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Ephesians: God’s General Purpose


Johnson once said to his friend Boswell: “Sir, you have two subjects — yourself and myself — and I am sick of both.” The best of men soon tire of the best in man. Not so with Christ. He is the same, yesterday, to-day and forever, without any sameness. He is always fresh. There are infinite resources in Him, therefore, He can ever satisfy the need of the finite. This is brought out in Ephesians, this wonderful Epistle of Divine riches. Everything is summarized and summed up “in Christ” Himself.
     Renan calls this Epistle “a third-rate composition!” Of such a statement we say, “It is low-rate impudence.” We agree with Samuel Taylor Coleridge when he calls the Epistle “one of the Divinest compositions of men.” Even this commendation is deficient: I would rather speak of the Epistle as the Divine unfolding of God Himself in the Man of men. Huxley, on one occasion, in looking at the evolution of a minute form of life under the microscope, spoke of “The Unseen Worker.” As we take this Epistle and ponder it in its Divine unfolding, we see the perfect plan of the Divine Worker, God Himself, for it is essentially and distinctly a revelation of the Divine. The sweep of the Epistle contains seven Divine things, namely —

  • I. The Divine Purpose (1:3-14).
  • II. The Divine Power (1:15–2:22).
  • III. The Divine Proclamation (3:1-13).
  • IV. The Divine Presence (3:14-21).
  • V. The Divine Provision (4:1-16).
  • VI. The Divine Pattern (4:17–6:9).
  • VII. The Divine Panoply (6:10-20).

I. The Divine Purpose (1:3-14).

The first two verses of the Epistle embody the salutation, then comes the unfolding of the counsels relating to the Divine purpose in Christ in connection with the redeemed.
     There are three points to ponder — the Centralizer, the Centralization, and the Centralized.

The Centralizer is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus” (verse 3)

Hence we read of —

  1. His blessing us with all spiritual blessing (verse 3).
  2. His choice of us before Creation (verse 4).
  3. His placing us before Himself” without blemish”(verse 4 R.V.).
  4. His foreordination of us to Himself in adoption as His children (verse 5). This refers to place, and not to nature.
  5. His sovereign act in doing all according to His good pleasure (verse 5).
  6. His enhancing of His glory through His grace (verses 6, 12).
  7. His bestowment of grace “in the Beloved” (verse 6, R.V.).
  8. His redemptive act by means of Christ’s blood (verse 7).
  9. His wisdom made known in His actions (verse 8).
  10. His will unfolded in His revealed secret (verse 9).
  11. His goal in summing all up in the Christ (verse 10, R.V.).
  12. His mind revealed in our association with Christ (verse 11).
  13. His sealing with the Spirit in claiming us as His own (verse 13).
  14. His possession of the redeemed and their glory (verse 14).

The Centralization is in the Christ.

Not in the national blessing of Israel, not in the doom of the world, not in the many-headed monster of mystified twentieth century development, but “in Christ.”

  • In the Christ of Deity — “Lord” (verse 2).
  • In the Christ of Calvary — “His Blood” (verse 7).
  • In the Christ of Sonship “by Jesus Christ” (verse 5).
  • In the Christ of the heavenly places (verse 3).
  • In the Christ of God’s Purpose (verse 10).
  • In the Christ of the Holy Spirit (verse 13).
  • In the Christ of the coming glory (verse 14).
  • All blessing is in Him, and in no one else beside.

The Centralized are spoken of as being —

  • “Saints” as to standing (verse 1).
  • “Faithful” as to service (verse 1).
  • “Blessed” as to enrichment (verse 3).
  • “Children” as to relationship (verse 5).
  • “Accepted” as to position (verse 6).
  • “Redeemed” as to liberty (verse 7).
  • “Sealed” as to possession (verse 13).

All this makes known to us the sovereignty of God’s grace in blessing us. A lady once objected to the truth of election, to a servant of God. He advised her to read the 5th, 6th, and 17th chapters of John, where the words “elect” and “election” do not occur. He said to her, “And have you chosen Him, or do you think Christ has chosen you?”
     “Yes, He has chosen me, and I have chosen Him.”
     “If you chose Him first,” he rejoined, “you make your self to differ, and salvation is of works: if the Divine choice was first, your choice of Christ was the effect of it, and salvation is of grace.”

II. The Divine Power (1:15–2:22).

The Divine power is demonstrated in two ways: First, in the resurrection of Christ from the dead; and, second, in the salvation of the believer.
     Christ’s Resurrection (1:18-20). There are three “what’s” of meanful importance which the Spirit’s illumination enables us to see: —
     “What is the hope of His calling.”
     “What is the riches of the glory of His inheritance.”
     “What is the greatness of His power.”
     “The Hope of His calling” is what He will have when the Lord has accomplished all His purpose.
     “The riches of His inheritance” is what the Lord has in His people.
     And “the greatness of His power” is what He demonstrated in Christ’s resurrection on our behalf, and what He can do for us, and in us.
     The sweep and substance of that power is apprehended as we ponder the seven words — “Power,” “Greatness,” “Exceeding,” “Power,” “Mighty,” “Working,” “Wrought.”

