August 11, 2014 Broadcast

The Beauty of Being Blessed by God

A Message by R.C. Sproul

What does it mean to be “blessed”? This is a simple question, but how would you answer? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that the poor, the meek, and the mournful are blessed. Would they be included in your definition of “blessing”? In this lesson, Dr. Sproul provides a biblical explanation of what it means to be blessed by God.

From the series: The Beatitudes

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Covenant Blessings

  2. devotional

    The Abundance of Blessing in Christ

  3. article

    A Life of Blessing and Rest

Covenant Blessings

God's covenants clearly have conditions, as we have seen over the past few days. The question before us now, however, is what happens when these conditions are met and what happens when they are not met? The answer is that meeting the conditions perfectly leads to eternal life, and, in the final analysis, we can only do this by trusting in Christ Jesus alone, who alone has kept the covenant perfectly (2 Cor. 5:21).

Although meeting the covenant conditions leads ultimately to eternal life—via the faith-alone imputation of the merit of Christ, the perfect covenant-keeper—there are also earthly blessings for keeping covenant that anticipate the life of the world to come. This is particularly evident under the Mosaic covenant, which was the foundational covenant for the prophets' ministry. In fact, the blessings that the prophets announced to ancient Israel were the blessings promised to those who kept the Mosaic law. These blessings are revealed most clearly in Leviticus 26:1–13 and Deuteronomy 28:1–14.

The two lists differ slightly, but the teaching of both texts is the same. God promised the Israelites that if they were to keep the covenant, they would experience food harvests so great that they would be unable to gather everything in before it was time to sow the seed once more (Lev. 26:3–5). Faithful Israel would enjoy peace, victory over her enemies, and fruitfulness in the womb (vv. 6–10). The blessings build to the crescendo of the greatest covenant benefit of all—the presence of God Himself with His people (vv. 11–13).

When the prophets announced blessings to Israelites who persevered in covenant obedience or returned to the Lord after grossly breaking His law, they promised the very blessings we have just listed. Jeremiah 23:1–4, for example, promises the faithful remnant of Israel that it will experience great fruitfulness. Ezekiel 36:22–32 looks forward to the Spirit of God dwelling within the hearts of His children.

Ancient Israel was not to look at keeping God's covenant as a means to earn their salvation. Thus, for the old covenant people, faithfulness did not mean perfect obedience, which is impossible for sinners. They were to strive to obey, repent when they failed, and look for the Messiah to earn salvation for them by His following the law perfectly (Gen. 3:14–15; Lev. 18:5; Deut. 18:15). But as they conformed, generally speaking, to God's law, they enjoyed a foretaste of eternal life in the new heaven and earth.

The Abundance of Blessing in Christ

Before we jump into our exposition of Ephesians, let us address one last background matter. Depending on the English translation, there may be a note on Ephesians 1:1 that expresses doubt as to whether “in Ephesus” is found in the original text Paul wrote. This is because some of the oldest manuscript copies of Ephesians in the original Greek do not have “in Ephesus” in verse 1. In reality, the evidence for the absence of “in Ephesus” in the original text is not all that compelling, for the vast majority of ancient copies contain the phrase. Nevertheless, the potential omission of “in Ephesus” has led some scholars to theorize that what we know as Ephesians is actually the “letter from Laodicea” referenced in Colossians 4:16, but this is speculative. Either way, however, the interpretation of this epistle remains the same.

Paul begins Ephesians with a call for God to be blessed on account of His blessing us “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). That God is blessed or should be blessed is repeated often in Scripture (Gen. 9:26; Ps. 18:46; 2 Cor. 1:3), and it means that the Lord is praised or worthy of praise, as Charles Hodge tells us in his Ephesians commentary. There are many reasons why God deserves our praise, but in Ephesians 1:3 the apostle tells us that our Father should be praised for sharing the abundance of His goodness with us — for bestowing upon us spiritual blessings.

