The Apostle in this Chapter, makes a particular Address to the Church at Ephesus, as a Gentile Church. He shows the gracious Design of God from the Beginning, to the Gentiles, as One with the Jews in Christ. He closeth in Prayer.
(1) ¶ For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, (2) If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
It is more than probable, that at the time Paul wrote this. Epistle, he was literally a prisoner at Rome. But the Apostle delighted to consider himself, in one and the same moment, the Lord's prisoner, and the Lord's freeman. The Lord's chains are golden chains. And, it was Paul's most fervent desire, that he might lay hold of Christ, as Christ had laid hold of him. This was his daily striving. Philippians 3:12. Reader! how different the state, between the prisoner of Jesus, and the prisoner to sin and Satan!
(3) How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, (4) Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) (5) 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; (6) That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
The Apostle, no doubt, when speaking of having written to them before, alludes to the first Chapter particularly in this Epistle, in which he hath treated of those mysterious doctrines, of election, predestination, the acceptation of the Church in Christ, before the foundation of the world; together with redemption by Christ, and regeneration by the Spirit, during the time-state of the Church. But, what I would yet more particularly desire the Reader to regard, in this statement of Paul, is, what he saith in relation to, the mystery of these grand things being kept secret in times past, compared to the revelation now made, unto the Apostles, and Prophets, by the Spirit. The Jews knew nothing of God's design, in relation to the Gentiles. Though, had they understood their own Scriptures, they would have discovered, that, from the beginning, the Church of God was One, and that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs of the same body. Christ's Church could be but one. And Christ himself the One Head, and Husband of his body the Church; and Jehovah's salvation to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49:6; Song of Solomon 6:9. But, until the ascension of Christ, and the descension of the Holy Ghost; these glorious truths, were not so openly revealed, as they, were then by the Spirit.
(7) Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. (8) Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; (9) And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: (10) To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, (11) According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: (12) In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
Reader! You and I may pause a moment to admire the grace given to this great Apostle, who, while we behold him as an eminent servant, of the Lord, he considered himself as less than the least of all saints; yea, the chief of sinners! 1 Timothy 1:15. Grace always humbles. The higher a child of God is advanced in divine know ledge, the lower he lays before God in humility. The more he limits of Christ, the more contemptible he thinks of himself But profitable as such views are of God's best servants, the subject Paul is here upon, is too sublime, to lose a moment in looking at the servant, while we hear of the Person, and unsearchable riches of the Master. Paul calls it a mystery, and the fellowship of the mystery. And what a mystery, indeed, the whole forms? Great is the mystery of godliness. God, manifest in the flesh, is the first chapter. And what an endless subject, of the unsearchable riches of Christ, doth this one open ? It contains depths of wisdom, and depths of love, which, like an ocean without bottom or shore, affords infinite scope for all God's intelligent creatures, to exercise their faculties, in sailing over, but never fully to explore, for it passeth all knowledge. Nevertheless, the Lord encourageth his people to enter upon the discovery, in that we are told, that though from the beginning of the world it was hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ; yet, is it now made known to the Church. And, however, still hid from the wise and prudent, it is revealed onto the saints. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his Covenant. Psalms 25:14. A few of the more prominent parts of this mystery, as here opened by the Apostle, we shall do well to regard, the Lord being our Teacher.
And, first. Th e Apostle tells us, that before God went forth in acts of creation, when he created all things by Jesus Christ, the fellowship of this mystery had been hid in his bosom, and, of con sequence, it was unknown to angels. It was an eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. So that there was none privy to it but God himself, in his threefold character of Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And herein became the greatest, if not the first discovery, of the Personalities in the Godhead. For, although at Creation we find the Sacred Three in One, speaking on the subject of creation to one another, at the forming man, saying, Let us make man in our Image, after our Likeness; Genesis 1:26. yet, it was at the revelation concerning the Lord JESUS, as the manifold wisdom of God, that we find the blessed discovery of the Holy Three in One becoming witnesses in heaven to these great truths. 1 John 5:7. And I would ask the Reader, (but not speak decidedly,) do we not discover those heavenly witnesses, when, as in this very Epistle to the Church, we read of God the Father's choosing the Church, God the Son's redeeming the Church, and God the Spirit's regenerating the Church, as so many distinct and personal acts in this mystery ? Yea, are not these as so many blessed discoveries afforded us, that we might have somewhat to form to ourselves, suited apprehensions, both of the Personality, and of the love and favor of God, in this threefold character of Being. Ephesians 1:4-9.
