Notes on the Epistle to the Ephesians

J. N. Darby.

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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

Ephesians 1.

The apostle seems here to dwell on the purposes of God with regard to us. He does not so much speak of the means which God has made use of in order to reconcile us with Himself (the satisfaction that has been made to His justice, though the Spirit dwells thereon likewise); but the subject is specially the blessedness in which God has placed us in His counsels of grace.

It is certainly a blessed thing for us fully to understand the means which God has made use of, in order to bring us to Himself; but God has made known to us these things, in order that we may be occupied with the things to which we are called. It is in the enjoyment of these things that we put on the character of the Christian, and that the soul grows. They enter into our very existence; and when the heart has laid hold of them, there is much more of the Christian and of testimony in us, so that, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, there results a much clearer and stronger point of attraction for the world.

Those who dwell in Spirit in heaven partake of its spirit, and go on increasing in the things which they find there. They are in relationship with God; they enjoy what God has given, and that is certainly most precious; but above all, they enjoy God Himself: and here is the exceeding grace of Him who desires that we should always dwell near Him, and that we should know His thoughts and His counsels. This is what we should desire and seek after, and thus we shall understand better what is well pleasing to the Lord, and what is worthy of Him. Such are the subjects of which the apostle speaks to us in the chapter which is before us.

Verses 1-3. In Jesus Christ, the Head of the body, we are blessed with all spiritual blessings. It is there God sets us; and we know it, beloved, we know it, but more in theory than in practice.

Verse 4. As I have already said, the apostle here not only speaks to us of the means, but of the source of our blessing in the unspeakable counsels of God, and of the end which God proposes to Himself; for it is said, "That ye may be holy and without blame before him in love." This is the thought of God about us: He wishes to have us before Him, and to have us there happy and for Himself.

8 There is only one thing in which God does not suffice for Himself, and that is, in His love. His love has need of other beings beside Himself, in order to make them happy. He desires to have before Him beings in harmony with what He is, and He sets us before Him "holy and without blame."* This is what He is Himself, He who is the Holy One, He who certainly is without blame; for it is impossible to find any fault in Him. He calls Himself the Holy One; He is love Well; He sets us holy and without blame before Him in love Precious and most important thought for us! He has resolved that the church should be such that He could take delight in her, and behold in her before Him the reproduction of Himself, the most perfect happiness possible. He sets before Him beings like to Himself in order to make them as happy as it is possible; He communicates to us His nature, and takes His delight in us. In order for that, He makes us "holy and without blame in love"; and these things are accomplished here below by the Spirit, though the effects are not fully shewn till above in the place of perfectness. So, where is our place even now below? Before Him; and this place is not a joy only, but the most precious thing that can be imagined, to be before Him!

{*The first of these words speaks of the character, the other rather of the conduct.}

We do not like to be before Him when we are not holy; but when the conscience is cleansed by the blood of Christ, we are truly happy before Him. In order that we may be happy before Him we must be holy, we must understand the tastes of the divine nature - our nature. We ourselves must find our happiness in being "holy and without blame in love." The apostle John shews in his first epistle (chap. 4:13), that the divine nature is produced in the Christian: the Christian has received God's own Spirit; it is a man who loves, and God is in him and he in God. What is granted is nothing less than the communication of the divine nature, by which we dwell in God, and God in us, "that we might be holy and without blame before him in love."

What we shall be above ought to be our aim here below, not as a task imposed, but as being made partakers of the divine nature to the glory of God. Now if we would realise these things, our thoughts must be above, according to the nature of the grace which we have received. It is most strengthening for us to think of the things which are above - of their source, of Jesus, of the fulfilment of this purpose of God in glory.

9 Verses 5-7. The apostle has ever this adoption in view; God wills to have us for Himself before Him through Jesus, according to the good pleasure of His will, as His children. Now this is the glory of this grace which has placed us there. In these verses Paul speaks to us of the basis, of the means which God has employed, and on the certainty of which we can count. He speaks of it as a settled thing, as of a thing which we possess, and the possession of which, indeed, is necessary to us, in order that we may partake of all that of which he is about to speak to us.

This is the door by which we have come in; and having passed through the door, in Jesus, I have the certainty of being in the house. But it would be sorrowful to have Jesus only as the door, though it is precious to understand that. If we are not sure of a hearty welcome, and of the love of the Father, we depreciate the riches of His grace, for "we have redemption by his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace," v. 7. If in uncertainty we do not enjoy this grace, we do not really acknowledge it; and in order to do so we must give ourselves up entirely to God, to the power of the love of Him who tells us to come inside. Here we may remark, that the Spirit, whilst declaring to us very plainly what is the means of our salvation, does not reason upon it as elsewhere, making known to us its character and its sufficiency; but He speaks of it as of a privilege that we possess; He tells us what we have in Christ, before shewing what belongs to those who enjoy the effect of this redemption. We have redemption; and instructed in all things, we wait for the redemption of the body, in order to enjoy it. The only thing that we have to do is to contemplate the riches of the grace of God; this will be a means of drawing us close to Him.

We have seen in the preceding verses the purposes of God with regard to us, and the means which He employs to render us partakers of them, namely, redemption through Christ's blood, according to the riches of His grace. Now what we have before us is the portion we have now here below, the understanding of the mystery of God.

10 Verses 8, 9. God has given us of His grace in all wisdom and prudence. He is not content with only giving us this portion, by bringing us into it hereafter; but He wishes to give us now, here below, the knowledge of it in all wisdom and prudence, according to His good pleasure. We have not to do with a God who sets us before His justice, but with a God of grace who acts according to His own thoughts. God wills that the church should not be only such before Him, but that it should be also, here below, the depository of all His counsels; that it should have the understanding of the mystery of His will.

Verse 10 gives us the explanation of this mystery. God gathers together in one all things in Christ in the dispensation of the fulness of times. All that which preceded was preparatory; as the law, the prophets, etc. This verse speaks of the fulness of times, when God will arrange all things according to His mind, by setting Christ at the head of all things; and it is by being united to Him that we are made partakers of the inheritance. God acts of His own will to bring about what He wills. All shall be gathered together in one in Christ. It is by Him that all has been created, and by Him all is to be reconciled; and this is set forth here as the result of the counsels of God.

Verses 11, 12. There are two parts in this mystery:

1, all things shall be put under the headship of Christ;

2, the church, which is His body, will have part in the inheritance.

We shall be before God according to the perfection of His nature. Christ having been put to death, God and the sinner have met together. But here it is rather a question of the accomplishment of the mystery of the will of God for the glory of Christ. The church will have part in the inheritance. "in whom," it is said, "we have obtained an inheritance"; but the whole of the mystery is not the church only, and this is very simple if we receive the thoughts of the Bible; not, indeed, that we shall understand the whole extent of the glory, but we shall see that all things created are to be gathered together in one in Christ.

In the Epistle to the Colossians Christ is presented as Creator; the Person of Christ is in the prominent place rather than the counsels of God as to the church. Christ is the first-born of every creature, and the first-born from the dead; Head of His body, which is the church. But here, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, it is the privileges of the church in Him which we are given to know. In verse 6 it is said that what we possess already is to the praise of the glory of His grace; and in verse 12, where he is speaking of the glory to come that is before us, it is said - "that we should be to the praise of his glory" The church has a portion quite apart and most glorious. All things are to be gathered together in one in Christ. The church, being united to Him, is made partaker of the inheritance, that we should be to the praise of His glory. The glory of God is understood by its being seen in us; and the world will then see that we have been loved as Christ is loved.

11 Verse 12 might seem a difficulty, where it is said, "We who first hoped in Christ"; but he is here speaking of the Jews, who have believed before the revelation of Christ to the nation, at His second coming, and before the national call to the Jews at the end: such of the Jews as have believed, as have hoped beforehand, they are glorified with Him.

Verses 13, 14. Verse 13 is spoken to us; it is not only both Jews and Gentiles who will partake of this inheritance; but the church is given to know the will of God, by the gift of the Holy Spirit. This it is which distinguishes Christians who, having believed, are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. The Holy Spirit becomes a seal. We cannot receive the inheritance before Christ; the Spirit is given to us as earnest, whilst waiting for it. God sets His seal upon us, and this is a proof that a Gentile has part in the promises made to Abraham (for instance, Cornelius).

There is a difference between regeneration by the Spirit and the presence of the Spirit as a seal. A person must have believed, for God to be able to put His seal on him; the Spirit may act before this, as for instance, in breaking up the heart; but it is not as a seal. Sometimes the power of the Spirit produces fruits in us; at other times it humbles us, making us sensible of good and evil; but this is not joy. The fact is, that this work is even more precious than the joy itself, because there are sometimes things in us which are not judged before God on account of the very joy. When God has given us the enjoyment of the true object which we ought to enjoy, He begins to break up the heart in order that the work may be deeper. The Spirit makes us sensible of the things which are not according to God, and this knowledge of one's self is necessary, in order that we may know God. I do not say that, if we were to walk exactly as God would have us, this work could not be carried on without the loss of the joy; but it is not generally so with the Christian. It becomes needful for God to turn us toward Himself, and to work inwardly, that we may discover what our carelessness has prevented us from seeing. Often this exhilarating joy of a Christian is found in one who has not judged things that ought to be judged in the presence of God. The wants and the desires which the Holy Spirit produces by regeneration are not the seal of the Spirit, any more than the joy which flows from the affections being occupied with a new and divine object, nor even the fruits which the Holy Spirit may produce when He dwells in us. The seal is the Holy Spirit Himself, given to that faith which is in Him who is our righteousness, and is the answer to all our wants; and then we have peace and joy. It is the Spirit in us who is the seal.

12 We ought not to be surprised, if we find it is the intention of God to shew us ourselves; at such times we do not see God, because He is making us see ourselves. Many persons think that the full and unwavering assurance of our salvation tends to make us careless as to the state of our souls; but this is a mistake. The Holy Spirit has set His throne in our hearts, and if we will judge ourselves, we shall not be judged. It is He who makes us fully enjoy God, and who makes us judge what is not of God in us; who alone sets us in the truth, and gives us the assurance of what is accomplished for us. God in us, by His Spirit, judges the conduct and the heart; but this does not prevent this Spirit being the seal which God has set upon us, the witness of His perfect and unchangeable love towards us, the strength of a life of liberty, the Spirit of adoption. We partake of it with Jesus; God put His seal upon Jesus Himself when He was in this world, after His baptism by John.

The Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance. And here, let [it] be observed, that the Word, in the New Testament, always employs the word us, when it speaks of Christians and of the things which concern them. The prophets saw that the things which were revealed to them were not for them, but for us (see 1 Peter 1:11); the Holy Spirit always says us. The possession is not yet granted: the Spirit is the earnest of it. The possession of the inheritance depends on the redemption of our body. As to our souls, we are united to the Heir even now; this is why we groan, all the while that we have the promises, because of this body, the redemption of which is not yet accomplished; and this redemption will take place at the resurrection. This is the enigma of the Christian; the Spirit gives him the certainty of his personal redemption, and this Spirit is the earnest of the inheritance. We shall be to the praise of His glory. Whilst waiting, the Spirit makes us sympathise with the groans of the creation; He helps our infirmities; working in us, He takes knowledge of the misery with which we are outwardly bound up, and He intercedes for us. The Spirit becomes the fountain of thoughts, the subjects of which are in heaven; and on the earth, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts; Romans 5:5. The Spirit searches our hearts and presents our wants before God; Romans 8:26-27. In verse 5 of this chapter God gives us a picture of the portion of a Christian. That which is important for us is the description of the person to whom these things belong.

13 Verse 15. There are two things to observe: 1, Christ was the object of the faith; 2, the saints were the object of the love. Christ being the object of faith, all those who are in Christ become also the objects of our love. The Holy Spirit dwells in the body (the church) as well as in the body of each Christian (1 Cor. 3:16; chap. 6:19); and He knows all the members of the body: when we can mount up to the privileges of the Christian, we embrace all the body. The flesh does not understand these privileges; but the Holy Spirit understands them; and the consequence of this knowledge will be love towards all the saints.

