Ephesians 1:3

Eulogetos ho theos…. ho eulogesas humas en pase eulogia pneymatike en tois epouranious en Christou

Owen’s point in reference to this verse is that “If faith be a spiritual blessing, it is bestowed on us “in him”, and so also for his sake.”24

Owen thus reads this reference to “in Christ” as supporting his foundational reconstruction of the relationship between the Father and the Son, where whatever is given us by God is for Jesus’ sake, in discharge of His promise to the Son in the covenant of redemption. There are two issues in assessing Owen’s interpretation. Is faith what Paul had in mind when he was speaking of spiritual blessings, and even if it is, what support does it being bestowed ‘in Christ’ give to Owen’s claim that faith is purchased by Christ? Why should ‘in him’ be the equivalent of ‘for His sake,’ especially when there are very adequate ways of expressing this idea in Greek by using dia with the Accusative or eneken?25

While an older commentator such as Abbott suggests that ‘spiritual blessings’ are “what St. Paul enumerates as the

fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5:22”26 more recent commentators have specified their content contextually. Lincoln, Barth and Bruce concur in seeing v. 3 as a general introductory summary statement which is then “elaborated in the rest of the eulogy”27 which Barth stresses is an ” indivisible and perfect whole.”28 Thus

the nature of the spiritual blessings here referred to is not in doubt: they are detailed in the following words of the berakhah. They include election to holiness, adoption, redemption, forgiveness, the gift of the Spirit, and the hope of glory.29

Arnold, conscious both of the context of spiritual struggle in which the Ephesians were being encouraged to live out their faith and of the local sense of epouraniois in the epistle, sees vv. 4-10 as not exhausting ‘spiritual blessing’ but giving the ground for the Ephesian confidence in their reception of the fullness of blessing in Christ, including “access to divine power and position of authority.”30 The focus is on the objective blessings which belong to believers ‘in Christ’ for the purpose of encouraging the persevering faith of the Ephesians. Faith is neither explicitly mentioned nor what Paul primarily had in mind.

What of the phrase ‘in Christ’? Can it sustain Owen’s interpretation as meaning ‘for Christ’s sake’? Noting the above observation that there were available in Greek ways for Paul to say what Owen would have him say, and the opinion of many commentators that en has either an instrumental or locative sense [or a combination of the two] here,31 it seems safe to conclude that while Paul saw all the blessings of salvation bestowed upon us ‘in Christ’, both through his agency and in virtue of our union with Him by faith, he does not say here that faith was either purchased for us, nor that God has blessed us in fulfillment of the promise made to Christ on the completion of His work. Support for such a notion can only be found if the structure and consequences of the covenant of redemption are already assumed. That is, the claim that Eph. 1: 3 supports the purchase of faith is eisegesis which ignores and has the potential to obscure the particularity of the passage.

Chambers, N.A. “A Critical Examination of John Owen’s Argument for Limited Atonement in the Death of Death in the Death of Christ,” (Th.M. thesis, Reformed Theological Seminary, 1998), 207-210. [Some reformatting; old style title emphasis converted to italics; italics original; underlining for side-headers original; and inline underlining mine.]


2410: 257

2525BAGD. dia, B II. See Eph. 2: 4. Interestingly where Paul uses the phrase dia Iesoun, Christon Kurion God is not spoken of as the agent. See 1 Cor. 4: 10; 2 Cor. 4: 5,11; Phil. 3: 7. Johannes P Louw and Eugene A. Nida[Eds.] Greek – English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains 2nd Edition (New York: UBS, 1989) 2 Vol. lists dia (with the Acc.) at 89.26, 90.38, and 90.44. Eneken is listed at 89.31, 89.58, 90.43. Of particular note is sub-field 90.43-4 “Reason Participant” where Eneken is said to be “a marker of a participant constituting the reason for an event – ‘because of, for the sake of’, and dia is “a marker of a participant constituting the cause or reason for an event or state – ‘because of, on account of, for this reason’.” 1:803-4. It is also interesting to observe that within the much larger sub-field “Cause and/or Reason (89.15 – 89.38)” where en does occur (89.26) it is as a marker “of cause or reason, with focus upon instrumentality, either of objects or events”, that is, not the agency of persons. 1:779-782. cf. the absence of Eph. 1: 3 from BAGD en III: 3.

26T. K. Abbott A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians ICC, [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1897] p. 5

27Andrew T. Lincoln Ephesians [Waco: Word Books, 1990] p. 19.

28Markus Barth Ephesians. Introduction. Translation and Commentary on Chapters 1 – 3, The Anchor Bible, [New York: Doubleday, 1974], p. 78.

29F. F. Bruce The Epistles to the Colossians. to Philemon. and to the Ephesians NICNT, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984], p. 253.

30Clinton E. Arnold Ephesians: Power and.Magic. The Concept of Power in E9hesians in Light of its Historical Setting SNTS Monograph 63, (Cambridge. C.U.P., 1989), p.1SS.

31E.g. Lincoln Ephesians, “Here in 1:3 also the writer is thought is that believers experience the blessings of the heavenly realms not only through Christ is agency but also because they are incorporated into the exalted Christ as their representative, who is himself in the heavenly realms.” p. 22.

M. Barth Ephesians, “The phrase ‘blessed us in Christ” could mean that Christ is the instrument or priestly agent by which God gives his blessing [see 2: 17], or that his rule is the domain in which blessing is given.” Barth himself prefers to draw a parallel with the blessing of the nations in Abraham to bring out the full sense of what it means to be blessed in Christ. p.78. Cf. Abbott, Ephesians and Colossians, pp. 5-6; Bruce, Ephesians, p.251 & 253 fn. 24; C. Leslie Mitton Ephesians, New Century Bible [London, Oliphants, 1976], pp. 46-7.

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