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The Apostle opens the Epistle with his usual Salutation. He then at once enters upon the great Subject he had in View, and traces all the Mercies of the Church, to God's eternal Purpose in Christ, before the Foundation of the World.
(1) ¶ 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:
I admire the very opening of this blessed Scripture. Paul gives his name and Apostolic authority, by way of confirming its authenticity, and shows at once to whom the Epistle is sent, namely, not to the world at large, but to the saints at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus. Observe the expression. Saints by the original and eternal choice of God in Christ, and made so by regenerating grace. But that this most blessed title, might not be supposed as limited to the saints at Ephesus, Paul adds, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus, that is, wherever they are found throughout the earth. Reader! do not overlook this. For, hereby, every child of God, when regenerated, finds himself as much interested in this Epistle, as the saints of, that city to whom Paul first sent it See 1 Corinthians 1:3 . and note.
(2) Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
I detain the Reader at this verse only to remark, that when the Apostle pronounceth this blessing of grace and peace, it will be proper for us to consider, that the latter is the fruit of the former. Grace is the source and cause of all our blessings, because this is the free, unpurchased, everlasting love and favor of Jehovah, in his threefold character of Persons, towards the Church in Christ, and from whence all the effects in pardon, mercy, and peace, result. And when the Apostle adds; from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost is included, because neither of, those mercies could be known by us, much less enjoyed by us, but from the manifestation of them by the Lord the Spirit. It is blessed, indeed, to observe, bow each glorious Person graciously cooperate in this, and every act, as it concerns the Church's welfare. God the Father manifests grace in the original choice of the Church in Christ before all worlds. God the Son manifests grace in the betrothing the Church to himself from everlasting, and in the time-state of the Church, makes her peace in the blood of his cross. And God the Spirit manifests grace in regeneration from the Adam-nature of the fall, and revealing all that we are brought into acquaintance with, of the love and favor of each glorious Person, for our joy here, and, our happiness hereafter. Hence, Paul, upon another occasion prays, that the Lord, (that is, the Holy Ghost,) may direct the hearts of the redeemed into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:5 .
(3) ¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (4) 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: (5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Reader pause over those verses. The Apostle proposeth to write an Epistle to the Church, but he hath no sooner opened it with a salutation, than he leaves the consideration of the Church, and breaks out into an holy flame of praises to God. His heart was so full, in the contemplation of the divine love, that, like bottles ready to burst, he could no longer contain. Job 32:19 . Oh! how doth this man's fervor reproach my coldness. Lord! take away this heart of stone of mine, and give me an heart of flesh! Ezekiel 36:26 .
But what was it which inflamed the Apostle's mind so highly on this occasion ? Perhaps, in part, the recollection that the Lord had blessed his ministry to the Ephesians. His farewell discourse, as recorded Acts 20:17 , etc. affords a very high proof how dear this Church was to Paul. But though this might affect the Apostle, in the pleasing recollection, and for which he found cause to bless God; yet higher views were certainly opened to Paul's mind. God the Spirit intended this Epistle for a blessing to the Church in all ages; and whoever reads it, under the influence of the same Al mighty Teacher, must be led to see, that the Apostle was led out beyond himself, when the Lord directed his heart and pen, in this vast train of thought, here brought before the Church. Oh! that the Lord who caused Paul to write, may be with me to hear what the Spirit here saith to the Churches.
If the Reader will carefully observe what is contained in the opening of this most blessed Epistle, he will find, that the Apostle is celebrating the praises of the Holy undivided Persons of the Godhead, in their several distinct acts of grace, as manifested to the Church, and in giving to each, and to all, the glory due to the Lord Jehovah.
In those verses he begins with ascribing to God the Father, his personal acts of grace and love in choosing the Church in Christ, predestinating the persons of the Church to the adoption of children by Christ, and accepting the Church in Christ to the praise of the glory of his grace. And, as those three glorious acts of God the Father, are all said to be the result of his own good pleasure and will, so are they declared to be before the foundation of the world. As these sovereign acts of God the Father, though here compressed within a little compass, contain in their bosom immense designs, and are, indeed, the very charter of grace, I beg the Reader to pause over them a few moments, and consider each of them a little more particularly, as calling up the most awakened feelings of the soul, in love and praise.
