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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Ephesians 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

Ephesians 2:1

And you hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.

The quickening power of the gospel

This the peculiar characteristic of the preaching of Christianity in the first age. It came into a world preoccupied by other systems of religion, Jewish and Gentile, and succeeded where they had failed. The secret of its success is the same today--vital power.

I. Upon whom is it exerted?

1. The spiritually dead.

2. The bondslaves of Satan.

3. The subjects of Divine wrath.

II. Through whom does it operate? Christ, the manifested Son of God, is the Alpha and Omega of its proclamations.

1. Through faith men are united to Him.

2. Share in His resurrection.

III. In whom is its source? It is God who ordained the means of salvation, sent His Son into the world to die for sinners, and raising Him from the dead raised also all those who were united to Him by faith by a spiritual resurrection, that they might “walk in newness of life.” This gracious work is due--

1. To His nature. “Being rich in mercy.”

2. To His affection for men. “For His great love wherewith He loved us.” (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

Regeneration

I. The change here noticed is of a remarkably decided nature. A change of the whole human character, by which the dispositions of men become thoroughly altered from that which is evil to that which is good, and by which there are implanted and formed within them those spiritual graces which are essentially connected with the bestowment of the Divine favour and the restoration of the Divine image.

II. This change is accomplished purely by Divine agency.

1. The agency of the Spirit of God in the work of renovation is sovereign.

2. The agency of the Spirit is mysterious.

3. The agency of the Spirit is connected with the instrumentality of the Word.

III. This change is absolutely essential for the salvation of the immortal soul.

1. This is evident, if you consider the occupation, society, and enjoyments of heaven.

2. It is also evident by considering the express testimony of God on the subject. (J. Parsons.)

Quickening of the dead

I. The Scripture phrases by which the sinful state of man is described. Sleep. “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others,” etc. (1 Thessalonians 5:6, etc.). “Wherefore he saith, ‘Awake thou that sleepest,’” etc. (Ephesians 5:14). Death in trespasses (see text). “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh,” etc. (Colossians 2:13). A corrupt tree. “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit,” etc. (Matthew 7:18). “For he shall be like the heath in the desert,” etc. (Jeremiah 17:6). Darkness. “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness,” etc. (1 Thessalonians 5:4). Led captive, etc. (Ephesians 2:3). Enmity (Romans 8:7).

II. How the scriptures describe the change that is wrought in those that shall be saved and state God as the Author of it. Being quickened--by God (see text). Born again--by God (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:3). Washed and sprinkled--by God (Ezekiel 16:8-9; Ezekiel 36:25). Writing the law in the heart--by God (Jeremiah 31:33). Grafting--by God (Romans 11:23-25). Creating light to shine where was darkness (2 Corinthians 4:6).

III. No means short of God can quicken and convert such a sinner. Let us consider everything that is likely.

1. Will miracles? No (Exodus 8:16-18; John 12:10-12; Acts 4:16-17).

2. Will the fulfilment of prophecies? No (Cf., Matthew 27:62, etc. with Matthew 28:11, etc.)
.

3. Will prosperity? No (Psalms 73:3).

4. Will adversity? No (Proverbs 27:22).

5. Will preaching the gospel? No (1 Corinthians 1:23).

6. Will one rising from the dead? No (Luke 16:31). The necessity of a Divine agent in the Church of God.

IV. Evidences of being quickened.

1. A feeling sense of the evil of sin (Romans 7:18; Psalms 38:3-7).

2. A dying to self-confidence, and a trusting in Christ alone (Romans 7:7-11; Galatians 2:19-20; Philippians 3:7-9).

3. An appetite for the means of grace (1 John 2:3).

4. Love to the brethren as such (1 John 3:13-14). (H. Foster, M. A.)

Various manifestations of death

The frightful presence of death is manifested in many ways.

1. The dead have no motion; they cannot come to God; they are helpless as was Lazarus till the voice of Jesus reached him; grace alone can quicken the dead soul.

2. The dead have no sensation; they are past feeling; all the fountains of passion and emotion are sealed (Ephesians 4:19); so that before they can love God or hate sin they must get a new life.

3. The dead have no enjoyment; food satisfies, beauty pleases, and music charms no more. It is even so. Sin has perverted the moral sense, and shut up the heart against the enjoyment of God Himself. His character and His love please us no more. All the wonders of grace, as well as the excellencies of the Divine character, which the Cross reveals, fall upon us like sunbeams on the eyes of the dead.

4. The dead have no restorative power. Life, that mysterious, incomprehensible principle, which, though ever present with us and filling all things, eludes research and baffles reason, has a wonderful restorative power. Indeed, life is a sort of miracle, for it reverses, suspends, and modifies most of the laws of nature. In every plant, in every living creature, you see life assimilating and incorporating most heterogeneous elements, counteracting the law of gravity, nullifying the most potent chemical agencies, and resisting the mechanical laws. The dead are destitute of all these mysterious powers; they remain as they are, or they become more and more corrupt. There is no healing process going on in the dead soul by which, in the course of nature, it can become pure and healthy and happy in the enjoyment of God. (W. Graham, D. D.)

The dead man

I. St. Paul reminds the Ephesians of their former condition. Contraries give lustre one to another. It magnifies grace marvellously to consider the opposite condition. It should also stir up our thankfulness when we consider from what we are delivered. Now to come to the words themselves. What is death? Death is nothing else but a separation from the cause of life, from that from whence life springs. The body having a communicated life from the soul, when the soul is departed it must needs be dead. Now death, take it in a spiritual sense, it is either the death of law, our sentence--as we say of a man when he is condemned, he is a dead man--or death in regard of disposition; and then the execution of that death of sentence in bodily death and in eternal death afterward. Now naturally we are dead in all these senses.

1. First, by the sin of Adam, in whose loins we were, we were all damned. And then there is corruption of nature as a punishment of that first sin, that is a death, as we shall see afterward, a death of all the powers; we cannot act and move according to that life that we had at the first; we cannot think, we cannot will, we cannot affect, we cannot do anything [that] savours of spiritual life.

2. Hereupon comes a death of sentence upon us, being damned both in Adam’s loins and in original sin, and likewise adding actual sins of our own. If we had no actual sin it were enough for the sentence of death to pass upon us, but this aggravates the sentence.

3. We are dead in law as well as in disposition. This death in law is called guilt, a binding over to eternal death. Now what is the reason of it why we are dead? First of all, the ground of it is; by sin we are separated from the fountain of life; therefore we are all dead. Secondly, by sin we lost that first original righteousness which was co-produced with Adam’s soul. When Adam’s soul was infused it was clothed with all graces, with original righteousness. The stamp of God was on his soul. It was co-natural to that estate and condition to have that excellent gracious disposition that he had. Now, because we all lost that primitive image and glory of our souls, we are dead. Nay, sin itself, it is not only a cause of death--of temporal death as it is a curse, and so of eternal death; of that bitter sentence and adjudging of us too, both that we feel in terrors of conscience and expect after--but sin itself is an intrinsical death. Why? Because it is nothing but a separation of the soul from the chic! good, which is God, and a cleaving to some creature; for there is no sin but it carries the soul to the changeable creature in delight and affection to its pride and vanity, one thing or other. Sin is a turning from God to the creature, and that very turning of the soul is death; every sinful soul is dead. In these and the like considerations you may conceive we are all dead. Let us consider a little what a condition this is, to be “dead in trespasses and sins.” And what doth death work upon the body?

1. Unactiveness, stiffness; so when the Spirit of God is severed from the soul it is cold, and unactive, and stiff. Therefore those that find no life to that that is good, no, nor no power nor strength, it is a sign that they have not yet felt the power of the quickening Spirit; when they hear coldly and receive the sacrament coldly, as if it were a dead piece of work and business; when they do anything that is spiritually good coldly and forced, not from an inward principle of love to God, that might heat and warm their hearts, but they go about it as a thing that must be done, and think to satisfy God with an outward dead action.

2. Again, death makes the body unlovely.

3. Loathsomeness.

4. We sever dead persons from the rest.

5. Death deprives of the use of the senses. He that is spiritually dead can speak nothing that is good of spiritual things. And as he is speechless, so he hath no spiritual eyes to see God in His works. There is nothing that we see with our bodily eyes, but our souls should have an eye to see somewhat of God in it, His mercy and goodness and power, etc. And so he hath no relish to taste of God in His creatures and mercies. When a man tastes of the creatures, he should have a spiritual taste of God and of the mercy in him. Oh, how sweet is God! A wicked man hath no taste of God. And he cannot hear what the Spirit saith in the Word. He hears the voice of man, but not of the Spirit when the trumpet of the Word sounds never so loud in his ears.

6. As there is no sense nor moving to outward things, so no outward thing can move a dead body. Offer him colours to the eye, food to the taste, or anything to the feeling, nothing moves him. So a dead soul, as it cannot move to good, so it is moved with nothing. That affects a child of God and makes him tremble and quake, it affects not a carnal man at all.

7. And as in bodily death, the longer it is dead, the more noisome and offensive it is every day more than other, so sin makes the soul more loathsome and noisome daily, till they have filled up the measure of their sins, till the earth can bear them no longer. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

On spiritual death

I. To what sins this representation is to be applied, and to what description of persons it belongs.

1. The apostle expressly includes himself among those whose former state he had been considering.

2. The same expression is applied generally to those who never were heathens (Matthew 8:22).

3. It is the declared intention of Jesus Christ, by His appearance in our world, to give life to the world by exhibiting Himself as the Bread of Life. “I am come that they might have life.”

4. True Christians, without any exception, are described as persons who have “passed from death unto life.”

II. Explain the import of this representation.

1. It implies a privation, or withdrawment, of a principle, which properly belongs, and once did belong, to the subject of which it is affirmed. The withdrawment of God is, with respect to the soul, what the withdrawment of the soul is in relation to the body. In each case the necessary effect is death; and as that which occasioned that withdrawment is sin, it is very properly denominated a “death in trespasses and sins.” Now this view of the subject ought surely to fill us with the deepest concern. Had man never possessed a principle of Divine life, there would have been less to lament in his condition. We are less affected at the consideration of what we never had, than by the loss of advantages which we once possessed. We look at a stone, or a piece of earth, without the least emotion, because, though it be destitute of life, we are conscious it was never possessed. But, when we look upon a corpse, it excites an awful feeling.

2. To be dead in trespasses and sins, intimates the total, the universal prevalence of corruption. Life admits of innumerable degrees and kinds. There is one sort of vegetative life, as in plants, another subsists in animals, and in man a rational, which is still a superior principle of life. Where life is of the same sort it is susceptible of different degrees. It is much more perfect in the larger sorts of animals than in reptiles. The vital principle in different men exists with various degrees of vigour, so that some are far more animated, alert, and vigorous than others. But there are no degrees in death. All things, of which it can be truly said that they are dead, are equally dead. (R. Hall, M. A.)

Standing, yet dead

Whilst visiting the beautiful island of Tasmania our attention was often called, nay, arrested, to huge trees which appear as “bleached ghosts of a dead forest.” They stand out in the brilliant moonlight with a weirdness that is surprising and magnificent. The reason for their condition is as follows: On account of their great size and the heavy cost of what is called “grubbing up,” the settler leaves them in the ground, but proceeds to cut them round the trunk at a height of about four feet. The axe cuts through the bark and about an inch into the tree. The effect is that when the next early spring comes all the sap exudes from the “gashed wounds,” and the monster of the forest dies. The great branches wither, the leaves fall off, the bark strips, and a year or two suffices to join the army of the upright dead. The farmer can now plough the ground between, sow his corn, and reap the harvest in the huge mausoleum of the forest. No sheltering foliage hinders the sun’s rays and the wheat plant thrives and ripens amidst hundreds of towering trees whose only voice is the silence of the dead. As we looked upon these dead ones we were reminded of an experience which comes to many men who are dead also even while they too are in posture, at least, upright. Hewed round in the trunk of their robust life, the axe of “the adversary,” hews and cuts until the sap, the rising, spreading, and expanding life, is drained. The spring time in these goodly trees of promise is followed by the bleach and ghostly death which comes of the exuding of conscience, honour, strength, and life. Alas, alas! this living human mausoleum knows no wheat growth or harvest at its base. The malaria of death is there, and the spreading corruption infects other trees also, and the forest of the dead extends. Welt does the apostle say of such, “They wax wanton and are dead while they live.” (Henry Varley.)

Partially quickened

I desire, brethren, for myself and you, that we may be alive all over, for some professors appear to be more dead than alive; life has only reached a fraction of their manhood. Life is in their hearts, blessed be God for that; but is only partially in their heads, for they do not study the gospel nor use their brains to understand its truths. Life has not touched their silent tongues, nor their idle hands, nor their frost-bitten pockets. Their house is on fire, but it is only at one corner, and the devil is doing his best to put out the flame. They remind me of a picture I once saw, in which the artist had laboured to depict Ezekiel’s vision, and the dead bodies in course of resurrection. The bones were coming together, and flesh gradually clothing them, and he represents one body in which the head is perfectly formed, but the body is a skeleton, while in another place the body is well covered, but the arms and legs remain bare bones. Some Christians, I say, are much in the same state. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ quickens the morally dead

I remember once conversing with a celebrated sculptor, who had been hewing out a block of marble to represent one of our great patriots--Lord Chatham. “There,” said he, “is not that a fine form?” “Now, sir,” said I, “can you put life into it: Else, with all its beauty, it is still but a block of marble.” Christ, by His Spirit, puts life into a beauteous image, and enables the man He forms to live to His praise and glory. (Rowland Hill, M. A.)

The nature and universality of spiritual death

To explain the context and show you the connection, I shall make two short remarks. The one is, That the apostle had observed in the nineteenth and twentieth verses of the foregoing chapter that the same almighty power of God, which raised Christ from the dead, is exerted to enable a sinner to believe. The same exertion of the same power is necessary in the one case and the other; because, as the body of Christ was dead, and had no principle of life in it, so, says He, ye were dead in trespasses and sins; and therefore could no more quicken yourselves than a dead body can restore itself to life. Death is a state of insensibility and inactivity, and a dead man is incapable of restoring himself to life; therefore the condition of an unconverted sinner must have some resemblance to such a state, in order to support the bold metaphor here used by the apostle. To understand it aright we must take care, on the one hand that we do not explain it away in flattery to ourselves, or in compliment to the pride of human nature; and, on the other hand, that we do not carry the similitude too far, so, as to lead into absurdities, and contradict matter of fact. A sinner dead in trespasses and sins may be a living treasury of knowledge, an universal scholar, a profound philosopher, and even a great divine, as far as mere speculative knowledge can render him such; nay, he is capable of many sensations and impressions from religious objects, and of performing all the external duties of religion. Trespasses and sins are the grave, the corrupt effluvia, the malignant damps, the rottenness of a dead soul: it lies dead, senseless, inactive, buried in trespasses and sins. Trespasses and sins render it ghastly, odious, abominable, a noisome putrefaction before a holy God, like a rotten carcase, or a mere mass of corruption: the Vilest lusts, like worms, riot upon and devour it, but it feels them not, nor can it lift a hand to drive the venom off. You have seen that the metaphorical expression in my text is intended to represent the stupidity, inactivity, and impotence of unregenerate sinners about divine things. This truth I might confirm by argument and Scripture authority; but I think it may be a better method for popular conviction to prove and illustrate it from plain instances of the temper and conduct of sinners about the concerns of religion, as this may force the conviction upon them from undoubted matters of fact and their own experience.

I. Consider the excellency of the Divine Being, the sum total, the great Original of all perfections. How infinitely worthy is He of the adoration of all His creatures! how deserving of their most intense thoughts and most ardent affections! Yet how insensible are we and all men to His perfections and majesty. The sun, moon, and stars have bad more worshippers than the uncreated Fountain of Light from which they derive their lustre. Kings and ministers of state have more punctual homage and more frequent applications made to them than the King of kings and Lord of lords. Created enjoyments are more eagerly pursued than the Supreme Good. Search all the world over, and you will find but very little motions of heart towards God; little love, little desire, little searching after Him. The reason is, men are dead in trespasses and sins.

II. The august and endearing relations the great and blessed God sustains to us, and the many ways He has taken to make dutiful and grateful impressions upon our hearts. What tender endearments are there contained in the relation of a Father! Now the name of a father is wont to carry some endearment and authority. Children, especially in their young and helpless years, are fond of their father; their little hearts beat with a thousand grateful passions towards him; and they fly to him upon every appearance of danger: but if God be a father, where is His honour? here, alas! the filial passions are senseless and immoveable. And is not a state of death a very proper representation of such sullen, incorrigible stupidity? Living souls have very tender sensations; one touch of their heavenly Father’s hand makes deep impressions upon them. Concluding reflections:

1. What a strange, affecting view does this subject give us of this assembly!

2. Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, that Christ may give thee light. The principle of reason is still alive in you; you are also sensible of your own interest, and feel the workings of self-love. It is God alone that can quicken you, but He effects this by a power that does not exclude, but attends rational instructions and persuasions to your understanding.

3. Let the children of God be sensible of their great happiness in being made spiritually alive. Life is a principle, a capacity necessary for enjoyments of any kind.

4. Let us all be sensible of this important truth, that it is entirely by grace we are saved. If we were once dead in sin, certainly it is owing to the freest grace that we have been quickened; therefore, when we survey the change, let us cry, “Grace, grace unto it.” (President Davies, M. A.)

Dead

The epithet implies--

1. Previous life. Death is but the cessation of life. The spirit of life fled from Adam’s disobedient heart, and it died, for it was severed from God.

2. It implies insensibility. The dead, which are as insusceptible as their kindred clay, can be neither wooed nor won back to existence. The beauties of holiness do not attract man in his spiritual insensibility, nor do the miseries of hell deter him.

3. It implies inability. The corpse cannot raise itself from the tomb and come back to the scenes and society of the living world. The peal of the last trump alone can start it from its dark and dreamless sleep. Inability characterizes fallen man. And this is not natural but moral inability, such inability as not only is no palliation, but oven forms the very aggravation of his crime. It is inability not of mind but of will. He cannot, simply because he will not, and therefore he is justly responsible. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

Quickening grace

Hence learn--

1. It is not sufficient that the servants of Jesus Christ do only preach privileges, and hold forth unto believers that happy estate unto which they are lifted up through Christ; it is necessary also that jointly herewith they be calling them to mind their woeful, miserable, and lost estate by nature: for the apostle, in the preceding chapter, having spoken much of those high privileges unto which the Ephesians were advanced by Christ, he doth here mind them of that miserable state wherein God found them; “And you who were dead in trespasses and sins.”

2. There is nothing contributeth more to commend the doctrine of free grace to people’s consciences, and so to commend it as to make them closely adhere unto it, both in possession and practice, than the serious perpending of man’s woeful and altogether hopeless estate by nature: this alone would do much to scatter all that mist whereby human reason doth obscure the beauty of this truth, by extolling man’s free will as a co-worker with grace (Romans 3:19-20).

3. Believers in Jesus Christ are not to look upon their lost and miserable estate by nature separately, and apart from, but jointly with God’s free grace and mercy, which hath delivered them from that misery; for otherwise the thoughts of sin and misery may, if God should give way, swallow them up (Matthew 27:4-5). Hence is it the apostle hath so contrived his discourse here, that all along, while he speaketh of their misery in the first three verses, the mind of the reader is kept in suspense without coming to the perfect close of a sentence, until God’s mercy in their delivery from this misery be mentioned (verse 5); for the original hath not these words, “He hath quickened,” in this verse: but the translators have taken them from verse 5, to make up the sense, without suspending the reader so long until he should find them in their own proper place, “And you who were dead,” etc.

4. Every man by nature, and before conversion, is dead, not to sin (for that is proper to the regenerate only; see Romans 6:2, where the grammatical construction is the same in the original with that which is here; only the sense is much different), but in sin, whereby he is wholly deprived of all ability and power to convert himself (Romans 9:16), or to do anything which is spiritually good (Romans 8:7). (James Fergusson.)

Dead souls

When there is an estrangement of the soul from the Spirit of God and Christ, sanctifying, and comforting, and cheering it, then there is a death of the soul. The soul can no more act anything that is savingly and holily good, than the body can be without the soul. And as the body without the soul is a noisome, odious carcass, offensive in the eyes of its dearest friends, so the soul, without the Spirit of Christ quickening and seasoning it, and putting a comeliness and beauty upon it, is odious. All the clothes and flowers you put on a dead body cannot make it but a stinking carcass; so all the moral virtues, and all the honours in this world, put upon a man out of Christ, it makes him not a spiritual living soul; he is but a loathsome carrion, a dead carcass, in the sight of God and of all that have the Spirit of God. For he is under death. He is stark and stiff, unable to stir or move to any duty whatsoever. He has no sense nor motion. Though such men live a common natural civil life, and walk up and down, yet they are dead men to God and to a better life. The world is full el dead men, that are dead while they are alive, as St. Paul speaks of the “widow that lives in pleasures” (1 Timothy 5:6). A fearful estate, if we had spiritual eyes to see it and think of it. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Sin is the death of the soul

Sin disengages the love of God to the creature, because it renders the creature useless as to the end for which it was designed. Things, whose essence and being stand in relation to such an end, have their virtue and value from their fitness to attain it. Everything is ennobled from its use, and debased as far as it is useless. As long as a man continues an instrument of God’s glory, so long his title to life and happiness stands sure, and no longer. But now, sin in Scripture, and in God’s account, is the death of the soul. “We were dead in trespasses and sins.” Now death makes a thing utterly useless, because it renders it totally inactive; and in things that are naturally active, that which deprives them of their action bereaves them of their use. The soul, by reason of sin, is unable to act spiritually; for sin has disordered the soul, and turned the force and edge of all its operations against God; so that now it can bring no glory to God by doing, but only by suffering, and being made miserable. It is now unfit to obey His commands, and fit only to endure His strokes. It is incapable by any active communion or converse with Him to enjoy His love, and a proper object only to bear His anger and revenge. We may take the case in this similitude. A physician has a servant; while this servant lives honestly with him, he is fit to be used and to be employed in his occasions; but if this servant should commit a felony, and for that be condemned, he can then be actively serviceable to him no longer; he is fit only for him to dissect, and make an object upon which to show the experiments of his skill. So while man was yet innocent he was fit to be used by God in a way of active obedience; but now having sinned, and being sentenced by the law to death as a malefactor, he is a fit matter only for God to torment and show the wonders of His vindictive justice. (R. South, D. D.)

Spiritual insensibility

Announce to a man who believes himself possessed of an enormous capital that bankruptcy and beggary await him; tell a prisoner who hopes for certain deliverance that the sentence of death is passed on him, and he may expect the summons of the executioner; inform a man who thinks he has got but a slight disease, that it is the symptom of a fatal plague, and advise him to prepare for death; thunder at a man’s door, and shout that the house is on fire, and bid him escape for his life--and surely nothing but that men had sunk in death before these tidings reached their ears, could prevent their being suitably affected by them. But men can hear of the judgments and the wrath of God as though they heard them not; such announcements are like those of the destruction of Sodom by Lot, “He seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law,” or like the language of unbelieving Israel to the prophet, when he proclaimed the fearful judgments to come, “Ah, Lord God! they say of me, doth he not speak parables?” (R. J. McGhee, M. A.)

The solemnity of death

What a solemn sight is presented to us by a dead body! When last evening trying to realize the thought, it utterly overcame me. The thought is overwhelming, that soon this body of mine must be a carnival for worms; that in and out of these places, where my eyes are glistening, foul things, the offspring of loathsomeness, shall crawl; that this body must be stretched in still, cold, abject, passive death, must then become a noxious, nauseous thing, cast out even by those that loved me, who will say, “Bury my dead out of my sight.” Perhaps you can scarcely, in the moment I can afford you, appropriate the idea to yourselves. Does it not seem a strange thing, that you, who have walked to this place this morning, shall be carried to your graves; that the eyes with which you now behold me shall soon be glazed in everlasting darkness; that the tongues, which just now moved in song, shall soon be silent, lumps of clay; and that your strong and stalwart frame, now standing in this place, will soon be unable to move a muscle, and become a loathsome thing, the brother of the worm and the sister of corruption? You can scarcely get hold of the idea; death doth such awful work with us, it is such a Vandal with this mortal fabric, it so rendeth to pieces this fair thing that God hath builded up, that we can scarcely bear to contemplate his works of ruin. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

All are dead by nature

Now, endeavour, as well as you can, to get the idea of a dead corpse, and when you have so done, please to understand that that is the metaphor employed in my text to set forth the condition of your soul by nature. Just as the body is dead, incapable, unable, unfeeling, and soon about to become corrupt and putrid; so are we, if we be unquickened by Divine grace, dead in trespasses and sins, having within us death, which is capable of developing itself in worse and worse stages of sin and wickedness, until all of us here, left by God’s grace, should become loathsome beings: loathsome through sin and wickedness, even as the corpse through natural decay. Understand, that the doctrine of the Holy Scripture is, that man by nature, since the Fall, is dead; he is a corrupt and ruined thing; in a spiritual sense, utterly and entirely dead. And if any of us shall come to spiritual life, it must be by the quickening of God’s Spirit, vouchsafed to us sovereignly through the goodwill of God the Father, not for any merits of our own, but entirely of His own abounding and infinite grace. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Man dead in trespasses and sins

One Sunday Father Taylor preached upon the Atonement. His text was, “Dead in trespasses and sins.” “Dead!” he exclaimed; “not only dead, but buried; and you can’t get out! A big boulder lays on the main hatch, keeping it down over your heads. You may go to work with all your purchases--bars, handspikes, winch, and double tackles; but you can’t make it budge an inch. But hark! who is it that has the watch on deck! Jesus Christ. Now, sing out to Him, and Sing out loud. Ah! He hears you; and He claps His shoulder against this rock of sin, cants it off the hatch, the bars fly open, and out you come.”

Image of the unregenerate

The unregenerate man may be said to be made up of two parts--a living body and a dead soul. In states of disease and injury we sometimes find something analogous, in one part of the body being full of life, and another part of it palsied and dead. I have seen a person after injury of the lower part of the neck surviving for a time; the head perfectly alive and well, but the body and limbs perfectly motionless. In the last fatal duel fought near Edinburgh a bullet struck the spine of the challenger. I have often heard this unhappy man’s physician tell that when he first visited him, some hours afterwards, and asked him how he felt, “I feel,” he replied, “exactly what I am--a man with a living head and a dead body mysteriously joined together.” Every unbelieving man consists of a dead soul mysteriously joined to a living body. (Sir James Simpson.)

A dead soul

As a dead man cannot inherit an estate, no more can a dead soul inherit the kingdom of God. (H. G. Salter.)

Care for souls

When on a visit to a city in the neighbourhood of Ephesus, St. John commended to the care of the bishop a young man of fine stature, graceful countenance, and ardent mind, as suited to the work of the ministry. The bishop neglected his charge. The young man became idle and dissolute, and was at length prevailed on to join a band of robbers, such as commonly had their strongholds in the neighborhood of ancient Greek cities. He soon became their captain, and attained to notoriety in crime. Long after St. John entered the city again, and inquired for the young man. “He is dead,” said the bishop, “dead to God.” Having ascertained the particulars, the apostle exclaimed, “I left a fine keeper of a brother’s soul!” then, mounting a horse, he rode into the country, and was taken prisoner. He attempted not to flee, but said, “For this purpose am I come, conduct me to your captain.” He entered the presence of the armed bandit, who, recognizing the apostle, attempted to escape. “Why dost thou flee, my son,” said he, “from thy father--thy defenceless, aged father? Fear not, thou still hast hopes of life. I will pray to Christ for thee. I will suffer death for thee. I will give my life for thine. Believe that Christ hath sent me.” The young man was subdued, fell into the apostle’s arms, prayed with many tears, became perfectly reformed, and returned to the communion of the Church. (Legend of St. John.)

Spiritual death and life

I. The original condition of the Ephesians. They were deaden trespasses and sins. The two words, “trespasses and sins,” have almost the same meaning. They imply the breaking, not keeping, or offending against the moral law of God. The negative symptoms of spiritual death are--

1. The want of spiritual perception. As a dead body has not the five bodily senses, so a dead soul has not the spiritual senses. It neither sees nor hears, nor tastes, nor perceives the perfume, nor feels the reality of the spiritual world. The glory of God shineth forth in the gospel of Christ, but dead souls are blind and cannot see it (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). God speaketh by His providence and by His inspired word in loudest tones of reproof, admonition, invitation, and love, warning, and terror; but the dead soul is deaf, like the adder that heareth not the voice of the charmer, charm he never so sweetly. The dead soul cannot taste and see that God is gracious.

2. No spiritual understanding. “There is none that understandeth.” “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” (Romans 3:2).

3. Want of spiritual desires. “Depart from us, we desire not knowledge of Thy ways.” “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”

4. The dead soul has no spiritual strength. The natural man is, in spiritual exertion, absolutely helpless and powerless.

5. The dead soul has no capacity of spiritual enjoyment. Dead in trespasses and sins, it can have no true or permanent happiness.

Having thus enumerated five qualities in which the spiritually dead soul is deficient, we may now mention those which such a soul has.

1. It has entire corruption and depravity.

2. From entire depravity proceeds the second positive quality in the dead soul--it is constantly committing actual sin.

3. A third property of a spiritually dead soul is, that it is under the wrath and curse of God (Galatians 3:8).

4. The fourth and last property which we shall mention is, that the soul in this state is deserving of and prepared for eternal death. “The soul that sinneth shall die” is the unchangeable word of the inflexibly just God. “The wages of sin is death.”

II. The change which the Ephesians underwent, so as to bring them into the state in which they were when the apostle transmitted to their Church this epistle--“You hath He quickened.” Under this head we might direct your attention to the five following particulars: The nature, author, qualities, effects, and subjects of this change.

1. As to the nature of this change. It was to the souls of the Ephesians what the resurrection of Lazarus was to his body, the actual communication of life to what was previously dead.

2. Who was the author of this mighty transformation? Not the apostle; he utterly disclaims the power, as well as the honour, of effecting it (1 Corinthians 3:5-6). Not the Ephesians themselves. Can the dead quicken the dead? “You hath He quickened.”

3. As to the qualities of this change. If our time permitted, we might describe it as being supernatural in its origin, nature, and effects; immediate, abiding (1 John 2:19), saving, transforming, and a most glorious and happy change, giving glory to God, and conferring happiness on men.

4. The effects of this change of being quickened from spiritual death were two-fold--inestimable privilege and holy fruit.

5. The subjects of this change. “You hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”

III. Let us now endeavour to apply to our own use what we have learned respecting the Ephesians. Should anyone be saying, “I greatly fear that I am dead, but oh that I knew how I may be quickened!” Be of good courage, my brother, and despair not, for the mercy of God is unsearchable, and may reach even to you. If anyone in this assembly be quickened from his death in sins, to him I would say, You have been quickened in order that God in Christ may be glorified in you and by you. You are a monument of the marvellous grace of God, therefore glorify the grace of God by ascribing your salvation to sovereign grace as its origin, depending on efficacious grace as its means, and living to the praise of redeeming grace as its end. (W. Mackenzie,)

I. In the first three verses the state and character of the Ephesians before their conversion is described. As to their state, they “were dead in trespasses and sins.” This death may be viewed as two-fold, namely, legal and spiritual. The former consisted in the condemning sentence of the Divine law, under which they lay, as its transgressors; the latter consisted in the moral pollution of their natures, in consequence of which they were utterly incapable of any holy obedience to God. As to their character, or external deportment, the Ephesians are described in verses second and third, They “walked in sins.” The term “walk” is expressive of a regular habitual course. Their whole life was sin. The sinful life which the Ephesians led was more particularly distinguished by conformity to the world, and compliance with the devil. They walked in sins “according to the course of this world,” “according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”

II. We come, secondly, to consider the great change which had taken place in the wretched condition of the Ephesians through Divine grace.

1. This blessed change is explained in verses 1, 4, 5, and 6. In verse 1 we are informed in what the change consisted “You hath He quickened.” To quicken is to implant holy principles in the soul, so that it becomes alive to God and righteousness.

2. We have next the author of this gracious change, in verses 4 and 5--“But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved).” To quicken dead souls is a Divine work, as much so as is the resuscitation of a dead body to life. The new birth is as far above the effort of nature as the rearing of a world.

3. We have next the formal or meritorious cause of this change--“He hath quickened us together with Christ” (verse 4). Christ was quickened by the mighty power of God when He rose from the dead; end His resurrection was the Father’s testimony to the perfection and acceptance of that glorious work, which is the foundation of all the grace which flows from heaven to poor sinners.

4. “And hath made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Jesus not only rose from the dead, to which His people are conformed in regeneration, but also ascended into heaven, and “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”; and this He did as the Head, so that in Him His people sat down in heavenly places; and His exaltation there is the assurance that they shall personally appear in heaven, and share in the glory the Father hath bestowed on Him.

5. We have, finally, the moving cause of the grace shown to the Ephesians, in verse 4--“But God, who is rich in mercy,” etc. The cause of the grace manifested to Jews and Gentiles lay in God alone, not in any measure in them. It was love residing in the bosom of the Eternal Himself which moved Him to quicken these wretched sinners.

III. We come, thirdly and lastly, to the ultimate object of God’s grace to sinners of the Jews and Gentiles. It is mentioned in the seventh verse--“that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” This was a noble end, in all respects worthy of our gracious God. These poor idolaters, quickened to a heavenly and endless life, are patterns of Divine grace to every age, and to every sinner of every age, till time has run its course. Let me shortly improve this subject by urging on you the lessons it inculcates. Learn, first, from this subject, the guilt and wretchedness of our spiritual condition by nature. We learn, secondly, from this subject, how great is the grace of God in Christ Jesus. (M. Grigor.)


Verses 1-6

Verse 2

Ephesians 2:2

Wherein in times past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.

The life of the unregenerate

1. The life of the unregenerate is a walk in transgression. Whatever they occupy themselves in, it is all sin.

2. The corrupt example of such encourages others to sin. Even as damps put out a light, so this fog of sin suffocates and smothers the lightsome blaze of saving graces in the godly, though it cannot altogether quench them.

3. The unregenerate are under the power of the devil. He works effectually in their hearts, and turns them in whatever direction he pleases.

Satanic influences

I. Their variety. They operate--

1. Through fashion and custom. “The course of this world.”

2. By continual suggestion of evil. “The power of the air.”

3. Through impulse. “The spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience.” The nature being corrupted, its instincts are perverted and its tendencies evil.

II. The advantage they possess.

1. Illusion. They falsify the vision of the soul, distort the perspective of experience, and clothe themselves with the garb of utility, reasonableness, etc. In this way they present their suggestions as--

2. Proximity.

3. Intangibleness. Like the pressure of the atmosphere, so universally distributed as scarcely to be felt. The first origins of evil may be apparently neutral, or even laudable.

III. Their overthrow. “I am come,” says Christ, “to destroy the works of the devil.” How? By the introduction of light, to expose the works of darkness; of life, by which their spell is broken, and they are overcome. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

Subtlety of evil spirits

Without any perceptible noise or effort, you breathe the air and live thereby; but more noiselessly, and without awaking the slightest suspicion of their presence, designing spirits enter your souls, kindle desire, and lead forth thought, “according to their will.” The secret evil which is done by them every day is beyond all power of calculation. “The spider puts forth from herself a gossamer thread, which floats in the air and catches hold of something where she is not; but no sooner does she find the farther end of her thread fastened, than she goes forth upon it, strengthening it and making it her highway. She thus opens and establishes communication over a gulf, which, but for her airy bridge, she could not cross. Having suspended her bridge, she lets down pendants, and weaves between them an all but invisible gauze, in which her prey are to be taken before they suspect their danger.” The crafty spider would be still more Satan-like, if she could prevail upon the flies to weave the web, in which she meant to take them. “The prince of the power of the air” is master enough of his art to do this. He persuades the souls of men, by a projection of their thoughts and desires, to weave themselves into connection with himself. And the more logical and conclusive their thought system can be made to appear, so much the stronger is the connecting web between them and his kingdom. By this web he holds them, and over it he travels to poison and destroy them. It would be beyond his power to hold, or to poison any single soul, unless he first obtained the cooperation of that soul. He is, therefore, unsparing in the use of flattery. He compliments the human intellect on its system of thought. He persuades strong-minded men that the Christian faith is a weakness, but that their scientific method, being based on actual facts, is unanswerable. Honeyed poison. “The depth of Satan.” He leads men to make a joke of his very existence, and at the same time, gives direction to their thoughts and imaginations, that they may weave themselves into his power. (John Pulsford.)

The prince of the power of the air

The connection of the “world” with the Evil One as its “prince” is not uncommon in Holy Scripture (see John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11); and the power of this passage is exactly that which Satan claims as “committed” to him in Luke 4:32. But the phrase “the power of the air” is unique and difficult. We note

Ruin by worldliness

When Henry the Fourth of France asked the Duke of Alva’s opinion respecting some of the astronomical mysteries of heaven, he said, “Sire, I have so much to do on earth that I have no leisure to think of heaven.” Such a conviction would be ruin to us: we must think of heaven, if we would be prepared for heaven; we must think of heaven, if we would rightly do our work on earth. (Charles Stanford, D. D.)

Sinners are captives

In my childhood I sometimes saw rabbits that had damaged a cornfield, caught in snares. My first experience of the process melted me, and the scene is not effaced from my memory yet. The creature was caught by the foot. It was a captive, but living; oh, the agonized look it cast on us when we approached it. As a child I could not conceive of any more touching, thrilling appeal than the soft rolling eye of that dumb captive. After I began to go my rounds as a watchman on my allotted field, I fell upon a youth who but lately was bounding hopefully along, bidding fair for the better land, caught by the foot in a snare I went up to him, surprised to find him halting so; but ah! the look, the glare from his eyes; soon told that the immortal was fast in the devil’s toils. He lived, but he was held. The chains have sunk into his flesh. O wretched man, who shall deliver him? Only one word can we utter in the presence of such a case--“Nothing is impossible with God.” Having uttered it, we pass on with a sigh. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

The corrupting power of sin

Observations--

I. The course of this world is a walking forward in trespasses and sins (Psalms 14:1, etc.; Romans 3:1, etc.). Evidenced in--The man of pleasure. The covetous. The ambitious.

II. Before regeneration, God’s people walk in the same way, and under the same spirit, as others. Two thieves. Saul (1 Corinthians 1:6-11).

III. There is a government observed by infernal spirits under Satan as prince (Ephesians 6:12; Matthew 12:24-26; Matthew 25:41; Mark 5:9).

IV. While men go on in sins, it is under the influence of the devil, etc. Eve. Judas. Ananias.

V. Conformity to the world fatal, and a certain evidence of spiritual death. Inferences:

1. How awfully has sin corrupted angels and men!

2. The generality of mankind are going to destruction.

3. Scripture and experience harmonize in the account of fallen man. (H. Foster, M. A.)

With or against the course of this world

“I have come along so pleasantly with the stream,” said a chip, just stopped by a tuft of grass, to a minnow which was making its way against it. “I much wonder you do not choose the easier method, and swim down with, instead of going against, the stream.” “Nay,” replied the little fish, “I would much rather to stem the stream, proving I have a will of mine own, than to be borne away whither it wills, which would prove me only and wholly under its power. And so, to be plain with you, your being carried along as you describe convinces me you are not your own master; and as to pleasure, if you can find it in a wandering downward course, it is more surely found in approaching toward the source of the stream, which is my present happy object and effort”;--at which moment, the minnow, by a lively motion of its body, caused a little ripple in the water, which clearing the chip from its obstruction, it was again floated along, whilst the minnow with joyful feelings pursued its course, as before against the stream.

Given up to sin

How often does it happen in the history of these wilful sinners of the flesh, that, after a while, all things seem to smile upon them and prosper them according to their hearts’ desires. Are they mad for gold?--gold seems to roll in upon them. Are they mad for pleasure?--their seductive arts are successful, and victims come readily to their lure. Are they mad for drink?--those around them, kindred, friends, cease to strive with them, and give it up as hopeless. Shame, too, abandons them; they may wallow in beer or gin, nobody cares. It is very wonderful to see how often, if a man is bent on an end which is not God’s end, God gives it him, and it becomes his curse. God does not curse us. He leaves us to ourselves, to follow our own bent and inclination, that is curse enough;. and from that curse what arm can salve us? We will have it, and we shall have it. We leap through all the barriers which He has raised around us to limit us;, yea, though they be rings of blazing fire, we will go through them, and indulge our passions; and, in a moment, He sweeps them all out of our path; perhaps even roses spring to beguile, where flames so lately burnt to warn. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)

Hatred of sin

I preach and think that it is more bitter to sin against Christ, than to suffer the torments of hell. (St. Chrysostom.)

If hell were on one side and sin on the other, I would rather leap into hell than willingly sin against my God. (St. Anselm.)

Satanic agency

In the first place we have to consider the very singular title given to Satan, “the prince of the power of the air”; and, in the second place, the agency ascribed to Him, as “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” Now, we know it to have been a prevalent opinion among the Jews that fallen angels had their residence in the air, filling the medium that obtains between the earth and the firmament. We can hardly say whence this opinion was derived, nor by what sufficient reason it can be supported. But it would seem from the text that St. Paul favoured the opinion, and it might have been almost said that he had given to it the sanction of his authority. It is, however, of but little importance that we determine where fallen spirits have their habitation; and perhaps, the title, “The prince of the power of the air,” is not so much intended to define the residence of Satan, as to give information as to the nature of his dominion. We mean it is probable that the expression does not mark that the devil dwells in the air--though that also may be true--but rather what he has at his disposal, the power of the air, so that he can employ this element in his operations on mankind. And we know of no reason whatsoever why the power of the devil should be regarded as confined to what we are wont to call spiritual agency, so as never to be employed in the production of physical evil--why the souls, and not the bodies, of men should be considered as the objects of his attack. Indeed, forasmuch as the soul is the nobler part of man--the more precious and dignified--it would be strange if this alone were exposed to his attacks, and the body were altogether exempt. Indeed, if it could even be supposed that, engaged in attempting the destruction of our immortal part, the devil would care nothing for our mortal--knowing it already doomed to death, and therefore, not worthy of his malice--yet, when we remember how the mind may be acted on through the body, and how difficult, and almost impossible, it is to turn the thoughts on solemn and deep inquiries when there is great suffering of the flesh, you would conclude it probable that the body, as well as the soul, would be assaulted and harassed by Satan and his angels. And this is no philosophical supposition, but rather one which may be abundantly supported by the pages of the Bible. It is certain, from the representation of Scripture, that Satan has much to do with inflicting diseases upon the body. The woman that had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together--what said Christ to her, when the ruler of the synagogue was indignant at her being made straight on the Sabbath day? “Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this band on the Sabbath day?” The disease, you observe, is expressly referred to Satan, throughout its long continuance, “whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years.” We know not, again, what the thorn in the flesh was which St. Paul suffered, but the expression makes it probable that it was some acute bodily pain or distemper; and the apostle distinctly refers to it as “a messenger from Satan sent to buffet him.” You will all remember the case of Job. In the Book of Psalms, moreover, when David is describing how God brought a terrible plague on the disobedient Israelites, what does he say? He declares that “He sent evil angels amongst them.” We seem quite justified, I think, in inferring, from these intimations, that Satan is greatly concerned with bringing on men corporeal maladies; and if this be once allowed, we may enter into the meaning of the title, “The prince of the power of the air.” We are accustomed then, as it would seem, with thorough accuracy, to refer to certain states of the air as producing certain diseases of the body. Without being precisely able to trace the connection, or investigate the cause, we consider that the atmosphere is frequently impregnated with the seeds of sickness, so that we may be said to inhale death whilst inhaling what is essential to life. Is he not, then, to be defined as a prince, because of the many legions which obey his commands; and the prince of the power of the air, because he can assault the persons and property of men through the invisible but tremendous machinery of the atmosphere? We would remind you that whatsoever is visionary and unstable, whatsoever is mere delusion and cheat, this we are accustomed to connect with the air, and so to describe it as aerial, what we find to be unstable or deceitful. Indeed, this has been reduced to a proverb, so that, to accuse a man of building castles in the air, is to accuse him of wasting time in imagining what cannot be realized; and of allowing his fancy so to supersede his judgment, that he plans with no chance of executing, and reckons on what it is almost impossible that he can obtain. The dreams, the phantoms, the meteors, by which many are regulated, or which they pursue--these are all, if we speak metaphorically, full of the air. It is undoubtedly by and through putting a cheat on men that the devil, from the first, has effected their destruction. His endeavour has been, and too often successful, to prevail on them to substitute an imaginary good for the real, a creature for the Creator, and to make, and to mock, their own capacities for happiness, by seeking it in the finite and the perishable. And if there be any truth in this account of the process--so to speak--through which Satan carries on his attacks upon men, it is hardly possible not to allow the appropriateness of the title, “The prince of the power of the air.” If it be by what we may call a series of optical deceptions that he acts on our race, distorting one thing, magnifying another, and throwing false colouring on a third, is he not proceeding so as to avail himself of those strange properties of the air, whence spring such a phenomenon as that of the Egyptian mirage--the weary traveller being cheated with the appearance of the blue waters, with a lake on whose margin the green trees are waving, but finding, as he approaches, that there is only the hot sand, and not a drop of moisture with which to cool his tongue. If, again, it be by crowding the field with forms of gorgeous thrones and splendid pageantry, which sweep before the mind, as they beckon it onward to disappointment--if it be thus that Satan retains, undisturbed, his dominion over thousands, what can he be so truly said to employ, as the power of the air--wielding those brilliant meteors, which have seemed to pass to and fro, as though ranging from cloud to cloud, causing those strange illusions which have startled the peasant, and made him think the deep glen into which he was entering tenanted by shadowy and mysterious beings. In short, if all the forms by which Satan enrolls and deceives mankind be unsubstantial--if the ambitious, the voluptuary, and the avaricious, be all and each pursuing a beckoning shadow--if the whole apparatus by which the world is lulled into slumber, or roused to self-destruction, be made up of the mere imagery of happiness, can any description be more apposite than that which represents the devil as lord of that element in which floats the mote, through which glides the spectre, and out of which can be formed nothing we can grasp, though it may be the vehicle of a thousand deceptions arranged into beautiful array? Yea, if the devil be empowered thus to employ the fleeting, and specious, and transient--is there not an extraordinary appropriateness in the title of the text--is he not most fitly characterized as “The prince of the power of the air.” But it is time that we pass from considering the title which St. Paul gives to Satan, to examine the account subjoined of the agency of this spirit. Having called the devil “the prince of the power of the air,” the apostle proceeds to speak of him as “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” We do not at all doubt that these words are applicable to our own days, as well as to earlier, though, at the same time, it would appear that St. Paul designed to represent Satan as just then peculiarly energetic. You observe, he says, “the spirit that now worketh,” as though he had not before worked, or not with the same vehemence, or precisely the same design. It was the tenet of certain fathers of the Church that, until the coming of Christ, Satan did not know his own eternal condemnation. We pretend not to say whether such a tenet is worthy of consideration; but we know that, at the time of the setting up of Christianity, Satan mustered all his forces, and laboured with unprecedented vehemence and hostility against the people of God. It was only requisite that Christianity should universally supersede heathenism, and there would depart from the earth that gross ignorance which had been the fit theatre for the despotism of fallen angels. Whence the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus? who had gone about doing good, healing all manner of sickness; and He, who had lightened every form of human misery, was buffeted and slain by the children of disobedience, urged on by “the prince of the power of the air,” who had dazzled their eyes with visions of temporal dominion. Whence the sufferings of the apostles? We have already said that we are to take heed not to charge our faults upon the devil, and thus make his guidance an apology for our sinfulness. We are quite persuaded that it is not the devil who destroys a man; it must be the man who destroys himself. He is then an enemy to be dreaded and resisted--this “prince of the power of the air”; but we thank God for the assurance that we are hastening to the crisis when the malignant enemy shall be bound, and spoiled of his power to assault. (H. Melvill, B. D.)


Verse 3

Ephesians 2:3

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of Our flesh.

All men by nature alike

1. The chosen of God have, before conversion, nothing differing from other sinners. Even those whom God takes to mercy were sinful as others, before by His grace they are changed. And why?

2. Where there is no fear of God, no outward privileges will procure us His favour. When God’s people do not obey Him, their circumcision is made uncircumcision. How can this be, seeing the one profess the true God, while the other does not?

3. We must not be ashamed to confess ourselves sinners with the worst. The most upright are most forward in confession. It is the proper fruit of grace, to freely confess and give glory to God.

4. By nature the state of all is such that God’s wrath abides on them.

5. By nature all of us are sinful; not only in regard of Adam’s sin imputed, but of corruption or concupiscence with which we are conceived (Psalms 51:5; Psalms 58:3; Genesis 8:21; Ezekiel 16:4-6; Isaiah 53:6; Isaiah 1:4).

6. Even the children of the godly are by nature children of wrath. (Paul Bayne.)

The misery of man’s natural state

A sinful state cannot but be a miserable state. If sin goes before, wrath follows of course. In the text we have four things.

1. The misery of a natural state; it is a state of wrath, as well as a state of sin. The natural man is a malefactor, dead in law, lying in chains of guilt; a criminal, held fast in his fetters, till the day of execution; which will not fail to come, unless a pardon be obtained from his God, who is his judge and his opponent too.

2. Here is the rise of this misery; men have it by nature. They owe it to their nature, not to their substance or essence; for that neither is nor was sin, and therefore cannot make them children of wrath; though, for sin, it may be under wrath: not to their nature, as qualified at man’s creation by his Maker; but to their nature, as vitiated and corrupted by the Fall; to the vicious quality, or corruption of their nature, as before noticed, which is their principle of action, and, ceasing from action, the only principle in an unregenerate state.

3. The universality of this misery. All are by nature children of wrath, “we,” says the apostle, “even as others”; Jews as well as Gentiles. Those that are now, by grace, the children of God were, by nature, in no better case than those that are still in their natural state.

4. Here is a glorious and happy change intimated. We were children of wrath, but are not so now; grace has brought us out of that state. And thus, it well becomes the people of God to be often standing on the shore, and looking back to the Red Sea, or the state of wrath, which they were once weltering in, even as others. The state of nature is a state of wrath.

I. What the state of wrath is. No one can fully describe it. Enough may be discovered, however, to convince men of the absolute necessity of fleeing to Jesus to escape it.

1. There is wrath in the heart of God against the natural man.

2. There is wrath in the Word of God against him (Revelation 2:16).

3. There is wrath in the hand of God against him. He is under heavy strokes of wrath already, and is liable to more.

The curse of the law, denounced against him, has already tied him to the stake: so that the arrows of justice may pierce his soul. Does he lie down to sleep? There is not a promise that he knows of, or can know, to secure him that he shall not be in hell ere he awake. He walks amidst enemies armed against him: his name may be Magor-missabib, that is, terror round about (Jeremiah 20:3). Thus the natural man lives, but he must die too; and death is a dreadful messenger to him. It comes upon him armed with wrath, and puts three sad charges in his hand.

1. Death charges him to bid an eternal farewell to all things in this world; to leave it, and haste away to another world.

2. Death charges soul and body to part, till the great day. His soul is required of him (Luke 12:20). O what a miserable parting must this be to a child of wrath! Care was indeed taken to provide for the body things necessary for this life; but, alas! there is nothing laid up for another life. As for the soul, he was never solicitous to provide for it.

3. Death charges the soul to appear before the tribunal of God, while the body lies to be carried to the grave (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

II. I shall confirm the doctrine of the state of wrath. Consider--

1. How peremptory the threatening of the first covenant is: “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

2. The justice of God requires that a child of sin be a child of wrath; that the law being broken, the sanction thereof should take place.

3. The horrors of a natural conscience prove this. Conscience, in the breasts of men, tells them that they are sinners, and therefore liable to the wrath of God.

4. The pangs of the new birth, the work of the Spirit on elect souls, in order to their conversion, demonstrate this. Hereby their natural sinfulness and misery, as liable to the wrath of God, are plainly taught them, filling their hearts with fear of that wrath. As it is the Spirit’s work to “convince of sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8), this testimony must needs be true; for the Spirit of truth cannot witness an untruth.

5. The sufferings of Christ plainly prove this doctrine. Wherefore was the Son of God a son under wrath, but because the children of men were children of wrath?

III. I now proceed to apply this doctrine of the misery of man’s natural state. Is our state by nature a state of wrath? Then--

1. Surely we are not born innocent. Those chains of wrath, which by nature are upon us, show us to be born criminals.

2. What desperate madness is it for sinners to go on in their sinful course! What is it but to heap coals of fire on thine own head! to lay more and more fuel to the fire of wrath! (Romans 2:5).

3. Thou hast no reason to complain as long as thou art out of hell. “Wherefore doth a living man complain?” (Lamentations 3:39).

If one, who has forfeited his life, be banished from his native country, and exposed to many hardships; he may well bear all patiently, seeing his life is spared.

1. To you that are yet in an unregenerate state, I would sound the alarm, and warn you to see to yourselves, while there is yet hope. O you children of wrath, take no rest in this dismal state; but flee to Christ, the only refuge. The state of wrath is too hot a climate for you to live in. But if any desire to flee from the wrath to come, and for that end to know what course to take, I offer them these few advices.

2. I Shall drop a few words to the saints.

Inherited depravity

When, nine years after his marriage, the birth of his son Nero was announced to him, he (Nero’s father) answered the congratulations of his friend with the remark, that from himself and Agrippina nothing could have been born but what was hateful and for the public ruin. (Archdeacon Farrar.)

The mind sinful

The wall thought it very unfair to influence a child’s mind by inculcating any opinions before it should have come to years of discretion and be able to choose for itself. I showed him my garden, and told him it was my botanical garden. “How so?” said he, “it is covered with weeds.” “Oh,” I replied, “that is only because it has not yet come to its age of discretion and choice. The weeds, you see, have taken the liberty to grow, and I thought it unfair in me to prejudice the soil towards roses and strawberries.” (Coleridges Table Talk.)

