In Ephesians 1 the Apostle proclaims his ordination by the will of God, which recurs in v. 5 (re. good pleasure) v. 9 (re. mystery), v. 11 (re. counsel). The epistle is encyclical, and not merely to the saints at Ephesus. "The faithful" is equivalent to "believers." Romans begins (after the introduction) with a survey of man's moral state before God; but Ephesians with the eternal purpose of God. The initial thought is God's calling (3-5). The first six verses do not refer to man's merits or demerits; all is from God's side. The Christian's blessings are all spiritual in the heavenlies in Christ; hence blessings cannot be counted (even mercies which are in the realm of sense are not statistical). We are predestinated unto Sonship which appertains to heaven. The calling of God is on high in Christ Jesus, and its appropriate scene is in the heavenlies! The verses show that we are connected with what is entirely outside the earth, irrespective of our merits. In the light of that, we are formed to be holy and blameless before God in love. His love desires to have people in harmony with Himself! We are the sons of God in Christ Jesus by faith (Gal. 3:26). The full thought of sonship is association with Christ in glory; while as children we suffer with Christ and share His rejection. Israel had an earthly calling, but Christians have a heavenly calling, (which is a great contrast). In Sonship we are companions of a glorified Christ. Sonship is through Jesus Christ (that adds character thereto). The Holy Spirit leads us spiritually to what God has called us and to be conscious of the Father's love. In the glory of His grace, we are accepted in the Beloved. In Ephesians, justification is not cited, but acceptance is, as outside the responsibility of man. Immediately after that the Apostle refers to the responsible sphere. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, etc.," which is not included in the Christian blessings, because these are all in Christ Jesus; it is the most elementary antecedent thereto. It is striking that it is the most elementary result of redemption which is mentioned, viz., sins forgiven. In His boundless grace, God gives us to know the mystery of His will. He has been pleased to make the Church the intelligent confidant or treasury of His purpose. Then that mystery is explained as all things being put under the headship of Christ in the administration of the fulness of times. (The preceding era was only preparatory to that end).
Then as united to the Head, the Church will share the inheritance. The glory of God is known as seen in us, primarily referring to the believing Jews who thus forestall their national awakening at the end of the era. But v. 13 related to the Gentile believers consequent on their hearing the word of truth. Having believed we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise as the earnest (or sample) of the inheritance with Christ on which we wait. (This is a further thought than regeneration). Christ is the object of faith; the saints are the objects of love and that is transmitted to all around. The prayer of Eph. 1. is to God, the Father (or source) of glory, that we may have the key to His knowledge, and also that of (a) the hope of His calling, (b) the riches of the glory of His inheritance in His saints, (c) the power which has placed us in such a favoured position. The hope of His calling is not defined, but it is obviously introduced to impress us with its present value. As the property of faith it is appreciated even as at the climax in the Lord's coming. To arrive at these ends, the vision of our hearts (or affections) must be clarified: v. 21 treats of the greatness of Christ on to the millenium. The Church, His body, is the complement of Him who fills the universe.
Ephesians 2 opens with the Gentiles, dead in trespasses and sins, in which once they walked according to the age under Satan's influence just as the Jews (sons of disobedience) had done. All were children of wrath. But God, in His rich mercy, has co-quickened us with Christ. (Salvation is by grace not merit). He has co-raised and co-seated us in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages He might show the surpassing wealth of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. All is the gift of God; no merit of man can find place. That is proved by the original dead state as sinners. So the fact that she lives demonstrates that the Church is heavenly in blessings and position.
NOTES OF READINGS ON EPHESIANS No. 2.
