Blessings from the Father;
Ephesians Lesson #007
November 11, 2018
“Our Father, we are thankful that we can gather together as believers. The very fact that we are together and with others who are like-minded is an encouragement to each of us, as the writer of Hebrews says that we are not to abandon the coming together so that we can encourage each other.
“That just the presence of others knowing that there are not only those in this building, but there are others throughout this country and throughout the world who on this Lord’s Day are coming together, many celebrating the Lord’s Table, many others proclaiming the truth of the gospel and Your Word, all are part of the body of Christ.
“As we engage in our study of Ephesians, where we will learn so much about what You are doing today through this unique entity, the body of Christ, on this earth, Father we pray that You would challenge each of us because we each have a significant role to play.
“You have gifted us, and we are to serve You and minister to one another. And we pray that as we study these things, we will be challenged in our personal walk with You to refocus on our primary mission in life, which is to serve You.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open Your Bibles with me to Ephesians 1. We have seen that this epistle is divided into three sections.
Section 1 covers the first three chapters, which describes our wealth—our riches in Christ—everything that you and I have been given at the instant of salvation because we have been identified with Christ, so that Paul uses a special phrase that we are “in Christ.” That is our new identity.
One of the things we will learn is that modern leftists did not come up with this idea of identity. They stole it from us. You know this whole concept of identity politics is just a perversion of identity theology, that we are identified with Christ.
That’s the foundation that Paul is laying in Ephesians 1:1–3. To be able to live the spiritual life means we have to understand who we are now that we are in Christ. We have been given a new identity. We have a new purpose. We are part of a new family. All of this has been transformed by the fact that we were baptized or identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. But before we can truly walk or live the Christian life, it’s important that we have an understanding of what that is and what the basis for it is.
The Christian life is not living a moral life. It is not living an immoral or amoral life, but it is not simple morality. It is a spiritual walk, a walk by means of God the Holy Spirit that transforms the morality that even the sin nature can produce into something that has eternal value—significance—because it is done in the power of God the Holy Spirit and because we have been transformed and made new creatures in Christ.
Understanding our wealth leads to a transformed walk, Ephesians 4:5–6:9.
Then there is the spiritual warfare that we are all engaged in. That means that life is not to be lived simply on the physical material plane of what we see and hear and what we experience.
But there is a vast universe, an invisible universe, and an invisible war, as Donald Grey Barnhouse named it when he titled his book on spiritual warfare, The Invisible War that is very much a reality and very much a part of our day-to-day lives and our day-to-day struggles and challenges in this, the devil’s world.
As we get into the body of this epistle, starting with the Ephesians 1:3, we begin to understand some of these things that God has provided for us.
This first part, which covers Ephesians 1:3–23, has basically two sections. The first section is a praise for the blessings that God has given us, that God is blessed.
The noun, for “blessed be God” is to reflect a passive thing; it is passive from God’s perspective, that He receives praise from us, and why He receives that.
In this first section, Ephesians 1:3–14, it’s broken down into three sections. There’s praise for the blessings provided by the Father in Ephesians 1:3–6, which ends with a statement of praise in Ephesians 1:6 .
There’s praise for the blessing of the work of the Son, which ends with a praise statement in Ephesians 1:12, “… to the praise of his glory.”
Third, there is a statement of praise for the blessings related to the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 1:13–14.
We begin this morning with one of the most significant and profound statements of praise in the Bible. It’s an expression of praise for the Triune God. Part of what we need to understand, because it’s the doctrine or the teaching that undergirds this first section, is the doctrine of the Trinity, which we will get to later.
This is an important foundation here. Paul just drives right into it. He just shifts into high gear and we hit verse 3 running full speed ahead. It’s one of the most lengthy and complex sentences in the Greek.
When I teach students things like phrasing out passages in Bible Study Methods or diagramming, we go here because this is probably the most complex sentence in the Greek, trying to figure out how all of this relates together.
The main idea of this sentence and the main clause is that which is stated in verse 3 at the very beginning, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Everything else is subordinate to explaining that.
As Paul goes through this explaining why God should be blessed, he focuses on God’s eternal plan. He brings our attention to the beginning of that plan, which is before the foundation of the world.