Verse 16. It is a happy thing when our prayers are givings of thanks: we realise, then, the certainty of our privileges. If we think of the wretchedness of the saints, we are overwhelmed by it; but if we think of what Christ is for the saints, we give thanks; we realise what God will do and does, for them and in them. God cannot be unfaithful to the love we have for all the saints; 1 Cor. 1:4. Paul could handle the sword of the Spirit; he would not have known how to deal with the Corinthians, if he had not begun by taking notice of the good which grace had wrought in them. How different is the Christian's way of acting, thinking, and judging, from the way of the world! There is not an expression more remarkable than that which Paul in this verse makes use of in speaking to the Corinthians. Paul was determined to act according to the Spirit of God. It is not that God can make light of sin, and not judge it: no, He will judge it severely in the saints, if there be evil among them; but it is important for the church to handle it as God handles it.

14 Verse 17. We find here two names attached to God:
1, He is called the God of our Lord Jesus Christ;
2, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The prayer of chapter 3 is in relationship with the second of these titles, that of Father that of the seventeenth and the following verses of this chapter, with that of God.

The apostle also presents before us God as the Father of glory, that is to say, as the source, morally and in power, of all true glory. At the same time he sets before us the Lord Jesus entering as man into relationship with God, a bond which causes all the affection of God to rest upon Him, as the object in whom all the divine thoughts centre: this is why Paul says, "The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory."

I can consider Christ as a glorified Man, whose right has been established by God over all things; this is what Peter does in his epistles; he looks at Christ as a Man whom God had regarded in this manner, having raised Him from the dead. John, on the contrary, sees Christ in the glory of His divine Person, one with the Father, and as the sent One. In our Epistle Christ is presented to us as the object of the counsels of God, in whom the power of God is displayed. It is precious for us to see what is our position in Christ, to see that we are placed, as being His body, in the same position as Himself. The counsels of God concerning Christ and His body, are what is contained in this Epistle.

The prayer which begins at this verse expresses the desire that we should enjoy the understanding which is given to us of the counsels of God, of the hope of His calling, of the riches of the glory of His inheritance in His saints, and the power which has placed us in this enjoyment.

Verses 18-23. The union of Christ with the church is a union so real, that the body must be there, in order for Christ to be complete. It is man in resurrection who occupies this place: and this doctrine is essentially practical; as it gives the whole power of God in a life of resurrection here below, which sets us above the flesh. If we do not realise this life, we walk as men; and the lively understanding of this life of resurrection brings death upon all that is not heavenly. The power of faith makes us walk according to heavenly places; and it is nothing less than the power of God (the same power which raised Christ from the dead, and set Him at the right hand of God) which works in us both to will and to do. In these days the church has not miracles for its portion, but the power of the Spirit in the invisible world.

15 Herein is the understanding of the mystery of Christ. All things will be gathered together in one in Him; and, being united to Him, we likewise enjoy this inheritance. God redeems and inherits all things in Christ, and God establishes Christ the heir over all things as Man; but the church is the body of Christ, united to Him in the enjoyment of this inheritance; therefore it is said, "the inheritance of God in the saints."

In Christ all is manifested - in Christ the Son, Heir of all things; it is on Him that all hangs. But in the counsels of God, it is in us also that these things are manifested - in us, the saints; with whom God surrounds Himself in order to enjoy the fulness of His glory; as it is written, "to the glory of God by us."

But there still remains one thing essentially necessary to our enjoyment of this glorious destiny which belongs to us in the counsels of God; it was not only needful to reveal to us the counsels of God, but also to raise us to the height of that which is given to us by placing us in a position, in a state whereby we are made capable of this enjoyment. Christ is the Heir of all things, and we are His co-heirs. In what way are we associated with Him so as to share in the inheritance of the glory? How did He Himself (the One who in grace partook of the consequences of sin on the cross) become raised to enjoy the glory? God raised Him from the dead, and set Him according to His merits, and according to the dignity of His Person, at His own right hand, in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. He has taken the Man who was dead, and has set Him at His right hand in the glory. Man, in the Person of Christ, is raised above all except the throne, by which He has been raised. And is He alone? - No. The same power which raised Christ, and set Him at the right hand of God; the excellent greatness of that power which raised the Man who was dead to the right hand of God, works with the same might in him who believes.

16 This is what raises us to the capacity and to the position where we can enjoy, and where we do enjoy, the glory of God in Christ. For if God has set Christ over all, by taking Him from among the dead, He has given Him also as Head to His body, which is the church. We partake in this glory as being the body, the members of Him who inherits it; we partake of it according to the same energy which has set Christ there; Christ thus exalted is Head over all things, and Head of His body, which is the church. The members have their part in the inheritance, by virtue of the working of the same power in them, which wrought in Christ when He was taken from among the dead and set at the right hand of God. The body is complement to the Head; it is in this sense its fulness. Christ fills all in all: this is His glory. It is He who divinely fills the whole universe - the church is the body of Him who does it.

This great and wonderful truth is unfolded practically and morally in chapter 2. But before going farther, let us here remark, that there are two things in which the operation of the Holy Spirit is manifested in the church - these are wisdom and power; but the one is manifested at the present time more than the other. It is said, that Christ is the wisdom and the power of God. If you take the most advanced Christians, you will find in them more of wisdom and knowledge of the ways and counsels of God than of power. In the beginning of the church, the great mass of believers were less enlightened than at present; but the power was greater, for the demons trembled. Though this power is precious, inasmuch as it is a testimony that Jesus, as Man, has conquered Satan; yet the most precious thing is wisdom and so much the more, as what we have now to do is to discern the evil and separate from it, and not to establish a new dispensation. However, God always gives that which suits the need of His church.

And it is the same thing that we see in Joseph; first, when persecuted by his brethren; afterwards, when in Egypt. That which characterised him was his wisdom, his knowledge of the thoughts of God. This is what is now given to us, even the thoughts of God. The position of the church is known by spiritual understanding; by wisdom I know what is my portion in Christ; my affections are drawn towards what God has presented to me for eternity. The church, in a special way, has need to understand this; she will then avoid the wiles of Satan. In Israel, when the enemies had the upper hand, it was knowing the thoughts of God which sustained those who were faithful. We see that the prophets of Judah, to whom God had entrusted His thoughts, did not perform a single miracle. Understanding of the thoughts of God will make us humble. It is a lowly position to know that we have nothing but what is in God. The effect spiritually will be to turn our hearts towards Him who is our portion; and this will draw the church away from all that is of the world; because God is about to take her up out of the world, this will force her to find her sources of joy and strength only in Him. Here, however, there is a character of power attached to such knowledge. It is the power of the resurrection which places us in the same position as Christ in heaven. That is our position, if we have spiritual intelligence: how power and wisdom are united! It is a work of power in us, and not our own wisdom.

17 Ephesians 2.

Verses 1-3. The Gentiles were by sin morally there where Christ actually and outwardly placed Himself for sin; they were dead in their trespasses and in their sins. There they were walking according to the course of this world, floating with the stream according to the powerful and universal influence of Satan, who penetrates everywhere and reigns over everything, like the air, which is his seat; they were walking according to this spirit which is now working in the children of disobedience, in those who still continue far off from the deliverance wrought by the Lord.

But was it only for the Gentiles? Far from it; the apostle tells us, "we also," Jews, we were walking in the same lusts; and by consequence, according to the moral truth of our nature, we were, says he, children of wrath - heirs by nature of the wrath of that God who could not mix Himself up with sin. All were children of wrath. It was their desert, according to their nature, which was opposed to God.

Verses 4-7. The apostle has shewn where all men were; he has done away with all distinction, by shewing what the nature was which was common to them all; and has reduced all men to the same ground, by bringing down the Jews through the lusts of the flesh to the same level morally as the Gentile, whom the Jew despised. Such was man in himself, Jew or Gentile. But God who is rich in mercy, when we (for all, Jew or Gentile, are now taken together) were dead in our trespasses and in our sins, has quickened us together with Christ. If the sin of their common nature united them all in the same position before God, His grace has set them with Christ, quickened together with Him, and thus together also as to one another. The resurrection unites in one for blessing those whom sin had really put far off from God. Thus God had raised up together, and made sit together in the heavenly places in Christ, believers from among either the Jews or the Gentiles. Thus the church enjoyed the fulness of blessedness in Christ, according to the power of the resurrection and the ascension by which God had set Christ at His right hand in heaven. Sin united sinners down here in one common misery; grace has raised them to one peculiar and common glory, according to the power which had raised up Christ to this glory from the grave.

18 But if children of wrath, if thieves and Mary Magdalenes are found in the same glory as that conferred on the Son of God as the reward of His service here below; if even we ourselves are found participating in it, it is in order that God may shew in the ages to come the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us by Christ Jesus. When angels and principalities see a poor sinner and the whole church in the same glory as the Son of God, they will understand, as much as it is possible for them to understand of, the exceeding riches of the grace which has set us there.

Verses 8, 9. All is the gift of God. It was not even through works that we had part in this glorious salvation, but by faith, and this again the gift of God, that no man might boast. The glory of such a grace must all turn back again to God. He will make us understand that we are, indeed, blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. What could we have more than to partake in the glory and the inheritance of Christ Himself, according to the power which has set Him there? So we see that the portion and position of the church are heavenly. It is inasmuch as dead and risen with Christ from the dead, that she enjoys all His privileges. It is there above that she enjoys them. She is heavenly by the very fact of her existence.

19 Verses 10, 11. The Spirit presents to us another aspect of this work in contrast with the thought of any labour on our part, in order to obtain this glory. We are, inasmuch as we partake of that, His work, created by God. The works of man are excluded from it; ourselves are His workmanship. Is it then that works are left, and by the Christian? No: they have their place; we are created for good works which God has before prepared (for all is of Him), that we should walk in them. They are not the works of the law, that the man which does them should live by them; but God, having created in us this new and heavenly nature, had before prepared works - a walk suitable to them. The consequence of this work of Christ is, not only that we are created anew for this heavenly position: but, moreover, it sets us here below in order to make manifest His power. These two great blessings flow from our being considered by God, as being really the body of Christ; that is to say, that we are possessors of the same glory there above, and that we are the dwelling of God here below. The church will be the fulness of Christ in glory, when all things will be subjected to Him; while waiting for it she ought to manifest the power of Christ in this world.

Such is then the order, the ensemble, and the effect of this work of power wrought out by grace, according to the rich mercy of God, which has set us in the heavenly places in Christ, as the body of Christ; the fulness of Him that filleth all in all; for it is no longer question of Jew or Gentile, but of spiritual blessings for those who are quickened and raised up together with Christ, according to the exceeding riches of that grace which has set the sinner in the same glory as the Son of God. What ought we not to be, since we have been made partakers of such privileges; and that according to this great love with which God has loved us?

Verse 12. The Israelites were as far off from God morally; but as to their position they were not without God in the world; God was there, the covenant was there, as also the promises; whilst the Gentiles had nothing. The Gentiles were far off from God: outside the pale of the Jews, there was no way for them to draw near to God in a way that would be pleasing to Him; they were altogether separated from Him. We see, however, through the history of the Jews, that in after times God intended to act otherwise; several signs, obscure certainly, shewed that God had another thought, as Rahab and others serve for examples.

20 Verses 13-16. The blood of Christ does away all difference between those who were far off and those who were nigh. It is evident that the Jews, having put to death the Messiah, had destroyed every link between themselves and God: the middle wall of partition was broken down. They were like the nations, and more guilty than they. All that had belonged to them was entirely destroyed, and set aside by the death of Christ. That which had made the distinction of the Jew consisted in the ordinances by excluding the Gentiles who had no part in them. Now there is no longer need to know whether one is a Jew or a Gentile, for we see in verse 15 that the end of God is to take Jews and Gentiles in order to make one body of both. He has broken down the middle wall of partition, and wishes to form not the commonwealth of Israel again, but a new body in His presence, taken from either by the cross. It is evident that he who approaches to God by the cross has done with the Jewish ground. The apostle insists upon this point, that God, having laid this foundation in Christ, means to have but one body before Him; and then he shews how this is accomplished here below. If I draw near to God through the blood of Christ, I am a member of His body.

