Brief Thoughts on Ephesians 5.

Ephesians 5.

1882 25 The character of the Epistle to the Ephesians is peculiar in this remarkable respect, that it sets the church already so entirely in Christ the Head, that it does not speak of the coming of the Lord. The reason is evident. It supposes the saint to be one with Christ, already sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. ii. 6), ever knowing the body to be united to the Head. As to blessing, it is "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." So as to testimony, it is "that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known, by the church, the manifold wisdom of God."

As to where we are put, we are not only "quickened together with Christ, but "raised up together," etc. Lastly, as to conflict, we are called to wrestle against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places.

If we look at the Lord as coming for His saints, we see them distinct from Him; and individually we are so, of course, and waiting for Him. If I am here and He is there, we are two and not one. But the truth in this Epistle rises higher, never looking at the saints as apart from, but as in, Christ. The whole body is seen so connected with the Head, by the power of the Spirit, that they cannot be separated — "members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones." "No man hateth his own flesh." Thus, then, in Ephesians, whether it is blessing, testimony, conflict, or where we are, all is heavenly, and the measure and standard of our conduct to be the heavenly man, "as the truth is in Jesus."

In Ephesians i. the counsels of God are considered. Ephesians ii. is His power to usward who believe. Ephesians iii. is the character of His blessing as to the Gentiles. Ephesians iv. is the character of the saints as the body of Christ in heaven, and as the habitation of the Spirit down here; also the practice becoming such. In Ephesians 5 we have the exercise of Christ's love toward those so suited to Him. It is not only what is the plan of God that we need to know; but also what is the exercise of Christ's affections towards us in that plan. So here it is not the plans and thoughts of grace, but the exercise of grace. It shows us the way Christ feels in His relationship, whatever we are.

Divine teaching ever connects the commonest details of ordinary life with the highest privileges. That which loosens the bonds of common life is not the testimony of God, but strange doctrine which none should heed or spare. Whatever are the privileges of the saints, they are brought to the light; and it is by the light everything is tested. Those who have Christ can afford to have it so. Truth always justifies the conscience in a man in his commonplace duties (of course I mean a just conscience: there may be a morbid conscience). The truth ever would lead to the fulfilment of those common duties which all own to be duties; and this is the grace of Christ.

Again, whenever the grace and love of God act on a saint, it always goes back to God. Thus the incense in the Holy place ever ascended, but the fragrance was not for the priests but for God. It was done entirely for God, and the sweet savour was diffused all around. Whatever Christ did, He did to God, and it was a sweet savour. If it is not so with us, it is nothing but selfishness.

Christ loved us, and gave Himself for us. "Here is the greatest act of love to us," but it was a sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:2) of a "sweet smelling savour." Love cannot come down and act in this perfect — this heavenly — man, without its perfection being Godward. Love, having God ever before it, can go on ever according to the mind of God, amidst all opposition. In its perfectness this could be found only in Christ. We have it, but mingled with much failure. Love comes down from God, and must return to God. We know how self-applause and many mixed motives creep in with us afterwards, even if not at the time; but oh, beloved brethren, we should earnestly seek that our motives may be single and Godward. It is a dreadful thing for the grace which God has given to be used for self. Never did Christ seek His own glory. It was His Father's glory. It is indispensable for internal (I speak not of external) holiness to have the heart exercised about this. This broad truth is laid down (Eph. 5:5), but it rests not here. "Because of these things (Eph. 5:6) the wrath of God cometh, etc." Mark, unbelief is the root of all sins; it is not the only sin, and all sins deny the character of God. All our privileges bring us to God. God has a certain character, and He cannot allow anything unsuitable to that. Ye were darkness, but now are ye light. It is not we have got light, but we are light: the very nature is light. Darkness and light can never be together.

Eph. 5:8: "Ye were darkness," etc. This principle having been laid down, we have the measure and standard of this light (Eph. 5:14), even Christ Himself. "Awake thou that sleepest, etc." Christ is the standard. You are asleep a little, not dead actually, but practically as if dead. Let me awake, and enjoy all I can in Christ. What do I get in Christ? Everything. This "awaking" does not mean the conscience merely avoiding certain things; but it is the having Christ Himself, as "formed in us." While I have the nature, I have also Christ the object before me, and He is Light. Light is before my soul, as well as within. Christ is my life, and I get in Christ divine perfectness as well as life. "Christ shall give thee light." Let us take one instance. People think it a great matter if a man has what they call a "fine fortune" left him. But Christ says, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God." A man's life consisteth not in the abundance," etc. "Woe to them that are rich:" riches may be the ruin of a man, is that light?

Eph. 5:15: "See that ye walk circumspectly, etc., not as fools, but as wise." This is not only to avoid certain things, but there is something to be gained: divine wisdom to live Christ. We have to walk with all the wisdom of God. Satan is seeking to trip us up, to dim our testimony, to cause that to be seen in us which is not Christ.

"Redeeming the time" (Eph. 5:16): we are called, in a world that is against us, to be awaiting every opportunity to seize for Christ. To live Christ before the world, that is wisdom; "redeeming the time" is not merely not wasting it. The devil seeks to preoccupy men's thoughts and affections: we want to redeem time from this, by seeking every opportunity of introducing Christ.

