Comments On The Epistle To The Ephesians
Paul's epistle to the Ephesians brings us face to face with the magnificent counsels of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in reference to the exalted position and blessings of every child of God in the present age. God's purpose and the execution of it are seen to be absolutely divine, not in the least degree dependent on the character or works of those who are blessed, but on God's sovereign grace alone. Such grace freely gives them a present position and present blessings as high as Heaven is above the earth, a great contrast to the earthly inheritance and earthly blessing promised to Israel on condition of obedience to law. "Heavenly places" or "the heavenlies" are mentioned five times in the book, not as a future hope, but as a present possession. All is seen to be absolutely secured to the believer as being "in Christ." Christ, by virtue of His infinitely valuable work of redemption, has rightly inherited all things, and He is the Representative of all His redeemed saints, with whom by grace He delights to share the benefits of all His work. God's counsels are seen here concerning the Church as God's building, as the one body of Christ and as His future wife. Even the conflict of believers is here connected with heavenly places, not with flesh and blood.
As an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul writes this epistle as an authoritative communication from God. Indeed, his apostleship is "by the will of God." Nothing of his own or of any other person's activity is involved in this at all. God gave Paul this place: he must simply accept it and act for God in it. No other could possibly substitute for him here.
The epistle is not addressed to the Ephesian assembly as such, but to the saints at Ephesus, for assembly order is not the subject. They are "saints (sanctified ones) and faithful in Christ Jesus." This is the proper character of all believers: it is not the measure of their faithfulness of which he speaks, but of the fact, true of all.
Paul assures them of grace (v.2), not mercy, for -- considers one in circumstances of need, sorrow or misery, as used in some personal epistles, but grace lifts one above all circumstances. Grace presents the saints as "in Christ Jesus," the divine title that speaks of the glorified Christ. Peace is added, that which is calm tranquility, again above an earthly level. The source of this peace is God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
BELIEVERS INFINITELY BLESSED
The apostle's heart expands with fervent rejoicing at the mention of the name of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Our God and Father has revealed Himself in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In doing so He has blessed every saint of this dispensation with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ (v.3). A dispensation is the special mode of God's dealings at any particular time, while an age refers to the time period of the dispensation. This statement of verse 3 is so amazing and sweeping that many suppose it cannot mean what it says. But it is as plain as language can make it, and absolutely true. It is not a promise, as was given to Abraham (Gen.12:2-3) and certainly not a conditional promise on the ground of obedience to law, as was given to Moses (Ex.19:5), but a present fact absolutely and eternally established. What are these blessings? Two elementary and basic ones are found in verse 7 - redemption and forgiveness of sins. Added to these are a host of others elsewhere mentioned -- justification, sanctification, new birth, eternal life, peace, nearness, reconciliation, the gift of the Spirit, etc. Not one of these is lacking to any child of God of the age. He may not understand this, nor enjoy his proper blessings, but this in no way affects the fact that God has blessed him with them all.
Israel was promised temporal blessings in earthly places on condition of obedience to law. But all of their attempted works have gained them nothing. But God has given, on the ground of His grace alone and by virtue of the infinitely valuable sacrifice of His Son, every spiritual blessing in heavenly places to all who receive His Son in this day of His grace. This verse entitles us to claim every spiritual blessing we find in either the Old or New Testament. We cannot claim the temporal blessings promised to Israel, but what is spiritual is ours.
Verse 4 shows these great blessings to be in accordance with God's choosing (electing) believers "in Christ before the foundation of the world." The earthly kingdom is said to be prepared from the foundation of the earth (Mt.25:34), but here the heavenly inheritance is prepared and each individual saint is said to be chosen in Him before the earth's foundation. This emphasizes how totally of heaven is the calling, the inheritance and the blessing of the saints of God today. Indeed, all of these are connected with the eternal purpose of God, who has chosen us altogether apart from the question of our human responsibility, in absolute sovereign grace. For He is God, and all glory belongs to Him: our eternal blessing is not to our credit at all, but to His. If this fact is not understood and accepted, much of Scripture will seem out of place and unnecessary by those who are anxious to get people saved by any means possible, as if it were by human effort that people are born again! God's work is infinitely more vital and real than all that man may accomplish.
God's object in so greatly blessing us is that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love (v.4). It is God also who makes us holy and without blemish, for this would be impossible for us by fleshly human effort. These things are God's workmanship, though certainly we should so appreciate such grace that it draws a true response from us, but the response is not the subject in this verse. In God's sight the believer is holy and without blemish as the fruit of the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus, and is established in perfect love before the Father's face.
While verse 4 shows that God's choosing (or election) has in mind, verse 5 shows that predestination has in mind the blessing for which they were marked out beforehand. This blessing is "adoption by Jesus Christ to Himself." Let us not miss the great blessing of this. Adoption was unknown in the Old Testament. Though Old Testament believers were children of God by new birth (Gal.4:1-3), yet adoption did not take place until the cross of Christ, and those who before the cross "differed nothing from servants," have now received the adoption of sons. Adoption is not simply the child's place of being born again into family relationship, but the son's place of dignity and liberty of knowing the Father's will, and as "joint heirs with Christ," being entrusted with the Father's goods as one mature enough to be brought into partnership. The liberty and dignity of Christian position in contrast to legal bondage is emphasized in so marvelous a position being given us, which was in God's thoughts for us long before we existed, according to the good pleasure of His will. Precious resting place for faith!
Even now the wonder of these blessings is "to the praise of the glory of His grace," and will be so for eternity, It is not simply the glory of His greatness, but of His grace towards those whom He delights to accept "in the Beloved" (v.6). This expression is used to insist that just as Christ -- the Beloved -- is loved by the Father, so is the believer loved for Christ's sake; and just as it is impossible for Him to lose this place in the Father's affections, so it is equally impossible for every person who is accepted in Him.
Verse 7 shows how all that might have hindered our acceptance has been totally removed since every believer possesses redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Redemption involves both a purchase price and the setting at liberty of those in bondage. Wonderful indeed is the value of the blood of Christ! Forgiveness is the discharging of offenses by the One against whom the offense has been. Christ's blood has made possible and accomplished this forgiveness according to the riches of His grace.
God has abounded in this grace: there is no limiting, no reserve, but the full, free flow of His love expressed in favor to His saints. And this grace is not simply moved by a burst of ardent affection, but by pure wisdom and prudence, with the calm deliberation of eternal intelligence (v.8). How perfectly His grace and wisdom are intermingled in these marvelous things!
Our knowledge of these divine counsels (v.9) can be only by revelation, and here Paul declares the mystery of God's will. That will was a mystery because it was unknown before the present age. According to His good pleasure God has purposed in Himself (with no consulting of any other) that "in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ" (v.10). This refers to the completion of God's dispensational ways in administering the affairs of both heavenly and earthly spheres in marvelous unity, all things being headed up in Christ for His righteous reign of one thousand years (the Millennium).
In the world today there is no recognition of any uniting bond between heaven and earth, and therefore no practical experiencing of the wise and gracious rule of the heavens in the affairs of earth. The millennium will totally reverse this. Because of man's alienation from God, man has determined to manage earth's affairs independently of heaven, and God has given him the opportunity to prove what he can do. Therefore the present time is called "man's day" (1 Cor.4:3 - margin). But "the day of the Lord" will coming. That will be the time when He intervenes to take control back into His own capable hands by means of the solemn judgments of the Great Tribulation. These judgments which will follow the Lord's coming to rapture believers Home to heaven, and are spoken of as "great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Mt.24:21).
Verse 10 then indicates that Christ is appointed heir of all things (Heb.1:2), and verse 11 declares that in Him we have already obtained an inheritance, for though verse 10 speaks of the future, verse 11 speaks of the present. Compare Romans 8:17. In Revelation 21:7 John speaks of our inheritance as being future: "He who overcomes shall inherit all things," but the viewpoint of Ephesians is that "in Christ" the inheritance is ours now. As we know and appreciate Christ, so we will know and appreciate our inheritance.
Note the contrasts between verses 5 and 11. In verse 5 predestination had in view the blessing of adoption. Verse 11 describes the blessing of the inheritance (not a question of chosen). Also, when adoption (or sonship) is spoken of, it is "unto Himself" and therefore "according to the good pleasure of His will," a term that involves His tender affections. When the inheritance is spoken of, His great power and wisdom are emphasized, "according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His own will."
Grace toward us as Gentiles is involved in verse 5. Our adoption as sons is "to the praise of the glory of His grace." But in verse 11 God's majestic power and wisdom is predominant, so Jewish believers are said in verse 12 to be "to the praise of His glory," with no mention of grace. Grace is specially emphasized where Gentiles are concerned, since they were never the subjects of God's original promises.