He takes us from before the foundation of the world to the intended destiny of the plan, the predetermined goal of His plan, which is to bring us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, and ultimately to the praise of His glory.
This is done through the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross, which provides forgiveness of sins, according to His riches in grace. That this whole plan relates to the Church Age believer, he says, is a mystery. That means it’s something that wasn’t previously revealed in earlier dispensations.
It is now being explained, and he focuses on the fact that this whole plan focuses on a fulfillment in God’s plan, which comes in the Millennial Kingdom where all of God’s plan comes together in Christ, Ephesians 1:10.
Further he says this plan involves the future inheritance for those who are “in Christ,” Paul’s language for believers who are in Christ—identified with Him. This is designed—this unique period, this unique dispensation is designed—to bring together Jew and Gentile in a unique new possession to the praise of His glory, as stated in both Ephesians 1:12, 14; and that this promise of inheritance is sealed. It’s guaranteed by God the Holy Spirit as our future possession.
He summarizes the scope of God’s plan for our salvation from before the foundation of the earth to its ultimate fulfillment in terms of our future possession.
This one section of twelve verses from Ephesians 1:3–14 is a challenge for us to think through. Anyone who has tried to break it down knows that it is so rich in vocabulary and so profound in its organization and structure that we truly have to take a lot of time on it to truly understand all that Paul has brought together.
I was thinking about this because as the verse starts off, it’s extremely Jewish, right out of the Psalms and Chronicles and other passages in the Old Testament with the way Ephesians 1:3 begins. We see the brilliance of the Apostle Paul, as he is able to take that which he knew before he was saved from his incredible studies as a rabbinical student under the foremost rabbi of his generation, Gamaliel.
As a result of his salvation and by the power of God the Holy Spirit transforming his thinking and having enlightened his mind to the truth, he is able to build upon that in a way that is incredibly profound.
We can understand it at different levels. I don’t mean that in terms of a physical level of meaning or a soulish level of meaning or spiritual level of meaning, which is how allegory works. I mean that if you’re a baby, you can understand certain things here.
If you grow a little more as a believer, you’re going to go a little deeper into it, and you’re going to understand it at a more profound level, not different from what you’ve understood, but those concepts will be fleshed out.
As you mature, you will go back and reread this, and you will see things that you had not seen before, and your understanding will continue to grow. And for years you will go to this passage and discover new and fascinating truths as you deepen in your spiritual life and your spiritual growth. So we need to work our way through this.
As we come today to Ephesians 1:1–4 in this eulogy; it is a eulogy. A eulogy is simply a written piece that is designed to praise someone. So this is a written piece designed to praise God.
The very concept of blessing, which we see in Ephesians 1:1, the word used three times, is the word EULOGETOS in the Greek, which means a blessing; It’s where we derive our word “eulogy.”
But when we look at this, we see some words that stand out. We see words like “blessing,” what does that mean? What about “heavenlies?” Then we have these words that seem to affirm what our Calvinist brethren want to state, and we find words like “chose” and “predestined.”
And it sounds to us like maybe they’re right. But if you just focus on the words, you will end up with some errors, because these words do not exist in isolation, they exist as part of phrases and clauses, and when those phrases and clauses are understood together, it gives us a different understanding of what Paul is saying in these passages.
We need to slow down and understand some of those things. As we go forward into the coming verses we will have to investigate words like “redemption,” “forgiveness,” “wisdom,” “prudence,” “the mystery of His will,” the “dispensation of the fullness of times,” “inheritance,” “possession,” “the counsel of His will.”
These are all profound concepts, and we will try to do a little bit of justice to all of those as we go through our study.
Following Paul’s introduction in Ephesians 1:1–2, he will begin to fast-track us into the eulogy of these 12 verses.
We’ve studied the salutation the last few weeks. Paul identifies himself as “…an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” His authority doesn’t rest in himself, or in a body of men, or in the other apostles; it rests in God who called him and commissioned him.
He addresses it to the believers in Ephesus identified as saints; that is, those who have been positionally set apart because of their faith in Christ.
The two words fit together. They are saints, and it should be translated believers. No English translation gets it right. But as we studied last time, PISTOS in the Greek indicates believers. APISTOS indicates unbelievers. The “a” is the negative prefix in Greek. So it’s addressed to believers in Christ Jesus.
