Notes of an address by J.A. Trench, 1890.
It is a wonderful thing for our souls to be carried back, as we are in Ephesians, to God's counsels for us from all eternity, in contrast with His ways with man on earth. There are these two distinct lines in Scripture-the history of the first man, and God's counsels in the second. How blessed to have all that belongs to the first man blotted out, so that nothing remains before our eyes but the perfection of the second. Have we been able so to learn the history of the old man, as to have done with it, so that we may be free to bask in the wondrous truth of Ephesians 1. We cannot begin there. The first thing is that God has to deal with us about our sins, that our links may be broken with the first man. All through the Old Testament we have the history of the failure of the first man when tried in every way. Placed in innocence in Eden man is given one command, and he breaks it: Noah, set over all the world after the flood, fails to govern himself: God chooses one nation and commits to them His testimony, and the first and cardinal commandment is broken before it reaches the camp: He sets up priesthood, strange fire is offered before Him, and the priesthood breaks down: He gives them a king, and how soon the kingdom fails. Turn where we will, we find the same thing. The last test was applied to man when God said, I have yet one son it may be they will reverence my son. The only answer to this was, "This is the heir, come let us kill him." Stephen sums up that history in Acts 7. the promises despised, the law transgressed, the prophets slain. What a history! From the first act to the culmination, nothing but sin, and all this is ended in the cross of Christ. It is a blessed thing when the trial of the ages, carried into the conscience, discovers me to myself as belonging to a lost race before God.
There is, however, another side to the presence of the Lord Jesus here on earth; it was the dawn of the accomplishment of God's eternal counsels. How sweet to trace Him in that lowly path, as we find Him in the Gospels fulfilling God's pleasure. We see the heavens opened over Him, and hear the Father's voice saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." But God's glory had to be made good. We follow Him to the cross, there we see Him Who knew no sin, made sin for us-identified with all that we had been found to be; the infinite One infinitely enduring God's judgment of sin, and sin turned into the occasion of infinitely glorifying God. All that I am, there judged, condemned, and crucified with Him; the history of the first man ended, so that now God can reveal His own eternal counsels for us. Up to the cross man was dealt with as alive in the flesh, now as dead in trespasses and sins. Into that scene of death God comes to raise up one Man from the dead. Before the dear women could be at the grave, He had been raised by the glory of the Father.
In this epistle the Spirit of God fixes our eyes on the risen Christ in the glory of God. Carried back into God's eternal thoughts and counsels, the apostle's heart can only find relief in worship. Then the Spirit of God leads him on and back. Having chosen us before the foundation of the world, Christ was there before Him, and we chosen in Him, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. He was alone in that perfection when here. "Except a corn of wheat die it abideth alone." Now we see in Him the full fruit of His death, in that He has united us to Himself where He is, and we stand before God in all His perfection. How sweet to be able to drop everything connected with ourselves, and to enjoy His eternal thoughts and counsels for us. He has "predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself." This is not something for you and me merely, to satisfy us; but to satisfy His own heart. He could have made us angels, but that was not what was in His heart for us; He has made us sons. Christ's place before God, is the only measure of the place which He has had for us before Him in His eternal counsels. Redemption is but the threshold of all the fulness of the blessing into which we are now brought, and now revealed that faith may know it. By redemption, God the Holy Ghost is given to us, as surely as we have received salvation. He is the earnest for us, of all that lies before us in the glory. What rest, to be set up in all the perfection of Christ! If responsibility entered into that glorious position, how soon would it break down. Blessed be God, there is no question of responsibility there. Have we entered into the truth that we are in the perfection of the second man?
Now we come to the responsibility that flows from this position. With the first man, his position depended on how he walked, therefore he had no standing before God: now our responsibility flows from the place in which we are set. We come, out of heaven, to walk here on earth as sons before the Father. God, the Holy Ghost, given to us, as that mighty power working in us: He must not be grieved! Oh! that we might have a deeper sense of it, that there may be nothing of the old man in us to grieve the blessed Spirit of God. As children beloved we are before God the Father, sent out to shine before men. If God has shined into our hearts in all the perfection of the revelation of Himself, so He is to shine in the two characteristics of His life, love and light. What a confirmation of the place that the responsibility which flows from it, should be that we come from heaven, and manifest nothing but what God is. (Eph. 4:17, 30; 5:1-2, 8).
We may say who is sufficient for these things? We have the power working in us to walk according to it. Turn to the service of the Lord Jesus for us, as set before us in ch. 5:25-27. He "loved the church and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." This is not only a love of the past; He is now sanctifying and cleansing it, presenting Himself to our hearts, so that we may be more and more answering to Him, that He may at last present us to Himself "a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing." The distinct object before His heart is, that we should answer perfectly to what we are in Him as we find it revealed in Ch. 1. How blessed, when humbled at the thought of all the failure to be able to turn to Him. He did not cleanse that He might love the church, but because He loves it. Oh that we may yield ourselves to the power of the truth, so that we may be formed more like Him, until He will be satisfied, when He has us before Himself! What rest to know that not one will be missing there!