God’s Great Secret

H. Nunnerley

There is a wonderful mine, a treasure house of wisdom and knowledge unfolded in Ephesians. Secrets hidden in the divine mind are there revealed. We not only learn our individual blessings as sons before the Father in love, but also God’s purpose and counsel ere worlds were: “One new man” was to be formed out of Jew and Gentile; a third company out of both, but belonging to neither. Every believer, indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit, belongs to, and forms part of, this living organism, this new man called the Church of God. Each chapter in Ephesians presents it in a different aspect.

Chapter 1 ends by telling us the Church is Christ’s body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all. Here we are taught that an actual, though mystic, body exists in the world, left here to express the mind, show forth the virtues, delineate the moral glories and beauteous graces of her exalted Head.

The least of all saints is part of, and a necessary member of, this body, just as the little finger is part of the natural body. We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones (chap. 5:30). Thus Christ lives in His saints and they live of His life; their mission here is not to call attention to the Church for salvation, or to themselves, as forming part of it but to exalt her glorious Head and express Him in this world.

Chapter 2 ends with this same company looked at as a habitation, and a holy temple, where God, through the Spirit, finds a dwelling. place. This building is fitly framed together; every stone in its structure is to utter the glory of its Builder; its foundation and chief corner stone being Jesus the Christ: holiness to the Lord is on its gates and inscribed on its walls. It is both living and growing unto a holy temple in the Lord. In this wonderful house it is the Spirit’s delight and mission to set the living stones, and, though His work is noiseless and unseen, yet it as surely goes on, as in Solomon’s temple, the stones were, without sound of hammer or chisel, fitted into the niche they were to occupy. Christ is Himself the living stone, all saints are living stones, and, as such, are built up a spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5).

Their privilege is to know themselves as fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God. Their occupation is to offer up spiritual sacrifices and show forth the virtues of Him who has not only called them into His marvellous light, but made them the dwelling-place of God. Unlike Herod’s temple, it is not adorned with goodly stones and gifts to draw attention to itself. Concentration of thought on the house, with a view to draw attention to it, is ensnaring, as the building thus often becomes more than the Builder, the house more than the divine Occupant. “Where is the house that ye build unto Me, saith the Lord?” “To this man will I look, to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembleth at My word” (Isa. 66:1-2). Let us beware of any teaching which makes more of the house than the Occupant. Peter rebukes this in saying, “Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk” (Acts 3:12).

Chapter 3 ends with this same company viewed as the vessel in which glory is to be displayed by Christ Jesus throughout all ages. It is eternally to declare to all created intelligences the perfections and excellencies of the blessed God; to make known that our God is not only great in power and mighty in working, but is a God of love, grace, goodness, glory. The Church is His chosen instrument to make known His manifold wisdom now, His grace and exceeding kindness then (chap. 2:7, 3:10). But it is God who is thus disclosed, the revealings of His blessed heart and nature—God—not the Church. Christ Jesus is going to be admired in all them that believe, glorified in—not by—His saints (2 Thess 1:10).

Chapter 4 tells us that a glorious Victor has ascended up on high, and received gifts. We learn how deeply He is concerned in the formation and growth of this elect company, by dispensing those gifts for the gathering out and growth of those who are both His body and God’s temple. Evangelists, pastors and teachers are given with one end in view. An evangelist is Christ’s gift to the Church; he is to carry on his service, if he would not miss his Master’s mind, in the distinct consciousness that he is, primarily, to seek, like the workmen for the temple in Solomon’s day, to dislodge the stones in view of their place in God’s house. He is to labour to excavate poor sinners from the miry clay in which they are embedded, in order to fill their niche in the living structure, now growing and forming, and which will soon be revealed in glory. It does not follow that this need be the subject-matter of his preaching, but, if it is not its ultimate object, he will miss the purpose for which he was gifted. Pastors and teachers are given to follow up, and complete His work, and continue what he has been privileged to begin. There need be no rivalry between them and evangelists, as neither can take the others’ place, or be dispensed with in their special sphere of service. Theirs to comfort, edify, and perfect the body of Christ, and lead them on in the mysteries of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God. In proportion as love is the moving spring of ministry the body will grow, for growth is promoted by truth spoken in love. Whatever ministry lacks the edification of Christ’s body in love tends to puff up, instead of build up. Service is revealed by its effects in the saints, the seed sown producing a crop according to the nature of what is sown. Whatever scatters those whom Christ died to gather, brings its own condemnation. One Spirit animates the one body, and He ever guides into truth which makes for the uniting bond of peace and holy unity.

Chapter 5 leads us a step further. It reminds us, if gifts fail in their mission, and evangelists, pastors, and teachers are diverted from the Church, as God’s great thought for today, Christ Himself never is. Past, present, or future, she shines out as the supreme delight of His heart, the one object of His unceasing love,

His deep personal love came out in the past when He loved the Church, and gave Himself for it. HIMSELF!! Linger with adoring worship over that word HIMSELF. Rich, He had become poor for her sake, resigned His throne and right to command in order to win, woo, and ransom His bride, but none of these expressed the fulness of His love. He not only sold all that He possessed to purchase this rare and valued pearl; but last, and greatest of all, on the cross He gave Himself.

Nor does His love stop there. Having purchased His bride at such “a cost”, He now spends His life for her; every moment she is the object of His patient, gracious love and care. He sanctifies by unfolding those heavenly joys into which He has already entered, and seeks to lead her apart to enjoy, in spirit now, what will presently be her everlasting portion.

Nor does He forget that the chaste Virgin—espoused though she be—is passing through a defiling world, so, on His side, He never allows a spot to remain. She is cleansed and fitted, at any moment, to be presented to Himself all glorious, without a spot. She, on her side, is to submit to the cleansing action of the word, and allow it to wash away any defilement she may contract; but, however unfaithful she may be to her high and holy privileges, He never fails in His love and care. As the Advocate with the Father, He takes up any and every failure, in intercession. On the ground of His finished work, in faithfulness and justice to Him, saints are forgiven and restored, and thus preserved, under the eye and heart of God, His Father, in purity and righteousness.

Chapter 6 tells us that Christ’s body and bride is the object of the unceasing and persistent attack of Satan. Principalities and powers, wicked spirits in heavenly places, are all arrayed against her. Paul, the chosen vessel to unfold her present privileges and future destiny, was in bonds in a Roman prison. The greatest gift Christ ever gave to the Church, thus hindered in service outwardly, but not actually, as this epistle proves; apparent defeat means final triumph. Christ has said it is “My Church,” and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. His servants may be shut up in prison, be thrown to the lions, slain by the sword, cast out and burnt at the stake, but His body still exists, the Temple still grows, gifts are still given, Christ’s service is still unhindered, and His love as full, fresh, and changeless as ever. Those whom He loved and died for He keeps, those whom He keeps He sanctifies and cleanses, and will presently present to Himself—a church, all glorious.

How this Epistle reminds us that the supreme object before God, and Christ, and the Spirit is the Church of God.

Every variety of service is allocated to its members, and no true service can be disconnected therefrom. It is God’s masterpiece, the revelation of His counsels, peculiar to Him.

“No other mind

For thoughts so bold, so free,

Greatness or strength could ever find.”

Baptised by one Spirit, into one body, each member is responsible to walk harmoniously with the other. In proportion as saints love each other with a pure heart fervently, seek to edify each other in love, and put on love, which is the bond of perfectness, will they live out what is in the Head, for Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. The body is to express Christ, not call attention to itself, and the more the bride is occupied with the Bridegroom the less she will think of herself, and the more of Him will be seen.

H.Nunnerley

Words of Grace and Encouragement 1909