Verse 17. God had made peace, through the blood of Christ, between Jews and Gentiles, by reconciling them both to Himself by the cross; it is a new thing, a new man in Christ, in Jesus Himself. The apostle says it is the cross which has done it, by breaking down the middle wall of partition; and this oneness was established in principle, the moment Christ died. It is the cross which has done it; all difference is destroyed. The uppermost thought with God was to gather together in one, one glorious body in His presence; but in order to do so He must make peace and break down the middle wall of partition; this is what was done by the cross of Christ. It is remarkable that it should be said that it is Christ who came to bring us peace, for it is not His spirit but Himself who brings us peace, this peace which is before God, which is accomplished. It is by Him that we have the enjoyment of it. Christ does not only produce good results in us; but He brings to us the good news of the peace which is made, and He brings it with Himself. "He came and preached peace to them which were afar off, and peace to them which were nigh."

21 Verse 18. In this verse we see what is the way in which we draw nigh to God, the order of the Spirit in the heart being the inverse of that of grace. The Father acts by the Son, the Son in us by the Spirit, and as we now have the Spirit, it is by the Son that we address the Father. I cannot pray to God without the truth of the Trinity being manifested; it is not an abstract doctrine, but enters into the practical relationships of every day. Now it is the Spirit which makes the unity, there where He works, being the bond of the oneness of the body. "Now therefore ye are no more strangers."

Verses 19, 20. It is necessary to observe that the prophets here spoken of are not the prophets of the Old Testament, but those of the New. Paul speaks of the apostles and prophets as forming the foundation. The question here is as to building upon it, not as to laying the foundation. The church is not built upon the prophets of the Old Testament; it is built since the death of the Lord Jesus, and the foundation on which it is built is Christ who was crucified. All the Jewish ordinances barred the way against those who were not of Israel; the Jews had cast themselves away by putting Christ to death. The veil was rent: till then, God's foundation had not been laid, the first stone of the church was not placed. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob saw the promises afar off; they had believed and embraced them, and they will be in the heavenly glory; but the church had not then begun upon earth. It is upon earth that all has taken place: sin entered there, temptation also; the law too was given upon earth; Christ came into this world, the Holy Spirit also. By the Holy Spirit we can enter in within the veil; now that the foundation is laid (that is to say, since the death of Christ), the Holy Spirit, who makes us able to enter, has been given to us. If we leave that, all is confusion, the church has no distinctive feature, nothing which distinguishes it.

The word "prophets" of verse 20 has led many into a mistake. Here it is quite a new revelation that is spoken of, one which could not be spoken of before. It was a hidden mystery. God could not reveal the church during the Jewish dispensation; for the existence of the church then would have denied the special position of this people Israel. God could reveal that the Jews would be rejected and punished, and from the moment He brings out that, He turns back to the mercy which will cause the Jewish nation to return into blessing. This is what will take place when the Jewish people will be the royal people upon earth, when Israel will be restored by a new covenant. But this new man, this new revelation, is that those who now believe and belong to Christ become members of His body; and they are in the blessedness which belongs to it. Verse 19 expresses that we are in the house of God; and from verse 20 it is evident that, in order to begin to build, the corner stone must be laid. This is what we have seen before, and now we come to the results of it. Verse 21. We are not yet the temple of God; the church will be that holy temple in glory.

22 Verse 22 describes what we are now; we are the habitation, the tabernacle, where God dwells by His Spirit, as of old, in the midst of the camp of Israel; hereafter we shall be a glorious temple. Whilst waiting, we are the habitation, the dwelling of God. The blessedness of the church flows out of that nearness. If we have the consciousness that we are the habitation of God, how can we defile the tabernacle? There is not a blessing more important than this; it is even higher than those which relate to our inheritance in the glory.

When the apostle has spoken of God dwelling in us by the Spirit, he prays that we may be filled with all the fulness of God; and there are here two things to remark:

1, the glory to come, and the church having part in this glory;

2, the habitation of God in us being united to Christ, we are the habitation of God by the Spirit. It is our present position: we have what is most blessed in this position. If we grieve the Spirit, we dishonour God who dwells in us: God then cannot act. When Satan by means of error has got entrance into any part, the church is troubled on every side. It is this power of Satan which has invaded the church of Rome. How precious it is that we should be the habitation of God, and how solemn a thing it is to have such a God in the midst of us! From the moment that there was an Achan in the camp, God could not act, He could not go forward; Israel was beaten because God was there. It is the same with the church of God; and if we forget it, God does not forget it. It is a precious thing to remember that, though we are in wretchedness, God is with us; as it is said in Haggai 2:4, when the Jews began to build, "Be of good courage, for I am with you": whatever be your state of ruin, I am with you; My Spirit is with you as in the day that I caused you to come up out of Egypt. There is nothing but faith which can reconcile these two things - wretchedness and the love of God.

23 Ephesians 3.

Verses 1-6. The apostle had set forth in the preceding chapters the hope of glory and the oneness of the body of Christ; he had presented the Spirit given as the seal and earnest of the glory, the Spirit as the centre of the oneness; and while we wait for this glory, he has presented the church, not only as the co-heir of this glory in hope, but as being the habitation of God by the Spirit during the present time. Paul, in these two chapters, shews us first the glory with Christ; and afterwards the church, the bride of Christ and habitation of God by the Spirit.

Now, introducing the Gentiles into the oneness of the body, the apostle says, "I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles." All that follows from verse I to the end of the chapter is in parenthesis, as is seen by chapter 4:1, "I, therefore, the prisoner." What is said at the beginning of chapter 4 is connected with the end of chapter 2, where it is seen that we are the habitation of God, the dwelling of God; this is the calling of which it is said, "I beseech you … to walk worthy of the calling with which ye are called." In such a position we are always humble; and this it is which enables us to walk worthy of the calling revealed.

At the beginning of the chapter there are two things to observe: personal humility which leads us to walk in oneness; and the individual gifts. There is one body, one Spirit, and the gifts alone are different in the members of the body. Chapter 3 is an unfolding of this truth, that the Holy Spirit dwells in His habitation, which is the church. Paul says, "I, Paul, prisoner for you Gentiles," etc.; and the consequence was, that since, as to the church, Paul would not place the Jews above the Gentiles, by reason of the malice of this people he became prisoner for the love of the Gentiles; here is the testimony which Paul gives about it. "That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel." It is wonderful how slow Christians are to understand the largeness of the counsels of God; for Paul was obliged to say even to the Ephesians, who were certainly a blessed church, if they had the understanding of the ways of God as to him, Paul; "If so be ye have heard."

24 In general we are obliged to be much more occupied with the details of the Christian life than with the great principles of this life. God is patient; but it is sorrowful that the state of the church should be such. Because of the want of spirituality, the Spirit cannot go on to unfold the riches of the thoughts of Jesus; He is then forced to be occupied with the walk, that the gospel may not be dishonoured. The understanding of the counsels of God depends on the faithfulness of the walk, and what will be the consequence of this faithful walk? It will be a state of struggle with all, especially with all that Judaises. It is impossible but that, in the actual state in which the world is, opposition should not be shewn against the one who is faithful; and the fact of having more light excites opposition even with Christians. Paul is a striking example of it.

The apostle often repeats this; that the church has not been revealed in the Old Testament. Certainly, the prophets of the Old Testament confirm the blessed position of the church, inasmuch as this truth is based upon the blessing of God being extended even to the nations blessing which they (the prophets) had testified of. (Psalm 18:49; Deut. 32:43; Psalm 117.) There it is the Gentiles who are to rejoice with His people; but what the church is, is never spoken of. In the Colossians it is said of Christ, "Christ the hope of glory"; whilst that Christ whom the Jews expected was to be a Christ personally present - a Christ who was to bring in the glory (this will take place at the end) - so that a Christ who was only a hope when He was there was a thing which could not be understood. It was a mystery, of which the prophets had never said a word: they had spoken of a Christ who was to accomplish such or such things, but never of a Christ in us the hope of glory for the church. Christ as in us is the practical and actual point of this mystery.

In Romans 16:26* the apostle teaches the same truth, that the church was a mystery, unknown before the death of Christ. God had always had the thought of the church; but it was hidden. Paul, in his communications to the Gentiles, rests upon what the prophets had said of the grace of God towards the Gentiles, and he quotes these prophets; Romans 15:9-12. It is certain that a Christ promised, and who was to be rejected, is clearly revealed in the prophets; but we know that this was an enigma for the Jews - "We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever" - and the thought of a Christ who had other members, and those too among the Gentiles, would have been still more incomprehensible. The church is united to Christ; and if we wish to find it in the Old Testament, we must seek Christ Himself, and see it in Him. See, for example, Isaiah 50:8: "He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me?" and Romans 8:32-33.

{*I do not doubt but that in this passage the "prophetic writings" are those of the New Testament; but the apostle constantly makes use of the writings of the Old Testament, to shew grace extending to the Gentiles.}

25 This challenge to all the world (because it is God who justifies us), which in Isaiah is spoken by Christ Himself, is in the Romans applied to the church. God only sees Christ; and these things are applied to us as being united to Christ. We are accepted in the Beloved. The thought of a people united to Christ by a spiritual life, or rather of a people united to Christ by one Spirit who was in Him and them, was never touched upon in the Old Testament. Christ Himself had not this position as Head of the body; and consequently the Spirit was not yet thus given.

The apostles and prophets, the foundation upon which the church is built, are not the prophets of old; for we see here it is things now revealed to these prophets that are spoken of, in contrast with the times past; they are then the prophets of the New Testament. In 1 Peter 1:12 it is written, that the ancient prophets knew it was not for them that these things were written; and verse 6 of this chapter explains to us this mystery, namely, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs. It declares to us the good news, that the middle wall of partition was broken down by the death of Christ; that all that which had made the difference between Jews and Gentiles had disappeared, and that Jews and Gentiles were made one in Christ. We see the difficulty the apostle Peter had in admitting this truth (for example, with Cornelius); Paul was obliged to resist him at Antioch to the face. The ancient Jews had great difficulty in acknowledging this glorious truth, and the oneness of the church.

26 Verses 7, 8. The apostle, seeing the excellency of that which had been given to him, sees himself less than the least of all saints; and it ought to be the same with us. The sight of these excellent things lessens us in our own eyes; and this humility will be the consequence of the realisation of our privileges. What a glorious testimony that all distinction should be done away! Jew and Gentile - all that belongs to man falls when in the presence of the counsels of God in Christ. Paul, while contemplating these counsels, saw that he was nothing. The name Gentiles expresses that all was grace. The promise made when the first Adam had sinned is a promise made to the second Man: the last Adam will bruise the serpent's head.

The unsearchable riches of Christ are those riches of which we cannot fathom the depth, so immense are they; and the glory which God will give to Christ, according to what He is, and according to the worth of His work, this is the measure of these unsearchable riches. All has been done by Christ and for Christ; all has been created by Him and for Him: and the fact of having presented Christ to the Gentiles outside the limited revelation of the ancient prophets, brought out the riches of Christ as unsearchable; God can stand in presence of the power of sin, and in Christ, as Man, display the power of His grace for the manifestation of His glory.

Verses 9-11. These are the counsels of God in Christ, and the position of the church; never before had such wisdom been seen. Man might have been struck with wisdom in the creation; with the interposition of God in the deluge; Noah kept; Abraham called; the law given; other wonders accomplished; the government of God over His Jewish people. In all these, the wisdom of God was manifested; but here is a wisdom altogether different. A heavenly church was not even known to angels.

The Jewish people having rejected the Messiah, God's plan as to the earth was suspended; a new thought is brought in; a people whose position is after such sort that they have no place whatsoever save in heaven. Now God does not punish according to a rule distinctly revealed to man; there is no immediate government of God upon earth, though He still acts in providence; but there is a people, in suffering it may be, but heavenly, in the midst of the world. God's ways are of a new kind.

27 It is striking to see what is now the position of the church set in sight of heaven; it is in the heavenly places she bears witness; her conflicts (Eph. 6) are in the heavens; her blessings are there also (Eph. 1); and it is there again that she is seated (Eph. 2); the witness borne by the church in the heavenly places, gives importance to the present testimony of the church down here. I do not here speak in thought of the glory to come; but in thought of God's dwelling in the church by the Spirit.

