The month of November is associated with many things—Election Day, Veteran’s Day, Black Friday, and not shaving—but November will always be primarily associated with Thanksgiving. Our modern version of Thanksgiving is often associated with a three day harvest feast which took place at the Plymouth Colony in 1621. This feast was attended by approximately fifty Pilgrims and ninety Native Americans, and it celebrated the Pilgrim’s first successful growing season. The objective of this feast, as well as other similar thanksgiving celebrations that occurred throughout the colonies, was to express gratitude to God for His abundant blessings.
In 1863, Thanksgiving became an annually celebrated national holiday by proclamation of Abraham Lincoln. In Lincoln’s address regarding Thanksgiving, he noted that all blessings “are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” His statement is reminiscent of Habakkuk 3:2 in which Habakkuk prayed, “LORD, I have heard of your fame, I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” It is only fitting that recalling God’s awesome blessings and seeking His constant mercy, like Habakkuk, should ignite within us a heart of gratitude.
As we enter this season of thanksgiving, I want to present a series of articles that examines some of the blessings that God has bestowed upon us. However, the focus of these articles will not be on physical blessings. Instead, it will be on the spiritual blessings that God grants to those who are citizens of His kingdom. Paul said in Ephesians 1:3 that God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3). What are the spiritual blessings with which we have been blessed? Over the next few articles, we will seek to investigate the spiritual blessings that Paul identified in Ephesians 1 so that we do not fail to give thanks to God for them.
The first blessing I want us to consider is the blessing of being chosen. In Ephesians 1:4-5, Paul specifically said that God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” What does it mean to be chosen?
One thing we know about being chosen is that it is a big deal. Think about when you were a kid and teams were being chosen at recess for a game. The one thing you did not want to be was the last one chosen because that meant nobody wanted you on his or her team. Think about when you got engaged. Whether you were the one proposing or the one being proposed to, the moment was special because someone was choosing you to be their spouse. Think about that first job for which you were hired. With that hiring came a sense of pride because you were chosen to be employed by that company. You see, being chosen is special because it is the result of a deliberate decision rather than an accidental discovery. It is not something that happens by chance. Being chosen is the result of somebody intentionally setting their affection on you. Being chosen means that you are wanted, and when you are chosen you feel special.
Scripture repeatedly asserts that God’s people have been chosen by Him. For example, Moses told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 7:6-8,
The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers
Thus, the Israelites were God’s chosen people in the Old Testament. This does not mean that God did not love other people. Instead, it means that the Israelites were specifically chosen by God to be the people through whom He would operate in this world to bless it, particularly by being the people through whom a Savior would enter the world.
In the New Testament, the chosen status transitions away from the Israelites and onto the church. Paul referred to Christians as “chosen ones” in Colossians 3:12, and told the church in Thessalonica that they are “brothers loved by God, that [God] has chosen” (1 Thessalonians 1:4).Additionally, Peter referred to Christians as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” in 1 Peter 2:9. Thus, the church, which is made up of individual Christians, is God’s chosen people today. Again, this does not mean that God does not love those outside the church. Instead, it means that the church is specifically chosen by God to be the people through whom He operates in the world to bless it, particularly by being the people through whom His message of reconciliation is shared and for whom salvation is prepared (2 Corinthians 5:16-20).
In order to be a benefactor of the chosen status you have to be “in Christ.” When Paul said that God “blessed us…with every spiritual blessing,” he specifically said that such blessings are found “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). In other words, the only way to access the blessing of chosenness is by entering an “in Christ” state, and the only way to be “in Christ” is by putting on Christ through baptism, according to Galatians 3:26-29 (emphasis added) which says,
for IN CHRIST JESUSyou are all SONS OF GOD, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST have PUT ON CHRIST.28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Thus, those who have been “baptized into Christ” are blessed because God has chosen them. He has intentionally set His affection on them. Are you among the recipients of this blessing? Jesus said in Matthew 22:14, “many are called, but few are CHOSEN” (emphasis added). Won’t you be one of the few?