Then his salutation, “Grace” and “peace.” He transforms the common greetings among Greeks, CHARIN to CHARIS, and Shalom from Hebrew from the Jews, indicating that God’s grace—His unmerited favor—is that which is the foundation for having peace with God. It comes from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Ephesians 1:3 we come to the opening of this praise section, but there are some things that we need to understand as we look at this passage. Let me read through it, first of all.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
I want you to notice in your English translation, the word “be” is italicized. That’s because there’s no verb in the original. It should probably be understood as an “is,” which I’ll get into in a minute, rather than as a “be.”
I did not italicize it on the slide, but the word “places” is also supplied by the translator. It should be translated “… every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ.” That is an important concept to understand.
One of the first things we need to look at as we work through this, and make our observations of the text, is that Paul is prone to using a first person plural pronoun, we, us, our. To whom is he referring?
He could be using an editorial “we” or the royal “we,” where he’s just referring to himself by means of a plural pronoun. Or he could be using “we” to refer to his apostolic brethren, and that this is the foundation of the doctrine taught by the apostles. Or he could be using it to refer to himself, anyone who is with him, and including his recipients with him, that when he says “we,” he’s talking about himself and also those who are recipients of this epistle.
That is probably one of the most common ways in which this is understood. However, I don’t think that is particularly correct.
For example, in terms of the immediate context, when you look at Ephesians 1:12, “… that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.”
To whom would that “we” refer? Contextually and historically, it would refer to those Jews who trusted in Jesus as Messiah on the Day of Pentecost when the church began. And for the next five, six, or seven years the church was primarily Jewish in its composition. It was either made up of those who were ethnic Jews or those who were proselytes, who were joining themselves to Judaism at that time.
When we look a little further in this same section of the epistle, he makes a contrast between the “we”—meaning those Jewish believers, who initially trusted Christ and were the first to be members of the body of Christ—to the Gentiles, who were included later.
Remember, Peter took the gospel to Cornelius the centurion in Acts 10–11. That is the opening of the door, the inclusion of Gentiles on an equal basis with Jews; thus, historically bringing together Jew and Gentile equally in the body of Christ.
That’s what Paul is describing in Ephesians 2:11–13, “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision …”
The Uncircumcision were those who are not part of the Abrahamic Covenant; the Circumcision were the Jews who were part of the Abrahamic Covenant.
“… that at the time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
The “we” is referring to Jewish believers in the body of Christ. The “you” is referring to those formerly unsaved, now saved Gentiles, who have been brought into the body of Christ, which is what he says in Ephesians 2:13,
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
We will see that, in my position—in contrast to many, or most—is that the meaning of “we” and “us” doesn’t change in Ephesians 2:12, because there’s nothing in Ephesians 2:12 to show that suddenly he’s changing the meaning of these pronouns. But he has this meaning in mind from the very beginning.
The “we” is talking about what we experienced as Jews, at the very beginning of this Church Age, has been extended to you as Gentiles. The driving thought in Ephesians 1–3 is that God has done this remarkable thing in bringing Jew and Gentile together in one body, the body of Christ.
What he says in Galatians 4 is that there is no more Jew nor Greek. He doesn’t mean that these ethnic distinctions are eradicated. He means that in the Old Testament there was a distinction made between Jew and Gentile.
Jews could go all the way into the Holy of Holies, but no Gentile could. In fact, if you are at the temple there would be a marker that would say, “No Gentiles beyond this point.” Now that’s all been changed. There’s no spiritual distinction in terms of our approach to God, our access to God, because we are one in Christ.
We’ve looked at the concept of what it means for the “our” and the “us,” and now this last line “the heavenlies.” This is really important as well, because in the term “the heavenlies,” we actually have two terms: One is OURANIOS, where it’s talking about Heaven, usually talking about the throne of God, wherever that is located; and then there is the word EPOURANIOS, which is usually in the plural meaning “in the heavenlies”.
What’s significant about this is that in Ephesians 2:6, after Paul has explained that we are saved by grace in Ephesians 2:4–6,
“But God, who is rich in the mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),” and then he says, “and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places—it’s the same word ‘in the heavenlies’—in Christ Jesus.”
