Introduction — The Grand Canyon of Scripture
One time when in need of special spiritual inspiration and refreshment I went to the Grand Canyon of Arizona. Of all God’s wonders in His natural creation, which He has given me to see, none seems more wonderful than the Grand Canyon. Two never-to-be-forgotten days were spent there.
On the first day I just skirted a bit of the Canyon’s rim, getting first-hand impressions of its magnitude, majesty and matchless beauty of colouring. For an hour or two I sat trying to compass in imagination the vast breadth of the gorge which at that point was thirteen miles across. Then I moved on to another spot, where, look ing straight down one mile, the sizeable river below looked like a white ribbon. At sunset I went to a distant point where the Canyon stretched itself out over eighty miles before one’s eyes, and where it was all ablaze with a veritable orgy of indescribable colour, which left one silent and worshipful in the presence of the Canyon’s Creator.
Physically tired, but spiritually renewed, I tumbled into bed for a brief sleep before rising at four to find my way, alone and unaided save by the tiniest ray of light, to the road that led me again to the sunset point, that I might there see the sunrise. On and on I went, until in semi-darkness, standing on the rim of the Canyon, I looked down into an absolutely black abyss. Not even one ray of the sun’s light shone upon its rocks to bring out their exquisite beauty. All was unrelieved, awesome darkness in that gaping gorge. As one strained the eye in the vain attempt to discern something to lighten the awful, terrifying blackness, shades of darkness seemed discernible, – the blackness at the bottom seeming to shade off into dark purple and then into lighter purple. Still all was darkness every where in the Canyon before sunrise. I am not ashamed to admit that, looking into the Canyon devoid of sunlight, I trembled from head to foot.
Soon the sun began to rise, first flashing its glory light upon the heavens above, making them look like the divine painter’s palette; then gradually touching one point after another in the Canyon and lighting it into gorgeous colouring. One stood transfixed in wonder and worship at each transforming touch.
Finally, the sun was fully up, and with all its resplendent, full orbed light flooded the Canyon and made the thing which was terrifying in the darkness something of transcendent beauty and glory in the light after sunrise.
Reluctant to leave this spot, and yet oh! so eager to get still more of the Canyon into my vision and into my heart, I walked rapidly back to the hotel to eat a hasty breakfast before going with a party down the steep, winding trail of the Canyon, seven and one- half miles, to the river below. I rode a burro. At one time the trail was so sharp in its curve that the forefeet of that sure-footed little animal were on the very edge of a sheer precipice, a depth straight down of twelve hundred feet.
After a short time at the river, we began our ascent. There were times in ascending the trail when all below was out of sight and thought, and one was just lost in the wonder of the height of the Canyon, of continually going up and up, with always more above and beyond, until finally the very expanse of the heavens seemed to roof the Grand Canyon, beyond which one’s sight could not go.
The ascent over, and again on the Canyon’s rim, I could not leave till I had one last view with the afterglow of the sunset upon it. From darkness to dawn, — from full sunlight to twilight, this wonder work of God had poured out a wealth of inspiration.
Only this once have I seen the Grand Canyon, and that was twenty-eight years ago, but to-day , with eyes closed and memory active, its stands out before me as though it were seen only yesterday. In those two days the Grand Canyon became a part of me.
Ephesians is the Grand Canyon of Scripture. A well-known Bible teacher says of it, “In this epistle we enter the Holy of Holies in Paul’s writings.” Dr. A. C. Gaebelein writes, “This epistle is God’s highest and best. Even God cannot say more than what He has said in this filling-full of His Word.”
So will you spend a while in this Grand Canyon of Scripture with me? Let us first just skirt the rim of Ephesians to get some first hand, vivid impressions and viewpoints of this masterpiece of God’s supernatural creation, a sinner transformed into a saint, and the Body of Christ constituted from Jew and Gentile as fellow-members.
Do not stop for details, but just let your eye run to and fro over the entire epistle, and get God’s own description of the high lights of its truth. “The salnts”; “In Christ”; “his calling”; “his inberitance”; “the purchased possession”; “the Church, his body, the fulness of him”; “his workmanship”; “one new man”; “one body”; “the household of God”; “an habitation of God”; “a perfect man”; “members of his body”; “members one of another”; “a glorious church”; “the wiles of the devil”; “principalities, powers, world rulers of this darkness”; “the whole armour of God.” What vast distances we have scanned, and what glories of our salvation in Christ have been silhouetted upon the horizon of our thought! Does it not give us food for many a day’s study?
But now let us get a nearer view of the majesty and might and matchless grace of the sovereign God in His own workshop, as opened to our view in the first three chapters. Here man is scarcely seen save as the recipient of God’s grace and the beneficiary of His mercy and love in salvation. Our first glimpse is into the eternity of the past, where God formed His eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. All the rest is the execution of that purpose. Let us note a few outstanding impressions of His workmanship.
The Sovereign God is Working according to the Good Pleasure of His Will
1:5. “Having predestinated us according to the good pleasure of his own will.”
1: 11. “Being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”
The method by which man comes into the family of God as His child, and all other matters pertaining to his life in God’s household, are predetermined by God. Man has nothing whatsoever to say about these things. In man’s redemption God’s will is the first cause and the determining factor. If man is not saved God’s way, then he is not saved at all.
The Sovereign God is Working according to His Eternal Purpose
3:11. “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The sin in the garden of Eden did not take God unawares, nor was man’s salvation an afterthought of God. He had anticipated the fall, and was prepared for it. Before the Cross of Christ was ever set up in history on Calvary, or even in promise in Eden, it was existent in the heart of God in the dateless eternity of the past. The blueprints for the holy temple in the Lord which was to be God’s habitation on earth were made by the triune God before the foundation of the world.
The Sovereign God is Working to Magnify His Grace and His Glory
1:6. “To the praise of the glory of his grace.”
1: 12. “That we should be to the praise of his glory.”
Whether in creation or in redemption, God never acts save for His own glory. The salvation of sinners magnifies His wondrous grace in giving His only begotten Son to die that they might live.
The Grand Canyon of Arizona, — the workmanship of God in natural creation, — may one day give place to something even more wonderful in majesty and beauty in the new earth which He will make. But the Grand Canyon of Ephesians will abide in all the ages upon the ages to come, “that he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
The Sovereign God is Working according to His Mighty Power
1: 19. “The exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe according to the working of his mighty power.“
3:20. “According to the power that worketh in us.”
6:10. “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.”
His mighty power is at work for us in Christ, our Saviour; in us in Christ, our Life; and through us in Christ, our Lord.
May we now move on to another point on the rim of this Grand Canyon of the Word to get another view. In Chapter two the impression is of the vast distances, the far-reaching and all-inclusive breadth of salvation. We see the richness of God’s mercy and the greatness of His love in creating a saint out of a sinner. We see His masterpiece in workmanship in the constitution of the Church out of two races, irrevocably far apart by nature, but made one in Christ by grace. The gospel of conciliation with one another through reconciliation with God has made of the Jew and the Gentile one Body over which Christ is the Head.
Now at the end of our first day with the Grand Canyon of Scripture, Jet us go back to a time before time, and with a divine fieldglass look on down through the centuries at the Church as God purposed it, even on to a time after time. For Ephesians is “the meeting-point of two eternities” in God’s conception of the Church. As we trail the Church from glory through grace to glory, we shall comprehend a new measurement — the length of the love of Christ for lost sinners.
1:4. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.”
2:7. “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace.”
Now let us rise before dawn that we may see sunrise in the Grand Canyon of Scripture. I promise you it will be a never-to-be-forgot ten sight. We will travel along the road mapped out in Romans 1-3, for it is this road that leads to Ephesians 2:1-3:11,12; 4:17- 19; 5:8. Here we stop at the rim of the Canyon before sunrise. What do we see? A gaping gorge where all is darkness, degradation, death. There is not one ray of light to relieve the terrible darkness; not one ray of hope in the midst of enveloping death. “Dead”; “trespasses”; “sins”; “ignorance”; “blindness”; “lasciviousness”; “uncleanness”; “greediness”; “darkness”; “children of disobedience and wrath.”
There may be degrees in the degradation to which a sinner goes. He may go the full length of sin in the eyes of the laws of earth and be imprisoned as a thief, a gangster, a murderer; or he may be a highly respected citizen, even occupying a professor’s chair, or a pulpit, in whose inmost heart God sees pride, unbelief, and enmity to ward Him. But one is as “far-off” from God as the other, for both are “without Christ” and “without God,” and so “without hope.” Standing on the rim of 2:1-3, one trembles in anguish of heart at the thought of the present condition and the future destiny of the sinner left in his sins.
2: 12. “That at that time ye were without Christ… having no hope; and without God in the world.”
But look up and behold the glory light in the heavens! God has come to the sinner’s rescue, and in His infinite mercy and love has made a way of escape out of the pit of sin and death.
2:4-5. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love where with he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved).”
1:7. “In whom we have redemption through his blood.”
A Saviour provided for the sinner! A Redeemer gone down into the slave market of sin to buy the slave and to set him free.
Light now shines into the sinner’s heart and brings life. A touch here and a touch there; “chosen”; “predestinated”; “accepted”; “redemption”, “forgiveness”, “obtained inheritance”, “sealed”, and the sinner is delivered from the power of darkness and is translated into the kingdom of his dear Son. The Sun of righteousness has arisen and shone into his heart, and has begun His transfiguring work.
Tarry a bit longer. The sinner is saved, but God would have him sanctified also, for he was “chosen to be holy.” The believer in Christ is now a saint, for he is positionally separated unto God, by which the fountain of fulness in Christ has been opened to him. But as there are degrees of degradation in sinnerhood, so there are degrees of holiness in sainthood. As the trend of the sinner’s life with out Christ is always down, so the trend of the saint’s life in Christ is always up. Christ came that we might have life, and might have it more abundantly. So for the Church and for the Christian there is fulness of life in Christ.
23. “The church, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
3:19. “Filled unto all the fulness of God.”
5:18. “Be filled with the Spirit.”
Have we not now come to the end of the truth brought to our view in Ephesians? Surely we have seen enough to occupy us in contemplation and assimilation for the rest of our lives! No, we have not yet gone down to the deepest depth, nor reached the highest height of our scriptural Grand Canyon. Do not become a spiritual tourist, soon surfeited with the beauty and glory of this precious bit of Scripture, and rush superficially on into some other field of study. Take time to go down to the river bottom, though the trail is steep and narrow. As far as possible know the unknowable love of Christ for sinners; aye, fathom the depths of the Saviour’s love for you before you leave Ephesians.
1:20. “Christ — dead.”
He went to the deepest depths to which He could go to bring us from death unto life. Christ, the Saviour, became the sinner’s substitute; taking the sinner’s position; becoming sin in order to bear sin; dying to abolish death. “Christ dead” that the sinner might live.
1:20. “Christ — raised from the dead and set at his own right hand in the heavenly places.”
Coming out of the grave, Christ ascended to the highest heights to which He as the God-man could go. He ascended to glory as victor over Satan and all the forces of evil, and upon His triumphal return was exalted to the place of Lordship over the universe, and was made Head over all things to the Church.
