"Blessed be the God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ."
Who hath blessed us, &c., is what I wish particularly to notice. From the manner in which this text is quoted and applied by certain writers, one might infer that they considered the revelation of God to be altogether of His eternal purpose, and nothing of the accomplishment of that purpose, or that their attention is so much taken up with the purpose itself, that they can see nothing of its being carried out in the acts and events in time. These persons have certainly a right to present their own view of the subject; and this liberty I would not deprive them of. But being as confident as I am that God exists, that such a view of the subject is wrong, I will present for their consideration a different view of divine revelation, and of the text above named in particular.
Perhaps some may think that I have used too strong an expression, in saying that I am as confident of this thing, as I am that God exists. But my brethren; how can we know anything of God but by His bringing to pass the events purposed in His own eternal mind. Thus I understand God to declare beforehand in prophecy and in promise, His purpose, that the accomplishment of those events thus before declared, may be a continual witness that He alone is God. And this I understand to be the ground taken by God in His reasonings with Israel against idolatry, as in Isa.41:8-20, 21-28; also in chapter 42:9; 42:8-13, and in other places.
There appears to me, to be a divine beauty and glory reflected, from the subject when we contemplate God's eternal purpose as rolling on in the unerring accomplishment of the preordained parts thereof, in regular succession; and in beholding the successive accomplishment of each event unfolding more and more of the manifold wisdom and gracious designs of Him who sits as a Sovereign, governing all, "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure;" (Isa.46:10) thus also verifying His declaration; "I will work and who shall let it." I think far more of God is seen in beholding Him bringing to pass in regular succession, His declared purpose, making every thing, even the wrath of man subservient thereto, than could be seen in contemplating Him merely as declared in the purpose. Just as the planetary orbs, by their constant and regular revolutions, bringing about, in beautiful order, the successions of day and night, summer and winter, seed time and harvest, proclaim far more distinctly the existence and government of God, all-wise, all-powerful and good, than the mere excellence of those orbs divested of their motions and of the changes produced thereby, could do. It was this motion of these heavenly bodies, and the changes thereby produced, which the Psalmist calls our attention to in the 19th Psalm.
The writers of the New Testament seem to have been ever intent on bringing to our view the purpose as coupled with, and showed in, its accomplishments, and the prophecies and promises as verified in their fulfillment; the types which were but prophecy or the purpose of God declared in emblems, are also in the New Testament brought to view in connection with their anti-types.
As one instance in which the purpose and its accomplishment are brought to view in their legitimate connection by the inspired writers I will refer to II Tim.1:9. "Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." Here we have God's own purpose and grace, given to the saints, not in themselves, but in Christ Jesus, their Head, before the world began, brought to view - not as constituting in that original gift, their actual salvation and calling, but as being the purpose going before, or predestinated plan according to which, those, of whom the Apostle then spake, were actually saved and called. Here therefore we have the purpose as fixed before time began, now actually accomplished as manifested in the experience of the saints, and that of grace and not of works, presented together as one harmonious whole, manifesting God in the beginning, and ending of it. So in the text to be considered, (Eph.1:3) I understand the Apostle not as speaking simply of the saints being blessed in purpose, or of their being chosen and predestinated to these blessings, but of their being brought into the experience of these blessings, according to God's electing and predestinating love and purpose going before. Hence the text in its connection does not read as it should have done to convey the idea of the saints having been blessed, as the Apostle speaks, with all spiritual blessings in the electing and predestinating purpose going before. It should in that case have read, Who blessed us with all spiritual blessings, &c., when He chose in Him before the foundation of the world, &c. But the Apostle here speaks not of the saints having been blessed in their election to holiness &c., and predestination to the adoption of children, but of their having been then blessed according to that CHOICE and PREDESTINATION going before. See verses 4 & 5 in connection with verse 3. I therefore must understand him as calling the attention of the Ephesian brethren to the fact, of the actual accomplishment of the electing and predestinating purpose of God going before, concerning them, as manifested in their experience.