Now, how many of y’all remember sitting down at the right hand of God with Jesus? See we don’t remember that because that wasn’t experiential. We don’t learn that except by reading this, that something happened, and it was just as real as if we had experienced it, as if we had heard it, as if we had felt it. But when the moment came that you trusted Christ as Savior, you and I were placed in Christ, and we were raised with Him, and we are seated with Him at the right hand of the Father.
Think about that. That is your identity. That is who we are in Christ. That elevates our—pardon the use of this term—self-image. That identifies who we are. That is how we should think of ourselves. We are seated with Christ in the heavenlies. He is at the right hand of the Father, and we have a unique position and a unique role.
Back to Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.”
Three times we have a word from the root, meaning “to bless;” the word EULOGETOS at the very beginning, the verb EULOGEO, that God has blessed us. Lastly, EULOGIA, that we have received a blessing.
This is an interesting word to study, because it’s become overused and abused today by Christians and non-Christians alike. You’ll hear people say, “Bless you” and “Have a blessed day,” and all of these other trite cliché phrases that have destroyed the real meaning and significance of this word.
In the Old Testament, this word has quite a significance. In the Hebrew it is the word barakh. B-R-K, the last letter is a Qoph, which comes over in English as a “K.”
The reason I say that is there is a name that sounds similar to that, and it is an Old Testament name. It comes out of Judges 4. t is the general who was in alliance with the judge Deborah, and his name was Barak.
Unfortunately, it is transposed into English as B-A-R-A-K, but in Hebrew, it’s not a Qoph at the end, it’s a Kaph. Sounds the same, it’s a hard guttural. It’s the “Q.” It’s B-A-R-A-Q in Hebrew. It is not B-A-R-A-K. And so, because the words sound alike— they’re homonyms—they get confused.
The word barakh here means to bless. A form of this verb, a noun form, is Berakhah, which means blessing. Some of you are familiar with that word.
I’m just going to use a couple of examples in the Old Testament to give us the idea.
Jethro comes speaking to Moses in Exodus 18:10, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hands of the Egyptians. …”
He uses this phrase, notice the “be” is in italics. It’s “Barakh Adonai.” There’s no verb there.
Same thing in 1 Samuel 25:39. David, after the event with Abigail and Nabal, when he hears that Nabal is dead he said, “Barakh Adonai,” or “Barakh Yahweh.” “Blessed be the Lord,” there’s no verb there. I’m saying this is setting a pattern.
In 1 Chronicles 29:10, we have the statement, “Therefore David blessed the Lord before all the assembly; and David said: ‘Blessed are you, Lord God of Israel, our Father forever and ever.’ ”
He does the same thing; there’s no verb there, it just reads,
“Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha‘olam.”
It’s the same thing we hear at the beginning of almost every Jewish prayer today. Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam. That means “Blessed are You (the ata indicates the object of the verb) Adonai Eloheinu (Adonai is substituted for Yahweh, the Lord our God) melekh ha’olam (the king of the universe).”
Every prayer begins that way.
1 Peter 1:3. Peter, very Jewish, begins his epistle the same way. Paul does. Wonder where they got this?
If you’re reading Ephesians or Peter with a Jewish background, immediately this has a weight to it that you understand that Christians do not comprehend.
You find it also throughout the Psalms:
Psalm 18:46, “The Lord lives! Blessed be my rock!” There’s no verb there. The verb is left out.
Psalm 28:6, “Blessed be the Lord …”
Psalm 31:21, “Blessed be the Lord …”
Psalm 34:1, “I will bless the Lord at all times …”
Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father.”
What we learn from this is, this isn’t a command to praise God because the word there is a verbal adjective. It’s not a verb, so it’s not a command. But when we compare it to what we see in the Old Testament passages, such as “Blessed be my rock,” that is a passive verb.
What I’m saying is God is the One who receives praise. Often the word “blessed” when it is applied to God doesn’t mean we’re giving God something that He doesn’t have.
When we’re blessed by God, we receive something from God that we don’t have. But in the Old Testament when you blessed God, this was just another way of saying to praise God for what He has given you or for who He is. It has this passive sense because it’s a verb.
