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Blessed in Heaven

August 8th, 2018

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:3)

English has a bit of a problem with the word “blessed.” It was used in the Bible to translate two thoughts – (a) to speak a good word about someone and (b) to be happy. In the Hebrew of the Old Testament and in the Greek of the New two different words were used to describe these two separate thoughts. But in English we still mainly stick to the one word “blessed” to describe both, and it leads to some confusion in our thinking.

In the text above is a case in point, and if we do not understand what type of “blessing” is being described we can miss a powerful statement from God’s word about our salvation. The words translated “blessed” and “blessing” in the text above are actually three related words all conveying this idea of speaking a good word about someone. The words in Greek are related to eulogia (noun) and eulogeo (verb) and eulogetos (adjective). They combine the prefix eu, meaning “good,” and the root logia or logeo which means to speak.

What would this scripture mean if we translate it literally, and avoided using the word “blessed”? It would be something like this: “The renowned God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has spoken a good word about us in Christ with every spiritually good promise in the heavenly realms.” Paul was making a very clear point, as the Spirit inspired him, about the security of our salvation. The blessings that God directs toward us in Christ Jesus – forgiveness of sin, adoption in his family, becoming new creations in Christ – were first announced in the heavenly realms.

This thought colours the rest of the epistle, as he goes on to explain our redemption, God’s grace, the sealing reality of the Spirit, the filling of the Spirit, and even our spiritual battle. The image it paints is that God, before the word was created, spoke a good word about us in heaven. He testified before the angelic hosts that He would redeem us and save us and cleanse us and adopt us.

What a powerful thought! Do you have doubts of God’s good intentions toward you? Take this verse to heart, that before the world was created God announced not only His love for you but His good intentions toward you. As a believer in Christ you are in a privileged position. God has been bragging about what He will do in your life since before the world began. “Faithful is he who called you, and he will do it” (1 Thes. 5:25).

By the way, the other words in Greek and in Hebrew are found in the Beatitudes and in Psalm 1. Makarios is the Greek word and it means “to be happy” and this used in Matthew 5, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” meaning that these eight attitudes that Christ described result in happiness in the heart of those who do them gladly. Esher  is the Hebrew word used in Psalm 1 and means the same thing. In Psalm 1:1 we read “Blessed is the man who…” and that word is esher, meaning the man who does the will of God will be a happy man.

And the Hebrew word for “to speak a good word about” is barak, (as in Barak Obama) and this is the idea behind the phrase “bless the Lord, O my soul” (Psalm 103:1), or “Say a good word about the Lord, O my soul!” And with both of these concepts being translated by the English word “bless” it can get a bit confusing. Which is why more modern translation are choosing different words, such as “happy” and “praise” but neither seems to be able to completely convey in all situations the idea of the original. So I suppose we are stuck with this reality in English for a few more hundred years, if the Lord delays His return.

Ephesians

A Shared Ministry

May 14th, 2014

Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. I have sent him to you … that he may comfort your hearts.

Ephesians 6:22

After the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas, they had a serious dispute about whether they should take John Mark along with them again. The young man had quit half way through the first journey, disappointing both of the older missionaries. Should they give him a second chance? Barnabas said, “Yes!” Paul said, “No!” And this dynamic duo of missionary fervor split up, never to be re-united. It was not to be the last time in the history of the expansion of the Church around the world that devout missionaries disagreed with one another about who should be on the team.

We never read of a statement from Paul that he had changed his attitude, but it appears in his story that he had. His letters are filled with references to his fellow workers and servants. He softened over the years and learned to trust in others and to share his ministry with them. In fact, about the same time that he wrote this letter to the Ephesians, he also wrote his second letter to Timothy and asked him to pick up and bring Mark to him for “he is useful to me in service” (2 Tim. 4:11).

Certainly character and commitment stand for something in who we can trust, work with, and send on important assignments. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 should establish Paul’s thinking, and where the Holy Spirit stands, on that matter. But feelings of self-importance, of one’s so-called “irreplaceable-ness,” as well as desire for control and dominance, not to mention petty Saul-like jealousies over the fear that others may become more popular, these feelings and fears cause us to put off sharing our ministry.

None of us is irreplaceable, for we will all be gone from the scene of history one day for sure, and on the very next day after we are gone, unless we are removed by Christ’s return, the world will pick up and move on without us. It seems to be the mark of people who remain in small places, that they want to do everything themselves, to be the authority or the expert, as though no one else but them could possibly do all of the things that they do.

We should use our opportunities to encourage others, to lift them up, to set them free for service. Paul voiced confidence in what Tychicus was able to do. He sent him to comfort hearts. This is a great example of Spirit-inspired Christian leadership, that takes committed people and helps them develop by mentoring, teaching, and giving opportunities and responsibilities in service – while holding them accountable. The only thing that is worth missing in any of us when we are gone, is the love that lifted up and encouraged and breathed confidence into others who will carry on after us.

Who is around us today that we can encourage? Who can you bring greater confidence and strength to? Some ones around each of us are in need of that clear and good word that lifts them up and helps them gain confidence in God and in how God will use them.

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