The first which is spoken of is, that God hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Hence, it must undeniably follow, that when Christ, as Christ, that is, God and man in one Person, had, at the call of Jehovah, come up to the divine view, as the Head and Husband of his Church from everlasting. Psalms 110:4 ; Hebrews 5:4-5 ; Psalms 89:19 . this help-meet for him was chosen in him. It was not good in Jehovah's sight, that the God-man should be alone. Genesis 2:18 . The Lord, therefore, chose the Church as a Bride for him, to be his companion, unto whom he might impart all communicable grace here, in the time-state of her nature, and all communicable glory, in the eternal state hereafter; and all to Christ's glory, that He might be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.
And I beg the Reader to remark with me, the blessedness of what the Apostle saith, concerning this choice that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love. This is the first and original view God had of the Church when chosen, holy, and without blame in Christ. This is the first and last view God hath always of the Church in Christ. In Christ there can be no change. For, though in the after-state which took place at the fall in the Adam - transgression, the Church became polluted in herself and her fallen nature; yet, the time-state of sin cannot do away the Lord's purposes of eternity. No sin in Adam can destroy the holiness in Christ. It is in Christ the Church is chosen, and in him chosen to be holy, and without blame before God in love. And by the undertaking which Christ hath accomplished in himself; and by his one offering of himself, once offered, he hath redeemed, his Church from all iniquity, and perfected forever them that are sanctified. And, as this was all along among the first designs of God, however last to be executed; so, the Church, when finally brought home by Christ, will still be found in Christ, holy and without blame, before God in love; and JESUS will present her to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but holy, and without blemish. Ephesians 5:27 .
When the Reader hath duly pondered this unspeakable mercy, let him pass on to the second manifestation of God the Father's love, which the Apostle hath recorded in this chapter, when he saith, having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. Here is another distinguishing blessing hanging in one rich cluster of God's love, upon the same divine branch. Predestination differs somewhat from choosing, because, while the former act of choosing determines the Person, the latter of predestinating appoints the means. And the determination here spoken of, to Sonship in Christ, makes the means everlastingly certain and sure. For, saith the same Apostle elsewhere, if children then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. Romans 8:17 . The beloved Apostle was so struck with the contemplation of this view, that, unable to contain himself, he cried out, Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! 1 John 3:1 .
And I beg the Reader yet further to observe, that this predestination to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, is blessedly said to be to himself. But who shall explain the full extent of this meaning? To himself! Is it, (I humbly ask the question, but presume not to answer,) is it to Jehovah, in his threefold character of Person, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as in reference to each and to all, similar to that mysterious, but soul-comforting truth, where it is said, God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself! 2 Corinthians 5:19 . Or is it in a personal way, specially spoken, as by the Father? Reader! ponder the weighty words, for they are most blessed. To himself! Not to happiness only, simply in itself. Not to blessing's only in time, or blessings in eternity. Not to all the creation of God, with all that an eternal world can furnish. Not to these, but to God himself. Oh! the wonderful grace contained in the expression: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will! Sweetly the LORD speaks on this ground in several Scriptures: This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise. Isaiah 43:21 . So again: Know that Jehovah hath set apart him that is godly for himself; Psalms 4:3 . So once more: For Jehovah hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar pleasure. Psalms 135:4 . Reader! I do but glance at those rich things. To unfold them to the full is impossible!
The third gracious act of God the Father's love to the Church, which the Apostle hath noticed in this blessed Scripture, is, the acceptation of the Church in Christ, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved. Here again, who shall unfold all the vast things contained in the bosom of this wonderful verse? And when considered as the close of the former, what a climax the whole riseth up into, of unspeakable blessings, First, chosen in Christ. Secondly, predestinated to glory in Christ. And, thirdly, accepted in Christ, as everlastingly united to him, and considered one with him forever!
And what endears this still more, and which I pray the Reader never to forget, of this acceptation of the persons of God's children in Christ is, that it is from everlasting, as well as the act of choosing and predestinating. The Apostle hath not yet in this chapter noticed any act of God the Son, or God the Holy Ghost, in their personal office character. Redemption by Christ, which is next to be spoken of, is not as yet brought forward. The accepting in the Beloved, is spoken of as a thing done before redemption became necessary. Indeed, what is said of choosing, and predestinating, and accepting, is said to be before the foundation of the world, and, consequently, before sin was known upon earth, or redemption from sin needful. The expression is strong, he hath made us accepted in the Beloved. The Apostle speaks of it as of a thing past; Whereas, in the following verse, when he comes to speak of redemption, he speaks of it as of a thing now, we have redemption in his blood. I beg the Reader not to overlook these things. In the vast subject we are now upon, every minute point is full of importance.
