“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”
Verse 3 of Ephesians 1 may well be called the keynote of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. Having introduced himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and having proclaimed upon the Church of God grace and peace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle now directs us to the fulness of that salvation which we possess in Jesus Christ, our Lord. The Church must understand that her glory is inseparably connected with Christ. And placing himself at the head of the brethren (“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us . . . .”) he would have the Church of God join him in his song of praise which he raises in this third verse of Ephesians 1.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “blessing” means literally “to speak well.” It cannot escape our attention that the word occurs twice in this text. God blesses us and we bless Him. However, a tremendous difference exists between God’s blessing of us and our blessing of Him. This lies in the very nature of the case. They differ in the same measure that the Lord differs from man. God’s blessing is divine, creative, efficacious; our blessing of God is never creative, efficacious, causal. When God speaks well of us He actually makes us well; when we speak well of God we merely proclaim His greatness and acknowledge His efficacious blessing upon us.
The object of our blessing, according to this text, is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” as connected only with “Father”, so that we must read here: God, Who is also the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, the original text does not permit this interpretation. We read literally “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The article “the”, inasmuch as it appears but once and then before “God”, definitely proves that Jehovah here is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is referred to, of course, according to His human nature, as Head of the elect. For although it is true that this relation of our Lord Jesus Christ to God Triune has its deeper and eternal cause in the Holy Trinity, and that the First Person is the Father of the Second Person in the Triune God, one can hardly declare that the First Person is God of the Second Person. The God and Father in this text is therefore the Triune God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son according to His Divine nature, is in this passage of Scripture specifically the Holy Child Jesus and the Servant of the Lord.
Jehovah is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. As the Holy Child Jesus our Lord had been brought forth by the Triune God. Hence, it was Jesus’ calling to serve and acknowledge the Triune Lord. But God was also Jesus’ Father. This not only refers to a relationship of love between God and His servant, Jesus. Also this is true. Jesus was God’s Holy Child, as is also expressly stated in Holy Writ, and was at all times perfectly subservient and obedient to His God. That God was Jesus’ Father, however, signifies primarily that the Triune God was for Jesus the fount and source of all life and salvation. Jesus was perfectly devoted to His God and Father. But one desire filled His soul. It was His meat and drink to do the Father’s will, even when that will demanded of Him the awful way of the cross and of hell. And God blessed Him to the uttermost. It was the Triune God Who strengthened Him from the beginning to the end, raised Him from the dead, exalted Him to the pinnacle of heavenly glory, gave Him a Name above every name, and filled Him with heavenly life and salvation.
This God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, now, hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. The text certainly purposes to emphasize that all our spiritual blessings are inseparably connected with the Christ, that God blessed Christ first and we are blessed only in Him. We are what we are only because of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
First of all, then, what does the apostle Paul mean when he speaks of “all spiritual blessings’’? Many interpretations have been given of this expression. Some would explain “spiritual” in the sense of “psychical”, as pertaining to the soul. These blessings are spiritual, then, in distinction from physical blessings. However, it needs little explanation to show that this cannot be the exclusive meaning of the apostle. First of all, this is hardly ever the meaning of “spiritual blessings” in Holy Writ. Besides, the text speaks of all spiritual blessings, and we know that the Lord blesses His people according to body and soul. Moreover, the. physical aspect of God’s blessings is rather expressed in the phrase “in heavenly places”. Another explanation would distinguish these “spiritual” blessings from the “earthy” blessings of the Old Testament. The idea of “spiritual” must be understood, then, in contrast with the “natural-earthy” of the Old Dispensation.. Israel was earthy-natural; we are heavenly-spiritual. As far as this interpretation is concerned, we would remark, in the first place, that we must exercise the greatest care. The statement that God’s blessings in the Old Testament were earthy contains much truth, if only we bear in mind that the earthy aspect of the Old Dispensation was but a typical shell and that God’s people then possessed the same spiritual benefits which we enjoy in the New Dispensation. To explain God’s blessings of the Old Testament as essentially earthy is characteristically premillinarian. Secondly, if the word “spiritual” must be understood in contrast with “earthy” how must we then explain the expression “in heavenly places”? Paul, then, would be guilty of tautology, repetition. It is our conviction, however, that the expression “in heavenly places” does not merely repeat what Paul has stated in the immediately foregoing words, but is a richer development of these spiritual blessings.
