I am blessed. No doubt about it…I am blessed! These blessings have come to me in many forms and in many portions. In fact, it is really quite amazing when I start to consider the things I have in this life. My wife and kids, health and food, a house and a bed, a church and a pastor, fingernail clippers and a razor, oxygen and the ozone layer (although I can’t see either one of those)…on and on it can go. I have been truly visited with favor.
But this favor I experience daily is not limited to just earthly, temporary possessions (like the ozone layer). In fact, if a follower of Christ wants to truly evaluate the favor of the Lord in their lives, they must look past the temporary, physical blessings into the eternal, spiritual blessings. There, and only there, will we begin to catch a glimpse of just how truly blessed we are. Last month, I was given the opportunity to scratch the surface of this topic by preaching a three part series from the first part of the first chapter of Ephesians. In Ephesians 1:3, we find an amazing truth that initially captured my attention which inspired the series of sermons and continues to occupy my thoughts, often leaving me speechless. It simply says this:
“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” Ephesians 1:3 (NASB95)
In this two part post, I want to take a moment and touch on some of the highlights that are found in this wonderfully profound passage of scripture.
We often talk in our Christian circles about how blessed we are. And there is nothing wrong with calling attention to the blessings of God in our lives. In fact, we would do well to verbalize our gratitude for those blessings more often. I mean, it’s the truth! As I mentioned above, once we begin to examine our daily provisions, the list can go on and on. Upon examination of said list, we often find ourselves making statements such as, “Wow! I sure was blessed by that today.” Or, “Our family is really blessed of God.” Or, “We were really blessed by the presence of God at church today.” But this verse in Ephesians brings a little bit of a spin on the idea of our understanding of blessing because it says, “Blessed be God…” Typically, when we consider the idea of blessing, we focus on the idea of ourselves being the recipients for blessings and not God. But the first part of this verse implies that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is blessed and is to receive blessing. The focus of the blessing is toward God from us. Bless God? Really? Us? I mean, how can created creatures of dust bless the infinite, self-sufficient, eternally existent, uncreated Lord of the universe? Put in another way, how can we give anything to the One who already has it all? It’s kind of like trying to buy a Christmas present for that rich uncle who seems to own everything worth owning already.
But Ephesians isn’t making a mistake here. This isn’t an isolated occurrence where scripture proclaims that God is to be the recipient of blessings. For instance, in Daniel it says:
“…Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him.” Daniel 2:20 (NASB95)
And again in Psalms an emphatic declaration:
“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” Psalm 103:1-2 (NASB95)
And one of my personal favorites found in Revelation:
“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”” Revelation 5:11-12 (NASB95)
He is worthy to receive blessing! So Ephesians is confirming what has already been taught in the rest of scripture, namely, that God is to be blessed, and we are the ones, along with the angels of heaven, privileged with doing the blessing. This is the part that leaves me speechless, in case you were wondering. After recovering from the profound shock of possessing this great fortune of blessing Almighty God, I find myself asking the question, “But how can I give anything to God? Let alone blessings?”
To help answer this question, a little insight into the original Greek New Testament will be beneficial. In our English translations of the New Testament, often we find the word blessing used very broadly to cover a range of different definitions. But once we look into the Greek which was the original language of the New Testament, we find that there are separate words that imply more specific and detailed meanings surrounding the translated English word blessing. For example, in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5, we find a whole string of sentences detailing for us some of what the qualities are of those who are blessed.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the gentle…” and so on. But, interestingly, the English word translated as blessed in these verses is a different Greek word than the one used in our verse in Ephesians 1:3. As you might expect, these two different Greek words that are translated as one English word have two distinct definitions. The word translated as blessed in Matthew 5:3-11 is the word μακάριος (makarios) while the word in Ephesians is εὐλογητός (eulogētos). The meaning of the first word is “fortunate; privileged; happy” while the meaning of the second word means “praised” (with the sense of it being verbally expressed).
So with these definitions based on the original Greek words, we can say in Matthew that the Lord is explaining that those who are poor in spirit, are mourning, are gentle, etc. are blessed in the sense of being fortunate or privileged. In Ephesians, when Paul is explaining to us that God is blessed, he is talking about blessed in the sense of praised. So what’s the point of all of this? Praise God!…that’s the point which is also the answer to the question in my head and heart, “How can I give blessing to God?”…answer, by giving Him the praise which is what I have been created for in the first place. This verse reminds me that in Christ, I am able to fulfill the calling which I was created for – praising my God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Burden lifted and another blessing added to the list.
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…
While I didn’t take the time to unpackage this phrase during our series at church on Sunday morning, I do want to touch on it here. And, I literally mean just touch on it because it holds deep waters.
One of the key doctrines that the bible teaches and that orthodox Christianity holds near and dear is the teaching of the Trinity. Scripture teaches that our God is a triune God. What that simply (or not so simply) means is that there is one God who is revealed as three distinct persons – God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. One way that I have heard it explained that has stuck with me over time is that God is one What revealed as three Whos. He is one in His nature but three in His personal self-distinctions. Of course, we look at this and find ourselves thinking, 1+1+1=3 not 1. I mean, anyone with a basic understanding of math would say Father plus Son plus Holy Spirit should equal three not one. But the bible fiercely teaches that there is only one God, not three. So maybe a better way to understand it from the perspective of mathematics would be to look at it like this, 1x1x1=1.
While lots more could be said about the Trinity, the main observation I really want to make in this post is about the nature of the relationship between the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ. For starters, it is perfect. Perfect in ways that we are not able to comprehend in this fallen world with our fallible minds. For instance, concerning trust we see the Son trusting the Father completely when He cries out with a loud voice on the cross in Luke saying, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” When challenged to give up the task before Him, the Son time and time again remained faithful to the Father and His plan, accomplishing perfectly the work which had been entrusted to Him. Therefore, the Father has been pleased and will be pleased again to glorify the Son. No distrust, no let-downs, no jealousy, no dysfunction…only perfect unity within our eternally distinct triune God.
This is encouraging in our modern day and age of dysfunctional parenting and disrespectful behaviors in children. I’m glad that the bible sets for us a precedent in the Father and the Son of how relationship is supposed to be carried out. As our culture slides ever further down the ravine of decadence and as the family is further eroded by an immoral, irreligious, and ungodly society, we can rest in the perfect example between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as revealed in scripture. No matter how disillusioned or depraved our society may become in the way of relationships before the Second Coming of our Lord, we will always have the eternal example of the Holy Trinity to look to.
And that is just another blessing we can add to the list.
More to come soon in Part 2…