The Hearing of Faith
“God bless America.” In these past weeks and months, we’ve heard, spoken, written, and prayed this well-known phrase so often. As we consider the great tragedy and loss, the upheaval and change, inflicted on this country on September 11, we surely feel the need for God to bless us, both individually and as a people. But we need to ask, in what way does God want to bless us? What is the significance of God’s blessing according to the New Testament.
In the Greek language, the word blessing means good speech, fine speaking, good utterance. Whenever we read the words “blessed be” in the Bible, that is God’s well speaking of us, His good, fine speaking to us. When God speaks to us, He blesses us. Furthermore, Ephesians 1 tells us specifically what these blessings of God are.
When God blesses us, it is for His praise and His glory.
Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ.” If we read on in chapter one, we find that verses 4-14 speak of these very blessings: God chose us in Christ (v.4); He predestinated us unto sonship (v. 5); He redeemed us through Christ’s blood (v.7); He designated us as God’s inheritance (v. 11); He sealed us with the Holy Spirit who is the pledge, a guarantee of God as our inheritance (vv. 13-14)! These things may not fit into our traditional understanding of blessing. However, this is what the New Testament reveals as God’s blessing.
According to verse 3, all the blessings in verses 4-14 are spiritual, in the heavenlies, and in Christ. In the Old Testament, God blessed His people, the children of Israel, with many physical and earthly blessings. Today we may ask God to bless us with riches, health, wisdom, or a peaceful living situation, for which Paul told us to pray (1 Tim 2:1-3). We may also think that God’s blessing America would mean that we would have a strengthened economy, security against opposition, and love for our fellow man. These are not bad things, and God may give us these things. However, the New Testament shows us that this is not God’s main focus. Today in the New Testament age, God wants to bless us not merely with outward physical blessings. Our Father God wants to bless us with blessings that are in the heavenlies, that is, heavenly in nature, and spiritual, all of which are in Christ. Hallelujah, in eternity He chose us, He predestinated us, He redeemed us, He designated us, He sealed us, and gave us His Spirit as our pledge.
Why does God desire to bless us? God is a God of purpose (v. 9), and He blesses us with the purpose of His heart in view. If we read to the end of chapter one, we see the issue of all God’s blessings to us is that we become the church, Christ’s Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all (vv. 22-23), for the expression of our Triune God in this universe. This is to the praise of His glory (v. 14). When God blesses us, it is for His praise and His glory. What a mercy that we are truly under God’s blessing! May God bless America and the entire earth with these heavenly and spiritual blessings in Christ.
For further reading on this subject, please see the footnotes for the above referenced verses in the New Testament Recovery Version, published by Living Stream Ministry.
From Issue No. 43, November 2001