Many years ago, in a seminary class, we were required to read Lewis S. Chafer’s Systematic Theology. In one part, he said that when a person believes in Jesus Christ, he receives 33 blessings from God. When we believe, we receive more than eternal life!
As a general observation, this point is one that often makes a distinction between Free Grace theology and other ways of seeing the Scriptures. Most within Christendom look at the NT and see it as describing one main point: How does a person gain salvation from hell?
Free Grace people, however, are different. They look at many, many passages that others see as discussing salvation from hell. Free Grace folks will often see other blessings from God being addressed. Perhaps these passages deal with eternal rewards. But there are other blessings we receive from God that are not the same as receiving eternal life. These blessings would include things like being redeemed from the power of sin, being baptized into the Body of Christ, receiving a spiritual gift, and receiving the forgiveness of sins.
This is not a minor issue. If we do not see that the NT is not primarily a book telling us how to be saved from hell, we will make many errors when we interpret it. But it will also cause another problem. It can cause us to miss what the NT says about all the blessings and opportunities that are ours as believers in Jesus Christ. As great as eternal life is, we receive much more!
Last year, GES had a conference on the Book of Ephesians. That conference brought to light some of these points. In Eph 1:3-14, Paul speaks of the blessings believers receive. Since these verses talk about God’s calling and how He predestined us, as well as our being adopted as sons, many automatically assume Paul is addressing how God saved us from hell. A closer look, however, reveals that Paul has other blessings in mind.
The first clue is v 3. Paul praises God because in Christ, He “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.” The word “every” shows there are more blessings involved than simply “going to heaven.” When one reads the whole section a little more carefully, he finds that this is indeed the case. Paul is talking about how we as believers are a part of the church. The church was always a part of God’s eternal plan. In His wisdom, He predestined that both Jewish and Gentile believers would make up the Body of Christ. Since we have been set free from the power of sin, we can serve God as a body in a holy and blameless way. The Church will rule with Christ in His kingdom when He brings everything to conclusion at the end of the age. Of course, all of this also implies the blessings of eternal rewards.
In other words, in Ephesians 1, Paul is speaking about the blessings that the believer has because he is part of the church, the Body of Christ. I find studying Ephesians to be difficult because I have a tendency to look at my spiritual life in a highly individualistic way. What I am arguing is that in some passages we need to consider the blessings we receive from God as the result of our union with other believers in Christ.
I would challenge the reader of this blog to read the Book of Ephesians in this light. Maybe you will disagree with my thoughts here. But even if you do, we should all realize that there are many times when we might think the NT is talking about being saved from hell, when it is talking about another blessing that is available to us as believers. Lewis S. Chafer said there were 33 such blessings. I don’t know if his number is right. My guess is that the number is greater than 33. But one thing I do know. If we consider more carefully what God has done for us in Christ as revealed in the NT, we will get an even greater appreciation of the grace and kindness of God that was lavished on us in His Son. Thirty-three, or whatever the number it is, is greater than one.