The Pulpit Commentaries
Ephesians 1:1, Ephesians 1:2
ADDRESS AND SALUTATION.
Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus. Paul's one but all-sufficient claim on the Ephesians is his relation to Christ: he is Christ's apostle, not only as sent forth by him, but also as belonging to him; elsewhere his servant or bondman. He makes no claim to their attention on the ground of his great experience in the gospel, his profound study of it, or even his gifts, but rests simply on his being Christ's apostle; thus recognizing Christ as the only Head of the Church, and source of authority therein. By the will of God. The First Person of the Trinity, the Fountain of Godhead, has not only devised the whole scheme of mercy, but has likewise planned the subordinate arrangements by which it is carried out; thus it was by his will that Paul held the office of an apostle of Christ (see Galatians 1:1; Acts 26:7; Galatians 1:11, Galatians 1:12). His authority and his dignity as an apostle are thus the highest that can be: "He that heareth you, heareth me." To the saints that are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus. This designation is expanded in the verses that immediately follow. "Saints" means set apart for God, and, as the result thereof, persons pure and holy; "faithful" is equivalent to "Believers;" while "in Christ Jesus" denotes the Source of their life, the element in which they lived, the Vine into which they were grafted. Such persons were the heart and nucleus of the Church, though others might belong to it. In the fervor of his salutations hero and elsewhere, Paul seems to see only the genuine spiritual members of the Church; though afterwards he may indicate that all are not such (see Philippians 3:15). With regard to the clause, "that are at Ephesus," see Introduction.
Grace unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As in most of Paul's Epistles, "grace" is virtually the first word and the last (Ephesians 6:24), equivalent to free, undeserved mercy in all its manifold forms and manifestations. This Epistle is so full of the subject, that it has been called "The Epistle of Grace." The apostle dwells more fully on it than even in the Epistle to the Romans, and with a more jubilant sense of its richness and sufficiency. Peace is conjoined with grace; they are like mother and daughter, or like twin sisters. Grace is the only foundation of true peace—whether peace with God, peace of conscience, rest and satisfaction of soul, or peace toward our fellow-men. The source of grace and peace is "God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." The two are always in apposition as the Source of blessing, never in opposition. The notion is eminently unscriptural that the Father personally burned with anger until the Son rushed in to appease; both are in beautiful harmony in the scheme of grace. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son," etc.
THANKSGIVING FOR THEIR DIVINE ORDINATION TO THE BLESSINGS OF GRACE. In this glorious anthem, in which the apostle, tracing all to the Divine Fountain, enumerates the glorious privileges of the Church, and blesses God for them, he first (Ephesians 1:3) states summarily the ground of thanksgiving, expanding it with glowing fullness in Ephesians 1:4-14.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every blessing of the Spirit, in heavenly places in Christ. Here we have
(1) the Author of our blessings;
(2) their nature and sphere;
(3) the Medium through whom we have them.
1. The Author is "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus called God his God and his Father (John 20:17) in virtue of the state of subjection to him in which, as the Son of man, he had voluntarily placed himself. In this aspect and relation to Christ, God is here thanked because he hath blessed us in him.
2. ἐν πασῄ εὐλογὶᾳ πνευματικῇ: not merely spiritual as opposed to material, but as applied by the Holy Spirit, the office of the Third Person being to bring Divine things into actual contact with human souls—to apply to us the blessings purchased by Christ; which blessings are ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις—in heavenly places. They belong to the heavenly kingdom; they are therefore the highest we can attain to. The expression occurs three times, and with the same meaning.
3. εν χριστᾷ. The Medium or Mediator through whom they come is Christ; they are not fruits of the mere natural bounty of God, but of his redeeming bounty—fruits of the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ. Thus, in this summary, we recognize what is eminently characteristic of this Epistle—the doctrine of the Trinity, and the function of each Person in the work of redemption. No other writing of the New Testament is so pervaded with the doctrine of the Trinity. The three great topics of the Epistle will be found to be considered in relation to the three Persons of the Trinity. Thus:
1. Origin and foundation of the Church, referred to the eternal counsel and good pleasure of the Father.
2. The actual birth or existence of the Church with all its privileges, to the atoning grace and merit of the Son.
3. The transformation of the Church, the realization of its end or purpose, in its final holiness and glory, to the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. This throws light on the expression, "every blessing;" it includes
(1) all that the Father can bestow;
(2) all that the Son can provide;
(3) all that the Spirit can apply.
The resources of all the three Persons thus conspire to bless the Church. In the verses that follow, the First Person is prominent in Ephesians 1:4-6; the second is introduced in Ephesians 1:6-12; and the third in Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 1:14. But all through the First Person is the great directing Power.
Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world; literally, he chose us out, or selected us ( ἐξελέξατο) for himself (middle voice). The Father chose the heirs of salvation, selected those who were to be quickened from the dead (Ephesians 2:1) and saved, they chose them in Christ—in connection with his work and office as Mediator, giving them to him to be re-decreed (John 17:11, John 17:12); not after man was created, nor after man had fallen, but "before the foundation of the world." We are here face to face with a profound mystery. Before even the world was founded, mankind presented themselves to God as lost; the work of redemption was planned and its details arranged from all eternity. Before such a mystery it becomes us to put the shoes from off our feet, and bow reverently before him whose "judgments are unsearchable and his ways past finding out." That we should be holy and without blame before him in love. This is obviously the design of God's electing act; εἷναι ἡμᾶς cannot denote the ground, but the purpose, of the choice. God did not choose some because he foresaw their holiness, but in order that they might become "holy and without blame." These two terms denote the positive and negative sides of purity: holy—possessed of all the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, Galatians 5:23); without blame, or blemish—marked by no stain or imperfection (see Ephesians 5:27). The terms do not denote justification, but a condition of sanctification which implies justification already bestowed, but goes beyond it; our justification is a step towards our complete final sanctification. This renewal being "before him," must be such as to bear the scrutiny of his eye; therefore not external or superficial merely, but reaching to the very heart and center of our nature (1 Samuel 16:7). The expression further denotes how it is of the very nature and glory of the new life to be spent in God's presence, our souls flourishing in the precious sunshine which ever beams out there from. For, when thus renewed, we do not fly from his presence like Adam (Genesis 3:8), but delight in it (Psalms 42:1; Psalms 63:1). Fear is changed to love (1 John 4:18); the loving relation between us and God is restored. It has been much disputed whether the words ἐν ἀγάπῃ ought to be construed with the fourth verse or with προορίσας in the fifth. The weight of authority seems in favor of the latter; but we prefer the construction which is given both in the Authorized and the Revised Version, first, because if ἐν ἐγάπῃ qualified προορίσας, it would come more naturally after it; and second, because the scope of the passage, the train of the apostle's thought, seems to require us to keep ἐν ἀγάπῃ in Ephesians 1:4. We never could come to be holy and without blemish before God unless the loving relations between us were restored (comp. Ephesians 3:17, "Rooted and grounded in love"). The spirit of love, trust, admiration, directed to God helps our complete sanctification—changes us into the same image (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Having predestinated (or, foreordained) us to adoption through Jesus Christ unto himself. The same idea is denoted by προορίσας in this verse and ἐξελέξατο in Ephesians 1:3, but while in ξελέξατο the idea of selection out from among others is prominent, in προορίσας the special phase of thought is that of the time, πρὸ, before—before the foundation of the world. Both denote the exercise of Divine sovereignty. In Ephesians 1:4 we have the ultimate purpose of God's decree the entire sanctification of the elect; here, in Ephesians 1:5, we find one of the intermediate steps of the process—adoption. The apostle's reason for speaking of adoption in this place, and of justification afterwards, is that be bad just referred to the restoration of a relation of lore between us and God as connected with our ultimate complete sanctification; thus it was natural for him to bring in our adoption as the preordained act in which this loving relation is formed. Our obedience is not the forced obedience of servants, but the loving obedience of sons. Adoption implies more than sentiment—a real legal relation to God as his sons (Romans 8:17). The adoption is "by Jesus Christ:" "As many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). And it is εἰς αὐτὸν, unto or into himself—denoting a movement towards God which terminates in union to Him. According to the good pleasure of his will. The spring or motive to the selection is solely in God, not in man. It is an act of sovereignty. It has been disputed whether "the good pleasure of his will" is equivalent to benevolentia or to bene placitum. Parallel passages like Matthew 11:26 and Luke 10:21 lead us to prefer the latter. The idea of kindness is not excluded, but it is not what is affirmed. Kindness is always involved in the Divine will; but the point here is simply that it pleased God to choose and ordain the Ephesian believers to the privilege of adoption through Jesus Christ. This is presented as a ground of praise, a reason for their blessing God. The Divine sovereignty is not presented in Scripture to seekers, but to finders. It is apt to embarrass those that seek; and accordingly the aspect of God's character presented to them is his good will to men, his free offer of mercy: "Look unto me, and be ye saved;" "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." But it is a ground of thanksgiving to those who hare accepted the offer; they see that before the foundation of the world God chose them in Christ. What an interest he must have had in them, and how thoroughly they may rely on his finishing the work he has begun! Divine sovereignty, human responsibility, and the free and universal offer of mercy are all found in Scripture, and, though we are unable to harmonize them by our logic, ought all to have a place in our minds.
To the praise of the glory of his grace; with a view to praise being given to the glory of his grace. The purpose of grace quoad man, is to make him perfectly holy; quoad God, is to give to the universe a right conception of his grace, and draw forth corresponding tributes of praise. It is to show that Divine grace is not a limp, shallow attribute, but one of glorious riches, deserving infinite praise. The idea of the richness, fullness, abundance, of God's grace is prominent throughout the Epistle. God desires to draw attention, not only to this attribute, but to the boundlessness of it—thus to draw the love and confidence of his creatures to himself and inspire them with the desire to imitate him (comp. Matthew 18:21-35). Wherein he abounded toward us in the Beloved. Two slight difficulties are found here—one in the text, the other in the interpretation. After χάριτος αὐτοῦ, some copies read ἐν ᾗ, others ηης. A.V. follows the former; R.V. the latter. χαριτόω usually means to bestow grace; sometimes, to make gracious or beautiful. The former is more in accordance with New Testament usage (Alford) and with the tenor of the passage. The glory of the grace of which God desires to create a true impression is not an abstraction, not a glory hidden away in stone inaccessible region, but a revealed glory, a communicated glory; it is revealed in the grace wherein he abounded to us, or which he freely bestowed on us, in the Beloved. The grace bestowed on believers exemplifies the glorious quality of the attribute—its glorious riches. The connection of God with Christ in the bestowal of this grace, and of believers in the reception of it, is again noted by the remarkable term, "in the Beloved." That the Father's relation to Christ was one of infinite love is a fact never to be lost sight of. His having constituted the Beloved One the Kinsman and Mediator of sinners shows the riches of the glory of his grace. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he hot, with him also freely give us all things?" Our union to the Beloved, our participating in all the blessings of his purchase, our becoming heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, further illustrates the glorious riches of his grace. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!"
In whom we have the redemption through his blood. Some of the blessings referred to in Ephesians 1:3 are now specified—be-ginning with redemption ( τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν). The article makes it emphatic—the great redemption, the real redemption, compared to which all ether redemptions are but shadows. It is a redemption through blood, therefore a proper propitiation or expiation, blood being always the emblem of explanation, In Christ, or in union to Christ, we have or are having this blessing; it is not merely in existence, it is ours, we being in him by faith: not a privilege of the future merely, but of the present as well. Even the forgiveness of our sins. αφεσιν denotes release, separation from all the consequences of our transgressions; equivalent to Psalms 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." According to the riches of his grace. The completeness of the forgiveness, its ready bestowal now, the security of its being continued in the future, and such like qualities show the richness of his grace (comp. Matthew 18:27; Luke 7:42, Luke 7:47).
Which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence. This rendering of the R.V. is better than the A.V., "wherein he hath abounded," for ἧς before ἐπερίσσευσεν can hardly be put for the dative; it is genitive by attraction for the accusative. The wisdom and prudence refer to God; he has not made his grace abound to us in a random manner, but in a carefully regulated manner. This is more fully explained afterwards, in reference to God's concealment for a time of the universality of his grace, but manifestation of it now. Some have found a difference between σοφία and φρονήσις, the one being theoretical wisdom and the other practical, or the one intellectual and the other moral; but possibly they may be meant merely to intensify the idea—the height of wisdom is shown in God's way of making his grace abound toward us (comp. Romans 11:33, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!").
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will. The wide extent of God's grace was a mystery, i.e. a hidden counsel, before Christ came and died, but it is now made known. In this, and not in the modern sense of mystery, the word μυστήριον is used by Paul. The thing hidden and now revealed was not the gospel, but God's purpose with reference to its limits or sphere (see Ephesians 3:6). According to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself. The whole phraseology denotes that, in this transaction, God was not influenced by any external considerations; the whole reason for it sprang from within. The threefold expression brings this out:
With a view to the dispensation of the fullness of the times (or, seasons) (Ephesians 1:9 and Ephesians 1:10 are one sentence, which should not be broken up). This seems to denote the times of the gospel generally; not, as in Galatians 4:4, the particular time of Christ's advent; the οἰκονομία, or economy, of the gospel being that during which, in its successive periods, all God's schemes are to ripen or come to maturity, and be fulfilled. To gather together under one head all things in Christ. ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι is a word of some difficulty. It is true it is derived from κεφάλαιον, not κεφαλή: therefore some have thought that it does not include the idea of headship; but the relation of κεφάλαιον, to κεφαλή is as close that this can hardly be. The word expresses the Divine purpose—what God προέθετο—which was to restore in Christ a lost unity, to bring together disunited elements, viz. all things, whether they be things in heaven or things on earth. There is no hint here of a universal restoration. Such a notion would be in fiat contradiction to the doctrine of Divine election, which dominates the whole passage. God's purpose is to form a united kingdom, consisting of the unfallen and the restored—the unfallen in heaven, and the restored on earth, and to gather this whole body together under Christ as its Head (see Ephesians 3:15). We cannot say that this purpose has been fully effected as yet; but things are moving towards it, and one day it will be wholly realized. "He that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5).
Even in him—in whom we wore also made his inheritance. This is the literal rendering of ἐκληρώθημεν, and it is more expressive than the A.V., "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance." God taking us for his own heritage involves more than our getting an inheritance from God (see Deuteronomy 4:20, "The Lord hath taken you... to be unto him a people of inheritance"). It is implied that God will protect, care for, improve, and enjoy his own inheritance; he will be much with them and do all that is necessary for them. Formerly God's inheritance was Israel only; but now it is much wider. All that God was to Israel of old he will be to his Church now. Having been predestinated according to the purpose. The reason why the reference to predestination is repeated is to show that this new privilege of the whole Church as God's inheritance is not a fortuitous benefit, but the result of God's deliberate and eternal foreordination; it rests therefore on an immovable foundation. Of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will. Predestination is not an exception to God's usual way of working; he works, or works out ( ἐνεργοῦτος) all things on the same principle, according to the decision to which his will comes. When we think of the sovereign will of God as determining all things, and in particular determining who are to be his heritage, we must remember how differently constituted the will of an infinitely holy Being is from that of frail and fallen creatures. The fallen creature's will is often whimsical, the result of some freak or fancy; often, too, it is the outcome of pride, avarice, sensual affection, or some other evil feeling; but God's will is the expression of his infinite perfections, and must always be infinitely holy, wise, and good. Willfulness in man is utterly different from willfulness in God; but the recoil we often have from the doctrine of God's doing all things from his mere bene placitum, or according to the counsel of his own will, arises from a tendency to ascribe to his will the caprice which is true only of our own.
That we should be to the praise of his glory, we who had before hoped in Christ. The "we" which hitherto has been applied to the whole Church, Jewish and Gentile, begins to have a more limited reference, and to contrast with "you" in Ephesians 1:13. The first "we" in this verse embraces all, as in the preceding part of the chapter; the second (omitted in the A.V.) is conditioned by the words following, and is applicable to the Jewish Christians, who, through the promises given to the fathers, had seen Christ's day afar off, and had thus hoped in him. This special reference to ἡμᾶς is followed immediately by a reference to ὑμεῖς.
In whom are ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the good news of your salvation. A.V. has "in whom ye also trusted," or hoped, supplying a verb from προηλπικότας in Ephesians 1:13, but without the prefix. This seems hardly natural, because the prefix πρὸ is characteristic and emphatic in Ephesians 1:12. It is a much less strain to supply simply ἐστὲ, the important point being that you are now in him—in Christ. This expression, "in Christ," is one of the hinges of the Epistle; it occurs times almost without number, denoting the intimate vital union through faith between Christ and his people, as of the members to the head, in virtue of which they not only get the benefit of his atonement, but share his vital influences, live by faith on the Son of God. Having heard and received the truth as it is in Jesus, the glad tidings of salvation through a crucified Jesus, they became one with him, just as freely as did the believing Jews, and to the same blessed effects. More than that—in whom also having believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of the promise; thus receiving a new ground for thankfulness, a new proof of the riches of the grace of God. Many explain this seal of baptism, which undoubtedly seals Christ and all his blessings to believers. But though the seal of the Holy Spirit may have been given in and with baptism, it is not identical with baptism. The impression of it is partly within believers and partly without. Within, it is the felt result of the working of the Holy Spirit—the feeling of satisfaction and delight in the work and person of Christ, of love, confidence, and joy flowing out toward God, and the desire and endeavor in all things to be conformed to his will. Without, it is the fruit of the Spirit, the new man, created in righteousness and holiness after the image of Christ. Within, the Spirit bears witness with their spirits; without, the transformed life corroborates the inward witness, and gives it to the world. The first is never complete without the second, nor the second without the first. The spiritual history of believers is thus presented:
The Spirit is called the Spirit of the promise, because he is often promised in the Old Testament (Isaiah 32:15; Ezekiel 36:20; Joel 3:1, etc.).
Who is the earnest of our inheritance. The gift of the Spirit is not only a seal, but an earnest, firstfruit, or installment, a pledge that the rest shall follow. The seal of the Spirit not only assures us of the full inheritance to come, but gives us a right conception of its nature. It shows us the kind of provision God makes for those whom he takes as his heritage, his peculiar people. It is an inward heaven the Spirit brings them. "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." The full inheritance will consist in a heart in full sympathy with God, and in those occupations and joys, intellectual and moral, which are most congenial to such a heart. Unto the redemption of the purchased possession. The until of the A.V. is not textual, and does not give the force of εἰς, which implies that the earnest of the Spirit is a contribution toward the result described; it tends to realize it. "Redemption" here is not quite equivalent to "redemption" in Ephesians 1:7; for there it is a thing accomplished, here it is a thing to come. It is obvious that here the meaning is the completed redemption—the full and final deliverance of the Lord's heritage from all sin and sorrow, from all the evils and disorders of this life. The term περιποιήσις, translated" purchased possession," is an unusual one. But its resemblance to περιούσιος, the Septuagint rendering for "a special people;" its use by Peter, λαὸς περιποίησεως, "a peculiar people;" the use of the verb ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ ἢν περιεποιήσατο διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτου, "the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood;"—show that it must be regarded in this place as denoting the special, own, purchased possession of God, whose final glory is so often presented to our thoughts in this Epistle. To the praise of his glory. For the third time in this paragraph, these or similar words are introduced. In this place the precise meaning is that the consummation of redemption will be the highest tribute to God's glory—his infinite excellence will be wonderfully manifested thereby. Neither men nor angels are qualified to apprehend the glorious excellence of God in an abstract way; it needs to be revealed, exhibited in acts and operations. The teaching of this verse is that it will be manifested with triumphant brightness in the final redemption of the Church, when the groans of nature shall come to an end, and the creation shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into "the glorious liberty of the sons of God" (Romans 8:21).
PRAYER FOR THEIR SPIRITUAL GROWTH.
Wherefore I also, having heard of the faith among you in the Lord Jesus, and your love which extends to all the saints. The "wherefore" has reference to their present standing in grace, described in the verses preceding: since ye have heard, believed, been sealed, and thereby shown to be in the right line, I apply myself towards promoting your progress, towards advancing you to the higher stages of the Christian life. Special mention is made of their faith and love, as cardinal Christian graces, to which elsewhere the apostle adds hope (1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3). The literal expression, "faith among you" ( καθ ὑμᾶς), indicates that it was a marked social feature, but perhaps not universal; while their love was not mere general amiability, but a love that embraced the saints as such, having a special complacency in them, and being directed to them all. If it be asked—Could this knowledge of the condition of his correspondents have been derived from hearsay ("having heard") if the letter was addressed to the Ephesians, among whom Paul had lived so long, and whose condition he must have known by personal intercourse (Acts 19:10; Acts 20:31)? we reply that, though he derived his first acquaintance from personal intercourse, it was some years since he had been at Ephesus, and the ἀκούσας refers to what he had heard in the interval (see Introduction).
Cease not to give thanks for you. This clause expresses the continuation of a former action—the giving thanks for them had begun before the hearing of their faith and love—from the days, in short, of his personal intercourse. We notice as a remarkable feature of Paul's personal religion, as well as his pastoral care, the frequency of his thanksgiving, indicating the prevalence in him of a bright, joyous state of mind, and tending to increase and perpetuate the same. Constantly to recognize God's goodness in the past begets a larger expectation of it in the future. Making mention of you in my prayers. This seems additional to his giving thanks. "Prayers" ( προσευχῶν) refers more to supplication and entreaty. While thankful for them, his heart was not satisfied regarding them; he wished them to forget the things behind, and reach forth to those before. The apostle's prayers for his spiritual charge are always remarkable. They are very short, but wonderfully deep and comprehensive; very rich and sublime in aspiration; powerful in their pleas, whether expressed or implied; and exhaustive in the range of blessings which they implore.
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory. The invocations of Paul—the terms by which he calls on God—are always significant, involving a plea for the blessings sought. God, as "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ," gave to him the Holy Spirit without measure, and might well, therefore, be asked and expected to give the gifts of the same Spirit to those who were "in him"—one with him as members of his body. Being also the "Father of glory," and having glorified Jesus, even after his suffering, with the glory which he had with him before the world began, he might well be asked and expected to glorify his people too. May give to you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of him. "Spirit" here is neither exclusively the Holy Spirit nor the spirit of man, but the complex idea of the spirit of man dwelt in and moved by the Spirit of God (Alford). Wisdom seems to denote the general gift of spiritual illumination; revelation, capacity of apprehending the revealed—of perceiving the drift and meaning of what God makes known, so that it may be a real revelation to us (comp. Matthew 13:11). ἐπιγνώσει is something more than mere γνώσει—full knowledge of Christ, implying that it is in becoming better acquainted with Christ that we get the spirit of wisdom and revelation. In seeking to know Christ more, we are in the true way to get more insight into all that is Divine (croup. John 14:9). The importance of seeking more knowledge, even after we have believed and been settled by the Holy Spirit, is here apparent; a growing knowledge is a most healthful feature of Christian life. "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
That having the eyes of your heart enlightened. "The eyes of your heart" is an unusual expression, but it denotes that to see things clearly there is needed, not merely lumen siccum, but lumen madidum (to borrow terms of Lord Bacon), not merely intellectual clearness, but moral susceptibility and warmth—a movement of the heart as well as the head (compare the opposite state, "blindness of the heart," Ephesians 4:18). Ye may know what is the hope of his calling; the hope which he calls you to cherish. The glory which he invites you to look forward to, when Christ shall come again, how sure it is and how excellent! How infinitely it surpasses all earthly glory! How it at once ravishes and satisfies the heart! And what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. If the saints form God's heritage (see Ephesians 1:11), it may be asked Where are the riches of God's glory in them? But it is not necessary to take the ἐν τοῖς ἁγίοις so literally. It may be rendered, "in reference to the saints." The riches of the glory of his inheritance in reference to the saints is the riches of the glory of their privileges as the Lord's heritage, or people; that is, their privileges are glorious. But this glory is not limp, limited—it is wonderfully rich, full, abundant. God gives liberally—gives as a King, gives glory to all Christ's people. "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:4); "The glory which thou gavest me I have given them." The difference between this glory and ether glory is, human glory is often unjustly accorded, it passes away with wonderful quickness; but this glory is real and everlasting. "When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."
