|Volume 24 Number 12 December 2022
Brian R. Kenyon
There are many plans of salvation in the religious world today that purport to offer spiritual blessings. However, according to truth, there is only one place where spiritual blessings are found, including salvation from sin. Consider what Paul wrote to the Ephesians concerning these blessings.
In Ephesians 1:3, Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (NKJV). In this verse, Paul first praised God, the Father. The word translated “blessed,” in “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” is from a word that means blessed, praised, the Blessed One (of God, Mark 14:61). This word is always used in connection with deity (Mark 14:61; Luke 1:68; Romans 1:25; 9:5; 2 Corinthians 1:3; 11:31; Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3). The second word translated “blessed,” in “who has blessed us,” is from a different, though related word. According to Barclay Newman, this word means to bestow a blessing upon (Matthew 23:39; Luke 1:42; Romans 12:14), to act graciously toward (with God or Christ as the subject, Luke 6:28), to praise (with God or Christ as the object, Matthew 21:9; Luke 24:53) or to ask God’s blessing upon (as with food, Matthew 14:19). Here, it refers to God blessing us in ways unique to His faithful people and to His faithful people alone! Paul stated the fact that all spiritual blessings for which God is to be praised are found only in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Paul uniquely characterized these blessing in three ways that should help us appreciate His goodness toward His people.
The blessings about which Paul wrote are “spiritual.” The word translated “spiritual” means pertaining to the spirit, supernatural or spiritual (Ephesians 5:19; 6:12; Romans 7:14; 15:27; 1 Corinthians 2:13, 15; 3:1; 9:11; 10:3-4; 14:37). All people, whether or not they are God’s faithful, receive physical blessings from God! The Heavenly Father “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). The spiritual blessings, however, are only for God’s faithful people.
In Heavenly Places Blessings
These blessings about which Paul spoke are “in heavenly places.” This Greek word means heavenly or celestial (1 Corinthians 15:40), in the heavenly world or in the supernatural sphere. It is found five times in the Book of Ephesians. “Heavenly places” is where Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand (Ephesians 1:20). It is figuratively where all who have been raised with Christ through obedience to the Gospel sit with Christ (Ephesians 2:6). It is where the “manifold wisdom of God” is made known by the church to the “principalities and powers.” According to F.F. Bruce, these terms also denote cosmic spiritual powers thought to “control the movements of the heavenly bodies… thus to control the destinies of mortals” (Ephesians 3:10). It is the place where the “spiritual hosts of wickedness” reside against whom we “wrestle” [“struggle,” NAS] (Ephesians 6:12; cf., 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). These spiritual blessings being so designated as “in heavenly places” lets us know that these blessings involve the unseen nature of our being and identity.
“In Christ” Blessings
These blessings about which Paul wrote are “in Christ.” The term “in Christ” and its related forms appear several times in Ephesians (1:1, 3, 4, 7, 10-13, 15, 20; 2:6, 10, 13, 21-22; 3:6, 11-12; 4:21; 5:8). While these and other verses indicate the great blessings associated with being in Christ, there are only two verses that tell us how a person gets “in Christ.” In one, Paul asked, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Romans 6:3). In the other, Paul said, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). In both these verses, baptism is the way to get in Christ! Since there are no other passages that authorize another way for one to get “in Christ,” baptism is the only way a person can truly get in Christ (cf., 1 Corinthians 12:13)! To be in Christ is to be in His body, the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:23; Colossians 1:24).
Therefore, the blessings about which Paul spoke in Ephesians 1:3 are unseen with the physical eye, effected in the unseen, spiritual world, and are only for those who are a part of Christ’s body, the church. In the immediate context of Ephesians 1, the blessings are (1) being chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, which includes the promise of adoption according to His foreknowledge and eternal purpose (Ephesians 1:4-6), (2) being redeemed and having the forgiveness of sin (Ephesians 1:7), (3) having understanding of the “mystery” of God’s plan now revealed (Ephesians 1:8-10) and (4) having the guarantee of obtaining an inheritance from God (Ephesians 1:11-14). Generally, though, these blessing include all that God has done (and continues to do) for us in redemption. Peter said that Christians, “as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” and he continued, “you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people … who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:5, 9-10). As an exile on the isle of Patmos, John said that Jesus “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father” (Revelation 1:5-6). Certainly, these statements by two apostles later in their lives summarize the scope of “spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”! We must remember that only those who obey the Gospel, and are thus added to the body of Christ (Acts 2:47), partake in these eternal blessings!