1:21. “Far above all principality, and power, and tnight, and dominion.”
1:22. “And gave him to be head over all things to the church.”
Christ, risen, ascended, exalted, shares not only His glorified life but even His exalted position with the new-born race of men who become one with Him through faith.
2:4-6. “God — hath quickened us together with Christ — and hath raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Can we grasp the significance of these words? We, who are in Christ, are seated together with Him in that position of power and victory, “far above all.” This is the highest height the saint can reach. Even in the eternity of the future we shall not obtain a higher position than we now occupy in Christ, for there is nothing higher. Christ, as the crucified Saviour, went with us to as deep depths as He could go that, as the exalted Lord, He might raise us up with Him to the highest heights to which we can go.
Now may we pause for one last look at Ephesians as a whole be fore we begin a study of its component parts? May it be to us a glimpse of our Grand Canyon of Scripture in the afterglow of the setting sun.
The Scope of Ephesians:
The Church — Christ’s Body
The Keynote of Ephesians:
Christ — The Fulness of Church
Church — The Fulness of Christ
The Key Thought of Ephesians:
nbsp; In Christ
The Content of Ephesians:
Wealth — The Christian in Christ
Walk — Christ in the Christian
Warfare… Christian versus… Satan
After quiet contemplation, will you answer these three questions to yourself:
What is your most vivid impression of this Grand Canyon of Scripture?
What is the greatest desire this study has aroused in you?
To what extent has this Grand Canyon of Scripture become a part of you?
Pause again for another moment of worship and adoration of God, our Father; of His Son, our Saviour; and of His Spirit, our Sanctifier.
Part One: THE WEALTH OF THE CHRISTIAN
There is one word that has been on the lips of mankind these past few years [written in 1939]. The whole world has talked depression. I even heard of parents who gave their baby girl “Depression” as her middle name. Has it been the middle name of any reader of this book? Has the financial depression with its debilitating atmosphere caused within any of us a mental or a spiritual depression?
If so, it is time for us to move into the epistle to the Ephesians and take up our permanent residence there, where not the slightest trace of down heartedness is found, even though it was written in a Roman prison. On the contrary, one step over its threshold brings one into an atmosphere of unbounded spiritual affluence that creates within one’s heart deepest peace and assurance. It is impossible to live habitually in Ephesians and be depressed.
A vast deposit of riches has been made for the Christian in the bank of heaven. It is the oldest bank in existence. It dates way back to B.W. — before the world was. It does not belong to time and earth, but to eternity and heaven. Unlike the banks of earth, it is as unshakable and steadfast as the triune God who founded it. Its doors are never closed day or night to a child of God, and as for a run on it nothing would please the heavenly Father more than to have a daily, hourly, moment-by-moment demand for its treasures.
He has placed a deposit for us in Christ of unsearchable riches that can be drawn upon according to our need and our desire. In the recent depression a bank in which I had a small sum of money deposited was hard pressed. A notice was received from it that only ten per cent a month could be drawn from my account. Now here in God’s Word do we find a ten per cent limit imposed upon those who have any riches in the bank of heaven? On the contrary, God has put in our possession His own promises, given in the name of our adorable Saviour, which we may claim any time and to any limit by an act of appropriating faith.
The Resources of Heaven’s Bank
These resources are ample for the saint to cover all past debts; to meet all present liabilities, and to provide for all future needs.
They are three-fold.
The Riches of…
His grace 1:7
His Glory 3:16
The very words and phrases of Ephesians all speak of wealth. Let us examine some of them. They are indeed gilt-edged: “grace” used twelve times; “glory” eight; “inheritance” four; “riches” five; “fulness” three; “fill” or “filled” four; and the incomparable phrase “in Christ,” or its equivalent, twenty-seven.
Ephesians also shows us some of the current coins which the Christian may use daily in claiming his wealth. They are such words as “blessed”; “abounded”; “obtained”; “worketh”; “give”; “know”; “saved”; “made nigh”; “access”; “strengthened”; “filled”; “loved”; “able to stand”; “able to withstand”; “able to quench”; “praying always.”
The Reserves of Heaven’s Bank
Recently I noted on the stationery of a national bank these words: “Capital, Surplus and Reserves $2,250,000.” During the recent depression one bank was forced to close its doors, not because of insufficient capital, but because of inadequate reserves. Can any spiritual depression ever lessen the power of God to meet the needs of His child, however great these may be? Will the reserves of heaven’s bank be unequal to any demand made upon them? What, then, are these reserves? Ephesians tells us they are the fulness of the triune God…
The Fulness of God 3: 19
The Fulness of Christ 4:13
The Fulness of the Spirit 5:18
May not our hearts rest quietly and confidently in the assurance of the all-sufficiency of our spiritual resources and reserves? Dear reader, if you are in Christ you are a child of a King who owns heaven and earth and all that is therein. If a child, then an heir and a j oint-heir with Christ.
The Security of Heaven’s Bank
There is great fear in these days of all financial institutions; in many countries even the finances of the government are in such a precarious condition as to cause alarm and a haunting sense of insecurity. An insidious fear often possesses even the Christian’s heart and makes him doubt a bit the absolute safety of the bank of heaven. If anyone who reads Ephesians is the victim of spiritual jitters and needs to have his sense of security in his unlosable wealth restored, let his mind be riveted for a while upon an oft-repeated, three-lettered word which, connected with ten other words, furnishes a guarantee of absolute security:
good pleasure 1:9
purpose 1:11; 3:11
Is this not a sufficient guarantee to everyone who is a member of His Body of the security of His riches?
So we see that the wealth of the Christian is royal, munificent and unlosable; altogether sufficient to meet the requirements of his moral and spiritual delinquency and bankruptcy, and wholly adequate for even the greatest trial, financial, physical, mental or spiritual.
Only as we go deeper into Christ and He goes deeper into us will we know increasingly just how rich we are. But even eternity will not suffice for us to plumb the deepest depths or to measure the magnitude of our wealth in Christ (2: 7).
Let us continue with receptive mind and eager heart a more detailed study of our unsearchable riches in Christ.
1. The Wealth Glimpsed
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”
In this cryptic sentence the apostle Paul opens the door into Ephesians, and gives us a glimpse of what awaits us. It is the key to this house of spiritual treasures. Paul could not wait to unfold gradually these riches, so he places, as it were, a nugget of gold in our hands at the threshold, an earnest of what we shall find within.
We shall see the Christian pilgrim’s journey from grace to glory; the Christian’s biography from the eternity of the past to the eternity of the future; the Christian wrestler’s warfare with the Satanic hosts. It takes time for Paul to write all this, and it will take time for us to comprehend it. So in this one sentence he gives us the revelation in anticipation. The rest of the epistle is the unfolding of these words.
2. The Wealth Bequeathed
1:3. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us.”
For His beloved Son’s sake the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ blessed us. We shall miss one of the deepest truths in Ephesians if we fail to see that everything the Father does for the Church and for the Christian, He does primarily for the glory of His own grace and for the sake of His dear Son who voluntarily laid down His human body on the Cross in a moment of time that He might possess His mystical Body in the heavenlies now and in all the ages to come.
Years ago a very dear friend of mine died, the only child of her parents. I had gone in and out of the home as another daughter. Among her papers was an envelope addressed to her parents, to be opened in case of her death. It contained just one request, that they would regard me as a daughter and do for me as they would have for her.
Is this not the request which the Son made of His Father for all the other sons who had believed on Him? Did He not express His desire to share with them all that was His, even to His oneness with the Father and their home in glory?
John 17:21 “That… as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.“
John 17:24. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory.”
How can we know whether or not we qualify as recipients of the blessing? Two personal pronouns give us the answer.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ.” Is He yours? To those who receive Christ as their Saviour and Lord, the Father opens His household and takes them into the family circle. Then the Father fulfils His Son’s request and, as sons, shares with them the Son’s blessings and, as heirs, grants them their part in the inheritance of the saints.
“Who hath blessed us.” The “us” very evidently refers to a distinct and restricted group of people. 1: 1 tells who they are: “The saints at Ephesus.” A saint is one who is set apart specially unto God as His own by union with Jesus Christ through the baptism with the Spirit. The saints to whom Paul wrote had their temporal abode in Ephesus while pilgrims on earth. “The faithful in Christ Jesus,” — are those who have made Christ Jesus the object of their faith and who live by faith in Him. They are in Christ as their other worldly abode as citizens of heaven. From this salutation and from the content of the whole epistle we see that this oft-repeated “us” refers to all saints. Ephesians is really a family letter from the heavenly Father to all His children everywhere.
While on the very threshold of Ephesians your chief concern and mine is to know if we are indeed in this “us.” We may know with unquestioning certainty. Have you received Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour from sin through faith in His atoning blood? If so, then you are one of the “us” and are eligible for the wealth bequeathed.
One question remains: When is the blessing ours, now or in the future? The tense of the verb gives the answer. “Hath blessed.” It is all ours now. “All things are yours.” All that God ever can give to His children is already given in Christ, who became poor that we through His poverty might become rich. To live as spiritual paupers when God has bequeathed us such unsearchable riches must grieve our Father deeply.
3. The Wealth Designated
1:3. “With all spiritual blessings.”
The word “spiritual” designates the character of the blessings bestowed. A saint is one who has left the sphere of the natural and has come into the sphere of the spiritual. Henceforth his paramount needs are spiritual. He has become the possessor of a heaven-born nature, so he must have heaven-sent supplies to nourish and develop it. The saint has had implanted within him the eternal life of the Holy One, but he is traveling through an ungodly world, so moment by moment he needs life from above that he may live holily. Living in a non-spiritual world, he needs a spiritual atmosphere in which to breathe; spiritual food to eat; spiritual garments to wear; spiritual companions with whom to fellowship, spiritual exercise to keep fit and strong; spiritual strength to endure suffering and affliction; spiritual weapons with which to war.
The human personality consists of spirit, soul and body, as God has shown in I Thessalonians 5:23. In quoting man usually says “body, soul and spirit.” God’s order cannot be reversed. He always begins with the inner man, and works out to the outer man. To Him the spirit is paramount and is always put first. So God’s concern is for a daily spiritual renewal which will cause the saint to grow up into Christ in all things, working ever toward the goal of a greater perfection. Life in Christ commences with a spiritual birth; continues through spiritual growth; and consummates at His coming in spiritual perfection.
3:16. “That he would grant you… to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.“
4:15. “May grow up into him in all things.”
4:12. “For the perfecting of the saints.“
God’s love is very Fatherly and His care of us is very practical, His concern reaches to the outermost rim of our every need and includes provision for the needs of soul and body. The blessing includes things physical, temporal and material, but always as related to and working toward the spiritual goal He has set for us — conformity to the image of His Son. Sometimes He allows times of trial and testing because He purposes our spiritual growth and perfecting through the process. “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth that we might be partakers of his holiness” (Hebrews 12:6,10).
The word “spiritual” also designates the One through whom the blessing is procured. Ephesians teaches very clearly that the blessings purposed by the Father and provided in the Son are procured through the Spirit. Every spiritual blessing bestowed upon the saint is Spirit-communicated.