Here then let the Reader for the moment pause. Let him contemplate those three immense blessings, as the special personal acts and gifts of God the Father, and resulting from his fatherly love to Christ, as the Head of the Church, and to the Church, as in Him. First, the choice. Let the Reader observe, moreover, that this original and eternal choice of the persons of the Church, in all the individuals of the whole body, is said to be solely from himself, and according to the good pleasure of his will. No one cause, but from himself to himself, producing such gracious effects. Let the Reader duly ponder this. Then let him proceed to the further consideration, that this choice in God the Father was, that the Church should be holy, and without blame before him in love, most plainly showing, that as the Church is chosen in Christ, and Christ is the Holy One; the Church is holy in his holiness, and everlastingly considered in him, without blame before God in love. All the after circumstances of the fall, in the present time-state of the Church, (and for which, as we shall shortly see, all provision was made,) cannot do away, neither counteract, those eternal purposes of GOD, which he purposed in himself. The Church was chosen to holiness in Christ, and in his holiness is beheld. Secondly, as chosen in Christ, and to holiness in Christ, so predestinated to sonship in Christ. And, thirdly, the full acceptation of our persons in Christ, is to the praise of the glory of his grace. Not only to the praise of his grace, but to the glory of his grace. As if God's glory was made more glorious its the manifestation of such riches of his grace. And to crown the whole, all these unspeakable gifts of God the Father are the result o f his own free and sovereign grace; before the foundation of the World; and, consequently, before the Church had being, and sin in Adam, to make the redemption by Christ necessary.
(7) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
In this verse we now come to the subject of redemption. Redemption! A word, taken in all its vast dimensions, bigger than a thou sand such worlds as ours. Let us, however, proceed regularly into this mysterious subject. We have noticed, (though briefly,) in the former verses, the gracious personal acts of God the Father, in relation to the Church. Here we enter upon the gracious personal acts of God the Son, resulting, as this verse expresseth it, and as the former had done, from the riches of his grace. This is a precious point always to be kept in view. For, as it was said of the Father, his sovereign acts of grace flowed from the good pleasure, of his will; so the Son's from the riches of his grace; and so the Holy Ghost's, as we shall hereafter (when we come to that part of the subject) discover, from his good pleasure, which he purposed in himself, Ephesians 1:9 .
I begin the subject contained in this verse, with observing, that when the Apostle, in reference to Christ, saith, that we have redemption in his blood, there is included in it the cause of this redemption, in the Church's union with her LORD, as her Head and Husband. This is of course implied. Christ's redemption of his Church presupposes his interest in his Church, and, of consequence, in all that belongs to her. It is a comprehensive way of speaking. Redemption includes everything, in relation to the Person, work, offices, and characters, in which the Son of God engaged, when assenting our nature, and when he came into this our world, in this time-state of the Church, and accomplished redemption by his blood and righteousness.
But though the vast subject of redemption compriseth everything that is blessed for the Church to meditate upon, night and day, during the whole of her present time-state upon earth, as it will call up her intellectual faculties, when full ripened hereafter in heaven, to dwell upon forever; yet, I must not in this place enter at large upon it. In several parts of this Poor Man's Commentary, as the scriptures led to it, I have glanced at it, and, therefore, would there refer the Reader. See all the Gospels upon it. See also Romans 3:25 ; Galatians 3:13 . and Commentary on both. A few of the outlines only can I here detain the Reader with.
And first. The Apostle speaks of this vast work of redemption, as a thing possessed. We have redemption. Yes! Christ on the cross declared it to be finished. John 19:30 . But for the matter itself, who shall speak its value? Its dimensions are infinite, for it reacheth through all time, and through all eternity. And the nature of it, as well as its duration and extension, is attended with such difficulty to explain, that unless we could determine the nature of sin, we can never determine the vastness of redemption. But, so infinitely important is it in itself, that without an interest in it, notwithstanding the Church being chosen in Christ, predestinated to the adoption of children in Christ, and accepted in Christ; yet, having forfeited all right to these blessings by the Adam-fall, and our whole nature, being thereby degraded and sunk, but for redemption we must have remained in the captivity of sin, and under the heavy penalty to the breaches of it, as well as also been totally unqualified to enjoy the privilege of children to all eternity. Oh! the unspeakable blessings included in redemption!
