Blessed in the Heavenly Places
I approach this letter with a bit of fear and trembling (as I should approach every word of God) as some commentators have called it “the quintessence of Paulinism” or even “the crown of Paulinism,” and rightly so (F. F. Bruce, NICNT, 229). In this letter Paul’s theology reaches a depth and breadth matched only by John’s Gospel. This is not to say that all of Scripture is not equally “God-breathed” as it certainly is (2 Timothy 3:16); it is only to say that this letter of Paul takes matters beyond local concerns and reaches to the very heights of the mysteries of God, otherwise impenetrable by man were it not for divine revelation as is here given to and shared by Paul. Indeed, some earlier manuscripts leave out, “at Ephesus,” in verse one, and as there are no local problems mentioned throughout as we find in his other letters, some wonder if this were not originally a circular letter written by the Apostle to the several churches in Asia. It certainly has that sound about it.
Verses one and two are typically Pauline in their greeting, asserting Paul’s apostleship by the will of God and that grace and peace come from the Father through Christ. Then there is the rapturous statement: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ, with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (italics added). (This is actually part of one long sentence.) So we are first made aware that all blessings come to us from God the Father through God the Son. But what are “spiritual blessings” and what means, “in the heavenly places?” Spiritual blessings are no doubt distinguished from material, and judging from the next several verses, have to do with being chosen “in him before the foundation of the world,” that this election is to holiness and blamelessness before him, that we have been adopted as sons and daughters through Christ, and this not of merit but only “according to the purpose of his will,” and that we have been redeemed, forgiven, and lavished with grace and love, that we along with all of his people might be united to him. And as believers we should need no convincing that this far surpasses any material blessing we have received.
And he has so blessed us in Christ Jesus “in the heavenly places.” I do confess that this phrase is mysterious to me but it seems to suggest both the origin of those blessings which we experience now and the destination of those blessings to which we are headed. And all such blessings have their origin, present experience, and ultimate destination and fulfillment in Christ Jesus our Lord. Finally, as Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, and as we are in Christ, so we may be said to be seated there in the heavenlies in him.