And what the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe. A new object of knowledge is here brought forward—knowledge of a power which works in us—a great power, a Divine power, a power surpassingly great. The whole energy of the Divine Being is turned on to our feeble, languid nature, vivifying, purifying, and transforming it, making it wonderfully active where all was feebleness before, as the turning on of steam suddenly wakens up a whole mass of inert machinery. When we think of the glory of the inheritance, we feel unfit for it; our narrow hearts, cold temperaments, feeble and dislocated faculties, how can they ever be right? Our fear is removed when we think of the greatness of the Divine power that works in us—God's power to transform us so that, "though we have lieu among the pots, we shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold." According to the working of his mighty power. We are now furnished with a standard and sample of the mighty power which energizes in believers are referred to one of its grandest achievements, in order to elevate our conceptions of what it is capable of effecting in us. In the prophets we find a similar encouragement for God's people, in sublime descriptions of the almighty power of him who was working in them and for them (Isaiah 40:21, etc.; Isaiah 45:7, etc.).
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead. The same power that produced the marvelous miracle of Christ's resurrection now works in the hearts of believers. To appreciate this, we must bear in mind the apostle's full doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus, embracing not only the revivifying of his dead body, but the transformation of that body into a spiritual body, and the constituting of Jesus a second Adam, who should transmit or communicate to Ms spiritual seed both a renewed soul and a glorified body, as the first Adam transmitted a sinful nature and a corruptible body to his natural seed. The power that accomplished all this now works in believers, and can surely work in them all needed transformation. And set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, effecting on him a change alike sudden and marvelous: from the cross and the tomb to the throne of glory, from being as a worm and no man, to be higher than the kings of the earth—King of kings, and Lord of lords. It is frequently represented in Scripture that Jesus in heaven is at the right hand of God. There must be a spot in the heavens where his glorified body exists, in immediate contact with some manifestation of the glory of the Father. There Stephen saw him; thence he came to meet Saul on the way to Damascus; and his promise to his people is Where I am, there shall ye be also (John 14:3).
Far above all rule, and power, and might, and dominion. Separate shades of meaning may doubtless be found for these expressions, but the main effect of the accumulation is to expand and deepen the idea of Christ's universal lordship. Hardly anything is revealed to us on the various orders of the spiritual powers, unfallen and fallen; and the speculations on them in which the Fathers used to indulge are of no value; but whatever may be true of them, Christ is exalted far above them all—far above every creature in earth, heaven, or hell. And every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. The pro-eminence of his Name is to be eternal. It shall never be eclipsed by any other name, nor shall there ever be a name worthy to be coupled with his Name. In human history we find no name that can be fitly coupled with Christ's. In the world to come, it shall ever shine forth with an unapproached effulgence. All this is said to exalt our sense of the Divine power that so raised up and exalted the God-Man, Christ Jesus—the same power that still works in believers.
And put all things under his feet; a strong, figurative expression, denoting high sovereignty. It does not refer merely to defeated and arrested enemies, but to the whole of creation and the fullness thereof. They are as thoroughly under Christ and at his disposal as if they were literally under his feet. As a military commander, proceeding even through his own country, has power to requisition everything needful for his army, and deal with all property as may be required for military purposes, so Christ has the whole creation at his disposal, animate and inanimate, hostile and friendly. And gave him to be Head over all things to the Church. The exaltation of Christ is not merely an honor conferred on himself, but has also a definite practical purpose; it is for the benefit of the Church. God gave him to the Church as Head over all things. The gift of Christ to the Church is the gift of One who has sovereign authority over all things. The official subordination of Christ to the Father is recognized throughout this remarkable passage. So in Philippians, though he was "in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." It is this Jesus, in the form of a servant and in the likeness of men, that is now Head over all things, and as such given by the Father to the Church. With such a Head, what need the Church fear, and what can she want?
Which is his body. The Church is Christ's body in a real though spiritual sense. He is the Head, his people the members; he the Vine, they the branches. He dwells in the Church as life dwells in a living body. He fills it with his life, replenishes it with his strength, feeds it with his body and blood, beautifies it with his comeliness, calms it with his peace, brightens it with his holiness, and finally glorifies it with his glory. All things are delivered unto him of the Father; and all that he has he has for the Church: "My beloved is mine, and I am his." The fullness of him that filleth all in all. The grammatical structure of the words would lead us to construe "fullness" with "the Church," and to regard the Church as Christ's πλήρωμα. Some object to this, inasmuch as, in point of fact, the Church is often very empty, and therefore not worthy of the term "fullness." But it is not meant that the Church has actually received all the fullness of him who filleth all in all, but only that she is in the course of receiving it. The Church on earth is an ever-changing body, perpetually receiving new members, who are at first empty; so that it must always in this state be in the course of filling, never filled. It is in the course of being filled with all Divine things—with all the treasures of heaven. As the empty cells of the honeycomb are being filled with the sweet essences of flowers, so the empty vessels of the Church are being filled with the glorious treasures of God; or, as the courts and compartments of a great international exhibition get filled up with the choicest products of the lands, so the Church gets filled with the handiwork of the grace of God. When the Church is completed, it will be a representation of the fullness of God; all of God that can be communicated to men will be made manifest in the Church. For he whose fullness the Church is, is he that filleth all in all, or filleth all with all. He possesses all things, and he fills all space with the all things. He fills the ocean with water, the organic world with life, the firmament with stars, the entire creation with forms innumerable, alike beautiful and useful. So also he fills the Church. Thus appropriately concludes this chapter, beginning (Ephesians 1:3) with thanksgiving to him who had blessed the Ephesians with every blessing of the Spirit in Christ Jesus, and now ending with a sublime picture of the Infinite One filling the Church with these Divine blessings out of the infinite stores of the kingdom of heaven. Thus we see the quality of richness, exuberance, overflowing abundance which is so conspicuously ascribed in this Epistle to the grace of God (comp. Psalms 36:8; Psalms 103:3-5; Matthew 5:3, etc.).
Ephesians 1:1, Ephesians 1:2
Address and salutation.
Character and scope of the Epistle as a whole (see Introduction); circumstances of the writer; jubilant tone of the Epistle; cordiality of the Ephesian Church.
I. The writer speaks with authority. He is an "apostle," sent and commissioned directly by Christ, and acting in his name—a real ambassador of the Lord of glory.
II. He holds this office "by the will of God;" pursues neither an irregular nor a merely volunteer course unsanctioned by the supreme Ruler, but acts by the will of God.
III. The Church is a society of "saints," and "faithful," or believing, "in Christ Jesus." If we want these attributes, we may be of Israel, but we are not Israel.
IV. Divine blessings are invoked and brought near to the Church, viz.
This salutation is more than a pious wish or even prayer; the blessings are brought as it were to the door of all. It rests with them either to receive them or not. "Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God!" The blessings brought near are very precious, for God in Christ with all his fullness is there. Let us beware of trifling with the offer. Let us open the door and welcome the Lord of grace and peace.
The condition of believers is fitted to excite the profoundest emotions of gratitude and praise in all who know them. Grounds of this thankfulness are—
I. STATED SUMMARILY. (Ephesians 1:3.) (For outline discourse on this text, see Exposition.)
II. STATED IN DETAIL. (Ephesians 1:4-14.) The chief elements of blessing are:
1. Holiness and blamelessness in love, secured by God's eternal election (Ephesians 1:4).
2. Adoption, secured in the same way (Ephesians 1:5).
3. Acceptance in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6).
4. Redemption through Christ's blood, especially forgiveness of sin (Ephesians 1:7).
5. Abundance of grace, regulated by wisdom and knowledge (Ephesians 1:8).
6. Enlightenment in the mystery of God's will as to the Gentiles (Ephesians 1:9).
7. Especially, knowledge of Jesus Christ as the predestined Centre or Head of all things (Ephesians 1:10).
8. Fellowship with Christ in the enjoyment and purpose of his inheritance (Ephesians 1:11, Ephesians 1:12).
9. The seal of the Holy Spirit, or earnest of our inheritance, the pledge and assurance of the eternal glory. Observe the constant allusions to the glory of God's grace, the riches of his grace, the abundance of his grace, the riches of his glory; the munificence of God. It is the narrowness of our hearts that will not take in this boundless generosity.
I. In a certain sense, all men are children of God (Ma Ephesians 2:10); i.e. God has a fatherly interest in them and yearning towards them. But sinners have forfeited the rights and position of sons; they are like the prodigal son, "not worthy to be called thy son." Thus they have no claim on God. Nay, they are "children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3).
II. Sonship in God's family is for sinners only the fruit of adoption. Adoption is solely by grace, through Jesus Christ. It is the result of Divine predestination. It belongs only to "as many as receive him" (John 1:12). It is the fruit of spiritual oneness with Christ. When we are by faith united to the eternal Son of God, we become, in a lower sense, sons of God ourselves.
III. Sonship has many privileges; parallel between nature and grace. Sons have a right to a due provision, to protection and shelter, to education and training; they share their father's house; they get the benefit of his experience, wisdom, counsel; they enjoy his fellowship, and are molded by his example and influence.
IV. Sonship has many duties: obedience, honor, trust; gratitude, complacency, affection; co-operation with the father in his designs and aims.
V. In Christ, sonship is indissoluble and everlasting.
"In whom we have the redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of our sins."
I. What men need is more than instruction, education, or an elevating influence. They are in sin—condemned, enslaved, and disordered; in the fetters of a strong man armed, and a stronger is needed to disarm him and spoil his house. In a word, they need redemption from sin.
II. What the gospel specially announces is such a redemption. Christ came, not merely to enlighten, or elevate, or improve, but to redeem. He came to grapple with sin in all its bearings and results.
III. This redemption was consummated by the shedding of Christ's blood. Jesus died as a sacrifice or propitiation for sin. He came by water and by blood, not by water only. His blood "cleanseth us from all sin;" his Spirit renews the soul. Calvin says the blood figured atonement, the water ablution. The side of Christ, he says, was the fountain of our sacraments.
IV. Forgiveness of sins is a fundamental element of this redemption. The gospel of Christ is a gospel of forgiveness. Sin is blotted out freely through Christ's merit. We need nothing short of forgiveness, and should not rest till we have it.
V. All this is to be enjoyed in union to Christ. "In whom" we have redemption. Thus union to Christ is the turning-point of all blessing.
Christ the Head of all.
"To gather together under one head all things in Christ." Unity a characteristic of God's works. Unity of the solar system, the stars, the heavens. In the moral and spiritual world there are diverse orders of holy being. To us only two are known—angels and men. But there may be many more. All these it is God's purpose to form into one economy. Jesus Christ is the Center of this great plan. We have some glimpses of this in the Apocalypse. Besides countless angels, "Every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying," etc. (Revelation 5:13). This does not imply that there will be nothing outside this glorious host of holy beings; for the Apocalypse affirms the contrary.
I. This subject gives us an exalted conception of the place of honor to be occupied by Christ in eternity. As was his humiliation, so will his glory be.
II. It gives us also an exalted conception of the glory and dignity of all true believerses How glorious the fellowship of such an order of beings! How insignificant the honors of earth, for which men toil so hard!
Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 1:14
The seal of the Spirit and the earnest of the inheritance.
I. THE SPIRIT IS HIMSELF THE SEAL BY WHICH BELIEVERS ARE KNOWN AS GOD'S.
1. In his inward operations on their hearts.
2. In the outward effects of his working.
II. THE SPIRIT IS ALSO THE EARNEST OF THE INHERITANCE. Heaven a condition more than a locality. Heaven is brought to men before they are brought to heaven. Renewal of soul is the beginning of heaven. It is thus the firstfruits of their inheritance. It is the pledge and assurance of "more to follow." Apart from this there is no heaven. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Prayer for spiritual growth.
General characteristics of Paul's prayers (see Exposition, Ephesians 1:16). The prayer is
I. RETROSPECTIVE. Consists of thanksgiving (Ephesians 1:16). Happy key-note for prayer.
II. PROSPECTIVE. Of supplication. Here we may note:
1. The name by which God is invoked (Ephesians 1:17; see Exposition).
2. The blessing sought, viz. further illumination in the knowledge of God's will.
3. The points needing to be more fully revealed, viz.:
4. The working of God's power in Christ, as foreshadowing his working in believers.
To what a glorious elevation we are carried in such prayers! We seem to luxuriate in infinite stores of blessing. Observe, again, that all is connected with Christ and his redemption. If the power that raised Christ should raise us, to what a glorious elevation should we rise!
Christ Head over all things for the Church.
The double headship of Christ—
I. AS HEAD OF THE CHURCH, he is the sole Fountain of authority, grace, influence, blessing. No other to be set above him or alongside of him on his throne.
II. As HEAD OVEN ALL THINGS FOR THE CHURCH, he has complete control:
1. Over the devil and all his hosts, to restrain their malice, etc.
2. Over the angels, to command their services.
3. Over all kings and rulers, heathen and Christian, to counteract their opposition or summon them to his side.
4. Over Nature and all her resources.
5. Over the whole realm of mind—philosophy, art, science, literature, etc.
6. Over all the stores of grace and blessing (see Psalms 2:1-12.). But this headship of Christ is not to be held as superseding civil authority, which is a Divine ordinance in its own sphere. Though Christ is Head over all things for the Church, he has not called his ministers to share this authority; he keeps it in his own hands.
The Church the fullness of Christ.
The Church, when completed, will show the fullness of Christ's love, grace, wisdom; it will reflect the fullness of his meekness, self-sacrifice, forbearance, and bountifulness; it will show the fullness of his power to bless the individual and to regenerate the world.
HOMILIES BY T. CROSKERY
Ephesians 1:1, Ephesians 1:2
The apostle introduces his Epistle by a duplicate order of ideas: a double blessing—"grace and peace;" a double source of blessing—"God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ;" a double designation of the Christian people—"saints and faithful in Christ Jesus;" and a double source of authority—"an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God."
I. THE AUTHOR. "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God." As one standing outside the circle of the twelve, who overshadowed all others by his immense authority, it was necessary he should preface his Epistle by the mention of his independent apostleship. Yet in no spirit of vanity or self-assertion does he use the high language of apostolic authority and inspired conviction. He disclaims all personal merit in his call. His apostleship was linked with grace in its original bestowal; therefore he speaks of "grace and apostleship" in the same breath (Romans 1:5); it was "by the will of God," not by the suggestion or call of man, that he found his place in the service of all the Churches. For us the interest of our author's name has a profound significance; for, though in language of the deepest humility he speaks of himself as "the least of the apostles" and "less than the least of all saints," he stands before all coming ages as the great apostle of the Gentiles, whose personal history and writings fill one-third of the New Testament Scriptures, and who, more than any other apostle, has shaped the theology of Christendom in its best periods, supplying at once the bone and marrow of the evangelical system of thought.
II. THE PERSONS ADDRESSED. "The saints which are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus."
1. This double title seems to suggest the objective and subjective sides of Christian life; for if it is God's work to make saints, "it is man's to believe;" we are chosen to salvation "through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:13). God has joined these two principles together: let not man put them asunder.
2. It is in Christ we obtain our standing both as saints and as believers. He is made unto us "wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30). The expression, "in Christ," which occurs here for the first time in this Epistle, is found thirty-three times in the New Testament. Christian life, like revelation, is Christo-centric.
3. The Christians at Ephesus had grown from twelve disciples (Acts 19:1) into a large and influential community, worshipping the Lord under the very shadow of the great Temple of Diana. The apostle has a deep personal interest in the fortunes of a Church established in the very acropolis of paganism—the first of the seven Churches of Asia—forming the third capital of Christianity, as Antioch was the second and Jerusalem the first. He remembers the three years of untiring and anxious labor he had spent in the city, as well as the interest of the Ephesian Christians in himself and his work which he seeks shortly to intensify by the projected visit of "a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord" (Ephesians 6:21, Ephesians 6:22). The Apostle Paul was unique among the apostles of Christ for his quickness in finding out a common ground of interest among the believers of every place, for his deep yearning after appreciation, and the heartfelt joy of finding his services recognized by the Churches he served, as well as by the facility with which he held a hundred interests in his hand, and engaged the sympathy of all sorts of men in the cause of Christ.
III. THE TERMS OF THE SALUTATION. "Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." This is the apostle's usual salutation to Churches—it is only in the pastoral Epistles that he adds the word "mercy"—but its form suggests a beautiful and significant blending of the Greek and Hebrew methods of salutation, as if to anticipate the share of Jew and Gentile alike in the future blessings of the gospel How sweetly Christianity sanctifies the common courtesies of life!
1. The double blessing. "Grace and peace." The word "grace" has a unique history among English words. It means ever so many things, all suggestive of the happiest associations, and has never suffered that contraction of meaning which has spoiled the moral beauty of so many other words. In the gospel sense, whether it applies to the origin of man's salvation or to the Christian disposition which is the result of it, grace marks a beautiful movement of life in the direction of blessing given or received. Grace is the key-note of the Ephesian Epistle. Grace is the well-spring of all blessings. "The way to heaven lies not over a toll-bridge, but over a free bridge, even the unmerited grace of God in Christ Jesus." Peace is the fruit of grace, which can never be severed from its fruits. It is the very testament of Christ: "My peace I give unto you:" the very equanimity, firmness, serenity, of his own life carried into the lives of his saints. This peace so "keeps the heart and mind" that nothing can break down a spirit so established. The two graces are here in their due order; for there is no peace without grace. They cover the whole space of a believer's life; for if it begins in grace, its latter end is peace. The Lord always has "thoughts of grace and peace toward us" (Jeremiah 29:11). They are together the bright sum of the gospel.
2. The double Source of blessing. "From God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." There is a certain intensity of bright suggestion in the asserted origin of these blessings. God the Father is the "God of grace" (1 Peter 5:10) and "the God of peace" (Hebrews 13:20); and equally so "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17), and he is also our Peace (Ephesians 2:14). But the Father is the original Fountain of all blessings, and the Son the Dispenser of blessing to us. The juxtaposition of Christ with the Father is the significant proof of the divinity of the Son of God. No man's name can be placed beside God's in the dispensation of Divine blessings. The Holy Ghost is not named, because it is he who communicates the grace and the peace. Similarly, the believer has "fellowship with the Father and the Son" (1 John 1:3), but the Holy Ghost is the power of this fellowship.
3. It is neither improper nor unnecessary to pray for grace and peace, though we already possess them. We need a continuous supply and a continuous experience of both blessings. Believers are, therefore, fully justified in coming boldly to a throne of grace, that they may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.—T.C.
The blessings of redemption.
Full minds overflow in long sentences. The sentence which begins with the third verse runs on continuously to the fourteenth, marked all the way by many rich and happy turns of expression. The apostle pours forth his thoughts with a splendid exuberance, which dazzles common readers, but is kindling to congenial minds. The whole passage is "a magnificent anthem," in which the ideas "suggest each other by a law of powerful association." It takes up the spirit of the psalmist, "Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy Name" (Psalms 103:1-22.).
I. THE BLESSINGS ARE TRACED UP TO THE FATHER AS THEIR SOURCE. It is he who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. It is a mistake to represent the Father as a harsh creditor, who has no point of contact with his debtor except at the moment when the bond is being discharged; or to represent the Son as the tender and compassionate Redeemer, who prevails with his Father to grant a salvation he is unwilling to bestow. The true source of salvation is in the Father's heart, and the mission of the Son was to execute the loving will of the Father who is in heaven. The atonement was the effect, not the cause, of Divine love. Jesus did not die on the cross that God might be induced to love us, but because he did love us. The cross could not originate Divine love, which is an eternal perfection of the Divine nature, seeking an object on which to exhaust its riches. But the cross was the mode in which, for reasons known to himself and partially discernible to us, it was expedient and necessary that his love should be expressed. But then the same God who exacted the atonement has also provided it; and therefore we may glorify the love of the Father; for "herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his Son to be the Propitiation for our sins."
II. BUT IF THE FOUNTAIN OF ALL OUR BLESSINGS IS IN THE FATHER'S HEART, THEY FLOW DOWNWARD TO US IN THE CHANNEL OF CHRIST'S MEDIATION. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is our covenant God. God, being his Father, becomes our Father; for "we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26). The blessings flow first from the Father to Christ, and then from Christ to us. Jesus said to Mary, "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God" (John 20:17); not, says Augustine, "I ascend to our Father and our God," but first mine, then yours, as if to indicate the distinction between his own essential sonship and their derivative sonship by adoption. But it is a distinguished part of the Christian's privilege that not only "he is Christ's," but "Christ is God's" (1 Corinthians 3:23), according to the prayer of Jesus himself, "All mine are thine, and thine are mine;" for it was an idea near to the apostle's heart that Christ and the Church are one—one Head and one body—and that Christ in the Church and the Church in Christ are God's possession. Therefore we can understand the grandeur of the conception that all God's blessings descend to us in Jesus Christ.
III. THEY ARE SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS. There is no allusion to earthly blessings—riches, honors, beauty, pleasures—as if New Testament believers had ascended to a higher platform than that held by Old Testament saints. God "has provided some better thing for us." The spiritual blessings include all that is involved in the Father's electing love, the Son's satisfaction for sin, and the Holy Spirit's application of redemption. We thus see the relation of believers to the three Persons of the blessed Trinity. It is "all spiritual blessings," but they are so linked together in the Divine order that if you have one you have all: "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." Christ's ministry began with words of blessing, in the eight beatitudes of his first sermon; his gospel brings with it fullness of blessing (Romans 15:29); and the final glorification of the saints is accentuated in the glorious words of the Judge, "Come, ye blessed of my Father."
IV. THESE BLESSINGS CONNECT US WITH HEAVES. They are spiritual blessings in heavenly places. The reason is that Jesus Christ, as our Forerunner, has gone within the veil, with the anchor of our hope in his hands, to fasten it upon the "two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie"—the promise and the oath of God, so that we might have a strong consolation who have fled for refuge to the hope set before us (Hebrews 6:18-20). His forerunnership is identified with his representative position as the Head of all true believers; and his presence in heaven is not only a sublime guarantee of spiritual blessings accruing to us while on earth, but a pledge that "where he is we shall be also." Thus we can understand why our hope should be laid up "in heaven" with its "many mansions" (Colossians 1:5); why our hearts ought to be there in supreme aspiration (Colossians 3:2); why our citizenship should be on high (Philippians 3:20); and why we should identify the scene of our future blessedness with all that is spiritually aspiring on earth.
V. THE RECIPIENTS OF THESE BLESSINGS, "Us" emphatically—Jewish and Gentile believers, with special reference to those who loved Christ, and maintained their integrity in the great focus or center of Grecian vice and Eastern fanaticism, to which the Epistle was addressed. There is no depth of iniquity to which God's mercy and grace cannot descend.—T.C.
The origin of our blessings: the election of grace.
The difficulties that attach to this doctrine do not arise from any ambiguity in the Scripture proofs which support it, but from the nature of the doctrine itself, and its apparent inconsistency with other doctrines of Scripture. Many of the difficulties, indeed, that we associate with the doctrine are involved in the doctrine of Divine providence; so much so that William III. could say to Bishop Burnett, "Did I not believe absolute predestination, I could not believe a providence; for it would be most absurd to suppose a Being of infinite wisdom to act without a plan, for which plan predestination is only another name." Predestination is but God's plan of action; providence is the evolution of that plan. "If this providence has ordered and ordained everything which relates to the temporal lot and life, it is absolutely inconceivable that man's eternal lot should be determined without God's eternal counsel being fulfilled therein" (Oosterzee).
I. THE ELECTION OF GRACE, WHICH IS THE FOUNDATION OF ALL OUR SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS, HAS CHRIST FOR ITS CENTER; for "God hath chosen us in him." We are regarded as existing in him, even in the Divine plan. The Son of God is the Firstborn, as well as the eldest Brother of the vast family of God. He who is the Center of creation, providence, history, is also the Center of the Divine plan.
II. THE ELECTION IS FOUNDED ON THE GOOD PLEASURE OF HIS WILL, WHICH IS ABSOLUTELY ONE WITH HIS MORAL PERFECTIONS, AND CANNOT, THEREFORE, PARTAKE OF AN ARBITRARY CHARACTER. The great question is—Is God or man the author of salvation? Are not faith and repentance, though man's acts, God's gifts? Is not the Christian God's workmanship—"created in Christ Jesus unto good works"? Is it possible to maintain the doctrine of grace without referring man's salvation to God? The system which rejects an election of grace does not make provision for the salvation of a single soul.
III. THE ELECTION IS FROM ETERNITY. It is "before the foundation of the world." It is as eternal as God himself, and not, therefore, founded in man's excellence, or even originated by sin, like an after-thought to rectify disorder or mistake; for believers are chosen, not on the ground of foreseen holiness, but that they may become holy, their faith itself being the effect, not the cause, of their election.
