This man therefore, when some of the brethren were wondering at the splendid light of his knowledge and were asking of him some meanings of Scripture, said that a monk who wanted to acquire a knowledge of the Scriptures ought not to spend his labour on the works of commentators, but rather to keep all the efforts of his mind and intentions of his heart set on purifying himself from carnal vices: for when these are driven out, at once the eyes of the heart, as if the veil of the passions were removed, will begin as it were naturally to gaze on the mysteries of Scripture: since they were not declared to us by the grace of the Holy Spirit in order that they should remain unknown and obscure; but they are rendered obscure by our fault, as the veil of our sins covers the eyes of the heart, and when these are restored to their natural state of health, the mere reading of Holy Scripture is by itself amply sufficient for beholding the true knowledge, nor do they need the aid of commentators, just as these eyes of flesh need no man’s teaching how to see, provided that they are free from dimness or the darkness of blindness. For this reason there have arisen so great differences and mistakes among commentators because most of them, paying no sort of attention towards purifying the mind, rush into the work of interpreting the Scriptures, and in proportion to the density or impurity of their heart form opinions that are at variance with and contrary to each other’s and to the faith, and so are unable to take in the light of truth.
Category Archives: Bible Study
An author intends for their words to mean something. A good author consider’s their audience and writes in an understandable way that will communicate to them effectively. Unfortunately, the way most people read today is dishonoring and disrespectful to authors.
Surrounded by the culture I am today, most people don’t care what someone meant by what they said. Instead, they will interpret it however they want. You see, there is much confusion on the meaning of words and how to communicate and understand people. This is bound to happen when you call evil good and good evil. You’re bound to not understand what words mean, what people are saying, and what is actually going on because you don’t think words are actually trying to communicate something.
What is worse is that people not only do this to one another, but they do this to the Word of God. People interpret Bible however they want to by disrespecting the authors.
For example, they will take the words: effeminate men will go to hell unless they repent; and they will interpret that to mean you hate effeminate men and want them all to die. Or that you believe you’re better than they are. They essentially interpret the purpose you have in saying what you say.
Today, when the Bible is read, they interpret it thinking they know the mysteries of the cosmos and are allowed to take it whatever way they want to. And this is a major problem. This is a major problem because words lose their meaning in a society like that.
If a word or a sentence means 10,000 things because 10,000 people take them to mean something different, then that is a society that doesn’t know how to communicate effectively.
If you still don’t see a problem with this, then never get upset again when someone misunderstands you. Because your words don’t mean anything and we can take them however we want them to mean, right?
We must let the author mean what he means. We must let the author tell us what he means. And that means, instead of taking it to mean what we want, we get rid of our preconceived beliefs about a text and we look at it and think about what the author is trying to communicate.
The technique I am going to tell you is a great way to start practicing. It’s not the best way or the only way, but it’s a fun and helpful way.
Here it is, in the form of a question:
How would the author of this book read their words out loud?
The next book of the Bible you want to study, think about this and even try it out loud. Read the Bible and imagine the way the author would want it to be read out loud, and then read it that way.
What this does is get you thinking about the author, and his focus, and his emphasis, and his style, and the voice he’d have, and where he’d raise his voice, or weep, or sing, or shout, or get quiet.
Practice it with this passage, and remember: don’t read it the way you think it should be read, think about the way John would want you to read it. How would John imitate Nicodemus and Jesus in this passage? How would John do the narration? What would John sound like reading out loud this passage?
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Now, of course the problem occurs that John’s native tongue wasn’t English, so we won’t technically sound like John or get it even remotely correct. But, it gets us thinking about what is John communicating, what is he trying to get across, and what would he be emphasizing in his voice in this passage?
Enjoy and let me know what you think.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (ESV)
In continuing going through Ephesians, we come to Ephesians 1:11-14. We’ve looked at verses 1-10, and came across the amazing truth’s of what we have in Christ when we become Christians. We continue this theme in verses 11-14.
The saints have obtained an inheritance. This is an interesting phrase because it’s past tense. We already have our inheritance, Paul is saying. Yet, the last verse indicates that we don’t have possession of it right now, and because we can’t get to our inheritance yet, God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit, who guarantees our inheritance.
