A REASON FOR LIVING
The old man was nearly blind as he reached out to touch the face and hands of his son. "It is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau." The aged hands felt the hairy forearms, not realizing that they were wrapped with the skin of a goat to simulate those of his twin brother.
The scene was one of intrigue and deception and Jacob plotted to steal that which his father had allotted to his brother Esau. What was at stake? A plot of ground? A large sum of money? Power? Prestige? No, it was all for a BLESSING.
We don't normally put so much stock in a blessing. But perhaps we should. Especially when we note how Paul opens his epistle to the Ephesians.
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,
When we speak of a blessing, we don't usually talk about blessing God. It is much more common to speak about having been blessed by God. We usually think of the greater blessing the lesser - the Lord blessing us. But Paul begins this section by pronouncing a blessing upon both God the Father and upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
The word "bless" is one of the most used religious words among English-speaking Christian people. We use the word constantly in conversation and song:
The word is used so much, in fact, that it is often just a buzz word, a cliche. For example, when you say, "The Lord bless you" to someone, are you saying it as kind of Christian "goodbye"; are you using it as a sort of prayer that the Lord will do good things for the person? Just what is it that you are expecting, or hoping, that the Lord will do?
Or, when you "count your blessings," what are you counting? If you were to list your blessings, would you list all the good things that you might have today, like good health, enough money, happy family life, a job?
But what about the unpleasant things in your life? Are they blessings? Do you think of trials and tribulations, testing, as blessings? If the Lord allows testing of your faith, is that a blessing?
The word "bless" in translated from the Greek termeulogetos. It is a compound word, made up from joining two words together.
(2)Lego is the verb, "to speak."
The resulting compound means "to speak good toward someone." And that is what Paul is going to do in this chapter. He is going to "speak good" of the Lord. He is going to praise the Lord and exalt His goodness and His power and His grace.
This is important. We tend to be too self-centered in our holding of the Christian faith. "What's in it for me?" Our prayers so often reflect this. We pray as though we were ordering fast food: "I'll have a special prayer request, an order of forgiveness and a couple of blessings to go."
Don't get me wrong. There IS a place for requests and supplication. But it is noteworthy that Paul starts by blessing God. And it is in this blessing that we will find a MOTIVATION TO SERVE.
Why do you serve the Lord? Why do you seek to obey His commands. I want to suggest four reasons. They are taken from this passage.
WE LIVE FOR HIM BECAUSE HE BLESSED US COMPLETELY
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).
This is not a prayer. Paul is not asking for blessing from God. Neither is it prophetic. He is not saying that there is coming a day when you will be blessed. Instead, he speaks of a present reality.
You have been blessed. It is an accomplished fact (aorist tense). And not only have you been blessed, but you have been blessed abundantly.
I occasionally meet Christians who are seeking some sort of "second blessing." What they do not realize is to what extent they have already been blessed.
When Paula was a little girl, there was a woman who lived down the street from her who lived in a little dilapidated shack. This woman lived like a pauper, collecting cans and sustaining herself on handouts. When she died, people went into her house and, to their amazement, they found it filled from floor to ceiling with bundles of newspapers. And within each page was a crisp twenty dollar bill. She was wealthy, be she was not living in accordance with her wealth.
We do the same thing when we do not live in accordance with the blessings with which we have been blessed. We live like spiritual paupers when we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Why? Because of unbelief. Out of sight, out of mind. And the problem with the realm of blessing is that it is not here on earth where we can see it.
They are SPIRITUAL blessings as opposed to the physical kind. And they are in the realm of the HEAVENLY places versus the earthly places.
Is that bad? No, it's good! Everything physical will pass away. This world on which we live will one day be burned as an old parchment. It is only temporary. But what we have been given is ETERNAL. When the stars have grown cold and the galaxies have ceased their spinning, we will still possess the riches of Christ. They are eternal riches. And because we have an eternal inheritance, we are motivated to make our lives count for today.
But that is not all. Not only have we been blessed. Not only have we been blessed in a realm that is eternal. But we have also been blessed with every spiritual blessing.
This includes spiritual gifts, but it is not limited to them. It includes our salvation. It includes answered prayer. And it includes the grace of God for daily living. It includes EVERYTHING.
Don't miss this! There is no spiritual blessing out there with which you have not been blessed. You are batting a thousand in the spiritual blessing category. They are all yours in Christ.
WE LIVE FOR HIM BECAUSE HE CHOSE US TO BE HOLY AND BLAMELESS
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. (Ephesians 1:4).
Notice that there is a correlation in the way in which we have been blessed with the way in which we have been chosen.
He blessed us in Christ
Just as ®
He chose us in Him
Do you see the correlation? It is that we are "in Christ." This is our new position. It is one of union and identity with Christ. We have been united with Him through faith. And because of that union, we have become the recipients of every spiritual blessing with which He has ever been blessed.
Holiness describes one who has been set apart for a special purpose. That which is holy is separate and distinct and different and special.
The utensils in the temple were considered to be holy. They were set apart in a special way and for a special usage. They were no longer to be used for ordinary things. They were now to be extraordinary.
Remember the time when the apostles were in the boat with Jesus? It had been a long day and Jesus lay down in the bottom of the boat to sleep. The disciples were sailing across the Sea of Galilee and a storm came up. It was a bad storm and when the fishermen among them began to be afraid, it threw the rest of the disciples into a terror. Water was coming into the boat and they were still a couple of miles from land and someone suggested that they wake up Jesus. "I don't want to wake up Jesus, He'll chew us out for our lack of faith." But as the situation gets worse, they wake up Jesus. And He chews them out for their lack of faith. And then He turns to the wind and the waves and says, "QUIET!!!" And the wind and the waves get quiet. And so do the disciples. Because they suddenly realize that the One who has been sleeping in the bottom of their boat is no ordinary man. He is different. He is special. He is holy.
God has set us apart. He chose us and He called us to be different. We have a special purpose. We have been called to do the King's work and to be His ambassadors.
Because of this, we are to seek to live holy lives. We are to live in a way that is set apart from sin and we are to live in a way that is set apart and consecrated unto God.
God did something special when He saved us. There was a shifting of blame. Our sin and our blame was placed upon Jesus when He hung upon the cross. But that is not all. In the same way that He was credited with our sin and our blame, we were credited with His perfect righteousness.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21).
It is on the basis of this crediting of righteousness that God declares us to be righteous - He JUSTIFIES us. That does not mean that we BECOME righteous. It is not on the basis of a certain level of righteousness which is IMPARTED to me. Rather, it is an IMPUTATION of righteousness. We are credited with the righteousness of Christ. We are reckoned with a reckoning of righteousness.
But that reckoning has some practical consequences. God says, "I have reckoned you to be righteous, now BE righteous."
It is like the young lieutenant who was called into the general's command post. The general pinned a medal on the young officer and said, "You are a hero. Now go out and lead your men up that hill."
God says to us, "I declare you to be my holy and righteous children . Now go and live holy and righteously as my own children."
WE LIVE FOR HIM BECAUSE HE DESTINED US TO BE SONS
In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will (Ephesians 1:5).
The manner by which we came to be sons of God is said to be through ADOPTION. You know about adoption. It is the legal procedure of taking a child that has been orphaned or otherwise abandoned and establishing him as a legal offspring.
They had adoption in the ancient world in much the same manner that we have adoption today. The Greek word translated "adoption" literally means "son-placing." It describes the action of taking someone who was not previously a son and placing him as a member of the family.
We have been adopted into the family of God. He has become our Father. Because of this adoption, we can pray to Him as our Father.
a. Israel had a Similar Adoption.
In Romans 9:4 Paul is listing the things that belonged to the people of Israel: They have the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law. And they also have the adoption. God took Abraham and said to Him, "Your family is going to be My family." That is adoption. And this means we have entered into a similar covenant arrangement to that which God had with Israel. It is similar, but it is also different. It is a New Covenant. Instead of being written on tablets of stone, it is written in our hearts.
b. This Adoption Casts out Fear.
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15).
It is one thing to approach God as a servant coming to a master. It is quite another thing to approach Him as a loving Father. Fear is replaced by love.
c. This Adoption is Fulfilled when Christ Comes.
Notice that this passage says that we have been predestined to be adopted as sons. Being an adopted son makes you an heir. But we have not yet received the fulness of that inheritance.
And not only this, but we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23).
We still await the full realization of our redemption. We have been redeemed, but that has only impacted soul and spirit. There is coming a time when I will be redeemed on the outside as well as on the inside.
Because I have an adoption as a son of God, I am now called to live as befits a son. It demands a certain responsibility of me.
When she was growing up, our daughter would occasionally ask to partake in something which we felt was not appropriate. The familiar refrain comes to mind: "But all of the other kids are doing it!" And it was at such a time that I would explain to her that I was not the parent of all of the other kids, but that her calling was to live as befit a child of mine.
WE LIVE FOR HIM BECAUSE HE BESTOWED US WITH HIS GRACE
To the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:6).
The result of our salvation is that the GRACE of God is glorified. Grace - unmerited favor. That good gift from above which has been unearned and undeserving.
The word "grace" was a rather obscure word. The Greeks didn't talk a lot about grace. And when they did, they used the term to speak of a favor that one does for a friend. A favor which was unmerited and undeserved and unrecompensed. A kindness for which there was no repayment. A gift.
But God's grace is so much more. His grace was given at a time when we could hardly have been said to be friends. His grace was given when we weren't even around.
God didn't merely determine the plan of salvation and state, "Whoever trusts Christ and follows me will find himself as one of the chosen and in a predestined place." Election and predestination are PERSONAL. He chose US to be the objects of His grace. Why? What motivated God? It was in nothing that we did. We were not there to do anything. He worked "to the praise of the glory of His grace."
I have to admit that this sounds a bit cold. If we are not careful, we can be so struck with the awesome sovereignty of God that we see only His greatness and His power and His total control of all things to bring about the manifestation of His glory. We SHOULD see those things. But that is not all we should see. We should also see His LOVE.
Do you see it? Verse 5 says: "In LOVE He predestined us..." And we must never forget that God's election and predestination is rooted in His great and gracious love for us. He loved us to death that we might live His life.
As we have read through this passage, we have been confronted with such heavy subjects as predestination, redemption, adoption, and the sealing ministry of the spirit. The danger is that we might simply analyze these teachings like one discovering a new find at an archaeological dig.
I happen to like archaeology. And I also like the study of the minutiae of the Scriptures. But the study of such a text must not remain an academic exercise. It must drive me to worship the Lord, otherwise I miss the entire point.
When God reveals to us what He has done for us the proper response is not grab a microscope, but raise my hands heavenward and sing a doxology. All theology is doxology; theology must sing!