3 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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, [that is,] the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 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. (Eph 1:3-14 NASB)
This is one of the most shining and glorious passages in all of scripture! Don’t think for a moment that we will skate through this in one post – that would be like getting a big block of very expensive delicious cheese and eating it by stuffing it all into your mouth in one big bite. This is our first nibble – a simple overview to get the flow of things before we go back and examine things more closely.
Paul is so full of the Holy Spirit here, and so overcome with extreme gospel astonishment, that he can barely pause to take a breath. It’s all just one giant run-on sentence! Yet, there is a lot of structure here, and it will help our insights into what he has given us by the Holy Spirit to see the overall structure.
First off, I want to notice a recurring thread here. All of these things are to God’s praise. We see these phrases sprinkled throughout:
“Blessed be the God and Father” – Ephesians 1:3
“to the praise of the glory of His grace” – Ephesians 1:6
“the summing up of all things in Christ” – Ephesians 1:10
“we … would be to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:12
“to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:14
These statements can be seen as markers for each discrete point he makes. Each point Paul makes here culminates in the praise and glory of God. More importantly, we can easily receive and believe these astonishingly wonderful truths about the good news of the gospel, because it all serves to glorify and praise God Himself. If we try to qualify or marginalize or downplay the grace of God towards ourselves, it actually serves to minimize the glory which God receives and puts the focus back on ourselves and our own merit and praise. All of the tremendous blessings which Paul articulates here bless us in unspeakably wonderful ways, and that serves to bring God glory far more than our tepid repentance or works of service. The gospel is about what God has done for us, not what we do for God, and it is obvious that it therefore brings glory to God. We would do well to focus on these blessings that God has given us in Christ rather than our own works and praise, because the perfect things God has established for us will stand the scrutiny of eternity and will bring God the praise and glory He actually deserves.
What is the takeaway here? Soak in the rich mercy and lavish grace of God, and stop fishing for ways to apply this to your works and progressive sanctification. Just receive it with gladness and gratitude, undeserving though you are. This is what brings God praise and recognizes the glory of His wondrous and beautiful ways far more than anything: simple belief. Paul’s prayer later on is not that they would serve better, but that their eyes would be opened to know the riches of the glory of His inheritance in us! It is not helpful to balk at that and to keep trying to make all this into an incentive to focus on the judgments of the law against us over and over and over again. Simply receive it and rejoice in the glory and goodness of God towards us!
Past, Present, and Future
Another broad observation here is that Paul roughly divides this into God’s provision towards us past, present, and future.
- Past Ephesians 1:3-6
- Present Ephesians 1:7-10
- Future Ephesians 1:11-14
- “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Ephesians 1:4
- “He predestined us to adoption as sons” Ephesians 1:5
- “In Him we have redemption through His blood” Ephesians 1:7
- “He made known to us the mystery of His will” Ephesians 1:9
- “with a view suitable to the fullness of the times” Ephesians 1:10
- “we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined…” Ephesians 1:11
- “you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance…” Ephesians 1:14
These are powerfully comforting observations! If God Himself chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him, who will thwart Him from such well-laid plans? Before the FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD God decided to make you holy and blameless before Him. Let me ask you my dear friend, how many of your sins happened or will happen after the foundation of the world? Let me help you with that math: 100% of them. God is not shocked at any of your sins. He already knew. He already had a plan to make you holy and blameless before Him before you or anyone or anything existed. He spent eternity past on this plan – it is unassailable.
Furthermore, in the present, God doesn’t just secretly know these things. He makes these mysteries known to us. He gives us great hope. He seals us with the Holy Spirit. He makes great promises to us. He grants us present tense forgiveness and redemption. In the here and now He lavishes us with grace and rich mercy. It is good to be a believer in a present tense subjective way!
Finally, we have an unspeakably wonderful hope stretched out ahead of us. We have a great wealthy inheritance promised to us. We are privileged wealthy royalty in heaven, true eternal celebrities in the most substantive and meaningful sense. Our future could not possibly be brighter.
Many times we see these perspectives pitted against each other as if they’re all mutually exclusive. We hear that someone is too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. We hear predestination pitted against present experience. But there is no balance to be had here. Our past, present, and future are all drenched in rich mercy and lavish grace from before the beginning of time to the outstretched reaches of endless eternity. There’s no earthly good if our heaven-mindedness is not assured to be a very great hope. All of these are equally true and equally important.
This is our identity, and the more we embrace these things the more it serves to glorify and praise God. God’s grace towards us glorifies God more than anything we do. We are caught up in the most wonderful way in God’s overall scheme for the purpose of all of existence. How unspeakably wonderful to be a believer in Jesus Christ!
5 The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. 6 The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. (Psa 16:5-6 NASB)