Christ came - He was rejected; quite another wisdom was then manifested. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be heirs in the glory; but they have not been gathered together in one body in Christ like the Gentiles, according to the purpose of God before the world began. The fact of our election before the world was, adds nothing to the sovereignty of God; if God had elected us in time, His sovereignty would have been the same; but election before time - before the world was, shews that the church is NOT of the world, since she was before the foundation of the world in the counsels of God. Neither the position of the church, nor her life, hang upon anything in this world; the world is but the sphere through which she moves.

Verse 12. This verse is the practical consequence of what has preceded. This position being based upon the love and upon the work of Christ, we are before God with a good conscience; with a conscience perfected for ever. I am in Jesus, in the presence of God, by the faith that I have in Him - that is Jesus. Certainly, if I grieve the Spirit, the Spirit will be in me a Spirit of reproof; but Christ has finished all. The work which He has done, is perfectly finished according to the thoughts of God, and He is in God's presence according to the efficiency of these thoughts and of this work.

Verse 13. The apostle begins his address to the Gentiles by saying, "I desire that ye faint not. …" In how high a position were the Gentiles placed! Instead of being troubled in seeing the afflictions of Paul, they were to be strengthened by these means; for it was for their sake that Paul suffered as a witness of the privileges which God vouchsafed to them; because he thought of them. The effect of ignominy in the world is to discourage those who are following it more or less; but he who is faithful, like Moses, esteems that the reproach of Christ is better than all the treasures of Egypt, for it is our glory. God might have been pleased to be satisfied with Jews; but He wished also for Gentiles.

28 Verse 14. This prayer is addressed to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; it hangs on that intimate relationship between the Father and the Son into which we are brought. At the beginning of the epistle there is a prayer of quite a different character; and which is addressed to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 15. This verse includes the whole of intelligent creation, blessed before God; it embraces all the different races, Jews and Gentiles; not only God gathers the Jews in one as He did under the name of God, but, under the name of Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He gathers in one all the nations dispersed at Babel, and all the hosts of heaven. The Lord Jesus has received, as Man, power over all men; the angels even will be subjected to Him as Son of the Father; therefore it is said, "Let all the angels of God worship him!"

Verses 16, 17. It is more than glory that is spoken of here; it is the fulness of the riches of His glory. This is what the apostle desires for them, in contrast with a Messiah in the midst of the people: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." Christ, set in glory, brings the Gentiles into it, and this is how we have part in these riches; but in order to enjoy them, He must dwell in our hearts. The moment that God exalted Christ, the link with every family in heaven and on the earth was manifested and even formed, for it was new. The portion of the Gentiles, as well as the whole church, is to be united to Christ Himself, of whom every family is named (v. 15); He is the Head of the church, the manifest centre of the glory of God. The apostle desires that the efficacy of this power should be in us; not only that grace which comforts and which is most precious, but likewise that we should realise Christ exalted.

As Son of God, Christ is the first name in this family which the Spirit reveals to us, that Spirit by whom we are strengthened in the inner man; for our feeble hearts, though they are converted to God, would be incapable without His help of entering into this glory and the extent of these counsels; the trials of the flesh are not an obstacle to our realising these things; the more the apostle suffered as prisoner, the more he entered into this mystery of the glory of Christ. His imprisonment was the cause of this epistle, as well as those to the Colossians, Philippians, and others: it is thus that God provides for the needs of His church. We ought so to lay hold of Christ glorified, as that He should be there with us; His presence ought to be realised and acted on constantly in the heart.

29 Verse 18. The thought from the beginning of the epistle is not of Christ as making satisfaction to the justice of God; but that power, that flow of love for the accomplishing certain counsels of grace, of which He is the fulness for us. Then Paul desires that having understood the accomplishment of this thought in the Person of Christ, we should understand the power of this mighty love which has glorified Christ by linking His glory with the blessing of poor sinners. When we apprehend these things, we understand that all is love, and that we ought to live upon the love which has done all.

It is by entering into the love which is the source of it, that we understand the immeasurable expanse which is spoken of in verse 18; that love of God whose thought is to put all things in subjection to Christ, and to glorify the church with Him. When we have understood this love, we can, in a certain sense, measure the ways of God which have brought us in there where God displays Himself, for it is not told us of what he is describing the length, the breadth, the depth and height, but it is love which has introduced us and orders all things. The Spirit includes the whole church, which is very nigh to God in this glory; it is impossible that any of its members should be set aside.

Verse 19. What is said here is specially for us. The apostle desires that we should realise the love of Christ, which passes knowledge; and that we should be strengthened to understand this love and to be rooted in Him, in order that we may be filled with all the fulness of God. If I am placed in the midst of infinity, I am not at the end of this infinity; I am in infinity which I do not comprehend, which I do not measure, and I have no smaller measure than that: it is nothing less than the fulness of God. God fills all in all, and I am full of Him, and all this by the Spirit; whatever be my littleness, I am in this blessed position. The Jews had no idea of this relationship which is named in heaven and on earth; but as for us, we cannot go outside this wall of enclosure with which God has surrounded us, and which is God Himself; and this depends on the presence of the Spirit, making the church the habitation of God. God cannot be less than Himself; He does not cease to be Himself. The Spirit dwells in the church; she becomes the vessel of that which nothing can contain.

30 Verse 20. Sometimes when we ask that God would grant us more than we can ask or think, they are blessings outside us which we desire; but here it is blessings in us, it is the power of the Spirit in the church. This it is which sets the church in the height of her position, and makes us feel our littleness.

Verse 21. What is said here does not relate to the fulness of the glory to come. The hope hangs on it; nevertheless, it is not the hope here which is in question, but the realisation of the inner man, the habitation of God as a present, real thing. The essential thing exists already; and it is that which is most intimate and most exalted, namely, to be filled with the fulness of God; Christ who has finished all is there, the Spirit of Christ dwells in us. Paul sees in this verse all the extent of the counsels of God.

It is comforting for us, that this realisation of the inner man should be wrought out by a power which works in us in the midst of the weakness of the vessel, because it is the will of God. What we have to desire is to be strengthened in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, that we may seek the glory of Christ in the church, and that all glory should be attributed to Him, if so be we have understood that it belongs to Him. If it be asked, "Is the glory of Christ in the church?" we hardly know how to answer. God grant us to desire this glory!

Ephesians 4.

We have here the present and practical application of the principles which form the subject of this epistle. The beginning of this chapter joins on to the end of chapter 2, where is shewn to us what the calling of the Christian is. The apostle beseeches the Ephesians to walk worthy of this vocation. That which is its special mark is, the habitation of God on earth by the Spirit. The whole conduct of the Christian flows from the church being the habitation of the Spirit. When the Spirit is presented as the seal, this is more for the individual: it is not the church which is sealed, but she becomes the habitation of God, as does the individual also. The conduct of the Christian ought to flow out of the presence of God. There is a conduct which becomes this presence: not only ought I to obey God, but there is a manner of acting which flows out of this presence, and which is the expression of this dwelling of God in us. When God was in the temple there was something in particular which was suitable for that presence. We are His temple. The presence of the Spirit in us becomes power as much as motive. There are things which become the temple of God. The estimation that we form of one another depends on the same thing.

31 Verses 1-3. The apostle does not speak of obedience, but of the Spirit which leads to it; the practical effect of the presence of God by the Spirit, is humility. Love always makes itself nothing. To have bad thoughts about oneself is humiliation, but not humility. Humility is produced by the presence of God; we are occupied with God and not with ourselves; God is there to comfort us and to bless us; the pride of man being broken down there is gentleness. This making nothing of oneself produces patience and love. When we know ourselves to be nothing, we have the consciousness of the strength of God; and more than that, there is the activity of love.

Consciousness of the preciousness of the presence of God, gives us the energy of the Spirit of God, which makes us careful to keep the oneness of the Spirit, that is to say, the union of all the members of Christ as one temple in which God dwells in this world by His Spirit. The moment that I forsake this, the unity is broken. In the flesh we are two, in the Spirit we are one; and when, by the Spirit, we enjoy love, there is this desire to keep the oneness of the Spirit. The flesh is never peaceful, whereas in God all is peace and quietness.

It is remarkable how often God is called the God of peace. See Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20. The bond of peace is indeed the result of being thus in the presence of God; it is on this account that the apostle adds, "There is one body and there is one Spirit." Oneness is a thing which is actually realised on earth, the outward unity of the body in one expresses what there is within. If this bond of peace is wanting, the oneness of the Spirit is not kept.

Verse 4. Paul turns back to the thought put forth in chapter 1, "The hope of glory." This same Spirit which has given the same hope, has given the oneness of the body; this outward unity which manifests the Spirit as well as oneness in the glory. There is but one body here below.

32 Verse 5. This verse describes the circumstances belonging to this oneness - all its interior and exterior relationships. It speaks of baptism as being the expression of the common faith.

Verse 6. The apostle adds, "in you all." One God and Father in us all; that is, His abode in us. "Through all," expresses the thought that He is everywhere in us all; He dwells there; He is there in His power, identifying Himself with His own. Spiritually He is in us, and as Ruler He is everywhere. They who are partakers of this oneness, are united to Christ as Christ is to the Father; thus the Father is in us all. (See John 14:20.) What a bond in this new creation! God Himself dwelling in us, in a body of weakness and of death! This is why we groan, being of the present creation, while at the same time we have the firstfruits of the Spirit; we groan according to God, not only because of the misery which we feel as men, but according to God who will very soon deliver this world.

Verse 7. The apostle now comes to the members of this wonderful body; Christ is the power which unites this body to Himself, and He is also the energy in each one of its members. If I speak of the church as a body, there is more glory; the unity of the body connects itself with nearness to God rather than with our individuality. We ought to look upon the members of the body as in action for the good of this body; evangelisation produces also this same end by bringing souls to the Lord.

Verse 8. It is the same expression as is employed (Judges 5:12) when Barak returned from delivering the captives of Israel, leading captive those who had led them captive. The people of God were captives of Satan; Christ has triumphed over Satan, and has led him captive, and has brought along with Him the church delivered from his chains. Satan was the master, and Christ gains the victory over the strong man and delivers the church. Having delivered it from the power of Satan, He can communicate to us this same power which gains the victory over Satan. God has set this power of victory in man, in order that it may energise. Christ had the title, and when He shall return, even those who are not converted will be delivered, because Satan will be bound; but now he is not so. The church is the place of the manifestation of the Spirit for the destruction of the power of Satan; and this shews the importance of the presence of the Spirit in the body, presence which delivers us from the power of Satan, and makes us grow up into all that which is of the Head, even Christ. In Psalm 68 these gifts are also spoken of in connection with the Jews, when Israel will be re-established in glory; but Paul here makes no mention of the second part of the verse, omitting, "Yea, for the rebellious also," because in the Ephesians all distinction is at an end, and has come to an end in the church. Now it is the whole connection in heaven and on earth; now it is gifts for men; the Jews were "the rebellious" (technical expression for the Jews); but hereafter they will be so no longer, and the Lord God will dwell among them.

33 Verse 9. This verse sets before us the glory of the Person of Christ, who has gone up on high in order that to faith there should be between God Himself and the power of death nothing which is not filled to faith with the power of redemption. The believer on earth is placed in this power of redemption, finding Christ everywhere. Christ having descended into hades, God has set Him at His right hand in order that He should fill all things. We see by this what will be the perfection of this work when all things will be reconciled by Christ. What an infinitely important position is that of the church, as the body and depository of the power of Christ! How little does she correspond to it!

Verse 10. We have seen how Christ has come, then ascended up again, and who will hereafter reconcile all things. In the meanwhile, inasmuch as He is head of the body, He gives these gifts for the accomplishment of this special part of the mystery, namely, the edifying of His body; and it is of this part especially that mention is here made. God has desired to make us know what is the final end, the union of all things in Christ, and that of the body with Him. This great end is the position of the church as the centre of the glory; and Christ now employs the power with which He is filled for the edifying of this body. The consequence of this is, that He speaks of its members which serve for the edifying of this body, and of its members, which make it move and act. It is not then miracles, testimony of power borne to the world, which are here spoken of, but the joints of the body, in order that it may grow up into Him.