I want to emphasis something that is explicit in this text but many ignore.
Christians have obtained this inheritance, why? Because they have been predestined. By who? By the one who works all things according to the counsel of his will. Who does his own will perfectly? God. So God has predestined a people to be his people and obtain an inheritance because he is working all things according to his purpose. And in God’s purpose, he works all things according to his will for that purpose. This is strong language.
God does what he wants and he works it all according to his own will. And part of that will was predestining “we.” The we is referring to Christians. The we is referring to “Paul” and “the saints who are at Ephesus.” Which, in this letter being intended as a circulatory letter, was intended for all the saints. Or all Christians who are in Christ.
Paul then continues to say that this purpose was for God’s glory and praise. God seeks to glorify and magnify himself. He does so by electing a people, predestining them, adopting them, forgiving them, uniting them to Christ, uniting all things to Christ, and giving them an inheritance.
When Paul says, “so that we who were the first to hope in Christ,” he’s literally talking about to and about that generation of Christians who were the first to hope in Christ. They were predestined to be the first, according to God’s glory, power, wisdom, and purpose, so that they’d be the first to the glory and praise of God and Christ.
God deserves all worship, praise, and glory. He does not share his glory with another. Which means God also glorifies himself. And he does so by orchestrating the entire universe according to his purposes, for his glory.
Next Sunday (Lord willing), I’ll finish with verses 13-14.
May God give you grace.
There’s something else I want to add on my thoughts about how to read the Bible. When it comes to reading the Bible, what is the role of the Holy Spirit?
Give us understanding
Paul tells Timothy in one particular passage:
2 Timothy 2:7 “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”
Previous to this verse Paul tells Timothy to put men in charge who will faithfully teach the message of Jesus Christ. Paul then exhorts Timothy by appealing to three different analogies. Then Paul says, “think over what I say.”
This is interesting because Paul purposefully gives Timothy some stuff that isn’t immediately understandable. Each is disconnected and not easily ascertained as to what Paul is saying. Paul knows this, and writes to think it over.
That’s where I want to pause. As Christians who ought to be reading our Bible, we must read, and read daily. Sometimes our reading will be poor and quick, other times it will be long and satisfying. Regardless, the Bible needs to be read, and if we can read it long, then we must strive for that. Why? Because Paul says to Timothy to pause, stare, reflect, think over what he had just said.
When we read the Bible, we must use our minds, not merely our hearts. We shouldn’t stop on a passage because it seems to apply to our lives right now. We shouldn’t read until something is applicable to you. We should read, and then pause, and reflect, and ponder, and think hard over what we just read.
Which is why I said devotional reading shouldn’t be the only type of reading we do. We ought to be wrestling with a book of the Bible, thinking about what is being said, who is saying it, to whom it is being said, and figuring out the mere facts of the Bible. The stuff that’s there in the text. Why it was written that way, and why it was said like that, and why certain words were and weren’t used, and what the whole passage or book is about.
We must be deep thinkers.
But why? Well, because Paul says, “for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”
If we want to grow in understanding, we need to think. Reading can be thinking, and reading can also be done in such a way that we obtain nothing. We must be thinking along side of reading. We must be asking questions. Why? Because God will give us understanding.
It is the Holy Spirit who will teach us what the Bible says, but only if we think about the passage. We cannot pretend to think we have the Bible right just because we prayed about it and something seemed to fit. We shouldn’t mock God, like a genie. We must revere God, and we must treat His word respectfully. Which means, as I said before, understanding that these words mean something more than what I want them to me. These words mean something that the author intended them to mean and I need to figure out what he intended to communicate.
One of the roles of the Holy Spirit, then, when it comes to us reading the Bible, is to give us understanding as we think through what was said/written.
May we understand what we read. May we not abuse the text by believing the text to mean whatever we want it to mean.
If we as Christians need to read the word of God daily, then we also need to know how to read the Bible. You’d think that we’d know how to but the sad reality is that as Christians we often don’t.
The reason for this isn’t because the Bible is some magical book that needs a magical way of reading it. The reason is because in our ignorance, arrogance, sin, and believing what the world has told us, we read the Bible in how we want to read it.
To read the Bible is simple, but we have over-complicated it. To read the Bible is easy, but we make it into something other than it should be.
So how can we begin to learn to read the Bible?
The first step in reading the Bible is know what the Bible is and isn’t.
The Bible is a book written by multiple authors in multiple periods of time in multiple places. This should be obvious but it isn’t. I believe the Bible to be the word of God, but I also know the Bible, as the word of God, was written by over 60 authors, spanning a few thousand years, in different cultures.
To know this means we don’t read this book like you do every other book. Most books you may read today are probably written by people in your country, within the past fifty years. Since these books you read are closer to you in time and culture you have less work to do in trying to understand what the author was saying. When it comes to the Bible we are separated by a few thousand years, thousands of miles, and thousands of cultural changes.
Each of these factors becomes an obstacle in understanding the Bible. However, this doesn’t mean you need to be a scholar who reads all sorts of historical information about the time period to understand what is going on in the text of Scripture. While I argue it would be a good thing to do and one every Christians ought to do, it’s not necessary to spend hundreds of hours to study the culture and context Moses was in so you can understand the command “Do not steal.”
So what am I saying? What I’m saying is being aware of these facts will help you come up with questions that will help you in reading the Bible. Knowing this will get you to pause and reflect and ask questions like, “Who was the original audience of this book?” “What were they like?” “How would they understand these things?”
When you begin asking those questions, you will begin to see much more of the Bible open up to you. You will notice things you hadn’t before. And much more of the Bible will begin to make sense. Why? Because you will be asking the right questions and you will remove the veil that your current context brings to see more of the glory of God’s word.
What it isn’t
So now that you know what the Bible is in it’s most basic and tangible form: multiple books written by multiple authors over the course of multiple centuries and cultures, all orchestrated and designed by God to communicate what he desires of his people to know about him and about how they ought to live; let’s look at what the Bible isn’t.
I’m not going to give a full explanation of each of these, but they should be rather obvious:
- The Bible is not your personal handbook to living life
- The Bible is not the “road map of life”
- The Bible is not a how to book
- The Bible is not a horoscope, Ouija board, or any sort of magical book that gives you direct answers to what you should do right now like buy this car or marry that person.
- The Bible is not a book that we should flippantly read: Understanding it leads to life, misunderstanding means death.
Last time we focused on the predestining work and action of God. We did a brief overview of verses 3-5 and understanding that this is the work of God and that we cannot boast. I want to now look at a whole passage together.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (ESV)
To summarize the passage, Paul is telling the saints that they have been given tremendous blessings. Those blessings include: 1) being chosen in Christ, 2) predestined for adoption, 3) redemption, 4) forgiveness of trespasses, and 5) teaching us the mystery of his will.
I have already written previously about being chosen in Christ, and I touched upon predestination, both of which are foundational to us being Christians. Without God choosing us or predestining us we would not be Christians. Which is why we set our hope firmly in Christ because it is the plan of God for us to do so.
What does it mean for us to be adopted? I think we can simply say that we become adopted because we once weren’t in the family of God, and God brings us in by taking us in. Being adopted means we are children of God. Children in the sense of being one with the Father, not children in the sense that every human being is in a sense a child of God, since all mankind has the image of God upon them. As children, we have access and direct connection with the Father.
There are some people who accept and believe this truth but never meditate upon it richly enough. We live in an age where it is easy to become quickly distracted. We cannot hold two thoughts together for more than thirty seconds before our minds are on another topic. We have lost the depth of many doctrines because we have give up meditating upon such wonderful truths. We enjoy sound bites and quick phrases that get directly into the matter so we can think it and move on. This shouldn’t be so with children of God. Children desire to be with their parents. They depend upon their parents. They seek love, attention, and affection from their parents. My son always wants to play with me, and I am often convicted when I’m on my phone and my son comes, grabs my phone, and pushes it out of my hand, and then leads me to where he is playing.
God is never distracted. It is us who gets distracted. We forget our place in the world, in God’s family, in history, and in Christ. We do not need to meditate hours upon God for even God does not command this, but we need to meditate long enough upon God’s word for us to savor the sweet taste of the wisdom of God.
As Christians, we are adopted by the greatest Father anyone could have. He is a Father who is so generous that He is even kind to the enemies of His children. And He is kind to them so that His glory may resound, and that we may become like Christ, in loving our enemies, though not being friends with them. Our elder brother, Jesus Christ, demonstrates how we ought to live within our family. Jesus said that we would have wells within us that will never run dry. Often we feel dry or like we have nothing left to give, but Christ tells us this is not true. He tells us to keep pouring, even when it seems empty, because more will come out.
To have a Father we can pray to anytime, who will quickly forgive us, who gives to those who ask according to His will, and who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. If you feel alone, know that there is a family in Christ. If you feel ashamed or weak, know that Christ has given you a new identity and He is our strength. If you feel guilty, then repent and turn to Christ. Remain in your adoption.
The family of God is a beautiful family.
Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, from the clans of Manasseh the son of Joseph. The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the chiefs and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.”
Moses brought their case before the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, “The daughters of Zelophehad are right. You shall give them possession of an inheritance among their father’s brothers and transfer the inheritance of their father to them. And you shall speak to the people of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter. (ESV)
Right now I am going through Numbers in my yearly reading plan, and a few days back I snagged my shoelace in this text. It took a few seconds before I pulled free to finish my reading but I made sure to make a mental note of it.
Lets plant our faces into the text and get something to feed on.
Certain daughters come before Moses, at the tent of meeting, and bring up, in honor of their father, who he was, and kept it honest. They say that he did die in the wilderness, he was a sinner, but that he did not gather with Korah in acting even more rebellion. This fact alone means that his name shouldn’t be blotted out and that he deserved an inheritance like everyone else who also sinned that the whole congregation sinned who died in the wilderness.
They also state that he had no sons. They were asking why should his name be forgotten just because he had no sons. Truly, and ultimately, they were honoring their father’s name. They didn’t want the name of their father to be taken out of the role.
Moses then talks to God in the tent, God agrees with the daughters of Zelophehad, and Moses then implements the new command.
This is significant to notice in America today. We live in a culture where the roles of woman and men are confused and blurred like water colors when a child keeps mixing all the paints together on their canvas. Men act like women, women pretend to be men, and children tell their parents what to do. And in this cultural milieu , a sentiment makes it rounds in the hearts and minds of secular and Christian thinkers alike, and that is that the Bible somehow belittles women. The lie usually goes that being patriarchal is bad, and evil, and that women are oppressed by all sorts of men and a patriarchal society just makes it worst.
Now, I want to affirm that men abuse women. Men use women. And men certainly commit all sorts of evil against women. But, it’s simply false to believe that a patriarchy suppresses and abuses women because we have an example right here of women being listened to. Here is a patriarchal system, implemented by God, that in accordance with God’s law, protects the rights of women to have a possession. Not only that, this system listens to women, and implements a new law that gives possession of land to woman.
If the feminist is correct then this shouldn’t even be in the Bible.
I also want to point out how Godly is was for these woman to seek a possession for themselves, in the name of their father. They pointed out that their father deserved an inheritance, because he didn’t rebel in the way Korah did. He sinned as everyone else had, and yet everyone else was getting their inheritance based on their fathers lot, and yet here they were, not receiving anything even though their father was there when the promise was made to him as well.
Some might object that these women were seeking justice. I think that’s a false view. They weren’t seeking justice. They believed in the promise God had given their father, and then pointed out that based off of all the other laws and the promises made by God, that their father shouldn’t be excluded in receiving an inheritance even though he isn’t alive and he has no sons. His name should continue on.
These women knew the word of God. Their father taught them well, though he was a sinner. And so they believed the word of their father, trusted in the word of God, and made a case to Moses that they also ought to receive an inheritance even though their father was dead and had no male. His name shouldn’t be taken out just because he had only daughters.
And in one case, all of the girls coming together, they were able to honor their father, even though he was dead, and keep his name among his brothers, as well as obtain for themselves an inheritance, demonstrating that woman were not merely second class citizens. And Moses listened to them, and God responded.
Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.”
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,
“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
God appointed Jeremiah to be a prophet. As a prophet of God, Jeremiah is given his task.
This is significant. God has put Jeremiah over nations and kingdoms. His first assignment is to pluck up, break down, destroy and overthrow. Before Jeremiah could build and plant, he must pluck, break, destroy, and overthrow.
Why? Why is that important?
“If you return, O Israel, declares the Lord, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.”
For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem:
“Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”
It’s important because if Judah and Jerusalem don’t return, if they don’t break up their fallow ground, then they will be burned up in the wrath of God. If we do not destroy and start over in our beliefs and understanding, and instead continue to follow the world, then certain destruction and wrath from God will fall upon us.
This is true for all of us today. The Lord is patient. So break up your fallow ground. Turn to Jesus Christ and obey Him. Kiss the Son lest He be angry at you and destroy you.
 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love  he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (ESV)
As we were looking at in our previous Ephesians post we saw that God chose a people before He created anything. And those people he chose were going to be holy and blameless before him.
Then, at the end of verse 4, we have the beginning sentence in verse five, which is “In love.” This indicates to us with what attitude God acted. And the action in this verse is “predestine us for adoption.” This relates back to our previous post on Ephesians.
The word predestined means to decide beforehand. As we have seen, God doesn’t wind up a clock and let it loose. God acts within time and space and history. He stoops down to our level. So God’s predestining isn’t merely things playing out how they will play out. He doesn’t plan by setting some hypothetical world in order and watching it hypothetically play out. God doesn’t see you believing and trusting in Christ and obeying Christ, and then he says “oh, I’ll choose that one.” No. That goes against this whole passage. God isn’t choosing people who chose him. That would mean that God doesn’t save by grace but save because of works. That’s the opposite of adoption. That’s the opposite of being chosen to be holy and blameless. It’s a holy and blameless act to choose to follow Christ. How can we choose to follow Christ, and thus God chooses us because we choose to follow Christ? That’s contrary to this passage. This passage is saying, God chose you, and thus bestows His love and His blessings upon you, which makes you holy and blameless, which includes the holy act of choosing to be in Christ.
If that doesn’t make sense to you, then forgive me for not being able to make it clear. Let me try and be more simple: God chooses us (Christians, saints) before we ever choose him. God chooses us (Christians, saints) before he creates us. He knows that Christians will choose Him because He has ordained and set up what they are going to do. And apart of that choosing work is deciding beforehand that he would adopt us through Christ.
So now we see God determining beforehand that he would adopt people to himself, who we know to be His people. This was done through Jesus Christ. Remember, this is all a part of the blessings of “us;” who are Paul and the saints who are either at Ephesus or reading this circular letter.
So God determines beforehand that we, his people, would be adopted to himself as sons through Jesus Christ. We become his people because he determined it before hand and then does the actions of adopting. This was all done “according to the purpose of his will.” I don’t know if you’re picking something up, but Paul is using some strong words to put forward a point. There can be no doubt that God’s predestining was his will, not ours. It was according to His purpose, not ours.
Let’s not pretend that our choosing God was something we did because we are something. This passage is clear. God chose us according to his purpose. And not just His purpose, but the purpose of His will. There is nothing here that can let us believe that we have any power or ability to do something we cannot. We cannot determine God’s purposes or plans, He does that. God didn’t ask us if we wanted to be created. God didn’t ask us if we wanted to live in this world, in this family, on this continent. God didn’t ask us our opinions. God determined it all and is in control of it all.
I want to talk about the adoption and the other parts of this verse and understand the blessing that is here, but I want to make sure something is understood by this and the previous verse: that God has done it. He chose you. He picked you. He determined and decided before you existed. He bestowed His love and His blessings upon you apart from who you are.
Does that give you any room for boasting? None. What does knowing this do? Free us from trying to become something we’re not, and frees us from defining ourselves or letting others define us. This all defines us. God defines us. He tells us what we are.
If you don’t know this God, then bow, repent and believe in this God. He is a God who is living, active and abiding among his people. He has done all the work. He has given and is giving all the blessings. May we simply bask in the beauty of God’s love, His work, and in His Son. May we simply love and enjoy Him, being transformed, becoming holy and blameless before Him.