Fleshly depravity

Conversation does not mean talking. There is no instance where it has this signification in the English Bible. It means, as the Greek original does, deportment, conduct, character, as in the following passages: 2 Corinthians 1:12; Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 2:3; Ephesians 4:22; 1 Timothy 4:12; Hebrews 13:5; Hebrews 13:7; James 3:13; 1 Peter 1:15; 1 Peter 1:18; 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:1-2; 1 Peter 3:16; 2 Peter 2:7; 2 Peter 3:11. In Philippians 1:27, conversation signifies citizenship; so that to have a good conversation is to act worthy of the New Jerusalem to which grace has called you. But this former conduct or conversation of theirs was “in the lusts of the flesh.” This refers--

1. To carnal or sensual appetites, in which the heathen world was sunk, and Paul asserts in the text that the Jews were the same (Romans 6:12; Romans 7:8-9; 1 Timothy 6:9, and many others). This implies and includes luxuries, the pleasures of the table, drunkenness, and all such forbidden pleasures.

2. These fleshly desires are seen most perfectly in the systems of false worship adopted by the heathen world in general. Baalim was the embodiment of lewdness; Buddhism is the embodiment of the dogma of priestly rule; so is Hindooism and other forms of religion. The Greeks and the Romans deified nature and the dead. The flesh is the teeming fountain of vileness from which all these and similar systems flow:--the picture, the image, the idol, the oracle are the four head forms or developments of false worship, and they all come from the flesh.

3. Flesh is always contrasted with spirit, and in general denotes alienation from God. The law of the flesh is sin; the works of the flesh are evil; the carnal mind is enmity against God (Romans 8:6-7); to walk after the flesh is ungodliness; to be in the flesh is not to know or please God. Jesus Christ crucified it, and He gives us the principle and power of doing the same. (W. Graham, D. D.)

Original sin, a fact

Original or birth sin is not merely a doctrine in religion, it is a fact in man’s world acknowledged by all, whether religious or not. Let a man be providing for an unborn child; in case of distribution of worldly property, he will take care to bind him by conditions and covenants which shall guard against his fraudulently helping himself to that which he is to hold for or to apportion to another, He never saw that child; he does not know but that child may be the most pure and perfect of men; but he knows it will not be safe to put temptation in his way, because he knows he will be born in sin, and liable to sin, and sure to commit sin. (Dean Alford.)

Man innately bad

Many inquirers find it difficult to believe themselves innately bad, simply because they have been told that such a belief is required of them. No man taught the doctrine of original sin, commonly so called, so impressively as Jesus Christ, and yet He never mentioned it. His whole scheme was founded upon the assumption that men were wrong. Every call to a new point, every frown upon sin, every encouragement of well-doing, meant that society needed regeneration. Men may come upon the doctrine of original depravity in one of two different ways; for example, they may come upon it as a dogma in theology. The first thing that some theologians do is to abuse human nature, to describe it as being, covered with wounds and bruises and putrefying sores, and as deserving nothing but eternal burning. Human nature resists this as a slander: it says, “‘No; I have good impulses, upward desires, generous emotions towards my fellow creatures; I resent your theological calumnies.” So much for the first method of approaching the doctrine. The second is totally unlike it. A man, for example, heartily accepts Jesus Christ, studies Him with most passionate devotion, and grows daily more like Him in all purity, gentleness, and self-oblivion. From this attitude he looks back upon his former self; he compares the human nature with which he started with the human nature he has attained, and involuntarily, by the sheer necessity of the contrast, he says, “I was born in sin and shapen in iniquity.” This conclusion he comes to, not by dogmatic teaching, but by dogmatic experience; what he never could have understood as an opinion he realizes as a fact. Suppose a tree to be conscious, and let it illustrate what is meant by growing into a right understanding of this hard doctrine. Tell the tree in April that it is bare and ungainly in appearance; very barren and naked altogether. The tree says, “Nay; I am rooted in the earth; my branches are strong; I live in the light; I drink the dew; and I am beautiful; the winds rock me, and many a bird twitters on my boughs.” This is its April creed. Go to the same tree after it has had a summer’s experience: it has felt the quickening penetration of the solar fire, quenched its thirst in summer showers, felt the sap circulating through its veins; the leaves have come out on branch and twig; the blossoms have blushed and bloomed through long days of light; fruit has been formed, and mellowed into maturity. Now hear the tree! “I am not what I was in April; my very identity seems to be changed; when men called me bare and rugged I did not believe them a few months ago; now I see what they meant--their verdict was sound; I thought the April light very beautiful, but it is nothing to the blazing splendour of the later months; I liked the twitter Of the spring birds, but,. it is poor compared with the song of those that came in June. I feel as if I had been born again.” The parable is broad enough to cover this bewildering, and at times horrifying, doctrine of hereditary depravity. Men cannot be in April what they will be in September. Each year says to growing hearts, “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” In old age men may accept the rejected doctrines of their youth. Experience brings us round many a rugged hill, and gives us better views of condemned, because misunderstood, opinions. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Universal depravity a proof of original sin

As it is absolutely impossible for a man to believe, when the dice are thrown sixes successively a thousand times, that the dice are not loaded, so is it a thousand times more impossible to believe, when every human being of all nations and generations, without a single exception, begins to sin the instant he enters moral agency, that his will is not biassed by a previous effectual tendency in his nature to sin. (Hodge.)

The state of nature and the state of grace

I. Jews and Gentiles (i.e., all)
are by nature alike prone to and lovers of sin. Before and after the flood. In Asia, Europe, Africa, etc.

II. Believers can happily say that the time of their sinful conversation is past. (See text; Isaiah 55:13; Romans 6:17; Titus 3:8.)

III. When a man knows himself, he will confess that his nature is sinful as others. Job; David; Isaiah; Jeremiah; Paul.

IV. The corruption of nature is sinful before it appears in thoughts, words, etc. (Matthew 15:19; Romans 9:11-13).

V. The sinfulness of every man’s nature justly exposes him to the wrath of God.

VI. The Scriptures tell us satisfactorily how the world comes to be so wicked. Improvement: The necessity of regeneration. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” etc. (John 3:6-7). The necessity of daily self-denial. The fatal delusion of Pelagians. The fatal delusion of Arminians. Grace must make one to differ from another. (H. Foster, M. A.)

A misinterpreted proof text

It is assumed far too axiomatically that the wrath referred to can mean nothing else than God’s personal wrath against sin, whether original or actual. We are ready to admit that sin in any form must draw down the Divine displeasure. God would be less than God unless sin drew down on it that consuming fire by which at present it is punished, and so held in check, and by which it will ultimately be destroyed forever when He who sits as a refiner shall have purged His silver from the last speck of dross. In this sense God’s wrath against sin--a wrath punitive and a wrath purifying; for they are both, stages of the same process--is an essential conception of His character. But while admitting this, it is going too far to assume that this wrath of God descends on us at the beginning, instead of at the end, of our moral career. If we are children of wrath in this sense, by our descent from Adam, we can easily see how this view tends to efface all moral distinctions of good and evil. The race is a doomed one from the beginning, and we are all overwhelmed alike in the same whirlpool of perdition here and hereafter. Men may shrink from such remorseless logic, and seek to soften it down; but as long as the text, that we are by nature children of wrath, stands unrevised in our so-called Revised Version, is it strange that the English reader appeals to that text as decisive on the extreme or Augustinian doctrine of birth sin and its consequences? But is this the true interpretation of the text? Will the words bear any other rendering? There must be a mistake somewhere. May it not lie in the inattention of learned men to the fact that the Apostle Paul wrote in Greek, but thought in Hebrew, and that consequently Hebraisms crop up in cases where students of classical Greek are not on the lookout for them as they should be. The present is a case in point. In the previous verse the apostle has described mankind as children of disobedience, which is a strong adjectival form in Hebrew for children thoroughly disobedient. In this verse, returning to this thought and emphasizing it, he reminds us that we all once lived in the lusts of the flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath--i.e., children of a wicked, passionate impulse, even as others. The text in this sense not only confirms in this way what goes before, but it also throws a fresh, though lurid, light on human nature, Jew alike and Gentile. It reminds us that these lusts of the flesh and mind all had their root in a principle of passionate impulse ( ὀργη) which is congenital to us, and which is so much our nature that we may in a sense be described as the children of this passionate desire, or the slaves of it, as we should say in modern phrase. Surely this is a dark enough description of human nature, without adding that other dark hue of Augustinian theology, that in consequence of this we are born under God’s wrath, and that the curse of God descends on us as a kind of birth, taint. (J. B. Heard, M. A.)

Children of wrath

What is it to be a child of wrath? It is to turn every blessing that this earth can give into aggravated misery. The happier we see a man--the more exalted in station, the more renowned by fame, the more endowed with wealth--the more miserable is his lot when precipitated from them all to everlasting ruin. Belshazzar was more to be commiserated and contemned than the poorest beggar within the city of Babylon, when the hand of fire came forth to write his doom upon the wall; the louder he had laughed--the more triumphantly he had “praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone”--the deeper draughts of luscious wine that he and all his court had quaffed from the golden vessels of Jehovah’s temple--the deadlier was the livid paleness of his face, the loosening of his joints, and the smiting of his knees, when the fatal characters of death and judgment were traced, before his eyes. What profit in the vast domains of wealth, when the trumpet of eternal judgment shall awake their haughty owners from the death of trespasses and sins? When they shall call, but call in vain, upon those lofty mountains, of which, in their pride of heart, they had boasted as their own, to fall on them and cover them, and hide them from the wrath of that God whom they have dishonoured and despised? (R. J. McGhee, M. A.)

Nature’s testimony to the wrath of God

Wrath and threatening are invariably mingled with love, and in the utmost solitudes of nature the existence of hell seems to me as legibly declared by a thousand spiritual utterances as of heaven. It is well for us to dwell with thankfulness on the unfolding of the flower, and the falling of the dew, and the sleep of the green fields in the sunshine; but the blasted trunk, the barren rock, the moaning of the bleak winds, the roar of the black, perilous whirlpools and the mountain streams, the solemn solitudes of moors and seas, the continual fading of all beauty into darkness, of all strength into dust--have these no language for us? We may seek to escape their teachings by reasonings touching the good which is wrought out of evil, but it is vain sophistry. The good succeeds to the evil as the day succeeds to the night, but so also the evil to the good. Ebal and Gerizim, birth and death, light and darkness, heaven and hell, divide the existence of man and his futurity. (Ruskin.)

Discipline of the passions

The passions may be humoured till they become our master, as a horse may be pampered till he gets the better of his rider; but early discipline will prevent mutiny, and keep the helm in the hands of reason. (Cumberland.)

The power of religion

A clergyman, having made several attempts to reform a profligate, was at length met with the decided statement, “It is all in vain, sir; you cannot get me to change my religion.” “I do not want that,” replied the good man; “I wish religion to change you.”


Verse 4

Ephesians 2:4

But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us.

The mercy of God

1. God is a God of rich mercies.

2. It is the love of God which procures His mercy toward us.

God’s mercy towards the sinner

I. The motives of the Divine mercy.

1. The promotion of His own glory. To show mercy is the most sublime work, and, emphatically, a Divine action.

2. His holiness. God, by His love of all that is good, and by His hatred of all that is bad, is moved to extirpate what is morally bad. This design is best accomplished by the conversion of the sinner, because if he were to die a sinner, that which is bad would be and would remain permanent in him. Hence the long suffering of God, His attempts to save the sinner, His readiness to forgive, that sin may be abolished.

3. The love of the Father for His Son. Jesus has purchased and redeemed mankind by His death. By losing one soul, He loses a most dear property, the price of His own precious blood. Therefore, the Father is moved by love to save the redeemed and to recover the lost soul (John 6:39).

4. His infinite benevolence.

II. The immense greatness of Divine mercy.

1. Like all the Divine perfections, it is as great as God Himself. “Thy mercy is above the heavens.”

2. It extends to all sins.

3. It embraces all sinners without exception.

4. It lasts till death.

III. The wonderful manner of its manifestation.

1. Before the sinner is converted. This love is manifested

2. Whilst the sinner is converted.

3. After the sinner is converted.

God is rich in mercy

Mercy is the aspect of God which the sinner first and most needs. Dare I approach His awful throne, all wretched and guilty as I am? The apostle answers, He is rich in mercy! But let us contemplate the riches of God a little more generally, and see how His bounty meets and supplies all our wants.

1. We are creatures who have test all--have nothing and need much; and to meet this God is rich in goodness (Romans 2:4). He is good--that is, He is God; for the name God is derived from His goodness. The earth and the heavens, the laws of the moral and physical worlds, are conceived and established out of pure goodness. His fulness overflows, and worlds and boundless systems of worlds arise to manifest and enjoy His goodness.

2. Are we impotent and incapable of procuring the Divine favour? Then, says Paul, He is rich in grace (Ephesians 2:7), which is the same nearly as “the rich in mercy” of my text. You need no merit--you require no preparation in coming to God.

3. But wherein is this riches of mercy seen? It is seen in the degradation and ruin from which it delivers us; it is seen in the glory and blessedness to which we are raised; it is seen in the number and heinousness of the sins which it forgives; and it is seen in the greatness of the number of the saved.

4. But there is still another aspect of the human character, which the riches of God meets. We long for power, for fame, for glory and immortality. We would be great, and the aspiration is not in itself wrong, but it is often misdirected. We find ourselves in this world bounded on every side by insurmountable barriers, baffling all our efforts of knowledge and of power. But are we satisfied? No, no; the soul longs for complete knowledge, pines for the possession of power, seeks to wing her flight through the sparkling stars and circumambient worlds, up to the empyrean throne itself, from whence proceed such manifestations of wisdom, beauty, and strength. And God meets this longing of the soul by that other word, “the riches of His glory” (Philippians 4:19). He is rich in goodness, He is rich in grace, He is rich in mercy, and He is rich in glory. Here, honourable ambition may expand itself; and the soul, enlarged and purified by the Spirit of God, may drink deeply and more deeply forever--may approach forever and for evermore, in love, wisdom, knowledge, and power, the character of Him who loved us, and whom we love.

5. Mercy is nearly allied to pain or misery, and the ideas are in most languages connected. It is not impossible that “eleos (mercy) may come from the Hebrew “chil, to be in pain, as the English word is from misericordiae, the pain of the heart, the sorrow which goodness feels at the sight of wretchedness and woe. It is this feeling (if we may apply it so) in the heart of our heavenly Father which is the fountain of redemption. (W. Graham, D. D.)

The love of God

Not as the world loves doth God love. They love today and hate tomorrow; wearing their friends like flowers, which we may behold in their bosoms whilst they are fresh and sweet, but soon they begin to wither, and are laid aside. Whereas the love of God to His people is everlasting, and He wears them as a signet upon His right hand, which He will never part with. (E. White.)

The signs of love

The signs and tokens of love are four.

1. We think of those whom we love. Love begins in the heart, and leads away the thoughts over seas, rivers, mountains, and all kinds of impediments, to its object. Such is the love of God. Its dwelling place is His own bosom; and before all worlds His delights were with the sons of men.

2. But love seeks fellowship with its object; and God visited us in the person of His Son that He might woo our fond hearts from the world to Himself.

3. Then, again, true love willingly suffers for its object, if need be, and the affection which abides not this test is not genuine. God cannot suffer, but His incarnate Son did, and all the fountains of the great deep of Divine sorrow were broken up on the cross.

4. Love seeks to exalt its object; and so God, having taken our nature into union with His own, did exalt and glorify the Son of man, our Eider Brother and Head, with His own right hand, in heavenly places, far above all principality and power. (W. Graham, D. D.)

God rich in mercy

I asked, in New Hampshire, how much it took to make a farmer rich there; and I was told that if a man was worth five thousand dollars he was considered rich. If a man had a good farm, and had ten thousand dollars out at interest, oh! he was very rich--passing rich. I dropped a little farther down, into Concord, where some magnates of railroads live (they are the aristocrats just now), and I found that the idea of riches was quite different there. A man there was not considered rich unless he had a hundred or a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, in pretty clear stuff. I go to New York, and ask men how much it takes to make one rich, and they say, “There never was a greater mistake made than that of supposing that five or six hundred thousand dollars make a man rich. What does that sum amount to?” I go into the upper circles of New York, where millionaires, or men worth a million dollars or over, used to be considered rich; and there, if a man is worth five or ten millions it is thought that he is coming on. It is said, “He will be rich one of these days.” When a man’s wealth amounts to fifty or a hundred millions he is very rich. Now if such is the idea of riches in material things, what must riches be when you rise above the highest men to angels, and above angels to God! What must be the circuit which makes riches when it reaches Him? And when yon apply this term, increscent, to the Divine nature, as it respects the qualities of love and mercy, what must riches be in God, the infinite, whose experiences are never less wide than infinity! What must be love and mercy, and their stores, when it is said that God is rich in them? (H. W. Beecher.)

His great love

The Rev. John Davies says, “A certain man had a wayward son; his conduct brought down his father to a premature grave. On the day of the funeral the son was present, saw unmoved the pale face of his father in the coffin, and stood unmoved on the brink of the grave. The family retraced their steps. Their father’s will was read; in that testament was the name of the undutiful son. As his name was read his heart heaved with emotion, his eyes were bedewed with tears, and he was heard to say, ‘I did not think that my father would have so kindly thought of me in his will.’ In the family of Christ some of us in reading His Testament, and thinking upon His great love and marvellous gifts, feel our unprofitableness and unworthiness, and are filled with love and wonder.”

God is rich in mercy

When Dr. Arnot was in this country--he is now in heaven--I heard him use in a sermon an illustration that impressed me. He said: “Have you not been in a home where the family were at dinner, and have you not seen the old family dog standing near and watching his master, and looking at every morsel of food as if he wished he had it? If his master drops a crumb he at once licks it up and devours it; but if his master were to set the dish of roast beef down and say, ‘Come, come,’ he would not touch it--it is too much for him. So with God’s children; they are willing to take a crumb, but refuse when God wants them to take the whole platter.” God wants you to come right to the throne of grace, and to come boldly. (D. L. Moody.)

Mercy Divine and human

I have seen the lifebuoy spun out to a drowning man, and, amid the crowd on the pier that gazed in horror, there was none, as they watched its course over the roaring waves, but wished in his heart that it might reach its mark. Nor is it only that God is “willing that all should come to Him, and live.” What mother but would open her door who heard the knocking, and recognized the well known voice of some poor, fallen child, that had sunk down there amid the winter drift, and cried, with failing breath, O mother, mother dear, open and let me in. And who thinks so ill of God as to believe that when He hears such a cry at the door of mercy, He will not rise to let us and to welcome us in! (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The mercy and love of God

I. First, then, we are to notice the richness of God’s mercy and the greatness of God’s love. There appears to me to be a difference in the terms which are used here, and that this difference is intentional--that the mercy, in fact, refers to man in his fallen state, and that the love refers to the manner in which that mercy is manifested. And taking it in this point of view, it will be necessary to dwell upon the two expressions separately--the mercy which is called rich, the love which is called great.

1. This mercy appears to be called great on account of the amount of mercy which is dispensed. But when we look at the inspired Word of God, we see at once the amount of mercy which is being dispensed to the world, for God has been pleased to reveal Himself as “plenteous in mercy.” “He keeps mercy for thousands.” I put these two facts together, and I read that for backsliders there is a willingness on the part of God to manifest His rich mercy. I look at the history of Matthew the publican, sitting at the receipt of custom, one of a whole body famed for their extortion; and I look into the world, and I see the mammon hunters of the day, and feel myself privileged to press upon them also the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; because I see that for the extorting Matthew there was converting grace, there was God’s rich mercy.

2. On this verse, then, we may speak of the mercy of God being rich; but you will perceive the apostle speaks also of the love of God, of the “great love” of God. And why should not that epithet be used, when we remember that it is the love of a great God to great sinners?

II. But we must pass on to inquire, in the second place, how this love is manifested. And keeping to the text before me, I read that it is by quickening us, by giving us of His spiritual life--“God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins, hath quickened us”--hath given us spiritual life. But this is connected, indeed, with the next expression in the text, which speaks of God having “raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Here, of course, reference is made to the resurrection and the glorified state, when there shall be rest from our labours, when there shall be eternal pleasure, and when we shall enter into the joy of our Lord. But notice, in the next place, when this mercy was manifested. The Scripture describes the manifestation of this mercy to have been “when we were dead,” when we were dead in our sins. (M. Villiers, D. D.)


Verse 5-6

Ephesians 2:5-6

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Salvation for the lost

I. First, then, the text shows you the misery from which you must be rescued. “Even when we were dead in sins.” Every individual, descended from Adam, having a polluted nature, and living in this world, is “dead in sins.” This is an awfully emphatic expression--“dead in sins.” A more wretched state can scarcely be conceived, except that of “the angels who kept not their first estate,” and whom God has “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” But I need not tell you that it is a metaphorical expression, because it declares that a living man is “dead.” Not dead naturally. He is not dead as to natural actions; he can eat, and drink, and sleep. Nor as to rational actions; he can reason, and judge, and consider. Nor as to civil actions; he can “buy and sell and get gain.” Nor as to moral actions; he can be kind, he can read and pray and hear the Word and meditate upon it; he can listen to the voice of God’s judgments; he can call his ways to remembrance; he can humble himself before the God of his mercies. So far went Ahab and Herod, yet continued spiritually dead. Let me try to describe this death. It consists of two parts.

1. The sinner living in enmity to God is condemned to death.

2. The symptoms of spiritual death are manifest upon him. Sin has separated the soul from God, so that man cannot commune with God, and God cannot commune with man; “your iniquities,” says the prophet, “have separated between you and your God.”

II. In the second place, the agent and the means of deliverance are here presented. “God hath quickened us together with Christ.” Your case, my brethren, is too desperate for the arm of man to reach. No expedients, which human might and human wisdom can afford, can remedy your misery. “God hath quickened us together with Christ.”

III. Thirdly, the felicity to which this deliverance will raise you, is also here presented. “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Here you see that a regenerate sinner is a living saint. Before, the man was dead; now, he lives. Before, as death locks up the senses and all the powers and faculties of the soul, so did a state of sin to the performance and enjoyment of anything that is really good; but now, when a change takes place, grace unlocks and opens all, and so enlarges the soul that it brings every faculty into operation as that of a living man. And do you ask me, what is this life? A life of justification; when no charge can be brought against the sinner. A life of sanctification; where holiness is the element of being. A life of dignity; where Christ is the companion forever.

IV. But, fourthly, you have here the source from whence you must expect this life. “God who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us.” Mark how language labours for expression: “rich mercy” and “great love.” Inexhaustibly rich mercy; inexpressibly great love.

V. But there is one more point to be noticed: the end to be secured by this wonderful manifestation of His mercy. “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness towards us through Jesus Christ.” This expression, “the ages to come,” sometimes refers to any future period; but it has especial reference to two.

1. To the times of the gospel. Brethren, these are “the ages” which were “to come.” This is “the acceptable year;” this is “the day of the Lord;” this is “the accepted time;” this is “the day of salvation.” The days since Christ was born and suffered are the most blessed and happy days that ever shone upon our fallen world. No days have been like them.

2. The phrase refers also to the last great day. Then will be the full and wondrous exhibition of the scheme of mercy, at which the world may wonder. (James Sherman)
.

Deliverance

I. The free love and undeserved grace of God, as the sole origin and moving cause of our deliverance.

II. See, then, how the purpose of God’s love has been effected. See the Divine precision--the exact adaptation of the means to the end--the finished perfection in the result.

III. But we are led on a step higher at verse 6--we are introduced into “heavenly places.” What, then, is the peculiar significance of the expression in that sixth verse--“raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Five times over in the course of the Epistle, you meet with the phrase “heavenly places,” or (literally) “the heavenlies.” Thus, in Ephesians 1:20, we are told that after God raised Jesus from the dead, He set Him at His own right hand in the “heavenly places.” It was not enough that He should rise out of the grave, however necessary might be His resurrection as one intermediate link in the process. So long as He remained on earth (as He did for forty days), He had not entered on the fulness of His joy. A crowning proof was awanting, and that was not furnished until the hour of His enthronement in the “heavenly places.” Then was Jesus in all the glory of His acceptance, in the fulness of His honour! Into “the places” of reward, and enjoyment, and unfading glory, He entered, and there lives an “everlasting sign” that the work for which He visited the earthly places has been perfectly fulfilled. But Jesus is not alone in these “heavenly places.” Every true believer is there in Him. “Seated together with Christ,” therefore, ought we not now to be made partakers with Him, in some measure, of heavenly blessings? to he sharers here, in some degree, of the joy that fills His heart? Let us see, then, what some of those things are which are now making glad the heart of Christ in heaven, and look at them, that we may ask of God to enter more fully into the power and experience of them.

1. One great joy of His heart in heaven must be in His own deliverance, and in the certainty of the deliverance of His people with Him from the curse of hell, in His having so satisfied the everlasting demands of Divine justice and truth, that the law has now no more any claims against Him, or those for whom He died! And ought not we to share with Him in that joy, by tasting something of the rest, the satisfaction, the quietness and assurance of knowing that in Him we “are justified from all things,” and freed from the curse?

2. Another joy of His heart in heaven must be, in seeing the guilt of countless multitudes of human beings (though the sins of each of them be more in number than the sand) daily met ,and taken away by an atonement, whose efficacy is inexhaustible to the close of time. And ought not we to rejoice before Him in that which is the cause of our cleansing in His sight, and continually to make use of it for bringing us and keeping us near to Himself, and for renewing in us the joy of our salvation?

3. Another cause of joy to Christ in heaven is the manifestation of the glory of all the attributes of God, and the vindication of the holiness of His name in a work which has “magnified His law and made it honourable.” And should not we who are in Him be enabled to “sing” at once of “mercy and of judgment,” to “give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness,” as the very bulwark of our safety; and even in the midst of all that is terrible in the execution of His righteous judgments, be preserved in holy calms, as those that are at home with God, dwelling “in the secret place of the Most High,” and “under the shadow of the Almighty.”

4. Another joy of His elevation to the heavenly places must be in the overthrow of Satan’s kingdom, and in the certain prospect of the everlasting fall of every foe. And should not we, who are yet in the midst of the conflict, be encouraged in Him to anticipate certain victory, and be assured that we too shall be made more than conquerors through Him that loved us? (J. S. Muir.)

The cause, means, and effects of salvation

I. The cause of salvation. God’s rich, free, sovereign grace. No other source of salvation to guilty man.

1. There is no power in man to save himself. A dead body cannot walk; nor can a dead soul move by its own will.

2. There is nothing to attract love in a dead, corrupting carcase, and there is nothing to attract God’s love in a dead, corrupting soul.

II. The means of salvation. Christ’s death. We must here dwell on the contrast, and at the same time the union, between Christ and the sinner, as mutually interchanging their condition each with the other; the sinner transferring through God’s grace, or rather God transferring through His grace, and the sinner embracing with gratitude by faith the blessed transfer, of all his guilt, misery and curse to Jesus; and Jesus transferring, God the Father imputing, and the sinner by faith with joyful gratitude receiving, all the riches of Christ’s righteousness, redemption, and salvation, put down to his account as a guilty sinner.

III. The effects of salvation. “Hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Believers become the children of God, and sharers in His inheritance. Your children, you would say, are your heirs; they are to possess your property. Men make their eldest son the heir of their properties. The law which subverts that of primogeniture, which divides estates and necessitates that property be divided among all the members of a family, soon reduces the family to beggary, for our poor earthly properties are easily exhausted. But the children of the King of kings are all heirs of eternal glory. The rays of the sun are undiminished in their bright effulgence, the lustre of that luminary is not dimmed, although the beams of His glorious orb have been diffused throughout the world from the first moment of the morning when God set him in the firmament of the heavens to rule the day; he still pours forth from his redundant fountain floods of unexhausted and exhaustless light, and every creature that basks beneath his beams enjoys the fulness of their power too much to leave him room to grudge the world beside. But what is all the glory of the orb of day compared with that of Him whose fiat struck that orb but as a spark from solid darkness? and what is the inheritance of him who is an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ? (John 17:22.) Christ’s inheritance. Christ’s glory is their inheritance and their glory, and there is not one whose glory is diminished by the fulness of glory that all enjoy. (P. J. McGhee, M. A.)

Resurrection with Christ

I. Celebrate first a great solemnity, and descend into the charnel house of our poor humanity. According to the teaching of the sacred Scripture, men are dead, spiritually dead. Certain vain men would make it out that men are only a little disordered and bruised by the Fall, wounded in a few delicate members, but not mortally injured. However, the Word of God is very express upon the matter, and declares our race to be not wounded, not hurt merely, but slain outright, and left as dead in trespasses and sin. There are those who fancy that fallen human nature is only in a sort of syncope or fainting fit, and only needs a process of reviving to set it right. You have only, by education and by other manipulations, to set its life floods in motion, and to excite within it some degree of action, and then life will speedily be developed. There is much good in every man, they say, and you have only to bring it out by training and example. This fiction is exactly opposite to the teaching of sacred Scripture. Within these truthful pages we read of no fainting fit, no temporary paralysis, but death is the name for nature’s condition, and quickening is its great necessity. Man is not partly dead, like the half-drowned mariner, in whom some spark of life may yet remain, if it be but fondly tendered, and wisely nurtured. There is not a spark of spiritual life left in man--manhood is to all spiritual things an absolute corpse. Step with me, then, into the sepulchre house, and what do you observe of yonder bodies which are slumbering there? They are quite unconscious! Whatever goes on around them neither occasions them joy nor causes them grief. The dead in their graves may be marched over by triumphant armies, but they shout not with them that triumph. It is thus with men spiritually dead; they are unaffected by spiritual things. A dying Saviour, whose groans might move the very adamant, and make the rocks dissolve, they can hear of all unmoved. Even the all-present Spirit is undiscerned by them, and His power unrecognized. Angels, holy men, godly exercises, devout aspirations, all these are beyond and above their world. Observe that corpse; you may strike it, you may bruise it, but it will not cry out; you may pile burdens upon it, but it is not weary; you may shut it up in darkness, but it feels not the gloom. So the unconverted man is laden with the load of his sin, but he is not weary of it; he is shut up in the prison of God’s justice, but he pants not for liberty; he is under the curse of God, but that curse causes no commotion in his spirit, because he is dead.

II. We now change the subject for something more pleasant, and observe a miracle, or dead men made alive. The great object of the gospel of Christ is to create men anew in Christ Jesus. It aims at resurrection, and accomplishes it. The gospel did not come into this world merely to restrain the passions or educate the principles of men, but to infuse into them a new life which, as fallen men, they did not possess.

1. In this idea of quickening, there is a mystery. What is that invisible something which quickens a man? Who can track life to its hidden fountain? In the language of the text, you trace it to God, you believe your new life to be of Divine implantation. You are a believer in the supernatural; you believe that God has visited you as He has not visited other men, and has breathed into you life. You believe rightly, but you cannot explain it. He is the great worker, but how He works is not revealed to us.

2. It is a great mystery then, but while it is a mystery it is a great reality. We know and do testify, and we have a right to be believed, for we trust we have not forfeited our characters, we know and do testify that we are now possessors of a life which we knew nothing of some years ago, that we have come to exist in a new world, and that the appearance of all things outside of us is totally changed from what it used to be.

3. This life brings with it the exercise of renewed faculties. The man who begins to live unto God has powers now which he never had before: the power really to pray, the power heartily to praise, the power actually to commune with God, the power to see God, to talk with God, the power to receive tidings from the invisible world, and the power to send messages up through the veil which hides the unseen up to the very throne of God.

III. I must pass on very briefly to the third point. The text indicates a sympathy: “He hath quickened us together with Christ.” What does that mean? It means that the life which lives in a saved man is the same life which dwells in Christ. To put it simply--when Elisha had been buried for some years, we read that they threw a man who was dead into the tomb where the bones of Elisha were, and no sooner did the corpse touch the prophet’s bones than it lived at once. Yonder is the cross of Christ, and no sooner does the soul touch the crucified Saviour than it lives at once, for the Father hath given to Him to have life in Himself, and life to communicate to others. We are quickened together with Christ in three senses:

1. Representatively. Christ represents us before the eternal throne; He is the second Adam to His people. Christ is accepted, believers are accepted.

2. Next, we live by union with Christ. So long as the head is alive the members have life.

3. Then we also live together with Christ as to likeness. We are quickened together with Christ, that is, in the same manner. Now, Christ’s quickening was in this wise. He was dead through the law, but the law has no more dominion over Him now that He lives again. So you, Christian, you are cursed by the old law of Sinai, but it has no power to curse you now, for you are risen m Christ. You are not under the law; its terrors and threatenings have nought to do with you. Christ’s life is a life unto God. Such is yours. He does not quicken us with the inward life, and then leave us to perish; grace is a living, incorruptible seed, which liveth and abideth forever.

IV. And this brings us to the last word, which was a song. We have not time to sing it, we will just write the score before your eyes, and ask you to sing it at your leisure, your hearts making melody to God. Brethren and sisters, if you have indeed been thus made alive as others are not, you have first of all, in the language of the text, to praise the great love of God, great beyond all precedent. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Salvation in Christ

I. The progress of a sinner’s salvation.

1. God loves him, though dead in sins.

2. He quickens him.

3. He raises him up.

4. He sets him in heavenly places.

II. Why the blessings of God’s chosen are said to be in and with Christ. Because they are first in Him as Head, and from Him communicated to them as members, viz., their election, justification, sanctification, etc.

III. Why the Scripture speaks of what is yet to be done for God’s people as done already. From the certainty of their accomplishment. To encourage the faith and hope of His. “God hath spoken in His holiness,” etc. (Psalms 55:6, etc.). Believers may look backward and forward, and see themselves surrounded with mercies. How different their end from what they deserve! Woe to them that think of going to heaven without Christ. (H. Foster, M. A.)

Man’s misery and God’s mercy

1. Man’s misery commends God’s mercy (Ezekiel 16:8; Ezekiel 16:4-5; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:8; 1 John 4:10; Romans 5:10).

2. Man has no power or disposition to save himself.

3. The believer is brought to partake of the life of God.

(a) There is a taking away of sins, for while we live in them we are in death.

(b) There is a taking of life in our behalf.

(c) A holding out of these things, with the voice of God unto the soul (John 5:25). A receiving of Christ, a forgiving of our sins, and quickening with the Spirit.

(a) Every life seeks its own preservation; as natural life seeks that which is fit for that life, so does this spiritual life that which is fit for itself. As the life is immortal, so it seeks immortal food by which it lives to God; the life of grace is maintained by bread from heaven, from the living God.

(b) Every natural life, in the several kinds of it, seeks its preservation of him and by him who is the author of it; children of their parents, etc. So here they that are quickened with the life of God are ever and anon turning to Him as their Father, crying and calling upon Him for supply in all their wants.

(c) He who has this spiritual life in any measure is sensible, and ever complaining of spiritual death, and of corrupt nature, the sight of which is most noisome to his sense.

(d) Life is active and stirring. If I see an image still without motion, I know for all the eyes, nose, etc., that it has no life in it: so the want of spiritual motion in the soul toward God, and the practice of godliness, argues want of spiritual life.

(e) Love to the brethren (1 John 3:14). (Paul Bayne.)

The dead quickened

I. The past estate of those to whom the apostle wrote.

1. Dead in point of law.

2. Dead as under the power of sin.

II. Their present state. “Quickened.” The mercy of God is exercised still in the same way.

1. He has delivered you from the sentence of condemnation.

2. You have experienced the production of spiritual life by the influences of the Holy Spirit.

III. The source of this quickening. Union with Christ.

IV. The light in which this subject places the love of God. (Thomas Young.)

By the grace of God

An officer during an engagement received a ball which struck him near his waistcoat pocket, where a piece of silver stopped the progress of the nearly spent ball. The coin was slightly marked at the words “Dei gratia. This providential circumstance deeply impressed his mind, and led him to read a tract, which his beloved and pious sister gave him on leaving his native land, entitled “The sin and danger of neglecting the Saviour.” This text it pleased God to bless to his conversion.

Quickening the dead

When a man is dead it is hopeless for us to attempt to quicken him. But what we cannot do Christ does. Henry Varley says, “A coachman in a family at the West End of London was taken seriously ill, and a few days afterwards saw him pass into the presence of God. I knew and had visited him before in order to bring to his mind and heart the Saviour of sinners. Again I called at the house, found the door open, and quietly ascended the staircase which led to the room where the sick man lay. There, bent over the prostrate, form of the man, was his eldest son, deeply affected and weeping bitterly. His face was close to that of the father’s, and I heard him, in an agony of earnest words, say, Father, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Oh, my father, do trust Jesus! His precious blood cleanses from all sin. Only believe. My father I my father! O God, save my father!’ The hot tears and the intense anxiety of that young man I shall never forget. Poor fellow! he literally shouted into the ear that lay close to his lips. I had watched the scene for some minutes almost transfixed at the door. At length, approaching the bed, I observed that the father was dead. Tenderly I raised the young man, and quietly said, ‘His spirit has passed away; he cannot hear; you cannot reach him now!’ Poor fellow! he had been speaking into the ear of a corpse; the father had been dead some minutes.”

The grace of God

When a friend observed to him that we must run deeper and deeper in grace’s debt, he replied, “Oh yes; and God is a good creditor; He never seeks back the principal sum, and, indeed, puts up with a poor annual rent” (Life of Rev. John Brown, of Haddington.)

Salvation by grace

A physician who was anxious about his soul, asked a believing patient of his, how he should find peace. His patient replied, “Doctor, I felt that I could do nothing, and I have put my case in your hand: I am trusting in you.” This is exactly what every poor sinner must do, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. He saw the simplicity of the way, and soon found peace in Christ.

Heavenly places

When Paul wrote of “heavenly places” as the lot of Christ’s people on earth, it was not to please the imagination or dazzle the fancy with mere spiritual visions--but to show us how near and how available is the source of spiritual and saving strength for daily life. To be “with Christ,” therefore, “in the heavenlies,” is--

I. To be living at the source of power for new obedience, and to draw from thence for support in that service which is true freedom, freedom from slavish fears, from corroding cares, from every inordinate affection which would hinder you in the doing of His will. Brought nigh to God--living in the fellowship of God, through Jesus--you have a well-spring of new motives of action opened for you in His service, and of strength for patient rest in His will. That well-spring is ever full and never failing. These Divine resources are ever near, and ever the same; though your experience of them, alas! may ebb, and flow, and fluctuate.

II. But we come now to notice another view of the position of those who are raised up to sit with Christ. It is to be armed for conflict. The spirits of evil have still power to tempt and molest. And if these evil influences are to be repelled and quenched, it can only be done from within the citadel of power which is provided in the fellowship of a risen Lord.

III. The “heavenly places” to which all believing ones are raised up on earth to sit with Christ, are (in a peculiar manner) places of thanksgiving. As the cleft of the Rock to which you have fled from the fury of the storm, what else should your place be but one fitted for thanksgiving,--a “tabernacle” to be filled with the “voices of rejoicing and salvation” and praise ever going forth in testimony to Him, whose almighty hand opened the refuge and averted the destruction!

IV. And now, in conclusion, the text points to the future--into “the ages” of eternity--to that great hereafter on whose brink we are ever walking, and which at any moment we may be called to enter. (J. S. Muir.)

Heaven won

Won by other arms than theirs, it presents the strongest contrast imaginable to the spectacle seen in England’s palace on that day when the king demanded of his assembled nobles by what title they held their lands. “What title?” At the rash question a hundred swords, leaped from their scabbards. Advancing on the alarmed monarch, “By these we won, and by these we will keep them!” they replied. How different the scene which heaven presents! All eyes are fixed on Jesus: every look is one of love and gratitude, which are glowing in every bosom, and swelling in every song. Now with golden harps they swell the Saviour’s praises; and now descending from their thrones to do Him homage, they cast their crowns in one glittering heap at the feet which were nailed to Calvary’s shameful cross. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Religion raises men up

Ah! brethren, you will not mind my telling out some of the secrets, secrets that bring the tears to my eyes as I reflect upon them. When I speak of the thief, the harlot, the drunkard, the sabbath breaker, the swearer, I may say, “Such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye rejoice in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How many a man has been going by the door there, and has said, “I’ll go in and hear Old Spurgeon.” He came in to make merriment of the preacher, and very little that troubles him. But the man has stood there until the Word goes home to him, and he who was wont to beat his wife, and to make his home a hell, has before long been to see me, and has given me a grip of the hand and said, “God Almighty bless you, sir; there is something in true religion!” “Well, let us hear your tale.” We have heard it, and delightful it has been in hundreds of instances, “Very well, send your wife, and let us hear what she says about you.” The woman has come, and we have said, “Well, what think you of your husband now, ma’am?” “Oh, sir, such a change I never saw in my life! He is so kind to us; he is like an angel now, and he seemed like a fiend before; oh! that cursed drink, sir! everything went to the public house; and then if I went up to the house of God, he did nothing but abuse me! Oh! to think that now he comes with me on Sunday; and the shop is shut up, sir; and the children who used to be running about without a bit of shoe or stocking, he takes them on his knee, and prays with them so sweetly. Oh! there is such a change!” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Promotion by goodness

In old times it was the custom to crown a brave soldier with laurel before all the people. Zeno never went out to fight for his country, but spent his life in a better service, for he tried to teach a nation to be wise and good. At last the people felt that the only way to be great is to do good. They gave to Zeno the laurel crown; but he won for himself a far nobler prize--the respect and love of all who knew him. (Denton.)

Heavenly places

Dr. Preston, when he was dying, used these words, “Blessed be God, though I change my place I shall not change my company; for I have walked with God while living, and now I go to rest with God.” (Baxendale.)


Verse 7

Ephesians 2:7

That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

The riches of God’s grace

1. The end of all God’s grace and mercy towards believers in Christ, is for the manifestation of His glory, and praise of His name. This must teach us, that whatever good things God has bestowed upon us, we make God known by it.

2. All the saving graces of God are most worthy the consideration of all Christians in all ages. If we be God’s children, let us show it by bringing forth eternal and immortal fruit to His glory.

3. The special favour of God consists in the giving of Christ. (1 John 4:9; Romans 5:6).

4. All God’s kindness, and the fruit thereof, must come to us through Christ.

5. All our blessings are treasured up in Christ.

6. In all things Christ hath the preeminence.

7. From hence note the stability of all the blessings given to the faithful. (2 Timothy 1:12).

Salvation by grace

Salvation is a term inclusive of all the benefits enjoyed by a penitent believing sinner through the mediation of Christ.

I. Illustrate it upon leading scriptural principles. The whole scheme of redemption is traced up to its source in the Divine benevolence--“God so loved the world,” etc. It means a principle of love, proving its reality by gifts; love to sinners, fraught with kindest volitions, costly blessings. This love was self-moved, not necessarily excited by any external cause. There was no excellence to provoke, but sin to prevent its exercise. Hence its freeness is made to appear distinctly--“Not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” Hence, too, the sovereignty of this love appears. He has placed mankind under a dispensation of forbearance.

II. Illustrate it by a reference to facts and doctrines belonging to Christian experience.

1. The declared depravity of human nature.

2. The doctrine of justification by faith.

3. The blessing of sanctification.

4. The prospects of the Christian eminently involve the grace of his salvation.

Let us observe from these remarks--

1. How completely the gospel meets the wants of sinners, their ignorance, their guilt, their pollution, their destitution. It represents God to be full of compassion, salvation to be an act of unqualified grace, while its proclamation is made to all, not excepting the most guilty.

2. How awful to abuse this grace.

3. How dreadful the character and prospects of unbelieving, ungodly men! They not only break the law of God, but despise the grace of His gospel. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

Blessings in the ages to come

Two interpretations are given of this verse.

I. By ages to come, some understand the times that were to succeed the apostle to the end of, the world. And then the sense of the verse is--That God poured out the exceeding riches of His grace upon the apostles and churches of old to be encouraging examples to the end of the world. Which they are--

1. As to the characters of those whom He has saved. They were sinners. They were the chief of them. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation,” etc. (1 Timothy 1:15-16). They were all sorts. “And such were some of you,” etc. (1 Corinthians 6:11). “Who will have all men to be saved,” etc. (1 Timothy 2:4). “For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed,” etc. (Romans 10:11, etc.).

2. As to the blessings given to them. They were sought out. Quickened, justified, adopted, sanctified, preserved, glorified.

3. As to the grace given them, suited to their trials. To Abraham, faith. Job, patience. To Daniel, integrity. Paul, zeal.

II. By ages to come, some understand future glory (Hebrews 6:5). Then the sense is--That God bestows various and inestimable blessings upon His people here, that they may see them more perfectly in glory (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). (H. Foster, M. A.)

God’s kindness to man

I. Describe God’s kindness to man in Christ.

1. In the assumption of our nature (Hebrews 2:16).

2. In His obedience and sufferings for us (1 Peter 3:18).

3. In the resurrection of that nature (Romans 6:9),

4. In taking it up into glory (Psalms 68:18).

5. In His intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25).

6. In finally bringing us to glory (John 17:24).

It is also further manifest that God’s kindness is experienced by the Christian in--

1. The personal remission of his sins (Ephesians 1:7).

2. In the donation of the Holy Ghost (Romans 8:16).

3. Uniting us to His person (John 17:21).

4. Bringing us into covenant relation with Himself (Genesis 17:7).

5. Justification of our persons (Psalms 32:1).

6. In the renewal of our nature (1 Peter 1:3).

7. In adopting us into His family (1 John 3:1).

8. In giving us victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:57).

9. In our final glorification (Psalms 73:24).

II. The objects of this grace or kindness. As creatures.

1. Frail creatures (Isaiah 40:6).

2. As worthless worms (Job 25:6).

3. As less than nothing (Isaiah 40:17).

As fallen creatures.

1. As impotent creatures (Romans 5:6).

2. Impoverished creatures (Revelation 3:17).

3. As enemies to God (Colossians 1:21).

4. As dead to all good (Ephesians 2:1).

5. As being Satan’s children (John 8:44).

III. How God’s kindness is shown in Christ Jesus.

1. It is in Christ meritoriously (Ephesians 1:3).

2. God’s kindness to us flows through His kindness to Christ (Ephesians 1:6).

3. Given to us through Christ (Romans 6:23).

4. Dispensed by Christ (Acts 5:31).

5. As Christ includes all God’s kindnesses (Colossians 3:11).

IV. The reason for showing these riches.

1. Because God’s nature is love (1 John 4:8).

2. To exalt man, His chief creature (Titus 3:4).

3. And for His own glory (Psalms 106:8).

Inferences:

1. There is no cause of boasting in ourselves (Romans 3:27).

2. Meditate frequently on God s kindness and grace (Isaiah 63:7).

3. Prize that gospel that reveals this great kindness (Romans 1:16).

4. Pray truly to believe it (Mark 16:16). (T. B. Baker.)

The exceeding riches of grace

There is a story of Mithridates, a celebrated king in Asia, which illustrates this part of our subject very well. This king became interested in an old musician who had taken part in the music performed at a feast in the royal palace. On awaking one morning, this old man saw the tables in his house covered with vessels of silver and gold; a number of servants were standing by, who offered him rich garments to put on, and told him there was a horse standing at the door for his use, whenever he might wish to ride. The old man thought it was only a dream he was having. But the servants said it was no dream at all. It was a reality. “What is the meaning of it?” asked the astonished old man. “It means this,” said the servant, “the king has determined to make you a rich man at once. And these things that you see are only a small part of what he has given you. So please use them as your own.” At last he believed what they told him. Then he put on the purple robe, and mounted the horse; and as he rode along, he kept saying to himself, “All these are mine! All these are mine!” (D. L. Moody.)

Unappropriated riches

Men fail because they try to do too large a business on too small a capital. So with Christians; but God has grace enough and capital enough. What would you think of a man who had one million dollars in the bank, and only drew out a penny a day? That is like you and me; and the sinner is even blinder than we are. The throne of grace is established, and there we are to obtain all the grace we need. Sin is not so strong as the arm of God. He will help and deliver you, if you will come and procure the grace you need. (D. L. Moody.)

Good things to come

Rowland Hill tells a story of a rich max and a poor man of his congregation. The rich man came to Mr. Hill with a sum of money which he wished to give to the poor man, and asked Mr. Hill to give it to him as he thought best, either all at once or in small amounts. Mr. Hill sent the poor man a five pound note with the endorsement--“More to follow.” Every few months came the remittance, with the same message--“More to follow.” Now that is grace. “More to follow”--yes, thank God, there is more to follow. Oh, wondrous grace! (D. L. Moody.)

The ages to come

There is something very impressive and admirable in that long look ahead which distinguished the worthies of old. None ever lived so sympathetically in the present as they did. None ever lived so far away from the present, and so far ahead of it, as they did. They fed their Souls upon the visions of ages to come.

1. We need just such a forelooking. The condition of the human race as it now exists is not a theme for pleasurable meditation. To those who believe in the moral government of God and in the active administration of affairs in this world and in nature by the Divine mind, the actual condition of the race seems inexplicable.

2. The condition of the Church itself leads one to rebound from the present, and to seek comfort in looking into “the ages to come.”

3. Our knowledge of God in the present state of things, with all that has been done to winnow the wheat from the chaff, is exceedingly incomplete and unsatisfying.

4. The “ages to come,” will reveal a personal experience in us of which now we have but the very faintest trace in analogy. (H. W. Beecher.)

The believer’s future

We are quite certain that what we are cannot be the end of God’s design. When I see a block of marble half chiselled with just perhaps a hand peeping out from the rock, no man can make me believe that that is what the artist means it should be. And I know I am not what God would have me to be, because I feel yearnings and longings within myself to be infinitely better, infinitely holier and purer, than I am now. And so it is with you; you are not what God means you to be; you have only just begun to be what He wants you to be. He will go on with His chisel of affliction, using wisdom and the graving tool together, till by and by it shall appear what you shall be for; you shall be like Him, and you shall see Him as He is. Oh! what comfort this is for our faith, that from the fact of our vitality and the tact that God is at work with us, it is clear, and true and certain, that our latter end shall be increased. I do not think that any man yet has ever got an idea of what a man is to be. We are only the chalk crayon, rough drawings of men; yet when we come to be filled up in eternity, we shall be marvellous pictures, and our latter end indeed shall be greatly increased. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Unexpected developments

We cannot at present form a conception of perfection in the elements which constitute character. You never can tell what the ripe is from looking at the green. If an unknown seed be brought to you, and you plant it in the ground, and it sprout, and grow for five years, only throwing out leaves, and for five years more, still only throwing out leaves, can you tell how its blossoms are going to look? You never saw them. The tree is a new one. You have seen the root, the leaves, and the bark, and you have cut into the wood; you know its habits for the first ten years; you know when its leaves appear in the spring, and when they fall off in the autumn; you know everything about it as far as it has gone during those ten years; but you cannot guess whether its blossoms are white or yellow. You cannot tell whether they will hang in racemes, or rise up in circles. You cannot tell whether they will stand out in spikes, or be pendant. You cannot tell whether they will be early or late. You cannot, if the shrub or tree be unknown, find out the prophecy of the blossoms. But at last the blossom comes out. Now tell me what that blossom is going to produce. Look at it. Is it going to put forth a pod, or is it going to be a fruit? Is it going to be a seed, or luscious food? You cannot tell from a blossom what the fruit is going to be, except by analogues; and I am now supposing a new plant of which there has been no congener within your knowledge, and that you are attempting, from a lower state, to conceive of the higher. Now, in regard to human beings, there is nothing in the unripe state of the mind which is a fair interpretation of what ripeness in it is going to be. You could never have told, except by seeing it, what the human reason was competent to do. Consider the force of reason, by which the whole physical universe is being now unbarred; by which the most distant orbs are being searched, weighed, analyzed; by which we are unwrapping the sun, and taking off coat after coat; by which we know more about the sun itself than oftentimes men do of the province in which they live on earth. What an education! What an outstretch of thought! What development of the reasoning, searching power of the mind! Who Could have suspected it in the days of barbarism? No man could then have told that. And who now can fortell what new development the human reason is capable of? As from the lower stages you could not suspect the higher, so from the present stages you cannot anticipate those which are yet to come. Now we think; but in the higher forms of thinking there is the intuition, the jump, as it were, the flash of thought, with which our present thinking is not to be compared. We call it intuition, we call it inspiration, we call it names; but names are not things. There is evidently the hint of a wondrous disclosure of power in the direction of reason “in the ages to come.” We do not see it here. We cannot know it. We can only know what is the perpetual suggestion of it. Says the apostle St. John: “We are the sons of God; but it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” (H. W. Beecher.)

How grace operates

The kindness of God in Christ Jesus is a phrase expressive of the manner in which grace operates. His grace is in His kindness. Grace may be shown among men in a very ungracious way, but God’s grace clothes itself in kindness, as well in the time as in the mode of its bestowment. What kindness in sending His grace so early to Ephesus, and in converting such men as now formed its Church! Oh! He is so kind in giving grace, and such grace, to so many men, and of such spiritual demerit and degradation; so kind as not only to forgive sin, but even to forget it (Hebrews 8:12); so kind, in short, us not only by His grace to quicken us, but in the riches of His grace to raise us up, and in its exceeding riches to enthrone us in the heavenly places in Christ! And all the grace in this kindness shown in the first century is a lesson even to the nineteenth century. What God did then, He can do now and will do now; and one reason why He did it then was to teach the men of the present age His ability and desire to repeat in them the same blessed process of salvation and life. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

Restraining grace

During the ministry of the Rev. Ralph Erskine at Dunfermline a man was executed for robbery, whom he repeatedly visited in prison, and whom he attended on the scaffold. Mr. Erskine addressed both the spectators and the criminal, and after concluding his speech he laid his hands on his breast, uttering these words--“But for restraining grace I had been brought, by this corrupt heart, to the same condition with this unhappy man.”


Verses 7-10

Verse 8

Ephesians 2:8; Ephesians 2:10

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are His workmanship
.

The respective places of faith and works in salvation

I. Consider now we are saved by or through faith.

1. Without faith we cannot be saved.

2. All who have faith will be saved. But remember, faith is not a mere assent to and profession of the truth; but such a belief as purifies the heart and governs the life.