34 Verse 11. Paul is not speaking of gifts, but of those who were themselves these gifts; he speaks of the gifts which edify the body, and not here of the Spirit distributing these gifts according to His will: Christ filling all things we are His members, partakers of this blessing. This is the difference between what is taught in 1 Corinthians 14 and in this chapter.

Verses 12, 13. There is a difficulty which connects itself with this, namely, the duration of these gifts; we might have thought they should have been continued till the perfecting of the body of Christ. In order to be able to apprehend the part of this passage in which this difficulty is, we must enter into the state of the church. The Lord did not return immediately; in the epistles He is always represented as about to return immediately; this is why Paul looked at all the saints in the presence of His coming. He looked at the perfecting of the body for the return of Christ as a thing to be accomplished in the present time. We know that this has not taken place; John 21:22. But in truth the Lord cannot be untrue to the edification of His body; and here the question is not about the manifestation of the Spirit in power, but the communication of blessings on the part of the head by means of its members.

The apostles and the prophets served as foundation, we can perceive this; and the others remained for building up even after these had departed. The ministrations which have lasted are those of evangelists, pastors, and teachers. What is said in the first place in verse 12 is the general and proper end of the gifts. Then follows the manner in which this grace, which flows from the Head, for the perfecting of the saints, ought to act: it is by producing a ministry which is to work in building up the body: an evident proof that ministry is to last until we are all brought into the presence of Christ, and that this is brought about by the principle of the oneness of the body and by its edification as such. It is then important to see the end of this ministry.

Verse 13 speaks of the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God - in the which we have fellowship. Difference of views there may be; but as it was said to the Philippians, "God shall reveal even this unto you." There is, therefore, the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. Ministry is the means to it, and this ministry always exists. If attention be paid to what is said about ministry, it will be seen that when the apostle speaks of the perfect man, he does not allude to the perfection which follows resurrection, but to the perfection of this knowledge. We have seen that this is connected with the basis which the Spirit has laid for all these truths; that is Christ fulfilling all things and dwelling in us here below. The Holy Spirit, who dwells in the church, makes each member to grow according to that which is in Christ and according to the measure of Christ. As there is unity in the body, there is also the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son. Here, the Spirit's thought is to make all the members grow according to the revelation of the glory of Christ; and this shews us what our desires ought to be, and what we ought to desire for our brethren. Christ has grace enough in Himself for this. We should desire that all Christians near us should be full of knowledge, even to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; and this knowledge of the revelation of the glory of Christ here below, naturally produces fruits. Such is the meaning of the word "perfection." The question is as to knowing Christ. Christ is altogether perfect as risen from the dead: the Christian is so when he has risen up to that position of Christ. Paul said, "Not that I have already attained." But he had attained to that spiritual joy, that knowledge which revealed to him the object set before him. When it is thus with the Christian, he is at peace, and he can grow as to practical conduct; he has the consciousness of being in that which is infinite, of being in the enjoyment of Christ before the Father, according to the accomplishment of all the counsels of God. As to his soul before God, he no longer travails, so to speak, as when he drew nigh to God, conscious in himself of his need of expiation. As to his soul, he has nothing to search after; all being accomplished, he finds himself set before God, in that fulness itself, even in reference to all the circumstances which may befall him; he knows that Christ has all power in heaven and in earth.

35 Verse 14. If I have nothing to seek, I rest in quietness; the place I am in is the fulness of the knowledge of God, sheltered from the deceivableness of men. The Christian, who possesses Christ, no longer seeks Him as one whom he has yet to find, though he seeks to grow in those things into which he has been brought; but in the church we see souls in a state very different from this, which is indeed sorrowful: generally, Christians need to be brought back to the position which has been purchased for them. A Christian is perhaps blessed with salvation, but he is occupied with the things of the earth; he has cares, and ministry must then be occupied with the sorrows which result thence. But where there are believers whose affections are full of Jesus, they can go onwards, and there is progress; because where souls are living they seek after fresh graces. If we walk in individual faithfulness, we are able to be occupied with the things which are before us; when this is not the case, we must be occupied with our own misery, and it is sorrowful to be occupied with things which are a loss in comparison of the knowledge of Christ. If we walk according to the knowledge that we have, we are lively, and the things which are before us attract us onward; we can, forgetting present things, be occupied with the grace that is in Christ.

36 Verses 15, 16. Each member acts in its place; each part has its place. This place may be a hidden one, but it is not the less important; the thought presented is that of the growth of the body. A soul which is lively builds up others; the Spirit acts in souls which turn not back; the gospel working produces inward blessing. We see as we have said, in the place where all fulness dwells all becomes grace, even trials; because they make us enjoy with intelligence the counsels of God. If an evil occurs, it becomes only the opportunity for manifesting the love of Jesus, and this serves to strengthen faith. But all consists in our growing up in the Head; this is the only true growth which is in the knowledge of Jesus; because this knowledge is that of grace. The Spirit acts by the word (through faith and understanding of the things of God), all the while it is my life which grows and communicates to me a developed manifestation of life.

But let us go back to what we have a right to expect from the children of God; I am here speaking of the oneness of faith and of the knowledge of Christ. If love dwells in us, and we think of the members of Christ, that will lead us to ask that they may grow according to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. But, alas! many are often more occupied with this present life than seeking the growth of souls. Love is of God, and it is always powerful. If we were in a healthy state, we should grow in God. Faithfulness in the walk is necessary, if we would not grieve the Spirit; there must be the hidden life, that is to say, the heart must abide in Jesus; in a word, Christ should be the end of all our life. There is enough love in Jesus to make His members grow.

37 If we had sufficient love, we should draw out of Jesus what would produce this growth in others; and we need it in the present time when there are so many things that dim the testimony of the saints. Our part really is to be separate from evil; we must see Christ so clearly as to be able to say, This or that is not of Christ; and if persons are overwhelmed by cares, it is impossible that Christ should be discerned by them so as to deliver them from things which are like Christ, but which still are not Himself. What we have to seek after is to be sufficiently spiritual as to be able to realise what Christ is; the effect of this will be subjects of intercession, which will doubtless cause sorrow of heart, because the faults and failures of the members of the body are borne there; but nevertheless, where love is in action, there will be always joy.

Verse 17. There is a principle here, which it is of importance to have a firm hold of: it is, that the whole conduct of the Christian flows from salvation, and is not in order that he may be saved: it is not that we do not gain something, or that Paul does not exhort us to run towards the mark (1 Cor. 9:24); but the whole walk of the Christian ought to be the manifestation of a new life. The moment that we hear an exhortation as to conduct, and that we do not hear it as addressed to a saved person, the gospel is displaced. All must be addressed to me as a child of God; this is why the apostle says, "I beseech you," etc. It is because of this grace that I beseech you. The moment that I mix up an exhortation with the freeness of salvation, man is not in the position in which Christ has set him; it may have the appearance of piety, but the fact remains, that if I exhort, and at the same time admit a question about salvation, I deny, and I have not a right consciousness of, the state of ruin in which man is, any more than of salvation.

Verses 18, 19. This is the commentary and the centre of all that we have just said. Man is alienated from the life of God. In the times in which we live men would be ashamed to do what was then done openly; but this changes nothing as to the fact: whether a man is alienated from the life of God, or a heathen, it is the same thing.

38 Verses 20-23. This is the truth which is in Jesus; if we are saved, we are created anew. And the verse which follows explains to us this truth, namely Jesus, who is Himself the new Man.

Verse 24. Here is the truth of the new man in us. The question is not of changing what we were, but God has given us a new life, eternal life. We have seen the manner in which the church is united to Jesus; the truth which is in Jesus is the presence of this life in the Christian. We ought to put off the old man in us, and to put on the new man. This hidden life must manifest itself in all that the man puts on. The old man is in itself a captive, a slave of sin, and a prey to the lusts which lead him away. Moral discernment is wanting. But where the new man is, there is also spiritual intelligence. We are renewed; and this intelligence judges of things according to God. Man is free in the things of God; God is found there. We are capable of seeing things which are suitable for God. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." We then have the consciousness of the beauty of the things of God, and it is man who discerns them. The man who does not act by the power of the Spirit acts according to the flesh.

We are created according to God. God is formed in us. Christ was the image of the invisible God: He manifested in His ways the character of God. Also the Christian is a new creation. The apostle speaks, in this verse, of the power of God, which has produced that life in which we enjoy God. God has set His seal upon us; it is quite a new thing; the lusts of the old man are no longer in question, but the energy of the new man - that understanding which speaks according to truth.

Verse 25. In this verse is seen how everything hangs on our union with Christ. There is evidently no bond either of love or of the Spirit with one to whom I lie; but if I lie to my brother, it is as if I deceived myself. The power of the life of Christ is also power in all the details of the Christian's life. We are members one of another.

Verse 26. We see here in the acting of the new man that there may be such a thing as being angry (for example, Christ in the case of the man who had the withered hand, Mark 3:5); it is then indignation against evil. (See 2 Cor. 7:11.) If it is the anger of the new man on account of evil, then, as soon as the evil is removed, the soul returns to its rest; but if anger lasts, then there is bitterness, and the soul not being able to return into its rest, evil is shewn to be there; for this reason it is said, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath."

39 Verse 27. This verse shews us that we ought not to open the door to Satan. If it is the flesh that is acting, then the wicked one can touch us; but he cannot touch the new man, he cannot entice it; 1 John 5:18. If I give way to a thought which is not of God, then I give place to Satan; if I give way to anger, the enemy is there: we are then hindered in service, troubled in prayer; and that is not to be wondered at. When our thoughts have been filled with present things, when we have been occupied with them not in their connection with God, we have given place to Satan; but if we have been occupied with our work with God before us, then this work in no way takes possession of our hearts as an object; our faculties are free; our affections are fresh; and, when we return to God, we are entirely God's, having only acted in order to fulfil His will. How much time we lose! This is why it is said, "Watch unto prayer." We should do whatever we do, for God.

Verse 28. It is interesting to see how God takes the most difficult materials in order to form something out of them. He takes the heart of man such as it is, in order to make of it a new thing by the life of the new Man, which He introduces there; it is the Spirit which worketh these things, because it is the Spirit of love which is there.

Verse 29. Here is seen the contrast between the old man and the new. It is one or the other which speaks; it is murmuring or giving of thanks. The matured Christian would only speak for edification; the new man, acting under the influence of the Spirit, will only take part in things which are for edification.

Verses 30, 31. It is precious for us to know that the Christian has been sealed for the day of redemption, for the day when his body will be raised. When Christ shall have accomplished all that for which He died, our body (for Christ has redeemed it) will be raised, which has not yet taken place. It is said that Christ has been made to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; redemption is put the last. It is not here the price paid for the purchase that is spoken of, but the result of this purchase. There are two things to be remarked in what follows: the new man and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not created, He is an independent Being in us; we must not grieve Him. All that which accords not with the Holy Spirit is not suitable for the Christian. On the other hand, we see that we have full assurance: God has set His seal upon us; and this strengthens faith. We enter into the thoughts of God; we find there not only the motives of holiness, but also the power of holiness. That which assures me of redemption puts me on my guard not to grieve the Holy Spirit. If we are in the presence of our Father, His love prevents us from falling. It is thus that the Holy Spirit seals us for the day of redemption, and guards us from evil.

40 Verse 32. My foundation being what God has done for me, I have the consciousness of the goodness of God. If I am blessed myself (see 1 Peter 3:9), I can shew love to others; feeling that God has pardoned me takes away all bitterness from my life, from my manner of acting. Our Father, having forgiven us, desires that our hearts should be in freedom towards all, and that we should act in peace and love. It is sweet to be thus set with God, representing in ourselves the character of God.

Ephesians 5.

