and honey.

Thus Israel was delivered from the bondage of Egypt by the Angel of Jehovah as a picture of our deliverance from the bondage of sin and death. They were led through the waste and howling wilderness, where they were fed by manna and given water from the rock. Both the manna and the rock were types of Christ. After forty years they were brought into the promised land.

David was a type of Christ as he fought and triumphed over the enemies of God. Solomon was a type of Christ in His exaltation. Even though carnal Israel forsook God and turned to idols, God always had His elect remnant among them. There were always the seven thousand who did not bend their knee to Baal. It was because of that elect remnant that the psalmist could sing: “Glorious things of thee are spoken, O city of God.” “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, … the city of the great King.” For the one place in all the earth where God dwelled among His elect people was Zion.

In the fullness of time the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ sent His Son into the world, proceeding out of the loins of Abraham, from the seed of David, born of the virgin Mary. He came as the Man of Sorrows, the Suffering Servant of God.

All His life He fought the battle of the Lord against the forces of darkness, and as the mighty Conqueror overcame them, crushing the head of Satan. All His life He bore the wrath of God in our stead, culminating in the painful, shameful, and accursed death of Calvary. He bore our guilt away and merited for us eternal life with Father in His glory. Surrendering Himself to physical death, He arose again on the third day. After making His resurrection known by various signs and appearances He ascended to heaven.

Of Him the church of the shadows sang: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, even lift them up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory!” In Paul’s epistle to the Philippians we are told that, because he humbled Himself even unto the death of the cross, “God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).

This God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is our God and Father for Christ’s sake. Even as He has chosen us in Him, and has redeemed us by His blood according to the riches of His grace, He also blesses us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.

Christ knows His sheep and calls them by His Spirit and Word with a powerful, efficacious calling, drawing His own out of death into life. We who by nature are dead in trespasses and sins are made alive as God’s sons and daughters by the Spirit of adoption. He calls us by name and we come to Him. We come with a broken heart and a contrite spirit to seek all our salvation in Him alone. We are saved by grace through faith, the gift of our God.Through that bond of faith that unites us with Christ we draw our life from Christ, even as a branch draws its life from the vine. Only in living connection with Christ can we bring forth fruit unto everlasting life.

We are justified, assured by the Spirit of Christ that we are righteous before God, yea, so completely as if we never had sinned nor will sin anymore, as if we ourselves had merited the right to eternal life.

Through Christ Jesus we bear our Father’s likeness as His sons and daughters. He tells us: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

That does not mean that we are now without sin and do not suffer trials and affliction. When God visits the earth with His judgments, His people are also involved. Earthquakes, floods, famines, and other visitations affect them as well as the wicked unbelievers. Wars among the nations, riots and unrest among the people, the competitive preparing of nuclear weapons and ever increasing lawlessness — all serve the Father’s purpose to purify and thus to prepare His church for glory.

“Why do the nations rage, and the peoples imagine vain things?” God has set His King upon His holy hill of Zion (Ps. 2). Zion is delivered through judgment. The judgments that come upon the wicked cause us to look forward to the glorious deliverance of the children of God.

In a certain sense we suffer more than the unbelievers (Ps. 73). For we are strangers and pilgrims, hated and despised, and often persecuted for righteousness’ sake. As cross bearers we fulfill the sufferings of Christ. If in this life only we have hope in Christ we would be the most miserable of creatures.

Yet we are new creatures in Christ, with the beginning of eternal life in our hearts. We experience the peace of God that passes all understanding, for we know that God chastens us in His love. We rejoice in Christ with a joy unspeakable and full of glory, experiencing a foretaste of the eternal joy. For nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. All things must work together for good to those who love God, the called according to His purpose.

We say with the inspired psalmist: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.”

We experience covenant fellowship with our God through prayer, worship, and adoration, and thus experience a foretaste of the full life to come. We live by faith and not by sight. For all things are ours, and we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s, to the glory of our Father, both now and for evermore.

Bless Him ye angels, wondrous in might. Bless Him, ye servants, who in His will delight! Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!