Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Three reasons why believers ought to praise God the Father

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on April 10, 2013 at 9:42 am

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, (Eph 1:3, NASB updated)

The words “who has blessed us” modify “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” and are modified by three prepositional phrases: with every spiritual blessing, in the heavens, in Christ.” How are we to view these prepositional phrases? Are they all coordinately subordinate to “who has blessed us”? If so, Paul is saying that God has blessed believers in three ways. Are the latter two subordinate to the first? If so, God has blessed believers “with every spiritual blessing” and those spiritual blessings are “in the heavenly places” and “in Christ.” There are various plausible options. I think it best to view each prepositional phrase as coordinate among themselves and subordinate to “who has blessed us.” This would mean that Paul is giving us three reasons or grounds for God the Father to be praised by believers – 1. Because He has blessed us “with every spiritual blessing;” 2. Because He has blessed us “in the heavens;” and 3. Because He has blessed us “in Christ.” Several commentators take this view – e.g., Lincoln, O’Brien, Arnold, and Thielman. Assuming that the phrases are to be understood equally subordinate to “who has blessed us,” this would give us three reasons why God the Father is to be blessed (i.e., praised, worshipped, adored) by those He blesses (i.e., confers benefits, favors, or gifts upon). God the Father is to be praised by believers for three reasons:

1.      God the Father is to be praised by believers because He has blessed us “with every spiritual blessing.”

The simple prepositional phrase is “with blessing.” The other two words (“every” and “spiritual”) modify the noun “blessing”. The blessings are said to be “every” and “spiritual.” We will examine each in order.

The first reason God the Father is worthy of praise is due to the fact that He has blessed believers “with every [or “all”] …blessing.” The adjective “all” is modifying the noun “blessing” and indicates quantity. “Every” spiritual blessing God the Father has for believers has come (or will come) to them. Our Father is not a stingy giver. He is to be praised due to the quantity of blessings conferred.

What do we make of the second noun modifying “blessing” – “spiritual”? This can refer to the non-corporeal or soulish. However, I think it best to take this as a reference to the bearer of the Father’s blessings, the One appointed to bring the fruits of Christ’s redemptive labors to the souls of men – i.e., the Holy Spirit.[1]

This adjective, “spiritual,” is used 26 times in the New Testament (and all but two uses [1 Pet. 2:5] are found in Paul). Here it refers to the Spirit of God as the bearer of God’s blessings. In 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 and 3:1-4, Paul contrasts the “spiritual” person with the natural/soulish person and the “spiritual” person with the fleshly person. In both cases “the spiritual person is the one who knows and wants that which is of the Spirit of God.”[2] In 1 Corinthians 15:44-46 there is a contrast between the “spiritual” body – animated by the Spirit of God and fit for the resurrected and eternal state (i.e., the age to come) – and the natural/soulish body which is fit for this age alone. John Eadie says, “But in all other passages where, as in this clause, the word is used to qualify Christian men, or Christian blessings, its ruling reference is plainly to the Holy Spirit.” [3] He then cites 11 Pauline texts and concludes, “Therefore the prevailing usage of the New Testament warrants us in saying, that these blessings are termed spiritual from their connection with the Holy Spirit.”[4] Frank Thielman agrees, when he says, ““Spiritual blessings,” therefore, are the benefits that come as gracious gifts from the Spirit of God…”[5] Commenting upon “every spiritual blessing,” Eadie says:

The circle is complete. No needed blessing is wanted–nothing that God has promised, or Christ has secured… And those blessings are all in the hand of the Spirit. Christianity is the dispensation of the Spirit, and as its graces are inwrought by Him, they are all named “spiritual” after Him.”[6]