Verses 1, 2. The first verse hangs on the preceding chapter; as God has forgiven you, forgive one another. "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children." The general principle is - Be ye followers of God, follow Him, walk in His steps, act on the same principles as He does. Inasmuch as we are the family of God, we ought to be like God our Father. There is something very sweet in this principle, and very different from that of the law; it produces in the heart quite other feelings; it is affection, it is the goodness of God which constrains us to walk. The apostle here introduces a principle which flows out of the last verse of the preceding chapter; that is to say, to walk in love, to imitate God, to follow Christ. If God is love, Christ is also the expression of this love toward us; we ought also to leave all for our brethren; 1 John 3:16. The motives of this conduct are expressed in the first and second verses, which we have just read. We ought to imitate God according to the heart of a child; and the effect of this love of God in the heart of a Christian is, that he gives up himself to the needs of his brethren. This is what was seen in Christ. Having the life of Christ, the divine nature and the power of Christ, we ought to offer ourselves up to God; Rom. 12:1. It should also be remarked, that that which descends from God in love re-ascends always to God in love and devotedness to Him. What a blessed thought; and why do we not thus live? for this is what we ought to be in our service for God.

41 Verse 3. Paul supposes the Christian in that atmosphere of God, in which there are no thoughts but those becoming saints. And we see here the place which money holds: the heart of man thinks that it is pleasanter to be rich than poor; but here it is said that covetousness should not be so much as named among us. We see also to what extent, when in the presence of God, the standard of morality is different from what it would be if we only had regard to men. The apostle considers these things according to the Spirit of God, according to the thoughts of God, according to Christ working in him, Paul. The consequence of this is, that it is according to what becomes saints that we ought to act; we are to be followers of God.

Verse 4. In the presence of Christ we shall find jesting unsuitable. It is not that he who walks in the light of God's countenance is not happy. There is not a cloud on the joy of him who is in the presence of God; but such a Christian feels what the things are which do not become him who is called to imitate God. That the world should find such things suitable is natural enough: but "as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of a fool; this also is vanity," Eccl. 7:6.

Verses 5-7. A covetous person shall not inherit the kingdom of God. The covetous person in 1 Corinthians 5, is placed, as to discipline, in the same position as fornicators, idolaters, etc.; but it is more difficult to act towards a covetous person, because with him the sin is more hidden than seen outside. All these things are the flesh; but for him who walks after the Spirit they are judged. The natural man would rather have two crown-pieces than one; but the new nature is delivered from such lust, it finds not in such things its enjoyment. The apostle says here "The kingdom of God and of Christ." He follows the thoughts which are according to God and to Christ. If I think of God, it is divine light; if of Christ, it is this power manifested in a man. How precious for us to be able to say, It is there where I am, associated with them; I am in the same atmosphere as God and Christ. It is, then, in this position that we judge all things. We ought not to associate with that which is not of God, because God is not there, and because we should no longer be in the atmosphere in which we are able to judge of things.

42 Verse 8. It is thence that you have come out, says the apostle. It is not said "in darkness," but that those who are now partakers of the divine nature had been darkness; but now ye are light. It is the nature of God, of which we have been made partakers, which makes us see all; and it is thus that we are light in the Lord. Just in so far as we are in Jesus, it is thus that we walk. He that followeth Me, Jesus says, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life; but he that walketh in the night stumbleth, because there is no light in him. The natural man has no light.

Verse 9. The nature of God and of Christ, when it is manifested in man here below, has for its character gentleness, meekness, practical righteousness, and truth. In the truth, each thought has its place before God: Christ was the truth. Each one of His acts answered to what He Himself was, and to what God Himself was; either He was manifesting God or He was, as man, truth before Him. Each of my actions ought to answer to what I am before God: it is the subjection of the inner man. I ought to consider others in all my relationships with them, according to this righteousness and this truth (that is, according to what one is before God), and there there is neither unrighteousness nor untruthfulness.

Verse 10. This verse is connected with what is said about light in verse 8; verse 9 is in parentheses. This is what we have to learn in our conduct. It is often said, that it is difficult to discover the will of God; but this is because we are not ready to meet with difficulties, and then we cannot find out His will. In this verse we have that moral state of soul which loves to please, which realises the spirit of the walk, and which realises the wishes of God in order to be acceptable to Him; it is thus that, as children, we shew real thoughtfulness about Him whom we desire to please. In verse 9 it is the fruits which are the natural productions of the life of God in us that are enumerated; but in verse 10 it is the manner in which God works in us, our eyes being turned upon another than ourselves. This work of God in us is thus carried on. A child, while observing his father, learns what is pleasing to him; he learns what are his ways; he knows what he would like in the circumstances which transpire. Thus we prove what is acceptable to the Lord.

43 Verse 11. The experience of righteousness in us produces an entire separation from evil; it produces fruits of light. Paul insists upon the necessity of having no fellowship with the works of darkness. A Christian cannot join himself with these things, but rather even convict them. Verse 12. By this verse is shewn to us to what an extent our evil nature will go.

Verse 13. This is the effect of light in Christ and in the Christian. We see nothing in the dark; but the light manifests all. The natural man would be ashamed to do in the light what he does in the dark - things which would be done openly among the heathen. Christianity has necessarily destroyed, up to a certain point, the grossness of sin even with those who are not yet converted. The Christian is in the light which manifests all. The light applies itself to every connection which he could form with this world.

Verse 14. The men of this world are dead, and the Christian who walks according to the spirit of this world is as if he were dead, slumbering amidst the dead, dreaming, it is true, sometimes about his wretched position; but as to action, he is there amongst the dead; he does not know what to do, and how should he know? The same may be said of all that, in the Christian, which morally can be called sleep. It is a most sorrowful state in contrast with that which is described to us above. Christ cannot enlighten a soul thus placing itself among the dead; He can work in order to awaken such, but He does not give light to them that are asleep, to those who do not awake from among the dead. Since the light makes all manifest, there is a needs-be that the Christian should awake, and Christ will give him light. It is Christ Himself who is the source, the expression, and the measure of light for the soul that is awake. What use is light to him who will walk in darkness?

Verse 15. In heaven there will be no "Take heed"; there we may give free way to perfect joy: there all is holy; but down here in this life, in the midst of evil, we must take heed, we must use wisdom. The man of the world, in order to avoid evil, must be skilled in the knowledge of the evil. The Christian has no need to think about evil; he must be wise without the knowledge of evil, as it is written, "Simple concerning evil, wise as to that which is good" (Rom. 16:19), because full and divine knowledge of good in the midst of evil is what Christ gives. What He Himself was here contains no familiar acquaintance with evil; the child of God ought to possess that wisdom which is simple as a dove - spiritual wisdom.

44 Verse 16. This is likewise wisdom; it is to gain time in order to do good. The same expression is used in speaking of the magicians, the Chaldeans, in Daniel 2:8; they gained time in order to conceal their inability, they had the prudence of this world. We need wisdom in order to be able to do good in spite of Satan, whose power makes the present time one of difficulty. If we have this wisdom for good, we shall escape the wiles of Satan; we shall leave his nets on one side and pass on; we shall do the good that God may give us to do; we shall have time for God. If we are in God's light, we shall walk in the simplicity of that which is good, and God will be with us. Let us think of God-as Father and on what Christ did, in order to do like unto Him. If sleep overtake us, we must awake, and Christ will give us light.

Verses 17, 18. Verse 16 had shewn us that we must redeem the time. The days are evil when God allows Satan to exercise his power, and they are so in general until Jesus return; but there are times when God permits the enemy to govern more directly, and others when He puts a check on him. The evil days are a chastisement, a humiliation for the church; but he who is faithful has his way pointed out; he ought to redeem the time, to seize the opportunity of doing good; Neh. 6:3. This is why it is said (v. 17), "Be not unwise"; but there is also an energy, a force in the Spirit which is given to us, which is contrasted with the excitement by which the world thinks to produce faith - excitement which is evil - an evil course of life, the true character of which verse 18 shews us. When the Spirit descended upon the one hundred and twenty at Jerusalem, the world said, "They are full of new wine." The power of the Spirit in truth does put a man beyond the power of what is natural to himself; the words rise to his lips as a fruit of the Spirit's action, and he is the subject of a joy which flows over. In him who is full of the Holy Ghost there is what is not natural to man - something altogether extraordinary.

Verses 19, 20. It is quite another life, it is a joy outside of the world's range; it is a company apart, in which the world would have no pleasure, nor enjoyment. The Spirit is there in power. When Christians have life amongst them, occupying themselves with the things which are properly theirs, instead of hesitating in spiritual things, then the life grows; the consequence is, that we see things according to God, we are able to give thanks for all things; we live and we dwell there.

45 Verse 21. It is this spirit of gentleness which recognises Christ in a brother, and that spirit of submission which does not exalt itself; it is when Christians are united and mingle one with another that they realise these things, for individuality is often pride.

Verses 22-24. What is said in these verses is strong: for, as is often the case, the wife may have more wisdom than her husband, but the effect of this wisdom will be for the wife to leave to her husband the place that God has given to him; for if the grace of God acts in the heart, the order which God has established reigns always, and if the wife governs, God is not there. But if this particular wisdom of God is recognised, the order of God is maintained, and blessing is the consequence.

Verses 25, 26. There are always in the word positive directions, and it is never well for us not to follow them. We may remark here three things as to Christ and as to the church, which flow out of the love of Christ for the church: I, He has loved the church and given Himself for it; 2, that He might sanctify it by the word; 3, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, etc.

Verses 27, 28. Christ will present the church to Himself in glory. The order in which these things are placed gives such assurance. Christ does not sanctify the church before having redeemed it. No, it is when she belongs to Him that He devotes Himself to make her such as He would have her to be. We may remark here, it is not said that God loves the church; nor is mention made of that loving-kindness of God which seeks to save souls, though His goodness is acting towards all men in sending Christ to them. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but should have everlasting life." But there is another thing which is not properly the goodness of God, either in the sense of providence, or in that of the love in His nature. God in His counsels desires to enter into a certain relationship with His own people; God desires to have children, and Christ a spouse. They are affections based upon a relationship which exists. If God has made us His children He cannot do less than love us as such; once this relationship established, He cannot fail in it. It is never said that Christ has loved the world, while we have seen that God has loved the world; John 3:16. See also the character of the providential goodness of God; Jonah 4:11. The goodness of God, which watches over all His works, is precious; we ought to act in the same way as following Him, we ought to love everybody; Matt. 5:44-48.

46 But there is another thought besides that of this goodness of God; there is a love, the consequence of an established relationship. God having set us in this relationship, the affections of God and of Christ flow forth naturally towards us who are the objects of it. God loves His children with a love which will never deny itself. Christ has made Himself responsible for all the debts of His spouse; and more, the church being the spouse of Christ, she has lost her earthly citizenship and acquired a heavenly one. Christ has become the one responsible for all that His church has done and will do; the church, as the spouse of Christ, has lost her individuality, in order that she may pertain to Christ, her heavenly Bridegroom. Christ, as the anointed Man, felt a distaste for the world; He would none of this world; He would not have His affections there. The Christian, in like manner, ought not to be able to bear the world as to its objects of desire and its walk. Christ has given Himself in order to satisfy the justice of God and to conquer, for the church's sake, the power of Satan; having set her free, He is occupied with her, and, as she is not what He desires, He sanctifies her. The Spirit of God makes allusion here to a practice among the Jews, who purified themselves by washing in pure water. It is by the word that Christ cleanses and sanctifies the church; all the revelation of what God is is thus applied to the heart. This is why Jesus says, "I sanctify myself for their sakes"; I set Myself apart, as being the expression of all the thoughts of God, and I communicate them to Mine, that they also may be sanctified through the truth. Christ is not untrue to the thoughts of God. The word is the means of communicating them, it judges all in us and manifests what is in God. This is what Christ did here below.

The final object of the work of Christ for the church is to present it to Himself "glorious, having neither spot nor wrinkle, nor any such thing."

47 There is reference here to the last Adam and the church; of which Adam and Eve were the types. Whilst Adam slept, God built for him a wife (this is the literal force of the Hebrew word) and presented her to him when he awoke. It is the same here; whilst Christ is hidden, so to speak, in God, God builds the church; and when it shall be perfected, it will be presented to Christ, or rather He will present it to Himself, being God and last Adam at the same time.

It is a precious thing to see that Christ so well knows how to take His measures that there will not be the least thing in His spouse which will not satisfy His heart; she will not have a wrinkle when He presents her to Himself; and all is based upon this, that He has given Himself for her; not only He has given His body unto death, His life, but also Himself. There is nothing in Christ - not an affection, not an element of wisdom, nor energy of devotedness, not a thought, nor perfection - not one thing in all the self-devotedness of Christ for the church - upon which the Christian may not count.