Ephesians 5:18: "Be filled with the Spirit" — nothing but the Spirit. It is a vessel filled with one thing — the Holy Ghost, the spring and source in the soul of all you do; and Christ will be the object. The Spirit may give understanding, and the mind still be working, but when "filled with the Spirit" the whole man becomes the instrument in His hands, so that he thinks, feels, utters only what the Spirit gives. The word of God will govern; for, mark, I speak here of power, not of revelation. Thus "filled with the Spirit," the flesh would not meddle with the things of God. But too often we mix up our own thoughts, and we introduce things at the wrong time. We want to be as clay moulded by Him. What a deliverance is this from self! what a consciousness of the power of God in s when thus filled with the Spirit! All must acknowledge how little of this there is in us. All is so mingled. There is so little of the complete setting aside of all that is of man. If we fail, the conscience has to be dealt with; but our normal condition is to be walking with God, "filled with the Spirit;" our proper joy is in God. So, Eph. 5:19, "Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." While looking up, looking down, "giving thanks to God and the Father." What, for tribulation? Yes! because the Spirit gives me to see God in the tribulation. "Filled with the Spirit," I am ever giving thanks to God. See how Christ rejoiced in spirit, saying "I thank Thee, Father" (Matt. xi.), when still, as to circumstances of sorrow around, His heart was breaking. The secret of this was, that while grieved at Israel's rejection of Him, He was in perfect communion with His Father, and with the glorious thoughts of God about His Son.

Very often the flesh is not broken down enough to make a man take the place, and walk in the truth, which God Himself has revealed to the soul. Thus it was with Peter (Matthew xvi. 17, 21-23). Though he had just made the blessed confession of Christ which the Father had revealed to him, as the Christ, the Son of the living God, when the Lord spoke of His path of humiliation, as Son of man, Peter could not bear it, and beseeches Him not to speak thus. Peter's flesh was not broken down enough to walk in the power of the truth he had received and rejoiced in. So it is with us.

In verse 25, etc., God is bringing out what Christ is in His relationship to His body the church. As in Rom. viii., it is in the first part of the chapter God IN us, and in the latter part God FOR us (and thus we are said to be predestinated, justified, glorified, and sanctification is not spoken of); so here God speaks of what Christ is for the church. The spring of all is Christ's love. "He loved the church." God showed Him that pearl of great price, and Christ must have it, though He give Himself for it! All that Christ is in the perfection of His holiness, wisdom, and grace, all that is Himself, all He gave for the church (the shedding of His blood is not spoken of here): not only what He had, not only His life, but Himself. A man cannot give more than himself. Thus wholly is Christ ours by Divine gift, and according to the perfectness with which God gives. Christ loved the church, but having a bride, He must have her according to His own mind. He does not sanctify her first and then make her His own, but He makes her His own in order to sanctify her (see verses 25, 26.) Hence the "washing of water by the word." The written word is the mind of God. Thus Christ gives the expression of His own heart and mind to the church in the word, in order to make it like Himself. "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth." This testimony to all that God is in Christ is applied to the Church to conform her to Himself. God must have the Lamb's wife like Himself (partakers of the Divine nature). Even nature teaches this, and thus Christ applies the word which is the revelation of God in Christ, in order to bring us into this likeness to Himself, and to cause God's thoughts to be ours. See verses 2, 3 of chap. i., "Holy and without blame before Him in love." This is what God is, and this is what the love of Christ is doing for the church. "That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." The word cleanses a man's affections, and not only cleanses, but the end is to make glorious. Even now the glory shines in on us, and we are changed from glory to glory, etc. Thus the apostle; he saw the light — the light of Christ at the end, and each step as he approached he got more of that light. The power of the glory is applied by Christ through the word. Christ must have the church for himself. We get this principle in Canticles (not that I think we have the church in Canticles, but the Jewish remnant; still, we get the principles of Christ's love there). The first thought is having got Christ; but then follows, "I am my Beloved's, and His desire is towards me." I belong to Christ. It is a remarkable and beautiful expression in Gen. ii. 22 (with reference to Eve as a type of the church) "the Lord God builded" (see margin) "a woman."

The Lord God presents this woman to Adam. The second Adam, being the Lord God, "presents" His glorious church without "spot" to "Himself."

All the perfection of God became man in order that He might be satisfied as to His church. Ah! here the heart gets happy and humble. It is when I am dependent on the affection of another that my heart gets humbled, and learns to rest in a sanctified way upon the object of affection. Our hearts no longer thirst (see John iv. 14). We get our life out of Christ, Gal. ii. 20: "The life that I live, I live by the faith of the Son of God." All through this time of our weakness we have the unceasing love of one who nourishes and cherishes us as His own flesh; and there is a kind of blessed necessity for this. "No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ the church: for we are members of His body, etc.

Verse 28. It is most sweet to take the motive of our duties from the pattern we have in Christ. There is not one relationship owned by God for which we fail to find a pattern in the things of God. In this passage it is the devotedness of love. It is not the blood, but all the perfect, the precious, tender, unceasing care of love (of His Son who gave Himself for us), until He shall present us to Himself a glorious church, holy and without blemish.

Beloved brethren, how our hearts need to be learning more of this love of Christ which passeth knowledge.