Since the gospel was to the Jew first, Jews are spoken of as first trusting Christ. In verse 13 the "you" distinguishes Gentiles, who also, having heard the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation, have trusted in Christ. Notice the importance of the words "in whom," twice found in this verse. Their trust was not simply in the gospel, but in the person of Christ, of whom the gospel speaks. This trust in Christ is emphasized the second time in reference to their being sealed with the Spirit. "Having believed," they were sealed. It is not a matter of having entered more into the truth of the work of Christ in redemption, but simply of believing in Him personally. The simplest believer therefore shares in the sealing of the Spirit. As the seal, the Spirit of God is the mark of God's ownership upon the believer. Therefore that ownership is absolute and eternal.
The expression in verse 13, "the Holy Spirit of promise," reminds us of John 7:37-39 where the Lord Jesus, when on earth, promised the Holy Spirit to those who believed on Him. This promise was fulfilled after He was glorified, as is recorded in Acts 2. Notice again that verse 13 twice emphasizes that the Ephesians believed in Christ personally. It is not a matter here of what He has accomplished nor is it dependent on our understanding of what He has accomplished. It is for every believer in Him. As well as being the seal, the Spirit of God is also "the earnest of our inheritance." That is, His presence within us is the pledge and foretaste of what is yet to come, the inheritance which, though purchased for us, has not yet been redeemed (v.14). Though all believers are now redeemed (v.7) and our blessings are rightly in heavenly places, Satan still has access there (ch.6:6-12). Therefore, our proper possession will not be redeemed, or liberated from Satan's cruel influence until he is cast down from heaven (Rev.12:7-9). One may have paid the full purchase price for some property and yet be hindered from taking possession because of the determination of a former occupant to remain there, of course illegally. Thus, while every believer has been redeemed, his purchased possession has not yet been redeemed, that is, liberated from the presence of the enemy.
The shedding of the blood of Christ has accomplished redemption for us in every moral respect, but it remains for redemption by His power to put the usurper out, liberating the possession from all satanic influence and giving it fully into the hands of those who are the true heirs. This again is "to praise of His glory." Grace is not mentioned because this is redemption by His power, so His majestic greatness is foremost.
PRAYER FOR SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING
It would seem from verse 15 that fresh news of Ephesus had stimulated Paul's prayers for them. He had been with them on a former occasion for three years (Acts 10:31). Now to hear of their faith in the Lord Jesus and love to all the saints, caused his constant thanksgiving for them, and prayers. Are we concerned about assemblies at a distance from us?
Paul's prayer is based on the truth declared in the first part of this chapter. Since God has decreed that all things are to be headed up in the Man Christ Jesus, the prayer is addressed to "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory" (v.17). Christ is viewed as Man when God is said to be His God. But His deity is foremost when God is called His Father, as in chapter 3:14. This prayer of Chapter 1 has in view our entering into and understanding the full truth of all that is given us in Christ as the Man of God's counsels. The Father is seen as the source of all this glory which the Lord Jesus shares with His saints.
That God should give His saints the spirit of wisdom and revelation is not referring to the gift of the Spirit of God personally, for verse 13 declared them already to be sealed with the Holy Spirit. But just as "the spirit of meekness" (Gal.6:1) refers to an attitude characterized by meekness, so this is an attitude characterized by both wisdom and revelation. Wisdom is that which applies rightly whatever knowledge we may have learned. But the spirit of revelation is that attitude of soul that is ready to receive directly from the Lord whatever thoughts He may reveal to us. Thus, as we meditate or think about Christ and His Word, precious things may suddenly come to us which are not the result merely of learning and wisdom. Though having always been in His Word, they had not been formerly revealed to us by God. Wonderful are the gracious ways of our God and Father!
This wisdom and revelation is to be "in the knowledge of Him" (v.17), for in knowing Him personally we shall understand far better His counsels and His ways. Also in verse 18 it is not merely the intellect that is to be involved, but "being enlightened in the eyes of your heart" (Translation by J.N.Darby), for the heart symbolizes the very center of our being and implies the whole person from a spiritual viewpoint.
Paul prays for the Ephesians to have knowledge of three specific matters:
First, "the hope of His calling" (v.18). This hope involves the coming of the Lord Jesus to transfer all believers into His heavenly glory, and therefore to be identified with Him when He administers all things in His millennial reign. How much there is for us to learn in connection with this! For instance, "we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is" (1 Jn.3:2).
Secondly, "the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." Here it is not simply His displayed glory, but that glory given to Him in His inheriting the saints themselves as His own eternal possession, so precious to Himself. Then we shall understand more fully than ever before that we are the Father's love-gift to Christ (Jn.17:6).
Third, desire of Paul's prayer is that we might know the exceeding greatness of God's power toward us who believe (v.19). Here is power far exceeding all seen in the natural realm, and it is on behalf of believers. It is power already displayed in the resurrection of Christ, proving God's infinite capability to fulfill all His wonderful counsels in Christ. It is resurrection power accomplished in Christ -- God's own great work of power in raising Him from among the dead and seating Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies. It may be remarked here that the Lord Jesus personally said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up," speaking of the temple of His body (Jn.2:19-21). He raised His own body, for He is God. 1 Peter 3:18 speaks of His being "made alive by the Spirit," for the Spirit is God. Romans 6:4 tells us He "was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father," for the Father is God. Therefore, the Trinity was engaged in this mighty work of Christ's resurrection.
That power has elevated Him to the place of supremacy at God's right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality, authority, power and dominion, and every name named (v.21). Principalities and powers (or authorities) are seen in chapter 6:12 to refer to the spiritual realm, angelic beings -- in that case evil in nature -- but chapter 1:21 includes all spirit beings, good or evil. Such exaltation is true both in this age - and in the coming age of the millennial kingdom. As Man the Lord Jesus is exalted above all creation, and will be until at the end of the Millennium when He delivers up the kingdom to God the Father (1 Cor.15:24).
"And He put all things under His feet" (v.22) indicates His authority. All creation is subject to Him. To this is added His Headship which involves His vital interest in and directing of "all things." The entire universe is under His headship. This may not be seen by the world, but "to the Church" it is a plainly established fact. She sees now what will yet be manifest to the world, and she has a place of special nearness, as His body, "the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (v.23). He who fills all things in His divine glory and dignity, and in this way had need of nothing whatever, yet became Man. As Man He needs His body the Church to fill out the preciousness of His Manhood. Wonderful, matchless, precious grace!
BELIEVERS CHANGED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH
The first three verse of chapter 2 go back to consider the state and circumstances from which the Ephesians had been brought, the same sad state to which all mankind has been reduced as a result of sin. However, verses 4 to 6 show the state and circumstances into which the grace of God has brought us who believe. "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (v.1) emphatically refers to the Ephesians, being Gentiles. Notice, they are not considered here from the viewpoint of their responsibility to God ( as is the case in Romans where man is seen as living in sins -- Rom.1:26-32; 2:1), but from the viewpoint of being totally dead towards God. As dead they have no spark of response to Him and no ability to change anything. Therefore they were dependent absolutely on God's pure grace, as we all are!
They could do nothing for themselves. Their state was one of spiritual death, and their walk according to the course of this world, the only way they naturally knew. It was also according to the prince of the power of the air for Satan has usurped authority and has so completely corrupted people's minds by sin that they can see nothing else because they are sons of disobedience (v.2): their nature has been formed in that way. Therefore it is natural for even the world's "best" characters to have no living relationship to God. The expression "prince of the power of the air" indicates that the very atmosphere of mankind's existence has been polluted through giving in to Satan, as was true of Adam and Eve. Satan's evil influence has corrupted every area of human life.
Verse 3 shows the type of companionship -- empty and useless -- in which we have all been involved, whether Jews or Gentiles. The whole mass of mankind has been together indulging in unprofitable, sinful practices as led by their own lusts (natural desires), whether of the flesh or of the mind. The desires of the flesh are simply the selfish graspings of the "me generation," while the desires of the mind may be more refined for the mind can rationalize things in such a way as make sin seem good. But it is still merely selfish and still disobedience to God. Consider the things you may be doing now or are planning to do later, things in some way rationalized as good when they are really sinful! How tragic a sight, to see all the world madly rushing in this hopeless direction! Thus, the Jews as well as the Gentiles by are seen by God as "children of wrath" (v.3), those who by disobedience have incurred the wrath of God. How desolate, miserable and hopeless is man by nature!
"But God!" Wonderful is the intervention both of His grace and power! He who is "rich in mercy, because of His great loved with which He loved us," even in a state of spiritual death in the corruption of sins, has "made us alive together with Christ" (v.4). The riches of His mercy is first mentioned, mercy that is the outcome of His great love. Mercy is that compassion that comes down to meet one in his circumstances of need, sorrow or misery. Such was the Samaritan in Luke 10:33 who "came where he was" to the man who had been attacked by robbers and left half dead, and cared for his needs. What great love has made our Savior stoop so low to meet us in the extremity of our hopeless misery, bearing our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Pet.2:24) and bringing us to Himself! What mercy! but it is because of the love of His own blessed nature.