4. The Wealth
1:3. “With every spiritual blessing” (R.V.)
“Every.”Study the word from the Godward side. What a revelation it gives of the elasticity of God’s grace, stretched full length to the uttermost of our need; of the generosity of God’s heart — nothing that love can give has been withheld from His children; of the amplitude of His treasury — not one thing that God wants to give is He unable to give. For there is not one of the thousands of promises that He has made that He has not the power to fulfil.
Study the word from the manward side. What a conception it gives of the saint’s capacity for the infinite! If God has bequeathed to the Christian every spiritual blessing in Christ, then He must have given him the capacity to receive and to hold these blessings. What a call to an enlargement of his whole being so that he may abound in the blessings of the Lord and live an overflowing life! What a challenge to thirst for the living water and to come to that fountain of life to drink and to continue to drink that he may “be filled unto all the fulness of God!”
Friends, is not the trouble with most of us that we do not thirst? We are too self-satisfied and self-complacent. We have the attitude of the Laodicean who says, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” There is spiritual stagnancy in our lives because we are content to live as beggars in the midst of plenty.
The life of the truly spiritual Christian is quite otherwise. He is a paradox in that he is always satisfied, yet ever seeking. He never thirsts, yet is always thirsting. He is perfectly content; yet ever wants more. He enjoys to the full what he possesses moment by moment, yet knows there is always more beyond, and eagerly longs for it.
“Every”— what a bountiful word! Every blessing needed for spirit, soul and body; for the past, present and future; for salvation, sanctification, sustenance, and service; for time and for eternity. There is every blessing for all saints, for any saint.
From memory recall every spiritual blessing mentioned in Ephesians which is yours in Christ; then all you remember from any part of Scripture. How many of these blessings are yours in practical possession? What ones do you honestly desire? Sit quietly before your Lord and name them, one by one, and then confidently appropriate each one by faith and thank Him for it. Every spiritual blessing is already yours in Christ!
5. The Wealth Located
1:3. “In heavenly places” – (literally, in the heavenlies).
This phrase is used only in Ephesians, where it is found five times. It is seen to be Christ’s seat of power (1:20); the Christians’ sphere of life as identified with Christ in position, privilege and power (2:6); and the battlefield where Christ and His saints are in conflict with Satan and his hosts (6:12). “The principalities and powers” of both light (3:10) and darkness (6:12) have access to this sphere In this phrase the Christian’s wealth is definitely located.
As Scripture interprets Scripture, it is thus clear that the heavenlies is not heaven, a future place reached after death, but it is the sphere where Christ is, which is heavenly in nature, privilege and blessing. Where Christ is the Christian also is in virtue of his union with Christ. To be in the heavenlies is to be living on a celestial level even while on the earth and to be in a heavenly state of mind and heart, even in the midst of earthly trials and sorrows. Dr. A.T. Pierson illustrates this most beautifully in telling of a visit he once made to an earnest Christian to condole her on the death of her saintly mother. “The woman said to me with a smile, ‘For forty years, my dear mother’s mind has been in Heaven.’”
A very dear friend of mine, now in her eighty-sixth year, suffered a stroke ten months ago and has been gradually failing physically, and at times even her mind has been clouded with hallucination. The one book she loves most to read, understands best, and talks of most readily and lucidly is the Book. This week the daughter who cares for her wrote: “From the first of her illness I have noticed that Mother is clearer on all spiritual things than on secular.”
Paul was in prison in Rome; yet just as truly, yes, even more so, he was in the heavenlies in Christ. The tremendous reality to him of this other-worldly abode explains the paradoxes of such language as he used, as:
“Sorrowful, — yet always rejoicing.”
“Poor, — yet making many rich.”
“Having nothing, — yet possessing all things.”
“Troubled on every side, — yet not distressed.”
“Perplexed, — yet not in despair.”
“Cast down, — yet not destroyed.”
6. The Wealth Deposited
1:3. “In Christ.“
In these two words we have the whole of Ephesians in essence. They are the master key to heaven’s treasury. The wealth of the Church and of the Christian is deposited wholly and only in Christ.
“In” — the biggest, little word in Ephesians, a preposition denoting position; the simplest of words, yet it introduces the mightiest of thoughts. When connected with the word “Christ” it forms the most significant expression in all Scripture. Of these two words Dr. A. T. Pierson wrote: “A very small key may open a very complex lock and a very large door, and that door may itself lead into a vast building with priceless stores of wealth and beauty. This brief phrase — a preposition followed by a proper name — is the key to the whole New Testament. Those two short words, “in Christ,” are, without doubt, the most important ever written, even by an inspired pen, to express the mutual relation of the believer and Christ. They occur, with their equivalents, “in him,” or “in whom,” over one hundred and thirty times. Such repetition must have intense meaning. When in the Word of God a phrase like this occurs so often and with such manifold applications, it cannot be a matter of accident; there is a deep design. God’s Spirit is bringing a truth of the highest importance before us, repeating for the sake of emphasis, compelling even a careless reader to give heed as to its vital teaching.”
Considering the number of times these two words or their equivalents are used in Ephesians, — fourteen times in Chapter 1 alone — it is not exaggeration to say that the whole message of the book is compressed within them. “Without Christ,” a sinner, spiritually dead and a moral bankrupt: “In Christ,” a saint, spiritually alive and a joint-heir with Christ. “Without Christ” one is, has, and can do, nothing. “In Christ” one is, has and can do, everything. Is this not what the Lord said: “Without me ye can do nothing”? Yet Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me.” Some one has put it tersely thus, “If you take Christ out of Christ-i-a-n, what is left? I am nothing!”
What, then, does it mean to be in Christ? Primarily, it means a change of position. The whole human race was in Adam in sin, and therefore subject to death. The Church and the Christian are in Christ through salvation, and therefore are the recipients of eternal life. The saint has been wholly delivered from the old sphere of the devil, the world, and the flesh, and has been translated into the new sphere of Christ, the Church, and the Spirit.
Secondly, it means a difference in possession. In Adam the sinner possesses only a sinful nature, inherited from Adam, the federal head of the first creation. In Christ the saint possesses also a divine nature, imparted to him in Christ, the federal head of the new creation.
In Christ, the saint is both ensphered and enriched. Christ is to be the source, sustenance, and security of his life. In His Son the Father has stored up all the riches of His Grace and of His glory which He purposes to bequeath to His other sons. Outside of Christ the Father has nothing to give.
Outside of Christ there is nothing the true Christian wants. Everything his heart could desire is to be found in Him. Christ is his satisfaction and sufficiency. In Him we are separated from the trinity of evil unto the triune God; we are supplied with everything needed for a worthy walk; and we are secured from defeat by our Satanic foes.
CHRIST denotes our position —
where He is, we are.
defines our privileges —
what He is, we are.
describes our possessions —
what He has, we share.
determines our practice —
what He does, we do.
7. The Wealth Defined
In the Greek 1:4-14 is one sentence, said to be the longest in the Bible. There is no place where a stop can be made. Paul is carrying us in God’s eternal purpose from the eternity of the past to the eternity of the future; through grace to glory.
May we now let 1:4-14 define for us more in detail the wealth of the Christian in Christ. That wealth is eightfold.
1:4. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”
Perhaps we can best get at the deep and precious meaning of this glorious truth by answering six simple questions: Who? What? Whom? How? When? Why?
“He” — the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Hath chosen” — picked out for Himself a people to be His own peculiar possession. God is love, and love cannot live alone. God has selected those who will be the habitation in which He dwells.
— the saints of 1:1,3. Let us see very clearly that Ephesians has only the Church and the Christian in view. The unsaved are mentioned in only a few passages. So here there is no reference to them. There is no intimation that God has chosen some out of the vast number of sinners in this world to be saved, or that He has chosen any sinners to be saved. It is not a choice of one sinner versus another sinner, but it definitely states it is the choice of “us” who are saints.
God acts sovereignly in making the choice because of His inherent right to choose those who will live so intimately and eternally with Himself. The choice is both absolute and final, but it is not capricious or partial. God has not acted on the principle of favouritism, nor has He arbitrarily elected some and damned others. His election was made on an absolutely just and reasonable ground which gives to sinners a fair and equal chance. This leads directly to our next question:
The sinner is always and only the object of God’s superabounding grace. In himself he merits nothing but God’s wrath. In making the choice God is not looking at man in himself, but only as he is in Christ. So 1:4 teaches that those who are chosen are those who are in Christ. The rest of the epistle shows that those who are in Christ were sinners who put faith in the redeeming blood of the crucified Son by virtue of which they have been united with Him as members of His Body in an eternal oneness, and have become saints. So every saint has been chosen.
Is it not very plain, then, that those who are lost are lost because they refuse to accept Christ as their Saviour? They choose not to be among God’s elect. D. L. Moody stated the truth of election in his own inimitable way: “The whosoever-wills are the elect, and the whosoever-won’ts are the non-elect.”
“Before the foundation of the world,”
— in the timeless eternity of the past, when there was neither a world nor men to inhabit it.
“That we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”
The best commentary to be found on this phrase is in I Peter 1:15,16. Note the utter simplicity of the reasoning.
so be ye
Be ye holy,
I am holy.”
The Father must have children of like character, that there may be unity and harmony in the divine household. Because He is holy, those who are His habitation must be holy.
Oh! the pure, incomparable joy of being in the company of “chosen” ones! Are you there, my friend? How may you know? The answer is very simple: Are you “in Him”? If you are not, you may be this very moment if, by an act of faith, you open your heart to receive Christ as your personal Saviour.
1:5 “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
“Predestinated” — Are we fearful of the word? Does it sound cold, formidable, and theological? Not so, if we understand its meaning in relation to God’s purpose for His chosen ones. The word means “to mark out the boundaries beforehand.” It indicates God’s next step in His gracious plan for those whom He has chosen.
“Unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself.”
Christ Jesus is God’s Son in a unique way. He is the eternal Son, “the only begotten in the bosom of the Father.” Yet it was the Father’s purpose to have a family of sons and to set up a household of “brethren” from every nation and people over which He would be Father. How were these to become His sons and what would be their position in the family?
Through regeneration, which is not at all in view here, the believer in Christ is made a son. Through rebirth he has imparted to him a divine nature and implanted within him a supernatural life that fits him for membership in God’s family and for companionship with God.
Now the question arises, What is his position and what are his privileges and responsibilities as a son in the divine family? Dr. L. S. Chafer, in The Ephesians Letter, answers this question so clearly that I quote his words:
“The believer is constituted a legitimate child of God by spiritual birth with all its attending relationships, but he is also, at the moment of that birth, advanced to maturity of position, being constituted an adult son by virtue of that legal placing which in the Scriptures is termed adoption. There is therefore no childhood period in the sphere of the Christian’s responsibility. Whatever appeal as to a holy walk and service God addresses to one He addressed to all regardless of the length of time they may have been saved.”
