Count Your Blessings
While a member of Mars Hill Church, I was honored to serve on the team that wrote inductive studies in support of the sermon series. From 2011 to 2014, we wrote seven inductive studies; many are no longer in print. This series of blogs include the individual lessons I contributed to each study. I pray that they help you come to a deeper understanding of Jesus through the study of God’s word.
Read Ephesians 1:3-14.
On the way home from church one Sunday, I asked my three-year-old daughter how her time in kids church was. The entire twenty-minute ride home, she went on in an epic run-on sentence detailing every activity and how much she liked it. Imagine the apostle Paul in the same way, so completely overjoyed with the blessings of God that one simple sentence wouldn’t suffice to adequately convey his excitement.
This passage packs a punch. These eleven verses begin as a blessing, touch on the basic tenets of Christian theology, and introduce themes and key phrases that will repeat throughout the rest of Ephesians. In the original Greek, this passage is one long run-on sentence of 202 words. In English translations, it is dense in wording and yet rich in meaning.
What is the big idea of this passage?
If you were to write a header for this section of scripture, how would you title it in your own words?
What are the major ideas, truths, or doctrines mentioned?
Why did Paul write this passage?
Ephesians followed a similar format to Paul’s other letters – a greeting and then a thanksgiving and prayer, but only Ephesians and 2 Corinthians contained a blessing. In the Greek, Paul used the word eulogetos. The Hebrew word for blessed is berakah, which is an ascription of God for who he is and what he has done. The berakah was a common Old Testament literary device
Write down every blessing Paul mentioned that believers receive from God through Jesus. Look for instances where the text mentions God or his actions for us (as in verse 4: “He chose us”) as well as when “we” or “you” is followed by the verb “have” (as in verse 7: “we have redemption”).
While we in our flesh think of blessings in the physical sense, Paul wrote a list of blessings on a plane much higher than our natural thoughts. These blessings are theological concepts, elements of doctrine, and heady. Let’s make sure that we really understand and absorb them and not gloss over them with a passive acceptance.
Using a bible dictionary, write in your own words definitions for the following:
The phrase “in Christ” occurs almost exclusively in the writings of Paul, over 200 times. Paul loved this phrase and used its often. In our passage of study, “in Christ” is mostly used to describe how God acts.
Note each mention of “in Christ” (or “in him” or “in the Beloved”). What do you learn about Paul’s use of this phrase?
Paul articulated how God blesses us in Christ. Those blessings come through the Holy Spirit. Paul then concluded the reading with another bookend emphasis of the Holy Spirit being the guarantee, sign, and seal of our inheritance.
How is the Holy Spirit described in verses 3-14? What are his purposes? When do we receive him? Why is he important? What does it mean to be sealed with the Holy Spirit, and what are the results of that in the life of a believer?
Paul’s epic run-on sentence in Ephesians 1 challenges us to see ourselves the way God sees us – an identity rooted in God’s love for us and the blessings He gives us. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing by the One who blessed us in Christ!
Ephesians 1:3-14 describes our identity in Christ – chosen, holy, blameless, predestined, adopted, redeemed, and forgiven. How do you describe yourself? Is it different from the identity Paul mentioned?
If I asked you to “count your blessings”, what blessings would make your list? After reading Paul’s list of blessings God has given us in Christ, does the term blessing have new meaning to you?