  • “Power.” The first word rendered “power “in verse 19 signifies power as an inherent quality, and then the manifestation of power in action. Power is latent in the inactive dynamite, but its power is patent when it explodes and rends the massive rock. Power was latent in Christ before the woman touched the hem of His garment, but it was patent in her, when it flowed from Him into her, and healed her of her disease. The word “virtue “in Luke 8:46 is the same as rendered “power”in Eph. 1:19.
  • “Greatness.” This word only occurs here, but it is derived from a word which signifies magnitude and magnificence, hence we read of “The Great God,” “The Great High Priest,” and “The Great Shepherd.”
  • “Exceeding.” This is a compound word, one part meaning that which is over and above something else, and the other part meaning to throw, hence the word means to go beyond a given point.
  • “Power.” The second word in verse 19 denotes the manifestation of power, as when we read, “He shewed strength with His arm.”
  • “Mighty” expresses inherent power. We speak of a statesman as being “wise,” a soldier as being “valiant,” and a powerful person as being “strong.” Personal force and ability is meant.
  • “Working” and “Wrought.” These words come from one and the same source. They denote right and might, with the added thought of efficiency.

The Divine power which raised Christ from the dead is the same which operates in the believer’s salvation, for no other power can meet the case. Chapter 2 opens with the significant words, “And you.” If the italicised words are left out — “hath He quickened” — it will give clearness to the thought, that as the dead body of Christ was quickened by the powerful act of God, so that same power is needed to quicken from the death of sin. Rotherham renders it, “Unto you also.” What the Lord has wrought for us is brought out or suggested in chapter 2 if we ponder what we were and what we are.

V. The Divine Provision (4: 1-16).

Grace is the Source of the Divine Provision. God’s giving is based upon His love to give. Such expressions illustrate, as “Given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ,” “He gave gifts unto men,” “He gave,” etc. (verses 7, 8, 11). Grace is Love blessing the undeserving, Mercy helping the needy, Power lifting the down-trodden, Fulness filling the empty, Compassion loving the hopeless, Beauty clothing the naked, Help saving the lost, Strength empowering the weak, Cleansing purifying the defiled, Tenderness melting the hardened, and Joy gladdening the miserable.
    Grace meets the sin of the sinner, and removes it. Grace answers for the sinner by dying for him. Grace lives to empower the saint, and to live in him. Grace equips the soldier, and conquers through him. Grace leads the child of God, and cheers him. Grace employs the servant, and for service fits him. And grace undertakes for the believer, and supplies all his need, hence verse 6 is the keynote of grace’s action — “Father of all,” for all come from Him. “Above all,” for He alone is in the place of authority. “Through all,” for He alone is the life of all. And “in all,” for He alone can sanctify and qualify for all things in life and labour.

Christ is the Substance of the Divine Provision

Christ is the effulgence of God’s glory, the express image of His Person, and the Reservoir of His fulness (Heb. 1:3). God has nothing to give apart from Him, and there is no more when He is given (Rom. 8:32). As the diamond flashes forth its excellence in the gold ring of its setting, so in the ring of this Scripture Christ’s glory is revealed. The personal pronouns, His names and His titles enshrine and illustrate.
    The “Lord” in the strength of His support (verse 1).
    The “One Lord” in the supremacy of His glory (verse 5).
    The “Christ” in the grace of His bestowment (verse 7).
    The “He saith” in the authority of His Word (verse 8).
    The “He ascended” of His acceptance (verse 8).
    The “He led” of His splendid triumph (verse 8).
    The “He descended” of His loving abasement (verse 9).
    The “He might fill” of wonderful accomplishments (verse 10).
    The “He gave” of His gracious endowments (verse 11)
    The “Christ” of the oneness of the mystical body (verse 12).
    The “Son of God” in the glory of His inspiring knowledge (verse 13).
     The “Christ” in “the fulness” of His supply (verse 13).
    The “Head” in its compacting and controlling ministry (verse 15).

The Spirit is the Strength of the Divine Provision

The Holy Spirit is spoken of in His Sovereignty as ” the One Spirit.” He is One in equality with the Father and Son. He is One in the fellowship of the co-operation of the Godhead in all things. He is One in the enhancing of the glory of Christ. And He is One as the Supplier of the believer in His need, hence He is the Spirit of Life to quicken, the Spirit of Grace to strengthen, the Spirit of Love to cheer, the Spirit of Truth to sanctify, the Spirit of Power to qualify, the Spirit of Christ to unify, the Spirit of Wisdom to instruct, and the Spirit of Joy to gladden.