These blessings are spiritual, first of all, because they are the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, and are wrought by Him. They are also spiritual because they are not natural, they do not change the essence of things, the essence of our being and of our relation to the world, but by them our spiritual ethical nature is reversed and our relation to God is rendered perfect. They change our darkness into light, our love of the lie into love of the truth, our folly into wisdom, our ignorance into the knowledge of God, our guilt into perfect righteousness, our corruption into holiness, our unrest into peace, our sorrow into joy, our death into eternal life. These blessings do not feed us with the bread that perisheth but with the bread of life; they do not enrich us with earthy treasures. They are blessings of grace and mercy, of righteousness and peace, of holiness and the love of God, of wisdom and knowledge and sanctification and of a blessed hope in the midst of a world that lieth in darkness. We read of “all” spiritual blessings because they constitute the fullness of the salvation which God has willed and prepared for His own.
Moreover, the text speaks of all spiritual blessings in “heavenly places”. It is true, of course, that these blessings are in heavenly places because we are blessed in Christ, and He is in the heavenly places. However, the blessings are surely like their source and are therefore heavenly in character. These blessings are not merely spiritual in distinction from the natural and carnal, but they are also heavenly in distinction from the mere earthy. They do not merely restore but they also elevate; they do not restore what was once broken and spoiled, but they raise to a higher level, the level of heavenly perfection. For, as far as Christ is higher than the first Adam, the spiritual blessings we receive from Him are higher than all the things of the earth. And so the apostle Paul refers to that fullness of salvation, whereby God, through His irresistible and glorious grace, delivers us out of all the misery of sin and darkness and death into the unspeakably glorious and heavenly liberty and perfection of God’s eternal and heavenly tabernacle.
Finally, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places “in Christ”. To understand this expression in the text we must bear in mind the headship of Christ Jesus. Christ is the Head of His Church in a judicial and organic sense. As our judicial Head He represents us before the bar of God’s justice, assumes our relation to the law of God. And because of this judicial headship of Christ all His work is imputed, reckoned unto us. What He does He does therefore in our behalf and His merits becomes ours according to divine righteousness—this is imputation. As our organic Head He becomes for us a life-giving Spirit. It not only pleased the Lord that Jesus should merit all things for us but also that we should receive that life only as in a living union with Him. Unto that end Christ Himself is exalted, receives the Spirit beyond measure, and thereby becomes for us that life-giving Spirit.
Now we can understand the thought of this text. That God has blessed us in Christ is, first of all, objectively true as far as Christ is concerned. We were blessed when He was blessed. God blessed Jesus, spoke His “well-word” upon Him. It was the divine Word of blessing upon His people which prompted God in sending His Son into the world, in leading Him into the dark depths of the cross and of hell, bearing God’s wrath upon our sins, It was the word of divine blessing which called Christ from the dead, raised Him into glory, and gave Him a place at the pinnacle of heavenly glory. Blessed are we in Christ inasmuch as in His death our sins were atoned, our guilt was paid, our justification and eternal life were merited. Blessed were we in Christ because He was glorified with a glory unspeakable; and inasmuch as His glory is our glory we may and can say that at His resurrection and glorification our spiritual blessings were affected.
However, that God has blessed us in Christ Jesus is also subjectively true, as far as we are concerned. We are blessed with all spiritual and heavenly blessings in Christ, i.e., we receive these blessings only in Christ, in living union and fellowship with Him. When God calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light, engrafts us into Jesus, and we become one plant with Him, we begin to live through faith out of Jesus. Then we taste the forgiveness of sins and all the spiritual blessings of salvation. Then we taste light in the midst of our darkness, holiness in the midst of our corruption, life in the midst of our death. And, in Christ, we receive a living hope, embrace the heavenly renewal of all things in principle, and look forward to that day when we shall be translated into the glory which the Lord has prepared for us in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. He is the giver; we are the recipients. Praised be His Name, now and forever.