IV. IT IS AN ELECTION TO ADOPTION OR TO HOLINESS; for "God hath chosen us in him... that we should be holy and without blame"—the positive and the negative sides of Christian life—or he hath "predestinated us to the adoption of children." A holy God cannot choose us to be anything but holy. Holiness is the end of our calling, as it is of our election. The Church of God is to be finally "without pot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." Holiness is the way to happiness. "A holy heart is a happy heart," even in this world of care.
V. IT IS AN ELECTION OF INDIVIDUALS. There is a national election, or an election to covenant privileges; but there is an individual election inside it: "Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the election hath obtained it" (Romans 11:7). This fact is further manifest from the manner in which the Apostle Paul comforts believers, and urges them to sanctification by reminding them of their personal election. Believers are comforted besides with the assurance that their names are written in heaven, or in the book of life (Philippians 4:3; Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23).—T.C.
"Having predestinated us to the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ to himself." "Adoption" in Scripture expresses more than a change of relation—it includes the change of nature as well as the change of relation. It thus combines the blessings of justification and sanctification, or represents the complex condition of the believer as at once the subject of both. In a word, it presents the new creature in his new relations. This passage teaches—
I. THAT ADOPTION ORIGINATES IN THE FREE GRACE OF GOD; for we are predestinated thereunto. By nature we have no claim to it. "It is not a natural but a constituted relationship." The idea is not of sonship merely, but of sonship by adoption. None can adopt into the family of God but God himself, and therefore it may be regarded as an act of pure grace and love. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" (1 John 3:1). He may ask the question, "How shall I put thee among the children?" but he has answered it graciously in the line of covenant promise: "I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord" (2 Corinthians 6:18).
II. THAT ADOPTION IS IN CONNECTION WITH THE PERSON AND MEDIATION OF CHRIST. He is not merely the Pattern of sonship to which we are to be conformed, but the adoption is "by Jesus Christ." The apostle declares elsewhere that "we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26), and that "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:4, Galatians 4:5). It is evident from these passages that we do not receive the adoption merely in virtue of Christ's incarnation. Some modern divines hold that the adoption springs, not from the death, but from the birth of Christ; that its benefits are conferred upon every member of the human race by virtue of the Incarnation; that Christ being one with every man, the Root and Archetype of humanity, all men are in him adopted and saved, and that nothing remains for faith but to discern this oneness and his salvation as already belonging to us.
1. This theory makes Christ, and not Adam, the Head of humanity. Yet Scripture makes Adam the true head of humanity, and Christ the Head of the redeemed. Christ is no doubt called "the Head of every man" (1 Corinthians 11:9), in so far as he is "the Firstborn of every creature," and as "all things were created" by him and for him; but the allusion is not to the Incarnation at all, but to the pre-existent state of the Son, and to the fact that, according to the original state of things, the world was constituted in him. But the whole race of man is represented as in Adam (Romans 5:12). How else can we understand the parallel between the two Adams? "That was not first which was spiritual, but that which was natural." "The first man was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." Is it proper to regard Christ as the Archetype of fallen humanity alienated from God, and needing to be created anew in the Divine image (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24)?
2. This theory is inconsistent with Scripture, which makes the Incarnation and the cross inseparable. They are both means to an end: the expiation of sin, the vindication of Divine justice—the meritorious obedience to be rendered to the Law. Jesus was born that he might die. The event of Golgotha not only explains but completes the event of Bethlehem. Our Savior came to save the lost (Matthew 18:11); he came to give his life a ransom (Matthew 20:28); he came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15); he took part of flesh and blood to destroy death (Hebrews 2:14); he was manifested to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8); it was on the cross he triumphed over principalities and powers (Colossians 2:15). There are a hundred passages in Scripture which ascribe our salvation to his death to one passage ascribing it to his birth. It is a suggestive circumstance that he should have appointed a festival to commemorate his death—the Lord's Supper—and should have appointed no similar festival to commemorate his birth. The effect, if not the design, of this theory is to destroy the necessity for the atonement, and thus to avoid the offence of the cross. The Incarnation is presented to us as a remedial arrangement by virtue of its connection with the cross, and the connection of man with Christ is represented as corrective of his connection with Adam. Our primary connection is with the first Adam, and we only attain to connection with Christ by regeneration.
III. THAT ADOPTION IS FOR THOSE WHO ARE UNITED TO CHRIST BY FAITH. Scripture is exceedingly plain in its testimony upon this point. "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26); "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his Name" (John 1:12); "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Romans 8:14). Yet it is said that faith does not make the sonship, but discerns it as already ours. The proper office of faith, however, is not to recognize the blessing of adoption as ours, but "to receive and rest upon Christ alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel." The blessings of salvation are not conferred on all men prior to their faith or without their faith. The union between Christ and believers, of which the Scripture is so full, is not accomplished by our Lord's assumption of our common nature, but is only realized through an appropriating faith wrought in each of us by the grace of God.
IV. THAT THE ISSUE OF THE ADOPTION' IS TO BRING BELIEVERS AT LAST INTO COMMUNION WITH GOD HIMSELF. "Ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." We are brought into the Divine family—"the family in heaven and in earth" (Ephesians 3:15)—of which God is the Father; for "adoption finds its ultimate enjoyment and blessing in God." If we are thus brought to God and belong to God in virtue of our adoption, ought we not with a profound earnestness to aim at a high and spiritual tone of living?—T.C.
Redemption through blood.
"Redemption" is a large and exclusive term, implying deliverance from sin, Satan, and death. It includes, not the mere remission of sins, which is, however, the primary element in it; nor the mere adoption, though that is the consequence of it—for "we are redeemed that we may receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:4), but the completed sanctification of our souls and the consummated redemption of our bodies. The price of redemption is the blood of him who is here described as "the Beloved."
I. THE REDEMPTION IS NOT, ANY MORE THAN THE ADOPTION, EFFECTED BY THE INCARNATION, BUT BY THE DEATH OF CHRIST. More was needed for redemption than the mere birth of the Redeemer, else he need not have died. Therefore we preach, not the person of Christ, nor the child born, but Christ crucified, "the wisdom of God, and the power of God." Some lay stress upon his life rather than upon his death. But the one righteousness on the ground of which we are justified, consists at once of the obedience of his life and of the sufferings of his death. Our Savior was our Substitute both in life and in death. Yet Scripture assigns the greater prominence to the death. We are "bought with a price;" "We are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ." Not only is redemption set forth objectively in Christ's person, because he is of God made unto us "redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30), but the ransom price is definitively described as "his blood," considered as the reality of the ancient sacrifices and as procuring the full salvation which they only figured forth.
II. THE REDEMPTION IS NOT A MERE MORAL RENOVATION. Some divines say the work of redemption is wholly subjective, its sole aim being the moral transformation of the sinner, or the rooting of sin out of the soul. They say, indeed, that no such thing as remission of sin is possible, except through the previous extirpation of sin itself. But, according to Scripture, redemption includes everything necessary to salvation, both the change of condition and the change of character—both justification and sanctification. And both these come to us in virtue of Christ's blood. If nothing was required for salvation but the exercise of spiritual power upon us, no person need have come from the bosom of the Godhead, and there need have been no crucifixion. The double aspect of Christ's death is presented in such passages as these: "He bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness" (1 Peter 2:24); "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, Titus 2:15). That is, his ultimate design is to deliver us from sin itself. But the moral power of the cross depends upon those substantial objective benefits which it procures for us. On the theory of some modern divines, the redemption cannot extend to Old Testament saints at all, for they have not seen the manifestation of Divine self-sacrificing love which we have seen in the cross.
III. IT IS A REDEMPTION STILL IN PROGRESS. The original word implies this—"we are having" this redemption. Naturalistic writers give us a dead Christ. But we have a living Savior who, because he was crucified once, is dead no more, but "ever liveth to make intercession for us." He is now carrying on in heaven the work of our redemption. The Holy Spirit applies to us all its blessings, and seals us unto the day of redemption.—T.C.
The forgiveness of sins.
Redemption consists essentially in forgiveness as its primary fact in respect of importance and of order, not as a mere element belonging to the more advanced stages of Christian life, nor as dependent on the renovation of our nature.
I. SCRIPTURE ASSERTS A DIRECT CAUSAL CONNECTION BETWEEN THE BLOOD OF CHRIST AND THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. There is no absolute forgiveness. Christ's blood was shed for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28). The original word for forgiveness is a judicial term, referring to deliverance from the punishment due to sin rather than deliverance from its power. Scripture does not say that Christ contemplated a mere moral redemption—though sanctification as well as justification is included in his work; nor does it teach that his death was a mere example of self-sacrifice, or merely designed to confirm the truth of his doctrine or to ratify the promise of an absolute forgiveness. In that case, the Old Testament saints could have no share in the benefits of Christ's death. But Scripture clearly teaches that forgiveness is the direct result of the atoning death, without any addition of works of ours or works of Law to secure exemption from punishment.
II. FORGIVENESS IS TO BE DISTINGUISHED FROM ATONEMENT. Forgiveness is the act of God as Judge; atonement is the act of Christ as Surety. The atonement is the foundation or ground of forgiveness. It is from the neglect of this distinction that some divines declare the impropriety of our praying for the forgiveness of sin, inasmuch as all our sins, past, present, and future, were put away in one day. The atonement was certainly made in one day; but forgiveness is a continuous act. To purchase a gift is a different thing from bestowing it. We cannot expunge a debt till it has been contracted, and we were not in existence when Christ died, either to sin or to receive forgiveness. "But we were not in existence to be atoned for." The cases are different. A father can lay up property for an unborn son, but the son cannot come into possession till he is born. Besides, if all our sins were forgiven at Christ's death, how could pardoned believers ever have been guilty? And why should there be examples in Scripture of prayers for forgiveness?
III. THE ORIGIN OF THE FORGIVENESS. "According to the riches of his grace." Though it comes to us through the blood of Christ, it is really traceable to the "riches of his grace." It has been said that ransom and the exercise of grace are not consistent. Yet the apostle here expressly asserts the consistency of the two things—a complete satisfaction and a free pardon. Though the pardon is free to us, it was not procured without the payment of a price. The grace of God is the source or impelling cause in our redemption; the blood of Christ was the meritorious ground of it. We may, therefore, glorify God for "the riches of his grace" in the full forgiveness of all our sins. We may, therefore, "be of good cheer," for our sins are forgiven us; we may love him much for the much that he has forgiven us; and call upon our souls to bless the Lord for all his benefits, and especially for this—"Who forgiveth all our iniquities."—T.C.
The revelation of the mystery.
It was the high distinction of the Apostle Paul that to him, and not to any one of the twelve apostles, was committed the revelation of a great mystery. Ten times is this mystery named in his Epistles. It is called significantly "his gospel;" for which he was, indeed, an ambassador in bonds; but a gospel even more gloriously practical than it was speculative in its tendency and character. It was a revealed secret, "hid from generations"—indeed, hid "from the foundation of the world;" a matter, not indeed unknowable, but simply unknown till it came to light through the revelation of this last apostle.
I. THERE IS A TIME WHEN THE WORLD IS NOT READY FOR GOD'S MYSTERIES. The Divine purpose might be defeated by a premature disclosure to minds untrained for their reception. The presence of mysteries is a sort of moral training for man, in so far as it stimulates a sort of sober and devout inquisitiveness in minds blunted by sin, while reason needs likewise to be humbled under a sense of the necessity of illumination from on high. While we sit under the solemn shadows of Divine mysteries, we feel the need of lifting up our mantled eyeballs to the great Father of lights.
II. THE MYSTERY DOES NOT COME WITHOUT DUE PREPARATION HAVING BEEN MADE FOR IT. Not only is the New Testament contained in the Old, but the whole pre-Christian period is one long preparation for the coming of Christ. Not only the types and prophecies of the Mosaic dispensation, but the whole history of the world, with all the marvelously intricate movements of providence, had a certain Christward tendency and leaning, as if to prepare the way for him who was the end of the Law, the turning-point between the old and the new time, "the pivot on which the entire plan of God moves." Thus we find "the Incarnation to be the center of gravity to the world's great movements."
III. BUT THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL WHICH THE APOSTLE MADE KNOWN WAS A VERY LARGE AND INCLUSIVE THING, EMBRACING JEW AND GENTILE, HEAVEN AND EARTH, IN ITS FULL AND GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT. Sometimes it appears as if it meant only Christ: "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). Sometimes it appears as if it included nothing but the reception of the Gentiles into the Christian Church upon conditions of perfect equality with the Jews: "The mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (Ephesians 3:4-6). It was no mystery to pre-Christian ages that the Gentiles would be afterwards included in the Christian Church—for the prophetic Scriptures are full of the subject; but it was never known till after the day of Pentecost that the theocracy itself was to be abolished, and that a new dispensation was to be established, under which the old distinction of Jew and Gentile was to be abolished. Sometimes it appears as if it meant a Divine purpose or plan, with Christ for its Center, stretching out over the whole length of the Christian dispensation, and finally re-collecting into one "things on earth" and "things in heaven" (Ephesians 1:9, Ephesians 1:10). In fact, it means all three things; for the Divine plan for "the summing up" of all things included, as one of its earliest and most momentous facts, the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Church, and Jesus Christ as the very Center of the whole Divine dispensation, to whom shall be "the gathering of the people" in all ages of the world. This is the mystery of the gospel: not the Church, as some say, restricting the term to believers of the Christian dispensation; for it was by the Church the mystery was to be made known: "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10). Yet the Church was included in this glorious mystery of God, as the form in which there should be the final "summing up" of all things in heaven and in earth.—T.C.
"The dispensation of the fullness of times."
This marks the period during which the summing up of all things is to be accomplished—the period of the dispensation of grace.
I. THE TERM SUGGESTS THE IDEA OF A PLAN OR SYSTEM, NOT CONSISTING OF MERE FRAGMENTARY AND UNRELATED PARTS, BUT A THOROUGHLY COMPACT AND ORGANIZED SYSTEM, IN WHICH THE INDIVIDUAL PARTS HAVE THEIR DUE PLACES IN THE WORKING OUT OF A DESTINED RESULT. Just as in creation there is a unity of plan with certain typical ideas and regulative numbers lying at its basis, so there is in God's dispensation a certain succession of times and seasons working out the purposes of his will. "God is the Steward of all time." The God who has made of one blood all nations of men "hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation" (Acts 17:26). Christianity marks a new era in history, dividing it into two unequal parts, the appearance of Christ marking the turning-point between them.
II. THIS DISPENSATION DATES FROM THE FULLNESS OF TIMES, THAT IS, FROM THE PERIOD WHEN ALL THE TIMES DESTINED TO PRECEDE IT HAD RUN OUT. The pre-Christian ages have seen their end in Christ's advent, which' becomes thenceforth "the fullness of times." It was a chronological as well as a moral fullness. The epoch in question is the best time in the Divine calendar; for it is God's time, and he is the Lord of all time. The age that saw the advent of the Savior was ripe for the event. It was "the time appointed by the Father" (Galatians 4:2). The Roman power had opened highways for the gospel in every land by its immense conquests and its large toleration, while Greece gave the world the richest of languages to become the vehicle for New Testament inspiration. Meanwhile religion had outlived itself, and skepticism mocked at the decaying superstitions of the people. "The world by wisdom knew not God." All Gentile experiments in living had been tried, but with the unvarying result of disappointment. Meanwhile there was at the heart of heathenism a mysterious longing for some change in the world's destinies, and the eyes of men turned instinctively to the East. Whether this tendency sprang up among the dispersion of the Jews over the East and the West, or from some instinctive longing, it was God's will that the Gentiles should, with a conscious need of redemption, feel after him for themselves, "if haply they might find him" (Acts 17:27). Among the Jews, likewise, there was a significant "waiting for the consolation of Israel;" idolatry had totally disappeared; new and more liberal ideas prevailed, in spite of the bigotry of the sects; and many hearts were prepared to welcome the" Desire of all nations." "The full age had come," when the heir would enter on his inheritance. Thus the advent was in every sense "the fullness of times." It was "the due time" when Christ died for the ungodly. The world had waited long for it. The purpose of God had only to receive its fulfillment by the coming of Christ. Equally so still is there a longing in the heart of men for a Savior. Men may try experiments in life; they may taste of its pleasures; they may try to extract from it all the wisdom the world can give; but there is still a void which nothing can fill till he comes whose right it is to possess and subdue and save the soul for himself.—T.C.
The summing up in one of all things in Christ.
This was the mystery of God hid for ages, but now revealed.
I. IT IMPLIES A PRIOR SEPARATION OF THE THINGS RE-COLLECTED OR REGATHERED TO GOD IS JESUS CHRIST AS CENTRE OR HEAD. Sin is the great divider. It separates man from God; it separates man from man; it causes a schism within man himself. Rebellion introduced disorder. There was a break of moral continuity between earth and heaven caused by the Fall. "Earth was morally severed from heaven and the worlds which retained their pristine integrity." The primary reference here may be to the separation or enmity which so long held apart the Jew and the Gentile, but it undoubtedly has a wider reference to the relations between heaven and earth which were so profoundly affected by the fall of man.
II. THE OBJECTS OF THE REUNION.
1. Jews and Gentiles, so long apart, are now "made both one" through the blood of the cross. Men try in our day to bring about a union of humanity on a basis of moral rule, or of socialism, or of the creed of liberty, equality, and fraternity; but the cross is the only reconciler of man to man. It is only under Christianity that any approach has been made toward a juster view of human rights, and toward a more genuine interest in the welfare of individual men.
2. The whole Church of God in heaven and in earth is reunited in Christ. This includes the saints of all dispensations, who, whether they lived under the comparative twilight of the Jewish dispensation, or in the days of antichristian apostasy in our own dispensation, found their home at last in glory. There are those who imagine that the pre-Christian saints do not belong to the Church of God, because this Church, they affirm, first came into being on the day of Pentecost, and therefore they assign to the saints of Jewish times an inferior place of glory in heaven. The Church of God for which Christ died (Ephesians 5:2) must include the saints of all time. This is the Church which he hath purchased with his own blood, and, if the Old Testament saints are not in it, they are lost. There is no redemption apart from union with the person of the Redeemer; for the one sentence in the Corinthian Epistle covers the destinies of the whole human race: "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22). And if we are Abraham's seed, we must have union with Christ; for "they that are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham" (Galatians 3:1-29.). Those, therefore, who are to be gathered together in Christ must include the saints of every dispensation.
3. The angels of heaven are probably included among "the things of heaven." When we consider that Jesus Christ is Head of angels as well as men, that the angels are ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation, that they had a profound interest in the work of redemption, that the Church itself was to be the means of instructing them in the wonders of God's plan of salvation (Ephesians 3:10), that the angels themselves may have been confirmed in their holy steadfastness by the Son of God, that our Divine Redeemer continues to wear in the sight of angels the human nature he wore on earth,—it is no extravagant speculation that all the heavenly hosts are united under a new Head, and in a new bond in virtue of the grand transaction of Calvary.
4. There seems no just reason for believing that the passage sanctions the restoration of lost men and lost angels. The parallel passage in Colossians 1:20, which speaks of "things in heaven and things on earth"—that is, the redeemed saints of earth and heaven—seems to exclude such an interpretation.
III. THE CENTER OF REUNION IS CHRIST. The re-collecting or regathering is twice-told as in him. An ancient prophetic voice spoke of him as the One to whom "shall the gathering of the people be" (Genesis 49:10). He is the Center of everything in the universe. He is the Center of nature, for not only were all things made by him, but in him they consist; he is the Center of providence, for he upholds all things by the word of his power; he is the Center of Christendom, just as he was the Center of the old theocracy; he is the Center of the Church invisible, for he is its Head and its Life; he is the Center of heaven, for it is the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne; he is the Center of the Godhead itself, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is, therefore, in him that "all things in earth and all things in heaven" are re-collected or summed up, for the showing forth, with a luster before unknown, of the majesty and glory of God. "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one" (John 17:23).—T.C.
Ephesians 1:11, Ephesians 1:12
The believer's inheritance.
This is for the children, who are not only partakers of the knowledge of redemption, but heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus (Romans 8:17). Property in this world usually goes by inheritance, but it is not so with Heaven's highest blessings. They are "not of blood, neither of the will of man," but of God. The serious question suggests itself—Have we any part or lot in the great gathering together in Christ of which the apostle has just spoken? "We have obtained an inheritance."
I. THE NATURE OF THIS INHERITANCE. It is difficult to describe it, because "it doth not yet appear what we shall be;" but it is described more negatively than positively in Scripture, rather by the absence of certain things, that we may the better understand the things that are really present in it. It is "incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading;" there shall be in our future life no more death, nor curse, nor night, nor weeping, nor sin, nor transitoriness. But it is possible to gather up from Scripture some of the positive elements in our future inheritance. Man's twofold nature, as body and spirit, demands a twofold satisfaction.
1. There are many mansions in our Father's house; there are heavenly places not made with hands; there is a better and more enduring substance in store for us. The promise of Jesus, "Where I am, there ye shall be also," carries with it the assurance that our future home will be adorned with all the art and workmanship and glory our Redeemer has lavished upon this world, with all its sins and miseries. It cannot be that the Son, the Creator, will be less powerful when he stands at the head of a redeemed world, or less willing to show forth his glory as the Author of all the beauty which has been ever seen or dreamt of. Whether our future home is to be a star, or a galaxy of worlds, or a vast metropolis, it is reasonable to suppose that it will display infinitely more material glory, as the expression of his creative genius and his infinite love, than he has ever lavished upon this beautiful world, with all its deep scars and its traces of sin and sorrow.
2. But there are certain spiritual aspects of our future inheritance, concerning which we may speak with more confidence.
II. BELIEVERS HAVE THE INHERITANCE THROUGH CHRIST. "In whom we have obtained an inheritance." It is not a hereditary possession, like an entailed estate; for grace does not run in the blood. It comes to us through Christ. He purchased it with his blood. His righteousness gives us a title to it, as his grace gives us "a meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light;" and now he keeps possession of it for us, writing our names upon the royalties of heaven, and will put us into full and final Possession at the last day.
III. THE INHERITANCE IS ACCORDING TO THE DIVINE PURPOSE; for we are "predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his "own will." We are predestinated, not to adoption merely, but to the inheritance that it involves. The Lord provides a heavenly portion. It is a sure portion, because it is according to a purpose that cannot be frustrated. Grace is the key-note of this Epistle. Our salvation is first and last of grace.
IV. THE END OR DESIGN IS TO PROMOTE GOD'S GLORY. "That we should be to the praise of his glory." Believers are either in their lives to be "living epistles of Christ, to be known and read of all men," as instances of the power of Divine grace, or they are to set forth his praises by ascribing everything to his grace and nothing to their own merit.—T.C.
Hope in Christ.
"Who first hoped in Christ." Hope, as one of the great springs of human action, is to be distinguished from simple foresight or simple expectation; for the one may be a foresight of evil, the other an expectation of coming misfortune. Hope, on the contrary, is the expectation of future good. We do not hope for mistake, or for misfortune, or for pain; we hope for what will fill our future with brightness. "Hope is the noblest offspring, the first born, the last buried child of foreseeing and forecasting man." Hope is often illusive, but the hope of the gospel is real on account of its deep, strong, and immutable foundations.
I. JESUS CHRIST IS THE TRUE FOUNDATION or OUR HOPE. So strongly linked with it, indeed, that he is expressly called "our Hope" (1 Timothy 1:2), and "the Hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). To have hope in Christ is a higher thing than to have hope directed towards Christ. What is there in the person or work of Christ to awaken or sustain our hope?
1. In his atonement there is a foundation laid for the hope of pardon in the heart of the chiefest of sinners.
2. In his present work as our High Priest and Intercessor there is a foundation laid for the hope of purification.
3. Christ in us "dwelling in us by faith"—is the assurance of our hope; for it is Christ in us who is the Hope of glory.
4. Christ is the Pattern of our hope, for when he shall appear, we hope to be like him, being "predestinated to be conformed to his image."
5. The climax of our hope will be reached at his appearing, for that is the blessed hope of the Church. We are "to hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13).
II. THE SOURCE OF OUR HOPE IN CHRIST. We are predestinated thereunto (Ephesians 1:11). It is the "God of hope" who causes us "to abound in hope" (Romans 15:13); it is he who gives us "a good hope through grace"—not of nature or man's merits, for it is ascribed to his "abundant mercy" as the spring of it (1 Peter 1:3); and he gives us "the patience and comfort of the Scriptures, that we may have hope" (Romans 15:4).