The works of man are excluded; but even we are His workmanship (lit. masterpiece or work of art), and good works have then their place as a divinely constituted environment for our walk (Eph. 2:10). Then the Apostle calls to mind their former state. The Ephesians as Gentiles had been far off aliens, hopeless and godless. (What a state!). But all distance and distinction are now obliterated in Christ Jesus! Those formerly far off are made nigh by His blood. T he Jews, by slaying their Messiah, had broken every tie linking them with God; the wall between them and the Gentiles had disappeared. The death of Christ had abolished the ordinances and disestablished the vaunted pre-eminence of Israel. This has not resulted in the fusion of the alien races, but in their dissolution. So that the age-long feud cannot exist. A new entity is formed in Himself (a new man in Christ) composed of elements originally refractory as of the two opposing categories (Jew and Gentile). So peace is made and He is our peace who has made a harmonious unity therefrom. Men have sought after an imaginary peace of compromise, but their efforts have been futile. Complete reconciliation of the warring factions of mankind must primarily be to God and that can only be effected in the one body by the Cross of Christ. Man's enmity against God and his neighbours disappears only in Christ. On the resurrection evening, Christ came and proclaimed the peace established to those representatively nigh. He did so to those afar off later through His apostles. He brings to us the good news of the peace effected in the Gospel. The Son acts through the medium of the one Spirit in securing free access to the Father. So that there is a complete cycle of manifestation of divine affections. The Gentiles are no longer aliens from a mere earthly commonwealth, but have the incomparably greater honour of being associated with the heavenly saints and of the household of God in the earthward aspect. Moreover we are built up on the sure foundation of the apostles and (New Test.) prophets. Christ Himself is the initial foundation. That building, perfectly adjusted, is growing with an object in view to be a holy temple in the Lord. That will be seen in the glory. Meanwhile our being built together is that God may dwell therein through the Spirit (presenting the thought of the tabernacle). That is our present position!
Ephesians 3 is an explanatory parenthesis dealing with the mystery. Although revealed to the apostles and prophets, it was exclusively ministered by Paul. The mystery of the Christ is that the Gentiles should be co-heirs of the same body and co-partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel, i.e., beyond O.T. promises. (Eph. 3:6). So that the name is now inclusive. In the O.T., it was exclusive. In true humility, the Apostle bore witness to the grace given in his commission to proclaim among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (surpassing knowledge). The majestic passages of the Psalms and other parts of the O.T. dealing with the Messianic glories treated of what was searchable, as within the confines of knowledge. The O.T. prophets never mentioned the mystery; that could only be revealed consequent on the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. Hence it does not emerge in the public ways of God. Eph. 3:1-13 is occupied mainly with unfolding the qualification of the apostle to pray for the saints in the subsequent part of the chapter. Grace was given to Paul to make all know what is the administration of the mystery that now unto the angelic hosts might be made known by the Church the all-varied (rainbow character) wisdom (or resources) of God, according to the eternal purpose in Christ Jesus our Lord. We learn what Christ is on behalf of God (i.e., in whom all His purposes of love are accomplished). There are many families, but union with Christ is our association. The prayer is that we may be strengthened by His Spirit in the inner man, in order that the Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith. Then our knowledge of the dimensions of the sphere of promise and purpose (all that has been given to the Son) is consequent not on erudition, but on our being well-grounded in love. The acme of excellence in the process is to know in a qualitative way the love of Christ which in a quantitative way cannot be compassed. These are what the Apostle wished us to know. We should be in harmony with that wish. (The bride will reasonably wish to revel in the interests of the Bridegroom!) The end is that we may be filled to all the fulness of God. There will be no lack of power for testimony. The world is filled with ambition and greed. But the great contrast will be to find the universe filled with love, when Christ has His rightful place of honour. How fitting is the transcendent doxology at the end of the prayer!
NOTES OF READINGS ON EPHESIANS. 3.
In Ephesians 4, there are exhortations, re. (1) church relations, (2) everyday contacts. They were to walk worthy of a calling with special privileges, manifesting the graces of Christ; lowliness as to self, meekness as to neighbours, longsuffering (yea, suffering gladly) in love to all; so as to be diligent to keep the invisible unity of the Spirit, in the visible bond of peace. That unity is congruent with the mind of God, whether in the circle of (a) the one body, Spirit and hope (or issue) of the calling, or (b) of profession, viz., one Lord, one faith, one baptism, or (c) of the universe with one God and Father of all. (This is not a sentimental unity of compromise or "splitting the difference"). In that unity, there is diversity of gift proportional to the giving of Christ. When He ascended, completely triumphant over the enemy, He led the erstwhile captives of Satan, captive in the chains of His love. He received gifts as a man for transmission to men. Christ will fill the universe with His radiance. Gift is diverse. Every kind of gift is essential. It is a proof of the tender love of Christ and of grace flowing from the Head in heaven. The exercise of gift has proximate objects (Eph. 4:12). The perfecting of the saints is their complete equipment in a twofold way, viz., for service and building up the body of Christ. In the eye of God there is but one man. All the saints convey the thought of a perfect man in the mind of God. The issue of the energy of the Spirit of God in the saints is to recognise the bond wherein all secular considerations disappear, and Christ is all in all. The perfect man is a divine conception wherein every feature of Christ or moral excellence can be exhibited. Conditions may have rendered impracticable the attainment of the ends specified but that does not render invalid what is in the mind of God. The ultimate end of gift is arriving at the unity of the faith (the revealed basis of Christianity) and the clear knowledge of the Son of God, apart from which there is no real understanding of the love of God. The gifts are operating until we reach full growth proportional to Him who fills all things. We are not to continue in an infantile condition, the sport of the whims of man's subtle mind. All will grow according to the revelation of the glory of Christ, growing in the Head which is the only true growth!