II. Consider what place and influence works gave in our salvation.

1. In one sense our Salvation is not of works.

2. Yet there is a sense in which good works are of absolute necessity to salvation.

III. The necessity of works does not diminish the grace of God in our salvation, nor afford us any pretence for boasting. The whole scheme of redemption originated in God’s self-moving mercy. And our spiritual services are acceptable only by Jesus Christ, not by their own intrinsic worth. Practical reflections:

1. Humility essentially belongs to the Christian temper.

2. The mighty preparation which God has made for our recovery, from ruin teaches us that the human race is of great importance in the scale of rational beings, and in the scheme of God’s universal government.

3. It infinitely concerns us to comply with the proposals of the gospel.

4. Let no man flatter himself that he is in a state of salvation as long as he neglects good works. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

The source and way of salvation

The Christian salvation may be divided into three parts: the salvation which delivers us from sin and its consequences; the salvation which restores us to the favour, image, and communion of God; and the salvation which preserves us amidst all the temptations and dangers of our present state until we reach the heavenly kingdom. Yet the salvation itself is but one. Its several parts are inseparably united to each other; and they form that mighty scheme which excludes all evil and involves all good, which fills time with peace and eternity with triumph.

I. The source from which our salvation flows is “grace”--the grace of God.

1. It is the grace of God which gave origin and existence to the scheme of our salvation by the death of the Messiah.

2. It is the grace of God which has given execution or accomplishment to the scheme of our Christian salvation.

3. It is the grace of God which gives application and effect to this scheme of salvation.

II. The way in which the Christian salvation is to be obtained--“through faith.”

1. An exceedingly plain and simple way.

2. A divinely appointed way.

3. A humiliating way.

4. A holy and practical way. (John Hannah, D. D.)

Salvation of God through faith

If we drew out, in order, the teaching of these verses, it would perhaps fall into something like the following statements. That an affection in the Divine nature is the primary cause of human salvation--“By grace ye are saved.” This affection of God is apprehended by the creature’s faith--“By grace ye are saved through faith.” Though the creature’s faith is his own, by the free consent and voluntary exercise of his own heart and mind, nevertheless, in its principle and operation, it is the work of God--“not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Man’s salvation, instead of consisting in a single act of God, is His most patient work--“For we are His workmanship.” With respect to our new nature, which is the work of God, Jesus Christ is our father Adam--“We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” This new nature gives evidence of itself by a corresponding excellence of character--“We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” These good works are adequately provided for by a prearranged plan of God, and by the nourishment of our new nature in His Son--“Created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before prepared that we should walk in them.” We must consent to it with our whole heart, that our salvation from first to last is of God and by God. (John Pulsford.)

Salvation

1. Look at salvation in its origin--it is “by grace.”

2. Look at it in its reception--it is “through faith.”

3. Look at it in the manner of its conferment--it is “a gift.” (J. Eadie, D. D.)

Saved by grace

It is a very important word surely, that word “saved.” It brings before our minds the most solemn consideration that we can possibly be occupied with. Nothing is nearer to us than our own souls; hence there is nothing more important than that we should not lose those souls of ours. Some of us love our money dearly, but what is money to our soul? Some of us love our friends very dearly, but we shall have to part company with them. Some of us love the pleasures of life dearly. What is it to be “saved”? Before we can answer that question, we must ask another: What is it to be in danger? If I were to meet one of you strolling along the road, and rushed up to you with frantic eagerness, and seized you by the arm, and said, “My dear friend, do let me save you!” you would think I had come out of a lunatic asylum, and would wish that I were back there again. Nobody in his senses would address his neighbour in that way, under such circumstances. But supposing we were at Brighton together, and I was walking along the Esplanade, and, looking out to sea, saw you in a little cockle shell boat, tossing about on the waves, and, by and by, I saw that boat go over, and you sinking in the sea; and suppose I stripped off my clothes, and sprang into the water, and swam out to you, and as I drew near, you heard me shout, “Will you let me save you?” would you be astonished at my asking you the question, under such circumstances. Then that brings before us this conclusion--we only want a Saviour when we are in danger. Before the Lord Jesus Christ is of any use to us as a Saviour, we must endeavour to realize what our danger is. Let us, then, try and discover what it arises from. It is not a pleasant thing to think that we are in danger, is it? There is one way of getting away from the sense of danger, that is to trifle with God’s truth, and persuade ourselves that danger is not danger. We flatter ourselves that all is safe, when all the time, in the sight of God, we are in a state of terrible danger. Now, I want to point out to you that, so far from that making matters better, it only makes them worse. If I was wandering out near some of your cliffs, on a night dark as pitch, so that I could not see my hand before my face, I should be in a state of great danger. If I knew that there were sharp precipices descending to the sea, three or four hundred feet, I should be on the look out for them, feeling my way carefully with a walking stick, if I had one, doing all I could to avoid falling over the precipices and being dashed to pieces. But supposing I did not know that there were any precipices in the neighbourhood, and I said to myself, “I have only to walk along this moor, and, sooner or later, I shall get to the place I want to reach,” how should I walk then? Although it was dark, I should step out bravely; if I had only so much as a single star to direct me, or a light in the distance, I should steer my course by it, and I should go on, probably, till I came to the edge of the precipice, and, taking a false step, should go over. Do you not see that if we are in danger it is far better for us to know that we are in danger than to think that we are in safety? Now, I cannot help thinking that there are some of us in this double danger: first of all, we are in danger because we are sinners; and, in the second place, we are in danger because we do not think that we are sinners; or, if we think that we are sinners at all, we think so little about it that we really do not feel “the exceeding sinfulness of sin,” and therefore do not tremble at the thought of what sin must bring. And what does our danger proceed from? It proceeds from the fact that sin has entered our nature. Let us look at a consumptive patient. He is walking down the lane with a brisk step, and is not so very unhealthy looking. You ask him how he is. “Oh,” he says, “he is not so particularly bad; he has got a cold, but he is going to shake it off.” You look at him carefully; you are a doctor, and you know about such things; you see the hectic flush on his cheek, a certain appearance in his complexion that alarms you: there is a ring in his cough that seems to tell of something fatally wrong. What is the matter with him? He is in terrible danger, he does not know it, but he is none the less in danger. What is it makes him in danger? A disease has taken hold of his body. Somewhere in the lungs there is a formation taking place; he cannot see it, but its effects begin to manifest themselves. There is a poison within the blood, so to speak, and the man is doomed; in all probability, in the course of a few months, you will see him laid on a bed of languor and wretchedness, and in a few months more he will be carried to his grave, a wasted corpse, the terrible disease having done its work! Now, sin is a disease of the soul. The question is not whether the disease has been largely developed, or whether it is only just beginning to develop itself! the point is, Is the disease there? Has it begun its fatal work? If it has, then you are in terrible danger. If I were drowning off Brighton sands, and a man came along the Parade, with a multitude of medals of the Royal Humane Society on his breast, indicating the number of lives he had saved; if I cried out to him, “Come and help me!” and he replied, “Oh! I am a saviour, I have saved lots of people,” I should say, “Save me; yea are of no use to me unless you save me; I am drowning; don’t talk of how many you have saved, but save me. Then suppose he said, “Hope on; perhaps I will think about it by and by,” and then went on and left me drowning, would that be any considerable consolation to me? Suppose he had said, “Perhaps, by and by, when you have gone under water three or four times more, and lost all consciousness, and you think you are dying, I will take it into consideration whether I will save you,” would that be a comfort to me? Would you like to have such a saviour as that? Now, when I have this terrible disease of sin upon me, what I want is a Saviour who will save me now, who will bring me into a state of conscious salvation, or safety--for that is the meaning of the word in plain English. Can we get such a Saviour? We can. The Saviour revealed in the gospel is a Saviour who comes down to me, and lays hold of me as I am sinking in the jaws of death, and puts me in a position of safety, so that I tan look round triumphantly, and say as the apostle said, “Being justified by faith, I have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now I come back to the old question. We have seen what the danger is, and we have seen what the salvation is; now we come to ask--How is a man to be saved? What is it that will save him? The apostle makes a very clear statement here--“By grace are ye saved.” What does “grace” mean? There is not a child here who does not know. By favour, by God’s free kindness towards us. We do not deserve any favour, do we? If you knew a man who had been robbing and injuring you, trampling on your rights, and rebelling against your will, that is not the man you would choose to do a favour to, naturally. Well, that is just how we have treated God; we have been robbing Him of all that He has most a claim to; robbing Him of our time, of our money, of our influence; rebelling against His laws, turning our back upon His love, playing the part of base ingrates against His mercy. We have no claim upon God’s favour. “Now,” says the apostle, “the grace of God which brings salvation to every man hath appeared.” Now, I want you to know, dear friends, that that “grace” floods this sin-stricken world like a glorious tide. Wherever it reaches a human heart, it brings salvation to our very door. There is not one of you who is not included in this assertion of the apostle, “The grace of God, which bringeth salvation to every man, hath appeared.” You may bring the biggest nugget of gold in the world to my door; there it may be outside on a wheelbarrow, and I may be inside dying of starvation; the nugget will do me no good if I do not take it in: if I do not turn it into money, and apply it to the satisfaction of my wants, I shall be as badly off as if the nugget had never been presented to me at all. The glorious gift of salvation is brought to our doors, and the question is, Have we taken it into our hearts? Now, my brother, God will either give you salvation, or else you shall never have it; it shall be His free gift, accepted by you for nothing, or else it shall never be yours; so if you are going to purchase it by your tears, your repentance, your good works, your good resolutions, or your faith--if you come and offer God such terms, you will simply have to go empty away. It is an insult to a man to offer him money in payment for a gift, is it not! Supposing I were to go home to Lord Chichester tonight, and he were to make me a handsome present; suppose he said, “That splendid clock, worth a couple of hundred guineas, is to be yours, if you will accept it,” and suppose I put my hand into my pocket, and said, “My lord, I should like to pay something towards it, will you accept sixpence?” How would he feel? It would be a great insult to him, would it not? If I received it gratefully, and thanked him for it, I should be pleased, and he would be pleased; I should be the gainer, and he would have the pleasure of making me a handsome present; but if I insisted on paying my sixpence, it would make a mess of it all; probably he would be offended with me, and I with him, and we should part enemies instead of friends. That may serve to bring before you how ridiculous it is to try and buy God’s salvation with anything. If you pay so much as a single tear for your salvation, it spoils the whole arrangement. Do I mean that you are not to shed tears? No, no. By all means, if God has given you oceans of tears, shed them, but not to purchase salvation. If God has given you all the sorrow and penitence that ever racked the human heart, there is no objection to that, but do not offer it for salvation. If God gives you the strongest faith that ever moved in the human soul, exercise it, but do not bring it in payment for salvation. That is wholly and solely the gift of God. Is it not a glorious gift? (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

The freeness of grace and love

I. It is a great matter and of infinite concernment to be saved and to go to heaven forever. For--

1. You are thereby saved from wrath to come. Yea--

2. You shall be delivered from all sorrow, both inward and outward; and if so, how blessed and happy are you, for you shall die in the Lord.

3. You shall not only be freed from these troubles, but you shall also be brought into a possession, into an “inheritance that is incorruptible, that fadeth not away.”

4. If you go to heaven and be saved, you shall then be filled with glory. If you have but a little taste of glory here, you are ready to break under it, under a little glory; but the time will come when you shall be filled with glory, and your hearts shall bear up under it; your bodies shall be changed; you shall be filled with glory, soul and body both.

5. If you be saved, your graces shall be always in act, always in exercise; your understandings shall be fully enlightened, your difficulties shall be removed, and your wills, hearts, and affections shall be drawn out to God with infinite satisfaction and infinite delight.

6. If you be saved, you shall have the knowledge of the continuance of this condition.

II. But in what way does a man come to this attainment? How and in what way is a man saved? Why, in a way of free love and grace; for, if God bestow anything in a way of gift, it is free, for what is more free than gift? Now do but consider what these things are which are called in Scripture, salvation; and you may observe that they all come in a way of gift. Sometimes salvation is put for the Author of salvation, Jesus Christ (Luke 2:29-30). Sometimes salvation is put for eternal glory. “Who would have all men to be saved, both Jew and Gentile.’” And this salvation is the gift of God too. “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Now salvation, as to the Author of it, as to the means of it, and as to the salvation itself; it is all of free grace.

III. But you will say, If it be so, that by free grace we are saved, then why need we use the means of salvation; you say we are saved by grace, by free grace, wherefore then need we endeavour? Yes, we are to endeavour: do you not use your endeavour to get your daily bread? and yet that is the gift of God.

IV. Wherein doth the freeness of the grace of God appear in the matter of our salvation? There is a great deal of free grace in this, that God should ordain us to eternal life and salvation (2 Timothy 1:9). Yet, further, it is in the matter of our salvation, as it is in the matter of our consolation and comfort; and as I said of that, so I say also of this: That the greater and the more glorious any mercy is, and the more worthy and great the person is that giveth it, and the more unworthy the person is that receives it, the more doth the grace of him appear who giveth it; now what greater mercy, what more glorious mercy, than heaven and salvation? It is called the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven; it is called the kingdom of glory, and eternal glory; it is called joy, enter into the joy of our Lord: and great is the joy of our Lord; that joy which was set before Christ, that is the joy of the saints in heaven. Now, what are the arches and pillars of free grace and love, upon which our salvation under Christ is laid? I shall name some of them. The absoluteness of the covenant. That God justifies the ungodly. Thus our righteousness is not in us, but in Christ. That the guilt of our sins by which we lay liable to condemnation is removed. That a little sincerity covers a great deal of infirmity. That what God calls ours is not indeed ours, but God’s, as our graces, our duties, which are not indeed ours but God’s. That God will in due time glorify us and honour us. Sin doth provoke God and cause Him to be angry with us, but grace doth provoke Him to love us; and, therefore, the pillars of our salvation are laid under Christ upon grace, upon free grace and love: and thereby the freeness of the grace of God doth the more appear in the matter of our salvation.

V. Salvation is a work of grace; and seeing we are saved by grace alone, why then doth God choose to save men in this way of free grace? I answer, It is because this is the most honourable way unto God. If there was somewhat of the good pleasure of God in the world’s condemnation, all the reason in the world then that there should be free grace in the way of salvation. Pray, how came Adam to stand for the whole world? He was not chosen by us, why it was the good pleasure of God that he should stand for the whole world, and that he sinning, we should be all guilty of sin by, and through him: so, I say, if there was, as I may speak with reverence, somewhat of the good pleasure of God in the old world’s condemnation, why then should there not be free grace in the soul’s salvation. God would have heaven and salvation to be of one piece; He would have the work of heaven to be the same; now there were many angels that fell, and many thousands that stood, why how came they to stand that did stand, more than the others that fell? it was only by free grace, they were elect angels. Now men and angels in heaven are of the same choir and sing the same song; and therefore those men that are saved, oh, who are they? why they are the elect, and they have great cause to glorify the grace, the free grace of God. God saves men in a way of free love and grace, because none shall miss of salvation. As God will punish and condemn all the proud, all the wicked, that none shall escape; so He will also save all that He hath a mind to save, by free grace because they shall not miss of salvation. God will save men in such a way as whereby He may be glorified to all eternity, and therefore He saves them in a way of free grace and love; for what have we to praise God for in heaven, but only for free grace, free grace, to glorify His name for that; therefore, I say, God will save men in this way of free love and grace, that He may be thereby glorified hereafter to all eternity. (W. Bridge.)

Salvation all of grace

We see a golden thread of grace running through the whole of the Christian’s history, from his election before all worlds, even to his admission to the heaven of rest. Grace, all along, “reigns through righteousness unto eternal life,” and “where sin aboundeth, grace doth much more abound.”

I. This doctrine should inspire every sinner with hope.

1. If salvation be of mercy only, it is clear that our sin is by no means an impediment to our salvation.

2. Remember, too, that any spiritual unfitness which may exist in a man should not shut him out from a hope, since God deals with us in mercy. I hear you say, “I believe God can save me, but I am so impenitent.” Yes, and I say it again, if thou wert to stand on terms of debt with God, thy hard heart would shut thee out of hope. How could He bless such a wretch as thou art, whose heart is a heart of stone? But if He deal with thee entirely upon another ground, namely, His mercy, why I think I hear Him say, “Poor hard-hearted sinner, I will pity thee, and take away thy heart of stone, and give thee a heart of flesh.” Do I hear thee confess that thou canst not believe? Now, the absence of faith from thee is a great evil, yea a horrible evil; but then the Lord is dealing with thee on terms of grace, and does not say, “I will not smite thee because thou dost net believe,” but He saith, “I will give thee faith,” for faith is “not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

II. This doctrine affords direction to the sinner, as to how to act before his God in seeking mercy. Clearly, O soul, if salvation he of grace alone, it would be a very wrong course of action to plead that thou art not guilty, or to extenuate thy faults before God. Take care that all your pleas with God are consistent with the fact that He saves by His grace. Never bring a legal plea, or a plea that is based upon self, for it will be an offence to God; whereas, if thine argument be based on grace, it will have a sweet savour to Him. Let me teach thee, seeking sinner, for a moment how to pray. Plead with God thy miserable and undone condition; tell Him that thou art utterly lost if He do not save thee. Show Him the imminence of thy danger. Then argue with Him the plenteousness of His grace, Say to Him, “Lord, Thy mercy is very great, I know it is.”

III. A full conviction of this truth will reconcile. Our hearts to all Divine ordinances with regard to salvation. I feel in my own heart, and I think every believer here does, that if salvation be of grace, God must do as He wills with His own. None of us can say to Him, “What doest Thou?” If there were anything of debt, or justice, or obligation, in the matter, then we might begin to question God; but as there is none, and the thing is quite out of court as to law, and far away from rights and claims, as it is all God’s free favour, we will henceforth stop our mouths and never question Him. As to the instrument by whom He saves, let Him save by the coarsest speaker, or by the most eloquent; let Him do what seemeth Him good.

IV. A most powerful motive for future holiness. A man who feels that he is saved by grace says, “Did God of His free favour blot out my sins? Then, oh, how I love Him. Was it nothing but His love that saved an undeserving wretch. Then my soul is knit to Him forever.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Salvation by grace

I. Definition of grace. Grace has been too often represented in forms which dishonoured the righteousness of God, and were unfriendly to the righteousness of man. In our modern religious language it occurs less frequently than in the language of our fathers. But the word is too precious to be surrendered. Among the Greeks it stood for all that is most winning in personal loveliness, for the nameless fascination of a beauty which is not cold and remote but irresistibly attractive and charming. It was also used for that warm, free handed, and spontaneous generosity which is kind where there is no claim or merit, and kind without hope of return; a disposition lovely in itself, and winning the admiration and affection of all who witness it. This beautiful word, with all its beautiful associations, has been exalted and transfigured in its Christian uses.

1. Grace transcends love. Love may be nothing more than the fulfilment of the law. We love God, who deserves our love. We are required to love our neighbour, and we cannot refuse to love him without guilt. But grace is love which passes beyond all claims to love. It is love which, after fulfilling the obligations imposed by law, has an unexhausted wealth of kindness.

2. Grace transcends mercy. Mercy forgives sin, and rescues the sinner from eternal darkness and death. But grace floods with affection the sinner who has deserved anger and resentment, trusts penitent treachery with a confidence which could not have been merited by ages of incorruptible fidelity, confers on a race which had been in revolt honours which no loyalty could have purchased, on the sinful joy beyond the deserts of saintliness.

3. Grace transcends majesty. The eternal righteousness of God is that which constitutes His dignity and majesty, makes Him venerable and august; but His grace adds to His dignity an infinite loveliness, to His majesty an ineffable charm, blends with the awe and devout fear with which we worship Him a happy confidence, and with our veneration a passionate affection.

II. Achievement of grace. Our salvation is the achievement of God’s grace: this is the central thought of the Epistle to the Ephesians. God’s free, spontaneous lave for us, resolved that we who sprang from the dust, and might have passed away and perished like the falling leaves after a frail and brief existence, should share through a glorious immortality the sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ. God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love; He blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. This was the wonderful idea of human greatness and destiny which was formed by the grace of God. The race declined from the lofty path designed for it by the Divine goodness. But as by the grace of God Christ was to be the root of our righteousness and blessedness, and as the ground and reason of our ethical and spiritual greatness were in Him, so in Christ God has revealed the root, the ground, the reason of our redemption. We have our redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of God’s grace. There is nothing abnormal in the forgiveness of our sin being the result of Christ’s death; all our possible righteousness was to be the fruit of the perfection and energy of His eternal life. The original idea of the Divine grace, according to which we were to find all things in Christ, and Christ was to be the root of a perfection and glory surpassing all hope and all thought, was tragically asserted in the death of Christ for human salvation. Our fortunes--shall I say it?--were identified with the fortunes of Christ; in the Divine thought and purpose we were inseparable from Him. Had we been true and loyal to the Divine idea, the energy of Christ’s righteousness would have drawn us upwards to height after height of goodness and joy, until we ascended from this earthly life to the larger powers and loftier services and richer delights of other and diviner worlds; and still, through one golden age of intellectual and ethical and spiritual growth after another, we should have continued to rise towards Christ’s transcendent and infinite perfection. But we sinned; and as the union between Christ and us could not be broken without the final and irrevocable defeat of the Divine purpose, as separation from Christ meant for us eternal death, Christ was drawn down from the serene heavens to the shame and sorrow of the confused and troubled life of our race, to pain, to temptation, to anguish, to the cross and to the grave, and so the mystery of His atonement for our sin was consummated. In His sufferings and death, through the infinite grace of God, we find forgiveness, as in the power of His righteousness and as in His great glory we find the possibilities of all perfection. Our union with Him is not dissolved. Through His death we receive forgiveness, through His death we die to the sin which brought the death upon Him; and in His resurrection and ascension we see the visible manifestation of that eternal life which we have already received, and which will some day be manifested in us as it has been manifested in Him. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

God’s grace and man’s salvation

1. The ground of all our salvation is the free favour of God. Much comfort for us in this; for if our salvation be of mere grace, and depend not on our own worth, endeavour, and holiness, why should we fear? If it were for anything in us to be procured, we might utterly despair; but since it is of God, we may boldly accept, and confidently trust in this free grace of God, although we are unworthy of it. It is not true humility, but a foolish pride, to put away, and judge ourselves unworthy of this salvation, whereof it has pleased God (in rich mercy) to deem us worthy.

2. To the full glorifying of us in heaven, all is from the free, mere grace of God. He does nothing by halves. What He has begun, He will complete (Philippians 1:6).

3. God’s grace and man’s faith ever stand together (Galatians 3:22; John 3:16). To this it may be objected that the grace of God cannot stand with anything in man. How then (you will ask) can it stand with faith? Answer: It is true, that the grace of God does not brook anything inherent in man, and of man; and yet, notwithstanding, it may well agree with faith. For

4. No power in man can quicken him; and no virtue, quality, or dignity, when he is quickened, can merit his salvation. (Paul Bayne.)

Salvation by the sovereign love and free grace of God

I. Salvation.

1. We are delivered from death. So long as we continued under the impending curse, there was nothing due to us but death. Death temporal, spiritual, and eternal, were all included in the threatening. Death temporal is the separation of the soul from the body. Death spiritual is the separation of the soul from God. And death eternal is the separation of both soul and body from God forever. But from all these we are saved. Death temporal, no doubt, performs its work, but it is not now penal; in its rapacity to devour it caught Jesus, but He was too mighty for death! He overcame it, and left it vanquished in the grave; so that it is now in the hand of the Mediator, converted into a mean for bringing His saints to glory. And spiritual death shall have no dominion over us; now and then, indeed, we may experience a compunction of conscience and a pang of mind, because we carry about with us bodies of sin and death. But these shall no longer prove destructive, but are all so many incentives to bring us to Jesus, and to cause us to rely upon Him more fully. And death eternal shall have no place; whenever the soul is set free from the body, that moment shall it be in paradise, carried by the angels, and so shall it be forever with the Lord.

2. We are delivered from the love of sin. By the covenant transgression of Adam, there is a sinful bias given to our minds. Because we have broken the law, there is a deep-rooted enmity in our hearts to all that is holy; and we cannot think of returning to God, for that would be calling our sins to remembrance, and setting before our face the curse which awaits us from an offended Judge. But when we obtain salvation from the Lord, we have no more desire for sin. But now does the Lord become the supreme object of our delight. We see in Him a beauty and an all-sufficiency suited to give true comfort to the saint, something which is congenial to our celestial part, and which in life and in death continues alike calculated to give deliverance, and to present with a crown of glory.

3. We are saved from the power of sin; for whom we serve, His we are.

4. We are saved from the practice of sin.

II. The source whence this salvation flows. The sovereign love and free grace of God.

1. The sovereign love and free grace of God are the source of salvation; because when man had sinned, and all the clouds of wrath were thickening around him, and all the thunders of Jehovah’s justice were ready to burst around man’s guilty head, it remained with God to manifest whether justice should take its course, or He would stretch out His strong arm to deliver; whether He would be reconciled to man, or punish him according to his iniquities, by everlastingly secluding him from His presence. And, until the decree was declared, there must have been a solemn pause, as if the pulse of nature stood. All the angels in glory must have looked on with intense interest, and devils must have trembled in dire suspense for the declaration of the Divine will, which made fully known whether man was to be restored to the favour of his God, or eternally to expiate his guilt, by bearing the punishment due to his crimes. And, at that all-important moment, in the riches of His grace, and gave the intimation of His pleasure, “Deliver from going down to the pit; for I will be merciful.”

2. The sovereign love and free grace of God are the source of salvation, inasmuch as, in the bowels of His compassion, God so loved the world, that He gave the Son of His bosom for the sin of man’s soul, and thus provided a ransom. When the rebellion of man had plunged him into the depth of distress, and he was altogether helpless as an infant abandoned in the open field, then did God make known the Deliverer. This no ingenuity of man could ever have discovered, nor could the united prowess of the human race ever have procured the Mediator.

3. The sovereign love and free grace of God are the source of salvation, inasmuch as salvation can be applied to the soul only by the supernatural agency of the Holy Spirit. “Paul may plant, and Apollos may water; but God alone can give the increase.” There is both a natural and a moral inability about man to prevent him from being saved. His moral inability lies in the utter perversion of his will; he has no desire for that which is good; but his whole affections are set on things which are evil, and his natural inability lies in the utter incompetency of created capacity to change itself.

III. The medium through which salvation is applied to the souls of men. Faith.

1. Faith, in the case of the saint, is the same thing which is known in the world by the name of belief, and signifies the assent of the mind to the truth of some statement, so as to act upon the belief of what is said to us.

2. Salvation is by grace when applied to our souls through faith, because faith neither flows from intrinsic worth in us, nor does it beget in our hearts any principle, upon the ground of which we can merit salvation.

3. Salvation through faith is by grace; because, even when we are made to believe, faith gives no remuneration to God for what we receive.

I shall now conclude this discourse with a few remarks.

1. From what has been said, learn the humility with which this subject ought to inspire us. Is all by grace? Then let us come to God, humbled in heart and soul, and entreat of Him that He would make us participants of His free favour; that He would put down every high thought, and every haughty imagination, which exalteth itself; that we may be enabled to say, “Not unto us, O God; not unto us, but to Thy name be the glory.”

2. From this subject, learn the duty of living in complete obedience to the holy will of God. In this passage there is no mention made of the world, nor of the things of the world; but salvation is the whole theme of the verse, and that is certainly calculated to direct our attention from time unto eternity.

3. From this subject learn the complete disappointment which all those shall receive who trust to the law for the salvation of their souls.

4. From this subject learn the firm footing upon which believers stand. The foundation of their hope is placed upon Christ, who is the Rock of ages, and the pillar and ground of the truth. (R. Montgomery.)

Bishop Ryle’s conversion

Bishop Ryle, of Liverpool, was converted, when an undergraduate in Oxford, by the eighth verse of the second chapter of Ephesians, which was read in his hearing in church in the second lesson, with a pause between each clause by a stranger whose name he never knew.

We are saved by grace only

Mr. Maclaren and Mr. Gustart were both ministers at the Tolbooth Church, Edinburgh. When Mr. Maclaren was dying, Mr. Gustart paid him a visit, and put the question to him, “What are you doing, brother?” His answer was, “I’ll tell you what I’m doing, brother: I am gathering together all my prayers, all my sermons, all my good deeds, all my evil deeds; and I am going to throw them all overboard, and swim to glory on the plank of free grace.”

We are saved by faith--not of ourselves

It is not what I do that I trust in, but what Christ has done for me. You’ve been down the shaft into the mine, sir. This will help me to tell you what I mean. For a long time I was trying to do what was right--to live as I ought to; and so was trusting to my own works for salvation. But all the while I felt as if I was still down at the bottom of the shaft. All I could do didn’t get me out of the pit. Then God showed me that all my righteousness was but filthy rags, as the Bible says. But how was I to get out of the shaft? Why, at last I found that the only way out of the deep mine into which sin had brought us was to do just as I do when I want to get out of the coal mine. To do this, I have only to get into the bucket when it comes down, and trust to the men at the windlass to draw me out. And so I find it is about my soul. I can’t draw myself out of the pit; but I trust in Jesus, and leave it all to Him. (D. L. Moody.)

Saved

There was, some years ago, a shipwreck on the Cornish coast. The wind was blowing an awful gale; no lifeboat was near, but a pilot boat, with a brave crew, put out to rescue the perishing. The ship was on a sand bank, and the pilot boat got alongside her, and as the waves ran higher and higher, the sailors, one after another, sprang from the ship on to the deck of the boat, till there was but one left on the sinking vessel, and just as he was in the act of springing, a tremendous billow struck the ship on her broadside; she heeled over, and the returning wave swept the pilot boat back to a considerable distance. At that moment a scream was heard from the stern of the pilot boat. A hoary-headed man, with tears starting from his eyes, and agony depicted on his countenance, was heard to cry out, “Captain, for God’s sake, save my boy I save my boy!” It was his only son who was in the sinking ship. And as his cry rose, there was another voice to meet it; from the sinking vessel there came back a shout clear and strong amidst the tumult of the tempest, “Never mind, father; thank God, I am saved.” They were the last words he ever spoke. Another moment the mighty billows swept him away, and his soul was in eternity, in the very bosom of its God. Could you have said what that young man said? Could you have said, “Thank God, I am saved”? Perhaps you say, “No, I could not.” Then don’t sleep tonight until you can. What! may you have it tonight? Yes, the gift is at your door. “How am I to have it?” Trust Jesus for it. Take that poor weary soul of yours, and lay it in His hand. (W. Hay Aitken, M. A.)

Salvation by grace

I. Set forth man’s state by nature, and show that there could be nothing in him to move God to bestow so great a gift upon him.

II. Such being man’s stare by nature, it is manifest that salvation must be entirely of free grace. (R. Shutte, M. A.)

Salvation a gift

Once there was a poor woman who greatly desired a bunch of grapes from the king’s greenhouse for her sick child; so she took half a crown, and went to the king’s gardener, and tried to purchase the grapes, but was rudely sent away. A second effort with more money met with a similar repulse. It so happened that the king’s daughter heard the angry words of the gardener, and the crying of the poor woman, and inquired into the matter. When she had related her story, the princess said, “My good woman, you were mistaken. My father is not a merchant, but a king: his business is not to sell, but to give”; whereupon she plucked a fine bunch from the vine, and gently dropped it into the woman’s apron. So the poor woman obtained as a free gift what the labour of many days and nights had been unable to procure for her.

God’s gift

As the earth engendereth not rain, nor is able, by its own strength, labour, or travail, to procure the same, but receiveth it of the mere gift of God from above, even so faith, grace, forgiveness of sins, and Christian righteousness, are given us of God without our works or deservings. (Cawdray.)

How we are saved

It is evident that the first intention of these words is to show what a very, very easy thing it is to be saved if we would only take it rightly. And secondly, to take away all the honour and all the desert from those who are saved, and to place it where all belongs--on God only. But now I come to a very important part. Let us be careful, very careful, here to discriminate and see clearly the distinction. Remember what we are speaking about. We are not speaking about holiness! We are not speaking about going to heaven; we are speaking only of being saved. We are speaking of the initiatory step, of the becoming a Christian; of the entrance into a life of holiness, and of safety. Remember that is what the word “salvation” means. It means no less, and it means no more. Being safe! Still it is only safety, only safety! There is a great deal to be done after that. Conflict; love; prayer; penitence; conversion of heart; sanctification; a useful life; a brightness in death; a brightness in heaven. In all these, indeed, it is still God who “works in you” to do it; but still you do it, you do it. You work out the grace of the salvation which God has given you; but for your pardon, for your safety, you do nothing at all, but simply accept it. You accept it. More than that--the power to accept it, the will to accept it--they are given you. The triple chain of salvation has three links, and no more--“grace,” “faith,” “safety.” Then come afterwards--love, holiness, heaven. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Faith: its meaning, source, and power

I. The nature of faith. Faith, in ordinary language, means the assent of the understanding to some statement as true--propounded upon the authority of another. It seems, however, in Scripture to be most commonly used in a somewhat more extensive sense, as comprehending what in strictness (metaphysical correctness) might be regarded rather as consequences of faith than as faith itself. Saving faith, according to the views of it given in Scripture, may be described as such an assent to the doctrines of the gospel as leads men to receive and rest upon Christ alone for salvation, and to submit themselves entirely to His authority.

II. How faith is produced. Faith implies certain objects presented to our minds--a capacity to perceive, and a disposition to attend to them, and to act under their influence. Now, in regard to the faith of the gospel, God both given us the objects, and enables us to perceive them. Faith, therefore, is His gift, not merely in the sense in which any other ordinary exercise of our faculties is His gift, but in a higher and more peculiar manner. It is God who sets before us those objects which faith embraces, and without which it could never have existence. We had known nothing of God unless He had chosen to reveal Himself to us. We have no certain knowledge of His character except what He is pleased to acquaint us with. We could have known absolutely nothing of Jesus Christ, who is the great Object of Faith--of all that He has done and suffered for us--of the whole scheme of redemption that is founded upon His work, and of the covenant of grace that is sealed with His blood--of the authority which He now exercises, and of the great and glorious purposes to which the exercise of that authority is directed--unless God had seen fit, not only to bring all these important results into existence, but to transmit them to us in His Word. We could have learned nothing of the future and unseen world, unless God had undertaken to remove the veil that conceals it, and open it up to our view. Thus there would have been no objects for our faith; and of course faith could never have existed unless God had made revelation of Himself, of His character, and ways--unless He had brought certain events to pass, and then made them known to us. But faith appears still further to be God’s gift, from this, that men are naturally indisposed to attend to the objects set before them in the sacred Scriptures, and, according to the principles of our natural constitution, there can be no clear knowledge of anything without some degree of attention being directed towards it; whilst without clear knowledge there can be no sound and rational faith.

III. The effect of faith as uniting us to Christ, and thus saving the soul. Now, when a man believes in Christ, he is, according to God’s appointment, united to Him. There is a union formed between them. God regards him as if he were Christ, and treats him as if he had suffered the full punishment for his sins which Christ endured in his room--as if he had in his own person performed that full and perfect obedience to the Divine law which our Saviour’s conduct exhibited. It is this imputation of Christ’s sufferings and of His righteousness--or, as it is often called, of His active and passive obedience--it is this communion of suffering and of merit, in which the union of believers with Christ mainly consists; and this union and communion with Him is the foundation of their salvation, in all its parts and in all its aspects. Viewing them thus, as united to Christ, as one with Him--God bestows upon them the blessings which Christ purchased for all who should believe on His name; they obtain through faith the forgiveness of their sins, acceptance with God as righteous persons, the renovation and sanctification of their natures, and, finally, an inheritance among them that are sanctified. Christ is the great Head of Influence; all spiritual blessings are the fruits of His purchase; it is only by abiding in Him that we are enabled to bring forth fruits unto eternal life: as it is written (John 15:5), “I am the Vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” You see now the great importance of faith in the salvation of sinners. It is the instrument by means of which we receive everything necessary to our peace. None can be saved without it, and every one who has it will assuredly be saved. (W. Cunningham, D. D.)

Faith: what is it? how can it be obtained?

Faith occupies the position of a channel or conduit pipe. Grace is the fountain and the stream: faith is the acqueduct along which the flood of mercy flows down to refresh the thirsty sons of men. It is a great pity when the acqueduct is broken. It is a sad sight to see around Rome the many noble acqueducts which no longer convey water into the city, because the arches are broken and the marvellous structures are in ruins. The acqueduct must be kept entire to convey the current; and, even so, faith must be true and sound, leading right up to God, and coming right down to ourselves, that it may become a serviceable channel of ,mercy to our souls. Still, I again remind you that faith is the channel or acqueduct, and not the fountain head, and we must not look so much to it as to exalt it above the Divine source of all blessing which lies in the grace of God. Never make a Christ out of your faith, nor think of it as if it were the independent source of your salvation.

I. Faith: what is it? What is this faith concerning which it is said,” By grace are ye saved through faith”? What is faith? It is made up of three things--knowledge, belief, and trust.

1. Knowledge comes first. Know God, know His gospel, and know especially Christ Jesus, the Son of God and Saviour of men. Endeavour to know the doctrine of the sacrifice of Christ, for that is the point upon which saving faith mainly fixes itself.

2. Then the mind goes on to believe that these things are true. The soul believes that God is, and that He hears the cries of sincere hearts; that the gospel is from God; that justification by faith is the grand truth that God hath revealed in these last days by His Spirit more clearly than before. Then the heart believes that Jesus is verily and in truth our God and Saviour, the Redeemer of men, the prophet, priest, and king unto His people.

3. So far you have made an advance towards faith, and one more ingredient is needed to complete it, which is trust. Trust is the life blood of faith: there is no saving faith without it. The Puritans were accustomed to explain faith by the word “recumbency.” You know what it means. You see me leaning upon this rail, leaning with all my weight upon it; even thus lean upon Christ. It would be a better illustration still if I were to stretch myself at full length and rest my whole person upon a rock, lying fiat upon it. Fall flat upon Christ. Cast yourself upon Him, rest in Him, commit yourself to Him. That done, you have exercised saving faith. Faith is not a blind thing; for faith begins with knowledge. It is not a speculative thing; for faith believes facts of which it is sure. It is not an unpractical, dreamy thing; for faith trusts, and stakes its destiny upon the truth of revelation.

II. Let us inquire, why faith is selected as the channel of salvation?

1. There is a natural adaptation in faith to be used as the receiver. Suppose that I am about to give a poor man an alms: I put it into his hand--why? Well, it would hardly be fitting to put it into his ear, or to lay it under his foot; the hand seems made on purpose to receive. So faith in the mental body is created on purpose to be a receiver: it is the hand of the man, and there is a fitness in bestowing grace by its means.

2. Faith, again, is doubtless selected because it gives all the glory to God. It is of faith that it might be of grace, and it is of grace that there may be no boasting; for God cannot endure pride.

3. It is a sure method, linking man with God. When man confides in God there is a point of union between them, and that union guarantees blessing. Faith saves us, because it makes us cling to God, and so brings us into connection with Him. I am told that years ago, above the Falls of Niagara, a boat was upset, and two men were being carried down the current, when persons on the shore managed to float a rope out to them, which rope was seized by them both. One of them held fast to it, and was safely drawn to the bank; but the other, seeing a great log come floating by, unwisely let go the rope, and clung to the log, for it was the bigger thing of the two, and apparently better to cling to. Alas, the log, with the man on it, went right over the vast abyss, because there was no union between the log and the shore. The size of the log was no benefit to him who grasped it; it needed a connection with the shore to produce safety. So when a man trusts to his works, or to sacraments, or to anything of that sort, he will not be saved, because there is no junction between him and Christ; but faith, though it may seem to be like a slender cord, is in the hand of the great God on the shore side; Infinite Power pulls in the connecting line, and thus draws the man from destruction. Oh, the blessedness of faith, because it unites us to God!

4. Faith is chosen, again, because it touches the springs of action. I wonder whether I shall be wrong if I say that we never do anything except through faith of some sort. If I walk across this platform, it is because I believe my legs will carry me. A man eats because he believes in the necessity of food. Columbus discovered America because he believed that there was another continent beyond the ocean: many another grand deed has also been born of faith, for faith works wonders. Commoner things are done on the same principle; faith in its natural form is an all-prevailing force. God gives salvation to our faith, because He has thus touched the secret spring of all our emotions and actions. He has, so to speak, taken possession of the battery, and now He can send the sacred current to every part of our nature.

5. Faith, again, has the power of working by love; it touches the secret spring of the affections, and draws the heart towards God. Faith is an act of the understanding; but it also proceeds from the heart. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness;” and hence God gives salvation to faith because it resides next door to the affections, and is near akin to love, and love, you know, is that which purifies the soul. Love to God is obedience, love is holiness; to love God and to love man is to be conformed to the image of Christ, and this is salvation.

6. Moreover, faith creates peace and joy; he that hath it rests, and is tranquil, is glad, and joyous; and this is a preparation for heaven. God gives all the heavenly gifts to faith, because faith worketh in us the very life and spirit which are to be eternally manifested in the upper and better world. I have hastened over these points that I might not weary you on a day when, however willing the spirit may be, the flesh is weak.

III. How can we obtain and increase our faith? A very earnest question this to many. They say they want to believe but cannot. “What am I to do in order to believe?”

1. The shortest way is to believe, and if the Holy Spirit has made you honest and candid, you will believe as soon as the truth is set before you.

2. But still, if you have a difficulty, take it before God in prayer. The Lord is willing to make Himself known; go to Him, and see if it be not so.

3. Furthermore, if faith seem difficult, it is possible that God the Holy Spirit will enable you to believe, if you hear very frequently and earnestly that which you are commanded to believe.

4. Consider the testimony of others. I believe there is a country called Japan, although I never have been there. I believe I shall die: I have never died, but a great many have done so whom I once knew, and I have a conviction that I shall die also; the testimony of many convinces me of this fact. Listen, then, to those who tell you how they were saved, how they were pardoned, how they have been changed in character: if you will but listen you will find that somebody just like yourself has been saved. As you listen to one after another of those who have tried the word of God, and proved it, the Divine Spirit will lead you to believe. Have you not heard of the African who was told by the missionary that water sometimes became so hard that a man could walk on it? He declared that he believed a great many things the missionary had told him; but he never would believe that. When he came to England it came to pass that one frosty day he saw the river frozen, but he would not venture on it. He knew that it was a river, and he was certain that he would be drowned if he ventured upon it. He could not be induced to walk on the ice till his friend went upon it; then he was persuaded, and trusted himself where others had ventured. So, mayhap, while you see others believe, and notice their joy and peace, you will yourself be gently led to believe. It is one of God’s ways of helping us to faith. A better plan still is this--note the authority upon which you are commanded to believe, and this will greatly help you. He bids you believe in Jesus Christ, and you must not refuse to obey your Maker. The foreman of a certain works in the north had often heard the gospel, but he was troubled with the fear that he might not come to Christ. His good master one day sent a card round to the works--“Come to my house immediately after work.” The foreman appeared at his master’s door, and the master came out, and said somewhat roughly, “What do you want, John, troubling me at this time? Work is done, what right have you here?” “Sir,” said he, “I had a card from you saying that I was to come after work.” “Do you mean to say that merely because you had a card from me you are to come up to my house and call me out after business hours?” “Well, sir,” replied the foreman, “I do not understand you, but it seems to me that, as you sent for me, I had a right to come.” “Come in, John,” said his master, “I have another message that I want to read to you,” and he sat down and read these words--“Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Do you think after such a message from Christ that you can be wrong in going to Him?” The poor man saw it all at once, and believed, because he saw that he had good warrant and authority for believing. So have you, poor soul; you have good authority for coming to Christ, for the Lord Himself bids you trust Him. If that does not settle you, think over what it is that you have to believe--that the Lord Jesus Christ suffered in the room and place and stead of men, and is able to save all who trust Him. Why, this is the most blessed fact that ever men were told to believe: the most suitable, the most comforting, the most Divine truth that ever was set before men. If none of these things avail, then there is something Wrong about you altogether, and my last word is, submit yourself to God. May the Spirit of God take away your enmity and make you yield. You are a rebel, a proud rebel, and that is why you do not believe your God. Give up your rebellion; throw down your weapons; yield at discretion; surrender to your King. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The clinging power of faith

God gives to His people the propensity to cling. Look at the sweet pea which grows in your garden. Perhaps it has fallen down upon the gravel walk. Lift it up against the laurel or the trellis, or put a stick near it, and it catches hold directly, because there are little hooks ready prepared with which it grasps anything which comes in its way: it was meant to grow upwards, and so it is provided with tendrils. Every child of God has his tendrils about him--thoughts, and desires, and hopes with which he hooks on to Christ and the promise. Though this is a very simple sort of faith, it is a very complete and effectual form of it, and, in fact, it is the heart of all faith, and that to which we are often driven when we are in deep trouble, or when our mind is somewhat bemuddled by our being sickly or depressed in spirit. We can cling when we can do nothing else, and that is the very soul of faith. O poor heart, if thou dost not yet know as much about the gospel as we could wish thee to know, cling to what thou dost know. If as yet thou art only like a lamb that wades a little into the river of life, and not like leviathan who stirs the mighty deep to the bottom, yet drink; for it is drinking, and not diving, that will save thee. Cling, then I Cling to Jesus; for that is faith. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The realizing power of faith

Faith also realizes the presence of the living God and Saviour, and thus it breeds in the soul a beautiful calm and quiet like that which was seen in a little child in the time of tempest. Her mother was alarmed, but the sweet girl was pleased; she clapped her hands with delight. Standing at the window when the flashes came most vividly, she cried in childish accents, “Look, mammal How beautiful! How beautiful!” Her mother said, “My dear, come away, the lightning is terrible;” but she begged to be allowed to look out and see the lovely light which God was making all over the sky, for she was sure God would not do His little child any harm. “But harken to the terrible thunder,” said her mother. “Did you not say, mamma, that God was speaking in the thunder?” “Yes,” said her trembling parent. “Oh,” said the darling, “how nice it is to hear Him. He talks very loud, but I think it is because He wants the deaf people to hear Him. Is it not so, mamma Thus she went talking on; as merry as a bird was she, for God was real to her, and she trusted Him. To her the lightning was God’s beautiful light, and the thunder was God’s wonderful voice, and she was happy. I dare say her mother knew a good deal about the laws of nature and the energy of electricity; and little was the comfort which her knowledge brought her. The child’s knowledge was less showy, but it was far more certain and precious. We are so conceited nowadays that we are too proud to be comforted by self-evident truth, and prefer to make ourselves wretched with questionable theories. For my own part I would rather be a child again than grow perversely wise. Faith, is to be a child towards Christ, believing in Him as a real and present person, at this very moment near us, and ready to bless us. This may seem to be a childish fancy; but it is such childishness as we must all come to if we would be happy in the Lord. “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Faith takes Christ at His word, as a child believes his father, and trusts him in all simplicity with past, present, and future. God give us such faith! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The mistake of relying upon faith considered

In this discourse I shall take notice of and examine the mistake of those men who appear to be induced, by some texts of the New Testament, to rely upon faith, or their believing in Jesus Christ, and confident application of His merits to themselves; and to expect salvation from this, considered as distinct and separate from obedience to the moral laws of the gospel.

I. It will be very proper to lay before you the plain meaning of St Paul in the text. The apostle’s design here is to raise the gratitude of the Ephesians to Almighty God, and to inspire them with all possible regard to Him, by putting them in mind that they were formerly in a helpless and miserable condition, dead in sins, void of the true life of reasonable creatures; that they had no thought themselves of such salvation as had been offered them by the Christian religion, that they had no merit to engage God Almighty to make them such an offer, and preach such a state of reconciliation and salvation to them.

II. That no such pretence as that which makes faith alone, separated from a good life and conversation, the condition on which we shall be accepted at last; that no such pretence as this, I say, can be built upon this passage of the New Testament, which will lead us likewise to the further consideration of this mistake, and to give a true account of what St. James and St. Paul, upon other occasions, have affirmed upon this subject.

1. St. Paul saith that Abraham was justified without and before such works as circumcision. St. James saith that Abraham was not justified by an empty faith without works of obedience, and would never have been accepted of God unless he had shown the reality of his faith by obedience to the call and command of God. Here is no contradiction between them. So likewise Christians will be justified by means of believing the gospel dispensation, without any such works as circumcision, or any other works of the ceremonial law; as St. Paul argued: but they will never be justified, and finally acquitted by any belief in Christ, without bringing forth, as they have opportunity, such good fruits, and walking in any such good works, as the gospel of Christ directs, and commands them to practise; as St. James saith. Again--

2. Abraham was, for one signal act of faith and trust in God, called by Him righteous, taken for such, and reputed as a person free from the guilt of his past sins; as saith St. Paul. But it is manifest, saith St. James, that this faith of Abraham was not such an empty faith as some Christians pretend to rely upon; nay, that he would not have been justified finally by God, unless he had, when he was tried by God, shown by the obedience of his life that his faith was real and sincere. Neither in this is there any contradiction between them. St. Paul had to deal with a sort of Jewish Christians, who retained an affection for the works of the law, and circumcision particularly; and therefore found occasion to tell them that their father Abraham himself was justified without such works; that is, eminent faith was one time counted to him for righteousness, or justification; that for the sake of that faith he was esteemed by God free from all the guilt he had contracted by sin before that time; and that therefore it was nothing but what was agreeable to that great example which they pretended to love and honour, that God should accept such as believed in His Son Jesus Christ, without their adhering to such works as circumcision; and for the sake of that faith in reward, and for encouragement of it, should acquit them from the guilt of all their sins committed before that time. But St. James found that some misunderstood and perverted such doctrine as this, and that some Christians began to pretend that no works at all--not even those of piety and charity--were necessary to their justification at the great day; and that their believing in Christ would acquit them from the guilt of all their sins that they should commit after this belief, and during the time of their Christian profession. And therefore he found it necessary to tell them that Abraham showed his obedience to God’s will in the highest instances, and trusted not in an empty faith.

III. St. Paul doth, in this very Epistle, as well as in many other places, sufficiently declare against any such pretence; as our blessed Lord did likewise before him in the plainest words. See Ephesians 1:10. Although in some places St. Paul doth vilify the merits of the world and their behaviour, before the coming of the gospel; and though in others he vilifies the works of the law of Moses, with which some would have burthened the evangelical profession: yet no one can show any one text, or any one single passage, in which he vilifies, and sets at nought, the works of evangelical righteousness, or obedience to the moral laws of virtue. To vilify and decry the behaviour and works both of Jew and Gentile before the faith of Christ prevailed, was not to set at nought good works, but bad ones; and only to observe the corrupt and sad estate of mankind. To vilify the ceremonial law, after the coming in of justification by faith (or the gospel) was not to vilify such works as we are speaking of: but, indeed, to take men’s minds off from shadows and ceremonies; and to fix upon them good works that are more substantial. Nay, when he ever toucheth upon the moral duties; with how much vehemence doth he recommend them? When he speaks of the Ephesians, or other Christians, having improved in virtue, since their conversion to Christianity; what commendations doth he give them! And with how much joy doth he offer up his thanks to God for it? But we never find him depressing that sort of works; or setting up faith against them; or taking off the bent of men’s minds from them; but pressing them into the love and practice of them with all the earnestness possible. And then, if he mentions the sins of any professed Christians; doth he do it as if he thought their faith would avail them? Or rather, doth he not do it with such a spirit and zeal against them, as if no words were bad enough for them? And yet they had an easy reply to make to him, had he taught them any such doctrine, as that a strong faith would save them at last, though separate from good works.

IV. To show you in what sense faith, or believing the gospel, is said to save Christians.

1. This may be well said of them, because it is their faith, or believing, which saves them from the guilt of all their sins committed before this faith: a privilege which peculiarly belonged to the first Christians converted, at years of discretion, from a life of sin and impurity.

2. We may be well said to be saved through faith, because it is by believing in Jesus Christ that we come to know and embrace those terms which are offered by God for our salvation and happiness.

3. Christians are saved by faith, because it is the foundation of their obedience and of all their good actions. It is the tree which bears good fruit. (Bishop Hoadly.)

The qualities of justifying faith

These are the properties of faith which justifies.

1. It is persevering; a shield against all the fiery darts of the devil. It cannot be lost or overcome of any creature, because it is built on the Rock, Christ.

2. It is lively, working by love. It makes that we shall neither be idle nor unprofitable. It is no dead thing which will stand us in stead. There are, indeed, many kinds of these dead faiths; some are blind presumptions, which are merely counterfeit; some are historical persuasions, touching the truth of the articles of religion, without any particular confidence; some are common illuminations in the points of the gospel with misgrounded persuasions, like that of Haman, “What shall be done to the man whom the king will honour?” He no sooner heard it was in the heart of the king to honour a man, but who should the person be except himself?

3. Saving faith is sincere and sound.

4. It is a precious faith; within itself a pearl, rare, and of greatest worth, the least grain better than a kingdom. (Paul Bayne.)

Works excluded

1. No works of ours can merit salvation. Even the justified merit nothing.

2. There is not anything left in man wherein he may rejoice, as deserving salvation. Whatever he is, or can do, it must be all reckoned as loss in this business; for this is the end of the whole mystery of our salvation, that we might be all in God, out of ourselves.

3. Whatsoever we receive in Christ cannot stand in desert of salvation. The reason is plain.

Hot of works

I have read that Dr. Moxey once had as an inquirer an old woman, and he drew her attention to the forty-first and forty-second verses of the seventh chapter of St. Luke! “There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.” Now he said, “Which debtor will you be?” She replied, “The one that owes five hundred pence.” “Now,” he said, “what have you got to pay?” She replied, “I am very anxious to be saved.” “Well,” he said, “we will put that down to the credit side.” Immediately after she said, “No, I have made a mistake, I’ve got nothing to pay.” “Then,” he said, “we will go on with the story.” And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both.’” He said, “That’s just the way of the Lord towards us.”

Works, no sure foundation

He (Baxter on his death bed) said, “God may justly condemn me for the best duty I ever did; and all my hopes are from the free mercy of God in Christ.” He had often said before, “I can more readily believe that God will forgive me than I can forgive myself. After a slumber he waked, saying, “I shall rest from my labours.” A minister present said, “And your works will follow you.” He replied, “No works; I will leave out works, if God will grant me the other.” When a friend comforted him with the remembrance of the good many had received from his writings, he replied, “I was but a pen in God’s hand, and what praise is due to a pen?” (Bishop Ryle.)