Verses 29-3l. There is in verse 29 something more than that which precedes. Not only Christ purifies the church by the word, but He nourishes and cherishes it; He considers its weakness; He shews tenderness and love towards it to nourish it as being His own body.

Verses 32, 33. It is said in verse 32, "This is a great mystery." What the apostle had at heart was the relationship between Christ and the church. We see in the verses which we have just read, four things:
1, Christ gave Himself for the church;
2, He sanctifies it by the word;
3, He presents it to Himself without wrinkle;
4, He nourishes and cherishes it, by giving all that He has for it, in order to shew how dear it is to Him. He loves it as Himself. It is precious to have the inward consciousness of the affection of Christ for the church. This is an important truth, and it is essential to distinguish the difference of this love, which belongs to relationships which God has established, and the goodness of His nature towards all. The consequence of it is that Christ undertakes the whole work; we are only His, entirely His. It is not a law, but a tie which binds us to another, that is, Christ. The moment that the power of man works, it is no longer Christ who has taken all upon Him for us.

48 Ephesians 6.

Verse 1. We cannot enter into the force of this expression, obedience in the Lord or according to the Lord, unless we take our place before the Lord with spiritual understanding. Christ, when He was with His mother and Joseph, had the power of the relationship in Himself; this power of judging good and evil led Him to obey. It is in like manner with us: we ought to obey as to that which regards our relationships in this world. We must understand our position in Christ, in order to be able to obey. God formed these relationships from the beginning; natural relationships are of God, but sin has corrupted all. Now this is what the Lord does: He does not bring in a remedy for this state of ruin; but He introduces a new man, having given Himself without sin in order to take away sin; and this new man is Christ. It is evident then that this new Man recognises what God has done in establishing these natural relationships; but in a manner superior to these very relationships. So when Christ began His ministry, He recognised nothing in this world; but He submitted to all as an individual, perfect in the midst of this evil. When He came into this world, He said, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"

Nevertheless, He submitted to those who stood to Him in the relationship of parents, until God called Him to His own proper service. He acted as from God, as superior to the obligation. The Christian, in like manner, by his union with Christ is superior to his obligations, inasmuch as he has with God a new relationship beyond nature; but he recognises this obligation according to the intelligence which this new relationship gives to him, and the consequence is that He is infinitely more obedient, because he obeys as from God. But it is impossible that I do evil as from God, or that I prefer anything before the authority of Christ. I am made more subject according to the perfection of God in Christ; and likewise by the introduction of the new man, the strength of the obligation is maintained, but according to God. In order to act as Christ did in the world, we need spiritual discernment. God cannot deny the obligations which He has created; but if I act in these relationships, as being from above and not from below, I shall obey with all my heart, but in a superior position, which does not allow of the evil into which I might be drawn by those with whom I am in this relationship, because I could not do evil "in the Lord": it is a most simple principle.

49 Verses 2, 3. Paul refers to this promise, which has often been a difficulty to some, as though temporal promises now belonged to a certain line of conduct. The citation only shews us how much God estimated obedience under the law. However, I believe there is a blessing belonging to obedience to parents. But in the order of the government of God, in the ways of God with us personally in this world, there are important things which modify this. The Jewish system was the expression of the government of God in this world, and the blessing belonged to him who honoured his father and mother.

Verse 4. This is an important truth for parents, and which flows from the church being a company apart. It is evident that God desires that the children of Christians should be brought up as Christians. I must act as a Christian with regard to my child, and not otherwise; I must exercise towards him the discipline of God, and bring him up as a disciple - we do very wrong if we act otherwise. If it so happen that parents are converted at the moment their children are growing up, it will then be more difficult for these parents to bring them up in the manner we have just said. But God is faithful to direct these parents, and to guide them according to their need; it will be a subject of prayer for them. In the verse before us the apostle supposes children whom parents are beginning to bring up.

If a Christian mother introduce or allow her child to go into the world, she must expect a strong reaction when her child is in the midst of the world; but God is faithful to the mother who acts faithfully according to the instructions of the Lord. The moment there is a duty, God is there; and God is faithful to make us succeed, though we may have to pass through many a painful hour. But, alas! we like what is most easy; neither is it right for us to use the word as a law to make a child obey. We frequently hear parents say to their children that, if not good, God will punish them, thus putting them under a law; this ought not to be. I ought to be a Christian with my child. God cannot bless parents who make a severe law of the Christian religion with their children; and much less when they allow themselves to go back to worldliness and worldly motives. They ought to be Christian as to their children, and to act towards them according to the truth into which God has brought themselves.

50 Verses 5, 6. The expression, "as unto Christ," is striking. What is not done according to God ought not to be done; but as to our own will, we must have submission and spiritual discernment to know when submission ought to be absolute. When there is no evil, by submitting myself I act as from God, without asking whether the authority is wise or not; I am wise in obeying: and so, every time that the question is as to obeying my master, I do it without troubling myself about what he tells me; I do what he wishes, no matter what; I do it as in the sight of God and for God.

Verse 7. It little matters where God has placed me in this world, provided I serve Christ; and this principle can be applied to the most ordinary things of life; even if I light a fire, I can do it as for the Lord; and how honourable this makes it! What I do is for Him, and because He wishes me to do it; and I do it with good will for the Lord Jesus, serving Him with love.

Verse 8. The Christian religion has found its way into the midst of evil, and given liberty where there was none; it has given it even to the poor slaves, and that without taking them out of their state of bondage. The gospel does not touch that position. Paul acknowledges slavery as a right, when he sends back Onesimus to his master, telling him that in grace he would treat this slave as a brother. Christ comes in where sin reigns. It is a power superior to all here below, and which subsists in the midst of what is found here.

Verse 9. Ye are slaves of Christ, and servants of Christ, and with Him there is no acceptance of persons; if servants, ye can serve Him, however low your condition be as to this world; and if masters, ye ought to serve Him whatever are your advantages here below.

Verse 10. Here is strength! What joy to be able to say, If I am weak, Christ is my strength! We do not enjoy this strength when we are at a distance from the Lord, and when we parley with circumstances, instead of retiring into Jesus by prayer. If we gave ourselves to prayer, all would soon be overcome.

Verse 11. We must put on the whole armour of God; for if we have only truth and not righteousness, or only righteousness and not truth, the devil may reach us. The first counsel which the Spirit gives us here is to be strong in the Lord; and second, to have the whole armour of God; because the arms of man are useless against spiritual wickedness. The man of the world does not know that he is the object of the attacks of Satan, and in truth he is rather his slave, never having been delivered; but the Christian is the object of his attack, and if he is not clothed with the whole armour of God, the darts of the enemy reach him. None can resist him but the one who is thus clothed, for Satan is always there using wiles and artifices; he is often as a lion, but more habitually as a serpent, and he tries to reach us and introduce the point of his weapon; he seeks to deal his blows wherever he finds a part of the body unprotected, not clothed with this armour of God.

51 Verse 12. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, that is to say, not against man, as the Israelites who had to fight against the Canaanites. No! but against spiritual wickedness, against the powers of this world. When the flesh acts in the Christian, Satan can attack him; the flesh has no power whatsoever against Satan. "He that is born of God keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not," 1 John 5:18. We have a perfect example in Jesus. The new man in us is never tempted. These evil powers are in the heavens, whence they are not yet driven out; and in their wickedness they act not in a gross but in a spiritual manner. Christ is still sitting down, and His enemies are not yet put under His feet; but we have the promise, that the God of peace will bruise Satan under our feet shortly. It is of all importance not to be terrified by him, for in Christ we gain the victory over the enemy of our souls: but it is needful for us to be aware of these ambushes, and to know what is acting against us.

That which guards us is the power of the Spirit in the path of obedience. The presence of the enemy in the heavens has spoiled and continues to spoil all the good that God ever committed to man; this is true, even in Christianity here below, because the heavens are not yet changed: the atmosphere is evil. But it is said, "Resist the devil, and he shall flee from you." If Satan meets Christ in us, he flies, for Christ has conquered him; but the flesh does not resist him. If I am in the flesh, the enemy overthrows me, as we have an example in Peter. Peter, after his fall, could strengthen his brethren; because he had learnt to know himself and his weakness, as well as the power of the grace of Christ. It is well to remember that, when walking in the Spirit, we are sheltered from the darts of the enemy.

52 Verse 13. In the preceding verses it is the general position of the child of God, in evil days, that is looked at. Here it is the armour more in detail that is spoken of. We have seen two things: 1, that we must be armed with the whole armour; 2, that we must be armed with the whole armour of God. This armour alone can resist the attacks of the enemy. There are times when we are attacked by the enemy, and when God permits that we should be more or less tried. The whole of this present dispensation is the evil day, during which Satan is allowed to exercise his power; Christ is absent from the earth, and Satan is allowed to exercise his power in it. There are moments when we enjoy in peace communion with the Lord, without being disturbed by the enemy: then all is peace; but there are times also when we are made to feel the power of Satan - the power of Christ also, without doubt, but it is in order to fight. This is the reason it is said, "Take the whole armour of God." It is the resisting the manifest attacks of Satan that is here spoken of; not only, as in the case of the Israelites, of gaining certain victories, of conquering certain territories, and of making progress in the country; this is not the immediate thought of the apostle. Inasmuch as we are filled with the Spirit, we already possess all things; while at the same time we have to carry on a warfare in the heavenly places. Satan tries to destroy our confidence, to withdraw us from enjoying Christ, and to take from us the consciousness that we possess all things in Him. What we have to do then in this position, is to stand firm; all is ours, and if we stand fast, we have all. Satan tries to prevent our standing; this is why we are told to put on our armour and to stand fast.

Verse 14. In this verse the means of resistance are set before me; we must have our loins girded about with truth, or else we shall be like a ship with its sails spread, but no ballast - it would founder; the ballast which produces the equilibrium is necessary. It is written, "Sanctify them by thy truth; thy word is truth. …" and further on, "For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth." Christ set Himself apart as the expression of all the truth of God in man; not that He had only the knowledge of the truth: Christ was Himself the truth. We ought not only to know the truth, but to have our affections filled and governed by it. If our hearts are full of Jesus, we are sanctified by the truth, as it is in Jesus, which sets us free and which sanctifies us.

53 The word "reins" expresses all that is within. The inner affections, the inmost thoughts, are turned towards God, the heart is with God; all that is not of Him being judged, I am in communion with Him, I am in His presence, taught by Him. The apostle urges that our thoughts our affections, should be governed by the truth; that that which the Spirit teaches us should reign over our hearts. This is what we must begin with; the heart must be at large, set free from the power of every lust and of every spiritual error; at liberty in the truth. We cannot be happy if we allow our hearts to go after all that presents itself to us; for then, in our service, we are not able to resist Satan. Perhaps we are not aware of the evil; the effect of it is not at first felt, but in an evil day it will discover itself. (See Job.) Satan roams around us, and seeks to overthrow us; this is why we must not allow our hearts to go abroad after everything, without paying attention, or without being on our guard; because Satan will have thereby power over us in the evil day. The established Christian discerns good and evil; his thoughts no longer wander about here below. If our thoughts are in heaven with Jesus, we are in safety. It is impossible for us to be happy here below, if we do not walk in holiness. There, in heaven, we shall be able to let loose our hearts, because nothing will be there but holiness and the glory of God; but here, in the presence of the enemy with such deceitful hearts, we must have truth to govern them: "Having your loins girt about with truth." It is the application of what is in Christ to the affections, in order that the heart may have the understanding of spiritual things, and we may walk according to Christ.

