If you’ve ever asked God to answer some material need for yourself or someone else, and seen His gracious provision, then you’ve understood the truth of Jesus’ words: “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Matt. 6:32). And yet we sometimes wonder why we don’t receive a blessing we’ve prayed for. God’s understanding of our needs isn’t always the same as ours; “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways” (Isa. 55:9).
However, the greatest blessings of all are already yours if you have believed in Jesus Christ and His atoning death and resurrection for your salvation. Ephesians 1:3 says, “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.” While money, health, or freedom from trouble might make your life more comfortable, the benefits are limited. Everything physical and material on this earth is temporary, but treasures in heaven are forever.
We use the word bless in many ways, but don’t always understand its full meaning. In the Beatitudes, blessed is used to describe the happy condition of wellbeing that characterizes those with true faith. And in Ephesians 1, it refers to God’s favor demonstrated by His involvement and work in the lives of those who are “in Christ,” believers who belong to Christ through faith in Him.
Spiritual blessings are those that flow from heaven, the place of God’s throne and rule, for the purpose of accomplishing His will in the lives of believers. These blessings in Ephesians have already been bestowed on us in His overall plan for our salvation.
First, Paul describes God’s blessings that originated in eternity past. “He chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him” (v. 4). God decided to save us before we even existed. Although we like to think that we made a choice to follow Christ; in reality, we were just responding to almighty God.
In addition, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (v. 5). This means God planned beforehand to place all those whom He saved into His family and give them all the privileges that come with that position. For instance, we are invited to come to our heavenly Father in prayer asking for help and provision for our needs.
What’s amazing about all these blessings is that they come to us through God’s grace. He didn’t bless us because He saw something good in us that made us worthy. On the contrary, we were His enemies because of sin. The Lord chose to bless us solely because of His love and kindness.
Second, God gives us His present blessing of redemption. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (v. 7). We were all born in bondage to sin and its debt, and there was nothing we could do to free ourselves. Someone had to purchase us out of slavery, and that’s exactly what Jesus did. He paid the price of our salvation with His death on the cross so we could be forgiven of all our sins. And once again, it’s all by the riches of God’s grace “which He lavished on us” (v. 8).
Third, God has given us future blessings. This salvation that began before creation has a guaranteed completion in “the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth” (v. 10). There will come a day when the Lord makes all things right, punishes all evil, and establishes Christ’s kingdom of righteousness.
Furthermore, since we are children of God, “we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (v. 11). The Lord has reserved this inheritance for us in heaven and sealed us with the Holy Spirit as a pledge guaranteeing that we will receive it (vv. 13-14). This means we are eternally secure because no one can break the seal and snatch us away. The salvation God began in us, He will complete.
One thing this passage in Ephesians 1:3-14 makes very clear is that God is in charge of these spiritual blessings. He’s the one who chooses, predestines, redeems, forgives, and sums up all things. Salvation began with Him, ends with Him, and is ultimately for Him. That’s why one particular phrase is repeated three times—to the praise of the glory of His grace (vv. 6, 12, 14). When God extends grace to unworthy sinners and makes them holy and blameless, all the glory goes to Him.
The next time you find yourself asking God to bless you or others, give thanks for the eternal favors already bestowed on those who belong to Jesus. Although God often generously provides for our material needs and desires, His greatest blessings are those we cannot see with physical eyes. It’s only through eyes of faith that we’re able to see the spiritual riches He has given us in Christ.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. At the start of this new year, it’s my prayer that God would grant you an ever-increasing awareness of His great faithfulness and matchless love. May you grow closer to Him each day as you love and serve Him.