III. IT IS A HIGH PRIVILEGE TO HAVE AN EARLY HOPE IN CHRIST. "Who first hoped in Christ." This was the great privilege of the Jews. The Gentiles were last, not first, in their enjoyment of Christ. The Apostle Paul deemed Andronicus and Junia highly favored, because "they were in Christ before him" (Romans 16:7). It must always be subject of pious regret that we had not an earlier experience of Christ; for we should thus have been preserved from many sins and follies; we should have had such a fuller enjoyment of his gospel, and we should have had many more opportunities of doing good.—T.C.
The means of salvation.
"The Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation." This double title is significant because the faith which cometh by hearing has a relation at once to the understanding and to the will. The Word of truth is to satisfy the understanding; the gospel of salvation is to satisfy the will, which embraces Christ as he is freely offered in the gospel. It is the "Word of truth"—not cunningly devised fables or illusory dreams of men; for it comes from the God of truth, it has Christ the Truth for its substance, and the Spirit of truth applies it by imparting a true spiritual discernment of its meaning. It is "the gospel of your salvation;" for it is "the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth" (Romans 1:16). Therefore we ought all "to take heed what we hear (Mark 4:24), and to ponder one of the signs of a godly character, "He that is of God heareth God's words" (John 8:47).
I. THE SCRIPTURES ARE NECESSARY TO OUR BELIEVING. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). "Receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21). Not but that in some extra- ordinary cases God seems to have converted men without the agency of preaching or of the written Word—Divine mercy suddenly coming into contact with men that were not seeking for it, and found in quarters where it might least be expected. It is very doubtful, however, whether in cases of this sort, the Word of God, once learned but long forgotten, may not have been revived by the Spirit of God as the means of salvation. The Scriptures "make wise unto salvation" (2 Timothy 3:15), and souls need to be nourished up with the words of faith and good doctrine, even with the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ. The parable of the sower shows the uses of the seed (Matthew 13:1-58.).
II. THE SPIRIT OF GOD IS NECESSARY TO THE DUE RECEPTION OF THE WORD. Thus the Word of God is called the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12), which he holds in his hand as an instrument of power. We are "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God" (1 Peter 1:23). The influence of the Holy Spirit is uniformly distinguished from that of the truth itself; because it is necessary to the reception of the truth (1 Corinthians 2:12-15). It is true that faith cometh by hearing, but there is a hearing which brings no faith; therefore the Spirit is needed to give effect to the truth. "Open thou mine eyes, that I may see wondrous things out of thy Law." Men see by the light, yet the eyes of the blind are not opened by the light. The Spirit must give efficacy to the Word, that it may save the soul.
III. WE OUGHT TO STUDY THE SCRIPTURES IN A RIGHT SPIRIT.
1. Reverently, because they are the Word of God, and not the word of man.
2. Meekly (James 1:21), with a humble and submissive temper.
3. In faith (Hebrews 4:2); for else the study were utterly unprofitable.
4. Prayerfully (Psalms 10:17); for the Lord will thus prepare the heart.
5. Practically (Matthew 7:24, Matthew 7:25), that our life may be a comment upon the Word.—T.C.
Faith in Christ.
"In whom having believed." Faith is a God-given reliance on an all-sufficient Mediator.
I. IT IS MORE THAN A MERE BELIEF or THE TRUTH ' it is an act of the will; it is trust in a Person. It has been strongly urged in our day that faith is simply the belief in God's testimony that Christ has died for us. "It is simply believing that Christ died for me." There are two statements here: Christ is the Savior of sinners; he has saved me. The first is true, whether I believe in him or not; the second only becomes true on my believing. Faith is not believing that I am saved; it is believing in order to be saved. The grant of salvation is absolute or it is not. If not, the grant does not make the pardon mine before I believe; if it is absolute, it makes the pardon mine before I believe; so I am justified before faith and therefore without faith. On this theory of faith, faith is utterly impossible; for the soul would require to accept the proposition, "I am saved," in order to be saved. A man may firmly credit the testimony of God, and yet doubt whether he is himself a believer, though he is convinced that Christ will save all true believers. The position of some is practically this: "I believe that I am a believer." If this is true faith, we cannot deceive ourselves; for the more firmly a man believes he is a believer, the stronger must his faith be. But nothing but a theory of universal salvation could warrant a sinner, while be is still a sinner, to believe that Christ died for him and will assuredly save him. The apostle said to the Galatians, "Let no man deceive himself;" but on this principle there is no need for any warnings against self-deception.
II. FAITH IS TRUST IN A PERSON. It thus becomes the instrument of our justification. It is the receptive organ or the hand by which the graciously provided ransom is received by the sinner; or, it is the bond which attaches him to Christ. When the object of faith is stated in Scripture, it is presented in connection with certain significant forms of grammatical construction. We are said to believe in or upon Jesus Christ. This form occurs fifty times in the New Testament, and the object is always a Person, and not a statement to be believed. If faith, indeed, is not taken to include trust, we have not a single exhortation in the whole New Testament to trust in the Lord like what occurs so often in the Old Testament; and if faith does not include trust, where is the evidence that the Old Testament saints had faith at all, apart from the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:1-40.); for in the Old Testament they are not said to believe, but always to trust in the Lord?
III. FAITH IS THE SUSTAINING PRINCIPLE OF OUR CHRISTIAN LIFE. It is not the mere roof-principle; it is the continuing principle of it; for the apostle says, "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). He who believes receives the saving blessings which Christ's death procured. Faith apprehends Christ under three gracious aspects: "Christ for us," for our justification; "Christ in us," for our sanctification; "Christ with us," for comfort and confidence. These are not three separate blessings, any one of which we may have without the others, but three parts of the Christian's privilege, bound up together in the same bundle of life, and given upon our believing. There is a mysticism which speaks of Christ in his people which fails to realize Christ for his people; but our fellowship of life with Christ is not redemption, but as the Bible everywhere represents it, as the result, reward, and fruit of the ransom offered by our Divine Redeemer.—T.C.
Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 1:14
The sealing of the Holy Spirit.
"In whom, having believed, ye were scaled." It is spoken of as a past process, but, though dating from a certain specific point of time, it is continuous in its operation.
I. THE NATURE OF THE SEALING. It is something different from faith, as the scaling of a letter is different from the writing of it. In the order of nature there must be a difference; in the order of time, the faith and the sealing may be contemporaneous. The sealing implies the direct contact of the seal with the thing sealed, and an impression made by it. It has both an objective and a subjective meaning. It is objective so far as it is for identification. "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his" (2 Timothy 2:19); for the Lord sets his mark upon believers to keep them safe for himself; and it is also for security, for "we are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30), that is, to be preserved unto that day, the sealed ones of the Revelation being expressly sealed for safety (Revelation 7:3). Then it is subjective as it involves the assurance of faith, saints being thus assured of their interest in the favor of God and in the blessings of his kingdom. "Faith is the hand that takes hold of Christ; assurance is the ring which God puts on faith's finger." Believers as sealed by the Spirit have the witness within themselves that they are children of God (1 John 5:10; Revelations 1 John 5:5; 8:18).
II. THE SEALER. This is God, not the Holy Spirit; for it is said, "Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God, who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Corinthians 1:21, 2 Corinthians 1:22). The Holy Spirit is not the Sealer, but the Seal.
III. THE PERSON' INTO WHOM BELIEVERS ARE SEALED—JESUS CHRIST. "In whom ye were sealed." The sealing has direct relation to our union with Christ, as the passage implies; but the apostle also says, "He which stablisheth us with you in [rather, 'into'] Christ is God .. who hath also sealed us" (2 Corinthians 1:22). Jesus said," At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." Thus all the three witnesses in heaven, as well as the three witnesses on earth, concur in the testimony to our interest in the blessings of salvation. Our sealing is indeed in virtue of the sealing of Christ himself; for "him hath God the Father sealed" (John 6:2.).
IV. THE SEAL IS NOT BAPTISM, OR THE LORD'S SUPPER, OR EXTRAORDINARY GIFTS, BUT THE HOLY SPIRIT HIMSELF. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed till the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30), as marking the element or sphere of the sealing. God stamps the image of his Spirit upon the Christian soul; and all that is involved in the Spirit's operation—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Galatians 5:22)—is worked into man's spirit; for "we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18), that is, as reflecting his image.
V. THE SEALED ARE BELIEVERS. It is not truths, or promises, or experiences, that are sealed upon the heart; it is believers themselves who are sealed. A hard, cold, lifeless heart cannot receive the seal. The believing heart must be melted by the love shed abroad by the Holy Ghost, just as wax is melted to receive the device carved on the seal, before it can be in a state receptive enough for taking the impress, that is, the witness of Divine favor and security.
VI. THE INDELIBILITY OF THE SEAL. This seems implied in the very nature of the term employed, "ye were sealed"—in the past tense. "Whatever bears God's image will be safely carried home to his bosom." The seal that may be broken is no security. "Ye were sealed till the day of redemption"—till no day short of that; but it is a sealing that implies a perseverance in holiness. It is this security that supplies the strongest argument why we should not grieve the Spirit. The apostle does not suggest the fear of the Spirit's withdrawal, but rather the ingratitude of believers who could grieve One who had done so much for them.—T.C.
The believer's earnest of his Divine inheritance.
The Spirit is the earnest—the sample as well as pledge of future blessedness. It is now we see the purpose of the seal. It is because the Spirit is an earnest of our inheritance that his indwelling is a seal. The earnest is the same in kind with the prospective inheritance. It is "the inheritance in miniature." It is a sample of the stock, a pledge that all the rest will come in due time. The indwelling of the Spirit is part of the blessings of redemption, and a security for our enjoying the rest. Therefore it is called "the firstfruits of the Spirit." Three times does the word "earnest" occur in the New Testament in relation to the work of the Spirit.
I. IT HAS RELATION TO AN ETERNAL INHERITANCE—to "the redemption of the purchased possession," that is, the final deliverance from all evil which is to take place in the end of all things. It is an earnest of that completed redemption.
II. IT IS ALSO AN EARNEST, NOT OF THE RESURRECTION MERELY, NOR OF THE CHANGE OF LIVING BELIEVERS AT THE RESURRECTION, BUT OF A CONDITION OF GLORY BETWEEN DEATH AND THE RESURRECTION; for the apostle refers specially to this fact in 2 Corinthians 5:5, "Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit."
III. THE INDWELLING OF THE SPIRIT IS REPRESENTED IN, Romans 8:11 AS THE PLEDGE OF THE FUTURE LIFE OF THE BODY; for there is a redemption of the body (Romans 8:23), because the Spirit is equally the Source of the life we derive from Christ, both for body and soul. This earnest redounds to the praise of God's glory, as God is glorified in the security of believers.—T.C.
The prayers of an apostle.
In other Epistles the apostle introduces his expression of thanksgiving at the beginning, but here he brings it into the very heart of a doctrinal statement, enumerating in successive steps the immense blessings of salvation.
I. IT IS THE INSTINCT OF. A HOLY HEART TO PRAY FOR THE SPIRITUAL WELL-BEING OF OTHERS. "It is an angel's grace to rejoice over the conversion of sinners." But Paul had the care of all the Churches daily upon his heart; they all had a place in his supplications, as well as individual Christians among them; and he "ceased not" to pray for them till he had received an answer to his prayers. He must have spent a large portion of his busy life in prayer. How could he find time to remember all the Churches in his supplications? A godly pastor in America was in the habit of isolating a day now and then for prayer for the whole world. When asked how he could find matter for a whole day's supplication, he answered, "I spread out a map of the world before me; and as I know something of the religious condition of all the countries on the map, I cannot be at a loss for matter." What a large heart was that of the apostle, that could bear all the Churches up to the throne of God in earnest and affectionate entreaty!
II. THE GROUND OF HIS THANKSGIVING—"the faith and love" of the Ephesian Christians. These two graces, like the two great commands of the Law, sum up in a sense all the graces of the Spirit. "Faith and love are the two arms and the two eyes without which Christ can be neither seen nor embraced." They have their origin in the grace of Christ, which "was exceeding abundant in faith and love" (1 Timothy 1:14); faith holding the first place, because "faith in the Lord Jesus Christ" is the first principle of Christian life, because it worketh by love, because love springs out of faith (1 Timothy 1:5)—not love to God, but love to the saints, which is implied in this higher love; for "he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 5:20). It was a catholic love—"to all saints," with all their differences of character, habit, and life. The apostle was thankful for the exhibition of these two graces at Ephesus, not only because he had been the instrument of their conversion, but because they marked the interest of his disciples in the blessings of salvation. He was delighted, besides, to find them persevering in grace: "Now I live if ye stand fast in the Lord." The spiritual friendships of the apostle were marked by great intensity of interest and feeling.
III. THESE PRAYERS OF AN APOSTLE WOULD BE EFFECTUAL IN' BRINGING DOWN BLESSING UPON THE EPHESIAN SAINTS. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."—T.C.
Prayer for the Holy Spirit.
The Ephesian saints had already received the Spirit, for they had been sealed by him; but the apostle wishes the Spirit to become a spirit of wisdom and revelation, for further enlargement in a spiritual sense can only be realized in the direction of new knowledge. Some persons say it is wrong to pray for the Holy Spirit, as it seems to imply that he has not already come. The apostle here expressly prays for the Spirit. Our prayers always acknowledge the Spirit as already come, and already operating with power in the Church, and what we desire from time to time is the individual application of his blessings to our hearts. Similarly, the apostle wishes grace and peace to Churches which already rejoiced in the experience of both blessings. "Ye have received an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things." Jesus is the Holy One; his Spirit is the unction; the knowledge of all things the result. This unction imparts the germ and substance of all knowledge.—T.C.
Prayer for the knowledge of God.
The apostle prays that the spirit of wisdom and revelation may be given, so that the Ephesian saints may have a fuller knowledge of God. Knowledge is an essential factor for promoting growth in grace. He does not pray for holiness, but for knowledge, because he knows it is only through the fuller knowledge of God, imparted by the Divine Spirit, that holiness can be promoted. Thus he prays for the Colossians that they may be "filled with the knowledge of God's will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Colossians 1:9); that they may "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing." He prays for the Philippians that "their love may abound in knowledge and all judgment" (Philippians 1:9); the knowledge and judgment being indispensable both for the regulation and for the increase of love. Similarly, Peter prays for the Christians of the dispersion, that "grace and peace may be multiplied through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord" (2 Peter 1:2). "The knowledge of God is thus the first and best of all the sciences."—T.C.
The connection between the heart and the intellect.
"The eyes of your heart being enlightened."
I. THIS IS A SINGULAR EXPRESSION. Yet it is true in philosophy and true in life, as well as consistent with Biblical language. Scripture speaks of applying our hearts unto wisdom (Psalms 90:12), and of "the understanding of the heart" (Luke 1:51).
II. THE HEART POWERFULLY INFLUENCES THE UNDERSTANDING. Larochefoucauld says, after his own cynical manner, "The head is the dupe of the heart." There is often undoubtedly a divided interest in the soul of man, where two powers are fighting for the mastery. Coleridge said, at a certain point in his speculative career, "My head was with Spinoza, while my heart was with Paul and John." Scripture is most emphatic in marking the connection between knowledge and holiness. We "grow in grace and in knowledge" together, the two growths not hindering but helping each other. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." Purity of heart gives the insight. And purity of heart rather than accuracy of thought, is the order of the kingdom. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God" (John 7:17). How often do we find in human life that interest, vanity, fear, party spirit, determine the conclusions of the intellect! Our opinions often depend upon our lives quite as much as our lives depend upon our opinions. Fichte says that our system of thought is often no more than the history of our hearts. Our judgment is often swayed by our affections.
III. IT IS GOD WHO GIVES THE INSIGHT. "The eyes of your heart being enlightened." It is God who "hath given us an understanding to know him that is true" (1 John 5:20); not a new faculty, but a new quickness or insight; for "unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). It is God who "giveth the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus" (2 Corinthians 4:6). We are "not able of ourselves to think a good thought" (2 Corinthians 3:5), and our highest knowledge is a Divine gift. "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God" (Luke 8:10). It ought, therefore, to be the prayer of every Christian, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may see wondrous things out of thy Law;" and we are encouraged in our supplication by the knowledge that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).—T.C.
The knowledge of God and its outlets.
The effect of the Divine illumination is to enlarge our knowledge in three different directions—pointing at once to the hope that is lodged in the heart of our Divine calling, to the glory of our future inheritance, and to the greatness of the change involved in our regeneration by the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter reproduces exactly the same order of thought when he blessed God
The hope of God's calling.
It is impossible to appreciate the hope till we understand the true nature of the calling to which it is so beautifully attached.
I. THE CALLING IS THE EFFECTUAL CALL OF GOD BY THE SPIRIT.
1. It is posited securely between predestination on one side and justification on the other; for "whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified" (Romans 8:30).
2. It is a call to peace: "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body" (Colossians 3:15).
3. It is a call to blessing: "Knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing" (1 Peter 3:9). 4. It is a call to eternal glory: "The God of all grace who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus" (1 Peter 5:10). It may, therefore, be well described as a high or heavenly calling (Philippians 3:14; Hebrews 3:1). New hope is lodged in the heart of this calling.
II. THE NATURE OF THE HOPE. It must be regarded both subjectively and objectively, that is, both as a hope allied to joy—" rejoicing in hope" (Romans 12:12), as "a living hope" (1 Peter 1:3), as a hope full of consolation (Hebrews 6:18), as a hope "that maketh not ashamed" (Romans 5:5), and as a hope connected with certain deep and strong foundations. These are described in the Epistle to the Hebrews—the Epistle of the better hope—as "the two immutable things," the oath and the promise of God, terminating or converging upon our great High Priest of the Melchisedec order, who is, by virtue of his atoning work, the real "Hope of glory" made known to sinners (Colossians 1:27). We cannot know this hope, either subjectively or objectively, without the aid of the Holy Spirit; and therefore the apostle prays," The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Ghost" (Romans 15:13). The apostle, therefore, prays here that the Ephesian Christians may have an abounding assurance of their interest in Christ based on the best possible grounds.
1. Every believer is called to have an assurance of his personal interest in Christ. A whole Epistle has been written to help toward this assurance: "These things have I written to you that believe on the Name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:13).
2. It is implied that believers may not fully know "the hope of their calling." Yet they may still be true believers. Faith and assurance are not to be confounded. The hope in question is held by an anchor that cannot be dragged from its sure holding-ground (Hebrews 6:18, Hebrews 6:19).
"Hope of all passions most befriends us here;
Passions of prouder name befriend us less;
Joy has her tears and Transport has her death.
Hope like a cordial, innocent, though strong,
Man's heart at once inspirits and serenes."
The riches of the glory of God's inheritance.
How little we know of this inheritance! We desire to know more. There are five points included in our fuller study of this inheritance.
I. OUR TITLE TO IT. It is "a purchased possession" (Ephesians 1:14), the price being the blood of Christ. The death of the Testator was necessary that "they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (Hebrews 9:15).
II. IT IS A RICH INHERITANCE. God is rich in mercy, rich in grace, rich in love, rich in power, rich in goodness and forbearance; but as to heaven, he is rich in glory. It is there emphatically he will make many rich. Both here and there it will be delightfully true: "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). The rich glory of the New Jerusalem is described in the Revelation (Revelation 21:1-27.). Its riches lie essentially in the perpetuity of its blessedness—it is "an eternal inheritance."
III. IT IS A GLORIOUS INHERITANCE. "The righteous shall shine as the sun" (Matthew 13:43), because they are received to the glory of God (Romans 15:7), and called to his kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:12). The glory of God himself is to be the light of heaven (Revelation 21:11).
IV. IT IS A FATHER'S INHERITANCE. And therefore he is here called "the Father of glory." We are heirs of God as we are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."
V. IT IS FOR THE SAINTS. "He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God" (Revelation 21:7). We need to have "the eyes of our heart enlightened," that we may know all the fullness of glory and blessing involved in these five suggestive considerations.—T.C.
The power of God in salvation.
"The exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe." This is the third thing the apostle wished them to know "for their furtherance and joy of faith."
I. THE SPHERE OF THIS WORKING. "TO usward who believe." Power will always excite our admiration, but it will not inspire comfort unless it is exerted on our behalf. The devils know the power of God, but its exercise inspires them with no comfort. This power is manifested in the various parts of Christian life, both in grace and in glory, from conversion to glorification. It provides all things that pertain to life and godliness. It is God's saving power.
1. At the beginning of Christian life—in our conversion. God "hath delivered us from the kingdom of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Colossians 1:13). The apostle speaks of this power in relation to his own conversion and apostleship: "Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effectual working of his power" (Ephesians 3:7). The gospel is the instrument of Divine power. It is "the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16); for "our gospel came unto you, not in word only, but in power" (1 Thessalonians 1:5).
2. In its progress—in our sanctification. The thought of preserving grace is, perhaps, uppermost in the passage. Believers are "kept by the power of God unto salvation" (1 Peter 1:5). Therefore the apostle prays that God would "fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness and the work of faith with power" (2 Thessalonians 1:11). God "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). The apostle prays for himself that 'he may know "the power of his resurrection' (Philippians 3:10). There is power everywhere at work in our salvation; for it is thus that" the whole body increaseth with the increase of God by the effectual working- in the measure of every part" (Ephesians 4:16).
3. At our final glorification. "Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like to his own glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Philippians 3:21).
II. THE NATURE OF THIS POWER. "The exceeding greatness of his power." It was power that could overcome all obstacles. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31); "My Father is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hands" (John 10:29). We argue from his power to his forgiveness, and, therefore, in the Lord's Prayer, after we have asked for the forgiveness of our sins, we plead for it on the ground, "Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory." Let us not hesitate to accept the fullness of Biblical teaching through any fear of trenching on the free-will of man. Man's freedom works freely within the sphere of God's power. But the apostle does not content himself with merely piling up a succession of phrases expressive of the wonderful effects of this power. He places it side by side with the power manifested in the resurrection and glorification of the Redeemer.—T.C.
Ephesians 1:19, Ephesians 1:20
The power of the Resurrection.
"According to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead." The resurrection of Christ was at once an illustration and a pledge of our resurrection, spiritually and physically, with himself. It seems a strange thing to find an exercise of purely physical power compared with an exercise of purely spiritual power. The strangeness disappears when we consider the place of the Resurrection in the scheme of Christian doctrine. The fact of Christ's resurrection is to us both doctrine and life—"the very pillar and ground" of Christianity.
I. IT IS THE CONSTITUTIVE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY, HISTORICALLY AND MORALLY. Strauss admits that "Christianity in the form in which Paul, in which all the apostles understand it, as it is presupposed in the confessions of all Christian Churches, falls with the resurrection of Jesus." In this fundamental fact we have the concurrent witness of the apostles, of Paul in his gospel and his life, of the Gospels, of Jesus himself, of the belief of the disciples, of the attitude of Jewish enemies, of the founding of the Church among Jews and Gentiles. If the Resurrection is denied, Vinet's remark becomes true: "A new history is manufactured for us in the interest of a new theology."
II. IT HAS GREAT THEOLOGICAL VALVE; FOR IT IS THE SEAL AND CROWN OF CHRIST'S REDEEMING SACRIFICE. "He was raised again for our justification" (Romans 4:25). If he was not raised, we are yet in our sins.
III. HIS RESURRECTION SUPPLIES THE IMAGE AND THE GROUND OF OUR RENEWAL INTO HIS FELLOWSHIP. (Romans 6:1-13; Colossians 2:10-13; Colossians 3:1-10; Galatians 2:20.) Jesus himself expressively blends together the historical and the moral constituents of our faith in the sublime sentence, "I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:25). It is not simply that resurrection is the truest description of the living personal experience of the believer from day to day, but by virtue of his oneness with Christ he is "quickened together with Christ, and raised up together with him, and made to sit together with him in heavenly places" (Ephesians 2:5). Jesus' extinction of the penalty of sin, his breaking the seal of death, his recovery for man of the power of the Holy Spirit, all attested by the Resurrection, reveal it to us at the same time as a source of moral light and power. This is "the power of the Resurrection" that the apostle prays for (Philippians 3:10).