But when you went from the Hebrew of the Old Testament and it got translated into the Greek of the Septuagint, something happened; it shifted from being a passive verb to be a verbal adjective. And in terms of the Hebrew Greek of the Septuagint—the Jewish understanding of the Greek—it’s different from the way a Greek in Athens or in Corinth or even in Ephesus would use it.
It’s how it was used in the Septuagint, so it still has this passive idea. That means, why is God blessed? It is because we are praising Him. That’s the focus here. He is stating a fact, God is blessed, meaning God is the recipient of our praises.
So He is identified as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now some of you may even have a translation that translated this “Blessed be God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” because it raises the question, what is the relationship of these two nouns, of God and Father, and how does that relate to Jesus Christ?
One of the first things we have to understand is that in the Greek, this uses a certain type of grammatical construction called the Granville Sharp Rule. We studied that in detail three or four weeks ago on Thursday night in talking about the phrase “pastors and teachers.”
It doesn’t apply to nouns that are proper nouns. It doesn’t apply to nouns that are in the plural. But this phrase “God and Father,” using two nouns in the Greek neither are considered proper nouns; neither are plural.
This is a classic case of what it means: that both of these nouns apply to the same person. He is God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is not the God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s just a misunderstanding of what the Greek says.
This elevates our understanding of Jesus and who He is. We understand that Jesus emphasizes this relationship with the First Person of the Trinity as the Father. For example, Jesus spoke of God as the Father of the disciples.
Many times, He refers to the First Person of the Trinity as, “your Father.” It’s in Matthew 5:16; Matthew 5:45; Matthew 5:48; Matthew 6:1, Matthew 6:4; Matthew 6:6; and Matthew 6:8.
We look at these statements, like Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
1. He is identifying the First Person of the Trinity as their Father. They are used to understanding that.
2. In the same passage, note here that I’m taking most of these references from the Sermon on the Mount, they were to pray, “Our Father.”
They were to address God as their Father, Matthew 6:9.
3. Jesus calls God “My Father” in Matthew 7:21; 10:32–33; 11:27; Matthew 11:50; Matthew 16:17. He refers to God as His Father.
4. He prayed to God as Father in Matthew 11:25–26. This indicates that close intimacy between the First Person and the Second Person of the Trinity, so much so that Jesus identifies Himself as One with the Father.
John 10:30, “I and My Father are one.”
Ephesians 1:3, “He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
We will stop there today and come back to it next time, because the question we need to address is just exactly how does this thing we call the Trinity work?
How do we understand who Jesus was before the incarnation? That was the question that caused great disruption in the early church in the second and third centuries before they finally figured it out.
It’s the same problems your kids have. I remember when I was about eight or nine years old, I’m not sure when, I came home and asked my mother, “they keep talking about Jesus like He’s God, but God is God, and Jesus is somebody else, right?”
Those are the kinds of questions parents love to field on a Sunday afternoon; you need to be prepared. We will come back and look at that next time.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to come to understand that we are to be praising You for all that You have provided for us. You have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies.
“These are grace gifts that were ours from the instant of our salvation, and the only way that we come to know them is through Your Word, through a study of Your Word realizing the assets, the privileges, the power that You have given us, the authority that You have given us as believers in Christ.
“Father, we rarely probe into these things because we just have little communicated to us by teachers or pastors to challenge us to really live, to truly live, to profoundly live on the basis of these secured assets.
“We pray that You would challenge us to learn about them and to utilize them and live on that basis.
“Father, we also pray for those who may be here this morning and are unsure of their eternal life or uncertain of their eternal destiny, those who may be listening to this on the Internet, that they are not sure of their destiny, their eternal destiny after physical death, then we must understand that that is secured only by faith in Christ.
“It’s not a matter of how good we are, and it’s not a matter of moral reformation, it’s not a matter of giving up certain things. It’s simply a matter of trusting in Christ because He paid for our sins, and we are saved by virtue of the fact that You give us His righteousness. We’re saved on the basis of His righteousness, and not by works of righteousness which we have done.
Father, we pray that You would make the gospel clear to those who need to hear it, to understand the basis for their salvation, and that it would encourage the rest of us knowing that we were saved by grace through faith.
“Father, we pray these things in Christ’s name, amen.”