"Made us alive together with Christ" refers to His bringing us out of spiritual death into eternal life. The power of the voice of the Son of God has done this, as John 5:25 affirms: "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live." One may object and argue that the dead cannot hear, but this depends on whose voice is speaking. He who is superior to death can make the spiritually dead hear, and in hearing they live. The literal resurrection of Lazarus (Jn.11:41- 44) is a picture of spiritual resurrection. When the Lord spoke, Lazarus came forth. The dead man heard and responded.
Thus, by divine grace alone, our state is totally changed from spiritual death to resurrection life. Nor are we left in the graveyard, that is, in a world sunk in the corruption of death. For God's ways with us involve more than mercy. We are told at the end of verse 5, "by grace you have been saved." Mercy has had compassion on us where we were, but grace lifts us high above our circumstances. It saves us from our sins and it saves us from an evil world as verse 6 makes clear: "and raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." God's grace or favor has power in it. We saw (chapter 1:3) that our blessings are in heavenly places, but now we find also that our position is in heavenly places. We are seen there because our Representative is there, the Lord Jesus. We surely do not enjoy it as we should, but the fact remains absolute: our permanent position is in heavenly places.
While the above is true for the believer now, verse 7 lifts us up in heart to consider God's great object in such blessing. Whether in the millennial age or "the age of ages" (eternity), our blessings and position in Christ will "show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Eternity will never exhaust the wonder and preciousness of such grace and kindness, and never diminish its luster.
The concluding verses of the section (8-10) show that salvation is entirely by grace on God's part, pure favor at a time when we deserved wrath and judgment. "Through faith" is the means by which we receive such grace, faith being not in itself a thing of merit, but that which rightly recognizes all merit in the Lord Jesus Christ, having confidence simply in Himself. "And that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." Even faith to believe is seen as God's gift for in our natural state faith was far from us. God alone has worked marvelously in changing matters, giving us faith and salvation by grace, and indeed every spiritual blessing.
Verse 9 firmly guards against the human natural thought to add works to grace and faith: "not of works, lest anyone should boast." All occasion for people's self exaltation is utterly taken away. We are reduced to our true place and God is exalted. Believers are seen to be "His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" (v.10). Precious work of new creation, by power infinitely higher than all human work! Let us delight to think of what it means to be the subjects of God's miraculous work. Yet His work in us is "for good works" (v.10), for good works are the proper result after God's work has brought salvation. Yet God has before prepared even these good works for us to walk in. Therefore, if we believers do good works, we have nothing to boast of, nor do we have any excuse for not doing them.
BROUGHT NEAR IN ONE BODY
Previous to verse 11 the blessing of every saint of God is seen. Now the precious truth is considered as to the mystery of the Church of God as the body of Christ and as the building of God. It is most instructive to see how this subject is approached in verses 11 and 12. Gentiles must remember the horrible pit from which they have been rescued. It is grace alone that has taken us from an utterly desolate condition, so we must guard against the natural and contemptible tendency to glory in flesh because of the greatness of the blessing God has given us. Israel fell because they were proud of being blessed by God, and Gentiles are now taking the same attitude (Rom.11:18-23). Gentiles had none of the advantages Israel had. They were called uncircumcision (often in contempt) by the Jews. They were "without Christ," with no promise even of the Messiah such as Israel had; aliens with a strong demarcation between them and Israel. They were "strangers," unknown since having no covenant relationship with God, for the promises and covenants were only for Israel (Rom.9:4). "No hope" and "without God," describes the general condition of Gentiles as such. Even in the Old Testament there were exceptions to this general hopeless situation, for some Gentiles were brought to God, which was a witness that God could reach the Gentiles in spite of their general condition. But the Ephesians knew that they were in such a hoeless condition before the gospel came to them. They were not to forget how great was the grace required to save them.
"But now" (v.13) connects with "But God" (v.4). A divine work, fully accomplished, has established us "in Christ Jesus." Though at one time "far off," we are brought near to God by the blood of Christ. That precious blood satisfies all the requirements of the righteous throne of God so He is delighted to have near to Him all those whom that blood has redeemed.
"For He Himself is our peace" (v.14). This is not the question of peace with God but of peace between Jews and Gentiles, who previously were enemies. Christ Himself is the present Bond between the believers of both groups. He has made both one, His blessed work of redemption has broken down the "middle wall" that so separated them. This middle wall involved both the law of God itself which separated Jews from Gentiles and the difference in cultures resulting mainly from that law.
The Lord Jesus has abolished the natural enmity between these peoples "in His flesh." Coming in flesh and blood, He has voluntarily "been put to death in the flesh" (1 Pet.3:18). This took away the guilt of believing Gentiles who were without law, but it also delivered Jews from the bondage of the Mosaic law which they had broken. "The law of commandments contained in ordinances" (v.15) has kept Jews and Gentiles far apart for the Jew boasted in the law, while the Gentile would have nothing of it. Yet the Jews only observed the law outwardly with selected forms and ceremonies. They could be fiercely zealous of it, yet have no real heart for obeying it to please God. But in Christ this is all done away. He has made in Himself "one new man" of two divergent peoples. This "one new man" is the body of Christ, the Church. So He who is our peace has made peace in a sphere that was once so extremely antagonistic.
This peace has united Jewish and Gentile believers with one another because both are reconciled to God in one body (v.16), joined together in a unity that is closer than the unity of Israel's tribes. This is an amazing work of the Spirit of God. The cross of Christ is the basis of it. Christ is the Head and Jewish and Gentile believers are unitedly His one body, the one new man of verse 15. How precious is such a unity in contrast to the enmity which once existed, which was slain by the cross. The cross accomplished this wonderful work, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2) has confirmed it in manifest testimony.
Christ has come in resurrection to preach peace to both Jews and Gentiles (v.17) His first words to His disciples gathered in the upper room were "Peace to you" (Lk.24:36), and He has continued to preach this message through His servants since that time, particularly through Paul who greatly emphasizes the truth of the one body.
Such a message of peace involves the full revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for through the Son both Jewish and Gentile believers now have access by the one Spirit of God to the Father (v.18). Our unity is vitally connected with the Trinity.
THE CHURCH AS GOD'S HOUSEHOLD
The Church has been shown to be one body, and the apostle will return to this in chapter 3:6. But in verses 19 to 22 the Church is considered as the building of God in various ways. Then in chapter 5:22-33 the aspect of the Church is seen as the espoused (or engaged) wife of Christ, not yet married, but to be married in the future. Interestingly, all of these are seen together illustrated in Genesis 2:21-22. Adam's wife was of His body before she became His wife. She is said to be "built" (JND) from his rib, a beautiful illustration of God's marvelous building, for she is typical of the Church, the body of Christ, the wife of Christ, and the building of God.
Now, rather than being strangers (unknown) and foreigners (unrelated), believing Gentiles are "fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God" (v.19). Being fellow citizens, we are of the same city, that is, the New Jerusalem (Rev.21:9-10), so we have the same future prospect in view. Our citizenship is there now, though the manifestation of this is future. Being members of the household of God is a matter for our present enjoyment: we are welcomed within the house as having our proper dwelling there.
Though it is true from one viewpoint that believers are in the house of God, yet it is true also that they comprise the house of God. Peter speaks of each believer as a living stone, all "being built up a spiritual house," which is the Church of God (1 Pet.2:5). Our chapter speaks of this same house as "a holy temple in the Lord," emphasizing the fact that it is the place where God's glory is manifested, not in public display, but in moral reality.
The foundation of God's house is vitally important here, just as we see in Revelation 21 that the foundations of the heavenly city are most prominent. See also Hebrews 11:10. In the building of the tower and city at Babel, we read of no foundation. Perhaps this indicated that a foundation was not significant since the building and tower would not endure. Here the foundation is said to be "of the apostles and prophets," not that they- are the foundation, for Christ Himself is the only foundation (1 Cor.3:10-11). But the apostles and prophets have laid the foundation by proclaiming the full truth concerning Him, His person, His work, His glory, His relationship with His body the Church, and all those truths that give Him the place of supreme honor. This involves all the apostles and prophets have written in the Scriptures.
Christ is also the corner stone of the house. He gives character to all the building and binds it together. He is not only the underlying foundation on which others build, but "in Him the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord" (v.21). Every stage of the building is vitally connected with and dependent upon Him at all times as it grows. In connection with Israel we read of the headstone or capstone (Zech.4:7) of Israel's temple, which seems to be connected with the completion of the building. But as to the Church this does not appear to be mentioned, for which there is surely a divine reason. Perhaps this may be because the Church will not be displayed on earth as a completed building. The Church as the body of Christ is looked at as complete at any given time in its history on earth, but as the temple it is not yet complete, for it will continue to grow until the Rapture when the Church will be forever complete. The glory of God is not yet as fully displayed in the Church as it eventually will be in glory. Yet as it grows, God's glory should in some measure be more and more manifested.