IV. THE RESURRECTION IS THE PLEDGE TO US OF PERSONAL IMMORTALITY, AND HIS RESURRECTION-BODY THE TYPE OF THE FUTURE GLORIFIED MAN. (Philippians 3:21.) The apostle says, "If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Romans 8:11). Thus, first and last, the resurrection of Christ is more than a mere illustration of the power of God "to usward who believe;" it is a pledge of the continuance and consummation of all that is involved in the redemption of Christ.—T.C.
Ephesians 1:20, Ephesians 1:21
The exaltation of Christ.
"And set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places." There was power both in the resurrection and in the ascension of our Lord. As the Resurrection was the seal of his redeeming sacrifice, his ascension was the seal of the Resurrection, usually linked with it in Bible allusions, but specially referred to by Peter (Acts 2:33-36; 1 Peter 3:22). In John's Gospel there is an emphatic reference to the event: "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world, and go to the Father" (John 16:28). In the Epistle to the Hebrews it receives greater prominence than the Resurrection itself (Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 4:14, 19). It was a phrase in one of the earliest hymns of the Church—he was "received up into glory" (1 Timothy 3:16). The sitting at the right hand of God is the immediate and necessary sequel of the ascension from the earth. Several important facts are implied in this heavenly session.
I. KINGLY DIGNITY. This accrues to him from his obedience unto death (Philippians 2:9-11), and is never referred to Christ before his incarnation, but only to the God-Man after his ascension. Yet he was in reality King as well as Priest before his incarnation. If he saved men from the beginning, he was King from the beginning. The dominion of the Mediator was conferred upon him in consequence of his obedience unto death, and was yet enjoyed and exercised by him long before his death; just as he saved men from the beginning by the blood of the cross, as being the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." The exaltation he received after death was not an accession of new glory or power, but the manifestation under new conditions of a glory he had from the beginning. This was the position assigned to him in the hundred and tenth psalm, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand." Its fulfillment is manifest in such sentences as the following:—"Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and Savior" (Acts 5:31); "He was made higher than the heavens" (Hebrews 7:26); he "sits on the right hand of power" (Mark 14:62); he is "now set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). Thus, though "crucified in weakness," he "liveth by the power of God" (2 Corinthians 13:14).
II. KINGLY AUTHORITY. Over all the principalities and powers, evil and good, in two worlds; for not only is he far above all these, but God "hath put all things under his feet." He had himself declared immediately before his ascension, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18). There is nothing excepted from the vast sweep of his power. All things whatsoever are his footstool. The brow that was once crowned with thorns wears the crown of universal dominion. The pierced hand holds the scepter of the universe. Herein lies the sublime guarantee for the preservation and completion of his Church on earth. He will ultimately triumph over all his enemies (Hebrews 10:13).
III. BLESSEDNESS. This points to "the joy set before him" (Hebrews 12:2), the joy of holy love, because "he has received of the travail of his soul and is satisfied" (Isaiah 53:11). It was in allusion to himself that the bright words are used, "Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore" (Psalms 16:11).
IV. PERPETUITY. He liveth ever to God without dying again (Romans 6:10). We have to do with a risen Christ who dieth no more, and therefore can be ever helpful, unlike our friends of earth, whose death ends all their relations to us.
V. INTERCESSORY WORK. He is our heavenly Advocate (1 John 2:1). He has entered heaven "for us," now "to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24). It is this presence of our High Priest which is so helpful to us in our many infirmities, and is the guarantee of our daily pardon in virtue of the great sacrifice on Calvary. Thus, being reconciled to God by his death, we are saved by his life, in consequence of the power which is unceasingly passing forth from the Head to the members (Romans 5:10). The salvation of Christ on earth and in heaven is one inseparable whole. Thus the session of Christ is connected with the peace, the sanctification, the security, the hope of all believers.
VI. LESSONS AND ENCOURAGEMENTS TO BELIEVERS. Our Savior assumes and exercises a lordship over the lives and over the deaths of all his disciples; "for whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's" (Romans 14:8); and in the ease of two eminent disciples, Peter and John, he claimed this lordship, "And if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" (John 21:18, John 21:22). Therefore all the energy and devotion of our lives are to be given to him. He demands of us a heavenly direction of mind (Colossians 3:2), with a sense of our heavenly citizenship to keep us apart from the sins and vanities of life. We ought to cherish a sentiment of holy fear, on account of our relation to a Redeemer so highly exalted in glory; and yet a sentiment of holy boldness, knowing that our High Priest is on the throne of glory and of grace.—T.C.
Ephesians 1:22, Ephesians 1:23
The Resurrection was the point of conjunction between his crucifixion and his coronation. The headship to which he was exalted had a twofold relationship: he was made "Head over all things to the Church," and he was made Head of the Church itself.
I. HIS HEADSHIP OVER ALL THINGS. It is no new thought that our Lord is at the head of the natural order of things; for" without him was not anything made that was made;" "By him all things consist;" he upholds "all things by the word of his power," for "the government is upon his shoulders." But by virtue of his mediatorship the elements are made subject to him—all kings and nations, all angels in heaven, all fallen angels, all the advances and discoveries of science, are made tributary to the welfare of the Church. Therefore no weapon formed against her shall prosper Christian people ought to derive comfort and aspiration from the thought that he who is the Foundation of their religious hopes holds in his hands all the complicated threads of providence and directs the course of human history. It is the one Divine hand which clasps together the two great books of nature and revelation. This thought ought to give fresh breadth and strength and healthiness to all our thoughts about him. Above all, let us see in this fact the Divine guarantee for the safety of the Church. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Jesus "filleth all in all," and therefore has the inexhaustible resources of the universe at his disposal for the good of the Church.
II. HEADSHIP OF THE CHURCH. There is a double relationship involved in this headship—one representative, the other vital.
1. The representative relation. He was Head as he was Savior (Ephesians 5:23). Believers were in him from eternity, for they were chosen in him (Ephesians 1:4). "The covenant which was confirmed before of God in Christ" (Galatians 3:17) was that in the terms of which they are saved; the promise of life is said to be in him (2 Timothy 1:1), as all the promises are "yea" and "amen" in him (2 Corinthians 1:20). Thus grace is said to be given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Timothy 1:9); and believers are said to suffer with him, to be quickened and raised together with him, to sit together in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:6). Christ, indeed, as Head, stands for the whole body: So also is Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12). Thus the representative relation extends from eternity to eternity. These passages of Scripture prove the groundlessness of the notion that Christ only became Head after his resurrection with the view of proving that the saints of the Old Testament dispensation do not belong to the body or Church of Christ. He was Head just as he was Savior; for "he is the Head of the Church, and he is the Savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23). Christ was not and could not be Savior without death, yet he was the Savior of Old Testament saints ages before his death. There is no passage asserting that he became Head through resurrection. The resurrection only declared his headship as it declared his sonship. If Christ was not Head before his incarnation, the Old Testament saints had no Mediator. Christ was the Head of all believers because, as being the last Adam, all believers were in him.
2. The vital relation. Christ is the Head of the body, the Church, holding the same relation as the head does to the natural body.
III. THE CHURCH AS THE BODY OF CHRIST. The Church thus regarded refers not to any one body of Christians; for there is no denomination on earth that contains all the disciples of Christ, nor is there any denomination of which it can be said that all its members are disciples of Christ. It refers to the whole number of God's people, redeemed by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 5:25). The Ephesian Epistle sets forth the doctrine of the Church in this sense. We never read in it of Churches, but of the Church. The idea is that of one organic whole, represented under various images, borrowed at one time from a temple, at another from a house, at another from the head with its different members, but it always signifies a union of those united to Christ by faith, whether they belong to earth or heaven. The Church is here described as at once the body and the fullness of Christ.
1. The body of Christ; The most impressive illustration of the body is supplied by the same apostle in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. He shows an analogy between the Church and the human body in important particulars.
2. The Church the fullness of Christ. As the body is not complete without the head, so the head is not complete without the body. The Lord Jesus Christ is not complete without his Church. How can this be? He himself says, "My strength is made perfect in weakness;" but is his power not always perfect? It is declared to be perfect in our weakness. So the Church serves as an empty vessel, into which the Savior pours his mediatorial fullness. Every fresh convert added to the Church adds to his fullness. His fullness is manifested by the variety of gifts and graces he bestows on his members, who are always growing up into him who is the Head (Ephesians 4:15), growing to a stature, to a proportion, till we are filled with the fullness of God. This view of the Church suggests
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
Ephesians 1:1, Ephesians 1:2
The salutation of the saints.
In the present case Paul, without associating any brethren with himself, proceeds to state his apostleship, and to transmit his salutation to the saints at Ephesus. These saints had been gathered for the most part out of paganism, and this will account for the introduction, as well as many of the contents, of this magnificent Epistle. We note the following lessons as here suggested:—
I. THE APOSTLESHIP OF PAUL HAD BEEN RECEIVED DIRECTLY FROM JESUS CHRIST. (Ephesians 1:1.) The name "Paul" was the Roman counterpart of the Hebrew "Saul," and its use in these superscriptions to the Epistles was doubtless to conciliate those Christians who had once been heathen.f1 This Paul, then, the man who had made the interests of the Gentile world a chief concern, declares that he had received his apostleship from Christ directly. He thus repudiated any man-given or man-made apostleship. It is Jesus who alone could make an apostle, just as it is he alone who can make a minister. All that any Church can do is to recognize a God-given qualification.f2 Paul was the apostle of Jesus, the man sent forth by the risen and reigning Lord to evangelize the heathen. Such a consciousness of Christ's consecration gave him great power.
II. HE HERE SALUTES LIVING SAINTS. (Ephesians 1:1.) Monod has pertinently remarked that, while others seek their saints among the dead, Paul seeks saints, and so should we, among the living. Saintliness should characterize all Christians. In fact, a Christian is a "person set apart, separated from the world, and reserved for the service of Jesus Christ and for the glory of God, according as it is written, 'This people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise.'" Accordingly, Paul did not hesitate to call the Christians at Ephesus "saints," for he expected from them saintly lives. The very name raised the standard of Christian profession throughout the Church at Ephesus. And would it not be well for us to use it, and to strive always to deserve its use? It is to be feared that our saints, like those of Rome, are for the most part dead and gone; whereas what the age needs is saintliness embodied in flesh and blood before it. It is only then that it shall come to acknowledge the power of the Christian faith. Of course, Paul did not imply that every professor at Ephesus was saintly. He used the term presumptively, as a charitable spirit will. But the very use of the term raised the whole standard of holy living there and did immense good.
III. THESE SAINTS ARE FULL OF FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS. (Ephesians 1:1.) We take πιστοί in this passage in the sense of men of faith. Paul thus states the principle of their saintliness. They had learned to trust Christ and to regard him as their King, and so they came to be consciously consecrated unto all good works. Fidelity flows from this living faith in Christ. They prove reliable men because they have first learned to rely upon the Savior (cf. John 20:28; Galatians 3:9). Let us apply this principle ourselves. If we trust Jesus as we ought, we shall find the trust working itself out into lovable and lovely lives, and we too shall be saintly.
IV. PAUL DESIRES FOR THESE SAINTS THE GRACE AND PEACE OF GOD. (Ephesians 1:2.) There is something beautiful in the old forms of benediction. We lose their fragrance in our cold "Good-byes." The Greeks and Romans were accustomed to wish their correspondents "Safety;" the Jews took the simpler form of" Peace." But the gospel came to give to both a deeper meaning and breathe grace and peace of the deepest character into human souls. Hence these salutations of the saints. God's undeserved favor coming forth as grace finds its effects in the responsive human heart in a heavenly peace, so that the once troubled spirit comes into wondrous calm. What Paul is about to state in his Epistle will not interfere with but rather deepen this holy peace.
It is well for us to see the Fountain-head of blessing in the Father's heart, to see the channel of communication in his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and to experience its effect in the peace which passeth all understanding, which he has ordained should keep our hearts and minds by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6). The saints are meant to be peaceful spirits as they consecrate their energies to the service of the Lord.—R.M.E.
The electing and adopting love of God.
As soon as the salutation of the saints is over, Paul proceeds to speak about the blessings he and they have received from God. One curious expression meets us and constitutes the key of the whole passage; it is "the heavenly places" ( ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις) wherein the spiritual blessing is experienced. This cannot mean merely that out of the heavenly places the gracious Father pours his spiritual blessings upon selected souls; but, as a comparison of Ephesians 2:6 will show, it means that the adopted ones are elevated in spirit even to the heavenly places, where they as spiritually ascended ones can survey the Divine purposes and appreciate the Divine blessings in a way impossible otherwise. Let us, then, betake ourselves to these "heavenly places" by the blessing of the Spirit, and see how the Divine plan looks from such a vantage-ground. It is in this way we shall escape much of the obscure thinking which prevails upon the electing love of God. And we are here taught—
I. THE FOUNTAIN-HEAD OF BLESSING IS GOD THE FATHER. (Ephesians 2:3.) Paul puts "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" at the head of all things. Out of that paternal heart all spiritual blessing comes. The dispensation of grace is overshadowed by a Father. All the love which wells up out of parents' hearts for their children, all the love they lavish with varying success upon their prodigals, but faintly images the wondrous love that wells out of the heart of God. Yet the image, though but faint, is real, and we may climb by the firm footing of analogy up from human experience to some comprehension of the Divine love and plan. Just as earthly fathers plan blessings of all kinds for their children, and give them these on certain understandings, so is it with the infinite Father above. It is a Father with whom we have to deal, the "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
II. THE RULE OF BLESSING WAS THE GOOD PLEASURE OF HIS WILE. (Ephesians 2:5.) Now, when we get up in spirit to the heavenly places, we have no difficulty in seeing the truth and propriety of this arrangement. For the world above is one whose inhabitants have all learned to acquiesce in the good pleasure of the Father's will. They know that the pleasure of his will can be nothing else than good; they are content to abide by it. They assure themselves of everlasting blessedness in accepting of it as their rule and law. And we have only to get to their standpoint and to perceive how good God is, to acquiesce at once in the good pleasure of his will God is so good that be could not will anything but what is good. If he has to will vengeance against any of his creatures, it is because vengeance is better than impunity; it is better that he should strike home than that he should be still. Of course, it is hard for our natural hearts which are so opposed to God to acquiesce off-hand in such an arrangement. We think it hard to have to depend absolutely upon the good pleasure of God's will; but we have only to climb up a little by the Spirit's help and see how good he is, and then shall we gladly and gratefully adore his pleasure as always good.
III. THE FATHER PLANNED THE BLESSING OF HIS ADOPTED CHILDREN BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD. (Ephesians 2:4.) Starting from the sovereignty of the good God, as the rule of all blessing, we have next to notice that the blessing of his adopted children was deliberately planned from all eternity—"before the foundation of the world." The foresight of a father when carried into every detail of the children's needs glorifies him in our estimation. We would not honor an earthly father who left anything to haphazard, which he could have foreseen. Hence we conceive of the infinite Father as leaving nothing to chance, but arranging all down to the minutest details. He did not leave a loose thread in the whole arrangement. Why should he, if he is the omniscient and almighty God? What is contended for in predestination, therefore, is that the almighty Father left nothing to chance, but provided for everything in his plan. How this is compatible with human freedom is beyond our feeble comprehension; but that it is compatible we do most firmly believe. There are many problems of advanced mathematics which as rusty mathematicians we cannot now see how to solve, and there are many problems of science which are to the most splendid scientists still unsolved; but we should be foolish in the extreme to pronounce either insoluble. So is it with the Divine predestination and the freedom of the creature. There is a solution somewhere, but it is beyond our terrestrial calculus. We believe in both as Facts, and we leave the future to bring the reconciliation. And in the heavenly places to which the Spirit helps us to soar, we rejoice in the thought of that Divine plan which left nothing out, but embraced everything.
IV. THE ELECTION OF INDIVIDUALS WAS TO HOLINESS AND BLAMELESSNESS OF CHARACTER BEFORE HIM IN LOVE. (Ephesians 2:4.) Holiness and perfection are the ends aimed at in God's electing love. It is because this is lost sight of that we have so much confusion on this subject. God could not elect any soul to a salvation without holiness; the idea has no meaning in the Divine mind. Men may desire to separate salvation from holiness, to carry their sins with them into the heavenly world; but such desires are vain, and under God's government they can have no realization. The election is unto holiness. So long as a soul loves sin and hates holiness, he has no warrant to affirm any election. He may subsequently turn from sin to God, and thus receive the evidence within him; but a soul that loves sin and hates holiness has no business in dabbling with this doctrine of election. God saves no man except in the process he makes him holy. Hence we must remember "they were not chosen because they were viewed as holy, and therefore deserving to be distinguished as God's favorites, on account of their obedience or personal purity, but that they should be holy."
V. AND THESE INDIVIDUALS FIND THEMSELVES ADOPTED INTO THE DIVINE FAMILY AND ACCEPTED IN CHRIST THE BELOVED. (Ephesians 2:5, Ephesians 2:6.) We have seen that the infinite Father is the Source of all blessing. But that Father has one only Son, the only begotten, in his Divine family. The eternal Father had an eternal Son, and they held fellowship from all eternity through the eternal Spirit. This Son was and is the well-beloved. He always did the things which pleased the Father (John 8:29). But, blessed be his Name, he was content to have "joint-heirs" with himself in his inheritance (Romans 8:17). Jesus showed no jealousy about enlarging the family circle and about an abundance of brethren. Hence the Father set about adopting children, bringing into the charmed circle those who had no claim to the position or to its rewards. But every adopted child is made to feel that he is accepted of the Father for the elder Brother's sake. Jesus as the Firstborn in the mighty family has so endeared himself to the Father that for his sake the Father accepts the persons of the prodigals who are adopted into his family. There is no reason in us for our adoption—there can never be; it is owing simply and entirely to Jesus Christ that we are accepted and adopted. Hence there is in the plan, as so far brought before us, no ground for boasting. Election and adoption alike rest on the good pleasure of God's will. They are sovereign acts. They have their root in sovereignty; and as we rise into the heavenly places, we see that this is exactly as it should be.—R.M.E.
The forgiveness and inspiration of the adopted children.
From the electing and adopting love of God, Paul proceeds next to show how it manifests itself in the thorough culture of the adopted children. We saw how they are accepted into the charmed circle for the Beloved's sake, and to him, indeed, owe all. We are now to notice how thorough is the provision made for the upbringing of these adopted ones. And—
I. THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THE BELOVED THEY ARE REDEEMED AND FORGIVEN. (Ephesians 1:7.) For the selected individuals, so far from having any personal merit, are lost in sin. Prodigals by nature and practice, they feel that they deserve not to be called sons of God. They are brought to such a sense of unworthiness as to wonder at the riches of God's grace, which could make sons and heirs out of such material. But the great Father has provided redemption and forgiveness through the blood of his dear Son. A terrible price, doubtless, it was for the Father to pay, and for the Son to offer to secure our redemption. Yet it was cheerfully and freely given. The family is thus blood-bought. How holy and consecrated we ought to be! Our redemption price, the terms of our forgiveness, involved no less than the death of the Son of God.
II. THE ADOPTED CHILDREN ARE EDUCATED TO KNOW GOD'S WILL. (Ephesians 1:8-10.) Forgiveness and redemption refer to our state, but after we are set down in the family circle we need to be instructed. Earthly families make the education of the children a first concern. So is it in the family of God. Hence the riches of his grace are shown, not only in our pardon, but also in the revelation of his will and in our education therein, Moreover, his will contemplates the unifying of all things under Christ. His family is not to be split up into sections jealous of each other, but unity is to pervade it all. Gentiles and Jews, the Ephesians and Paul,—one and all are to be united under Christ the Head. Now, there is a great tendency towards unity in the thought of men. Philosophy, properly so called, is the discovery of unity of principle among the facts of the universe. Well, this tendency shall have its magnificent fulfillment in the consummated unity of the dispensation of grace, when the heaven above and the earth beneath shall alike recognize in Jesus the elder Brother and righteous Head. All education is towards this grand unity. This is God's purpose, and everything will in due season subserve it. The knowledge of God's will, then, is the apprehension of his magnificent design m the unification of all things. The gospel is thus but a portion of a mightier plan.
III. ACCORDINGLY, THE ADOPTED ONES ARE INSPIRED. (Verses 11-14.) Paul speaks of having received an inheritance in Christ, and then he speaks of the Ephesians having got the sealing of the Spirit as the earnest of their inheritance. His meaning is plain. For Jews and Gentiles, as God's adopted children, the one great need in this life is inspiration. When the Holy Spirit condescends to dwell within us, we are fitted for the duties which belong to the members of God's family. And it is the spirituality thereby communicated which gives to us the true ideal of what heaven is to be. Our holiest moments, when the indwelling Spirit moves within us, are our heavenliest. Then conformity to God's will is the great delight, and whatever he sends is welcomed. Of circumstances we are then so far independent as to realize that, with God as our Portion, we have all things, though we may have little but him. We are already within the gates when with Habakkuk we can say, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Habakkuk 3:17, Habakkuk 3:18). Inspired to do or suffer cheerfully God's will, this is heaven begun below and the true idea[ of the heaven to come. The family composed of such elements as these must be harmonious in its relations. May its unity of spirit be always ours!—R.M.E.
Paul's first prayer for the Ephesians.
Having spoken of the inspiration of the adopted children, the apostle proceeds next to his first prayer on their behalf. He has a still more remarkable prayer in Ephesians 3:1-21., but the present one is most instructive too. It begins, as usual, with thanksgiving for the faith towards the Lord Jesus, and love to all the saints which the Ephesians cherish. This need not detain us, but we may at once proceed to the substance of his petition for them. In a word, it is that they may know spiritually the Divine purpose regarding them, and thus be able the better to co-operate with God in the fulfillment of it. This Divine purpose is determined by the Divine power, and the progress of the Christian is simply an experience of "the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power." The point of the passage and of the prayer consists in the measure of the mighty power. This is found in the experience of Christ. His experience, in fact, becomes the measure of the Christian's hope. When the Father can do such wonders in the person of Christ and in the interests of Christ's people, how much may we expect him to do for ourselves!
I. THE FATHER SHOWED HIS MIGHTY POWER IN RAISING CHRIST FROM THE DEAD. (Verse 20.) The mighty power of God is illustrated in the work of creation; but, as A. Monod pointedly puts it, "Creation is an emanation; resurrection is a victory." Christ was dead; apparently he had been vanquished; the king of terrors seemed supreme. But the first day of the week dawned upon a "risen Savior," and the Father's mighty power received ample illustration. Now, it must have been a marvelous experience for our Savior to Dass from death into newness of life. For the life after he rose was different from the life before he suffered. It was immortal. He could henceforth die no more. Hence he said in apocalyptic vision, "I am he that liveth, and was dead, and, behold, I am alive for evermore." It was thus a transformation from mortality to immortality, from death to everlasting life. The previous resurrections, as far as we know, were only to mortal life. The children raised by Elijah, Elisha, and Christ, and the adults as well, rose to die once more. So that previous resurrections were only foreshadowings of the resurrection of Jesus out of death into life eternal.
II. THE FATHER SHOWED HIS MIGHTY POWER IN CAUSING CHRIST TO ASCEND TO HIS OWN RIGHT HAND IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES. (Verses 20, 21.) Had Christ been left in this world with his immortal nature, he would have had a wide sphere for influence and authority. The opposing terrestrial powers would have gone down before him in due season, and an emancipated world been the result. But when we consider how limited in size this earth is compared with the rest of the system, we can understand how the Father would resolve to put his best beloved Son in a wider sphere of influence than this world affords. What principalities, powers, mights, and dominions lie beyond this "little sand-grain of an earth" we cannot yet tell; but we are assured here of one fact, that the Father has set the Son above them all, at his own right hand in the heavenly places. Now, the "right hand of God" means the seat of power. It is the very focus and center of that mighty energy which we are now considering. Consequently the Father has lifted the Son in his immortal human nature into the very center of power, and given him the universe as his empire. This, again, must have been a marvelous experience for Christ. What a joyful enlargement! To pass out of the narrowness and provincialism of this tiny world into the magnificence of a universal empire; to have all created things and beings as his subjects; to be supreme Administrator under the infinite Father;—this must have been a mighty and a joyful experience for the risen Christ.
III. THE FATHER SHOWED HIS MIGHTY POWER IN PUTTING ALL THINGS UNDER CHRIST'S FEET. (Verse 22.) The administration is thus guaranteed to be triumphant. Some portions of the vast empire may be rebellious. They may refuse the reign of the Man Christ Jesus. Their rash words may be, "We will not have this Man to reign over us." But they are only putting themselves under the feet of the reigning Christ. Their defeat is certain; the Father's mighty power is pledged to Christ's supremacy. And though, in the words of the Epistle to the Hebrews, "we see not yet all things put under him, we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor," and this is the Father's pledge of ultimate triumph.
