We are beginning a study in the letter of Sha'ul to the saints in Ephesus. This is most likely a circular letter that was meant to benefit all the saints. So much of what Paul says in this letter can be applied to us today. The teaching in this letter can greatly benefit our lives.
We looked last week at the salutation, or greeting. Normally, after the greeting Paul gives an introductory thanksgiving for the recipients of the letter. We see this in Philippians:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, Philippians 1:3-4 NASB
And 1 Corinthians:
I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Yeshua, 1 Corinthians 1:4 NASB
We see this same form in Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, and Philemon. But in this Epistle he changes the order, and before he gives his thanksgiving in verses 15-23, he bursts out in praise in verses 3-14 for what Yahweh has done for the believer.
In the Greek text 1:3-14 consists of one long sentence, 202 words, containing a number of clauses and phrases whose relationship with one another is not always easy to determine, and each thought seems to crowd in on the previous one and blend into the next. Some Greek scholars have called it one of the most complex Greek sentences in the entire Bible to sort out, as Paul piles phrase upon phrase to explain what some of those spiritual blessings are. For this reason, some commentators have concluded that it is impossible to clearly dissect and analyze.
Although there have been many efforts to determine the form and structure of the paragraph, no general agreement has been reached. J.T. Sanders' verdict was, "Every attempt to provide a strophic structure for Ephesians 1:3-14 has failed."
At the beginning of the twentieth century it was fashionable to see these verses as a hymn. There have been attempts up to the present time to see this as a hymn with decipherable divisions, but a change took place in the middle of the twentieth century. Rather than a strictly structured hymn, some think it may be some sort of prologue that summarizes the whole Epistle. Rather than seeing some Greek meter or rhyme as a key to its understanding, some began to think that this eulogy was born out of a Semitic background. So Sha'ul, a Hebrew Rabbi, wrote this in a Semitic form? Go figure!
Kuhn points out that the language and style of Ephesians have evidence of Semitic influence from Qumran literature and the eulogy of 1:3-14 is the typical Hebrew sentence structure of the Qumran texts. (Karl George Kuhn, The Epistle to the Ephesians in the Light of the Qumran Texts pg 116-117.)
Robinson argues that it is not uncommon in both canonical and non-canonical Jewish literature to have a eulogy before the intercessory prayer. Here the eulogy is followed first by thanksgiving in verses 15-16, and then intercession in verses 17-18. So Paul is expressing praise that is consistent with the Jewish style of his day, which has its roots in the Tanakh.
From the blessing of verse 3, there flow three amplifying sections: verses 4-6, verses 7-12, verse 13, and verse 14. There is a kind of refrain that marks these sections, which is given after discussing each person of the Trinity in the order of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And if you look at it carefully, you can see exactly what was in Paul's mind.
He talks about the work of the Father, and he closes with the refrain in verse 6:
to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6 NASB
Then in verses 7-12, he speaks of the Son, and he closes with the refrain in verse 12:
to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:12 NASB
And then in verse 13 and verse 14, he stresses the work of the Holy Spirit. And here again he closes with:
who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:14 NASB
So verse 6, "...to the praise of the glory of His grace"; verse 12, "...to the praise of His glory"; verse 14, "...to the praise of His glory" --these are the three amplifying sections which tell us exactly what is meant when it says in verse 3, "Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, in Christ."
There is also progression from the pronouncement of praise to Yahweh (v. 3), to a description of Yahweh's great plan and action (vv. 4-12), and finally to its application to the believers at Ephesus (vv. 13-14).
So I think it is best to see that 1:3-14 are in the form of a Jewish b'erakah. The earliest and simplest form of a b'erakah was a single sentence in which an individual responded joyfully to Yahweh's deliverance or provision:
And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." He gave him a tenth of all. Genesis 14:20 NASB
A b'erakah was a common Hebrew form of blessing or praise. A typical Hebrew blessing would be: Baruch attah Adonai Eloheinu melech haolom. Which means: Blessed are you our LORD our God king of the universe.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, Ephesians 1:3 NASB
Do you notice the repetition? Blessed..blessed...blessing? They don't mean the same thing. These words are all built on the same root, from which we get our word "eulogy." A eulogy is something that is usually recited at somebody's funeral, and it means: "to speak well of someone." But the first "blessed" is the Greek, eulogetos, which only is used of God and ascribes praise to Him. The second "blessed" is the Greek verb, eulogeo. It has the connotation of acting graciously towards someone. The third "blessing" is the Greek, eulogia, and has the idea of "a gift."
