The Epistle to the Ephesians is one of the prison Epistles of the Apostle Paul. Tychicus and Onesimus were sent by him to Colosse. Epaphras, that great man of prayer, who agonized in prayer for the Colossian believers (Col. iv:12), had communicated to Paul the condition of the church in Colosse, and informed him of the threatening danger from unsound teachers. Tychicus had received from Paul the letter to the Colossians, containing such wonderful revelations concerning the person and work of Christ, and the believer's fulness in Him. All the Colossian errors were met by the Holy Spirit in this Epistle and much more was added. Onesimus, the runaway slave, who in believing the Gospel had become the spiritual son of the Apostle and a brother beloved to his master Philemon, carried that beautiful little epistle of recommendation and courtesy to Philemon. The Epistle to the Ephesians was also committed to Tychicus. Never before and never after were such weighty and blessed documents entrusted to human messengers.
In the Epistle to the Colossians Paul makes the statement, "Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the Word of God" (Col. i:25). To fulfil the Word of God does not mean, as often stated, that Paul fulfilled his ministry and was faithful in it. It means rather that to him was given the revelation which makes full, or completes, the Word of God. The highest and most glorious revelation, which the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has been pleased to give, He communicated through the Apostle Paul. The two prison Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians embody this completion of the Word of God. The Ephesian Epistle holds the place of pre-eminence. The revelation which is given in this Epistle concerning believing sinners, whom God has redeemed by the blood of His Son, and exalted in Him into the highest possible position, is by far the greatest revelation. God is revealing His own loving heart and tells out by His Spirit how He loved us and thought of us before the foundation of the world. He shows forth the riches of His Grace and now makes known the secret He held back in former ages. How rich it all is! Like God Himself, so this revelation, coming from His loving heart, is inexhaustible. We may speak of Ephesians as the rich Epistle of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, rich in mercy, tells us of the exceeding riches of His Grace in kindness towards us through Christ Jesus. But even this definition does not tell out half of all the Glory this wonderful document contains. It is God's highest and God's best. Even God cannot say more than what He has said in this filling full of His Word.
In the Psalms we read: "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork" (Ps. xix:1). We lift up our eyes and behold the wonders of God's creation, which He called into existence by His Son and for Him (Col. i:19). Here in this Epistle another heaven is opened. If the heavens of Creation are so wonderful and their depths unfathomable, how much more wonderful are the Heavenlies into which Christ has entered, where He now is seated, far above all principality and power and might and into which God's Grace has brought us in Him!
And this brings us to the reason for calling the opening chapters of this Epistle "the Masterpiece of God." The first three chapters of Ephesians contain the great revelation to which we referred above. What God has accomplished in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to the praise of the Glory of His Grace, how He makes believing sinners one with His Son, sharers of His fulness and His Glory, this is the revelation of these chapters. All was planned before the foundation of the world, while elsewhere in these chapters (ii:7), the eternity to come is mentioned. From eternity to eternity are the boundaries of these three chapters.
The church, the body of Christ, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all, the one body in which believing Jews and Gentiles are united, the building growing unto an holy temple, the habitation of God by the Spirit, and the ultimate destiny of that body, are further revelations of these marvellous chapters.
Now the central verse of these chapters is found in ii:1O. "For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained, that we should walk in them." The word "workmanship" arrests our attention. It is the Greek "Poiema," from which our word "Poem" is derived. It is a beautiful thought in itself to think of those who are saved by Grace, and united to Christ as "the poem of God." But the word "Poiema" may also be rendered "Masterpiece." Only once more is the same word found in the original language of the New Testament Scriptures. In Romans i:20 it is used in connection with the physical creation. God has produced two great masterworks in which He manifests His power. He called the universe into existence out of nothing. What He, as the omnipotent One can do, is seen in the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the sustenance of His creation. His eternal power and Godhead are revealed in creation (Rom. i:19-20). But the creation of the universe out of nothing is not the greatest masterpiece of God. God has done something greater. He has produced a work, which reveals Him in a far higher degree. That greater masterpiece is the redemption of sinners. God took only six days to bring order out of the chaos of the disturbed original creation and to call into existence the present earth and heavens, but He spent forty days with Moses in directing him to build the tabernacle, because the work of redemption is more glorious than the work of creation. In this greater work He manifests "the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places" (i:17-20). God planned this great work before He ever created the universe, and the universe was called into existence in anticipation of this greater manifestation of God's glorious power. How God planned it before the foundation of the world, the work of the Godhead in the accomplishment of it, the details of His masterpiece and the mystery connected with it, we hope to follow in this exposition.