IV. THE FATHER SHOWED HIS MIGHTY POWER IN GIVING CHRIST THE HEADSHIP OF THE CHURCH. (Verses 22, 23.) Now, the administration of a state and the headship of a Church are very distinct things. If the Church is the body and Christ the Head, then it stands in closer relations to Christ than subjects do to any sovereign. Christ thinks for the Church; the Church acts for Christ. Just as the body is the instrument of the head, carrying out in the details of practical life the commandments of the head, the seat of the mind and will, so the Chinch is designed to be the instrument in the hand of Christ for the carrying out of his purposes. What a mighty power is needed to bring about a relation so close as this! What gracious power is needed to subdue the individual self-will, and enforce submission to the will and the word of the living Head! This intimate and glorious union between believers and their Lord is what the mighty power of the Father has brought and is bringing about, and this again must be a glorious experience on the part of Christ.
Here, then, we have resurrection, ascension, enthronement, and headship all secured to the once dead Christ by the mighty power of the Father. In such a system what possibilities are opened up for each of us! If this is the measure of the Father's mighty power, which Paul invoked on behalf of his Ephesian converts, truly they may lift up their heads in hope of redemption, complete and glorious, drawing nigh. The more we meditate upon the mighty power of the gracious Father, the more we are assured that mighty grace shall be manifested to us as we need it. When our Lord has had such experience granted him, his members may expect similar experiences in their season. We shall see a parallelism in the experience when we advance to the succeeding section.—R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY R. FINLAYSON
Ephesians 1:1, Ephesians 1:2
Address and salutation.
The great verity of which the Epistle to the Ephesians treats is the Church of Christ. It has its place along with other everlasting verities in the twelfth chapter of the Hebrews. It exists in no visible community as it exists in the mind of God. This letter is addressed to the Ephesian Church; but there is nothing peculiarly Ephesian about it. There are no Ephesian errors which are combated. There are no salutations sent to particular members of the Church of Ephesus. This gives it a catholic form; and it may have been that it was addressed as a circular letter to a number of Churches of which Ephesus was the center.
1. The writer. "Paul." He was the founder of the Ephesian Church, as of many Churches besides. Of all Christian workers he clearly bears the palm. It seems as if it would take many of our lives to make up what he succeeded in putting into the latter half of his. And yet what was Paul? He at once brings himself into relation to two personalities, two and yet one. For the first mentioned, Jesus (Accomplisher of salvation) is the Christ (the Anointed) of the second mentioned.
2. The persons addressed.
II. THE SALUTATION.
1. The two words of salutation.
"For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee."
We feel that, if it were only to fare with our friends according to their deserving before God, it would not be well with them. There would be innumerable things for which they could not answer. We therefore recognize the great condition of their welfare to be that there should be the outgoing of undeserved favor and of loving care toward them. And so that is the first thing we put into our greeting.
2. The twofold source to which we look in salutation.
Ascription of praise by the Church.
I. THE BLESSED OF THE CHURCH.
1. God. "Blessed be the God." It seems better to read, "Blessed be God." Thinking of God as infinitely glorious, how can we add to him by our praises? how can we by any words or deeds make him more glorious than he is? And yet he is pleased to say, "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me." Our praises are pleasing to God, according as they are sincere and intelligent. When we come upon new and more impressive views of the Divine character, we cannot help saying with lowly adoring hearts, "Blessed be God." There is this outburst of adoration here at the beginning, and there will be flesh outbursts as we proceed.
2. God in relation to the Church's Lord. "And Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." The Lord of the Church is he who was anointed Savior of mankind. He is in the Church, not like a servant, as Moses was, but as a Son over his own house. He has absolute authority to act in the Father's Name in the making of all arrangements, in the dispensing of all blessings. And in all that Christ has done, or is doing, for the Church, God has the glory, and is to be adored as Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
II. FOR WHAT THE CHURCH BLESSES GOD? "Who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing." We are not to think merely of blessing that has been actually enjoyed. It is rather blessing without respect to time. It is all that God has in store for the Church, and that is really inexhaustible blessing. "In our Father's house there is enough and to spare." He is not exhausted in blessing one, but has more than enough for all; and he has not one kind of blessing merely, but every kind—all that we can possibly need to complete our happiness. And he has an infinite willingness and longing to bestow. He is glorified in our coming to him with large petitions, in his bestowing on us large blessings. The blessing being characterized as spiritual seems to point to the connection of the blessing with the Spirit. For, as there has been repeated reference already to the Father and the Son, so now there is reference, though not very explicit, to the Third Person of the Godhead. It is by the Spirit's instrumentality, and with the Spirit's blessed influences, that the Church is enriched.
III. CENTER FROM WHICH THE CHURCH IS BLESSED. "In the heavenly places." This indicates the center or height from which the blessing proceeds.
"Come, thou holy Paraclete,
And, from thy celestial seat,
Send thy light and brilliancy."
It also indicates the Church's destination in being blessed. For, though the Church can bless God for what it has under earthly conditions, there is not yet the full realization of the idea. It is when drawn to the center, taken up to the Father's house, that it will be known how God can bless.
IV. HISTORICAL CONNECTION OF THE BLESSING. "In Christ." It is in the historical Christ that the treasury is opened out of which the Church is blessed.—R.F.
Origination of the Church.
I. THE CHURCH TRACED UP TO THE ELECTIVE LOVE OF GOD.
1. Chosen for himself. "Even as he chose us." He chose us out of the sinful mass of humanity. He chose us for himself, as he chose ancient Israel for himself.
2. Chosen in Christ as covenant Head. "In him." He was God's sovereign choice: "Behold my Servant, whom I have chosen." Abraham, notably among men, was chosen; and, viewed as existing in him as their covenant head, were the Israelites chosen as a nation. And so, viewed as existing in Christ as our greater Representative, have we been thought about and chosen by God.
3. Chosen for eternity. "Before the foundation of the world." He chose us ere ever we had thought of him, ere ever we had being, ere ever this world on which we stand was founded. There in the depths of eternity the Church lay in the thought of God, the object of the Divine election.
4. Chosen with a view to holiness. "That we should be holy and without blemish before him." For in the thought of God we could not be thought as simply standing before him in our sinful state. Called out of that, the intention was that we should have those positive elements of holiness wrought in us to our highest capacity which God has in absolute perfection; and that we should be free from all that incapacitates for his presence.
5. Chosen in love. "In love." It seems best to connect this with what goes before. He chose us to be fit for his presence in love. The love being placed last covers the intention as well as the act of choosing. It was love that was the moving principle in the election of the Church. God was so full of love that he could be satisfied with nothing but his having the Church for himself.
II. THE CHURCH TRACED UP TO THE PURPOSE OF ADOPTION.
1. Our adoption predetermined. "Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons." This predetermining (prearranging, prelimiting) is thought of as anterior to the elective act, covering, we may say, the whole counsel that there was about us. God has foreordained with a view to our having the position of sons. It was the highest position in which God could place us. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." It was placing us in most favored nearness to himself. It was placing us where we could enjoy all the tenderness of his fatherly love, all the plenitude of his fatherly blessing. This adoption was placing us in the family, after we had been displaced, disowned, disinherited.
2. The predetermining extended to the means by which our adoption as sons was to be accomplished. "Through Jesus Christ." It was arranged beforehand that Christ should be Accomplisher of our adoption. His own Son had to be parted with that we might be adopted as sons. It was under no sudden impulse of obedience that Abraham lifted the knife against Isaac. He bad time to think of what he was doing, a three days' journey to take to the place which God was to show him, and he was animated throughout by a calm, abiding spirit of obedience. So it was no momentary impulse that led God to make so inconceivable a sacrifice; but it was the deep, unchangeable feeling of his heart. It was all well thought over and arranged beforehand. It was deliberately written down in the book of the Divine counsels.
3. It was an adoption ante himself. "Unto himself." It was taking men from the street, as it were, that he might surround himself with them in his own home.
4. It was a sovereign adoption. "According to the good pleasure of his will." While we were the gainers by it, God, in so acting, had a supreme regard to himself. It was his sovereign desire that man should be lifted so high, and lifted by so wondrous means.
5. It was an adoption that magnified the grace of God. "To the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." The great and ultimate end or adoption was to magnify the Divine love in its freeness. It was not called forth by any excellence or merit God saw in us. In Christ that love could find its fitting object. He is the beloved, the unadopted Son of God; and it is only because of the infinite excellence and merit the Father sees in him that we are adopted into his family. This love of God, then, is most free, and, as such, is to be praised. Other attributes of God we see elsewhere; but it is in the Church that the Divine grace shines forth.
III. THE CHURCH IN CONNECTION WITH THE REDEMPTIVE PURPOSE OF GOD.
1. It is in Christ that we enjoy redemption. "In whom." It was only in a very limited way that the children of Israel were redeemed in Moses. He had not the redemption in his own person. But the person of Christ is of infinite consequence in the matter of our redemption. It is in him that redemption has its everlasting subsistence and sphere of operation. "Neither is there salvation in any other." And it is only as we are united to him and live in him that we are redeemed.
2. We are the Church of God by redemption. "We have our redemption." Redemption implies a previous state of bondage. "Out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage:" so the children of Israel were often reminded. Sin brings us under a worse than Egyptian bondage. The most galling tasks are those imposed upon us by our own foolishness. The most crushing tyranny is that which we bring upon ourselves by our own evil habits. It is out of the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity, that we have come. Redemption is to be taken in its widest sense. To the Israelites it meant deliverance from Egyptian bondage. It meant also the setting up for them in Canaan of those conditions which were best fitted to develop their national life. So redemption for us means deliverance from all the evil under which sin brings us. It also means the setting up of those conditions, and the bringing unto us of those influences, which are most conducive to our spiritual development.
3. The procuring cause of redemption is the blood of Christ. "Through his blood." The word translated "redemption" points to deliverance through a ransom; and the ransom is here stated to be blood. And it is the sacrificial association of blood that we are to lay hold of. The apparent procuring cause of the redemption of the children of Israel was the blood of animals slain in sacrifice, which was sprinkled on their doorposts. That was manifestly an insufficient account of the matter. It was, however, typical, as all blood similarly shed was typical, of what is the real procuring cause of all redemption for men, viz. the blood of Christ.
4. Redemption in its first and characteristic blessing is the forgiveness of sins. "The forgiveness of our trespasses." God does actually forgive sins. This is a fact, for the certain knowledge of which we are indebted to Divine revelation. What are our sources of knowledge? There is, first of all, nature. The great system and fabric of force, of cause and effect,—does it tell us anything about forgiveness? In the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, there is a verse which bears that it is the fault even of the heathen if they do not learn from God's works the lesson of the eternal power and Godhead; but it does not bear that it is expected that we learn, and that it is our fault if we do not learn, from nature the lesson of the Divine forgiveness. Nature has no such message. Its message is this—a working toward good ends, but, according to unchangeable law, a gospel for angels, for unfallen men, and not for sinners. Can human nature, then, give us any assistance? It shows us God's laws broken; but it shows us also conscience testifying to the inviolability of law, as when it haunts the criminal with the feeling of remorse. If not, then, from conscience, are we led to look for forgiveness from any other part of human nature? Is not forgivingness the property of noble, royal dispositions? Does it not belong to the idea of the fatherly character? A father forgives a son; will not God, then, as our Father, forgive us our trespasses? Yes, if it were only a private matter, so to speak. He who is the Fountain of all fatherly feeling will not do less than that feeling prompts to in his creatures. But sin is not a private matter at all. There are involved in it public considerations. There is raised by it the question of government on the widest scale. A father naturally feels disposed to forgive his erring child; but he cannot do so on any basis whatsoever. He is not to allow him to remain under his roof and defy his authority. It is evident that there must be something in the name of law, and for the safety of other members of the household. And so we are left uncertain as to whether God can forgive our sin. Now the whole of Divine revelation may be summed up in this—that, in spite of inflexible laws, in spite of the condemning voice of conscience, God can forgive, will forgive, does forgive, sin. The moral consequences of the past can be reversed. This has not been certainly by the setting aside of Law. The blood of Christ speaks to the majesty of Law, and to a basis of righteousness, of satisfaction made to the Law, on which the offer of forgiveness is made. In this the Bible stands alone. Confucianism, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, know nothing of forgiveness. They have something about human purification. But there is this clear ring only in the Bible: "Go in peace; thy sins are forgiven thee."
5. Redemption has its measure in the Divine grace. "According to the riches of his grace." Israel was redeemed by the stretched-out arm of God. It had a miraculous origin as a nation. God stretched out his arm, and miraculously interposed for us in Christ. Now that the ransom is paid, there is no hindrance to the forgiving disposition of God, unless it is in ourselves. It goes forth, not according to a penury of nature such as exists in men, but according to a wealth and liberality of disposition which belongs to God. We are thus forbidden to despair.
6. The grace which determines redemption is conjoined with wisdom and prudence. "Which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence." A parent often makes mistakes in bestowing his favors on his children; not so our heavenly Father. Wisdom is to be taken generally; prudence is rather the application of wisdom, according to time and circumstance. A seaman who is wise prudently looks to wind and tide. An agriculturist who is wise prudently considers the season and the nature of the soil and suitable implements. "His God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him." And what God gives thus, one in one kind, and another in another, he has in himself in an unbroken completeness. And, therefore, he must always abound in all wisdom and prudence. The whole scheme of redemption is a manifestation of wisdom; but there is specially a look forward here to the time and manner of its disclosure with which the Divine prudence has to deal.
7. The purpose of redemption part concealed and part revealed. "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him." There is a phase in which the purpose of redemption is the mystery of his will, and a phase in which it is made known. It was hidden in the eternal counsels. It was in part revealed when the promise was given that the Seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent. It was more fully revealed when he appeared who w. as the great Discloser of the Divine counsels. But we are not to suppose that mystery has been entirely removed from the purpose. "Should the sun glare in our eye in all its brightness on a sudden, after we have been in a thick darkness, it would blind us, instead of comforting us; so great a work as this must have several digestions." We are not in a position to estimate aright the prudence that has marked the disclosure. It must be held to be a well-timed disclosure, as being what he purposed in himself. And we should feel thankful for our being included within its scope.
8. It is a purpose in which there is development and a consummation. "Unto a dispensation of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth." God is here represented as having the administration of times or seasons. These must be regarded as making up the whole extent across which the redemptive purpose of God stretches. The time proper for redemption is broken up into epochs. These are all determined and brought in by him, who, from one to another, is ever filling up his purpose and getting nearer to his end. We must not have too rounded conceptions of what these epochs are. When we are tempted to despond, the psalmist tells us that we are to "remember the years of the right hand of the Most High." We are to think of the vast time which God has in which to work out his purpose.
Priority in the purpose of redemption.
The connecting thought is the divulging of the purpose of redemption (Ephesians 1:9), in which there is development and a consummation (Ephesians 1:10). Under successive epochs or dispensations men must occupy different standpoints relative' to the purpose as more or less fully manifested. And there are those to whom it is earlier divulged than to others. The conspicuous instance is that of Jews and Gentiles. There is a special reference here to Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians; and as the entire community of believers are called children (Ephesians 1:5), we may indicate the point of priority by the earlier born and the later born.
I. THE EARLIER BORN. "In him, I say, in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will; to the end that we should be unto the praise of his glory, we who had before hoped in Christ." Jewish Christians are described as those who had before hoped in Christ. They did not vaguely hope, but they so grasped the promise of the Messiah that even from Abraham's day they gladly looked forward to him; and as the time drew near they waited for the consolation of Israel. There were a few of them who had stood in a double relation to Christ, first as expectants of his coming, and then as blessed with the object of their hope. They could say in a special sense, "We who before," etc. But the same language could be used by the others (Paul among them) as identifying themselves with the pious of former generations. The hoping in him before he came implies the trusting in him as come, and it is as believers that they were made possessors of the inheritance. It is a theocratic word that is used as suiting Jewish Christians. The theocratic life was saturated with the idea of the inheritance all down the generations. Great importance was attached to the lot in each tribe and family being preserved entire. And now, when the earthly Canaan as a type was fading into the past, were they the first to be put into possession of the enduring substance. Why were they thus the first in privilege? Why have we had only a few years, while others, sainted, have had hundreds of years of redeemed existence? Why are we blessed with the gospel while multitudes are placed after us still unblessed? There is an evident pointing to conditions of redemption as lying beyond our control, as determined by the Divine sovereignty. And we can only say, as here, that it is foreordered according to the purpose of him, etc. He is absolutely free to assign some a more favored "lot" than others. He causes it to rain upon one city and causes it not to rain upon another city (Amos 4:7). He causes it to rain, with the rains of his Spirit, earlier upon some and later upon others. Their being put first was "to the praise of his glory." We are not to think of this priority under the Divine administration as though it were not glorifying to God. We must think of it, as of all else connected with redemption, that there is that rich grace in it which is characterized by wisdom and prudence (Ephesians 1:8). We must believe it to be the best method by which God can compass the end he has in view. We who are to thank God for all men are to thank God especially for the earlier born of the redeemed. They will thank God too; but the glory that God has in them is not merely their matter, it is ours as well, and calls for our song of praise. Especially shall we feel the reasonableness of such priestly service if we go on to think of those who are brought to Christ through the instrumentality of the first born.
II. THE LATER BORN. "In whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation." These were the Gentile Christians. Christ was the Desire of all nations. The Gentile world in its want and woe called for a Savior. But it could not be said that they, Gentiles by extraction, had in their generations hoped in Christ. When he came it was to "his own ;" and it was only after the Jews, even under the new dispensation, that they "heard." Every generation has a duty to perform to the next. It is to tell what they themselves did hear (Psalms 78:1-72.). We in Christian lands have a duty to perform to those placed behind us in Christian privileges. And "how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?" (Romans 10:1-21.). This duty of telling rises out of our possession of "truth," our possession of "salvation." The truth which has a saving power in it is not the private property of any; but we are bound, as soon as we know the value of it, to seek to make it the property of others. It cannot be too widely possessed; it is as fitted to bless all as it is to bless one. And this saving truth we do not have in the varying element of our own thought. But we owe it to God that he has given the truth its proper form in the "word," salvation in "the gospel." And it is this gospel, this good word from God, which we have to make men to "hear." The Jewish Christians acted the part of the first born; for it was Jewish preachers who went forth to the Gentiles. "That all the Gentiles might hear," said the most heroic of them. And in Ephesus, in the face of difficulties (fighting with beasts), be made them to hear this word of truth, this gospel, etc. Hearing does not bring the certainty, but it brings the opportunity and the responsibility, of believing. And their opportunity in that heathen city they solemnly embraced. Faith came by hearing, the faith which sinners need for salvation. It was the right attitude toward the Savior, and, as it was not different from that of Jewish Christians, by that God with whom there is no difference, they, though later, were placed on the same level of blessing.
III. THE EARLIER BORN AND THE LATER BORN HAVE CERTAIN THINGS IN COMMON. "In whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God's own possession, unto the praise of his glory."
1. A common seal.
2. A common guarantee.
3. They can join in a common doxology: "Unto the praise of his glory." Gregory of Nyssa, referring to the close of the Psalter, pictures the time "when the creatures shall be harmoniously united for one choral dance, and the chorus of mankind concerting with the angelic chorus shall become one cymbal of Divine praise, and the final song of victory shall salute God the triumphant Conqueror with shouts of joy." In this song the first born shall join with the later born, parents and teachers shall blend their voices with those who have come after them to glory; with no feeling of self-exaltation or of envy because of priority, but all rejoicing in the marvelous grace that has given them a place and God the victory.—R.F.
Prayer for the Ephesians.
I. FOUNDED ON INFORMATION.
1. Regarding their faith. "For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you." He had already more than once referred to their Christian faith; he refers to it now as ground for his prayer on their behalf. We are to pray for "all men," even for unbelievers; but whoever through faith are admitted into the same Christian circle, claim a special interest in our prayers.
2. Regarding their faith as manifested saintward. "And which ye show toward all the saints." "Love" is omitted in the Revised translation; but the thought must be "faith working through love." It was toward the saints. They were saints themselves (verse 1); they were kind to the saints as to those who were actuated by the same lofty sentiments. They recognized them as having the first claim on their sympathies, according to the order laid down in Galatians 6:10. It was toward all the saints. They exhibited catholicity. They did not confine their interest to their own immediate circle, but extended it to the whole circle of the saints. They did not boast of their superiority to other Churches, but were able to appreciate Christian excellence wherever it was to be found. They were not restrained in the outgoings of their brotherly love by any difference in unessentials.
II. IT COMBINED TWO THINGS.
1. Thanksgiving for them. "Cease not to give thanks for you." His information supplied him with matter for thanksgiving. He heard of their faith and its manifestations, and so he thanked God for them. This is a very interesting part of our priestly office. All joys of others we then make ours.
"I saw thee eye the gen'ral mirth
With boundless love."
We can only do this when we turn to God in thanksgivings for all men (1 Timothy 2:1). The apostle had peculiar delight in the Ephesians; and as their faith was genuine, and was ever receiving new manifestations, his thanksgiving for them was unceasing.
2. Intercession for them. "Making mention of you in my prayers." He was in the habit of praying for the Churches by name, as a parent prays for his children by name. They were among the number prayed for, from the time of their becoming a Church. He had special points of interest connected with them. He had been long resident there, and he had not forgotten the affectionate leave-taking at Miletus. And having kept up his information regarding their affairs, he was supplied with matter for intercession. Observe the twofold use of information. It is important to circulate missionary information, that we may be supplied with subjects for thanksgiving. "Daily shall he be praised" as the result of praying for Christ continually (in an unsaved world) and giving of the gold of Sheba; but how shall we praise unless we have the means of hearing? It is important also to know the condition of Churches and of individuals, that our prayer for them may be more intelligent, and may not, from vagueness and indirectness, miss the mark.
III. IN WHAT CHARACTER GOD IS ADDRESSED IN PRAYER. "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory." As is not unusual in prayer, God receives a name from what is to be prayed for. The prayer is to relate to glory; and so God is styled sublimely the "Father of glory." The glory in store for us is not from ourselves; it is from God. To him all glory essentially belongs, and by him as Father it must be produced in us. The first part of the designation is striking; it cannot be said to be startling. That God should be called "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ" is in keeping with the language of human dependence on the cross: "My God, my God," and also with the language of identity with his own before his ascension: "I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God." Using this language, we identify ourselves with Jesus Christ as our Lord. Taken along with the other part of the designation, the meaning is that God is the First Cause (Father) of that glory which Jesus Christ has obtained for us, and which it belongs to him as our Lord to bestow.
IV. IT IS A PRAYER GENERALLY TO KNOW ABOUT GOD. "May give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him." Than the thorough knowledge of God which is here implied, there is nothing more worthy of attainment. "Every one's elevation is to be measured first and chiefly by his conception of this great Being; and to attain a just and bright and quickening knowledge of him is the highest aim-of thought. In truth, the great end of the universe, of revelation, of life, is to develop in us the idea of God. Much earnest, patient, laborious thought is required to see the infinite Being as he is; to rise above the low, gross notions of the divinity, which rush in upon us from our passions, from our selfish partialities, and from the low-minded world around us." A spirit of wisdom is that in which we rightly estimate things, vain things as vain, worthy things as worthy, and all things according to their relative vanity or worth. As applied to God, it is the spirit in which we learn to appreciate his infinite worth. It is also a spirit of revelation. It is the dawning of his beauty upon our minds. It is the reception of much about God that we could never have found out by our reason. Condition. "Having the eyes of your heart enlightened." There is a noticeable change from "understanding" to "heart" in the translation here. It is true that God is an object for the heart more than for the intellect. The Church says in the Song of Solomon, "I sleep, but my heart waketh." It was the heart that detected the voice of the Beloved. The eyes of our heart, more than of our intellect, have been filmed over by sin. We cannot naturally appreciate the Divine unselfishness, what in self-forgetfulness he has it in his heart to do for us. For this there is necessary the cleansing and quickening of our spiritual vision by the revelation without us and through the inward operation of the Spirit. To God, then, we must look for the presence of this condition of Divine knowledge.
