“Praise be to God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm in Christ. He chose us as His own in Christ before the foundation of the universe that we might be holy and blameless in His sight, living in the spirit of love.” (1:3-4, paraphrased)
Paul begins His letter with an enthusiastic anthem of gratitude for all God continues to do through Christ (vv. 3-14). The Father is prominent in vv. 4-6, the Son is prominent in v. 7-12, and the Spirit is prominent in vv. 13-14. The phrase in Christ or its equivalent is employed ten times in this short passage, proving Christ is the source of all spiritual benefits. The key preposition “in” (en) is found 120 times in this short epistle.
God is to be “blessed” (eulogetos) by those who adore Him. In the New Testament, eulogetos is used only in reference to God. We bless the Lord by ascribing the honor due to Him. For example, blessing and honor are directed to the Lamb who sits on the throne (Rev. 5:13). But there is a vast difference between Believers blessing God and God blessing us. Whereas the blessings we send to God are intangible, God’s blessings are tangible. We can only bless God with words, but He blesses us with deeds.
A life of faith must be permeated with thankfulness for all the blessings purchased for us by Christ. With controlled emotion, Paul heaps superlative upon superlative as he attempts to express the unmerited favor Christ lavishes upon His followers. Gratitude is the Believer’s appropriate response for God’s beneficent nature defies explanation. From His Paternal heart all blessings flow. The prodigal son knows his father’s house contains inexhaustible provision (Lk. 15:17). Every good gift originates in God the Father and He has both the resources and the desire to bestow them (Jas. 1:17).
Permanent blessings are given to Believers for a distinct purpose, for they are part of a larger plan. The phrase “has blessed us” is in the present tense, for God’s gifts are not all futuristic. His blessings are from “the heavenly realm,” a phrase found four times in this epistle (1:20, 2:6 & 3:10). Because this is God’s supernatural domain, all things of spiritual value are eternally secured for us. His blessings are the best human beings can obtain, for they originate in the Kingdom of Heaven.
All God’s blessings are “spiritual” (pneumatikos). This is a term always used in conjunction with the activity of the Holy Spirit, for He is the Agent who facilitates the graciousness of God. “Every blessing” includes all the Father plans, all Christ provides, and all the Spirit imparts.
Christians are God’s “chosen” (exelexato) because they have chosen His Son. Exelexato refers to a smaller number selected from a larger number. The concept of “election” simply means God has taken the initiative to save those who commit their lives to Christ. Knowing that man has a tendency to sin, God “elected” to devise a plan enabling men and women to be reconciled to Him. Prior to creation, God purposed to send His Son to save the lost. In this sense, Christ “was crucified for us before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:20 & Jn. 17:24). Our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life “before the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).
But reconciliation was not devised to rectify a “mistake.” God knows man will sin, but does not cause him to sin. God’s foreknowledge cannot affect man’s free will. Although He is aware beforehand who will accept Christ, He coerces no one to do so. Every human being is a free moral agent. Therefore God’s sovereign will to save mankind does not override the personal decision to ignore or reject Christ. The concept of election is never presented in Scripture as blind destiny. Election in no way infers individual selection is divinely predetermined. God foreordained that everyone who puts faith in His Son will be saved (Jn. 3:16). “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (II Pet. 3:9).
God’s sovereignty and man’s free will is a paradox no New Testament writer attempts to resolve. Those who overemphasize God’s sovereignty tend to minimize man’s free will. Without the power of choice, human beings would be mere puppets. The fatal flaws in the false doctrine known as “predestination” do not stem from Scripture but from misapplied Scripture. It is a reckless theological leap to believe that because God knows who will accept Christ He therefore makes them accept Him. To follow such fatalistic reasoning is to believe the rest of mankind is subsequently condemned. This position directly contradicts Christ’s Great Commission and the need for evangelism (Mk. 16:15-16). Although every human being is “predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son,” most individuals refuse His gracious invitation (Rom. 8:29).
Being “holy and without blemish” expresses both the positive and the negative aspects of sanctification. The Church is comprised of individuals determined to exemplify Christ’s characteristics and values. The Father’s plan of salvation through Christ requires His followers to live holy (hagios) lives, separated from the world and dedicated to Him. We are not saved because we are holy, but in order to become holy. While the Holy Spirit impels us to be holy, He does not compel us. Those who cling to the doctrine of predestination tend to become spiritually slothful, lulling themselves into believing they will enter heaven without the self-discipline mandatory for holy living.
To be “blameless” (amomos) is to be free from blemish. It is a term used to describe a sacrificial animal deemed worthy to be sacrificed (Lev. 1:3-10). We are to imitate Christ, who is referred to as “without blemish or spot” (I Pet. 1:19). Amomos is a term used in the New Testament to refer to Christians (Jude 24), to the Church (Eph. 5:27), and to Christ Himself (Heb. 9:14). Believers are expected to strive to portray His unblemished nature. We are to live holy lives “before Him in love” because His love for us brought Him to Calvary.