BRIEF NOTES ON
THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS.
WE must introduce our meditations on this epistle by
recurring a little to the ways of God from the beginning; because there is a
wonderful unity in His counsels, and the whole volume sets its seal to the
divine thought, "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning."
Therefore, when we come to a scripture like this, it is well to pause and look
about us, and see its relation to previous scriptures. If I come to a merely
moral scripture, such as, "Let him that stole steal no more," I may take it and
use it at once, and alone, but when it is doctrinal or prophetic scripture,
which opens the divine mind, I have to ask how it is introduced, and what is to
come after it, because we are to be fraught with divine intelligence -"We have
the mind of Christ." The Epistle to the Hebrews unfolds the heavens, and speaks
of heavenly calling, putting you in company with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but
it does not open the mystery of the church. The Epistle to the Ephesians opens
the mystery of the church, but does not keep you in company with Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob. We are advancing, and we are called to distinguish between
the heavenly caffing and the calling of the church. So there is a fitness in
considering the Epistle to the Hebrews before the Epistle to the Ephesians.
Now, why do I say the Epistle to the Hebrews opens the heavenly calling?
Because it associates you with Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc. The earth at the
beginning was given to the children of men. What did they do with it? They
forfeited it. Then what did God do with them? Well, He opened heaven to them!
He gave them the earth to enjoy. They soiled and lost it by sin. Well, said He,
Ill open heaven to you. This is one way in which the grace of God
What should I say of one who, when I had abused the gift which he put in my hand, put a better gift in my other hand? This is God!
Was not Adam brought back to God, and Enoch taken to heaven? I have no doubt that Abraham had the heavenly calling. They looked for a better country, "that is, an heavenly." Moses was carried up to Pisgah to bear witness of it. Enoch bore witness of it, and Elijah in a later dispensation. From the beginning there has been heavenly calling, but not church calling. So, when the apostle comes to address the Hebrews, who were brought from a Jewish root, he talks of heavenly calling, but does not go beyond it. When he comes to address himself to the Ephesians, once a Gentile people, the worshippers of the goddess Diana (but apart from all Jewish connections), he unfolds the mystery of the church - the richest thing in the counsels of God. Let me say another thing. How did God unfold His purposes in the earth? He knew a family in the loins of Abraham. They flourished into a nation in the Book of Exodus; then under judges and prophets; but they did not ripen to the culminating point of glory till God put them under a king.
He goes on from step to step till the elect family flourished, under Solomon, into a kingdom. So it is with His heavenly purposes. It is not till the apostleship of Paul is set up that they unfold in the bright culminating point of the church. God is always consistent in His ways. Let the earth be the scene of His activities, we find them unfolding till they reach the palmy days of Solomon. In His heavenly purposes we follow on till we see the church at the highest point in creation, "The fulness of him that flileth all in all." So it is impossible not to stand and say, "0 the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" Now, having prefaced thus, we stand before the Epistle to the Ephesians. It is desirable to come up to this writing with intelligence. Here we are listeners in heavenly scenes to the same kind of thing as we saw in earthly scenery.
Let me remind you of a passage in Colossians: "the dispensation of God, which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God"- or, "to fill it out." (Chap. i. 25, 26.) To fill out the revelation of God - a magnificent commentary of Paul on his own ministry. Was it not left to Solomon to display the closing purpose of God in the earth by heading it with a throne? It was left to Paul to reveal in his ministry the bright magnificent point of the heavenly mysteries. We are brought up by him to the headship of Christ.
The apostle begins by addressing all the faithful in Christ Jesus. He steps over the Ephesians. So that we are all called to learn these things. "Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." This could not be said of the patriarchs. "In heavenly places" they would have been associated with us; but these are blessings in company with Christ.
Then, having put you in this peculiar place, he unfolds the divine roll of blessings to you. First, chosen in Him before the world was. These high privileges began before the foundation of the world. Could I say that properly of Abraham? Certainly he was chosen before the foundation of the world, but you are chosen "in him." The divine purposes rested in a peculiar way on a peculiar people. Then, predestination always follows on election.. Election touches the person; predestination the place or condition: "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ . . . he hath made us accepted in the beloved." Now is not that a peculiar form of adoption? Do I believe that Adam was a son of God? Indeed I do. Do I believe that he was "accepted in the beloved"? No, I do not. Do I believe that angels are sons of God? Indeed I do. Do I believe they are "accepted in the beloved" ? No, I do not. So that here again is a peculiarity. It is an adoption of the highest order. We have the joy and liberty of the Beloveds sonship. He goes on to say, "In whom we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of sins." Why, to be sure, that is a thing of course. Who would think of asking a person up in heavenly places, "Are you forgiven ?" Did you ever observe in the parable of the prodigal son that the father never says he forgives him? How could he? How could he frame his lips to say, "I forgive you"? You and I ought to walk in the sunshine of our calling in such a way as to assume forgiveness as a thing at the foot of the hill, while we are up at the heights. Let the music and dancing, the ring and the shoes, tell me I am forgiven. So the Father treats the prodigal, and so the Spirit treats us in Ephesians i. Yet the soul is constantly busying itself about forgiveness when it should be viewing the magnificence of its calling in Christ. There is a style in love that love could never rid itself of. The father would have wept to say, "I forgive you." Would not you be ashamed to tell one coming back in sorrow, confessing his fault, "I forgive you" ? Talk of a father, on the neck of his weeping, penitent child, saying, "I forgive you" ! How little we know of the ways of love!
Now, to go on. He abounds towards us in all wisdom and knowledge, having opened to us the bosom secret - all things gathered together in Christ. That is a secret never made known before. In the prophet Isaiah we get a beautiful picture of the millennial earth; but do we ever get the millennial heavens with Christ at their head? Was it ever said by Isaiah that all things in heaven and earth should be headed up in the glorified Man? "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance." We are heirs with Him. Was that ever unfolded before? And till the inheritance comes we get the Holy Ghost. We get Him here under two titles - a seal, and an earnest. A seal of present salvation; an earnest of future inheritance. When I look at the place of the Holy Ghost, in the mystery of redemption, it is wonderful to see the official glories that attach to Him here on earth. In the Epistle to the Hebrews we have the official glories of Christ. Here we are called to witness the official glories of the Holy Ghost in this dispensation. What a blessed, glorious thing - to take the secrets of the divine bosom, and make them known to us! To seal us by His presence as possessors of present salvation, and to be the earnest of our inheritance! Ah, it is wonderful. I could not move a step in company with a soul not pregnant with the blessedness of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost being the One with whom we have to do.
"The purchased possession" here is the whole scene - the whole creation. It is purchased, but not yet redeemed. The blood of Christ has purchased the creation as well as you; but it is not yet redeemed, and while in that condition you have the Holy Ghost as an earnest. When it is redeemed you will be the heir of it. Are you redeemed yet? You are purchased, but you wait for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of your body, and that you will never get till God puts forth power as well as blood. The Apocalypse is the display of redemption; the gospel is the display of purchase - but the purchased thing is not redeemed till God puts forth power to rescue it from the hands of the destroyer .
At verse 15 the apostle ceases to be a teacher and becomes an intercessor - and you will find that he never in prayer pulls down what, as a teacher, he had built up. You will sometimes hear people asking God to love them. I could never make such a prayer as that. I am to pray for a deeper sense of His love. Paul does not ask God to give them this, and the other; but he asks Him that they may have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him - that the eyes of their understanding may be enlightened. Oh, for a better heart to know these things! But to ask God to love me, to make me a co-heir with Christ, to appoint me to heavenly places in Him! I will make a prayer much more humbling than that, I am so blessed in my caffing; so poor in my enjoyment! If God has lit a candle, I will not ask Him to light it, but to take the ifim from my eyes, that I may see what He has done, what this magnificent purpose is, and the power that has brought us there. So he prays that you may have an eye to discern the brightness of the heavenly glory, and the resurrection power that has conducted you from such ruins to such glories.
End of Extract
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