Secondly. The greatness of redemption is enhanced by the greatness of the Redeemer. We may in some measure form an idea, however imperfectly to what it really is, of the immensity of the blessings, by the immensity of his nature, who alone could accomplish it. God and man in one Person. In whom, (saith the Apostle,) we have redemption. How blessedly Scripture speaks of Christ in numberless places. For thy Maker is Mine Husband; the Lord of Hosts is his Name; and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, The God of the whole earth shall he be called ! Isaiah 54:5 . See also Isaiah 43:1-7 .
Thirdly. How redemption hath been wrought. Through his blood. Here again, all created wisdom is incompetent to enter into any adequate apprehension of the mysterious work. The Scriptures declare the fact itself. But no created powers, either angels or men; are able to conceive of it, with any clearness of knowledge. We are told, indeed, that the angels do not understand, but desire to look into. 1 Peter 1:12 .
Fourthly. As the Person who alone could bring salvation, and the work he wrought in the accomplishment, exceed our utmost faculties to describe; so the effect baffles all conception also, to form equal ideas. We are told, that we have by it the forgiveness of all our sins; yea, in Him himself we have this vast mercy. But who shall calculate the greatness, or the number; the nature, or the quality of sins. It takes in, and includes our whole lives, past, present, and future. And, therefore, so infinitely extensive in its efficacy is redemption, from sin in all its consequences, that it reacheth through all time, and through all eternity. And so infinitely great in its power, that it cleanseth from all sin. 1 John 1:7 .
And, fifthly, to sum up all, as if to silence forever all the pre tensions of the proud, and all the fears of the humble, the whole is said to be the sole result of the riches of his grace. So that grace, and the riches of that grace, provides the remedy, and grace accepts its own providing. And all, from beginning to end, is the sole effect of grace.
Some have stumbled at this account of the Holy Ghost, and in the pride of their unhumbled heart, have boldly questioned, how free grace can be, said to do all and yet Christ hath purchased this redemption of his people by his blood ? But such men have not been taught of GOD, and, therefore, err, because they know not the Scriptures, nor the power of God. Matthew 22:29 . It was free grace to admit a Surety for the Church, when in the Adam-nature she had sinned, and come short of the glory of God. And it was not only free grace, but the riches of that grace, not only to admit a Surety, but to provide One and this God the Father did, when he gave his dear Son as the Head, Husband, and Surety of his Church. For Jesus was made a Surety. Hebrews 7:22 . Now the Lord Jehovah magnified the riches of his grace, in this very way and manner. He had chosen the Church in Christ, to be holy in Christ, to a sonship in Christ, and to an acceptation in Christ, and that from all eternity. But to magnify the riches of this grace the Church, during the time-state of her being, falls into sin, and forgets her adoption-character, and comes under the curse of a broken law. Here then opens a way for the fullest display of grace, in causing her recovery, and by such a plan of wisdom, love, and power, as enhanceth every blessing tenfold. Jesus shall redeem her by his blood. So that redemption is the effect of the original grace. And so far is it from militating against the freedom of that grace, that it, is in fact, one of the highest fruits of it. God's children in Christ, when fallen in sin, shall be redeemed by Christ, and redemption, which is the biggest of all blessings, in the time-state of the Church, shall he found to be the result of the first, original, and eternal design of God, in his purposes towards the Church, from all eternity. And God the Holy Ghost elsewhere beautifully expresseth the precious truth, when he saith, we are justified freely by his grace; but he adds, it is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:24 . Redemption purchaseth not our sonship, for that was from all eternity. But redemption purchaseth our pardon, when as children we had sinned, and come short of God's glory. Hence this, blessed Scripture declares the soul refreshing truth; In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. Hence, also, the song of heaven. Revelation 5:9 .
