To the Praise of His Glory
If you happen to find yourself alone without any distractions, where do your thoughts wander? Are you anxious about that next job assignment, cowering before an intimidating boss, demanding your rights from someone, or eager to defend your motives? Do you fear for your child’s health, reputation or education? Does greed for the next bestseller seize you? Are you angry about a sharp word that was directed your way, anxious because you didn’t get your to-do list done, or worried about how to care for your aging parents?
If we’re honest, we are much more focused on ourselves than on the Lord God who is worthy of all our praise. This is detrimental to our spiritual health, especially our prayers. Think about the times you have begun your prayers with your problems. Now think about the times you have begun them with praise. Your prayer requests were transformed, weren’t they? This is because praise turns our eyes to Christ, and although our troubles don’t melt before Him, our view of them is transformed. Since we are chosen in Christ, redeemed by Christ, and sealed with the Spirit of Christ, we should daily remember the blessings that are ours in Christ and make praising God central in our prayers. The book of Ephesians is a great place to learn how to do this.
Bursting with Blessings
In Ephesians 1:3-14 Paul bursts forth with blessing, praising the God who has blessed him. With one long continuous breath (these verses are one sentence in the Greek), he blesses God from the depths of his heart. He begins with God the Father, but quickly makes it clear that although all three persons of the Godhead receive mention in these verses, it is Christ that is at the center of his praise (twelve times we read “in Christ” or a similar phrase). This is because apart from Christ there would be no blessing. It is only because of our union with Christ that we have become heirs with Him and therefore benefit from every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms.
In this opening blessing Paul is introducing us to, and inviting us to dwell upon, something far greater than our material blessings. He is inviting us to a broader realization that something bigger has taken place than we could ever imagine. Before the creation of the earth, there was a cosmic dimension of God’s plan and purposes taking place that now has a very real bearing on all those who are united to Christ by faith.
Chosen by the Father
Out of His love and mercy, not because of anything that we would do to earn His favor, the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-6). Key to understanding this is the covenant of redemption in which the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit committed to working out the plan of redemption—the Father appointed it, the Son accomplished it, and the Spirit applies it. God’s election is purposeful. He saves us from sin and death to a life in Christ where we are transformed into Christlikeness by the work of the Holy Spirit, so that we are holy and blameless as a reflection of our Creator and Redeemer.
One of the blessings of election is adoption. The Father chose to make us His children because of His great love for us. According to His plan and purposes, election and adoption serve to bring great glory to His name by highlighting His grace.
Redeemed by the Son
Christ has redeemed us through His blood (Eph. 1:7-10). He is the final and perfect sacrifice that has atoned for all our sins. Our Father holds none of our sins against us because Christ has taken our curse upon Himself and declared us not guilty anymore. It is by grace that we’ve been saved so that no man can boast in God’s work; salvation is of the Lord from start to finish. Therefore, He is to receive all the glory.
Because God is wise, we can trust that His plan of redemption is the best one, and will therefore bring God the greatest glory. It is not just the church that is united in Christ, but all things. How wonderful that Christ is coming again to make all things new in the universe that He created!
Sealed by the Spirit
One of the many blessings we have received in Christ is an inheritance (Eph. 1:11-14). The OT church had certainly received the inheritance of the promised land, but Canaan simply anticipated a far greater inheritance. God was working out His plan, first bringing the Jews to hope in Christ, then the Gentiles. Believers in Christ Jesus are always and only to the praise of His glory because salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. The Holy Spirit, who applies the work of redemption to believers, seals believers, marking them out as God’s chosen people and preserving them in the faith, testifying to the genuineness of God’s promises. The Holy Spirit was promised by the OT prophets (see, for example, Ezek. 36:26-27; 37:14) and is the guarantee of our inheritance. Like a down payment on a home that is applied to the final purchase price, we have already received a down payment of our inheritance that guarantees it will finally be ours. We wait with hopeful anticipation for God to redeem us as His possession, giving all glory to Him for our salvation.
How would reading Ephesians 1:3-14 out loud today in praise to the Lord transform your anger, cowardice, demands, fears, greed, and worry? Try it. Pick up your Bible right now and bless the triune God. He has chosen you. He has redeemed you. And He has sealed you. Let us praise Him!
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.