Ephesians - Christ our Leader and our Lord
J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
There is, perhaps, no writing in the book of God so majestic and so wonderful as the Epistle to the Ephesians. Here we reach the very pinnacle of spiritual knowledge, the summit of revealed truth, the coping-stone of doctrinal structure and a masterpiece of revelation, in its setting forth of the unveiled purpose of God. There are twenty-eight references to Christ as "Lord", and in measure as we daily own Him as such He will lead us into the vast field of truth in this letter. In chapter 1 He leads us into the "dining room" where we have a feast of good things. His eternal purpose, His enriching gifts, His enduring riches, His excellent working and the exceeding greatness of His power.
We pass into the "reception room" in chapter 2 and feel at home among His saints knowing the joy of regeneration, relationship, reconciliation.
We enter the "throne room" in chapter 3 and present our petitions "unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ", and are assured of His almighty power.
Being thus blessed we view the "jewel room" in chapter 4, gazing with wonder and reverent humility on some of His jewels in the church, love, humility, unity, grace, forbearance, growth and righteousness.
The strains of harmonious music are heard in the "music room" of chapter 5 where the fulness of the Spirit is expressed in tunefulness, thankfulness and thoughtfulness in the various relationships of life.
We visit the "armoury" in chapter 6 and are led out in victory by the Conqueror of the hosts of hell, and are reminded that persevering prayer is the secret of victorious living in our heavenly Canaan land.
Chapter 1—He Leads us into the Heavenly Sphere. Here we desire security, and are viewed "in Christ Jesus". This assures us of the abundant blessing now and forever—ail in Him. All the wealth of God is ours in our glorious Lord and He desires us to be enriched daily as we walk up and down the land, Gen. 13. 14-17. We pass into the liberty of life, "life in Christ", beautifully expressed in that striking preposition "in", occurring over ninety times in this book. The gracious purposes of love—"accepted in the beloved" and God's amazing grace in redemption, Eph. 1. 7, bring unspeakable comfort to every true believer. As we view our allotted portion—"an inheritance", v. 11, apprehend His will for us, v. 9, meditating on the lovely expression "according to", repeated ten times in the Epistle, it engenders gratitude in the soul as we richly appreciate the great things God has brought us into through the work of His Son, and the operation of the Spirit in us.
As the illumined mind surveys the whole horizon of glorious truth thus unveiled, we wonder how it can ever be ours, v. 1. Like Moses on Mount Pisgah, we view the good land and rejoice in the Lord in whom we have security, v. 1 ; provision, v. 2; blessing, v. 3; election, v. 4; sonship, v. 5; acceptance, v. 6; redemption and forgiveness, v. 7; and ultimate glory in association with Himself, v. 10. We share an inheritance, v. 11 ; will bring Him pleasure, v. 12; await the realization of our hopes, v. 14; and by the Spirit rise to heights of contemplation, vv. 17-21. At the same time, we bless God for the position of honour our Lord now occupies, v. 21, and bow in adoring worship at His feet as we think of all His fulness made available for, and used in, the strengthening of His blood-bought church.
Chapter 2—He Lifts us from the Horrible Pit. From the wealth of God for us in chapter 1, we now have the work of grace for us in Christ. Where did God find us? In the graveyard of sin surrounded by trespasses. In verse 1, man is viewed at the beginning at his very lowest and worst, and at the close of the chapter at his highest and best. We are reminded of what we were by nature, but also that from which we have been delivered.
We have life from the dead and are elevated by God. The transition is made by two dynamic words, "But God", v. 4. He loves us, was merciful to us, exercised His sovereign power on our behalf and by His grace saved us, v. .
Only God can raise the dead, and His ultimate purpose is to exhibit in the Church, to men and angels throughout endless ages, the exceeding riches of His grace, v. 7,
From ruination to reconciliation— not by works, v. 9, since these accomplish nothing for God or for ourselves. Grace brings us into divine favour in Christ and we enjoy nearness to God, v. 13. This great transformation has been accomplished at tremendous cost—that of His precious blood, v. 13. Think of the accomplishment of Calvary, vv. 14-16; we are acceptable to God, v. 13; barriers have been broken down, Godward and man-ward, v. 14; peace has been procured, v. 15; reconciliation effected, v. 16; and access to God as Father becomes the privilege of every believing soul, v. 18. The assurance of all is given in the Living Lord, v. 17; the joy of fellowship and citizenship becomes ours, v. 19, all bringing glory to our God, in the household and in the sanctuary, vv. 20, 22. All is supplied by sovereign grace.
Chapter 3—He Lives Within our Hearts. The key that unlocks the door of the Throne Room is found in verse 17. The blessings of Christianity rest on a Trinitarian foundation, vv. 14, 16, 17. Are we conscious that the Lord Jesus lives within ? What is the purpose of His residence in our hearts? Surely He desires to unfold to us His treasures, v. 8. Paul had a glorious mission and was fitted for his task by divine authority and equipment, vv. 2, 4. He had an exclusive privilege bestowed upon him, v. 8, and had effective power to enable him to unveil the mystery of the Church, vv. 7, 9.
Who can fully understand the inconceivable riches of the Christ? We require the revelation of the Spirit in this as in other great things, v. 5, leading to humility of mind, v. 8a. The divine purpose has been revealed, vv. 11 -12; His wisdom is being exhibited, v. 10; and celestial beings are being instructed through the Church, v. 10. Such is the heavenward side of our mission in the world. This calls for power, so we are introduced to the fulness of God, and the love of Christ by His Spirit within, v. 16. We are informed of the measure of these—filled to overflowing.
In verse 16 we reach Pisgah's vision viewed from the high and holy range of the heavenlies. For this we need strength to climb, v. 16; sunlight to reveal, furnished by the indwelling Christ, v. 17. Our present heritage is to be filled with the fulness of God and to be pervaded and penetrated by divine joy and glory.
These new attitudes and associations surpass knowledge and overshoot the range of human thought vv. 18, 19. All is guaranteed to us for He is able. What a promise; what a plentitude of power! May we appropriate the divine fulness, apprehend the divine purpose, assimilate the divine love, and ascribe all glory to our God, vv. 20, 21.
Chapter 4—Lavishing Gifts upon His Church. Dignity conferred upon us calls for humility of mind and a walk that is worthy of the Lord. Trace the sevenfold walk of the Christian life in the Epistle. The features of this walk mean conformity to Christ v. 2. These are the requisites for unity, displayed in our Lord and expected from all who follow Him. The recognition of this unity is vital; it must be preserved, vv. 3-6, leading to worship of our God for His transcendence, providence and presence, v 6.
The variety of gifts bestowed upon the church are the fruits of His achievement and ascension. They are given for the edifying of the Body and to equip the saints for their work, yet not to do the work for them. Only a Spirit-filled ministry will promote development of a Spirit-filled church. His enthronement leads to enduement and enrichment, vv. 10, 11. This equipment is for the adjustment of the saints, leading to God's ideal for us in the stature of the fulness of Christ, and we look forward to the day of realization, v. 13.
Principles obeyed enable us to advance as we follow the new model, vv. 20, 21 ; to have a renewed mind, v. 23; and to express a new morality, seen in sincerity in speech, v. 25; industry in labour, v. 28; and sympathy which is practical and productive, v. 32.
Chapter 5—Leading us along the Highway of Love. Another beautiful expression in this Epistle—"in love"—reminds our hearts of the love of our Lord Jesus for us. "Love" (ten times as a noun and ten times as a verb) is an enriching study. His love expressed itself in sacrifice and surrender, v. 2, and in this He is our inspiration and Example. We are called to be imitators of God, followers of Christ and abstainers from sin and selfishness. Love expresses itself in purity of living as opposed to social immorality, idle prattle and baseless levity, v. 4. Let nothing dull our sensitivity to the leading of the Spirit whose nature is holiness. We need to walk in the reality of light for the sake of the testimony. No shadow of inconsistency should cast a shade over our profession, vv. 7, 8.
Like our Lord, our life should be fruitful, and we should give first priority to the perception and performance of the will of God, vv. 9, 10. Love expresses itself in song, in refusing excesses, and in speaking to edification, vv. 18-20. A Spirit-filled life implies the displacement of all that is un-spiritual.
Chapter 5. 22 to 6. 24—Lord in Every Realm. The Spirit-filled Christian is submissive rather than self-assertive, and his conduct is regulated by the love of Christ for His Church. Nevertheless, while there is equality, there is a difference in status, so the wife is subject to her husband, "as unto the Lord", v. 22. The standard for the Christian is a selfless, sympathetic, sacrificial love "as Christ also loved the church".
We look back to the Lord's act of sacrifice, we look up to His sanctifying ministry through the Word, and look on to the final day of satisfaction, when we shall be "presented", vv. 25-27.
Children are to be dependent and obedient, displaying a willing submission to authority, 6. 1. The "right-ness" of obedience lies in the fact that God has commanded it and the Christian home commends it. Masters and servants are to trust one another rightly, all rendering service as to the Lord.
The Christian soldier is engaged in a fight against the devil and his armies. For such warfare we require spiritual qualities, and armour befitting such a grim conflict. The enemy is strong, resourceful, wily and intangible, and so we must be personally strong, v. 10. We must appropriate the Lord for victory. He is our impregnable fortress and Captain, so victory is assured. We must be perpetually safeguarded, vv. 11, 13. We have the protection of the girdle of truth—reality; the breastplate of a righteous life Godward and man-ward ; the large shield of faith—trust in God; the helmet designed to prevent evil thoughts; and the sword wielded by the Spirit to foil the enemy.
Persistent prayer is necessary to defend us from the adversary, and for this the mind must be stayed upon God.
As we crown Him "Lord of all" we will possess our possessions, ch. 1 ; prize our privileges, ch. 2; propagate the Gospel, ch. 3; put away all evil habits, ch. 4; please Him in everything, ch. 5; prevail against the enemy, ch. 6.
Like Mary, Thomas and Paul, may we daily say, "My Lord". This will be exhibited by giving earnest heed to the Word of our Supreme Commander.