Presented at Trinity Fellowship on 9/21/1997
As we begin our second week on v. 3, a word about my approach to these studies. Some might feel that such a thourough analysis is too microscopic, that it runs the risk of losing the forest in the trees. That is a legitimate concern. If we love the Lord whose Spirit inspired these words, then we will care very deeply about both the forest and the trees. There is too much preaching abroad today that really shows us neither. But in writing like this, every word is important. So we will keep looking closely at the trees (or even leaves), all the while trying to relate them to the forest of God's eternal purpose as revealed in the whole of the book. Last week we saw that the God of Blessing is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that therefore Christ is our perfect model of how to relate to God as well as the ultimate expression of how God relates to us. Today, we look at the blessing of God:
"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."
The Christian faith exists, the Church exists, and you are a part of it, because once upon a time God decided to bless us. The word translated "bless" here is not MAKARIOS ("profoundly happy," the word used in the Beatitudes) but EULOGEO, "I declare good for or about." It refers not to an emotional state so much as a pronouncement, a proclamation, of God's intentions toward believers. He has determined that Good shall come to them.
When was this determination made? The Greek aorist verb tense refers, not to a process, but to a definite, specific, once-for-all action at a point of time in the past. But what point? the Incarnation? the Cross? the Resurrection? the time of your Conversion? No, something prior to these, something from which they flow. Remember that v. 3 is the fountainhead of "The Great Blessing" which runs through v. 14. Therefore, the answer to the question of time is in v. 4: He blessed us just as He chose us, i.e., before the foundations of the world. This is what leads to all the rest.
We might therefore summarize the significance of Paul's statement thus: Before the foundations of the world were laid, God made a choice about you. Looking at you, He saw nothing but a sinner, one who could not love Him, could not respond to Him, one dead in trespasses and sins. Therefore, simply on the basis of Grace, His unearned and unearnable favor, He decided to bless you, to bring to you every Good that Heaven itself contains. Having declared His intentions to that effect, He determined to bring this about by adopting you. But since, as a sinner, you were unadoptable, He therefore determined to send His Son to redeem you and His Spirit to regenerate you, give you faith to respond to Christ's work, and seal you in it. And that is why you are here today. It is all of Grace! You can do nothing (Paul will explain why in 2:1-4); but God has done everything (Paul will explain this in 2:8-10). And therefore we may love Him whom we would otherwise have been incapable of knowing. "Nothing in my hand I bring; / Simply to thy Cross I cling." 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!
Of what does this blessing consist? Well, in the first place it is a spiritual blessing. What does this mean? The key to understanding the concept of the spiritual is 2 Cor. 4:18. The things which are seen are temporal; the things which are unseen are eternal. The spiritual world is the unseen world. And that is why the natural man has no interest in spiritual things, cannot fathom our interest in them. The unbeliever lives primarily for what he can see (or hear, taste, smell, or touch). If he cannot eat it, drink it, wear it, drive it, play with it, go to bed with it, spend it, or make interest on it, he doesn't know what to do with it. His emphasis is on the material, i.e. the seen, i.e. the temporal, that which is passing away. But when you become a Christian, God begins the Blessing He has planned for us by opening your life up to a whole new dimension. You become an enigma to the non-Christian, for now your focus is on spiritual things. You do not despise the seen, but value it for a new set of reasons, i.e., as that which sacramentally brings to you things which you cannot see at all: Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, the Glory of God.
If then you are not experiencing the Christian life as the Blessing God has declared it should be, re-examine your focus. Is it on food or forgiveness? money or missions? peace or possessions? the unseen or the seen? God has decreed that we should have every spiritual blessing, but our focus is elsewhere.
Well, then, it is a Spiritual blessing. But Paul says more: It is Every spiritual blessing. It includes whatever is essential to your eternal spiritual happiness, fulfillment, and well-being. It includes
Note the practical implication of this truth: the Sufficiency of the work of Grace. Nothing you need to serve God faithfully now or enjoy Him fully forever was left out, for it is Every spiritual blessing. All is provided in Jesus Christ. That is why we are very leary of those who would divide God's work of Grace into two stages, emphasizng the need of a Second Experience. If you have received Christ, you have received everything! Of course you need to learn more of what it involves, so that you can learn to experience more of it more fully. And in so doing you may indeed have a further experience which is a spiritual breakthrough. But it is not something new or extra; it is just the further unfolding of what was there all along in the first experience, if it was a valid one. Everything we need has been provided for us in Christ. How do we experience more of it? Do not seek an experience; walk with the Lord. Get your focus off the world and onto Him. Learn what Paul is teaching us of all that we have in Him. Then believe it and accept it and live on the basis of it.
This Blessing has been reserved for us "in the heavenlies." So we are not going to know the full and complete experience of it until we get to Heaven. We have something to look forward to! So in this life we continue to struggle with many things. But, because Christ is there, if we truly belong to Him, we are as good as there too. That is the basis of our assurance. Therefore, because our Savior is in Heaven at the right hand of God, and our Blessing is there (which is simply another way of saying the same thing), therefore we should be heavenly-minded people.
Now, this is one of the most abused and caricatured truths of the Christian faith, but it is a truth nonetheless. We have, sometimes not unfairly, been denigrated as people focused on "pie in the sky bye and bye." But this is a slanderous mirepresentation of true heavenly mindedness. It is not pie in the sky bye and bye, because the pie is in the sky right now!
One of the absolute masterpieces of culinary art is my Mom's apple pie. When she was making one, the aroma would get out of the oven and fill the house, causing the classic Pavlov response in everyone who lived there. And, because pies are not as sensitive about "falling" as cakes, if we were lucky we might be allowed to open the oven and look in, to see in anticipation the crust turning golden brown and the juices bubbling up around the edges and get a really good whiff of that aroma that made dinner so hard to wait for (and desert such a grand motivation for cleaning one's plate). But the anticipatory glancing and sniffing gave one strength to wait, confirming one's faith that there was a piece reserved for ME! Well, the teaching of this passage is that, so far as the Great Blessing is concerned, THE PIE IS ALREADY IN THE OVEN. When you read the Bible, or hear good expository preaching, or sing the great hymns of the faith, or receive the Lord's Supper, God is letting you peek in the oven; He is giving you a whiff of that Pie. Does it make your mouth water? Oh, let us get our noses up out of the world and smell the Pie! It will change your outlook, transform your priorities, and let you view all of life "sub specie aeternitatis," from the perspective of eternity." Then we may indeed, reversing the cliche, become so heavenly minded that we will finally be some earthly good.
This Blessing is "in Christ." That is one of the richest and most difficult phrases in all of Scripture; it is also the key to understanding this book. What does it mean? There is no time to survey all of its uses today, but surely part of its meaning in this context is that there is only one Chef in all the universe who can make and serve the kind of Pie we have been discussing. But it is more than that. Not only is He the Source of the Blessing, He is also its Essence. Everything that constitutes it is bound up in Him. He is its height, its depth, its total summation, its be-all and end-all, its alpha and omega. In Christ we have every blessing God can give; without Him we have nothing.
The Forgiveness of Sin then is in Christ; it is nowhere else to be found. the meaning of life and the purpose of existence are in Christ; they are nowhere else to be found. Peace with God and peace with ourselves are in Christ; they are nowhere else to be found. Love, Joy, Power, and Assurance are in Christ; they are nowhere else to be found. Eternal and abundant life are in Christ; they are nowhere else to be found. The whole spiritual pie is in Christ; it is nowhere else to be found. Francis Foulkes summarized it well: "As the root in the soil, the branch in the vine, the fish in the sea, the bird in the air, so the place of the Christian's life is in Christ." It is nowhere else to be found.
Is there a slice of this Pie reserved in Heaven for you? Oh, unsaved friend, bow before Christ as Savior and Lord today, and these things will be true of you. Is there a slice of this Pie reserved in Heaven for you? Oh, Christian brother and sister, get your noses up out of the world and smell the Pie! Then you will join with Paul and say, "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." Amen.
Here endeth the Lesson.
Dr. Donald T. Williams