Growing Our Spiritual Bank Account (Part 1)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Ephesians 1:3 (Holman) Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.
“Blessed us” is past tense. All God’s blessings flow to us from a decision to bless that He made in the distant past. The decision to bestow the “spiritual blessing” of salvation was made before the ones to be blessed were created to receive it.
Salvation from eternity past to eternity future, and everything needed in between, has been given to us. Our predestination, our adoption, our acceptance, our redemption, our forgiveness, our inheritance, and our being sealed by the Spirit are all deposited in the spiritual bank account of every Christ-follower due to grace.
Our spiritual resources are not far away. All we need to live effectively is nearby and available. In prayer we ask God to mobilize in us what is already ours.
Never pray as if God were the problem by withholding something needful from us. Never pray as if victory over sin were doubtful. Be content with nothing less than absolute victory in any struggle against sin. This is your birthright!
“Heavenly places” presents one of the Bible’s most important concepts. The Greek adjective has no noun. Translators often add “places” to clarify the meaning.
“Heavenly places” is used five times in Ephesians in a sense not found elsewhere in the Bible. It is the realm where believers are blessed (1:3), where Jesus sits beside the Father (1:20), where believers sit with Jesus (2:6), where God’s wisdom is made manifest (3:10), and where spiritual warfare is waged (6:12).
“Heavenly places” is the God-dimension, the supernatural unseen universe, the eternal order beyond the world our five senses perceive. “Heavenly places” is the present, at hand, home of believers, a region neither remote nor faraway. It is not relegated to the future, or kept from us till after death. It is a present, at hand, realm.
In a way, believers are already in Heaven before they arrive there bodily. We need to be reminded of this truth often. No one has to remind us we live on earth.
We know our bodies are trapped here, fighting Satan, the flesh, an old nature, and the world. But we easily forget about our real home, Heaven. The world often so overwhelms our senses that Heaven is forced from our thoughts. Thus, we must be often reminded where our citizenship is, where the place of blessing and victory is.
If Paul found us discouraged and totally possessed with something of earth, he would not understand. He could not comprehend why we would be completely absorbed with a detail of this world when a part of us lives in heavenly places.
God’s power is stymied in a believer obsessed with the physical world. The power flourishes in “heavenly places.” We must take our seat, and see the conflict from our throne of victory. Every believer has two addresses, one below and one above the clouds. When problems cloud the sun of life, we have the privilege to take a seat above the foggy troubles and to look down on them from the place of victory. When discouraged with others, if sick, in pain or agony, in financial trouble, whatever of earth assails us, we must mount our seat above the clouds.
You are a citizen of Heaven, you belong there. Your mansion is prepared, and will someday be fully inhabited by your glorified self. For the time being, visit your heavenly home regularly and sit on one of your pieces of furniture.
Ephesians 1:4-6 For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.
We receive spiritual blessings because, due to Christ’s merit, God chose us to receive them. Be humble. Proceed on your knees as you enter the central beginning essence of His grace. When does salvation begin? Some say, “When we believe, repent, and receive Jesus.” Paul, when a new believer, might have agreed with this.
Eventually he realized God chose him long before his dramatic encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road (Acts 9). The fact salvation comes from the outer recesses of time clothes it in noble garb. Our salvation is neither coincidental nor an afterthought of God. Throughout history a holy purpose for each of us has continued unabated. The fact we are part of an eternal strategy of God should encourage us.
What was the strategy? All along, God intended to adopt us. Adoption implies special nearness and dearness. We dwell in God’s presence now as recipients of a love He is lavishing on us. Though we are sinners, God wants us nearby. “He had a whole heaven to Himself, myriads of angels to do His bidding, but these could not satisfy Him. He must have sinners to share it with Him” (John Bunyan).
Due to merit gained by God’s only begotten Son, we can become God’s adopted children, full members of His family, with all rights and privileges appertaining thereto. Adoption provides us the privilege of access to God’s presence. When you approach your heavenly seat (2:6) to pray, always plead your adoption.