Growth is the outcome of the Divine Provision

The expressions, “walk worthy (verse 1),”perfect man” (verse 13), “no more children” (verse 14), “grow up” (verse 15) and “maketh increase” (verse 16), indicate progress, advancement, and care. To walk worthy of the Lord in the “lowliness of” humility, in the evenness of “meekness,” in the “longsuffering” of endurance, and in the love of “forbearance,” we need the worthy Lord Himself. To walk well for the Lord we need the Lord to walk in us. “The perfect man” of God’s ideal is consummated in the ideal of His Son. The baby state of spiritual experience is characteristic of instability and inefficiency, while the man of grace is known by the Spirit’s efficiency and steadiness. The outward growth in usefulness, and the downward growth in stedfastness, are the outcome of growing upward into Christ through His dominance over us. The success of the body’s growth is forwarded by the individual member’s advancement.

Ministry is the operation of the Divine Provision

“Perfecting,” “work,” “edifying,” and “supplieth,” are the key words which indicate the work of the Head through the members in their mutual relations to each other. The end of all ministry is the adjustment to the saints in the will of God. The “work” of the ministry is the loving labour which each member expends on the other. The “edifying” outcome of the ministry is expressed in the building up of character. And the “dependence” of the ministry is manifested in each member’s recognition of the dependence of all on each other in their supply from the Head.

VI. The Divine Pattern (4:17–6:9)

There are many things suggested in imitating a pattern. Among them are instruction, imitation, illumination, submission, union, responsibility, and appreciation. All these are illustrated in the section before us.

Instructed by Christ (4:17-31)

Key sentence, “Ye have not so learned Christ” (verse 20). Instructed by Christ —
    About the life of the walk (verse 17).
    About the old man of past habit (verse 22).
    About the new man of holy living (verse 24).
    About the mastery of the wayward tongue (verses 25, 26).
    About the obtrusiveness of the devil (verse 27).
    About the commendableness of honest labour (verse 28).
    About the helpfulness of helping others (verse 29).
    About the sensitiveness of the Holy Spirit (verse 30).
    About the blight and bitterness of unholy temper (verse 31).

Imitation of Christ (4:32; 5:1,2)

Key sentence is “As Christ loved,” etc. (verse 2). Imitate Christ —
    In kindness.
    In forgiving grace.
    In holy love.
    In self sacrifice.
    In God glorifying.

Illuminated in Christ (verses 3-20)

Key sentence, “Now light in the Lord” (verse 8).
    Out of the darkness of sin (verses 3-8).
    Into the relationship of light (verse 8).
    Swayed by the Spirit of light (verses 9, 18).
    Acting to the God of Light (verse 10).
    Keeping from what is not light (verses 11-13).
    Walking as children of light (verses 11, 15).
    Worshipping in the light (verses 19, 20).

Submission to Christ (verses 21-28)

    Evidence of being Spirit filled (verse 21).
    Evidence of being under Christ’s authority (verse 24).
    All the relationships of life are to be fulfilled towards each other by recognizing our responsibility to Him. See “unto the Lord” in verse 22, and “ought” of verse 28.

Union with Christ (verses 29-33)

Key sentence, “Members of His body” (verse 30). This union is —
    Loving in its care — “nourisheth” (verse 29).
    Attentive in its regard — “cherisheth” (verse 29).
    Vital in its action — “members,” etc. (verse 30).
    Separating in its attraction (verse 31).
    Mystical in its nature (verse 32).

Responsible to Christ (6:1-7, 9)

Key sentence, “In the Lord” (6: 1). Those who are subordinate, as children and servants, recognize they take the place of submission to Christ, and do all for Him in obeying them: and those who are over, as parents and masters, are responsible to the Father and Lord of all to act towards the subordinates with consideration.

Reward from Christ (6:8)

Key sentence, “Receive the Lord.” Everything done for love’s sake for the Lord will bring recognition at the judgment seat in the glad day of the Lord’s return.

VII. The Divine Panoply (6:10-20).

The key sentence is “The Armour of God” (verse 11). There are seven star words which shine out in the sky of this section.

  1. The “Be strong” of the Lord’s Empowerment (verse 10).
  2. The “Take” of the Lord’s Equipment (verses 13, 16, 17).
  3. The “Stand” of the Soldier’s Endurement (verses 11, 13, 14).
  4. The “Shod” of the Feet’s Protectment (verse 15).
  5. The “Above All” of Faith’s Encasement (verse 16).
  6. The “Praying” of the Spirit’s Environment (verse 18).
  7. The “Watching” of the Patrol’s Alertment (verse 18).

    The condition of heart that can commune with the Lord in order to understand and experience the grace and truth embedded in this mine of wea1th is found in the last verse and in the sentence, “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity” (margin, “Incorruption”) The word “sincerity” is rendered “incorruption” and “immortality” in I Cor. 15:42, 50, 53, 54; Rom. 2: 7; II Tim. 1:10. When the heart of the believer is free from the corruption of sin, and has in it the love of incorruption, then there is the obedience of faith and the love of sacrifice.

The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the King James Version. This article appears on the site: https://www.peterwade.com/ Check out our Bookstore.

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