The antidote to organised error is holding or speaking the truth in love (being true in love). Truth is the revelation of God. In Eph. 4:16, the subject goes beyond gift showing that the body is self-building in love through the agency of "joints of supply." (In the human body, two bones are always separated at the joints by synovial membranes filled with a fluid which lubricates and thus assists articulation). The confusion of Christendom does not interfere with the interrelation of the Head and the Body. Exhortations follow relative to daily practice which is contrasted with the Gentile practices all around. Vanity of mind, darkness, ignorance, mark the "old man." The Christian is to walk in a new character or order, that of the "new man," created after God's pattern in righteousness and holiness of truth. The former conduct is to be eschewed! We are not to grieve the Holy Spirit, not because he may leave us; but since he has sealed us until the day of redemption, he is thus a life-long friend. Our attitude to each other is to be on the pattern of God in Christ forgiving us. Therefore, we are to be imitators of God, acting on His principles. Thus we are to walk in love as shown by the example of Christ whose life ever ascended as an excellent fragrance to God!
NOTES OF READINGS ON EPHESIANS. 4.
Ephesians 5 opens with the analogy of Christ's offering Himself and the burnt offering, the savour of which went up entirely to God. Immediately it is shown that there will be results in realisation of such heavenly blessings, that the Christian will eschew the works of darkness, e.g., impurities like fornication (lightly esteemed amongst the heathen), greed, jesting. The O.T. was filled with evidence of God's wrath manifested against such practices of the sons of disobedience; so the Ephesians were to avoid them, since no longer in darkness but light in the Lord. So we are to walk as children of the light, the fruit thereof is in goodness, righteousness and truth, distinguishing what is well pleasing to the Lord. Hence we are not to share in the barren works of darkness, but rather reprove such because the light makes manifest, transforming where its entrance is effected. So the sleeper arouses himself from among the dead to intercept the radiance of Christ. Then we are to walk accurately (carefully picking our way over a rugged path) snatching opportunity, because of evil days, not being foolish but apprehending the will of the Lord. Intemperance is riot, but we are to be filled in the Spirit, speaking to each other (none else would be interested) in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, praising the Lord; and in subjection to each other, fearing God. Then the intimate relationship of husband and wife is reviewed in the light of headship, whereof the former is to be a visible testimony, even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, sanctifying and cleansing by the water of the Word. Moreover He nourishes and comforts and will ultimately present her to Himself without spot or wrinkle. Hence husband and wife are indissolubly joined for life; but the mystery is too great for complete illustration, as relating to Christ and the Church, Nevertheless the husband loves and the wife reveres in the light of that truth.
Ephesians 6 carries on the other home relationships. Children are to obey in the Lord their parents, which also held in the old dispensation; the fifth commandment was the first with promise of long life. The fathers are not to irritate their children but to rear them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. Slaves were to obey their lords with reverence and simplicity not as eye-servants, but as the slaves of Christ, wholeheartedly serving the Lord and not men, knowing the sure reward of the Lord whether bond or free. Reciprocally the lords were to act to their slaves without threats knowing that they acted under the eye of the Lord in heaven. In conclusion there was a more subtle spiritual conflict in which the whole equipment of God would be required so as to withstand the artifices of the devil, wrestling with dignities and authorities in the spiritual darkness of the age and the evil hosts in the heavenlies (observe not "in Christ"). Against such nothing less than the armour of God will suffice to overcome and to continue standing girt with the truth (as presented in Holy Writ). Clothed with righteousness as a breastplate and shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace with faith as a shield they would quench the incendiary bombs of Satan. Above all having the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (the word of God). Praying on every occasion in the Spirit, watching with perseverance and intense prayer for all saints, that the apostle might proclaim freely the mystery of the gospel, as its chained ambassador: then followed his benediction. Tychicus would let them know the apostle's circumstances and encourage them with peace, love, faith. Grace with all that love the Lord Jesus Christ in incorruptibility. Amen.