"In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling-place of God in the Spirit" (v.22). This is perhaps the most wonderful and vital matter for us in connection with this building, the house of God, today God is building believers together for the marvelous purpose of making them His own dwelling place at the present time! Israel had so defiled the temple in Jerusalem -- the only temple God had ever commanded to be built on earth - that when the Lord Jesus came He set aside that temple by speaking of "the temple of His body" (Jn.2:19-21). While God could no longer dwell in Israel's temple, He could dwell with perfect complacency in the body of the Lord Jesus. But since Christ has returned to glory, God is building a temple now -- the Church -- that is given the wonderful dignity of being the habitation of God. This is by the power of the Spirit of God who indwells the Church. God dwells by His Spirit in every believer individually (1 Cor.6:19), but also in the Church unitedly (1 Cor.3:16). This is the wonderful condescension of His grace. This is the only temple in which God dwells in the world today. May we learn to respond with fitting appreciation to the wonder of God's presence in the midst of His beloved saints.
THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST REVEALED
"For this cause" -- because of the marvelous greatness of the work God had accomplished for and in His saints -- Paul preached "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (v.8). He was the prisoner, not of Rome, but of Jesus Christ. Men sought to confine him and his ministry, but the Lord Jesus used even his imprisonment for good . Thus he was a prisoner "for you Gentiles," for it was Jewish antagonism against his going to the Gentiles that led to his imprisonment.
"The dispensation of the grace of God" (v.2) is God's special way of dealing with mankind at the present time. It is in contrast to the administration of law in the Old Testament. It began with the Lord Jesus manifested among men, He whose blessed death and resurrection gives the purest, fullest character to the abounding grace of God. This dispensation has lasted almost 2000 years, and will continue until the coming of the Lord Jesus for His Church at the Rapture. No other dispensation has lasted this long, and even the Millennium will be only 1000 years. The truth of this dispensation was given to the Apostle Paul particularly for Gentiles (Eph.3:1-11), though Jews are not excluded for Paul himself was a Jew.
God made known the mystery of this dispensation by special revelation to Paul. His knowledge then was not from keen human discernment but directly as a result of a revelation from God. Verse 5 shows why the Church dispensation was called a mystery. In earlier ages this truth concerning the Church was not revealed. Therefore it was a mystery, not Mystical but unknown in Old Testament times. In the Old Testament there were various types (or pictures) of the Church as the bride of Christ or as the building of God or as the priestly company, and others too, although not at that time understood as pictures of the Church. However, not one type of the truth of the one body is seen in the Old Testament. Jews and Gentiles are always separated there as distinct groups. Only now is it revealed that "in Christ" the Gentiles are fellowheirs and of the same body as Jewish believers and fellow-partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel. Such unity of Jews and Gentiles is totally new, and when revealed it was strongly resisted by the Jews who had zealously maintained a strong line of demarcation between themselves and Gentile "dogs" as they were considered.
How appropriate it is that the chief messenger of this was himself Jewish, one who had to be laid hold of by God in a compelling way. Paul is emphatically "minister" (not simply a minister) of these great truths (Col.1:24-25. JND), not by natural ability, but by the gift of the grace of God. This gift required the effective working of God's power, the same power spoken of in chapter 1:19 in connection with the resurrection of Christ.
Paul insists that God's choice of him was not because of his worth but because of his insignificance, so that attention should not be drawn to the vessel but to the unsearchable riches of Christ (v.8). He never forgot that the pure grace of God had lifted him out of a proud, rebellious state (1 Tim.1:12-14) to use him to proclaim such -- riches of grace among the Gentiles.
Paul's object in preaching was to enlighten everyone as to these truths which had been in the past "hidden in God" (v.9). It was not even hidden in scripture, but totally unrevealed. Such a matter is worthy of the supreme majesty of Him who created all things by Jesus Christ. God reserved such a revelation until Christ came, suffered and died, was raised and returned to heaven. Only in this way could a Man in glory be Head of His body, the Church, and then use a weak, dependent vessel to declare this mystery, the more effectively to magnify the great glory of the revelation.
Verse 10 shows an even higher object than that of enlightening people, for "principalities and powers in heavenly places" -- angelic beings -- are seen to be vitally interested in this unique dispensation of God. In the Assembly they observe the all-various wisdom of God, wisdom infinitely higher than could have been imagined by any creature. For in the Church they see unity established by God among a redeemed people, comparatively small in number and scattered throughout all nations. National, racial, social and cultural barriers have all been done away between them, though these exist as positively as ever in their respective nations. So the Church (the Assembly) is a unique people gathered out of all nations and made one in Christ Jesus. Marvelous triumph of the wisdom, grace and power of God!
This Assembly was not a thought conceived by God after nations appeared on earth. It was in God's eternal purpose, purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord from eternity past (v.11). Just as individuals in the Assembly where chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (ch.1:4), so the Assembly itself was in the purposes of God from eternity. This to us is totally inconceivable, but faith gladly accepts it and adores Him. Further, it encourages the confidence of bold, unquestioning faith to enter into the blessedness of all this revelation. Though it is marvelously wonderful, yet it is to be understood, valued and enjoyed by every Christian.
In comparison to the wonder and greatness of such a revelation, Paul considered his many tribulations as nothing. The Ephesians were not to be discouraged because he was in prison for their sake, because thus he could declare such riches to the Gentiles. Rather they were to glory in the fact that such suffering was well worthwhile when borne for so glorious a cause.
PRAYER TO THE FATHER
"For this reason" (v.14) involves both the marvel of the revelation given to Paul and his willing suffering for it. These two things move him to bow his knees in intercessory prayer for the Ephesians and by implication for all the saints of God. In contrast to chapter 1:17, this prayer is addressed to "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" rather than to "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ." Christ is therefore seen here as the Son of the Father, His deity emphasized rather than His humanity. Also, the prayer is not for their knowledge (as in chapter 1), but for the proper spiritual state of their souls.
Verse 15 is rightly "every family" (JND), for in the wise counsels of God the Father, there are various families in which this grace will be displayed in the millennial age. In heaven will be the bride (the Church) as well as Old Testament saints and also the martyrs from the tribulation (Rev.20:4). On earth will be Israel in a distinct place of glory and believing Gentile nations who have come out of the Great tribulation and are given earthly blessing in the Millennium (Rev.7:9-17). All these are distinct families of God, with which God has had, or will have, special dealings.
If we have known "the riches of His glory" then this is to have some present real effect, for it is according to these riches that Paul entreats the Father to strengthen His saints with might through His Spirit in the inner man (v.16). Proper objects have wonderful effects on our innermost being. This mighlt is living, spiritual strength, miraculously higher than what appears to be strength in mere human estimation.
In 2 Corinthians 13:5 it is plain that Christ is in all believers, but here in Ephesians 3:17 it is the practical experiencing of this for which the apostle prays - the precious sense of His abiding presence in each believer.
We are not to be rooted and grounded simply in knowledge, but in love, that principle of genuine concern for the blessing of its objects. Love is not to be simply a surface matter, but with roots reaching into the inmost being. "Grounded" would infer that love is solidly based on what does not give way -- the truth of God's Word.
In verse 18, to comprehend or apprehend is not merely to know about something, but to apply it in experience to the heart. Although the apostle speaks of love in verse 17, verse 18 is not confined to love, but embraces all the counsels of God in which His great love is manifested. Therefore, to apprehend the width is to take in, in some measure, the truth of God that is infinite, unlimited in its scope. More than this, the length of God's revelation is eternal, a matter too that staggers our imagination. The depth also is greater than we can imagine, for this is measured only by the depths of the suffering and anguish the Lord Jesus endured on the cross, therefore immeasurable so far as we are concerned. The height of such a revelation is seen in the present exaltation of the Lord Jesus above all heavens and in the blessing with which He has blessed His saints in Himself, so great as to be unsearchable.
Yet in all these things we are privileged to know the love of Christ, not merely intellectually, but in living power and reality. One may breathe deeply of the pure atmosphere of fresh mountain air, yet that breath is immeasurably short of using all the air available. One may drink deeply of a never failing fountain, its supply immeasurably beyond the capacity of the drinker. How precious indeed in such a way to "be filled with all the fullness of God!" (v.19). Whatever our capacity, we have no right- reason not to be filled at all times. Let us make a habit of daily living in this refreshing atmosphere.
In such experiences of the fullness of God we shall learn God's great ability to more than meet every need. He not only gives as we ask or think, but above all of this, and greater still, "abundantly above all, and yet greater, "exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (v.20). Nor is He speaking only of power that works for us, but power which works in us. This power is certainly to be realized and enjoyed in present experience, though the full blessedness of it will require eternity for its display.
This display of glory will be seen in the Assembly collectively, not only in the millennial age when all things are first gathered under the Headship of Christ, but "to all generations forever and ever" (v.21). For Paul is speaking here of that which is based on the very nature of God and therefore eternal, rather than of God's dispensational, administrative counsels. "Forever and ever" may be translated, "to the age of ages." That eternal age outlasts all passing ages.