(8) Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; (9) Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
In those verses, the Church is brought into the view of the third great branch, of this vast subject, namely, the grace of God the Holy Ghost. The Apostle having gone over the several heads, of God the Father's love to the Church, in choosing, adopting, and accepting the Church in Christ; and God the Son's love to the, Church, in redeeming the Church from her fallen state of sin, by his blood; now brings forward the love of God the Holy Ghost to the Church, in his great office-work, in the vast concern, in those parts of character, which are peculiarly his to accomplish. The words ample use of to express the divine agency of the Holy Ghost, are comprehensive of the whole grace of the Spirit, which he manifesteth towards the Church, from his first Almighty act of grace in regeneration, until grace is finished in glory. H e hath aboundeth towards 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
The first point I beg the Reader to remark with me is, that the same act of free grace and love is here ascribed to God the Holy Ghost, as was ascribed before, both to the Person of the Father, and to the Person of the Son. This is a grand point to observe, For it proves both the Person of God the Holy Ghost, by such an act of a personal nature. It proves also his eternal power and Godhead, in common with the Father and the Son. And it proves no less, the equal at of grace towards the Church, in each of the Per sons of the Godhead, when we are here taught that GOD the Father's choosing, adopting, and accepting, was according to the good pleasure of his will, Ephesians 1:5 . that God the Son's redemption of the Church, was, according to the riches of his grace, Ephesians 1:7 . and God the Holy Ghost's abounding toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known unto us the mystery of his will, was also according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself. Reader ! pause, I pray you, and admire the beautiful order, as well as the wonderful grace, in this manifestation, of the Personalities of the Godhead towards the Church. Behold ! here the love of each Person, brought forward in distinct and special acts of favor to the Church. God the Father choosing and appointing, God the Son accomplishing, and God the Holy Ghost making known, and rendering effectual, the blissful mercies! Oh ! how are we taught to look up with equal love, and reverence, and praise, to the joint cause of all our blessings, in time, and to all eternity, and with all the heavenly host, sing the song recorded, of blessing, and honor, and glory; and power, unto him that sitteth upon the throne, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. Revelation 5:13 .
I must not enter into an extensive view of what may be supposed implied in those aboundings of the Holy Ghost. This Poor Man's Commentary, will not admit it. But we may fairly suppose, that by the expressions of wisdom and prudence, are intended, the whole of God the Spirit's work, in the Covenant of Grace. His is the office to reveal, and, as it is here expressed, to make known the mystery of his will. He is the Almighty Zaph-nath-paaneah; the Revealer of hidden things. Genesis 41:45 . And so essential is the work of God, the Spirit, that to him is reserved, the whole efficient ministry, as it relates to the personal enjoyment, of each, and every individual member of Christ's mystical body. His is, to take of the things of Christ, and reveal to the soul. His is, to convince of sin, of righteousness, and judgment. John 16:8 . And, all that acquaintance we have, with the Person of Christ, the work of Christ, the glory of Christ, are his special work. Until the Lord the Spirit hath quickened, and regenerated our fallen nature, every child of God is dead in trespasses and sins. See Ephesians 2:1 . and Commentary. So that all the actions of the new-born child of God, leadings to the throne, access to the throne, and acceptation at the throne in Christ, are the immediate work of God the Holy Ghost. Hence Paul prays for the Church, that the Lord, (that is, the Spirit,) might lead their hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:18 .
I will only detain the Reader with a short observation, on the work of God the Holy Ghost, in this blessed office, of his when abounding toward us in all wisdom and prudence, and making known to us the Mystery of his will; and will then pass on to the next verse: namely, how blessedly the Lord accomplisheth those gracious purposes; when he makes known to a child of God, the plague and burden of sin, and causeth him to feel it also; and then opens to his view the aboundings of grace, and causeth him to believe the record, that God hath done away the whole of sin, in the blood of Christ; yea, to feel his personal interest in it also. Reader! Is not this , making known to us the mystery of his will ? When we behold the vast pile of sin, reaching up, as Ezra saith, to heaven; Ezra 9:6 . and the blood of Christ, washing all away: so that, when the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not he found. Jeremiah 1:19 . This is grace indeed, and the aboundings of grace, which, like the ocean, buries in its bosom the loftiest mountains, if cast into it, and covers them over. This sea of mercy, in Christ's blood, riseth above all the highest water-mark of sin, and the aboundings of sin. And is, as the Prophet beautifully expresseth it, casting all our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:18-19 ; Romans 5:20-21 .