So "blessed" can be in the active sense, as we have in its first use here, or "blessed" in the sense of being blessed, as it is in the second use:
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Luke 1:41-42 NASB
The construction that is used is a construction that means she is blessed, she is the recipient of blessing. She is not the conveyor of blessings to others, she is the recipient of blessing. But now, notice in verse 68, here we read:
And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, Luke 1:67-68 NASB
Here, the word is a word that implies a blessing that is due to that individual. So that one is blessed, in the sense of he is worthy of blessing; the other is blessed in the sense of she has received a blessing.
So what we have in verse 3 of our text in Ephesians is this: God, who alone is to be "blessed" with praise, is the One who "blesses" us by giving us spiritual "blessings" in Christ. We are to bless Yahweh, because He has blessed us!
Since we have said that this is a Hebrew b'erakah, we should seek to understand the word "blessed" from a Hebrew perspective. The word "blessed" is barakh. The English word blessed, or the Greek word eulogetos, are purely abstract words. Since the Hebrews did not think in abstract but concrete terms, we have to try to find the original concrete meaning of this word.
To see a concrete meaning of barakh look at:
He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at evening time, the time when women go out to draw water. Genesis 24:11 NASB
The words "kneel down" are the Hebrew word barakh. This is our word translated: "bless." Each Hebrew verb has a voice and a mood. The three different voices are: active, passive, and reflexive. Active means: "to kneel down." Passive means: "to be knelt down." Reflexive means: "to kneel yourself down." The three different moods are simple, causative, intensive. Simple means: "knelt down," Causative: "to cause the action to occur," Intensive: "to drop to the knee."
Whenever you see the word "bless" in your Bible, it is the intensive form of the verb barakh. In the Hebrew it means: "to drop to the knee in respect to another person as if to present them a gift." This can be literal or figurative.
How can we bless Yahweh? When we recite a b'rachah, we are not blessing Yahweh but are expressing how blessed Yahweh is: "Blessed are YOU, LORD Our God." When we give our blessings to Yahweh, we give Him our gifts. In Greek thinking your blessings are just words. In Hebrew thinking your blessings are actions.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ"--Paul is ascribing praise to Yahweh. A typical Hebrew blessing would be: Baruch attah Adonai Eloheinu, Blessed are you our LORD our God.
But here, Paul Christianizes this b'erakah, classifying God not as the God of Israel, or as the most high, but as the, "the Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ." Two other major b'erahahs in the New Testament begin in this same manner:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 2 Corinthians 1:3 NASB
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Yeshua the Christ from the dead, 1 Peter 1:3 NASB
This b'erakah like the one in Ephesians is stating that Yahweh is blessed or praised. We are to drop to the knee in respect to Yahweh as if to present Him a gift. Sometimes Yahweh is blessed for who He is:
And blessed be His glorious name forever; And may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen. Psalms 72:19 NASB
But usually the blessing is tied with something Yahweh has done for the saints as it is in our text--"...who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."
"Father" is rarely used of Yahweh in the Tanakh, 15 times out of 1448 occurrences. But in the New Testament it is the predominant use, 245 times out of 413 occurrences.
The genitival prepositional phrase of: "...our Lord Yeshua the the Christ..." denotes several things: His personal relationship with the believer; His name Yeshua; His lordship; and that He is the promised Messiah who would bring salvation. The next part of the verse as well as verses 4-14 give reasons why the believer is to praise Yahweh.
Now our text says: "...Who has blessed us..."--now remember what we said that in the Hebrew it means: "to drop to the knee in respect to another person as if to present them a gift." Does Yahweh drop to his knee to present us a gift? It sounds strange, doesn't it? Look at:
"So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them." Numbers 6:27 NASB
This idea here in the Hebrew is that the priest is to take Yahweh's name and put it on the people. How does he do that? By taking His character and putting it on the people. In the previous verses the Aaronic blessing spells out the character of Yahweh.