Christian humility

Remember, the ears of barley which bear the most grain always hang the lowest. (E. Blencowe, M. A.)

Humility delights in concealment

The nettle mounteth on high, while the violet shrouds itself under its own leaves, and is chiefly found out by its fragrance. Let Christians be satisfied with the honour that cometh from God only. (H. G. Salter.)

No room for pride

Had God given His saints a stock of grace to have set up with, and left them to the improvement of it, He had been magnified indeed, because it was more than God did owe the creature; but He had not been omnified as now, when not only the Christian’s first strength to close with Christ is from God, but he is beholden still to God for the exercise of that strength, in every action of his Christian course. As a child that travels in his father’s company, all is paid for, but his father carries the purse, not himself; so the Christian’s shot is discharged in every condition; but he cannot say, This I did, or that I suffered; but God wrought all in me, and for me. The very comb of pride is cut here; no room for any self-exalting thoughts. (W. Gurnall.)

All glory to God

Doth the Christian’s strength lie in God, not in himself? This may forever keep the Christian humble, when most enlarged in duty, most assisted in his Christian course. Remember, Christian, when thou hast thy best suit on, who made it, who paid for it. Thy grace, thy comfort, is neither the work of thy own hands, nor the price of thy own desert; be not for shame proud of another’s cost. (W. Gurnall.)

Good works not to be boasted of

If the king freely, without desert of mine, and at the mediation of another, give me a place about him, and never so much right unto it, yet I am bound, if I will enjoy it, to come unto him and do the things that the place requireth. And if he give me a tree growing in his forest, this his gift ties me to be at cost to cut it down and bring it home, if I wilt have it. And when I have done all this, I cannot brag that by my coming and service I merited this place, or by my cost in cutting down and carrying home the tree made myself worthy of the tree, as the Jesuits speak of their works. But only the deed is the way that leads to the fruition of that which is freely given. There cannot be produced a place in all the Scripture, nor a sentence in all the Fathers, which extends our works any further, or makes them exceed the latitude of a mere condition or way whereby to walk to that which not themselves, but the blood of Christ hath deserved. (E. White.)


Verse 10

Ephesians 2:10

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.

Justified persons are God’s workmanship

Grace here means God’s free gift. Our salvation is entirely God’s gift to us; and it must be so, because we cannot make it or get it for ourselves; we have no power of our own to make it for ourselves, nothing of our own to offer in exchange for it. If our salvation does not come to us as God’s free gift it can never come to us at all. But, though our salvation is entirely God’s free gift to us, it is never forced upon us without our consent. Freely as it is offered to us, we must, on our parts, freely accept it when it is held out to us; we must acknowledge it thankfully; and unless we do acknowledge it and lay hold on it, it can never become curs. It may go on lying within arm’s length of us all our lives through, and yet be of no more service to us than if it were hundreds of miles away; we must reach out our hand to take it, and this hand of ours which we have to put forth to take it with is faith. “By grace are ye saved, through faith.” This reaching out of faith, in answer to God’s stretching out His hand to save us, is the second step which is necessary to be taken in the matter of our salvation. But here St. Paul finds it necessary to put in a word of caution to those who are the very foremost in accepting his teaching, and the most earnest in looking to their faith as the sole instrument of their justification. He foresaw that men would come to pride themselves upon this faith of theirs as something peculiarly their own, which very few besides themselves had any share in, and which entitled them to look down upon the rest of mankind with something like a feeling of contempt. And so, after saying, “By grace are ye saved through faith,” he goes on to say, “and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Your salvation, yes, and your faith, too, by which you lay hold of your salvation, is all God’s free gift to you; you did not make your faith for yourselves any more than you made your salvation; you had nothing of your own with which to make it. And how dare you, then, presume upon your faith, and pride yourselves upon it, as if it were your own creating? And now that St. Paul has secured his position against attack on one side, he turns cautiously round, like a skilful general, to secure it on the other: “Not of works,” he proceeds to say, “lest any man should boast.” And here, after all, is the quarter from which an attack is chiefly to be looked for. It is in man’s nature to make as much of himself as he can; it is in his nature to seek to justify himself, to work all out by himself, to set his own account straight with God. But now, of course, if he can earn his salvation for himself, he can make a merit of what he has done, he can claim his justification as his own work. And so, in order to put a stop, once for all, to such notions and attempts on the part of man to justify himself, the apostle lays down his next great principle in the doctrine of justification: “Not of works, lest any man should boast. For,” he proceeds to say, “we are His workmanship.” So far from having any works of our own with which to purchase our salvation, we are ourselves nothing but a piece of work of another’s making. God made us, and not we ourselves; He put us together, just as a workman puts a piece of machinery together, piece by piece, and we have no more ground for boasting or making a merit of what we do than a clock has ground for boasting of being able to point to the time or to strike the hours. We are simply, then, a piece of workmanship, designed and put together by God. Still, a piece of machinery is designed for some set purpose or other, and so are we; we have been made, and made over again, “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them.” (H. Harris, B. D.)

Believers are God’s workmanship

The apostle, having shown that our salvation is only of grace, and the means by which we are made capable of all saving good in Christ, by faith, excluding all causes in man, and that from the end lest he should boast himself: he now gives a reason why God’s grace is all in all, drawn from our redemption by Christ. As in the first creation there was no disposition in man to make himself a man, so no virtue in man now created to make him able to bring himself to eternal life; he confers nothing to the works of his new creation in Christ, no motion of man’s will, thought, or desire, or any preparatory work; all proceeds from the infinite creating power of God, He gives all.

1. All the faithful are new creatures in Christ.

(a) The parts of this new creation are--holiness of the spirit, and of the body, mind, will, affections, and every member of the body.

(b) Degrees--babes in Christ; young ones; old men, the perfection of stature.

(c) Signs--change; spiritual motion in the heart; desire for the sincere milk of the Word; desire to draw on others to grace.

2. God is the author of our new creation.

3. God gives us our new creation through Christ. Let us magnify Him accordingly.

4. The new creature has new works. The two go together; there cannot be the one without the other. As is the fountain, such will be the streams which flow from it.

5. We come to have good works when we are made new in Christ. Before that we can do nothing, not only meritorious, but even good (John 15:15). If the things which are necessary conditions of a good work be considered, this will be clear. It must be done

6. Good works are the very end of our new creation. As we plant our orchards, to the end that they may bring us fruit, so does the Lord plant us on purpose that we may bring Him fruit. Hence His people are called “Trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, in whom He may be glorified.” “Herein is My Father glorified,” said Christ, “that ye bear much fruit.” Honour God with thy graces. It is reasonable that every one should have the honour of his own. We see plainly that other creatures glorify God in their kind, and fulfil the law of their creation; man alone, who has the greatest cause and best means, comes behind.

7. We must walk in the ways which are prepared by God. Our life must be a tracing of the commandments; we must not salute the ways of God as chapmen coming to fairs; we must walk in them. Men in the world may become so prosperous that they may give over trading, and live comfortably on what they already possess; but it is not thus with the soul, which, where it ceases to profit, waxes gross.

Christian men God’s workmanship

These words suggest far-reaching speculations about the Divine ideal of humanity, and about how that ideal is suppressed by human folly and sin; they suggest inquiries about the ideal relations of all men to Christ, relations which are only made real and effective by personal faith in Him. But Paul was thinking of those who by their own free consent were in Christ, of those who, as he says, had been “saved by faith.” Of these it was actually true that they were “God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus.” How are we to get at the gospel which these words contain? Let us try. Most of us, I suppose, who have any moral earnestness, are at times very dissatisfied with ourselves; yes, with ourselves. We think it hard that we should be what we are. We complain not only of the conditions of our life, which may have made us worse than there was any need that we should be, but of our native temperament, of tendencies which seem to belong to the very substance of our moral nature. We have ideals of moral excellence which are out of our reach. We see other men that have a goodness that we envy, but which is not possible to ourselves. There is something wrong in the quality of our blood. The fibre of our nature is coarse, and there is nothing to he made of it. There is a wretched fault in the marble which we are trying to shape into nobleness and beauty, and no skill or strength of ours can remove it, And ours is not an exceptional wretchedness. The special infirmities of men vary. One man finds it hard to be just, another to be generous; one man finds it hard to be quiet and patient under suffering, another to be vigorous in work; one man has to struggle with vanity, another with pride, another with covetousness, another with the grosser passions of his physical nature; one man is suspicious by temperament, another envious, another discontented; one man is so weak that he cannot hate even the worst kinds of wrong-doing, the fires of his indignation against evil never burst into flame; another is so stern that even where there is hearty sorrow for wrong-doing he can hardly force himself to forgive it frankly. The fault of our nature assumes a thousand forms, but no one is free from it. I look back to the ancient moralists, to Plato and to Seneca and to Marcus Antoninus, and I find that they are my brethren in calamity. The circumstances of man have changed, but man remains the same. How are we to escape from the general, the universal doom? We want to remain ourselves, to preserve our personal identity, and yet to live a life which seems impossible unless we can cease to be ourselves. It is a dreadful paradox, but some of us know that this is the exact expression of a dumb discontent which lies at the very heart of our moral being. Is there any solution? Paul tells us what the solution is. Christian men are “God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus.” Yes, we were made for this, for something higher than is within our reach, apart from the reception of the life of God. There are vague instincts within us which are at war with the moral limitations which are born with us. Our aspirations are after a perfect righteousness and a diviner order, but we cannot fulfil them. They will die out through disappointment; they will be pronounced impossible unless we discover that they come from the fountains of a Divine inspiration, unless we have the faith and patience of the saints of old who waited, with an invincible confidence in the goodness and power of God, until the words of ancient prophecy were fulfilled, and more than fulfilled, in Christ. The prophets of the earlier centuries prophesied of the grace that was to come to later generations; their prophecies were dark and indistinct, and even to themselves almost unintelligible. They inquired and searched diligently concerning the salvation which they knew was to come, though they could not tell the time or the manner of its coming. And these aspirations of the individual soul are also prophecies; by them the Spirit of Christ is signifying to us the hopes which are our inheritance; they come from the Light which lighteth every man. But their fulfilment is not reserved for others; they may be fulfilled to ourselves. All that we have vaguely desired is now offered us in the glorious gospel of the blessed God; in Christ we become “His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” The Divine idea is moving towards its crowning perfection. Never let us forget that the life which has come to us is an immortal life, At best we are but seedlings on this side of death. We are not yet planted out under the open heavens and in the soil which is to be our eternal home. Here in this world the life we have received in our new creation has neither time nor space to reveal the infinite wealth of its resources: you must wait for the world to come to see the noble trees of righteousness fling out their mighty branches to the sky and clothe themselves in the glorious beauty of their immortal foliage. And yet the history of Christendom contains the proof that even here a new and alien life has begun to show itself among mankind; a life not alien indeed, for it is the true life of our race, but it is unlike what had been in the world before. The saints of every Church, divided by national differences, divided by their creeds, divided by fierce ecclesiastical rivalries, are still strangely akin. Voice answers to voice across the centuries which separate them; they tell in different tongues of the same wonderful discovery of a Divine kingdom; they translate every man for himself into his own life the same Divine law. We of obscurer rank and narrower powers read their lives, and we know that we and they are akin; we listen to their words, and are thrilled by the accent of home. Their songs are on our lips; they seem to have been written for us by men who knew the secret we wanted to utter better than we knew it ourselves. Their confessions of sin are a fuller expression of our own sorrow and trouble than we ourselves had ever been able to make. Their life is our life. We and they belong to a new race. A new type of character has been created. Christ lives on in those whose life is rooted in Him. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

God’s workmanship

We have in this verse three things.

I. The power that acts on the sinner to bring him into obedience to his God. The power of God alone. Man is dead; God is the quickener.

II. The mode in which that power acts upon him so as to produce this effect. “In Christ Jesus.”

III. The certain security for the operation of this power, and for the effect it will produce. God has appointed it. He has ordained that His people should walk in good works. You perceive, then, why throughout the Scriptures the works of man are made the test of his salvation. He is not to he justified by them, but he is to be judged by them, and this is a difficulty that often occurs to the mind, How is man to be judged by his works if he is not to be justified by them? The answer is--because they are taken as the test of his faith, as the proof of his sincerity. A cup of cold water could not purchase salvation for the sinner; but a cup of cold water, given in the name of Jesus, shall in no wise lose its reward, because it is the test that the believer loves his Master. (R. J. McGhee, M. A.)

The heavenly Workman

I. God works with skill and industry in elevating and refining human nature; and let us not overlook the fact that there is a great difference in the material. It is useless to say that all men are equal. We are not all born alike. From the fault or misfortune of our progenitors, we may start on the race with heavy burdens that we cannot shake off. Besides, we differ in both physical and mental constitution. We use terms which are very suggestive when we speak of a “hard” man, or when we say, “He is soft,” “He is coarse,” or “He is a fine man.” Some we describe as Nature’s gentle men, while others are born mean. Let it be understood that the Great Workman does not expect the same results from every kind of material. There is one thing He expects from all, and something He has a right to expect, and that is what all can do: we must love God.

II. It is well for us to have confidence in the workman. What a different fate awaits some of the blocks of marble which come into London as compared with others. They will all be used, but how differently. One is taken to the studio of the sculptor, to be carved into some statue to be admired for ages; another is sawn into slabs to make the counter of some gin palace! If the former block could know and feel the difference, how glad it would be to find itself in the places where statues are made. Let those of us who are lovers of God never forget that we are in the studio. It is not the purpose of the heavenly Workman to put us to any of the baser uses we might have been fit for but for His grace.

III. We must not forget that the workman has a plan. Life in any of us is a very complicated affair. Things are always happening--births, deaths, and marriages. Business relations alter. Circumstances differ: there seems no order or arrangements. It is chaos to us. And yet God knows all, and knows the precise bearing of each event on our lives. It does not seem like it, and yet, if we look hack, we may often see that God has been working all along in harmony with one idea. Some time ago, when in Manchester, the writer saw the men at work pulling down whole streets of houses to make room for a new railway station. All appeared ruin and disorder. Here was a party digging out foundations; in another place the bricklayers were building walls; elsewhere some one was setting out for other walls; beyond them they were still pulling down. It seemed like chaos, and yet in the architect’s office could be seen the elevation and picture of the complete whole. Every man was working to a plan. And so God has His elevation, but He does not show it. “It doth not yet appear.” When Joseph was in jail, he was in the path of Providence, and the fetters of iron were as much part of the plan as the chain of gold he wore when brought to the summit of greatness. What a variety of tools! What are the so-called means of grace but tools in the hand of the Great Workman? What are preachers but God’s chisels and hammers? Books, too, are tools. How important is the work of those who write them! But the finest work is often done by those sharp-edged chisels called Pain and Bereavement. How many of us are to be made perfect by suffering! It is not the dull tool that can cut the fine lines. Will the work ever be completed? Not in this world certainly. There is no room for self-complacence. (T. Champness.)

The nature and necessity of good works

That those who are God’s workmanship are created in Christ Jesus to good works; or, in plainer terms, all those who belong to God, and are created anew by His Spirit, are enabled by virtue of that new creation to perform good works. In pursuance of this proposition, I will show--

1. What good works are.

2. What are the qualifications of them.

3. Why they must be done.

4. Apply all.

I. That we may understand what is meant by good works, we must know that there are habits of grace, and there are acts and exertments of grace; and these two are different from one another, because these acts flow from those habits. These acts are two-fold, either inward or outward. The inward are such as these--a fear and reverence of the Almighty, a love of God and all goodness, and a love of our neighbours (which is called the work and labour of love, Hebrews 6:10), which, though they be not outwardly acted, yet are properly the works of the soul, for the not producing them into outward action hinders not their being works. For the mind of man may as properly be said to work as the body; yea, if we consider the true nature of things, we may rightly assert that the soul is the principal worker in man, and that all the outward exertments of virtue in the body flow from the mind of man, and take thence their denomination. These outward acts of grace which are exerted by the members of the body, and are apparent in the practices of holy men, are the good works generally spoken of in the Scripture. They are no other than visible exertments and actual discoveries of the inward graces before mentioned. Thus our reverencing of God is discovered by our solemn worshipping Him, and that in the most decent and humble manner. Our faith in Him, and love to Him, are showed by our readiness to do His will and obey all His commands. It is true good works in general comprehend all works morally good, whether they be adjusted to the law of nature or the revealed law; but I shall chiefly and principally consider good works as they are conformable to the revealed rule of the gospel. And so I proceed to the--

II. Thing I undertook, viz., to show what are the qualifications of these good works, that is, what is absolutely required in these works to make them good. I shall speak only of those qualifications which are requisite in evangelical good works, namely, such as are necessary to eternal salvation.

1. In a good work it is requisite that the person who doth it be good. By which I mean not only that he be inwardly good and righteous, according to that of our Saviour, make the tree good and his fruit good (Matthew 12:33); but I understand this also, that the person who performs good works be one that is reconciled to God; for if the person be not accepted, the work cannot be good. It is said, “The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering” (Genesis 4:4). First unto Abel, and then to his offering. The sacrificer must be accepted before the sacrifice.

2. As the works are good because of the person, so both the person and works are good because of the righteousness of Christ, in whom God is well pleased. “He hath made us acceptable to the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). What we do is favourably received as we are considered in Christ. By virtue of our relation to Him, who is our Righteousness, our performances are accounted righteous. This qualification of a good work the devout Mr. Herbert assigns, saying, “It is a good work if it be sprinkled with the blood of Christ.”

3. A good work in the gospel sense and meaning is a work done by the grace of God and the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

4. It must be done in faith, for the apostle tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), and, consequently, as he adds in another place, “what is not of faith is sin.”

5. In all actions that are really good there must be lawful and right means used. Acts of justice and honesty must be clone by ways that are lawful and good. We must not be just among ourselves by being unjust to others. I must not steal that I may be charitable to the poor. I must not promote the best cause either by persecution or by rebellion. Though it be God’s cause, it ought not to be fought with the devil’s weapons.

6. Good works must be adjusted to a right rule; they must be according to the will and commandment of God. They must not be after our own inventions, but according to this Divine command (Micah 6:8). That is good which God requires.

7. Every good work must proceed from a right principle; and by a right principle I mean these following things--

(a) Integrity of heart. As servants are bid to discharge their duty in singleness of heart (Colossians 3:22).

(b) An entire love of God is required in every good work. All our actions must flew from this principle, for if we love not God, we cannot do the works of God.

(c) There must be an entire love, not only of God, but of goodness itself, and the intrinsic excellency and perfection that is in it. There must be a delight and pleasure in the ways of God, and in all those good and virtuous actions which we do, and that for their own sakes.

(d) Not only a love of God, but a fear of Him, must be a principle from whence all our holy actions are to proceed, a fear of acting contrary to the purity of God’s nature, a fear of displeasing and offending Him. Joseph acted out of this excellent principle when he cried out, “How shall I do this wickedness and sin against God?”

(e) Humility is another principle from whence we must act. Every good and righteous man lays his foundation low; he begins his works with a submissive and self-denying spirit; he proceeds with lowliness of mind, and a mean opinion of himself, and of all he can do.

(f) Alacrity, joy, and cheerfulness, and so likewise a due warmth, zeal, and ardency, are other principles from whence our good works should spring. We must with gladness undertake and perform them, and we must serve the Lord with a fervency of spirit (Romans 12:11).

8. This is another indispensable qualification of a good work, that it be done for a good end. As there are fountains or principles of actions, so there are ends or designs belonging to them all. You must necessarily distinguish between principles and ends if you would speak properly and significantly. Fountains and springs of actions are those from whence the actions flow; ends and aims are those to which the actions tend. There is a vast difference between these. I have told you what the former are; now I will set before you the latter. The right ends which ought to be in all evangelical actions (for of such I intend chiefly to speak) are these three--our own salvation, the good of others, and in pursuance of both God’s glory. This was it which spoiled and blasted the most solemn and religious duties of the Pharisees. When they did their alms, they sounded a trumpet before them, that they might have glory of men (Matthew 6:2). Whey they prayed, they did it standing in the corners of the streets, that they might be seen of men (5:5). Likewise when they fasted, they disfigured their faces, that they might appear unto men to fast (5:16). Yea, all their works they did to be seen of men (Matthew 23:5). All was to gain esteem and reputation, all was for applause and vainglory. This wrong end and intention made all they did sinful. When I say all our works are to be done for the ends above named, I do not by this wholly exclude all other ends. As two of the great aims of our actions, namely, our own happiness and that of others, are subordinate to the third, God’s glory, so there are other lesser and inferior ends which are subordinate to all these. He evidences this by such ways as these--He never lets these temporal things stand in competition with, much less in opposition to, those which are greater and higher. He never so seeks his own as not to seek the things which are Jesus Christ’s. He doth not one with the neglect of the other.

9. To comprehend all, a good work is that which is done in a right manner. Good actions are such as have good circumstances and qualities, and evil actions are such as have undue and evil ones.

III. Having instructed you in the nature of good works, I am to show you, in the next place, how reasonable a thing it is that we should take care to do these good works. I will present you with those arguments and motives which I apprehend are most powerful to incite you to this. First, I might mention the reason in the text, where first we are said to be created unto good works, that we might walk in them. This is the very design of the spiritual creation or new birth, that we should exert all these acts of piety and religion which I have before mentioned. It is the purpose of heaven in regenerating us that we should walk in the ways of holiness, and conscientiously perform all the parts of our duty towards God, towards men, and towards ourselves. Again, it is said, we are said to be created in Christ Jesus to this. This is the end of Christ’s undertakings. “He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Moreover, it is added that God hath before ordained these works. This was the good will and pleasure of the blessed Trinity in their eternal consults before man was made. Why then should we, as much as in us lieth, frustrate the purpose and decree of heaven concerning us I Further, this (as the apostle saith of sanctification) is the will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3). This is that which is commended to us by the example of the saints; they have all been zealous practisers of good works. This is the grand evidence of the truth of our inward graces. This is that whereby you show your thankfulness to God for your election and redemption. I add, this is that which is the great ornament and lustre of our Christian profession; this will set forth and commend our religion to the world. But there are these two arguments yet behind which I will more amply insist upon--good works are necessary to salvation; good works glorify God.

1. Though our good works are conditions of salvation, yet they are not conditions as to God’s election, for He decreed from eternity out of His free will and mercy to save lost man, without any consideration of their good works. Predestination to life and glory is the result of free grace, and therefore the provision of works must be excluded. The decree runs not thus, I choose thee to life and blessedness on supposal or condition of thy believing and repenting; but thus, I freely choose thee unto eternal life, and that thou mayest attain to it, I decree that thou shalt believe and repent.

2. Though faith and obedience be conditions of happiness, yet the performance of them is by the special help and assistance of a Divine and supernatural power. God, who decrees persons to good works, enables them to exert them.

3. Nor are they conditions in this sense that they succeed in the place of perfect obedience to the law which the covenant of works required. I am convinced that no such conditions as these are consistent with the new covenant, the covenant of grace. Works, if they be considered as a way leading to eternal life, are indeed necessary to salvation; they are necessary by way of qualification, for no unclean thing shall enter into heaven. Graces and good works fit us for that place and state; they dispose us for glory. We are not capable of happiness without holiness. It may be some will not approve of saying, We are saved by good works, but this they must needs acknowledge that we cannot be saved without them; yea, we cannot be saved but with them. Some are converted and saved at the last hour, at their going out of the world; but even then good works are not wanting, for hearty confession of sin, and an entire hatred of it, sincere and earnest prayers, hope and trust in God, desire of grace, unfeigned love, and zealous purposes and resolves, all these are good works, and none can be saved without them. In the next place, good works are for God’s glory, therefore they must be done by us. As I have showed before that it is a necessary qualification of good works that they be done out of an intention to glorify God, so now it will appear that this is one great reason why we are obliged to perform them, viz., because thereby God is glorified. “Let your light so shine before men,” saith our Saviour, “that others seeing your works may glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The light of our works came from God, and it must be reflected to him again.

IV. By way of inference, from what hath been said of good works, we may correct the error of the Antinomians, we may confute the falsehood of the Roman Church, we may make a discovery of other false apprehensions of men concerning good works; we are hence also obliged to examine whether our works be good; and lastly, if we find them to be such, we must continue in the practice of them.

1. What I have delivered on this subject is a sufficient check to the Antinomian error, viz., that because Christ hath satisfied for us, therefore there is no need of good works; Christ’s obedience serves for ours. What need we do anything since He hath done all? And all this is conformable to the doctrine of our blessed Lord and Saviour, who tells us that He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it, and make it more complete and perfect. By His doctrine and practice He taught the world that the moral law obligeth the faithful under the evangelical dispensation, and that obedience to the former is not opposite to the grace of the latter. He constantly promoted good works and holy living, and bid His disciples show their love to Him by keeping His commandments (John 14:15). You see then how fondly they discourse who say that, because Christ hath done and suffered all things for man’s redemption, therefore there is nothing left for us to do. Indeed, we have nothing to do that can further our salvation by way of merit, but we have something to do whereby we may show our thankfulness for Christ’s undertakings; we have a great deal to do whereby we may discover our obedience to the Divine commands and injunctions. Though good works and obedience are not conditions of justification, yet they are of salvation; they are requisite in the person who is justified, although they are wholly excluded from justification itself. Or we may say, though they do not justify meritoriously, yet they do it declaratively, they show that we are really of the number of those who God accounteth just and righteous.

2. The falsehood of the Romanists is hence confuted. They cry out against us, as those who utterly dislike, both in doctrine and practice, all good works. They brand us with the name of Solifidians, as if faith monopolized all our religion. Indeed, all that profess the reformed religion affirm that faith is the root of all graces, that Divine virtue is the basis and foundation of all good works; this they maintain, and have good reason to do so; but still they hold that good and holy works are indispensably requisite in Christianity, and that no man can be excused from performing them, and that those whose lives are utterly devoid of them have no right faith and no true religion. This is our unanimous belief, profession, and doctrine, and the Papists are maliciously reproachful when they accuse us Of the contrary.

3. From what hath been said, we may discover the wrong notions and apprehensions which most men have of good works. I will instance more particularly in charity, which is eminently called a good work, but there is a great and common mistake about it. And so as to other good works, all understanding men agree that they ought to be done, but they greatly mistake what good works are. They think if they do the outward acts of religion they do very well; if they fast and pray, and hear God’s Word, and receive the eucharist; if they perform the external acts of justice and charity, their doings cannot but be good and acceptable, and they need look after no more. They never consider whether their fasting and praying and other exercises of devotion and piety proceed from God’s grace and Holy Spirit in them, whether they be accompanied with faith, and be the result of good and holy principles, and be done for good ends, and in a good manner. Alas! these and the like things are not thought of. This discovers the gross mistakes in the world.

4. Then you are really concerned to examine your lives and actions, and to see whether you be not of the number of the mistaken persons.

5. When you have examined the true nature of good works, then urge upon yourselves that you are indispensably obliged to do them. Being thoroughly persuaded of the necessity of them, press the practice of them on yourselves and on others.

That you may successfully do so, observe these four plain and brief directions--

1. Beg the assistance of the Spirit. These are no mean and common works which I have set before you as that duty. They require great strength and power to exert them.

2. Study the Scriptures. There, and there only, you will find instructions for the performing of works acceptable to God.

3. Set before you the example of the saints, for by viewing of them you will not only learn what to do, but you will be taught not to be weary in well doing.

4. Redeem and improve the time. Fix it on your thoughts that you have a good deal of work to do, but your time to do it in is short and soon expiring. (J. Edwards, D. D.)

The singular origin of a Christian man

I. The singular origin of a Christian man. As many as are truly saved, and brought into union with Christ, are the workmanship of God. No Christian in the world is a chance production of nature, or the outcome of evolution, or the result of special circumstances. Of regeneration we must say once for all, “This is the finger of God.” The spiritual life cannot come to us by development from our old nature.

1. We are God’s workmanship from the very first. The first stroke that helps to fashion us into Christians comes from the Lord’s own hand. He marks the stone while yet in the quarry, cuts it from its natural bed, and performs the first hewing and squaring, even as it is He who afterwards exercises the sculptor’s skill upon it.

2. We shall remain the Lord’s workmanship to the very last. The picture must be finished by that same Master-hand which first sketched it. If any other hand should lay so much as a tint or colour thereupon, it would certainly mar it all.

3. This is very beautiful to remember, and it should stir up all that is within us to magnify the Lord. I was surprised when I was told, the other day, by a friend, who was a maker of steel-plate engravings, how much of labour had to be put into a finely executed engraving. Think of the power that has cut lines of beauty in such steel as we are! Think of the patience that lent its arm, and its eye, and its heart, and its infinite mind, to the carrying on of the supreme work of producing the image of Christ in those who were born in sin!

4. If we are God’s workmanship, never let us be ashamed to let men see God’s workmanship in us. Let us be very much ashamed, though, to let them see the remains of the devil’s workmanship in us; hide it behind a veil of repentant grief. Christ has come to destroy it; let it be destroyed.

II. Secondly, here in the text we see the peculiar manner of this origin. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” “Created in Christ Jesus.” Our new life is a creation. This goes further than the former expression; for workmanship is less than creation. Man may produce a picture, and say, “This is my workmanship”: a piece of mosaic, or a vessel fresh from the wheel, may be a man’s workmanship, but it is not his creation. The artist must procure his canvas and his colours, the maker of a mosaic must find his marbles or his wood, the potter must dig his clay, for without these materials he can do nothing; for he is not the Creator. To One only does that august name strictly belong. In this world of grace, wherever we live, we are a creation.

1. Our new life is as truly created out of nothing as were the first heavens, and the first earth. This ought to be particularly noticed, for there are some who think that the grace of God improves the old nature into the new. That which is of God within us is a new birth, a Divine principle, a living seed, a quickening spirit; in fact, it is a creation: we are new creatures in Christ Jesus.

2. Creation was effected by a word. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made.” “He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” “God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” Is not that again an accurate description of our entrance into spiritual light and life? Do we not confess, “Thy word hath quickened me”? “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

3. In creation the Lord was alone and unaided. The prophet asks, “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being His counsellor hath taught Him?” Creation is the prerogative of Jehovah, and none can share it with Him. So it is in the regeneration of a soul; instrumentality appears, but the real work is immediately of the Spirit of God.

III. We come, thirdly, to dwell upon the special object of this creation: “Unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” When Adam was created, the Lord made him for His own glory. When the Lord creates us the second time, in the second Adam, He does not make us that we may be merely comfortable and happy. We may enjoy all that God has given us, for of every tree of this garden you may freely eat, since in the paradise into which Christ has introduced you there is no forbidden fruit. Around you is the garden of the Lord, and your call is that you may dress it, and keep it. Cultivate it within; guard it from foes without. Holy labours await you, good works are expected of you, and you were created in Christ Jesus on purpose that you might be zealous for them.

1. Works of obedience.

2. Works of love.

3. Good works include the necessary acts of common life, when they are rightly performed. All our works should be “good works”; and we may make them so by sanctifying them with the Word of God and prayer.

4. God has not created us that we may talk about our good works, but that we may walk in them. Practical doing is better than loud boasting.

5. And they are not to be occasional merely, but habitual. God has not created us that we may execute good works as a grand performance, but that we may walk in them.

IV. Fourthly, the remarkable preparation made for that object, for so the text may be rendered, “which God hath prepared that we should walk in them.”

1. The Lord has decreed everything, and He has as much decreed the holy lives of His people as He has decreed their ultimate glorification with Him in heaven. Concerning good works, “He hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” The purpose is one and indivisible: there is no ordination to salvation apart from sanctification.

2. But, next, God has personally prepared every Christian for good works. “Oh,” say some, “I sometimes feel as if I was so unfit for God’s service.” You are not unfit, so far as you are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. When God creates a bird to fly, it is the best flying machine that can be manufactured; indeed, none can equal it. If God creates worms to plough the soil, and bring up the more useful ingredients to the surface, they are the best fertilizers under heaven. God’s purpose is subserved by that which He makes, else were He an unwise worker. We are in a special degree God’s workmanship, created to this end, that we may produce good works; and we are fitted to that end as much as a bird is fitted to fly, or a worm is fitted for its purpose in the earth.

3. Everything around you is arranged for the production of good works in you. On the whole, you are placed in the best position for your producing good works to the glory of God. “I do not think it,” says one. Very well. Then you will worry to quit your position, and attain another footing; mind that you do not plunge into a worse. It is not the box that makes the jewel, nor the place that makes the man. A barren tree is none the better for being transplanted. A blind man may stand at many windows before he will improve his view. If it is difficult to produce good works where you are, you will find it still difficult where you wish to be. Oh, sirs, the real difficulty lies not without you, but within you. If you get more grace, and are more fully God’s workmanship, you can glorify him in Babylon as well as in Jerusalem. Moreover, the Lord has prepared the whole system of His grace to this end--that you should abound in good works. Every part and portion of the economy of grace tends toward this result, that thou mayest be perfect even as thy Father which is in heaven is perfect. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Christian is the noblest work of God

Men can admire a statue; it is breathing with life, and the fire of genius has succeeded in imparting almost animation to the figure. You remember that once it was but an unmeaning block of marble, but the sculptor’s imagination has succeeded in portraying a man, and the human face divine meets your enraptured eyes. You are filled with rapture and astonishment at the power of genius to call forth such a beautiful creation of art. And have you no eyes to see, nor heart to appreciate, the noble work of God in the new creation of a soul that was dead in trespasses and sins? That man was once a blank in the creation of God; he was spiritually dead, but now he has a soul instinct with the breath of heaven, which lives for its Maker, which hears and obeys His voice, and beats high with the generous sentiments of redeeming love. It is a soul that is restored to its original place in the creation, fulfilling the high purposes of its God, and glowing with ardour to live for His honour and glory. It has not, like the statue, the mock appearance of life; it is not a beautiful illusion of your fancy which vanishes at one effort of your sober reason. It has not its useless and inanimate form to reign and hold its empire only in your imagination. No! look on it, it is the living work of God; it has His own resemblance imparted to it; it is immortal, and destined to run an endless race of glory, to the everlasting praise of the infinite Jehovah--behold it--angels are enamoured with it, and yet you, who can break forth in rapture at that lifeless statue, can see no beauty here; no loveliness to draw forth your love; no admiration of this soul “born of God”!

Professors without good works

Many Christians are of a retiring disposition, and their retiring disposition is exemplified somewhat in the same way as that of the soldier who felt himself unworthy to stand in the front ranks. He felt that it would not be too presumptuous a thing for him to be in front, where the cannon balls were mowing down men on the right hand and on the left, and therefore he would rather not be in the vanguard. I always look upon those very retiring and modest people as arrant cowards, and I shall venture to call them so. I ask not every man and woman to rush into the front ranks of service, but I do ask every converted man and woman to take some place in the ranks, and to be prepared to make some sacrifice in that position they choose or think themselves fit to occupy. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A Christian Christ’s workmanship

It is told of Michael Angelo, the famous Italian sculptor and painter, that he invariably selected the marble block on which he was to operate from the quarry himself. He would allow no other hand to touch it, not even in its rudest state, lest it should be marred. After such a fashion does the Master-Sculptor of souls proceed. He performs the entire work of refashioning the human soul from beginning to end. In this work, it is true, He employs various tools--His Word, His Spirit, His Providential arrangements; but no hand save His touches them.

We are His workmanship.

Man’s creation unto good works

Human boasting is excluded, because human merit there is none. We are God’s workmanship, not our own.

I. The Divine workmanship.

1. Characterized by truth, reality, thoroughness, Not on the surface--not merely intellectual or mental; but a deep, subterraneous power heaving from the depth of the spiritual nature, and working from the centre to the circumference. Born again. Created anew.

2. When complete it will be perfect in beauty. He who made these bodies of ours so beautiful, so kingly, so majestic, so unutterably wonderful; He who bent with such majestic grace the arch of the firmament; He who clothed the earth with its infinite variety of beautiful objects; will make His spiritual creation in harmony with the material; so that, when finished, it shall be said, “He hath made this also beautiful in his season.” God will look upon it, and say, “Yes, it is My workmanship, and I am pleased with it.” That is the highest thing that can be said. His heart will rest in it.

II. The compass of this workmanship. “Created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Good works here, and good works hereafter. We are to serve God in the best way we can here, and we shall serve Him in another world in the distant future more perfectly than now.

1. Good works have their origin in love. Nothing noble is done from any other motive.

2. Good works are always inspired by the Holy Ghost. He inspires the love, and the love gives existence to the good works.

3. The good works we are to do are ordained by God. God thought of you before you were; He resolved that you should be--that you should be to do good works--to do good works which belong to you alone, just as in nature the tree is created to bear a particular fruit. How shall we know what we ought to do?

The new creation of believers

The doctrine of the text is, That those who are renewed and recovered out of the apostasy of mankind, are, as it were, created anew through the power of God and grace of the Redeemer.

I. Explain the text.

1. Our relation to God. “We are His workmanship.”

(a) A change wrought in us, so that we are other persons than we were before, as if another kind of soul came to dwell in our bodies.

(b) This change is such as must amount to a new creation. Nor merely a moral change, from profaneness and gross sins to a more sober course of life; nor a temporary change, which soon wears off; nor a change of outward form, which does not affect the heart; nor a partial change. The renewed are “holy in all manner of conversation.” They drive a new trade for another world, and set upon another work to which they were strangers before; must have new solaces, new comforts, new motives. The new creature is entire, not half new half old; but with many the heart is like “a cake not turned.”

(c) When thus new framed and fashioned, it belongeth to God; it hath special relation to Him (James 1:18). It must needs be so; they have God’s nature and life.

(d) This workmanship on us as new creatures far surpasses that which makes us creatures only.

2. God’s way of concurrence to establish this relation. It is a “creation.”

3. How far the mediation of Christ is concerned in this effect. We are renewed by God’s creating power, but through the intervening mediation of Christ.

(a) In order to our present communion with God. Till we are created anew, we are not fit to converse with a holy and invisible God earnestly, frequently, reverently, and delightfully, which is our daily work and business.

(b) In order to our service and obedience to God. Man is unfit for God’s use till he be new moulded and framed again.

(c) In order to our future enjoyment of God, and that glory and blessedness which we expect in His heavenly kingdom; none but new creatures can enter into the new Jerusalem. Application: Use.

1. Of information.

2. To put us upon self-reflection; are we the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus? that is, are we made new creatures? It will be known by these things--a new mind, a new heart, and a new life.

3. To exhort you to look after this, that you be the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus. You will say, “What can we do? This is God’s work in which we are merely passive.” I answer--It is certainly an abuse of this doctrine if it lull us asleep in the lap of idleness; and we think that because God doth all in framing us for the new life, we must do nothing. The Spirit of God reasoneth otherwise, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). This principle can neither be a ground of looseness nor laziness. You are under an obligation both to return to God and to use the means whereby you may return. Your impotency doth not dissolve your obligation. A drunken servant is a servant, and bound to do his work; his master loseth not his right by his default. An insolvent debtor is a debtor, and if he cannot pay all, he is bound to pay as much as he can. Besides, you are creatures in misery; if you be sensible of it, your interest will teach you to do what you can to come out of it; and God’s doing all is an engagement to wait upon Him in the use of means, that we may meet with God in His way, and He may meet with us in our way.

II. The end why we are brought into this estate. Not to live idly or walk loosely, but holily and according to the will of God.

1. The object: good works; that is, works becoming the new creature; in short, we should live Christianly.

2. God’s act about it.

3. Our duty: that we should walk in them. Walking denotes both a way and an action.

(a) Spontaneity in the principle; not drawn or driven, but walk--set ourselves a-going.

(b) Progress m the motion. (T. Manton, D. D.)

New creatures prepared for good works

I. What is meant by good works.

1. The kinds. All acts of obedience.

2. The requisites.

II. How new creatures are obliged to these good works.

1. With respect to God, He hath ordained that we should walk in them. If you refer to His decree, He will have His elect people distinguished from others by the good they do in the world, that they may be known to be followers of a good God, as the children of the devil are by their mischief (2 Peter 1:10). If you take it for His precept and command, surely we should make conscience of what our Father giveth us in charge.

2. With respect to Christ, who died to restore us to a capacity and ability to perform these good works (Titus 2:14).

3. With respect to the Spirit, who reneweth us for this end; we are new made, that we may look upon doing good as our calling and only business. All other things are valuable according to the use for which they serve; the sun was made to give light and heat to inferior creatures, and we are enlightened by grace, and inclined by grace, that our light may shine before men (Matthew 5:16).

4. With respect to heaven and eternal happiness, they are the way to heaven. We discontinue or break off our walk when we cease to do good; but the more we mind good works the more we proceed in our way (Philippians 3:14).

III. How are they fitted and prepared by this new nature that is put into them for good works? There is a remote preparation, and a near preparation.

1. The remote preparation is an inclination and propensity to all the acts of the holy and heavenly life. All creatures have an inclination to their proper operations, so the new creature. As the sparks fly up and the stones downward by an inclination of nature, so are their hearts bent to please and serve God. The inclination is natural, the acts are voluntary, because it is an inclination of a free agent.

2. The near preparation is called promptitude and readiness for every good work, or “a ready obedience to every good work.” (See Titus 3:1; 1 Timothy 6:18; Hebrews 13:1). This is beyond inclination. The fire hath an inclination to ascend upwards, yet something may violently keep it down; so a Christian may have a will to good, a strong, not a remiss will, but yet there are some impediments (Romans 7:18). (T. Manton, D. D.)

A bird’s-eye view of life

I. The aim of life. “Good works.” Is it Paul who speaks thus? Is not he the enemy of good works? Is not this the doctrine of the Old Testament? Answer: Paul was the enemy of a certain doctrine of good works, and of a party who took good works as its motto. But it is quite possible to object to a thing in the wrong place, and appreciate it in the right place. The voice of conscience tells a man he shall be justified or condemned by his works. Are the words of our Lord, in Matthew 25:35, mock thunder? If not, then it is plain that what we shall be asked for at the judgment seat will be our good works.

II. The line by which this aim is limited.

1. The line of talent. One has ten talents, another has only one. No man can do the work of an angel. A common man cannot do the work of a genius. All have some talent. One has social charm; another, the gift of song; another, moral attractiveness.

2. The line of circumstances. The circumstances and places of our lives are arranged by God, as well as the persons we influence and who influence us. We must see to it that our own plot is well cared for. The invalid cannot do as much as the man of good health, nor the mother of a family as much as she who has no such care.

3. The line of time. How different would our life have been, had we lived in the last century. Now, or never, is our time to work. God has appointed the length of time we are to work.

III. The power by which it is accomplished. We are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Our destination to do our good works dates from our new birth. If we have not been born again, we have not begun to do our good works. This change is a creation. It is compared to the change that took place when God said, “Let there be light.” “In Christ Jesus,” united to Him, so that we can say, “It is no more I that do it, but Christ who dwelleth in me.” No man is fit to do the work of life till he is created in Christ Jesus. His life is a failure unless he is a new creature. Let those who are in Christ Jesus remember why they have been so created, and that it is entirely in the power derived from Christ they can do their good works.

IV. The Divine artist behind the human workman. Life is our task, but it is also Another’s. We are “His workmanship.” The Greek is, “God’s poem.” Every Christian’s life is a poem of God. In opening a book of poems we find an elegy, a lyric, an ode of battle, or a love song. There are lives of Christians like all these. This is God’s book of poems. Its name is, “The book of free grace, and undying love,” Will your life be in it? (James Stalker, M. A.)

The Divine workmanship

I. Its characteristics.

1. Truth.

2. Reality.

3. Thoroughness.

4. When complete, perfection in beauty.

We, beaten and tossed by the stormy waves of circumstance, shall be so perfect as to please God Himself.

II. Its purpose. There are good works here and hereafter. When we lay down our wearied heads and die, we are not done with service. We shall serve God in another world more perfectly than now.

1. Good works have their origin in love, i.e., they are inspired by the Holy Ghost.

2. Good works are ordained of God.

3. How shall we know what we ought to do amongst the multiplicity of good works?

Good works are God-inspired

Good works are always inspired by the Holy Ghost, or, to speak more correctly perhaps, He inspires the love, and the love gives existence to the good works. “There is none good, save God.” Thus the Saviour taught. Goodness in Him is like light in the sun. You meet with rivers, and streamlets, and fountains, and lakes among the mountains, and in the valleys of the earth; but the origin of them all is in the sea, they all begin there. So all goodness in individuals, in the Church, in the world, in the whole universe, is inspired of God, and I wish I could make you feel it as seriously as I do. This gives unspeakable grandeur to our practical religion, to good works. They are inspirations of God, they are beams from the central light, they are streams from the uncreated fountain. Flippantly have men sometimes spoken of good works, contrasting faith with works. They have twisted laurel wreaths of glory round the brows of faith; they have kept good works in the distance. Another day has dawned upon England; we begin to think that the grandest thing of all is to be good. To do good works inspired by love and inspired by God’s Holy Spirit--this is the grand thing. (Thomas Jones.)

Good works prepared

Six ways in which God prepares good works for us to do.

1. In predestinating them (Romans 1:1; Jeremiah 1:5; Isaiah 54:16).

2. In His commandments He reveals them to us. The law of God rules them out before our eyes.

3. God has set us samples, both His own, and His children’s.

4. God supplies us with the grace, which enables us to do this or that work.

5. He excites the will; for such is our dulness, that we must have our will raised by Him to will.

6. He preserves us; so that now willing we may work. (Paul Bayne.)

Prepared works

It would be impossible to conceive words which could better express at once the dignity and the nothingness of all human “works.” Their dignity, seeing that for their sake we are both made of God and re-made of Christ. Their nothingness--because both the “works” we do--and we ourselves who do them--are nothing but a piece of “workmanship” which God has formed and created. If any man think much of his “works,” I say, “You are only a bit of mechanism, that God has trained to carry out His mind; to evolve those preplanned works.” If any man think little of “works,” I say, “It is for works that you were created and redeemed; and God has thought so much of those ‘works’ of yours, that He designed them before you were born; and you were brought into existence that you might do them.” Look at that body of yours--so curiously framed together, and knit, and fitted for action. Look at that mind, so capable and so furnished. Look at that heart, with all its powers of sympathy and affection. Look at that soul, with all that has been done for it, and done in it. And then ask yourself--I do not say--“Is not all this ‘prepared’ for something, and something very great?”--but, “Must not there be something ‘prepared’ for it? Must not the ‘preparation’ be reciprocal? Must not that which is ‘prepared’ for this complicated and wonderful being of mine, be something worthy Of its structure and its composition? God makes nothing for waste. Surely, every evidence that I am ‘prepared’ for a work, is a proof that a work is ‘prepared’ for me.” It would, of course, be a great question--concerning every particular work as it comes before you whether it is the work which God has” prepared” for you. To guide you into a decision in this matter, there should always be at least two vocations to every work: the inward vocation of your own conscience, and the outward vocation of Providence. And if to these two vocations there can be added the vocation of the Church, or of Christian friends, it would be more conclusive still. The three vocations very seldom mislead. Sanctified common sense is the true rule of life. And this brings me to one characteristic of all “prepared work.” It never goes before God. He must open a door. He must soften a heart. He must give an impulse. For every “prepared work” has its limitations; and here is the line of the limitation--that God’s footsteps must be there. But once receive anything you have to do--or equally, anything you have to suffer--as a “work” long ago “prepared” for you; and then see what a comfort, what an energy, what a power that one single thought will give!

1. In itself it is a token for good. It is a proof of love. Not only that God uses you at all, but that He has been at the pains to arrange long beforehand the exact thing which you are to do for Him.

2. You may be quite sure that any “work” which God hath “prepared” for you, will have a particular adaptation to your character, to your position, and to your strength. God never gives His work indiscriminately. To each his own. His “works” are not suited to everybody alike. You could not do mine; and I cannot do yours.

3. In the fact that the “work”--whatever it be--is God’s own appointment for you, there is a sure warrant of success. He planned and constructed it before you touched it. What God begins, He always ends. I cannot tell you, in detail, each of you, what your “prepared work” is. This I know, “the prepared work” of every one is to believe; and then to live the faith he professes; to be happy, and then to make others happy; to glorify God. But I should sadly narrow my subject if I confined the “good works” which God has “prepared” for us to do, to this world. We are “created in Christ Jesus to good works” in heaven. For assuredly we shall “work” there. And a part of the work is this, that your work is rest. And the more we grow towards heaven, the more we approach to that--work is rest because we do it restfully. But, be sure of this, there will be “work” in heaven. More “prepared” than even the “work” which we are doing here. And for this reason, that all the “work” we are doing here is in itself “preparatory” to that “work.” We are practising now that we may do it well by and by! (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Good works

1. Good works cannot be judged by appearances. To the eye of man good and bad may appear precisely the same. The eye of God alone can discern, and His judgment alone determine, their character.

2. Hence we must go to His Word to enable us in any measure to judge of them rightly. And that Word teaches us that whatsoever is not of faith is sin; without faith it is impossible to please God.

3. What, then, are good works, as the fruit of faith? Any work done believing with the heart, and done, therefore, to the glory of God, is a good work. Faith purifies the heart; works by love; overcomes the world.

4. We should specially mark that works in no way justify us before God, for we are accounted righteous: only for the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ through faith. But works, as the fruit of a lively faith, justify us before men; and a faith which produces no works is dead. A tree is the same good tree in winter without leaf or fruit, as it is in the autumn when laden with fruit; and the fruit does not make the tree good, but the tree makes the fruit good, and good fruit shows that the tree is good.

5. We should be very zealous in bringing forth the fruit of good works, for we are apt to be slothful and weary in well-doing, and much hindered through world, flesh, devil. (C. J. Goodhart, M. A.)

Good works for believers

The words being opened, enlarge upon--

I. Good works as the things in which God’s people are to walk. Illustrate this in a young convert passing through various connections in life to old age.

II. God as the Author of these good works in them. Shew how the Scripture speaks of this. “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean,” etc. (Ezekiel 36:25, etc.). “Hath not the potter power over the clay,” etc. (Romans 9:21). “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

III. Good works wrought in us as consequences of union with Christ. “I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman,” etc. (John 15:1, etc.). “For if thou wert cut out of the olive, tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree,” etc. (Romans 11:24). “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things,” etc. (Ephesians 4:15, etc.).

IV. The commands of God in His Word, and the work of His grace in us, as corresponding; like the seal and the wax. “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin,” etc. (Romans 6:17). Exemplified in Zaccheus--Paul--Prodigal. Address to the careless--the Antinomian--the self-righteous--the regenerate. (H. Foster, M. A.)

Perseverance in good works

It is not one or two good actions, but a good conversation, which will speak a man to be a right Christian. A true believer, like the heavenly orbs, is constant and unwearied in his motion and actings. Enoch “walked with God”; it is not taking a step or two in a way which denominates a man a walker, but a continued motion. No man is judged healthy by a flushing colour in his face, but by a good complexion. God esteems none holy for a particular carriage, but for a general course. A sinner in some few acts may be very good: Judas repents, Cain sacrifices, the scribes pray and fast; and yet all were very false. In the most deadly diseases, there may be some intermissions, and some good prognostics. A saint in some few acts may be very bad: Noah is drunk, David defiles his neighbour’s wife, and Peter denies his best friend; yet these persons were heaven’s favourites. The best gold must have some grains of allowance. Sheep may fall into the mire, but swine love day and night to wallow in it. A Christian may stumble, nay, he may fall, but he gets up and walks on in the way of God’s commandments; the bent of his heart is right, and the scope of his life is straight, and thence he is deemed sincere. (G. Swinnock.)

The use of good works

“God,” said a minister to a boy who stood watching a caterpillar spinning a very beautiful cocoon, “God sets that little creature a task to do: and diligently and very skilfully he does it; and so God gives us good works to perform in His name and for His sake. But, were the insect to remain satisfied forever in the silken ball which he is weaving, it would become, not his home, but his tomb. No; by not resting in it, but forcing a way through it, will the winged creature reach sunshine and air. He must leave his own works behind, if he would shine in freedom and joy. And so it is with the Christian.”

Conversion, the soul, and God

There is produced in a soul an image of God. When does the image of the star start up in the chamber of the telescope? Only when the lenses are clear and rightly adjusted, and when the axis of vision in the tube is brought into exact coincidence with the line of the rays of light from the star. When does the image of God, or the inner sense of peace and pardon spring up in the human soul? Only when the faculties of the soul are rightly adjusted in relation to each other, and the will brought into coincidence with God’s will. How much is man’s work, and how much is the work of the light? Man adjusts the lenses and the tube; the light does all the rest. Man may, in the exercise of his freedom, as upheld by Divine power, adjust his faculties to spiritual light, and when adjusted in a certain way God flashes through them. (Joseph Cook.)


Verse 11

Ephesians 2:11

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision.

Remembrance of our miserable condition by nature

It is good to be reminded of this, for it is

Miseries of a pagan condition, a motive to missionary zeal

I. The affecting condition described.

1. Upon his understanding.

2. Consider this subject as it affects the conscience. “The whole world is guilty before God” (Romans 3:19).

3. As it affects the character. Where Christ is not, morality sheds but a dim, a feeble, and Often a delusive ray.

4. As it relates to the happiness of man in the present life. Without Christ, you leave man as a sufferer under all the unmitigated weight of trouble; you leave him to grapple, unaided and unsustained, with the fierce and uncontrollable calamities of life.

5. Trace its operation on the civil and religious institutions of human society.

6. Consider the relation of the subject to the immortal destiny of man. To live without Christ is dreadful; but oh! what must it be to die without Him?

II. The duty of cherishing a distinct and constant remembrance of this condition.

1. The light of reason, and the custom of mankind, are sufficient to Show that we should cherish the grateful remembrance of eminent deliverances.

2. The express direction of Holy Scripture. On the Jewish Church such recollection was frequently and solemnly inculcated (Exodus 13:3; see also Deuteronomy 5:15).

3. We may appeal to the impulse of good feeling in every mind that is rightly, by which I mean religiously, constituted.

III. The practical effects which should flow from this remembrance.

1. This recollection should be productive of deep humiliation and self-abasement.

2. This recollection should excite sentiments of the liveliest gratitude for the happy change which has taken place in our condition.

3. This recollection should endear to us our native land, which the religion of Jesus has hallowed and blessed.

4. This recollection should engage us to demean ourselves in a manner answerable to the great change which, through the favour of God, has taken place in our moral situation.

5. This recollection should excite in our bosoms the tenderest compassion for those nations who are yet without Christ, deeply plunged in all the miseries of which we have been hearing.

6. Finally, this recollection will supply the amplest justification of missionary efforts, and urge us forward in the prosecution of missionary labours. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Remembrance of former sinful state

I. Show what uncircumcision denotes.

1. Rebellion (Jeremiah 9:25-26).

2. Exclusion from the privileges of God’s chosen (Ephesians 2:12).

3. Pollution (Ezekiel 44:7).

4. Liableness to death (Genesis 17:4).

II. The ends for which believers should remember their former state of sin.

1. To create shame and self-abhorrence (Ezekiel 16:60).

2. To create renewed views of Christ and His salvation (1 Timothy 1:13).

3. To remind us of the awful state of the ungodly (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

4. To exclude boasting (Deuteronomy 9:6-7).

5. As a motive to forgive others (Ephesians 4:22).

6. As a motive to relieve the distressed (1 Corinthians 8:9).

7. To increase our love to God. (H. Foster, M. A.)

Conversion a great change

“If I ever see a Hindoo converted to Jesus Christ,” said Henry Martyn, “I shall see something more nearly approaching the resurrection of a dead body than anything I have ever yet seen.” The entire number of native Christians in India is now about 600,000.

Then and now

Can you say, “I am not what I once was--I am better, godlier, holier”? Happy are you! Happy although, afraid of presumption, and in the timid modesty of spiritual childhood, you can venture no further than one who was urged to say whether she had been converted. How humble, yet how satisfactory, her reply! “That,” she answered, “I cannot, that I dare not, say; but there is a change somewhere. I am changed, or the world is changed.”…Our little child, watching with curious eyes the apparent motion of the objects, calls out in ecstasy, and bids us see how hedge and house are flying past the carriage. You know it is not these that move; nor the firm and fixed shore, with its trees and fields, and boats at anchor, and harbours and headlands, that is gliding by the cabin windows. That is but an illusion of the eye. The motion is not in them, but in us. And if the world is growing less to your sight, it shows you are retreating from it, rising above it, and, upborne in the arms of grace, are ascending to a higher region; and if to our eye the fashion of this world seems passing away, it is because we ourselves are passing--passing and pressing on the way to heaven. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)


Verses 11-13

Verse 12

Ephesians 2:12

Without Christ.

Spiritual misery

1. The head of all spiritual misery is to be without Christ.

2. A second degree of misery, is to be barred from communion and fellowship with the Church of God.

3. Naturally, we hate the means of salvation.

4. It is a great misery to be without the doctrine of the covenant of God.

5. The Lord left the Gentiles without the means of calling them to salvation.

6. It is a great misery to be without hope. (Paul Bayne.)

Life without Christ

The greatest event by far in the history of our world was the visit of Christ. From that moment, everything upon this earth measures itself by its relation to the Cross. Could it be otherwise? For he was “the Son of God.” What must that man be to God the Father, who treats that death of His dear Son as he would treat a mere matter of business? We may say of the man who is “without Christ,” that that man stands before God just as he is in himself, and nothing else. There is nothing to better him; there is nothing to excuse him. There is nothing to palliate or extenuate a fault. There is nothing to add any righteousness to amend. There can be no heaven for him except there be fitness; and there can be no pardon except there be a claim. Now, how would the best of us like to be dealt with on that principle? To stand before God in your own real individual character! No Intercessor to plead for you! No refuge to fly to! And consider this. A man “without Christ” has no motive, no motive sufficient to rule his life. The motive, the only secure and effective motive of life, is love. But you cannot love God unless you believe that God has pardoned you. You cannot love an angry God. But there is no pardon out of Christ. But, out of Christ, there can be no love because there is no forgiveness. So Christ makes the motive of life; and a man “without Christ” must be motiveless. Let me add another thing. All nature looks out for sympathy. Sympathy, in a degree, God has given to every man; but perfect sympathy belongs to Christ. It is His unapproachable prerogative. Therefore, if you do not know Christ, really know Him, as a believer knows Him, you do not yet know what sympathy can mean; for the rest is all very well, but it will stand you in very little stead in some dark hour. But that sympathy is perfect. You cannot find anyone else who has been, and who can be, “touched with the feeling of your infirmity”: always tender; always capable; always wise; true to every fibre of your being; matching all its cravings. That is not given to any creature upon earth. That is Jesus. And if you are without Jesus, you are without sympathy. And when that lonely passage comes, which is to take you out into the unknown, we must all die alone. What, if there be no arm--no companionship--no sweet voice to say, “I am with you!” No finished work! No Jesus in the valley! What will it be to die “without Christ?” An awful thing! And the more awful, the less you feel it! (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The Christless state

I. The misery of our past estate.

1. The man who is without Christ is without any of those spiritual blessings which only Christ can bestow. Christ is the life of the believer, but the man who is without Christ is dead in trespasses and sins. So, too, Christ is the light of the world. Without Christ there is no light of true spiritual knowledge, no light of true spiritual enjoyment, no light in which the brightness of truth can be seen, or the warmth of fellowship proved. Without Christ there is no peace, no rest, no safety, no hope.

2. Without Christ, beloved, remember that all the religious acts of men are vanity. What are they but mere air bags, having nothing in them whatever that God can accept? There is the semblance of worship--the altar, the victim, the wood laid in order--and the votaries bow the knee or prostrate their bodies, but Christ alone can send the fire of heaven’s acceptance.

3. Without Christ implies, of course, that you are without the benefit of all those gracious offices of Christ, which are so necessary to the sons of men, you have no true prophet. Without Christ truth itself will prove a terror to you. Like Balaam, your eyes may be open while your life is alienated. Without Christ you have no priest to atone or to intercede on your behalf. Without Christ you are without a Saviour; how will you do? and without a friend in heaven you must needs be if you are without Christ. Without Christ, though you be rich as Croesus, and famous as Alexander, and wise as Socrates, yet are you naked and poor and miserable, for you lack Him by whom are all things, and for whom are all things, and who is Himself all in all.

II. The great deliverance which God has wrought for us. We are not without Christ now, but let me ask you, who are believers, where you would have been now without Christ. I think the Indian’s picture is a very fair one of where we should have been without Christ. When asked what Christ had done for him, he picked up a worm, put it on the ground, and made a ring of straw and wood round it, which he set alight. As the wood began to glow the poor worm began to twist and wriggle in agony, whereupon he stooped down, took it gently up with his finger, and said, “That is what Jesus did for me; I was surrounded, without power to help myself, by a ring of dreadful fire that must have been my ruin, but His pierced hand lifted me out of the burning.” Think of that, Christians, and as your hearts melt, come to His table, and praise Him that you are not now without Christ.

1. Then think what His blood has done for you. Take only one thing out of a thousand. It has put away your many, many sins.

2. Bethink you, too, now that you have Christ, of the way in which He came and made you partaker of Himself. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Without Christ

I. When it can be said of a man, that he is “without Christ.

1. When he has no head knowledge of Him. The heathen, of course, who never yet heard the gospel, come first under this description. But unhappily they do not stand alone. There are thousands of people dying in England at this very day, who have hardly any clearer ideas about Christ than the very heathen.

2. When he has no heart faith in Him as his Saviour. Many know every article of the Belief, but make no practical use of their knowledge. They put their trust in something which is not “Christ.”

3. When the Holy Spirit’s work cannot be seen in his life. Who can avoid seeing, if he uses his eyes, that myriads of professing Christians know nothing of inward conversion of heart?

II. The actual condition of a man “without Christ.”

1. To be without Christ is to be without God. St. Paul told the Ephesians as much as this in plain words. He ends the famous sentence which begins, “Ye were without Christ,” by saying, “Ye were without God in the world.” And who that thinks can wonder? That man can have very low ideas of God who does not conceive Him a most pure, and holy, and glorious, and spiritual Being. How then can such a worm as man draw near to God with comfort?

2. To be without Christ is to be without peace. Every man has a conscience within him, which must be satisfied before he can be truly happy. There is only one thing can give peace to the conscience, and that is the blood of Jesus Christ sprinkled on it.

3. To be without Christ is to be without hope. Hope of some sort or other almost every one thinks he possesses. There is but one hope that has roots, life, strength, and solidity, and that is the hope which is built on the great rock of Christ’s work and office as Redeemer.

4. To be without Christ is to be without heaven. In saying this I do not merely mean that there is no entrance into heaven, but that “without Christ” there could be no happiness in being there. A man without a Saviour and Redeemer could never feel at home in heaven. He would feel that he had no lawful fight or title to be there; boldness and confidence and ease of heart would be impossible. (Bishop Ryle.)

Without Christ

It is not long since that a prominent business man, when closely pressed by his pastor, who had lately come to the church, replied with a calm force which was meant to put an end to further pertinacity, “I am interested in all religious matters; I am always glad to see the ministers when they call; but I have in the years past thought the subject over long and carefully, and I have come to the decision deliberately that I have no need of Jesus Christ as a Saviour in the sense you preach.” Only two weeks from this interview the same man was suddenly prostrated with disease; the illness was of such a character as to forbid his conversing with anyone, and the interdict from speaking was continued until he was within an hour of death, A solemn moment was that in which a question was put to him, intimating that he might talk now if he could--nothing would harm him. The last thing, the only thing, he said, was in a melancholy and frightened whisper, “Who will carry me over the fiver?”

Having no hope.--

Hope abandoned

Over the huge hideous iron gates of the Prison de la Roquette, in Paris, which is set apart for criminals that are condemned to death, there is an inscription, which sends a thrill of horror through those who read it--“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!”

Hopes for eternity, what they rest on

When John Wesley lay on an expected death bed (though God spared him some years longer to the world and the Church) his attendants asked him what were his hopes for eternity? And something like this was his reply--“For fifty years, amid scorn and hardship, I have been wandering up and down this world, to preach Jesus Christ; and I have done what in me lay to serve my blessed Master!” What he had done his life and works attest. They are recorded in his Church’s history, and shine in the crown he wears so bright with a blaze of jewels--sinners saved through his agency. Yet thus he spake,

“My hope for eternity--my hopes rest only on Christ--

‘I the chief of sinners am But Jesus died for me.’”

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Mournful ignorance

I have seen a child in ignorance of its great loss totter across the floor to its mother’s coffin, and, caught by their glitter, seize the handles, to look round and smile as it rattled them on the hollow sides. I have seen a boy, forgetting his sorrow in his dress, survey himself with evident satisfaction as he followed the bier that bore his father to the grave. And however painful such spectacles, as jarring our feelings, and out of all harmony with such sad and sombre scenes, they excite no surprise nor indignation. We only pity those who, through ignorance of their loss or inability to appreciate it, find pleasure in what should move their grief. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Having no hope

I have read of a tribe of savages that bury their dead in secret, by the hands of unconcerned officials. No grassy mound, no memorial stone guides the poor mother’s steps to the quiet corner where her infant lies. The grave is levelled with the soil; and afterwards a herd of cattle is driven over and over the ground, till every trace of the burial has been obliterated by their hoofs. Anxious to forget death and its inconsolable griefs, these heathen resent any allusion to the dead. You may not speak of them. In a mother’s hearing, name, however tenderly, her lost one, recall a dead father to the memory of his son, and there is no injury which they feel more deeply. From the thought of the dead their hearts recoil. How strange! How unnatural! No, not unnatural. Benighted heathen, their grief has none of the alleviations which are balm to our wounds, none of the hopes that bear us up beneath a weight of sorrows. Their dead are sweet flowers withered, never to revive; joys gone, never to return. To remember them is to keep open a rankling wound, and preserve the memory of a loss which was bitter to feel and still is bitter to think of: a loss which brought only grief to the living, and no gain to the dead. To me, says Paul, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. They know nothing of this; nothing of the hopes that associate our dead in Christ with sinless souls, and sunny skies, and shining angels, and songs seraphic, and crowns of glory, and harps of gold. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Hopefulness and steadfastness

A good Methodist in a prayer meeting said that when, many years since, he crossed old ocean he was much in the habit of looking over the ship’s side, particularly near the prow, and watching the vessel as she steadily ploughed her way through the waves. Just under the bowsprit was the image of a human face. This face to him came to be invested with a wondrous interest. Whatever the hour, whether by night or by day; whatever the weather, whether in sunshine or in storm, that face seemed ever steadfastly looking forward to port. Sometimes tempests would prevail. Great surges would rise, and for a time completely submerge the face of his friend. But as soon as the vessel recovered from its lurch, on looking again over the ship’s side, there the placid face of his friend was to be seen, still faithfully, steadfastly looking out for port. “And so,” he exclaimed, his countenance radiant with the light of the Christian’s hope, “I humbly trust it is in my own case. Yea, whatever the trials of the past, notwithstanding all the toils and disappointments of the present, by the grace of God I am still looking out for port, and not long hence I am anticipating a joyful, triumphant, abundant entrance therein.” Without God.

I am told to believe that there is no God; but, before doing so, I want to look on the world in the light of this solemn denial In giving up this idea, several sacrifices are involved. Let us see what they are.

1. I shall have to part with the most inspiring and ennobling books in my library.

2. I shall have to banish the earliest and tenderest memories which have gladdened my days.

3. I shall have to give up the hope that in the long run right will be vindicated and wrong be put to eternal shame.

4. I shall have to sacrifice my reason, my conscience--in a word, myself. My whole life is built upon the holy doctrine of God’s existence. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

Practical atheism

It is not speculative atheism that I lay to your charge; I am far from asserting or supposing that you are intellectually without God. But of practical atheism, of being virtually without God, I must and do accuse mankind and some of you. By practical atheism I mean the believing that there is a God, and yet thinking and feeling and acting just as if there were none.

1. I adduce forgetfulness of God as a proof, or rather as one form of practical atheism.

2. As an evidence of practical atheism, a neglect to worship Him and to maintain friendly and filial intercourse with Him.

3. I state as another evidence of practical atheism, the general conduct of mankind under the various dispensations of Divine providence. Does not the rich man say in his heart, “My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth”? Or, if he cannot ascribe it altogether to his own industry and prudence, he divides the credit of it with fortune, and speaks of the lucky throw, the fortunate speculation, or the prosperous voyage, to the success of which many things conspired, but He whom the winds and waves obey is not supposed to have contributed anything.

4. As another proof of practical atheism, that men are in the habit of forming their plans and purposes, without respect to their dependence on God for the accomplishment of them, and without consulting Him. They resolve with themselves where they will go, what they will do, how much they will accomplish, just as if they had life in themselves, and were independent in wisdom and power.

5. The conduct of many, in seasons of affliction, evinces that they are without God in the world.

6. Finally, mankind, in their pursuit of happiness, evince their practical atheism. Whither should a creature in quest of joy go to obtain it, but straight to Him, who made, and who sustains both that which enjoys and that which is enjoyed, his Maker and Preserver, and the world’s? Yet men fly from God for happiness. Whence have you your joys and comforts now?--from your family?--it shall be broken up; from your business?--it shall be discontinued, and you shall leave the world, and the world itself shall be consumed, and nothing will be left but the soul and God. You cannot be happy in anything else; and, if you love Him not, you cannot be happy in Him. (W. Nevins, D. D.)

Without God

Three ways a man may be said to be without God.

1. By profane atheism.

2. By false worship.

3. By want of spiritual worship.

Great is the misery of those who are without God. God is a fountain of life; whoso is far from Him must perish. (Paul Bayne.)

The misery of being without God

The misery of such as have not God for their God, in how sad a condition are they, when an hour of distress comes! This was Saul’s case: “I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and the Lord has departed from me.” A wicked man, in time of trouble, is like a vessel tossed on the sea without an anchor, it falls on rocks or sands; a sinner not having God to be his God, though he makes a shift while health and estate last, yet, when these crutches, which he leaned upon, are broken, his heart sinks. It is with a wicked man as with the old world, when the flood came; the waters at first came to the valleys, but then the people would get to the hills and mountains, but when the waters came to the mountains, then there might be some trees on the high hills, and they would climb up to them; ay, but then the waters did rise up to the tops of the trees; now all hopes of being saved were gone, their hearts failed them. So it is with a man that hath not God to be his God; if one comfort be taken away, he hath another; if he lose a child, he hath an estate; ay, but when the waters rise higher, death comes and takes away all; now he hath nothing to help himself with, no God to go to, he must needs die despairing. (T. Watson.)

Without God in the world

“Without God in the world.” Think!--what a description!--and applicable to individuals without number! If it had been without friends, shelter, or food, that would have been a gloomy sound. But without God! without Him (that is, in no happy relation to Him), who is the very origin, support, and life of all things; without Him who can make good flow to His creatures from an infinity of sources; without Him whose favour possessed is the best, the sublimest, of all delights, all triumphs, all glories. What do those under so sad a destitution value and seek instead of Him? What will anything, or all things, be worth in His absence? It may be instructive to consider a little to what states of mind this description is applicable; and what a wrong and, calamitous thing the condition is in all of them. We need not dwell on that condition of humanity in which there is no notion of Deity at all--some outcast, savage tribes--souls destitute of the very ideal Not one idea exalted anti resplendent above the rest casting a glory sometimes across the little intellectual field! It is as if, in the outward world of nature, they had no visible heaven--the spirit nothing to go out to, beyond its clay tenement, but the immediately surrounding elements and other creatures of the same order. The adorers of false gods may just be named as coming under the description. There is, almost throughout the race, a feeling in men’s minds that belongs to the Divinity; but think how all manner of objects, real and imaginary, have been supplicated to accept and absorb this feeling, that the true God might not take it! It is too obvious almost to be worth noting, how plainly the description applies itself to those who persuade themselves that there is no God. The Divine Spirit and all spirit abolished, he is left amidst masses and systems of matter without a first cause--ruled by chance, or by a blind mechanical impulse of what he calls fate; and, as a little composition of atoms, he is himself to take his chance for a few moments of conscious being, and then be no more forever! And yet, in this infinite prostration of all things, he feels an elation of intellectual pride! But we have to consider the text in an application much more important to us, and to men in general; for, with a most settled belief of the Divine existence, they may be “without God in the world.” This is too truly and sadly the applicable description when this belief and its object do not maintain habitually the ascendant influence over us--over the whole system of our thoughts, feelings, purposes, and actions. Can we glance over the earth, and into the wilderness of worlds in infinite space, without the solemn thought that all this is but the sign and proof of something infinitely more glorious than itself? Are we not reminded--“This is a production of His almighty power--that is an adjustment of His all-comprehending intelligence and foresight--there is a glimmer, a ray of His beauty, His glory--there an emanation of His benignity--but for Him all this would never have been; and if, for a moment, His pervading energy were by His will restrained or suspended, what would it all be then?” Not to have some such perceptions and thoughts, accompanied by devout sentiments, is, so far, to “be without God in the world.” Again, the text is applicable to those who have no solemn recognition of God’s all-disposing government and providence--who have no thought of the course of things but as just “going on”--going on some way or other, just as it canto whom it appears abandoned to a strife and competition of various mortal powers; or surrendered to something they call general laws, and then blended with chance; who have, perhaps, a crude Epicurean notion of exempting the Divine Being from the infinite toil and care of such a charge. The text is a description of those who have but a slight sense of universal accountableness to God as the supreme authority who have not a conscience constantly looking and listening to Him, and testifying for Him; who proceed as if this world were a, province absolved from the strictness of His dominion and His laws; who will not apprehend that there is “His” will and warning affixed to everything; who will not submissively ask, “What dost Thou pronounce on this? To be insensible to the Divine character as Lawgiver, rightful Authority, and Judge, is truly to be “without God in the world,” for thus every emotion of the soul and action of the life assumes that He is absent or does not exist. This insensibility of accountableness exists almost entire (a stupefaction of conscience) in very many minds. But in many others there is a disturbed yet inefficacious feeling; and might not some of these be disposed to say, “We are not ‘without God in the world,’ as an awful Authority and Judge; for we are followed, and harassed, and persecuted, sometimes quite to misery, by the thought of Him in this character. We cannot go on peacefully in the way our inclinations lead; a portentous sound alarms us, a formidable spectre encounters us, though we still persist.” The cause here is that men wish to be “without God in the world”--would, in preference to any other prayer, implore Him to “Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of His ways.” They would be willing to resume the enterprise of the rebellious angels, if there were any hope. “Oh, that He, with His judgment and laws, were far away!” To be thus with God is in the most emphatical sense to be without Him--without Him as a friend, approver, and patron; each thought of Him tells the soul who it is that it is without, and who it is that in a very fearful sense it never can be without. The description belongs to that state of mind in which there is no communion with God maintained or even sought with cordial aspiration--no devout, ennobling converse held with Him--no conscious reception of delightful impressions, sacred influences, suggested sentiments--no pouring out of the soul in fervent desires for His illuminations, His compassion, His forgiveness, His transforming operations--no earnest, penitential, hopeful pleading in the name of the gracious Intercessor--no solemn, affectionate dedication of the whole being--no animation and vigour obtained for the labours and warfare of a Christian life. But how lamentable to be without God! Consider it in one single view only--that of the loneliness of a human soul in this destitution. All other beings are necessarily (shall we express it so?) extraneous to the soul; they may communicate with it, but they are still separate and without it; an intermediate vacancy keeps them forever asunder, so that the soul must be, in a sense, in an inseparable and eternal solitude--that is, as to all creatures. But God, on the contrary, has an all-pervading power--can interfuse, as it were, His very essence through the being of His creatures--can cause Himself to be apprehended and felt as absolutely in the soul--such an inter-communion as is, by the nature of things, impossible between created beings; and thus the interior central loneliness--the solitude of the soul--is banished by a perfectly intimate presence, which imparts the most affecting sense of society--a society, a communion, which imparts life and joy, and may continue in perpetuity. To men completely immersed in the world this might appear a very abstracted and enthusiastic notion of felicity; but to those who have in any measure attained it, the idea of its loss would give the most emphatic sense of the expression, “Without God in the world.” The terms are a true description also of the state of mind in which there is no habitual anticipation of the great event of going at length into the presence of God--absence of the thought of being with Him in another world--of being with Him in judgment, and whither to be with Him forever; not considering that He awaits us somewhere, that the whole movement of life is absolutely towards Him, that the course of life is deciding in what manner we shall appear in His presence; not thinking what manner of fact that will be, what experience, what consciousness, what emotion; not regarding it as the grand purpose of our present state of existence that we may attain a final dwelling in His presence. One more, and the last application we would make of the description is to those who, while professing to retain God in their thoughts with a religious regard, frame the religion in which they are to acknowledge Him according to their own speculation and fancy. Thus many rejecters of Divine revelation have professed, nevertheless, a reverential homage to the Deity; but the God of their faith was to be such as their sovereign reason chose to feign, and therefore the mode of their religion entirely arbitrary. But, if revelation be true, the simple question is, Will the Almighty acknowledge your feigned God for Himself?--and admit your religion to be equivalent to that which He has declared and defined? If He should not, you are “without God in the world.” (John Foster.)


Verse 13

Ephesians 2:13

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

Sin, the separator

Sin has its dark offices--offices which it is always fulfilling. For sin is that dividing element, which, where it comes in, breaks up the harmony of all things, and sends them out into the distance of chaos and dismay. God, at the beginning, made the heaven to be subservient to the earth; and the earth to be subservient to the harvest; and the harvest to be subservient to His people. But sin has broken the beautiful chain of the material universe. When man fell, nature fell; and the links were severed by the fall. There is an interval, and an interruption now, between the right causes and the right effects in God’s creation. And worse than this, man is divided from man; every one from his fellow. The very Church is broken up--Christian from Christian. And St. James traces it out: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” The lust of pride, the lust of an opinionated mind--the lust of prejudice--the lust of jealousy--the lust of selfishness--the lust of a worldly ambition: these are the fabricators of all discord. These make foes out of hearts which were meant to love as brethren. And what are these, but some of sin’s many forms which it loves to take, that it may then better work as a separator between man and man? No wonder, for sin separates a man from himself. I question whether any man is at variance with his brother, till he has first been at variance with himself. But sin takes away a man’s consistency. A man is not one; but he is two--he is many characters. What he is one time, that is just what he is not another. Passions within him conflict with reason--passions with passions--feelings with feelings--he is “far off” from himself. And this the separator does. But never does he do that, till he has done another act of separation--and because he has done that other--he separates man from God. If you wish to know how “far” sin has thrown man away from God--you must measure it by the master-work which has spanned the gulf. The eternal counsel--the immensity of a Divine nature clothing Himself in manhood--love, to which all other love is as a drop to the fountain, from whence it springs--a life, spotless--sufferings, which make all other sufferings a feather’s weight in the balance--a death, which merged all deaths--all this, and far more than this, has gone to make the return possible. And when it was possible; then the life of discipline and struggle--a work of sanctification, going on day by day--many crucifixions--the seven-fold operations of the Holy Ghost--death--resurrection--these must make the possible return a fact. By all these you must make your calculation, if you wish to measure the distance of that “far off,” which we ewe to that great separator--sin. And this is the reason why God so hates sin, because it has put so “far” away from Him those He so dearly loves. And now let us deal with this matter a little more practically. Since Christ died, there is no necessary separation between any man and God. Without that death, there was. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Nearness to God

I. We commence, by endeavouring to explain the meaning of the two key words--“In Christ Jesus,” and, “by the blood of Christ.” “We who sometimes were far off are made nigh.”

1. First, because we are “in Christ Jesus.” All the elect of God are in Christ Jesus by a federal union. He is their Head, ordained of old to be so from before the foundation of the world. This federal union leads in due time, by the grace of God, to a manifest and vital union, a union of life, and for life, even unto eternal life, of which the visible bond is faith.

2. The other key word of the text is, “by the blood of Christ.”

3. Experimentally we are brought nigh by the application of the blood to our conscience. We see that sin is pardoned, and bless the God who has saved us in so admirable a manner, and then we who hated Him before come to love Him; we who had no thought towards Him desire to be like Him. The great attracting loadstone of the gospel is the doctrine of the Cross.

III. Let us note some of the displays of the realizations of this nearness to God as granted to us by blood through our union with Christ. We perceive and see manifestly our nearness to God in the very first hour of our conversion. The father fell upon the prodigal’s neck and kissed him--no greater nearness than that; the prodigal becomes an accepted child, is and must be very near his father’s heart; and we who sometimes were far off are as near to God as a child to his parents. We have a renewed sense of this nearness in times of restorations after backsliding, when, pleading the precious blood, we say, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” We come to God, and feel that He is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart. We come near to God in prayer. Our nearness to God is peculiarly evinced at the mercy seat. But, brethren, we never get to God in prayer unless it is through pleading the precious blood.

IV. Brief exhortation.

1. Let us live in the power of the nearness which union with Christ and the blood hath given us.

2. Let us enjoy the things which this nearness was intended to bring.

3. Let us exercise much faith in God.

4. Let our behaviour be in accordance with our position. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Christian’s retrospect

I. A state of nature.

1. Moral darkness.

2. Spiritual blindness and deafness.

3. Moral and spiritual death.4. Enmity to and alienation from God.

II. A state of grace.

1. Light.

2. Peace.

3. Joy.

4. Unclouded faith and hope.

III. The characteristics of a natural man.

1. The depravity of his heart and the sinfulness of his unholy affections are stronger than the impulses of his soul.

2. He is destitute of proper knowledge.

3. He is satisfied with this world. He has not raised his affections above temporal joys.

4. He is ignorant, blind, naked, condemned in sin, the slave of his lusts, the servant of Satan, the heir of hell.

IV. The characteristics of a spiritual man.

1. He is penitent. The sins of the past he hopes are forgiven, the sins of the present he daily implores God may be pardoned.

2. He is humble. He is not self-complacent over discharge of known duty.

3. He is dependent upon God.

4. He is a man of active Christianity. He locks up, and is ever moving onward and upward.

5. He is a man of love and forbearance. He wears God’s image, looks like His Son, has the spirit of an angel, and the praise for his God of a seraph.

V. The change of our condition as affected by the application of the text. It intimates that a certain time we were without Christ (verses 11 and 12). “At that time ye were without Christ” refers to the condition of the heathen. “They were without God and hope in the world.” The science of Egypt, Chaldea, Greece, and Rome had discovered much as to things pertaining to the present life; but in respect of a hereafter all was enveloped in gross darkness. The text intimates the mode of the great change. Having asserted that those “who sometimes were afar off are brought nigh to God,” the apostle affirms that this is accomplished in Christ, and through the application of His blood. Therefore--

1. The blood of Christ is the means, when preached, through which sinners are brought near to God. “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

2. “By the bleed of Christ, as shed upon the cross, atonement was made, sin was expiated, and a way opened for God to draw near to the sinner, and the sinner to God,” This is a proposition of Andrew Fuller. “God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin (or by a sacrifice for sin) condemned sin in the flesh.” “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” This proposition and this passage are a summary of gospel truth.

3. We are brought into sacred nearness to God, and enter a state of salvation through the blood of Christ. This is applied spiritually, and is the true remission of sins. Divine grace applies spiritually the Divine Redeemer’s blood, to cleanse from sin. (W. C. Crane, D. D.)

Brought nigh through death

A mother in New York whose son had got into dissipated and abandoned habits, after repeated remonstrances and threats, was turned out of doors by his father, and he left vowing he would never return unless his father asked him, which the father said would never be. Grief over her son soon laid the mother on her dying bed, and when her husband asked if there was nothing he could do for her ere she departed this life, she said, “Yes; you can send for my boy.” The father was at first unwilling, but at length, seeing her so near her end, he sent for his son. The young man came, and as he entered the sick room his father turned his back upon him. As the mother was sinking rapidly, the two stood on opposite sides of her bed, all love and sorrow for her, but not exchanging a word with each other. She asked the father to forgive the boy; no, he wouldn’t until the son asked it. Turning to him, she begged of him to ask his father’s forgiveness; no, his proud heart would not let him take the first step. After repeated attempts she failed, but as she was just expiring, with one last effort she got hold of the father’s hand in one hand, and her son’s in the other, and exerting all her feeble strength, she joined their hands, and, with one last appealing look, she was gone. Over her dead body they were reconciled, but it took the mother’s death to bring it about. So, has not God made a great sacrifice that we might be reconciled--even the death of His own dear Son? (D. L. Moody.)

Jesus the only hope

A Christian Hindoo was dying, and his heathen comrades came around him, and tried to comfort him by reading some of the pages of their theology; but he waved his hand, as much as to say, “I don’t want to hear it.” Then they called in a heathen priest, and he said, “If you will only recite the Numtra it will deliver you from hell.” He waved his hand, as much as to say, “I don’t want to hear that.” Then they said, “Call on Juggernaut.” He shook his head, as much as to say, “I can’t do that.” Then they thought perhaps he was too weary to speak, and they said, “Now, if you can’t say ‘Juggernaut,’ think of that god.” He shook his head again, as much as to say, “No, no, no.” Then they bent down to his pillow, and they said, “In what will you trust?” His face lighted up with the very glories of the celestial sphere as he cried out, rallying all his dying energies, “Jesus!” (Dr. Talmage.)

The blood of Christ

Captain Hedley Vicars, when under deep conviction of sin, one morning came to his table almost broken hearted, and bowed to the dust with a sense of his guilt. “Oh, wretched man that I am!” he repeated to himself, at the same time glancing at his Bible, which lay open before him. His eyes suddenly rested on that beautiful verse, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin.” “Then,” said he, “it can cleanse me from mine”; and he instantly believed with his heart unto righteousness, and was filled with peace and joy. From that time to the hour in which he lay bathed in his own blood, in the trenches before Sebastopol, he never doubted his forgiveness, or God’s ability and willingness to pardon the chief of sinners. (S. M. Haughton.)

Aliens brought nigh to God

1. We must so look on our misery as to remember our estate by mercy. The devil will labour to swallow up in sorrow, as well as to kill by carnal security. This teaches ministers how to dispense the Word in wisdom, and Christians how to carry themselves; they must not be all in one extreme, like those philosophers that are either always weeping, or else always laughing; but, if there be heaviness with them in the evening, they must look to that which may bring, joy in the morning; and as a man after hard labour delights to take the air m a garden, so must they, when they have humbled their souls, in viewing their mercy, refresh themselves in walking among those sweet flowers, even the benefits of God.

2. The Lord brings such as are furthest estranged from Him to be near unto Him. If the king pardon one whose goodwill is doubtful, and take him into his favour, it is much; but when one has lived in making attempts on his person, then to forget and to forgive were more than credible clemency. Yet this is what God has done.

3. A wonderful change is made in those who are in Christ.

4. It is by the blood of Christ that we are reconciled to God. When we think of Christ crucified and shedding of His blood, there we may see--

The nearness of God

I. A reconciled God. We are all naturally far from God, not as being out of His reach, or out of His sight, or out of His presence, but as differing from Him, as being out of sympathy with Him--as forgetting or not thinking about Him--as disobeying Him, and disliking Him, and thus having incurred His displeasure. Such things as these create a distance between one and another. They need to he brought near, or, as our text puts it, “made nigh” to each other. And how is that to be done? By their being in some way reconciled; by some one coming between them and making them friends--making them one. That might he done in various ways. I might appeal to them, as a friend of both of them, to lay aside their enmity for my sake, and be friends. I might put the hand of the one in that of the other, and take both in my own; and so they might be said to be “made nigh” by me. Or if one had wronged the other, I might offer to be responsible for the wrong, and to put it right. If the one had taken money that belonged to the other, and had spent it or lost it, and could not make it good, I might offer to replace it. And so they might be “made nigh” through me. I have heard of a devoted Christian minister, who lay on his deathbed, getting two friends who were visiting him, and who had quarrelled with each other, to shake hands over his body, as they stood at opposite sides of his bed; and so they were “made nigh” through him. They did not need to move from where they were standing before in order to be thus “made nigh.” Or I might illustrate it in another way. In Shetland, between the mainland and a small island rising up into a lofty rock, there is a deep and awful-looking gorge. Looking over the edge you see and hear the sea rushing and foaming below. It makes one dizzy to look down. Two people standing on each side of that gorge, though they could almost join hands across it, might be far enough apart from each other. For many years there was a kind of basket bridge. A basket was swung across by means of a rope, The people got into the basket and slid across in it. They were “made nigh” by means of it. Two of you wish to meet each other at a canal. You stand one on each side. The drawbridge is up, and though the water is only a few yards in breadth, you cannot get to each other except by going nearly a quarter of a mile round about, which makes it all one as if the canal were a quarter of a mile broad. You may be said to be all that distance apart from each other. But the bridge comes down, and at once makes you “nigh.” Little more than a step brings you together. Now, as I have said, the sinner and God are thus apart from each other--separated from each other, wide, wide apart. The sinner is “without God.” His sins have hid God’s face from him. “God is not in all his thoughts.” How shall they be “made nigh”? The sinner cannot make himself nigh. He can only get farther away from God. And so the Lord Jesus comes in as the Mediator.

II. God able to see us. That is implied in His being “near” us--His being “not far from every one of us.” When we are very far away, we cannot see things at all. If some one were holding out a book to you at a distance, you could not see the letters, you could not read them even though the print were pretty large. You would say, “It is too far off; I must have it nearer.” And when you get near to it, you can read, without difficulty, even the smallest print. When we are at sea, the land in the distance is seen very dimly. But for being told, we should not know it to be land at all. It is more like cloud. But as we come nearer we can distinguish mountains, and fields, and houses, and as we enter into the harbour we can see everything and everybody. Our being near enables us to see. You cannot distinguish people’s faces at a distance, you cannot tell what people are doing. But when you come near--when you are standing beside them--you see all. Now just so it is with God. He is near. He is “a God at hand.” He sees your thoughts. He sees your acts--every one of them. He sees every letter you write--every line you write. He can see everything about you, for He is near you wherever you are. Think what it would be if a person were constantly beside you, all through the night and day, never sleeping, his wakeful eye ever upon you. What a knowledge of you he would have! When travelling in the country, I saw a policeman and another man keeping very close together. They went into the railway carriage together and came out together. They sat together, they walked on the platform together. And then I noticed that the one was chained to the other. The handcuff round the wrist of each told how it was. The prisoner could do nothing which the policeman could not see. So it was with Paul when he was chained to the soldier during his imprisonment at Rome. What a knowledge of the great apostle that soldier must have had! So near--so constantly near you is God.

III. As He sees all, as we should with the microscope, so He hears all, as we should with the microphone or telephone--every sound we utter, every word we speak. I saw a very curious thing one day. An old lady whom I knew was very deaf. I could not make her hear a word. But when I was calling at her house, her daughter spoke to her, and though she did not hear a word, she was able to understand the movement of the lips so thoroughly that it was as if she had heard every word, which indeed she repeated exactly as it was spoken. In this way some people do not need to hear in order to know what is being said or done. But, as I have said, it is nearness that is the great help to hearing. People in church who cannot hear well, wish to get as near the pulpit as possible. Deaf people in a room bring their chair close to you, or draw you close to them, and so, if at all possible, they hear. If anything is certain, it is that God hears--hears every one--hears everything, for “He is not far from every one of us.” If you knew that some one whom you stand in awe of were near, would it not influence you in all that you said? I was one day travelling in a railway carriage, when the conversation of my fellow travellers turned on a particular friend of mine. Suddenly there was silence. One of the party had recognized me, and, with a look and a shrug, indicated that they had better take care what they said. How often that might be done in a different way! If I were at your elbow, might I not often gently whisper, “Hush! He is here!” Who? God. Or I might point upward--as much as to say, “He is listening!--take care what you say.”

IV. God able to help us. One reason why friends cannot help us, even when they would, is that they are too far away. This can never happen with God. He is always close at hand, always within reach. The doors of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh are never locked. Above the principal entrance there are two panels. On the one are inscribed the words, “I was sick and ye visited Me”: and on the other, “I was a stranger and ye took me in”; and between the panels is the crest of the infirmary, “Patet omnibus,” which may be rendered, “Open to all.” And at any hour, night or day, if any accident occurs, there is instant admittance. Might I not say, God’s door is never locked, and it is close to every one of us. At any hour of the day or of the night, He is near--able and willing to help. (J. H. Wilson, D. D.)

Sinners brought nigh by the blood of Christ

I. We were sometime far off. Distance = ignorance of God, and under His displeasure. What the peculiar nature of our erroneous path, our remote situation, was, is comparatively of little consequence. Some of us were lost in the cares of the world. Some were deluded by the deceitfulness of riches. The lust of other things held some captive. While others were intoxicated by pleasure, or enchanted by worldly science, or drawn away by the meaner things which attract the attention of sordid souls. It is enough, more than enough, that we were far from God. Let us now turn our attention to our present situations.

II. Now are we made nigh. These words convey to the mind ideas of Relationship, Friendship, Union, and Communion. Thus we are made nigh; and our text leads us, in the next place, to consider how this blessed, this important, change has been effected.

III. In Christ Jesus--by the blood of Christ.

1. In Christ Jesus. He is our Mediator--God with God; man with men (see 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 12:24). It is here the distant parties meet. Here the Gentile meets the Jew (verse 14). Here the returning sinner meets a gracious, a merciful, a forgiving God (Ephesians 1:6-7, and Ephesians 1:18). Here persons that were distant, that were hostile, meet, cordially unite, and perfectly agree (see Galatians 3:28-29; Colossians 3:11; John 10:16). Here even Saul of Tarsus meets the followers of Jesus of Nazareth on amicable terms. Here all real Christians of every sect and name meet; and here all men may know that they are disciples of Christ, because they love one another (John 13:35). Here, too, they all ascribe their salvation to Jesus, and glory in being “made nigh.”

2. By the blood of Christ. Under the old dispensation this blood was yearly typified by that of the paschal lamb (Exodus 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 5:7); daily by that of the sacrificial lamb (Exodus 29:38-39; John 1:29); and frequently by that of other sacrifices (Hebrews 9:1-28; Hebrews 10:1-39). Covenants were ratified by blood (Exodus 24:8; Hebrews 9:18-20); “and without shedding of blood is no remission (Hebrews 9:22). “We enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19). Almost every important circumstance connected with our salvation has reference to the blood of Christ. We are redeemed by His blood (chap. 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 5:9). Justified by His blood (Romans 5:9); washed, cleansed by His blood (1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5; Revelation 7:14); we conquer through His blood (Revelation 12:11); we are made nigh by His blood. (Theological Sketchbook.)

Brought nigh by Christ’s blood

I. What is meant by being “afar off.”

1. It intimates distance (Ephesians 4:14).

2. Being destitute of His image (Ephesians 4:22).

3. Under God’s revealed displeasure (Ephesians 1:1-3).

4. Unconnected with Christ.

II. What is meant by being “made nigh.” The renegade is reclaimed; the outlaw is captured; the rebel has Rounded his arms; the ferocious lion is now changed into a placid lamb; and the stoner is now reconciled to, and made one with, God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Hence, being “made nigh” signifies--

1. Relationship (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).

2. Union--the vine and its branches (John 15:5).

3. Unity or oneness (1 Corinthians 12:13).

4. Stones builded on Christ (Ephesians 2:22).

5. Friendship (John 15:15).

6. Communion (Romans 8:14).

III. The instrument of bringing us nigh: “his blood.” That which effects such wonderful achievements must itself be astonishingly magnificent. The effect is Godlike, and the cause is with God. To accomplish an union between two opposite and repulsive bodies is beyond the reach of philosophical ingenuity, with all its power. But this is done by--

1. God’s decree in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5).

2. In whom Jew and Gentile meet (Ephesians 2:14).

3. By Christ’s blood we are reconciled (Hebrews 9:28).

4. Thus we enter into the holiest (Hebrews 10:19).

5. Redeemed by His blood (Colossians 1:14).

6. Justified by His blood (Romans 5:9).

7. Washed by His blood (1 John 1:7).

8. We conquer through His blood (Revelation 12:11). (T. B. Baker.)

Made nigh in a new bond

The one gospel of God to the whole world, is that dark and distant spirits can not only be brought nigh, but “made nigh in the blood of Christ,” as grafts are not simply brought nigh, but “made nigh” to the tree from which they are to derive their life. The graft is “made nigh,” taken up into unity with the tree, by the life blood of the tree. Man is “made nigh,” taken up into unity with God, by receiving the life blood of Jesus into his spirit. As the sun gives out of himself to the earth, and thus brings the earth into fellowship with himself, so Christ gives out of Himself to the human soul and makes man one with God. (John Pulsford.)

Atonement in Christ’s blood

The Atonement is the great fact of the Bible, and Scripture and history alike bear witness to it.

1. The universal practice of sacrifice points to the atonement of Christ, and shows out the moral sentiments of the nations in the dark but distinct consciousness that expiation is necessary before the sinner can approach God.

2. The whole Jewish economy is based upon the principle of sacrifice, and is to be looked upon as a providential preparation for the gospel, in which the sacrifice of the Cross holds such a conspicuous place, and both Testaments unite in declaring that without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22; Exodus 24:8; Matthew 26:28). Hence the spirit of the Old Testament is realized in the New Testament Victim, offered up upon the cross for the sin of the world. Hence the blood of Christ is presented to our faith as the vindication of Jehovah’s love, and the refuge in which our souls may safely await the issues of eternity. (W. Graham, D. D.)

Need of the blood of Jesus

I once heard a very earnest minister say that he had been accosted by a man who had heard him preach, with this criticism: “I don’t like your theology at all--it’s too bloody. It savours so of the shambles, it’s all blood, blood, blood. I like a pleasanter gospel.” He replied to his objector: “My theology is bloody, I allow; it recognizes as its foundation a very sanguinary scene--the death of Christ, with bleeding hands and feet and side. And I am quite content that it should be bloody, for God hath said, ‘that without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.’” (C. D. Foss.)

Value of Christ’s brood

I dare assert, without fear of successful contradiction, that the inspired writers attribute all the blessings of salvation to the precious blood of Jesus Christ. If we have redemption, it is through His blood; if we are justified, it is by His blood; if washed from our moral stains, it is by His blood, which cleanseth us from all sin; if we have victory over “the last enemy,” we obtain it, not only by the word of the Divine testimony, but through the blood of the Lamb; and, if we gain admittance into heaven, it is because we have washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Everything depends on the blood of Christ, who paid it as the price of cur redemption to eternal life and glory. (Dr. R. Newton.)

Toplady, the writer of the hymn, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me,” was converted through hearing a working man preach in a barn from Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”


Verse 14

Ephesians 2:14

For He is our Peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition.

Christ our Peace

1. Christ Jesus is the author of all our peace.

2. There was a separation between Jew and Gentile, before they came to be in Christ.

3. The way to obtain peace is to take away that which bars it. To make two rooms into one, you must beat down the wall which forms the partition. (Paul Bayne.)

Peace from Christ alone

Christ is the author of all our peace; but He applies it successively by degrees. Like Master, like man; like Prince, like people. Christ for a while endured great troubles, and so must His members.

1. In all terror of conscience we must look to Christ. We keep the fire from our faces and eyes with screens; but they are wise who put between their souls and God’s wrath the screen of Christ’s reconciliation, lest this fire burn to the pit of destruction. This stills the conscience, and fills it with good hope.

2. This must make us cleave unto Christ, even to let our tenderest bowels love Him who has done this for us.

3. Seeing Christ alone is the author of all true peace, this should cause us to seek to be under His kingdom, yea, to give our eyelids no rest till we have enlisted in the army of Christ. Look how you would do, if the enemy had entered your gates, taken your wives and children, spoiled you of your goods. If there were a town near you, where you might prevent such danger, and find safe protection, and live peaceably and securely, who would not with all expedition betake himself thither?

4. Seek to be, like Christ, a peace maker.

5. How miserable the condition of all out of Christ. (Paul Bayne.)

Christ the Peace of His people

I. The substitution.

1. This substitution of Christ in behalf of His mystical body is primary, original. It runs as far back as the council of peace. He became our Peace then, when He entered into the covenant of peace, met the stipulation for peace, undertook to satisfy all the demands of law and justice for peace, and pledged Himself to be that peace.

2. It is permanent--it runs through every dispensation of the Church of the living God. There was not one sort of gospel to preach to Abraham, and another to preach to the present race of sinners. The doctrine of substitution runs through the whole of the Mosaic economy, and hence it is permanent, and comes down to the present moment of the existence of the Church upon earth.

II. The union. The smallest finger in my hand can move, can grasp, can unite with the other, in any effort that is put forth, because it is one with the hand, one with the body, and derives its life and strength and blood from thence; but sever my little finger from my hand, and it has no more strength--it is utterly useless. “Apart from Me,” says Christ, “ye can do nothing.” But in vital union with Jesus, the strength which is His flows to the feeblest and weakest member, and is put forth in the mighty actings of faith, and the holy energies of the new man. Moreover, this union is so experimental as always to produce communion. It is close, it is grasping, it is uniting, it is abiding, it is mutual in interest. Moreover, it is evident and manifest, because the world must see that the union which grace has effected between our souls and Christ, has cut asunder the tie which once existed between us and them, has cut asunder the union which made us once very fond of their fooleries.

III. The participation. His justice is perfectly satisfied on my behalf, that I may look upon the bleeding Christ, the rising Christ, the exalted Christ, and the interceding Christ, and say with Paul, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” What serenity! A satisfactory, solid, sacred, holy, serenity of soul; a heavenly calm, a believing acquiescence in the love, and power, and grace, and goodness, of my God, not only in matters relating to Providence around me, but in matters relating to my soul’s everlasting salvation. (J. Irons.)

The Prince of Peace

I. He is “our Peace,” in that He makes peace. Peace between God and man--“reconciling both (Jew and Gentile) unto God--by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Ephesians 2:16).

II. He is “our Peace,” in that He gives peace. “My peace I give unto you--let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:27). Or, as it is put here, “came and preached peace to you who were afar off” (Ephesians 2:17).

III. He is “our Peace,” in that He promotes peace. “Who hath made both (Jews and Gentiles) one” (Ephesians 2:14). This is ever the practical outcome of the rule of “The Prince of Peace.” He promotes peace.

1. In the family, subduing the elements of strife and discord.

2. In the neighbourhood, as every successful missionary at home and abroad can testify.

3. In the Church.

4. Among nations.

Note: These senses in which Christ is “our Peace” are progressive. He has made peace for us, for all men, by His atoning work. He may be our peace, speaking peace within, quieting the tumult of doubt and fear (Matthew 11:28-30). And, if we are His, He will promote peace through, and by means of us in every circle in which we move and in every place in which we have influence. (Joseph Ogle.)

Peace already made

When a poor bricklayer who had fallen from a great height was lying fatally injured he was visited by a minister in the neighbourhood. On entering the cottage he said, “My dear man, I am afraid you are dying. I exhort you to make your peace with God.” “Make my peace with God, sir! Why, that was made eighteen hundred years ago, when my great and glorious Lord paid all my debt upon the cruel tree. Christ is my Peace, and I am saved.”

Peace and comfort through the Atonement

There is no chance whatever of our finding a pillow for a head which the Holy Ghost has made to ache save in the atonement and the finished work of Christ. When Mr. Robert Hall first went to Cambridge to preach, the Cambridge folks were nearly Unitarians. So he preached upon the doctrine of the finished work of Christ, and some of them came to him in the vestry and said, “Mr. Hall, this will never do.” “Why not?” said he. “Why, your sermon was only fit for old women.” “And why only fit for old women?” said Mr. Hall. “Because,” said they, “they are tottering on the borders of the grave, and they want comfort, and, therefore, it will suit them, but it will not do for us.” “Very well,” said Mr. Hall, “you have unconsciously paid me all the compliment that I can ask for; if this is good for old women on the, borders of the grave, it must be good for you if you are in your right senses, for the borders of the grave is where we all stand.” Here, indeed, is a choice feature of the Atonement, it is comforting to us in the thought of death. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Peace in Jesus only

As the needle in a compass trembles till it settles in the north point, so the heart of a sinner can get no rest but in Christ.

Peace through Christ

In the Pitti Palace, at Florence, there are two pictures which hang side by side. One represents a stormy sea with its wild waves, and black clouds and fierce lightnings flashing across the sky. In the waters a human face is seen, wearing an expression of the utmost agony and despair. The other picture also represents a sea, tossed by as fierce a storm, with as dark clouds; but out of the midst of the waves a rock rises, against which the waters dash in vain. In a cleft of a rock are some tufts of grass and green herbage, with sweet flowers, and amid these a dove is seen sitting on her nest, quiet and undisturbed by the wild fury of the storm. The first picture fitly represents the sorrow of the world when all is helpless and despairing; and the other, the sorrow of the Christian, no less severe,. but in which he is kept in perfect peace, because he nestles in the bosom of God’s unchanging love. (American.)

The partition wall removed

1. Every man by nature, in himself, and without Christ, is at war and enmity with God, with His Church, and chiefly those in the Church who are truly regenerate.

2. This enmity could only be removed by Christ’s bloodshed and death.

3. The uniting of both Jew and Gentile in one Church is a branch of the peace which Christ has purchased.

4. From the apostle’s designing the ceremonial law by a metaphor taken from houses divided by a mid-wall, or from an orchard, garden, or inclosure, separated from the outfield by a dyke or wall of rough stones, we learn several things relating to the nature, use, and duration of the ceremonial law, which are the grounds of the similitude. And first, as a wall is built by the owner of the enclosure, so the ceremonial law was by God’s own appointment (Deuteronomy 32:8; Exodus 25:40). Secondly, as a rough wall is made up of so many hard, unpolished stones, not covered over with lime or plaster; so the ceremonial law consisted of many ordinances (Hebrews 9:10), and those very difficult to be obeyed, and an intolerable yoke (Acts 15:10). Thirdly, as a wall or hedge encloseth a piece of ground for the owner’s special use (which therefore is more painfully manured), and separateth that enclosure from the outfield which lieth about it; so the ceremonial law did serve to enclose the people of Israel, as the Lord’s own garden and vineyard, for bringing forth fruit unto Himself (Isaiah 5:7), and to separate them from all the world besides (Deuteronomy 4:7-8), as being a worship wholly different from and contrary unto the superstitious rites and worship used among the Gentiles (Deuteronomy 12:2), and containing strict injunctions unto the Jews to avoid all conformity with the Gentiles in their garments (Numbers 15:38), cutting of their hair (Leviticus 19:27), and such like. Fourthly, as a rough wall is but weak and ruinous, as not being built with cement or mortar to make it strong, and therefore but to endure for a season, until the owner think fit to enlarge his enclosure and take in more of the open field; so the ceremonial law was not to last forever, but only for a time, until Christ should come in the flesh, and take in the Gentiles within the enclosure of His Church, who were before an open field, not possessed nor manured by Him; after which there was no further use of the mid-wall.

5. So long as the ceremonial law did stand in force and vigour, the Jews and Gentiles could not be united into one Church: for seeing by that law the chief parts of God’s worship were restricted to the Temple at Jerusalem; therefore, though scattered proselytes of the neighbouring nations did join themselves to the Church of the Jews, and in some measure observed the way of worship then enjoined (Acts 8:27), yet there was a physical impossibility for the generality of many nations far remote from Jerusalem to have served God according to the prescript of worship which then was: besides, there was such an habituate and as it were a natural antipathy transmitted from one generation unto another among the Gentiles against the ceremonial worship, that there was little less than a moral impossibility of bringing up the body of the Gentiles unto a cordial joining with the Jews in it: for the apostle showeth the ceremonial law behoved to be abrogated, in order to a union betwixt these two, while he saith, “Who hath made both one, and broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”

6. Whoever would make peace betwixt God and himself, or betwixt himself and others, he ought seriously to think upon those things which stand in the way of peace, and set about the removal of them, if it be in his power, and chiefly those evils in himself, of pride, vain-glory, self-seeking, and a contentious disposition, which are great obstructions in the way of peace (Philippians 2:3-4); else, whatever, be his pretenses for peace, he is no real follower of it: for, Christ intending to make peace betwixt Jew and Gentile, did take away whatever might have impeded it; He even “broke down the middle wall of partition between them.” (James Fergusson.)

Reconciliation through Christ

Themistocles having offended King Philip, and not knowing how to regain his favour, took his young son, Alexander, in his arms, and so presented himself before the king; and when he saw the boy smile on him, it very soon appeased the wrath within him. So the sinner should approach God with His Son Jesus Christ within him.

The need of reconciliation

Certainly a soul, sensible as to what the loss of communion with God is, counts it hath not fulfilled all its errand, when it hath bare peace given it. Should God say, “Soul, I am friends with thee, I have ordered that thou shalt never go to hell, here is a discharge under My hand that thou shalt never be arrested for any debt more: but as for any fellowship with Me, thou canst expect none: I have done with thee forever, never to be acquainted with thee more.” Certainly the soul would find little joy with such peace. Were the fire out as to positive torments, yet a hell would be left in the dismal darkness which the soul would sit under for want of God’s presence. A wicked heart seeks reconciliation without any longing after fellowship with God. Like the traitor, if the king will but pardon and save him from the gallows, he is ready to promise him never to trouble him at Court; ‘tis his own life, not the king’s favour, he desires. (W. Gurnall.)


Verses 14-18

Verse 15

Ephesians 2:15

Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man.

Christ abolishing the enmity

In this difficult passage it will be well first to examine the particular expressions.

1. The word rendered “to abolish” is the word often used by St. Paul for “to supersede by something better than itself”--translated “to make void,” in Romans 3:31; to “bring to nought,” in 1 Corinthians 1:28, and (in the passive) “to fail, to vanish away,” to be done away,” in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. Now, of the relation of Christ to the Law, St. Paul says, in Romans 3:31, “Do we make void the Law? God forbid! Yea, we establish the Law.” The Law, therefore, is abolished as a law “in ordinances”--that is, “in the letter”--and is established in the spirit.

2. “The law of commandments in ordinances.” The word here rendered “ordinance” (dogma)
properly means “a decree.” It is used only in this sense in the New Testament (see Luke 2:1; Acts 16:4; Acts 17:7; Hebrews 11:23); and it signifies expressly a law imposed and accepted, not for its intrinsic righteousness, but on authority; or, as Butler expresses it (Anal., Part 2, chap. 1)
, not a “moral,” but “a positive law.” In
Colossians 2:14 (the parallel passage) the word is connected with a “handwriting,” that is, a legal “bond”; and the Colossians are reproved for subjecting themselves to “ordinances, which are but a shadow of things to come”; while “the body,” the true substance, “is Christ” (see verses 16, 17, 20, 21).

3. Hence the whole expression describes explicitly what St. Paul always implies in his proper and distinctive use of the word “law.” It signifies the will of God, as expressed in formal commandments, and enforced by penalties on disobedience. The general idea, therefore, of the passage is simply that which is so often brought out in the earlier Epistles (see Romans 3:21-31; Romans 7:1-4; Romans 8:1-4; Galatians 2:15-21, et al.), but which (as the Colossian Epistle more plainly shows) now needed to be enforced under a somewhat different form--viz., that Christ, “the end of the law,” had superseded it by the free covenant of the Spirit; and that He has done this for us “in His flesh,” especially by His death and resurrection.

4. But in what sense is thin Law called “the enmity,” which (see verse 16) was “slain” on the cross? Probably in the double sense, which runs through the passage: first, as “an enmity,” a cause of separation and hostility, between the Gentiles and those Jews whom they called “the enemies of the human race”; next, as “an enmity,” a cause of alienation and condemnation, between man and God--“the commandment which was ordained to life, being found to be unto death” through the rebellion and sin of man. The former sense seems to be the leading sense here, where the idea is of “making both one”; the latter in the next verse, which speaks of “reconciling both to God,” all the partitions are broken down, that all alike may have “access to the Father.” Compare Colossians 1:21, “You, who were enemies in your mind, He hath reconciled”; and Hebrews 10:19, “Having confidence to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated to us, through the veil, that is to say His flesh.” (A. Barry, D. D.)

Abolition of the ceremonial, but not of the moral, law

1. As God’s people, in covenant with Him, ought to be highly incensed against and averse from any voluntary entire fellowship with those who neglect and contemn the ordinances of worship prescribed by God in His Word; so those who are without the Church, yea, and all unregenerate men, do look upon the ordinances of God’s worship as base, ridiculous, and contemptible, and carry a kind of hatred and disdain to all such as make conscience of them: for so the ancient worship, prescribed in the ceremonial law, was the occasion of hatred and enmity betwixt the Gentile, who contemned it, and the Jew, who made conscience of it. And, therefore, is here called the “enmity”; “having abolished the enmity.”

2. As the moral law, contained in the Ten Commandments, was no part of that mid-wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, seeing some of the drafts and lineaments of that law are upon the hearts of all by nature (Romans 2:15); so there was no necessity to abrogate this law at Christ’s death, in order to the uniting of Jew and Gentile, neither was it at all abolished; for the law abolished was the law, not simply, but “the law of commandments,” and these not all, but such commandments as were “contained in ordinances,” to wit, the ceremonial law; “even the law of commandments contained in ordinances,” saith he.

3. As God only hath power and liberty to prescribe what manner of worship He will be served by, so He did once give a most observable evidence of this His power and liberty, by changing that external way of worship which was prescribed by Himself, under the Old Testament, unto another under the New; although the internals of His worship, to wit, the graces of faith, love, hope, joy in God, do remain the same in both (Matthew 22:37; Matthew 22:39); for He “did abolish the law of commandments contained in ordinances,” even all the ancient worship consisting in rites and ceremonies, sensibly and fleshly observations, which God did then prescribe, not as simply delighted in them, but as accommodating Himself to the childish condition of the Church in those times; and hath now appointed a more spiritual way of worship, as more suitable to the grown age of the Church (John 4:21; John 4:23).

4. It was Christ’s sufferings and death which put an end to the law of ceremonies, and made the binding power thereof to cease; for seeing His sufferings were the body and substance of all those shadows, they neither did nor could evanish until Christ had suffered, but then they did; it being impossible that a shadow, and the body, whereof it is a shadow, can consist in one and the same place; “Having abolished in His flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances.” (James Fergusson.)

One new man in Christ

In this clause and the following verse the two senses, hitherto united, are now distinguished from each other. Here we have the former sense simply. In the new man “there is neither Jew nor Gentile,” but “Christ is all and in all” Colossians 3:12). This phrase, “the new man” (on which see Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 2:10), is peculiar to these Epistles; corresponding, however, to the “new creature” of 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; and the “newness of life” and “spirit” of Romans 6:4; Romans 7:6. Christ Himself is the “second man, the Lord from Heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47). “As we have borne the image of the first man, of the earth, earthy,” and so “in Adam die,” we now “bear the image of the heavenly,” and not only “shall be made alive,” but already “have our life hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). He is at once “the seed of the woman” and the “seed of Abraham”; in Him, therefore, Jew and Gentile meet in a common humanity. Just in proportion to spirituality or newness of life is the sense of unity, which makes all brethren. Hence the new creation “makes peace”--here probably peace between Jew and Gentile, rather than peace with God, which belongs to the next verse. (A. Barry, D. D.)

Union in the Church

1. Union in the Church of Christ is a thing which ought to be prized by us highly, and sought after earnestly; and so much, as there is nothing in our power which we ought not to bestow upon it, and dispense with for the acquiring and maintaining of it; for so much was it prized by Christ, that He gave His own life to procure it, and did beat down all His own ordinances which stood in the way of it; “He even abolished in His flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances, for to make of twain one new man.”

2. There are no divisions more hardly curable, than those which are about the religion and worship of God, in so far as they engage not only the credit, but also the consciences of the divided parties; hence one party, so engaged, doth pursue what they maintain, as that wherein God’s honour and their own salvation are most nearly concerned, and doth look upon the other party as an adversary, in so far at least, to both of those; for the apostle, speaking of Christ’s uniting the Jew and Gentile in one Church and religion, maketh use of a word which showeth this was a task of no small difficulty, even such, that no less than creating power was required to it, while He saith, “for to make in Himself (the word signifieth ‘to create in Himself’) of twain one new man.”

3. So strict and near is that conjunction and union which is especially among true believers in the Church, that all of them, how far soever dispersed through the world, do yet make up but one man and one body; as being all, whatever be their other differences, most strictly united, as members under one head, Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), and animated, as to the inward man, by the same Spirit of God residing and acting in them (Romans 8:9); for the apostle showeth that all of them, whether Jew or Gentile, were made, not only one people, one nation, one family, but one new man; “For to make of twain one new man.”

4. As the essential unity of the invisible Church, without which the Church could not be a Church, doth of necessity depend upon and flow from that union which every particular member hath with Christ, as head, seeing the grace of love (whereby they are knit one to another (Colossians 3:14) doth flow from faith (Galatians 5:6), whereby they are united to Him (Ephesians 3:17), so the more our union with Christ is improved unto the keeping of constant communion and fellowship with Him, the more will be attained unto of harmonious walking among ourselves, suitable unto that essential union which is in the Church of Christ; for the apostle maketh the conjunction of Jews and Gentiles in one Church to depend upon Christ’s uniting of them to Himself; “For to make in Himself of twain one new man,” saith He.

5. The peace which ought to be, and which Christ calleth for in His Church, is not a simple cessation from open strife, which may take place even when there remaineth a root of bitterness in people’s spirit (Psalms 55:21); but it is such an harmonious walking together in all things as floweth from the nearest conjunction of hearts, and the total removal of all former bitterness of spirits; for the peace which Christ did make betwixt Jew and Gentile did follow upon His abolishing the enmity, and making them one man; “so making peace,” saith he. (James Fergusson.)

The use of the law

The wife of a drunkard once found her husband in a filthy condition, with torn clothes, matted hair, bruised face, asleep in the kitchen, having come home from a drunken revel. She sent for a photographer, and had a portrait of him taken in all his wretched appearance, and placed it on the mantel beside another portrait taken at the time of his marriage, which showed him handsome and well dressed, as he had been in other days. When he became sober he saw the two pictures, and awakened to a consciousness of his condition, from which he arose to a better life. Now, the office of the law is not to save men, but to show them their true state as compared with the Divine standard. It is like a glass, in which one sooth “what manner of man he is.”


Verse 16

Ephesians 2:16

And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby.

Reconciliation

1. Our reconciliation itself.

2. The order of it.

3. To whom.

4. The cause.

I. By nature we are at enmity with God.

1. Note and bewail thy natural condition.

2. To become God’s friend, become a new creature.

II. In Christ is reconciliation made.

1. The removal of that which was hateful.

2. The love of God is procured.

3. The fruits of His love are communicated.

III. We must be incorporated with Christ before we can be reconciled to God. This incorporation is in the Church, which is Christ’s body. Let us take care that we have it.

IV. Christ, by offering himself upon the cross, has made peace between God and us.

1. We see what we must look to, if the wrath of God stings us. Christ crucified is the propitiatory sacrifice.

2. It confirms our faith, that the Lord Jesus will bring us to glory (Romans 5:10).

3. A ground of exhortation to all, that they seek to be reconciled. We make the blood of Christ a vain thing, when we will not be reconciled to God. It is as if a traitor, in prison for treason, should still plot and practise more villainy; and when the prince has procured his pardon, should still conspire, and not listen to the benefit, nor set his heart to return into the king’s favour. (Paul Bayne.)

The power of the gospel to dissolve the enmity of the human heart against God

Let us consider from this text, how it is that the gospel of Jesus Christ suits its application to the great moral disease of man’s enmity to God. The necessity of some singular expedient for restoring the love of God to the alienated heart of man, will appear from the utter impossibility of bringing this about by any direct application of authority whatever. For, do you think, that the delivery of the law of love in his hearing, as a positive and indispensable enactment coming forth from the legislature of heaven, will do it? You may as well pass a law making it imperative upon him to delight in pain, and to feel comfort on a bed of torture. Or, do you think, that you will ever give a practical establishment to the law of love, by surrounding it with accumulated penalties? This may irritate or it may terrify; but for the purpose of begetting anything like attachment, one may as well think of lashing another into tender regard for him. Or, do you think, that the terrors of the coming vengeance will ever incline a human being to love the God who threatens him? Powerful as these terrors are in persuading man to turn from the evil of his ways; they most assuredly do not form the artillery by which the heart of man can be carried. They draw not forth a single affection, but the affection of fear. They never can charm the human bosom into a feeling of attachment to God. And it goes to prove the necessity of some singular expedient for restoring man to fellowship with his Maker, that the only obedience on which this fellowship can be perpetuated, is an obedience which no threatenings can force; to which no warnings of displeasure can reclaim; which all the solemn proclamations of law and justice cannot carry; and all the terrors and severities of a sovereignty resting on power as its only foundation can never subdue. This, then, is a case of difficulty; and, in the Bible, God is said to have lavished all the riches of His unsearchable wisdom on the business of managing it. No wonder that to His angels it appeared a mystery, and that they desired to look into it. It appears a matter of direct and obvious facility to intimidate man; and to bring his body into a forced subordination to all their requirements. But the great matter was how to attach man; how to work in him a liking to God and a relish for His character; or, in other words, how to communicate to human obedience that principle, without which it is no obedience at all; to make him serve God because he loved Him; and to run in the way of all His commandments, because this was the thing in which he greatly delighted himself. To lay upon us the demand of satisfaction for His violated law could not do it. To press home the claims of justice upon any sense of authority within us could not do it. To bring forward, in threatening array, the terrors of His judgment and of His power against us could not do it. To unveil the glories of that throne where He sitteth in equity, and manifest to His guilty creatures the awful inflexibilities of His truth and righteousness, could not do it. To look out from the cloud of vengeance, and trouble our darkened souls as He did those of the Egyptians of old, with the aspect of a menacing Deity, could not do it. To spread the field of an undone eternity before us; and tell us of those dreary abodes where each criminal hath his bed in hell, and the centuries of despair which pass over him are not counted, because there no seasons roll, and the unhappy victims of the tribulation, and the wrath, and the anguish, know, that for the mighty burden of the sufferings which weigh upon them, there is no end and no mitigation; this prospect, appalling as it is, and coming home upon the belief, with all the characters of the most immutable certainty, could not do it. The affections of the inner man remain as unmoved as ever, under the successive and repeated influence of all these dreadful applications. How, then, is this regeneration to be wrought, if no threatenings can work it; if no terrors of judgment can soften the heart into that love of God which forms the chief feature of repentance; if all the direct applications of law and of righteous authority, and of its tremendous and immutable sanctions, so far from attaching man in tenderness to his God, have only the effect of impressing a violent recoil upon all his affections, and, by the hardening influence of despair, of stirring up in his bosom a more violent antipathy than ever? Will the high and solemn proclamations of a menacing Deity not do it? This is not the way in which the heart of man can be carried. He is so constituted, that the law of love can never, never be established within him by the engine of terror; and here is the barrier to this regeneration on the part of man. But if a threat of justice cannot do it, will an act of forgiveness do it? This, again, is not the way in which God can admit the guilty to acceptance. He is so constituted, that His truth cannot be trampled upon; and His government cannot be despoiled of its authority: and its sanctions cannot, with impunity, be defied; and every solemn utterance of the Deity cannot but find its accomplishment in such a way as may vindicate His glory, and make the whole creation He has formed stand in awe of its Almighty Sovereign. And here is another barrier on the part of God; and that economy of redemption in which a dead and undiscerning world see no skilfulness to admire, and no feature of graciousness to allure, was so planned, in the upper counsels of heaven, that it maketh known to principalities and powers the manifold wisdom of Him who devised it. The men of this infidel generation, whose every faculty is so bedimmed by the grossness of sense, that they cannot lay hold of the realities of faith and cannot appreciate them; to them the barriers we have now insisted on, which lie in the way of man taking God into his love, and of God taking man into His acceptance, may appear to be so many faint and shadowy considerations, of which they feel not the significancy; but, to the pure and intellectual eye of angels, they are substantial obstacles, and One mighty to save had to travail in the greatness of His strength, in order to move them away. The Son of God descended from heaven, and He took upon Him the nature of man, and He suffered in his stead, and He consented that the whole burden of offended justice should fall upon Him, and He bore in His own body on the tree the weight of all those accomplishments by which His Father behoved to be glorified; and after having magnified the law and made it honourable, by pouring out His soul unto the death for us, He went up on high, and, by an arm of everlasting strength, levelled that wall of partition which lay across the path of acceptance; and thus it is, that the barrier on the part of God is done away, and He, with untarnished glory, can dispense forgiveness over the whole extent of a guilty creation, because He can be just, while He is the justifier of them who believe in Jesus. And if the barrier, on the part of God, is thus moved aside, why not the barrier on the part of man? Does not the wisdom of redemption show itself here also? Does it not embrace some skilful contrivance by which it penetrates those mounds that beset the human heart, and ward the entrance of the principle of love away from it, and which all the direct applications of terror and authority, have only the effect of fixing more immovably upon their basis? Yes, it does; for it changes the aspect of the Deity towards man; and were men only to have faith in the announcements of the gospel, so as to see God with the eye of his mind under this new aspect--love to God would spring up in his heart as the unfailing consequence. Let man see God as He sets Himself forth in this wonderful revelation, and let him believe the reality of what he sees, and he cannot but love the Being he is employed in contemplating. And thus it is, that the goodness of God destroyeth the enmity of the human heart. When every other argument fails, this, if perceived by the eye of faith, finds its powerful and persuasive way through every barrier of resistance. Try to approach the heart of man by the instruments of terror and of authority, and it will disdainfully repel you. There is not one of you, skilled in the management of human nature, who does not perceive, that though this may be a way of working on the other principles of our constitution--of working on the fears of man, or on his sense of interest, this is not the way of gaining by a single hairbreadth on the attachments of his heart. Such a way may force, or it may terrify, but it never can endear; and after all the threatening array of such an influence as this is brought to bear upon man, there is not one particle of service it can extort from him, but what is all rendered in the spirit of a painful and reluctant bondage. Now, this is not the service which prepares for heaven. This is not the service which assimilates men to angels. This is not the obedience of those glorified spirits, whose every affection harmonizes with their every performance; and the very essence of whose piety consists of delight in God, and the love they bear to Him. To bring up man to such an obedience as this, his heart behoved to be approached in a peculiar way; and no such way is to be found, but within the limits of the Christian revelation. There alone you see God, without injury to His other attributes, plying the heart of man with the irresistible argument of kindness. There alone do you see the great Lord of heaven and of earth, setting Himself forth to the most worthless and the most wandering of His children; putting forth His own hand to the work of healing the breach which sin hath made between them; telling him that His word could not be set aside, and His threatenings could not be mocked, and His justice could not be defied and trampled on, and that it was not possible for His perfections to receive the slightest taint in the eyes of the creation He had thrown around Him; but that all this was provided for, and not a single creature within the compass of the universe He had formed could now say, that forgiveness to man was degrading to the authority of God; and that by the very act of atonement, which poured a glory over all the high attributes of His character, His mercy might now burst forth without limit and without control upon a guilty world, and the broad flag of invitation be unfurled in the sight of all its families. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

Reconciliation through the Cross

I do not know whether there is any truth in the statement of a correspondent that whatever part of the earth the lightning once strikes it never strikes again, but whether it be so or not, it is certain that wherever the lightning of God’s vengeance has once struck the sinner’s substitute it will not strike the sinner. The best preservative for the Israelite’s house was this--vengeance had struck there and could not strike again. There was the insurance mark, the blood streak. Death had been there, it had fallen upon a victim of God’s own appointment, and in His esteem it had fallen upon Christ, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Peace at the Cross

When the Mohawk Indians desired to be on friendly terms with the white man once again, they sought an interview with the Governor of New York, and their spokesman began by saying, “Where shall I seek the chair of peace? Where shall I find it but upon our path? and whither does our path lead us but unto this house?” Is it not so that men come into the sanctuary and approach the throne of grace, desiring peace, asking peace, and feeling that peace is to be found nowhere else but there?

Christ’s Cross

Krummacher describes the mysterious Cross as a rock, against which the very waves of the curse break: as a lightning conductor, by which the destroying, fluid descends, which would have otherwise destroyed the world with its fire. And Jesus, who mercifully engaged to direct the thunderbolt against Himself, does so while hanging yonder in profound darkness upon the Cross. There He is, as the connecting link between heaven and earth; His bleeding arms extending wide, stretched out to every sinner: hands pointed to the east and west, indicating the gathering in of the world of man to His fold. The Cross is directed to the sky, as the place of His final triumph of the work in redemption; and its foot fixed in the earth like a tree, from whose wondrous branches we gather the precious fruit of an eternal reconciliation to God and the Father. (Caughey.)


Verse 17

Ephesians 2:17

And came and preached peace to you which were afar off.

Christ preaching peace

This refers not merely to the time Christ lived as a Man upon earth, but also to His preaching through the Spirit in all after ages.

1. Christ is so absent from us, that He has not quite forsaken us. Whenever His Word is effectual, that is the entrance of Christ into the heart.

2. What Christ purchased for us on the Cross, He applies to us by the ministry of the Word. To enjoy Christ, make much of the gospel, which is news from heaven touching righteousness and life eternal.

3. Christ is present, and has a part in preaching even when men preach.

4. Christ preaches to all, whether Jew or Gentile, to the end of the world.

5. After the death of Christ all are preached to.

6. The gospel of Christ, which He and His ministers preach, is a gospel of peace. (Paul Bayne.)

Peace with God

When after His death on the Cross, by which He made peace between God and man, and prepared the way for peace between man and God and man and man, did our blessed Saviour come and preach peace? He came by His Holy Spirit as on the day of Pentecost. So that we have within the limits of this text, with the light shed on it by the immediate context--

I. Christ the procurer of peace with the Father. “He is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14).

1. By the removal of hindrances to our salvation. His atonement breaks down the middle wall of partition between God and man, and thus also between Jew and Gentile. Christ’s reconciliation is a scriptural fact.

2. By the removal of the enmity of the carnal mind if God is reconciled to man, man must be reconciled to God. The love of Christ effects this.

3. By the substitution of a new law for “the law of commandments in ordinances.” This new law is the all-inclusive law of love.

II. The Spirit the preacher of peace with God.

1. By His own immediate action on the soul of the child and of the man.

2. By His mediate action through the truths of the gospel. “We are witnesses of these things, and so also is the Holy Ghost.”

III. Man--whether jew or gentile--the obtainer of peace with God. “We both have our access,” etc.

1. By personal trust in the merits of Christ.

2. By daily approach through Christ by one Spirit. This describes the method of prayer. (Clerical World.)

The Great Preacher

The peculiar force of this reference to the preaching of peace will be perceived as we mark who the Preacher was. The Preacher to whom Paul in these words referred was God.

I. First of all, let us notice how the purpose of the message of the Great Preacher is here put--He “preached peace.” The purpose of it was then what it is now, and will continue to be as long as there are ambassadors for Christ in the world. That peace which is the great need of earth is the actual possession of heaven. Yonder in the realms of bliss and order and perfection, there is, even amidst ceaseless activity, serene unbroken peace--the peace of those who have found their true centre and move in their proper orbits. It is what rests upon everlasting foundations. It stands out in contrast to all counterfeit appearances that raise men with bright expectations for a while, and then leave them in the end blasted with disappointment--as we are told was the experience of a great man, a German poet, who lived some years ago to old age, laden with honours and earthly blessings that rarely fall to the lot of men, but who confessed that, looking back on his past life, he could not remember a day in which he had found real happiness or true peace. That a mind wondrously gifted with the power of rising to some of the loftiest conceptions of what is noble and divine, should have been compelled at last to utter this terrible confession, is indeed striking evidence of the need of a Divine provision for man’s peace.

II. Observe, in the second place, where lay the special force and efficacy of the Preacher’s message; it was in this--that He Himself embodied His own message. His own Person and work were its theme. This gave it a reality and power which characterise the preaching of no other messenger ever heard on earth. “He came and preached.” And from whence, over what vast distance did He come? If a narrative of travel from one who has explored an unknown country brings before you the scenes through which he has passed with a vivid effect which it is impossible for any other person to convey, how much more should the testimony of one who has come from another world arrest your attention, and be in awful power and import (as the words of Jesus were) unparalleled and alone. He preached peace because He was--as He is--“our peace.” The angels at His birth had so proclaimed Him in their song. But let us notice a little more closely that Jesus embodied His own message by being Himself “our peace” with God. Not only was He God’s peace with us, but from what He is, and by what He did for us, there is exactly that which can make the peace already on God’s side available to us.

III. This brings us to notice, in the third place, the prominence here given to preaching, as the channel through which God’s peace reaches us. The Saviour has not deemed it enough for Him to do His work, and then allow it to speak for itself, and appeal in silence to the consciences of men. No. He accompanies His work with words--with a message designed to bring out His work in all His bearings; to interpret the signs, and trace the issues of it; to unfold its preciousness, and make unceasing application of it to the heart, according to the daily wants, and the endless variety of the different circumstances of man’s lot. Preaching, therefore, is the necessary accompaniment of God’s work. “He came and preached peace.”

IV. The urgent need of those to whom the message was addressed--“to you which were afar off,” “and to them that were nigh.”

1. “To you which were afar off.” And “afar off” indeed were these Ephesians when the message reached them, even in such hopeless estrangements from God, as described in verses 11 and 12. The change was something much more than a social transformation, a mere improvement in outward aspect and manners. Even their escape from all the fascinations and enchantments of idol worship at Ephesus would have availed them nothing had they not also been brought “nigh” to God “by the blood of Christ.” To them the vastness of the change was m a changed eternity--a glorious futurity “as fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God.” It was marked at the same time by such a change of heart as had turned their desires toward Him who had come near to save, and had set their affections and hopes on things above. But not merely to heathen converts do these words apply. To converted souls in every age--to you, believing Christians, this message comes with the same force now as it conveyed in the days of Paul.

2. It was preached also “to them that were nigh”--to Israel whom the ancient psalm called “a people near unto Him.” So nigh in virtue of external privilege, that., to them belonged “the adoption” and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of’ God, and the promises, whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever.” And yet when He came, where were they? He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. He was “near in their mouth, but far from their reins.”

3. Preached “to them that were nigh,” the message must have included the true Israel of God, who were “nigh” in the real and vital sense of the term. Is it then to be preached still to those who are now at peace with God? Is there any point in their journey at which they can afford to let this part of the gospel drop in order to “go on unto perfection” through other truths, or by the use, it may be, of other means than those of the gospel? Never with safety or continued health to their own souls. Never, but by some subtle wile of the enemy, who, as an angel of light, would seduce them from the continuance of their faith in this one secret of their true peace in which their great strength lies. (R. S. Muir.)

Mercy waiting for applicants

Abraham Lincoln’s doorkeeper had standing orders from him, that no matter how great might be the throng, if either senators or representatives had to wait, or to be turned away without an audience, he must see, before the day closed, every messenger who came to him with a petition for the saving of life. (Littles Historical Lights.)

The gospel preached

A band of missionaries and native teachers spent a night on Darnley Island, when a project was formed to establish a mission on Murray Island. Some of the natives of this island seemed specially intent on intimidating the teachers, and convincing them that a mission there was perfectly hopeless. “There are alligators there,” said they, “and snakes and centipedes.” “Hold!” said Tepeso, one of the teachers, “are there men there?” “Oh yes,” was the reply, “there are men, but they are such dreadful savages that it is no use your thinking of living among them.” “That will do,” responded Tepeso. “Wherever there are men missionaries are bound to go.” (W. Baxendale.)

Peace through Christ

In the reign of Henry VIII there was a young student at Cambridge, named Bilney. He became deeply anxious about his soul. The priests prescribed fast, penance, and other observances, but he grew worse and worse. He ultimately became possessed of a copy of the New Testament, and shut himself up in his room to study it. As he read the book he came to the words, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” He laid down the book, to think on what he had read. He thus states the result:--This one sentence, through God’s inward teaching, did so rejoice my heart, being before almost in despair, that I soon found peace. “Jesus Christ saves!” he cried; “yes, Jesus Christ saves!” From that time he became a preacher of those “glad tidings,” and at last he suffered martyrdom.

True peace only in Christ

Your peace, sinner, is that terribly prophetic calm which the traveller occasionally perceives upon the higher Alps. Everything is still. The birds suspend their notes, fly low, and cower down with fear. The hum of bees among the flowers is hushed. A horrible stillness rules the hour, as if death had silenced all things by stretching over them his awful sceptre. Perceive ye not what is surely at hand? The tempest is preparing, the lightning will soon cast abroad its flames of fire. Earth will rock with thunder blasts; granite peaks will be dissolved; all nature will tremble beneath the fury of the storm. Yours is that solemn calm today, sinner. Rejoice not in it, for the hurricane of wrath is coming, the whirlwind and the tribulation which shall sweep you away and utterly destroy you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 18

Ephesians 2:18

For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

The doctrine of the Trinity

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which the apostle implies in these words, is the centre of a group of Christian doctrines which may fairly be said not to have been explicitly known antecedently to the teaching of our Saviour and His apostles. More than even other doctrines, this had hardly been guessed at by heathen speculation, hardly understood by Jewish inspiration. It stands in majestic isolation from other truths, a vision of God incomprehensible, the mystery of mysteries. We can find analogies and explanations of other doctrines in the world of nature, physical or moral, but of this we can discover none. When we pass from the work to the Agent, from the government of God to the nature of God, we are lost in mystery; speculation is well nigh hushed before the overpowering glory of the Eternal. We pass from the earth to the heaven, we enter the shrine of the Divine presence. We contemplate in spirit the mystery hidden of old, the mystery of the trinal existence of Him who is the source of all power, the first cause of all creation; Him who, in the depths of a past eternity, existed in the mysterious solitude of His Divine essence, when there was still universal silence of created life around His throne, and who will exist ever in the future of eternity, from everlasting to everlasting, God. Speculation is, on such a subject, vain; yet a reverent attention to that which has been made known to us is our fitting duty. And nothing will more completely prepare us for considering the subject in a proper temper than the reflection that this great doctrine is not revealed to us in the Scripture to gratify our curiosity, but as a practical truth deeply and nearly related to our eternal interests, not in its speculative but in its practical aspects. Our Lord and His apostles taught that the Divine nature consists of three distinct classes of attributes, or (to use our human expression) three personalities; and that each of these three distinct Persons contributes separate offices in the work of human salvation; God the Father pardoning; God the Son redeeming; God the Holy Ghost hallowing and purifying sinful men. The fact that this doctrine involves a mystery, is so far from constituting a fair ground for its rejection, that it agrees in this respect with many of the most allowed truths of human science. For the distinction is now well understood between a truth being apprehended and its being comprehended. We apprehend or recognize a fact when we know it to be established by evidence, but cannot explain it by referring it to its cause; we comprehend or understand it when we can view it in relation to its cause. A thing which is not apprehended cannot be believed, but the analogy of our knowledge shows that we believe many things which we cannot explain or resolve into a law. We know the law of attraction which regulates the motions of the visible universe; but no one can yet explain the nature of the attractive power which acts according to this law. Or, to add an example from the world of organized nature, we may see the same truth in the animal or vegetable kingdoms. We know not in what consist the common phenomena of sleep or of life; and we are equally ignorant of the final causes which have led the Creator to lavish His gifts in creating thousands of species of the lower orders of animals with few properties of enjoyment or of use; or to scatter in the unseen parts of the petals of flowers, the profusion of beautiful colours. In truth, the peculiarity of modern inductive science is, that it professes to explain nothing. It rests content with generalising phenomena into their most comprehensive statement, and there it pauses; it in no case connects them with an ultimate cause. And if truths are thus received undoubtingly in science when yet they cannot be explained, why must an antecedent determination to disbelieve mystery in religion be allowed to outweigh any amount of positive evidence which can be adduced to substantiate those mysteries? We are to believe that the Divine nature exists under three entirely distinct classes of relations, which, through poverty of language, we call existence in three persons. We must be careful, however, when we assert this, not to reduce the Divine nature to similarity with the human; not to commit, in fact, almost the very error into which men of old fell in supposing that the God whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, is like to birds and beasts and creeping things. The Divine Being is three persons; but by this we only mean that the personal element in man is the analogy under which God has been pleased to convey to us ideas of His own nature and of the relations which He sustains to us. Just as we do not attribute to God a body or human passions, but merely mean that He acts to us as though He possessed them; so when we attribute to Him thought or personality, we must not narrow down the idea of His omniscient intuition by supposing it contracted within the limits of inference which govern man’s finite intelligence, or gifted with that limited independence which appertains to human personality. The discoveries of science ought to teach us that we really can scarcely form any positive idea of God’s nature. If we track the infinity of creation, we see that each increased power of our instruments reveals to us illimitable profusion in creation; the telescope revealing the troop of worlds stretching to an infinity of greatness, and the microscope a world of more and more minute life, stretching to an infinity of minuteness; or when we turn from the infinite in space to the infinite in time, if we look backward we see written in the rocks of the world the signs of creative life stretching through ages anterior to human history; or if we look forward, we can detect by delicate mathematical calculation, an amazing scheme of Providence providing for the conservation of harmony in the attractions of the heavenly bodies in cycles of incalculable time in the distant future. And when, having pondered all these things, we think of the Being that has arranged them by His providence and conserves them by His power, what notion can we really form of His nature? What notion of the wonderful originality evinced in the conception of creation, what of the profusion shown in the execution of it, what of the power in its conservation? His nature is not merely infinite, it is unlike anything human, and we must turn away with the feeling that when we compare that infinite Being with man, and confine our ideas of His illimitable vastness and His inscrutable existence by the notion of the narrow personality which is delegated to us finite creatures who live but for a day on this small spot of earth, lost amid the millions of worlds which glitter in creation, we may be sure that the Divine nature as really transcends the earthly description of it, as the universe exceeds this world; and though we may thankfully accept the description of God as having three personalities as the noblest to which we can attain as men, and as enough for our present wants in this world, yet let us never doubt that really the Divine nature is vastly nobler; and let us bow with adoring thankfulness in meditating on the idea which we are permitted to attain, imperfect though it be, of that mysterious essence. Yet though the idea of God in three Persons may be held to be thus speculatively imperfect, let us never forget that it is practically all-sufficient for us. For it teaches us the great truth that He acts to us as though He did literally sustain the characters of three wholly distinct persons, and that He demands from us the duties which would belong to us if He were so. If we are thus to believe of God, what is the lesson which this great doctrine that God exists and acts to us as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, ought to convey to us? It is mainly the wondrous thought that this glorious Being is willing to stoop to be our Friend, that He whose happiness is complete in its own infinity, is moved by His own pure eternal love to win us to Himself. Restless (to speak after the manner of men) to secure our happiness, all these blessed Persons of the glorious Godhead are engaged to secure it. It is God the Father whom we have grieved by our sins; and yet He loves us as a Father still; and to rescue us from our misery He has designed the great scheme of salvation, and sent God the Son to dwell on this earth as a man, as a man of sorrows and of poverty, to remove by His atoning death the impediments which, secret perhaps to us, stand in the way of our salvation, and to exhibit the pattern of a faultless human being, that we may follow His steps; and lastly, after God the Son had withdrawn from the earth, God the Spirit, the ever blessed Comforter, has descended to dwell constantly in the hearts of all men that invite His presence, cheering their guilty spirits, stirring them up to the love of holiness, hallowing them for a meetness for the inheritance of heaven. Behold what manner of love God has shown to us! Behold the Triune God engaged in the salvation of each one of ourselves! And can you delay to yield to Him your hearts, your wills, your affections? If you have sinned, or are tempted to sin, either in deed, or word, or thought, remember that it is not merely sin against a law, but that you are verily grieving a loving father, even the Father, God; if you are living a careless, half-religious life, remember that you are perpetrating the ingratitude of making the sufferings of the Eternal Son void as regards your souls; if you are neglecting prayer, neglecting earnest supplications to heaven for holiness, you are declining to avail yourself of that unspeakable gift of the Spirit’s help which is for all that ask. God the Father loves us, God the Son has redeemed us, and the Holy Spirit will, if we will ask Him, turn us from sin, and doubt, and half-heartedness, to the love of Himself, and will fit us for that heaven where, no longer trammelled by sin and darkened by ignorance, we shall enjoy the beatific vision, and find our everlasting happiness in communing with the Divine Being face to face. (Canon A. S. Farrar.)

A Trinity Sunday sermon

The doctrine of the Trinity is the description of what we know of God. We have no right to say that it is the description of God; for what there may be in Deity of which we have no knowledge, how can we tell? We are only sure that the Divine life is infinitely greater than our humanity can comprehend; and we are sure, too, that not even a revelation in the most perfect form, through the most perfect medium conceivable, could make known to the human intelligence anything in God save that which has relationship to human life. Man may reveal himself to the brutes, and the revelation may be clear and correct so far as it can go, but it must have its limit. Only that part of man can cross the line and show itself to the perception of that lower world which finds in brutedom some point which it can touch. Our strength may reveal itself to their fear; our kindness to their power of love; some part of our wisdom, even, to their dim capacity of education; but all the while there is a vast manhood of intellect, of taste, of spirituality, of which they never know. And so I am sure that the Divine nature is three Persons, but one God; but how much more than that I cannot know. That deep law which runs through all life, by which the higher any nature is, the more manifold and simple at once, the more full of complexity and unity at once, it grows, is easily accepted as applicable to the highest of all natures--God. In the manifoldness of His being these three personal existences, Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, easily make themselves known to the human life. I tell the story of them, and that is my doctrine of the Trinity.

1. The end of the human salvation is “access to the Father.” That is the first truth of our religion--that the source of all is meant to be the end of all, that as we all came forth from a Divine Creator so it is into divinity that we are to return and to find our final rest and satisfaction, not in ourselves, nor in one another, but in the omnipotence, the omniscience, the perfectness, and the love of God. God is divine. God is God. And no doubt we do all assent in words to such a belief; but when we think what we mean by that word God; when we remember what we mean by “Father,” namely, the first source and the final satisfaction of a dependent nature; and then when we look around and see such multitudes of people living as if there were no higher source for their being than accident, and no higher satisfaction for their being than selfishness, do we not feel that there is need of a continual and most earnest preaching by word and act, from every pulpit of influence to which we can mount, of the divinity of the Father. Why, take a man who is utterly absorbed in the business of this world. How eager he is; his hands are knocking at every door; his voice is crying out for admittance into every secret place and treasure house; he is all earnestness and restlessness. He is trying to come to something, trying to get access, and to what? To the best and richest of that earthly structure from which his life seems to himself to have issued. Counting himself the child of this world, he is giving himself up with a filial devotion to his father. He is the product in his tastes and his capacities of this social and commercial machinery which seems to be the mill out of which men’s characters are turned. It is the society and the business of the world that have made him what he is, and so he gives up all that he is to the society or the business that created him. Now to such a man what is the first revelation that you want to make. Is it not the divinity of the Father? This is the divinity of the end. We come from God and we go to God.

2. And now pass to the divinity of the method. “Through Jesus Christ.” Man is separated from God. That fact, testified to by broken associations, by alienated affections, by conflicting wills, stands written in the whole history of our race. Analogies, I know, are very imperfect and often very deceptive, when they try to illustrate the highest things. But is it not as if a great strong nation, too strong to be jealous, strong enough to magnanimously pity and forgive, had to deal with a colony of rebels whom it really desired to win back again to itself? They are of its own stock, but they have lost their allegiance and are suffering the sorrows and privations of being cut off from their fatherland and living in rebellion. That fatherland might send its embassy to tempt them home; and, if it did, whom would it choose to send? Would it not take of itself its messenger? The embassy that is sent is of the country that sends it. That is its value, that is its influence. The fatherland would choose its choicest son, taking him from nearest to its heart, and say, Go and show them what I am, how loving and how ready to forgive, for you are I and you can show them. Such was the mission of the Messiah. The ambassador was of the very land that sent Him, “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father.” My friend says God sends Christ into the world, and therefore Christ is not God. I cannot see it so. It seems to me lust otherwise. God sends Christ just because Christ is God. The ambassador, the army is of the very most precious substance of the country that despatches it. This is the meaning of that constant title of our Master. He is the Son of God. The more truly we believe in the Incarnate Deity, the more devoutly we must believe in the essential glory of humanity, the more earnestly we must struggle to keep the purity and integrity and largeness of our own human life, and to help our brethren to keep theirs. It is because the Divine can dwell in us that we may have access to divinity. We and they must, through the Divine method, come to the Divine end where we belong, through God the Son to God the Father.

3. And now turn to the point that still remains. We have spoken of the end and of the method; but no true act is perfect unless the power by which it works is worthy of the method through which and the end to which it proceeds. The power of the act of man’s salvation is the Holy Spirit. “Through Christ Jesus we all have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” What do we mean by the Holy Spirit being the power of salvation? I think we are often deluded and misled by carrying out too far some of the figurative forms in which the Bible and the religious experience of men express the saving of the soul. For instance, salvation is described as the lifting of the soul out of a pit and putting it upon a pinnacle, or on a safe high platform of grace. The figure is strong and clear. Nothing can overstate the utter dependence of the soul on God for its deliverance; but if we let the figure leave in our minds an impression of the human soul as a dead, passive thing, to be lifted from one place to the other like a torpid log that makes no effort of its own either for cooperation or resistance, then the figure has misled us. The soul is a live thing. Everything that is done with it must be done in and through its own essential life. If a soul is saved, it must be by the salvation, the sanctification of its essential life; if a soul is lost, it must be by perdition of its life, by the degradation of its affections and desires and hopes. Conclusion: When this experience is reached then see what Godhood the soul has come to recognize in the world. First, there is the Creative Deity from which it sprang, and to which it is struggling to return--the Divine end, God the Father. Then there is the Incarnate Deity, which makes that return possible by the exhibition of God’s love--the Divine method, God the Son; and then there in this Infused Deity, this Divine energy in the soul itself, taking its capacities and setting them homeward to the Father--the Divine power of salvation. God the Holy Spirit. To the Father through the Son, by the Spirit. If we recur a moment to the figure which we used a while ago, God is the Divine Fatherland of the human soul; Christ is like the embassy, part and parcel of that Fatherland, which comes out to win it back from its rebellion; and the Holy Spirit is the Fatherland wakened in the rebellious colony’s own soul. He is the newly living loyalty. When the colony comes back, the power that brings it is the Fatherland in it seeking its own; So when the soul comes back to God, it is God in the soul that brings it. So we believe in the Divine power, one with the Divine method and the Divine end, in God the Spirit one with the Father and the Son. This appears to me the truth of the Deity as it relates to us. I say again, “as it relates to us.” What it may be in itself; how Father, Son, and Spirit meet in the perfect Godhood; what infinite truth more there may, there must, be in that Godhood, no man can dare to guess. But, to us, God is the end, the method, and the power of salvation; so He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is in the perfect harmony of these sacred personalities that the precious unity of the Deity consists. Let us keep the faith of the Trinity. Let us seek to come to the highest, through the highest, by the highest. Let the end and the method and the power of our life be all Divine. If our hearts are set on that, Jesus will accept us for His disciples; all that He promised to do for those who trusted Him, He will do for us. He will show us the Father; He will send us the Comforter; nay, what can He do, or what can we ask that will outgo the strong and sweet assurance of the promise which we have been studying today: Through Him we shall have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

The doctrine of the Trinity

In this text we have a declaration of the Holy Trinity; there can be no doubt as to that. Here are all three Persons together: the Father, unto whom we have access or introduction; the Son, by or through whom we are introduced; the Holy Spirit, in whom, in whose communion, we enjoy that access. But what is remarkable about the text is not the mere declaration of the three Persons, which is often to be met with in St. Paul’s Epistles, but the practical nature of the declaration. “We both have access,” says the apostle, “unto the Father”--and for this word “both” we may substitute “all,” since the great distinction of that day between Jew and Gentile has been obliterated, and only those numerous minor distinctions remain which race and clime and colour make within the fold of Christ. We all have access unto the Father--this is the great and blessed fact, the practical sum of our religion; and this is the answer of the gospel to all the seeking and questing of the natural man since the world began. He, who is both God and man--He, the daysman desired of Job--He, who is equally at home both on earth and in heaven, who was in heaven--He, who hath reconciled us unto God, and atoned us, making us one with God by vital union with Himself;--He shall introduce us; by Him we shall have that long sought for, long despaired of access to the Father of our souls--He shall take us (as He only can) by the hand, and lead us (as He only may) into that dread presence. But, again, there is a further questing and seeking of the natural man, when he longs and yet dreads to find his way home to the Father. For after that first difficulty, “Who shall lead us to the Father?” there comes another question quite as hard to answer, and it is this: “If we attain unto Him, how shall we bear ourselves in His presence? how shall we, defiled, stand in that holy place? how shall we, blear-eyed, face that uncreated light? and even if we were safe through our Saviour from any wrath of God, yet how could we escape the bitter sense of contrast, of unfitness, of intrinsic distance intensified by outward nearness?” Now, the practical answer to such questing of the natural man is the revelation of the Spirit. In Him, the Spirit of God, who is also the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who ministers the gifts and graces and perpetuates the life of Jesus within the Church--in Him, who proceedeth from the Father and receiveth of the Son; who being one with the Father and the Son yet dwelleth in us, in our inmost centre of life and thought, and influenceth the secret springs of will and action--in Him, who, dwelling in all, bindeth all into one body with the Son of God, and reproduceth the character of Jesus in the saints;--in Him, the Lord, the Giver of life, the Sanctifier, shall we have true access unto the Father. Taking these two things together, “by the Son,” “in one Spirit,” we see that they leave nothing unprovided. Here is afforded us both outward approach to God and inward correspondence with God; both the way to heaven and the power to traverse the way; both the joy of our Lord and the capacity of entering into that joy. I suppose that if man had never fallen, God would never have been known as the Three in One. In the ages of the past each blessed Person lay undistinguished in the brilliance of the Godhead until the eternal love moved them to come forth from that obscurity of light for man’s salvation. We know the Son by finding Him in mortal guise in our midst, displaying even amidst the cares and sufferings of a human life the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father. We know the Spirit by perceiving His presence in our own souls, by recognizing His abiding influence in the Church of God. (R. Winterbotham, M. A.)

The nature and beauty of gospel worship

I. We obtain this privilege as a fruit, and upon account of the reconciliation made by the blood of Christ (see Hebrews 9:8; Hebrews 10:19-22). Peter also gives us the same account of the rise of this privilege (1 Peter 2:4-5). That which is ascribed unto believers is, that they offer up “spiritual sacrifices, acceptable unto God by Jesus Christ.” That is the worship whereof we speak.

II. The worship of God under the gospel is so excellent, beautiful, and glorious, that it may well be esteemed a privilege purchased by the blood of Christ, which no man can truly and really be made partaker of, but by virtue of an interest in the reconciliation by Him wrought. For “by Him we have an access in one Spirit unto God.” This I shall evince two ways. First, Absolutely. Secondly, Comparatively, in reference unto any other way of worship whatever. And the first I shall do from the text. It is a principle deeply fixed in the minds of men, yea, ingrafted into them by nature, that the worship of God ought to be orderly, comely, beautiful, and glorious.

1. The first thing in general observable from these words is, that in the spiritual worship of the gospel, the whole blessed Trinity, and each Person therein distinctly, do in that economy and dispensation, wherein they act severally and peculiarly in the work of our redemption, afford distinct communion with themselves unto the souls of the worshippers.

2. The same is evident from the general nature of it, that it is an access unto God. “Through Him we have an access to God.” There are two things herein that set forth the excellency, order, and glory of it.

1. That we have in it a direct and immediate access unto God.

2. That we have access unto God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ours in Him. Before I come to consider its glory comparatively, in reference to the outward solemn worship of the temple of old, I shall add but one consideration more, which is necessary for the preventing of some objections, as well as for the farther clearing of the truth insisted on; and that is taken from the place where spiritual worship is performed. Much of the beauty and glory of the old worship, according to carnal ordinances, consisted in the excellency of the place wherein it was performed: first, the tabernacle of Moses, then the temple of Solomon, of whose glory and beauty we shall speak afterward. Answerable hereunto, do some imagine, there must be a beauty in the place where men assemble for gospel worship, which they labour to paint and adorn accordingly. But they “err, not knowing the Scriptures.”

There is nothing spoken of the place and seat of gospel worship, but it is referred to one of these three heads, all which render it glorious.

1. It is performed in heaven; though they who perform it are on earth, yet they do it by faith in heaven.

2. The second thing mentioned in reference to the place of this worship is the persons of the saints: these are said to be the “temple of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

3. The assemblies of the saints are spoken of as God’s temple, and the seat and place of public, solemn, gospel worship (Ephesians 2:21-22). Here are many living stones framed into “an holy house in the Lord, an habitation for God by His Spirit.” God dwells here: as He dwelt in the temple of old, by some outward carnal pledges of His presence; so in the assemblies of His saints, which are His habitation, He dwells unspeakably in a more glorious manner by His Spirit. Here, according to His promise, is His habitation. And they are a temple, a holy temple, holy with the holiness of truth, as the apostle speaks (Ephesians 4:24). Not a typical, relative, but a real holiness, and such as the Lord’s soul delighteth in. Secondly, proceed we now in the next place to set forth the glory and beauty of this worship of the gospel comparatively, with reference to the solemn outward worship, which by God’s own appointment was used under the Old Testament; which, as we shall show, was far more excellent on many accounts than anything of the like kind; that is, as to outward splendour and beauty, that was ever found out by men.

1. The first of these was the temple, the seat of all the solemn outward worship of the old church; the beauty and glory of it were in part spoken to before; nor shall I insist on any particular description of it; it may suffice, that it was the principal state of the beauty and order of the Judaical worship, and which rendered all exceeding glorious, so far, that the people idolized it, and put their trust in it, that upon the account of it they should be assuredly preserved, notwithstanding their presumptuous sins. But yet, notwithstanding all this, Solomon himself, in his prayer at the dedication of that house (1 Kings 8:27), seems to intimate that there was some check upon his spirit, considering the unanswerable: ness of the house to the great majesty of God. It was a house on the earth, a house that he did build with his hands, intimating that he looked farther to a more glorious house than that. And what is it, if it be compared with the temple of gospel worship? Whatever is called the temple now of the people of God, is as much beyond that of old as spiritual things are beyond carnal, as heavenly beyond earthly, as eternal beyond temporal.

2. The second spring of the beauty of the old worship, which was indeed the hinge upon which the whole turned, was the priesthood of Aaron, with all the administrations committed to his charge. The high priest under the gospel is Christ alone. Now I shall spare the pains of comparing these together, partly because it will be by all confessed that Christ is incomparably more excellent and glorious; and partly, because the apostle on set purpose handles this comparison in sundry instances in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where anyone may run and read it, it being the main subject matter of that most excellent Epistle.

3. The order, glory, number, significancy, of their sacrifices was another part of their glory. And indeed, he that shall seriously consider that one solemn anniversary sacrifice of expiation and atonement, which is instituted (Leviticus 1:1-17, will quickly see that there was very much glory and solemnity in the outward ceremony of it. But now, saith the apostle, “we have a better sacrifice” (Hebrews 9:23). We have Him who is the high priest, and altar, and sacrifice all Himself; of worth, value, glory, beauty, upon the account of His own Person, the efficacy of His oblation, the real effect of it, more than a whole creation, if it might have been all offered up at one sacrifice. This is the standing sacrifice of the saints, offered “once for all,” as effectual now any day as if offered every day; and other sacrifices, properly so called, they have none. (J. Owen.)

The true God is to be worshipped as existing in Three Persons

I. The unity of the deity. It is much easier to prove from the light of nature that there is one God than to prove the impossibility of there being any more than one. Though some plausible arguments in favour of the unity of the Deity may be drawn from the beauty, order, and harmony apparent in the creatures and objects around us, and from the nature of a self-existent, independent, and perfect Being, yet these arguments fall far short of full proof or strict demonstration. To obtain complete and satisfactory evidence that there is but one living and true God, we must have resort to the Scriptures of truth, in which the Divine unity is clearly and fully revealed. God has always been extremely jealous of His unity, which has been so often disbelieved and denied in this rebellious and idolatrous world. He has never condescended to give His glory to another, nor His praise to false and inferior deities.

II. The one living and true God exists in three distinct persons. It is generally supposed that the inspired writers of the Old Testament give some plain intimations of a plurality of persons in the Godhead. But we find this, like many other great and important doctrines, more clearly revealed by Christ and the apostles, than it had been before by the prophets. Christ said a great deal about the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He commanded His apostles and their successors in the ministry to baptize visible believers in the name of this sacred Trinity. After His death, His apostles strenuously maintained and propagated the same doctrine.

III. This leads us to inquire why we ought to address and worship the one true God, according to this personal distinction in the Divine nature.

1. The first reason which occurs is, because we ought, in our religious devotions, to acknowledge everything in God which belongs to His essential glory. Much of His essential glory consists in His existing a Trinity in Unity, which is a mode of existence infinitely superior to that of any other being in the universe.

2. We ought to address and worship God according to the personal distinction in the Divine nature, because we are deeply indebted to each Person in the Godhead for the office He sustains and the part He performs in the great work of redemption.

3. We ought to address and worship the true God according to the personal distinction in the Divine nature, because this is necessarily implied in holding communion with Him. It is owing to God’s existing a Trinity in Unity that He can hold the most perfect and blessed communion with Himself. And it is owing to the same personal distinction in the Divine nature that Christians can hold communion with each and all the Persons in the Godhead.

4. We are not only allowed, but constrained, to address and worship the true God according to the personal distinction in the Divine nature, because there is no other way in which we can find access to the throne of Divine grace. This important idea is plainly contained in the text. As it was Christ who made atonement for sin, so it is only through Him that we can have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Sinful creatures cannot approach to the Father in the same way that innocent creatures can.

The holy angels can approach to the Father directly, without the mediation or intercession of Christ.

1. This discourse teaches us that the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the essential and most important articles of Christianity.

2. It appears from what has been said, that we ought to regard and acknowledge the Father as the head of the sacred Trinity, and the primary object of religious homage. The Father is the first in order, and the supreme in office; and for this cause we ought to present our prayers and praises more immediately and directly to Him than to either of the other Persons in the Godhead.

3. Since God exists in three equally Divine Persons, there appears to be good ground to pay Divine homage to each Person distinctly. Though the Father is most generally to be distinctly and directly addressed, yet sometimes there may be a great propriety in addressing the Son and Spirit according to their distinct ranks and offices.