(10) 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:
I beg to consider this verse alone. There is not perhaps the fellow to it, in relation to the vast subject it treats of in all the Bible. It opens to us the very heart of God, as it respects his whole designs of grace, toward the Church. It shows us, how, from all eternity, the mind of Jehovah hath been occupied on this grand concern. And, what I beg yet more particularly for the Reader to remark with me upon the occasion, is, that it most plainly, and decidedly shows, that the whole designs of Jehovah, are to glorify the Lord Jesus. All is said to be decreed for him. All things are to centre in him. The dispensation of events, and the fullness of times, are all directing their several pursuits to this one termination; and, like the numberless rays of light, converging to one centre, all are to meet in him. I admire the repetition, even in him. There is a blessed emphasis in it, and so designed to be, in order to intimate the importance of the thing: even in him, We have another beautiful example of the same kind, Colossians 1:20 . By him I say, saith Paul. As if (and which is in reality the case,) the glory of Christ, (which is the only visible manifestation of Jehovah,) became the one ; and only object, for which the Lord went forth in acts of creation. 2 Corinthians 4:1 ; John 1:18 .
I cannot attempt to enter into the vast subject of this one verse. I would ponder over it with the most profound reverence, and attention. And, I would pray the Reader, to do the same. But it, must be God the Spirit's province, to unfold, and explain. The very outlines of it are volumes.
First. What a view is here given, of the original, and ultimate design of Jehovah, in all his dispensations; namely, to gather all things in Christ. Think, Reader! What a wonderful Person must this God-man be in himself, independent of every other consideration, in whom all things are finally to be gathered ?
Secondly. What a new, and living way, is here opened to our contemplation, for communion, and happiness, with Jehovah, in his threefold Personalities, in, and through, this wonderful Person; to whom all things are to be gathered, and in whom, and by whom alone, all access, entrance, and acceptation, can be found ?
Thirdly. What grace, and love, and affection, doth the very plan of Jehovah's wisdom by this way manifest, towards the Church; since, without this bond of fusion, formed by that portion of human nature taken into the Godhead by Christ, there could have been no gathering to God, neither communion with God. For so infinite is the distance, between what is created, and the Creator; between what is visible, and invisible; finite, and infinite; comprehensible, and incomprehensible; that, but for the Son of God assuming union with our nature, to act as a medium, and bond of union; there could have been no meeting-place between God and his creatures, neither open revelation to all eternity. The Apostle, therefore, appears to have been so sensible of this, that, when speaking of this gathering of all things to Christ, he lays the whole emphasis on Him, to whom the gathering is to be. Christ is the great Him: the only Him, by whom, and in whom, it can be accomplished. By virtue of his being the Head of his body the Church, he becomes both the centre of union, and of communication; and is the fullness of him that filleth all in all.
Reader ! pause over the vast subject ! Think of Christ's Person! How dear to God! How dear ought He to be to us! What an awful state must they be in, who deny his Godhead? Oh! the folly, the vast folly, of such unbelief! How can He be less than God, unto whom all things are to be finally gathered ? Think, what an awful gathering that will be, of the infidel, who, when the Lord shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, will appoint him, his portion with the unbelievers. Luke 12:46 . And think, what a glorious gathering of his redeemed, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all that believe. 2 Thessalonians 1:10 .
(11) 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: (12) That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. (13) 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 sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (14) Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
I will only detain the Reader with short observations, on what remains to be considered in this Chapter, though full of the most important points, because I have already far exceeded my limits. In those verses, amidst many other blessed things, we have two great subjects of doctrine spoken of: the first is, that the Church is predestinated to the Lord's glory, by trusting, in Christ. And the other is, that after this predestinating act of Jehovah, to the belief in Christ, the Holy Ghost is said to seal the persons of believers, as that Holy Spirit of promise. Reader! do behold the safety, and blessedness of the Church, under those two immense points of security !
In relation to our trust and belief, it should be always carefully remembered, that these acts of ours, are not the cause of our safety and blessedness, but the effect. Christ is the great object of trust and belief. And wherefore? Because, what Christ wrought, and accomplished, was the result of God's everlasting love, in Christ; Hence, Christ is said, by himself to have purged our sins. Hebrews 1:3 . This, then, is the cause. Our dependence upon him, and what he hath done, is the effect. It is, indeed, always blessed, to live in the comfortable enjoyment of these things by faith. For the promise, in the charter of grace, runs in these words: Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3 . But then, our faith is not the cause of safety, but the fruit. Christ is all, and in all.