EPHESIANS - CHAPTER 4
RESPONSE IN PRACTICAL UNITY
In this letter to the Ephesian saints, Paul first presented the basic truth so essential for individual saints (Ch.1:1- 2:10) and for the Church, the body of Christ (Ch.2:11-3:13). He then emphasized at the end of Chapter 3 the appropriate state of soul for the proper reception and enjoyment of the truth. Now we are to consider the practical results of the truth in connection with the unity of the Assembly. The apostle entreats the Ephesians to walk worthy of the calling that is theirs. This is "the heavenly calling" (Heb.3:1) which embraces the saints of God -- Jews and Gentiles in one body -- giving them an eternal inheritance in Christ. Paul was a prisoner of the Lord because he declared such truth. Since he was willing to suffer for it, we should be gladly willing to act on it.
First, such action on our part will require self-discipline or self-judgment, in the measure in which we are concerned for the good of others. Lowliness (v.2) is the willingness to be thought little of, not natural or easy for the flesh, but normal for the one who truly delights in Christ, the meek and lowly One. Meekness is the character that is willing to sacrifice personal rights for the Lord's sake with no selfish resistance. Thus, lowliness gives no offense and meekness takes no offense. Longsuffering continues patiently to bear hard things -- misunderstandings, injustices, even insults -- without frustration or anger. Forbearing. is more than bearing, for it implies no resentful reaction whatever, even inwardly, for it is motivated by genuine love.
There must be diligence in regard to the virtues of verse 2 if we are to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (v.3). This unity is formed by the Spirit of God by the very fact of His dwelling in the Church of God corporately: the baptism of the Holy Spirit has united all believers in one, whatever their contrasting backgrounds, spheres and conditions (1 Cor.12:13). But we are to maintain this unity, which requires true self-judgment and consideration of others. For the unity of the Spirit is not uniformity of opinion nor merely having the same sentiments. It is unity formed on, the basis of the pure truth of God, which therefore excludes all that is in opposition to it, such as wrong doctrine and sinful moral practice. Some examples of things that tend to hinder the unity of the Spirit are personal pride and selfishness, sectarianism, the doctrine or practice of the clergy as distinct from the common people, the doctrine of independence, refusal of scriptural roles and practices for men and women. All of these tend to divide rather than to unite, so are foreign to true scriptural unity. God cannot bear with people forming doctrines to displace His standard found in His Word, though He bears long with weakness, failure and inconsistency among His saints. In many things we shall have differences where Scripture only gives general principles. Yet may still maintain the unity of the Spirit if our hearts are truly united in affection toward the Lord Jesus in lowly consideration for each other. Precious indeed is this "uniting bond of peace" (JND).
The solid basis of this unity is seen in verses 4 to 6. Seven absolute facts of unity are emphasized, in three distinct spheres:
First sphere (v.4) has to do with the Assembly, the Church of God. It is one body, not in any way divided, but involving a world-wide unity of all the saints of God. One Spirit indwells the Church, He who is the living power for unity. He may work diversely in the functioning of every member, but never contrarily and always in harmony with the Word of God. This is consistent with the saints having been called with one hope in view -- the coming of the Lord for all His saints. None of His own can be excluded from this hope for it is only "one hope." Hope in scripture always has the thought of something future but certain, never mere wishful thinking.
Second sphere (v.5) is a wider one and has to do with the public profession of Christianity. It includes the Church, but it also includes those who claim the place of Christians, though they are not born again. It is the sphere of the kingdom of heaven (Mt.13:24-30). Here the one Lord -- the Lordship of Christ -- is the one true authority, and everyone who claims Him as Lord is therefore responsible to Him. "One faith is the one deposit of the truth of God once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). People may speak of various "faiths," but God does not. All are responsible to obey the one faith of God as revealed in Holy Scripture: there is no other. "One baptism" is water baptism "unto Christ," which is the public profession of Christianity, the outward acknowledgement of Christ's Lordship. These two (the teaching of the truth of God's Word and baptism, are "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Mt.28:19-20) which Peter used so effectively on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-40).
Third sphere (v.6) is wider still, for it is the sphere of creation, involving all mankind. God the Father is one, not divided in purpose and actions. His very creation was made with the purpose of every part of it functioning together. Even though man has by sin violated this unity of creation, yet the fundamental, absolute fact remains that God is in perfect control of His creation, one God and Father of all, above all, and through all, and in us all.
DIVERSITY WITHIN UNITY
With the fact of unity being established, now we see the fullest scope for diversity and true liberty within the bounds prescribed by the Word of God. To every individual believer is given grace consistent with the measure of the gift of Christ. There is difference in every gift. Here gifts are seen, not as "the manifestation of the Spirit" (1 Cor.12:7), but as given by the ascended Christ, who administers these in pure grace and wisdom for the benefit of His body. Paul speaks specifically in verse 11 of more public gifts, but he does not confine gift to these, for verse 7 insists that believer is given some gift.
It is as raised and ascended that Christ His given gifts to the Church. To do so, He has "led captivity captive." Captivity is the state of bondage in which, before Christ, even believers were held. Compare Hebrews 2:14-15. Satan's power (the power of death) had introduced this state through sin. Christ went into death to completely nullify this power, and His resurrection is the full proof and declaration of His triumph. Satan, sin and death no longer have any enslaving power over the believer: Christ has conquered this. In the gifts He gives there is no element of bondage, but of precious, vital liberty. The gift is given both to express this liberty as not bound by human regulations, and to minister to the united blessing of the saints of God.
The parenthesis of verses 9 and 10 is essential here to guard against any wrong thoughts as to liberty. Before Christ ascended, He voluntarily descended first, even into death and burial, the lower parts of the earth (vs.8-9). Having humbled Himself, now He is exalted above all heavens, to fill all things. This is basic truth regarding all gift. True liberty leads one to willingly take the lowest place so eternal blessing may result. No sense of obligation or of bondage moved the Lord Jesus to descend so low, but the pure love of One at liberty to gladly sacrifice Himself for the good of others. How beautiful are His words in Psalm 40:8, "I delight to do Your will, 0 my God." This is the wonderful, solid basis on which all gift is given and the proper spirit in which it is to be exercised.
Some men were given gift as apostles for the sake of establishing Christianity in the world. Theirs was a message of authority, which we have now only in the scriptures they have left us. In an original sense this establishment of Christianity is true also of prophets who communicated the direct Word of God to exercise consciences and hearts (ch.2:20). Mark and Luke were not apostles, but they were certainly prophets. Yet prophecy is a gift for today too, but never independent of the now completed Word of God. 1 Corinthians 14:3 shows its functions.
Evangelists carry the gospel of the grace of God to the world to bring people to the Lord Jesus. Yet it is evident here that evangelists are not to leave the newly-converted without further help, for all these gifts have in view the proper functioning of every member of the body of Christ in help one to another. The true evangelist never sends a new-born babe in Christ back into spiritual darkness, but sees to it that the new believer is built up and strengthened in the Word of God.
Pastors and teachers have special importance in such work, but they and the evangelists should always work in harmony together. If one is a teacher -- one who systematically teaches and applies God's Word -- he should also have a pastor's heart of concern for those he teaches, for merely enlightening the mind can be dry and unfruitful work. Applying the truth in patient grace to individual believers is vitally important, and it requires persistent labor. Yet some are more capable of this than others. In Scripture, a person with a pastor's gift cares for believers. Never does Scripture approve the thought of one being appointed as of a local church.
All of these more prominent gifts are given "for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry" -- to bring the saints to full growth or maturity so they (the saints) may do "the work of the ministry," each one functioning consistently with the particular gift he has, in view of building up the body of Christ. If the more prominent gifts do not encourage the saints in the use of their particular gifts, then the more prominent gifts have failed in their work.
Verse 13 shows that this building up of the saints has a most blessed object in view. Godly ministry is vitally needed until we all come to the unity of the faith, for the faith is one, as we have seen, and when its pure truth is taken in, it will promote unity in the understanding of that truth. Keeping the unity of the Spirit requires lowliness, meekness, long-suffering, but this is not said as to the unity of the faith, for in this unity there must be hearty agreement as to the truth of God. As the Assembly is said in chapter 1:23 to be the fullness of Christ, so the object of ministry is that she should measure up to this position. While the goal in view is "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," it would be vain and wrong to say that the Assembly has already attained this. The sad differences all around us as to scriptural interpretation and practice prove how far short the Church is from attaining God's goal. But nevertheless, God will not fail in fully accomplishing this in the near future when the Lord Jesus comes.
Ministry promotes growth with full maturity in view that we may not remain spiritual infants and thereby threatened by prevailing influences in the world, or tossed around by every wind of doctrine, shifting from one direction to another. There are plenty of people ready to do Satan's deceptive work -- scheming, manipulating, rationalizing, always on the watch to entrap others and undermine any honest faith in the living God. But God has made provision to preserve us from this, in the positive instructions of verse 15, "holding the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the Head -- Christ." Such growth requires firm decision to hold securely the truth God has given us both in mind and in practice, although not in a harsh, legal way but in genuine love. The growth is "into Him" or "unto Him" who is our Head, and involves a growing conformity to His character.
Christ also, being the Head of the body, is the source of all its true supply -nourishment, wisdom and understanding. He is the source and center of the unity of the body, each member being "joined and knit together by what every joint supplies" and every part functioning in its measure, by His direction, to work for the gradual building up of the entire body (v.16). Love is the motivating power for this work -- love that considers every other member of the body with as genuine care as one cares for his own bodily needs. Thus, as each member functions the body grows, not only each member individually.
THE OLD PUT OFF, THE NEW PUT ON
Verse 17 introduces a distinct division in the Epistle to the Ephesians. This section emphasizes personal responsibility based on the solid, precious truth that has already been considered. Paul urged the Ephesians to no longer walk as the unsaved masses of Gentiles walked. Just as their new Christian condition and position was in contrast to that of the nations, so should their conduct be. The condition and walk of the ungodly is here spoken of to show that it is totally opposite to that of faith. The very attitude of the unsaved is only toward vanity -- emptiness or futility - that which results in nothing of any value.
Since the ungodly mind is set against God, the understanding is darkened so that, though naturally intelligent or even brilliant, such people are unable to discern facts that are transparently clear to a believer (v.19). "Alienated from the life of God" describes an estrangement that has in effect broken any sense of relationship of creature to Creator. It is grievous ignorance certainly, but the result of hardness of their own hearts, for ignorance is not merely lack of knowledge but ignoring facts that may be known. For example, people will carefully figure out their tax returns to their advantage, they will plan systematically to make the most of their business circumstances, they will use their minds effectively to organize the best possible situations for themselves; then at the same time tell us that the marvelous organization of all the universe required no mind at all, but just happened to come together! Such is the ignorance of a person set on ignoring God. So the unbelieving mind is set on vanity and the heart is hardened.
In such a state people cast off all feeling. They no longer have any sensitive response to those things that should properly affect them. They instead give in to the seductions of mere fleshly desire, with its moral uncleanness and greediness. This giving in may in some cases be grossly disgusting, or in other cases covered with a veneer of refinement and apparent dignity. In the latter case it is only that deceit is added to it. Think of Aids which is virtually 100% preventable with simple scriptural morality, but many people prefer lust and sin, and tens of thousands are dying a horrible death yearly as a result.
"But you have not so learned Christ" (v.20). If our ears are opened to hear Him and there is willingness to be taught by Him, our entire character and conduct will be a, contrast to that of the unsaved. The truth "in Jesus" (v.21) is a seldom used expression in scripture. It refers to the truth exemplified in the lowly life of the Lord Jesus on earth. If I think of truth regarding character and conduct, I see it perfectly in Him as the dependent Man. "Christ" is His official title" (v.20), and as we learn more of Him exalted at God's right hand, we more rightly value and understand practical truth as we see it in His entire conduct in Manhood on earth. Learning Christ is learning Him as the Object of my adoration high above me, but "as the truth is in Jesus" is learning Him as my practical Example come down to earth.
Verse 22 is rightly translated "having put off" (JND). The old man with its former manner of life, corrupt and deceitful, has been once and for all time put off. No believer can ever again be what he was before conversion, what he was in Adam. He has been renewed in the spirit of his mind: the attitude of his mind has changed. Though the fleshly nature remains in him, this no longer dominates him. There is a new controlling factor: he has put on the new man which is consistent with God's own nature, created in righteousness and holiness of truth. Righteousness is acting rightly in consistency with whatever relationship we may be in. Holiness is the love of what is good and the hatred of evil. But it is the truth of God that decides what is good and what is evil, not merely people's consciences or opinions.
NO GRIEVING OF THE SPIRIT
Since such is our new character, let us be true to it in practice. Lying is the common practice of the ungodly, whether to the government, to one's employer, to his friends, or even to one's spouse, but it is totally abominable to God. Let us put it away and speak positive truth and this certainly with other Christians, for we are members one of another. Will my tongue lie to my hand as to what it should do?
Anger in some cases is right (Mk.3:5), but even rightful anger may lead to bitter feeling and sin. Anger must not be nursed nor allowed to continue into another day (v.26). Misused or fleshly anger, as with many other things, could leave a door open for the devil's damaging activity, even among Christians.
If before conversion one had a habit of stealing, he must strictly judge this and then labor with his hands in honorable employment, not only for his own support, but for the help of those in need too (v.18). Thus grace known not only corrects wrong, but leads to positive good. For an employee to take small things from where he works is no less than stealing. Many do this without thinking, but a believer is to carefully avoid taking anything that does not belong to him.
The tongue too is to be curbed. Only pure, uncontaminated words are found in Scripture, although Scripture speaks plainly about every subject pertinent to mankind's life on earth. Let us be well saturated with God's Word and avoid the impure talk so common in the world. There is so much that is good for the building up of others that our tongues should be ready always to speak such things as will minister grace to those who are listening to us (Jas.3:2).
In our talk and conduct, we are to consider the Spirit of God. He has sealed the believer positively as God's own property in view of "the day of redemption," the redemption of the body at the coming of the Lord (v.30). Not the slightest question of the permanency of this sealing is raised. Rather, the believer's absolute security as God's possession is positively stated. This being so, improper words and conduct will certainly grieve the Holy Spirit of God, for they are contrary to His nature.
Verse 31 speaks of those things which result from the nursing of bad feeling in the heart -- bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking, together with malice. These sinful attitudes and practices are to be judged unsparingly, and resolutely put away. There is no place for them among the saints of God. We must not allow ourselves the slightest excuse for the breaking out of such things, for they stem from sin, not from infirmity.
On the other hand, how precious to cultivate the contrasting virtues of verse 32. Even at a time when the feelings of a child of God are badly hurt, he has within him that blessed nature that may still be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving. Indeed, such character is thoroughly consistent for those who have known that "God in Christ" has forgiven us. It is not simply because of Christ's intercession that God has forgiven us, but rather that God is the blessed Author of the forgiving grace that has been manifested to us in the person of the Lord Jesus and in His matchless sacrifice of love. God delights to forgive as seen in the sending of His beloved Son. Let this be rightly valued and we will show similar character in that measure in which we lay hold of the grace of God to enjoy it.
WALK IN LOVE
Verses 1 and 2 of chapter 5 are closely connected with verse 32 of chapter 4. God's gracious character of love that delights to have us as His dear children is our example. The more we realize the reality of this, the more consistent with it will be our walk. For we are to walk in love. Nor is it a love we must manufacture or awaken in our own hearts, but the blessed result of Christ's love to us. That love has given, not only many gifts, but Himself. He delivered Himself up for us. While the gift of Himself was for us, yet His blessed offering and sacrifice was to God. The offering speaks especially of the value of the gift in God's eyes, while as a sacrifice the gift expresses the greatness of what Christ has given up for the glory of God. Both the peace offering and burnt offering character of His sacrifice are seen here. The peace offering brings us into sweet accord with God in Christ, and the burnt offering ascends to God to delight His heart of infinite love. In Leviticus 1:9,13,17 and 3:5,16, both of these offerings are seen as sweet savor offerings -- offerings that were a sweet odor to God.
On the negative side, the believer, because he walks in love, is to avoid fornication, uncleanness and unbridled lust (v.3). In fact, these kinds of things are usually connected with what people consider love, but it is a counterfeit love, contrary to God's in marital love and sex, and is to have no place in the believer's conversation with others: it is unbecoming to saints of God. Also, filthiness, foolish talking and coarse jesting are put together here as not proper conversation for saints. Let us judge and put away such things, and rather use our tongues for giving of thanks, a most wholesome employment.
Believers know that those who are characterized by sexual immorality, uncleanness or covetousness (which is equated with idolatry) have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (v.5). A true believer does not have such character. Therefore let him be careful not to be like such people in any way. A covetous person, for instance, is one who sets his mind on wanting material things that others have, and will almost certainly use dishonest means to get what he wants. This is not the character of a believer.
People may assume that because God is love, the grace of God is indulgent toward these sinful things, but it is not so. These very things are the reason for the wrathful judgment of God failing on the children of disobedience (v.6). Will a believer allow himself to be in any way a partaker with such a class? These things are so glaring today on radio, TV and in newspapers and magazines that saints must be very careful and watchful against such contamination.WALK IN LIGHT
Love is vitally important, but love needs light to accompany it. 1st John tells us that "God is love" (ch.4:16), but also that "God is light" (ch.1:5). Before being saved we were so immersed in darkness that darkness was our very character. By being born again we are now brought into the light. Our present character is "light in the Lord," everything open and manifest (v.8). Therefore it is only proper that we walk as children of light, being simply true to our new character. Light reveals everything as it really is. Therefore it speaks of unadulterated truth which clearly shows the proper character of every believer.
