Peninsula Community Church
Ephesians Finding Our Identity
We Are Blessed
July 20, 2013
Ephesians 1:3-10 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
This verse would cause the modern English teacher to gasp for breath. The reason is that while we read only verses 3-10, verses 3-14 are in fact in its original language it is one long sentence with no periods. The total verse contains 202 words. It was such a long sentence that many scholars considered this to be the most “monstrous sentence conglomeration” ever found in the Greek language. To resolve the readability of the passage, translators have placed periods at obvious breaks in the passage to achieve better readability. Why was this verse so long? It was that Paul was overwhelmed with the majesty of God and all that God has done for us as believers. It was as if Paul was so excited that he could not control his tongue in that moment.
With that said, we open this verse with a view to the blessings given to us by Almighty God. It is noteworthy to see that this particular passage opens with the idea of God the Father and God the Son are to be blessed. This idea of being blessed is a declaration of praise. Paul’s intent is to establish the fact that God is worthy of our praise and that He is the focus of not only this particular text but the entirety of the Book of Ephesians. Paul proclaims that God is to be blessed. The word used here in the Greek for blessed is the word “eulogeo.” Our english word “eulogy” is a derivative from this word. The word literally means “good word.” In other words, do you have a good word to say about God. This idea or concept of calling God blessed was nothing new to the New Testament era as the Jewish people of Paul’s day would offer blessing to God three times a day in their prayers. Through these prayers, they were honoring God for who He is and what He had accomplished on their behalf. This is in essence a call to speak well of God. We speak well of God in adversity, frustration, opposition, pain, struggle, and trial. And, we speak well of Him when we are feeling blessed and things are going well. And as we witness the works of God in our lives, we can certainly speak well of Him.
It is here that we are reminded of Psalm 103. The Psalmist proclaims: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Why should He be blessed? Paul suggests that it is because “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” has done amazing things for us. He has blessed us with amazing spiritual blessings. Notice that the blessing are in heavenly places. This means that many of God’s blessings for us are intangible because they are spiritual blessings. While we might be able to feel them we cannot touch them. It should also be noted that these blessings were given to us. You see before creation and before we were known here on earth these blessings were already provided for us. God considered us and our well being before even the worlds were created. It is at this point that we must note that the blessing that was given was not determined by the one receiving the blessing but by the one giving the blessing. God has predetermined that He will bless those who receive Him.
The next part of these verses lay out the spiritual blessings we have received. The first of these blessings is that we have been chosen by God to live holy and blameless before Him. Note that we have been chosen. The one great God of all creation and the sustainer of life has chosen us. How amazing is that? In spite of God knowing every wrong that we have done and our insatiable desire and capacity to commit sin, He still chose us. The second blessing is that we have been predestined by God to be His children.
These two terms bring us to one of the great doctrinal debates in history. In this study, we could go into the depths of this debate but for our purposes this morning I will simply highlight a couple of thoughts about being chosen and the term predestination. For some the terms chosen and predestined means that before the foundation of the world, God predetermined who would be saved and who would not be saved. This has been termed as election or pre-determinism. On the other side of the equation there are who would say that this is not the case at all. It was solely man’s decision to choose God and through this rational process man is saved. The variance within these two theological ideas lies with one’s understanding of the sovereignty of God and man’s free choice.
The extreme Calvinist would say that God is totally in control and man does not have a choice in the decisions they make. They would propose that we have free will but God is still directing the choices that we make to the degree that in reality we do not make our own decisions and therefore our decisions are really God’s will and God’s choices. God directs every step we make and there is not much we can do about this. This concept breaks down when we begin to deal with the issue of sin and wrong choices. Because to say that God ultimately chooses for us and that God determines our decisions can then be extrapolated to mean that God would in fact cause us to commit sin. But God does not sin nor does He cause others to sin. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (James 1:13-14).
On the other hand, the extreme Arminian view would tell you that every choice we make is our own and that God has no bearing on own decision other than to speak to us and direct us toward Him. This problem here is that often God is taken out of the equation and He is relegated to a being that is not engaged in the life of man which in fact is a form of Deism. Deism is the belief that God created everything and then flung it into existence and stepped back with a hands off position in response to His creation. The difficulty here is that when man is responsible for every decision he makes, this can lead to confusion, pride, and a debate over whose way is correct. When this happens in the church we have competing visions and competing directions with each person doing what is right in their own eyes. What is amazing is that those holding to these ideas would say that they are following the leading of God.
The fact is I believe that Biblical truth falls somewhere in between. Let me say this as clearly as I can. The Bible teaches that God is sovereign. God creates, sustains, and controls all things. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17). The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19). He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). God is not a passive observer, He sustains, and He upholds what His creation.
And yet, while God is sovereign, at the same time we have been created with free will or free choice. The plan is that God would give us His word and His example to guide our decisions. It is for that reason we have such scriptures as “trust in the Lord with all your heart and he shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). And Joshua admonished those who listened to him to choose who they would serve (Joshua 24). Notice he stated that if they were to choose God that would be great but if it would Baal then they were to worship Baal wholeheartedly. His point was that they needed to just make a decision and stick with the decision.
In the New Testament, we find the sovereignty of God and man’s choice converge together in a partnership. God is Sovereign and yet at the same time God has deposited in us and has created us with free choice and free moral agency. While God chooses us and ordains many things in our lives, we can counter God’s will through disobedience, a rejection of God’s word, and a willful neglect of God’s purpose or call on our lives. God intervenes in a way that He directs our steps as noted by Proverbs 16:9. The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. This is the junction of sovereignty and choice. Man plans, God directs. And yet we can rebel against God and do our own thing. We find this throughout the Old Testament when God proclaims that Israel had rejected God. Over and over we see the cry of the prophets for Israel to return to their rightful place as the Bride of Christ. He in fact suggests that their rebellion could be compared to a wife that leaves her husband for another man.
So what does this mean for us today. We must recognize God’s sovereignty as the sustainer and guide of our life. We do not see him as a passive God, He is active in our lives and in creation. While He is sovereign, God will never force His way into our lives. We must invite and allow Him in. We must be obedient to His word and His ways. In this way we develop a partnership which lasts forever.
Copyright © All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom