Everything touching the present position of the believer is different from that which obtained with Israel in their heyday. The old economy is far inferior to the present “purpose of God”. Israel was then blessed in Abraham with sundry earthly blessings in Canaan. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ. The disclosure of this was not made until the basis for its accomplishment had been laid, in the death, resurrection and glorification of Christ, and until the Holy Spirit had been sent as the present earnest or pledge of what we are yet to inherit in Christ. The “purpose" remained a “mystery’, that is, an undisclosed secret, until the appropriate time had arrived for it to be revealed. It was the first to be conceived and will be the first to be consummated, yet it was the last to be revealed.
Paul had pioneered the gospel at Ephesus, Acts 19, and had later counselled the elders of the church which had there been formed, Acts 20. Now, some years later, his heart is rejoiced as he hears of their “faith in the Lord Jesus … and love unto all the saints”, 1. 15. Their faith was genuine: their love proved it. Their love was not selective but comprehensive, it extended to all the saints. This revealed that their once darkened hearts had been enlightened. No wonder Paul was full of thanks and instant in prayer for them. His desire was that they might have such a full knowledge of “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory" that three things might be wrought:
(a) That they might be wise touching what lies ahead of them,
(b) That they might be wise touching what lies ahead for God,
(c) That they might know what is the power that will ensure the attainment of (a) and (b).
Paul’s desire was that they might know
(a) “what is the hope of his calling”, 1.18. He calls it the “one hope of your calling" in chapter 4. 4. It is not yet manifest or realized, for “what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”, Rom. 8. 24. But it is set out in chapter 1. 10 and 11. In Christ we have obtained an inheritance, the earnest of which we have already been given in the person of the Holy Spirit. As Rebekah’s jewels and the modern engagement ring are pledges of what is yet to be possessed and enjoyed, so it is with the believer now. The Holy Spirit, who was promised by the Lord Jesus, has come as the “earnest of our inheritance”, 1. 14, which we shall enter upon when we experience “the redemption of our body”, Rom. 8. 23.
Then he desired that they might know
(b) “what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints’, 1. 18. There seems to be little doubt that both the A. V. and R.V. are possible translations of the Greek of verse 11 “We have obtained an inheritance” and “we were made a heritage”. The latter phrase is explained by Deuteronomy 4. 20 and 32. 9 which affirm that Israel was God’s heritage. On the other hand we have, doubtless, obtained an inheritance by reason of our identification with Christ. Surely, the two ideas are in verse 14: “the earnest of our inheritance” tells us of what we are yet to have, whilst the words “the redemption of God’s own possession”, v. 14 r.v., declares what God is yet to have in His people. This latter is the second item of Paul’s prayer, that the saints might know what are the riches of the glory (the displayed excellence) of his (i.e., God’s) inheritance in the saints”. It is, it seems, an innate weakness with all God’s people to think primarily of what they will possess later on, giving little heed to what God will possess in His redeemed people. But Paul would that the saints were intelligent as to both aspects of the one thing – God’s side and ours: what He will have, and what we shall have. “The riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints" will be displayed “when he shall come to be glorified in his saints and to be marvelled at in all them that believed”, 2 Thess. 1. 10 r.v. Paul further desires that we might be intelligent as to
(c) “the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward”, 1. 19, power which is able to effect His designs. No greater power toward us could have been exercised than that which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead. It was the display of the “exceeding greatness of his power’ for there was no comparable event hitherto or since. It was not merely resurrection, it was exaltation to the highest point of honour in heaven, far above every visible and invisible authority or power, either present or future. Indeed that which had been lost by the first Adam has been more than abundantly restored by the Last Adam, and the whole universe has been put in subjection under His feet.
Yet this was the display of the “exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward” as well as to Christ - to us who have believed, for we are now vitally and inseparably linked with Him as body to Head, and spiritually we have experienced already what He fully experienced, He who was “quickened by the Spirit”, 1 Pet. 3. 18.
One has but to use little imagination to enter into the thrill that charmed the heart of the apostle as he lay in prison. His body might be incarcerated but nothing could imprison his spirit as he contemplated what God had wrought in Christ, taking Him from the lowest depths of shame to the highest heights of glory, and in that very act establishing a principle which was to be true of all who believed in Him. This Paul expands in chapter 2.
It may be retorted that it does not yet appear to be the case that everything in the universe is subjected to Christ, but 1 Corinthians 15. 20-28 declares that it will assuredly yet be seen to be the case. Potentially it is so now: in actuality and manifestation it will be so later; “we walk by faith, not by appearance”, 2 Cor. 5. 7 R.v. marg.
The Metaphor, the Body of Christ. The notion of the “body of Christ” is peculiar to the apostle Paul. No other writer used this metaphor. Doubtless he learned the fact when arrested on the Damascus road. The question “why perse-cutest thou me?" revealed to him that to touch the Christian was to touch the Lord Himself: to touch them was as touching a member of a body, and its pain was felt instantly by the Head. “He is touched with the feeling" which affects His members.
That “body" is the “church”, the called-out and elect company, whose birthday was the Pentecostal day of Acts 2. They are the excellent of the earth, God’s elite: a unity with infinite diversity: each member interdependent upon the other: each differing from the other: yet “There is one body”, Eph. 4. 4. It is the “fulness" of Him who fills all in all, 1. 23. That is to say, the Church is the complement of Christ as the body is the complement of the Head. A head without a body is a misnomer: a body without a head is a mere torso. The Church is not a lifeless organization, it is a living organism, indissolubly linked with the Head in heaven.
No higher position could be given to redeemed sinners than this. The Head of the Church is He who fills all in all - “who fills the Universe in all its parts”, n.e.b. marg., and the church is His fulness – His complement.
How amazing it is that the ultimate purpose of God could not be achieved apart from His being associated with the Church, and that this Church – this company of redeemed sinners from all tribes and nations and peoples and tongues -is to share the manifested glory of Him who has been placed far above all principalities and powers, be they hostile to God or otherwise!