We rise higher, however, in the second great point of doctrine, in relation to the Spirit's sealing: for this is not a mere effect, but a cause. It is true indeed, in one sense, both Christ's redemption, and the Spirit's sealing, may be called, the fruits, and effects, of the original, and eternal purpose of Jehovah, in his threefold character of Persons, towards the Church; because, none are redeemed, or sealed, but what are in the everlasting choice of God, the sonship in Christ, and acceptation in the Beloved, and this before the foundation of the world. Nevertheless, our trusting in Christ, and our being sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, differ as much as effects from causes. Reader! pause to admire, what a sweet testimony it is, to the souls of the Lord's people, when they have received the earnest of the Spirit? A work, in which they are altogether passive. And, how plainly do they prove, the certainty of their being sealed, when, from the same Almighty Power, they are enabled to trust in Christ, for the salvation of their souls? Here they find, what is called in scripture, a good hope through grace: And, hence they learn to trace their mercies to the fountain-head of mercy, in discovering the whole to flow from the everlasting purposes of God in Christ. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Romans 8:29-30 .
(15) ¶ Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, (16) Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; (17) 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: (18) 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, (19) And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, (20) Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, (21) Far 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: (22) And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, (23) Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.
The Apostle, having in the former part of this most blessed Chapter, brought forward some of the immense mercies, resulting from Jehovah's love in his Personal manifestations to the Church; now follows the whole with prayer, that the Church might be favored with such apprehensions of the same, as centered in Christ; and such as might safely carry her through all her time-state upon earth, until brought home to everlasting glory in heaven. There is somewhat truly blessed, and sublime, in this prayer of the Apostle. It carries with it indeed, the most decided proofs, of the Apostle's having been taught it, by the Holy Ghost. Neither can the imagination conceive, anything more highly important, for the Lord's redeemed ones to have a full apprehension concerning, than what Paul prays for. How truly blessed, to have the eyes spiritually enlightened, to the consciousness of being redeemed from all the dreadful consequences of the Adam-fall transgression; forgiven all sins, and sealed to everlasting safety and happiness in Christ, with that Holy Spirit of promise? And when these mercies are so incorporated in the mind, in the knowledge of the hope of Christ's calling, and the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints; what additional sweetness, in point of testimony, the whole proves, in running up the contemplation to the source of all, in God's everlasting love? We then see, both God's choice, and our adoption-character secured, beyond the possibility of doubt, and all centered in Christ for his Church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. The Lord, who gave Paul the spirit of prayer for the Church, graciously answers it in mercy; and all blessings must follow, to the Lord's glory, and the Church's happiness in Christ!
My soul! look up for grace, as Paul did, to bless God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the wonders of divine love, as set forth in this precious Chapter from whence flow all the mercies to the Church, in time; and to all eternity. Behold ! my soul, what method the Lord was pleased to make use of, among all the stores of his Omnipotency, to make known his love to the Church! In the Person of his clear Son, he caused the whole to center. And the Lord was pleased, to render the whole ten thousand times more blessed, in making all to flow in, and from, and through, a nature like our own, in the Person of the God-Man Christ Jesus. Pause, my soul! admire, and adore each glorious Person, in their Office-character, in this vast concern. Bless God the Father, for his love, in choosing, predestinating, adopting, and accepting, the whole body the Church, in Christ, before the foundation of the world ! Bless God the Son, for that love of his, in marrying the Church from everlasting; and for redeeming her from the ruins of the fall, during her time-state upon earth. And bless God the Holy Ghost, for having abounded toward the Church in all wisdom and prudence, in making known the mystery of his will, and in all his regenerating grace and mercy. Yea, blessed forever be Jehovah, in his threefold character of Person, for Christ, and all blessings in Christ, temporal, spiritual, end eternal blessings, forever!
Lord! enable thy Church, to be looking forward to that glorious day of God, when the fullness of times being come, all things shall be gathered in Christ. What a gathering of thy people will this be, in glories unspeakable ? What a dispensation of terror to thy foes ? Precious, precious Jesus! how sweet is it to my soul, the assurance, of being now gathered unto thee in grace, as the earnest, and pledge of being then gathered unto thee in glory. Lord! fill my poor soul with thy fullness; and manifest daily to my joy, and thy praise, that thou art indeed my Head, and the fullness, which filleth all in all!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter