The Inspiration of the Scriptures: Ephesians

Ephesians  •  19 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Chap. 5 Divine Design. 38. the Epistle to the Ephesians
In writing to the Ephesians the apostle takes his stand on ground wholly different from the Epistle to the Galatians. There he combats return to law in every shape, ceremonial or moral, and insists on grace in Christ crucified and risen, on promise before the law and accomplished only in Christ, so that blessing should flow even to Gentiles, and the promise of the Spirit be received by faith. But to the Ephesians he shows divine and eternal counsels.
The Christian is blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ (1:3); and this by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was both man and Son of His love. The same God and Father chose us in Him before the world's foundation, far above earthly ways and beyond promise. He chose us that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love (4). If He would have us there, He could not but have us like Himself. But He was pleased to fore-ordain our relationship, even for adoption or sonship, through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (5) for the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (6). In Him (for we were evil) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of offenses according to the riches of His grace (7), which He made to abound toward us (not like Adam for the earth) in all wisdom and intelligence (8). He also made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself (9) for administration of the fullness of the fit times: to head up the universe in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth; in Him in Whom we also were given inheritance, for if sons of God, we were heirs. We were thus fore-ordained according to the purpose of Him Who works all things according to the purpose of His own will, that we should be to the praise of His glory. “We” are the believing Jews that had pre-trusted in the Christ (12). In Him ye too (Gentile saints), having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, in Whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, Who is earnest of our inheritance for the redemption of the possession, for praise of His glory (14). Jew and Gentile are alike thus blessed in the highest degree, far beyond the promises to the fathers.
So delicate and precious and rich is the apostle's preamble, that one does best to give it just as it is. The glory of His grace embraces the whole sweep of the purposed blessing; the riches of His grace, what more than meets all our need now; the praise of His glory, when we enter on the inheritance. But the choice of God and fore-ordaining go back into eternity before there was a universe to inherit with Christ. The summing or beading up in Him of the whole heavenly and earthly, will be administered when the various seasons run out, and the inheritance, heavenly and earthly, will be displayed; and we, of all others, share Christ's glory over all, and have the earnest as well as seal already, in the Holy Spirit given to us.
Then, we have from verse 15 and at least to the end of chap. 1 the apostle's prayer for them, founded on the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory (17), of Whom he desires the enlightenment of the eyes of their heart to know what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His power toward us that believe, according to the working of the might of His strength which He wrought in the Christ, when He raised Him out of the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies, far above the most exalted of creatures now and ever, and subjected all under His feet, and gave Him [to be] head over all things to the church which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (23).
The prayer almost imperceptibly passes into the teaching of chap. 2. To the hope of God's calling as in chap. 1:3-6, with its accompaniments in verses 7, 8, and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (for He takes it in them as in the Christ) in verses 9-11, with the way Jews and Gentiles come in, and the Holy Spirit's relation to both blessings, he adds the wondrous power displayed in raising and exalting Christ. Now in chapter 2:1-10 he shows it to be the same power that wrought in the Ephesian saints, and so in all Christians, quickened with the Christ, raised up together, and made sit down together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, that God might display in the coming ages the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Thus were and are they saved by grace through faith, His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God before prepared that we should walk in them. All were alike dead in offenses and sins. God thus wrought to bring believers into this new estate of living association with Christ on high.
From verse 11 the apostle would have those once Gentiles remember their then far off condition, without one of Israel's privileges. Now they were made nigh by the blood of the Christ; and in the same nearness were the believing Jews. For Christ, our peace, not only took away all obstacles, but made both one, forming the two in Himself into one new man, one body. Though Jews had once been outwardly nigh, and Gentiles afar off, through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Strangers and foreigners the Gentile believers were no more, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of God's household, all alike being built on quite a new foundation—that of the apostles and prophets (of whom he speaks in chap. 4:11), Jesus Christ Himself (not Peter) being the corner-stone. In Him all the building framed together increaseth unto a holy temple in the Lord; “In whom ye also,” he says, “are builded together for God's habitation in the Spirit.”
Thus we have the church viewed as Christ's body, and God's house, in which distinct respects his Epistles often regard it. The article seems necessarily wanting in verse 21, though excellent old MSS. insert it; but according to correct usage, as the building is not complete, it could not be there. Yet this does not warrant “each several,” as in the R. V. For, though as the ordinary rule, πᾶσα without the article, requires “every,” there are known exceptions, as “all Jerusalem” (Matt. 2:33When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:3)), “all the house of Israel” (Acts 2:3636Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:36)), “all Israel” (Rom. 11:2626And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: (Romans 11:26)). It is not a proper name that really accounts for this; a whole viewed in its parts excludes the article, yet means “all.” The mistranslation is therefore not only superficial, but directly upsets the unity of the building on which the apostle here insists as everywhere else.
Chapter 1 revealed the counsels of God in Christ risen and seated on high, followed up by the apostle's prayer to the God of our Lord Jesus; and chapter ii. showed us how grace has brought us in, not only as individuals, but collectively, and the temporary setting aside of Israel, believing Jews and Gentiles alike, to be Christ's body and God's habitation in the Spirit. Chapter 3 connects with the subject Paul's special administration of this mystery or secret.
Therefore are the Gentiles the objects of grace in a way wholly unheard of in other generations, as now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit—the same power which builds all the saints together for God's dwelling. It was by revelation made known that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which Paul was become minister according to the gift of His grace given him according to the working of His power. This of course could not be, nor be revealed, till the cross had closed the Jewish system and opened the door in Christ ascended for the Creator of all things to make known heavenly counsels and ways in Him to any and everybody that believed. Equally clear is it that when Christ comes for His own to be with Him in the Father's house, and subsequently appears to execute judgment on Babylon and the Beast, on the Antichrist and all other enemies, He will restore Israel specially and bless the Gentiles in general under His blissful reign over the universe.
Meanwhile the gospel where these distinctions are obliterated and unknown goes forth, and the unsearchable riches of the Christ announced, as Paul did pre-eminently and far beyond all prophecy. This was in order that now to the principalities and the authorities in the heavenlies might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God according to a purpose of the ages (or, eternal) which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, in Whom we have boldness and access in confidence through the faith in Him. The apostle would not have them discouraged at his tribulations for them, it was their glory, which roused the enemy (3:1-13).
“For this cause” (repeating the phrase which opens the chapter, and carrying out the parenthesis into a new prayer founded on its wondrous intimations) he bows his knees to the Father [of our Lord Jesus Christ, an addition favored by many MSS., Vv., etc.] of Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. Here, however, it is not as in chapter 1 that a spirit of wisdom and revelation might be given to the saints to know the hope of His calling and the glory of His inheritance and the greatness of His power in Christ risen and exalted; it is to be strengthened with power by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ might dwell in their hearts through faith, rooted and grounded in love, that they might be able to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height (he does not say of what, but evidently of the mystery), and to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge; that they might be filled unto all the fullness of God. This is not for spiritual intelligence of God's counsels and of what God had wrought in Christ to give them effect, but for present power of the Spirit in realizing Christ dwelling in their hearts, and thus entering into fellowship with all the saints into the boundless glory, and His love deeper than the glory which will display it another day. Now to Him that is able to do far exceeding above all we ask and think, according to the power that worketh in us (and not only for us), to Him be the glory in the church in Christ Jesus unto all generations forever and ever. Amen (vers. 14-21).
Paul, the prisoner in the Lord, beseeches the saints on the ground of all he has made known, to walk worthily of the calling wherewith they were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, using diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the joint bond of peace. This leads him to set forth unity fully: “one body and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all, and in you [or, us] all” (4:1-6). The relationship determines the duty: what then must be ours, so blessed of God? It is easy to see that verse 4 sets out the vital, as verse 5 the professing, unity; while verse 6 is universal in its early clauses, yet the most intimate grace in the last. We are exhorted to be faithful in every case.
Next, the various workings in each for the blessing of all to Christ's glory are shown in verses 7-16. All is founded on Him ascended on high, as this depended on His descending into the lower parts of the earth, and also ascending to the highest, that He might fill all things. He it is Who gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, unto work of ministry, unto edifying of the body of Christ. What is the term of this? Until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at a full grown man, at the measure of stature of the fullness of Christ. For His gracious aim is that we be no longer babes, tossed and carried about by every wind of the teaching [that is] in the sleight of men for the spread of error; but, holding truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, Who is the head, the Christ; from Whom the whole body, fitted and compacted together by every joint of supply, according to the effectual working in measure of each one part, works for itself the increase of the body unto its own edifying in love.
It is not here, as in 1 Cor. 12, the Holy Spirit testifying in this creation (and hence by tongues, healings, etc.) to God's glory in Christ, Who has defeated Satan before the universe. It is Christ in His love to His own sending down from His heavenly seat the gifts of His grace to His body and to every several member. Thus here only we have the assurance that, while His members are on earth, His supplies of grace cannot fail. The foundation has been laid so well that it were folly to expect it re-laid; but all that perpetuates and edifies it were unbelief to doubt till He come. With this goes the promise of the other Paraclete, the, Holy Spirit, to abide forever in and with us (John 14), Who guides into all the truth. Hence the very babes in Christ are said (1 John 2:2020But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. (1 John 2:20)) to have unction from the Holy One. No Christian need distrust.
Thereon the general exhortations proceed. They are warned against any allowance of their former walk as Gentiles, alienated from God's life in every way, inward and outward. Not so did they learn the Christ, if albeit they heard Him and were taught in Him according as truth is in Jesus. What is this? Their having put away as to their former behavior the old man corrupt as to its lusts of deceit, and their being renewed in the spirit of their mind, and their having put on the new man which according to God was created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore putting away falsehood (this goes beyond lying) they were to speak truth, as being members one of another. They were not to allow continued anger. Instead of stealing they were to give, and to speak what was good for edifying, and not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God by Whom they were sealed for redemption's day. So all bitterness and heat, wrath, clamor, and abusive language, with all malice, must be put away from them; and they were to be kind one to another, compassionate, forgiving each other, even as God also showed them grace (vers. 17-32).
Grace toward faultiness, however, is not all. Chapter 5. opens with the more positive call to be imitators of God as children beloved, and walk in love; as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for an odor of sweet smell. It was perfection in Him—for us, but to God; and it is our express pattern of love. But the danger of unclean sin is as carefully urged as of violence just before; and this in the levity of speech as in lust. Thanksgiving is a great antidote; as is our sense that those who so indulge are incompatible with the kingdom of Christ and God. Grace to believers in no way precludes God's wrath on the sons of disobedience. We, who were once darkness but now light in the Lord, should be far from such partnership, and walk as children of light, the fruit of which is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. The Spirit comes in, not in verse 9 but later in verse 18 as power, after love and light have been fully treated as the source, principle, and character of the walk for the new creation, proving what is agreeable to the Lord. The Christian is disposed to sleep, and is therefore to awake and rise up from among the dead, and Christ shall shine upon him: an evident allusion to Israel's portion by-and-by. Hence the need of walking carefully as wise, buying up the fit time, intelligent in the Lord's will, and filled with the Spirit in songs of praise of a Christian sort, certainly not with the world's dissolute excitement. Entitled as we are always and in all things to give thanks to Him Who is God and Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us not fail in doing thus, submitting ourselves to one another in Christ's fear (5:1-21).
This leads to the application of the same principle in our relationships; where the subject one is regularly first exhorted in each pair, wives to husbands, children to parents, and slaves to masters (verses 22-6:9). The wife and husband give occasion to a grand unfolding of Christ's love for the church or assembly as the model. He “loved the church and gave himself up for it, that he might sanctify it, purifying it by the washing of the water in virtue of the word, that he himself might present to himself the church glorious, not having spot or wrinkle or any of such things; but that it might be holy and blameless.” Christ thus loved the church before He gave Himself up for it; and not content with that infinite self-surrender to sanctify it, He purifies after a divine fashion, as He will consummate His love in the glorious issue. His love sees to it all, and He uses the word now, as He will personally at length present it to Himself according to His own perfectness. So is the husband to love his own wife, and the wife to fear the husband. Children are not only to submit but to “obey” their parents in the Lord. If the law bade them pay honor, how much more the gospel? But fathers are not to irritate their children, but bring them up in the Lord's discipline and admonition. So were slaves to obey their masters according to flesh, but “as to Christ.” What a privilege, and beyond all other emancipation! Masters were to do the same things, in the equity they expected, forbearing threat, and knowing they had a common Master in the heavens.
Then follows (vers. 10-20), after the call to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, the whole armor of God we are to put on. It is not the righteousness we become in Christ, but practical as against the enemy. The sword of the Spirit, being God's word, is our one offensive weapon. That panoply we need that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. “For our wrestling is not against blood and flesh, but against principalities, against authorities, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual [hosts] of wickedness in the heavenlies.” We are contrasted with Israel arrayed against the Canaanites. Wherefore he bids us to take up the whole armor of God that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, as it is now till the Lord take His great power and reign. First, we are to be girt about our loins with truth, the inward movements thus braced before God; then to put on the breast-plate of righteousness, the confidence of an irreproachably right course; next, the walk animated by the gospel's peaceful spirit; besides (or, in) all, we must take the unwavering faith in God, which is the shield to quench all the inflamed darts of the wicked one; and receive the helmet of salvation in the assurance of what God wrought for us.
But even God's word will not avail against the foe unless the Spirit guide us in wielding it. Thus all demands simple and constant dependence on God. Hence “praying at all seasons with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, and for me,” added the blessed apostle, “that utterance may be given me in the opening of my mouth with boldness to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am ambassador in a chain, that I may be bold in it as I ought to speak.” In what a place of nearness to God stand the faithful—in common interest with Him, and hence with the greatest of apostles as with the weakest of saints, for Christ's glory! Hence as the apostle shared Christ's love to them all, so he was assured they in their love would delight to hear all particulars of him; he sent Tychicus therefore to comfort their hearts, as a joint and band in the body.
The salutation is in keeping: “Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace with all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruptness.” Without the Father and the Lord, what is anything else? Without incorruptness, even the love, or rather what is called love, were vain.