Verse 9 is a parenthesis and is correctly translated "the fruit of the light" (JND). Light produces goodness, righteousness and truth. Goodness is that which actively seeks the good of others. Righteousness is the proper discharge of the duties connected with whatever relationship we may be in. Truth is transparent honesty.
In walking as children of light we prove in experience what is acceptable to the Lord. Since He has no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, neither should we. He reproves them and so should we. We are not to argue about or against them, but simply and clearly repudiate them. Even to talk about the vices practiced in secret by the ungodly is a shame. The believer has far more profitable things to engage his thoughts and conversation.
Verse 13 reads in JND's translation, "But all things having their true character exposed by the light are made manifest, for that which makes everything manifest is light." Bright sunlight shows up all the details of natural things. Likewise, the true light of God makes manifest the actual character of everything in the spiritual and moral realm. Are we willing to apply that light to our own conduct and to the conduct of popular religious schemes that are increasingly compromising the truth of Scripture?
Verse 14 is adapted by the Spirit of God from Isaiah 60:1 to the need of a believer who has become lax and has settled down indolently in a world of darkness. He is among the dead, though not himself dead, but asleep. The word of God calls upon him to awake and allow Christ to shine upon him, rather than to have his associations among those dead in sins.
WALK IN WISDOM
The believer's walk then is to be with sober care and consideration, not as that of ungodly fools (v.15). God's love and God's light have been powerful incentives for our walk, now we are also to use God-given wisdom in walking circumspectly. Being wise is a true characteristic of a believer. "Redeeming the time" (v.16) is fully and rightly using the opportunities that each occasion may offer. Such care and concern is of great importance because the days are evil. For though a believer is not a fool, yet he may be unwise and not use his time to advantage. Let him not be this way, but understand what the will of the Lord is for him (v.17). To understand is not simply to know, but to rightly perceive what he knows. The will of the Lord is always spiritually profitable.
Verse 18 puts in sharp contrast the intoxication with things physically pleasurable and the pure, precious joy of being filled with the Holy Spirit. There are many things with which one may become intoxicated -- the love of money, prominence, self-importance (even in a religious way), sports, excitement, etc. These things will tend to take away the sobriety of ruling our own spirits (Prov.25:28). But one who is filled with the Holy Spirit has his own spirit in subjection (1 Cor.14:32). Every true believer is always indwelt by the Spirit, but to be filled with the Spirit is to allow Him full place in every department of our lives. Let no one ever dare to claim this to be true of him, but rather let it be true. In the measure in which Christ is really our Object, such will be the measure of the filling of the Spirit at any time.
While it is clear that one may be filled with the Spirit in speaking for the Lord (Acts 13:9-11), yet it also may be true in the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual song (v.19). The word indicates a sacred song accompanied by a stringed instrument. Hymns are songs of praise addressed to God, and the word is evidently used for many of the psalms also, though not all psalms are hymns and hymns are not necessarily psalms. Spiritual songs embraces a wider field than praise, for it includes songs of spiritual experience and celebration of scriptural events and of meditation on various truths of scripture. Singing is audible, but making melody in your heart is more vital. This is surely an encouragement to those who have difficulty in carrying a tune!
Accompanying this musical melody is a spontaneous giving of thanks, in addressing God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (v.20). "Always for all things" reminds us that there is no time at which one is not free to address God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This constantly thankful spirit will have both a preserving and fruitful effect, and it will simplify for us the character of submission one to another in the fear of God (v.21). Thus we will recognize God as being in control rather than the will of man dominating.
THE MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP
Particular relationships are considered from verse 22 to chapter 6:9. Wives are first addressed, for they are to specially manifest the lovely spirit of submission, as being subject to their own husbands. In so submitting they are submitting to the Lord, which makes submission an attitude of loving obedience to Him, rather than an irksome responsibility. It is God who tells the wife to submit, not the husband, who should pay more attention to what God tells him than to what God tells his wife.
God's order in creation made the husband to be head of the wife. This does not mean he is superior to the wife, but as the head he is responsible to supply the nourishment, guidance and encouragement the wife needs. Though the wife may make suggestions and express concerns that should be considered, yet the husband is responsible to make final decisions. This reference to headship leads the apostle immediately to speak of the marvelous relationship of Christ as the Head of the Church, of which Adam and Eve's marriage is a divinely intended picture. Not only is Christ the Head of the Church, the source of its nourishment and guidance, but He is the Savior of the body. His preserving, protecting salvation is a daily need of His body, the Church, just as a husband is not only head of his wife, but her protector also.
Who would deny the Church's proper place in subjection to Christ? This submission is pictured in the wife's subjection to her own husband in everything. We should have no more difficulty in believing this than to believe that the Church should be subject to Christ. It is evident that the wife's subjection applies only insofar as it is really subjection to the Lord -- "as it is fitting in the Lord" (Col.3:18). If the husband demands that she disobey God, this is abnormal and she must not submit to him in this.
The wife is entitled to claim her husband as "her own" and the husband is to think of his wife as "his own." The word "own" occurs seven times in this section (JND) in connection with husbands and wives, though it is not used of the relationship between parents and children.
The simplicity of the instruction here is remarkable. There is no long list of details as to how a husband and wife should act toward one another. If the wife simply maintains a quiet spirit of subjection as to the Lord, this will result in proper conduct in the entire relationship. The husband's genuine love for his wife will form his conduct toward her in a proper way. But we must understand what love really is, for too frequently what passes for love is merely a cheap imitation of it.
Husbands are to love their own wives with no less a standard than that of Christ's love for the Church (v.25). He gave Himself for it; not merely did He give many gifts, but Himself. If one is not willing to give himself for an intended wife, he ought not to marry her. Observe that all this section emphasizes that love seeks diligently the greatest good of its object, and at personal expense.
We next see the wonderful counsels of Christ as to His Church in the past (v.25), present (v.26) and future (v.27). His gracious work today is to increasingly sanctify her (set her apart for Himself) from a world of vanity and evil, and to cleanse her from all impurity by the application of the Word of God, just as a mother would first separate her child from a pool of mud and then wash him. This work involves His patient grace with every individual believer, each in a different stage of development, but it is a work in which all are united in His heart and mind. This work is effective only as we allow the Word of God to have its corrective and sanctifying influence on us.
The Church's presentation to Himself (v.27) is seen accomplished in Revelation 19:7-9. Then she will be glorious, invested with glory (displayed excellence), without spot (no imperfection in the slightest) and without wrinkle -- no sign of aging or breakdown in health, nothing undesirable -- but holy in character and without blemish in manifestation. Wonderful culmination of His counsels concerning His Bride for whom He paid so dearly!
As Eve was of Adam's body before she became his wife, so the wife is entitled to the husband's love just as he loves his own body, for the bond of marriage makes them one. In loving her, he loves himself. Never has man hated his own flesh: the law of self-preservation is predominant in mankind. One does not willingly starve himself to death. Rather, he nourishes his body and cares for its needs. These two things nourishing and cherishing -- are not included in the Lord's counsels (vs.25-27), but are rather His ways with His Church. The care involved in cherishing is both tender and supportive.
The Lord's faithful care is emphasized in the words, "We are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones" (v.30). Flesh speaks here of the supple, yielding character of proper humanity, while the bones are the solid framework on which the flesh is built, so stability and yieldingness are marvelously joined together. How good it is to consider such character in Christ, the blessed Son of Man as identified with His saints, and to allow its proper expression in ourselves!
Genesis 2:24 is quoted here as the original fundamental principle of marriage. Leaving his parents, the man is to be united to his wife, or "cling" to her. This involves undeviating faithfulness, devotion and love. This original principle was ignored by many in the Old Testament who took more than one wife, but Christ emphatically reaffirmed it (Mt.19:4-8). So for those who trust Christ, there is no excuse for disobedience to this unchanging decree of God, though in a world full of marital unfaithfulness, role-reversal and divorce for almost any reason.
It may be a great mystery (not easily understandable) that husband and wife are considered before God as one flesh, but because I do not understand a matter fully, is no excuse for my disobedience to God. Faith accepts what God says and rejoices in it; indeed the more so when God says that marriage is a picture of the unalterable union between Christ and the Church. If it involves a great mystery, it not mystical, so every husband is to love his own wife as himself, and every wife is to fear her husband, not with a cringing, servile terror (1 Pet.3:5-6), but with a becoming recognition of his authority from God.
PARENTS AND CHILDREN
Children are next addressed. The instruction is simple and uncomplicated. They are to obey their parents in the Lord, that is, as subject to the Lord's authority. False educators today boldly undermine this parental authority, and it is leading to ruin, for it denies what is right before God. The relationship of children is typical of that of believers to God as their Father. If a believer should obey God, then a child should obey his parents. More still is involved in verse 2: the need for due respect is added. This verse is quoted from the ten commandments, not as putting children under law, but as showing the law's importance as an abiding governmental principle which brings temporal blessings as a result. For children are certainly to be subject to their parents, and this has much to do with their welfare on earth.
