Exegetical Notes on Ephesians (1)- (1:3)

“who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing” (1:3)

Explanations of the “who” which in this case denotes God is a praise that is directed to this God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in the style of “an extended blessing or berakah,” as noted by O’Brian. Other authors like F.F. Bruce and Lincoln also follow the same pattern of explanation concerning this.[1] The praise or blessing, according to O’ Brian, is in response to God showering blessing upon us where the “word of praise stands as the ‘topic’ sentence and title of the whole paragraph.”[2] This praise, O’Brian continues, is in response to what God had done in administering to us salvation. This eulogy, “does not express a wish,” but as O’ Brian notes, it describes a fact, “that God is the source of blessing.”[3]

The phrase ‘blessed us’ denotes believers who are the benefactors of the gifts mentioned in v.4-14, and this also includes the whole universal church receiving the gift, If one holds to the universal nature of the letter, not written to a specific church but to many churches.[4]

The phrase ‘heavenly realms,’ O’Brian says that it is unique to Ephesians (1:3, 20, 2:6. 3:10, 6:12) and “is used consistently in a local sense.” This local sense refers more to a place according to Witherington.[5] On a surprising note, “the phrase is employed for both the spheres of God or Christ (1:3, 20; 2:6) and the location of the evil ‘principalities and powers’ (3:10; 6:12). Behind the expression, which stands with an Old Testament and Jewish rather than Gnostic tradition, is the notion of several ‘heavens’ (cf.4:10).”[6] Witherington comment Paul’s understanding concerning this as similar but states that the understanding should not be taken literally.[7] According to O’Brian the sense of the phrase has a metaphorical understanding to it, and that it has an eschatological dimension imbedded into it. Bruce comments that this is the realm where Christ has triumph and we are now united with him.[8] We can say that ‘heavenly realm’ denotes then an invisible spiritual reality, but one that has been triumphed by Jesus.

The phrase concerning ‘every spiritual blessing’ is what O’Brian sees as the summary of what believers receive in Christ. These ‘spiritual blessing’ are mentioned and noted in v.4-14.  He explains further that the “adjective spiritual means ‘pertaining to the life of the Spirit’, and thus spiritual blessing signify those which ‘properly pertain to the life of the Spirit’. The adjective does not primarily point to a contrast with what is material (e.g., Deut. 28:1-14), secular or worldly.”[9] These gifts also do not only conform to the ones in 1 Corinthians 12:3-11 but explained further in v.4-14. O’Brian also indicates that the Spirit is not accorded with the list of gifts given, the passage itself is silent on this. But where the Spirit is mention which is in 13-14, “he is received as ‘the guarantee of our inheritance’.”[10]


[1] See more in Bruce, F.F. The Epistles to the Collosians to Philemon and to the Ephesians. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1984, 1993). p.252 and Lincoln, Andrew T. Ephesians. (Dallas, Texas: Word.1990). p.19-20

[2] O’Brian, Peter. The Letters to the Ephesians. (Leicester, England: Apollos.1999). p.93

[3] Ibid.,p.94

[4] Ibid.,p.96

[5] Witherington III, Ben. The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles.(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans,2007). p.232.

[6] O’Brian, Peter. The Letters to the Ephesians. p.96-97

[7] Witherington III, Ben. The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians and the Ephesians. p.232

[8] Bruce, F.F. The Epistles to the Collosians to Philemon and to the Ephesians.,p.254

[9] O’Brian, Peter. The Letters to the Ephesians. p.95

[10] Ibid., p.96

8 thoughts on “Exegetical Notes on Ephesians (1)- (1:3)

    1. Thanks for the heads up on that, i’ve not come across Neufeld at the moment. I’ll be sure to try and get my hands on it if i can find it here.

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