"...I then will bless them"--Yahweh "kneels down" by giving His teaching (Torah) to the people. So how has Yahweh blessed us? Verses 4-14 spell it out. He chose us in Him, He predestined us as sons, He bestowed His grace on us freely in the Beloved, He provided us with redemption through His blood, He forgave all of our sins, He gave us wisdom and insight, He made known the mystery of His will, and He gave us an inheritance.
This phrase "...who has blessed us" is in the aorist tense in the Greek; this means that there was a point in the past when all these blessings were obtained and given to us. Paul was describing what was already theirs.
Where do all these blessing come from? James put it this way:
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17 NASB
Every good thing comes from the hand of Yahweh our God.
Who are the blessed in this text? Right after the word blessed it says--"us." Who comprises the "us," here? Well clearly Paul is included as it is a first person plural pronoun, but whom else is he including? Those to whom he is writing? And who is that? The saints! At the same time, Paul has all of God's people in mind, both corporately and individually. All who trust in Yeshua are blessed:
So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. Galatians 3:9 NASB
As an individual who has placed their faith in Yeshua as the Christ, you are blessed (past tense). There is no need to wait for a future time when God's spiritual blessings will be poured out on you.
Note the emphasis in these verses on "us": He has blessed us in Christ (1:3). He chose us in Him (1:4). He predestined us to adoption as sons (1:5). He freely bestowed His grace on us in the Beloved (1:6). In Him, we have redemption and forgiveness according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on us (1:7-8). He made known to us the mystery of His will (1:9).
Notice what we have in Christ, "...with every spiritual blessing"--here the adjective "spiritual" means: "pertaining to or belonging to the Spirit." Pnumatikos is always used in the New Testament to refer to the work of the Spirit. Do you realize that our greatest need is spiritual, and we have every spiritual blessing in Him?
A modern heresy teaches that it is God's will for all of His children to be healthy and wealthy in this life. The false Prophets of this cult live in huge mansions, drive expensive cars, and indulge themselves in every flagrant luxury that they can, luring their gullible followers with promises of the same. It is completely anti-Christian!
In case you're thinking, "Spiritual blessings?" This is so impractical, how do spiritual blessings help me here and now?" Keep in mind that when Paul wrote this, he was in prison. He could have been depressed and complaining about his circumstances. He could have said, "I don't need spiritual blessings right now! I need to get out of this stinking cell and have my physical needs met!"
If understanding those blessings could sustain Paul in a Roman prison and give him the buoyant hope that he exudes in all of his letters, then this stuff is about as practical as you can get! It will sustain you in whatever difficulties you face.
There are some Christians that teach that after salvation you can receive the second blessing. But Paul says we have all spiritual blessings. Look what Peter said:
seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3 NASB
"...His divine power has (past tense) given us everything pertaining to life and godliness..." You see, He's already given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. There's no missing ingredient.
Do you understand how rich you are? Bless God; He couldn't give you more than He gave you in Christ. There's nothing else to get. Paul gives us a long list of these spiritual blessings in the coming verses. God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless before Him; He predestined us to adoption as sons through Yeshua Christ to Himself; He has shown us the kind intention of His will; He freely bestowed us with grace in Christ. We have redemption through Yeshua's blood; we have forgiveness of our trespasses; we have been shown the mystery of His will that He purposed in Christ; we have obtained an inheritance; we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.
There is a rich blessing that Yahweh has given us that most of us don't often consider:
"See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: Deuteronomy 11:26 NASB
The word "blessing" here is b'erakah. The blessing was to come when they listened to the commandments of Yahweh:
the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today; Deuteronomy 11:27 NASB
This tells us that following the commands of Yahweh is a blessing. Thus all the commands are potential blessings. Think about that!
Paul says that these blessings are, "In the heavenlies"--your translation may say "the heavenly places," or "the heavenly realms," but it is a subjective adjective--simply the heavenlies. This doesn't mean heaven, as we usually conceive it. Paul is talking here about the present experience of these blessings.
Peter T. O'brien writes, "The heavenly realms is bound up with the divine saving events and is to be understood within a Pauline eschatological perspective. In line with the Jewish two-age structure heaven is seen from the perspective of the age to come, which has now been inaugurated by the death and resurrection of the Lord Yeshua the Christ. At the same time, it is still part of this present evil age until the final consummation."