The obligation of the saints thus to unite with the Apostle in blessing God, for having brought them to realize in their experience, all those spiritual blessings to which He had chosen and predestinated them, before the foundation of the world, was taught under the Levitical law, in the case of the Israelite who was to bring his "basket of first fruits" unto the Lord; according to Deut.26:1-11. There is in the confession which the Israelite was to make on that occasion, something beautifully illustrative of our text, and also of the experience which the child of grace relates when he comes before the church, (as the Israelite came before the priest,) to offer also the first fruits of grace in his heart, namely; a thankful acknowledgment of being saved by Christ, and of subjection to Christ by submitting to the ordinance of baptism. Were it not so lengthy I would transcribe the whole passage; as it is, I will content myself with noticing some particulars therein; and request my brethren to read the passage for themselves. 1st. He was to say unto the priest, "I profess this day unto the Lord thy God that I am come unto the country which the Lord sware unto our fathers for to give us." (vs.3.) Notice the import of this confession; it was not, that God in swearing unto their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, had by that oath and promise put them then in actual possession of the good land; but it was, that now, according to that oath and promise, God had brought Israel into the possession of the land promised unto their fathers, notwithstanding all the difficulties that had intervened. It was not therefore the oath and promise that he was then to acknowledge, but the accomplishment of that promise as manifested in his actually now enjoying the fruits of the land. And yet the promise made unto their fathers and confirmed by the oath of God, as effectually secured the possession of the land to their posterity, as did the choice of the saints in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, and the everlasting covenant established with Christ, secured to them, their being actually "blessed with all spiritual blessings." Again this Israelite, after the priest should take his basket of first fruits and set it down before the altar of the Lord his God, was to give a brief detail of Israel's origin, of their bondage and oppression in Egypt, of their crying unto the Lord, and of His hearing their cry and delivering them by a strong hand out of Egypt, and His bringing them into that land which flowed with milk and honey, and that the fruits which he then had brought were those which the Lord had given him, &c. How different the idea conveyed by this whole relation from that of their having been put into actual possession of national liberty and blessings in the land of Canaan by the promise made unto Abraham! That promise secured their being put into this possession, and the confession was, that it was according to that promise, and not according to their works, that they were thus blessed.
So in the relation which spiritual Israelites give of their experience, there is a correspondence with that of the national Israelites. "A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt," &c., said one. The other says, a deceived one, (the import of Syrian) ready to perish was my father, and I have borne his image; and when the Lord opened my eyes to see my condition, I found myself a poor sinner lying under the just condemnation of the law, &c., and being heavy laden with its demands, I cried unto the Lord for mercy; He heard me and brought me from under it and to Jesus, for salvation, &c.
I recollect, if I may refer to the subject without giving offense, that in the discussion on justification, one esteemed brother said he had been taught the doctrine of eternal justification in his experience. If so, he of course found from the first discovery he had of his true situation, that he had always been actually blessed with all spiritual blessings. But although I have not the most distant idea that this brother designed to misrepresent his case; yet from his preaching as I heard him, I am confident that his experience taught him to view himself - not as a justified one saved - but as a sinner saved - not as always enjoying the milk and honey of Canaan; but as having groaned under the bondage and oppression of Egypt. So I think all who are taught of God, instead of viewing themselves as having been always in the blessed state of which the Apostle speaks in the text under consideration, find that they had been living without God and without hope in the world, and had been aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, &c.
In further noticing this subject, it will be proper, first to examine the import of the expressions; In heavenly places, in Christ Jesus. 1st. The expression, in heavenly places. From the use of this and like expressions, in this and other texts, I do not understand the idea intended thereby to be conveyed, as one to be confined to that which is beyond time, either before or after; but the expression is evidently used to point out the peculiarities of the gospel dispensation and what properly belongs to it, in distinction from the legal dispensation. Thus I understand the Master, in the expressions "If I have told you earthly things and ye believed not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things," (John 3:12) to intimate to Nicodemus that he had not believed the words of the Sinai covenant in their true and full import, and therefore it was no wonder he did not comprehend and believe the testimony of Christ concerning the new birth. And this text I understand as thus corresponding with John 5:47, with the difference that Christ here claims to have Himself spoken the words from Mount Sinai. In I Cor.15:47-49, the terms heavenly and earthly refer to Christ and Adam the one as the head or father of the spiritual birth of the saints; the other of their natural birth. Thus also the heavenly places mentioned in Eph.1:20 & 2:6, in which Christ was seated on His resurrection from the dead, and His people with and in Him, refer I think to Christ's being thus exalted as King in Zion to administer to His people, not the regulations of the Sinai covenant, but the provisions of the sure mercies of David. And we are thus taught that as Christ in consequence of His union with His people was brought under the law, so by the redemption which He completed in the same oneness with His people, and His consequent resurrection from the dead, His people were thus exalted with, and in Him, and together seated in Him far above the demands of the law and above all the principalities and powers, whether angels or men that are under the law. In a similar sense in the expression used in Eph.3:10. Thus also, the heavenly calling, heavenly gift, heavenly things, heavenly country, and heavenly Jerusalem, Heb.3:1; 6:4; 8:5; 9:23; 11:16; 12:22, all refer to the same spiritual idea relating to the gospel church. The term heavens also in Heb.9:23, refers to the same spiritual nature of the gospel church. Hence the being blessed in heavenly places refers to the saints being under the Everlasting Covenant, and their being blessed according to the provisions of that covenant, as ordered in all things and sure, and not according to the conditional provisions of the Sinai covenant; they being recognized, not as bond servants under the law; but as sons of God.