No doubt, when God went, forth in acts of creation, be made a vast display of his divine perfections. In all those works we behold a proof of them. And, although, in respect to his own eternal glory, there needed no such manifestations, resting in his own unchangeable complacency, and being infinitely blessed, had men or angels never been called into being; yet, when the Lord was pleased to raise up such magnificent works of his hands, the contemplation of them called forth his praise, when, as we are told, the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. Job 38:7. But when Christ, as God-man, came to be revealed to the Church, and all the great events included in that high administration of his Person, offices, and character, were unfolded to view; here was discovered such unsearchable riches proclaimed the manifold wisdom of God. The very Person of Christ alone, in the union of his double nature, God and Man in One, opened such an object of glory to feast our ravished souls upon, as in himself, and independent of any one act of love and grace towards his Church and people, as her Savior and Redeemer, was enough to produce the highest sensations Of joy to all eternity. And when to the view of his Person, as God-man, we add the gracious offices of the Mediator, when we not only consider Him as He is in himself; but as He is to his people; what he hath done for us, and what he is to us; what he was in his relation to his Church, as her Head and Husband, before all worlds; what he is, as her Surety, Redeemer, High Priest, and Advocate, during the whole of her time-state while on earth; and what he will be, when he will bring home his Church, as her Lord, to be one with him to all eternity: these views leave at an infinite distance every other, and open, even now, though in the present unripe state of our being, we can only behold objects, as through mediums darkly; a joy unspeakable, and full of glory.
But, Reader! let You and I seek for grace rightly, to value our mercies. Angels, we are told, when this eternal purpose, which God purposed in Christ, came to be opened were amazed at the vast discovery, and unable to comprehend such depths of the manifold wisdom of God, desired to look into. Holy men, and Prophets, though taught by the Spirit of Christ, which was in them, to enquire and search diligently concerning this salvation, were unconscious of what was meant by the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow; but it was revealed unto them, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto us by them. 1 Peter 1:11-12. And while we daily behold the truths of God confirmed, that the world by wisdom knew not God; the Lord's people are blessed in the saving knowledge of them by the Spirit. According to this sweet scripture, it is said, that God's intent now is, that it might be known by the Church, the manifold wisdom of God. So, that the mystery which hath been hid from ages, and from generations, is now made manifest to the saints. Colossians 1:26. Well may every child of God cry out with the Apostle, Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. 2 Corinthians 9:15.
(13) Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. (14) ¶ For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (15) Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, (16) That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; (17) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; (19) And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. (20) Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, (21) Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
I include all that remains in this Chapter under one view, because the several parts are woven into one piece, and form a beautiful whole. The Apostle begins the paragraph with desiring that the Church would lose sight of everything which related to his personal state and circumstances. That he was a prisoner, it was true; but, at the same time, he was the Lord's free man. And though, the enemy shut him in, yet no enemy could shut the Lord out. And, as to his afflictions, they were all sanctified. And, as the Lord sweetened them to his soul, they ought to be the subject of real joy to their hearts. Having thus dispatched all consideration as to himself, he now proceeds to show them the affection he had for them in his heart, and how he was continually employed for them. It forms a lovely representation of the faithful pastor and minister of Christ's flock, and serves at least to show what such should be, though, it is to be feared, few are so, in the present awful day of a declining ministry.