V. IT IS A PRAYER SPECIFICALLY TO KNOW ABOUT GOD THE GLORY WHICH HE HAS DESTINED FOR US. "That ye may know what is the hope of his calling, what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." There is a hope which his calling produces in our hearts. This is the hope of the inheritance which has already been referred to in the fourteenth verse. Having, then, connected the Divine purpose with the inheritance, he now prays that they may have some worthy conception of it, as that to which they were called. There is an accumulation of language to impress us with the greatness of the inheritance as worthy of the donor. The glory of the inheritance in the saints. The glory of a thing is its highest, most beautiful form, as when the fields are in their summer loveliness. The glory of the inheritance in the saints is all that an inheritance can flower out into for them, the final thought of God regarding the condition of his own. It must excel what was the glory of Canaan, as it is an inheritance formed with richer materials. The riches of the glory. The riches of his grace ends in the riches of the glory. The open flower, of which there was a representation in the Jewish temple, is but a suggest, ion of the glory which God will manifest in the saints. The higher the existence the richer the efflorescence. So rich is the glory in the saints that it is difficult to form a conception of what it shall be. It is difficult for us to think of ourselves beautified as we shall be in our nature and in our surroundings. But that it may be worthily conceived is an object for which we are to pray for ourselves and for others. It is true that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him;" but that is not the whole statement, for it is added, "God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit." We are therefore to seek, with the materials we have, some clear, vivid, uplifting conception of the future inheritance.
VI. IT IS A PRAYER TO KNOW ABOUT GOD THE POWER WHICH IS TO EFFECT THIS GLORY TO THE SAINTS. "And what the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe." Again the apostle heaps up language, as though the idea were too great for expression. The power of God has not only greatness; it has exceeding greatness. "The power of God is that ability and strength whereby he can bring to pass whatsoever he pleases, whatsoever his infinite wisdom can direct, and whatsoever the infinite purity of his will can resolve" (Charnock). "God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this: that power belongeth unto God." It belongs to him originally, inalienably. Job discourses of the power of God as seen in the lower parts of the world, in hanging the earth upon nothing, in holding up the clouds, in compassing the waters with bounds till day and night come to an end, in commotions in air and earth, in his garnishing the heavens. Then sublimely he concludes: "Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand?" The apostle goes to a different field in which to study the power of God. It is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe. It is the power of God as manifested toward the Church of Christ.
VII. IT IS A PRAYER TO KNOW ABOUT THE DIVINE POWER THAT WHICH WAS MANIFESTED IN THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST, "According to that working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead." He has spoken of the power of God abstractly; this gives coloring to it. He would show what God can do for the Church, by pointing to what he has already done for Christ. It was power displayed upon Christ in extraordinary circumstances. For how powerless was Christ, when his body was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb! He continued for a time under the power of death. His humanity was unnaturally divided. The spirit was disembodied, leaving the once active body a pale and motionless corpse. But upon this utter powerlessness the power of God was signally put forth, that power by which he can subdue even death to himself. He recalled the spirit, and gave it to retenant the body subdued to a nobler mold. This, then, is the power which is to give us the riches of the glory of the inheritance. And is it not pertinent as well as sufficient? For our being raised by a similar forth putting of power is preparatory to our bring instated in the inheritance.
VIII. IT IS A PRAYER TO KNOW ABOUT THE DIVINE POWER THAT WHICH WAS MANIFESTED IN THE RAISING OF CHRIST TO HIS RIGHT HAND. "And made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." The working of the strength of the Divine might did not terminate with the raising of Christ from the dead. For a time he remained on earth, and was seen by mortal eye. But by another grand forth putting of power Christ was raised above earth, was raised to the right hand of God. This denotes an intimacy with God in power such as is beyond any mere creature. And yet it was mysteriously in our creaturely nature that he was raised to the right hand of God. There he was seen afterwards, and recognized, by the prisoner of Patmos; and there he still sits. This is in the heavenly places, the height from which, according to the former thought, the Church is blessed. He has been raised above every form of superiority or prerogative. Four words are used which cannot be distinguished. Earthly orders or powers seem to be included as well as heavenly. Christ is King of kings, whether these are of the human or of the angelic type. He has also been raised above every name that is named, i.e. every one who has personal subsistence or, it may be, is the representative of power. And this has reference, not merely to the present, but to the future order of things as well. Thus, with necessary vagueness, is the superiority of Christ set forth. "We know that the emperor goes before all, though we cannot enumerate all the satraps and ministers of his court; so we know that Christ is set before all, although we cannot name all who are under him."
IX. IT IS A PRAYER TO KNOW ABOUT THE DIVINE POWER THAT WHICH WAS MANIFESTED IN THE GIVING OF CHRIST TO BE HEAD OVER ALL THINGS TO THE CHURCH. "And he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be Head over all things." There is a climax. He raised him from the dead; he raised him to sit at his right hand; raised to sit at his right hand, he gave him to be Head. The apostle thinks of the Father as First throughout, and in viewing him as Head he thinks of the Father preparing for the position by first putting all things in subjection under his feet. His seat at the right hand of God is a seat of government. From it he exercises unlimited, universal sway. The elements of earth and air and water, all living things on our planet, the bodies and souls of men, the whole material universe, the invisible world and its inhabitants, are in his hands to be sovereignly disposed of according to his thought. But let us look at the full bearing of the headship of Christ on the Church.
1. Christ is given as lead over all things to the Church. "To the Church." By the Church we are to understand the collective body of believers, or of those who are called out of the world. The latter conception, to which the derivation points, excludes the holy angels, whose life must be essentially the same with ours, but who have never been called out of a depraved condition. It is the Church of the redeemed, then, about which sublime statements are made. Christ is here set forth as the great Donation to the Church. "Given to the Church" is the language of the apostle; and the gifts of God, we are told, are without repentance. He does not withdraw his Bible, nor his Son to whom it testifies. This is a gift which strikes us with a sense of the disproportion between its value and the recipient. God's own Son given to the Church—how inconceivable a mark of the Divine favor! But it is in his headship over all things that he is gifted to the Church. Had he reigned only within the Church, its interests could not have been sufficiently guaranteed. Danger might have arisen from the quarter to which his reign did not extend. But, as he reigns over all things, he can make all things—without the Church and within the Church too—work together for its good. "The whole economy of creation stands at his disposal as the basis and sphere of activity for the economy of redemption." He does not need to be indebted to the earthly powers for a sphere for carrying on the operations of the Church in the era that is proceeding. "For the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." He has proprietary rights over it of the most absolute nature as Mediator. It has been put in subjection under his feet; it has been handed over unconditionally to his control. And the earthly powers only hold from him their portion of the surface and riches of the earth. They are no more than tenants-at-will; he appoints to them the bounds of their habitation; and they can be used by him for his ends; their schemings and commotions can be overruled for the advancement of the Church. As for the Church, Christ, having unlimited power, can place it where its discipline can best be secured, and where it can have the widest door of usefulness. And even the worldly elements which find entrance into the Church, although they may be allowed to work for a time, can be checked, controlled for his Church's triumph over them. If the Church has a vast work before it, and is yet far from coming up to the prophetic mark, may it not trust to the greatness of its Head? And if the Church is promised a great future after this era has run its course in the eternal order of things, is not its great Head invested with power sufficient to bring it about?
2. The Church stands in an intimate relationship to Christ. "Which is his body." As we stand in relation to our body, so Christ stands in relation to his Church. The body of man is a marvelous piece of workmanship. "Fearfully and wonderfully made" is language applicable to its structure. But the apostle contemplated it, not from the strictly scientific, but from the religious or more particularly the Christian standpoint. He says that the Church is the body of Christ. This raises the body of man to an exalted position. It is not the degraded thing it has been sometimes thought to be. It is after the pattern of things in the heavens. This is the true way of putting it; not, certainly, that the Church is made after the pattern of the body, but that the body is made after the pattern of the Church. Just as fatherhood existed in God before it existed in man, so body existed in the Divine conception of the Church before it existed in the human body. Let us look into the bearing of it.
3. The Church is that in which Christ is to be fully manifested. "The fullness of him that filleth all in all." We are to understand it to be Christ that filleth all in all. It is he who fills the sun with its light-giving properties. He fills the seed with its germinating power. He fills the flowers with their power to blossom forth into beauty. He fills the souls of men with all their natural qualities. It is Christ, then, who is to be seen in the sunshine, in the waving corn, in the flowers that deck the field, and also in the blossoming forth of genius. But the Church stands in a special relation to Christ. It is his body, and therefore he is to fill it fuller than he does anything else. It is here called his plēroma, or fullness. As he himself is called the Plēroma of God, so the Church is called his plēroma. There is a high sense in which the body is intended to be the manifestation of the soul. We think of Christ in the days of his flesh as having a body with an ideal beauty corresponding to his spiritual excellence so far as flesh would allow. It was not a mere sensuous beauty, but rather a beauty that was expressive of holiness. At the same time, it was not a beauty that excluded marring by sorrow and struggle. In the same way the Church is to manifest Christ. It is to be a fitting temple for the Christ within. It is to be that in which he is to body himself without any barrier, other than that which marks the Church's finitude. He is to bring up his Church into the highest form so as to body forth his beauty. All deformity and weakness are to be excluded, as unworthy of him who is receiving manifestation. All imperfection is also to be excluded, such as belongs to lower things which can only, though filled by him, have broken rays of his glory. What a glorious destiny is this for the Church! How fitting that it should be held up before it in all the grandeur of the conception! And how fitting that we should see to it that we belong to the Church, and are guided and ruled by Christ, so that in us, as part of the whole, the glory of Christ shall shine forth!—R.F.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
Ephesians 1:1, Ephesians 1:2
The highest things in the world.
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." The words set before us three of the greatest things in human life.
I. THE HIGHEST OFFICE IN THE WORLD. "Can apostle of Jesus Christ."
1. He was a messenger of the greatest Person. How great was his Master! Messengers of inferior personages are often but little esteemed, whilst those of illustrious ones are held in high honor. He who represents a king receives something of kingly homage. An "apostle" is a representative of "Jesus Christ," who is the Son of God, the Creator of the universe, and the Head of all "principalities and powers." But what was his message?
2. He was the bearer of the grandest message. He who bears an important message—a message on which the interest of a neighborhood or the destiny of a nation depends, will stamp the hearts of men with awe. An apostle of Christ delivers the highest message—pardon to the guilty, light to the benighted, freedom to the slave, immortality to the dying, salvation to the lost.
3. He was a messenger of Christ by the "will of God." Many go out in the name of Christ, but not according to the Divine will. The Eternal has never called them to missions so holy and momentous, and hence they misrepresent the doctrines and the genius of his blessed Son. This was not Paul's case. He was called to be an "apostle," "separated unto the gospel of God" (Romans 1:1). He felt this. "When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by grace," etc. What office in the world approaches this in sublimity? A messenger of Christ by the "will of God"! He who by the "will of God" bears Christ's message to the hearts of men sustains a position, compared with which the most elevated offices amongst men sink into contempt.
II. THE HIGHEST CHARACTERS IN THE WOULD. "To the saints," etc. "Saints" and "faithful." Who are they? They are those who are consecrated in soul to truth, and love and God, and this because they are faithful. They are made holy through their faith in Christ. All moral excellence in man is derived in this way and in no other. Philosophy, history, and the Bible show this. Notice, these saints resided at "Ephesus." This, the chief city in Asia Minor, was the center and stronghold of paganism; it had the temple of Diana, one of the greatest wonders of the world. Its influence upon millions was immense, and its appeal was to men's superstition, sensualism, and selfishness. Albeit there were Christians there, holy and believing men. This shows:
1. Man is not necessarily the creature of circumstances.
2. That, with the possession of the gospel, a religious life is practicable everywhere. What characters in society are equal to those of genuine "saints"? None. They are "lights;" without them the social heavens would be midnight. They are "living stones; "without them the social temple would fall to ruins. They are "salt;" without them the social body would become putrescent and pestilential.
III. THE HIGHEST BLESSINGS IS THE WORLD. "Grace and peace." Here are two blessings.
1. Divine favor. "Grace." The love, the benediction, the approbation of God. What a boon this!
2. Spiritual peace. "Peace," not insensibility, not stagnation, but a repose of the soul in God. Men through sin have lost peace. "The wicked are like the troubled sea." Sinners are at war with themselves, society, the universe, God. But through God's love, through. Christ souls are at one with all. "Peace"—sweet word, blessed thing! To the mariner after a storm, to a nation after a war, how blessed! But far more blessed to the soul after a life-war with self and its Maker. "He will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon God." Who will say that there are any higher things on earth than are found in this text? And these highest things, thank God, we may all possess. We may all, in a sense, be apostles of Christ. We may be all "saints and faithful." We may all partake of the "grace" of God and possess the blessed " εἰρήνη."—D.T.
The redemptive predestination of God a reason for man's exultant gratitude.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved." The leading subject of these words is the redemptive predestination of God a reason for man's exultant gratitude. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," etc. We say redemptive predestination, for there is predestination in every department of Divine operation; from the most microscopic objects to the massive systems of immensity. Before we go on to notice the reasons suggested in the passage why man should adore the Eternal for his redemptive predestination, it may be well, in order to remove much of erroneous sentiment and terrible feeling that exist in the minds of some men in relation to this great subject, to state the following things.
1. The predestination of God contemplates good, and good only.
2. The predestination of God never interferes with the free agency of moral beings. It is true that no philosophy has yet harmonized, to the satisfaction of the human understanding, the doctrine of free agency with the doctrine of eternal predestination. This is the great intellectual puzzle of the ages. But that the one interferes not with the other in the slightest degree is attested:
3. The predestination of God is not exclusively confined to human redemptions. This we have already intimated. It does not follow, because Paul refers God's predestinating agency in man's salvation to an eternal plan, that he would not have referred it in any other department to an eternal plan. It is a characteristic of a pious man that he traces all that is good to God; and of a truly intelligent man, he would trace everything to the Divine plan. Had Paul been writing on botany, he would have traced every blade and flower and plant that grew to the predestination of God. Had he been writing on anatomy, he would have traced every organ, limb, joint, vein, nerve, and sinew to the predestination of God. But he was writing of man's salvation, and it was only to his purpose to refer to predestination in connection with that. Predestination is not a dream of the schoolman, or a dogma of Calvin, but an eternal law of the universe.
4. The predestination of God is revealed in Scripture according to forms of human thought. As no finite being can comprehend the Infinite, no finite mind can give a representation of his acts that is absolutely correct. What, for example, in the predestination of God, is there answering to our ideas of that act? The ideas of commencement, observation, resolve, enter into our conceptions of it. But these are foreign to the subject. What is there, too, in God's choice, answering to our ideas of choice? The ideas of beginning, comparison, rejection, acceptance, enter into our conception of choice; but in God's choice there was no beginning, no comparison, etc. What conception can we have of the processes and the workings of a mind that knows no succession, to whom all the future is as the past, who has but one eternal thought? Alas! that men should be so impious as to dogmatize upon a subject like this! "Who by searching can find out God?" We now pass on to the question—Why should we exultingly adore the Eternal on account of his redemptive predestination? Paul suggests three reasons in the text.
I. HAPPINESS IS ITS EXCLUSIVE AIM. What are the "spiritual blessings in heavenly places," which the apostle in the text traces to it?
1. Moral excellence. "That we should be holy and without blame." The two words represent spiritual excellence.
2. Spiritual elevation. "Heavenly places." A truly Christian man is now in heavenly regions. Though on the earth, he is not of the earth, he is of heaven. His fellowships, ideas, services, aspirations, are heavenly. He is come to an "innumerable company of angels." "Our citizenship is in heaven," etc.
3. Divine sonship. "The adoption of children." All men are the offspring of God, but none are his true children but those who have the true filial spirit. To possess this involves man's highest blessedness. This is the work of Christ. "As many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God"—the true sons—"heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ." These are some of the "spiritual" blessings which flow to man through God's redemptive predestination. Paul does not refer to a single evil or woe as coming to man from that source. Good, and good only, he saw flowing from that fountain. The inhuman, the blasphemous dogma of reprobation never entered his mind in connection with this grand subject. What reason for exultant thankfulness is here! Well may we exclaim, "Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
II. JESUS CHRIST IS ITS MEDIUM. Predestination, which in nature makes the sun the medium of lighting, quickening, and beautifying the earth, in redemption makes Christ the Medium of conveying all those spiritual blessings which constitute the happiness and dignity of man. The "heavenly places" to which we are raised are "in Christ Jesus." The adoption of children is "through Jesus Christ." All the Divine grace—favor—bestowed on man is through "Christ Jesus, the Beloved." What a Medium is this! This is the great gift of predestination. God's only begotten, well-beloved Son: "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? "What reason for exultant thankfulness is here! Well may Paul exclaim, "Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," etc.
III. ETERNAL LOVE IS ITS SPRING. "In love, having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ."
1. This love existed before the objects of it came into actual being. Millions of ages before mankind came into existence, before the "foundation of the world," he loved them. His love created them, organized them for happiness as creatures, and provided for their spiritual recovery as sinners. The uncreated, those that are to be, are as real to God as the created that are.
2. This love is the happiness of his own nature. Its manifestations are the "good pleasure" of his own will. The good pleasure of malevolence is misery; the good pleasure of love is happiness. Are not the reasons suggested by Paul for gratefully exulting in God's redemptive predestination abundant? "Predestination," "choice," "counsel," "purpose," "decree"! The more ignorant men are, the more they profess to have fathomed the meaning of these terms, as representing the mental acts of the Eternal; and the more flippant they are in their use. But what do they stand for when applied to God? Volition—will, nothing more. "God is love," and his will must be happiness. He is "of one mind," and his will must be unalterable. A certain theology, which, thank God, is dying out, has invested these grand old words with attributes of hideousness, before which weak souls in all ages have trembled with horror. But they only indicate the will of infinite love to flood immensity with bliss. "Love is the root of creation, God's essence; worlds without number Lie in his bosom like children; he made them for this purpose only, Only to love and to be loved again; he breathed forth his Spirit Into the slumbering dust, and upright standing, it laid its Hand on its heart, and felt it was warmed with a flame out of heaven."—D.T.
The redemptive predestination of God in its subjective and objective aspects.
"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were scaled with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." This passage, treated homiletically, presents redemptive predestination to us in some of its subjective and objective aspects. We use those words with no liking, for they savor of a school of thought with which we have but little sympathy. But the terms, experimental and doctrinal, internal and external, would not represent our thoughts so well. Let us then look at the passage as presenting redemptive predestination—
I. IN SOME OF ITS SUBJECTIVE ASPECTS. There are certain words employed which indicate its influence and issues upon the heart of its true disciple. There is:
1. Deliverance. "In whom we have redemption." This means simple deliverance, and perhaps is used in allusion to the Exodus of the Jews. Unregenerate humanity is in moral bondage, is carnally sold under sin. It is in a captivity compared with which the most cruel physical bondage is but a shadow. The gospel is the deliverer. It crushes the despots. It sounds the trump of jubilee.
2. Pardon. "The forgiveness of sins." This, like redemption, means release, but it indicates release, not, from calamity alone, but from crime. Redemption delivers man at once from the slavery of sin, forgiveness from its guilt. Divine forgiveness, what is it? It is remedial mercy separating the sinner from his sin. "Far as the east is from the west," etc. Separating not from its memory, nor from all its effects and influences, but from its soul-accusing power.
3. Unification. "He might gather together in one." Uniting the disharmonious soul of man with the universe, by uniting it to Christ. As planets are bound together, though millions of leagues apart, by a common center, so true souls in all worlds and ages are united by being united to Jesus Christ. He is the Head.
4. Heritage. "Obtained an inheritance," "the earnest of our inheritance." What is the inheritance of a Christ-redeemed soul? Ah! what? What springing energies, what rising hopes, what high fellowships, what glorious liberties, enter into that inheritance! "All things are yours." The allusion is perhaps to Canaan. What is the true Canaan of the soul?
5. Divinity. "Sealed with that Holy Spirit."
II. IN SOME OF ITS OBJECTIVE ASPECTS. We observe that it has objectively:
1. One primordial source. Whence does this grand redemptive system spring? From "the riches of his grace." His good pleasure. The counsel of his own will. Its spring is in God. Creation and salvation well up from the same eternal fountain.
2. Manifold manifestations. How many terms are here employed to represent this one system!
3. A gradual unfoldment. It was once a "mystery," unknown to the universe, unknown to man. It was in the mind of God. He spoke its first sentence, perhaps, to Adam, and from that hour it has been gradually unfolding itself. It has had its striking epochs, and it is moving on to "the fullness of times." It will flood the universe with its brightness one day.
4. A sublime result. "Unto the praise of his glory." The highest aim of the creature is to worship with the fullest loyalty and love the Creator. The guilt and misery of this world is that it fails in this. The ultimate aim of Christianity is to tune the world's heart to music, and cause loud hallelujahs to break from every lip.—D.T.
"Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, tar above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." This passage, which is confessedly somewhat involved and obscure in some of its expressions, may be homiletically regarded as illustrating apostolic philanthropy. There is a great deal of what is called philanthropy in this age. Most men who are candidates for public suffrage profess to feel its inspiration, and advocate its claims. Indeed, there are not a few who trade in its holy name. Under the cover of serving their race, they gratify their own vanity and enrich their own coffers. Amongst so much of spurious philanthropy it may be well to take a glance at the genuine thing. Paul was a philanthropist of the true type; his love for his race was disinterested, self-sacrificing, and unconquerable. The passage before us gives us a glimpse of philanthropy as it existed in his noble soul. We observe—
I. HIS PHILANTHROPY REGARDED SPIRITUAL EXCELLENCE AS THE ESSENTIAL NECESSITY OF MANKIND. Two elements of spiritual excellence are mentioned here, which must be regarded, not merely as the specimen of others, but as the root of all genuine goodness of heart.
1. Practical faith in Christ. "Faith in the Lord Jesus." In the New Testament this is everywhere made the one thing needful. Faith in him is represented as essential in the moral restoration of man to the knowledge, image, and fellowship of God; and both the philosophy of the human mind and the experience of mankind concur in demonstrating that practical faith in the Son of God can alone confer real and lasting good on man.
2. Genuine love for the good. "Love unto all the saints," i.e. all the genuine disciples of Jesus Christ. The love is virtuous, it is for men on account of their goodness—"saints." This love is catholic, it is for "all the saints." Now, Paul regarded these two things as existing in the Ephesian Church as the most hopeful and essential things. He makes no reference to their secular education, to their mercantile progress, to their artistic improvements, to their political advancement; he knew that these were comparatively useless without spiritual excellence, and that with spiritual excellence these would grow up to highest perfection. He looked to the reformation of souls as that which was a good in itself, and which alone could give value to any other reformation.
II. HIS PHILANTHROPY LIVED IN THE RELIGIOUS EXERCISES OF HIS SOUL. "Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of yon in my prayers." Observe three things concerning Paul's religious devotions.
1. They were profoundly reverential. How great did that God whom he worshipped appear to him!
2. They were unceasing in thanks and prayer. "Cease not to give thanks for you," etc. In prayer and supplication he made known his requests to God. Unceasing thanks for the past, and prayer for the future, is the grand duty of all, and the happy life of Christians.
3. They were ever animated with love to men. As he appeared before this great God in worship, he bore the interest of the Church at Ephesus in his prayers. He presented Ephesus to the care and love of him who alone can save and bless. True philanthropy has ever used, and must ever use, prayer as its chief instrument. The prayer of Abraham all but saved Sodom and Gomorrah. On the day of judgment it will be seen that the world's greatest benefactors were the men of greatest prayer.
III. HIS PHILANTHROPY EARNESTLY SOUGHT MAN'S ADVANCEMENT IN SPIRITUAL INTELLIGENCE. He desired the increase of their knowledge in three things.
1. In Divine truth. He prayed that God "would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him." He wished for them clearer and broader views of the Eternal.
2. In Christian privilege. "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling." The general idea is that you may know the transcendent and. inexhaustible blessings that God has provided for you.
3. In personal attainment. "What is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward." The idea is that you may more deeply feel the change that God's power has wrought in you. How great was the change that God's almighty energy had wrought in these people (see Acts 19:1-41.)! Such was the knowledge that Paul was anxious to promote, and this, indeed, is the knowledge to bless humanity.