“By Jesus Christ.” As with every other phase of our salvation, this work is wrought also solely through Jesus Christ. Every believer in Him has been marked out for the son-place, and in this son-position he has the present privilege of free and unlimited access to the Father (2:18), with all its attendant blessings and responsibilities and the pledge for the future inheritance as a joint-heir with Christ. In choosing us in Christ God marked us out as sons who would share all the possessions and privileges of the risen, ascended Son for all the ages to come.
1:6. “To the praise of the glory of his grace,
wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
“Accepted” — what a gracious word! What a wealth of significance in it! Those that were by nature “children of disobedience and wrath”.” (2:2,3); so “far-off” from God that they were called strangers” (2:19); so deep down in the abyss of death and depravity that they were “without hope” (2:12); yet here said to be “accepted.” How could such a change ever be wrought in the sinner? If so utterly disobedient, he would not want acceptance; if so utterly depraved, he could not make himself acceptable, even if he desired to. The sinner of 2:1-3 is rendered both hopeless and helpless by sin. Then by whom and on what ground was the change wrought by which he was taken into the very heart and home of God?
“Made accepted.” God has left to the sinner not an inch of ground for boasting. Not an atom of anything either in his character or in his conduct can avail to bring him into God’s favour. If he is ever accepted by God, God Himself must act on his behalf.
“In the beloved” — the Son of His love. How marvelously tender is the relationship between the Father and the Son! How dearly the Son is loved! So dearly that three times the Father opened heaven to tell men on earth, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Christ was the perfect satisfaction of the Father’s heart.
“In” — Can we ever grasp fully the meaning of this little word to us? In Him whom the Father loves supremely we are. In the Beloved whose righteousness and holiness satisfy every demand of the Father’s justice and holiness we stand. The Beloved Son is our divine rainbow, God’s pledge to us who are made accepted in Him that we will never again be cast out from His presence. In the Son of His love the Father receives us as He receives Him and loves us as He loves Him. It would be impossible to believe such an apparently incredible statement did not Christ Himself declare it. Then we must believe it and rejoice in it.
John 17:23. “That the world may know that thou hast… loved them as thou hast loved me.”
“Near, so very near to God
Nearer I could not be;
For in the person of His Son,
I’m just as near as He.
Dear, so very dear to God,
Dearer I could not be:
For in the person of His Son,
I’m just as dear as He.”
“To the praise of the glory of his grace.” Surely every saint should have a singing heart, and the theme of his song should ever be the matchless grace of God. The saints on earth and the redeemed in heaven unite in one grand, glorious symphony of “praise to the glory of his grace” wherein He took sinners like us and “made us accepted in the beloved.”
Let us take one backward glance at our immeasurable wealth in the Father’s grace before we look forward to that in the redemptive work of His Son:
Through His grace — chosen — loved
Through the riches of His grace — predestinated — loved as adult sons
Through the exceeding riches of His grace — accepted — loved as the Son is loved.
Could our Father do more than this for us? Could He do less for His Son? Then should not our fearful, trembling hearts rest full-length upon the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus? And should not the dominating passion of our lives be to live to the praise of the glory of His grace?
1:7. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
In the work of creation God showed forth His wisdom and His power, but only in the redemption of man could He manifest His grace.
In 2:1-3 we see the sinner in the pit of sin and the special character of deliverance needed. It pictures him as a slave, in bondage to Satan and Satanic forces. How, then, can he be freed?
“In whom we have redemption.” While still in the slave-market of sin as a captive of Satan, the sinner is purchased by the Redeemer, brought out of the market and set free. He is brought out of all that he was that he may be brought into what he never had been but henceforth eternally would be. He ceased to be a slave that he might become a son.
“Have ” — the verb shows us that our redemption is a present-tense possession; something that is now ours as completely as it ever will be; made ours in such a way that it can never be taken from us.
“Through his blood.” It was release through a ransom and the ransom was the life of the Son of man (Matthew 20:28), laid down in death. “The life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11), and only as His life was poured out upon Calvary’s Cross through the shedding of His blood was the sinner redeemed. Oh! what a price He paid for your redemption and mine!
“The forgiveness of sins.” Out of the many blessings procured for the sinner through redemption only this one is mentioned. Surely no one could be the companion of a holy God who still had the guilt of sins upon him. Nor could he ever feel perfectly at home as a son in the divine family, fully assured of his Father’s acceptance, unless he knew with certainty that all his sins were fully forgiven. On the ground of the shed blood of His Beloved Son the Father cancels all the sins of the believing sinner and gives him a clean bill of pardon. He assures His child that, when once He has thus remitted the punishment for his sins, He remembers them no more.
“According to the riches of his grace.” Just here a question must thrust itself upon every sensitive mind. If Christ is the dearly Beloved of the Father, how could He ever let Him suffer, even unto the death of the Cross, for the sake of such sinner-slaves? How could His love for sinners who were alienated from Him both by nature and by choice seem to outweigh His love for the Son who was His own counterpart in oneness of life?
The only adequate answer is in that rarely precious phrase “according to the riches of his grace.” Only when we look at the sinless Son upon the Cross can we begin to comprehend the meaning of the riches of His grace, there bestowed upon us far, far above measure. God’s undeserved bounty toward the sinner was manifested by the planned-in-eternity redemption through the blood of the Lamb slain. Is it any wonder Paul says that it will take all the ages to come to show forth the exceeding riches of His grace?
1:8,9. “Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known unto us the mystery of his will.”
God has an eternal purpose in Christ Jesus which He is steadily carrying out. Into the knowledge of what this purpose is and how it is being fulfilled God wishes every redeemed child of His to enter intelligently and sympathetically. So He has given to us a revelation of it in His Word, and in His abounding grace He enlightens us regarding these divine things. He gives His children the capacity to know and endows them with the spiritual qualifications for knowing and for acting upon their knowledge.
“All wisdom” — Through wisdom the spiritual senses of the saint are quickened and he is made alert to God Himself. Insight into the deep things of God and into His far-reaching plan is also given him. He does not perceive superficially, but goes to the very heart of things and grasps spiritual truths with penetrating discernment.
“All prudence” — The apprehension of truth, especially the knowledge of God’s wondrous plan of salvation, made effectual through practical application.
“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will.” God wants the Christian to know fully the counsels of His will as they relate to His Son and the outworking of His plan of redemption and reconciliation through Him. So He unfolds them to us in the unveiling of “the mystery of his will,” truth once hidden but now clearly revealed.
God’s purpose centres wholly in Christ. In Ephesians He gives in perspective both a near and a far view of His eternal purpose in Him. First in this age of grace He reveals the risen, ascended Christ as the One exalted to be Lord over the universe and Head over all things to the Church (1:20-23). As yet His authority is not fully acknowledged, even by those who belong to Him, nor is it openly manifested to the world. But in the age to come all things both in heaven and upon earth are to be gathered together into one in Christ (1: 10), and His authoritative Headship over them will be both manifested and acknowledged. Christ as the centre and the circumference of all things in God’s wonderful plan will fulfil His stewardship to the glory of God. Regarding this gracious and glorious plan God would have every Christian fully enlightened.
Obtained an Inheritance
1:11. “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”
“In whom we have obtained an inheritance.” In Christ the Christian has everything he needs for his entire pilgrim journey on earth. Of this we are assured in Ephesians and in other passages of Scripture.
I Corinthians 3:21,23. “For
all things are yours
… whether things present, or things to come;
all are yours;
and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”
Romans 8:32. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
But our present blessings are as nothing compared to the inheritance that awaits us in the future. Our rights as children of God extend far beyond our earthly life. The moment we are born into the family of God we become heirs to an inheritance beyond our power to estimate.
Romans 8:17. “If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.”
The Son’s prayer that we might share His life in glory will assuredly be answered. We who now are possessors of “the riches of his grace” will also be partakers of “the riches of his glory.” All that He now is in His glorified life we shall be. We shall even reign with Him and share with Him His governmental authority on the earth.
II Timothy 2:12. “If we suffer,
we shall also reign with him.”
Revelation 5:10. “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth.”
Such a thought seems incredible. Perhaps at this moment we are feeling like spiritual weaklings and cowards, not able to face courageously even the burdens and tasks of the day that lies before us. The thought of such a position and such power is preposterous! Dare we believe that any such inheritance is really ours? Let God answer the question and silence our doubt.
“Being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” In the eternity of the past God marked us out for that son-place in his family which relationship puts us in line for heirship. Our redemption in Christ was the first step in the outworking of the counsel of His own will. Can God’s eternal purpose be thwarted half-way? Can His sovereign will be stalemated? What God has sovereignly purposed will He not sovereignly perform? In God’s eternal purpose and His sovereign will we have an all-sufficient ground for assurance that we shall obtain our inheritance in full.
Then stop just here for one moment of silent praise for such an inheritance as you have in Christ. That act of praise will double your assurance of obtaining it and increase your appreciation of its value. If you are not in the royal line of inheritors because you are not a child, will you not this moment become a child and heir by opening your heart to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour?
1 13 “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also after that ye believed ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.”
— ye were
These are the biographical steps in every soul’s salvation.
“Ye heard” — The Word of truth which is God’s instrument in the sinner’s regeneration. This Word presented to you the good news of a perfected salvation, and showed the way of deliverance from the bondage of Satan and of entrance into the liberty of Christ.
“Ye believed” in Christ as your Saviour and received Him into your heart, and that moment you were born into God’s family as His child. But how many earnest Christians there are who have truly believed, yet have no joy in salvation because they lack assurance of their acceptance by God. Thus they become the prey of the enemy who delights in torturing them with doubt. How strategically God has guarded against every such attack, and how graciously He has provided for victory over it! He wants us to have the unwavering assurance that we are His.
“Ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” God marks us as His very own by sending the Holy Spirit, to indwell us according to the promise He Himself had given. God seals every redeemed person as His purchased possession, and the Spirit Himself is the seal. But perhaps the doubt of someone is not fully dispelled because of his fear of grieving the Holy Spirit through sin so that He will depart. Ephesians teaches us with equal clearness these two truths, that we can and do grieve the Holy Spirit through sinning, but that we can never grieve Him away.
4:30. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God,
whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”
Upon the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself we can rest assured that when the Holy Spirit once takes up His abode within us, He will abide with us forever (John 14: 16). The work He was divinely appointed to do will not be finished until He presents us faultless before the presence of His glory.
The Seal is a Mark of Genuineness
II Corinthians 3:3. “For as much as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living Lord.”
There are professors of Christianity, and there are possessors of Christ. God makes a clear distinction between the two. The professors are those who refuse to enter in by the door, but have tried to climb up some other way. They have trusted in their morality, good works, or religious ordinances for acceptance with God. Christ calls such “thieves and robbers” (John 10:1). Christ disclaims them His. “Ye believed not, because ye are not of my sheep.”
The possessors have heard the voice of the Good Shepherd who said He was the door of the sheep, and have come through Him into the fold (John 10:9). To such He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” His distinguishing mark between the false and the true is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
John 14:17. “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
The Seal is a Mark of Ownership
John 10:14. “I am the good Shepherd, and
know my sheep,
am known of mine.”
Christ speaks of His own sheep. How does He establish His ownership? By His own special brand. Vast herds of cattle roam over the plains belonging to different masters, yet ownership is easily established because each of a herd has the owner’s mark branded upon its body. Christ has no unmarked sheep. He knows His own, and they know their Master because of the Holy Spirit who indwells each Christian.
Romans 8:9. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
Do you know that the Holy Spirit dwells within you? Then you may have the assurance that you possess Christ and that He possesses you.
1: 14. “Which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of his glory.”
Another question haunts many true believers, which is, “Once saved by grace, are we eternally saved?” Even though here and now we have the assurance that we are His own, and though we enjoy the privileges of salvation and sanctification provided for us in Christ, is it not possible for us to fall short of future perfected redemption through some failure on our part? Has God given any guarantee of eternal security in Christ and of obtaining our inheritance in full? Yes, a thousand times yes! God’s promise for the present is also His pledge for the future.
“The earnest of our inheritance.” When God purchased us as very own, He gave the Holy Spirit as a down-payment, which was His pledge of perpetuity of His right in us and our right in Him. The Holy Spirit in us is God’s earnest of the full consummation of our redemption.
“Until the redemption of the purchased possession.” Ephesians more than any other epistle reveals the eternalness of our redemption. It begins in the dateless eternity of the past with God’s choice of a Body and Bride for His Son who were to be holy and without blame; it continues through time with the work of the triune God in the salvation and sanctification of the purchased possession; it ends in the dawn of the eternity of the future, when the Son presents unto Himself the Church glorified, sinless and spotless, even as He Himself. God views His whole redemptive plan from one eternity to another. Can we then conceive of His stopping in its fulfilment at some period of time? Extract from that word “until” every bit of the sweetness of assurance God placed in it for you.
“To the praise of his glory.” Here is the simple but sufficient reason for God’s steadfastness in the perfecting of the redemption of His own. If a single redeemed one, if even one sinner saved by grace, missed the final glorification of that coming day, God’s own glory would be diminished to that degree, and Christ’s prayer would be to that extent unanswered. “To the praise of his glory” every saint must one day be glorified and be forever with His Saviour in glory.
8. The Wealth Revealed
Paul in one breath, as it were, has proclaimed the wonderful message of redemption according to the riches of His grace. He has told it out; now he must pray it in. So without laying down his pen, — for Paul has only begun to tell of the unsearchable riches of Christ, — he prays. His prayer is for those who already belong to the company of saints through faith in the Lord Jesus (1:15). He asks that through divine revelation they may know what Christ possesses in them and what they possess in Christ.
As he prays with his mind steadfastly fixed upon the Saviour in whom he personally had found such immeasurable wealth, his thought goes up, up, up, until it is quite out of the realm of earth and reaches the highest heavenly heights of revealed truth about Christ and His Church.
Christ — seated in the heavenlies.
exalted far above all.
Head of the Church.
Lord of the Universe.
Christ –The fulness of the Church.
Church — the Fulness of Christ.
This, then, is a prayer that we, too, should pray for ourselves and for all saints (6:18). So let us enter with reverent hearts into a study of this inspired prayer.
This word links 1:4-14 with 1:15-23. The prayer is not a parenthesis, but is closely connected with what has gone before. Paul seems to be thinking aloud: I have written what the triune God, Father, Son and Spirit, have done to redeem you. But oh! do you grasp the full scope of it? Do you truly appreciate how precious and priceless is your inheritance in Christ? I know of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love unto all the saints, which proves that you not only have life in Him, but even a measure of abundant life; yet I long for you to have a full knowledge of Christ that you may know all that you possess in Him: and that your potential riches may be made personal and actual. “Wherefore I pray.”
1: 17. “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened.”
We have the revelation of the Spirit in the Word, but we must also have the Spirit of revelation in our hearts. The same Spirit who indited the Scriptures must illumine them if we are to have spiritual apprehension, for no human intellect can apprehend spiritual things unaided. So Paul prays.
“That God may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation.” This was not a prayer for the bestowal of the initial gift of the Spirit, for He was already theirs. Now, as the indwelling Spirit, He was to function as their Teacher and Revealer.
There is amazing ignorance among us Christians of our unsearchable riches in Christ, and tremendous need of supernatural light to be shed upon the Word as we study it, that the nuggets of gold contained in every part may be found. We all need this Spirit of revelation made ours by prayer. But it is not enough merely to find the gold; it must be mined if it is to be of practical use. The heavenly principles revealed must be inwrought into experience. To transmute this heavenly truth into our earthly life, we need the divine operation of the Spirit of wisdom. What the Spirit of revelation makes objective, the Spirit of wisdom makes subjective
“In the full knowledge of him.” The prayer is restricted in its range. Paul is not praying that the saints may be made intelligent students of truth in general, or even of particular segments of truth. There are Christians who have made a special study of the Lord’s Second Coming who have never yet clearly grasped the essential truths nor richly appropriated the blessings of His first coming. A minister of the Gospel for seventeen years, who ardently preached on the millennium, declared before a Conference assembly that he had known almost nothing of the truth about the Holy Spirit, and had at that Conference received the fulness of the Spirit for the first time. It is one thing to be conversant with Bible themes; yet quite another to have full knowledge of the theme of the Bible — the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It is for just this that Paul prays.
They already knew Christ, but it was for a deeper, growing knowledge that Paul prayed; for a thorough versus a superficial understanding; for a heart versus a head knowledge. Paul could never be content to have his converts know only the elementary principles of salvation. Now that they were in Christ he longed to see them grow up into Christ in all things (4:15). Having received Christ into their hearts as Saviour by faith (1: 13), he prayed that Christ might dwell there in full possession and become the very Life of their life (3:17).
“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened.” Paul prays that their innermost being might be flooded with light. So far the petitions have been preparatory. The real subject and scope of the prayer is for spiritual apprehension of the three “whats” of the following petition:
1:18, 19. “That ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe.”
“What — the hope of his calling”
God has called the Church to be Christ’s Body, the fulness of Christ, the visible part of the invisible Christ to an ungodly world. God has called the Christian, as a member of Christ’s Body, to be as holy and as heavenly as Christ is.
What, then, is the hope of His calling? Hope is a word that looks to the future. It always leads our thought onward in expectation; belonging as truly to the to-morrow of time as to the eternity beyond time; having both a near and a far horizon.
For the Church it means the expectation now of steady growth unto an ever-increasing spiritual maturity reaching toward the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (4:13). What of the hope when the last chapter of the Church’s life on earth is written and, God’s cycle for this age having run out, the eternal morrow dawns? Oh! what a hope! The Church now sanctified becomes the Church glorified.
5:27. “That he might present it to himself, a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
For the Christian the hope means that he will be more like Christ to-morrow than he has been to-day; filled more and more unto all the fulness of God; transformed into Christ’s image from moment to moment.
II Corinthians 3:18 (R.V.). “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.”
One day Christ will come again to take every Christian into His immediate presence. In that eternal to-morrow there will be perfect likeness of every Christian to his Lord, for he will be glorified both in spirit and in body.
I John 3:2. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
Oh! is it any wonder that Scripture describes such a calling as high (Philippians 3:14); holy (II Timothy 1:9); and heavenly (Hebrews 3:1)? What does the hope of such a calling inspire in you? Is it glorious enough to inspire hatred of all that is of the world, the flesh and the devil? Is it attractive enough to wean you from the world with all its soul-destroying pleasures and pursuits? Is it real enough to make you loathe self that would dethrone Christ as your Lord? Is it precious enough to make you seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God? Is it strong enough to create within you the passionate desire to have Christ all and in all to you?
“What — the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints”
Could any words express more perfectly the preciousness to God of His purchased possession? Ponder the words prayerfully:
“His inheritance in the saints.”
“The glory of his inheritance in the saints.”
“The riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”
How seldom we think of what we are to God! We so selfishly begin in our thinking with ourselves. What we can get from God rather than what we can be to God is our continued concern. But Ephesians emphasizes God’s inheritance in the saints.
Someone has so well said, “God was not satisfied in possessing suns and stars; He wanted sons and saints.” We are dearer to Him than all the worlds He has ever made; more precious than all His other creation. When this heaven and earth shall have passed away and a new heaven and earth shall have come, God’s child, the redeemed sinner made a saint in Christ, shall abide forever.
The Church as Christ’s Body and the Christian as a member of that Body are the manifestation of God’s glory on earth to-day, feeble and inadequate as it is. But a day is coming — oh! that it might be soon! — when His heart shall be fully satisfied in His inheritance, for His glory shall be perfectly manifested in the saints. Let this incomparable truth stir within your heart a passionate desire that He may be glorified in you more fully each day until that great day dawns for which both He and we look with such fervent expectation.
Dear fellow-Christian, are you ready to give up in complete discouragement because you think of how miserably you have failed in walking worthily of so high a calling and in glorifying your Lord? Are you saying that the standard set is too high and the life required impossible? So would Paul himself have given up, and every saint since his time, if the power to live such a life were required of them.
“What — the exceeding riches of his power to usward who believe”
Let us consider the meaning, the manifestation, and the measure of His power.
“His power” — From the Greek word for power come the words dynamo and dynamite. The power of which God speaks here is that which is inherently His as God; a power of surpassing, incalculable greatness which reveals the full strength of His might.
“To usward” — God would then tell us that in this wonder-working power is all that is needed for the commencement, continuance and consummation of our salvation: that it is all-sufficient for every demand made upon the saint in appropriating his wealth, in walking worthily of his high calling, and in wrestling victoriously against Satanic powers.
“Who believe.” This mighty power is at the Christian’s disposal upon one condition only — that of faith. The surpassing-all-limit power of God can be limited in its working only by the believer’s failure to believe. The only check that can ever be imposed upon the continuous current of His mighty power to usward is the self-imposed check of unbelief.
No true believer should ever doubt His power. All His marvelous work in creation proves His mighty power; again, it is revealed so clearly in His deliverance of the children of Israel out of the bondage of Pharaoh and out of Egypt. But what guarantee is given to the present-day Christian that in its working it is able to overcome all the counter-working of sin and death in us, and to overthrow all the powers of evil working against us? God gives an absolutely assuring answer.
“According to the working of his mighty power.” The only hindrance to the continuous, active working of His mighty power in us is found within us. Back of every purpose of God is the power for its fulfillment.
“Which he wrought in Christ.” It is a power tested and proven; able to work in us as it wrought in Christ.
How much power dare we depend upon to be manifested in our case? Dare we believe it will be sufficient to conquer all our foes; to break the hold of all our old sinful habits; to give deliverance from all temptations? To live above all our handicaps in environment and circumstances?
God gives the exact measurement of His power as He tells us what He wrought in Christ. The measure is foursquare and is summed up in four words: resurrection, exaltation, lordship, and headship.
1:20. “When he raised him from the dead.”
Christ dead — Christ raised. What a mighty chasm is bridged by the mighty working of God’s power! Christ not dormant, as some say, but dead. Christ under the power of death and held by “the pains of death” (Acts 2:24); Christ buried in a tomb sealed with a stone “to make it as sure as ye can” (Matthew 27:65), and guarded by a watch lest “that deceiver should rise again, as he said he would.” But God’s mighty power in-worked in Christ to break the bonds of death. Christ arose.
This same power that wrought in Christ is to work in us who believe and in the same way. Having already in-worked to bring us out of death into life, its working will continue to make us walk in newness of life. Christ was raised as the representative Man who became the Head of a new race of men, each one of whom was to become like Himself.
1:20. “And set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” The Father welcomes His Beloved home to glory and exalts Him to the place of greatest honour and power in relation to the throne.
1:21,22. “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, and hath put all things under his feet.”
“Far above all.” Christ was crowned Lord of all, having become victor over all human, angelic and Satanic power. He has been placed in a position of supreme authority over all created beings, which includes every rank and order of celestial hierarchy, whether good or bad.
Still further is His unique Lordship shown in the pre-eminence of His Name over the name of every created object in this age or in the age to come. How terrifying to-day are the names of even some men who seem to have an almost uncanny power which is being wielded to the hurt and death of many! How even more, the very names “Satan”; “the devil”; “the great dragon,” fill us often with stultifying fear. But oh! how precious to know and to rest upon that Name that is above every name!
“Hath put all things under his feet.” Christ, — “far above all” and “all things” far beneath Him! “Hath put” — a past tense, an accomplished fact. “All things.” Let us not tone it down by our wretched unbelief to mean some things. “Under his feet,” — the place of accomplished defeat and complete subjection. Christ has become both Victor and Ruler. While the full realization of the subjection of all things to the absolute Lordship of Christ awaits His triumphal return to rule on the earth, yet in God’s purpose His Son is already King of kings and Lord of lords.
BEHOLD THE MAN
Commander of hosts of loyal angels.
Conqueror of hosts of rebel angels.
Controller of all things.
1:22,23. “And gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
“Gave him to be head over all things to the church.” Headship gave Christ full dominion in the affairs of the Church to direct all things pertaining both to its inner life and outer activity.
“To the church” — that company of saints chosen in Him; called out and separated from the world, the flesh and the devil; identified with Christ in His death, resurrection and ascension by which He becomes their Saviour, Lord and Life.
“His body,” — that company of saints gathered from both Jews and Gentiles; united to the Lord and to one another through reconciliation by the Cross and made one Body.
“The head — His body” — The Head and the Body become organically one so that each is vitally necessary to the other. All that the Head is and has in the heavenlies is the possession of the Body. And all that the Body is and has on earth is the possession of the Head.
“The fulness of him that filleth all in all.” In Himself as God Christ is absolutely complete. He needs nothing added to Himself to make for perfection. “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the God head bodily” (Colossians 2:9); and out of this fulness He meets the need of the Church and of every Christian. “Ye are made full in him” (Colossians 2:10).
“The fulness of him” — But as the God-man He is not complete without the Church. As His Body, the Church is the complement of Christ. “He would be no more complete in His resurrection glory without the Church than Adam would have been without Eve.”
Christ the Head — Source of Wealth
Sufficiency for Walk
Strength in Warfare
Fulness of Church — Church the Body
Filled with the Spirit
Filled unto all fulness with God
Filled with Christ
Fulness of Christ.
Thus Christ is seen to be the invisible Head of the Church in the heavenlies, while the Church is the visible Body of Christ on earth and each is the fulness of the other.
Oh! just here will you pause for a moment to bow in silence before Him as you think of the sacred privilege and the solemn responsibility of the position and possession you have in Christ! To just what extent have you claimed Him as your fulness, and in what measure are you the complement of Him? Do you cower and collapse before human and Satanic powers, or do you conquer as one “far above all”? Do you yield in repeated defeat to discouragement and depression, or are you the victor through your unshakable confidence in the victory of your Lord and Head? Are you above or beneath your circumstances? Is the measure of your faith according to the measurement of His power?
9. The Wealth Unfolded
A wondrous spiritual panorama now unfolds before us; God’s grace and power in operation in the creation of a Christian and in the constitution of the Church; the Master-Workman at work forming “the new man.”
It is sometimes helpful in understanding a portion of Scripture to let it fall loosely into fragments, and then to gather up these parts and put them together. By using this method in this study we discover four sharply-drawn contrasts.
2:2. “The prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”
“The prince” – The word shows the Holy Spirit is speaking of a person. Surely 2:2 teaches that he is a person of mighty, supernatural power; the ruler in the realm of evil, which has two spheres of activity: the air, the abode of evil spirits; and the earth, the abode of unregenerate men. This prince is the No. 1 public enemy of the whole universe.
2:6. “Christ Jesus.”
The Son; the Father’s Beloved; the sinner’s Saviour; the saint’s Lord and Life; Satan’s Conqueror.
Satan is the source of all in the life of the sinner. Christ is the source of all in the life of the saint. Out of these two sources flow two streams; one the putrid stream of sin and death, and the other the pure stream of salvation and life. These two streams are the exact opposite, both in direction and in destiny.
Open your Bible to Ephesians 2 and let your eye run down the page. “Ye — We” — Here we find a marked personal contrast between two parties. It would be a great help at this point to turn to the epistle to the Romans and read the first three chapters where God says that all humanity, whether Gentiles or Jews, are sinners. In the whole world of mankind “there was not one righteous, no, not one”; “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” so that all the world is guilty before God.
This may seem to some like a too sweeping and almost unwarranted indictment of mankind, and we need to go further into Romans 5 if we would understand God’s basis for it. Here we see two men in sharp contrast, — Adam and Christ. Adam is the federal head of a race of sinners by natural generation; Christ is the federal head of a company of saints by supernatural regeneration. By disobedience Adam himself became a sinner, and all men who remain in him are “the children of disobedience.” By obedience Christ be came the sinner’s Saviour, and in Him believers are made righteous.
So here in 2:1-3 the Gentiles, “ye,” and the Jews, “we,” as individuals, are in the same position and condition of sin and death. They are on an equality as sinners. The individual Jew is as great a sinner as the individual Gentile. As sinners they are equally “far off” from God, and need to be “made nigh” through reconciliation. “By nature” both Gentile and Jew are “the children of wrath,” both facing the same awful destiny.
Let your eye run a second time over Chapter two, and we see a marked racial contrast between Gentile and Jew.
Commonwealth of Israel
Covenants of promise
Still a third time glance down the page and make a wonderful discovery: a wholly different and a very pleasing contrast.
One new man
We both — household of God — holy temple in the Lord — One new man — habitation of God
Is it not fascinating to trace these very sharp, exclusive contrasts followed by such clear, all-inclusive unity? What is the meaning of it all? Scripture throws light on the meaning. [It would be helpful also to read Romans 9-11 and the Acts, especially chapters 2,10,11, and 15.] In another of Paul’s epistles noonday light is shed on this entire section.
Let us quote it:
I Corinthians 10:32. “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.“
Here the whole of mankind is divided into three races of people as distinct from each other as black from white. The Jew and the Gentile are the two divisions of mankind on earth. They are separated from each other nationally, racially, socially and religiously. The Church of God is neither Jew nor Gentile, yet is composed of both. It is a super-race, above all nationalities, classes, and religions; heavenly in origin and nature, though composed of men of earth.
How and why in God’s economy did the human race, which had its origin in Adam, become divided into two such mutually hostile parties? This necessarily takes us back to God’s explanation in Genesis. The entire human race had its origin in God’s first man, Adam, who for two thousand years of human history was the only recognized head of mankind. Sin, which entered into mankind through Adam, brought God’s judgment first upon Satan and his tool, the serpent. An age-long conflict was declared between two persons and between their seed.
Genesis 3:15. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
How helpful it would be to trace “the seed” of the serpent and that of the woman on down through the Bible. It would throw much light on our previous study of the two persons. But we can go only as far as Genesis 12, where we find the beginning of the two parties.
The Jews — Called the Circumcision
“What advantage then had the Jew over the Gentile? Or what profit is there in circumcision? Much every way” (Romans 3:1,2). In Genesis 12 we see God doing a new thing. He chooses one man out of whom He promises to make a great nation. From this nation “the seed of the woman” will come. Thus God sovereignty chose one nation from among the nations for His own glory and use.
Deuteronomy 7:6. “For thou are an holy people unto the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all the people that are upon the face of the earth.”
From Genesis 12 on the river of human life is divided into two distinct and distinguishable streams, flowing ever further and further apart. Israel, the chosen nation, and the Gentile nations are now distinct entities, nationally, socially and religiously.
As God’s chosen people, the Jews became a privileged people above all other nations. To them was given a threefold trust; the conception of the coming Messiah, the custody of the oracles of God, and the covenants of promise. Through His chosen people the seed of the woman, Christ, the world’s Saviour, will come forth Through them the revelation of Christ and of God’s redemptive purpose in Him will be given in the Scriptures. Through them also the unconditional promise of blessing to the peoples of the whole earth will be fulfilled.
As God’s chosen people, the Jews became not only a people of privilege, but of responsibility to keep the life-stream pure, and to be a true witness of the one Lord among all the other nations. To accomplish this God commanded a clean-cut division between this chosen nation and all other nations, and the rite of circumcision was to be its covenant sign.
Genesis 17:9-11. “God said unto Abraham, … Every man child among you shall be circumcised … and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.”
Thus we see the Jewish nation drawn nigh unto God, formed nationally into the “commonwealth of Israel,” “called the circumcision,” and made the possessor of God’s special “covenants of promise.”
The Gentiles — Called Uncircumcision
The Gentile bore no sign in his flesh of his relationship to God, so he was “called Uncircumcision.” Regarded by the Jew as “an alien” and “a stranger,” he became an outcast. He was “far off” from God, for he had no share in nor claim upon the promises of God made in His covenants with Israel.
The Church of God
The Church of God according to Ephesians is constituted of Jew and Gentile, each individually reconciled unto God and so unto one another. “We both” made one in Christ. God again does a new thing. He creates a new race which is super-racial, super-national, super-social, and super-religious.
2:15. “For to make in himself of twain one new man.”
The biggest little word and the most ubiquitous in Ephesians is the word “in.” It is a preposition denoting position. God’s Word gives our position precedence over our condition, because where we are determines what we are. Much of spiritual defeat and failure lies in our ignorance of and indifference to this fact. We are so concerned over what we are that we give no thought to where we are. Ephesians primarily emphasizes our position, and shows our condition to be the outgrowth of it. There are but two positions in which men may be: The sinner is in sin, and the saint is in Christ.
The sinner is ensphered by and encased in sin. He is at home in sin. He lives and walks in sin.
2:1. “And you, who were dead in sins.“
2:3. “Also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh.“
As sinners, both Gentiles, “you,” and Jews, “we,” share the same position. All were dead in sins. However unequal the status of the Jew and the Gentile may be racially, as individual sinners they are on an absolutely equal footing. There is no privileged class in sin. High or low; educated or illiterate; Aryan or non-Aryan; occidental or oriental; professional or industrial; capitalistic or proletarian; all are brothers born in sin. The only place where all men meet on a common level and share the same position is in their natural birth in sin.
The saint is ensphered by and encased in Christ. He is at home in Christ. He lives and walks in Christ.
2:5,6. “God hath quickened us together with Christ and raised us up… and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ.“
Before his rebirth Paul was one of the most bigoted of Jews, thinking himself doing God’s service to imprison and slaughter the Christians. Yet here he uses that word “us,” which includes the Gentile Christians. All barriers are down now; all racial enmity is gone, and Paul is the arch-champion of the equality of all saints in Christ.
As there is no privileged class in sin, so there is none in Christ. Every sinner is a bankrupt and an outcast, and only by God’s unmerited favour, shown to him in Christ, is he ever anything else. One’s nth degree human pedigree; one’s Ph.D. education; one’s multimillionaire estate; one’s highly refined culture; one’s publicized philanthropies; one’s name in Who’s Who avail for nothing in grace. Clergy and laity; the aged believer and the newborn convert; the most noted citizen and the most notorious criminal, saved by grace, all have the same position in Christ. God has no favourites in Christ. Grace exalts all saints to the same high and heavenly position in Christ.
In sin is where all sinners are by nature. In Christ is where all saints are by grace. God is no respecter of persons, either in sin or in Christ.
Another glance down the page of Ephesians 2 gives us a marked contrast in periods of time:
In time past
At that time
Also we see “Ye were” silhouetted against yesterday’s horizon, while “Ye are” marks the dawn of a new day for the believer in the Lord Jesus. In these two periods of time a great and transforming miracle has taken place which separates the believer eternally from his past sins and sanctifies him forever unto his Saviour. Let us now consider what this glorious miracle is:
The Creation of a Christian (2:1-10)
As we come out of Chapter one into Chapter two, it is a startling drop from the pinnacle of redemption to the abyss of ruin. It is a sudden change from the purest air of the heavenlies to the purified atmosphere of the pit.
Praise God! We may go on into 2:4-10, where we see the sinner becoming a saint through the mighty operation of God’s mercy, love and grace. The process in the creation of a Christian is given here with a clarity and beauty found nowhere else in the Word. The passage falls naturally into a three-fold division:
The sinner in his sins (2:1-3);
The saint in Christ (2:5-7);
The way of salvation (2:4, 8-10).
Let us study the process of transition from the old position to the new.
The Sinner in Sin
2:1. “And you … who were dead in trespasses and sins.“
“And you” — This “you” refers to Gentiles; the “we” of 2:2 to Jews; so in this category of sinners is included every human being without a single exception. It means you, your family, your country, your race, and every man of every race. All are now, or once were, sinners.
This “you” refers also to Gentile Christians. Paul is writing of what they were “in time past.” He is allowing one backward look, that their hearts may be quickened into deeper gratitude, greater love and fuller appreciation of the exceeding riches of God’s grace toward them in Christ. Oh! that your heart and mine might be thus quickened as we read this book is my most earnest prayer!
“Were dead in trespasses and sins.” — “Trespasses” indicate the element in which the sinner lives; one of rebellion and refusal of obedience to divine authority and law. The noun being in the plural gives the impression that the breaking of God’s law is the habit of the sinner. “In sins” — which are the fruit of sin; the outward manifestation of the inward nature. There are many kinds and degrees of sins, and the sinner is capable of committing any or all of them, for the seed of sin is in him, and no one can forecast what fruit it will bear. The sinner may be held in restraint by personal pride; public opinion; selfish interest; or fear of consequences; but by nature he is still a child of disobedience, and is at heart opposed to God’s will and purpose. Every sinner has preferred to follow the devil rather than God. He is therefore a spiritual outcast.
“Dead.” — Let the word stand by itself. I beg of you, do not trifle with this word; do not ignore it, evade it, or whittle it down to anything less than its Scriptural significance. It describes as no other one word can the sinner’s broken relationship to God. Sin severed the cord that bound the human spirit to God, and so entirely “alienated him from the life of God” (4:18) that he is henceforth in a state of spiritual death. The sinner is not merely morally degraded or diseased; he is spiritually dead. Unless he is saved by grace through faith, his present spiritual death will end in “the second death” (Revelation 20:14), which is eternal separation from the presence of God.
The sinner is a helpless, hopeless derelict; a powerless bankrupt, with no resources within himself for spiritual recovery. As a dead man his first need is life, but he has no way to generate it and no access to the One who can. Left to himself, he can do nothing, and faces his destiny as a child of wrath, having no hope. What a direful, pitiable position is his!
His position determines his condition. The sinner belongs to the underworld of sin, where there is but one walk possible.
2:2,3. “Ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, in the lusts of the flesh.”
“Ye walked” according to the direction of the world, the dictation of the Devil, and the domination of the flesh.
“By nature — the children of disobedience and wrath.” Every sinner is born with a nature inherently hostile to God and opposed to doing His will. If he refuses the Saviour he thereby hardens himself in his enmity toward God, and so by his own deliberate choice continues to be a child of disobedience. He is therefore under divine displeasure, and is a child of wrath. If the love of God manifested in Christ is rejected, then the wrath of God must be revealed.
So we see that the sinner is wholly out of adjustment with God. If he is set right, it must be with God first. But in 2:1-3 there is not one ray of light or one gleam of hope. Unless God intervenes and takes the initiative, the sinner will forever remain in his sins.
The Way of Salvation
2:4,5. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love where with he loved us, even when we were dead in sins.”
“But God.” Oh! if you have not encircled and underlined these words in your Bible, do it now. Here is a floodlight on the sinner’s path; a signpost which marks a movement of God toward the sinner. Though our sin is inconceivably repulsive to His holiness, yet our soul is inconceivably precious to Him. So He will open a way of reconciliation for every sinner that he may be delivered from that awful pit.
“Who is rich” — God did not lack in resources for such a task, nor did He have to go outside of Himself to perform the miracle of regeneration. Out of His own inherent riches He met our abject poverty and transformed us from spiritual bankrupts into spiritual multi-millionaires. God draws upon the riches of His mercy. He looks in pity upon the sinner utterly undone, and His great heart of love is moved to take the initiative in providing a way of salvation.
But we have learned that all sinners are children of wrath. They have incurred the displeasure of the infinitely righteous and holy One, and are deserving of the full penalty for their sin. Then how will God’s mercy and love operate to satisfy the righteous demand of His holiness and at the same time meet the need of rebellious sinners?
2:5. “By grace ye are saved.”
The first movement in salvation is not from men to God, but from God to men. This wondrous redemption was planned and executed in the heart of God in the eternity of the past, before even the world was. There and then a way to save to the uttermost was wrought out in the counsels of the triune God.
In what way and through whom would God’s grace work to provide for sinful men a Mediator between God and them? For this is the sinner’s greatest need if he is to be brought to the place of reconciliation. Who could act both as God’s representative and the sinner’s?
Just here let us look to the Holy Spirit for His own divine light and love to be poured into our inmost being, that we may not only apprehend more fully, but may also appreciate more deeply the worth and work of our adorable Saviour.
The Saint in Christ
2:1. “You dead.” 1:20. “Christ dead.”
“You dead.” — How can a dead man be made alive? “Christ dead.” What an amazing answer! Christ, the source of all life, even life itself, dead! This is the almost unthinkable thing that grace has done. It has put Christ, the sinless One, in the sinner’s place. “The wages of sin is death”; “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” The penalty must be paid, and there was no other way to do it. He bore the sinner’s sins by taking the sinner’s place.
2:5. “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us toget her with Christ.“
Believing upon Christ as his Saviour and receiving Him into his heart, the sinner becomes the possessor of eternal life and is made one with Christ. Shall a live man remain in a grave?
1:20. “Christ raised from the dead.”
2:6. “And hath raised us up together with him.“
The grave could not hold Him that was alive. Neither can it hold the quickened sinner. The grave of sin is no place for a saint. hall never be anything but sinners n evangelist said in a meeting, “We saved by grace, with one foot in sin and one foot in grace.” Never, oh! never, according to Ephesians. If 2: 1-10 teaches anything, it is the exact opposite of such a statement. True, the sinner is saved by grace, and by grace alone, and this fact should ever be kept fresh in his memory, that he may forever praise God for His wondrous goodness. But it is equally true that through God’s grace the believer in Christ has left forever the old position in sin, and has come into a totally new position in Christ. Indeed the sinner has become a saint. God lifted him altogether out of that awful pit of sin and placed both feet on the solid rock “in Christ” wherein he is to walk in the future, as in times past he walked “in sin.” How could a saint walk worthily (4:1) with one foot in sin and one foot in grace? It is just such teaching and such practice that excuses the and inconsistent walk of many a Christian. Being raised together with Christ, the saint is now to walk in newness of . To do this Christ must become the Life of his life.
But God’s grace is not yet exhausted, nor His redemptive plan completed. Wherever Christ is the Christian must be, for he is now bound together with Christ for all time and eternity. Christ and the Christian are eternally one. The earth could not hold the risen Christ any more than the grave could retain the dead Christ, for His redemptive work demands something more.
1:20. “He set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.”
2:6. “He made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Dare we believe this glorious truth that He who went down to the very deepest depths of sin for us now carries us up to the very highest heights of glory with Him? That is hardly the way to put the question. Dare we not believe it? God has written both of these truths in His Word and, if we do not believe the latter, we do not really believe the former. God has said it, and to disbelieve is to make God a liar.
“Made us sit together.” — Seated; how restful and relaxed it sounds! Yet how many of us are most of the time anything but that, but rather buzzing around in a fretful, feverish fashion which is far more earthly than heavenly in the impression it makes upon the world about us.
“In the heavenlies in Christ.” — Yes, at home in the heavenlies, where our citizenship really is (Philippians 3:20). Not visiting this glorious place from time to time as trial, sorrow and conflict drive us to a higher plane, but settling down in the heavenlies in possessive and permanent occupancy as our abiding-place.
Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote this epistle, but one would never know it. There is no smell of a prison in Ephesians. As you open the book it is just like going into some vast, open expanse and breathing the fresh air of heaven. There is no clank of prison chains to be heard, for Paul is not bound in spirit. He is there as the prisoner of Rome, but this be will not admit, and claims to be “the prisoner of Jesus Christ.” What is the secret of such victorious otherworldliness? Paul’s spirit is with Christ in the heavenlies though his body languishes in that foul Roman prison.
To whom did Paul write this epistle and to whom is it addressed? He wrote it to the saints at Ephesus, but addressed it to the faithful in Christ. Their temporary residence was at Ephesus, which was the centre of idolatry, superstition, luxury and vice. The shrine of Diana was there, the place of the midnight darkness of paganism. Yet their real abode was in Christ, which was to them the centre of worship, light, life and holiness. It was at the right hand of the throne of God, the place of the midday light of Christianity.
Oh! my friend, where do you live? “At” or “In”? Do you just live down on earth as a Christian all wrought up into a frenzy of anxiety over life’s perplexities and problems; its trials and tribulations; its sufferings and sorrows? You will surely have them, for they are permitted, even intended by God for your discipline, growth and training. Or do you daily take afresh by faith your position in Christ in the heavenlies and there find His peace, joy and rest; yes, and the courage and strength to bear and to endure victoriously?
Still one further thought out of “together with Christ:” Where is He? “Far above all.” Ponder these words until they sink into your innermost consciousness and become a very part of you. Where are we? In Christ. Then we, too, are “far above all” in God’s purpose, sharing fully in all the conquest, victory and power of that exalted position. In Christ we are as far above the power of Satan as Christ is; therefore we may be more than conquerors, always triumphing in Christ (Romans 8:37; II Corinthians 2:14). Is it any wonder that through all the ages to come we shall be praising God for the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus?
The saint in Christ is God’s workmanship; a creation of God’s own. Man’s works have no part in this wondrous miracle. Good works will be the fruitage of his life as a Christian, but they had no part in making him one. God was the sole Creator of the Christian, who was created through union with Christ.
2:10. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.”
What part does man have in the translation from sinnerhood to sainthood? God tells us quite plainly:
2:8. “By grace ye are saved through faith.”
But the helplessness of the sinner is so complete that in himself he has not even the faith necessary for salvation. This, too, is God’s gracious gift to him.
2:8,9. “And that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not
of works, lest any man should boast.”
Our salvation is not the result of anything we are or know or do. This leaves no place for pride. Our new life and new position in Christ, even the faith by which on the manward side these unsearchable riches become our possession, are all the outright gift of God.
We have studied together the blessed truth of the creation of the Christian. Let us stop for a moment to get it clearly in our mind’s eye before we pass on to our next theme.
PONDER — Dead in sins.
BUT GOD — Alive in Christ.– By nature.
CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS — By grace.
Together — with Christ — quickened — raised — seated
PRAISE — In Christ — in the heavenlies — far above all
The Constitution of the Church (2:11-3:12)
Our approach to the study of this great theme will be from a somewhat new angle. Let us see not only how God constituted the Church in the beginning, but how His method of doing it with its glorious results is the only effective way of meeting the desperate need of human society to-day, which is in such a serious state of maladjustment.
There are two distinct and divergent lines of teaching in the Church to-day. There are those, who, interpreting the Word of God literally, say that God has commissioned the Church primarily to save the individual sinner, and, therefore, its first obligation is to
preach the gospel of redemption through regeneration. There is another group who, interpreting the Bible liberally, say that the primary work of the Church is to salvage human society, which is in such a deplorable state. So they advocate preaching a social gospel which aims at the reconstruction of society with the expectation of the reformation of the individual. Let the Word show us what God says and does. He clearly teaches that sin’s primary work was to separate man from God (4:18). Adam and Eve, when once conscious of sin, “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord” (Genesis 3:8). So the first work of salvation is to bring the sinner out of hiding into real and joyous fellowship with the Lord. This necessitates preaching the Gospel of redemption to the sinner, that he may get right with God. For, if he is out of adjustment with God, he will most certainly be out of alignment with men.
Therefore the personal aspect of salvation is presented first in 2:1-10, where God creates a saint out of a sinner, thus making him fit for both divine and human society, rather than reconstructing human society to make it fit for men still in their sins. God created the saint before He constituted the Church out of the aggregate of saints. He has used His Church as a powerful and effectual factor in the remaking of society, as the unprejudiced study of any mission field will prove. Ephesians has place for a social gospel, but it follows the individual gospel as a fruit rather than taking precedence over it as the root.
The aim of the social gospel is to bring a right adjustment in all the manifold relationships of men with men, and nations with nations, so that wrongs and enmities may be abolished; that righteousness and love may prevail, and that men may live in peace one with another. That the Church has a responsibility in social as well as individual salvation no student of the Word will deny. But the Church itself is divided over the method to be used for its achievement. One section, stressing primarily the brotherhood of man, works to strengthen the human ties which bind men together through political, economic, social and religious alignments, so they give themselves to the advocacy of the World Court, the [United] Nations, disarmament, labor legislation, and World Conferences on Unity of Churches. Another section of the Church, stressing primarily the necessity of men’s reconciliation with God, works to bring about the conciliation of man with man by the mediation of Jesus Christ, who is able to do away not only with the fruit of enmity, but with the enmity itself, and thus open the way for a true brotherhood based on mutual fellowship in Christ. Again let us see from the Word God’s way of conciliation:
Sin’s secondary work was to separate man from man. When Adam was brought face to face with his own sin of disobedience to God’s command, he immediately placed the blame for his transgression upon Eve his wife. And when the Lord asked Eve, “What is this that thou hast done?” she promptly laid the blame upon the serpent. Men and women have been shifting the responsibility for their own sin upon someone else ever since that day.
Sin caused friction between that first husband and wife. Sons were born into the family. Cain, the elder, was the follower of Satan and his works were evil; while Abel chose to follow God and his works were righteous (I John 3:12). This caused jealousy between them which ended in the murder of Abel by Cain. The sin in that first family on earth, like a pebble thrown into the ocean of humanity, has caused an ever-widening circle of friction, jealousy and enmity, until to-day the world is one colossal war camp. One of the greatest of world problems is how to keep men and nations from each others’ throats.
Sin has separated human society into hostile peoples and parties. Sin has caused a mighty schism in humanity, dividing men racially into Semite and anti-Semitic, Aryan and non-Aryan; nationally into the totalitarianism of Bolshevism, Nazism, and Fascism, and into democracies; socially into caste and outcast, titled and common, white, black and yellow; economically into capitalistic and proletarian; and religiously into Christendom and paganism; while Christendom is subdivided into wheat and tares, truth and error, an organism and an organization. Sin has also created in individuals and nations a superiority complex that has led to aggression and invasion and made the weak a prey to the strong.
Surely human society is in desperate need of reconstruction. There must be a conciliator between man and man if hatreds and enmities are to be put away and any real brotherhood established. But who is sufficient for such a task? Can any nation produce such a conciliator? Woodrow Wilson was a man of high international ideals, and hoped against hope that he could step into the breach between the nations and be used to bring peace to the world through his Utopian dream of a League of Nations. He died, some believe, of a broken heart, and his dream has become more like a nightmare for others.
Men have resorted to pacts and treaties of all kinds and descriptions to cement international friendship and to court peace. Internationally-minded statesmen, passionately devoted to the cause of peace, have labored long over the preparation of these treaties. Representatives of many nations have traveled long distances and spent many millions to meet in conferences to discuss them. Nations have signed these documents, publicly pledging thereby to do their part to keep the world’s peace, and have speedily gone to incredible lengths as international kidnappers of neighbor nations.
No treaty ever made or to be made can weld antipodal nations into peace. It may temporarily disarm a nation, but it can never destroy its will to war. The heart of peace is not an “it,” but an “He.” “He is our peace,” and there is peace in no other way. God works to unite men, not by the reconstruction of human society, but by the construction of a divine society on an altogether new basis, as Paul shows in 2:11-3:13, where he passes from the personal to the corporate aspect of salvation.
So let us turn now to a study of the constitution of the Church, which is Christ’s Body. 2:11-22 falls naturally into three parts:
The Contrast between Jew and Gentile
We — Israel — Circumcision — Commonwealth of Israel — Made Nigh
Ye — Gentiles — Uncircumcision — Aliens and Foreigners — Far off
Twain — separated by — the middle wall of partition. — the law of commandment contained in ordinances. — enmity.
We have already considered the great gulf between Jews and Gentiles, dividing them into two camps which bear toward each other mutual hatred and contempt. The privileged Jew looked upon the unprivileged Gentile as outcast even from the love of God.
Let us consider the spiritual condition of the Gentile pagans:
2:12. “Ye were without Christ.“
The Messianic idea of a coming Deliverer for Israel welded the Jews together as citizens in a commonwealth. As a nation they looked for the Promised One who would be prophet, priest and king. The nation, as a whole, might depart from God and serve other gods; yet there was always a remnant of the true Israel that kept its faith fixed on that Coming One. While the Gentiles were just a race of individual pagans having no essential oneness except in sin. They had no part in the promised Messiah and no claim upon Him.
2:12. “Having no hope.”
They were “strangers to the covenants of promise,” so they had no anchor. They were as sailors in a captain less boat on an uncharted sea. They had no divine revelation and so no divine plan for their course of life. “Their future was like a night without a star.” They had only the horizon of earth, with nothing to satisfy them here or hereafter.
2:12. “Ye were without God.”
The Jews had one God in whom their national life centred. The Gentiles had innumerable gods; so their racial life disintegrated into many nations with no common meeting-point. The Old Testament reveals the nations as utterly opposed to God, and under the domination of Satan. Such was the condition of the Gentiles; outcasts from both human and divine fellowship.
At that time — Without — Hope — BUT NOW — God
God intervenes for the hopeless Gentiles and provides a way of salvation through a world Saviour. These Gentile Christians at Ephesus had heard the Word of truth and had believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. They had been brought home to God by the redeeming blood.
2:13. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”
The Conciliation of Jew with Gentile
A way must be opened for the conciliation of Jew and Gentile. and 2:14-18 shows us what it is. A threefold cord of peace binds them in indissoluble union in Christ.
1) Christ Himself is their Peace.
2:14. “For he is our peace.“
Christ is not merely a peace-maker; He Himself is “our peace.” So to receive Him is to have peace and is the preliminary for making peace, as this passage so clearly shows. How different is the way of man, who both tries to make and to preach peace with Christ altogether left out of the transaction!
2) Christ made peace.
2:14. “He hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”
2:15. “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in the ordinances.”
2:15. “For to make in himself of twain one new man.”
2:16. “That he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross.”
There are four distinct steps mentioned here in Christ’s work of making peace. First, by breaking down the middle wall of partition between them. We have seen that God had made a choice of Israel as a special people for Himself, and had separated Israel from the Gentile nations. This separation was typified by the wall in the olden temple by which the court of the Gentiles was separated from that of the Jews; to go beyond which would have meant death to the Gentile.
Many Jews were just as evil in the sight of God as the Gentiles. They were Jews outwardly, but not inwardly (Romans 2:28,29). Their nearness to God was a privileged nearness because of God’s choice of them as His peculiar people rather than a personal nearness because of their choice of God as their satisfying portion.
But this wall of separation tended to make the Jews bigots in attitude to the Gentiles. The further away from God they went personally, the more bigoted they became racially. Their distinction as God’s chosen people created within them a superiority complex. In order to make “both one” this wall of separation must be done away with entirely. This is what Christ first did in making peace.
Secondly, He made peace by abolishing the enmity between them. The separation between Jew and Gentile was emphasized by certain institutions designed to isolate Israel from other nations. Such, Paul says, was the law of commandments contained in the ordinances, which was given to Israel only. Just here read Romans 2:11-29, and note that the Gentiles were without law, while the Jews rested in the law, considered themselves teachers of the law, and made their boast of the law, while the majority of them were dishonoring God through breaking the law, and thus they blasphemed His name among the Gentiles. So, though they were more privileged than the Gentiles in being the custodians of the law, yet they were under its curse for having broken it. Therefore they were as guilty before God as the Gentiles.
This enmity must be abolished if peace were to be made. This could not be done by either race, for a Jew as a Jew, and a Gentile as a Gentil