So he sees "heavenlies" as the age to come, which in their time had begun, but was not consummated until the Lord returned in A.D. 70. For those in the first century the next age has broken through to the present age through the work of Christ. What they experienced of spiritual blessing was actually the blessing of the age to come:
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, Hebrews 6:4-5 NASB
The first century saints were experiencing the power of the age to come. We live in what was to them the age to come. We experience all the blessings in their fullness.
Notice the last two words in verse three, "...In Christ" ---his phrase, together with its variants "in Him" and "in Whom," occurs eleven times in this sentence, and thirty six times in the book of Ephesians.
When you became a Christian, you were placed in a marvelous union with Christ. 1 Cor. 6:17 says: "He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit."
and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. Romans 8:17 NASB
Because we are His sons, we are His heirs. In the Tanakh, God promised to give the land to Israel (God's son) as an inheritance. As we move from the Tanakh into the New Testament, the promise no longer focuses on the physical land of Israel, but on the kingdom of God (Col 1:13-14). This is in keeping with the fact that son-ship has transferred from the physical descendants of Abraham to his spiritual descendants (Rom 4:12). Paul asserts that believers have inherited the promises of Abraham:
And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:29 NASB
You cannot overemphasize this expression "In Christ." I think it's fair to say that it's the most important Pauline doctrine. For every time that "justification by faith" is mentioned, "union with Christ" is mentioned ten times in the New Testament. Everything that Christ is and has, we are and have, because of our union with Him.
Why does Yahweh lavish His blessings upon us? Is it all about us or is it about Him? One of the most important truths in Scripture to grasp is that God is passionate about His glory.
So, why does God bless us with every spiritual blessing in Christ? It is so that we may in turn bless and glorify Him, the giver of every good and perfect gift. Blessed by God, we bless God.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones observes (God's Ultimate Purpose [Baker], p. 13), "Much of the trouble in the Church today is due to the fact that we are so subjective, so interested in ourselves, so egocentric. That is the peculiar error of this present century." He goes on to argue that the message of the Bible is to bring us back to God, to humble us before Him, so that we can see our true relationship to Him in all of His glory. He argues, "We must not start by examining ourselves and our needs microscopically; we must start with God, and forget ourselves."
You do not understand the Gospel if you think that you can bring anything or contribute anything to God in order to gain salvation. So many in churcheanity think that they must be a good person or do some sort of good works in order to earn a place in heaven. But the good news is that you come to God just as you are and receive everything from Him as His gift.
If we could contribute anything toward our salvation, then we could share in the glory. But if it all comes from God on the basis of His grace, then He gets all the glory.
Because God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, we should bless God:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ"
From Genesis to Revelation God is blessed. Melchizedek in Genesis says:
And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." He gave him a tenth of all. Genesis 14:20 NASB
And in Revelation you have that great song:
saying, "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen." Revelation 7:12 NASB
God is blessed from Genesis to Revelation. We are called to continually bless the Lord, in good times and in bad. Notice Job's response to adversity:
He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD." Job 1:21 NASB
Baruch Hashem Adonai. Job is bowing the knee to Yahweh, giving Him worship in the midst of his pain.
David says we are to bless God:
Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Psalms 103:1-2 NASB
David is talking to himself, he is prodding himself and urging himself and stirring himself up to bless the Lord. We bless God by calling attention to all the things God has done to enrich our lives. To bless means: "To thank Yahweh in a spirit of admiration and gratitude and wonder." So David prods himself: Bless the Lord, soul; remember His benefits, speak of His wonders, tell of His greatness. This is a call to worship God.
David is not alone in this call to bless God. Moses called upon the children of Israel to bless Him also:
"When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. Deuteronomy 8:10 NASB
Have we done this? Have we blessed the Lord for all He has given us in this country?
David says in Psalm 103:2, "...forget not all His benefits." Then in verses 3-19 he lists the "benefits" of God, things about God that he cherishes and that make his soul bless the Lord.
The Hebrews blessed Yahweh for everything. There are literally hundreds of Hebrew blessings. They are short prayers uttered to God in thanks for events in life. The Talmudic Rabbis said that it was forbidden to enjoy things in life without saying a blessing. Jewish tradition requires that Jews personally bless the LORD for each detail of their daily experience. This is a practice we should emulate.