We next enquire, what the import is, of the expression, in Christ Jesus as used in this connection. It is, as I understand it, designed to bring Christ to view, as the sole medium through which the blessings of God flows to any of the children of men, and shows farther the distinction between these blessings, and those, bestowed upon national Israel.
The blessings which national Israel enjoyed were bestowed upon them as the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and according to the promises made unto them. The saints are blessed as the seed of Christ, and according to the promises which are yea and amen in Christ Jesus. The natural seed of Abraham were blessed as they were recognized as such by the circumcision in the flesh. The saints are manifested as heirs of the spiritual blessings by the circumcision that is of the heart, in the spirit . The blessings of Canaan came to natural Israel on the ground of their own obedience; these spiritual blessings flow freely to the saints, through that perfect obedience which Christ rendered from under the law. In a word, the believer, in having Christ as his, has in Him, all spiritual blessings, secured eternally unto him; and as from time to time he is enabled to exercise faith in Christ, he is made to rejoice in the assurance that the blessing of God rests upon him, without any mixture of evil, or any deficiency for rendering him truly blessed for time and eternity. And it is only as he can exercise faith in Christ, that he can thus realize that he is blessed of God.
In specifying the all spiritual blessings, many name election and predestination as standing foremost in the list, but however great and glorious blessings these are, as the flowings out of the love of God to His people, yet it was not of these the Apostle here spake, for it is according to this electing and predestinating grace, that they are thus blessed, or in other words, the blessings which are here spoken of, are no other than what flows out of that everlasting love which God placed upon them in their election. As the Israelite already referred to, in bringing his basket of first-fruits, therein confesses unto God, not that God chose Abraham and swear unto him, to give unto his posterity the land of Canaan; but according to that purpose thus confirmed unto Abraham, he was in the possession, and actually enjoying the fruits of the land of Canaan. So the believer when brought to receive Christ by faith, is constrained to acknowledge, that in Him he finds not only all that he had conceived to be promised in the gospel, but infinitely more than it had ever entered into his heart to conceive of.
As to any attempt to count up these blessings, I consider it superfluous. I might enumerate; redemption, calling, repentance, faith, adoption, &c.; but are these all that are included in the Apostle's expressions, "Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings?" I think not. The expression all spiritual blessings, seem to me to embrace the idea, not only that they had been blessed with all that they had understood to be included in the gospel report; but that all they had experienced or should experience was blessing; that as the curse was now removed, their sins pardoned, and they justified in their experience through the redemption they now apprehended by faith in Christ, they had peace with God, and felt that everything flowed from His goodness. The being disappointed in their attempts to make their peace with God, by their works, and the condemnation, distress and broken-heartedness which they had been made to feel, they now see were all blessings, rich blessings, to their poor guilty souls; all were but preparing them to receive and rejoice in Christ. So faith, when exercised by the operation of God in the hearts of His people, assures them that all the trials of the way, inward and outward, how much soever sense may be disposed to pronounce them evils, are all brought with blessings, rich and spiritual; all are working together for their good. Having Christ, they are blessed in prosperity, in adversity; in sickness, in health; in darkness, in light; in life, in death; in the sounding of the trump of the Archangel, and in eternity.
Well and feelingly therefore may the saint, when faith is in exercise, say with the Apostle: Blessed be the God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; according as He hath chosen us in Him, &c.
Centreville, Fairfax County Virginia,
Dec. 23, 1839.
From: SIGNS of the TIMES: Vol. 8 (1840)
Select Works of Elder Samuel Trott
Pgs 181 - 188