IV. HIS PHILANTHROPY TRACED ALL GENUINE IMPROVEMENT IN HUMAN CHARACTER TO THE DIVINE POWER THAT WAS MANIFESTED IN CHRIST. The mighty power which had done such wonders for them was the "power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead," etc. The power:
1. Was manifested in the resurrection, of Christ. Christ's resurrection might be regarded
2. Was manifested in type exaltation of Christ. He exalted Christ "far above all principalities," etc. That power will also exalt the soul, give it a dominion over self and circumstances; that power makes men "kings and priests unto God." Paul's philanthropy led him to trace all the improvement at Ephesus, not to his own labors, though he had labored there long and hard, but to God's power, and to God's power as manifested by Jesus Christ.
V. HIS PHILANTHROPY IDENTIFIED MAN'S INTEREST WITH THE LIFE OF THE SON OF GOD. Those on]y, he felt, were truly blessed of men who were vitally connected with Christ, as body and soul. "Which is his body," etc. The figure implies:
1. Christ's animation. The soul animates the body; Christ animates the good.
2. Christ's control. The soul controls the body; Christ controls the good.
3. Christ's manifestation. The soul manifests itself through the body; Christ manifests himself in the good.
4. Christ's Church. It is a unity. The body, with all its members, is one whole.—D.T.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
The Christian blessings.
I. CHRISTIANS HAVE BEEN BLESSED WITH MANY BLESSINGS.
1. Christianity involves blessedness. The declaration of its truths is a gospel. It is the religion of the cross; yet it is far happier to bear Christ's cross than to wear the yoke of sin, and there is no other alternative. The way of the cross is itself the way of peace and highest happiness.
2. Christian blessedness is now enjoyed. "Hath blessed us"—literally, "did bless us." The gifts of the gospel are not all reserved for the future world. Indeed, if we enjoy none now, we are not likely to be able to appreciate any after death (1 Timothy 4:8). For
3. The Christian blessings are numerous and various. "Every spiritual blessing? If we have received some blessings there are more to follow. Already what we have had is beyond reckoning. All do not receive just the same kind of blessings. Each may look for fresh varieties.
II. THE CHRISTIAN BLESSINGS ARE SPIRITUAL AND HEAVENLY.
1. They are spiritual. This word describes them subjectively; it shows what they are in us. They are inward graces, not material possessions. We may receive temporal prosperity, and, if so, should ascribe it to the Source and Author of every good gift. But we may be denied it, and yet be none the less blessed of God. It is a mistake for any of us to look for specially Christian blessings in this category, or to be perplexed at not receiving them. The true Christian blessings are such things as peace and joy, light and love, purity and power.
2. They are heavenly. This word describes them objectively; it points to what they are in themselves and in relation to their Divine origin. Coming from God, they belong to "heavenly places." They are such things as the forgiveness of sins, and the sympathy and fellowship of Christ, the beatific vision vouchsafed to the pure in heart, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Because they are heavenly things they are not beyond our reach; for heaven is let down to earth now that the kingdom of heaven is in our midst, and we are lifted up to heaven when we have our treasure there, for there our heart is. But it is only the upward gaze that will discern true Christian blessings. Kirke White writes of "this low-thoughted world of darkling woe." The woe is so "darkling" just because the world is so "low-thoughted." We cannot find the stars by searching in the dust.
III. THESE BLESSINGS DESCEND UPON US FROM GOD THROUGH CHRIST.
1. The source of them is in God. Christianity has its origin in God. He conceived the first thought of it. He sent his Son to bring it to us.
2. The blessings come especially from God in his character of Father. God is revealed as Creator, King, Judge; from none of these Divine characteristics could we expect the blessings of mercy which as Christians we receive. They are given by a Father.
3. These blessings flow directly from God's relations with Christ. He is the "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." The blessings are given to us through Christ's great work of mediation.
4. It is through our relations with Christ that we enjoy the Christian blessings. They are "in Christ." He first receives them, and we have them by union with him. We must be "in Christ" ourselves in order that the blessings may be ours.
IV. THE ENJOYMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN BLESSINGS SHOULD INSPIRE OUR MOST HEARTFELT PRAISES. The whole verse is an utterance of thanksgiving. Surely it is fitting that we should bless God for such wonderful blessings to us. We cannot repay, but we can at least thank. "Where are the nine?" must often be the sad question that should shame our gross ingratitude. The essence of religious worship. Yet our age has forgotten to worship. We pray, begging favors for ourselves; we discuss truth, seeking light for ourselves; we work—let us hope sometimes unselfishly; but where is our worship, adoration, praising of God? See the grounds for thus blessing God
God's idea of humanity.
We commonly regard our lives from a human standpoint, which we cannot well leave even in thought. But, if it were possible, it would be most interesting to see how God looks upon them. Now, it is one of the objects of revelation to help us to do this—to lead us to see ourselves as God sees us. Next to the vision of God himself, such a picture of humanity as it appears in the eyes of God is of the greatest importance. The manifestation of our present condition in the searching light of God turns out to be a shameful exhibition of sin and failure. But the declaration of God's idea of our lives, of what he wishes and purposes for us, and of his design in fashioning us, is truly sublime, and should fill us with genuine "self-reverence." In the verses before us, by a magnificent feat of inspired imagination, St. Paul describes this idea and the method by which God is working it out.
I. THE ORIGIN OF THE IDEA. It was conceived "before the foundation of the world." The architect's design precedes the builder's structure. God had his plan of mankind before a man was created.
1. Seeing that God is infinite, that plan must extend to every detail of the vocation of every individual soul.
2. Seeing that God is independent of time, he must know from the first all future issues, and. what course will be taken by the free-will of each man.
3. Seeing that all things are united by successive waves of influence, what God does from the foundation of the world onwards must all have its bearings on the latest development of mankind, and must therefore be determined in some measure with respect to God's idea of humanity.
II. THE OBJECTS OF THE IDEA.
1. In our character. God's will regarding us is our sanctification. He foreordains us to be pure and free from all defilement and imperfection. Thus we learn that the moral and spiritual state of a soul is far more important in the eyes of God than any intellectual gifts, or any amount of comfort anti happiness.
2. In our condition. God wishes us to be his sons. The high privilege of Christ he desires to bestow upon Christ's brethren. To be thus nearly related to God is to have the highest possible destiny.
3. In relation to God himself. The praise of his glory is thus attained. If God seeks his own glory, it is because this is the glory of goodness seen in the welfare of his creatures.
III. THE MOTIVES OF THE IDEA.
1. In God's sovereign freedom. He purposes "according to the good pleasure of his will." Like the potter with his clay, God has a right to choose his own idea of humanity.
2. In God's great love. God's will is always holy and always gracious. If, therefore, anything depends solely on his will, it is sure to be done in the best possible way, and in the way that brings most good to his creatures. Instead of fearing God's free choice, we ought to rejoice in it, seeing that it is always determined by love. It is love that leads God to design for mankind so glorious a destiny as was conceived before the foundation of the world.
IV. THE METHOD OF REALIZING THE IDEA.
1. Through grace "freely bestowed on us." God does not call us tea high vocation without giving us the means whereby to fulfill it. As he first ordained the future destiny, he alone can now give us power to accomplish it.
2. Through Christ. Christ is the greatest gift of God's grace. By our faith in Christ we receive God's grace. Christ, as the Beloved of God, brings us into the blessings of God's love.—W.F.A.
I. WHAT IT MEANS TO US. "Our redemption" is here in apposition with "the forgiveness of our trespasses." The phrases mutually explain one another.
1. The idea of forgiveness explains that of redemption.
2. The idea of redemption explains that of forgiveness. Such forgiveness as amounts to a redemption cannot be a mere withholding of penalties. It must be
II. WHAT IT COST CHRIST. Redemption implies payment. The redeemed is recovered by means of a ransom. The cost of the Christian redemption is the blood of Christ. Unfortunately, the expression, "the blood of Christ"—or even the mutilated expression, "the blood"—has been used by some so ignorantly and coarsely that many persons have come to turn from it with disgust. It would seem that some so-called evangelical people attach as much efficacy to the charm of the word "blood," repeated without any intelligent idea, as the most superstitious Roman Catholics ascribe to what they believe to be real blood in the sacred chalice. On the other hand, we must not explain away the expression by saying that it simply means the death of Christ, or why was not the word "death" used? And did not Jesus say that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood? According to a venerated Hebrew idea, the blood was life. The shedding of the blood, therefore, was the giving of the life. If Christ's blood is a ransom, that means that Christ gave his life and himself as a ransom. The value of such a ransom must be just the value of such a life. How well pleasing to God must be the obedient yielding up of himself by Christ! How persuasive to us in drawing us out of the power of sin should the same sacrifice be!
III. WHENCE IT ORIGINATED. We are redeemed "according to the riches of his grace," i.e. of God's grace.
1. Then it is God who first plans our redemption and desires our forgiveness and provides the means for our restoration.
2. The motive of redemption is pure grace. It is not that we have a right to be restored, as Englishmen would claim a right to be set free from ignominious slavery in a foreign land; nor that we shall be worth so much to God when restored as to compensate him for the cost; but simply that, freely loving us, he mercifully delivers us.
3. The grace of God is replete with wealthy resources. There are men whose favors are so poverty-stricken that they are not worth having. God's grace is rich enough to provide the necessary ransom for our redemption. Christ our Ransom is given to us as the greatest gift from the treasury of Divine grace.—W.F.A.
The consummation of all things.
We have in this bold, sweeping picture of the great onward movement of the universe a solution of the most ambitious questions of philosophy. What is the meaning of the ever-changing flux and rush of all things? and whither does it tend? It is, says St. Paul, a progress towards organic unity. Can any thought be more modern or more in accordance with strict science? St. Paul recognizes the all-important point, too often ignored in ancient philosophy, that we have to deal with organic conditions—with living forces and their resultants. He discerns a purpose in the seeming confusion of forces. In spite of many indications of failure, he discovers a sure progress. And the end of this progress he declares to be union and harmony. Yet he is not merely philosophizing. His idea is theological; he sees God's mind planning the whole, and God's hand effecting it. It is also essentially Christian. The end is accomplished through Christ.
I. GOD PURPOSES TO BRING ALL THINGS INTO ORGANIC UNION. This purpose is illustrated by the latest philosophy of evolution. Mr. Herbert Spencer has shown that evolution is a process of increasing integration, accompanied by increasing differentiation. Scattered nebulous matter concentrates into solid worlds. From existence in separate cells, life advances to the union of cells in organic creatures. Society progresses from individual separation, through tribal union, to the formation of great nations. St. Paul carries out the idea on a larger scale. Heaven and earth, things spiritual and things material, will ultimately integrate in one grand unity. Consider some of the wonderful results involved in such a process as it completes itself.
1. An approach of all things nearer together and a more ready intercommunication. The earthly will no longer be separated from the heavenly.
2. Mutual co-operation. Each will minister to the other.
3. The more effective work of higher organization.
4. The end of all discord, the overthrow of all evil, the subjection of the lower to the higher. Sin must then be cast out and God's will done on earth as it is now only done in heaven.
5. No necessary uniformity. On the contrary, differentiation increases with integration. The most highly organized bodies have the greatest variety of parts. While we look for progress, therefore, we must not be surprised at seeing increasing differences of constitution, idea, method of action, etc., among Christians, but even expect this to accompany a growth in harmonious mutual helpfulness. We are not to see the uniformity of the blades of grass in a meadow; but the unity of the root, trunk, branches, leaves, and fruit of one great tree.
II. THE UNION OF ALL THINGS WILL BE EFFECTED THROUGH CHRIST. We cannot measure the far-reaching effects of the life-work of Christ. But the character of all of them is peacemaking and progressive. Christ comes to quell the discord of life, to draw all into one, and to lead the whole on to a higher life. We may see, partly, by what means this is done.
1. The Incarnation. Thus heaven comes down to earth. The process begins here in one man, Jesus.
2. The sacrifice of Christ. This is a peace offering. By it the separation between man and God is done away.
3. The brotherhood of Christ. All Christians are brethren in Christ. Thus human differences are done away; Jew and Gentile, bond and free, barbarians and civilized; are one in Christ. In the end, the union of Christians in the Church should realize the cosmopolitan oneness which will banish war and mutual jealousies.
4. The headship of Christ. As Christ is recognized to be the Head by all, all become members of him, and so members one of another.
5. The final triumph of Christ over sin, death, and all evil things.
III. THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE ORGANIC UNION OF ALL THINGS WILL COME WITH "THE DISPENSATION OF THE FULLNESS OF TIMES."
1. It is only possible in course of time. Evolution takes time; so do the Divine education of the race, the spread of the gospel, and the growth Of the Church in truth and grace.
2. It is not to be indefinitely postponed. There will be a fullness of times. The present confusion is only temporary. It may last long, but not forever. We may do something to hasten the consummation of all things. It will only come when the times are ripe for it; but as we do our part to aid the great Christian progress, we help on the ripening of the ages.—W.F.A.
Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 1:14
I. THE ASSURANCE THAT CHRISTIANS ARE SEALED.
1. They are owned by God. "The Lord knoweth them that are his." God is said to keep a book of remembrance, so that they who fear him shall be remembered in the day when he makes up his jewels (Ma Ephesians 3:16, Ephesians 3:17).
2. They are to be known by men. A seal is conspicuous. It is intended to be seen and understood. There are signs in the life by which the inward spiritual religion may be detected. If we know how to read the seal, we shall be able to discover whether or no it is on ourselves. Yet it is possible to be a true servant of Christ, and yet to be sadly doubtful as to one's own condition, not because we have not the sea], but because we are too blinded with fears to read it, or because we are looking for a different kind of seal.
3. They are preserved by God. The seal is a security. All the authority of its owner accompanies it. Christians being once owned will never be deserted by God.
II. THE CONDITION ON WHICH CHRISTIANS ARE SEALED. This is faith. As a preliminary, the gospel must be beard. But all who hear are not sealed. We must, individually and voluntarily, yield submission to the truth we have received. Two motives for faith may be gathered from the words of St. Paul, viz.:
1. The claims of truth. It is "the Word of the truth" that we have heard. Truth is royal and authoritative, and rightly demands obedience.
2. Our own salvation. This "Word of the truth" is also "the gospel of your salvation." Our highest interest lies in our accepting the gospel and giving our faith to it.
III. THE METHOD BY WHICH CHRISTIANS ARE SEALED. It is "with the Holy Spirit of promise." The early Christians were endued with the Holy Spirit after they had given their faith to Christ. None but those who were thus "believers" received it. The gift was, therefore, a sign of true faith. We do not have it in the same form—as a gift of tongues, of healing, etc. But we receive it in spiritual graces. Christians are still endued by the Holy Spirit, and, as a consequence, realize their sonship to God (Romans 8:16, Romans 8:17), and enjoy communion with God (Romans 8:26, Romans 8:27). The reality of these things and of the spiritual gifts from which they flow is proved by the resulting fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, Galatians 5:23).
IV. THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH CHRISTIANS ARE SEALED. They are sealed by a Spirit of promise. The blessings assured by the Divine recognition are as yet chiefly future. We are heirs, not owners; or, regarding it from another point of view, God has paid the ransom for his own possession, but the redemption of it is not yet fully accomplished. Yet he has so far claimed it as to set his seal upon it. Christians bear the mark of God's ownership, though they are not wholly recovered to him. Their present condition is an assurance of final recovery. It is an earnest of redemption. Enough grace is already given to result in some measure of redemption. If we have not this foretaste of heaven, these first droppings of the showers of blessings, we have no right to expect more. But if we have, the beginning points on to the fulfillment, when God will be glorified in our perfect redemption.—W.F.A.
Ephesians 1:15, Ephesians 1:16
Although St. Paul could soar into strange heights of contemplation, his interest was not confined to cold theological abstractions. If he meditated on the final consummation of all things, he was never negligent of the spiritual condition of the Christians of his day. No man could show more deep, earnest, personal concern for those committed to his charge, than the great apostle evinced for the Churches of which he had the oversight. They were ever m his thoughts and in his prayers. Their prosperity or adversity was his joy or sorrow. It was happy when, as in the case of the Christians of Asia, to which the Epistle to the Ephesians was addressed, St. Paul had little to blame and much to rejoice over. We may learn something by considering what, in St. Paul's estimation, were the marks of Christian prosperity, and how he regarded that prosperity.
I. THE TRUE PROSPERITY OF A CHURCH CONSISTS IN THE GROWTH OF SPIRITUAL GRACES AMONG THE MEMBERS. We make much of numbers, as though prosperity were a matter of arithmetic. "The statistics of the Churches" will never serve as a divining rod with which to discover the precious metal of piety. St. Paul cared less for the number of adherents to Christianity than for the quality of the true Christians. While we busy ourselves in counting the attendants at church, who is to measure the growth or decrease of spiritual life? Then St. Paul's idea of prosperity was not accumulating wealth, the creation of more imposing buildings, a higher social status—things about which some of us are so greatly concerned. All he cared for was spiritual progress. The two essential elements of this are growing faith in Christ and growing love towards one another.
II. THE GROWTH OF SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY IS DESERVING OF JOYFUL RECOGNITION AND THANKSGIVING. If St. Paul is fearless in rebuking where rebukes are necessary, he is ungrudging in his congratulations where these are earned. Some people seem to be afraid of provoking the vanity of others in praising them, if they are not prevented from giving them their due by jealousy. We might better encourage one another if we were more ready to anticipate the great Master's generous "Well done, good and faithful servant." At the same time, it must be remembered that the glory is due to God, as the grace came only from him. Thus our congratulations should pass into thanksgivings.
III. WHILE THANKFULLY RECOGNIZING SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY, WE SHOULD PRAY FOR THE INCREASE OF IT. The present graces are not enough. We shall deceive our brethren if our congratulations lead them to think that there is no need for further progress. On the contrary, the present attainments are reasons for praying for greater increase. Thus St. Paul makes mention of the faith and love of the Christians of Asia in his prayers. The reward of one grace is the addition of another. One prepares the way for another. Certain spiritual attainments are grounds on which new and higher attainments may be built.—W.F.A.
After thankfully recognizing the faith and love of the Christians he is addressing, St. Paul describes his prayers for their further endowment with Divine graces, and shows that he is especially anxious that they should receive a Spirit of wisdom. Possibly the Christians of Ephesus and its neighborhood were backward on the intellectual side of the spiritual life; but more probably wisdom was desirable for them just because they were exceptionally capable of high thinking, and would therefore profit above others by enjoying the light of heavenly revelation. In any case, it is to be observed that faith and love are the more essential graces; that they must precede wisdom and knowledge, which are not, as is often assumed, to be expected as the first and fundamental grounds of religion; but that, nevertheless, the intellectual side of religion is important as an addition to the moral.
I. THE SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.
1. This knowledge comes from God. St. Paul makes it a matter of prayer. It is not to be attained, then, merely by intellectual culture, nor even by our own spiritual experience alone.
2. It is given as a revelation. In revelation God makes known what was naturally and previously hidden. While the curtain is drawn no guesses can tell what lies behind it. Speculation, unaided by revelation, is as much at sea in discussing the unseen universe today as it was at the dawn of Greek philosophy.
3. It results from an inspiration of the Spirit of God. We receive a "Spirit of wisdom." The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of knowledge, leading us into all truth, at once purging us of the sin that blinds our vision, quickening the life within to a more keen sensitiveness, and bringing us into that sympathetic state in regard to spiritual things which makes us feel their presence and understand their character.
II. THE ORGAN OF SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE. The eyes of our heart have to be enlightened that we may know spiritual things.
1. The heart has its eyes. There is an inner sight. This is not merely speculative. It is alive with feeling; it is in the heart. Thus the poet will see what the naturalist overlooks; the mother will know her children as the schoolmaster cannot know them; the saint will have visions of Divine truth to which the philosopher is blind.
2. All that the heart needs in order to see the highest truths is light. What is wanted is no new declaration, but an enlightening of our eyes. The landscape is as present when invisible at night as when seen in clear daylight. Divine truth lies open before us. We require no new voices from heaven. All that is wanted is a change in ourselves—the unstopping of our deaf ears and the opening of our blind eyes.
III. THE SUBJECTS OF SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.
1. Christ. It is "the knowledge of him" for which St. Paul first prays. We must begin with knowing Christ. In knowing him we know all; for all the treasures of the gospel dwell in him.
2. The future inheritance. How vainly we speculate about this! We can know it only by spiritual illumination. Not that the formal nature of it can be discerned, but the true character and worth of it will be appreciated. There are riches in this inheritance of which we little dream. In our coldness of heart they look dim and faint. We have yet to learn how infinitely glorious they are. Such a discovery will gladden, cheer, and encourage us in the dark battle of the present.
3. The Divine power. By heaping up expressions, the apostle makes us realize the importance of this subject. God gives us the inheritance. It is vast and glorious. But terrible difficulties stand between us and it. Till we understand somewhat of the power of God, the hope will seem to be unattainable. But this we may understand in so far as we are enlightened rightly to appreciate the manifestation of it in the resurrection and triumph of Christ—the pledges and grounds of our future blessedness.—W.F.A.
The supremacy of Christ.
We commonly think of Christ as the Man of sorrows, humiliated and crucified; but we should more often remember that this familiar picture describes what is completely past. If we would love and worship our Lord as he now is, we must look at him in his exaltation—triumphant, joyous, glorious. We should see the typical Christ in Raffaelle's 'Transfiguration' rather than in the many piteous 'Ecce Homo's!' that arrest our attention. We have not to weep at the tomb, "He is not here; he is risen." The supremacy of Christ is twofold—in rank and in authority.
I. THE SUPREME RANK OF CHRIST.
1. Where in it consists. Christ sits at God's "right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule," etc. By an accumulation of titles of beings below Christ, St. Paul not only declares, but helps to make us feel, the lofty rank of Christ. For since we have only seen the humiliation, it is difficult to realize the exaltation.
2. Whence it arises.
3. What effects should flow from it.
II. THE SUPREME AUTHORITY OF CHRIST.
1. Wherein it consists.
2. Whence it arises.
3. What effects should flow from it.
The Church as the body and the fullness of Christ.
We have here the intimate relation of Christ with his Church described in two aspects—first external, and then internal.
I. EXTERNALLY, THE CHURCH IS A BODY OF WHICH CHRIST IS THE HEAD.
1. The Church is joined to Christ. Christ maintains the closest possible relations with his people. His ascension, instead of removing him from us, by taking him to a distant heaven, brings him nearer to us, by his passing into the spiritual universe, through which he can have immediate contact with individual souls.
2. There is one life in Christ and the Church. The same blood pulsates through the head and through the members of the body. The blood of Christ must not only be "applied to" Christians, as some people say, but in them, drunk as wine of life (John 6:56). Thus, by close communion with Christ in faith, submission, and obedience, the very life of Christ will flow through us, so that we can say, "Not I, but Christ liveth in me."
3. Christ presides over the Church. He is the Head of the body. The Church is not a republic; it is a kingdom, and Christ is its King. His thought teaches, his will commands, his Spirit gives grace and order to all the movements of the body.
4. The Church is one in Christ. The head has but one body. Through Christ a common sympathy should spring up among Christians, just as, through their connection with the head, the various organs of the body co-operate harmoniously. When the influence of the head is lost, convulsions or confused movements are the consequence. So sectarian enmity is a proof of severance from Christ. Nevertheless, variety is possible and even necessary in a highly organized body. There are many members, and all the members have not the same office. The essential unity consists in the subordination of all the parts to the one head.
5. Severance from Christ is death to the Church. A Christless Church is a headless trunk. We may retain the doctrine and ethic of the New Testament, but, nevertheless, amputation of the Head means death. Even a partial severance of connection involves paraylsis—loss of spiritual power and loss of spiritual feeling.
II. INTERNALLY, THE CHURCH IS THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST. It is filled with Christ. He is not only the Head above it; he is the life within it. He does not only teach, bless, command, and lead from without; he inspires his people and lives in his Church. Christ fills "all in all;" i.e. the Spirit that was in Jesus of Nazareth is in the whole universe, inspiring all creation and all providence with wisdom and goodness, purity and grace. The same Spirit is in the Church. As yet, unhappily, the Church is not filled with Christ. Though Christ is received into the heart of Christians, every door within is not yet flung open to the gracious Guest. But in the perfect time, when his authority is everywhere established, his presence will be universally immanent. In the ideal Church, Christ fills the affections with holy love, the thoughts with higher truths, the imagination with heavenly visions, the will with obedient actions. He fills all and his graces are seen in all. Already he begins the blessed indwelling. We look forward to his great triumph, when he will as fully fill his people as he will absolutely conquer his foes.—W.F.A.
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017
the Third Week of Lent
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