|Vol. 13 No. 9 September 2011||
T. Pierce Brown (deceased)
As I speak all across the nation, I mention in almost every sermon the honor that God has bestowed upon all of us by allowing us to be fellow-laborers together with him in the most glorious task on earth. Probably on the average of at least three times a day I thank God in wonder and amazement at the multitude and magnitude of blessings bestowed upon me personally as I participate in the various efforts to evangelize – take the good news – to people everywhere.
A part of those blessings are the responses of thousands of students of Bible correspondence courses, the letters from hundreds of preachers in Africa, India and other places who respond to something they have read that has apparently helped them. God placed in almost every person the desire to feel useful. To find that God has permitted us to be useful in accomplishing the task which is so important that Christ died for it is thrilling and humbling.
As I read Paul’s glorious ascription of praise in Ephesians 1:3, it occurred to me that I was simply experiencing in a small degree what Paul had in a large degree. He was expressing as a concrete reality which many of us are aware of only as a theoretical possibility.
Let us examine some thoughts in that verse that should express the feeling of every Christian. First, “Blessed be God.” To bless God is to express adoration, veneration and gratitude for Him, and to acknowledge His excellency in all respects. When we feel, as Paul did, an overwhelming gratitude for the infinite love and grace bestowed on us, we must cry out, “Blessed be God.”
Let us note a point that is vital and arresting. It is not simply God as God to whom Paul gave this ascription of praise. It was to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The blessedness of this relationship to the God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ made all others pale into insignificance. When Jesus said in John 14:6, “No man cometh to the Father but by me,” He was suggesting something of this thought. We can have no meaningful relationship with God except through Christ.
Note also the tense of the verb. It is not simply that He will bless us, but “he hath blessed us.” Verse four elaborates on that: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love.”
It is a truth of staggering proportion that before the foundation of the world – before Adam was created – God had a plan for redeeming mankind through Jesus Christ. The church was not an afterthought, dragged in as an alternative plan because the Jews surprised God and rejected His Son as the King of His proposed kingdom. It was predestined before the foundation of the world that those who trusted in Jesus (v. 12) would be saved.
This trust in Jesus involves, because of the very nature and meaning of the term “trust,” the willing submission to the authority and will of Christ. If a person should go to a doctor anywhere in the world, and the doctor should say, “Do not worry about a thing. Just trust in me, and I will cure you,” nobody would assume he meant, “You will be cured the moment you have faith in me, and are willing to take my prescription.” “Just trust in me” would properly be understood to mean “rely on my word, and take the prescriptions as I direct.” If one did not have to pay the doctor, he would understand that his being cured of the disease would be by grace through faith. Although he could not be cured by any plan he could devise, or medicine he could invent, it would still be achieved only if, as and when he took the medicine that the doctor prescribed. Why this simple truth cannot be as easily seen in the case of the Great Physician is one of the greatest mysteries of the day.
This truth is made even more impressive when we see that the place where He blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places is in Christ. Note that it is not only through Christ, but also in Christ. To be required to name all the spiritual blessings Paul had in mind might be an impossible task, but to meditate on just a few of them, each one more valuable than all the world, is a thrilling experience. In Christ we have remission of all sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the right to call God our Father, the promise that no sincere prayer will be ignored, the protection against the fiery darts of the Evil One so that no temptation can be given us that is too heavy for us to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13), constant cleansing of sins as we walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7), an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, reserved in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:3) and many other exceeding great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4).
It is a tragedy beyond imagination that the religious world has so perverted the Gospel that, although many religious leaders admit and teach that these blessing are in Christ, few, if any, tell their followers what the Bible says about how one gets into Christ.
Those of us who preach the Gospel are sometimes falsely accused of believing that Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27 teach that baptism is the only thing we need to do in order to get into Christ. That is not true, but it is the transition act which, if properly preceded by a loving, trusting, penitent, obedient faith does get us into the relationship with Christ where all these spiritual blessings are.
To obey the Lord just to receive these blessings is not the highest motive we can have. The highest motives we can have are to do what we do through love, in order to glorify God. Each of us needs to be more deeply aware of these blessings in order for us to continue to glorify God and properly praise Him for those blessings.