Be it observed, that all we have just said is true of each and every Christian; for he is in the truth, he has righteousness by faith, he possesses the gospel of peace. But the apostle desires that we should use these graces in our practical walk. If our hearts are guided by the Spirit of Jesus, we have the consciousness of walking in practical righteousness in all that concerns us; Satan will have nothing to say against us in the evil day, nothing which will weaken us in our conflicts with him. If the conscience is not good, if righteousness is not realised, we have no strength; we must hide ourselves in the day of battle. When Satan attacks the children of God, he does it according to the holiness of God, and they would be overthrown by having things on their conscience about which a worldly person would feel no uneasiness. The Spirit acting on the conscience cannot but give to holiness all its strength; and for him there is but the holiness of God. Also, the nearer we are to God, the more will Satan seek to surprise us. It is impossible for anyone to have a just estimate of the holiness of God unless standing fast in grace, and unless firm against the attacks of Satan. If we do not walk before God according to the light, which we profess to have, God's strength is not with us; and frequently even God withdraws the light in which we did not choose to walk. If we have failed in anything, we must have recourse to grace. If habitually we walk in the Spirit, as soon as we have stumbled we shall judge ourselves before God, before Satan attacks us; for God is good and faithful in His grace, and we shall be calm. Christ was ever with His Father, and when the evil day came, He was calm. (See for him who has failed, the example of David, Psalm 32:5: "Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin," etc.) That which the Spirit commands is to be clothed with the breastplate of righteousness; because with this armour we have nothing on the conscience. A man cannot handle his sword if he is ill: God begins then, as we have said, by strengthening the man himself; then He speaks of the testimony which he ought to bear. God will have the soldier prepared for the battle.

54 Verse 15. He who is holy and righteous in his practical walk is the one who is in communion with God, who is at peace and restful in all his connections with God, and vigilant as to that which is good, knowing that Satan goeth about; but he is without fear, knowing that he walks together with God; and having nothing which disquiets him in his walk, the consequence is that he is at peace. This title of peace is one given to God more than any other; 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20; Rom. 16:20, etc. If there is one thought which is predominant in the character of God, it is peace. The soul which is thus in God is full of peace; he enjoys fully the gospel of God; he enjoys His grace; his soul is in peace, and coming forth from immediate communion with God to walk through this poor world, in this spirit of peace all his ways are marked with peace; this character sets its impress on all his walk in this world. God having given to the soul this place before Him, He begins to teach it to walk; and the walk of such a one here below partakes of this gospel of peace, of the peace which we first enjoy with God through the gospel, in virtue of the work of Christ, and which, setting us in communion with God, makes us happy in that which is good, and enables us, by this communion, to overcome the sin and rebellion of the heart. All that we meet with makes manifest in our walk by the Spirit the peace which we enjoy. It is beautiful to see a soul which brings the power of such peace into the world.

55 In this faithful walk the Christian meets with the fiery darts of the wicked one; the more faithful he is, the more also will Satan seek to trouble him; if he can cause a wicked thought to cross the heart, that is a dart; but the soul of the faithful is at peace; nothing can trouble him, though Satan tries to disturb this peace. If secret self-complacency glides unto the heart, it is the enemy who seeks to take away our confidence. We see Christ in this calm and perfect confidence in the midst of His suffering (John 18:11), peace keeping His soul; not that He could feel joy in drinking the cup, but He felt it in receiving the cup from the hand of Him who gave it to Him: nothing could shake His confidence; all the darts of Satan were quenched on the shield of faith. At the moment when He was broken-hearted, crushed by the iniquity of men, He said, "I thank thee, O Father," Matt. 11:25. When we meet with a trial, instead of complaining of others and reproaching them, we ought to take refuge in God; but frequently we do the very opposite, we distrust God; if we meet with difficulties, we reflect on God, and reproach Him with the iniquity of man. Satan seeks to produce mistrust; this is why the apostle says we must take the shield of faith.

Verse 16. Entire confidence in God is needed. From the position we see all the storms below us, we are at peace; but if we have not this confidence, there are things which trouble us. This is our position: we are on the earth, the flesh still in us; Satan is in the heavens, but Christ is still higher, at the right hand of God. Christ (in order that faith may be put to the test) has not yet driven out Satan; but if by faith we lay hold of the truth that Christ has done everything, that He has gained the victory over Satan, and that He is gone up far above all heavens to the right hand of God, we are then above all circumstances. I know Christ; I am near to God; I see things according to God and not according to circumstances. We see in Numbers, when the water failed, Israel threw the blame on God, and Moses thought about himself and his own personal importance. We frequently behave ourselves in the same way in affliction; but it is a want of confidence in God. Satan would like to break the links between us and God; but God has given us evident proofs of His love by giving us His Son, who has all power in heaven and on earth. Satan cannot take from us His grace; but if our loins are not girded about, our communion is interrupted.

56 Verse 17. The salvation of a soul once brought nigh to God is a settled thing; it is a helmet, a defence which guards him from the attacks of the enemy. There is a difference between this blessed position and that of working for salvation. In my battles with the enemy, I have on my head the assurance of salvation. He cannot touch me, I have eternal life; Satan cannot break in upon that. This gives boldness in the conflict; having the consciousness that God has saved us, we go on, the head lifted up (not proudly as to the fear of God), but trusting in Him, fearing nothing. Such is the case when we have the affections on Christ; we are so set as to be enabled to go on with boldness, by power being given to us to use the armour of God. This is what God desires for us. It is a blessed position to stand fast in the conflict. Truth applies to the judgment in the inner man. Practical righteousness guards the conscience from the assaults of the enemy; the power of peace gives a character to our walk; confidence in the love of God quenches the poisoned arrows of doubt; the assurance of salvation gives us boldness to go onwards.

We have seen in what precedes, that the apostle begins by setting before us that which gives inward strength, namely, the armour defensive against the attacks of the enemy. Now he speaks of the offensive weapons, and begins with the sword of the Spirit, as the means of resisting the power of Satan in the evil day; he speaks of the sword as a means of standing; the helmet is placed before the sword, because if there is not this confidence, this assurance, we cannot even handle the sword of the Spirit. All the threats, the warnings and precepts as to sanctification, become so many means, in the hands of Satan, to lay hold of us by, if we have not the confidence that God is for us; without this confidence Satan can use even the word of God to overthrow us. This word is called the sword of the Spirit, not of the understanding, but of the Spirit in us. It is the Spirit of God who alone can handle the sword of the word. It is the Spirit who recalls the suitable passage at the moment of temptation (we have a striking example of it in Christ in the hour of His temptation). We may reason about the things of God, but this does nothing for us against the enemy; the Spirit must act in us and apply the word. It is evident that if we have grieved the Spirit, if our loins are not girded, the Spirit cannot be there to handle the word; on the contrary, in that case, Satan employs it against us. If the Christian has not this happy consciousness of being for God, he has nothing to say when Satan presents a temptation before him: the smallest warning of the word troubles and overthrows him, because the word is not through the Spirit a weapon in his hand against the enemy; but it is in the hand of the enemy against him. It is true that God uses the word as a means of convincing of sin, and thus awakes the soul by acting on the conscience; but every time that this word is not made use of on the principle of grace, it is not the work of the Spirit of God. If this conviction of sin leads us to mistrust God, it does not proceed from Him, but from the enemy; the Spirit convinces of sin through the word, but it shews the refuge in Christ; it does not drive to despair.

57 The word is represented to us as a weapon for us to handle, for it works in two ways: first, the Spirit, in using the word, can act in us by presenting to us the object which fills our hearts with joy and hope; but besides, He can use it when He would convince us of sin. The Spirit will indeed shew us what are the consequences of sin, but He will never tell us that Christ is not sufficient for our soul. The Spirit cannot deny the testimony which He bears to the glory and to the work of Jesus in grace; He can use the holiness of God to produce in us the deepest feeling of sin; but He will never tell us that God is not the God of grace towards us. To the Christian who has peace, and to whom the love of the Father has been revealed, it is perfectly clear, that if he has any other feeling about sin, it is not the Spirit of God which produces it. If we have failed, the Spirit will make us sorrowful, but He will never tell us that the Master of the house is not our Lord; this thought would be the fruit of unbelief. But here the apostle goes a little farther; he supposes faith to be in exercise, and he places the word in the hand. Satan will tell us that we are not able to use the sword of the Spirit. Then this same Spirit, who recalls the passage, silences Satan. Again, look at Christ in His temptation, Christ who never lost His confidence. The Spirit was there in power. Christ had His loins girded, and He had on the breastplate of righteousness; He was calm and knew how to use the very passage which was suitable for the circumstance. Paul supposes a Christian who is standing fast in this power of the Spirit, and who completely stops the mouth of Satan, when he tries in a thousand ways to make him fall. Such a Christian, having all the defensive weapons, is able to handle the sword of the Spirit; and when the Spirit in him is not grieved, He bears witness to the favour of God. The word of God is the most powerful of the weapons of the Christian's strength.

58 Verses 18-20. The second weapon which is given to us is prayer in the Spirit; it is that prayer which springs from the energy of the spiritual life when the Spirit is not grieved in us; the same Spirit, which acting in us, uses the word, becomes a Spirit of intercession and seeks the interposition of God in favour of the saints, and of the work of God in the world. It is a soul at ease in the presence of God - a soul watching, instead of allowing itself to be surprised; and its prayers, instead of being complaints, will be according to the power of the Spirit; we can then use prayer as men who have watched, and who have found in watching subjects for the intervention of God. We may be afflicted, cast down, without being under the power of the enemy.

If I hear bad news, whether relating to the church of God or to a brother, it will make me sorrowful and cast me down, as it did Paul, who had fightings without and fears within. But though thus sorrowful, if Satan has nothing in us, the consequence of this depression will be communion with God, instead of having allowed our affections to wander; we are in the presence of God, we watch with Him in order to speak to Him; but if this is not the case, Satan will take us unawares in moments of carelessness. If we walk with God, this will cause prayers according to the mind of God. The broken heart finds in Jesus the full certainty of God's favour. The Philippians, in their suffering state, had met with God instead of being frightened by it (Phil. 1:28); and though afflicted, if I am in the power of the Spirit, it will only cause more lively intercession. It is precious to see what is produced by affliction, even by chastening; if our walk is spiritual, it will only be an opportunity for gaining the victory, and for driving away Satan. All the members are united to the Head, and by His Spirit interested in all that concerns Him. They cannot always act themselves in such or such a case, but they can, like the centurion, say to Christ, "Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed."

59 As we have seen that the word of God is the sword of the Spirit, so also what importance does the Lord attach to prayer! There are two kinds of prayer: that which is the expression of our wants; and that which being made in the energy of the Spirit, is therefore infallibly answered. Whether for handling the sword of the Spirit, or for prayer, the Christian life must already exist; in order to be able to pray for others, our own life must be with God. There is amongst Christians too little intercession; because they come to a meeting for prayer, after leading a life of languishing, absorbed by present things. The consequence is, their prayers discover the weakness of the individual, and not the work of the Spirit for the good of the church. Too often alas! it is a settling as to our own failures. If we were watchful therein in our daily walk, our prayers would be intercessions, instead of supplications each day for our own faults. What we should desire is, that our individual prayers should be such as to enable us to pray for all saints; without this they will never have this powerful energy of the Spirit. Satan will find some means for overthrowing Christians. How desirable this makes it that there should be some able to bring in the aid of God! The more, whether it be an individual or a body of persons, we are faithful as to our position in this world, the more shall we be exposed to the ambushes of the enemy; and if we do not thus keep close to God, the enemy will find some way of making havoc.

We see here, that the most faithful and advanced Christians feel their dependence upon God, and on all saints. The apostolic gift of Paul depended in one sense on the prayers of the saints: God intended it to be so, in order that the church might be united in its affections; 2 Cor. 1:11. The apostle was in a prominent position, and perhaps he received power through the prayers of a poor bed-ridden woman; but all hidden fruits will be seen in the last day. It is an encouraging thing to see that God honours the hidden members which are the least honourable to the eyes of the flesh. This thought encourages us to walk humbly in our place. Frequently there are persons hidden out of sight, who are the means of blessing for those who are in a very prominent place. We ought to think of the praise which God gives, and not of that of men. The only thing in our service is to glorify God. If my heart, which no one sees, does not beat, I cannot run. There are individuals who are truly the heart of the church; it is not often the things that are seen which are the most precious in the sight of God.

60 Verses 21-24. In these last verses, we have the expression of the tenderness of Paul in sending Tychicus to the Ephesians. We see how he counted upon the affection of the saints.