Fathers, being in authority, are not to abuse that authority (v.4). It is too easily possible for a father's impatience with his children to lead to unfair treatment of them, and this is likely to provoke their anger. Let us rather have sober exercise to bring up children "in the discipline and admonition of the Lord" (JND), that is, as disciples under the gentle, firm authority of the Lord, being kindly and consistently reminded of His grace and truth.
BONDSERVANTS AND MASTERS
The Greek word for servants is bondservants or slaves. Yet God did not give them permission to rebel against slavery, but told them to obey their masters (vs.5-6). Certainly the same principle applies to employees in any business. They are to show honest concern to faithfully discharge every duty of their business relationships in sincerity of heart, as to Christ. "Not with eye service as men-pleasers" -- working only when being watched, and trying to gain special favor by deceit. The ultimate object of their honest hard work is to please the Lord, not men. For God is watching always and we should always practice obedience from the heart. If Christ is the Object of our service, then it will never become irksome. Even in the bondage of slavery, one could so please the Lord as to be well rewarded at His judgment seat (v.8). Every good thing is remembered by Him, whether one is in bonds or free.
Such instruction from God may sound strange to many Christians who are anxious to correct all the social wrongs that threaten their comfort. But God is wiser than we. People's efforts to set things right in the world have only resulted in things becoming more and more complicated and people becoming more and more bitter against each other. God will correct these things in His own time. Meanwhile, believers are to receive grace from God to patiently bear injustices, inequities and hard treatment with calm submission and living faith in the Lord.
Masters are told to "do the same things" to servants. Employers may not think of this, but they ought to serve their servants, not as being subject to them, but as concerned about their proper welfare and treating them kindly and fairly Threatening, simply as a tool to instill fear, would be an abuse of authority. Consider the character of Boaz in Ruth 2:4. His relationship with his servants was excellent, for he first recognized his Master in heaven. If any master feels himself more worthy of respect than his servants, he is not subject to God's will. God is perfectly fair, and every Christian -- whether employee or employer - likewise ought to be.
THE ARMOR OF GOD
Verse 10 begins the last division of Ephesians and reminds us of the conflict and victory of Israel in the book of Joshua, when on entering the land of Canaan, they fought to obtain the inheritance God had promised them. Our proper possessions in the heavenlies (Eph.1:3) are of such great value that the enemy of souls is determined to keep us from the enjoyment of them, and he employs formidable hosts of evil spirits (demons) in this cruel warfare. God tells us of this awful power of satanic hosts to make us realize the utter poverty of our own resources in meeting the enemy, but at the same time to cast us totally upon the Lord in whom there is no doubt of victory.
"Be strong in the Lord," that is, be firmly, fully subject to the Lord's authority, for such subjection is true strength. This subjection makes available to us the power of His might, an inward, vital strength, even in apparent weakness, that is not overcome by evil. This power involves the armor now spoken of -- the whole armor of God -- with which each believer is to actively clothe himself as the only protection against the cunning deceit of the devil (v.11).
Fleshly weapons or armor in this warfare are useless, for the conflict is against principalities, authorities and rulers, spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies (v.11). Principalities refers to dignities, in this case demonic, whom we must never treat with contempt (Jude 8, 9), but firmly stand against them. Authorities are the authorities of darkness. They have no authority over believers, though that authority which they hold over unbelievers, is cruel tyranny, keeping great numbers of people in subjection, and they use such people to attempt to force their authority on believers. False cults that use the method of brain-washing are adept at pressing people into conformity with their wicked teachings, so that once they are trapped, they become virtual slaves of Satan. We must be on guard therefore to refuse such evil authority. Rulers have to do with administration. Satan has his organization of evil forces that is not to be lightly regarded, and he uses people for his evil purposes, to contest every inch of the way in which a believer seeks to enter into and enjoy his proper possessions in heavenly places. These possessions that Satan seeks to keep us from enjoying are the vital truths of Scripture which cannot be learned except by spiritual means (1 Cor.2:13), and are held in daily practice only by using the whole armor of God.
"The whole armor of God" is necessary to enable us first of all to withstand (v.13), for Satan will attack strongly even a young believer at his first attempt to truly take in and act upon the Word of God. How important from the very first to withstand such attacks. Yet, in once doing this, we cannot complacently let down our defenses. Indeed, even after fully repulsing the enemy, it is still imperative that we "stand," that we maintain the practical application of the truth of God in our daily lives, day in and day out, day by day, year by year.
Strength for the legs comes from the loins (KJV) or strong thigh muscles, and these are to be girded with truth (v.14). Truth is not to be held in a loose, careless way, but used to keep our habits and walk properly under control.
The breastplate is a special protection for the heart and lungs, and practical righteousness in daily living provides this (v.14). Too frequently our emotions or feelings can deceive us, so we act because of how we feel at any given time. Thus, we need to protect ourselves from giving in to such feelings when they are not in accord with the Word of God. Stable practical righteousness is the one answer to this need. If we lack this stability we will be vulnerable to the enemy's attack for lack of a proper breastplate. The breast -- our affections - cannot be right unless protected by righteousness in our conduct according to the Word of God.
Our feet must have on battle shoes, for the soles of the feet are sensitive (v.15). Thorns and thistles, sharp stones, hot sand, cold temperatures, can all have adverse effects. We need that which protects us against sensitive feelings that can lead us into wrong paths and associations, Such protection is "the preparation of the gospel of peace." This preparation does not refer to our preaching the gospel, but to the good news of peace being always a reality in our hearts. This peace is brought to us by the Lord Jesus through His sufferings and death, enabling us to face every objectionable thing without giving way to sensitive feelings. In this, let us watch to always have our shoes on our feet, and not be so easily hurt by the words, actions or inactions of our brothers and sisters in Christ, nor by those of unbelievers.
"The shield of faith" (v.16) is to be used as an over-all protection, ready to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one, from whatever direction they come. Faith is able for this, but only because it acts on the truth of the Word of God. Satan's darts are many and varied such as subtle deceit, insinuation, flattery, intimidation, wrong teaching or emphasis, lack of balance, working on the emotions, enticements to sin, and many more. An active, watchful confidence in the Lord alone will keep us prepared to properly meet and quench these darts. "I believe God" is a wonderful protection for every believer, for such faith depends on the truth of His Word.
"The helmet of salvation" is protection for the mind, for salvation gives the ability to have a true viewpoint for reasoning, although again it involves being led by the Holy Spirit and subjection to the Word of God. Philosophy ignores the need of salvation and flounders in uncertainty. A Christian is to reason, not as does the world but as one now saved from the world's vanity and pride, and who will be saved totally out of the world. Thus he may triumph over human "arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor.10:5). But, as with every article of armor, it still requires heart-exercise to put it on and keep it on.
"The sword of the Spirit" is the one offensive weapon mentioned here (v.17). To use it, we must first have it. It is the Word of God that cuts both ways (Heb.4:12), so to use it rightly on the enemy, we must know how to rightly use it on ourselves. How important then that we spend time in learning God's Word well, so that on any given occasion we may be prepared with the suitable scripture to meet the enemy in whatever way he attacks.
Closely linked with our using the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is consistent, unceasing prayer and supplication in the Spirit (v.18). Prayer is the very expression of our dependence on the living God, while supplication is earnest entreaty because of seriously felt need. We are not only to pray for personal needs but for all saints, among whom we know that trials, exercises and problems are always present, and the enemy is determined to deceive or intimidate them.
Paul, faithful and devoted as he was, felt himself in no less need than any other believer of the prayers of the saints. Certainly every servant of God may echo verse 19 in desire for courage and faith to speak truly for God. "The mystery of the gospel" was that mystery revealed especially to Paul -- the gospel of the grace of God and of the glory of Christ, which eternally saves lost sinners who receive the Lord Jesus and gives them a place of acceptance in Christ in the heavenlies. To believers it is no longer a mystery, but Paul desired to spread the news of this gospel everywhere so that souls would be saved and therefore find the gospel no longer a mystery.
For the sake of this great revelation as to the gospel of salvation and of the truth concerning the Church of God, Paul was an ambassador in bonds. Though imprisoned, he did not forget the dignity of the place God had given him of representing the Lord of glory in a foreign land. He desired to speak boldly, not in fleshly arguments as to the truth, but as he ought to speak, consistently with the dignity he had been given in being entrusted with a magnificent revelation from God.
Tychicus carried this letter from Paul to Ephesus and brought information to the Ephesians as to Paul's welfare and circumstances, which would much interest them. Paul did not consider it important to write about himself, but he knew their concern and that Tychicus would encourage them..
In this epistle God has through Paul communicated the sublime truths of His marvelous counsels in blessing to His saints. Paul ended the epistle with the assurance of "peace to the brethren, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (v.23), for he wrote by the clear guidance of the Spirit of God. Then grace is added for all who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity, lifting them above all present circumstances to enjoy the preciousness of their heavenly inheritance and blessings in Christ Jesus.