 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,  even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (ESV)
As we saw last post on Ephesians 1:3, the Father has blessed us in Christ with every single spiritual blessing that the heavenly places has to offer. Now, in verses 4-14, Paul expands upon what those blessings are.
The first blessing we come to is in verse 4. It reads, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” Some translations render it “just as,” and a other render it “according as.” What’s being communicated, it seems, is this is both the first of those blessings and the ground of those blessings. God choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world is one of those blessings as well as the beginning of those blessings.
Now this is a huge one. It is hotly debated in our day by different denominations and traditions. But the text of scripture is clear: God chose “us” (those saints who are in Christ) in Christ before the foundation of the world. Before God created the world. Before God laid the foundation of the world. Before history began. Before time came into existence. Before we did anything good or bad: God chose us in Christ.
There can be little room for doubt. If you think you chose God, well think again. God chose you first before you even existed. He had a plan to bestow his love upon you. He decided that you would be his child, in Christ, before you were even a child. Do you see the tightly packed theology in there? That means the Father picked a people he would save by the death of his son Jesus Christ, and they would be placed in Christ, and he would love them and keep them and make them his own. God is the great actor. God is the great doer. God is the amazing sovereign one who acts perfectly according to his will and does not fail at any of his purposes.
If you are a Christian, then know he has chosen you. You didn’t choose him. There is nothing in this text about God choosing you because he saw that you’d choose him. That goes exactly against this text because it says, “before the foundation of the world.” If the foundation has to be laid before the world exists, and if God had a plan, and he was going to act in time, and send Christ, and choose a people; If the world is contingent upon the power and work of God, and God is a personal God who acts in his creation, then we cannot pretend God winds up some clock and lets it loose. God isn’t winding up a clock when he acts in his creation. The clock maker might wind up a clock and let it go, but God isn’t winding up a clock that will move on its own. History and time both move forward because of God’s actions. He changes history in moments. He changes the world. The Bible is clear that God acts in time.
All that to say, God’s choosing us is a positive action. It’s not a passive action. He truly chooses, in His wisdom, who he is going to save. He doesn’t passively search out in some hypothetical universe who will choose him and then choose them. That goes so contrary to this text that it’s ridiculous. Why? Because God is blessing his people with every spiritual blessing. Because his people being chosen before the world exists is one of those blessings. Because the rest of scripture demonstrates that nothing happens outside the control of God.
So, we have been chosen. And we were chosen not because of ourselves but because of the work of Christ on the cross and us being placed in Christ before the foundation of the world. That is what “chose us in him” means. Meaning that God already had planned for Christ to die before the fall. History was going to happen in such a way as to bring about the death of Christ. This was God’s plan A. And he was doing it so he could place the people he chose in Christ. All of this being done so “that we should be holy and blameless before him.” This was part of the reason why we were chosen. So that we should become holy and blameless. This is God’s goal in saving us. His glory of receiving a perfect people. The bride of Christ being perfect.
It’s an amazing thing to be in Christ, for we are becoming perfect by his work, we were chosen by him before we existed, and we are his. What amazing love.
This causes no room for boasting. Who can boast when God acts? Who can boast in believing when God chose you to be in Christ before the foundation of the world?
You must ask yourselves: Does God choose before we believe? Or do we believe and then God chooses?
This text is pretty clear. God chose before we believed.
1 Samuel 8:1-3
When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice. (ESV)
It seems that Samuel would follow Eli’s lead. Eli, back in chapter 2-3, is prophesied against because of his sons who did not know the Lord nor follow Eli’s example. And God blames Eli for this in chapter three. He blames Eli for not restraining their sin.
In many ways we ought to learn from this example. All of us. But more so we must see how pastors should not be. 1 Timothy 3 makes it clear an elders household ought to be in order, the children being submissive. Both Eli and Samuel are examples of not managing your household well, and both are examples of men who, though greatly used by God, have failed their families and ultimately fail their people. Why is this? Because both Eli and Samuel’s children end up doing things that cause many others trouble, and instead of caring for their children and their people, they do nothing, and this breeds all sorts of problems.