4. If we ought to acknowledge and worship the true God according to the personal distinction in the Divine nature, then we ought to obey Him according to the same distinction. We find some commands given by the Father, some by the Son, and some by the Holy Ghost. Though we are equally bound to obey each of these Divine Persons, in point of authority, yet we ought to obey each from distinct motives, arising from the distinct relations they bear to us, and the distinct things they have done for us. We ought to obey the Father as our Creator, the Son as our Redeemer, and the Holy Ghost as our Sanctifier. This distinction is as easy to be perceived and felt, as the distinction between creating goodness, redeeming mercy, and sanctifying grace. (N. Emmons, D. D.)

Access to God

1. Access to God always follows the prevailing of the Word.

2. By Christ alone have we access with boldness to God.

3. It is the Spirit which enables us to come to God in prayer. (Paul Bayne.)

Access to God by Christ

I. Nearness to God the Father is the highest and sweetest privilege which any of the human race can possibly enjoy. The word access in the text means liberty of approach, as every one acquainted with its use in Scripture will admit. Sin alienates the mind of man from Jehovah, and raises a bar in his way to blessedness. But a method has been devised for bringing back those who are banished. We have access to the Father! What a significant and endearing name! The first thing requisite for us is access to the Eternal Father. This being granted, it must, I think, be manifest that our happiness will increase just in proportion to our nearness to God. But could the veil which hides the heavenly world be removed, how would this truth blaze upon us with noontide splendour!

II. We can enjoy the privileges of access to the Father only through the mediation of Christ, and by the agency and grace of the Holy Spirit.

1. Here, then, are we clearly taught that the mediation of Christ is the only means of approach to and acceptance with God. This doctrine forms the grand distinguishing peculiarity of the gospel. But to enter fully into the spirit of our text, Christ must be contemplated in the character which He sustains as the great High Priest of the Church. It is not enough to own that He paid down a ransom price, and offered an atoning sacrifice of unspeakable value; but we must look to His perpetual and all-prevailing intercession. Nearly related both to the Father with whom He intercedes, and to us for whom intercession is made; the nature of each is joined in His Person. As a brother He has a lively sympathy with man, and as a prince He has power with God and prevails.

2. We enjoy this high privilege by the agency of the Holy Spirit.

From the subject which has been brought before you, the following inferences may be fairly drawn.

1. If nearness to God be the highest happiness, then distance from Him, or dislike to His will, is the greatest misery.

2. If it is through Christ only that we find free approach to the Father, how thankful ought we to be for such a Mediator. In Him all excellencies, human and Divine, are united.

3. If the influence of the Holy Spirit is necessary to bring us into communion with the Father, as we have shown, then this influence should be earnestly sought and highly prized.

4. If the doctrine here taught is true, Christians of every name, nation, and tribe have substantial grounds of union. In the Church there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all and in all. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

Christian prayer a witness of Christian fellowship

The whole power and meaning of that glorious exclamation, “Ye are no more strangers and foreigners,” depend on the truth expressed in the previous verse: “We have access by one Spirit to the Father.” Paul has told the Gentile Ephesians that they are no longer outcasts from the grand privileges of the Jew; he has asserted that they are actually in fellowship with the prophets and apostles, and the universal Church of the holy; but all the magnificence of the assertion rises out of the principal fact that in Christ they come by one spirit to God. In short, he finds the proof end pledge of Christian citizenship in the power and freedom of Christian prayer. Our subject, then, becomes--The citizenship of the Christian: its foundation; its nature; its present lessons.

I. Its foundation. In access to the Father--in the power of approaching Him in full, free, trustful prayer--lies the foundation proof that we are “fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” We have to see how that conviction rises in the praying soul--how the very fact of Christian prayer contains the proof and pledge that we are citizens of an eternal kingdom. In doing this let us glance at two principles that are here involved.

1. Christian prayer is the approach of the individual soul to God as its Father. By access to God, Paul means the approach to God in which the human spirit comes near to Him as a real Divine Presence, to worship Him in full, free, trustful love; hence it is evident that a man may often have prayed, and yet never have realized this idea of prayer.

2. That prayer of the individual soul must lead it to the united worship of God’s Church. “We come by one Spirit unto the Father.” Paul has been speaking of atonement and reconciliation. He knew that these were individual; but he seems to imply that until Greek and Jew were united in worship the worship was incomplete. Note one or two facts on this point which are very significant. We cannot always pray alone. God has so made us that our power of praying needs the help of our brethren. There are times when the deep emotions of our nature will not utter themselves, and we groan, being burdened. We need the help of some other soul that has the divine gift of uttering the want we cannot utter, that it may bear us upon its wings of holy sympathy towards the throne.

II. The nature of our citizenship. Taking the points we have just noticed, and combining them, let us see how they point to a fellow citizenship with the Church of all ages.

1. Prayer a witness to our fellowship with the Church of all time. Realizing God’s Fatherhood in the holy converse of prayer, we are nearer men. Our selfishness--our narrow, isolating peculiarities begin to fade. In our highest prayers we realize common wants. No man ever poured out his soul to God, under the sense of His presence, who did not feel that he was nearer the family of the Father. To take the most obvious illustration, is it not when the cries of confession, of unrest, of aspiration, of hope, mingle in worship that we feel it? Are we not, then, fellow pilgrims, fellow sufferers, fellow warriors? Then our differences vanish, and we know, in some measure, how we belong to the “household of God.” But it stays not there. The past claims kindred with us in prayer.

2. Prayer a witness to our fellowship with the Church of eternity. This is harder to be realized, because of our earthliness--we see so dimly through the material veil. But the “household of God” implies this fellowship.

III. Its lessons.

1. Live as members of the kingdom.

2. Expect the signs of citizenship. The crown of thorns; the Cross.

3. Live in hope of the final ingathering. Paul’s words point to this. From this hope our efforts and aspirations derive their greatest power; and we feel that our fellow citizenship is incomplete till we pass from the “earthly tabernacle” into the eternal home of the Father. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

Access to God

I. The great work of salvation in its process.

II. The greatness of the agency employed in the work of salvation.

III. The work of salvation in the universality of its law. The same course must be trodden by all. (T. J. Judkin.)

Access to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit

I. Access to the father. The access of the text is the access of reconciliation and peace; all enmity is removed, all differences cleared up. But it is more than this--access to the Father; He is seen. In the case of servitude, servants have access to their master; but here is access, with boldness, of those led by the Spirit of God, who are the sons of God. This is access of sons in “whom the Father is well pleased”--of those who are made “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ”--of those who, as you see in the nineteenth verse, are “fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” This access, my brethren, is more than touching the golden sceptre with the hand of faith; it is the mutual embrace with the arms of love; it is the access of a loving son to a loving father.

II. But how can we obtain admission into the presence of the Father? Whence this access? Here, by nature, practice, habit, disposition, we are far from our Father’s land. We are “strangers and foreigners” (Ephesians 2:19). Who can tell if He is willing to receive us? And if He will receive us, who is to bring us to Him? These questions are answered by the expression in the text, “through Him,” that is, through Christ. Without introduction, there is no admission; and he who introduces another is in general answerable for the manner and conduct of the person introduced. Now, if you look to the context, you will see how Christ introduces us to the presence of the Father. You are “enemies,” “rebels”; the first thing, then, to be done is to make peace. He has made peace, as you will see in the fifteenth verse; that is, He settled the terms of peace; He abolished in effect the enmity which existed between us and God. He slew that enmity upon the Cross. But then we were afar off, in a distant country, strangers and foreigners: therefore He came, as you see in the seventeenth verse, “to preach peace to you that were afar off.” He tells us what He has done, both in the courts of heaven and upon the heights of Calvary.

III. The remaining expression in the text brings us to the work of the Holy Ghost. By the Holy Spirit we have access to the Father, through Jesus Christ. Thus you see we have the doctrine of the Trinity brought before us in this short verse. It is highly important always to bear in mind that the three Persons in the Trinity are equally concerned in the work of the sinner’s salvation. Now, how is it we possess the privilege of access to the Father through the Son? We must recollect that would be no privilege unless there were the capacity to enjoy the same. Bring a blind man to the most attractive sight, and he is unable to behold or to enjoy it. Let heaven ring with a concert of the most angelic music, and the deaf man will not be animated by it. And give a man without the Spirit the privilege of access to the Father, and he has no part in it; he is entirely incapable of appreciating the Divine enjoyments of His presence; he would feel himself “afar off,” although he were brought very nigh. Change of place is not enough; there must be a change of heart. Now here comes in the work of the Spirit. Secondly: The Spirit teaches us how to behave ourselves in the presence of the Father; He not only conducts, but teaches and instructs. Without the Spirit’s teaching, we could never learn “Abba”; we should never frame our speech aright. (G. A. Rogers, M. A.)

Bold access to the Father

It is the boldness of the little child that, unabashed by anyone’s presence, climbs his father’s knee, and throws his arms around his neck--or, bursting into his room, breaks in on his busiest hours, to have a bleeding finger bound, or some childish tears kissed away; that says if any threaten or hurt him, I will tell my father; and, however he might tremble to sleep alone, fears neither ghosts, nor man, nor darkness, nor devils, if he lies couched at his father’s side. Such confidence, bold as it seems, springs from trust in a father’s love; and pleases rather than offends us. (T. Guthrie D. D.)

The confidence of children

I remember seeing a man in Mobile putting little boys on the fence posts, and they jumped into his arms with perfect confidence. But there was one boy nine or ten years old who would not jump. I asked the man why it was, and he said the boy was not his. Ah, that was it. The boy was not his. He had not learned to trust him. But the other boys knew him and could trust him. (D. L. Moody.)


Verse 19

Ephesians 2:19

Fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.

The communion of saints

The Church at Ephesus was a mixed community of Jewish and Gentile converts. The old feuds between them had not passed away. The Jew refused to let go the claim of his nation to some religious superiority over the Gentile, and thought the latter ought to stand afar off and worship in some outer court. But the great design of Christianity, argues the apostle, is to abolish these enmities, to break down these partition walls, to bring these separated worshippers both nigh to each other, and nigh to God. Christ, he declares, is both our peace and our peacemaker. In Himself, and by Himself, He made of the twain one new man and one new society; not strangers one to another, still less enemies one to another, but one large family, joined together in the ties of spiritual brotherhood, fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God.

I. There is the communion of saints with the holy trinity (1 John 1:3; John 17:21-23; 2 Peter 1:4). Deity is in some sense grafted into the stock of our regenerate and renewed humanity. Between God and the souls of His elect there is as much of oneness and communion as there is between a vine and its branches, or a body and its members, or a temple and the stones of which it is composed. The tabernacle of God is with men. The incarnation of Christ has made our nature an ennobled thing; the power of the Holy Ghost makes it a spiritual and sanctified thing; and the two together make the communion perfect. There is bestowed upon us a new moral nature, and in virtue of this God may speak with man, walk with man, dwell with man, may suffer to flow towards man the rich tide of His beneficent sympathies, and conclude with man the terms of a holy and everlasting friendship.

II. The communion of saints with the whole body of the Church militant here on earth.

1. The communion of spiritual life. The saints of God, however scattered, have the same Word to guide, the same sacraments to refresh, the same essential doctrines as their ground of trust, and the same Holy Spirit to uphold their souls in life. Born under the same curse, inheritors of a common feebleness, and exposed to like temptations, they look forward to the same bright consummation of glory and honour and immortality (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

2. Communion of aim and object and united interest.

3. Communion of help and sympathy and fellow feeling with one another’s trials (Galatians 6:2).

4. Communion in prayer. Mutual intercession is the life of the Church (1 Timothy 2:1; Philippians 1:19).

III. Communion of saints on earth with saints in paradise--the Church militant with the Church expectant. Death makes no difference in the mystical union which is betwixt Christ and His Church; i.e., makes no difference in the nature of that union. It will give a demonstration to its evidence, a lustre to its glory, an elevation to its bliss; but the union itself is just what it was in life--a joining of the soul to the Lord by one Spirit. Our communion with departed saints is--

1. A communion of hope.

2. A communion of esteem.

3. A communion of imitation.

We walk in the same light, we live by the same Spirit, we are looking forward to the same peaceful blessedness which they enjoy who are fallen asleep.

IV. Communion with the angels that stand around the throne. They are our fellow servants, and our fellow citizens. Conclusion: What a field of high and ennobling thought does this subject open up! Into what boundless relations does the human spirit branch out; how mysterious is the tie which binds it with all being, with all intelligence, with all worlds! We say unto corruption, thou art my father; to the worm, thou art my mother and my sister; and yet, notwithstanding this, we are one with all the society of the blessed; with the martyrs, a noble army; with the prophets, a goodly fellowship; with the apostles, a glorious company; with the angels, a radiant host. Nay, this bond of saintly sympathy rests not here; it is interlinked with things divine--with the sanctities of the Spirit, with the glorified humanity of Christ, with the covenant love of God. How important the question for us all--How shall these glorious ties be preserved unbroken, and wherein lies this great strength? The strength of this union of saints lies in their separation from all sinful thoughts and sympathies. We have a name, a character, a calling, and we must be consistent therewith. The world and the Church must have an intelligible partition somewhere. The life of saintship must be saintliness of life. Communion, whether with Divine or created natures, must have its foundation in similarity of moral character. To see God we must be like Him. (Daniel Moore, M. A.)

Saintly citizenship

1. Believers are fellow citizens.

2. Believers are conjoined as members of one family. This is a stricter bond than the former, and should serve to increase love. We being confined within one family, a common roof under which we all live and board, we must be all of one heart, at peace and unity; and the God of love and peace will be with us.

3. It is God’s family.

Fellow citizens

“It is not good for man to be alone.” There are few things more terrible than to be utterly friendless and alone in the world. One of the most awful forms of punishment is solitary confinement, and many a poor prisoner has grown gray and old in a few years, or has gone mad, because he was not allowed to see, or speak to, a fellow creature. In days gone by, we read that one of these unhappy captives actually made friends with a spider, finding the company of an insect better than absolute solitude; and that another captive devoted all his thought and affection on a prison flower. Quite lately I read of a prisoner in one of our gaols who had tamed a rat as a companion, and who became almost mad when his only friend was taken from him. We have all heard of the sufferings of those who have been cast away in shipwreck upon lonely islands, with no companion to share their exile. But let Christ’s servant be where he will, on lonely island, in solitary prison, among crowds of strangers, he is never alone, because he believes in the communion of saints.

I. Fellowship with the martyrs. We need not die for Christ in order to be His martyrs. St. Paul would have been a martyr if he had died quietly in his bed, and never felt the sword of the Roman headsman. His years of patient suffering in Christ’s service, his bold preaching in the face of persecution and death, made him the faithful martyr of Jesus. And so now, those of us who are trying to do their duty where God has put them, doing what is right at any cost, bearing loss, trouble, insult, it may be, rather than commit sin, they are Christ’s martyrs, no matter how lowly and obscure their lives may be.

II. Fellowship with the prophets. But you may say, “How can I do the work of a preacher or prophet like Elijah, or Jonah, or Ezekiel, or the rest?” You need not be preachers as they were, yet you can be like them. They were not afraid to speak the truth, they were not too timid to rebuke vice wherever they saw it. They defended the honour of God and His Church at all times, and never thought of their own safety. Now you, my brothers, can be brave for Jesus; show that you are not ashamed of your Master, or your Christian calling.

III. Fellowship with the apostles. The name apostle means one who is sent forth; the first apostles of Jesus were sent to preach the gospel to every creature. We, as Christian men and women, are all, in one sense, apostles. The pure man, the honest man, the faithful man, is an apostle of Jesus; his life is a gospel, a sermon on purity, honesty, faith. The temperate man is a preacher; his example is the best lesson on self-control. (H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

The relation of the members to the heed of the household

The phrase now before us, “the household of God,” is but a reflection of the ever-recurring reference in the teaching of Christ to God as the Father, both of Himself and of men. The idea of a household grows out of Christ’s idea of God as Father, just as the idea in the word citizen in the previous part of the verse grows out of Christ’s conception of the kingdom of God. It is to this idea of the Christian society as a household we now give our attention. In another place, regarding it, not in the light of its head, but of the spirit which binds us to this head, he calls it “the household of faith.” Now what are the essentials of a household? A household is a society marked by diversity in unity. It is like light, which is composed of the many colours of the spectrum, each colour having a character of its own, but when all are combined forming the pure white light by which we see and work. So a household is a combination--a unity of different characters under one head. And this is the true conception of the Christian society we call the Church. Without the diversity it would be as uninteresting as the grains of wheat in the garner--which are all alike; without the unity it would not be a society at all. Let us see what each involves:

I. Of the diversity.

1. A household is not an institution founded on identity of thought. Each member of it may have ideas of his own. Such diversity grows naturally out of the variety of character and mind of its members. It is only another side of the same truth to say--

2. in a household identity of experience as not essential. There is as great a variety of inward life as of mental thought in the members of a family, The differences of feeling are as great as those of intellect.

II. Of the unity of the household. In what does it consist? Unmistakably in loyalty to its head. Loyalty in a home is only another name for love. The children may have different conceptions of the head of the family; they may regard him in different ways; but if they be loyal, loving, they are a real part of the household. Within this limit there is room for almost endless diversity. One child may understand one part of his father’s character, and another may understand another part. The boys may appreciate best the business capacity of their father, and the girls may best discern the tenderer home side of that character. One may appreciate his intellectual qualities, and another his practical ability. But all belong to the household who look up to and trust him as the head. So it is in the household of God--one mind may be compelled by its very nature to grapple with the problems of the Divine Nature; another may be able to believe without attempting to prove. One may need definitions and theories, another may quietly rest in the Lord. But the central, essential thing is to be loyal to the Head. And closely connected with, yea, a part of such loyalty, is, obedience to the Head. Obedience is loyalty in action. Works are the fruit of faith. (W. G. Herder.)

The relation of the members of the household to one another

Sonship is one side of the home relationship, brotherhood is the other. No one can be a good son unless he be a good brother. The true parent cares as much for right feeling among his children as for right feeling to himself. It is perhaps more difficult to be loyal to our brethren than it is to be loyal to the head. Where the head is concerned the idea of authority comes in, but where the members are concerned the relationship must be even more spontaneous. The child may be afraid to offend his father, but that feeling does not arise in relation to those who are his brothers or sisters. The father will probably not put so severe a strain on the loyalty of his children as they may do one to another. Rivalry is not so likely to spring up between child and parent as between brothers and sisters. Age, which naturally wakens deference to the parent, is not present to the same degree to waken it between those whose years are more on an equality. For these, and many similar reasons, it is more difficult to keep unity in the household than between the household and its head. But the New Testament is quite as insistent on the one as on the other. There should be room for all diversities of character, that by contact and converse they may modify and balance one another, the solemn moderating the merry, the merry brightening the solemn, the poetic elevating the practical, the practical steadying the poetic, the guileless quickening faith in the calculating, the calculating preserving the guileless from being deceived. This is a part of the Divine method of education for our life. We are members one of another, so that no one may say to another: “I have no need of thee.” The peace of a family is gone if any one member seek to dominate the rest, and always have his own way. Many a household has been ruined by self-will. And more than aught beside, this has rent asunder the household of God. Closely connected with such--indeed, lying at the root of self-will--is the idea of infallibility. Such a confidence in our own opinions that all others are regarded as erroneous. The learned Dr. Thompson, late Master of Trinity College, once said “None of us are infallible, not even the youngest.” Nothing is more irritating--nothing is more likely to disturb the unity of the home or of the Church, than some one member who poses as an oracle. This is but the negative side of the matter. These are the things to be avoided. There is a positive side: things to be done. The true conception of a household is of a company in which the resources of each of the members are at the service of all the rest. It should be a ministering company. The joy of one should be the joy of all. The sorrow of one should be the sorrow of all. A company in which the strong bear the infirmities of the weak, and not please themselves. Those on the hilltop of faith moving down to those in the valley of doubt, to lead them to the height of vision. The glad and merry bearing some of the sunshine of their nature to the morbid and gloomy. In such ministries, prompted of love, the home consists, whether it be of man or of God. Indeed, the home is but the miniature of the greater household of God. A home is not made by those who live and eat and sleep under the same roof. It may be a hotel, it is not a home. The home does not begin to be until it is a place of mutual ministries, inspired of love. And the household of God is not constituted by men and women who hold the same creed, repeat the same prayers, join in the same sacraments--these are but the form, the letter; not until the spirit of love, reaching out to mutual help, arises, is it worthy of the name of a household of God. (W. G. Herder.)

Fellow citizens with the saints

In the text, St. Paul sets forth the privileges of the Gentile state, that is, of our state, by a very intelligible figure, by a figure especially understood in that day. The inhabitants, or rather I should say, the actual and acknowledged and free members, of particular cities, then enjoyed particular rights and benefits, to a greater extent than is usually found amongst us; and this was particularly the case with regard to the city of Rome, the then mistress of the world; of which city the apostle himself was a free-born citizen, and found the benefit of his birthright on several occasions. While strangers and foreigners then were disowned, and often unprotected and despised, the citizen was regarded and honoured and cherished wherever he went. And the Church of God is here compared, in this respect, to a city, of which the Israelites had formerly been the only true members, had alone enjoyed the blessings; the rest of mankind being in the situation of strangers and foreigners. But circumstances are now totally altered: the Gentile believers are no longer excluded from the privileges of the people of God; they are become fellow citizens of the spiritual and heavenly Jerusalem. Now, let us first inquire what is the nature and extent of this city, of which we are made the privileged members? what the family into which we are admitted? It is the whole body of Jehovah’s accepted people throughout the universe: the whole family of the blest, wherever they are to be found. But it is not to the present race of mortals that our fellowship is confined: we have communion also with the saints at rest, with all that ever lived and died, from Adam to the present generation. The new dispensation is united with the old; they are both one; we may say one gospel; being parts of that same grand scheme of redemption, which was framed and declared from the beginning, for the recovery and salvation of mankind. But, indeed, we have not yet surveyed the length and breadth of that community, into which we have been received as members. The angels, the highest angels, form a part thereof; we are one with them; our city is theirs, and our Lord is theirs. Of the blessed Jesus, “the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” (J. Slade, M. A.)

The communion of saints

He that walks in communion with the saints, travels in company: he dwells in a city where one house sustains another, to which Jerusalem is compared. (H. G. Salter.)

The best fellowship

The Rev. James Owen, of Shrewsbury, being asked on his deathbed, whether he would have some of his friends sent for to keep him company, replied, “My fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ; and he that is not satisfied with that company doth not deserve it.”


Verses 19-22

Verse 20

Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 2:22

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.

The Christian Church

I. The apostle represents the Church under the figure of a city and a household.

1. A Church must resemble a family or city, in respect of order and government; for without these a religious society can no more subsist, than a civil community or a household.

2. In a city or household all the members have a mutual relation, and partake in the common privileges; and, though they are placed in different stations and conditions, they must all contribute to the general happiness.

3. In a city, and also in a family, there is a common interest.

4. In a well-ordered city or household there will be peace and unity: so there ought to be in a Christian Church.

II. The manner in which it is founded. The mediation of Christ is the foundation of our faith and hope.

III. This spiritual house must be united with and framed into, the foundation.

IV. As the spiritual house must rest on the foundation, so the several parts of it must be framed and inserted into each other.

V. It must be continually growing. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

God’s temple: its foundation, building, and consecration

I. The foundation laid.

1. The foundation is Jesus Christ--the foundation of the apostles and prophets, i.e., which they laid. It was laid in the promises, types, and prophecies of the Old Testament, and the witness of apostles and evangelists in the New (John 3:14; 1 Corinthians 10:4; Matthew 16:16).

2. The foundation of the Church must be the foundation of each member of the Church. The essence of a foundation lies in its strength. The foundation in individual character is truth. Truth is a Person--“I am the Truth.” The foundation, therefore, is the truth concerning Jesus Christ believed, loved, and lived. The gospel thus received becomes a principle which forms the mainspring of a new life.

II. The building rising.

1. Look abroad upon the face of the world, and note the advances which the Church is making in all parts. The very hindrances to missionary work prove its success, for the more active the servants of God are, the more active the agents of Satan will be.

2. The building must rise in each heart. Growth is almost the only proof of life. The growth of the temple is due to the operation of the Spirit.

3. In most forms of life there is an exquisite symmetry. We see something of it in this temple: “fitly framed together.” As there is a beautiful proportion in the doctrines of the gospel, so, though God’s servants are many and their gifts various, their aim is one; and through their united wisdom and love and effort, all the building groweth into a holy temple in the Lord.

III. The temple consecrated.

1. We may refer the consecration to the end of the age, because consecration usually follows upon completion.

2. But even now there is to a certain extent a consecration of this building (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:16). How shall I know this?

The Church, a building

Like a building, the Church of God has been going on to the present day, and will do to the end of time. The honour and stability of this building.

1. As built upon Christ.

2. As wrought by the Spirit.

3. As an habitation of God. “Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in,” etc. (Psalms 68:16). “In Salem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion (Psalms 76:2). This denotes--

“God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved,” etc. (Psalms 46:5). Each member in Christ has his state and office in the Church by God’s appointment, for promoting the good and glory of the whole. “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets,” etc. (Ephesians 4:11, etc.). “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body,” etc. (1 Corinthians 12:18). No spiritual life and salvation without being united to Christ by faith. (H. Foster, M. A.)

The Church

I. The unbelieving state of the Gentile Church. “Strangers.”

1. Strangers to God. To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (Ephesians 2:12.

2. Strangers to the Word of God (Psalms 119:158).

3. Strangers to the Church of God (1 John 3:1).

4. Strangers to themselves (Revelation 3:17).

5. Strangers to the enjoyments, fears, duties, privileges, persecutions, and prospects of a Christian (1 Corinthians 2:11).

“Foreigners.”

1. Naturally of another race (Psalms 51:5).

2. Under the authority of another prince (2 Corinthians 4:4).

3. Of a totally different complexion (Jeremiah 13:23).

4. Speaking another language (Psalms 58:3).

5. Seeking other interests than God (Philippians 2:21).

6. At an infinite distance from the celestial kingdom, where only true happiness rests (Ephesians 2:13).

II. Their adopted or privileged condition. “Fellow citizens,” etc. The city they belong to is either the Church below, or the Church above.

1. It is the city of God (Hebrews 12:22).

2. Of God’s building (Psalms 127:1).

3. Where He dwells (Psalms 68:16).

4. Which is strongly fortified (Isaiah 26:1).

5. It is delightfully situated by the river of God’s love (Psalms 46:4).

6. Endowed with various privileges (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

7. Peopled with high-born inhabitants (John 1:13).

The Church of God above.

1. This is a city of God’s preparing (John 14:2-3).

2. There He has His more especial residence (1 Corinthians 13:12).

3. The inhabitants are angels and saints (Hebrews 12:22-23).

4. Of this city we are also citizens (Galatians 4:26).

5. Set apart by the Father’s grace (Jude 1:1).

6. By the work of Christ in their behalf (Hebrews 10:14).

7. And by the agency of the Holy Ghost (Romans 5:5).

8. And having a right to a name and a place in the Church on earth; so have they their citizenship in heaven (Job 16:19).

9. This they have not by birth, nor purchase, but by the free grace of God, which gives them both a right and meetness (2 Timothy 1:9).

10. And believing Gentiles are here made equal with the Jews in the blessings of salvation (Ephesians 2:14).

“And of the household of God.”

1. The Church of God consisting of believers (Acts 5:14).

2. This family is named after, and by Christ (Ephesians 3:14-15).

3. Of this family God is the Father (John 20:17).

4. Christ is the first-born (Romans 8:29).

5. Ministers are stewards of this house (1 Corinthians 4:1).

6. To this family all believers belong (Acts 4:32).

7. Not by birth, nor merit, but by adopting grace (Ephesians 1:5).

8. The members of this family are freed from all bondage (Romans 8:15).

9. They can never be arrested or condemned (Romans 8:1).

10. They have liberty of access to God (Ephesians 2:18).

11. Share in the fulness of Christ’s grace (Ephesians 3:19).

12. Are well taken care of (Psalms 145:20).

13. They are richly clothed (Isaiah 61:10).

14. They have plenty of provisions (Psalms 36:8).

15. And are heirs of a never-fading inheritance (1 Peter 1:4-5).

III. The foundation and cornerstone are Christ. “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”

1. The Father saved them designedly in Christ (2 Timothy 1:9).

2. The Son saved them positively in Himself (Hebrews 10:14).

3. The Spirit saves them apprehensively in Christ (Titus 3:5).

4. Christ, then, is the foundation of the Church (Matthew 16:18).

5. He is the foundation of all covenant blessings (Ephesians 1:3).

6. Of faith (Acts 20:21).

7. Of hope (Colossians 1:27).

8. Of peace (Ephesians 2:14).

9. Of joy (Romans 5:11).

10. Of comfort (2 Thessalonians 2:17).

11. Of glory (Jude 1:25).

12. The stones of this building are hewn out by the Word, and the ministers of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:7).

“Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”

1. He joins together Old and New Testament saints (Ephesians 2:14).

2. Saints above and saints below (Hebrews 12:23).

3. Saints in all parts of the world (John 11:52).

4. This stone is refused by many (Psalms 118:22).

5. Yet a durable and precious stone (Isaiah 28:16).

6. It is a foundation cornerstone, reaching under the whole building to the four corners (1 Corinthians 3:11).

IV. The perfection of the building. “In whom all the building fitly framed together.”

1. All the building--The universal Church of Christ (Acts 4:12).

2. Fitly framed--Is of a spiritual nature (Colossians 2:19).

3. It consists of various parts as a building does (Romans 12:4-5).

4. Fitly or closely joined to Christ by living faith (Galatians 2:20).

5. Banded to each other by Christian love (1 John 4:7).

6. These are all set in the Church in exact symmetry and proportion (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).

“Groweth into a holy temple in the Lord.”

1. It grows by the accession of elect souls, newly called by Divine grace (Acts 2:47).

2. It is not yet openly and visibly completed, but it will be in the calling of the Jews and the fulness of the Gentiles (Romans 11:25-26).

“Holy temple”; alluding to the temple at Jerusalem.

1. Whose stones were prepared before they were brought into the building.

2. Whose magnificence and beauty were very great.

3. A place of holy worship (2 Corinthians 6:16).

“In the Lord.”

1. There is no salvation, blessing, or holiness but in the Lord (Colossians 3:11).

V. The design of this temple. “In whom ye are builded together.” Then it appears from what has been said, that God is the builder, Christ the foundation, and believers are the materials of this temple.

1. The door of entrance is faith in Christ (Hebrews 11:6).

2. Ministers of the gospel are pillars (Galatians 2:9).

3. The ordinances are its windows (Exodus 20:24).

4. Its provisions are large and entertaining (Psalms 132:15).

It denotes--

“For a habitation of God through the Spirit.”

1. God dwells in the Church in the person of Christ (2 Corinthians 6:16).

2. The Church dwells in God by her union to Christ (1 John 4:13).

3. It is a spiritual dwelling that is here intended, both of God in us, and of us in God (Romans 8:9-10). (T. B. Baker.)

The true foundation

When the immense stone piers of the East River bridge were begun, three or four years ago, the builders did not attempt to manufacture a foundation. They simply dug down through the mud and sand, and found the solid bedrock which the Almighty Creator had laid there thousands of years ago. It is a wretched mistake to suppose that you need to construct a foundation. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Your own merits, however, cemented by good resolutions, will no more answer for a solid base than would a cart-load of bricks as the substratum of yonder stupendous bridge. God has provided for you a cornerstone already. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Jesus our Rock

For a whole week, riot only bishop but all the priests and friars of the city (Exeter) visited Bennet night and day. But they tried in vain to prove to him that the Roman Church was the true one. “God has given me grace to be of a better Church,” he said. “Do you know that ours is built upon St. Peter?” “The Church that is built upon a man,” he replied, “is the devil’s Church, and not God’s.”… At the place of execution he exhorted with such unction, that the sheriff’s clerk exclaimed, “Truly this is a servant of God!” Two persons, going up to the martyr, exclaimed in a threatening voice, “Say, ‘Precor sanctam Mariam et omnes sanctos Dei.’” “I know no other advocate but Jesus Christ,” replied Bennet. (J. H. M. DAubigne, D. D.)

A new and physical metaphor

In these verses there is a sudden change from a political to a physical metaphor, possibly suggested by the word “household.” The metaphor itself, of the Church as “a building of God”--frequently used in the New Testament reaches its full perfection in this passage.

1. It starts, of course, from the words of our Lord (Matthew 16:18), “On this rock I will build My Church”; but in the use of it sometimes the prominent idea is of the growth by addition of individual stones, sometimes of the complex unity of the building as a whole.

2. The former idea naturally occurs first, connecting itself, indeed, with the still more personal application of the metaphor to the “edification” of the individual to be a temple of God (found, for example, in 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 10:23; 1 Corinthians 14:4; 2 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 10:8). Thus in 1 Corinthians 3:9, from “ye are God’s building,” St. Paul passes at once to the building of individual character on the one foundation; in 1 Corinthians 14:4-5; 1 Corinthians 14:12; 1 Corinthians 14:26, the edification of the Church has reference to the effect of prophecy on individual souls; in 1 Peter 2:5, the emphasis is still on the building up of “living stones” upon “a living stone” (Comp. Acts 20:32).

3. In this Epistle the other idea--the idea of unity--is always prominent, though not exclusive of the other (as here and in Ephesians 4:12-16). But that this conception of unity is less absolute than that conveyed by the metaphor of the body will be seen by noting that it differs from it in three respects first, that it carries with it the notion of a more distinct individuality in each stone; next, that it conveys (as in the “grafting in” of Romans 11:17) the idea of continual growth by accretion of individual souls drawn to Christ; lastly, that it depicts the Church as having more completely a distinct, though not a separate, existence from Him who dwells in it. (On this last point compare the metaphor of the spouse of Christ in Ephesians 5:25-33.) Hence it is naturally worked out with greater completeness in an Epistle which has so especially for its object the evolution of the doctrine of “the one Holy Catholic Church.” (A. Barry, D. D.)

Living temples

My brethren, it becomes of the utmost importance to inquire, Have we a place in this spiritual building? Are we daily striving, as St. Jude exhorts us, to “pray in the Holy Ghost,” and to “build up ourselves on our most holy faith”?

I. That we may know what our state is, what our hope towards God, let us, first, ask ourselves, Am I resting on the sure foundation? St. Paul tells us what it is: “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

II. Again: let us ask ourselves, Do we bear always in mind that we are called to be “a holy temple in the Lord,” “an habitation of God through the Spirit”?

1. A temple gives us the idea of dedication. Do we look upon ourselves as those who are set apart unto holiness, and ought not to be conformed unto this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God?

2. A temple also gives us the idea of God’s immediate presence (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19). This is a thought full of awe, and full of comfort. God is present in the hearts of them that believe, not as He appeared of old in the Temple at Jerusalem, shining above the mercy seat in a cloud of glory such as man’s eye could see (John 14:23). And how should we regard our mortal body, if we believed it to be the temple of the Spirit of God?

3. A temple gives us the idea of continual service.

4. That the work of grace ought to be advancing in us. For what says St. Paul? “Growing unto an holy temple in the Lord.” (E. Blencowe, M. A.)

The Christian temple

Temples have always excited feelings of the deepest interest in the human race. They generally contain within themselves, and in the materials with which they are constructed, much that is beautiful and grand. They form a kind of middle step between earth and heaven, where faith and sense meet and unite to indulge in contemplations suited to their varied powers and capacities. The Greeks and the Romans were perhaps the most superstitious people in the world, they covered their land with the most bewitching forms of their idolatry; their temples were of the most costly and splendid description. Among all the temples of antiquity, none were equal to the temple at Ephesus dedicated to Diana. It was the boast of ancient Greece, and one of the wonders of the world. Upwards of two hundred years elapsed during its construction, many sovereigns assisted in its progress with no small portion of their revenues. And it was considered peculiarly sacred in consequence of the figure of Diana which it possessed; and which popular report ascribed to Jupiter as his donation. To check the enthusiasm, and in some degree to extinguish the admiration which, notwithstanding the power of Christianity, still lingered in the minds of some members of the Ephesian Church, it is supposed that the apostle used the words of our text in his Epistle to that Church. He there places in contrast to the temple of Diana another fabric in every respect infinitely superior--the Church of God: while the former temple was built upon wooden piles driven into the earth, the latter rests upon the writings of the apostles and prophets; while the materials of the former were all earthly, the materials of the latter are, by the grace of God in the regeneration of the human mind, spiritual and Divine; while the former was devoted to the rites of idolatry and superstition, the latter is sacred to the service of the true and living God; while the former could only boast of the image of its goddess, the latter has the presence, the indwelling presence of its own Maker--the Creator of the world. Other persons, however, imagine that the allusion here made is not to the temple of Diana, but to that more sacred fabric erected by Solomon upon Mount Zion. This was heavenly in its design, gorgeous in its material; it was the residence of Jehovah, and the type of the Christian Church. The Church, then, in this passage is set forth under the figure of a temple; we shall consider--

I. Its foundation. Prophets and apostles are here associated, Their theme was the same. The prophets predicted the Messiah who was to come, and the apostle recorded the history of the Messiah who had come; the one foretold the redemption to be accomplished, the other wrote of redemption finished and complete. And thus together they form a magnificent communication made from the invisible to the visible world; they resemble together the cherubim upon the ark of the covenant, turning their faces towards each other, and both together towards the mercy seat.

II. The superstructure of this temple. It often happens in the history of human affairs and transactions that men lay the foundation without being able to raise the superstructure; not so, however, with God. The building will rise and it will be equal to the basis.

1. We shall consider the nature of the material of which the superstructure is to be composed. The Apostle Peter has a very beautiful description of it in the second chapter of his first Epistle, at the fourth and fifth verses, “To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious.” “Living stone.” The superstructure resembling the foundation, the foundation equal to the superstructure.

2. We will notice the symmetry of the building: “fitly framed together”; not a heap of misshapen ruins huddled together into a mass of inextricable confusion; not a clumsy fabric raised by joiners and masons without skill; everything is arrayed in beautiful order, all the parts dove-tailed into each other, everything is fitly framed in its proper place, and rightly connected.

III. I come now, in the third place, to the design of the building. It was to be “an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Now let us consider the presence of God in the Church--in this building. It is an invisible presence, there is no sound of thunder like that which indicated His dwelling upon Sinai; no cloud of glory like that which indicated His presence with Israel is here; He is spiritual. He is a Spirit and must have a spiritual house. But it is a real presence, and here is the real presence in the Church. (J. A. James.)

Truth--a strong foundation

You will observe that the historical order--which is the order of time--is inverted, and the “apostles” are placed before the “prophets.” And for this reason: because, in the sentence, we are descending the “foundation.” The “apostles” are laid on the “prophets,” and the “prophets” are laid on “Christ.” This is the way that our faith touches God. The Bible rests on God--we rest on the Bible: so we reach God. It will not be out of place if I take occasion to say here to you what I often say to those whom I have under instruction--what are the four great proofs of inspiration?

1. The presumptive proof, of which I have been speaking--that we should expect that, when God has made such a creature as man, He would give to that creature some revelation of Himself.

2. The internal evidence. The authorship of the books of the Bible spreads over a period of nearly sixteen hundred years. There is one pervading current of thought. How could that agreement be, unless it had been dictated by some one Master-mind? And what could that Master-mind be, but God?

3. The external evidence. This book--from beginning to end--is full of prophecy. Could any human mind, unassisted, have done that? Could any but God do that? Then God wrote the Bible.

4. The experimental evidence. The book exactly fits the heart. I feel it when I read it; whoever made my heart made that book. The two must have one origin, and that origin must have been God. Thus, then, I arrive at the firm conviction that “the apostles and prophets” are a “sure foundation” on which to build our creed and our salvation, being themselves built on “the chief cornerstone.” We get, then, at the “foundation” of “truth,” “truth” in its two-fold strength--“prophetic truth,” “apostolic truth”; “prophetic truth” representing the Old Testament,--“apostolic truth” representing the blew Testament--and both on Christ. What is “prophetic truth”? Taken in its broad outline, it is this: the affairs, the destinies of this world all under the one watchful eye, and the one superintending hand, of Almighty God. To Him, all time is one unbroken now. And “apostolic truth” is this. This world has been the scene of a great mission. Christ, the Son of God, has been here, and He hath been careful to extend and perpetuate the knowledge of His mission, and all its benefits by missionaries, whom He hath sent to all the world. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Thy spiritual building

1. Faith makes us lean on Christ, as a building on a foundation. Our faith must not be a swimming conceit, but an assurance, making us stay on our God.

2. The Church is built on Christ. The firmness of the house is according to the sureness of the foundation. How impregnable, then, is the Church! (Matthew 16:19; Psalms 125:1).

3. The gospel builds us on no other foundation than that which was laid by the prophets from the beginning. The first preaching differs from the last not in substance but degree; we believe through our Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, even as they. There never was but one way of salvation. The sun rising, and at noon, differ not in substance. Christ is the kernel of both Testaments; blossom and ripe fruit.

4. Whatever is to be believed, must have prophetic and apostolic authority.

5. We must rely on Christ for a sure foundation to uphold us. As one would cling by a rock, so must we by Christ. Peter and others are builders: Christ alone is the foundation. Let there be no mistake as to this. (Paul Bayne.)

The foundation of the apostles and prophets

In spite of much ancient and valuable authority, it seems impossible to take “the prophets” of this verse to be the prophets of the Old Testament. The order of the two words and the comparison of Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 4:11 appear to be decisive--to say nothing of the emphasis on the present, in contrast with the past, which runs through the whole chapter. But it is more difficult to determine in what sense “the foundation of the apostles and prophets” is used. Of the three possible senses, that

Christ the cornerstone

The metaphor is drawn, of course, from Psalms 118:22 (applied by our Lord to Himself in Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; and by St. Peter to Him in Acts 4:11), or from Isaiah 28:16 (quoted with the other passage in 1 Peter 2:6-7); in which last it may be noted that both the metaphors are united, and “the tried cornerstone” is also “the sure foundation.” In itself it does not convey so obvious an idea of uniqueness and importance as that suggested by the “keystone” of an arch, or the “apex stone” of a pyramid; but it appears to mean a massive cornerstone, in which the two lines of the wall at their foundation meet, by which they were bonded together, and on the perfect squareness of which the true direction of the whole walls depended, since the slightest imperfection in the cornerstone would be indefinitely multiplied along the course of the walls. The doctrine which, if taken alone, it would convey, is simply the acceptance of our Lord’s perfect teaching and life, as the one determining influence both of the teaching and institutions, which are the basis of the Church, and of the superstructure in the actual life of the members of the Church itself. By such acceptance both assume symmetry and “stand four-square to all the winds that blow.” (See Revelation 21:16.) That this is not the whole truth seems to be implied by the variation from the metaphor in the next verse. (A. Barry, D. D.)

Jesus Christ Himself

I. With Jesus Christ Himself we begin by saying, first, that Jesus Himself is the essence of His own work, and, therefore, how readily we ought to trust Him. Jesus Himself is the soul of His own salvation. How does the apostle describe it? “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Because of this, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the object of our faith. “Look unto Me,” “Come unto Me.” How very simple, easy, natural, ought faith to be henceforth!

II. “Jesus Christ Himself” is the substance of the gospel, and therefore how closely should we study Him. While He was hero He taught His disciples, and the object of His teaching was that they might know Himself, and through Him might know the Father. Whatever else they may be ignorant of, it is essential to disciples that they know their Lord. His nature, character, mind, spirit, object, power, we must know--in a word, we must know Jesus Himself.

1. This, beloved, is the work of the Holy Spirit. “He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.” The Holy Ghost reveals Christ to us and in us.

2. Because Jesus is the sum of the gospel, He must be our constant theme. Put out the sun, and light is gone, life is gone, all is gone. The more of Christ in our testimony, the more of light and life and power to save.

III. Jesus Christ Himself is the object of our love, and how dear He should be. The love of a truth is all very well, but the love of a person has far more power in it. We have heard of men dying for an idea, but it is infinitely more easy to awaken enthusiasm for a person. When an idea becomes embodied in a man, it has a force which, in its abstract form, it never wielded. Jesus Christ is loved by us as the embodiment of everything that is lovely, and true, and pure, and of good report. He Himself is incarnate perfection, inspired by love. We love His offices, we love the types which describe Him, we love the ordinances by which He is set forth, but we love Himself best of all.

1. Because we love Him, we love His people, and through Him we enter into union with them. We are at one with every man who is at one with Christ. So warm is the fire of our love to Jesus that all His friends may sit at it, and welcome. Our circle of affection comprehends all who in any shape or way have truly to do with Jesus Himself.

2. Because we love Himself we delight to render service to Him. Whatever service we do for His Church, and for His truth, we do for His sake; even if we can only render it to the least of His brethren we do it unto Him.

IV. Jesus Christ Himself is the source of all our joy. How ought we to rejoice, when we have such a springing well of blessedness. What a joy to think that Jesus is risen--risen to die no more: the joy of resurrection is superlative.

V. Jesus Christ Himself is the model of our life, and therefore how blessed it is to be like Him. As to our rule for life, we are like the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration when Moses and Elias had vanished, for we see “no man save Jesus only.” Every virtue found in other men we find in Him in greater perfection; we admire the grace of God in them, but Jesus Himself is our pattern. It was once said of Henry VIII, by a severe critic, that if the characteristics of all the tyrants that had ever lived had been forgotten, they might all have been seen to the life in that one king: we may more truly say of Jesus, if all graces, and virtues, and sweetnesses which have ever been seen in good men could all be forgotten, you might find them all in Him: for in Him dwells all that is good and great. We, therefore, desire to copy His character and put our feet into His footprints.

VI. Lastly, He is the Lord of our soul. How sweet it will be to be with Him. We find today that His beloved company makes everything move pleasantly, whether we run in the way of His commands, or traverse the valley of the shadow of death. A poor girl, lying in the hospital, was told by the doctor or the nurse that she could only live another hour. She waited patiently, and when there remained only one quarter of an hour more, she exclaimed: “One more quarter of an hour, and then.” She could not say what, and neither can I only Jesus Himself hath said, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory.” And as He has prayed, so it shall be, and so let it be. Amen and Amen. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Jesus Christ Himself the proof of the gospel

The religion of our Lord Jesus Christ contains in it nothing so wonderful as Himself. It is a mass of marvels, but He is the miracle of it; the wonder of wonders is “The Wonderful” Himself. If proof be asked of the truth which He proclaimed, we point men to Jesus Christ Himself. His character is unique. We defy unbelievers to imagine another like Him. He is God and yet man, and we challenge them to compose a narrative in which the two apparently incongruous characters shall be so harmoniously blended--in which the human and Divine shall be so marvellously apparent, without the one overshading the other. They question the authenticity of the four Gospels; will they try and write a fifth? Will they even attempt to add a few incidents to the life which shall be worthy of the sacred biography, and congruous with those facts which are already described? If it be all a forgery, will they be so good as to show us how it is done? Will they find a novelist who will write another biography of a man of any century they choose, of any nationality, or of any degree of experience, or any rank or station, and let us see if they can describe in that imaginary life a devotion, a self-sacrifice, a truthfulness, a completeness of character at all comparable to that of Jesus Christ Himself? Can they invent another perfect character even if the Divine element be left out? They must of necessity fail, for there is none like unto Jesus Himself. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Jesus Christ Himself the marrow and essence of the gospel

When the Apostle Paul meant that the gospel was preached he said, “Christ is preached,” for the gospel is Christ Himself. If you want to know what Jesus taught, know Himself. He is the incarnation of that truth which by Him and in Him is revealed to the sons of men. Did He not Himself say, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”? You have not to take down innumerable tomes, nor to pore over mysterious sentences of double meaning in order to know what our great Teacher has revealed, you have but to turn and gaze upon His countenance, behold His actions, and note His spirit, and you know His teaching. He lived what He taught. If we wish to know Him, we may hear His gentle voice saying, “Come and see.” Study His wounds, and you understand His innermost philosophy. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Home symbols

Did you ever think how every part of your house can remind you of the great truths which Jesus Christ taught about Himself? The cornerstone says, “Christ is the cornerstone”; the door, “I am the door”; the burning candle, “I am the Light of the world”; the corridor, “I am the Way.” Look out of the window, and the sight of the starry sky bids you turn your eyes to “the bright and morning Star.” The rising sun speaks to you of the “rising of the Sun of Righteousness with healing on His wings.” The loaf on your table whispers of “the Bread of Life,” and the water that quenches your thirst, “I am the Living Water,” “I am the Water of Life.” When you lie down you think of Him that “had not where to lay His head,” and when you get up, you rejoice that He is “the Resurrection and the Life.” (Sunday Teachers Treasury.)

Growth in holiness

When I was at Mr. Spurgeon’s house he showed me the photographs of his two sons, who were twins, and whose photographs had been taken every year since they were twelve months old until they were seventeen years old. For the first two years they did not seem to have grown much, but when we compared the first with those of the age of seventeen they seemed to have grown amazingly. So it is with the children of God--they grow in grace. (D. L. Moody.)

Growth and permanence

“What is the use of thee, thou gnarled sapling?” said a young larch tree to a young oak. “I grow three feet in a year, thou scarcely as many inches; I am straight and taper as a reed, thou straggling and twisted as a loosened withe.” “And thy duration,” answered the oak, “is some third part of man’s life, and I am appointed to flourish for a thousand years. Thou art felled and sawed into palings, where thou rottest and art burnt after a single summer; of me are fashioned battle-ships, and I carry mariners and heroes into unknown seas.” The richer a nature, the harder and slower its development. (T. Carlyle.)

Necessity of holiness

There is no heaven for us, without fitness for heaven. As the official at the Bank of England said to me about some sovereigns I wished to change into notes, “If we take them in here they must be tested.” (B)

The spiritual temple

I. The foundation.

1. Prophets--the Old Testament. Apostles--the New Testament. Jesus Christ--the Divine Being in whom both dispensations are united.

2. This foundation is stable, sure.

3. It gives dignity to the building.

4. It is the only foundation.

II. The superstructure.

1. It will be a united building.

2. It is a progressive building.

3. It is a sanctified building.

III. The materials.

1. Believers in every age and clime.

2. Notice the stones in their natural state.

3. They are derived from different sources.

4. They are in different stages of preparation.

5. They must all be fashioned after the manner of the chief cornerstone.

6. Here is a text by which you may each know whether or not you are in the building.

7. These stones are bought with a price. (A. F. Barfield.)

Christ a builder

Christ builds on through all the ages. For the present, there has to be much destructive as well as constructive work done. Many a wretched hovel, the abode of sorrow and want, many a den of infamy, many a palace of pride, many a temple of idols, will have to be pulled down yet, and men’s eyes will be blinded by the dust, and their hearts will ache as they look at the ruins. Be it so. The finished structure will obliterate the remembrance of poor buildings that cumbered its site. This Emperor of ours may indeed say, that He found the city of brick and made it marble. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The temple of the faithful

1. There is a special wisdom required in those who are to dispense the doctrine of faith; they must proceed by line and order. We do not entrust a piece of work of any importance but to those who are masters of their craft. Much more does the spiritual building require workmen who labour as they need not be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15). And this teaches people how they should submit themselves to be framed and squared according as the ministry requires. Before a rough stone can be conveniently laid, it must be hewed by the mason, polished, and planed, and so brought to the rest of the building. So it is with you: you must be smoothed and planed before you can come to lie in this building. If ye be God’s building, ye must be squared to His model.

2. The faithful have a close union with Christ and one another. As in a house the building, all of it, “must be fitted to the foundation, and every part of it suit one with another, so in this building, which we are, there must be a straight coupling with the foundation, and correspondence one with another. In the material temple (the type of the spiritual) the walls or rows of stone that were in it were so squared that one piece did not bulge out above the other, but being laid together a man would have thought them one entire stone. So all the other things were so contrived, that window answered to window, door to door, chamber to chamber; there was a pleasant proportionableness in everything. In like manner must the multitude of believers be all laid on one foundation, and all of them so even that they seem as one living stone, and every one answering most commodiously to another. And thus it is with the faithful in their union with Christ and with one another. Love makes the saints each seek the good of the other, and be serviceable each to other.

3. True believers grow up from day to day. Even as it is in great buildings, which are not at once begun and perfected, So do the stones of the spiritual temple go on growing till they come to perfection. Where we cease to grow, there we decline; he that wins not, loses. Leave off endeavour to be better, and you will soon cease to be good.

4. Believers are a temple for God’s habitation.

5. Believers must be sanctified throughout.

6. Believers grow by the power of Christ. The Church still goes forward, in spite of heresies, persecutions, all scandals of life, all the gates of hell, because God is its builder.

God will make up all the breaches and ruins of our sinful nature, and build us up a glorious temple for Himself, wherein He will dwell forever. (Paul Bayne.)

The building

1. Observe the term “groweth,” intimating that the Church is ever enlarging her borders and adding to her members, either by the admission of the children of her members to the waters of baptism, or by the conversion of the heathen, and leading them to the same. And so it will continue, growing and increasing, until the consummation of all things: and God shall have accomplished the number of His elect.

2. Observe the expression, “fitly framed together,” showing the order and subordination of the different members. Not a confused mass of building materials, without shape and order; but set in their several stations, by the great Master of the universe.

3. Observe how the whole glory of this is ascribed not to man, but to our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him the building is framed; in Him it groweth and increaseth; the power to do so coming from Him. (A. P. Perceval, B. C. L.)

The growth of the new kingdom

The growth of the body, on Christ’s part, is spontaneous, and on man’s, consentaneous. “In whom all the building fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord.” It grows from Christ, but it grows in unity with our consenting affections. Christ never violates human freedom, but works in it, with it, and by it. “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? Ask, and ye shall receive.” “According to your faith be it unto you.” He would open and develop in us much more of His purity and truth, goodness and beauty; but He waits for our desire, and by processes of wondrous wisdom and gentleness He seeks to beget in us that desire. If the spirit of the flesh in us be ardent, or the spiritual affections be lukewarm, the growth of the new nature will be retarded, or suspended. If it be necessary to receive Christ, in order to salvation, it is equally necessary to walk in Him, in a spirit of watchfulness and prayer, in order to growth. Inasmuch as “all the building is growing in the Lord,” and according to His order, it will, in the end, not only be a glorious temple of humanity, but marvellously adapted for the indwelling and manifestation of God. “I will dwell in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” I will fill them, and they shall represent My fulness. “The whole building,” the redeemed of every generation, growing more and more into unity with each other, and with Christ, and through Him with all the hidden powers of the Godhead, is a work which is every way worthy of all Almighty Father. To what glory, to what beauty, will the kingdom grow? to what wisdom will its members attain? what will be their powers? what their fellowship? what their individual freedom of action? what their service and end, as one empire in the Son, and in the Father? At present there is much in human souls, much in the constitution of nature, and very much in the strife of the great spirit world, to hinder the full development of God’s purpose in Christ. But all hindrances have their appointed limit. In due time, they will all be overmastered or removed; and God and the redeemed race will come into perfect relationship. (John Pulsford.)

