On the Epistle to the Ephesians: Chapter 1

Ephesians 1  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 5
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The great point is that Ephesians begins with the counsels of God: man was responsible of course. First, you have the counsels of God, and then the operations of God to bring them about; then the consequences in practice. The saints, according to the counsels of God, are brought to the Father in Christ’s place. My first position in chap. 1 is, I am with God and the Father; the second is, I am united to the glorified man—Christ.
Chapter 2 shows the working in individuals, to bring them into this unity with Christ.
God takes the dead man—Christ—and sets Him above everything in heavenly places; and He has taken me and set me in Christ Jesus. It is the operations, chapter 2, which effectuate the counsels, chapter 1. The moment Christ has become a man, He obeys God. So it is said, “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Psalms 45:77Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Psalm 45:7)). But being man, still Son with the Father.
The Jews will be blessed with all temporal blessings, in earthly places, under Christ. We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. True, it is said of the Jew, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth” (Isa. 43:66I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; (Isaiah 43:6)). But they have not the same relation of sonship as we have; with us it is of a heavenly character. It is as Christ said, “My Father and your Father.” If you carry in your mind that these are counsels, and not accomplishment, the whole difficulty as to having got the blessings or not disappears. It is, of course, a question how much we apprehend it. I have this present relationship, and the love of God shed abroad in my heart. “The earnest of the inheritance” is a secondary thing, though most blessed. The great thing for us is to follow Scripture.
You have the calling and the inheritance. If you take the inheritance as the whole thing you make a mistake. The Holy Ghost is the earnest of this. But the calling is another thing. If you have not got the calling you have nothing at all. I have first the calling; when I have got this I am competent to understand the counsels of God, and then I have the earnest of the inheritance.
The saints now are heirs of God, not His inheritance. The Jews are His inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:99For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. (Deuteronomy 32:9)). It says, “The Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.”
All spiritual blessings are mine in Christ. This, he unfolds (v. 4), is my place with God (v. 5). “Having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself,” is my relationship with the Father. God has given me all that. Have I it all in my hand as it were yet? No, but I have it for mine. I am waiting for the salvation ready to be revealed. I have got it, but I enter into possession then. I am a Son. I have eternal life. I am loved as Christ is laved, and can call God, Abba, Father. We are sitting in heavenly places in Christ, but not with Him yet. It is not only as to title now, it is in fact. I am a son.
If you take it out of the thoughts of God, “who hath wrought us for it,” you go wrong. If you say “our glory, our inheritance,” you make a mistake, it is “God’s inheritance.” It is not the question of accomplishment or otherwise. The counsel (v. 4), was before ever the world was made, that we should be holy and without blame before Him, and in His presence, &c. It is God’s nature given to us. Christ was all this down here. He was holy, blameless, and always before God in love.
Then (v. 5) you have relationship with the Father, “according to the good pleasure of his will.” When He speaks of God, He cannot have an unholy being there. When He speaks of the Father He puts them in the place of children, according to the good pleasure of His will. He might have had servants there, but they would not have suited His love. I have the positive delight of God in giving me the best place with the Father. It is really Christ’s place. That is God’s mind. That is what is called the glory of His grace. It is remarkable giving Christ the character of “Beloved.” He might have said “in Christ” only, but here it is God’s mind to have me in the same blessed relationship with Himself as the Son—Christ’s own place.
“In whom we have redemption,” &c. (v. 7); now He states the fact that to get into this place, we must have redemption. Thus I have my miseries, and I have His riches. When I have His counsels, I have “the glory of his grace.” Now it is the riches of His grace. If you ask what measure I am to take of this redemption in His Son, it is according to the riches of His grace. I have to measure it by God’s thoughts, that is to say, I cannot, measure it at all.
As soon as He has put us in this place of full blessing, He has made this grace abound “toward us in all wisdom and intelligence, having made known to us the mystery of his will” in us. That is not merely my place, but having put me into this place, He goes on to tell me all He is going to do about Christ.
He puts us into the place of competency, but also “abounds” to us in making known the mystery of His will. It becomes known to me when I know it of course, and not before. This is the hidden wisdom of 1 Corinthians 2:77But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: (1 Corinthians 2:7).
What is prudence here?
A better word is intelligence.
You do not find the Church here at all (v. 10). He is giving us Christ personally. At the close of the chapter He shows us the special place of the Church, “He gave him to be head over all things to the church.”
“In whom,” that is in Christ, “we have obtained an inheritance” (v. 11).
Now, I believe He is speaking of the Jew (v. 12). The Jew who trusts in Christ after this dispensation will not get this, but those who have pre-trusted in Christ wall get this. They get the start of the nation as it were. After the Gentiles heard the gospel of salvation, they trusted God too, and got the seal of the Holy Spirit of promise. God proved by sealing the Gentiles that He would have them as joint heirs. It was a most important thing that God has put a seal on them; then the Jews could have nothing to say. Thus the example of Cornelius (v. 14), “Our inheritance.... unto the praise of his glory.” Not the glory of His grace merely. That completes the whole thing.
Then comes Paul’s prayer (v. 17). I have Christ as man (v. 18), is all objective; it is a question what we may know when our eyes are enlightened. “His inheritance in the saints” is millennial. He inherited the land of Israel in His people, and He will inherit all things in the saints. You now come to the power that works it all (v. 19). I do not find Christ here till He is a dead man, raised by God and set far above everything. This makes a clean sweep of the world, and takes us as dead too.
We were lying dead in sins, and Christ came down there. Having been found there, and having put away our sins on His way down, we being all found together there (in death), God takes us and Him, and sets us all together in the heavenly places. He begins with Christ, where we were in death.
“Gave him to be head over all things to the church” (v. 22). I have here the headship over everything, and the headship to His body. He quickens us, and puts us into Christ. In Psalms 8, I only find Christ, the Church is not there. My head is the head of my body, but suppose I have an estate, I am head over that also, a double headship.
There is another thing in my mind. “The fullness of him that filleth all in all.” I used to take that as referring to His Godhead only. Now, you find in ch. 4, 5:9, it says, “Now, he that ascended, what is it but that he also descended.... He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.” I have been thinking whether it is not here also to Christ as Redeemer who fills all in all. He has gone below everything, and now He is set above everything. Then He who does fill all things takes the Church to be His body, the fullness of Him. It is the divine coming into the place of redemption, and going down into the place of the grave, then going up far above all heavens. There is a positive divine side when you say filling all in all; filling all things is not quite so strong, but the same general sense.