God's creation may be studied with the telescope and with the microscope. With the telescope we study the heavens and see the great constellations and millions of heavenly bodies. We take the microscope and examine the drop of water and behold there the marvels of creation. A telescopic sweep of this Epistle is insufficient. The microscopic examination brings out its wonders.
"The student of the Epistle to the Ephesians must not expect to go over his ground too rapidly; must not be disappointed, if the week's end finds him still on the same paragraph, or even on the same verse, weighing and judging, - penetrating gradually, by the power of the mind of the Spirit, through one outer surface after another, getting in his hand one and another ramifying thread, till at last he grasps the main cord whence they all diverged, and where they all unite - and stands rejoicing in his prize, deeper rooted in the faith, and with a firmer hold on the truth as it is in Christ. And as the wonderful effect of the spirit of inspiration on the mind of man is nowhere in Scripture more evident than in this Epistle, so, to discern those things of the Spirit, is the spiritual mind here more than anywhere else required." And the more we read and study this Epistle, the more we will be impressed with the greatness and the glory of the revelation it brings to our hearts. It is a theme for eternity. How needful the study of this Epistle is for us in these days! The truths revealed will keep us in the days of apostasy and lift us above the materialistic spirit of the times. Without earnest and continued meditation on the great truths made known in this Epistle, spiritual growth and enjoyment are impossible. May it please the Holy Spirit to lead the writer and the reader into a better and deeper heart knowledge of His wonderful Grace.
The Epistle to the Ephesians is composed of two parts. In chapter iv:1 we read, "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the calling wherewith ye are called." With the fourth chapter the second part of this Epistle begins. The preceding chapters, the first three, then tell us of the calling wherewith the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has called those, who believe in His Son, and from the fourth chapter to the end of this letter we find exhortations to walk worthy of that calling. To walk worthy as a Christian it is needful to know the calling wherewith He has called us. In the first great prayer in this Epistle we read, "That ye may know what is the Hope of His calling." Every Christian believer must know the Calling above everything else. The true knowledge of it is to govern our lives on earth.
How God planned for and works in the production of His Masterpiece.
1. The Introduction. Verses 1-2.
2. The Great Doxology. Verse 3.
3. The Plan and Work of the Godhead. Verses 4-14.
A. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
a. Chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Verse 4.
b. Predestinated us unto the Son-place in o Christ. Verse 5.
c. Made us accepted in the Beloved. Verse 6.
"To the Praise of the Glory of His Grace." Verse 6.
B. The Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
a. Redeemed us through His blood. Verse 7.
b. The Revelation in Him of the mystery of His will. Verses 8-10.
c. In Him we obtained an Inheritance. Verse 11.
"To the Praise of His Glory." Verse 12.
C. The Holy Spirit of God.
a. Quickened by Him in hearing and believing the Gospel. Verse 13.
b. Sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise. Verse 13.
c. The Earnest of our Inheritance. Verse 14.
"Unto the Praise of His Glory." Verse 14.
4. The Parenthetical Prayer to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory. Verses 15-23.
A. Thanksgiving. Verses 15-16.
B. The Prayer for Enlightenment in the Knowledge of Him. Verses 17-18.
a. To know the Hope of His Calling (God the Father). Verse 18.
b. To know the riches of the Glory of His inheritance in the Saints (God the Son). Verse 18.
c. To know the exceeding greatness of His power to usward, who believe (God the Holy Spirit). Verse 19.
C. The Manifestation of the Power to usward. Verses 20-23.
a. Christ raised from the dead. Verse 20.
b. Seated at God's right hand far above all. Verses 20-21.
c. All things under His feet. Verse 22.
d. Head of the Church, His body. Verses 22-23.
The Masterpiece produced.
A. Dead in Trespasses and Sin. Verse 1.
B. Enemies of God under the Prince of the Power in the Air. Verse 2.
C. Children of Wrath. Verse 3.
2. What God does rich in Mercy. Verses 4-6.
A. The foundation: His great love wherewith He loved us. John iii:16. Verse 4.
B. Giving Life together with Christ. Verse 5.
C. Hath raised us up with Him. Verse 6.
D. Seated us in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Verse 6.
3. The Destiny of the Masterpiece. Verse 7.
The Ages to come.
4. Saved by Grace through Faith. Verses 8-10.
A. The positive statement. Saved by Grace Verse 8.
B. The negative side: Not of Works. Verse 9.
C. The Purpose of the Masterpiece. Verse 10.
a. His Workmanship.
b. Created in Christ unto good works.
Chapter II :11-III :21.
The Mystery of the Masterpiece, the Church, the house of God and the Body of Christ.
1. The Conditions of the Gentiles. Verses 11-12.
A. Called the Uncircumcision. Verse 11.
B. What they were. Verse 12.
a. Without Christ. (Aliens).
b. Strangers to the covenants.
c. Without Hope and without God.
2. But Now in Christ Jesus. Verses 13-18.
A. Made nigh by the blood of Christ. Verse 14.
B. What the work of Christ has accomplished. Verses 15-18.
a. He is our Peace; made both One. Verse 14.
b. Broken down the middle wall.
c. Abolished the law of commandments in ordinances. Verse 15.
d. To make one new Man. Verse 15.
e. In Himself.
C. The Reconciliation. Verse 16.
a. Both (Jews and Gentiles) reconciled unto God in one body.
b. The enmity slain.
c. By the Cross.
D. The Peace and Reconciliation preached. Verse 17.
a. To those afar off (Gentiles).
b. To them that were nigh (Jews).
E. The gracious Result. Verse 18.
Both have access by one spirit unto the Father.
3. The great Relationship of the Master-piece. Verses 19-22.
A. The relationship changed. Verse 19.
a. No more strangers and foreigners.
b. Fellow citizens with the Saints.
c. Of the Household of God.
B. The church as the Spiritual House. Verse 20.
a. The foundation of the house laid.
b. The chief cornerstone.
C. The Holy Temple. Verse 21.
a. Building framed together.
b. Growing unto an holy temple.
D. The Church, the habitation of God through the Spirit.
4. The ministry of the Mystery of the Masterpiece. Chapter 111:1-13.
A. Paul the prisoner of Jesus Christ. Verse 1.
B. His Ministry concerning the Masterpiece. Verses 2-5.
a. Made known by revelation.
b. The mystery of Christ.
c. Hidden in other ages.
d. Now made known by the Spirit.
C. The Mystery revealed. Verse 6.
a. Gentiles fellowheirs.
b. Of the same body.
c. Partakers of His promise in Christ.
D. Paul made a Minister of it. Verse 7.
a. According to the gifts of His Grace.
b. According to the working of His Power.
E. The Proclamation of the unsearchable Riches. Verse 8.
a. The Apostle's humility.
b. The unsearchable riches of Christ.
F. The dispensation of the mystery and its purpose. Verses 9-10.
a. To make all see what it is. Verse 9.
b. To show the manifold wisdom of God to the heavenly principalities and powers. Verse 10.
c. According to the eternal purpose. Verse 11.
d. Access with confidence. Verse 12.
e. The tribulations of the Minister of the Mystery. Verse 13.
5. The Prayer unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Verses 14-19.
A. The Prayer unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Verses 14-15.
B. The Petitions of the Prayer. Verses 16-19.
a. To be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner Man. Verse 16.
b. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. Verse 17.
c. Rooted and grounded in love.
d. To comprehend with all saints. Verse 18.
e. To know the Love of Christ. Verse 19.
f. To be filled with the fullness of God.
6. The Great End - Doxology. Verses 20-21.
This marvellous section of the Word of God begins with a great doxology (i :3) and ends with another great outburst of Praise. All is unto the Praise of the Glory of His Grace.
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