The growth of the structure

The structure is in process of growth. It is not finished--the copestone has not been put upon it. The scaffolding occasionally disfigures it; yet even in its immature state, and with so much that is undeveloped, one may admire its beauty of outline, and its graceful form and proportions. Vast augmentations may be certainly anticipated; but its increase does not mutilate its adaptations, for it grows as “being fitly framed together.” A structure not firm and compact is in the greater danger of falling the higher it is carried; and “if it topple on our heads, what matter is it whether we are crushed by a Corinthian or a Doric ruin?” But this fabric, with walls of more than Cyclopean or Pelasgian strength and vastness, secures its own continuous and illimitable elevation. Provision is thus made for its increase, and without breach or delapidation it rises in height. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

Christian unity

All the redeemed are one body--many members, but still one great incorporation. “Ye are builded together for an habitation of God, through the Spirit.” The materials of a house form no place of abode, while they lie scattered and separated. In the ancient tabernacle, the glory of the Lord did not appear till it was compacted and set up. The Divine presence rested not upon the stones and timber of the Temple till they were framed into the edifice. We may hence infer, that if we would enjoy the promised blessing, we should avoid strifes and divisions, and follow after peace, and the things whereby one may edify the other. (Anonymous.)

The tabernacle of the Most High

I. The Church is a building. Not a heap of stones shot together, but a building. Of old her Architect devised her. Methinks I see Him, as I look back into old eternity, making the first outline of His Church. “Here,” saith He, in His eternal wisdom, “shall be the cornerstone, and there shall be the pinnacle.” I see Him ordaining her length, and her breadth, appointing her gates and her doors with matchless skill, devising every part of her, and leaving no single portion of the structure unmapped. I see Him, that mighty Architect, also choosing to Himself every stone of the building, ordaining its size and its shape; settling upon His mighty plan the position each stone shall occupy, whether it shall glitter in front, or be hidden in the back, or buried in the very centre of the wall. I see Him marking not merely the bare outline, but all the fillings up; all being ordained, decreed, and settled, in the eternal covenant, which was the Divine plan of the mighty Architect upon which the Church is to be built. Looking on, I see the Architect choosing a cornerstone. He looks to heaven, and there are the angels, those glittering stones--He looks at each one of them from Gabriel down; but, saith He, “None of you will suffice. I must have a cornerstone that will support all the weight of the building, for on that stone every other one must lean. O Gabriel, thou wilt not suffice I Raphael, thou must lay by; I cannot build with thee.” Yet was it necessary that a stone should be found, and one too that should be taken out of the same quarry as the rest. Where was he to be discovered? Was there a man who would suffice to be the cornerstone of this mighty building? Ah, no! neither apostles, prophets, nor teachers would. Put them all together, and they would be as a foundation of quicksand, and the house would totter to its fall. Mark how the Divine mind solved the difficulty--“God shall become man, very man, and so He shall be of the same substance as the other stones of the temple; yet shall He be God, and therefore strong enough to bear all the weight of this mighty structure, the top whereof shall reach to heaven.” I see that foundation stone laid. Is there singing at the laying of it? No. There is weeping there. The angels gathered round at the laying of this first stone; and look, ye men, and wonder, the angels weep; the harps of heaven are clothed in sackcloth, and no song is heard. They sang together and shouted for joy when the world was made; why shout they not now? Look ye here, and see the reason. That stone is imbedded in blood. The first is laid; where are the rest? Shall we go and dig into the sides of Lebanon? Shall we find these precious stones in the marble quarries of kings? No. Whither are ye flying, ye labourers of God? “We go to dig in the quarries of Sodom and Gomorrah, in the depths of sinful Jerusalem, and in the midst of erring Samaria.” I see them clear away the rubbish. I mark them as they dig deep into the earth, and at last they come to these stones. But how rough, how hard, how unhewn. Yes, but these are the stones ordained of old in the decree, and these must be the stones, and none other. There must be a change effected. These must be brought in, and shaped and cut and polished, and put into their places. I see the workmen at their labour. The great saw of the law cuts through the stone, and then comes the polishing chisel of the gospel. I see the stones lying in their places, and the Church is rising. The ministers, like wise master builders, are there running along the wall, putting each spiritual stone in its place; each stone is leaning on that massive cornerstone, and every stone depending on the blood, and finding its security and its strength in Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, elect, and precious. Now open wide your eyes, and see what a glorious building this is--the Church of God. Men talk of the splendour of their architecture--this is architecture indeed; neither after Grecian nor Gothic models, but after the model of the sanctuary which Moses saw in the holy mountain. Do you see it? Was there ever a structure so comely as this--instinct with life in every part? There is no house like a heart for one to repose in. There a man may find peace in his fellow man; but here is the house where God delighteth to dwell--built of living hearts, all beating with holy love--built of redeemed souls, chosen of the Father, bought with the blood of Christ. The top of it is in heaven. Part of them are above the clouds. Many of the living stones are now in the pinnacle of paradise. We are here below. The building rises, the sacred masonry is heaving, and, as the cornerstone rises, so all of us must rise, until at last the entire structure, from its foundation to its pinnacle, shall be heaved up to heaven, and there shall it stand forever--the new Jerusalem, the temple of the majesty of God.

1. The Divine Architect makes no mistakes. When our eyes shall have been enlightened, and our hearts instructed, each part of the building will command our admiration. The top stone is not the foundation, nor does the foundation stand at the top. Every stone is of the right shape; the whole material is as it should be, and the structure is adapted for the great end, the glory of God, the temple of the Most High.

2. Another thing may be noticed--her impregnable strength. This habitation of God, this house not made with hands, but of God’s building, has often been attacked, but never taken. What multitudes of enemies have battered against her old ramparts! but they have battered in vain.

3. And we may add, it is glorious for beauty. There was never structure like this. One might feast his eyes upon it from dawn to eve, and then begin again. Jesus Himself takes delight in it. God joys over it with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

II. But the true glory of the Church of God consists in the fact that she is not only a building, but that she is a habitation. There may be great beauty in an uninhabited structure, but there is always a melancholy thought connected with it. Who loves to see desolate palaces? Who desireth that the land should cast out her sons, and that her houses should fail of tenants? But there is joy in a house lit up and furnished, where there is the sound of men. Beloved, the Church of God hath this for her peculiar glory, that she is a tenanted house, that she is a habitation of God through the Spirit. How many Churches there are that are houses, yet not habitations! I might picture to you a professed Church of God; it is built according to square and compass, but its model has been formed in some ancient creed, and not in the Word of God. There are too many churches that are nothing but a mass of dull, dead formality; there is no life of God there. A house is a place where a man solaces and comforts himself. Our home is the place of our solace, our comfort, and our rest. Now, God calls the Church His habitation--His home. Oh, how beautiful is the picture of the Church as God’s house, the place in which He takes His solace! “For the Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.”

2. Furthermore, a man’s home is the place where he shows his inner self. There are sweet revelations which God makes in His Church, which He never makes anywhere else.

3. A man’s home is the centre of all he does. Yonder is a large farm. Well, there are outhouses, and hay ricks, and barns, and the like; but just in the middle of these there is the house, the centre of all husbandry. No matter how much wheat there may be, it is to the house the produce goes. It is for the maintenance of the household that the husband carries on his husbandry. Now, God’s Church is God’s centre. Why doth God clothe the hills with plenty? For the feeding of His people. Why is providence revolving? Why those wars and tempests, and then again this stillness and calm? It is for His Church. Not an angel divides the ether who hath not a mission for the Church. It may be indirectly, but nevertheless truly so. All things must minister and work together for good for the chosen Church of God, which is His house--His daily habitation.

4. We love our homes, and we must and will defend them. Ay, and now lift up your thoughts--the Church is God’s home; will He not defend it?

III. The Church is, by and by, to be God’s glorious temple. It doth not yet appear what she shall be. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Believers God’s habitation

1. Believers have the Lord to dwell with them.

2. By being built on Christ, we come to be a dwelling for God.

3. The Spirit of sanctification makes us a fit habitation for God. (Paul Bayne.)

The spiritual building

I. The materials.

1. Their nature.

2. Their diversity.

3. Their number.

4. Their circumstances.

5. Their value.

II. The basis and plan.

1. The foundation is Christ.

2. The chief cornerstone is Christ.

3. The whole building is constructed by Christ.

4. The excellencies of Christ will be the beauty of the building.

III. The instruments and agency by which this building is constructed and carried on. The Holy Spirit.

1. The vastness of the work requires a universal presence.

2. The difficulty of the work demands infinite resources.

3. The time needed to carry on the work requires a perpetual agency.

IV. The design to be accomplished in this work. “For an habitation of God.” (Isaiah Birt.)

Believers are temples

If there be anything common to us by nature, it is the members of our corporeal frame; yet the apostle taught that these, guided by the Spirit as its instruments, and obeying a holy will, become transfigured; so that, in his language, the body becomes a temple of the Holy Ghost, and the meanest faculties, the lowest appetites, the humblest organs, are ennobled by the Spirit mind which guides them. Thus he bids the Romans yield themselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and their members as instruments of righteousness unto God. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Inhabited by the Holy Spirit

I am sitting, on a summer’s day, in the shadow of a great New England elm. Its long branches hang motionless; there is not breeze enough to move them. All at once there comes a faint murmur; around my head the leaves are moved by a gentle current of air; then the branches begin to sway to and fro, the leaves are all in motion, and a soft, rushing sound fills my ear. So with every one that is born of the Spirit. I am in a state of spiritual lethargy, and scarcely know how to think any good thought. I am heart empty, and there comes, I know not where or whence, a sound of the Divine presence. I am inwardly moved with new comfort and hope; the day seems to dawn in my heart, sunshine comes around my path, and I am able to go to my duties with patience. I am walking in the Spirit, I am helped by the help of God, and comforted with the comfort of God. And yet this is all in accordance with law. There is no violation of law when the breezes come, stirring the tops of the trees; and there is no violation of law when God moves in the depths of our souls, and rouses us to the love and desire of holiness. (James Freeman Clarke.)

The rival builders

The story of Rowland Hill preaching against the first Surrey Theatre is very characteristic. The building of Surrey Chapel was going on simultaneously with that of the theatre. In his sermon he addressed his audience as follows:--“You have a race to run now between God and the devil; the children of the last are making all possible haste in building him a temple, where he may receive the donations and worship of the children of vanity and sin! Now is your time, therefore, to bestir yourselves in the cause of righteousness, and never let it be said but what God can outrun the devil!” (Clerical Anecdotes.)
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Verse 22

Ephesians 2:20; Ephesians 2:22

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.

The Christian Church

I. The apostle represents the Church under the figure of a city and a household.

1. A Church must resemble a family or city, in respect of order and government; for without these a religious society can no more subsist, than a civil community or a household.

2. In a city or household all the members have a mutual relation, and partake in the common privileges; and, though they are placed in different stations and conditions, they must all contribute to the general happiness.

3. In a city, and also in a family, there is a common interest.

4. In a well-ordered city or household there will be peace and unity: so there ought to be in a Christian Church.

II. The manner in which it is founded. The mediation of Christ is the foundation of our faith and hope.

III. This spiritual house must be united with and framed into, the foundation.

IV. As the spiritual house must rest on the foundation, so the several parts of it must be framed and inserted into each other.

V. It must be continually growing. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

God’s temple: its foundation, building, and consecration

I. The foundation laid.

1. The foundation is Jesus Christ--the foundation of the apostles and prophets, i.e., which they laid. It was laid in the promises, types, and prophecies of the Old Testament, and the witness of apostles and evangelists in the New (John 3:14; 1 Corinthians 10:4; Matthew 16:16).

2. The foundation of the Church must be the foundation of each member of the Church. The essence of a foundation lies in its strength. The foundation in individual character is truth. Truth is a Person--“I am the Truth.” The foundation, therefore, is the truth concerning Jesus Christ believed, loved, and lived. The gospel thus received becomes a principle which forms the mainspring of a new life.

II. The building rising.

1. Look abroad upon the face of the world, and note the advances which the Church is making in all parts. The very hindrances to missionary work prove its success, for the more active the servants of God are, the more active the agents of Satan will be.

2. The building must rise in each heart. Growth is almost the only proof of life. The growth of the temple is due to the operation of the Spirit.

3. In most forms of life there is an exquisite symmetry. We see something of it in this temple: “fitly framed together.” As there is a beautiful proportion in the doctrines of the gospel, so, though God’s servants are many and their gifts various, their aim is one; and through their united wisdom and love and effort, all the building groweth into a holy temple in the Lord.

III. The temple consecrated.

1. We may refer the consecration to the end of the age, because consecration usually follows upon completion.

2. But even now there is to a certain extent a consecration of this building (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:16). How shall I know this?

The Church, a building

Like a building, the Church of God has been going on to the present day, and will do to the end of time. The honour and stability of this building.

1. As built upon Christ.

2. As wrought by the Spirit.

3. As an habitation of God. “Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in,” etc. (Psalms 68:16). “In Salem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion (Psalms 76:2). This denotes--

“God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved,” etc. (Psalms 46:5). Each member in Christ has his state and office in the Church by God’s appointment, for promoting the good and glory of the whole. “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets,” etc. (Ephesians 4:11, etc.). “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body,” etc. (1 Corinthians 12:18). No spiritual life and salvation without being united to Christ by faith. (H. Foster, M. A.)

The Church

I. The unbelieving state of the Gentile Church. “Strangers.”

1. Strangers to God. To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (Ephesians 2:12.

2. Strangers to the Word of God (Psalms 119:158).

3. Strangers to the Church of God (1 John 3:1).

4. Strangers to themselves (Revelation 3:17).

5. Strangers to the enjoyments, fears, duties, privileges, persecutions, and prospects of a Christian (1 Corinthians 2:11).

“Foreigners.”

1. Naturally of another race (Psalms 51:5).

2. Under the authority of another prince (2 Corinthians 4:4).

3. Of a totally different complexion (Jeremiah 13:23).

4. Speaking another language (Psalms 58:3).

5. Seeking other interests than God (Philippians 2:21).

6. At an infinite distance from the celestial kingdom, where only true happiness rests (Ephesians 2:13).

II. Their adopted or privileged condition. “Fellow citizens,” etc. The city they belong to is either the Church below, or the Church above.

1. It is the city of God (Hebrews 12:22).

2. Of God’s building (Psalms 127:1).

3. Where He dwells (Psalms 68:16).

4. Which is strongly fortified (Isaiah 26:1).

5. It is delightfully situated by the river of God’s love (Psalms 46:4).

6. Endowed with various privileges (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

7. Peopled with high-born inhabitants (John 1:13).

The Church of God above.

1. This is a city of God’s preparing (John 14:2-3).

2. There He has His more especial residence (1 Corinthians 13:12).

3. The inhabitants are angels and saints (Hebrews 12:22-23).

4. Of this city we are also citizens (Galatians 4:26).

5. Set apart by the Father’s grace (Jude 1:1).

6. By the work of Christ in their behalf (Hebrews 10:14).

7. And by the agency of the Holy Ghost (Romans 5:5).

8. And having a right to a name and a place in the Church on earth; so have they their citizenship in heaven (Job 16:19).

9. This they have not by birth, nor purchase, but by the free grace of God, which gives them both a right and meetness (2 Timothy 1:9).

10. And believing Gentiles are here made equal with the Jews in the blessings of salvation (Ephesians 2:14).

“And of the household of God.”

1. The Church of God consisting of believers (Acts 5:14).

2. This family is named after, and by Christ (Ephesians 3:14-15).

3. Of this family God is the Father (John 20:17).

4. Christ is the first-born (Romans 8:29).

5. Ministers are stewards of this house (1 Corinthians 4:1).

6. To this family all believers belong (Acts 4:32).

7. Not by birth, nor merit, but by adopting grace (Ephesians 1:5).

8. The members of this family are freed from all bondage (Romans 8:15).

9. They can never be arrested or condemned (Romans 8:1).

10. They have liberty of access to God (Ephesians 2:18).

11. Share in the fulness of Christ’s grace (Ephesians 3:19).

12. Are well taken care of (Psalms 145:20).

13. They are richly clothed (Isaiah 61:10).

14. They have plenty of provisions (Psalms 36:8).

15. And are heirs of a never-fading inheritance (1 Peter 1:4-5).

III. The foundation and cornerstone are Christ. “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”

1. The Father saved them designedly in Christ (2 Timothy 1:9).

2. The Son saved them positively in Himself (Hebrews 10:14).

3. The Spirit saves them apprehensively in Christ (Titus 3:5).

4. Christ, then, is the foundation of the Church (Matthew 16:18).

5. He is the foundation of all covenant blessings (Ephesians 1:3).

6. Of faith (Acts 20:21).

7. Of hope (Colossians 1:27).

8. Of peace (Ephesians 2:14).

9. Of joy (Romans 5:11).

10. Of comfort (2 Thessalonians 2:17).

11. Of glory (Jude 1:25).

12. The stones of this building are hewn out by the Word, and the ministers of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:7).

“Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”

1. He joins together Old and New Testament saints (Ephesians 2:14).

2. Saints above and saints below (Hebrews 12:23).

3. Saints in all parts of the world (John 11:52).

4. This stone is refused by many (Psalms 118:22).

5. Yet a durable and precious stone (Isaiah 28:16).

6. It is a foundation cornerstone, reaching under the whole building to the four corners (1 Corinthians 3:11).

IV. The perfection of the building. “In whom all the building fitly framed together.”

1. All the building--The universal Church of Christ (Acts 4:12).

2. Fitly framed--Is of a spiritual nature (Colossians 2:19).

3. It consists of various parts as a building does (Romans 12:4-5).

4. Fitly or closely joined to Christ by living faith (Galatians 2:20).

5. Banded to each other by Christian love (1 John 4:7).

6. These are all set in the Church in exact symmetry and proportion (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).

“Groweth into a holy temple in the Lord.”

1. It grows by the accession of elect souls, newly called by Divine grace (Acts 2:47).

2. It is not yet openly and visibly completed, but it will be in the calling of the Jews and the fulness of the Gentiles (Romans 11:25-26).

“Holy temple”; alluding to the temple at Jerusalem.

1. Whose stones were prepared before they were brought into the building.

2. Whose magnificence and beauty were very great.

3. A place of holy worship (2 Corinthians 6:16).

“In the Lord.”

1. There is no salvation, blessing, or holiness but in the Lord (Colossians 3:11).

V. The design of this temple. “In whom ye are builded together.” Then it appears from what has been said, that God is the builder, Christ the foundation, and believers are the materials of this temple.

1. The door of entrance is faith in Christ (Hebrews 11:6).

2. Ministers of the gospel are pillars (Galatians 2:9).

3. The ordinances are its windows (Exodus 20:24).

4. Its provisions are large and entertaining (Psalms 132:15).

It denotes--

“For a habitation of God through the Spirit.”

1. God dwells in the Church in the person of Christ (2 Corinthians 6:16).

2. The Church dwells in God by her union to Christ (1 John 4:13).

3. It is a spiritual dwelling that is here intended, both of God in us, and of us in God (Romans 8:9-10). (T. B. Baker.)

The true foundation

When the immense stone piers of the East River bridge were begun, three or four years ago, the builders did not attempt to manufacture a foundation. They simply dug down through the mud and sand, and found the solid bedrock which the Almighty Creator had laid there thousands of years ago. It is a wretched mistake to suppose that you need to construct a foundation. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Your own merits, however, cemented by good resolutions, will no more answer for a solid base than would a cart-load of bricks as the substratum of yonder stupendous bridge. God has provided for you a cornerstone already. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Jesus our Rock

For a whole week, riot only bishop but all the priests and friars of the city (Exeter) visited Bennet night and day. But they tried in vain to prove to him that the Roman Church was the true one. “God has given me grace to be of a better Church,” he said. “Do you know that ours is built upon St. Peter?” “The Church that is built upon a man,” he replied, “is the devil’s Church, and not God’s.”… At the place of execution he exhorted with such unction, that the sheriff’s clerk exclaimed, “Truly this is a servant of God!” Two persons, going up to the martyr, exclaimed in a threatening voice, “Say, ‘Precor sanctam Mariam et omnes sanctos Dei.’” “I know no other advocate but Jesus Christ,” replied Bennet. (J. H. M. DAubigne, D. D.)

A new and physical metaphor

In these verses there is a sudden change from a political to a physical metaphor, possibly suggested by the word “household.” The metaphor itself, of the Church as “a building of God”--frequently used in the New Testament reaches its full perfection in this passage.

1. It starts, of course, from the words of our Lord (Matthew 16:18), “On this rock I will build My Church”; but in the use of it sometimes the prominent idea is of the growth by addition of individual stones, sometimes of the complex unity of the building as a whole.

2. The former idea naturally occurs first, connecting itself, indeed, with the still more personal application of the metaphor to the “edification” of the individual to be a temple of God (found, for example, in 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 10:23; 1 Corinthians 14:4; 2 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 10:8). Thus in 1 Corinthians 3:9, from “ye are God’s building,” St. Paul passes at once to the building of individual character on the one foundation; in 1 Corinthians 14:4-5; 1 Corinthians 14:12; 1 Corinthians 14:26, the edification of the Church has reference to the effect of prophecy on individual souls; in 1 Peter 2:5, the emphasis is still on the building up of “living stones” upon “a living stone” (Comp. Acts 20:32).

3. In this Epistle the other idea--the idea of unity--is always prominent, though not exclusive of the other (as here and in Ephesians 4:12-16). But that this conception of unity is less absolute than that conveyed by the metaphor of the body will be seen by noting that it differs from it in three respects first, that it carries with it the notion of a more distinct individuality in each stone; next, that it conveys (as in the “grafting in” of Romans 11:17) the idea of continual growth by accretion of individual souls drawn to Christ; lastly, that it depicts the Church as having more completely a distinct, though not a separate, existence from Him who dwells in it. (On this last point compare the metaphor of the spouse of Christ in Ephesians 5:25-33.) Hence it is naturally worked out with greater completeness in an Epistle which has so especially for its object the evolution of the doctrine of “the one Holy Catholic Church.” (A. Barry, D. D.)

Living temples

My brethren, it becomes of the utmost importance to inquire, Have we a place in this spiritual building? Are we daily striving, as St. Jude exhorts us, to “pray in the Holy Ghost,” and to “build up ourselves on our most holy faith”?

I. That we may know what our state is, what our hope towards God, let us, first, ask ourselves, Am I resting on the sure foundation? St. Paul tells us what it is: “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

II. Again: let us ask ourselves, Do we bear always in mind that we are called to be “a holy temple in the Lord,” “an habitation of God through the Spirit”?

1. A temple gives us the idea of dedication. Do we look upon ourselves as those who are set apart unto holiness, and ought not to be conformed unto this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God?

2. A temple also gives us the idea of God’s immediate presence (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19). This is a thought full of awe, and full of comfort. God is present in the hearts of them that believe, not as He appeared of old in the Temple at Jerusalem, shining above the mercy seat in a cloud of glory such as man’s eye could see (John 14:23). And how should we regard our mortal body, if we believed it to be the temple of the Spirit of God?

3. A temple gives us the idea of continual service.

4. That the work of grace ought to be advancing in us. For what says St. Paul? “Growing unto an holy temple in the Lord.” (E. Blencowe, M. A.)

The Christian temple

Temples have always excited feelings of the deepest interest in the human race. They generally contain within themselves, and in the materials with which they are constructed, much that is beautiful and grand. They form a kind of middle step between earth and heaven, where faith and sense meet and unite to indulge in contemplations suited to their varied powers and capacities. The Greeks and the Romans were perhaps the most superstitious people in the world, they covered their land with the most bewitching forms of their idolatry; their temples were of the most costly and splendid description. Among all the temples of antiquity, none were equal to the temple at Ephesus dedicated to Diana. It was the boast of ancient Greece, and one of the wonders of the world. Upwards of two hundred years elapsed during its construction, many sovereigns assisted in its progress with no small portion of their revenues. And it was considered peculiarly sacred in consequence of the figure of Diana which it possessed; and which popular report ascribed to Jupiter as his donation. To check the enthusiasm, and in some degree to extinguish the admiration which, notwithstanding the power of Christianity, still lingered in the minds of some members of the Ephesian Church, it is supposed that the apostle used the words of our text in his Epistle to that Church. He there places in contrast to the temple of Diana another fabric in every respect infinitely superior--the Church of God: while the former temple was built upon wooden piles driven into the earth, the latter rests upon the writings of the apostles and prophets; while the materials of the former were all earthly, the materials of the latter are, by the grace of God in the regeneration of the human mind, spiritual and Divine; while the former was devoted to the rites of idolatry and superstition, the latter is sacred to the service of the true and living God; while the former could only boast of the image of its goddess, the latter has the presence, the indwelling presence of its own Maker--the Creator of the world. Other persons, however, imagine that the allusion here made is not to the temple of Diana, but to that more sacred fabric erected by Solomon upon Mount Zion. This was heavenly in its design, gorgeous in its material; it was the residence of Jehovah, and the type of the Christian Church. The Church, then, in this passage is set forth under the figure of a temple; we shall consider--

I. Its foundation. Prophets and apostles are here associated, Their theme was the same. The prophets predicted the Messiah who was to come, and the apostle recorded the history of the Messiah who had come; the one foretold the redemption to be accomplished, the other wrote of redemption finished and complete. And thus together they form a magnificent communication made from the invisible to the visible world; they resemble together the cherubim upon the ark of the covenant, turning their faces towards each other, and both together towards the mercy seat.

II. The superstructure of this temple. It often happens in the history of human affairs and transactions that men lay the foundation without being able to raise the superstructure; not so, however, with God. The building will rise and it will be equal to the basis.

1. We shall consider the nature of the material of which the superstructure is to be composed. The Apostle Peter has a very beautiful description of it in the second chapter of his first Epistle, at the fourth and fifth verses, “To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious.” “Living stone.” The superstructure resembling the foundation, the foundation equal to the superstructure.

2. We will notice the symmetry of the building: “fitly framed together”; not a heap of misshapen ruins huddled together into a mass of inextricable confusion; not a clumsy fabric raised by joiners and masons without skill; everything is arrayed in beautiful order, all the parts dove-tailed into each other, everything is fitly framed in its proper place, and rightly connected.

III. I come now, in the third place, to the design of the building. It was to be “an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Now let us consider the presence of God in the Church--in this building. It is an invisible presence, there is no sound of thunder like that which indicated His dwelling upon Sinai; no cloud of glory like that which indicated His presence with Israel is here; He is spiritual. He is a Spirit and must have a spiritual house. But it is a real presence, and here is the real presence in the Church. (J. A. James.)

Truth--a strong foundation

You will observe that the historical order--which is the order of time--is inverted, and the “apostles” are placed before the “prophets.” And for this reason: because, in the sentence, we are descending the “foundation.” The “apostles” are laid on the “prophets,” and the “prophets” are laid on “Christ.” This is the way that our faith touches God. The Bible rests on God--we rest on the Bible: so we reach God. It will not be out of place if I take occasion to say here to you what I often say to those whom I have under instruction--what are the four great proofs of inspiration?

1. The presumptive proof, of which I have been speaking--that we should expect that, when God has made such a creature as man, He would give to that creature some revelation of Himself.

2. The internal evidence. The authorship of the books of the Bible spreads over a period of nearly sixteen hundred years. There is one pervading current of thought. How could that agreement be, unless it had been dictated by some one Master-mind? And what could that Master-mind be, but God?

3. The external evidence. This book--from beginning to end--is full of prophecy. Could any human mind, unassisted, have done that? Could any but God do that? Then God wrote the Bible.

4. The experimental evidence. The book exactly fits the heart. I feel it when I read it; whoever made my heart made that book. The two must have one origin, and that origin must have been God. Thus, then, I arrive at the firm conviction that “the apostles and prophets” are a “sure foundation” on which to build our creed and our salvation, being themselves built on “the chief cornerstone.” We get, then, at the “foundation” of “truth,” “truth” in its two-fold strength--“prophetic truth,” “apostolic truth”; “prophetic truth” representing the Old Testament,--“apostolic truth” representing the blew Testament--and both on Christ. What is “prophetic truth”? Taken in its broad outline, it is this: the affairs, the destinies of this world all under the one watchful eye, and the one superintending hand, of Almighty God. To Him, all time is one unbroken now. And “apostolic truth” is this. This world has been the scene of a great mission. Christ, the Son of God, has been here, and He hath been careful to extend and perpetuate the knowledge of His mission, and all its benefits by missionaries, whom He hath sent to all the world. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Thy spiritual building

1. Faith makes us lean on Christ, as a building on a foundation. Our faith must not be a swimming conceit, but an assurance, making us stay on our God.

2. The Church is built on Christ. The firmness of the house is according to the sureness of the foundation. How impregnable, then, is the Church! (Matthew 16:19; Psalms 125:1).

3. The gospel builds us on no other foundation than that which was laid by the prophets from the beginning. The first preaching differs from the last not in substance but degree; we believe through our Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, even as they. There never was but one way of salvation. The sun rising, and at noon, differ not in substance. Christ is the kernel of both Testaments; blossom and ripe fruit.

4. Whatever is to be believed, must have prophetic and apostolic authority.

5. We must rely on Christ for a sure foundation to uphold us. As one would cling by a rock, so must we by Christ. Peter and others are builders: Christ alone is the foundation. Let there be no mistake as to this. (Paul Bayne.)

The foundation of the apostles and prophets

In spite of much ancient and valuable authority, it seems impossible to take “the prophets” of this verse to be the prophets of the Old Testament. The order of the two words and the comparison of Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 4:11 appear to be decisive--to say nothing of the emphasis on the present, in contrast with the past, which runs through the whole chapter. But it is more difficult to determine in what sense “the foundation of the apostles and prophets” is used. Of the three possible senses, that

Christ the cornerstone

The metaphor is drawn, of course, from Psalms 118:22 (applied by our Lord to Himself in Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; and by St. Peter to Him in Acts 4:11), or from Isaiah 28:16 (quoted with the other passage in 1 Peter 2:6-7); in which last it may be noted that both the metaphors are united, and “the tried cornerstone” is also “the sure foundation.” In itself it does not convey so obvious an idea of uniqueness and importance as that suggested by the “keystone” of an arch, or the “apex stone” of a pyramid; but it appears to mean a massive cornerstone, in which the two lines of the wall at their foundation meet, by which they were bonded together, and on the perfect squareness of which the true direction of the whole walls depended, since the slightest imperfection in the cornerstone would be indefinitely multiplied along the course of the walls. The doctrine which, if taken alone, it would convey, is simply the acceptance of our Lord’s perfect teaching and life, as the one determining influence both of the teaching and institutions, which are the basis of the Church, and of the superstructure in the actual life of the members of the Church itself. By such acceptance both assume symmetry and “stand four-square to all the winds that blow.” (See Revelation 21:16.) That this is not the whole truth seems to be implied by the variation from the metaphor in the next verse. (A. Barry, D. D.)

Jesus Christ Himself

I. With Jesus Christ Himself we begin by saying, first, that Jesus Himself is the essence of His own work, and, therefore, how readily we ought to trust Him. Jesus Himself is the soul of His own salvation. How does the apostle describe it? “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Because of this, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the object of our faith. “Look unto Me,” “Come unto Me.” How very simple, easy, natural, ought faith to be henceforth!

II. “Jesus Christ Himself” is the substance of the gospel, and therefore how closely should we study Him. While He was hero He taught His disciples, and the object of His teaching was that they might know Himself, and through Him might know the Father. Whatever else they may be ignorant of, it is essential to disciples that they know their Lord. His nature, character, mind, spirit, object, power, we must know--in a word, we must know Jesus Himself.

1. This, beloved, is the work of the Holy Spirit. “He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.” The Holy Ghost reveals Christ to us and in us.

2. Because Jesus is the sum of the gospel, He must be our constant theme. Put out the sun, and light is gone, life is gone, all is gone. The more of Christ in our testimony, the more of light and life and power to save.

III. Jesus Christ Himself is the object of our love, and how dear He should be. The love of a truth is all very well, but the love of a person has far more power in it. We have heard of men dying for an idea, but it is infinitely more easy to awaken enthusiasm for a person. When an idea becomes embodied in a man, it has a force which, in its abstract form, it never wielded. Jesus Christ is loved by us as the embodiment of everything that is lovely, and true, and pure, and of good report. He Himself is incarnate perfection, inspired by love. We love His offices, we love the types which describe Him, we love the ordinances by which He is set forth, but we love Himself best of all.

1. Because we love Him, we love His people, and through Him we enter into union with them. We are at one with every man who is at one with Christ. So warm is the fire of our love to Jesus that all His friends may sit at it, and welcome. Our circle of affection comprehends all who in any shape or way have truly to do with Jesus Himself.

2. Because we love Himself we delight to render service to Him. Whatever service we do for His Church, and for His truth, we do for His sake; even if we can only render it to the least of His brethren we do it unto Him.

IV. Jesus Christ Himself is the source of all our joy. How ought we to rejoice, when we have such a springing well of blessedness. What a joy to think that Jesus is risen--risen to die no more: the joy of resurrection is superlative.

V. Jesus Christ Himself is the model of our life, and therefore how blessed it is to be like Him. As to our rule for life, we are like the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration when Moses and Elias had vanished, for we see “no man save Jesus only.” Every virtue found in other men we find in Him in greater perfection; we admire the grace of God in them, but Jesus Himself is our pattern. It was once said of Henry VIII, by a severe critic, that if the characteristics of all the tyrants that had ever lived had been forgotten, they might all have been seen to the life in that one king: we may more truly say of Jesus, if all graces, and virtues, and sweetnesses which have ever been seen in good men could all be forgotten, you might find them all in Him: for in Him dwells all that is good and great. We, therefore, desire to copy His character and put our feet into His footprints.

VI. Lastly, He is the Lord of our soul. How sweet it will be to be with Him. We find today that His beloved company makes everything move pleasantly, whether we run in the way of His commands, or traverse the valley of the shadow of death. A poor girl, lying in the hospital, was told by the doctor or the nurse that she could only live another hour. She waited patiently, and when there remained only one quarter of an hour more, she exclaimed: “One more quarter of an hour, and then.” She could not say what, and neither can I only Jesus Himself hath said, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory.” And as He has prayed, so it shall be, and so let it be. Amen and Amen. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Jesus Christ Himself the proof of the gospel

The religion of our Lord Jesus Christ contains in it nothing so wonderful as Himself. It is a mass of marvels, but He is the miracle of it; the wonder of wonders is “The Wonderful” Himself. If proof be asked of the truth which He proclaimed, we point men to Jesus Christ Himself. His character is unique. We defy unbelievers to imagine another like Him. He is God and yet man, and we challenge them to compose a narrative in which the two apparently incongruous characters shall be so harmoniously blended--in which the human and Divine shall be so marvellously apparent, without the one overshading the other. They question the authenticity of the four Gospels; will they try and write a fifth? Will they even attempt to add a few incidents to the life which shall be worthy of the sacred biography, and congruous with those facts which are already described? If it be all a forgery, will they be so good as to show us how it is done? Will they find a novelist who will write another biography of a man of any century they choose, of any nationality, or of any degree of experience, or any rank or station, and let us see if they can describe in that imaginary life a devotion, a self-sacrifice, a truthfulness, a completeness of character at all comparable to that of Jesus Christ Himself? Can they invent another perfect character even if the Divine element be left out? They must of necessity fail, for there is none like unto Jesus Himself. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Jesus Christ Himself the marrow and essence of the gospel

When the Apostle Paul meant that the gospel was preached he said, “Christ is preached,” for the gospel is Christ Himself. If you want to know what Jesus taught, know Himself. He is the incarnation of that truth which by Him and in Him is revealed to the sons of men. Did He not Himself say, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”? You have not to take down innumerable tomes, nor to pore over mysterious sentences of double meaning in order to know what our great Teacher has revealed, you have but to turn and gaze upon His countenance, behold His actions, and note His spirit, and you know His teaching. He lived what He taught. If we wish to know Him, we may hear His gentle voice saying, “Come and see.” Study His wounds, and you understand His innermost philosophy. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Home symbols

Did you ever think how every part of your house can remind you of the great truths which Jesus Christ taught about Himself? The cornerstone says, “Christ is the cornerstone”; the door, “I am the door”; the burning candle, “I am the Light of the world”; the corridor, “I am the Way.” Look out of the window, and the sight of the starry sky bids you turn your eyes to “the bright and morning Star.” The rising sun speaks to you of the “rising of the Sun of Righteousness with healing on His wings.” The loaf on your table whispers of “the Bread of Life,” and the water that quenches your thirst, “I am the Living Water,” “I am the Water of Life.” When you lie down you think of Him that “had not where to lay His head,” and when you get up, you rejoice that He is “the Resurrection and the Life.” (Sunday Teachers Treasury.)

Growth in holiness

When I was at Mr. Spurgeon’s house he showed me the photographs of his two sons, who were twins, and whose photographs had been taken every year since they were twelve months old until they were seventeen years old. For the first two years they did not seem to have grown much, but when we compared the first with those of the age of seventeen they seemed to have grown amazingly. So it is with the children of God--they grow in grace. (D. L. Moody.)

Growth and permanence

“What is the use of thee, thou gnarled sapling?” said a young larch tree to a young oak. “I grow three feet in a year, thou scarcely as many inches; I am straight and taper as a reed, thou straggling and twisted as a loosened withe.” “And thy duration,” answered the oak, “is some third part of man’s life, and I am appointed to flourish for a thousand years. Thou art felled and sawed into palings, where thou rottest and art burnt after a single summer; of me are fashioned battle-ships, and I carry mariners and heroes into unknown seas.” The richer a nature, the harder and slower its development. (T. Carlyle.)

Necessity of holiness

There is no heaven for us, without fitness for heaven. As the official at the Bank of England said to me about some sovereigns I wished to change into notes, “If we take them in here they must be tested.” (B)

The spiritual temple

I. The foundation.

1. Prophets--the Old Testament. Apostles--the New Testament. Jesus Christ--the Divine Being in whom both dispensations are united.

2. This foundation is stable, sure.

3. It gives dignity to the building.

4. It is the only foundation.

II. The superstructure.

1. It will be a united building.

2. It is a progressive building.

3. It is a sanctified building.

III. The materials.

1. Believers in every age and clime.

2. Notice the stones in their natural state.

3. They are derived from different sources.

4. They are in different stages of preparation.

5. They must all be fashioned after the manner of the chief cornerstone.

6. Here is a text by which you may each know whether or not you are in the building.

7. These stones are bought with a price. (A. F. Barfield.)

Christ a builder

Christ builds on through all the ages. For the present, there has to be much destructive as well as constructive work done. Many a wretched hovel, the abode of sorrow and want, many a den of infamy, many a palace of pride, many a temple of idols, will have to be pulled down yet, and men’s eyes will be blinded by the dust, and their hearts will ache as they look at the ruins. Be it so. The finished structure will obliterate the remembrance of poor buildings that cumbered its site. This Emperor of ours may indeed say, that He found the city of brick and made it marble. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The temple of the faithful

1. There is a special wisdom required in those who are to dispense the doctrine of faith; they must proceed by line and order. We do not entrust a piece of work of any importance but to those who are masters of their craft. Much more does the spiritual building require workmen who labour as they need not be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15). And this teaches people how they should submit themselves to be framed and squared according as the ministry requires. Before a rough stone can be conveniently laid, it must be hewed by the mason, polished, and planed, and so brought to the rest of the building. So it is with you: you must be smoothed and planed before you can come to lie in this building. If ye be God’s building, ye must be squared to His model.

2. The faithful have a close union with Christ and one another. As in a house the building, all of it, “must be fitted to the foundation, and every part of it suit one with another, so in this building, which we are, there must be a straight coupling with the foundation, and correspondence one with another. In the material temple (the type of the spiritual) the walls or rows of stone that were in it were so squared that one piece did not bulge out above the other, but being laid together a man would have thought them one entire stone. So all the other things were so contrived, that window answered to window, door to door, chamber to chamber; there was a pleasant proportionableness in everything. In like manner must the multitude of believers be all laid on one foundation, and all of them so even that they seem as one living stone, and every one answering most commodiously to another. And thus it is with the faithful in their union with Christ and with one another. Love makes the saints each seek the good of the other, and be serviceable each to other.

3. True believers grow up from day to day. Even as it is in great buildings, which are not at once begun and perfected, So do the stones of the spiritual temple go on growing till they come to perfection. Where we cease to grow, there we decline; he that wins not, loses. Leave off endeavour to be better, and you will soon cease to be good.

4. Believers are a temple for God’s habitation.

5. Believers must be sanctified throughout.

6. Believers grow by the power of Christ. The Church still goes forward, in spite of heresies, persecutions, all scandals of life, all the gates of hell, because God is its builder.

God will make up all the breaches and ruins of our sinful nature, and build us up a glorious temple for Himself, wherein He will dwell forever. (Paul Bayne.)

The building

1. Observe the term “groweth,” intimating that the Church is ever enlarging her borders and adding to her members, either by the admission of the children of her members to the waters of baptism, or by the conversion of the heathen, and leading them to the same. And so it will continue, growing and increasing, until the consummation of all things: and God shall have accomplished the number of His elect.

2. Observe the expression, “fitly framed together,” showing the order and subordination of the different members. Not a confused mass of building materials, without shape and order; but set in their several stations, by the great Master of the universe.

3. Observe how the whole glory of this is ascribed not to man, but to our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him the building is framed; in Him it groweth and increaseth; the power to do so coming from Him. (A. P. Perceval, B. C. L.)

The growth of the new kingdom

The growth of the body, on Christ’s part, is spontaneous, and on man’s, consentaneous. “In whom all the building fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord.” It grows from Christ, but it grows in unity with our consenting affections. Christ never violates human freedom, but works in it, with it, and by it. “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? Ask, and ye shall receive.” “According to your faith be it unto you.” He would open and develop in us much more of His purity and truth, goodness and beauty; but He waits for our desire, and by processes of wondrous wisdom and gentleness He seeks to beget in us that desire. If the spirit of the flesh in us be ardent, or the spiritual affections be lukewarm, the growth of the new nature will be retarded, or suspended. If it be necessary to receive Christ, in order to salvation, it is equally necessary to walk in Him, in a spirit of watchfulness and prayer, in order to growth. Inasmuch as “all the building is growing in the Lord,” and according to His order, it will, in the end, not only be a glorious temple of humanity, but marvellously adapted for the indwelling and manifestation of God. “I will dwell in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” I will fill them, and they shall represent My fulness. “The whole building,” the redeemed of every generation, growing more and more into unity with each other, and with Christ, and through Him with all the hidden powers of the Godhead, is a work which is every way worthy of all Almighty Father. To what glory, to what beauty, will the kingdom grow? to what wisdom will its members attain? what will be their powers? what their fellowship? what their individual freedom of action? what their service and end, as one empire in the Son, and in the Father? At present there is much in human souls, much in the constitution of nature, and very much in the strife of the great spirit world, to hinder the full development of God’s purpose in Christ. But all hindrances have their appointed limit. In due time, they will all be overmastered or removed; and God and the redeemed race will come into perfect relationship. (John Pulsford.)

The growth of the structure

The structure is in process of growth. It is not finished--the copestone has not been put upon it. The scaffolding occasionally disfigures it; yet even in its immature state, and with so much that is undeveloped, one may admire its beauty of outline, and its graceful form and proportions. Vast augmentations may be certainly anticipated; but its increase does not mutilate its adaptations, for it grows as “being fitly framed together.” A structure not firm and compact is in the greater danger of falling the higher it is carried; and “if it topple on our heads, what matter is it whether we are crushed by a Corinthian or a Doric ruin?” But this fabric, with walls of more than Cyclopean or Pelasgian strength and vastness, secures its own continuous and illimitable elevation. Provision is thus made for its increase, and without breach or delapidation it rises in height. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

Christian unity

All the redeemed are one body--many members, but still one great incorporation. “Ye are builded together for an habitation of God, through the Spirit.” The materials of a house form no place of abode, while they lie scattered and separated. In the ancient tabernacle, the glory of the Lord did not appear till it was compacted and set up. The Divine presence rested not upon the stones and timber of the Temple till they were framed into the edifice. We may hence infer, that if we would enjoy the promised blessing, we should avoid strifes and divisions, and follow after peace, and the things whereby one may edify the other. (Anonymous.)

The tabernacle of the Most High

I. The Church is a building. Not a heap of stones shot together, but a building. Of old her Architect devised her. Methinks I see Him, as I look back into old eternity, making the first outline of His Church. “Here,” saith He, in His eternal wisdom, “shall be the cornerstone, and there shall be the pinnacle.” I see Him ordaining her length, and her breadth, appointing her gates and her doors with matchless skill, devising every part of her, and leaving no single portion of the structure unmapped. I see Him, that mighty Architect, also choosing to Himself every stone of the building, ordaining its size and its shape; settling upon His mighty plan the position each stone shall occupy, whether it shall glitter in front, or be hidden in the back, or buried in the very centre of the wall. I see Him marking not merely the bare outline, but all the fillings up; all being ordained, decreed, and settled, in the eternal covenant, which was the Divine plan of the mighty Architect upon which the Church is to be built. Looking on, I see the Architect choosing a cornerstone. He looks to heaven, and there are the angels, those glittering stones--He looks at each one of them from Gabriel down; but, saith He, “None of you will suffice. I must have a cornerstone that will support all the weight of the building, for on that stone every other one must lean. O Gabriel, thou wilt not suffice I Raphael, thou must lay by; I cannot build with thee.” Yet was it necessary that a stone should be found, and one too that should be taken out of the same quarry as the rest. Where was he to be discovered? Was there a man who would suffice to be the cornerstone of this mighty building? Ah, no! neither apostles, prophets, nor teachers would. Put them all together, and they would be as a foundation of quicksand, and the house would totter to its fall. Mark how the Divine mind solved the difficulty--“God shall become man, very man, and so He shall be of the same substance as the other stones of the temple; yet shall He be God, and therefore strong enough to bear all the weight of this mighty structure, the top whereof shall reach to heaven.” I see that foundation stone laid. Is there singing at the laying of it? No. There is weeping there. The angels gathered round at the laying of this first stone; and look, ye men, and wonder, the angels weep; the harps of heaven are clothed in sackcloth, and no song is heard. They sang together and shouted for joy when the world was made; why shout they not now? Look ye here, and see the reason. That stone is imbedded in blood. The first is laid; where are the rest? Shall we go and dig into the sides of Lebanon? Shall we find these precious stones in the marble quarries of kings? No. Whither are ye flying, ye labourers of God? “We go to dig in the quarries of Sodom and Gomorrah, in the depths of sinful Jerusalem, and in the midst of erring Samaria.” I see them clear away the rubbish. I mark them as they dig deep into the earth, and at last they come to these stones. But how rough, how hard, how unhewn. Yes, but these are the stones ordained of old in the decree, and these must be the stones, and none other. There must be a change effected. These must be brought in, and shaped and cut and polished, and put into their places. I see the workmen at their labour. The great saw of the law cuts through the stone, and then comes the polishing chisel of the gospel. I see the stones lying in their places, and the Church is rising. The ministers, like wise master builders, are there running along the wall, putting each spiritual stone in its place; each stone is leaning on that massive cornerstone, and every stone depending on the blood, and finding its security and its strength in Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, elect, and precious. Now open wide your eyes, and see what a glorious building this is--the Church of God. Men talk of the splendour of their architecture--this is architecture indeed; neither after Grecian nor Gothic models, but after the model of the sanctuary which Moses saw in the holy mountain. Do you see it? Was there ever a structure so comely as this--instinct with life in every part? There is no house like a heart for one to repose in. There a man may find peace in his fellow man; but here is the house where God delighteth to dwell--built of living hearts, all beating with holy love--built of redeemed souls, chosen of the Father, bought with the blood of Christ. The top of it is in heaven. Part of them are above the clouds. Many of the living stones are now in the pinnacle of paradise. We are here below. The building rises, the sacred masonry is heaving, and, as the cornerstone rises, so all of us must rise, until at last the entire structure, from its foundation to its pinnacle, shall be heaved up to heaven, and there shall it stand forever--the new Jerusalem, the temple of the majesty of God.

1. The Divine Architect makes no mistakes. When our eyes shall have been enlightened, and our hearts instructed, each part of the building will command our admiration. The top stone is not the foundation, nor does the foundation stand at the top. Every stone is of the right shape; the whole material is as it should be, and the structure is adapted for the great end, the glory of God, the temple of the Most High.

2. Another thing may be noticed--her impregnable strength. This habitation of God, this house not made with hands, but of God’s building, has often been attacked, but never taken. What multitudes of enemies have battered against her old ramparts! but they have battered in vain.

3. And we may add, it is glorious for beauty. There was never structure like this. One might feast his eyes upon it from dawn to eve, and then begin again. Jesus Himself takes delight in it. God joys over it with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

II. But the true glory of the Church of God consists in the fact that she is not only a building, but that she is a habitation. There may be great beauty in an uninhabited structure, but there is always a melancholy thought connected with it. Who loves to see desolate palaces? Who desireth that the land should cast out her sons, and that her houses should fail of tenants? But there is joy in a house lit up and furnished, where there is the sound of men. Beloved, the Church of God hath this for her peculiar glory, that she is a tenanted house, that she is a habitation of God through the Spirit. How many Churches there are that are houses, yet not habitations! I might picture to you a professed Church of God; it is built according to square and compass, but its model has been formed in some ancient creed, and not in the Word of God. There are too many churches that are nothing but a mass of dull, dead formality; there is no life of God there. A house is a place where a man solaces and comforts himself. Our home is the place of our solace, our comfort, and our rest. Now, God calls the Church His habitation--His home. Oh, how beautiful is the picture of the Church as God’s house, the place in which He takes His solace! “For the Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.”

2. Furthermore, a man’s home is the place where he shows his inner self. There are sweet revelations which God makes in His Church, which He never makes anywhere else.

3. A man’s home is the centre of all he does. Yonder is a large farm. Well, there are outhouses, and hay ricks, and barns, and the like; but just in the middle of these there is the house, the centre of all husbandry. No matter how much wheat there may be, it is to the house the produce goes. It is for the maintenance of the household that the husband carries on his husbandry. Now, God’s Church is God’s centre. Why doth God clothe the hills with plenty? For the feeding of His people. Why is providence revolving? Why those wars and tempests, and then again this stillness and calm? It is for His Church. Not an angel divides the ether who hath not a mission for the Church. It may be indirectly, but nevertheless truly so. All things must minister and work together for good for the chosen Church of God, which is His house--His daily habitation.

4. We love our homes, and we must and will defend them. Ay, and now lift up your thoughts--the Church is God’s home; will He not defend it?

III. The Church is, by and by, to be God’s glorious temple. It doth not yet appear what she shall be. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Believers God’s habitation

1. Believers have the Lord to dwell with them.

2. By being built on Christ, we come to be a dwelling for God.

3. The Spirit of sanctification makes us a fit habitation for God. (Paul Bayne.)

The spiritual building

I. The materials.

1. Their nature.

2. Their diversity.

3. Their number.

4. Their circumstances.

5. Their value.

II. The basis and plan.

1. The foundation is Christ.

2. The chief cornerstone is Christ.

3. The whole building is constructed by Christ.

4. The excellencies of Christ will be the beauty of the building.

III. The instruments and agency by which this building is constructed and carried on. The Holy Spirit.

1. The vastness of the work requires a universal presence.

2. The difficulty of the work demands infinite resources.

3. The time needed to carry on the work requires a perpetual agency.

IV. The design to be accomplished in this work. “For an habitation of God.” (Isaiah Birt.)

Believers are temples

If there be anything common to us by nature, it is the members of our corporeal frame; yet the apostle taught that these, guided by the Spirit as its instruments, and obeying a holy will, become transfigured; so that, in his language, the body becomes a temple of the Holy Ghost, and the meanest faculties, the lowest appetites, the humblest organs, are ennobled by the Spirit mind which guides them. Thus he bids the Romans yield themselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and their members as instruments of righteousness unto God. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Inhabited by the Holy Spirit

I am sitting, on a summer’s day, in the shadow of a great New England elm. Its long branches hang motionless; there is not breeze enough to move them. All at once there comes a faint murmur; around my head the leaves are moved by a gentle current of air; then the branches begin to sway to and fro, the leaves are all in motion, and a soft, rushing sound fills my ear. So with every one that is born of the Spirit. I am in a state of spiritual lethargy, and scarcely know how to think any good thought. I am heart empty, and there comes, I know not where or whence, a sound of the Divine presence. I am inwardly moved with new comfort and hope; the day seems to dawn in my heart, sunshine comes around my path, and I am able to go to my duties with patience. I am walking in the Spirit, I am helped by the help of God, and comforted with the comfort of God. And yet this is all in accordance with law. There is no violation of law when the breezes come, stirring the tops of the trees; and there is no violation of law when God moves in the depths of our souls, and rouses us to the love and desire of holiness. (James Freeman Clarke.)

The rival builders

The story of Rowland Hill preaching against the first Surrey Theatre is very characteristic. The building of Surrey Chapel was going on simultaneously with that of the theatre. In his sermon he addressed his audience as follows:--“You have a race to run now between God and the devil; the children of the last are making all possible haste in building him a temple, where he may receive the donations and worship of the children of vanity and sin! Now is your time, therefore, to bestir yourselves in the cause of righteousness, and never let it be said but what God can outrun the devil!” (Clerical Anecdotes.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ephesians 2:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/ephesians-2.html. 1905-1909. New York.


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