Before we jump into our exposition of Ephesians, let us address one last background matter. Depending on the English translation, there may be a note on Ephesians 1:1 that expresses doubt as to whether “in Ephesus” is found in the original text Paul wrote. This is because some of the oldest manuscript copies of Ephesians in the original Greek do not have “in Ephesus” in verse 1. In reality, the evidence for the absence of “in Ephesus” in the original text is not all that compelling, for the vast majority of ancient copies contain the phrase. Nevertheless, the potential omission of “in Ephesus” has led some scholars to theorize that what we know as Ephesians is actually the “letter from Laodicea” referenced in Colossians 4:16, but this is speculative. Either way, however, the interpretation of this epistle remains the same.
Paul begins Ephesians with a call for God to be blessed on account of His blessing us “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). That God is blessed or should be blessed is repeated often in Scripture (Gen. 9:26; Ps. 18:46; 2 Cor. 1:3), and it means that the Lord is praised or worthy of praise, as Charles Hodge tells us in his Ephesians commentary. There are many reasons why God deserves our praise, but in Ephesians 1:3 the apostle tells us that our Father should be praised for sharing the abundance of His goodness with us — for bestowing upon us spiritual blessings.
When we read “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” we are tempted to think the apostle refers only to intangible, ethereal, or inner realities such as peace, joy, and so on. Such things are included in the blessings Paul mentions, but he also has tangible, physical things in mind. Spiritual blessings correspond to the age of the fuller manifestation of the Holy Spirit, that age of life the prophets foresaw us experiencing most fully in the new heaven and the new earth (Isa. 65:17–25; Jer. 31:31–40; Joel 2:28–32). Jesus inaugurated this age in His life, death, resurrection, and ascension (Acts 2:1–41). By His work, our Savior has brought the age to come into the present, allowing us to enjoy its blessings in part today, though not in their fullness. When the “heavenly places” become one with the realm we can now see at the consummation, we who are in Christ will enjoy the fullest prosperity in every sense. But as these blessings are ours now, we experience many foretastes of that future reality.