In fact, in 1 Samuel 8, you’ll read that the people cite to Samuel that because his children do not follow his ways they desire to have a king. As though that’s going to solve the problem. But truly, though these men were godly men, their lack of being men in restraining their children, disciplining them, and rooting out the evil from among their people, allowed for sin to rise up not only in their families but also within their nation.
Pastors are held to a higher standard. They must be above reproach. However, that doesn’t mean only pastors ought to be that way. No, as children of God we all must carry out God’s will. Thus, 1 Timothy 3 demonstrates God’s will for all families. 1 Samuel is a good case scenario for how ministers and lay persons alike ought to restrain their children. God’s word is profitable for all, not just ministers. And we need more pastors and lay persons who will obey God.
Ministry shouldn’t be the main focus of a pastor, it should be godliness in himself, in his home, and in his congregation. I give pastors no excuse. If their children are disobedient, then truly that pastor has also been disobedient somewhere down the line.
 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, (ESV)
As we work through Ephesians, I want us to keep in mind what I said about the first two verses: 1) I believe Paul is addressing Christians in many different churches and not just the church in Ephesus (see this post for reasons for that) and 2) we need to think hard.
With that said lets get into Ephesians 1:3.
After giving a greeting or introduction Paul then jumps into some pretty dense theology. He packs it in and so we’re going to take some time to pull it out. But first things first, let’s talk about the overall drive of the next twelve verses. Paul, in verses 3-14, is going to point out what we have because of Christ. He uses the phrases “we have obtained,” “we have,” and “in Christ,” “through Christ,” which relate to the theme of what Christ has given to us as well as what Christ has done for us. So these next verses are all centered around the work of Christ in the life of a believer.
So, when Paul says, “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he is beginning with a praise unto the Father. And it’s interesting to see that it says “God and Father,” meaning Jesus does have a God, and that God is our God. However, just because Jesus has a God doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t God. I don’t want to get into trinitarian theology right here, but I want to point out that if someone tries to use this verse to say that Jesus can’t be God if Jesus has a God, you can safely say that they don’t understand the trinity nor this text. This text makes it plain that it’s all the work of Jesus that has made everything we are possible. Jesus is spoken of in such exalted and high language that it glorifies him. And if the Bible glorifies someone when the Bible says that God doesn’t share His glory with another, then you have to wonder how can God’s word do that without being contradictory.
Anyways, the passage continues “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Paul is telling us something huge, something so glorious that it ought to cause every Christian pause. Paul just told us that God, the Father, has blessed us IN Christ (I want to make sure everyone understands it’s in Christ). Our blessings are received because we are in Christ. It is because of Christ, it is because we are inside Christ that we have received these blessings. I don’t know how many ways I can say this to make it stagger us, but we have obtained something by the work of another. Christ has worked, labored, and we have done nothing and yet we have received something as Christians. The next phrase answers a question of “what has God blessed us in Christ?” The answer is amazing: with EVERY spiritual blessing.
As a Christian, you have been given, in Christ, every spiritual blessing. Every one of them. All of the blessings that are spiritual. But if they’re spiritual that means, as Paul says, they are in the heavenly places. God has blessed us in Christ with every single spiritual blessing that the heavenly places has to offer.
Christian, are you feeling any joy reading this? Is it causing you to rejoice? If it’s not then you need to ask God for forgiveness for not loving Him and His work as you ought to. God, speaking through Paul, is informing you, as a Christian, that He has given you, in Christ, every spiritual blessing that the heavenly places has to offer. Are you a new Christian? He has given you every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Are you a Christian who hasn’t truly loved God with everything? Then repent and believe in Christ, love Him above everything, and believe that he has given you every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
Are you a Christian who has been walking in faithfulness for a long time, and have forgotten part of what God has given you? Be reminded that God has blessed you in Christ with EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Believe it. Know it. Savor it. It’ll change you as Christ has already begun the work in you.
Now the question is: Okay, so I have been given every spiritual blessing. Great. What are those blessings? Glad you asked. Let’s dive into the next verse and all the following verses to find out.