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.
Paul starts with the words “Blessed be the God…” This is a Jewish form of blessing God and is used a lot in their prayers. It is a way of giving God the glory for what He has done for us. For example, this type of prayer is said at the Passover meal “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this season”. Giving God the glory and blessing Him is a vital part of our prayer life. In fact, setting aside a day to bless the Lord about everything He provides for us will open our eyes to how much He does give us every day.
Paul goes on to express why he is blessing God – because God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. All our needs and desires are met in Christ. He is our Saviour (John 4:42), our redeemer (Hebrews 9:15), our Lord (Romans 10:9), our place of rest (Hebrews 4:10-11), our all in all (Ephesians 1:22-23). This list could go on and on but as we go through this letter from Paul we will see more of how Christ is our “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places”. Some translations read “in the heavenly places in Christ” (NKJV) which seem to indicate our blessings are in the heavenly places. It seems more feasible that Christ is the one who is in the heavenly places and we are miraculously “in Christ” (Romans 6:23).
Chosen by God.
God chose us in Christ Jesus. It should be the most marvellous blessing to know that God chose us. We should be so thankful and as King David said:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4)
But, the question of God choosing us and how that relates to our having free will is the subject of unreconcilable debate. In a nutshell, the argument goes: if God knows everything and is all-powerful, and if He chooses you then you have to comply. Alternatively, if mankind has free will, and individuals can choose to turn to or turn away from God, therefore God cannot control the future as it is dependant on everyone’s individual choices. One makes God in control of our destiny the other makes individuals in control of their destiny. Which is correct?
The Bible is full of examples and statements that God knows the future (Psalm 139:1-4), God has sovereign control (Colossians 1:16-17), God gives prophecy (2 Peter 1:21), God has foreknowledge (Isaiah 44:6-8) and God predestines things to happen (Romans 8:29-30). There is substantial Biblical evidence that God is Sovereign.
However, individuals can make choices, limited choices. We are all limited by circumstances and can only choose between the options that are available to us. Jesus described those who sin as slaves to sin (John 18:34). We become bound by habits, obsessions and addictions and our choices are often led by them. If you make a decision then you are responsible for the outcome of that decision. Our experience teaches there is a cause and effect (Galatians 6:7). The Bible tells us that we are responsible for our actions (Romans 14:10). We choose to accept or reject Christ.
So, God is Sovereign and we can make choices. Paul says in Romans:
15 For He says to Moses “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:15-16)
Somehow God is able to reconcile what we cannot, with our finite minds. We need to accept that both of these are realities and that at the moment we can not reconcile them. As we go through the letter to the Ephesians we will see this issue raised frequently.
Foundation of the World.
Christ was with God at the foundation of the world (John 1:1-3). He spoke of being with God before the foundation of the world (John 17:24). Here we read that “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world”. The implication here is that God before the foundation of the world knew who would choose Him. God knew who would be “in Christ Jesus” based on their accepting or rejecting the word of God. God knew who would be in Christ before He created the world. This seems impossible to us yet we need to accept what the word of God says because that is what faith is.
Holy and Blameless.
The amazing thing is that God chose us so that “we should be holy and blameless before him”. Holy and blameless…that certainly does not describe how I feel about myself! God chose us to make us “holy and blameless”. This is called being sanctified, being set aside for use by God (Hebrews 10:10). In Christ, we are now blameless as He took our sin and shame upon himself (2 Corinthians 5:21).
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
Back to where I started. We should be so thankful for all God has done for us in sending Jesus to be our Saviour. Joyfully blessing God that one day we will experience standing holy and blameless before Him.