Learn to say “Father” often. If Satan tries to block your entry to heavenly places, do not be intimidated. If he asks your claim to enter, say, “I come as neither a servant nor a subject, but as a child of the Father. This is my home. I belong here.”
Adoption is God’s way of retrieving us, of returning us to what He meant for us in the first place. The purpose of adoption is to undo the consequences of history’s most disastrous event; what we call the Fall, when we rebelled against God and cast Him off. We believers were children of wrath, but God adopted us. This is amazing. If a king adopted a child, we would assume the new heir would be taken from “respectable” stock, from a loyal family of nobles, but God chose as His heirs the seed and imitators of one who rebelled against Him directly, even in flawless Eden.
Ephesians 1:7 We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. . .”
“Redemption”, paying a ransom to free a slave, emphasizes our security. A redeemed slave could never be bought again. Otherwise, their redemption would be meaningless. The very purpose of redemption is to remove from slavery forever.
Sin disturbed God’s original plan for us. A glitch occurred in Eden. The ones God created to be His own fell into a bondage of their own making. To bring us to our redeemed position, Jesus entered time to correct what went wrong in time.
People became slaves to sin and to Satan. We are by nature, choice, and habit, pawns in a slave-market. Unable to control our desires, we love and hate our sins at the same time. We fail to live up to our standards, much less God’s. When honest in ourselves, we echo Seneca’s cry, “What men need is a hand let down to lift them up.”
This exactly describes “redemption.” It is a ransom God Himself paid to liberate from bondage people powerless to help themselves. God not only created us, He redeemed us from our self-induced slavery. God wrought us in creation, sought us when astray, bought us with a ransom, and brought us back to Himself again.
Redemption required the substitutionary death of one perfect life for countless imperfect ones. The ransom required to secure our redemption was nothing less than the precious, immeasurably costly blood of Jesus the Beloved. If a lesser price could have sufficed, God would have avoided shedding His Beloved’s blood, but there was no other way. Sin is no trifle. It is a crime so severe that only the shedding of Christ’s blood could overcome it. The cross says loud and clear, “Sin is heinous and huge.”
Redemption results in “forgiveness” of sins. This word refers to setting people loose from what binds them. Before redemption, we know only bondage of mind and will. Forgiveness entails freedom. Forgiveness is walking away from the bondage of the slave-market as an adopted child of the king. Imagine! Me–a slave turned prince.
Our text pictures slaves laying down heavy, burdening shackles of sin, never to wear them again. The context indicates this refers to God’s “legal” forgiveness, not His “personal” forgiveness. We seek the latter often. Being a Person, “personal”, God is hurt each time we sin. We offend God, but want His smile, thus much of our Christian lives is spent in repeatedly asking God for His “personal” forgiveness.
Our text refers to God’s “legal” forgiveness, whereby He removes from us forever the threat of everlasting punishment. Redemption provides legal forgiveness for all our sins–past, present, and future. Every believer enjoys total emancipation from the everlasting consequences of sin. “No condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). We are forever released from any danger of Hell.
We don’t appreciate our legal forgiveness till we realize the extent of our guilt, the full weight of the “ball and chain” God loosed from us. When God saved us, Hell fell from our ledger. We received total freedom from any worry of damnation. In this light, “freedom” takes on an extraordinarily meaningful hue for believers.
Slaves who escaped via the blessed underground railroad usually arrived in Canada with only rags on their backs. Nevertheless, they often kissed the soil, clapped their hands, and danced for joy, for though they had few things, in being free they had all. As they crossed the border, they laid down a burden. No one had to tell them what it meant to be released from a shackle.
We, too, were in the bondage of slavery before Christ redeemed us. We have some here to whom cursing was a habit, drunkenness an instinct, and immorality a way of life. We have stories of grace among us that would make the saints in heaven sing louder. Not everyone, though, has been a public, flagrant violator. Nevertheless, we all were equally in need of legal forgiveness. All sin condemns. Each sin has Hell in it. Thus we all have had an infinitely heavy weight lifted from us. Do we realize the burden we were bearing? Are we thankful for God’s redemption and forgiveness?