I must confess to being long frustrated with many popular concepts of blessing.
Sometimes bless is used as a positive sentiment at the end of a speech or greeting card. There’s the polite, and superstitious, “bless you” when someone sneezes. There is the more material aspect of blessings we either count or hope we experience as health and wealth; Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:45, however seem to frame material blessings as something God has given humans general access to, depending on available resources, fair processes, favorable circumstances, promising opportunities, and industriousness. There is also the calculating usage of quid pro quo (if you do X, you will be blessed). Whatever the intentions of these usages, their substance seems in want of the weightiness actual blessedness should bring. If limited to these usages, the concept of blessing will continue to be an unremarkable one. Thankfully, Scripture points to a blessedness of far greater substance.
Ephesians is probably Paul’s most exultant letter; understandably since his entire attention is captivated by Christ, resurrected and raised to the heavenly throne “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is not, not only in this age but also in the age to come” (Eph1:21). It is Paul’s desire to animate his audience with resurrection reality (Eph2:4-7).
He does this from the letter’s outset, contemplating the abundance of God’s blessedness: “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” (Eph1:3).
Variations of the word bless occur three times in this verse. The first time frames the Father as the One from whom all blessedness flows; the second time identifies us-in-Christ as the eventual recipients of the Father’s blessedness. The third time names the heavenly places, where Christ reigns, as the locale of the Father’s blessedness. This blessedness, put simply, is the exultant reality emanating from Christ’s reign which we-in-Christ are elected to receive and participate in as his royal people.
If that explanation sounds a bit starry-eyed, Paul proceeds to elaborate on five finer-pointed features of this blessedness the Church experiences in Christ.
First, we-in-Christ have been blessed with adoption (Eph1:5-6). Upon enthroning Christ as King, the Father expands his household to those who recognize sin for the homelessness it is (Eph2:19), and instead choose to allegiantly dwell in the home of his holiness (Eph2:21). Wherever you are, whatever you perceive, in Christ you are of the Father’s household. Let that blessedness be as a signal banner waving in your mind.
Second, we-in-Christ have been blessed with forgiveness and redemption (Eph1:7-8a). A part of the blessedness belonging to the Father’s household is forgiveness. In Eph3:18, Paul measures out the unfathomable “breadth and length and height and depth” of God’s love. Forgiveness requires these vast dimensions to cover sin’s wide spread. In addition to unburdening our souls of sin’s shame, this blessedness also brings us back to something better, a redemptive reality for which we were always designed.
Third, we-in-Christ have been blessed with an eschatological hope (Eph1:8b-10). While many end times or apocalyptic discussions often focus on more nightmarish imagery, here Paul finds blessed assurance that in Christ, all things, in heaven and earth, are being brought into submission to Christ’s cosmic rule. Whenever we look around and exasperatedly lament “What is the world coming to?”, this point of blessedness boasts that God is sovereignly moving all history towards a good future in which Christ has the last word in everything.
Fourth, we-in-Christ have been blessed with a heritage of holy ones (Eph1:11-12). Right relationship with God isn’t restored simply so we can dispense with living in right relationship with others. Within the Father’s household we have been blessed with family. In Christ, we’ve been given the gift of each other. This Church community gives visible expression to restored harmony with humanity. As the earthly body of big brother Jesus, we are God’s resurrection people, worthily embodying the kind of community that demonstrates to the world what reconciliation to God, creation, and each other is supposed to look like. Holiness in a vacuum is always incomplete; holiness is harmonized in the blessedness of being with and belonging to each other.
Finally, we-in-Christ have been blessed with the presence of God’s personhood (Eph1:13-14). It is the head of the household who sets the standard and tone for what that household will be about. The Holy Spirit is the living dynamic by whom the Father perpetually puts His household in holy and harmonizing order. Throughout Ephesians Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit as the presence that provides us access to the Father, the power that strengthens our own inner spirit, the mediator through whom Christians are unified and Christian living is aligned, and the outfitter who clads us in the protections of Jesus’ person. By shaping in us ever-maturing personhood of Christ, the Holy Spirit is the blessing through whom all God’s blessedness is continually conveyed.
How might this concept of Biblical blessing impact the Church?
First, it establishes in our minds and hearts the foundational fact that, in Christ, we are already blessed. Many of the other popular usages nurture an anxious waiting and wanting for a blessedness we are prevented from realizing we have already received in Christ.
Second, it presents God’s blessedness within a framework that promotes wholesomeness rather than fragmented or compartmentalized living. This blessedness begins as the heavenly reality God’s Spirit shapes in our spirits on Earth, then gradually correlates into the physical and emotional expressions we all deeply desire to experience as humans—assurance, actualization, affirmation, community, hope, purpose.
Third, it stirs us to active engagement. Continually waiting and praying for a blessedness we’re unaware we already possess in Christ passively undermines the Church’s witness and mission. Realizing we-in-Christ are already blessed moves us away from our passivity of perceived lack and empowers us to actively live from out of the abundance of God’s blessedness.
My prayer is, not that God would bless you, but that you would awaken to the blessedness God has already abundantly poured out in Christ—a home made of His holiness, a belonging made of each other, a redemption restoring humanity, a view to the blessed end, and a presence that permeates and empowers for His purposes. May it be the foundation from which your faith is lived forth.