He first tells them, that he bowed his knees unto the God and Father of our Lord JESUS CHRIST, as the Father of the whole family of Christ, in heaven and in earth. There is somewhat very blessed in this. God the Father is, indeed, in every sense of the word, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For He is revealed, under this character, in the Scriptures of truth. This is the name, in the essential nature of the Godhead, as One of the Holy Three which bear record in heaven. It is his name also in the economy of the Covenant of grace. And it is his name as the God the Father of the Church, for it is He who hath given the Church to Christ before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4. Jesus sweetly speaks of this as his particular pleasure and delight. John 17:6. Well might Paul, therefore, say that of Him, the whole family in heaven and earth is named. And well might he bow the knee before Him. I also would say, Lord! bow the knee of my heart before Him, who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Oh! that I may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hath sent. John 17:3.
Secondly. What a blessed prayer this is ? Paul having mentioned his adorable name, before whom be bent the knee, next seeks strength and grace from God the Holy Ghost, for forming all his of prayers aright, and for helping him in his infirmities of prayer, that he might make all his supplications according to the will of God. How truly Scriptural this is? Paul well knew, that without the influences of the Spirit, he could neither know how to pray, nor what to pray for. Neither prayers could he present, nor praises offer, until God the Spirit taught him. To God, therefore, he looks for those influences. And he felt full confidence, that the Lord would grant him, according to his riches in glory, grace to be so strengthened, that his inner man would find, the blessed, communications of the Spirit to this end.
And what was the great subject of his prayer. It was short, but comprehensive. It all centered in Christ. All Paul prayed for himself; and all he asked for the Church, was Christ. Christ and his fullness, Christ and his all-sufficiency. That Christ (said he) may dwell in your hearts by faith. Reader! do not overlook the fullness and comprehensiveness of Paul's prayer. Christ cannot dwell in the heart of the unregenerate. Christ cannot dwell in the heart of any whom the Father hath not given to his dear Son. So, that in every heart where Christ dwells, there the Lord hath given testimony, that that precious soul is a child of God, given by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and regenerated by the Holy Ghost. Reader! is it not your prayer, as it is mine, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith?
And where Christ dwells in the heart by faith, there all the other blessings follow. Rooted in Christ, we are one with Christ. Grounded in love, we feel all the sweet influences of love. And, though the love of Christ is unsearchable, and past finding out, yet we can in some measure comprehend, that it reacheth from one eternity to, another; and though its dimensions are infinite, in breadth and length, and depth, and height, and it is a love which passeth knowledge, yet is it a special, peculiar, free, and gracious love, and runs through all time, and to all eternity, to his people. Oh! the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge! Reader! what are your apprehensions of this love ? Hath Paul's prayer been heard for you? Hath God granted you a token of this love ?
The Apostle's prayer in recommendation of the Church to God, and his referring all unto him, that is alone able to answer it, is very striking and beautiful. The ability of God, not only to answer, but to exceed all beyond thought or expression, is most just and true. Oh! who shall say what God can perform ? Who shall limit the Holy One of Israel! Reader! You and I may safely refer all to Him, and leave all with Him. He that hath given the greatest of all possible gifts, what can he, what will he not give ? Well might the same Apostle elsewhere say, For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Romans 11:36.
WHAT cause of thankfulness hath the Church of God to offer, that the gracious purpose of Jehovah, hid in his breast from the beginning of the world, unknown to Angels, and principalities, and powers; should be so fully and openly revealed to the Lord's people; yea, while the world knoweth it not, because it knew him not in whom it is hid; is made known to the saints and household of God! Oh! the blessedness o f being made acquainted with the love, the everlasting love of God the Father, in his counsel, purpose, and will, in his grace to the Church! And, oh! the blessedness, that all the revelations of his love should be made known to us in the Person, and flow to us from the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ, through the Spirit! Surely, every mercy becomes a tenfold mercy, coming to the Church, as the whole doth in, and through Christ. Lord! give all thy redeemed grace to bend the knee, as Paul did before the God and Father of the whole family, that we may be able to comprehend with all saints, all the vast dimensions of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, and be filled with all the fullness of God!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ephesians 3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany