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, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3–6 NRSV)
Understanding the Word. Paul leads us, like a worship leader, to praise God. We are asked to join Paul in attributing blessedness to God. It is worth pausing to think about how greatly God is blessed and to be blessed. God is the source of all blessings that ow through Jesus Christ. In many ways, the entire epistle of Ephesians elaborates on the multidimensional nature of the blessings that come from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, first mentioned here in 1:3. It is important for us to understand that the blessedness offered to us is relational—it is not material; too oen, we selfishly (let’s just admit it!) think in material terms. But we must pay attention to how Paul delineated God’s blessings here, which are spiritual and in the heavenly realms. e blessings pertain to belonging, having a significant purpose, and being caught up in something worthwhile that is bigger than ourselves. The good news of Jesus delivers on these blessings. Here we will focus on the blessing of belonging.
We belong. We are family; we are God’s children when we are adopted into God’s family. ere is nothing that we could add to make this happen; God has provided it all. God has made it happen, and God invites our embrace of the truth on the matter. I find that this reality—my adoption into God’s loving presence and family—is the core of my struggle in this world. It is hard to accept it freely; I want to earn it, to conrm it, to legitimate and justify myself in it. However, God supplies all the legitimacy, all the sufficiency, all the grace for this complete reality even to occur.
In the ancient Greco-Roman world, there was no stigma attached with adoption whatsoever, which carried with it the full rights of parental access and inheritance. Even the emperors Augustus, Tiberius, and Nero, living in the first century, were gladly adopted—it allowed each to become the reigning new emperor! As Paul explained, believers in Christ will reign with Jesus, seated in the heavenly realms with him, experiencing the wealth of God’s grace and kindness (see 2:6–7)! So, as important as adoption is, it matters more whose you are, whose family you belong to, and who else belongs with you. The good news is that God has placed Jesus at the head of the family—each of us stands accountable to him and each of us stands equal before him. Your family line, your ancestry, your history are all made relative to God’s history and God’s family. It was God’s plan all along (even as God foresaw our falling from grace) gladly to adopt us all back into the family as his children.
But the fact that we must be adopted back into the family presupposes that we all understand ourselves estranged and outside the family of God. Indeed, we are outside, if left to our own vices (see 2:1–3; 4:17–19). But God is fully pleased, fully prepared, to adopt us back into the family, fully ready to extend grace to each of us, to make the transaction official and true—that is what the Holy Spirit signifies to us, that we belong (see 1:14). is restoration and re-entry can only happen because of the beloved Son, Jesus. And so our role in all this is to receive the grace, to come home, to receive the blessings and give praise for the glorious grace that restores us back to God, back to our family responsibilities to be holy and blameless in love before God. God likes this, because he “wants all people to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4 ).
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