Saturday, January 16, 2021

Two-Way Blessings

"Praise [blessed] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).

Paul begins the body of his letter with a long sentence (1:3–14) that is usually broken up into several shorter sentences in the English translations. In verse 3, we find the word blessed used twice. Paul writes, “Blessed be God,” and then says that God has “blessed us.”

Paul amplifies what it means for God to bless us by saying that He has given us “every spiritual blessing,” including redemption, forgiveness, lavish riches, wisdom, and understanding (1:7–9). But how do we bless God? What can we give Him? Clearly, what we give God is praise, which is why most English versions substitute the word praise for blessed at the beginning of Ephesians 1:3. God does not need anything from us, but He has chosen to ask for our praise; we on the other hand, need everything from Him. He gives us everything, and asks our thanks and allegiance in return.

What does it mean that God has blessed us “in the heavenly realms”? The idea seems to be that we have become participants in heavenly things through Christ. He is seated at God’s right hand, and in union with Him so are we. Usually we think of the Spirit’s coming down from heaven to us in order to bridge the gap between us and heaven, but here in this passage the idea is that in some profound and mysterious sense, we are drawn up into heaven by the Spirit to be present with Jesus and the Father.

Our ascension into heaven is not an experience we have “by sight,” though some day we shall physically ascend with Christ. It is by faith that we have access to the heavenly realm through prayer and praise, and the work of the Holy Spirit makes this access possible for us.

When Paul writes of “every spiritual blessing,” he does not mean invisible blessings or otherworldly blessings, or blessings that we somehow “feel in our spirits.” The reference is to the Holy Spirit. We could capitalize the s in spiritual. The blessings are transmitted by the Spirit, who is the author of all spiritual gifts and graces. The Spirit blesses us with the things that are “in Christ” by sealing us in union with Him.

We are united to the heavenly realm, but we live on earth. The reason is clear: We are to act so that God’s “will is done on earth as it is in heaven.” In heaven God is praised; so it should be here. In heaven God is feared and obeyed; so it should be here. Think of a specific thing that you can do today to manifest heaven on earth.