2.      God the Father is to be praised by believers because He has blessed us “in the heavenly places.”

This phrase refers to the sphere of the plenteous, Spirit-brought and Spirit-wrought blessings – “the heavens” – or, maybe better, to the dimension of existence in which believers experience spiritual blessings.[7] Let’s explore this a bit. Heaven is that place where God’s presence is manifested intensely. With reference to the intermediate state of believers (i.e., the state of soul between death and the resurrection), heaven is the place where God’s presence is manifested intensely, plus a state of existence qualitatively different than that which we experience presently on the earth. However, I don’t think Paul is reserving the blessings of the heavenly state exclusively for the intermediate and/or eternal states in this text. Charles Hodge says, “…these blessings pertain to that heavenly state into which the believer is[not will be] introduced.”[8] This is probably best understood in an already/not-yet eschatological sense – i.e., the heavenly realm as a state of existence. And the heavenly realm as a state of existence is the age to come eclipsing this age in relation to the sufferings and glory of Christ and in relation to the experience of believers by the ministry of the Holy Spirit (cf. Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30; and 2 Cor. 1:21-22). Andrew T. Lincoln says:

…the heavenly realms in Ephesians are to be seen in the perspective of the age to come, which has been inaugurated by God raising Christ from the dead and exalting him to his right hand… …the blessings of salvation [believers] have received from God link [them] to the heavenly realm. The blessings can be said to be in the heavenly realms, yet they are not viewed as treasure stored up for future appropriation, but as benefits belonging to believers now.[9]

This is best understood in an (already/not-yet) eschatological sense. The heavenly realm is the age to come and the age to come has come (in part) in relation to the sufferings and glory of Christ. Peter T. O’Brien says:

In the heavenly realms is bound up with the divine saving events and is to be understood within a Pauline eschatological perspective. In line with the Jewish two-age structure heaven is seen from the perspective of the age to come, which has now been inaugurated by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.[10]

These blessings are not merely stored up for us in heaven to be enjoyed in the intermediate and eternal states. Instead, it is as if heaven has been brought to our souls by the Holy Spirit due to the work of Christ for us. The age-to-come has eclipsed this age and believers taste of that world by the ministry of the Holy Spirit who is the bearer of age-to-come blessings in this age.

3.      God the Father is to be praised by believers because He has blessed us “in Christ.”

The third and final prepositional phrase is a common one in Paul – “in Christ.” This phrase, or a variant of it, is used 11 times in this passage (Eph. 1:3-14) alone. It is the third and final prepositional phrase in a series highlighting reasons why believers are to bless God the Father. This phrase refers to the fact of incorporation and solidarity in Christ. It is due to union with Christ (i.e., incorporation) that all saints (i.e. solidarity) get “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” The concepts of incorporation and solidarity have their biblical tap-roots in the garden of Eden in the first man, Adam (1 Cor. 15:22). But unlike the first man, the last Adam does not fail His probation. He passes probation and the Holy Spirit confers upon those He represented all the merited blessings through suffering obedience that Adam failed to attain.

In conclusion, God the Father is to be praised by believers due to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in ushering into our souls soteric-eschatological blessings that have been purchased for us by Christ. A taste of heaven has been and is being brought to the souls of believers by the Holy Spirit. He brings purchased blessings from the mediator between God and man, our exalted Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, then, is the mediator between the exalted Redeemer and elect sinners via the means of grace. And He brings purchased blessings to souls special delivery from Christ. May the Father be praised because He has blessed us richly in Christ!

Richard Barcellos
Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Palmdale, CA
.

[1] Notice Paul’s Trinitarian soteriology.

[2] Hoehner, Ephesians, 167.

[3] Eadie, Ephesians, 14.

[4] Eadie, Ephesians, 14.

[5] Thielman, Ephesians, 47.

[6] Eadie, Ephesians, 14.

[7] Thielman, Ephesians, 47.

[8] Hodge, Ephesians, 29. Emphasis mine.

[9] Lincoln, Ephesians, 21. Emphasis mine.

[10] O’Brien, Ephesians, 97.

  1. Great exposition of a glorious text!

  2. [...] Three reasons why believers ought to praise God the Father @ Reformed Baptist Fellowship  [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,417 other followers

%d bloggers like this: