The Epistle to the Ephesians.

Scope and Divisions of Ephesians.

The epistle to the Ephesians carries us to the height of Christian  position. It is, as we well know, the epistle of the heavenly places. Christ is seated there, and we are seated together in Him. The very scene of our conflict is in the heavenly places. In this there is a correspondence, as has been noticed long since, between it and the book of Joshua. Just as Israel had to gain possession practically of that which was their own by God's gift, so are we taught here to get possession of that which is our own in the heavens. The height of our outlook in it gives us a wider range of truth than we could have had before, — in fact, the widest.

It is true that Romans, in the announcement of our place in Christ before God, virtually involves the heavenly position; but this is not worked out in it. We have in Romans the Head of new creation, in Galatians the new creation itself, but only briefly indicated. In Ephesians we get, in a sense, beyond this. The new creation is in contrast, as its Head is, with the old creation and the first Adam; but here we have all things headed up in Christ, things "which are in heaven and which are in earth." We look backward to see God's purpose toward us before the world was. We look forward to see God's grace manifested to the principalities and powers in heavenly places in "His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus," and to divine glory manifested in the Church through Christ Jesus throughout the ages. Thus we have the widest scope of view anywhere in the New Testament.

The earth side, if may so say, of our position, as Romans and Galatians have shown it to us, is omitted. We have neither "dead to sin" nor "to the law," nor "crucified to the world" there; but we are created in Christ Jesus, quickened with Him, raised up together and made to sit together in Him in the heavenly places. This is what is ours individually, which prepares the way for the development of the truth as to the Church. We have, first of all, to see that the bride of Christ is of His kindred, as Abraham required that the bride of Isaac should be. Thus, we have at the very beginning what is individual and which prepares the way to consider our corporate position as united to Christ by the Spirit and made members of His body as well as the habitation of God in the Spirit. This is the full revelation now of that which had been a mystery hid in God from the ages and generations throughout all the age-times, and Paul himself is the special minister of this to bring men into the fulness of the blessing. It is in the latter part, in connection with our responsibility in our earth relationships, that there is developed the relation of the Church to Christ as His bride, the Eve of the Last Adam.

Everything in Ephesians, as we might expect in an epistle of this character, is based upon the will of God, which all the way through is prominently brought before us. He has "chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blame before Him in love," which is His own nature; we are "predestinated to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself;" that is "according to the good pleasure of His will." He might have had us in other relationships than this, although in any we must have been according to the requirement of His perfect nature, but He is acting in all this for the glory of His grace to manifest Himself to all His creatures, a purpose which is in itself a purpose of grace. It is the necessity of a love which must find expression; and which fills and satisfies, as it alone can satisfy, the hearts of those to whom it is revealed.

The principalities and powers in heavenly places are not overlooked, but have their own blessing in this revelation of grace to others than themselves. God's glorifying Himself is nothing less than the pouring out of that which is in Himself, and it is in this divine fulness manifested in Christ towards us that we are filled up. The Spirit of God here is the seal of all this blessing, and, as the Spirit of adoption, the Witness to us that we are the children of God, we have the pledge of the inheritance of children. "If sons, then heirs."

Here then comes association with Him who is Himself primarily the Heir of all. For Him the universe was created and He fashions it all for eternity according to God, Himself the First-Born among many brethren. Thus we are brought, of necessity, into the closest relationship to Christ. There could be nothing closer than the relation of a body to the Head. "We are the fulness" or "complement," says the apostle, "of Him that filleth all in all;" and, as the members of His body, we are to be those through whom He works out His mind throughout eternity: for the body, as is plain, is the instrument of the mind, and the Spirit of God is that which unites and energizes the whole together for this purpose. This is not a transitory blessing. It is not something connected simply with this world, but in this world we are growing up in all things to the perfect manhood, to the "measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."

The practical results are, of course, dwelt upon here, as elsewhere, and the conflict which we have here is not, as in Romans, or Galatians, with the flesh, but with the "principalities and powers," the rulers of the darkness of this world; the whole aim of Satan in this being to keep us out of the practical possession of that which he knows God has destined us for. We see here, therefore, what the apostle tells us elsewhere was his aim, "to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus."

Clearly, Ephesians fills, in an admirable way, the third place. It is the sanctuary opened to us, not for worship simply, as in Hebrews, but that we may take possession of it. Our blessings are altogether in contrast with those of Israel; we are "blessed with all spiritual blessings," but "in heavenly places in Christ."

The divisions are six:
1. (Eph. 1:1-14.) God's purpose in Christ as Source of all blessings to us and the Head of all things.
2. (Eph. 1:15 — 2:10.) Our participation with Christ in God's work beyond death.
3. (Eph. 2:11 — 4:16.) The church mystery, the house of God and the body of Christ.
4. (Eph. 4:17 — 5:21.) The ways that suit this.
5. (Eph. 5:22 — 6:9.) Our responsibilities in those earthly relationships through which the heavenly ones also shine.
6. (Eph. 6:10-24.) The conflict and the way of victory.

Notes.

Division 1. (Eph. 1:1-14.)

God's purpose in Christ as source of all blessing to us and Head of all things.

As already said, in Ephesians we have, first of all, our individual blessing, and this in its highest character; the fruit, also, of God's purpose in Christ towards us, which is the display of Himself in His own nature; and not simply even for "the glory of His grace," but in result for "the praise of His glory." The apostle announces himself at the outset as an "apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God." He is acting in his divinely commissioned place, to declare that which, as elsewhere we find him saying, is the completion of Scripture truth, and the declaration of mysteries hidden from ages and generations and now revealed. He writes to the saints at Ephesus as to "the faithful in Christ Jesus." We have already seen that Ephesus evidently has in the New Testament a representative place with regard to the Church at large. We are here, therefore, to have the full church character given to it; yet he writes not to the church at Ephesus, but to the saints as individuals. The individual blessing comes first, and must come first. We are members of Christ only by the gift of the Spirit, but we must be first prepared of the Spirit in order to receive this gift, the temple that He is to inhabit must first be built. He could not seal flesh, nor man in sin. The bride of Christ, as already said, must be of the kindred, and therefore we have that here which first of all links us with the essential blessing of all the saints before. The "faithful in Christ Jesus" may make us realize in the Ephesians a condition of soul which prepared them to receive the truth which was now to be communicated. It is plain that in the case, for instance, of the Corinthians or of the Galatians, he was hindered by the condition of soul in those to whom he was writing. In Corinthians he does, indeed, give us the Church as the body of Christ, but he does not carry us up to the heavenly places, but simply develops the practical working of the church on earth. Here he is unhindered. It is a point to be well understood by us that we cannot learn scripture truth as we might learn any other, that there must be a condition of soul corresponding to the truth revealed. There must be hearts open to receive and to take the impress of the truth revealed. There must be a state towards God of those who are whole hearted in their desire to be subject to His mind. To these he begins with his usual salutation: "Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ."

1. He begins, then, with the praise which fills his heart as he thinks of that which is the portion of the saints. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." It is the Father's will, the Father's love to which all is referred here; Christ the One in whom there is the accomplishment of this. "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," suggests, as the Lord has taught us, our own twofold relationship to Him as that. "The God of our Lord Jesus Christ" implies the Man Christ Jesus down here in the place of weakness, to work out His will, to whom God must be God, who walks in the path of faith like no other man, only in the perfection which belongs to Him; but then His God is His Father, and, as this, our Father also, although there is a peculiar sense, of course, in which, as the "Only Begotten Son" He fills such a place. As the "Only Begotten," He is alone and must ever be alone. As the"First Born," He is in necessary connection with others who are not merely naturally but spiritually born. Thus, the Lord says in His message through Mary Magdalene, "I ascend unto my Father and your Father, unto my God and your God." It has been often noted that the Lord does not say here to our Father and to our God. He preserves, as a matter of necessity, the peculiar place which is His, and yet He brings us by virtue of what He is, into relationships which are characterized by His relationship. "My Father" and therefore "your Father;" "My God" and therefore "your God." God has One now in whom He can perfectly reveal Himself. In the Old Testament He was the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob. These three, as we have seen in the book of Exodus, are those specially chosen, as, in the place they fill, giving us to know God in a distinct way. In the God of Abraham, in fact, we see the Father, just because and as in Isaac the one yielded up to death and yet brought out of it, we see the Son. The God of Jacob gives us, on the other hand, the thought of the Spirit. Jacob transformed into Israel is the typical presentation of the Spirit's work. Thus God had in some way identified Himself with these three men, but now there are and can be none associated with Christ after this manner. He is the One in whom God is displayed and He displays Him fully and perfectly. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is God perfectly revealed, and it is He who "hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Notice how we are entitled, therefore, to go back through all the Old Testament scriptures and to claim every spiritual blessing that we find there as our own. We do not take them from those to whom they belonged. Those blessings declare the character of God who is now revealed to us and who has blessed us in Christ. No character of blessing, therefore, can be wanting to us. If God says to Joshua: "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee," we may, as the apostle tells us, claim that promise fully, although there could scarcely perhaps be one which might be considered more incidental to the peculiar place which Joshua occupied. But "all spiritual blessings" then are ours, only that the sphere to which they belong, with which they connect us, is heavenly and not earthly. There is no conflict, therefore, with Israel's blessings; although, surely, their highest blessings must be spiritual also, but they are in earthly places, not in heavenly. Christ is the storehouse of these blessings for us. He is the One who by His work in our behalf justifies their bestowal. Nay, we may say, even necessitates it, for the moment we see Christ as Man here upon earth, the fullest blessing of man is certainly implied for him. "If God spared not His Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" "All spiritual blessings" then are ours. We only need faith to claim them and enjoy them. Unbelief may, alas, make us poor still, shaming the One whom we should glorify by the manifestation of the blessing that is ours. Nevertheless, the blessings abide permanently for His people, and it is, of course, impossible that for any of these there could be the final loss of that which is thus secured; but this makes the apostle look back to eternity before ever the world was, to that will of God to which we owe our all. He has chosen us in Him before the world was. This world, so large and important as it is often in our thoughts, yet is after all that which has, as it were, come in by the way, and is a step in order to His fulfilment of these eternal blessings; but the first thing that we find here is that we must, therefore, be according to His own nature, and here, too, the guard of His holiness is first named: "That we should be holy and without blame before Him" — then His full character — "in love." We must answer thus to what He is if we are to be blessed at all. It is not, therefore, said here, "According to the good pleasure of His will." That comes in the next place when He speaks of our predestination, our appointment to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself. There it is His will merely to which we owe this. If He had servants of His power, they must answer to His nature; not, of course, that He cannot overrule the evil which has come in through sin and make sinful men the instrument of His pleasure, but this is not in question here. It is that which comes from His own heart, not that which displays His power merely, and thus there must be what corresponds to what is in His own heart. Because of what we are, this is to the praise of the glory of His grace. It is grace and grace alone that can bring into the highest place, and this grace has been shown us in the Beloved. The apostle does not say in Christ simply here, but wants to make us realize the fulness of delight which God has in Him in whom we are accepted. Thus the result must be the praise of the glory of His grace. Suited it is that those creatures of His who are to find the very highest place with Him are those thus redeemed from sin. It makes the place itself the display of what God is in a way which nothing else could do. If God is acting in grace, if He is free to show out what is in His heart, then it is what is due to Himself, we may say, that He will manifest, not what is due to us or to any of His creatures, but due to Himself, and thus the fullest blessing must result from it. Christ, "the Beloved" is, as we know, the pledge of all this.

2. He points out now, therefore, the grace side of things. In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Let us notice that He does not speak of justification here nor in the epistle anywhere. It is not the suited term, although one peculiarly Paul's, but as another has said: "God does not justify His own work," and we are looked at here in that character. Yet there must be redemption, the taking out of the condition in which we were as sinners in the power of that blood shed, which was the necessary price, but therefore the forgiveness of sins is according to the riches* of His grace. It is not mere forgiveness, as it were. There is the overflow of goodness in it; and it is added that according to this "He hath abounded toward us now in all wisdom and intelligence." He has come out to make known to us that which is ours that we may enjoy it according to His mind. He does not reveal what He would not have us enjoy, but He has not merely revealed to us that which is our own blessing, we are made to know the fulness of His purpose which has Christ as its Object. He has made known to us "the mystery of His will," that is the secret of it not hitherto declared, "according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might head up in One all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth." This large and general purpose we do not find, therefore, in the Old Testament. Christ is the glorious King of Israel, the Ruler of the nations of the earth, but the promises of the Old Testament do not go beyond the earth; they belong, as Romans has told us, to Israel, to the apostle's kindred according to the flesh. Here we have what is much wider. Christ is to be Head over all, the fullest security of blessing to all, that could be. All things are to be in His hand when, in the wisdom of God, the time has arrived for Him to put forth His hand and take them. Even now He sits upon the Father's throne, but there, as is clear, in retirement in a certain sense. He has had necessarily to come down first into the lower parts of the earth to the death of the cross, in order that God might be glorified with regard to everything and perfect power over sin might be realized, it might be no barrier to blessing any more. Thus we can understand that at His first coming, Christ could not take the power which was His. The secret of the present delay has to do with us. He is gathering, as we shall see, a people who are to be trained in His school upon earth, in order to inherit with Him that which in grace He shares with them. Thus, the delay has respect to us, is in our behalf, and the whole truth as to the Church comes in in this place. So the apostle goes on immediately to say therefore that, "In Him 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, that we should be to the praise of His glory who first trusted in Christ." If He speaks of Christ's inheritance there must be the coheirs, and that is what, during all this time of patience in which evil is so prevalent and good seems almost to be baffled, God is working out by it all that needed discipline which is to make us, as exercised with regard to good and evil, participators in the mind of Christ and instruments in His hand finally. How wonderful a purpose this that we should be not merely to the praise of the glory of His grace, but "to the praise of His glory." The praise of the glory of His grace contemplates the low, sinful estate of those whom He raises up to manifest it in, but "the praise of His glory" contemplates the wonderful condition into which they are brought and seated with Christ, and here he shows us that those in Israel who through grace have anticipated what will be the faith finally of the nation ("we who first trusted in Christ") are to find an infinitely greater blessing than anything that they have lost through Israel's failure.

{*How suggestive this word "riches" is, not merely of the exhaustless wealth of God's store, but, by contrast, of that poverty in us which had nothing, having "spent all." We were, and in ourselves still are, poor indeed, but this emphasizes the grace that has opened its wondrous riches to us. — S.R.}

3. He now turns to the Gentiles, as these Ephesians were. The "we" and "ye" all through the epistle, as we have seen in Galatians also, mark out the difference. In whom therefore," he adds, "ye also trusted after ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation." The Gentiles come in on equal footing with these Jewish first-fruits, and they have, in consequence, by that Spirit which is theirs, the Holy Spirit of promise, the seal of that condition of sonship, which is the pledge that they shall be heirs also. It is "the earnest of our inheritance till the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise," again, "of His glory." He is now the earnest. Necessarily, that character will cease when we have the inheritance itself: not the seal of the Spirit itself, which a loss indeed, if it were possible to us, but it is, of course, only in this way that the habitation of God abides for eternity. God will not give it up. Let us notice that the seal of the Spirit is simply that which is put upon faith in Christ, and that the "after that ye believed" is really too strong. It implies no necessary interval. "In whom having believed, ye were sealed." The sealing marks us out for God, but it is that also which, as doing this, brings in God to preserve that which is His own, and thus it is the assurance of absolute security. We are in a world in which our feebleness is, alas, continually manifest. It is God's grace, therefore, that thus takes upon Himself, as we may say, the responsibility of our being brought through. In the Spirit which He has given us He has pledged Himself to this; so Peter also, having told us that we are "begotten again to an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven," adds that "we are kept by the power of God through faith unto (final) salvation" (1 Peter 1:3-5). Here is the power of God in the Holy Spirit of power, the One who, as we have seen dwells in the very bodies of the saints, in order to make good there, in that which is the very sign of our weakness and which as yet does not share in the blessing of redemption, the purpose of God.

Let us notice again the peculiar expression here: "redemption of the purchased possession," which, of course, means our inheritance; but thus our inheritance needed to be purchased and needs to be redeemed. This is the first time that we have come to such an intimation. We have what is similar in Colossians, "the reconciliation of things in earth and things in heaven" (Col. 1:20), and in Heb. 9:23 the heavenly things are seen as having to be purified by sacrifice, This is a mystery to many, the thought of "things," not simply persons needing the work or Christ in order that God's purposes may be fulfilled as to them; but in fact, everything has waited for the glorification of God as to sin to be accomplished. Satan himself is thus in the heavenly places, not cast down, and when we look forward to the actual time when this shall take place, as the book of Revelation declares it to us, we find that the completion of God's victory over evil has waited and still waits for His purpose towards man to be fulfilled. Whatever we might think, the nature of God is such that there could not be tolerated the smallest question as to what He is. Sin has raised questions which must be fully met and answered, which the work of Christ has met, before God could lay hold even of the heavenly places themselves, in which we know sin has been, to renew them according to His eternal purpose. There is no question, of course, of the purification or reconciliation of the fallen angels, yet even so judgment alone upon them could not sufficiently vindicate Him. He cannot, in fact, be vindicated by judgment merely. Judgment may show His righteousness, but not His heart, and the question has gone deeper than with regard to righteousness. Christ's work alone has shown, not merely His holiness with regard to sin, but His love also and thus still there is a certain delay of the fulfilment of His purpose which has been already spoken of.* He is free now to work out the restoration which is in His mind. Thus, as we have seen in Romans, the groaning creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God, and the possession which is ours in the heavenly places needed that purchase price to be paid for it, not because of those who were to be put in possession, but because of the question which sin has raised even there. The purchase is completed, but the redemption remains to be accomplished yet. "Purchase" and "redemption" are very distinct things, although the same work is necessary in each case but redemption is the actual bringing out of the evil condition which, we may reverently say, the purchase gives God title to do. If we look on to the twelfth of Revelation, we shall find there that when the man child is taken up to heaven, the dragon and his angels are cast down. That is the redemption. The man child, no doubt, includes both the One who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and those also who are expressly promised to share this power with Him (Rev. 12:16, 17). Thus, during all the time in which we wait, the Spirit of God, the Witness of the glory of Him whose work has been accomplished, is here for the guarding of the fulfilment of these purposes of blessing.

{*May there not also be the suggestion that all sin penetrates even heaven? God is in relation with man, and therefore all sin of man reaches His holy presence; as the tabernacle, God's dwelling-place in Israel, was defiled by the uncleanness of the people and needed to be purged by blood (Lev. 16:16). When all things are finished, and the purging by power takes place, the full redemption will have been effected. — S.R.}

Division 2. (Eph. 1:15 — 2:10.)

Our participation with Christ in God's work beyond death.

We have had, then, the general outline of God's purpose in Christ, not merely towards us, but embracing the subjection of all things to Him. We are now to see how He has, in fact, taken us up to link us with Christ for the fulfilment of blessing.

1. It takes the form. of a prayer from the apostle's heart in behalf of those whom he is addressing. He longs for them and for us that we may have the spirit of wisdom and revelation with regard to all these things. In fact, how much has been hidden in this way through the lack of response on the part of God's people to these wonderful communications! He has heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love to all the saints. He gives thanks, therefore, for them, but that is not enough. He realizes that they are yet in a world in which Satan is busy, as by and by he will more fully show, to deprive the people of God of that which, in their knowledge of it now, would be power for them to glorify God in the scene through which they are passing. It is here, in fact, in the entering into these purposes of God, that the Christian character is practically acquired, and the Christian intelligence alone fully gained. It is no wonder, therefore, if here should be the sharpest possible contention, and that here the apostle should be in prayer that God's people should lose nothing of that which He has designed for them. Accordingly, the prayer is to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, the One who has purposed all this, and the One to whom belongs the power alone to accomplish it. He prays that this God may give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the "full knowledge," (as it should be) of Him. The deepest, sweetest character of the revelation of these things is that it gives the knowledge of Himself. For this we need, as he explains directly, the "eyes of our heart" to be enlightened. It is "heart," not "mind," for in the heart such eyes really are. It is not mere intelligence that can possess itself of these things. It is not any brightness of mind merely, as people would say. It is the heart for what is revealed that will lead to right intelligence as to the revelation. Could God possibly reveal these things with all their announced value for the soul, so that a human heart would kindle with desire to possess itself of them, only to find that the faculty had been denied of obtaining that which was sought for? How impossible to think of it! God's people deprive themselves of what is the inheritance of every one of them, and they must, of necessity, connive at their being robbed of it, in order not to know. The Spirit of revelation, the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding is in them already,and,as the apostle pictures it, it is the Spirit that searcheth the deep things of God. Can He do it in one and not in another? Or, if He be pleased still to have special human instruments, does He mean by that to deny the possession of the truth to any who seek it? Certainly, it would be impossible to think so. The apostle prays, therefore, that they might know what was the hope of this calling of God, that is, of all that, in fact, is hailing us from those blessed scenes which God is opening up to us, and that they might know what the riches are of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. It is God's inheritance. No possession of it on our part could possibly deprive Him of what is in it, and how little would it be true inheritance if we did not inherit it with Him! It is God that inherits what is His, but it is the saints whom He puts in possession, just as He puts Israel in possession of the land which, nevertheless, He reserves as His, and which, therefore, cannot be taken away from Him. "The land is Mine," He says: "ye are strangers and sojourners," — guests therefore, as such, thrown upon the goodness and liberality of Him who, as such, is entertaining them, — "ye are strangers and sojourners with Me." We inherit after the same manner: a blessed thing to know that it is not the inheritance of a lost Father, but the inheritance of One who dwells with us in it, that belongs to us. But He desires that we should know also the greatness of His power which is working towards us with regard to these very things, according to the working of the might of His strength. How He multiplies words that we might realize the energy that is at work, a power in which He has wrought in Christ; for the work done in Him is done for us all, and the good of it belongs to us all. God has raised Christ from the dead then, and seated Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places. The work is perfectly accomplished, and He only awaits the full answer to it on the part of God. The present answer is only the pledge of the full carrying out of all. His place is already above every principality and power and dominion and every name named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come. He has put all things under His feet. Here it is the One then who has in His own hand the fulness of blessing for us, and this accomplishment already with regard to Him must have its present bearing upon our condition also, even while we are here in the world. God has given Him, in fact, to be Head over all things to the assembly which is His body, — Head over all things, which is that inheritance itself of which Paul has been speaking. He is Head in the full power of such a place to the assembly. All that is implied by the place He has, implies the blessing which is to be to the Church, united as it is to Him now in the nearest way that could be attained — His body; the apostle does not hesitate to add "the fulness of Him who filleth all in all." What things to bring together! Here is One who is possessor of divine fulness; no other could fill all in all, and yet the body is His fulness. He is not complete without it. In God's thought and purpose, Christ would be incomplete if His body had not its place too; how near and wonderful a place, — "His body," filled with His love, energized with His mind, working out His thoughts as our bodies work out the thoughts and purposes of our minds! It is in resurrection, of course, that He becomes this Head. It is a human Head, blessed be God, though He be much more than human. That is the fitting Head to this human Body. Thus, the Church could have no existence until after He had risen from the dead. Search throughout the Old Testament, you will find nowhere the first hint, even, of any company of people as the body of Christ. You will find saints put under Him for blessing, you will find His rule over man, but such a relationship is to be found nowhere, such a relationship could not, in fact, exist until Christ as Man had risen from the dead and become, therefore, the fitting Head for such a body. Then the body itself must be brought into being, and thus the descent of the Spirit follows the ascent of Christ to the throne of God.

2. The apostle carries us back now to what, alas, was our previous fellowship. We have been called to the fellowship of Christ, but how good for us to look back and see what He has called us out of. "And you," he says, "hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." This is the first time in the epistles that we find such a statement with regard to man's condition. The epistle to the Romans speaks of our being under death as the penalty upon our sins. It speaks of our being dead to sin as the effect of the new place of identification with Christ in His death, which God has given us; but now there is something more than this. It is man himself who is dead. That state, impracticable of help to any except God, is his. There is no possibility of self-help. There is no possibility of working out of that condition. No work is conceivable in such a state. This death is Godward. There is not anything which for Him constitutes life at all. He says that this is not a condition of irresponsibility, however, but the reverse. It is "in trespasses and sins" that men are dead; active enough, fully active in this character in which the epistle to the Romans has spoken of them, but dead as to the hopelessness of it, as to the total absence of all response to God which it implies. Activity there is enough, "in which ye once walked," he says, "according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the power," or authority, "of the air, the spirit which now worketh in the sons of disobedience." This is what gives its character then to the course of this world, age, as it is literally, as we have seen; the whole period characterized by that which is away from God, and with the ruler over it who, as the ruler of the power of the air, is exhibited to us as having that complete control of the earth which the heavens have for fruitfulness or for disturbance. This ruler is the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience. They are marked out as the sons of disobedience, as that which gives him title to the power which he manifests over them. How complete is this apostasy, then, from the blessed place in which God created man to be at the beginning, the one with whom He had come down to walk as with a friend. Nor was there any who did not share this place. "Among whom we also," he adds, we Jews as well as you Gentiles, "all once had our conversation in the lusts of our flesh." We had our common fellowship, terrible fellowship indeed, "in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the wills of the flesh and of the mind;" that is, the grosser or the more refined and spirit part of our nature, both alike evil and away from God. Thus we were "children of wrath by nature even as the rest." The Jew is in no wise exempt, but, on the contrary, as being in this condition in spite of all the blessing and privilege which God had bestowed upon him, is only, if possible, in a greater depth of evil than the Gentile. Such is man's condition, then.

3. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love wherewith He loved us even when we were dead in sins," — that is where God's love lays hold upon us, not when there has been something right in us, not when we have begun to waken up and respond to the love which greets us from Him, but simply out of His love itself. "He has quickened us with Christ," and "by grace it is that we are saved," he adds in parenthesis. grace surely. He has given us life when in that condition. There is no condition possible between death and life, no life which could be true life except by His gift for those so fallen, so that here His love met us, doing the whole work from the beginning, quickening us, as he says, with Christ. He looks at it all as part of that same work which brought Christ up from the dead. As to the point of time, of course, we are individually quickened and brought up, but as to the character of the quickening, it is this from its being part of that redemptive work which is the fruit of His intervention for us. It is a life which, in fact, is the life of Him with whom we are quickened. It is a life which makes Him to be the "Firstborn" among human brethren. Christ is looked at here, of course, as the Representative of His people, not, therefore, in the title which belongs to Himself personally, but in that which He had earned by the work to which He stooped. Thus it is all part of the same work. We are with Him in character by virtue of this quickening. Our condition is changed into the total opposite of what it was, and not only is our condition changed, our position is changed. He has "raised us up together." Quickening and resurrection are different things. Quickening is communication of life. Resurrection is the bringing of the life into the place of the living. Christ's resurrection has, in fact, given us this new place before God, as Romans has already taught us to say that we were justified by His resurrection. As His people, although justified now of course, when we become His people and not before, yet we look back to that resurrection of His which was the public sentence of God with regard to this. He has delivered us from every charge that could be made, from every question against us, by the resurrection of Christ. He has given us, therefore, a new and unassailable position in the One whom He has raised up. "He has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ." Notice the difference. He does not say with Christ" now any more. He is thinking simply of the representative character of Him who is seated in the heavenly places for us. We are actually quickened, we are actually raised up, we belong no more to the dead, whether as to the condition of our souls or as to the company in which we are.* We are actually quickened and raised up, but we are not actually sitting down in the heavenlies. We are virtually and representatively sitting there in the One who is before God for us. Thus we reach, as has. been said before, the height of Christian position. The epistle to the Romans has involved this already, for "in Christ" means the same thing there as here, but it is here put in the fullest and strongest way, it is developed in such a way as to make it practically a new thing for us. We would not be entitled to infer such things except we had divine warrant for them, but here we have the warrant. God has made us to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ. Now comes the display of His glorious purpose as to this. It is "that He might show forth in the ages to come the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus." We need not be surprised then that the place should be such a place of wonder! If God is going to show that which is indeed the fruit of Christ's work and the display of the full purposes of His heart, it will be surely true that the fullest blessing possible is necessitated for this. God is acting, as it were, though only grace could say so, on His own account; but then with regard to us it is grace and nothing but grace. He adds that all the way through here: "For ye are saved by grace, through faith"; and as if that were not enough, he adds, "and this not of yourselves:" that is, as surely is meant here, the faith itself is not of us. It is not of us, but it is God's gift. There is no principle of works, therefore, that any one may boast; nay, if you talk of works, we are His workmanship, and in such a way as He worked at the beginning in creation itself. We are His new creation, "His workmanship created in Christ Jesus." Here is what brings us, of course, into that scene of which the epistle to the Galatians has spoken to us. It is God's work in us that has accomplished this, and "He has created us unto good works," such works "as He has afore prepared that we should walk in them." He has given us a nature which will be fruitful in us after the manner that He desires. He knows what He is doing and His purposes cannot fail of accomplishment. Thus, poorly (if we look at ourselves,) as we may rightly think of ourselves, the glory to come will display the full accomplishment of all that He has had in His heart to do; and the brethren of Christ will be such as even in this way He will not be ashamed to call His brethren.

{*It will be noticed that "together" suggests the union of Jew and Gentile, as later on in ver. 16, they are spoken of as reconciled "in one body" by the cross. Thus we not only are quickened and raised individually, but by the very fact that all believers are so, we have a common life and position, into which the previous distinction of Jew and Gentile cannot enter. — S.R.}

Division 3. (Eph. 2:11 — 4:16.)

The mystery of the Church as the house of God and body of Christ.

Section 1. (Eph. 2:11-22.)

One new man and one habitation of God.

1. Having had thus the individual Christian position which the Spirit of God makes good to the soul, we now come to that which is the fruit of the Spirit, uniting us together and to Christ above. The Church is seen here in the first place as the body of Christ, and then as the house of God. The relation of the bride does not as yet come before us. The apostle goes back now to comment upon what they were to whom he was writing, as "in time past Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision" by that which was, after all, only the "circumcision in the flesh made by hands" but still in the state of privilege, as the people of God on earth. The Gentile state was that of wanderers altogether, who had turned their backs upon God and who were left, as to the mass, in the state which they had chosen. They were "without Christ," "aliens" too "from the commonwealth of Israel," "strangers from the covenants of promise;" they had "no hope," that is no hope that was rightly founded, little in fact of any kind, and were "without God in the world," an awful position, but which he only refers to here, in order to make the contrast now more wonderful.

2. Now in Christ Jesus, they who were "far off" were "made nigh," made nigh at infinite cost, by the blood of Christ; that which at once declares the enormity of sin in the sight of God and at the same time the infinite love which could pay the price necessitated. That which has declared the sin of the world in its fullest character is that which has put it away for every one who believes. He Himself is "our peace," and this in a double character. First of all, as the apostle puts it here, He has made Jew and Gentile "one," having "broken down the middle wall of partition." In fact, what was Jew or Gentile, when both were dead in trespasses and sins? All distinctions of necessity vanish in death and when both alike need to have peace made for them, both alike are practically far off from God, whatever the outward nearness. In fact, the very law which the Jew prided himself upon, the law of commandments in ordinances, was itself the enmity, that is, a cause of distance between God and men. Not only it could not bring nigh, but as long as it was maintained, it actually held men at a distance from God. It was the accuser of the Jew who boasted in it. It was that which made exceeding sinful the sin which it exposed. Thus it was the enmity which Christ met and abolished in His cross. This has been all worked out for us in previous epistles, but it is now looked at as connecting with the Church as the body of Christ, for which Jew and Gentile had to come together and both had to be brought nigh to God. The enmity was not merely in its effect towards the Jew only, because the condition of the Jew was only the condition of man thoroughly exposed. The enmity, therefore, had to be slain (a strong word used as to it) by that cross which was its penalty, taken and thus removed from those for whom it was taken. Thus, Jew and Gentile in Christ are brought together in "one new man." He does not say "one body" simply, now, because Christ, the Head, is also seen here. Thus it is "one new man" and both are reconciled to God also "in one body by the cross." He could not say the "new man" was reconciled, just because that brings in Christ. It was, therefore, here simply "in one body." The full announcement of this must be given as the gospel is given. Christ, therefore, has come and preached peace. We have there contemplated His coming into the world, but now made effective by the work of the cross, so that He preaches peace; whoever may be the instrument used, yet He Himself clearly is the great Proclaimer of it. Coming nigh, as He has done to those afar off, the distance between them and God is ended and over. He found none who did not need peace. It had to be preached to "those afar off and those that were nigh," and now "through Him" "both have access," by the one Spirit given to both, to God as Father. Thus not only is the distance removed on God's side, but it is removed on our side also. God Himself having, by the work of the Spirit, thus put us into the position practically to which the cross had given title. Here then is the first declaration really of the body of Christ, as we see directly, the revelation of the mystery in other ages unknown to the sons of men, but now revealed. We have nothing yet, as in Corinthians, of the relation, properly speaking, or at least of the activity in the relation of those brought together in this manner. It is glanced at afterwards, but at present the great point is the relation of the Head to the body which, indeed, be has spoken of before, and with the implication of the blessedness attaching to it for His people. He who is Head to the Church is "Head over all things" and thus all things are made to minister to the people whom His work has brought nigh.

3. Thus we have had, in the first part of the epistle, the relationship to the Father as children. We have had, just now, the relationship to Christ as His body. This is, of course, to Christ as Man therefore; His humanity is needed for it, and now we have the relationship to the Spirit as the house of God, ind welt of Him. The body and the house are only, in this way, different aspects of the Church. The Spirit of God dwells in the body, a truth which has its corresponding presentation in the fact that it is in our bodies also that the Spirit dwells. We remember also that in the Lord personally, His body is spoken of as the temple of God. Thus, the body in this sense also becomes the temple of God, being, in fact, that in which the Spirit displays Himself, by which His mind is made known. That is the thought of the body. Here we have the thought rather of the glory to God resulting from it. The house indwelt of the Spirit becomes a "holy temple." The apostle refers, therefore, again to their condition as being once "strangers and. foreigners." Now they are "fellow-citizens with the saints," not with Israel, of course, although they might be and are called so in the Old Testament; but yet those brought, in fact, near to God, the remnant of Israel, but now in another and nearer relationship, are those with whom. the Gentile Ephesians are made fellow-citizens. That is on the human side. On the divine side, they are of the household of God. The thought of the temple is to be qualified by this, that it is a living temple now, not a house made with hands, but God dwelling and walking in His people. This only, of course, gives fuller truth to the temple character which the apostle goes on to; built solidly upon the "foundation of apostles and prophets" (those, as we see by the order here, and as we see more fully presently, of the New Testament alone) "Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone," the One who in Himself unites, as it were, the two sides of the building, — the Jew and the Gentile, — together, while He is the foundation of the whole. The "apostles and prophets" are not the foundation, but they lay the foundation. "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." In Christ, therefore, all the building is fitly framed together. No one thought can express what Christ is to His people. They are built upon Him, but they grow up in Him also and thus growing, they are to be for eternity a "holy temple in the Lord." The title given to Him here shows His authority over it. He is, in fact, the Leader of the praises of His people and the One who is, as we may say, their praise note also. But He would not have us consider the temple as being simply a future thing; that would leave us without the present blessing of it. He adds therefore, that we are "builded together for an habitation of God" in Christ. The building is not complete, but it is an actual existence, none the less. It is a house in which God's praises are already begun, an "habitation of God," not such as Israel's of old, but "in the Spirit." These things are, as yet, simply delineated, as we may say, and outlined for us. We shall find the practical working elsewhere. The whole triune God is in relation to us, Father, Son and Spirit, and we have a different character and blessing in relation to each one, Christ Himself being, as we know, the ground of the whole.

Section 2. (Eph. 3:1-13.)

The ministry of the mystery.

We now come to the ministry of the mystery, with the distinct declaration of its being truth absolutely new, so that we are not to confound it with anything in the Old Testament, save, of course, what may be typically given there; but types need their explanation and therefore are no contradiction to the truth which they contain, being "hid in God" until the time comes for the revelation.

Paul declares here that he himself and no other is the one charged with the commission to declare these things. The grace to the nations connects evidently with this character of his teaching. His place, rejected of men for Christ's sake, being the seal of his ministry to the Gentiles; grace to the Gentiles was grace in its fullest aspect, and the administration of this grace was manifestly committed to him. The mystery was made known to him by revelation. He had written of it briefly before, (one would say, in the epistle to the Galatians,) although there is no development of the truth made known to him such as he is making known now, but the fact of what God had added to him beyond others is affirmed there and that is what he refers to here, by which, in reading it, they might understand his "intelligence in the mystery of Christ." He is speaking of the way in which he came into this knowledge, not of the contents of the knowledge itself. He was accredited even by the other apostles with that which was beyond them. He now goes on to speak of it as something entirely different from what had ever been revealed before. "In other generations it was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." He unites, after his manner, the names of others along with himself, and these, no doubt, were the dispensers under him of that which was to him, first of all, a personal revelation. This is what is to be understood everywhere in the epistles, as the meaning of those mysteries which characterize in fact, Christianity in what is peculiar to it, — the mystery (not without a reference, no doubt, to the well-known heathen mysteries) was that which was revealed to disciples, which could not be understood apart from this revelation, and which, as revealed indeed, would only be apprehended by faith. It was not anything as yet made known to men at large, as by and by, of course, it will be. There are three things in these mysteries as spoken of here, —

First of all, that the Gentiles should be joint heirs, heirs on equal terms with the Jews, or rather with Jewish believers. This we cannot find, therefore, anywhere in the Old Testament. There are blessings for the nations and the world to come, but the Jew is always the head, and the Gentile the tail; there is no joint heirship, no equality. The heirship itself also is different, therefore, from that which the Old Testament promises revealed. It is in another sphere altogether. The Christian blessings are in heavenly places, and the inheritance, as has been already shown us, is an inheritance with Christ. We are co-heirs in this way, also, in a higher and more wonderful position than the Old Testament ever spoke of for any saints whatever. That is the first point; named, no doubt, first, because it seems most in relation to Old Testament truth, though in fact different. Of heirship the Old Testament certainly spoke, but not in any sense of such a body as the Church is, a joint body, as we may call it, using the same word all through here, which shows us Jews and Gentiles upon the most entire equality, — a body in which Jews and Gentiles are alike members, the body of Christ, of which, of course, we have been already fully assured. There is absolutely nothing that could even give a possible ground of confusion with the Israelitish promises.

The third thing is that Gentiles and Jews are joint partakers of the promises in Christ Jesus by the gospel. Here again, a place in Christ is nowhere spoken of in the Old Testament. Christ is King and Lord of His people. They are never identified with Him as Christians now are said to be. The promise in the Old Testament, therefore, was not such a promise. He calls it promise here, not because we have not the place already, which we have been fully assured we have; but because this, as all else, waits for its full manifestation and perfect blessedness in the eternity to come. Of this gospel, having the joy of such things already to the soul, Paul had become minister "according to the gift of the grace of God given" him, "according to the working of His power." Power indeed was needed to sustain him in the height of such a place as this, to enable him to minister it in full reality, nothing accompanying it which would lessen the blessing in the eyes of men. He adds that this grace has been given to one "less than the least of all saints," a thing which those who know God will realize to be perfectly suited; the weaker the vessel, the more manifest is it that "the excellency of the power" is "of God" and "not of man." The strong language has nothing in it which for him is strained or exaggerated, clearly; but he always has in mind that out of which God drew him, and which for him had manifested itself in the clearest and most perfect grace that could be. The former opposer and persecutor of Christ's people carries with him ever the remembrance of this. But what a message of good news, of the unsearchable riches of Christ, of things infinite in their character, which, though known surely, yet altogether pass knowledge. The mystery was now, in this way, being dispensed by him, — a mystery hidden from the ages in God, who created all things, and who acts always in that character of power which this necessitates. Once the Creator, He is now the new Creator, a consummation to which all the ages tended, and for which they were preparing the way. Not only to the Gentiles, in fact, was this revelation being made, but angels also, "principalities and powers in heavenly places" were become the witness of "the manifold wisdom of God" now being wrought out through the Church, the purpose of the ages in Christ Jesus. We are continually apt to forget that there are others than ourselves who are deeply concerned in all this revelation. The earth is not isolated from the rest of God's creation, but His purpose connects all together and is working for the fullest blessing of all. We miss, how much, when we think, therefore, simply of the insignificance of the earth, as if, almost, that which God did upon it must be proportionately insignificant also; but it is plain that a work has been done here which has been done nowhere else, and which can never be repeated; a work which has displayed God in such a manner that the endless ages of eternity and the widest extent of the universe will be alike filled with it. What things to minister! How suited to it and necessary for one taken up by God in this way, although he joins all Christians with himself, to be admitted to "boldness and access in confidence" to God, by faith in Christ. He beseeches the Ephesians, therefore, not to faint at his tribulations for them, which were, in fact, a cause of glory to them. They were all helping to make the more manifest the "excellency of the power" of all this to be "of God," and He who was in them could not, therefore, be cast down for them.

Section 3. (Eph. 3:14-21.)

Christ abiding in the heart by faith, we are filled into all the fulness of God.

This closes in a prayer which has been often compared with the prayer in the first chapter, a comparison which is much in the way of contrast also. He is in earnest for that for which he prays. The expression "I bow my knees" evidently intimates that. The whole body, as it were, witnesses to that earnest desire which is filling his soul and which he addresses now, not to "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ," not to God in that character, but to "the Father of our Lord." The prayer has to do, not as before, with the knowledge which he would have the saints have of the extent of their blessing. That has been gone through, and now he desires that they should be filled with the affections suited to those to whom God has drawn near after this manner; but still he contemplates what we have just seen, this purpose of God fulfilled in the saints as having to do with "every family in heaven and on earth." Of Him, he says, of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, every such family is named. It should not be "all the family" as in the common version, which destroys the very distinctions which the apostle means to emphasize here, distinctions which only make the unity of blessing which he has before him here, the more distinct and beautiful. Angels and men, to speak of no more, are different families, at first sight, far enough apart. The angels "who excel in strength" are manifestly of a higher order naturally than man is man who has been united to the dust of the earth, that pride may be hidden from him; yet when we realize what divine grace has done, this human family appears in a very different character. Christ has come into relationship with these in a way that He has not to the angels. "He layeth not hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham He layeth hold" (Heb, 2:16). Thus men have a part in Christ that no angels can lay claim to. The work done for them, though their sins necessitated it, has been done for no other. It is a Man who is on the Father's throne, and not an angel. Divine grace, in the very fact of taking up the lowest of God's spiritual creatures, has manifested itself only the more, and this, too, necessitates the highest place of blessing for them. But are the angels passed over then in this? Have the other families of God been forgotten? It is clear that what the apostle has already said shows that this is not and could not be the case. The Arms that encompass man by the very fact of his being furthest off and lost, are wrapped around all the rest also. This Fatherly relationship which God has, of necessity, to His creatures, is now characterized by this relationship, — One who has come down amongst these creatures and who has in Himself wedded, as we may say, creation to God. Have the angels gained nothing by this? They did not say so when, Christ being born upon earth, they opened heaven to proclaim their praise. God's good pleasure was in men but how much did that reveal of God to them also — of the Father, who was also their Father?

The apostle prays now, therefore, that God may give them "according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power by His Spirit in the inner man." His glory is being manifested indeed in all its fullness. He desires that this should be realized by us in the heart, but for what purpose? Not that signs and miracles may display what God is working, but "that Christ may dwell" in the heart through faith. This Christ, in whom all God's purposes united and with whom we have been brought into such wonderful and tender relationship, well may He dwell through faith in our hearts, not be a Visitor, known, as it were, fitfully and imperfectly, but dwelling there so that we might be "rooted and grounded in love," that the love which has been manifested in Him might be that out of which we should draw continually and in which also we should be established, a perfect love, dismissing all fear and refusing all distance. "Rooted and grounded," — thus we are alone fitted to apprehend "with all saints," "the breadth and length and depth and height," He does not say of what. It is not of love, certainly, that he is speaking, for he immediately goes on to say that this is measureless, this surpasses knowledge. "Breadth and length and depth and height" naturally speak of God's ways, of what He is doing. The breadth of His work includes all His creatures. The length of it is from eternity to eternity. The depth of it could only be rightly known by that depth to which Christ has descended for us; and the height by that place which He has given us with Himself; but if we apprehend these things aright, they are, in fact measurements, in a sense, of that which cannot be measured, so that he immediately adds: "To know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge" like those measurements which we take of the heavens from angles obtained on earth. They convey to us, — how much! but yet leave us to realize that we are incompetent in any full way to estimate what this love is; but even now the consequence of it will be, we shall be "filled up in all. the fulness of God." This is what is in Christ. "In Him," as Colossians tells us, "dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," and it is added: "We are filled up in Him." This divine fulness then, though we cannot hold it, holds us. We are, as has often been said, like a vessel dipped in the ocean which cannot, of course, hold the ocean, but in which the ocean is, as well as round about it. Divine fulness, to be filled with that which is, nevertheless, infinite, how natural to think that here the apostle has in some way exhausted. the sober estimate of things! It is as if anticipating that thought, that he says immediately, "To Him that is able to do far exceedingly above all that we ask or think, to Him be glory." How wonderful the connection there! Think of what he has just been speaking of. It is not, however, that he means that God is able to do more than fill us with all the fulness of God, but that as to all that we might think about it, He is able to exceed any measure we can make. We may ask, but He can transcend all that we can ask for. We may think, but He will be beyond us still, and beyond us in a power which works in us too as the apostle says here, a power which is, of course, the power of the Holy Spirit. He has thus taken hold upon us for this very thing, and to make the Church the vessel of His praise, not simply for the present time, but in a way which nothing will exceed, forever: "To Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus, unto all the generations of the age of ages." How he seems to contemplate there the whole history as it were of the future, filled with wonderful and new displays continually, to new spectators also of God's goodness and power, and to all these and in the midst of all these, the vessel of His glory will still be the Church. in Christ Jesus. Think of it, that this is what God has brought us into! Is it possible, one would ask, to add more to a revelation such as this?

Section 4. (Eph. 4:1-16.)

Practical results as to the Church.

We come now, according to the order of that which we find all through Scripture, to the practical results of all this. Truths such as we have been considering must surely be of the most practical character. All doctrine, in fact, is. The precept resulting must be, of necessity, lower than the doctrine itself. The cause is more than the effect and in this case cannot even be measured fully by the effect.

1. We have, first of all here, the unities which the apostle would have us mark. There are seven unities, the number which, as we well know, speaks of a perfection, which is peculiarly that of God. He reminds us, first of all, that as to himself, it is the prisoner in the Lord who is speaking. Well may he who has shown us the power of the truth upon himself in the very place which it has given him amongst men, exhort us to "walk worthy of the calling with which we have been called." The "calling" includes all the blessing that we have been looking at. It is this which God's voice is drawing us on with, a Voice which has power in it also to accomplish its will; but what then is the suited answer to it on our part? "All lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love." The necessary effect of having to do with God is that it puts us into that low place before Him, the place of one with whom, therefore, the high and holy One that inhabiteth eternity is able to dwell. To be with God, we must be in the sense of what God is, before Him in the consciousness of creature nothingness, yet not discouraged or distressed by that, but, on the contrary, realizing only the more the sweetness of the wonderful condescension of God toward us. We are in a world of suffering, where sin has caused suffering, and where even in one another the sin still remaining makes us suffer also; suffering from one another thus calling forth in us, as God would have it, only the more fully those Christian graces which find but opportunity for full display where there is such demand upon them. The lowliness which is the primal thought here, becomes in us meekness, and then, with reference to others, longsuffering and the bearing with one another, not as simply accepting, as it were, what we cannot escape from, but "in love." We have to "use diligence," therefore, to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace." We have not to form this unity, as is clear. The Spirit dwelling in us all has formed it, but we have to keep it "in the bond of peace." Nor is it the unity of the body of which he is speaking. That is not ours even to keep, but the Spirit is that which animates the body and makes it work together for common blessing. Thus it is not a unity in form merely, as the unity of the body might be. It is the unity characterized by what the Spirit Himself is, and to keep it may involve also sometimes what might seem to be in contrast, rather, with the unity of the body. The members of the body cannot in that character be cut off from Christ, but yet looking at things as they are here, the figure for us may be rather that of the human body such as we know it in the place of sin and death, and where one member may have, even, to be cut off for the good of the whole. The unity of the Spirit is a holy unity. Separation from evil is an essential characteristic of it, and here it may carry us beyond what the mere thought of one body would seem to necessitate. The unity of the Spirit is living unity, and we need to use diligence to keep it. How many things there are in fact that are contrary to it in a world like this!

The specification of these unities follows. "One body and one Spirit" are linked together with the "one hope of our calling" in which we have been called. Here we have, as has been often said, the innermost of three circles that we find here. The "one body and one Spirit" give us, one may say, the deepest character of unity, to which the "hope of our calling" of necessity contributes. The energy which carries us forward is the energy which works for edification and blessing now. We have then the circle of profession, not meaning by that at all to imply mere profession, while yet it leaves room for it. Here we have "one Lord," Christ in the authority which belongs to Him; "one faith," that is to say, one creed, the common range of truth which belongs to us all; "one baptism," which is not, as we see at once, the baptism of the Spirit, for that would link with the first circle rather than with the second one. Moreover, baptism spoken of in this way, simply by itself, always seems to mean what we ordinarily call that: the baptism of the Spirit has to be expressed by this addition. The language here is used, in fact, analogically, the baptism of water being analogous with that which is a deeper thing; but in the apostle's words here it is simply the baptism of water, which connects, as we have seen, throughout with the kingdom, and therefore with the Lord. It is that in which the Lord is owned. It is that which brings into the sphere of discipleship and thus is linked with the "one, faith," which is the disciples, creed. All is perfectly fitted together, therefore, here.

We have finally one unity which is wider, "one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all and in us all." If we take what we have been learning of late, we might say that this "one God and Father" introduces us into a circle which includes the angels themselves also, and so we have the "over all" and "through all," and then in distinction, if this indeed be the reading (which is somewhat in question) "in us all;" it may be however, "in all." Here we have the wide extent of creation plainly before us. He is God of all this. He is the Father of all His creatures, and though sin has indeed come in and marred, for the time, the blessedness of it, yet grace, as we know, has come in too, and more than given us back all the reality of what we have here. Evil, therefore, is not thought of in this connection. It is the glorious presence of One whom everything serves, who pervades everything, whom, therefore, we can find everywhere, if this be the truth of the third clause. Here again, then, we find the blessed triune God: Father, Son and Spirit, all in connection with us, and ourselves in distinct blessing in relation to each Person.

2. Here, then, are the relationships, but we have now to see Christ Himself working for the maintenance and manifestation of what belongs to these relationships. There is grace given to every one of us, "according to the measure of the gift of Christ;" that is, all is in His hand as Lord of all, to measure out to every one what is appointed to him, what gives him his special place. The apostle refers us back to the sixty-eighth psalm, to show us Christ ascended on high, having "led captivity captive," that is, having led captive all the power of Satan, "captivity" put for the one who produces it. It is not enough for Him to deliver His redeemed, however. He must enrich them also. If He has ascended up on high, it is to give gifts to men; but the apostle reminds us here that the One who ascended is seen by this to be One who has descended. We could not rightly speak of ascension with regard to Him, if He had not done so. He was at the highest point of all. If He is now gone up, it is because, in grace, He left the place which was truly His. He has descended, in fact, into the lower parts of the earth. But here then, is a wonderful cause of blessing for us. The very One who descended is the One who has now gone up. Thus He fills all things. There is not a place between the depth of the cross and the height of the glory which He has not occupied. There is not a place in which we can be in which we cannot find Him for us; and, with the perfect knowledge which he has of all, the perfect knowledge, therefore, of our necessities, He has given gifts. He means to have us up with Himself where He is, and He knows how low He has to reach down after us. It is in this way, then, that He has given "some apostles, and some prophets and some evangelists and some pastors and teachers."

Apostles and prophets come first, as we have already seen, and lay the foundation. Evangelists go out to bring in others and thus enlarge the building. Pastors and teachers care for that which is within, "for the perfecting of the saints." It is evident that not every gift is named here. It may be that every gift which He gives could scarcely be named; but that we have the special classes after this manner: evangelists, those preceding the pastors and teachers, as their work necessitates; while apostles and. prophets stand, in some sense, apart from one another, in a way that is easily recognized; apostles representing more the authority of God, while the prophets speak of communications from Him. The pastors and teachers again are more closely united than any of the rest, a connection which is very obvious, for the pastor has to do with what in Corinthians is called "the word of wisdom," as the teacher has to do with the "word of knowledge." Yet these things tend to unite together; for the "word of wisdom" is but the power to apply to existing things the "word of knowledge," and love which has the Lord's people at heart will tend always to develop the "word of knowledge" in this way. It is evident that the pastor has more the people before him, while the teacher occupies himself more with the truth; but the end is still, and in all these cases, "the perfecting of the saints." That is the first thing, and it is strongly individual. It is not yet said "for the edifying of the body of Christ," although we come to that directly, but the "perfecting of the saints," — the individuals come first. God would not have us lose the individual in the general mass. He would not have us think of the body, as it were, apart from the members. Thus the individual saint is the first thing that is contemplated here. But then, let us notice, this "perfecting of the saints" is "to the work of the ministry." We are not to look at these things as if they were simply put side by side with one another, as if the "perfecting of the saints" was the same thing as "the work of the ministry." That is not the idea. The "perfecting of the saints," if the saints are members of the body of Christ, would be clearly to put every member in his place, and that place must be a place of ministry, for that is the function of each member of the body clearly. We have it directly after, here; but the very thought of a member of the body gives us a relationship of responsibility to the body at large, a relationship which each member has, in a, way, peculiar to himself From the very fact of what divine grace has fitted him for, he has a duty with regard to the whole to minister in that way to the whole. Thus the saints are not perfected, except as the result is the work of the ministry on their part, and this is parallel to the edifying of the body of Christ. That is what it involves. The body of Christ is built up by the action of these members, which, while they retain their individuality, (or there would be no peculiar ministry of any, as is clear, and no part edifying the whole), yet work for the common blessing. The whole is built up by that, as he says directly "which every part supplies."

This is the work which is needed to be done in the meantime, "until," as he says, "we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at the full grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Thus he has carried us back to that thought of the "one new man" which he has given us before this — Christ and His body together. It is manifest that the body needs indeed, how much! to grow up, if it is to grow to the "measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." That "fulness of Christ" is here the Church itself, of course; for that, we have learned, is the "fulness of Him that filleth all in all," but it is the Church as a body fitted to the Head and therefore having arrived at its completion. Till then, the gifts are necessary here, and till then the "perfecting of the saints" must go on. And notice, the "unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God," these two consist almost of the same thing. We are built up from the Head and by that which is imparted to us by the Head. We are built up by that which we find in Christ. The Head develops the body, however little that may be in accordance with the figure, but Christians grow up in Christ, that is clear; and we see of how much importance the faith is of which he speaks. What knowledge of the Son of God could we have apart from the faith? The truth which God has communicated to us lies at the very foundation of everything, therefore, for our souls; only it must be truth that the Spirit of God ministers to us, and which, therefore, we learn not in the mere common way in which we may learn any other knowledge, but as subject to and taught of Him.

The effect will be that we shall be no longer babes; we shall not be "tossed and carried about by every wind of doctrine, in the sleight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive." Plenty of all that there is, and will be, and God would use it to exercise His people in the truth, that they may learn the value of that which they have, not that they may be carried away from it; and yet how apt apparently are we to be carried away! How we need to be warned with regard to this! How many systems of deception are there in the world, compared with that one truth which certainly must be somewhere, and which is the only thing that can be truth, for there is but one truth. If the babes are characterized by such instability, alas, how many remain babes, one would think, almost to the last! How common a thing it is to see those whom we thought well grounded in truth which they have enjoyed, delighted in, and yet who are carried off by the very first blast of error! How solemn a reminder it is of the need that we have to make progress in the truth that we have, if we are to hold it fast! We may learn it as a creed without ever having learned it really. We may rejoice in it in many respects and yet, for all that, without getting it so for our souls that it becomes a vital necessity for us. To lose it, is as it were to lose life itself; nay, it is to lose what is dearer than life; it is, at least in that measure, to lose Christ Himself. On the contrary, he says here "holding the truth in love," we are to "grow up to Him in all things who is the Head." How much, as already said, how much advance, then, have we all to make, how much have we to learn, how eager ought we to be over our lesson-book, how the gaps that are in God's word now for us ought to fill up! If all of it be just what God would have us acquainted with, if He has not given us too much, if the whole of it is necessary to form in us fully and properly the mind of Christ, what shall we do if we neglect the continually seeking to lay hold more of that which is indeed infinite in its character, but which God would have us in some sense embrace as a whole? If we are to be developed as a whole, developed harmoniously, we must go on to this. It is from Christ, then, that the whole body is to be built up, — every part helping in this, every part ministering to every other part, (how we suffer, therefore, from the dislocation of saints from one another which we find today) and each part needing to be developed according to its measure also. How much we need then to care for one another and to think of one another, even to think rightly concerning ourselves! If the whole body is to be built up, we need all, clearly, to work for this, and in the measure of every part the body builds itself up. Let us notice that. Gifts of every kind have their place, but then there are no giftless parts. The body as a whole builds itself up. The gifts exclude no action of any part of the body, but, on the contrary, are meant to induce the fullest activity on the part of every member. All that we have, we have to serve with; all that we have is responsibility as well as privilege. And let us notice that this building up can only be in love. That is the spirit of it all. That is the only possible spirit which will beget true ministry, and love always will. How is it possible, if we love others, to see them in the need in which they are and not seek to minister to that need? And how little shall we allow any thought of our insufficiency to prevent us realizing the sufficiency of Him who is fitting us all together to accomplish in us the true character of one who ministers, which is only His character who is the Minister to us all! How can we be in any right fellowship with Him without being ministers after the pattern of His gracious ministry?

Division 4. (Eph. 4:17–5:21.)

Ways that suit this.

The fourth division brings us, as always, to the ways that suit what has been already before us. We find, however, simply what is individual here. The Church as such, the relationship of the members to one another, and what would result from that relationship does not come before us.

1. In the first place, we have the truth "as it is in Jesus" and "the new man created in righteousness and holiness of truth." The apostle appeals to them, that now, God having separated them from all that they were in nature away from Himself, they must now walk not as other Gentiles walk but according to the truth in Jesus. He draws a strong picture of that old Gentile walk. It was "in the vanity of their minds," he says, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that was in them because of the blindness of their heart." How solemn a picture of the darkness of the natural condition, and ignorance which is moral; by which, therefore, everything is distorted. On the other hand, as he will presently say to us, the holiness which belongs to us is holiness of truth.

We are delivered from the shadows, brought into the reality of things. So that holiness is never less than treating things, in fact, as they are. Faith is not an enthusiastic view of life or of anything. It is simply the true view gained by God being before the soul, the light having arisen upon it. Christ was now the Object before them. They had heard Him and "been instructed in Him, as the truth is in Jesus." He does not say, as the truth is in Christ. The truth "in Jesus" is the practical walk, such as His walk was. He says "Jesus," therefore, because he is thinking, not of a place that we have in Him or of the results of His work for us, but simply His example, and Jesus is the name belonging to Him as here in the world, but it was die Christ that they had learned. It is as we see Him in the world that we realize what He is. Christ, as such, is an Object of faith, as we may say, while as Jesus He has come into the sphere of practical life, lived before our eyes. We see the truth in Him. "As long as I am in the world," He says, "I am the Light of the world." Consequently, everything takes its true shape in connection with Him; but it is thus, in fact, that we know Christ, — Christ is His official title. It is that which speaks of Him as the Doer of the blessed work which He has accomplished for us. It is thus that we must learn Him first, before we are competent to realize in any measure His life in the world. Having learned the value of His work for us, we must then remember that we are to walk as He walked. We must look back to that walk of His. It is in putting these things together that our practical ways become what God would have them.

After the quails, the Manna. The quails, the life given up, must be the first, for us. We must know Him as the Victim and the Saviour, and this is what introduces us to Him as the Manna, the Bread from heaven. It is thus alone we are able to walk in His company, and all that we have learned of His work is to make us more completely His in our ways down here. As a consequence, the truth for us is that we "have put off according to the former conversation, the old man which corrupts itself according to the deceitful lusts." We have renounced this. It is always said, if we speak of the "old man," that we have put it off, and of the "new man," therefore, that we have put it on. The one has come in the place of the other. The two are not existent side by side. The man that we were, the man away from God, the man walking after the imaginations of his own heart, that is the man that we have renounced. He has come to an end for us at the cross, whose judgment we have seen there. Our own wills and ways are judged. We have been renewed in the spirit of our mind; we have "put on the new man," the man of the new creation, created according to God in righteousness and holiness of truth. It is the man, therefore, who belongs to another scene than any this world can furnish. It is a scene in which Christ is the centre and indeed, in one sense, everything. The epistle to the Colossians gives us this character of the new man; that is, that he is one for whom there is "neither Greek nor Jew, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free." Plainly those are the differences which obtain upon earth, in a fallen world. The new man has lost sight of these. He is "renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him," where Christ is all and in all. Here in Ephesians, we have, rather, the effect of this. The character manifested is "righteousness and holiness of truth," but "holiness" is not here the word which stands for separation from evil. It is that, rather, which speaks of piety towards God, which puts Him in His place, the place which is necessarily His, which He can never be absent from, except as the darkness of mind resulting from the condition of the soul may be unable to see Him.

2. Thus, all falsehood is put off. We "speak truth every one with his neighbor." Here indeed is a glance at a motive which comes from our relationship to one another in the Church. We are "members one of another." The eye must not deal falsely with the foot or hand; but for the members to defraud one another is to deal untruly with themselves. If we are angry, we must take care that sin does not come in upon the heels of it. There is an anger which we read of in the Lord's case. "He looked round about upon them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." If we nurse even such anger it will be sure to degenerate. We are, therefore, not to let the sun set upon our wrath, nor to give room, in this way, to the devil. In a world in which sin is, we can have no heart for God if we do not feel it, nay, if we are not aroused by it; but if the personal element is allowed, there will soon be a wrath which is not of God. Now for him that stole, he is to steal no more, but that negative character is not enough for him. "Rather let him toil, working with his hands that which is honest, that he may have to distribute to him that needeth." No corrupt word is to be allowed out of the mouth, but again "that which is good" in the way of positive ministry, "that it may give grace to those that hear it." Then we are not to "grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom we have been sealed to the day of redemption." Notice how there is brought in here the motive derived from the grace which has come in to deliver and bring us through the peril of the way. The sealing, as we have seen elsewhere, implies our security. We are not threatened with the Holy Spirit leaving us if we grieve Him. He has come to abide, but on that very account, we must not grieve the gracious Visitor. How the word speaks of His personal interest in us, the One who has come to make good Christ's interest in His own. This bears, of course, upon every other matter here. Again, "bitterness, heat of passion, wrath, clamor, injurious language" have all to be removed from us, with all malice," and the opposite character is to be maintained: "Kindness, compassion, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ," as it should read, "hath forgiven us." It is not "God for Christ's sake," which would seem to intimate as if God acted in it simply for Another, whereas "God in Christ" speaks of the way in which He forgives, what He has done, in fact, for us, that He might be able to forgive us, and this brings out His whole heart as well as what righteousness has necessitated. We are thus to be "imitators of God as dear children," those who express and commend their Father's character, and we are to walk in love, after the pattern of that love which Christ had to us when He gave Himself up for us "an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor." It is the burnt offering, of which the apostle is reminding us here, that offering which speaks of the perfect obedience of One who came here to do the will of God, nothing else. The offering was to God for men, and in the remembrance of this we are to walk in love, which we have learnt in Him.

3. The character and effect of the light into which we are brought is now urged upon us. There are things which are not even to be named by those who would act in character according to their name. Saints are thus set apart to God, and those who are His must be separate from the breath of defilement; nay, there are things which are less gross than these which are still not convenient, not fitting to the character of those who should walk seriously as before God, for life is serious, and as those, also, who realize the goodness of God and walk, therefore, in the spirit of praise which becomes those who recognize this. He warns us distinctly here, that no one characterized by such things as he names has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. Men might deceive them with vain words, they might prate of Christian liberty and what not, but "on account of these things, the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience." He is speaking, of course, of the world, and not of Christians. He does not threaten Christians with the wrath of God. It is not the way in which the Spirit of God works upon us. At the same time, that this wrath does come upon the children of disobedience, necessarily gives intense solemnity to it. Christians, therefore, must not be in any sense partakers with them. There must be the fullest possible separation. Men could do in the darkness what they cannot do in the light, and therefore the sins of Christians have, in fact, a worse character than those even of the men around them. We were once darkness, we are now "light in the Lord." The title again brings in the thought of His authority over us. We have learned to recognize this and to walk as children of the light, because "the fruit of the light" (so it should read) "is in all goodness and righteousness and truth." How blessed and cheering the light is! And such is the path which God has ordained for us and which the light increases to the perfect day. We prove herein by practical ways what is acceptable to the Lord. We are not to have "fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness," but to reprove them. The very moderation here of his words is striking. He does not say works fruitful in evil. It should be enough to say "unfruitful" for us. "What fruit had ye then," asks the apostle, "in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?" What we want is not merely a correct walk, but what God Himself shall find fruit in. Our character, therefore, as manifested in our ways, is to reprove these unfruitful works beneath which is also a secret depth of evil which it would be a shame even to speak of; but the light makes everything manifest. The Christian, alas, may sleep in the light itself, wherefore he says: "Awake thou that sleepest and arise from among the dead and Christ shall give thee light." To sleep among the dead, how terrible a thing! But the Christian abides, as we see here, always in the light. He may forget it, he may be untrue to it, but the light is there, and the light for him is in the face of Christ. There is no other test for anything but how it looks in His presence. We are to walk carefully, therefore. We are in a world which requires this. We must have the wisdom which is the application of the truth to all the circumstances of the way, and we must redeem the opportunity, the season; for the power of evil is such that unless we are careful, ready to lay hold of every opportunity for God, we shall find ourselves soon unable to make head against the power of Satan which is in the world around today. We are not to be foolish, therefore, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. Then comes a beautiful word. We are not to be "drunk with wine," not carried away from our sober senses, "in which is excess," but to "be filled with the Spirit." Here there is no excess. Yet, when the Spirit came at Pentecost, men said, in their perplexity, "These are filled with new wine;" and indeed the power of the Spirit carries us so outside of the things which are natural to men and in which the heart is, that those whom the Spirit actuates will be counted to have lost their sober senses; but the power of it is manifest in the way in which the truth enjoyed makes music in the heart, — as he says here: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." Notice that he puts it upon us to be thus tilled. He does not even bid us pray for it. He will not allow us to think, as it were, that our dullness can be anything except the result of the way in which we straiten and limit the Spirit that God has given us. The spring will necessarily spring up and overflow. It would have to be kept down, as it were by force, if it did not do this, and it is the power of other things entering in which hinders thus the blessed Spirit in giving us that which is the proper effect of the blessed truth He ministers. With this, how naturally and necessarily goes the spirit of thankfulness! "Giving thanks at all times," he says, "for all things to Him who is God and Father, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ." He could give thanks at all times. He goes out with a hymn to His agony in the garden. For us, how simple, where there is nothing of this sort really awaiting us, no darkness such as He was in, nothing but the blessed light itself, how easy it should be for us to give thanks! "Submitting yourselves one to another," he says finally, "in the fear of Christ;" an unusual expression, as one might expect the fear of the Lord, or the fear of God, but the "fear of Christ" may have its suited place here, for there is a fear which springs out of the very consciousness of the love which His Name expresses.

Division 5. (Eph. 5:22 – 6:9.)

Natural responsibilities.

We have now the earthly relationships of the heavenly people. It is striking that such responsibilities as these should come in just in this place. We find them also in Colossians, where the body of Christ is before us in some sense as we have it here, but it is suited, surely, that in the place which God has given us in Christ before Him, a place in which there is neither male nor female, in which, therefore, all these relationships might seem not to be found, that we should, nevertheless, have them pressed upon us. We belong to the new creation. We could not say that the relationships of which he is speaking here belong to this, and yet what is taught us clearly is that, while we are here, we are to own all that is of God, as we have seen with regard to other things. Creation was of Him. The world is fallen, but that which He meant for man in these relationships is none the less good in itself, and in this way to be respected. Christianity, as we know, in no wise sets aside whatever is of Him in any sphere, and it is suited that just here, therefore, where at least we might imagine such things could never come in, we have explicitly the responsibilities attaching to earthly relationships. In these, moreover, there is shining through, the light of those higher ones in which God Himself has taken up the ties of nature to make them the patterns of things which His own love has brought in for us. Thus it is here that we have the Church's relationship to Christ as the Eve of the "Last Adam," and it is striking that here we go to the very beginning of the world, before, in an evil sense, there was any world at all, before sin had spoiled things, to find at the very outset imaged for us that special relationship which Christ has made His own. How near it must be to His heart when it is the first thing that we find typically presented to us in the history of man! Thus, the Lord means to have us for Himself, and the tie of nature, we may be well assured, is, after all, only a feeble figure of the reality of which it is the figure.

1. The apostle begins with this here, with wives and husbands. The wives are to submit themselves to their own husbands as to the Lord. The authority of the Lord is concerned in it, and the way in which He has taken these things up is to be reverently observed also. The husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the Head of the assembly. The very shadows of such things must be dear to us. If it were but a picture only, how could we abuse such a picture of His love to us? We are reminded here at once, "He is the Saviour of the body," His is not a place of authority merely. The authority itself is that which we yield to with delight, as realizing the title that He has to it. So, says the apostle, follow the pattern, "Even as the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." That, of course, could not possibly be meant to limit the higher authority of Christ Himself or of the Father. If there comes to be a question there, if these two are in manifest contradiction to one another, we must obey God and not man. Upon wives, submission to their husbands is enjoined. The husbands are never pressed to keep their wives in subjection. The duty pressed upon them is to love their wives, but here, again, the same measure is put before us; it is to be "as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify it and cleanse it with washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing." That, it is plain, carries us back to the beginning, only it was God that presented Eve to Adam and not Adam that presented her to himself. Christ transcends all types, and therefore it is fit and right that this should be manifest to us here. He is going to present the Church to Himself. He is diligently perfecting it according to His own mind, that He may be able to do

The water washing has nothing ritualistic in it. The apostle explains it here as "by the Word." The power of the Word it is by which the Spirit works. Water could only act as water. God never uses a thing out of its place. He, the Creator, honors His own institution. He does not accomplish spiritual results by material means, nor can He possibly slight that Word, which is the work of the Spirit and by which the Spirit works. It is striking that in the Lord's words to Nicodemus, the living water gives us the Word and the Spirit in relation to one another. The life in the water is the Spirit in the Word. Without the Spirit, the Word itself could accomplish nothing; but, on the other hand, the Spirit of God acts by the Word. If the angel comes to Cornelius, it is only to send him to one who already has in his possession the revelation of God for his soul. How blessed. to know that this work, which seems, as we think of it often, to be so little according to the full result which God is bringing us to, that it is, nevertheless, in bands that cannot leave unfinished that which He has begun. It would be as impossible for the Spirit to fail in the accomplishment of that which He has undertaken as it would have been for Christ to fail in that which He came to do. Thus Christ will present the Church to Himself "glorious," not merely having "no spot," but no "wrinkle" also; no sign of old age about it, no defect; nothing will suit Him then but the bloom and eternity of an eternal youth, the freshness of affections which will never tire, which can know no decay. The Church will be holy and blameless then. After all that we have known of her history, it would be strange to read that, if we did not know how gloriously God maintains His triumph over sin and evil.

Here, then, the Antitype shines fully through the type, but men ought also to "love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his own wife, loveth himself," and here, again, Christ is before us, for no one ever "hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it as the Lord the Church." Think of the apostle being able to put it in such a way. "We are members of His body;" we are "of His flesh and of His bones." These are different things which we must not confound. Eve was out of Adam. God formed the woman out of the man. She was thus akin to him in the closest way, but it is not this kinship in the spiritual sense that ever makes us members of His body. That is, as we know, by the Spirit. Both things are accomplished as to us. We have the nature which makes us to be of His kindred, nay, to be of Himself; but then we are brought into relationship, also, in which we are to be surely for all eternity; those who are the instruments of His purposes, the expression of His mind. The two things necessarily go together. The Lord must make us, first of all, such as He can work by before He can work by us.

The wife here is but another aspect of the Body. The apostle, in fact, seems to identify them. The man who loves his wife loves himself, his own flesh, his body, and so the apostle quotes from Genesis here, that "a man shall leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh." This he expressly states to refer to Christ and the Church, but the apostle applies it to the natural relationship: "But let every one of you so love his wife even as himself, and let the wife also reverence her husband."

2. The admonition to children and parents follows. Children are to obey their parents "in the Lord." This preserves, of necessity, His rights. "In the Lord" means in subjection to the authority of Christ, and therefore, of necessity, preserves that authority in everything. The apostle quotes the commandment with the sanction given to it in the Old Testament, — not at all as what is absolutely true for the present time, but to show the importance attached to it by God, — the first commandment having a promise connected with it: "That it may be well with thee and that thou mayest live long on the earth" or "in the land," as the connection would rather make it. No doubt there is a government of God that goes on through all the present time, in which these things have a measure of fulfilment. The law was, or is still, the rule of God's government, which, however, the peculiar position of Christians upon the earth necessarily modifies as to them. As Christians, they may be cut off from the earth, when, as obedient children simply, they would be preserved upon it; but the Christian loss is gain, as we know, so that the apostle Peter elsewhere refuses, as we may say, to consider it as loss. "Who is he that shall harm you if ye be followers of that which is good?" But, he immediately adds: "But if ye should suffer for righteousness, sake, happy are ye." The suffering for righteousness, sake might seem to be a setting aside of what he had just urged, the question being the most positive form of statement, in fact. No one could harm them in following that which was good, but then, "suffering for righteousness' sake" is not finding harm. A Christian cut off from the earth simply goes to heaven and to Christ. The Jew cut off from his land was, at least as to Jewish blessing which was in the land, in a different case.

Now comes the address to fathers: in the first place not to use authority so as to make it a burden to those under it, not to provoke the children to anger, but to bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. They are to be subject to the authority to which the parents also themselves are subject. This common subjection makes everything right. Divine authority is that which establishes every other authority and in which parents and children become alike brethren and servants.

3. We have lastly the address to servants and masters. To servants, who, in fact, were bondmen, slaves, the word is to obey their "masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling," not on account of anything in their relationship to these, but as serving Christ in it, in singleness of heart as to Christ. How everything is raised in character here! The hardship of bond-service is relieved at once by the ability to make it service to Him, where all service is perfect freedom; yet this, of necessity, makes it pains-taking service too. It will be of the best kind, "not with eye service as men-pleasers." If the desire were only to please these, it might be effected by what, after all, is superficial enough; but if we are, as all are, the bond-servants of Christ in spirit, "doing the will of God from the heart," we shall serve with good will "as to the Lord and not to men," and the compensation in due time may be looked for also. "Whatever good shall be done, ye shall receive of the Lord, whether a man be bond or free." Masters, on the other hand, have to remember that they have a Master in heaven. Scripture lowers the hills and raises the valleys. These also serve in their very position as masters of others. They must not, therefore, use their authority with harshness, remembering that their Master is in heaven, and that with Him there is "no acceptance of persons."

Division 6. (Eph. 6:10-24.)

Conflict and the way of victory.

We have now, in closing, a look at the hindrances that there will surely be to the filling just such a position as the epistle gives us. The highest position is that which will be most strongly contested. That in which we are most distinctly Christian, the enemy will oppose with all his power. The conflict in Ephesians is not conflict with the flesh. There is no question that Satan must work upon the flesh if he is to succeed in it. That is true, but we are never exactly called to conflict with the flesh. The lusts of the flesh war against the soul. We are not to war with them, but to abstain from them. If we are "dead to sin" and to reckon ourselves dead, that is not fighting. If there be conflict, it is the result of not having reckoned ourselves dead. Here, however, it is an enemy who is contemplated, and we must not think that the height of our position and the blessedness of the things which are set before us here will bring us upon ground unassailable to the enemy. When Israel got to Canaan, it was just there that they had to fight, and fight for the possession of that which God made their own. We have to remember what is the great point of the conflict here therefore, a conflict which we shall little feel if we are not bent upon possessing ourselves of what is our own. On the other hand, if to lay hold of these heavenly things is the earnest desire of our souls, we shall find, nevertheless, that we need all the strength which is ours and all the resources of God for us, in order to prevail in the conflict. The very first point here is that strength is to be "in the Lord." We are to fight "in the power of His might." How comforting is that title which is given to Christ here! He is, in fact, the Lord of all, and though Satan may seem to have things here entirely under his sway, yet after all, he is a beaten foe, and only part of the "all things" that "work together for good to those that love God."

That does not mean that we can afford to be careless in the least with regard to it. On the contrary, we must "put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand." It will not do to have part of it firmly on and some other part wanting. Satan will be keen to observe the deficiency, and we cannot be rightly for God if we are not for Him in every way. It is, in fact, — as we shall see directly, — this being for Him in every respect, that is our armor to withstand the enemy. Let us notice that it is "against the wiles of the devil" that we have to stand, not against his power, for he has none in the presence of God, but his "wiles" are things that test us. We must have the wisdom of God to meet them with. We must be able to discern "things that differ;" error in its nicest shades and its closest approximation to the truth. It is the devil we are meeting, and that gives character to his assaults. He is the accuser, the accuser of the brethren, the accuser of God, surely, to the brethren. His whole aim is to put distance between the soul and God. If he cannot do that, we are safe. But the struggle then is not against flesh and blood; it is not such a struggle, after all, as Israel under Joshua had. Kings seemed to swarm in Canaan. There were abundance of principalities with which they had to deal, all of which have a correspondence in our case. Against us are principalities and powers, "the rulers of the darkness of this world." Here is a hint, — more than that, — of the method of attack. The darkness is the "darkness of this world." It is the world which Satan knows how to use and which he will bring in to cloud our perception as Christians, our realization of the things that are our own.

Thus, in the book of Joshua, we find that while the Canaanite leaders answer to these evil spirits in the heavenly places, yet, in fact, as soon as ever Israel got into the land, Jericho had to fall, and Jericho is the world itself. Yet, that same world judged in the mass, may in detail spring up again, and thus Ai, in opposition against which they failed, reminds us at once of Jericho, even in its ashes.

Then follows the deceit of Gibeon, and all through, it is the power of the world in some shape that is pictured in what they have to meet. In fact, Satan's aim will be surely, with the heavenly man, to bring in the things of earth through which he has of necessity to pass, to cloud the brightness of that heavenly blessing. Here, of necessity, is a strife for us from which we cannot escape, for one's sphere of duty is in the world, in which we have to serve God. Our occupation is in it, and thus we are brought face to face with that in which the power of Satan easily displays itself. Sight and sense will seek to prevail against faith, not so much by what is open attack as by simply the crowding out of that which is the joy and power of the soul. We need, therefore, to take "the whole armor of God," in order to be "able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." There are special evil days, that we shall all recognize. There are times when the power of the enemy is gathered against us in a very unmistakable way, — after all, perhaps, not the times in which we are in the greatest danger. After success has been obtained in some sore strife, and we are in the joy of victory, then there may be, on the other hand, a carelessness brought in by the very victory itself, which may allow us to fall, as it might seem, without a battle. Gideon defeats the hosts of the Midianites and Amalekites, a host without number. When he has gained the victory, he falls without a battle at all, as we realize in the ephod which he makes, which is, in fact, a thing bred of the very place which God has given him. He has offered sacrifices before at God's command. This entitles him, as it seems to him, to intrude upon the functions of the regular priesthood, and this connects, no doubt, with the further and worse failure in his family afterwards. When he has refused the kingship in Israel for himself, his son Abimelech grasps it in a more open manner. Thus, when we have done all, we have to stand. Nothing but humility, the constant sense of our dependence upon Another, the watchfulness which comes from this consciousness of inherent weakness, will enable us to find constant success.

The details of the armor are now presented to us. First of all, our loins are to be "girt about with truth." "Truth," notice, comes here first, — the action of the Word; and what does it do for us? It girds the loins. It prevents our garments, our habits, as we may interpret it, hindering us. The power of heavenly truth upon our souls will make us, in our whole character here, simply as those who are passing through and not settling down. Our garments in that way will never be loose about us. The strife is constant. As far as it goes, we must not expect rest. We have a rest, indeed, in Christ at all times, but that is another thing. The time of rest has not come. We are to be as soldiers of Christ, who, as the apostle says, are not to entangle themselves with the things of this world. When the enemy is meeting us with the darkness of this world, how important for us, first of all, this girdle about the loins! Next comes the "breastplate of righteousness." The breastplate covers a vital part. If indeed there is not righteousness with us, the accuser has a fair means of attack. He is Adonizedek, the lord of righteousness. Righteousness is his constant plea before God when he would sift us, as he sifted Job or as he sifted. Peter. If we are God's wheat, we must expect such sifting, which accomplishes, after all, as we know already, both in Job's case and in Peter's, that which is blessing for us; but at the same time it puts us to the test. Righteousness, let us remember, is practical consistency with our position and relationships, and thus if we are indeed heavenly men, this righteousness will be a very different thing from what the world would call such. The only righteous thing for us is to be practically what we are professedly in every thing, and even the showing of mercy is only righteousness for those who have had mercy shown them, nor can righteousness exist apart from the love which we owe men at all times. Thus, the "breastplate of righteousness" is indeed important, and we see how the truth must have gone before it, to put us in the place which defines for us what practical righteousness must be with us.

Next, we have the feet shod for the way. We remember, as to Israel, how perfectly their feet were shod, how their shoes never wore out, spite of the flinty desert they were traversing all the forty years of their journey through. Our feet are shod differently, but, of course, in a higher way. Our "preparation" is that which is wrought by the effect of "the gospel of peace." It is not a question of carrying the gospel to others. It is our feet that are shod with this "preparation;" it is a peace which God has preached to us in it, the peace with Himself, which gives peace, therefore, as to all things: "For, if God be for us, who can be against us?" It is this peace that arms the feet, then, for all the difficulties of the way. What circumstances are there which are not in His hand? What difficulties can be too much for Him? The wilderness is still the wilderness. The trials and difficulties are there. They are best met in the consciousness of our being unable to meet them, but they must be met also with the faith that the God of peace Himself is with us and that He will give us peace always, by all means. That is the Lord's word for His people. "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in Me ye shall have peace." Here are shoes that never wear out. How blessed the experience of the way in which God has furnished us thus!

The body is thus perfectly provided for, but still we have need of the shield of faith "over all," as we should read. This is that practical confidence in God which should never fail us at all times, even in the midst of the sense of failure and the need of self-judgment. Let the armor be fitted to us as it may, there is always room for some apprehension, if we simply think about ourselves, that after all, somewhere we may have left opportunity for the enemy; but the shield of faith covers all the armor. Whatever we may imagine with regard to this, and with the consciousness of our feebleness at all times, the confidence in God, which should never slacken with us, is our security and rest; only we must remember that the putting on of the armor comes first. There must be honest endeavor to have all right in this way. We must not try to shield a body evidently exposed, with a cover of this kind, but when we have all apparently right, we have need still of that practical confidence which, let us notice here, has for its object specially to "quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one." These "fiery darts" are indeed terrible weapons. The fire speaks of the wrath of God, of judgment, at least, from Him, and it is with this that the enemy would assail us. He is, we must remember, the accuser. His aim, as already said, is to bring distance in some sense between our souls and God. How great a necessity, therefore, to maintain this happy confidence in Him, which, while it does not excuse failure in the least, yet, in utter weakness, finds all its confidence in Him who has undertaken for us. "All the fiery darts of the wicked one" can thus be "quenched" by the "shield of faith." Besides this, we are to have the "helmet of salvation," not, as in Thessalonians, the "hope of salvation." There it is the world with which we are in conflict. Here it is the consciousness of a salvation already attained, which sustains us against the enemy. This is not a hope. It is a realized certainty. This may well give us complete possession of ourselves in the peril of conflict. The helmet covers the head. We are preserved by it from blows which would rob us of what we rightly call "presence of mind." It is this presence of mind in the midst of perils which is the best kind of courage, and the salvation of God is that which may well secure it for us.

Then we have one and only one offensive weapon, "the sword of the Spirit," the word of God, as that which enables us to penetrate all the wiles of the enemy, to expose and baffle him. How impossible it will be to oppose that of which we are not positively sure whether it be his voice or the voice of God Himself! If there is any confusion as to this, — and the great work of the enemy is to promote this confusion, — of necessity we have no right to dismiss from our mind the very thing which may be, nevertheless, merely his temptation. How much we want to be armed, therefore, by "the sword of the Spirit"! How we must have God's word furnishing us at all points if we are to be ready for every form of assault! But let us notice here that it is not exactly "the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God." It is "the saying" rather than the "Word;" that is to say, if we think of the Word of God, it is the whole book which He has put into our hands. What we want, in fact, for the conflict, is the special word, the text which suits the occasion, and that is what "the sword of the Spirit" really is. It is the word of God as applied by the Spirit of God, used therefore, with the wisdom of God, as with our Lord in the wilderness, where always the special text is brought forward which decides what is before Him. So it must be for us; but for this, let us remind ourselves again, we must be in the energy of the Spirit. The use of the sword requires practice and to be on the alert and watchful.

All this is closed with what John Bunyan numbers amongst the weapons. It is the weapon "all prayer," and it is very striking as coming in here, after all the high and blessed truth into which the apostle has been leading us through all the epistle. There is no text, perhaps, which insists so fully upon the necessity of prayer as that which we have here. "Praying at all times, with all prayer," and not mere prayer, but "supplication," that is, earnest beseeching, the soul thoroughly conscious of its need and that in the Spirit, guided by the Spirit in that which we seek. How much prayer is there which is merely the contention of our own wills with God, which, however earnestly we may pour it out, leaves us rather exhausted with the contention than at rest in having made known our wants to Him!

But this is not enough. We are to "watch unto prayer." We are to watch with all perseverance" and not merely as burdened with our own individual needs. Our needs, surely, must remind us of the needs of others. Our needs are the needs of others, and God, in making us realize the one, would make us realize the other. Therefore the apostle adds: "And supplication for all saints." If we think of Israel in the land, we can realize the common cause which united them, and for ourselves there is the same common cause that unites us, and how much the defeat of others by the power of the enemy, the entanglement of others with his wiles, must add to the strife for ourselves also; yet it will not do, of course, to pray for others as realizing simply our need of others. Others too, need us, and the heart of a saint, if he be a saint at all, must respond to such an appeal for others as the consciousness of his own need makes to him. The apostle puts himself here along with the rest, as one who is in need of the prayers of the saints, and his cause is indeed the cause of all. It is Christ for whom he labors. It is the saints, therefore, whom he is serving, and the desire of his heart is that utterance may be given him to open his mouth that he may make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel for which he is an ambassador in bonds, that he may have that boldness with regard to it that he ought to have. How thoroughly he himself had the consciousness of his weakness, so that he not only seeks God for himself, but would unite others in seeking God for him. We think of such a man as the apostle as almost beyond the need of this; but, in fact, there is no one beyond it, and the success of that for which he stood is indeed the common concern of all. How our hearts should at all times be engaged with it!

This ends in substance the epistle. A few words simply are added with regard to himself, his own affairs which he counts upon the saints being interested in. Tychicus therefore, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things of this sort known to them, while, on his part, he has sent him, not simply that they might know of his affairs, but that their own hearts might be encouraged. He concludes with the salutation: "Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ," and widens this according to the character of the epistle here, which is scarcely a local one; "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruption."