Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in issue no. 10 (weeks 37–40; September 16—October 7, 2018) of The Lookout magazine, and is also available online at www.lookoutmag.com.
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Lesson Aim: Give thanks to the Lord for the riches of his grace and a heavenly inheritance.
By Mark Scott
Kenneth McFarland was the “Zig Ziglar” of the 1950s and 1960s. He was America’s salesman. He told the story of Uncle Ben, who was a former alcoholic. But upon the death of his sister, he got his life straightened out and adopted his sister’s two sons and one daughter. When the judge asked why the court should award the children to him, Uncle Ben said, “Because the Master said that whosoever will may come, and I think that includes me. And the Master said that a man can be born again, and I think that includes me.” Uncle Ben is right. Redemption includes all who will be born again.
Paul reminded the Ephesians (and the others who would read this circular letter) of that great truth in a much extended sentence. Sometimes at church camp when I find a young student who thinks he is God’s gift to the girls and is a legend in his own mind, I call on him to stand and read Ephesians 1:3-14—in one breath. At about verse six he turns blue, and by verse 10 he passes out. This is a complex and theologically involved sentence. In these two paragraphs (as the NIV has it) Paul praised (speaks well of) God for redemption (a concept he mentions twice). In all, Paul blessed God, who deserves all the blessing, for at least seven blessings that come to believers in Christ.
The Blessings Are in Him
The triune God is involved in passing out his blessings. Warren Wiersbe (Expository Outlines of the New Testament) outlines the passage as: blessings from the Father (Ephesians 1:3-6), blessings from the Son (vv. 7-12), and blessings from the Spirit (vv. 13, 14). In fact, if you count the phrase, “the One he loves, the Godhead is referred to 13 times in 12 verses. The God of the Bible who deserves all the blessing is a proactive blessing God. The Jews would often begin their prayers, “Blessed be he . . .”
Jesus taught that God causes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). Some people experience the blessings of God because they are created by him and enjoy his good earth. But certain blessings are reserved only for those who are “in Christ” (a phrase that appears in one form or another six times in this passage), and they are spiritual in nature.
The Blessings Are Corporate
While we might come into the kingdom one by one, we are immediately incorporated into a community of faith called the church. Eleven times in this passage Paul referred to these blessings coming to “us,” “we,” and “you.” All of those pronouns referred back to the saints (1:1), which is plural. This actually helps us doctrinally when dealing with the concepts of election (chosen) and predestination (seeing before the horizon), which are clearly in this passage. While this response does not answer all the questions related to the doctrine of election and predestination, it does help contextualize some thoughts about it. God elected his church to be holy and blameless. God predestined his adoption and his plan. In other words, it is not individuals but bodies that God’s purpose in election and predestination work itself out. It is corporate.
Another dimension to these blessings being corporate is saints here and saints there. God’s blessings are located in the heavenly realms (literally “heavenlies”). When one is in Christ, Heaven and earth collide. Only a thin veil exists between the two. God’s people live on earth as they would in Heaven. That is why the believer lives in a “state” of blessedness. Saints in Ephesus were united with saints in the heavenlies.
The Blessings Deflect to Him
God deserves the blessings, but God gives the blessings. In turn believers bless him, who is blessed forever, Amen. Three times Paul said that we exist “to or for the praise of his glory.” In verse 12 Paul stated that we might be to the praise of his glory. Because of who God is, and because of who we are in him, we just . . . “be” . . . to his glory. In other words, any praise that might come to us by being God’s people on earth is just deflected to him. He deserves it all. Any blessing that comes our way from him is never self-serving. We return it to him.
Count your many blessings of redemption, name them one by one: chosen, adopted, forgiven, informed (of his grand purposes), united, sealed, and placed for the praise of his glory. Blessed be he.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2018 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.