In his letter to the Ephesian Christians, Paul opens with an emphasis on the blessings we’ve received from the Father in the Son.
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 to himself 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.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 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 (Eph. 1:3-14).
He begins, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
The word “blessed” is
eulogetos — like our word “eulogy.” It means, “to speak well of.”
There are related words for “blessing” men, but this word is used only of God in the New Testament. Men may be praised for their benevolent deeds occasionally, but God is blessed because of his intrinsic nature. He is, therefore, worthy of reverential praise.
God is the source of all spiritual blessings.
As the apostle expounds the spiritual benefits of being in Christ in Ephesians 1:3-14, he relates these blessings to the nature of God. God blesses because of who he is. His redemptive blessings are “according to” his good pleasure, his grace, his purpose, and his will (Eph. 1:5, 7, 9, 11).
Paul shows that God is the source of all spiritual blessings by the phrase “according to” (Grk.
kata). It means “in accordance with, in conformity with, corresponding to” (Arndt, 407). He chose to bless us in Christ “according to” his nature and will.
We ought, therefore, to praise him from whom all blessings flow.
Look through Ephesians 1:3-14 to see how many times phrases like “in Christ,” “in him,” or “in whom” occur.
“In Christ” is the sphere in which God blesses. He chose us “in him.” He adopted us “through Jesus Christ.” God’s grace is given “in the Beloved.” Redemption is “in Him.” Forgiveness of sins is “in him.” God’s purpose is “in him.”
As God alone is the source of spiritual blessings, so Christ is the only access to them.
The Lord Jesus said, “Except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24).
Likewise, He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14:6).
“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).
Ephesians 1:7 identifies salvation as redemption — the forgiveness of sins.
Salvation is not “closing the gap between our real and our ideal existence and thus achieving self-fulfillment” (Cottrell, 49). Salvation is not finding freedom from the world and its suffering through “self-migration.” Salvation is not human achievement. The Eastern Religions of Hinduism and Buddhism fail to identify the source of man’s problems, and they fail to provide the solution (ibid., 49ff).
God’s Word reveals our condition. We have violated the moral law of our God, Creator, and Ruler. Salvation is redemption by God, the forgiveness of personal sins committed against God himself.
How is forgiveness achieved? It is accomplished by the in-my-place death of his divine Son who came in the flesh — Jesus Christ, whose blood averts God’s judicious wrath (Rom. 5:8-9; Rom. 3:26; Heb. 2:17; 1 Jn. 2:1; 4:10).
How do we access the grace of God through Christ?
Paul discusses the salvation process in the book of Galatians. He said that the Galatian Christians “are all sons of God by faith” (Gal. 3:26). They were not children of God without faith, and the apostle did not say that they were children of God by faith alone.
In fact, the next verse identifies how they became children of God by faith. Beginning with an explanatory term, Paul writes, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).
Notice the tenses of the verbs. They “are all sons of God by faith” — present tense. For they “were baptized into Christ” — past tense.
Because they were baptized, they are children of God. When the Galatians were baptized, they were baptized into Christ. But when the Galatians entered Christ, they became children of God by faith. Therefore, when the Galatians were baptized, they became children of God by faith.
Expressing the same truth differently, we may say that the Galatians were children of God by faith because they were “in Christ.”
But the Galatians were in Christ because they were baptized into Christ. Therefore, the Galatians were children of God by faith because they were baptized into Christ.
This agrees, of course, with the Lord’s command:
“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).
God chooses, adopts, bestows his grace, redeems and forgives sins “in Christ.” Every spiritual blessing is found in Christ, and the only way to get into Christ is by faith — believing in Christ and doing what he requires (see Matt. 7:21).
Christ requires obedience (Heb. 5:9), and obedience necessitates baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
When the penitent believer is baptized for the forgiveness of sins, he accesses the blood of Christ through the grace of God. At that time, God has decreed that he will redemptively bless.
That is how the Galatians were saved, and this is how everyone enters into Christ to be blessed with every spiritual blessing.