When we read “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” we are tempted to think the apostle refers only to intangible, ethereal, or inner realities such as peace, joy, and so on. Such things are included in the blessings Paul mentions, but he also has tangible, physical things in mind. Spiritual blessings correspond to the age of the fuller manifestation of the Holy Spirit, that age of life the prophets foresaw us experiencing most fully in the new heaven and the new earth (Isa. 65:17–25; Jer. 31:31–40; Joel 2:28–32). Jesus inaugurated this age in His life, death, resurrection, and ascension (Acts 2:1–41). By His work, our Savior has brought the age to come into the present, allowing us to enjoy its blessings in part today, though not in their fullness. When the “heavenly places” become one with the realm we can now see at the consummation, we who are in Christ will enjoy the fullest prosperity in every sense. But as these blessings are ours now, we experience many foretastes of that future reality.

A Life of Blessing and Rest

Nicholas Batzig

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles " (Gal. 3:13-14). I distinctly remember hearing an unbelieving co-worker—at a restaurant in which I worked many years ago—say to customers as they left: "Have a blessed day." Every time I heard it I wanted to say, "But how is that blessing possible?" The language of blessing is used today with little to no understanding of its nature or cost. Galatians 3:13-14 expresses the inner workings of a theology of blessing. How can we receive the spiritual and eternal blessings of God when we are under the curse of His law by nature? In order for us to be justified before God, Christ had to "become a curse for us." Blessings and curses are found throughout the Bible and ultimately meet together in an unparalleled moment at the cross.

The Lord blessed His image bearers at creation (Gen. 1:28). Immediately after this, He blessed the Sabbath day (2:3)—a day prefiguring the eternal rest and blessing of God. When Scripture says that God declared each creative act to be "good," it conveys the idea that blessing rested upon a world untouched by sin. The blessings of Genesis 1-2 are, however, starkly contrasted with the curses of Genesis 3. No sooner was the blessing pronounced that our first parents called down curses for themselves, their descendants, and the world in which we live.

When Adam sinned, the Lord cursed the ground from which He made man. Thorns cover the face of the earth. Man must now work the cursed ground, by the sweat of his brow, in order to eat bread. The presence of thorns is a constant reminder of the devastating effects of sin. There is a complete undoing of the blessing of God. Man would return to the ground from which he was made. The Lord, at the beginning, breathed into man's nostrils the "breath of life." The curse means the removal of that breath.

The curse was reiterated in temporal and typical forms throughout the history of redemption. Just as Adam and Eve were "cut off" from paradise, God promised to "cut off" the covenant people for disobedience (Num. 15:31). There was a close relationship between the plagues of Egypt and the covenant curses (Deut. 28:21-29, 58-61). The second-to-last plague God sent on Egypt was darkness. This was also a covenant curse promised to Israel (Deut. 28:29). It served as a picture of the "outer darkness" spoken of by our Lord (Matt. 25:30). Whether it was in the plagues that fell on Egypt or the covenant curses promised to Israel (Deut. 27-30), the curse resurfaced as a reminder of the justice of God and the consequences of sin.

In 2 Corinthians 1:20, Paul explains that all the promises of God are "Yes" and "Amen" in Christ Jesus. This means that the promised blessings are assured to us in Christ, but it also means that Jesus had to say "Yes" to the promised curses to secure those blessings for His people. In Gethsemane, Jesus sweated great drops of blood as He worked for our redemption. Matthew Henry noted:

Sweat came in with sin, and was a branch of the curse, Gen. 3:19, and therefore, when Christ was made sin and a curse for us, he underwent a grievous sweat, that in the sweat of his face we might eat bread, and that he might sanctify and sweeten all our trials to us.

In His sufferings, Jesus wore a crown of thorns—a symbol of the curse. For three hours darkness covered the crucified Lord as He bore the curse and wrath of God for His people. Isaiah prophesied that He would be "cut off out of the land of the living" (Isa. 53:8). As the second Adam, Jesus took the curse upon Himself. He is, in the deepest and most profound meaning of the phrase, "the cursebearer."

On the cross, Jesus was cursed so that we might be blessed through faith in Him. In His cry, "It is finished" (John 19:30), we are reminded of how, in Genesis 1, the Lord looked over the finished work of creation and said, "It is good (v.12)." Jesus Christ accomplished the work of the new creation in His death and resurrection. The curse was removed. The eternal blessings were secured for those who trust in Him alone for them.

Have you come to realize the just penalty of sin in your life? Are you laboring under the weight of your sin and the reality of the curse? Do you long for a life of blessing and rest? Look in faith to the sinless One who was made a curse for us. As you do, you will be able to say, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1:3).

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