It might have sounded like a real put-down, but the patient was gracious and took the visitor’s correction kindly. Her friend had asked her to select a hymn for them to sing together. She chose “Count Your Many Blessings, Name Them One by One.” After the duet, the visitor asked if she would like to name a few of her blessings. Obligingly, she referred to her improved condition, a gift received from her son, and a few other things of that sort. “You have mentioned these things, and I know you are grateful for them,” said her friend, “but they are mercies and not blessings.”
I submit that the visitor was right in seeing a difference between what God’s kindnesses do for us as individuals in this life, and what His grace in Christ has granted for all saints to presently know and to enjoy for eternity: “every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies” (Eph. 1:3). But I question whether that point can be made on the basis of the different words used. For example, we read, “according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5). “Saved” certainly includes rich and eternal blessings; yet, in this verse, these are seen as evidence of God’s mercy.
Tokens of God’s mercy have always been around. “He did not leave Himself without witness in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). Jesus taught that “the Most High…is kind to the unthankful and evil” (Lk. 6:35). And, as the frequently quoted John 3:16 clearly states, the depth of His love for an undeserving world has been fully expressed in the giving of His Son. These verses declare the universality and impartiality of His love and mercy.
But there are blessings that are exclusive. These are reserved for those who believe on the Son of God: not those who merely believe about Him, but those who believe in Him personally. Jesus stated why they qualify for this exclusive love: “The Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God” (Jn. 16:27). How does the Father express His love? He blesses us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, whose position there is the basis and pledge of the following:
A NEW CREATION
For the believer, there is an old creation to which he once belonged. Soon, its total outward form will be demolished. That will be in “the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the earth will melt with fervent heat” (2 Pet. 3:12). And in Revelation 21:5, the One seated on the throne says, “Behold, I make all things new.” John had a vision of this and wrote, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Rev. 21:1).
Every true Christian is a participant in this new creation, having already “passed from death into life” (Jn. 5:24). The hope he has (meaning what he rightly expects to more fully enjoy in the future) is beyond the understanding of unbelieving neighbors who sense there is something radically different about this man, but they have no ability to see the kingdom of God or to know its citizens (Jn. 3:3; 1 Jn. 3:1). The believer’s life is “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
One helpful way to sum up the message of the Bible is to see it as dealing with the history of two men (the first Adam and the last Adam, 1 Cor. 15:45-49) and their descendants. In Romans 5:12, we read, “through one man sin entered the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Thus we learn that we do not have to sin personally in order to become sinners; we inherit that condition since we are born of Adam’s race. One man, one act, and worldwide disaster!
But there is another Man; One who is sinless. His righteousness would only condemn us. But in Romans 5, our attention is drawn instead to “one act of righteousness,” the obedient laying down of His life, by which “many will be made righteous.” One Man, one act, and worldwide blessing! It is plain that we cannot be under the banner of both men; we are either “in Adam,” awaiting judgment, or “in Christ,” in whom is every blessing. Therefore, let us think of what it should mean to us to be in Christ.
If where Christ once was (the cross) is essential to my salvation, where He is now is essential to my security and satisfaction. These spiritual blessings are possessed by us now even though we might not experience them fully. It is not simply that we will be blessed but that we have been blessed. Our entrance into and enjoyment of these things depend upon our faith—but not the quality of our faith as much as the Object of it!
It is in Christ that the feeblest saint is blessed—not in himself! It is true that we might have felt blessed when we first appreciated what God had done for us, but our blessing does not date back to the hour when we first believed; it goes back further to that time when God “raised [Christ] from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand” (Eph. 1:20). Therefore, the blessings of the believer are guaranteed because there is no reversing of the resurrection of Christ.
“The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). Redemption and forgiveness are granted in Him (Eph. 1:7). The apostle John confirms this to those whom he affectionately addresses as “little children”; they “have been forgiven for His name’s sake” (1 Jn. 2:12). The tense of that verb speaks of something done once which has lasting benefit. All our sins were future when Christ bore them. The date of their commitment does not influence the value of His work. “Christ…suffered once for sins” (1 Pet. 3:18). Faith in that finished work is what is required of us.
We are chosen, adopted, and made heirs of a vast inheritance, but not in isolation. It is the heritage of all true Christians. Narrow denominationalism is discouraged by the frequent use of plural pronouns in the opening chapters of Ephesians. Only “with all saints” in view does it becomes possible to comprehend the vastness of our inheritance in Him, and His in us, and thus to know the love of Christ (Eph. 1:11, 18; 3:17-19).
Nor I alone; Thy loved ones all, complete
In glory, round Thee
there with joy, shall meet,
All like Thee,
for Thy glory like Thee, Lord.
Object supreme of all, by all adored.