Are God’s Blessings For Us, Or For God? (Part 1)Posted: March 6, 2012
Some of the most unfathomable blessings of God are found in Ephesians 1:3-14. And I’m not just talking about common grace blessings that are given to all people (like sunsets and pretty flowers), I’m talking about special grace blessings that are given as gifts only to those who belong to Jesus (like salvation and all the elements that compose it). Now Ephesians 1:3-14 does not simply list these special gifts and say, “Here they are!” It is not a systematic theology book and I don’t intend to try to make it into one. Rather, this passage was written as a part of its surrounding context and drives to a point later on in the letter. But, just for the sake of being blown away by the incredible blessings God has bestowed upon his Church, let me list what I see God giving his people in this passage:
• every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (v. 3)
• an unconditional choosing (v. 4)
• a loving and blameless stance before him (v. 4)
• loving predestination (v. 5)
• adoption as sons (are you kidding me? No.) (v. 5)
• grace in the Beloved (Christ) (v. 6)
• redemption through Christ’s blood (v. 7)
• the forgiveness of our trespasses (v. 7)
• the knowledge of God’s mysterious will (v. 9)
• unity in Christ (v. 10)
• a guaranteed inheritance (v. 11, 14)
• a permanent sealing by the Holy Spirit (v. 13)
• the word of truth (i.e., the gospel of salvation) (v. 13)
These bullet points are each divine miracles, scandalous grace-glimpses. Look closely and you can spot election, the effective gospel call, justification, adoption, perseverance, and the promise of future glorification (nearly all the elements of salvation). There are few Bible passages that make me feel more loved than this one. Rightly so.
But now we have arrived at the question that will require our attention for the next few posts – the question of motive…. Why do we receive such things? Why does God freely offer these gifts to sinners who have hated him, by actions if not by words? Why have the blessings of Ephesians 1:3-14 (and the rest of the Bible) been made our own? Why why why.
There are many possible biblical answers (which I don’t claim to exhaustively know), but I think many would no doubt answer quickly, “Because God loves us. John 3:16, after all, gives a clear motive, saying, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.’ And there are a hundred other verses that basically say the same. So thanks, bro, for wasting my time with a second grade Sunday school question, but wonder no longer: God, in his sovereign good pleasure, blesses us because he loves us and wants us to feel loved. Theological crisis over.”
If that is your answer to the question of God’s motive in blessing us, then you are absolutely correct. I agree with you. It is good and appropriate that we read passages like Ephesians 1:3-14 and feel loved. Let it be said plainly: GOD BLESSES US BECAUSE HE LOVES US AND WANTS US TO FEEL LOVED. But that answer is not quite good enough.
The reason that answer is not quite good enough is not due to issues of truthfulness, but to issues of completeness. That answer is 100% correct in content, but it is only part of the content we need. Imagine someone running through an airport and being asked, “Why are you running?” Their answer would probably be an over-the-shoulder, “To catch a plane!” But in reality catching a plane is not the person’s end goal. It’s arriving on time at their destination. There are planes galore at an airport, but any old plane won’t do. A more complete reply would have been, “So I can get to Dallas by four!” Catching a plane is just the means to an end. Therefore, “To catch a plane!” is a true answer, but it does not tell the whole story. So make no mistake about it – in trying to determine something as lofty as God’s motives in blessing us, we had better be after the whole story. Questions of ultimacy arise, and we must be sure that we’ve explored these waters as deeply as we should. When we say that God blesses us because he loves us and wants us to feel loved, we are absolutely correct. But if we stop there and go no further, have we not placed ourselves at the summit of God’s priority list? Have we not placed ourselves at the center of the gospel? Have we not made an end of ourselves?
Clearly, then, to avoid falling unwittingly into self-idolatry, we must discover the entire purpose of our being blessed, insofar as God has revealed it in his Word.
And we’ll take a well-aimed stab at it next time.