Let me share with you several ways in which we can bless God: By Understanding and Acknowledging Who He Is. Paul's b'erakah in Ephesians is filled with theology. He is praising God about certain things, and it would be impossible to share his reverent awe and enthusiasm without also knowing about these things.
Understanding and acknowledging who God is, is one reason why we bless God. So the question that arises is, "How do we come to understand God?" You know the answer, what is it?:
My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:1-5 NASB
Yeshua said that the Word was truth:
"Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. John 17:17 NASB
The only way we will learn about Yeshua the Christ our Lord is as we spend time in His Word. There was a time when this nation was very familiar with the Word of God and walked in His way, but not anymore. We are raising a generation that does not know the Lord.
After Joshua and his generation went to their graves, the Bible tells us:
All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Judges 2:10 NASB
What we can gather from this verse is that Joshua and his generation took the knowledge of God with them to the grave. There was a famine in the land of the Word of God, of knowledge of the Lord's mighty power, and of reverence for their Holy and Righteous God.
Churcheanity today is greatly lacking in its knowledge of Yahweh. If you listen to Christian radio, read preacher's sermons, and listen to the musings of those who claim to teach the Word of God, you will quickly come to the conclusion that "Churcheanity" is sounding more like Sybil, the multi personality Prophet, than reflecting the heart of God, who is the same "yesterday, today, and forever."
Why is the Body of Christ so fragmented? Why is the mouthpiece of God, the Body of Christ, so muffled with such mixed messages? Those are great questions! I think I have the answer. The Body of Christ is confused, because we have taken the Bible out of the Church. We have substituted nonessentials for what is foundational for our gatherings on Sunday mornings and throughout the week--the study of God's Word.
We have become infatuated with trying to appeal to the world, and we have forgotten about pleasing God. We have become obsessed with sound systems and lighting and forgotten about sacrifice and love. We have taken classes in showmanship, but we can't even spell sanctification. We have broken our necks to become pleasing to everyone, and in doing so we have become antagonistic towards our God. We have erected glorious, glamorous cathedrals, but in the midst of our construction we have lost the Gospel. We have designed our programs to attract the prominent and big shots of our communities, but we have left the poor, the weak, and the broken out in the cold. We have exchanged the teachings of God's Word for lessons in financial success, marital bliss, and maximizing relationships, but we have left the one relationship that escapes us in our sanctuaries of success and self-righteousness. We have forsaken the study of the Word of God.
How do we bless God? It starts by understanding and acknowledging Who He Is. And as we come to understand God, there are two attitudes that will truly bless Him: trust and gratitude. Trust:
My foot stands on a level place; In the congregations I shall bless the LORD. A Psalm of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? Psalms 26:12-27:1 NASB
Here the psalmist is blessing the Lord; by his faith God is glorified; He is blessed when we trust Him.
Reciting a blessing is a means of expressing your gratitude for the gift of life that Yahweh has freely given to you. A life lived with a grateful attitude is itself a form of blessing.
Believers, we bless God when we understand and acknowledge who He is. We bless Him by trusting Him, and by: Expressing Gratitude For What He Has Done.
Knowing what God has done is just the beginning. Saying, "Thank you" for what He has done is a must:
"When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. Deuteronomy 8:10 NASB
Chapter eight of Deuteronomy is really one of my favorite chapters of theTanakh. It speaks so well of what we all know somewhere in our hearts, but often seem to forget in our actions and our attitudes. It speaks of how everything we have is a gift from Yahweh. He gives us ALL that we have. Would that I would remember this at all times --it would make my life so much easier, and it would bless Yahweh.
Believer, Yahweh is blessed by an attitude of gratitude. Are you a grateful person? How much time do you spend thanking Yahweh for all He has done for you? As Christians living in America, we should constantly be blessing God with our thanksgiving.
We are to bless Yahweh with thanksgiving, because "Yahweh is good." Thanksgiving is a matter of response to facts of revelation. Everything that we have comes from the gracious hand of our God.
This morning let's make the commitment that the psalmist made:
But as for us, we will bless the LORD From this time forth and forever. Praise the LORD! Psalms 115:18 NASB
Amen! This should be the heart of every believer. In Ephesians 1:3 Paul not only praises Yahweh for His bountiful blessings, but he calls for all believers to join with him. I pray that as we go through these blessings in Ephesians 1:4-14 that they would cause us to Bless Yehweh!
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