Vol. 1 - No. 8 

August, 1982

Paulís Magnificent Doxology To God

by Robert A. Bolton

One of the longest sentences in the English translations of the New Testament, as well as one of the most sublime affirmations of inspiration, is the statement of Ephesians 1:3‑14. This beautiful one sentence paragraph has been referred to as "Paul's magnificent anthem to God's grace," and sets forth the wonderful scheme of redemption from eternity past through eternity future. As R. C. Bell said, "No other sentence in all the Bible involves more time, digs more deeply about the very roots of Christianity, or reveals more of the riches of God's wisdom and grace." Though lengthy as sentences go, these few words stir the emotions and imaginations of men, as the apostle presents the eternal purpose, plan, and promise of God with respect to man's redemption. The entire passage is an expression of praise to God for His great redemptive work in Christ, and reads as follows:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved: in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, making known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth; in him, I say, in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will; to the end that we should be unto the praise of his glory, we who had before hoped in Christ; in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation,‑‑‑in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God's own possession, unto the praise of his glory."

It will be impossible to adequately expound on this grand paragraph in the few words of this article, so many, so rich, and so profound are its salient features. Therefore, we desire to lead inquiring minds into a consideration of the introductory thought expressed in verse 3 ‑‑‑ "Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ"‑‑‑ and let the succeeding verses of the text, along with other pertinent passages, serve as an exegesis of this glorious thought.

That the passage is really a "doxology" or "praise" to God is evident from a consideration of the very first word, "Blessed." The word from which "blessed" is translated is the adjectival form of the Greek verb, EULOGEO, which means "to speak well of ... to praise, to celebrate with praises..." According to W. E. Vine, this adjective, EULOGETOS, means "blessed, praised" and always in the New Testament "is applied only to God." In the phrase, "who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing," the word "blessed" means "to cause to prosper, to make happy, to bestow blessings on" and the word "blessing" refers to "a benefit bestowed." Thus, Paul is expressing exalted "praise" to God who has "made us happy" in "bestowing" every spiritual "benefit" upon us, "in Christ." In addition, by affirming that God is the "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," he sets forth the source of spiritual blessings as God, and points out the realm in which such blessings are found as "the heavenly places," or, as literally translated, "the heavenlies." This expression is found some five times in the Ephesian epistle and, though it may be an over≠simplification, refers to "the spiritual realm." Now, it is certainly true that God does indeed bless man in material ways in the physical realm, but the burden of Paul in this passage is to set forth some great spiritual benefits which God has provided for man in the spiritual realm as they relate to man's redemption and eternal inheritance "in Christ."

The expression "in Christ," with the equivalent "in him," "in whom," or "in the Beloved," is one of the favorite statements of the apostle to the Gentiles. It points out the availability of every spiritual blessing in the spiritual realm to sinful men as being "in Christ," that is, "in connection with" or "in relationship to" Jesus Christ.

With this simple, yet profound affirmation in verse 3, Paul begins to enlarge and expound upon this majestic truth. With regard to the "eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:11), Paul says that God "chose us in him before the foundation of the world," (vs. 4), "having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself" (vs. 5), and that this foreordination was "according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will" (vs. 11). This "choosing" or "election" and "foreordination" is not the Calvinistic concept of "predestination," or "what is to be, will be" type of theology, but rather presents the great wisdom, love and mercy of God in "purposing, planning and predestinating," even before the foundation of the world, the means by which fallen sinful men could become "holy and without blemish before him in love" (vs. 4), "made a heritage" (vs. 11), and receive an "inheritance, unto the redemption of God's own possession, unto the praise of his glory" (vs. 14).

In order to become a reality, we, as sinful men, must receive "our redemption ... the forgiveness of our trespasses" (vs. 7). But, how can this be? When man, made "in the image of God," exercises his volition, and of his own free will transgresses God's law or sins (1 John 3:4), God having decreed "thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:20), how can he redeem or save himself? He cannot! But, in saving sinful men, how can God be both "just and the justifier?" He can! In Christ!

Thus, Paul affirms that God himself might "be just and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus" (Romans 2:26), and that he adopted us "as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will ... which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved: in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence" (vs. 5‑8).

And so, in order that man might avail himself of the benefits of the grace of God, Paul affirms that God "made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times, to sum up all things (every spiritual blessing) in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth ... to the end that we should be unto the praise of his glory, we who had before hoped in Christ ... having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, ‑‑‑ in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" (vss. 9‑13).

Although "freely bestowed on us in the Beloved ... according to the riches of his grace," man's salvation is conditional and comes when he has "heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation" and "believed" (an obedient faith), and is "made a heritage ... unto the redemption of God's own possession." And all of this is "unto the praise of his glory" (vss. 12, 14).

As we meditate upon the fact that "according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him" (vs. 9), or as Peter says "according to" his "determinate counsel and foreknowledge" (Acts 2:23), God so loved sinful men that he "gave his only begotten Son" (John 3:16) that "in him" we might have "every spiritual blessing" and "be holy and without blemish before him in love" by "redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace," it should go without saying that "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" is indeed worthy of such majestic praise as expressed in this beautiful passage of Ephesians 1:3‑14. No wonder the apostle could declare: "And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). And in passing, may I point out to those who so terribly misuse and abuse this passage so as to make the "all things" apply to each and every circumstance and situation in life, that Ephesians 1:3‑14 is an excellent commentary on the meaning of Romans 8:28.

Indeed, when we really come to appreciate this great text in context, so that we can truthfully offer majestic words of praise with Paul and say, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ," then, and only then, will we be able to comprehend with any semblance of fact the words of inspiration as they declare: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out! ... For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:33‑36).

In future articles we intend to treat more fully of the "spiritual blessings in Christ" and their connection with "the manifold wisdom of God ... made known through the church ... according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:10‑11).