“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 only used 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. God’s 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, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 407). He chose to bless us in Christ “according to” his nature and will. We ought, therefore, to praise him — 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 way to access 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” (Jack Cottrell, God the Redeemer, Joplin: College Press, p. 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., p. 49ff).
God’s Word reveals man’s condition. It is one in which the moral law of God, our Creator and Ruler, has been violated. Salvation is redemption by God, the forgiveness of personal sins committed against God himself. 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 does one get access to 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.